The Minor Prophets were not, in fact, "minor." They all contributed greatly to their culture and the furthering of God's kingdom. The focus of this paper will be specifically on the message and teleological self-conciousness of the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk was a prophet in the region of Judah. He was living there just before the invasions of the Babylonians, who were the major military force of that time. They were also one of the most evil people that ever lived, and they worshiped many different gods. Their influence was evident in every land they conquered. This burden of the wicked Babylonians was weighing heavily on Habakkuk.
The closing phrase of Habakkuk's prayer, "For the choir director, on my stringed instruments" (Hb. 3:19), suggests that he is of a priestly background.
Bible.org labels the book of Habakkuk as "A Solution to Perplexity," and that is very much what it is. The message of Habakkuk is different from the other minor prophet's writings because rather than being an oracle from God, it is a conversation between Habakkuk and God. This sets it apart in a very special way. Habakkuk complains about a certain problem in his world, and God answers directly. Habakkuk is also the only prophet to talk about the success of the wicked. This topic is still frequently talked about in our world today. We all wonder why God would allow wicked people to succeed, while righteous people starve. But, as C. Hassel Bulluck puts it, "His people must accept by faith what they cannot confirm in fact." (183) The way Habakkuk approaches the topic of divine justice is very much like Job. But there is one major difference: "Job defended his innocence and moral integrity, whereas Habakkuk admits the sins of Judah" (Bulluck 183). His first complaint is about the unpunished evil that is in Judah. The verse, "How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (Hb. 1:2) gives the impressiong that Habakkuk feels weighed down by the burden of the peoples sins. John Calvin remarks, "The greater part of interpreters refer this burden to the Chaldeans and the monarchy of Babylon; but of this view I do not approve, and a good reason compels me to dissent from their opinions: for as the Prophet addresses the Jews, and without any addition calls his prophecy a burden, there is no doubt but that he refers to them" (15). Habakkuk reproves the Jews for their sins, while at the same time complaining to God for not punishing them. This verse (Hb. 1:2) also shows that Habakkuk has been praying to God on behalf of the Jews, but to no avail- at least in his mind. God responds, "Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you will not believe, even if you were told" (Hb. 1:5) God goes on to speak of the coming Babylonian invasions that will punish Judah mightily. To the people of Judah, this was something unheard of. How could God hand then over to the arrogant Babylonians? God says that they come "...like a vulture swooping to devour, they all come bent on violence" (Hb. 1:8-9). God portrays the Babylonians to Habakkuk as very terrifying foes. It seems that the Jews had been putting off the prediction of judgement by Habakkuk- ignoring it, in fact.
(Continued in "Habakkuk: Part II")