Pulpit Commentary - Habakkuk 3:1 - 3:19

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Pulpit Commentary - Habakkuk 3:1 - 3:19

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§ 1. The title. A prayer. There is only one formal prayer in the ode, that in Hab_3:2; but the term is used of any devotional composition; and, indeed, the whole poem may be regarded as the development of the precatory sentences in the proemium. (For other hymns in the prophetical books, see Isa_24:1-23, and Isa_35:1-10.; Eze_19:1-14.; Jah 2.; Mic_6:6, etc.; and as parallel to this ode, comp. Deu_33:2, etc.; Jdg_5:4, etc.; Psa_68:7, etc.; Psa_77:13-20; Psa_114:1-8.; Isa_63:11-14.) Of Habakkuk the prophet. The name and title of the author are prefixed to show that this is no mere private effusion, but an outpouring of prophecy under Divine inspiration. Upon Shigionoth (comp. title of Psa_7:1-17.); Septuagint, μετὰ ᾠδῆς , "with song;" Vulgate, pro ignorantiis. For this latter rendering Jerome had etymological ground, but did not sufficiently consider the use of shiggayon in Psa_7:1-17; where it indicates the style of poetry, nor, as Keil shows, the fact that all the headings of Psalms introduced, as the present, with al, refer either to the melody, or accompaniment, or style in which they were to be sung. The Revised Version gives, "set to Shigionoth;" and the expression is best explained to mean, in an impassioned or triumphal strain, with rapid change of emotion, a dithy rambic song—a description which admirably suits this ode.


§ 2. The proemium, in which the prophet expresses his fear at the coming judgment, and prays God in his wrath to remember mercy. Thy speech; or, the report of thee; the declaration made by God in the preceding chapters concerning the punishment of the Jews and the destruction of the Chaldeans. The LXX; regarding the ambiguity of the Hebrew, gives a double rendering, εἰσακήκοα τὴν ἀκοήν σου , and κατενόησα τὰ ἕργα σου , "I heard thy report," and "I considered thy works." Pusey considers that both meanings are intended, viz. both what God had lately declared, and all that might be heard of God, his greatness and his workings. Was afraid. The revelation of God's interposition makes the prophet tremble. Revive thy work. God's work is the twofold judgment spoken of above; and the prophet prays God to "quicken" and make it live, because, though it brings temporary distress upon his countrymen, it will also cause the destruction of their enemies, and re-establish the Jews and crown them with salvation, and make the glory of God known to all the earth. Dr. Briggs translates, "Jahveh, I have heard the report of thee; I fear, Jahveh, thy work. In the midst of the years revive him (Israel)." He explains God's "work" to be his acts in theophany—his judgment, especially as in Hab_3:16, the cause of fear to the psalmist. In the midst of the years. The "years" are the period between the announcement of the judgment and its final accomplishment (Hab_2:3); the prophet prays that God would manifest his power, not merely at the extreme limit of this epoch, but earlier, sooner. This overthrow of the world power forms, as it were, the central point of history, the beginning of a new age which shall culminate in the Messianic kingdom. Make known. Let all the earth know and acknowledge thy work. The LXX. have given two or more versions of this passage, one of which is remarkable. Thus they read, "In the midst of two animals ( δύο ζώων ) thou shalt be known; when the years draw nigh thou shalt be well known; when the time is come thou shalt be revealed." The rendering, "two animals," arises from a confusion of words but many of the Fathers, who were conversant with the Greek Scriptures, saw herein a reference to the incarnation of our blessed Lord, as lying in the stable at Bethlehem between the ox and the ass, which was the mystical explanation of Isa_1:3, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib." Others interpreted the two animals of the two thieves between whom Christ was crucified; or of angels and men; or Jews and Gentiles; or the two Testaments; or Moses and Elias. Others again accented the word ζῶων so as to understand "two lives," the present and the future, in the midst of which the Judge shall appear; or the life of Christ before his death and after his resurrection. There is a great truth underlying most of these interpretations, namely, that this magnificent hymn is concerned with the victories of Christ and his Church. In wrath remember mercy. When thine anger is displayed by sending the Chaldeans against us, remember thy mercy, and make a speedy end of our misery, and mitigate our enemies' cruelty. The LXX. gives a double version, "In the troubling of my soul, in wrath, thou wilt remember mercy."


§ 3. The prophet or the congregation depicts in a majestic theophany the coming of God to judge the world, and its effect symbolically on material nature, and properly on evil men.


