Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 3

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Hab 3:1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.

Ver. 1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet ] Habakkuk signifieth a wrestler, that by closing striveth to get the better, as hath been before noted on Habakkuk 1:1 . To close with the adversary is the best way to supplant him, or to avoid the blow: so is running into God the way to escape him. The prophet had heard God’s speech and was afraid, Habakkuk 3:2 . He saw his wrath ready to break forth, and therefore gets in with him by this prayer. He knew that,

Flectitur iratus voce rogante Deus ”( Ovid).

God suffereth himself often to be overcome by the prayers of his people; and yieldeth much unto them when most bitterly bent, Matthew 24:20 ; he therefore sets shoulders and sides to work, and wrestles lustily in this chapter. He knew it was a prophet’s work to pray as well as preach; and between these two to divide his time. "God forbid" (saith Samuel, who is reckoned the first of prophets, Act 3:24 ), "that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: I will also teach you the good and right way," 1 Samuel 12:23 . So doth this prophet; he both preferreth a prayer (the word תפלה say some, signifieth such a prayer as is made by a mediator before a judge; we have an advocate with the Father, 1Jn 2:1 ), and dedicated the same to the people, to be used by them in the time of the captivity: which yet they shamefully neglected to do, as Daniel acknowledgeth, Daniel 9:13 ; or if they did anything towards it, they merely sought themselves in it, and so lost their labour, Zechariah 7:5 ; whereas had they prayed as here is prescribed, confessing their sins, and beseeching God not to deal with them after their deserts, but according to his ancient lovingkindnesses, that never fail, they might have found mercy, Lamentations 3:22 . The altar of incense stood against the mercy seat; and, Revelation 9:13 , the prayers of the saints from the four corners of the earth sound and do great things in the world, make it ring. It was the speech of a learned man; If there be but one sigh come from a gracious heart it fills the ears of God, so that God hears nothing else.

Upon Shigionoth ] Vocabulum musicum est, cuius ratio Hebraeis ignota, saith Buxtorf; it is a musical term, the reason whereof is unknown to the Hebrew doctors to this day. Yet Rabbi Salomon (and with him most interpreters) rendereth it pro ignorantiis, for ignorances, or as touching his own and his people’s errors; which the prophet here (convinced by God’s former answer to his expostulation) confesseth with confusion of face. Ignorance surely is a blushful sin; especially if affected and delighted in (as the Hebrew word seemeth to imply, confer Proverbs 5:1 ; Pro 20:1 ). Private ignorance, though it do somewhat excuse a man ( sc. a tanto from so much not a tote, from everything, Luk 12:47 ), yet is it a sin to be confessed and bewailed; for Christ died for the not knowing of the people, Hebrews 9:7 , αγνοηματα , and destruction is threatened, pro nonscientia, or lack of knowledge, Hosea 4:6 . But Calvin well observeth here, that the prophet by begging pardon for ignorances, doth not omit his own and the people’s more grievous sins; but showeth that men must also be sensible of their lesser lapses, and cry out with David (after whose example this whole song is framed), "Who can understand his errors" (or ignorances, unwitting and inconsiderate sins)? "O cleanse thou me from secret faults," Psalms 19:12 .

Verse 2

Hab 3:2 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.

Ver. 2. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid ] Audivi auditionem tuam. I have heard (not thy fume or thy report, as some render it, unless it be in the prophet Isaiah’s sense, Isaiah 53:1 , but) thy preceding discourse, in answer to my disceptation. I have heard that the Babylonians will come, and that my people must go into captivity. This was no pleasant hearing; for we all naturally shrink in the shoulder when called to carry the cross; but those that do what they should not must look to hear and feel too what they would not.

And was afraid ] Fear is constrictio cordis ex sensu mali instantis, a passion of the soul shrinking in itself from some imminent evil. The wicked hear and jeer: or their fear driveth them from God, as it did guilty Adam. Contrarily, the godly tremble at God’s judgments while they hang in the threatenings; and draw nigh to him with entreaties of peace. In this fear of the Lord is strong confidence, "and his children have a place of refuge," Proverbs 14:26 .

