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Prayer for Compassion in the Midst of the Judgment - Habakkuk 3
In this chapter, which is called a prayer in the heading, the prophet expresses the feelings which the divine revelation of judgment described in ch. 1 and 2 had excited in his mind, and ought to excite in the congregation of believers, so that this supplicatory psalm may be called an echo of the two answers which the prophet had received from the Lord to his complaints in Habakkuk 1:2-4 and Habakkuk 1:12-17 (vid., Habakkuk 1:5-11 and 2:2-20). Deeply agitated as he was by the revelation he had received concerning the terrible judgment, which the Lord would execute first of all upon Judah, through the wild and cruel Chaldaean nation, and then upon the Chaldaean himself, because he deified his own power, the prophet prays to the Lord that He will carry out this work of His “within years,” and in the revelation of His wrath still show mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). He then proceeds in Habakkuk 3:3-15 to depict in a majestic theophany the coming of the Lord to judge the world, and bring salvation to His people and His anointed; and secondly, in Habakkuk 3:16-19, to describe the fruit of faith which this divine manifestation produces, namely, first of all fear and trembling at the day of tribulation (Habakkuk 3:16, Habakkuk 3:17), and afterwards joy and rejoicing in the God of salvation (Habakkuk 3:18 and Habakkuk 3:19). Consequently we may regard Habakkuk 3:2 as the theme of the psalm, which is distributed thus between the two parts. In the first part (Habakkuk 3:3-15) we have the prayer for the accomplishment of the work ( Habakkuk 3:2) announced by God in Habakkuk 1:5, expressed in the form of a prophetico-lyric description of the coming of the Lord to judgment; and in the second part (Habakkuk 3:16-19), the prayer in wrath to remember mercy ( Habakkuk 3:2), expanded still more fully in the form of a description of the feelings and state of mind excited by that prayer in the hearts of the believing church.
The song has a special heading, after the fashion of the psalms, in which the contents, the author, and the poetical character of the ode are indicated. The contents are called t e phillâh , a prayer, like Psalms 17:1-15; 86; 90; 102, and Psalms 142:1-7, not merely with reference to the fact that it commences with a prayer to God, but because that prayer announces the contents of the ode after the manner of a theme, and the whole of the ode is simply the lyrical unfolding of that prayer. In order, however, to point at the same time to the prophetic character of the prayer, that it may not be regarded as a lyrical effusion of the subjective emotions, wishes, and hopes of a member of the congregation, but may be recognised as a production of the prophets, enlightened by the Spirit of Jehovah, the name of the author is given with the predicate “the prophet;” and to this there is added על שׁגינות , to indicate the poetico-subjective character, through which it is distinguished from prophecy in the narrower sense. The expression “upon Shigionoth” cannot refer to the contents or the object of the ode; for although shiggâyōn , according to its etymon shâgâh = shâgag , to transgress by mistake, to sin, might have the meaning transgression in a moral sense, and consequently might be referred to the sins of transgressors, either of the Judaeans or the Chaldaeans, such an assumption is opposed both to the use of shiggâyōn in the heading to Psalm 7, and also to the analogy between ‛al shigyōnōth , and such headings to the psalms as ‛al haggittı̄th , ‛al n e gı̄nōth , and other words introduced with ‛al . Whilst shiggâyōn in Psalms 7:1 indicates the style of poetry in which the psalm is composed, all the notices in the headings to the psalms that are introduced with ‛al refer either to the melody or style in which the psalms are to be sung, or to the musical accompaniment with which they are to be introduced into the worship of God. This musico-liturgical signification is to be retained here also, since it is evident from the subscription in Habakkuk 3:19, and the repetition of Selah three times (Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:13), that our hymn was to be used with musical accompaniment. Now, as shâgâh , to err, then to reel to and fro, is applied to the giddiness both of intoxication and of love (Isaiah 28:7; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 5:20), shiggâyōn signifies reeling, and in the terminology of poetry a reeling song, i.e., a song delivered in the greatest excitement, or with a rapid change of emotion, dithyrambus (see Clauss on Psalms 7:1; Ewald, Delitzsch, and others); hence על שׁגינות , after dithyrambs, or “after the manner of a stormy, martial, and triumphal ode” (Schmieder).