In this episode Habakkuk takes his imagery from the accounts of God's dealings with his people in old time, in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Sinai, at the Jordan, in Canaan; he echoes the songs of Moses and Deborah and the psalmist; and he looks on all these mighty deeds as antici-pative of God's great work, the overthrow of all that opposes and the establishment of the kingdom of Messiah. God (Eloah) came from Teman. The words are connected with Moses' description of the Lord's appearance at Sinai (Deu_33:2; comp. Jdg_5:4). As he then came in glory to make a covenant with his people, so will he appear again in majesty to deliver them from the power of evil and to execute judgment. The verbs throughout are best rendered in the present. The prophet takes his stand in time preceding the action of the verb, and hence uses the future tense, thus also showing that he is prophesying of a great event to come, symbolized by these earlier manifestations. Habakkuk here and in Hab_1:11 trees the word Eloah, which is not found in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other minor prophets; it occurs once in Isaiah, twice in Deuteronomy, and frequently in Job. There is no ground for the contention that its employment belongs to the latest stage of Hebrew. Teman; i.e. Edom; Vulgate, ab Austro (see notes on Amo_1:12 and Oba_1:9). In Moses' song the Lord is said to come from Sinai. Habakkuk omits Sinai, says Pusey which was the emblem of the Law, and points to another Lawgiver, like unto Moses, telling how he who spake the Law, God. should come in the likeness of man. The Holy One. A name of God (Hab_1:12), implying that he will not let iniquity pass unpunished, and that he will preserve the holy seed. Mount Paran. The mountainous district on the northeast of the desert of Et-Tih. The glory of the Lord is represented as flashing on the two hilly regions separated by the Arabah. They both lay south of Canaan; and there is propriety in representing the redeemer and deliverer appearing in the south, as the Chaldean invader comes from the north. The LXX. adds two translations of the word "Pharan," viz. "shady," "rough;" according to its etymology it might also mean "lovely." Selah; Septuagint, διάψαλμα . This term occurs also in verses 9, 13, and frequently in the Psalms, but nowhere else, and indicates some change in the music when the ode was sung in the temple service. What is the exact change is a matter of great uncertainty. Some take it to indicate "a pause;" others, connecting it with salah, "to lift up," render it "elevation," and suppose it means the raising of the voice, or the strengthening of the accompaniment, as by the blast of trumpets. The meaning must be left undetermined, though it must be added that it is always found at the end of a verse or hemistich, where there is a pause or break in the thought, or, as some say, some strongly accented words occur. His glory covered the heavens. His majestic brightness spread over the heavens, dimming the gleam of sun and stars; or it may mean his boundless majesty fills the highest heavens and encompasses its inhabitants. His praise. This is usually explained to signify that the earth and all that dwell therein, at this glorious manifestation, utter their praise. But there is no allusion as yet to the manner in which the appearance is received, and in verse 6 it produces fear and trembling; so it is best to take "praise" in the sense of "matter of praise," that glory "which was calculated to call forth universal adoration" (Henderson).


His brightness was as the light; brightness appeareth like light, The sunlight is meant, as Job_31:26; Job_37:21; Isa_18:4. He had horns coming out of his hand; i.e. rays of light on either side. The comparison of the first rays of light to the horns of the gazelle, according to Keil, is common in Arabic poetry (comp. Exo_34:29, Exo_34:30). In the original passage, Deu_33:2, we read, "At his right hand was a fiery Law unto them"—a reference to the two tables of stone, perhaps resplendent with light. The "hand" in our text is a general expression, and is not to be taken with any special reference to lightning launched by the hand (which is not a scriptural expression), nor to works effected by God's agency, but simply as signifying that the light of his presence streamed forth from both sides, i.e. everywhere. There was the hiding of his power. There, in that ineffable light, was the hiding place of his majesty. He clothes himself with light as with a garment (Psa_104:2), and the splendour is the mantle of that presence which eye of man cannot behold (Exo_24:17; 1Ti_6:16). Farrar quotes Psa_18:11, "He made darkness his secret place;" and Milton—

"Dark with excess of light his skirts appear."

Septuagint, Ἔθετο ἀγάπησιν κραταιὰν ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ , which rendering has arisen from taking the adverb sham as a verb (sam), and mistaking the meaning of the following word.


After describing the splendour of the theophany, the prophet now turns to the purpose and effects of God's appearing. He comes to avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before him stalks plague, to punish his enemies and the disobedient, as in Egypt, in Canaan (Exo_23:27; 1Sa_5:9, 1Sa_5:11); and among his own people (Num_11:33; Num_14:37, etc.; Le Num_26:25). For "pestilence" the LXX. reads "word." Burning coals went forth at his feet. "Fiery belts" followed his advance, "hailstones and coals of fire" (Psa_18:12, Psa_18:13); as in Psa_97:8, "A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies on every side." But, regarding the parallelisms of the hemistiches, it is better to take resheph in the sense of "fever heat," as in Deu_32:24; scorching fever follows in his train. Jerome translates the word, diabolus, looking on the evil spirit as the agent of the Divine vengeance. The Jews, he says, had a tradition that Satan was called Reseph, from the speed of his movements. The LXX. has, "It (the word) shall go forth into the plains," which Jerome interprets, "shall make the crooked straight and the rough ways smooth."


He stood, and measured the earth. God takes his stand, and surveys the earth which he is visiting in judgment. As his glory filled the heavens, so now he with his presence paces the earth, measuring it, as it were, with his foot. He considers, too, all the doings of the children of men, and requites them accordingly. Vulgate, Stetit, et mensus est terram. So the Syriac. On the other hand, the LXX. gives, Ἔστη καὶ ἐσαλέυθη ἡ γῆ , "The earth stood and quaked." Thus the Chaldee, and many modem commentators, "rocketh the earth." This rendering seems to anticipate what follows, and is not so suitable as the other, though it is quite admissible. Drove asunder. Dispersed and scattered. Septuagint, διετάκη ἔθνη , "nations melted away." Others translate, "made to tremble" (Exo_15:15, etc.). The everlasting mountains. Mountains that have lasted as long as creation, and are emblems of stability and permanence (Deu_33:15). Were scattered; or, were shattered (comp. Mic_1:4; Nah_1:5). His ways are everlasting. This is best taken alone, not as connected grammatically with the preceding clause, and epexegetical of the "hills and mountains," which are called God's "ways," i.e. his chief creative acts, as Job_40:19; Pro_8:22; but it means that, as God acted of old, so he acts now; "The ancient ways of acting are his" (Pro_31:27). "He reneweth his progresses of old time" (Delitzsch). The eternal, unchangeable purpose and operation of God are contrasted with the disruption of "the everlasting hills." The Greek and Latin Versions connect the words with what precedes. Septuagint, Ἐτάκησαν βουνοὶ αἰώνιοι πορείας αἰωνίας , "The everlasting hills melted at his everlasting goings;" Vulgate, Incurvati sunt colles mundi ab itineribus aeternitatis ejus, where the idea seems to be that the high places of the earth are God's paths when he visits the world.


