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Habakkuk 3:8

8. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?

8. An contra fluvios iratus es, Jehova? an contra fluvios indignatio tua? an contra mare furor tuus (vel, ira tua)? quia equitasti super equos tuos; quadridge tuae salus.


The Prophet here applies the histories to which he has already referred, for the purpose of strengthening the hope of the faithful; so that they might know these to be so many proofs and pledges of God’s favor towards them, and that they might thus cheerfully look for his aid, and not succumb to temptation in their adversities. When he asks, was God angry with the rivers and the sea, he no doubt intended in this way to awaken the thoughts of the faithful, that they might consider the design of God in the works which he had already mentioned; for it would have been unreasonable that God should show his wrath against rivers and the sea; why should he be angry with lifeless elements? The Prophet then shows that God had another end in view when he dried the sea, when he stopped the course of Jordan, and when he gave other evidences of his power. Doubtless God did not regard the sea and the rivers; for that would have been unreasonable. It then follows that these changes were testimonies of God’s favor towards his Church: and hence the Prophet subjoins, that God rode on his horses, and that his chariots were for salvation to his people. 5757     The two first lines present a difficulty in their construction. The most literal is this rendering of Junius
   Did against rivers kindle, O Jehovah
Against rivers, thy wrath;

   Our language will admit of a similar construction in another form, by inverting the order—

   Did thy wrath against rivers, O Jehovah,
Did it kindle against rivers?

   Some connect the two last lines of the verse with the previous one, thus—

   Was thine indignation against the sea,
When thou didst ride on thy horses,
On thy chariots of salvation?

   But Calvin considers them rather as an answer to the previous questions, or as explanatory; and they may be thus rendered—

   When thou didst ride on thy horses,
Thy chariots were
those of salvation.

   It is observed by Henderson, that “there is no necessity for our understanding either the angels or thunder and lightning by ‘horses’ and ‘chariots.’ They are,” he adds, “merely figurative expressions, designed to carry out the metaphor adopted from military operations.” Or it may be, that the horses and chariots of the Israelites are here meant, as in the 11th verse, the arrows and spears of the people are spoken of as those of God.—Ed.
We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning, which interpreters have not understood, or at least have not explained.

We now, then, see why the Prophet puts these questions: and a question has much more force when it refers to what is in no way doubtful. What! can God be angry with rivers? Who can imagine God to be so unreasonable as to disturb the sea and to change the nature of things, when a certain order has been established by his own command? Why should he dry the sea, except he had something in view, even the deliverance of his Church? except he intended to save his people from extreme danger, by stretching forth his hand to the Israelites, when they thought themselves utterly lost? He therefore denies, that when God dried the Red Sea, and when he stopped the flowing of Jordan, he had put forth his power against the sea or against the river, as though he was angry with them. The design of God, says the Prophet, was quite another; for God rode on his horses, that is, he intended to show that all the elements were under his command, and that for the salvation of his people. That God, then, might be the redeemer of his Church, he constrained Jordan to turn back its course, he constrained the Red Sea to make a passage for his miserable captives, who would have otherwise been exposed to the slaughter of their enemies. There was indeed no hope of saving Israel, without a passage being suddenly opened to them through the Red Sea.

Hence all these miracles were designed to show that God had become the redeemer of his Church, and had put forth his power for the salvation of those whom he had taken under his protection: and it is easy from this fact to conclude, that the same help ought to be expected from God by posterity; for God was not induced by some sudden impulse to change the nature of things, but exhibited a proof of his favor: and his grace is perpetual, and flows in an even course, though not according to the apprehension of men; for it suffers some interruptions, because God exercises the faithful under the cross; yet his goodness never ceases. It hence follows that the faithful are to entertain hope; for God, when he pleases, and when he sees it expedient, will really show the same power which was formerly exhibited to the fathers. It now follows—

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