Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.

This sublime ode begins with an exordium Habakkuk 3:1-2), then follows the main subject, then the peroration (Habakkuk 3:16-19), a summary of the practical truth which the whole is designed to teach (Deuteronomy 33:2-5 and Psalms 77:13-20 are parallel odes). This was probably designed by the Spirit to be a fit formula of prayer for the people-first in their Babylonian exile, and now in their dispersion, especially toward the close of it, just before the Great Deliverer is to interpose for them. It was used in public worship, as the musical term, Selah (Habakkuk 3:3; Habakkuk 3:9; Habakkuk 3:13), implies.

Prayer - the only strictly called prayers are in Habakkuk 3:2: but all devotional addresses to God are called "prayers" (Psalms 72:20, "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended;" where the term "prayers" is applied to a prophetic and thanksgiving Psalm). The Hebrew [ tªpilaah (H8605)] is from a root [ paalal (H6419), in the Hithpael conjugation] 'to apply to a judge for a favourable decision:' 'to bring one's cause before God in prayer.' Prayers, in which praises to God for deliverance, anticipated in the sure confidence of faith, are especially calculated to enlist Yahweh on His people's side. So King Jehoshaphat-having exhorted his people when Ammon and Moab assailed them, "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be establish; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper" - proceeded to appoint "singers unto the Lord, that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth forever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against ... Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir ... and they were smitten:" whence the valley was called Berachah; or, "the valley of blessing" (2 Chronicles 20:20-22; 2 Chronicles 20:26).

Upon Shigionoth - a musical phrase, 'after the manner of elegies,' or mournful odes, from an Arabic root (Lee); the phrase, is singular in Psalms 7:1-17, title, "Shiggaion of David." More simply, from a Hebrew root [ shaagaah (H7686)], to err, 'on account of sins of ignorance.' It accords with this view that the Hebrew root occurs in 1 Samuel 26:21, "Behold, I have ... erred exceedingly." Habakkuk thus teaches his countrymen to confess not only their more grievous sins, but also their errors and negligences, into which they were especially likely to fall when in exile away from the Holy Land (Calvin). So the Vulgate, and Aquila and Symmachus. 'For voluntary transgressors' (Jerome). Probably the subject would regulate the kind of music, so that the style of music, like its subject, would be erratic. Delitsch and Henderson translate 'With triumphal music,' from the same root, to err, implying its enthusiastic irregularity.

Verse 2

O 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.

O Lord, I have heard thy speech - thy revelation to me concerning the coming chastisement of the Jews (Calvin), and the destruction of their oppressors. This is Habakkuk's reply to God's communication (Grotius). Maurer translates, 'the report of thy coming'-literally, thy report.

And was afraid - with reverential fear of God's judgments (Habakkuk 3:16).

O Lord, revive thy work - perfect the work of delivering thy people, and do not let thy promise to lie as it were dead, but give it new life by performing it (Menochius). Calvin explains, "thy work" to be Israel; called "my sons ... the work of my hands" (Isaiah 45:11). God's elect people are peculiarly His work, preeminently illustrating His power, wisdom, and goodness (Isaiah 43:1, "The Lord ... created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel"). 'Though we seem as it were dead nationally, revive us' (Psalms 85:6). However, Psalms 64:9, "All men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God" - where "the work of God" refers to His judgment on their enemies-favours the former view, (Psalms 90:16-17; Isaiah 51:9-10, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord: awake, as in the ancient days (answering to revive thy work here), in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab (Egypt) and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?") I think "revive thy work" includes the work of grace to the people, as well as judgment on their enemies.

In the midst of the years - namely, of calamity, in which we live. Now that our calamities are at their height; during our 70 years' captivity. Calvin more fancifully explains it, in the midst of the years of thy people, extending from Abraham to Messiah, if they be cut off before His coming, they will be cut off as it were in the midst of their years, before attaining their maturity. So Bengel makes the midst of the years to be the middle point of the years of the world. There is a strikingly similar phrase in Daniel 9:27, "in the midst of the week." The parallel clause, "in wrath"

(i:e., in the midst of wrath), remember mercy, however, shows that "in the midst of the years" means in the years of our present exile and calamity.

Make known - make it (thy work) known by experimental proof; show, very deed, that is thy work. Make known - make it (thy work) known by experimental proof; show, very deed, that is thy work.