O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years ] i.e. Preserve alive thy Israel, that work of thine hands, Isaiah 45:11 , together with thy work of grace in their hearts; keep that spark alive upon the sea of tribulations and temptations. The angels (saith a reverend man) are kept with much less care, charge, and power, than we; because they have no bias, no weights of sin hung upon them, &c. There is not so much of the glory of God (saith another) in all his works of creation and providence as in one gracious action that a Christian performeth.

in the midst of the years make known ] sc. Thy power in perfecting thy glory, and not forsaking the work of thine own hands, Psalms 138:8 . It was Luther’s usual prayer, Confirm, O God, in us that thou hast wrought; and perfect the work that thou hast begun in us, to thy glory. So be it. So Queen Elizabeth, when prisoner at Woodstock, prayed thus: Look, Lord, upon the wounds of thine hands; and despise not the work of thine hands. Thou hast written me down in thy book of preservation with thine own hand: O read thine own handwriting, and save me, &c. But what meant the Seventy here to translate, In the midst of two beasts: which while Ribera striveth to defend, he tells us a tale of the babe of Bethlehem, born in a stable, and laid in a manger between two beasts, an ox and an ass ( εν μεσω δυο ζωων ). It may very well be that the Church here prayeth for God’s grace and favour during the time of her captivity.

In wrath remember mercy ] In commotione irae: when thou art most moved against us, and hast as much ado to forbear killing of us as thou hadst to forbear Moses when thou mettest him in the inn, then remember to show mercy, call to mind thy compassions which fail not. "Look then upon us, and be merciful unto us, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name," Psalms 119:132 . The wicked are threatened with an evil, an only evil, without any mixture of mercy; this the prophet here deprecateth, and beggeth mercy, Ezekiel 7:5 . Per miserere mei, tollitur ira Dei. through mercy to me, the wrath of God is born away.

Verse 3

Hab 3:3 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.

Ver. 3. God came from Teman ] The prophet alludeth to that of Moses in his swan-like song, Deuteronomy 33:2 , and allegeth God’s benefits of old, for his own and their present confirmation of faith; without which prayer would be to no purpose; hence effectual prayer is called the "prayer of faith," James 5:15 . Whatsoever ye ask believing ye shall receive, saith our Saviour, Mark 11:24 . "Cast thy burden" (or thy request) "upon the Lord," saith David, Psalms 55:22 . To help us so to do it is of singular use to consider what God hath done heretofore; for thou hast, thou wilt, is an ordinary medium of Scriptural logic, see Psalms 85:1-4 . There be six hast’s drawing in the next, Turn us again, &c., Psalms 85:4 ; see also 2 Corinthians 1:10 . God’s majesty and might when he gave the law in Sinai is here set forth, to show how easily he can, if he please, turn again the captivity of his people, as the streams in the south, Psalms 126:4 .

And the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah ] He that is holiness itself (a title far too good for that man of sin, that Merum Scelus pure wickedness, the Pope, Philip the Fair of France did him right in writing to him thus, Sciat tua maxima Fatuitas, &c., Be it known to your foolishness, not to your holiness), and that must be sanctified in righteousness, Isaiah 5:16 . Mount Paran was contiguous to the mountains Sinai and Teman, otherwise called Seir for its roughness, Deuteronomy 33:2 . Selah. This the Seventy make to be a musical notion, rendering it Diapsalma. a pause in music. It seemeth to import an asseveration of a thing so to be, and an admiration thereat. The Jews to this day use it in their prayers for Legnolam, i.e. For ever, or Amen. It is probable, that when the singers of the temple came to a Selah (which word is used ninety-two times in Scripture, and only in Psalms and Songs) they made a pause, that the hearers might stay their thoughts awhile upon the preceding matter, worthy of more than ordinary observation. Hence Tremellius and Junius express Selah by the adverbs Summe, Maxime, Vehementissime, Excellenter. It was doubtless a singular mercy of God to his people of Israel, that be came from Teman, &c., to speak with them from heaven; and there to give them "right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments,"Nehemiah 9:13-14; Nehemiah 9:13-14 . This when he did,

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise ] The law was given in a most majestic manner, Exo 19:17-25 partly to procure reverence to the doctrine of it, partly to set forth the nature and office of it, which is to terrify offenders, and to drive them to Christ; and partly also to show that God hath power and weapons enough to defend those that keep his law, and to punish such as would draw them off from their obedience thereunto. That is a pious meditation of a reverend writer (Dr Hall), if the law were thus given, how shall it be required? If such were the proclamation of God’s statutes, what shall the sessions be? I see and tremble at the resemblance.

