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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Unity and Method.

1.

We know nothing about Habakkuk except that 1:1 gives him the title ‘prophet’ (elsewhere only Hag 1:1; Zech 1:1 ). This, plus the extensive use of liturgical forms and wisdom terminology, suggests that he may have been a ‘cult prophet’, functioning in some formal way in the worship of the Jerusalem temple (Murray 1982: 200–16; Coggins 1982: 77–94). The book begins with the language used in the psalms of lament (cf. 1:2–4 with Ps 13:1–2; 74:10; 89:46 ; and 1:12–13 with Ps 5:4–5 ), indicates that the prophet could seek an oracle from YHWH (cf. 2:1 with 2 Kings 3:11–20 ), speaks explicitly of YHWH's presence in the temple ( 2:20 ), and concludes with a psalm that uses technical terms found also in the Psalter ( 3:1, 9, 13, 19 ), all showing that the prophet knew well the language of worship and may have even been an official participant. He was also well acquainted with the concerns and vocabulary of the sages in Jerusalem: his questions about the justice of God remind us of Job and Ecclesiastes, and he uses favourite words of the sages, such as ‘complaint’ ( 2:1 ), ‘taunt’, ‘mocking riddles’ ( 2:6 ), and others (Morgan 1981: 63–93). The only uniquely prophetic form in the book is the ‘woe’ (or ‘alas’) poem in 2:6–19 .

2.

The book is clearly divided into three parts: 1:2–2:5 is a complaint of the prophet, quoting two oracles from God ( 1:5–11; 2:4–5 ); 2:6–20 is a poem consisting of five ‘woes’ over some unnamed tyrant; 3:1–19 is a psalm of thanksgiving. Since ch. 3 has its own introduction many have suggested it did not originally belong with chs. 1–2 , but most commentators now agree that even though it may once have been used separately it now forms an appropriate conclusion to the book (Roberts 1991: 141; Robertson 1990: 212; Smith 1984: 95).

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