Verse 3

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

God - singular in the Hebrew [ 'Elowah (H433)], 'Eloah,' instead of 'Elohiym (H430), plural, usually employed. The singular is not found in any other of the minor prophets, or Jeremiah or Ezekiel; but it is in Isaiah, Daniel, Job, and Deuteronomy.

Came from Teman - the country south of Judea, and near Edom, in which latter country mount Paran was situated (Henderson). "Paran" is the desert region extending from the south of Judah to Sinai. Seir, Sinai, and Paran are adjacent to one another, and are hence associated together, in respect to God's giving of the law (Deuteronomy 33:2). Teman is so identified with Seir, or Edom, as here to be substituted for it. Habakkuk appeals to God's glorious manifestations to His people at Sinai as the ground for praying that God will "revive His work" (Habakkuk 3:2) now. For He is the same God now as ever.

Selah - a musical sign, put at the close of sections and strophes; always at the end of a verse, except thrice-namely, here, and Habakkuk 3:9, and Psalms 55:19; Psalms 57:3, where, however, it closes the hemistich. It implies a change of the modulation. It comes from a root to rest or pause (Gesenius); implying a cessation of the chant during an instrumental interlude. It is designed to give time for solemn reflection on what has gone before, and so to prepare the mind for receiving aright what follows. The pause here prepare the mind for contemplating the glorious description of Yahweh's manifestation which follows.

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise - i:e., of His glories which were calculated to call forth universal praise; the parallelism to "glory" proves this to be the sense.

Verse 4

And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

And his brightness was as the light - namely, of the sun (Job 37:21, "The bright light which is in the clouds" -

i.e., the light of the sun; Proverbs 4:18).

He had horns coming out of his hand - "horns" [qannayim], the emblem of power, wielded by "his hand," (Ludovicus de Dieu). 'Rays' emanating from "his hand," compared by the Arabs to the horns of the gazelle, (cf. "hind of the morning," Psalms 22:1-31, title, margin). The Hebrew verb [ qaaran (H7160)] for to 'emit rays' is akin to the Hebrew for "horns" (Exodus 34:29-30; Exodus 34:35, "The skin of his (Moses') face shone"). (Grotius.) The rays are His lightnings (Psalms 18:8). (Maurer.)

And there was the hiding of his power - "there," emphatic: in that 'brightness.' In it, notwithstanding its brilliancy, there was but the vail ("the hiding) of his power." Even "light," God's "garment," covers, instead of revealing fully, His surpassing glory (Psalms 104:2). (Henderson.) Or, on mount Sinai (Drusius). (Compare Exodus 24:17.) The Septuagint and the Syriac versions read instead of "there" [ shaam (H8033)], He made, or literally put [ saam (H7760)], a hiding, etc. He hid Himself with clouds. The English version reading is better, which Calvin explains, there is said to be 'a hiding of God's power,' because God did not reveal it indiscriminately to all, but specially to His people (Psalms 31:20). The contrast seems to me to be between the "horns," or emanations out of His power ("hand"), and that "power" itself. The latter was hidden, whereas the "horns" or emanations alone were manifested. If the mere scintillations were so awfully overwhelming, how much more so the hidden power itself! This was especially true of His manifestation at Sinai (Psalms 18:11: cf. Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 45:17, "Verily, Thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour ... But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation," wherein there is, as here, the combination of the hiding of God from the world in general, and even from His people for a time (in order to test their faith), along with the light of salvation in the Lord imparted everlastingly to His people.

Verse 5

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

Before him went the pestilence - to destroy His people's foes, as He smote the Philistines with emerods, so that they said, "Send away the ark of the God of Israel ... that it slay us not. For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there" (1 Samuel 5:9; 1 Samuel 5:11). As Yahweh's advent is glorious to His people, so it is terrible to His foes.

Burning coals - Psalms 18:8 ("There went up a smoke out of His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it") favours the English version. Others, on account of the parallelism (as margin), translate, 'burning disease' (cf. Deuteronomy 32:24, "They shall be devoured with burning heat" Hebrew, burning coals [ reshep (H7565)], the same Hebrew as here; Psalms 91:6). But it seems to me more poetical to tranalate as the English version, retaining the metaphor "burning coals" put metaphorically for burning pestilence. So the requirement of the parallelism is quite sufficiently met.

