Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 3

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Habakkuk’s prayer, Habakkuk 3:1,Habakkuk 3:2. He describeth God’s majesty, and wonders wrought in his people’s behalf, Habakkuk 3:3-16. He professeth his unshaken trust in God, Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Verse 1

A prayer: the prophet required the earth Should be silent before God, and now gives them example; he waits on and prays to God in his holy temple: some say it is a prayer of intercession, and that the word carrieth it so. Habakkuk the prophet: see Habakkuk 1:1.

Shigionoth; a musical note, say some, and such note as the Jews have no certain knowledge of. Others say Shigionoth is ignorances, which the prophet doth confess, and sueth for the pardon of; both he and the people had erred, were offended at the darkness of Divine providences, and needed pardon as well as instruction: or it may be a prayer on occasion of the many and great changes Providence wrought in the affairs of the world and the church.

Verse 2

I have heard; received answer to the inquiry made Habakkuk 1:13-17, whether by voice from heaven, or by inward illumination or irradiation of the mind, or any other way of impression from the prophetic Spirit, needs not be inquired.

Thy speech; the report or declaration God made to him concerning the future corrections of his own people, and the devastations Babylon would make among them; and next, the destruction which should fall upon the Babylonians by the Medes and Persians, which is summarily set down, Habakkuk 2:0.

Was afraid; trembled at the apprehension of these sad things, which both we and they were to suffer; he saw them as certain and grievous.

Revive; not only keep alive, but somewhat refresh, renew, give some new strength to thy church and people, who wait for thee.

Thy work; thy church, called, Isaiah 45:11, as here, God’s work, in an eminent manner, above other people; so the apostle, we are his workmanship, Ephesians 2:10; or else by work may be meant, the returning of the captivity, and restoring them to their own land, which was the great thing God did promise to do for them; and the prophet prays for some kindness from the Lord, that may be a revival of the hope, assurance, and joy of it.

In the midst of the years: it is not needful we report the different account of these years, and the precise midst of them assigned by some; perhaps it may point to that time when Evil-merodach exalted Jehoiachin out of prison, which, 2 Kings 25:27, was in the 37th year of their captivity; but I rather think it is more vulgarly to be taken for any time within the term of the sad and troublesome days which would last seventy years.

Make known: it is an affectionate request, and (as such often are) somewhat abrupt; make known either thy truth, or wisdom, or power, or compassion, or all; make it known that thou art our God, and we thy people, that thou still hast a care of us: or what next follows makes the sense full.

In wrath, whilst thy just displeasure burns against us for our sins,

remember mercy; make it appear thou hast not forgotten to be gracious, let thy people see thou rememberest mercy towards them.

Verse 3

God, the God of our fathers, our God, came; appeared, discovered himself, for that is his coming, who, since he fills all places at all times, cannot be said to come by any change of place.

Teman; either appellatively, the south, or else as a proper name of a mountain or country. so called from Teman, son of Eliphaz, and grandson of Esau. It is also called Seir, or is one particular hill among those many which make up Mount Seir. It was not far from Mount Sinai, where the law was given, and the prophet hath respect to that Deuteronomy 33:2, where God appeared in a manner equally glorious and terrible,

The Holy One of Israel.

Mount Paran; which was a name to wilderness, plains, and a mountain, of which the prophet here speaketh, and in Deuteronomy 33:2 it is said God shined thence. This the prophet mentions as a support of his faith, as an encouragement to others, as a motive why God should renew his work among them, since he so gloriously appeared among their fathers, and made a covenant with them.

Selah: to the argument he addeth this to awaken us to attention.

His glory; lightnings and thunders, and fire and smoke, tokens of the power, majesty, and greatness of God, at the sight whereof Moses himself trembled. Covered, overspread, intercepted, and obscured, the heavens; that part of the visible heavens under which Israel then encamped.

The earth, that part of the earth where this was done,

was full of his praise; of works which deserved then, and still do deserve, to be had in remembrance, with praise to God who did them.