As God moves in his majesty the various nations are struck with fear, as of old were the peoples that heard of the Exodus (see Exo_15:14-16). I saw. In prophetic vision (1Ki_22:17). The tents of Cushan; LXX.. σκηνώματα Αἰθίοτων "the tents of the Ethiopians;" Vulgate, tentoria AEthiopiae. "Cushan" is not Chushan-Rishathaim, the Mesopotamian king mentioned in Jdg_3:1-31; but is a lengthened form of Cush (as Lotan for Lot, Gen_36:20), the biblical name for Ethiopia. Here the African country is meant, lying along the west coast of the Red Sea. In affliction. Panic-stricken. The prophet particularizes what he had said above generally of the nations hostile to the people of God. The curtains; the tent curtains; Vulgate, pelles. Both "tents" and "curtains" are used by metonymy for their inhabitants. Midian. The country on the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Ethiopia and Midian are named, as God is supposed to advance from the south.


Interrupting his description of the theophany, the prophet asks the motive of this wrathful revelation. This is done, not with expectation of an answer, but giving life and vigour to the composition. Such sudden transitions are not uncommon (camp. Jdg_5:12; Psa_78:19, etc.). Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was it against the rivers, O Jehovah? was thy wrath kindled against the rivers? Was God angry with inanimate nature, when he showed his power, for instance, in the Nile and the Jordan and the Red Sea? God meant more by these acts. He showed his supremacy over all creation, and his will to save his people and to crush all opposition to the execution of his great design (see Psa_106:9; Psa_114:3, etc.). That thou didst ride upon thine horses. The prophet speaks of the Lord as a Leader of a mighty host which came with chariots and horses to defend the Israelites and to crush their foes (comp. Psa_18:10). And thy chariots of salvation. "And," which is not in the Hebrew, is better omitted, the clause being an explanation of "thine horses." The chariots come for the salvation, i.e. the deliverance, of Israel (Hab_3:13). Some translate, "Thy chariots are salvation;" as the Septuagint, καὶ ἡ ἱππασία σου σωτηρία : and Vulgate, et quadrigae tuae salvatio. It comes to the same thing, whichever rendering we adopt.


The prophet continues his description of the Lord as "a man of war" (Exo_15:3). Thy bow was made quite naked. The sheath of the bow was laid aside to make it ready for use. In the Assyrian monuments the bow case forms part of the quiver, and holds only the lower half of the bow. It was fastened to the side of the chariot or carried at the back of the archer. (For the general sense, comp. Deu_32:40, etc.; Psa_45:5.) In the Revelation (Rev_6:2) he that sits on the white horse has a bow. According to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word; i.e. thou doest all this to confirm the promises of deliverance and salvation made to the tribes of Israel This sense is satisfactory; but the Hebrew text is corrupt, and cannot be explained with any certainty. The Revised Version gives," The oaths to the tribes were a sure word;" in the margin, "Sworn were the chastisements (Hebrew, 'rods') of thy word." Thus Dr. Briggs: "Sworn are the rods of thy word." Orelli translates," Oaths, rods of the word," and explains the clause to mean that the Lord comes to execute the denounced punishment, which proceeds from his mouth like chastising rods. The word mattoth is translated "tribes" (as in 2Ch_5:2) or "rods." Keil contends for the latter, as instruments of chastisement, rendering," Rods are sworn by word" Henderson, taking the words as a military signal, curiously translates, "'Sevens of spears' was the word." Pusey supports the Authorized Version, which, indeed. gives a good sense, and is probably correct It is virtually supported by Jerome, who has, "Suscitans suscitabis arcum tuum, juramenta tribubus quae locutus es," "Thou wilt awaken the oaths," which, so long as the evil prospered, seemed to be forgotten and sleeping. The LXX. emits the word rendered "oaths," and translates mattoth, σκῆπτρα , thus: Ἐντείνων ἐνέτεινας τόξον σου ἐπὶ σκῆπτρα λέγει Κύριος , "Thou didst surely bend thy bow against sceptres." Selah. A pause ensues before the introduction of a new series of natural phenomena, accompanying the Lord's epiphany (see on verse 3). The next clause would be more fitly joined with verse 10. Thou didst cleave the earth with (or, into) rivers. This refers to some catastrophe like that which happened at the Flood, when "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" (Gen_7:11; comp. Psa_77:16). Others think that the allusion is to the miracles at the Red Sea, or Sinai, or Rephidim in the wilderness, as in Psa_74:1-23.; 78.; 105. But though the prophet glances at such particular circumstances, his scope is more general.


The mountains saw thee, and they trembled; literally, were in pain, Septuagint, ὠδινήσουσι . The words point to the phenomena of an earthquake, as Sinai shook at the presence of the Lord (Exo_19:18; Psa_114:6). So Virgil, 'AEn.,' 6:256—

"Sub pedibus mugire solum, et juga coepta moveri

Silvarum … Adventante des

For "mountains," the LXX. reads, "peoples" The overflowing of the water passed by; the talent of water passed along. Cataracts of rain fell, as in the Deluge. "The windows on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake" (Isa_24:18). Those who confine the reference to past events see here an intimation of the passage of the Jordan (Jos_3:15, Jos_3:16). The deep uttered his voice. The mass of waters in the ocean and under the earth rears mightily as it bursts forth (Gen_49:25; Deu_33:13). His hands. Its waves (Psa_98:8). Septuagint, ὕψος φαντασίας αὐτῆς , "the height of its form."


The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; or, stand still, or withdraw into their habitation. They hide themselves in the tabernacles whence they are said to emerge when they shine (Psa_19:4, etc.). Overpowered with the splendour of God's presence, the heavenly luminaries hide their light in this day of the Lord (comp. Isa_13:10; Joe_2:2, Joe_2:10, Joe_2:31; Joe_3:15; Amo_5:20; Mat_24:29). The miracle of Joshua (Jos_10:12, etc.) may have suggested some of the language here, but the idea is quite different. At the light of thine arrows they went; i.e. the sun and moon fled away discomfited at the glory of God's weapons, his arrows gleaming with light. The idea may be that, in the absence of the sun and moon, the terrific scene was illuminated only by flashes of lightning. "Lightnings" are sometimes celled God's "arrows," as in Psa_18:14; Psa_77:17, etc.; but the image here is rather of the arms of a warrior. Many supply the relative in the sentence, and render, "arrows which shoot along." This seems to be unnecessary, and is not supported by the versions. There is no special reference to the hailstorm at Beth-horon, which discomfited the Cananites, but enabled the Israelites to pass on to victory (Joshua, loc. cit.). It is the terror of the judgment that is adumbrated, when the Lord shall come in flames of fire (2Th_1:8), and the heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2Pe_3:12).


