|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2013)|
|Major shrine||Toyserkan, Iran
|Feast||January 15 (Roman Catholic; Greek)
December 2 (Orthodox)
|Major works||Book of Habakkuk|
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 the pair.
The name Habakkuk, or Habacuc,[a] appears in the Hebrew Bible only in Habakkuk 1:1 and 3:1. In the Masoretic Text, it is written in Hebrew: חֲבַקּוּק (Standard Ḥavaqquq Tiberian Ḥăḇaqqûq). This name does not occur elsewhere. The Septuagint transcribes his name into Greek as Ἀμβακοὺμ (Ambakoum), 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 חבק, meaning "embrace".
Habakkuk appears in Bel and the Dragon, which is part of the deuterocanonical Additions to Daniel. Verses 33–39 state that Habakkuk is in Judea and after making some stew, he's told by the angel of the Lord 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, the angel transports Habakkuk to the lion's den. Habakkuk gives Daniel the food to sustain him, and is immediately taken back to "his own place".
(2 Kings 4:16) And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace (חבקת – hoveket, therefore Habakkuk) a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, [thou] man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
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 unusual among the prophets in that he openly questions the working 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).
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, one location in Israel and one in Iran lay claim to being the burial site of the prophet.
The burial place of Habakkuk is identified by Jewish tradition as a hillside in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, close to the villages Kadarim and Hukok, about six miles southwest of Safed and twelve miles north of Mount Tabor. A small stone building, erected during the 20th century, protects the tomb. Tradition dating as early as the 12th century AD holds that Habakkuk's tomb is at this location, but the tomb may also be of a local sheikh of Yaquq, a name related to the biblical place named "Hukkok" (mentioned in Joshua 19:34), whose pronunciation and spelling in Hebrew are close to "Habakkuk". Archaeological findings in this location include several burial places dated to the Second Temple period.
A mausoleum southeast of the city of Tuyserkan in the west of Iran is also believed to be Habakkuk's burial place. It is protected by Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization. The Organization's guide to the Hamadan Province states that Habakkuk was believed to be a guardian to Solomon's Temple, 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 Tuyserkan. Habakkuk is called both Habaghugh and Hayaghugh by the locals.
The surrounding shrine may date to the period of the 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 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 Roman 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 Zuccone ("Big Pumpkin") because of the shape of the head, now resides in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. The Basilica 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 Santuário do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos at Congonhas.
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