A prophet in Judah in the final years of the 7th cent. BCE about whom little is known. He was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah during the reign of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, and was concerned with the duties of public worship. The OT book which bears his name clearly divides into two sections: the first two chapters (written about 625 BCE) announce the impending onslaught of the irresistible Babylonians (‘Chaldeans’) who will punish Jehoiakim for his evil tyranny, but in that process some of the less wicked will suffer more. Why should this be? It is the problem of theodicy that perplexed some of the Wisdom writers—e.g. Job and Ecclesiastes. The answer given (Hab. 2: 4) is that ‘the upright will live through faithfulness’ (NJB): he will live in the highest sense of the word (or, perhaps, simply he will be preserved during the invasion) by maintaining his faithfulness (to God). This verse is cited by Paul in Rom. 1: 17 and Gal. 3: 11 from the LXX as a scriptural proof for his teaching that a believer is made righteous with God in virtue of his ‘faith’.
The third chapter (‘one of the noblest in the entire OT’) consists of liturgical prayer and thanksgiving. Come what may (Hab. 3: 17) the prophet refuses to be anything except joyful in the God of his salvation (Hab. 3: 18–19).
The prophet has here described his numinous experience of God, called by Rudolph Otto in The Idea of the Holy (1923) ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’.
One of the earliest of the Dead Sea scrolls to be discovered (1947–8) turned out to be a commentary on Hab. 1 and 2, and in the accepted code it is known by the symbol IQpH.