Habakkuk's Prayer to God: God's Glorious
Revelation of Himself at Sinai and at Gibeon, a Pledge of His
Interposing Again in Behalf of Israel against Babylon, and All Other Foes; Hence the Prophet's Confidence Amid
This sublime ode begins with an exordium (Hab 3:1, 2), then follows the main subject,
then the peroration (Hab 3:16-19), a summary of the practical truth,
which the whole is designed to teach. (De 33:2-5; Ps 77:13-20 are parallel odes). This was
probably designed by the Spirit to be a fit formula of prayer for the
people, first in their Babylonian exile, and now in their dispersion,
especially towards the close of it, just before the great Deliverer is
to interpose for them. It was used in public worship, as the musical
term, "Selah!" (Hab 3:3, 9, 13), implies.
1. prayer—the only strictly called
prayers are in Hab 3:2. But
all devotional addresses to God are called "prayers" (Ps 72:20). The Hebrew is from a root "to
apply to a judge for a favorable decision." Prayers in which
praises to God for deliverance, anticipated in the sure
confidence of faith, are especially calculated to enlist Jehovah on His
people's side (2Ch 20:20-22, 26).
upon Shigionoth—a musical phrase,
"after the manner of elegies," or mournful odes, from an Arabic
root [Lee]; the phrase is
singular in Ps 7:1, title.
More simply, from a Hebrew root to "err," "on account of sins
of ignorance." Habakkuk thus teaches his countrymen to confess not
only their more grievous sins, but also their errors and
negligences, into which they were especially likely to fall when
in exile away from the Holy Land [Calvin]. So Vulgate and Aquila, and Symmachus. "For voluntary transgressors" [Jerome]. Probably the subject would regulate
the kind of music. Delitzsch and Henderson translate, "With triumphal music,"
from the same root "to err," implying its enthusiastic
2. I have heard thy speech—Thy
revelation to me concerning the coming chastisement of the Jews [Calvin], and the destruction of their
oppressors. This is Habakkuk's reply to God's communication [Grotius]. Maurer translates, "the report of Thy coming,"
literally, "Thy report."
and was afraid—reverential fear of
God's judgments (Hab 3:16).
revive thy work—Perfect the
work of delivering Thy people, and do not let Thy promise
lie as if it were dead, but give it new life by performing it
[Menochius]. Calvin explains "thy work" to be Israel;
called "the work of My hands" (Isa 45:11). God's elect people are peculiarly His
illustrating His power, wisdom, and goodness. "Though we seem, as it
were, dead nationally, revive us" (Ps 85:6). However (Ps 64:9), where "the work of God" refers to
His judgment on their enemies, favors the former view (Ps
90:16, 17; Isa 51:9, 10).
in the midst of the years—namely, of
calamity in which we live. Now that our calamities are at their height;
during our seventy years' captivity. Calvin more fancifully explains it, in the midst of
the years of Thy people, extending from Abraham to Messiah; if they be
cut off before His coming, they will be cut off as it were in the
midst of their years, before attaining their maturity. So Bengel makes the midst of the years to
be the middle point of the years of the world. There is a strikingly
similar phrase (Da 9:27),
In the midst of the week. The parallel clause, "in wrath" (that
is, in the midst of wrath), however, shows that "in the midst of
the years" means "in the years of our present exile and calamity."
make known—Made it (Thy
work) known by experimental proof; show in very deed, that this is Thy
3. God—singular in the
Hebrew, "Eloah," instead of "Elohim," plural, usually
employed. The singular is not found in any other of the minor
prophets, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel; but it is in Isaiah, Daniel, Job,
from Teman—the country south of Judea
and near Edom, in which latter country Mount Paran was situated [Henderson]. "Paran" is the desert region,
extending from the south of Judah to Sinai. Seir, Sinai, and Paran are
adjacent to one another, and are hence associated together, in respect
to God's giving of the law (De 33:2).
Teman is so identified with Seir or Edom, as here to be
substituted for it. Habakkuk appeals to God's glorious manifestations
to His people at Sinai, as the ground for praying that God will "revive
His work" (Hab 3:2) now.
For He is the same God now as ever.
Selah—a musical sign, put at the close
of sections and strophes, always at the end of a verse, except thrice;
namely, here, and Hab 3:9, and Ps 55:19; 57:3, where, however, it closes the
hemistich. It implies a change of the modulation. It comes from a root
to "rest" or "pause" [Gesenius];
implying a cessation of the chant, during an instrumental interlude.
