The prophet Habakkuk ("embrace," "one who loves most dearly and sincerely") was a member of the tribe of Judah and apparently a Levite, who was thoroughly familiar with the ancient psalms and the liturgy of the Jewish Church, who was called by God to be His prophet. Otherwise nothing is known concerning his person, although some scholars have made various statements regarding his family and occupation. The period of his activity may be determined quite definitely by the contents of his prophecy, for he predicted the invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans, which took place in the year 606 B. C. At the same time, his apparent references to the reformation of the Temple coitus under Josiah make it probable that he prophesied some years before the first subjugation of Judah by the Babylonians, and it seems safe, therefore, to say that his chief activity falls in the third decade of the seventh century before Christ. He was contemporary of Zephaniah and of Jeremiah, both of whom use expressions similar to those found in his book.
The object of Habakkuk was to show Judah that the newly arisen power, the Chaldean monarchy, which even then was threatening the authority of the Assyrian supremacy, was destined to be a scourge of the southern kingdom. For in spite of the outward reformation under Josiah the inner corruption of the nation was becoming increasingly apparent, so that violence and oppression were the order of the day. Yet the trend of Habakkuk's prophecy was to bring comfort to the believers by a reference to the eventual redemption of the true Israel. In agreement with this general outline the book may be divided into three parts, the first part picturing the imminent, terrible punishment by the Chaldeans, the second containing the fivefold cry of woe upon the proud and idolatrous world-power, and the third offering the hymn of the prophet addressed to the majestic God.
The presentation and the language of Habakkuk show the classical beauty of Hebrew prophecy. The style is poetical and sublime, the parallelisms generally regular. Many sections are notable for original expressions and for powerful periods. The prayer with which the book closes touches the summit of the sublime.