Verse 4

Hab 3:4 And [his] brightness was as the light; he had horns [coming] out of his hand: and there [was] the hiding of his power.

Ver. 4. And his brightness was as the light ] The glory of the Lord was as a devouring fire on the top of the mountain, Exodus 24:17 ; the noonday light, the sun in his strength was nothing to this incomparable brightness, which was as the light, or as the sun, see Job 31:26 ; Job 37:20 . Hence the heathens called Apollo or the sun Orus (which is the word here used), hence also the Greek οραω , to see ( אור ).

He had horns coming out of his hand ] Or, bright beams out of his side, as the sun hath: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place," Proverbs 16:3 , and every man before him is all window, Job 34:22 ; the whole world is to him as a sea of glass, Revelation 4:6 , a clear transparent body, he shines and sees through it. God’s hand or side is said to be horned in the sense that Moses’s face was, Exodus 34:30 .

And there was the hiding of his power ] Not the revealing of it, but velamen, symbolum, integumentum, the veil, the cover, such as God put over him when he showed Moses his glory. He could see but his back parts, and live; we need see no more that we may live. God is invisible, incomprehensible, and dwelleth in light unapproachable. How little a thing doth man here understand of God, Job 26:14 ; the greatest part of that which he knoweth is but the least part of that which he knoweth not. Surely as a weak eye is not able to behold the sun, no, nor the strongest eye without being dazzled; we cannot look upon it in rota, in the globe but only in radiis, into the rays; so here we cannot see God in his essence, but only in his effects, in his works, and in his Word, where also we have but a show, but a shadow of him, we see but his train in the temple, as Isaiah; the holy angels cover their faces with their wings as with a double scarf before God’s brightness, which would put out their eyes else, Isaiah 6:2 ; see Psalms 104:2 1 Timothy 6:16 .

Verse 5

Hab 3:5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

Ver. 5. Before him went the pestilence ] Dever, the word signifieth such a disease as cometh by a Divine decree, θεηλατον . So Hippocrates call the pestilence το θειον , because sent by God in a spiritual manner, a stroke of his own bare hand as it were. Here it is made one of his apparitors or pursuivants, sent before him to destroy the Canaanites, as it had done the Egyptians.

And burning coals went forth at his feet ] Or, the carbuncle burning bile, Deuteronomy 32:24 . The Vulgate translate it the devil; others Aνθραξ , a deadly inflammation, whereof good Oecolampadius died, and was lamented by Melancthon. But Luther very uncharitably (the best have their failings) wrote that he believed Oecolampadium ignitis Satanae telis et hastis confossum, subitanea metre periisse (Lib. de Missa privat.), that Oecolampadius died suddenly, being stabbed to death with the fiery darts of the devil.

Verse 6

Hab 3:6 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.

Ver. 6. He stood, and measured the earth ] Not Joshua, but God, brought his people into the promised land, and divided it among them, Psalms 78:55 . Like as also he had divided the whole earth by bounds and borders to the various nations, Psalms 74:17 , and doth still appoint men the bounds of their habitations, Acts 17:26 .

He beheld, and drove asunder the nations ] He did it with his looks, as it were; that is, with very little ado. Let the Lord but arise only and his enemies shall be scattered, let him but frown and they fall before him. If Augustus could frown to death Asinius Pollio, and Queen Elizabeth her chancellor Hatton, what shall we think of God’s bended brows?

And the everlasting mountains were scattered ] i.e. Those kingdoms of the Canaanites that were held firm and immoveable as the mountains, yea, riveted as it were upon eternity, see Numbers 13:28-29 ; Numbers 13:33 . These were scattered, dissilierunt, fell in pieces, and leaped this way and that way, as stones broken with a great hammer. God threshed these mountains, and beat them small, he made the hills as chaff, Isaiah 41:15 . No worldly height could stand before him. By mountains here some understand kings and princes, as by hills those of inferior rank.

His ways are everlasting ] Heb. His walks or journeys, that is, his government of the world by his power and wisdom, is perpetual, he never casteth off the care thereof. There are those who refer the word his to the Canaanites, who had of old possessed the land without disturbance ( αυτοχθονες ); but the former sense is the better.