“Jehovah, I have heard Thy tidings, am alarmed. Jehovah, Thy work, in the midst of the years call it to life, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” שׁמעך is the tidings ( ἀκοή ) of God; what the prophet has heard of God, i.e., the tidings of the judgment which God is about to inflict upon Judah through the Chaldaeans, and after that upon the Chaldaeans themselves. The prophet is alarmed at this. The word יראתי (I am alarmed) does not compel us to take what is heard as referring merely to the judgment to be inflicted upon Judah by the Chaldaeans. Even in the overthrow of the mighty Chaldaean, or of the empire of the world, the omnipotence of Jehovah is displayed in so terrible a manner, that this judgment not only inspires with joy at the destruction of the foe, but fills with alarm at the omnipotence of the Judge of the world. The prayer which follows, “Call Thy work to life,” also refers to this twofold judgment which God revealed to the prophet in ch. 1 and 2. פּעלך , placed absolutely at the head for the sake of emphasis, points back to the work ( pō‛al ) which God was about to do (Habakkuk 1:5); but this work of God is not limited to the raising up of the Chaldaean nation, but includes the judgment which will fall upon the Chaldaean after he has offended (Habakkuk 1:11). This assumption is not at variance even with חיּיהוּ . For the opinion that חיּה never means to call a non-existent thing to life, but always signifies either to give life to an inorganic object (Job 33:4), or to keep a living thing alive, or (and this most frequently) to restore a dead thing to life, and that here the word must be taken in the sense of restoring to life, because in the description which follows Habakkuk looks back to Psalm 77 and the pō‛al depicted there, viz., the deliverance out of Egyptian bondage, is not correct. חיּה does not merely mean to restore to life and keep alive, but also to give life and call to life. In Job 33:4, where תּחיּני is parallel to עשׂתני , the reference is not to the impartation of life to an inorganic object, but to the giving of life in the sense of creating; and so also in Genesis 7:3 and Genesis 19:32, חיּה זרע means to call seed to life, or raise it up, i.e., to call a non-existent thing to life. Moreover, the resemblances in the theophany depicted in what follows to Psalm 77 do not require the assumption that Habakkuk is praying for the renewal of the former acts of God for the redemption of His people, but may be fully explained on the ground that the saving acts of God on behalf of His people are essentially the same in all ages, and that the prophets generally were accustomed to describe the divine revelations of the future under the form of imagery drawn from the acts of God in the past. There is special emphasis in the use of בּקרב שׁנים twice, and the fact that in both instances it stands at the head. It has been interpreted in very different ways; but there is an evident allusion to the divine answer in Habakkuk 2:3, that the oracle is for an appointed time, etc. “In the midst of the years,” or within years, cannot of course mean by itself “within a certain number, or a small number, of years,” or “within a brief space of time” (Ges., Ros., and Maurer); nevertheless this explanation is founded upon a correct idea of the meaning. When the prophet directs his eye to the still remote object of the oracle (ch. 2), the fulfilment of which was to be delayed, but yet assuredly to come at last (Habakkuk 2:3), the interval between the present time and the mō‛ēd appointed by God (Habakkuk 2:3) appears to him as a long series of years, at the end only of which the judgment is to come upon the oppressors of His people, namely the Chaldaeans. He therefore prays that the Lord will not delay too long the work which He designs to do, or cause it to come to life only at the end of the appointed interval, but will bring it to life within years, i.e., within the years, which would pass by if the fulfilment were delayed, before that mō‛ēd arrived.