The solemn pause here prepares the mind for contemplating the glorious
description of Jehovah's manifestation which follows.
earth … full of his praise—that
is, of His glories which were calculated to call forth universal
praise; the parallelism to "glory" proves this to be the
4. as the light—namely, of the sun
(Job 37:21; Pr 4:18).
horns—the emblem of power
wielded by "His hand" [Ludovicus De
Dieu]. "Rays" emanating from "His hand," compared by the Arabs
to the horns of the gazelle (compare "hind of the morning," Ps 22:1, title, Margin). The
Hebrew verb for to "emit rays," is from the root meaning "horns"
34:29, 30, 35) [Grotius]. The rays are His lightnings (Ps 18:8), [Maurer].
there—in that "brightness." In
it, notwithstanding its brilliancy, there was but the veil "(the
hiding) of His power." Even "light," God's "garment," covers,
instead of revealing fully, His surpassing glory (Ps 104:2) [Henderson]. Or, on Mount Sinai [Drusius]. (Compare Ex 24:17). The Septuagint and
Syriac versions read for "there," He made a hiding,
&c.; He hid Himself with clouds. English Version is better,
which Calvin explains, there is said to
be "a hiding of God's power," because God did not reveal it
indiscriminately to all, but specially to His people (Ps 31:20). The contrast seems to me to be between
the "horns" or emanations out of His power ("hand"), and that
"power" itself. The latter was hidden, whereas the "horns" or
emanations alone were manifested. If the mere scintillations
were so awfully overwhelming, how much more so the hidden power itself!
This was especially true of His manifestation at Sinai (Ps 18:11; compare Isa 45:15, 17).
5. pestilence—to destroy His people's
5:9, 11). As Jehovah's advent
is glorious to His people, so it is terrible to His foes.
burning coals—Ps 18:8 favors English Version. But the
parallelism requires, as the Margin translates, "burning
disease" (compare De 32:24; Ps 91:6).
went … at his feet—that is,
after Him, as His attendants (Jud 4:10).
6. He stood, and measured the
earth—Jehovah, in His advance, is represented as stopping
suddenly, and measuring the earth with His all-seeing glance,
whereat there is universal consternation. Maurer, from a different root, translates,
"rocked the earth"; which answers better to the parallel "drove
asunder"; the Hebrew for which latter, however, may be better
translated, "made to tremble."
everlasting mountains—which have ever
been remembered as retaining the same place and form from the
foundation of the world.
did bow—as it were, in reverent
his ways are everlasting—His
marvellous ways of working for the salvation of His people mark His
everlasting character: such as He was in His workings for them
formerly, such shall He be now.
7. the tents—that is, the dwellers.
Cushan—the same as Cush; made
"Cush-an" to harmonize with "Midi-an" in the parallel
clause. So Lotan is found in the Hebrew of Genesis for
Lot. Bochart therefore considers
it equivalent to Midian, or a part of Arabia. So in Nu 12:1, Moses' Midianite wife is called an
Ethiopian (Hebrew, Cushite). Maurer thinks the dwellers on both sides of the
Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, are meant; for in Hab 3:6 God's everlasting or ancient
ways of delivering His people are mentioned; and in Hab 3:8, the dividing of the Red Sea for them.
Compare Miriam's song as to the fear of Israel's foes far and
near caused thereby (Ex 15:14-16). Hebrew expositors refer it to
Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, or Syria, the first oppressor
of Israel (Jud 3:8, 10), from whom Othniel delivered them. Thus
the second hemistich of the verse will refer to the deliverance of
Israel from Midian by Gideon (Jud 6:1-7:25) to which Hab 3:11 plainly refers. Whichever of these views
be correct, the general reference is to God's interpositions against
Israel's foes of old.
in affliction—rather, "under
affliction" (regarded) as a heavy burden. Literally, "vanity" or
"iniquity," hence the punishment of it (compare Nu 25:17, 18).
curtains—the coverings of their tents;
the shifting habitations of the nomad tribes, which resembled the
tremble—namely, at Jehovah's terrible
interposition for Israel against them.