Thou didst march through the land in indignation; thou treadest the earth in .fury. The mighty Judge stalks over the earth (Hab_3:6; comp. Jdg_5:4; Psa_68:7). It is a general statement, and not to be confined to the successes of Joshua and the destruction of the Canaanites. Septuagint, Ἐν ἀπειλῇ ὀλιγώσεις γῆν , with the alteration of a letter," Thou wilt bring low the land with threats." Thou didst thresh the heathen (nations) in anger; Septuagint, ἐν θυμῷ κατάξεις ("thou wilt break in pieces") ἔθνη . Jerome here renders the verb, obstupefacies; but elsewhere, as Isa_28:28; Hos_10:11; Amo_1:3, he uses triturare which gives the best meaning. The kindred figure is found in Mic_4:13; Isa_63:1, etc.


Thou wentest forth. The prophet specifies the end which these manifestations were designed to effect. God is said to "go forth" when he intervenes for the aid of his people, as Jdg_5:4; 2Sa_5:24; Isa_42:13. For salvation with thine anointed; In salutem cum Christo tuo (Vulgate); τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν χριστὸν σου ( τοὺς χριστούς σου , Alex; Sin.), "to save thine anointed". If the signification of the word "with" (eth) be pressed, the passage is taken to mean that, as God manifested himself in old time for the salvation of his people with his chosen "Christ," Moses; so he will hereafter reveal his power for the destruction of the Chaldeans with his chosen "Christ," Cyrus. But this is too definite, and cannot be shown to be intended. The "anointed one," again, is not the nation of Israel, for the term is always applied to a single individual and never to the people collectively; so here it is the theocratic king who is meant—first, the representative of David; and secondly, the Messiah. God reveals himself for the salvation of his people in union with the work especially of his anointed Son, Christ. This is how the passage is taken by Eusebius ('Dem. Evang.,' 4.16), Εἰς σωτηρίαν λαον σου σὺν Χριστῷ σου . It must be confessed, however, that most modern commentaters translate, "for the salvation of thy anointed," taking the last expression (contrary to all usage) to mean the Israelites, as being a kingdom and nation of priests (Exo_19:6). In this case the present clause is merely a repetition of the preceding one. Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked; thou dashest in pieces the head. As in the following clause the metaphor of a house is plainly employed, "the head" must be taken for the gable or topmost ridge. "The house of the wicked" is an allegorical description of the Chaldaic dominion and its king; and the prophet declares that God will smite with destruction both the ungodly monarch and the kingdom that opposes itself. Some commentators see here an allusion to the primeval sentence (Gen_3:15): others to the destruction of the Egyptians' firstborn; others to the incident of Jael and Sisera (Jdg_5:26). If the prophet's language was influenced by any of these matters, his view and his oracle are concerned with the mighty future. The LXX. has, "Thou wilt east death upon the heads of the evil." By discovering (literally, making naked) the foundations unto the neck. "By" is better omitted. Keil supposes that "the neck" is the central part of the house, looking from the gable downwards; though why this should be so called is not apparent; and the wording of the original, "the foundations even to the neck," compels us to connect the two words together, and will not allow us to interpret "the neck" of some higher part of the building. The general meaning is plain—the metaphorical house is destroyed from summit to base, the destruction beginning at the gable is carried on to the very foundations According to this view, "the neck" should mean the very lowest basis of the walls. Henderson (after Capellus and others) suggests that we should read "rock," a word derived from the same root. Septuagint, Ἐξήγειρας δεσμοὺς ἕως τραχήλου , "Thou didst raise chains unto the neck." It is possible that the mention of "the head," just above, has led the prophet to use the term "neck" in order to express the utter destruction of the whole body. Selah. Another solemn pause ensues.


Thou didst strike through with his staves; thou didst pierce with his own spears. Thou dost turn on the Chaldeans and all thine enemies the destruction which they intended for others. The people meet with the same fate as the royal house (Hab_3:13); Vulgate, maledixisti sceptris ejus, which seems to be a mistranslation. The head of his villages ( ôøæéí ). There is a difficulty in arriving at the meaning of this last word. The LXX. renders it, "mighty men;" Jerome, "warriors;" Chaldee, "army;" Delitzsch and many modern critics, "hordes" or "inhabitants of the plain;" others again, "rulers" or "judges." The most probable version is either "warriors" or "hordes." The head, i.e. collectively the heads of his warlike troops. They came out (or, who rush) as a whirlwind to scatter me (see the description of the Chaldees, Hab_1:6, etc.). The prophet identifies himself with his people. (For the figure of the whirlwind, comp. Isa_41:16; Jer_13:24; Hos_13:3.) Dr. Briggs renders, "Thou dost pierce with his rods the chief, when his rulers are rushing in to scatter me." Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly; or, as in ambush, to devoter the helpless. They exult in acting the part of robbers and murderers, who lurk for the defenceless and afflict the poor (Psa_10:8, etc.). As is equivalent to "as it were." Vulgate, Sicut ejus qui. "The poor" are primarily the Israelites, and then all meek worshippers of God.


