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Habakkuk 3:16

16. When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.

16. Audivit, et contremuit (vel, tumultuatus est) venter meus; ad vocem trepidarunt labia mea; ingressa est putredo in ossa mea; et apud me tumultuatus sum (ad verbum, tumultuabitur; sed diximus heri de temporibus verborum,) ad ascendedum ad populum, excidet eum (vel, colliget se.)


Those interpreters are mistaken in my view, who connect the verb, “I have heard,” with the last verse, as though the Prophet had said, that he had conceived dread from those evidences of God’s power: for the Prophet had no occasion to fear in regarding God as armed with unexpected power for the salvation of his people; there was no reason for such a thing. Hence these things do not agree together. But he returns again to that dread which he had entertained on account of God’s voice in those terrific threatenings which we before referred to. We must always bear in mind the Prophet’s design—that his object was to humble the faithful, that they might suppliantly acknowledge to God their sins and solicit his forgiveness. His purpose also was to animate them with strong hope, that they might nevertheless look for deliverance. He had already said at the beginning, “Lord, I have heard thy voice; I feared.” He now repeats the same thing: for if he had spoken only of that terrific voice, the faithful might have been overwhelmed with despair; he therefore wished opportunely to prevent this evil, by interposing what might have comforted them. For this reason he recited these histories, by which God had proved that he was armed with invincible power to save his Church. Having done this, he applies his general doctrine to present circumstances, and says, “I have heard.” What had he heard? even those judgements with which God had determined to visit the contumacy of his people. Since, then, God had threatened his people with a horrible destruction, the Prophet says now, that he had heard and trembled, so that he had been confounded. He speaks in the singular number; but this was done, as we have said, because he represented the whole people, as was the case before (which escaped my notice) when he said, his enemies came like whirlwind to cast him down; for certainly he did not then speak of himself but of the ancient people. As, then, the Prophet here undertakes the cause of the whole Church, he speaks as though he were the collective body of the people: and so he says that he had heard; but the faithful speak here as with one mouth, that they had heard, and that their inside trembled

Some read, “I was dismayed, or I feared, and my inside trembled at his voice.” He takes קול, kul, voice, not for report, but, as it has been said, for threatening. The faithful, then, declare here, that they dreaded the voice of God, before he had executed his judgements, or before he inflicted the punishment which he had threatened. He says, quiver did my lips. The verb צלל, tsalel, means sometimes to tingle, and so some render it here, “Tingle did my lips;” but this is not suitable, and more tolerable is the rendering of others, “Palpitate did my lips.” The Hebrews say that what is meant is that motion in the lips which fear or trembling produces. I therefore render the words, “quiver did my lips;” as when one says in our language, Mes levres ont barbate; that is, when the whole body shakes with trembling, not only a noise is made by the clashing of the teeth, but an agitation is also observed in the lips.

Enter, he says, did rottenness into my bones and within myself I made a noise, (it is the verb רגז, regaz, again,) or I trembled. No doubt the Prophet describes here the dread, which could not have been otherwise than produced by the dreadful vengeance of God. It hence follows that he does not treat here of those miracles which were, on the contrary, calculated to afford an occasion of rejoicing both to the Prophet and to the whole of the chosen people; but that the vengeance of God, such as had been predicted, is described here.

He now adds, That I may rest in the day of affliction 6666     The word [אשר], which Calvin renders ut, “that,” has occasioned great trouble to critics. Marckius reads qui—“who,” “Who shall rest,” etc.; Henderson, “yet,” “Yet I shall have rest,” etc. But it is never found as an adversative. The construction of this line and the following is very difficult; and many have been the forms in which they have been rendered. The verb [נוח] means not only to rest from action or labor, but also to rest in the sense of remaining or continuing. See 2 Kings 2:15, and Isaiah 2:2. And were it taken in this latter sense here, there would be a consistency in the whole passage. The Prophet describes first the dread which seized him on hearing the report of God’s vengeance; and then in the two last lines he accounts for his consternation, because he should remain to witness this vengeance; and he proceeds in verse 17 to set forth the effects of it, and in verse 18 he states that he would still rejoice in the God of his salvation. The three verses may be thus rendered,—
   16. I heard, and tremble did my bowels;
At the voice my lips quivered;
Enter does rottenness into my bones,
And on my own account I tremble;
Because I shall remain to the day of distress,
To his coming up to the people, who shall invade me.