8. Was the Lord displeased against the
rivers?—"Was the cause of His dividing the Red Sea and Jordan
His displeasure against these waters?" The answer to this is tacitly
implied in "Thy chariots of salvation." "Nay; it was not
displeasure against the waters, but His pleasure in interposing for His
people's salvation" (compare Hab 3:10).
thy chariots—in antithesis to Thy foe,
Pharaoh's chariots," which, notwithstanding their power and
numbers, were engulfed in the waters of destruction. God can
make the most unlikely means work for His people's salvation (Ex 14:7, 9, 23, 25-28; 15:3-8,
19). Jehovah's chariots are
His angels (Ps 68:17),
or the cherubim, or the ark (Jos 3:13; 4:7; compare So 1:9).
9. bow … made … naked—that
is, was drawn forth from its cover, in which bows usually were cased
when not in use. Compare Isa 22:6,
"Kir uncovered the shield."
according to the oaths of the tribes
even thy word—that is, Thy oaths of promise to
the tribes of Israel (Ps 77:8; Lu 1:73, 74). Habakkuk shows that God's miraculous
interpositions for His people were not limited to one time, but that
God's oaths to His people are sure ground for their always
expecting them. The mention of the tribes, rather than
Abraham or Moses, is in order that they may not doubt that to
them belongs this grace of which Abraham was the depository [Calvin and Jerome]. Maurer
translates, "The spears were glutted with blood, the triumphal song!"
that is, no sooner did Jehovah begin the battle by baring His bow, than
the spears were glutted with blood and the triumphal song sung.
Thou didst cleave the earth with
rivers—the result of the earthquake caused by God's approach
[Maurer]. Grotius refers it to the bringing forth water from
the rock (Ex 17:6; Nu 20:10, 11; Ps 78:15,
16; 105:4). But the context
implies not the giving of water to His people to drink, but the fearful
physical phenomena attending Jehovah's attack on Israel's foes.
10. The mountains—repetition with
increased emphasis of some of the tremendous phenomena mentioned in
overflowing of the water passed
by—namely, of the Red Sea; and again, of the Jordan. God
marked His favor to His people in all the elements, causing every
obstacle, whether mountains or waters, which impeded their progress, to
"pass away" [Calvin]. Maurer, not so well, translates, "torrents (rains)
of water rush down."
lifted … hands on high—namely,
its billows lifted on high by the tempest. Personification. As
men signify by voice or gesture of hand that they will do
what they are commanded, so these parts of nature testified their
obedience to God's will (Ex 14:22; Jos 3:16; Ps
77:17, 18; 114:4).
11. sun … moon stood still—at
Joshua's command (Jos 10:12, 13). Maurer
wrongly translates, "stand" (withdrawn, or hidden from
view, by the clouds which covered the sky during the thunders).
light of thine arrows—hail mixed with
lightnings (Jos 10:10, 11).
they went—The sun and
moon "went," not as always heretofore, but according to the
light and direction of Jehovah's arrows, namely, His lightnings hurled
in defense of His people; astonished at these they stood still [Calvin]. Maurer
translates, "At the light of Thine arrows (which) went" or flew.
12. march—implying Jehovah's majestic
and irresistible progress before His people (Jud 5:4; Ps
68:7). Israel would not have
dared to attack the nations, unless Jehovah had gone before.
13. with thine anointed—with Messiah; of
whom Moses, Joshua, and David, God's anointed leaders of Israel, were
the types (Ps 89:19, 20, 38). God from the beginning delivered His
people in person, or by the hand of a Mediator (Isa 63:11). Thus Habakkuk confirms believers in
the hope of their deliverance, as well because God is always the same,
as also because the same anointed Mediator is ready now to fulfil God's
will and interpose for Israel, as of old [Calvin]. Maurer
translates to suit the parallelism, "for salvation to Thine anointed,"
namely, Israel's king in the abstract, answering to the "people"
in the former clause (compare Ps 28:8; La 4:20). Or Israel is meant, the
anointed, that is, consecrated people of Jehovah (Ps 105:15).
woundedst the head out of the house of the
wicked—probably an allusion to Ps 68:21. Each head person sprung from and
belonging to the house of Israel's wicked foes; such as
Jabin, whose city Hazor was "the head of all the kingdoms" of Canaan
11:10; compare Jud 4:2, 3, 13).
discovering the foundation—Thou
destroyedst high and low. As "the head of the house" means the
prince, so the "foundation" means the general host of the
unto the neck—image from a flood
reaching to the neck (Isa 8:8; 30:28). So God, by His wrath overflowing on
the foe, caused their princes' necks to be trodden under foot by
Israel's leaders (Jos 10:24; 11:8, 12).
