Habakkuk in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

II. The Book. 1. Interpretation of Habakkuk 1 and 2: It is necessary to consider the interpretation of Hab 1 and 2 before giving the contents of the book, as a statement of the contents of these chapters will be determined by their interpretation. The different interpretations advocated may be grouped under three heads: (1) According to the first view: Hab 1:2-4: The corruption of Judah; the oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Jews, which calls for the Divine manifestation in judgment against the oppressors. 1:5-11: Yahweh announces that He is about to send the Chaldeans to execute judgment. 1:12-17: The prophet is perplexed. He cannot understand how a righteous God can use these barbarians to execute judgment upon a people more righteous than they. He considers even the wicked among the Jews better than the Chaldeans. 2:1-4: Yahweh solves the perplexing problem by announcing that the exaltation of the Chaldeans will be but temporary; in the end they will meet their doom, while the righteous will live. 2:5-20: Woes against the Chaldeans. (2) The second view finds it necessary to change the present arrangement of Hab 1:5-11; in their present position, they will not fit into the interpretation. For this reason Wellhausen and others omit these verses as a later addition; on the other hand, Giesebrecht would place them before 1:2, as the opening verses of the prophecy. The transposition would require a few other minor changes, so as to make the verses a suitable beginning and establish a smooth transition from 1:11 to 1:2. Omitting the troublesome verses, the following outline of the two chapters may be given: 1:2-4: The oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Chaldeans. 1:12-17: Appeal to Yahweh on behalf of the Jews against their oppressors. 2:1-4: Yahweh promises deliverance (see above). 2:5-20: Woes against the Chaldeans. (3) The third view also finds it necessary to alter the present order of verses. Again Hab 1:5-11, in the present position, interferes with theory; therefore, these verses are given a more suitable place after 2:4. According to this interpretation the outline is as follows: 1:2-4: Oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Assyrians (Budde) or Egyptians (G. A. Smith). 1:12-17: Appeal to Yahweh on behalf of the oppressed against the oppressor. 2:1-4: Yahweh promises deliverance (see above). 1:5-11: The Chaldeans will be the instrument to execute judgment upon the oppressors and to bring deliverance to the Jews. 2:5-20: Woes against the Assyrians or Egyptians. A full discussion of these views is not possible in this article (see Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 466-68). It may be sufficient to say that on the whole the first interpretation, which requires no omission or transposition, seems to satisfy most completely the facts in the case...

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