Grammatically considered, qerebh shânı̄m cannot be the centre of the years of the world, the boundary-line between the Old and New Testament aeons, as Bengel supposes, who takes it at the same time, according to this explanation, as the starting-point for a chronological calculation of the whole course of the world. Moreover, it may also be justly argued, in opposition to this view and application of the words, that it cannot be presupposed that the prophets had so clear a consciousness as this, embracing all history by its calculus; and still less can be expect to find in a lyrical ode, which is the outpouring of the heart of the congregation, a revelation of what God Himself had not revealed to him according to Habakkuk 2:3. Nevertheless the view which lies at the foundation of this application of our passage, viz., that the work of God, for the manifestation of which the prophet is praying, falls in the centre of the years of the world, has this deep truth, that it exhibits the overthrow not only of the imperial power of Chaldaea, but that of the world-power generally, and the deliverance of the nation from its power, and forms the turning-point, with which the old aeon closes and the new epoch of the world commences, with the completion of which the whole of the earthly development of the universe will reach its close. The repetition of בּקרב שׁנים is expressive of the earnest longing with which the congregation of the Lord looks for the tribulation to end. The object to תּודיע , which is to be taken in an optative sense, answering to the imperative in the parallel clause, may easily be supplied from the previous clause. To the prayer for the shortening of the period of suffering there is appended, without the copula Vav, the further prayer, in wrath to remember mercy. The wrath ( rōgez , like râgaz in Isaiah 28:21 and Proverbs 29:9) in which God is to remember mercy, namely for His people Israel, can only be wrath over Israel, not merely the wrath manifested in the chastisement of Judah through the Chaldaeans, but also the wrath displayed in the overthrow of the Chaldaeans. In the former case God would show mercy by softening the cruelty of the Chaldaeans; in the latter, by accelerating their overthrow, and putting a speedy end to their tyranny. This prayer is followed in Habakkuk 3:3-15 by a description of the work of God which is to be called to life, in which the prophet expresses confidence that his petition will be granted.
Coming of the Lord to judge the nations and to redeem His people. The description of this theophany rests throughout upon earlier lyrical descriptions of the revelations of God in the earlier times of Israel. Even the introduction (Habakkuk 3:3) has its roots in the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 33:2; and in the further course of the ode we meet with various echoes of different psalms (compare Habakkuk 3:6 with Psalms 18:8; Habakkuk 3:8 with Psalms 18:10; Habakkuk 3:19 with Psalms 18:33-34; also Habakkuk 3:5 with Psalms 68:25; Habakkuk 3:8 with Psalms 68:5, Psalms 68:34). The points of contact in Habakkuk 3:10-15 with Ps. 77:17-21, are still more marked, and are of such a kind that Habakkuk evidently had the psalm in his mind, and not the writer of the psalm the hymn of the prophet, and that the prophet has reproduced in an original manner such features of the psalm as were adapted to his purpose. This is not only generally favoured by the fact that Habakkuk's prayer is composed throughout after the poetry of the Psalms, but still more decidedly by the circumstance that Habakkuk depicts a coming redemption under figures borrowed from that of the past, to which the singer of this psalm looks back from his own mournful times, comforting himself with the picture of the miraculous deliverance of his people out of Egypt (see Hengstenberg and Delitzsch on Psalm 77). For it is very evident that Habakkuk does not describe the mighty acts of the Lord in the olden time, in order to assign a motive for his prayer for the deliverance of Israel out of the affliction of exile which awaits it in the future, as many of the earlier commentators supposed, but that he is predicting a future appearance of the Lord to judge the nations, from the simple fact that he places the future יבוא (Habakkuk 3:3) at the head of the whole description, so as to determine all that follows; whilst it is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the impossibility of interpreting the theophany historically, i.e., as relating to an earlier manifestation of God.
