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3. Habakkuk's Prayer

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. 2O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. 3God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. 6He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. 7I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. 8Was 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? 9Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 10The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. 11The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. 12Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. 13Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. 14Thou 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. 15Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. 16When 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.

17Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

The Prophet applies again to the present state of the people what he had before recorded—that God went forth with his Christ for the salvation of his people. Some consider that there is understood a particle of comparison, and repeat the verb twice, “As thou didst then go forth for the deliverance of thy people, so now wilt thou go forth for the deliverance of thy people with thy Christ.” But this repetition is strained. I therefore take the words of the Prophet simply as they are—that God went forth for the deliverance of his people. But when God’s people are spoken of, their gratuitous adoption must ever be remembered. How was it that the children of Abraham became the peculiar people of God? Did this proceed from any worthiness? Did it come to them naturally? None of these things can be alleged. Though then they differed in nothing from other nations, yet God was pleased to choose them to be a people to himself. By the title, the people of God, is therefore intimated their adoption. Now this adoption was not temporary or momentary, but was to continue to the end. Hence it was easy for the faithful to draw this conclusion—that they were to hope from God the same help as what he had formerly granted to the fathers.

Thou wentest forth, he says, for the salvation, for the salvation of thy people. He repeats the word salvation, and not without reason; for he wished to call attention to this point, as when he had said before—that God had not in vain manifested, by so many miracles, his power, as though he were angry with the sea and with rivers, but had respect to the preservation of his people. Since then the salvation of the Church has ever been the design of God in working miracles, why should the faithful be now cast down, when for a time they were oppressed by adversities? for God ever remains the same: and why should they despond, especially since that ancient deliverance, and also those many deliverances, of which he had hitherto spoken, are so many evidences of his everlasting covenant. These indeed ought to be connected with the word of God; that is, with that promise, according to which he had received the children of Abraham into favor for the purpose of protecting them to the end. “For salvation, for salvation,” says the Prophet, and that of his elect people.

He adds, with thy Christ. This clause still more confirms what Habakkuk had in view—that God had been from the beginning the deliverer of his people in the person of the Mediator. When God, therefore, delivered his people from the hand of Pharaoh, when he made a way for them to pass through the Red Sea, when he redeemed them by doing wonders, when he subdued before them the most powerful nations, when he changed the laws of nature in their behalf—all these things he did through the Mediator. For God could never have been propitious either to Abraham himself or to his posterity, had it not been for the intervention of a Mediator. Since then it has ever been the office of the Mediator to preserve in safety the Church of God, the Prophet takes it now for granted, that Christ was now manifested in much clearer light than formerly; for David was his lively image, as well as his successors. God then gave a living representation of his Christ when he erected a kingdom in the person of David; and he promised that this kingdom should endure as long as the sun and moon should shine in the heavens. Since, then, there were in the time of Habakkuk clearer prophecies than in past times respecting the eternity of this kingdom, ought not the people to have taken courage, and to have known of a certainty that God would be their Deliverer, when Christ should come? We now then apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. 6161     However true is what is said here, it seems not to be the doctrine of this text. The version of Aquila and the Vulgate have been followed as to the second clause of the verse. The Septuagint read, του σωσαι τον χριστον σου— to save thy Christ;” or, according to Alex. cod., “thy Christs—τους χριστους σου;” or, according to Barb. MS., “thine elect—τους εκλεκτους σου.” Five Hebrew MSS. have [משיחיד], “thine anointed ones.” But if “people” in the preceding line; or it may refer to Joshua and his successors, the singular being used, as it is often done by the Prophets, in the collective sense. The particle [את] before it is not often used as a preposition; and the word [ישע] may better be taken here as a verb, according to the Septuagint, than as a noun, though as a verb it most commonly occurs in Hiphil: but see 1 Samuel 23:5; 2 Samuel 8:6. The following would then be the version—
   Go forth didst thou to save thy people,
To save thine anointed:
Thou didst smite the head from the house of the wicked,
Emptying out the foundation even to the neck.

   The reference in the two lines is evidently to the rooting out of the Canaanites, and not, as Newcome thinks, to the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt. The singular is poetically used for the plural: “head,” instead of heads, or chiefs, etc. The last line seems to be a proverbial saying, signifying an entire demolition, the very foundation being dug up, though so deep as to reach up to man’s neck. There is no MSS. nor version to countenance [צור], “rock,” which Houbigant and Newcome adopt.—Ed.
But I cannot now go farther; I shall defer the subject until tomorrow.

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