Verse 7

Hab 3:7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: [and] the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

Ver. 7. I saw the tents of Cushan ] King of Mesopotamia, who tyrannized over Israel eight years after Joshua’s death; God selling his people to him for nought, and not increasing his wealth by their price, Psalms 44:12 Judges 3:8 . But delivering them in the end by that valiant Othniel, who brought the tents of Cushan under affliction or vanity. Some render it propter iniquitatem, because of iniquity, and set this sense upon it; It was for sin that God sold his people into the hands of Cushanrishathaim, and yet afterwards sent them a Saviour; why then should they now despair of a seasonable return out of captivity, though by their sins they have provoked the Lord to wrath; since if they return unto him and seek his favour, there is yet mercy with the Lord, that he may be feared? Lo, this is the right use of histories: and this is our duty, to make observations to ourselves, as did the prophet here: I saw the tents of Cushan; I considered the thing that hath been, it is the same which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, &c., Ecclesiastes 1:9 . Historiae fidae monitrices dicuntur παρα το ισταναι τον ρουν .

And the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble ] Cortinae vel pelles, &c. When by the sword of the Lord and of Gideon they were cut off and discomfited, Judges 7:7 .

Verse 8

Hab 3:8 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?

Ver. 8. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? ] As Xerxes, that brutish man, was against the Hellespont, for battering his bridge of boats, beating it and casting a pair of fetters into it? Was God thus angry against Jordan and against the Red Sea? No such matter. If God seem angry at any time against the reasonless or lifeless creatures, it is for a punishment of man’s sin. But here his end and purpose was to show that he did ride upon those horses and chariots (the rivers and sea) for the salvation of his people. He did so when time was, and that he will do so again, when time shall serve, this question in the text shows that there is no question to be made of it.

Verse 9

Hab 3:9 Thy bow was made quite naked, [according] to the oaths of the tribes, [even thy] word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.

Ver. 9. Thy bow was made quite naked ] sc. Out of the case. He meaneth, thy power was clearly manifested and powerfully exerted against the nations above mentioned; so that all men might see plainly that thou wert that man of war, Exodus 15:3 , which shootest thine arrows at a certainty, and never missest thine enemies, thy buttmark, see Job 16:12 .

According to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word ] i.e. According to thy promises to thy people, confirmed with oaths, even those sure mercies of David, or assured to David. Some render it, according to the oaths, those props of thy word. His word is sure and sufficient of itself; but, for our better settlement, and as a prop to our faith, he hath bound it with oaths; "that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation," Hebrews 6:18 . For now we may say with Solomon, "For thy word’s sake," nay, more, for thine oath’s sake, "and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this," 2Sa 7:18 ; 2 Samuel 7:21 . Thy love moved thee to make promise, yea, to give oath; and now thy truth bindeth thee to perform. All thy paths to thy people are mercy and truth, Psalms 25:10 ; not mercy only, but mercy and truth; not by a providence only, but by virtue of a promise ratified with an oath: this is sweet indeed; this deserves a Selah to be set to it.

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers ] Exodus 17:6 Psa 78:15-16 Deu 8:15 Nehemiah 9:15 . This cleaving the hard rock, and setting it abroach, this turning of the flint into a fountain, Psalms 114:8 , was a work of omnipotence, and is therefore so much celebrated. It maketh much to the miracle that the earth was cleft with rivers; this importeth both the plenty and the perennity thereof; for the rock, that is, the river out of the rock, followed them, 1 Corinthians 10:4 , lest in that dry and barren wilderness they should perish for want of water. The same God also who had given his people petram aquatilem, gave them pluviam escatilem (as Tertullian phraseth it), manna from heaven, quails in great abundance, and never was prince better served in his greatest pomp. He also defended them from the fiery serpents, and delivered them from a thousand other deaths and dangers; all which mercies are here implied, though one only be instanced; and all to ascertain the saints how much God setteth by them, and what he will yet do for them, as occasion requireth. As he made the world at first, that he might communicate and impart himself to his elect; so for their sakes doth he still preserve and govern it, ordering the world’s disorders by an over ruling power, for his own glory and their eternal good.

Verse 10

Hab 3:10 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.

Ver. 10. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled ] sc. At the promulgation of the law, Exo 19:17 Psalms 114:4 ; Psalms 114:6 , when God came with ten thousand of his saints, Deuteronomy 33:2 ; and so terrible was the earthquake, that it wrought an earthquake, even in Moses himself, Hebrews 12:21 . It is the office of the law to do so; and happy is he who, terrified and thunder struck by the threats thereof, runs to Christ for refuge, as to One who is able to save to the utmost them that come unto God by him, Hebrews 9:25 . Some take mountains metaphorically, for the mighties of the earth, and read it thus, The mountains saw thee, and they grieved, see Num 22:3 Joshua 2:9-11 .

