Almost nothing is known about Habakkuk, aside from what few facts are stated within the book of the Bible bearing his name, or those inferences that may be drawn from that book. His name appears in the Bible only in Habakkuk 1:1 and 3:1, with no biographical details provided other than his title "the prophet." Even the origin of his name is uncertain.
For almost every other prophet, more information is given, such as the name of the prophet's hometown, his occupation, or information concerning his parentage or tribe. For Habakkuk, however, there is no reliable account of any of these. Although his home is not identified, scholars conclude that Habakkuk lived in Jerusalem at the time he wrote his prophecy. Further analysis has provided an approximate date for his prophecy and possibilities concerning his activities and background.
Beyond the Bible, considerable conjecture has been put forward over the centuries in the form of Christian and Rabbinic tradition, but such accounts are dismissed by modern scholars as speculative and apocryphal.
Because the book of Habakkuk consists of five oracles about the Chaldeans (Babylonians), and the Chaldean rise to power is dated circa 612 BC, it is assumed he was active about that time, making him an early contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Jewish sources, however, do not group him with those two prophets, who are often placed together, so it is possible that he was slightly earlier than they.
Because the final chapter of his book is a song, it is sometimes assumed that he was a member of the tribe of Levi, which served as musicians in Solomon's Temple.
The name Habacuc,[a] appears in the Hebrew Bible only in Habakkuk 1:1 and 3:1. In the Masoretic Text, it is written in Hebrew: ????????? (Standard ?avaqquq Tiberian ???aqqûq). This name does not occur elsewhere. The Septuagint transcribes his name into Greek as ???????? (Hambakoum), and the Vulgate transcribes it into Latin as Abacuc.
The etymology of the name is not clear, and its form has no parallel in Hebrew. The name is possibly related to the Akkadian khabbaququ, the name of a fragrant plant, or the Hebrew root ???, meaning "embrace".
Habakkuk does appear in Bel and the Dragon, which is part of the Additions to Daniel found in the Biblical apocrypha. Verses 33-39 state that Habakkuk is in Judea and after making some stew, he’s told by an angel to take the stew to Daniel, who is in Babylon in the lion’s den. After proclaiming he is unaware of both the den and Babylon, Habbakuk is transported to the den with Daniel via the angel. Habakkuk gives Daniel the food to sustain him, and is immediately taken back to “his own place.”
Habakkuk is also mentioned in Lives of the Prophets, which also notes his time in Babylon.
According to the Zohar (Volume 1, page 8b) Habakkuk is the boy born to the Shunamite woman through Elisha's blessing:
(2 Kings 4:16) And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace (???? - hoveket, therefore Habakkuk) a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, [thou] man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
Main article: Book of Habakkuk
The only work attributed to Habakkuk is the short book of the Bible that bears his name. The book of Habbakuk consists of five oracles about the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and a song of praise to God.
The style of the book has been praised by many scholars, suggesting that its author was a man of great literary talent. The entire book follows the structure of a chiasmus in which parallelism of thought is used to bracket sections of the text.
Habakkuk is unique among the prophets in that he openly questions the wisdom of God (1:3a, 1:13b). In the first part of the second chapter, the Prophet sees the injustice among his people and asks why God does not take action: "1:2 Yahweh, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you 'Violence!' and will you not save?" - (World English Bible).
Tomb of Habakkuk in Kadarim, Israel.
The final resting place of Habakkuk has been claimed at multiple locations. The fifth century Christian historian Sozomen claimed that the relics of Habakkuk were found at Cela, when God revealed their location to Zebennus, bishop of Eleutheropolis, in a dream. Currently, two locations in Israel and one in Iran all lay claim to being the burial site of the prophet.
Tombs in Israel
Two separate locations in Israel claim to be the burial place of Habakkuk. Both locations are in Upper Galilee in northern Israel. The first is a hillside at Kadarim, where stands a small stone building containing a tomb.
The second location is at Hukok, a village six miles southwest of Safed and twelve miles north of Mount Tabor. Tradition holds that Habakkuk was buried here, but the site may actually be the tomb of a local sheikh of Yaquq, whose name was misunderstood to sound like "Habakkuk".
Shrine of Habakkuk in Toyserkan, Iran.
A mausoleum southeast of the city of Toyserkan in the west of Iran is believed to be Habakkuk's burial place. It is protected by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization. The Organization's guide to the Hamedan Province states that Habakkuk was believed to be a guardian to the Temple of Solomon, and that he was captured by the Babylonians and remained in their prison for some years. After being freed by Cyrus the Great, he went to Ecbatana and remained there until he died, and was buried somewhere nearby, in what is today Toyserkan. Habakkuk is called both Habaghugh and Hayaghugh by the locals.
The surrounding shrine may date to the period of the Great Seljuq Empire (11-12th century); it consists of an octagonal wall and conical dome. Underneath the shrine is a hidden basement with three floors. In the center of the shrine's courtyard is the grave where Habakkuk is said to be buried. A stone upon the grave is inscribed in both Hebrew and Persian (Persian) stating that the prophet's father was Shioua Lovit, and his mother was Lesho Namit.
On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, his feast day is December 2. In the Roman Catholic Church, the twelve minor prophets are read in the Breviary during the fourth and fifth weeks of November, which are the last two weeks of the liturgical year, and his feast day is January 15. This day is also celebrated as his feast by the Greek Orthodox Church. In 2011, he was commemorated with the other Minor prophets in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on February 8.
Habakkuk has also been commemorated in sculpture. In 1435, the Florentine artist Donatello created a sculpture of the prophet for the bell tower of Florence. This statue, nicknamed Il Zuccone ("The Big Pumpkin") because of the shape of the head, now resides in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. The church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome contains a Baroque sculpture of Habakkuk by the 17th-century artist Bernini. Between 1800 and 1805, the Brazilian sculptor Aleijadinho completed a soapstone sculpture of Habakkuk as part of his Twelve Prophets. The figures are arranged around the forecourt and monumental stairway in front of the Santu?rio do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos at Congonhas.