The Exodus is the type of the deliverance of God's people. Thou didst walk through (didst tread) the sea with thine horses; literally, thou treadest the sea, thy horses, the horses being explanatory. The prophet takes his imagery from Exo_15:1-19. He represents God as a warrior in his chariot, leading the way through the waters to the destruction of his enemies and to the salvation of his own people. Through the heap of great waters; or, upon the surge of mighty waters. The verse may also be rendered, Thou treadest the sea—thy horses (tread) the heap of great waters (Psa_77:19). Past mercies and deliverances are types and pledges of future.

Hab_3:16, Hab_3:17

§ 4. The contemplation of the Divine judgments produces in the people of God at first, fear and trembling at the prospect of chastisement


When I heard. "When" is better omitted. "I heard" the report of thee (vex. 2). The LXX. refers to Hab_2:1, rendering, "I watched." If the former part is the paean of the congregation, the present is the prophet's own utterance expressive of his dismay at the prospect before him. My belly trembled. My inmost part, my inward self, trembled with fear (comp. Isa_16:11). My lips quivered at the voice. My lips quivered with fear at the voice of God that sounded in me (Hab_2:1), proclaiming these awful judgments. The word rendered" quivered" (tsalal) is applied to the tingling of the ears (1Sa_3:11; 2Ki_21:12), and implies that the prophet's lips so trembled that he was scarcely able to utter speech. The LXX. renders, "from the voice of the prayers of my lips." Rottenness entered into my bones. This is an hyperbolical expression, denoting that the firmest, strongest parts of his body were relaxed and weakened with utter fear, as if his very bones were cankered and corrupted, and there was no marrow in them. And I trembled in myself. The last word (tachtai) is rendered variously: "under me," according to the Greek and Latin Versions, i.e. in my knees and feet, so that I reeled and stumbled; or, "in my place," on the spot where I stand (as Exo_16:29). That I might rest in the day of trouble; better, I who shall rest in the day of tribulation. The prophet suddenly expresses his confidence that he shall have rest in this affliction; amid this terror and awe he is sure that there remaineth a rest for the people of God. This sentiment leads naturally to the beautiful expression of hope in the concluding paragraph (Hab_2:17, etc.). Keil and others render, "tremble that I am to wait quietly for the day of tribulation;" that I am to sit still and await the day of affliction. But Pusey denies that the verb (nuach) ever means "to wait patiently for," or "to be silent about;" its uniform signification is "to rest" from labour or from trouble. Thus the Septuagint, Ἀναπαύσομαι ἐν ἡμέρα θλίψεως , "I will rest in the day of affliction;" Vulgate, Ut requiescam in die tribulationis. When he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. This should be, When he that invades with bands comes up against the people; i.e. in the day when the Chaldeans attack the Israelites. Septuagint, Τοῦ ἀναβῆναι εἰς λαὸν παροικίας μου : "To go up against the people of my sojourning;" Vulgate, Ut ascendam ad populum aecinctum nostrum, which is thus explained: "I will bear all things patiently, even death itself, that I may attain to the happy company of those blessed heroes who fought for their country and their God." It is obvious to remark that this is a gloss, not on the original text, but on the erroneous version.


The prophet depicts the effects of the hostile invasion, which are such as to make the natural heart despair. Although the fig tree shall not blossom. The devastations of the enemy leave the country bare and uncultivated. The Chaldeans, like the Assyrians and Egyptians, cut down and burnt the fruit-bearing trees of the countries which they invaded (comp. Deu_20:19; Isa_9:10; Isa_37:24; Jer_6:6). The trees most useful and abundant in Palestine are mentioned (comp. Deu_6:11; Hos_2:12; Joe_1:7; Mic_4:4; Mic_6:15, etc.). The labour of the olive shall fail; literally, shall lie. The "labour" is the produce, the fruit. Though the yield shall disappoint all expectation. The use of the verb "to lie" in this sense is found elsewhere; e.g. Isa_58:11; Hos_9:2. So Horace, 'Carm.,' 3.1, 30, "Fundus mendax;" and ' Epist.,' 1.7. 87, "Spem mentita seges." The fields; the cornfields (Isa_16:8). The flock shall be cut off from the fold. There shall be no flocks in the fold, all having perished for lack of food. "Omnia haec," says St. Jerome, "auferentur a populo, quia inique egit in Deum creatorem suum."

Hab_3:18, Hab_3:19

§ 5. In spite of the terror produced by these judgments, the true Israelite is blessed with hope of salvation and joy in the Lord.


Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. Unshaken in confidence, the prophet, representing the faithful Israelite, expresses his unbounded joy at the prospect of salvation which opens to him beyond the present affliction. The psalmist often thus shews his exulting faith (see Psa_5:7; Psa_13:6; Psa_17:14, Psa_17:15; Psa_31:19). I will joy. I will shout for joy; my joy shall express itself outwardly. The God of my salvation (see note on Mic_7:7). The God who judges the nations to procure the final salvation of his people. Septuagint, Τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου , "God my Saviour;" Vulgate, In Deo Jesu meo. From this gloss of St. Jerome some of the Fathers have argued for the existence in this passage of a revelation of the incarnation of Christ and the redemption wrought by him.


The Lord God is my strength; more accurately, Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength, from Psa_18:32; comp. Psa_27:1. He will make my feet like hinds' feet (Psa_18:33). He makes me active and swift-footed as the gazelle, as a lusty warrior (2Sa_1:23; 2Sa_2:18) should be. So by the help of God I shall be superior to my enemies. He will make me to walk upon mine high places. The expression is used properly of God (Mic_1:3), and elsewhere, says Keil, to denote the victorious possession and government of a country (see Deu_32:13; Deu_33:29). Here it signifies that believing Israel shall overcome all opposition and dwell in safety in its own land. To the chief singer (musician) on my stringed instruments (neginoth). This is a musical direction, answering to the heading in Psa_27:1, and implies that the ode is committed to the conductor of the temple music, to be by him adapted for the public service to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. Such directions are elsewhere always found at the beginning, not the end, of psalms (see Psa_4:1-8.; 6.; 54.; 55.; 67.; 76.). It has been thought that the suffix of the first person, "my stringed instruments," denotes that Habakkuk had a right to take part in the temple service, and was therefore a Levite; but it is very doubtful whether this suffix is not a clerical error, as Kuenen and Ewald suppose, or merely paragogic. Certainly neither the Greek, Latin, nor Syriac Versions afford it any confirmation. These versions make the subscription part of the ode. Thus LXX; Ἐπι τὰ ὑψηλὰ ἐπιβιβᾶ με , τοῦ νικῆσαι ἐν τῇ ὠδῇ αὐτοῦ , He maketh me to mount upon the high places, that I may conquer by his song;" Vulgate, Super excelsa mea deducet me victor (victori, Cod. Amiat.) in psalmis canentem.



