Habakkuk Singer and Student of Psalms
I am here, Jesus:
You have seen that, whenever there arose a threat against Israel or Judah from a foreign military power, a prophet would come forth to proclaim a message from the Lord. In showing you the troubles of Jeremiah, I have spent some time pointing out the indecision of the Kings and how they were subject to the great nations, Egypt and Babylonia, as well as to the mean spirit of the nobles who constantly intrigued and pressured, always aware of their own interests and oblivious to the needs and welfare of the nation.
In the terrible period after the death of King Josiah and the defeat of the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish by Nebuchadrezzar,* son of Nabopolassar, the Chaldean monarch, who with the Medes had destroyed Assyrian power and conquered Ninevah, there followed the Chaldean, that is to say, the Babylonian advance against Judah, because the King Jehoiakim rebelled, and the times for Judah were sore and perplexed, and there was wickedness in high places, and fear of the barbarians, and a faithful worshipper of Jehovah could well ask himself why iniquity and evil was so rampant and seemingly triumphant; and why Jehovah remained impassive, not stretching forth His hand for the protection of the righteous.
And thus I wish to speak of the prophet Habakkuk ben Jeshua the Levite, one of the singers of the Temple Choir, from the time of Josiah, and who, after the touching death of this good King, and the menace of Babylonia following the collapse of Egypt on its eastern borders, began to write about the time of the Charchemish disaster; a mature man nearing his fortieth year, a singer and student of the Psalms, and of religious songs of other lands. And he called himself a flower in the garden, comparing the Temple to a garden because it was fruitful and he as a flower that lives because it receives the Father's Love in the form of sunlight and showers and has its roots in the House of God.
Being thus a Temple Singer and having knowledge of foreign hymns to deities, he took the name for his prophetic book as a sort of preface, a title derived from the Egyptian Wisdom Book. The teaching of Amen-em-ope, where it is written:
He is like a tree that groweth in a plot;
It groweth green, and the fruit thereof increases;
It standeth in the presence of its Lord;
Its fruits are sweet, its shade is pleasant,
And it findeth its end in the garden.
Jeremiah, who, of course, was familiar with this Egyptian Wisdom Book, also wrote along very similar lines and Habakkuk also heard these words while listening to Jeremiah. (Jeremiah, Chapt. 12, verse 2). But Habakkuk hid his identity because he wished to refer to the iniquity of priests and false prophets which he saw close by, and as he associated with the Temple Priests, he did not wish to be thrown out of the servoce as a hostile critic.
Habakkuk, a native of Jerusalem and not of princely origin, was concerned with a two-fold problem: The triumph of the great and cruel power, Babylonia, as the coming successor to that other evil nation, Egypt, while a Hebrew King, weak and equivocal, Jahoiakim, sat on his throne and was indifferent to the evils that were rampant in his land. Thus, when Habakkuk complained about evil and tyranny, he spoke openly about foreign evils, but also in his mind were the domestic evils he had not openly denounced for fear of jeopardizing his own position.
Thus Habakkuk developed a prophecy which called upon God to answer his misgivings: Why was it that a pure and Holy God, who could not look upon iniquity, set a human being, the prophet, to observe nothing but evils and violence and aggression. Hence Habakkuk was not merely content to obtain a message from God for His people, but he queried and complained, and questioned God concerning his complexities and doubts, as did Job centuries later in his questionings of God on the problem of evil in human existence.
Habakkuk complains: "Why dost Thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me . . . Therefore the law is slacked and judgment doth never go forth; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth" . . . God answers that the Chaldeans, will arise, cruel and swift, terrible and dreadful, to conquer and possess.
Habakkuk recognizes that these conquerors will come as a corrective to the evils of the land, yet, since they are more evil than the Hebrews, then God is using an instrument for punishment more wicked than those He is punishing. God, who cannot see evil, looks upon those that deal treacherously and destroys men more righteous than they.
Habakkuk goes to his watchtower, to meditate in silence and await God's answer to his queries. And the Lord answers him: "Write the vision and make it plain upon writing tables, that he may run that readeth it." (so plain that anyone running by in haste can still read it).
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time,
but at the end it shall speak, and not lie;
Though it tarry, wait for it;
Because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Behold his soul which is puffed up is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faithfulness."
(Habakkuk, Chapt. 2, verses 3 and 4)
This is the first part of the answer, and I wish to comment upon it and clarify it in the light of our spiritual knowledge before taking up the second part.
First, the New Testament translation is usually given as "the just shall live by his faith" (Emunah) which is different from what the Old Testament Prophets meant to convey. He did not mean actually that the good man lives by his faith in God, and has faith that God will protect the good man from evil, for this is not always so, for the good man may be destroyed by diseases, violence and troubles over which he has no control, and though he is helped by the Lord's agents when he calls upon Him in earnest prayer, material vicissitudes may claim a man's life or fortune as material law dictates.
But Habakkuk meant that the just man lives by continuing to do what is right and living an upright life regardless of the evil around him, and being loyal to moral ideas because he knows his soul comes from God.
Now when Habakkuk spoke about the vision that was yet for an appointed time; it meant that the soul of the good man, while still incased in the flesh, was destined at some time to enter the Spirit World, and that in that world the good soul would then reap the rewards of its good life and live in one of the beautiful spheres of Heaven, with light, happiness and an eventual abode in Paradise, the highest spiritual heaven of the Hebrews.
Habakkuk thus meant living a moral and ethical life, and even if that life in the flesh were extinguished by evil in the material world, the soul, untouched by that evil, would continue to live happily in the Spirit World. Commentators of Habakkuk, whether Jew or Christian, have not been able to discover the prophet's true meaning, and I now want to tell you what he really meant by those words, "The just shall live by his faith," words that are cherished so much by Christian churchmen, especially Protestant sects, yet which they have not really understood at all.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens
* Nebuchadnezzar or more correctly Nebuchadrezzar, the name of three Kings of Babylon, mentioned in the Bible, of whom the most famous was Nebuchadrezzar II, the son of Nabopolassar. After the death of his father, 604 B.C., he reigned until 561 B.C., destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., exiled over 4000 Jews; besieged Tyre for 13 years; conquered Egypt in 572 B.C. His restoration of Babylon made it one of the wonders of the world and famous for its hanging gardens.
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