Went ... at his feet - i:e., after Him, as His attendants (Judges 4:10).

Verse 6

He 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. He stood, and measured the earth. Yahweh, in His advance, is represented as stopping suddenly, and measuring the earth with His all-seeing glance; whereat there is universal consternation. Maurer, from a different root, proposes to translate [yªmodeed, from muwd (H4128), to agitate, whereas the English version makes it the Poel conjugation, from maadad (H4058), to measure], 'rocked the earth;' which answers to the parallel "drove asunder" - the Hebrew [rayateer, from naatar (H5425)] for which latter, however may be better translated, 'made to leap or tremble.' But the English version, for the former verb, 'measured' with His glance, His mere look being followed by His making the nations to tremble, in the parallel clause, is more poetical and accords with the ordinary meaning of the Hebrew.

And the everlasting mountains - which have ever been remembered as retaining the same place and form from the foundation of the world.

The perpetual hills did bow - as it were, in reverent submission.

His ways are everlasting - His marvelous ways of working for the salvation of His people mark His everlasting character; such as He was in His working for them formerly, such shall He be now.

Verse 7

I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

I saw the tents - i:e., the dwellers.

Of Cushan - the same as Gush, made Cush-an, to harmonize with Midian in the parallel clause. So Lotan is found in the Hebrew of Genesis for Lot. Bochart therefore considers it equivalent to Midian, or a part of Arabia. So in Numbers 12:1 Moses Midianite wife is called an Ethiopian (Hebrew, Cushite). Maurer thinks the dwellers on both sides of the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea are meant; because in the preceding verse God's everlasting or ancient ways of delivering His people are mentioned; and, in the following verse, the dividing of the Red Sea for them. Compare Miriam's song as to the fear of Israel's foes far and near caused thereby (Exodus 15:14-16). (See my note, Jeremiah 5:15, where is noticed the fact proved by the Babylonian inscriptions of the mounds of Chaldea proper, that there was a Cush, or Ethiopia, on the east or Asiatic side of the Arabian Gulf, as well as that on the western or African side. The primitive Babylonian empire was on the borders of the Persian Gulf. And Babylon is proved by its vocabulary to be Cushite, even as Scripture represents.) Hebrew expositors refer it to Cushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia or Syria, the first oppressor of Israel (Judges 3:8; Judges 3:10), from whom Othniel delivered them. Thus the second hemistich of the verse will refer to the deliverance of Israel from Midian by Gideon (Judges 6:1-40 and Judges 7:1-25). The latter half of Habakkuk 3:14, "Thou didst strike through with his (the foe's) staves the head of his villages," refers plainly to the overthrow of Midian by his own sword (Judges 7:22). Whichever of these views be correct, the general reference is to God's interpositions against Israel's foes of old.

In affliction - rather 'under affliction' [ tachat (H8478) 'aawen (H205)] (regarded) as heavy burden under which they were oppressed-literally, vanity or iniquity, hence, the punishment of it; I under suffering, the consequence of their sin (cf. Numbers 25:17-18, where God lays affliction upon Midian, because Midian caused sin and consequent affliction to His people. "Vex the Midianites, and smite them, for they vex you with their wiles").

The curtains of the land of Midian - the coverings of their tents; the shifting habitations of the nomad tribes, which resembled the modern Bedonius.

Did tremble - namely, at Yahweh's terrible interposition for Israel against them.

Verse 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?

Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? - `Was the cause of His dividing the Red Sea and Jordan His displeasure against these waters?' The answer to this is tacitly implied in "thy chariots of salvation."

Was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses? 'Nay, it was not displeasure against the waters, but His pleasure in interposing for His people's salvation' (cf. Habakkuk 3:10, "The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high,'-namely, the Red Sea, when it made a way through itself for the saving of the people of God).

And thy chariots of salvation - in antithesis to thy foe, Pharaoh's "six hundred chosen chariots," which, notwithstanding their power and numbers, were engulfed in the waters of destruction. God can make the most unlikely means work, for His people's salvation and for their enemies' destruction (Exodus 14:7; Exodus 14:9; Exodus 14:23; Exodus 14:25-28, "The waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them (the Israelites); there remained not so much as one of them;" "With the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap," etc. (compare Habakkuk 3:10 here), Exodus 15:3-8; Exodus 15:19). Yahweh's chariots are his angels (Psalms 68:17, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them"); or the cherubim, or the ark (Joshua 3:13, "As soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, the waters ... shall be cut off ... from above; and they shall stand upon an heap." Compare again Habakkuk 3:10 and Joshua 4:7: cf. Song of Solomon 1:9).

