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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-19

Habakkuk 3:1 . A prayer of Habakkuk, by which he cheered and encouraged the church, and his own soul, under all the gloom that overspread the state of his country.

Shigionoth, the name of a pensive air in which David uttered the sorrows of his heart, when persecuted by Saul. Psalms 7:0. Other conjectures are given, but this agrees best with David’s hymn.

Habakkuk 3:2 . Oh Lord, I heard thy speech, and was afraid, as in the two preseding chapters, that the Chaldean armies should trample the nation under their feet, like vermin and reptiles; that they should encompass the people, as fishes in a net, and gather captives as the sand. Thy speech, oh Lord, was the echo of thy former words to Isaiah, that “the cities should be utterly wasted away:” Isaiah 6:11-12. On hearing these words, all the horrors mentioned in the sixteenth verse seized his soul.

Oh Lord, revive thy work, as in the days of Samuel and David, in the midst of the years, in which we hang as it were between life and death. In wrath remember mercy.

The Greek version of the LXX gives another turn to the Hebrew, which deserves notice: εν μεσω δυο ζωων , in the midst of the two animals, or living creatures. They had the prayer, it would seem, of the eightieth Psalm in their view: Oh Shepherd of Israel thou that dwellest on the mercyseat, between the (two) cherubim, shine forth. The prophet having said in the words before, “The Lord is in his holy temple,” now prays for mercy for his guilty country, that God would arise, as in the days of old, when he went forth for the salvation of his people; as when he drowned the Egyptians, and overthrew the countless armies of Midian and her allies.

Above all, it must not escape remark, that the same Greek word, σκηνε , used in the new testament for the dwelling of Christ, the Word, in our flesh, and in the church, is the leading expression of his dwelling in the temple. Ezekiel 43:7. John 1:14. This whole song is therefore a full address of the prophet’s soul to Jehovah, the Christ, the Hope of Israel, and their Saviour in the time of trouble. Jeremiah 14:8.

Habakkuk 3:3 . God came from Teman, in the land of Moab, and the Holy One (of Israel, the Captain of the host) from mount Paran, the desert adjacent to Kadesh-Barnea, on the borders of Moab. Here, when the Hebrews rebelled, the glory of the Lord appeared bright as the sun, to save Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, from being stoned by the rebels. Numbers 13:26; Numbers 14:10. Thus Moses before he died sung: “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shone forth from Paran.” Deuteronomy 33:2. The majesty of the divine presence was the glory and the song of his ancient people.

Habakkuk 3:4 . He had horns coming out of his hand. The word “horn” is the same in most languages, slightly varied in spelling. The text reads the same in the Greek, and in all the versions. Yet learned men think the word may be understood of shafts of light emanating from his hand, as beams of light, when mortal men like Daniel have seen a presence more than human. Dr Kennicott would therefore read, “His brightness was as the sun, the splendour issuing from his hand, for there was the manifestation of his power.” Others read, “From his right hand issued streams of light.” Dr. Durell.

Habakkuk 3:5 . Before him went the pestilence. When the Israelites murmured, “he gave their life over to the pestilence.” Psalms 78:50. He also sent his fear before them, to destroy the people of Canaan. Exodus 23:27.

Burning coals went forth at his feet. This is cited from the eighteenth Psalm. “Fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.” The fire first burned on the altar, and afterwards it burned in the uttermost parts of the camp. The Hebrew רשׁפ reshep occurs in Job 5:7, and Song of Solomon 8:6; and must be understood of coals, though some would read burning disease.

Habakkuk 3:6 . He stood and measured the earth, like the ancient conquerors, who drove affrighted nations before them, and gave their lands to whom they pleased. David also spake thus: “I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.” Psalms 60:6. In this country, our Norman kings gave away manors to their knights.

Habakkuk 3:7 . I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction. We read in Judges 3:8, that Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, oppressed the Israelites grievously for eight years, till the Lord raised up Othniel, who liberated his country by a complete overthrow of the tyrant. This, it would seem, is the powerful Syrian kingdom on the banks of the Euphrates, which was subdued by David. 2 Samuel 8:3. Ethiopia is a reference too wide for probability. But Midian, which follows, is the next victory in the order of Hebrew history.

The curtains of the land of Midian did tremble, when the terrors of the Lord turned every man’s sword against his fellow. Judges 6:7.