“Eloah comes from Teman, and the Holy One from the mountains of Paran. Selah. His splendour covers the sky, and the earth is full of His glory. Habakkuk 3:4. And brightness appears like sunlight, rays are at His hand, and there His power is concealed. Habakkuk 3:5. Before Him goes the plague, and pestilence follows His feet.” As the Lord God once came down to His people at Sinai, when they had been redeemed out of Egypt, to establish the covenant of His grace with them, and make them into a kingdom of God, so will He appear in the time to come in the terrible glory of His omnipotence, to liberate them from the bondage of the power of the world, and dash to pieces the wicked who seek to destroy the poor. The introduction to this description is closely connected with Deuteronomy 33:2. As Moses depicts the appearance of the Lord at Sinai as a light shining from Seir and Paran, so does Habakkuk also make the Holy One appears thence in His glory; but apart from other differences, he changes the preterite בּא (Jehovah came from Sinai) into the future יבוא , He will come, or comes, to indicate at the very outset that he is about to describe not a past, but a future revelation of the glory of the Lord. This he sees in the form of a theophany, which is fulfilled before his mental eye; hence יבוא does not describe what is future, as being absolutely so, but is something progressively unfolding itself from the present onwards, which we should express by the present tense. The coming one is called Eloah (not Jehovah, as in Deuteronomy 33:2, and the imitation in Judges 5:4), a form of the name Elohim which only occurs in poetry in the earlier Hebrew writings, which we find for the first time in Deuteronomy 32:15, where it is used of God as the Creator of Israel, and which is also used here to designate God as the Lord and Governor of the whole world. Eloah, however, comes as the Holy One ( qâdōsh ), who cannot tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13), and who will judge the world and destroy the sinners (Habakkuk 3:12-14). As Eloah and Qâdōsh are names of one God; so “from Teman” and “from the mountain of Paran” are expressions denoting, not two starting-points, but simply two localities of one single starting-point for His appearance, like Seir and the mountains of Paran in Deuteronomy 33:2. Instead of Seir, the poetical name of the mountainous country of the Edomites, Teman, the southern district of Edomitish land, is used per synecdochen for Idumaea generally, as in Obadiah 1:9 and Amos 1:12 (see p. 168). The mountains of Paran are not the Et-Tih mountains, which bounded the desert of Paran towards the south, but the high mountain-land which formed the eastern half of that desert, and the northern portion of which is now called, after its present inhabitants, the mountains of the Azazimeh (see comm. on Numbers 10:12). The two localities lie opposite to one another, and are only separated by the Arabah (or deep valley of the Ghor). We are not to understand the naming of these two, however, as suggesting the idea that God was coming from the Arabah, but, according to the original passage in Deuteronomy 33:2, as indicating that the splendour of the divine appearance spread over Teman and the mountains of Paran, so that the rays were reflected from the two mountainous regions. The word Selâh does not form part of the subject-matter of the text, but shows that the music strikes in here when the song is used in the temple, taking up the lofty thought that God is coming, and carrying it out in a manner befitting the majestic appearance, in the prospect of the speedy help of the Lord. The word probably signified elevatio , from sâlâh = sâlal , and was intended to indicate the strengthening of the musical accompaniment, by the introduction, as is supposed, of a blast from the trumpets blown by the priests, corresponding therefore to the musical forte. (For further remarks, see Hävernick's Introduction to the Old Testament, iii. p. 120ff., and Delitzsch on Psalms 3:1-8.) In Habakkuk 3:3 the glory of the coming of God is depicted with reference to its extent, and in Habakkuk 3:4 with reference to its intensive power. The whole creation is covered with its splendour. Heaven and earth reflect the glory of the coming one. הודו , His splendour or majesty, spreads over the whole heaven, and His glory over the earth. T e hillâh does not mean the praise of the earth, i.e., of its inhabitants, where (Chald., Ab. Ezr., Ros., and others); for there is no allusion to the manner in which the coming of God is received, and according to Habakkuk 3:6 it fills the earth with trembling; but it denotes the object of the praise or fame, the glory, ἡ δόξα , like hâdâr in Job 40:10, or kâbhōd in Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 42:8, and Numbers 14:21. Grammatically considered, תּהלּתו is the accusative governed by מלאה , and הארץ is the subject.