Verse 9

Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.

Thy bow was made quite naked - i:e., was drawn forth from its cover, in which bows usually were cased when not in use. (Compare Isaiah 22:6, "Kit uncovered the shield.") according To the oaths of the tribes, even thy word - i:e., according to thy oaths of promise to the tribes of Israel (Psalms 77:8, "His promise;" Luke 1:73-74, "The oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant us, that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve, Him without fear"). Habakkuk shows that God's miraculous interpositions for His people were not limited to one time, but that God's oaths to his people are sure ground for their always expecting them. The mention of the tribes, rather than Abraham or Moses, is in order that they may not doubt that to them belongs this grace of which Abraham was the depositary (Calvin and Jerome). Maurer [reading sªbee`owt for shªbu`owt (H7621), with the Syriac version] translates, 'The spears were glutted (with blood), the triumphal song!' - i:e., no sooner did Yahweh begin the battle, by baring His bow, than the spears were glutted with blood, and the triumphal song sung. I prefer the English version, which gives good sense, and accords well with the Hebrew [ shªbu`owt (H7621) maTowt (H4294) 'omer (H562)]. The Hebrew for tribes is literally the tribal rods, which are put for the tribes themselves, and not to be taken as, Maurer and Henderson, 'spears.' See the same Hebrew word in Habakkuk 3:14. "The oaths of the tribes" imply that these oaths of God, or promises of God, to their forefathers, belong to the tribes, as a precious heirloom: just as "the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3) mean the sure mercies of God, of old pledged to David, and so belonging to the literal and the spiritual Israel throughout all ages.

The foundation of all Thy favours (the prophet implies in addressing God) is Thy oath and promise of grace. "Even Thy word" is in apposition with God's "oaths" belonging to the tribes. Compare Psalms 68:11, "The Lord gave the word; great was the company," etc. - i:e., God gave the word, which was the efficient mean of the result desired). In the case of God, His word is as good as its fulfillment. God by oath had engaged to them the final and permanent possession of the Holy Land. The plural, "oaths," is used, because this promise on oath was again and again repeated by God. The expression "Selah!" rightly follows, in order to call on the pious hearer to pause and reflect with devout gratitude for, and assured hope of, God's interposition in behalf of His people against all their enemies.

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers - the result of the earthquake caused by God's approach (Maurer). Grotius refers it to the bringing forth of water from the rock (Exodus 17:6, "the rock in Horeb," when the people chode Moses because of their want of water at Rephidim; Numbers 20:10-11, at Meribah, when Moses "smote the rock twice;" Ps. 67:15-16; Psalms 105:41). But the context implies, not the giving of water to His people to drink, but the fearful physical phenomena attending Yahweh's attack on Israel's foes.

Verse 10

The 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.

The mountains saw thee - even as God, with his, all-searching glance, "beheld" and "measured" them.

And they trembled - repetition, with increased emphasis, of some of the tremendous phenomena mentioned in Habakkuk 3:6.

The overflowing of the water passed by - namely, of the Red Sea, and again, of the Jordan. God marked his favour to His people in all the elements, causing every obstacle, whether mountains or waters, which impeded their progress, to pass away (Calvin). Maurer, not so well, translates, 'torrents (rains) of water rush down.' [ Zerem (H2230) mayim (H4325) `aabar (H5674) agrees best with the English version-literally, 'the inundation of waters passed by.']

The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high - "His hands" mean its billows lifted on high. Personification. As men signify by voice or gesture of hand that they will do what they are commanded, so these parts of nature testified their obedience to God's will (Exodus 14:22, "The waters were a wall unto them (the Israelites) on their right hand and on their left;" Joshua 3:16; Psalms 77:17-18; Psalms 114:3-7, "The sea saw it, and fled; Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams ... What ailed thee, O ... sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? ... Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob").

Verse 11

The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.