The overflowing of the water passed by ] The inundation of Jordan passed into the Dead Sea, the lower part of it, I mean, like as the upper stood, and rose up upon a heap, Joshua 3:13 , being bounded and barred up by the almighty power of God.

The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high ] i.e. Summo consensu suffragatus est. It voiced, and voted for God’s judgments; helping forward the execution thereof.

Verse 11

Hab 3:11 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.

Ver. 11. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation ] viz. In the days of Joshua, and upon his prayer, Joshua 10:12-13 , whereupon one crieth out, O admirabilem piarum precum vim ac potentiam quibus etiam coelestia cedunt, &c: Oh the admirable power of prayer, that worketh wonders in heaven! and oh the heroic faith of Joshua, the trophies whereof he set in the very orbs of heaven.

At the light of thine arrows they went ] By these shining arrows and glittering spears, some understand that terrible lightning, mixed with that horrible hail, Jos 10:11 with Exodus 10:23 , and then it is figura plane poetica, a poetic expression; for the poets call lightning Dιος βελος , Jove’s arrow. See the like Psalms 18:14 . The huge hail stones were God’s glittering spears, wherewith he slaughtered his enemies. Others suppose that these things are meant of the arms and weapons of the Israelites, called God’s arrows and spears, because used at his command and ordered by him (as the sword of the Lord and of Gideon, Jdg 7:18 ). This sense Gualther liketh better, as most comfortable to Christian warriors, who fight the Lord’s battles.

Verse 12

Hab 3:12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.

Ver. 12. Thou didst march through the land in indignation ] Heb. Thou didst walk in pomp, as a conqueror, through the land, sc. of Canaan, in contempt of the opposite forces, treading upon the necks of thine enemies, Joshua 10:24 .

Thou didst thresh the heathen in anger ] See Amo 1:3 Micah 4:13 . God, by the hands of Joshua, did all this. The most of the old inhabitants were destroyed. Some few fled into Africa, and left written upon a pillar for a monument to posterity, We are Phoenicians, that fled from the face of Joshua, the son of Nave.

Verse 13

Hab 3:13 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.

Ver. 13. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people ] q.d. Thou wast Generalissimo grand general in our expeditions, in the days of the judges, who therefore were so successful. How could they be otherwise, when God came with them into the field? If Queen Elizabeth could take for her motto, Cui adhaereo, praeest, He to whom I adhere prevaileth, how much more may Almighty God say as much?

Even for salvation with thine anointed ] i.e. With David, 1Sa 16:12-13; 2 Samuel 5:3 ; 2 Samuel 5:17 ; 2Sa 19:22 ; 2 Samuel 22:51 ; Psalms 20:7 ; a lively type of Christ, that Messiah the prince, the mystery of which promised Saviour the ancient Jewish doctors confessed to be contained in this text. It is not altogether unlikely that the prophet might intend here to point at Jesus Christ, when he saith, for salvation ( Jeshang, whence Jesus) for thine anointed, or thy Christ. There are those who read the words in the future tense, thus: Thou shalt go forth for the salvation of thy people, sc. when Messiah, the great Sospitator, preserver cometh: thou shalt wound the head of the wicked, sc. of the devil, Romans 16:20 . Thou shalt make naked the foundation of his kingdom, unto the neck. Selah : thou shalt utterly destroy sin, death, and hell. A remarkable mercy indeed, a mystery of greatest concernment, and most worthy to be considered. Gualther carries the sense this way; and yet addeth, that if any please to refer the words to the history of the Old Testament, they must be understood as those tyrants that persecuted the true Church, and whom God, for Christ’s sake, subdued and subverted, together with their kingdoms.

Verse 14

Hab 3:14 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.

Ver. 14. Thou didst strike through with his staves, the heads of his villages ] Heb. Thou didst pierce, or bore through, as with an auger, with his staves (a metaphor from shepherds, according to that, Psalms 23:4 , "thy rod and thy staff"), or, with his tribes (the Dωδεκαφυλον , Act 26:7 ), that entered the land of promise; with these men, or with these weapons, though never so unlikely, thou didst, by the hand of David, wound the hairy scalp of thine enemies, those pagans and persecutors; and much more wilt, by the Son of David, subdue Satan and his complices.