Habakkuk 3:8 . Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Oh no: nature was at his command. The heavens and the earth fought for Israel. To them his bow appeared visible in the clouds, which composed Jehovah’s chariot, when he went forth for the salvation of his people. He shot his arrows at their foes, according to the oath he swore to the tribes, to give them the promised land. His artillery were thunders and tempests of hail, the irresistible weapons of a God.

Habakkuk 3:10 . The mountains saw thee, and they trembled. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs; all nature was moved at Jehovah’s presence. Psalms 114:4.

What ailed thee, oh thou trembling sea;

What horror turned the river back?

Was nature’s God displeased with thee;

And why should hills and mountains shake?

Ye mountains huge that skipped like rams,

Ye hills that leaped as frighted lambs.

Habakkuk 3:11 . The sun and moon stood still, as it were to see the battle, and prolong the day, that kings, the heads of towns, might fall, and their captain be pierced with spears. Joshua 10:12. The conquest of Canaan, whose armies were powerful, whose princes were martial, whose fortresses were impregnable, demonstrates the fidelity of God to his oath, in giving the land to Abraham’s seed. The ten spies, looking solely at human power, were justified in saying, We cannot conquer it; but Caleb and Joshua looked at God.

Habakkuk 3:16 . When I heard thy speech, oh Jehovah, the ever-living Word, my belly trembled. I saw nothing for my country but darkness and death. Rottenness and trembling seized my bones. I fled to the Lord my only refuge and strength. He is the rock of my salvation.


The grandeur of God in creation, and his tender mercy in unfolding his promises of grace, inspire the mind with the true sublime, ever expressed in the simplest form of words. The Lord having sworn to Abraham, and multiplied his seed, kept not silence. His pillary cloud awed the Egyptians, and divided the Red sea. In like manner, to save his servants from the rebels, the hills of Teman shone with his glory, and the deserts of Paran were cheered with the brightness of his presence. Who is like the God of Jeshurun, riding on the heavens, and flying on the wings of the wind.

What are the combinations of all the enemies of the church. Sihon and Og are infatuated. The kings of Canaan, with all their countless bands, perish as the locusts. The earth trembles at his presence, the waters are afraid. The pestilence marches before him, sheets of hail follow in his train. The hill of Salmon is mantled with white in the warmth of barley harvest. There is no soul in all the nations, because Jehovah talks with his people, and marches at their head.

Oh Judah, Judah, why then hast thou cast off this God for Baal. Thou art dumb at the bar, thou art speechless like thy gods. Apathy seizes thy soul. All the eloquence of the prophets cannot rouse thee, all the paternal strokes of a father do but move thee for a moment, to return to thy calves again. What more can be done? The mournful voice is heard at last to Judah, as to Samaria: Let Ephraim alone, he is given up to his idols.

But the Lord adds, Go, oh my prophets, and house the church before the hail comes down. Make her feet like hinds’ feet, to escape the hunters of Chaldea. Cause her to walk on her high places, the covenant and promises of her God, while the storms of vengeance spend their fury on the high places of Baal. Teach Zion to forget her sorrows in songs of praise. Although the figtree shall not blossom; though the haughty aliens devour all the harvest and the vintage; though they slaughter all herds and flocks; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, the God of my salvation. I will joy in Messiah my God, for he will turn the desolated earth to a paradise, and fill all lands with righteousness, peace, and joy. Therefore let Zion sweetly sing,

Away my unbelieving fear,

Fear shall in me no more have place;

My Saviour doth not yet appear,

He hides the brightness of his face;

But shall I therefore let him go,

And basely to the tempter yield?

No, in the strength of Jesus, no, I never will give up my shield.

Although the vine its fruit deny,

Although the olive yields no oil;

The withering figtree droop and die,

The fields elude the tiller’s toil;

The empty stall no herds afford,

And perish all the bleating race;

Yet will I triumph in the Lord,

The God of my salvation praise.

Barren although my soul remain,

And no one bud of grace appear;

No fruit of all my toil and pain,

But sin, and only sin is there;

Although my gifts and comfort’s lost,

My blooming hopes cut off I see;

Yet will I in my Saviour trust,

And glory that he died for me. C. W.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/habakkuk-3.html. 1835.
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