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Habakkuk 3:5

5. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

5. Coram facie ejus ambulavit pestis, et egredietur carbo ignitus (vel, ustio) ad pedes ejus.


The Prophet repeats here, that God came armed to defend his people, when he went forth from Teman; for he connects with it here the deliverance of the people. He does not indeed speak only of the promulgation of the law, but encourages all the godly to confidence; for God, who had once redeemed their fathers from Egypt, remained ever like himself, and was endued with the same power.

And he says, that before God’s face walked the pestilence; this is to be referred to the Egyptians; and that ignited coal proceeded from his feet. Some render רשף, reshoph, exile; but its etymology requires it to be rendered burning or ignited coal, and there is no necessity to give it another meaning. 5454     Most agree in the view given of this verse, only there is some shade of difference as to the word [רשף]; but though Calvin renders it carbo ignitus—ignited coals, yet in his exposition he seems to regard it with many others as a burning disease. In the six other instances in which the word occurs, it certainly has not this sense, except it be in Deuteronomy 32:24, which is doubtful. It signifies not a burning coal, but a glowing fire, burning or lightening. Compare Exodus 9:23,25, with Psalm 78:48; where it designates the fires or lightnings produced by thunder, which accompanied the hail. Lightning would be its most proper rendering here; for instead of referring this verse to the plagues in Egypt, it may be considered as a continuation of what is contained in the foregoing verse; and the Septuagint and Theodotion have rendered [דבר] in the preceding clause, not pestilence, but word—λογος, its most usual meaning. This makes the whole to comport to what we read of God’s appearance on mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:16; Deuteronomy 33:2. The version then would be this—
   From before him proceeded the word (i.e. the law;)
And forth came lightning at his feet.

   Most of the ideas in this, and in the two preceding verses, seem to be similar to those we find in Deuteronomy 33:2,3.—Ed.

The import of the whole is—that God had put to flight all the enemies of his people; for we know that the Egyptians were smitten with various plagues, and that the army of Pharaoh was drowned in the Red Sea. Hence, the Prophet says, that God had so appeared from Teman, that the pestilence went before him, and then the ignited coal; in short, that the pestilence and ignited coal were God’s officers, which were ready to perform his commands: as when a king or a judge, having attendants, commands them to put this man in prison, and to punish another in a different way; so the Prophet, giving us a representation of God, says, that all kinds of evils were ready to obey his orders, and to destroy his and their enemies. He does not then intend here to terrify the faithful in mentioning the pestilence and the ignited coal; but, on the contrary, to set before their eyes evidences of God’s power, by which he could deliver them from the hand of their enemies, as he had formerly delivered their fathers from Egypt. By God’s feet, he then means his going forth or his presence; for I do not approve of what some have said, that ignited coals followed, when pestilence had preceded; for both clauses are given in the same way. It follows—

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