The prayer of an alarmed prophet.


1. Its cause. The report of Jehovah; i.e. the communication received from Jehovah concerning the punishment of Judah and the destruction of Chaldea. Habakkuk not the first man that had been afraid at the hearing of God's voice (Gen_3:10; Exo_3:6), at the thought of his presence (Job_23:15), at the manifestation of his power (Psa_65:8), at the contemplation of his judgments (Psa_119:120). Nor will they who hear the fame of his doings in the past or the announcement of his "judgments to come," as both of these are unfolded in Scripture, fail to be similarly affected. Like the Canaanites before the advance of Joshua and his host, their hearts will melt in them for fear (Jos_2:11). What excited terror in the breast of Habakkuk was the prospect Jehovah's "report" opened up before him! Though a pious man and a prophet, he was at the same time a philanthropist and a patriot, who could not contemplate without a shudder the decimation of his people or the desolation of his country; and neither can the Christian anticipate without apprehension those chastisements that are promised to himself for correction of his backslidings, and to the Church for her recovery from doctrinal aberration or spiritual declension. It may be better to fall into God's hands, because his mercies are great, than to fall into those of man (2Sa_24:14); but in any case it is a fearful thing to fall for judgment into the hands of the living God (Heb_10:31). Again, the fierce whirlwind of retribution, which in the end should throw down the eagle's nest of Chaldean pride and blow up the crackling flames in which its palaces and temples were to be destroyed, raised within him awe-inspiring conceptions of the omnipotence of Jehovah which made him tremble, even though the downfall of Chaldea meant the deliverance of Judah; and so, although the final destruction of the ungodly will be to the saints a cause of rejoicing (Rev_18:20), it will also inspire them with a solemn awe of the Divine holiness and justice, majesty and power.

2. Its cure. Prayer. Different from Adam, who, having heard God's voice, ran from God, Habakkuk, in his alarm, betook himself to God. Hiding from God, the custom of sinners; hiding in God, the comfort of saints (Psa_143:9). Suitable for all times (Eph_6:18; Php_4:6; 1Th_5:17), prayer is specially appropriate for bad times (Psa_1:1-6 :15). In addition to the promise that God will be a Refuge for the oppressed, a Refuge in times of trouble (Psa_9:9), and to the fact that good men in all ages have found him so (Psa_48:3; Psa_91:2; Jer_16:19), the practice of pouring one's fears (Psa_34:4) as well as complaints (Psa_142:2) and requests (Php_4:6) into the ear of God seems justified by this, that he who by his judgment causes, is by his wisdom and mercy best able to remove alarms.


1. Its fervent. Intimated by the repetition of the term "Jehovah," and by the three short sentences of which the prayer is composed. Souls labouring under strong emotion commonly express themselves in brief and broken ejaculations, rather than in long and polished periods.

2. Its tenor. A threefold petition.

(1) For the acceleration of Jehovah's work. "O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years." The work referred to was the purification of Judah by means of the Chaldean exile, and the salvation of Judah by the ultimate overthrow of her oppressor. It was thus a picture of God's work in all ages—the deliverance of the individual believer and of the Church in general, first through the afflictions and trials of life from the moral defilement of sin; and second, through the overthrow (by Christ's cross and rule) of the enemies of both from the legal and spiritual bondage of sin. The prophet craved that Jehovah might not defer the completion of Judah's redemption till the end of the time which had been appointed for this purpose, but that he might cause his work to live (not suffer it to go to sleep, but quicken and revive it), no that it might be finished in the midst of the years, and Judah's reformation and emancipation brought about long before the stipulated period had arrived. Thus his prayer was one the believer might offer for himself, that God would perfect that which concerned him (Psa_138:8), would carry on his work of grace within him (Php_1:6), making all things work together for his good (Rom_8:28), causing tribulation to work in him patience, etc. (Rom_5:3), and afflictions to yield him the peaceable fruits of righteousness (Heb_12:11), as well as to work out for him a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory (2Co_4:18); and would crown that work by completely effecting his deliverance from the curse and power of sin, from the terror of death, the darkness of the grave, the misery of hell. It was also a petition which the Church might present for herself, that she might be purified, extended, completed, glorified, net after long waiting, but soon, in the middle of the years. "Even so, come [quickly], Lord Jesus" (Rev_22:20).

(2) For the manifestation of Jehovah's glory. "In the midst of the years make it known." Make it known, the prophet meant, that the work of punishing and purifying Judah by means of exile in Babylon is thy work; no shall it comfort Judah and awe Babylon. Make it known that the deliverance of Judah by means of the overthrow of Babylon is thy work; so again shall Judah rejoice and the nations of the earth be afraid. The believer and the Church may aide ask that God's work in dealing with them should be manifest, not to themselves merely, but to the world at large. This would both sustain them and impress the world. Until affliction is seen to be God's work, it does little good to the soul; till the world perceives that God is in the Church, it will not cease to persecute and hinder the Church.

(3) For the dispensation of Jehovah's mercy. Habakkuk's plea was not merit. He knew well that what he asked could not be granted on the score of justice.

"'Tis from the mercy of our God

That all our hopes begin."