A splendour shines or arises like the light. תּהיה does not point back to תּהלּתו , “splendour like the sun will His glory be” (Hitzig); but it is the predicate to nōgah in the sense of to become, or to arise. האור is the light of the sun. Like this light, or like the rising sun, when the Lord comes, there arises (spreads) a brilliant light, from which the rays emanate on its two sides. קרנים , according to קרן in Exodus 34:29-30, is to be taken in the sense of rays; and this meaning has developed itself from a comparison of the first rays of the rising sun, which shoot out above the horizon, to the horns or antlers of the gazelle, which is met with in the Arabian poets. מיּדו , from His hand, i.e., since the hand is by the side, “at His side” (after the analogy of מימינו and משּׂמאלו ), and indeed “His hand” in a general sense, as signifying the hand generally, and not one single hand, equivalent therefore to “on both sides” (Delitzsch). As the disc of the sun is surrounded by a splendid radiance, so the coming of God is enclosed by rays on both sides. לו refers to God. “Such a radiant splendour ( קרנים ) surrounding God is presupposed when it is affirmed of Moses, that on coming from the presence of Jehovah his face was radiant, or emitted rays” ( קרן , Exodus 34:29-30). This interpretation of the words is established beyond all doubt, not only by the מימינו of the original passage in Deuteronomy 33:2, but also by the expressions which follow in Habakkuk 3:5, viz., לפניו (before him) and לרגלויו (behind him); and consequently the interpretation “rays (emanating) from His hand are to Him,” with the idea that we are to think of flashes of lightning darting out of God's hand (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Maurer, etc.), is proved to be untenable. According to Hebrew notions, flashes of lightning do not proceed from the hand of God (in Psalms 18:9, which has been appealed to in support of this explanation, we have ממּנּוּ ); and קרנים does not occur either in Arabic or the later Hebrew in the sense of flashes of lightning, but only in the sense of the sun's rays. ושׁם חביון עזּה , and there - namely, in the sun-like splendour, with the rays emanating from it - is the hiding of His omnipotence, i.e., the place where His omnipotence hides itself; in actual fact, the splendour forms the covering of the Almighty God at His coming, the manifestation of the essentially invisible God. The cloudy darkness is generally represented as the covering of the glory of God (Exodus 20:21; 1 Kings 8:12), not merely when His coming is depicted under the earthly substratum of a storm (Psalms 18:12-13), but also when God was manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21) on the journey of the Israelites through the desert, where it was only by night that the cloud had the appearance of fire (Numbers 9:15-16). Here, on the contrary, the idea of the splendour of the rising sun predominates, according to which light is the garment in which God clothes Himself (Psalms 104:2, cf. 1 Timothy 6:16), answering to His coming as the Holy One (Habakkuk 3:3). For the sun-light, in its self-illumining splendour, is the most suitable earthly element to serve as a symbol of the spotless purity of the Holy One, in whom there is no variation of light and darkness (James 1:17; see at Exodus 19:6). The alteration of ושׁם into ושׂם (he provides or contrives the concealment of His power), which Hitzig proposes after the lxx (Aq., Symm., and Syr.), must be rejected, inasmuch as in that case the object, which he makes into the covering (cf. Psalms 18:12), could not be omitted; and this thought is by no means suitable here, and has merely been brought into the text on the assumption that God appears in a storm. As the Holy One, God comes to judgment upon the unholy world (Habakkuk 3:5). Before Him goes debher , plague, and after His feet, i.e., behind Him, resheph , lit., burning heat, or a blaze (Song of Solomon 8:6), here the burning heat of the pestilence, fever-heat, as in Deuteronomy 32:24. Plague and pestilence, as proceeding from God, are personified and represented as satellites; the former going before Him, as it were, as a shield-bearer (1 Samuel 17:7), or courier (2 Samuel 15:1); the latter coming after Him as a servant (1 Samuel 25:42). This verse prepares the way for the description, which commences with Habakkuk 3:6, of the impression produced by the coming of God upon the world and its inhabitants.