Verse 4

His brightness, that lustre in which God appeared, that unparalleled splendour which shined from him, was as the light; pure, clear as the sun, but much more dazzling and overcoming.

Horns: some read it beams or rays of light, and so the Hebrew will bear, and thus it is plain.

Out of his hand: our God is all glory and light; Moses’s face shined; the face, yea hands, of our God shine with glorious light; he dwelleth in light.

There; either in that place where he thus appeared, or in that light wherewith he appeared·

Was the hiding of his power: one would think his brightness should have discovered, not hid his power; it did both, it discovered much of it, but hid much more; it was light inaccessible, and therefore a hiding light.

Power; strength or might: by what was there done it did evidently appear, God, who was there, could do much more, but it could not appear how much he could do.

Verse 5

Before him: when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan, he made the pestilence to go before him, so preparing room for his people.

The pestilence, which wasted the inhabitants of Canaan, swept them out.

Burning coals; burning fevers, and other distempers of fiery and destructive nature, which destroyed the accursed nations.

Went forth; as sent, and observing the way he directed.

At his feet; kept even pace, or waited on him, were his immediate forerunners. All this mentioned as arguments to prevail for somewhat like these for Israel, and against Israel’s enemies. O God, revive some such work amidst us.

Verse 6

He stood; gave his presence with Joshua and others, as one that stood by while the work was done.

Measured: he divided to them their inheritance, and did this without toil or difficulty, his very presence with his people was enough to make it known what he allotted to them. The earth; the Promised Land.

He beheld; looked with a frowning countenance, with anger in his eye.

Drove asunder; cast them out, or caused them to flee, as many did out of that country; his eye did this, for he looked on them and did this.

The nations; the cursed nations.

The everlasting mountains were scattered; either literally understood, as Nahum 1:5, and may relate to that the psalmist minds, Psalms 114:4,Psalms 114:6, when the whole mount, all the mountainous parts of Sinai, tremble, Exodus 19:18, &c.; or figuratively, the state of these nations, seeming as immovable as mountains, yet soon shook and dissolved, before the rebuke of the Lord.

The perpetual hills did bow; an elegant immutation of the phrase, to illustrate and confirm the same thing.

His ways are everlasting; the wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, faithfulness, and power of God, which he showeth in the methods of his governing his church and people, are everlasting, they are the same, and where the same circumstances concur the same effects of his power may be hoped for. So the prophet pursueth the argument; they are everlasting loving-kindnesses with which he embraceth his church.

Verse 7

I saw; not with the eye, but with his mind and understanding, in reading the history of Israel’s travels.

The tents, for the people that dwelt in them. Of Cushan; some say of Cushen-rishathaim, in Othniel’s time, and under his victories over them; but I rather think it is meant of the Ethiopians, on the confines of Arabia, that land of Cush, near whose borders Israel’s march through and encampings in the wilderness had very often lain.

In affliction; in fear and pain, lest that mighty people, under the conduct of their general, (famed for miracles,) should, as a violent storm, fall on them and despoil them.

The curtains, for those that dwell within them; these people dwelt in tents, and these made up on the sides with curtains.

The land; people of the land. Midian; a people sprung from one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah, who gave his name Midian to the land, as well as to the people.

Did tremble; were sore afraid of the arms of Israel, which at last, by God’s express direction, were employed against Midian, and cut off five kings, and destroyed the country. These terrible things our God, whose ways are everlasting, hath done to carry our fathers from Egypt to Canaan: let him, who is our God, still revive his work, &c.

Verse 8

The prophet recalls to memory the miraculous dividing of the Red Sea and Jordan, when God divided them to make a passage for his people, when by a miracle he made the devouring element to be a safeguard to his people, when it was not displeasure against the sea or the river, but favour to Israel, that moved him to do this. The prophet repeats the question, to impress the mind of the captive Jews with deeper apprehensions of the mercy of their God.

The rivers: see Nahum 1:4.