They came out as a whirlwind to scatter me ] Heb. They tempested, they raised a hurly-burly, being turbulent spirits, as the devil is, to disperse me, as the dust of the mountains is scattered before a whirlwind.

Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor ] i.e. Poor me, they devoured in secret, as if God had been nothing aware of their doings; and this was their exultation, or rejoicing; they took pleasure in their cruelty, and promised themselves impunity.

Verse 15

Hab 3:15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, [through] the heap of great waters.

Ver. 15. Thou didst walk through the sea, &c. ] q.d. Shall they thus prevail by iniquity? and did they carry the ball upon the foot till they had gotten the goal? Hath ever any waxed fierce against God, and prospered? Job 9:4 . I think not. Thou that of old didst walk through the Red Sea, didst tread it, or foot it, and that most swiftly, as if thou hadst had thy change of horses.

Through the heap of great waters ] Which thou laidest on heaps for thy people’s sake, so that, instead of being swallowed up, they were preserved thereby. Thou, Lord, I say, hast many times since (when all hope failed) opened a fair way for thy servants to escape out of greatest dangers; and so I trust thou wilt again, when they most stand in need of thine heavenly help. Cum res est in acie novaculae, God will be seen of his in the mount.

Verse 16

Hab 3:16 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.

Ver. 16. When I heard, my belly trembled, &c. ] Heard what? That speech of thine, Habakkuk 3:3 , whereunto the prophet now returneth, after a long digression for the people’s support and comfort. Digressions in Divine discourses are not always and absolutely unlawful. God sometimes draweth aside the doctrine, to satisfy some soul which the preacher knows not; and, sparingly used, it quickeneth attention. "O Lord, I have heard thy speech" (touching Israel’s captivity, Habakkuk 1:6-11 , and after that, the Chaldeans’ calamity, Hab 2:5-18 ), "and was afraid," Habakkuk 3:2 . Neither was this a slight or sudden pang, and soon put over; but such as soaked to the very roots, so that my belly, or my heart in my belly, trembled; see Proverbs 20:27 .

My lips quivered ] Through want of natural heat, which in this fright was gone inward to succour the heart; as soldiers upon the approach of an enemy run into the castle.

At the voice ] At the dreadful denunciations of judgments.

Rottenness entered into my bones ] Poetico more ex signis describit, saith Gualther. The prophet, in manner of a poet, describeth his great fear by the gracious effects and signs thereof in his body.

That I might rest in the day of trouble ] This was the fruit of his holy fear of God’s imminent judgments, and that contrition of spirit that followed thereupon; viz. that both he, and all that took part with him in those pious practices of sensibleness and self-abasement, should have peace with God, and be able to call their souls to rest in the evil day.

When he cometh up, &c. ] i.e. The Chaldean spoiler.

He will invade them with his troops ] Or, cut them in pieces. And that this was done see 2 Kings 25:4-11 . and the Book of Lamentations throughout. Howbeit in judgment God remembereth mercy, as the prophet had prayed; for, besides the favour that the Jews found at Babylon by means of Daniel and others, Cyrus, having taken that city, gave commandment that no Jews, or any that spake the Syrian tongue, should be harmed, as Xenophon relateth; and after this he gave them free leave to return home.

Verse 17

Hab 3:17 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:

Ver. 17. Although the fig tree shall not blossom ] Here the prophet showeth a well settled and a sedate mind indeed; that he had attained, and, by prayer, waded unto a blessed composedness and sabbath of spirit, such as the cock on the dunghill meddled not with, neither knoweth the worth of; it being the most precious and peerless jewel that ever the heart of man came acquainted with. It hath been before noted, that the prophet here taketh out his own lesson of living by faith in the fail of outward comforts. Origen’s teaching and living were said to be both alike. Habakkuk’s were so. Divinity is practical: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them; as lessons of music must be practised, and a copy not read only, but imitated, so is it here. It is a blushful thing, quando dicta factis erubescant, as Tertullian hath it; when men’s lives put their words to the blush, when Sanctiores sunt aures plebis quam corda sacerdotum, there are more heavenly doctrines in the people’s ears than ever were in the preacher’s heart, as Hilary hath it; when, as one said of Erasmus’s Enchiridion, there is more holiness in an author’s book than in his bosom ( Plus sanctimoniae conspicitur in ipso libello, quam in libelli Authore ):

Exemplis sane qui docet, ille docet.