   17. For the fig-tree shall not shoot forth,
And no produce shall be on the vines;
Fail shall the fruit of the olive,
And the fields, none shall yield food;
Cut off from the fold shall be the sheep,
And no ox shall be in the stalls:

   18. But as for me, in Jehovah will I rejoice,
I will exult in the God of my salvation.

   “On my own account,” or for myself, [תחתי]: the preposition, [תחת], is often taken in this sense; See 2 Samuel 19:21, Proverbs 30:21. “Invade us” or assault us, or them, the people, [יגודנו]; for [נו] is either us or him, but in our language them, for so we speak of people. “And the fields, none,” etc. There are instances of [לא], as here, in which it may be rendered “none” and “nothing.” See Ezekiel 20:38, Job 6:21, 8:9. “In the God,” etc.; it may be rendered, “In my God, my Savior,” as it is in the Septuagint and the Vulgate.Ed.
There seems to be here an inconsistency—that the Prophet was affected with grief even to rottenness, that he trembled throughout his members with dread, and now that all this availed to produce rest. But we must inquire how rest is to be obtained through these trepidations, and dreads, and tremblings. We indeed know that the more hardened the wicked become against God, the more grievous ruin they ever procure for themselves. But there is no way of obtaining rest, except for a time we tremble within ourselves, that is, except God’s judgement awakens us, yea, and reduces us almost to nothing. Whosoever therefore securely slumbers, will be confounded in the day of affliction; but he who in time anticipates the wrath of God, and is touched with fear, as soon as he hears that God the judge is at hand, provides for himself the most secure rest in the day of affliction. We now then see, that the right way of seeking rest is set forth here by the Prophet, when he says, that he had been confounded, and that rottenness had entered into his bones that he could have no comfort, except he pined away as one half-dead: and the design of the Prophet, as I have already said, was to exhort the faithful to repentance. But we cannot truly and from the heart repent, until our sins become displeasing to us: and the hatred of sin proceeds from the fear of God, and that sorrow which Paul regards as the mother of repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10.)

This exhortation is also very necessary for us in the present day. We see how inclined we are by nature to indifference; and when God brings before us our sins, and then sets before us his wrath, we are not moved; and when we entertain any fear, it soon vanishes. Let us, then, know that no rest can be to us in the day of distress, except we tremble within ourselves, except dread lays hold on all our faculties, and except all our soul becomes almost rotten. And hence it is said in Psalm 4:4, “Tremble, and ye shall not sin.” And Paul also shows that the true and profitable way of being angry is, when one is angry with his sins (Ephesians 4:26,) and when we tremble within ourselves. In the same manner does the Prophet describe the beginnings of repentance, when he says, that the faithful trembled in their bowels, and were so shaken within, that even their lips quivered, and, in short, (and this is the sum of the whole,) that all their senses felt consternation and fear.

He says, When he shall ascend: he speaks, no doubt, of the Chaldeans; When therefore the enemy shall ascend against the people, that he may cut them off: for גדה or גוד, gade or gud, means to cut off, and it means also to gather, and so some render it, “that he may gather them:” but the other meaning is better, “when the enemy shall ascend, that he may cut them off.” If one would have the word God to be understood, I do not object: for the Prophet does not otherwise speak of the Chaldeans than as the ministers and executioners of God’s wrath.

In short, he intimates, that they who had been moved and really terrified by God’s vengeance, would be in a quiet state when God executed his judgements. How so? because they would calmly submit to the rod, and look for a happy deliverance from their evils; for their minds would be seasonably prepared for patience, and then the Lord would also console them, as it is said in Psalm 51:17, that he despises not contrite hearts. When, therefore, the faithful are in a suitable time humbled, and when they thus anticipate the judgement of God, they then find a rest prepared for them in his bosom. It follows—

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