The sun and moon stood still - at Joshua's command (Joshua 10:12-13). Maurer wrongly translates, 'stand' (withdrawn, or hidden from view, by the clouds which covered the sky during the thunders). So also Henderson, 'sun and moon stood back,' eclipsed, as it were, by the brighter effulgence of God's arrows employed in behalf of His people. But the reference to the language of Joshua is too definite to admit of this rationalistic evasion. "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon ... So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hasted not to go down about a whole day."

In their habitation - i:e., "in the midst of heaven," as it is expressed in Joshua. The reference is not, as Gesenius and Henderson think, to the houses or "chambers" (Job) assigned to the celestial luminaries (answering to the signs of the zodiac, which the Hebrews call [ zªbulaah (H2073), cf. mazaalowt], habitations or lodging stations). Their range of sky is called poetically 'their habitation.'

Light of thine arrows - hail mixed with lightnings (Joshua 10:10-11, "The Lord cast down great stones from heaven

... they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword").

They went - the sun and moon "went," not as always heretofore, but according to the light and direction of Yahweh's arrows-namely, His lightnings hurled in defense of His people: astonished at these, they stood still (Calvin). But the sun and moon went not, they "stood still." Maurer translates, 'at the light of thine arrows (which) went, or flew. If the English version be retained, "they went," refers to the Israelites going forth unhurt, because God's arrows and spears were employed in their behalf.

Verse 12

Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.

Thou didst march - implying Yahweh's majestic and irresistible progress before His people (Judges 5:4; Psalms 68:7. "Thou wentest forth before thy people ... thou didst march through the wilderness"). Israel would not have dared to attack the nations unless Yahweh had gone before.

Thresh - (Micah 4:13, "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion").

Verse 13

Thou 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.

Thou wentest ... even for salvation with thine anointed - with Messiah; of whom Moses, Joshua, and David, God's anointed leaders of Israel, were the types (Psalms 89:19-20; Psalms 89:38, "Thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One ... I have found David, my servant: with my holy oil have I anointed him"). God from the beginning delivered His people in person, or by the hand of a Mediator (Isaiah 63:11). Thus Habakkuk confirms believers in the hope of their deliverance, as well because God is always the same, as also because the same anointed Mediator is ready now to fulfill God's will, and interpose for Israel, as of old (Calvin). Maurer translates, to suit, the parallelism, 'for salvation to thine anointed'-namely, Israel's king in the abstract, answering to the "people" in the former clause (cf. Psalms 28:8, "The Lord is the saving strength of His anointed;" Lamentations 4:20). Or Israel is meant, the anointed - i:e., consecrated people of Yahweh (Psalms 105:15, "Touch not mine anointed"). So the Septuagint and Syriac take it, 'for saving thine anointed.' I prefer the English version, as the Hebrew [ 'et (H854)] often means "with." So Aquila and the Vulgate; and the reference to Messiah, the angel of the covenant, as the Person through whom, in the Old Testament, God performed deliverances for His people, is common. Thus, in Isaiah 63:11 when it is said God brought up His, people "with (Moses) the shepherd of his flock," the ulterior and antitypical reference is to Messiah. Messiah, the Head of His, people (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23), in contrast to "the head out of the house of the wicked," which follows.

Woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked - probably an allusion to Psalms 68:21, "God shall wound the head of his enemies;" and also Psalms 110:6 "He shall wound the heads over many countries." Each head person sprung from and belonging to the house of Israel's wicked foes; such as Jabin, whose city Hazor was "the head of all the kingdoms:" of Canaan (Joshua 11:10: cf. Judges 4:2-3, "The children cried unto the Lord; for he (Jabin) had nine hundred chariots of iron: and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel;" Judges 4:13).

By discovering the foundation - thou destroyedst high and low. As "the head of the house" means the prince, so the "foundation" means the general host of the enemy.

Unto the neck. Image from a flood reaching to the neck (Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 30:28). So God, by His wrath overflowing on the foe, caused their princes' necks to be trodden under foot by Israel's leaders (Joshua 10:24; Joshua 11:8; Joshua 11:12).

Verse 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.

Thou didst strike through with his staves - "his," with the "wicked" (Habakkuk 3:13) foe's own sword. Maurer translates [maTeym] 'spears' (Judges 7:22).