The sea; the Red Sea.

Didst ride, as a general at the head of his army, leading them forward on some great exploit. Upon thine horses; alluding to the manner of men, with whom horses are of greatest, strongest, and stateliest preparations against an enemy; but these were not designed against the sea as against an enemy.

Thy chariots of salvation: but with these horses are joined (for the decorum of the figure) chariots, that are chariots of salvation for his people: cheer up then, the Lord hath the same love and power still.

Verse 9

Thy bow; one part of armour put for the whole; or else the Lord here is represented as armed, in readiness to smite through all enemies, having his bow in his hand.

Was made quite naked; the case taken off, that when it was to be used there might be no delay.

According to the oaths of the tribes; in pursuance of his oath made to our fathers: he promised, and confirmed the promise by oath, that he would drive out the Canaanites, and this oath is here called

oaths, because repeated and renewed at several times; and it is oaths of, i.e. to, the tribes, to raise their hope in their present low condition not Abraham here mentioned, lest they should be upbraided with degenerating and losing the right to the promises; but it is

tribes, the right is in them.

Even thy word of promise.

Selah; note it well.

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers: when they were to march through a dry and thirsty land where no water was, how should they subsist? What good to be defended from perishing by the sword of an enemy, and be left to perish for want of refreshing waters? This then is added to complete the mercy; our God made rivers in the desert for them, and satisfied them with streams out of the flinty rock.

Verse 10

The mountains; literally taken, it is an elegant hyperbole, expressing to us the glorious effects of God’s power and presence; and thus Sinai and the contiguous hills, the whole mount, Exodus 19:18, are intended: or if you take it figuratively, these are kings and states, whose hieroglyphics in Scripture are mountains.

Saw; were sensible of, showed they were sensible of his approach and presence.

Trembled; were grieved; so it will well suit to mountains metaphorically taken, it was grief to the kings and states to see God own, conduct, and prosper Israel, Numbers 22:3; Joshua 2:9-11; or

trembled, i.e. were shaken as with an earthquake, Exodus 19:18; Psalms 68:8; Psalms 114:4,Psalms 114:6; so it suits the letter of the text.

The overflowing; the inundation, which at that season was wont to be very great, the mighty floods on Jordan.

Passed by; passed away, i.e. at the word of God the waters below flowed and ran away from those above, which stood on a heap, to make a path for Israel.

The deep; either the deep channel in which Jordan flowed, the very bottom of the river, appeared; or the deep, i.e. the Red Sea.

Uttered his voice; with dreadful roaring, like a mighty voice, parted its waters; divided, but with great and terrible noise, in this unusual commotion.

Lifted up his hands; testified its obedience to the command of God, as by lifting up the hand one doth at distance signify his ready compliance with the command, or direction: or

hands, i.e. sides; so when the upper waters stood on a heap, both in Jordan and the Red Sea, they appeared as with sides or flankers unto the Israelites.

On high; like a mountain, visible and conspicuous to all.

Verse 11

The sun and moon stood still: though the sun rejoice as a giant to run his race, and had constantly come out of his chamber to run it about two thousand five hundred years past, yet now he stops his course, and with his stay puts stop to the motion of moon and stars, at the command of God’s minister and Israel’s captain, Joshua 10:12,Joshua 10:13.

Habitation; so the psalmist, Psalms 19:4, speaks of a pavilion or tabernacle pitched for the sun, where at Joshua’s word, seconded with the word of Joshua’s and Israel’s God, he makes a halt as it were, stands at the door of his tabernacle to behold and forward the strange work, the miraculous overthrow of the five conspiring kings.

At the light of thine arrows they went: as we read the words they seem somewhat obscure and perplexed, yet very intelligible in this paraphrase: at the light, according to the light which thine arrows gave by their glittering heads, polished shafts, and bright feathers; in their flight thine arrows, O God, for these were the arrows of Israel and thine arrows too, as the sword of Gideon was the sword of the Lord.

