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Habakkuk 3:14

14. Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.

14. Perforasti baculis ejus caput villarum ejus; prosilierunt instar turbinis ad dispellendum me; exultatio eorum sicut ad vorandum pauperem in abscondito.


At the beginning of this verse the Prophet pursues the same subject—that God had wounded all the enemies of his people; and he says that the head of villages or towns had been wounded, though some think that פרזים, perezim, mean rather the inhabitants of towns; for the Hebrews call fortified towns or villages פרזות, perezut, and the word is commonly found in the feminine gender; but as it is here a masculine noun, it is thought that it means the inhabitants. At the same time this does not much affect the subject; for the Prophet simply means, that not only things had been overthrown by God’s hand, but also all the provinces under their authority; as though he had said that God’s vengeance, when his purpose was to defend his people, advanced through all the villages and through every region, so that not a corner was safe. 6262     The Keri and many MSS. read [פרזיו], “his villages;” but there is no need of this change, for the singular is used throughout instead of the plural, until we come to the two following lines; and this proves that the singular is to be taken in a collective sense. Henderson renders it “captains,” contrary to the meaning of the word in other parts. It means an open unfortified village, as it were scattered, and without any boundaries.—Ed. But we must also notice what follows—with his rods. The Prophet means that the wicked had been smitten by their own sword. Though the word rods is put here, it is yet to be taken for all kinds of instruments or weapons; it is the same as though it was said that they had been wounded by their own hands. 6363     Newcome and some others, without any authority, read “thy rod;” but conjecture, without some solid reason, cannot be allowed.—Ed.

We now perceive the import of this clause—that God not only put forth his strength when he purposed to crush the enemies of his people, but that he had also smitten them with infatuation and madness, so that they destroyed themselves by their own hands. And this was done, as in the case of the Midianites, who, either by turning their swords against one another, fell by mutual wounds, or by slaying themselves, perished by their own hands. (Judges 7:2.) We indeed often read of the wicked that they ensnared themselves, fell into the pit which they had made, and, in short, perished through their own artifices; and the Prophet says here that the enemies of the Church had fallen, through God’s singular kindness, though no one rose up against them; for they had transfixed or wounded themselves by their own staff. Some read—“Thou hast cursed his sceptres and the head of his villages;” but the interpretation which I have given is much more appropriate.

He adds, that they came like a whirlwind. It is indeed a verb in the future tense; but the sentence must be thus rendered—“When they rushed as a whirlwind to cast me down, when their exultation was to devour the poor in their hiding-places.” It is indeed only a single verb, but it comes from סער, sor, which means a whirlwind, and we cannot render it otherwise than by a paraphrase. They rushed, he says, like a whirlwind. The Prophet here enlarges on the subject of God’s power, for he had checked the enemies of his people when they rushed on with so much impetuosity. Had their advance been slow God might have frustrated their attempts without a miracle, but as their own madness rendered them precipitate, and made them to be like a whirlwind, God’s power was more clearly known in restraining such violence. We now understand the import of what is here said; for the Prophet’s special object is not to complain of the violent and impetuous rage of enemies, but to exalt the power of God in checking the violent assaults of those enemies whom he saw raging against his people.

He subjoins, their exultation was to devour the poor. He intimates that there was nothing in the world capable of resisting the wicked, had not God brought miraculous help from heaven; for when they came to devour the poor, they came not to wage war, but to devour the prey like wild beasts. Then he says, to devour the poor in secret. He means, that the people of God had no strength to resist, except help beyond all hope came from heaven. 6464     “To devour the poor in secret,” seems to have an allusion to the practice of wild beasts, who take their prey to their dens to devour it there. The poor her, as in many other places, mean the helpless, such as are destitute of aid or power to resist their enemies. The line may be thus rendered—
   Their joy was, as it were, to devour the helpless in secret.


The import of the whole is—that when the miserable Israelites were without any protection, and exposed to the rage and cruelty of their enemies, they had been miraculously helped; for the Lord destroyed their enemies by their own swords; and that when they came, as it were to enjoy a victory, to take the prey, they were laid prostrate by the hand of God: hence his power shone forth more brightly. It follows—

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