14. strike … with his staves—with
the "wicked" (Hab 3:13)
foe's own sword (Maurer translates,
"spears") (Jud 7:22).
head of his villages—Not only kings
were overthrown by God's hand, but His vengeance passed through the
foe's villages and dependencies. A just retribution, as the foe
had made "the inhabitants of Israel's villages to cease" (Jud 5:7). Grotius
translates, "of his warriors"; Gesenius,
"the chief of his captains."
to scatter me—Israel, with whom
Habakkuk identifies himself (compare Hab 1:12).
rejoicing … to devour the poor
secretly—"The poor" means the Israelites, for whom in
their helpless state the foe lurks in his lair, like a wild
beast, to pounce on and devour (Ps 10:9; 17:12).
15. Thou didst walk through the sea with thine
horses—(Hab 3:8). No
obstacle could prevent Thy progress when leading Thy people in safety
to their inheritance, whether the Red Sea, Jordan, or the figurative
waves of foes raging against Israel (Ps 65:7; 77:19).
16. When I heard …
trembled—namely, at the judgments which God had declared
1:1-17) were to be inflicted
on Judea by the Chaldeans.
belly—The bowels were thought
by the Hebrews to be the seat of yearning compassion (Jer 31:20). Or "heard" may refer to Hab 3:2, "When I heard as to Jehovah's
coming interposition for Israel against the Chaldeans being still at
some distance" (Hab 2:3); so
also the voice" [Maurer].
at the voice—of the divine
threatenings (Hab 1:6). The
faithful tremble at the voice alone of God before He inflicts
punishment. Habakkuk speaks in the person of all the faithful in
trembled in myself—that is, I trembled
all over [Grotius].
that I might rest in the day of
trouble—The true and only path to rest is through such
fear. Whoever is securely torpid and hardened towards God, will be
tumultuously agitated in the day of affliction, and so will bring on
himself a worse destruction; but he who in time meets God's wrath and
trembles at His threats, prepares the best rest for himself in
the day of affliction [Calvin]. Henderson translates, "Yet I shall have rest."
Habakkuk thus consoling his mind, Though trembling at the calamity
coming, yet I shall have rest in God (Isa 26:3). But that sentiment does not seem to be
directly asserted till Hab 3:17, as
the words following at the close of this verse imply.
when he cometh up unto the people, he will
invade—rather (as English Version is a mere truism),
connected with the preceding clause, "that I might rest … when he
(the Chaldean foe) cometh up unto the people (the Jews), that he may
cut them off" [Calvin]. The
Hebrew for "invade" means, to rush upon, or to attack and cut
off with congregated troops.
17. Destroy the "vines" and "fig trees" of the
carnal heart, and his mirth ceases. But those who when full enjoyed God
in all, when emptied can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the
heap of ruined creature comforts, and rejoice in Him as the "God of
their salvation." Running in the way of His commandments, we outrun our
troubles. Thus Habakkuk, beginning his prayer with trembling, ends it
with a song of triumph (Job 13:15; Ps 4:7; 43:3, 5).
labour of the olive—that is, the
fruit expected from the olive.
fail—literally, "lie," that is,
disappoint the hope (Isa 58:11,
fields—from a Hebrew root
meaning "to be yellow"; as they look at harvest-time.
cut off—that is, cease.
18. yet I will rejoice—The prophet
speaks in the name of his people.
19. hinds' feet … walk upon … high
places—Habakkuk has here before his mind Ps 18:33,
34; De 32:13. "Hinds'
(gazelles') feet" imply the swiftness with which God enables him
(the prophet and his people) to escape from his enemies, and return to
his native land. The "high places" are called "mine," to imply that
Israel shall be restored to his own land, a land of hills which
are places of safety and of eminence (compare Ge 19:17; Mt
24:16). Probably not only the
safety, but the moral elevation, of Israel above all the
lands of the earth is implied (De 33:29).
on my stringed
instruments—neginoth. This is the prophet's direction
to the precentor ("chief singer") as to how the preceding ode
3:1-19) is to be performed
(compare Ps 4:1; 6:1, titles). The prophet had in mind a
certain form of stringed instrument adapted to certain numbers and
measures. This formula at the end of the ode, directing the kind of
instrument to be used, agrees with that in the beginning of it, which
directs the kind of melody (compare Isa 38:20).