They, i.e. sun and moon, went, directed their course, and took their way compliant with the flights of these arrows, not hastening to the place of their going down whilst Israel had arrows to shoot, or enemies that day to discomfit, whilst they were to lift up a spear against any enemy that day. The marginal reading of these words is much plainer:

thine arrows walked in the light, ( which was miraculously continued,) and thy spears walked in the brightness of the lightning (as I venture for once to read the words from the Hebrew); so dreadful was that day to the enemy, so joyful to Israel. O let some such day arise on captive Jews, revive thy works of old: so the prophet prays.

Verse 12

Thou, our God,

didst march, as the victorious Conqueror leading still thine armies, the tribes of Israel, through the land of Canaan, to subdue the remainders of thine enemies and theirs, and to give thine Israel possession of the Promised Land.

In indignation against them for their sins.

Thou didst thresh, break to pieces,

the heathen, the nation: devoted to destruction; these were cut in pieces by the sword of Israel.

Verse 13

Thou wentest forth: pursuant of his metaphor, the prophet speaks of God as marching on before his people; or it may refer to the ark, a token of God’s presence before the people.

For the salvation; to complete the salvation begun in bringing them out of Egypt, and carrying them through the wilderness, and to be finished in settling them in Canaan.

Of the people; thy chosen people, the tribes of thine inheritance.

Even for salvation: it is repeated for confirmation, and to affect us with the greatness of the mercy.

With thine anointed; or, for thine anointed, i.e. all Israel; or under the conduct of thine anointed, Joshua, type of the Messiah, by whose hand all these great things were done.

Thou woundedst the head; gavest a deadly wound to the princes and kings of Canaan, enemies to Israel, who were cut off, and their families utterly destroyed.

Out of the house; royal palaces, or ancient dwellings, and settled habitations; of which slaughter of Canaanitish kings, see Psalms 136:17-20.

Of the wicked; the courts of these kings were houses of greatest wickednesses, for which they were destroyed.

By discovering the foundation unto the neck: razing the foundations of their power, and destroying all from foot to head.

Selah: all which is to be heeded, and well minded.

Verse 14

Thou, O God,

didst strike through with his staves; either meant of the staves or arms of the Canaanitish kings which they lifted up against Israel, thereby provoking Israel to fight, in which being overcome, they perished by their own arms taken from them; or it may be meant of the weapons of Joshua and Israel, called staves, for that they were arrows and spears, which are armed staves: or it might be translated tribes; so with the tribes of Israel, the tribes of God’s anointed, or by them, were these Canaanites destroyed.

The head of his villages; all the cities, and all the unwalled towns; for so Israel destroyed the daughters with the mothers, i.e. the villages with the cities.

They; the inhabitants of Canaan, but particularly the five kings, Habakkuk 3:11; of whose conspiracy you read Joshua 10:0, which see.

Came out as a whirlwind; with violence invading every side; a tempest made up of contrary winds and exhalations, moving as violently as irregularly.

To scatter; to disperse and drive away from the earth.

Their rejoicing was as to devour; the joy they took was such as is the joy of men who take the spoil of enemies, and come to feast, not fight; they dreamed of nothing else but eating up God’s people as they would eat bread.

The poor; helpless and friendless as they seemed to be, poor Israel.

Secretly; either by secret conspiracy, or by secret execution of the plot they laid against Israel.

Verse 15

Thou, O God, or thou, O Israel, notwithstanding all plots and opposition,

didst walk; heldest on thy way, and walkedst from thy entering on the east of the land to the west thereof; from Beth-el, Jordan, and Jericho on the east, where they entered the land that lay within Jordan.