The head of his villages - not only kings were overthrown by God's hand, hut His vengeance passed through the foe's villages and dependencies. A just retribution, as the foe, Jabin of Hazor, king of Canaan, had made "the inhabitants of Israel's villages to cease" (Judges 5:7). Grotius translates [ pªraazaayw (H6518)], 'of his warriors;' Gesenius, from the Arabic, 'the chief of his captains.' I prefer the English version. There is probably an allusion to the sine Hebrew word, Habakkuk 3:9. The tribal rods of Israel shall flourish at last, because of God's oaths to His people. The enemy's heads of villages shall be struck through with their own tribal rods or "staves."

They came out as a whirlwind to scatter me - Israel, with whom Habakkuk identifies himself (cf. note, Habakkuk 1:12, "My God, mine Holy One").

Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. "The poor" means the Israelites, for whom in their helpless state the foe lurks in his lair, like a wild beast, to pounce on and devour (Psalms 10:9, "He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor;" Psalms 17:12).

Verse 15

Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters.

Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses - (Habakkuk 3:8) No obstacle could prevent Thy progress, when leading Thy people in safety to their inheritance, whether the Red Sea, Jordan, or the figurative waves of foes raging against Israel (Psalms 65:7, "Who stilleth the noise of the sea, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people:" especially at the Red Sea, where God delivered Israel from Pharaoh, "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters ... Thou leddest Thy people like a flock," etc.; Psalms 77:19.)

Verse 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.

When I heard, my belly trembled - namely, at the judgments which God had declared (Habakkuk 1:1-17) were to be inflicted on Judea by the Chaldeans.

Belly - the bowels were thought by the Hebrews to be the seat of yearning compassion (Jeremiah 31:20 "My bowels are troubled for him") Or, "heard" may refer to Habakkuk 3:3, "O, Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid." 'When I heard as to Yahweh's coming interposition for Israel against the Chaldeans, being still at some distance' (Habakkuk 2:3): so also in the next clause, "the voice" (Maurer). I prefer understanding the cause of Habakkuk's trembling on hearing, to be the whole series of judgments, beginning with those coming on Judea by the Chaldeans, and then about to descend on the Chaldeans themselves from God, to which in this chapter immediate reference is made (Habakkuk 3:3-15).

At the voice - of the divine threatenings (Habakkuk 1:6). The faithful tremble at the voice alone of God, before He inflicts punishment. Habakkuk speaks in the person of all the faithful in Israel.

And I trembled in myself - i:e., I trembled all over (Grotius).

That I might rest in the day of trouble. The true and only path to rest is through such fear. Whoever is securely torpid and hardened toward God will be tumultuously agitated in the day of affliction, and so will bring on himself a worse destruction; but he who in time meets God's wrath, and trembles at His threats, prepares the best rest for himself in the day of affliction (Calvin). Henderson translates, 'yet I shall have rest.' Habakkuk thus consoling his mind. Though trembling at the calamity coming, yet I shall have rest in God (Isaiah 26:3). But that sentiment does not seem to be directly asserted until Habakkuk 3:17-18, as the words following at the close of this verse imply.

When he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them - rather (as the English version is a mere truism), connected with the preceding clause, 'that I might rest, etc., when he (the Chaldean foe) cometh up unto the people (the Jews), that he may cut them off' (Calvin). The Hebrew [ yªguwdenuw (H1464), from gaadad (H1413), or guwd (H1464), to congregate: and gªduwd (H1416), a troop or band] for "invade" means, to rush upon, or to attack and cut off with congregated troops.

Verse 17

Although 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:

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither, shall fruit be in the vines. Destroy the "vines" and "fig trees" of the carnal heart, and his mirth ceases. But those who, when full, enjoyed God in all, when emptied, can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of ruined creature-comforts, and rejoice in Him as the "God of their salvation." Running in the way of His commandments, we outrun our troubles. Thus Habakkuk, beginning his prayer with trembling, ends it with a song of triumph (Job 13:15; Psalms 4:7; Psalms 43:3; Psalms 43:5). The labour of the olive - i:e, the fruit expected from the olive; not the labour bestowed upon the olive.

Shall fail - literally, lie; i:e., disappoint the hope (margin, Isaiah 58:11, "a spring ... whose waters fail not" - lie not).

And the fields, [shªdeemowt] - from a Hebrew root meaning to burn [ shaadap (H7710)], 'to be yellow;' such as they look at harvest-time.