1. That God's voice should excite alarm even in the hearts of good men is no mean proof of the fallen state of mankind generally.

2. It is a good sign of grace when an alarmed soul betakes itself to God.

3. The pre-eminence which belongs to redemption over all the other works of God.

4. The only power that can awaken dead souls or revive unspiritual and decadent Churches is God.

5. The chief hope of man lies in the mercy of Heaven, not in the goodness of himself.


An ideal theophany: 1. The onward march of the Deity.


1. God, or Eloah, the Strong or Powerful One. A name for the Supreme used for the first time by Moses (Deu_32:15) to portray God as the Creator of Israel, and employed by Habakkuk "to designate God as the Lord and Governor of the whole world" (Keil). Omnipotence an essential attribute of Divinity (Gen_17:1; Jos_4:24; 1Ch_29:12; Job_36:5; Job_42:2; Psa_62:11); the impotence of heathen idols was the best proof that they were no gods (Isa_45:20; Jer_2:28).

2. The Holy One. An appellation given to God at least three times in the Psalter (Psa_71:2; Psa_78:41; Psa_89:18), twice in Jeremiah (Jer_50:29; Jer_51:5), once in Ezekiel (Eze_39:7), once in Hosea (Hos_11:9), twice in Habakkuk (Hab_1:12; Hab_3:3), and occurring frequently in Isaiah. Equally with strength is purity an indispensable quality in the Supreme; and this no less than that in an infinite measure and degree. An unholy God could not be all-powerful, all-wise, all-just, or all-good. Holiness the guarantee and guardian of the other attributes of his nature. Least of all could an unholy God be either a Saviour or a Judge of men.


1. Its extent. All-pervading, irradiating the entire universe, covering the heavens and spreading over the earth (Eze_43:2), What is here declared of the material or symbolic presence of Deity is true of his real, though unseen, presence (Psa_8:1; Psa_19:1; Isa_6:3).

2. Its brightness. Resembling the light, i.e. the sun, to which Scripture likens God himself (Psa_84:11), and Christ (Mat_4:2; Joh_9:5), who is God's Image (2Co_4:4), the Brightness of his Father's glory, and the express Image of his Person (Heb_1:3). In exact accordance with the prophet's thought, God is represented as covering himself with tight as with a garment (Psa_104:2), and as dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto (1Ti_6:16); white Christ is ever set forth as the highest expression of the uncreated glory of the Supreme (Joh_1:14).

3. Its manifestation. Emitting rays or shooting forth beams on all sides, like the rising sun (Keil, Delitzsch), an emblem suggestive of the partial and gradual, though universal, manner in which the Divine glory unveils itself to intelligent spectators on earth (Job_26:14).

4. Its power. Emanating from his hand, like rays darting forth from the sun's disc, or like horns shooting out from the head of a gazelle (Pusey, Fausset). The allusion may have been to the lightnings which flashed forth from the cloud upon Mount Sinai (Exo_19:16); but the underlying thought is that one principal aspect of God's glory is the exhibition of power which he furnishes to men in the material creation (Isa_40:26, Isa_40:28), in the phenomena of nature (Job_36:22, etc.), and in the scheme of grace (1Co_1:24).

5. Its essence. Hidden, unsearchable, unfathomable, the above-mentioned coruscations of his glory being not so much unveilments as concealments of his ineffable Personality, not so much exhibitions as hidings of his power. That which may be known of God from the outshinings of his glory is the fact, not the fulness, of his power and Godhead, The grand truth symbolized by the cloudy pillar infolding brightness, viz. that Israel's God was a God that, while discovering, yet hid himself (Isa_45:15), was in the Incarnation exemplified and emphasized (cf. Joh_1:14 with Joh_7:27), and is receiving confirmation by every advance the human mind makes in knowledge (Job_11:7-9; Job_26:9; Job_37:23; Psa_145:3; Psa_147:5; Isa_40:28; Rom_11:33). Agnoscticism a witness to the truth here stated.


1. The quarter whence he comes. Teman and Paran, i.e. the country south of Judah or Idumea, and Paran the desert region lying between Judah and Sinai (see Exposition). Separated only by the Wady-el-Arabah, the two localities were intended to indicate the Sinaitic region as the spot whence this sublime theophany of the future should proceed. In so defining its starting point, the prophet probably wished to suggest a variety of thoughts, as e.g. that the future glorious manifestation of Jehovah was rendered possible, and even probable, by what had in the past occurred at Sinai; that it would proceed in the line of that earlier theophany, and be a carrying out of the Divine policy therein revealed a policy of mercy and judgment, of salvation and destruction; and that in it, as in the ancient Apocalypse, both the power and the holiness of God would be signally displayed. True of the Divine advent in the overthrow of Babylon, these thoughts were also realized in the advent of the fulness of the times, and will be conspicuous in the final advent at the close of human history.

2. The purpose for which he comes. To execute judgment upon the ungodly world, and so to effect the deliverance of his people. This was to be the object of his interposition in the overthrow of Babylon, as it had been in the destruction of Egypt; this was the end aimed at in the first coming of the Saviour, the redemption of his Church by the annihilation of her foes; this will be the purpose of his appearing at the end of the world, to complete the redemption of his people by completing the punishment of the ungodly.

3. The attendants by whom he is served. Pestilence in front, and fiery belts in the rear, signifying that God will be accompanied with sufficient instruments to effect his purpose. "Death and destruction of all sorts are a great army at his command (Pusey).


1. The certainty of a future manifestation of Jehovah in the Person of the glorified Christ.

2. The double object for which that glorious manifestation of Christ will take place.

Hab_3:6, Hab_3:7

An ideal theophany: 2. The wonderful acts of the Deity.