Through, rather to, (as Junius, Tremellius, and Grotius,)

the sea, the most western parts Of all the land God gave; they took possession from east to west, to the great sea, the western sea, the mightiest sea the Jews of that time knew, called here by way of eminency

the heap of great waters; called

the great sea, Ezekiel 47:10,Ezekiel 47:15,Ezekiel 47:19,Ezekiel 47:20, as Joshua 9:1. So was fulfilled what was promised, and they took possession of that was estated on them, Joshua 1:3,Joshua 1:4. I rather refer this 15th verse in this manner, than, with most interpreters, to the Red Sea, which is to me a repetition unseemly for so short and elegant an enumeration of God’s wonderful deliverances and blessings to Israel, from their leaving Egypt to their settling in Canaan.

Verse 16

When I heard, what dreadful desolations God threatened against Israel, Habakkuk 1:5-11, for of those he now speaketh and meditateth, having finished his elegant description of God’s wonderful works of mercy toward Israel of old, and left them as a foundation of comfort and hope.

My belly, or heart, or bowels, or inward parts, Proverbs 20:27, trembled; another effect and sign of surprising fears and astonishment.

At the voice; at the mere report. Rottenness entered into my bones; a consumption and decay of all my strength; a languishing of my spirits, and a declining of my rigour: a very usual effect of great fears.

I trembled in myself; I was all shaken, as with an earthquake, no part was free or unshaken. That I might rest in the day of trouble; these fears awakened my remembrance of that God, and those wonders which I have recounted; these fears have occasioned my search into this mystery of Providence, that, understanding it I might, as I do, betake myself to God, and his covenanted mercies, that I may rest in him, who will make it go well with the righteous, even with those righteous who shall live to see and feel the troubles of those days.

When he cometh up; the king of Babylon, with all his bitter and cruel nations, bent on violence and rapine.

Unto the people; against the Jews, my people, saith the prophet.

He will invade them with mighty force, and cut in pieces, make most bloody work among them.

With his troops; with numerous armies, and spoil in troops, where what one leaves another will take; where none escape the fury of some or other in the troops: see this accomplished 2 Kings 25:0.

Verse 17

To war foreseen the prophet supposeth famine, and describeth the most grievous, as indeed it fell out.

Although the fig tree, which was in that country a very considerable part of their provision to live upon,

shall not blossom; not give the least sign of bringing forth fruit.

Neither shall fruit be in the vines, which were also the riches and provision of those countries.

The labour of the olive; either labour bestowed upon the olive, or the fruit which the olive brings forth, called here labour by an allusion to our labour.

Shall fail; disappoint the expectation of both dresser and eater.

The fields, ploughed and sown, shall yield no meat; corn for bread.

The flock of sheep, kept out in the field, shall be cut off, either by wolf, murrain, or by the wasting Babylonians,

from the fold; where they were wont to be safe. now they are in greatest danger, and that because they may be swept away all at once.

No herd in the stall; greater cattle kept in the stall for labour, or for feeding.

Verse 18

As for my part, I will, saith the prophet, rejoice; look for joy, expect matter of rejoicing

in the Lord, who will preserve a remnant and redeem them, who will rebuke Babylon, and will very strangely destroy it.

I will joy in the God of my salvation: the prophet renews his own faith, and confirms ours. All shall end in salvation to him and believers.

Verse 19

The prophet had in his own, and in the name of all the godly, made a full profession of his faith, and resolution to behave himself with joy in midst of troubles, Habakkuk 3:17,Habakkuk 3:18; now he gives us account on what ground he speaks so, it is not in his own strength he can do it, but it is because the Lord God is his strength.

He will make my feet like hinds’ feet; that I may escape to God my refuge to that safe mountain of salvation, that I may at last flee from Babylon to Judea, to Jerusalem.

He will make me to walk upon mine high places; to my native country, to my beloved city, and thy more beloved temple, which were built like high places to that munition of rocks, &c., Deuteronomy 32:13; Isaiah 33:16. My God will return my captivity, and when I am set at liberty, as I shall be, by Cyrus, my God will be my strength, that, as a hind let loose, I may hasten to the mountains of Israel.

To the chief singer; let this be kept on record for public use, this be a pattern for others as well as it is a declaration of my faith, hope, desire, and prayer.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.