Shall yield no meat - food, grain.

The flock shall be cut off - i:e., cease.

Verse 18

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Yet I will rejoice. The prophet speaks in the name of his people.

Verse 19

The 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

The Lord God ... will make my feet like hinds' feet ... to walk upon mine high places. Habakkuk has here before his mind Psalms 18:33-34, "He maketh my feet like, hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places;" Deuteronomy 32:13, "He made him ride on the high places of the earth." "Hinds' (gazelles') feet" imply the swiftness with which God enables him (the prophet and his people) to escape from his enemies, and return to his native land. The "high places" are called "mine," to imply that Israel shall be restored to his own land, a land of hills which are places of safety and of eminence (cf. Genesis 19:17, "escape to the mountain;" and Matthew 24:16). Probably not only the safety, but the moral elevation of Israel above all the lands of the earth is implied (Deuteronomy 33:29, "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord ... thou shalt tread upon their (thine enemies') high places)".

To the chief singer on my stringed instruments - binªgiynowtaay (H5058). This is the prophet's direction to the pre-centor ("chief singer") how the preceding ode (Habakkuk 3:1-19) is to be performed (cf. Psalms 4:1-8 and Psalms 6:1-10, titles, "To the chief musician on Neginoth"). The prophet had a certain form of stringed instrument adapted to certain numbers and measures, and suited to the subject. 'The words with which the song of the Church is here closed, mean, to the chief musician upon (Israel's, because it is the Church that speaks through the whole chapter) stringed instrument, assigned to the chief musician, that he might publicly sing it, with the accompaniment of sacred music, in the temple, which was in a manner the national music' (Hengstenberg). This formula at the end of the ode, directing the kind of instrument to be used, agrees with that in the beginning of it, which directs the kind of melody, "Upon Shigionoth." (Compare Isaiah 38:20, "The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord").


(1) Praise to God is often the most effective "prayer" to God (Habakkuk 3:1). When in the confidence of faith we thank God, as though we already had that which we have prayed for, we most certainly secure for ourselves and our appeals a favourable decision from the Almighty Judge with whom we have to do.

(2) God's judgments speak to the inner ear of the believer in a language which generates reverential fear. Still the feeling of the child of God is not slavish fear, but the spirit of adoption, suggesting the cry. "Revive thy work in the midst of the years" of the Church's calamity! "In wrath remember mercy!"

(3) The people of God draw comfort from the remembrance of God's marvelous interpositions in Israel's and the Church's behalf in ancient times (Habakkuk 3:3-7): and therefore they remind Yahweh of His past favours as a ground for expecting His again delivering them now in their season of adversity. 'O Lord, arise; help us, and deliver us, for thy name's sake! O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us the noble works that thou didst in their days and in the old time before them. O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us, for thine honour' ('Church of England Litany').

(4) If the outward manifestations which emanate from the unseen power of God be so overwhelming to His enemies, how much more so the hidden Yahweh Himself! The terrible weapons of His armoury are infinitely various and inexhaustible, so that His people have no reason to fear the power of their adversaries, however formidable they may seem.

(5) When He appears in glory the powers of nature are shaken. One might suppose that the agitation of the earth, and the parting asunder of the waters of the Red Sea and of the Jordan, were indicative of His displeasure at these departments of the natural world. But the real cause was not displeasure at them, but God's pleasure in bringing "salvation" to His people (Habakkuk 3:8). Let the saints learn hence, amidst the war of elements and the turmoil of nations, to say, "God is our refuge and strength ... therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, through, the mountains shake with the swelling thereof" (Psalms 46:1-3).

(6) The ground of confidence to the people of God is the "oaths" wherewith again and again He has confirmed His "word" of promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the fathers of Israel after the flesh, and also of the spiritual Israel, the Church of all ages and places (Habakkuk 3:9). These oaths warrant all believers, as well as the literal Israel, to expect, in all their times of need, Almighty deliverance from all their enemies. For "God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:17-18).

(7) There is no obstacle, whether mountains or waters, impeding the progress of God's people, which shall not be made to "pass by" (Habakkuk 3:10) when God gives the word of command. The deep may "utter his voice" of thunder, and "lift up his hands on high:" but he dares not "overflow" the saints when they are "passing through" the waters (Isaiah 43:2).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.