1. Measuring the earth; i.e. either surveying it with his all-seeing glance whereat there is universal consternation (Fausset), or measuring it out among the peoples on its surface, as Joshua partitioned the Holy Land after its conquest among the tribes (Pusey). Both ideas are historically true, no Divine interposition of any magnitude occurring among earth's inhabitants without bringing with it to thoughtful minds a conviction that the hand and eye of God are at work, and leaving after it, as a result, a rearrangement of the map of the globe. The marginal reading, "shaking the earth," causing it to reel (Delitzsch, Keil), as David says it trembled on the occasion of Jehovah's coming down on Mount Sinai (Psa_68:8), presents also a valuable truth that the Divine providential government of the world, especially when it takes to deal with long established iniquity for the purpose of punishing and destroying the same, is calculated to inspire awe among earth's inhabitants (Psa_99:1), as it did when it broke the pride of Egypt (Exo_15:14), as it was to do when it overthrew the Chaldean power, and as it will do when it hurls the mystical Babylon to the abyss (Rev_18:19). This the thought contained in the parallel clause.

2. Driving asunder the nations. "He beheld and drove asunder [or, 'made to tremble'] the nations." He so paralyzed them with fear that he drove them asunder, rendering combination amongst them impossible.

II. SCATTERING THE MOUNTAINS AND BOWING THE HILLS. Not the lesser heights of comparatively recent formation, but the primeval altitudes, whose hoary peaks have witnessed the passing by of millenniums, and whose roots go down amid the granite bars of the earth (Psa_90:2). These by his encampment on their summits he causes to crumble, resolve themselves into dust, and vanish into nought (Nah_1:5; Mic_1:4). The image may point to "the convulsions on Mount Sinai and to the earthquake which announced the descent of the Most High" (Adam Clarke), but it signifies the utter impossibility of even the strongest forces of nature, whether in matter or in man, resisting the advance of God, and that because his ways are older than even the everlasting hills (Psa_90:2) are the only things on earth to which everlastingness belongs. "The everlasting ways of the everlasting God are mercy and truth" (St. Bernard, quoted by Pusey).


In prophetic vision Habakkuk beheld the impression made upon the neighbouring nations through which Jehovah passed on his march from Teman to the Red Sea—the Cushites or African Ethiopians on the west "in affliction;" and the Midianites towards the east, "trembling." A different interpretation makes Cushan the Mesopotamian king, Chushan-Rishathaim, who oppressed Israel eight years in the time of the Judges (Jdg_3:8-10), and Midian the last enemy who seduced Israel into sin when on the borders of the promised land (Num_25:17), and came up against them after they had settled in it (Jdg_6:4-11). In this case the prophet selects the judgments executed upon these—upon the first by Othniel, upon the second by Gideon—as typical of the inflictions that would fall upon Jehovah's enemies at his future coming.


1. The sovereignty of God over men and kings.

2. The duty and wisdom of recognizing God's hand in the movements of nations and in the phenomena of nature.

3. The impossibility of defeating the ultimate realization of God's purposes, whether of judgment or of mercy.


An ideal theophany: 3. The terrible wrath of the Deity.

I. ITS VISIBLE MANIFESTATIONS. The prophet conceives Jehovah as "a warlike hero equipped for conflict," depicts him as marching forth against his enemies, and throwing all nature (especially its rivers and seas, emblems of the earth's populations) into consternation, and inquires of him what had been the cause of his vehement displeasure. The form of the question suggests that Jehovah's anger had not been directed against inanimate nature, but that the commotions visible in the rivers and the seas were only symbols of his wrath against men.

II. ITS SECRET DESTINATION. It was aimed at a threefold purpose.

1. The destruction of his enemies. Of these the rivers and seas were merely emblems (Hab_3:14).

2. The salvation of his people. Jehovah's horses and chariots were horses and chariots of salvation (Hab_3:13). "The end of God's armies, his visitations and judgments, is the salvation of his elect, even while they who are inwardly dead perish outwardly also" (Pusey).

3. The vindication of his own honor. His bow had been land was to be) made quite bare, i.e. drawn from its scabbard in fulfilment of the oaths he had given to the tribes—first to Abraham, then to Isaac, next to Jacob, and afterwards to David—that he would deliver them from the hand of their enemies (Luk_1:73-75); or, accepting the marginal translation, because "sworn were the chastisements [literally, 'rods'] of his word," i.e. because the threatenings he had uttered against his people's enemies (Deu_32:40-42) were as sure as the promises of deliverance bestowed upon his people themselves.


1. That the wrath of God is as much a reality as the love of God is.

2. That the destruction of God's enemies is as sure as is the salvation of his friends.

3. That in both God will be glorified.


An ideal theophany: 4. The glorious interposition of the Deity.

I. NATURE'S HOMAGE TO THE JUDGE. (Hab_3:10, Hab_3:11.) Jehovah's presence on that great and terrible day will be attested by a succession of marvels.

1. Wonders in the earth.

(1) The cleaving of the earth with rivers (Hab_3:9) may point to the bursting forth of waters from the deep places of the earth, which are again opened as at the Flood (Gen_7:11) through violent convulsions, or to the overflowing of the land by the agitated and swollen waters, as also happened on the occasion of that appalling catastrophe (Gen_7:11, Gen_7:17, Gen_7:19).

(2) The trembling of the mountains, which writhe as if in pain, may contain an allusion to earthquakes and similar cataclysms.

2. Wonders in the sea. The tempest of waters passed by, the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high" (Hab_3:10). These words possibly allude to what occurred both in the Flood and in the dividing of the Red Sea and the Jordan.

3. Wonders in the sky. "The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, at the shining of thy glittering spear" (Hab_3:11), as they did in the time of Joshua, when Jehovah fought for Israel against Gibson (Jos_10:13). Compare the description in the Apocalypse of the great day of the wrath of the Lamb (Rev_6:12-16).


1. Marching through the land in indignation. The land referred to is in the foreground Chaldea, and in the background the whole earth, which, no less than Babylon, will have become an object of Divine displeasure.

2. Threshing the nations in anger.