Aristotle requireth in a teacher that he show himself a pattern of his own rules; and it is a good thing to teach (saith Ignatius), εαν λεγεις ποιης , if thou practise the same that thou teachest. That is an excellent commendation indeed that is given to a late eminent divine among us, that his life was but one continued commentary upon his doctrine, and an exemplary sermon, consisting of living words, or of words translated into works. "The just shall llve by faith," saith Habakkuk; and that I do so, it shall well appear by my living upon God when I have nothing else to subsist with; by believing him upon his bare word, and that against sense in things invisible, and against reason in things incredible.

Although the fig tree, &c. ] q.d. Let war come on, and with war famine; as it befell Jerusalem at the last siege in the days of Zedekiah, 2Ki 25:8 Jeremiah 52:6 Lamentations 2:11-12 , there was no relief left for the people, the enemy had eaten up all, as Joel 1:4 , and made clean work, so that faithless men were woebegone, and ready to run mad for the sight of their eyes, Deuteronomy 28:24 ; Deuteronomy 28:51 , and to devour their own fingers, as Pope Boniface VIII did, when shut up close prisoner in St Angelo and sorely straitened.

Verse 18

Hab 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Ver. 18. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation ] This joy of the Lord was the prophet s strength, and kept his head above all waters of affliction, Nehemiah 8:10 . So it was David’s at the sack of Ziklag, 1 Samuel 30:6 , when Saul at the same time for want of it ran first to the witch, and thence to the sword’s point. A good man hath God for his portion; and if any occasion of discontent or trouble befall him he retireth into his counting house, and there seeth himself so well stored with unlosable graces and invaluable privileges that he cannot be greatly moved, Psalms 62:2 . His soul in greatest straits can magnify the Lord, and his spirit rejoice in God his Saviour. Disquieted he may be sometimes for a season, till he hath recollected and better bethought himself. We are staggering, saith the apostle, but not wholly sticking, 2 Corinthians 4:8 , for not the evenest weights but at their first putting into the balance do somewhat sway both parts thereof, not without some show of inequality, which yet after some little motion do settle themselves in a meet poise and posture.

Verse 19

Hab 3:19 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 stringed instruments.

Ver. 19. The Lord God is my strength ] And hence his joy of faith, and ability to bear up under pressures of afflictions, as a man that is well lined within, and hath abundance of good blood and fresh spirits, can endure to go with less clothes than another.

And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet] As these do swiftly and suddenly run up to the top of inaccessible rocks, so shall I quickly escape out of trouble and walk upon mine high places again in the holy land; yea, as Jacob, after he had conversed with God at Bethel, lifted up his feet and went lustily on his way to Padanaram, Genesis 29:1 , so shall I go lightly on my long journey to heaven; and, having my soul supplied with the oil of spiritual joy, I shall find it made more lithe, nimble, and ready to every good work.

To the chief musician on my stringed instruments ] This is David-like indeed, as in the whole prayer or song he resembleth that sweet singer of Israel; and the verse hath caused a cloud. Euthymius saith of David, that he was Primi regis et lingua et cor et calamus, the tongue, heart, and pen of Almighty God. In the primitive times happy was he held that could repeat aliquid Davidicmn, anything of David’s doings. Our King Alfred translated the Psalter himself into his own Saxon tongue. Andronicus, the Greek emperor, made it his manual, his Vade mecum. It appeareth by the context of this whole chapter that the prophet Habakkuk was well versed in the Psalms, which is a sweet field and rosary of promises, a summary of the Old Testament, saith Luther; the good soul’s soliloquy, saith another, wherein are amulets of comfort more pleasant than the pools of Heshbon, more glorious than the tower of Lebanon, more redolent than the oil of Aaron, more fructifying than the dew of Hermon. Most worthy to be laid up in that Persian casket embroidered with gold and pearl, which Alexander reserved for Homer’s Iliad. Our prophet, as he partly imitated, and partly transcribed them in this Canticle, yea, in this verse, confer Psa 18:33-34 so he concludeth as David many times beginneth, To the chief chanter or music master, or, To him that excelleth in the art of singing and playing on instruments, those holy Levites, whose charge it was, 1 Chronicles 9:33 , and for whom he doubted not but God would afford and provide new matter of psalmody, by compassing his people about with songs of deliverance. Selah. Psalms 32:7 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.