“He stands, and sets the earth reeling: He looks, and makes nations tremble; primeval mountains burst in pieces, the early hills sink down: His are ways of the olden time. Habakkuk 3:7. I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction: the curtains of the land of Midian tremble.” God coming from afar has now drawn near and taken His stand, to smite the nations as a warlike hero (cf. Habakkuk 3:8, Habakkuk 3:9, and Habakkuk 3:11, Habakkuk 3:12). This is affirmed in עמד , He has stationed Himself, not “He steps forth or appears.” This standing of Jehovah throws the earth and the nations into trembling. ימדד cannot mean to measure here, for there is no thought of any measuring of the earth, and it cannot be shown that mâdad is used in the sense of measuring with the eye (Ros. and Hitzig). Moreover, the choice of the poel, instead of the piel, would still remain unexplained, and the parallelism of the clauses would be disregarded. We must therefore follow the Chaldee, Ges., Delitzsch, and others, who take מדד as the poel of מוּד טוּט , to set in a reeling motion. It is only with this interpretation that the two parallel clauses correspond, in which יתּר , the hiphil of נתר , to cause to shake or tremble, answers to ימדד . This explanation is also required by what follows. For just as Habakkuk 3:7 unquestionably gives a further expansion of יתּר גּוים , so does לולם ... יתפּצצוּ contain the explanation of ימדד ארץ . The everlasting hills crumble ( יתפּצצוּ from פּוּץ ), i.e., burst and resolve themselves into dust, and the hills sink down, pass away, and vanish (compare the similar description in Nahum 1:5 and Micah 1:4). הררי־עד (= הררי קדם , Deuteronomy 33:15) in parallelism with נּבעות עולם are the primeval mountains, as being the oldest and firmest constituents of the globe, which have existed from the beginning ( מנּי עד , Job 20:4), and were formed at the creation of the earth (Psalms 90:2; Job 15:7; Proverbs 8:25). הליכות עולם לו is not to be taken relatively, and connected with what precedes, “which are the old paths,” according to which the hills of God are called everlasting ways (Hitzig); because this does not yield a sense in harmony with the context. It is a substantive clause, and to be taken by itself: everlasting courses or goings are to Him, i.e., He now goes along, as He went along in the olden time. הליכה , the going, advancing, or ways of God, analogous to the דּרך עפולם , the course of the primitive world (Job 22:15). The prophet had Psalms 68:25 floating before his mind, in which hălı̄khōth 'ĕlōhı̄m denote the goings of God with His people, or the ways which God had taken from time immemorial in His guidance of them. As He once came down upon Sinai in the cloudy darkness, the thunder, lightning, and fire, to raise Israel up to be His covenant nation, so that the mountains shook (cf. Judges 5:5); so do the mountains and hills tremble and melt away at His coming now. And as He once went before His people, and the tidings of His wondrous acts at the Red Sea threw the neighbouring nations into fear and despair (Exodus 15:14-16); so now, when the course of God moves from Teman to the Red Sea, the nations on both sides of it are filled with terror. Of these, two are individualized in Habakkuk 3:7, viz., Cushan and Midian. By Cushan we are not to understand the Mesopotamian king named Cushan Rishathaim, who subjugated Israel for eight years after the death of Joshua (Judges 3:8.); for this neither agrees with אהלי , nor with the introduction of Midian in the parallel clause. The word is a lengthened form for Such, and the name of the African Ethiopians. The Midianites are mentioned along with them, as being inhabitants of the Arabian coast of the Red Sea, which was opposite to them (see at Exodus 2:15). אהלי כ , the tents with their inhabitants, the latter being principally intended. The same remark applies to יריעות , lit., the tent-curtains of the land of Midian, i.e., of the tents pitched in the land of Midian.
To the impression produced upon the nations by the coming of the Lord to judge the world, there is now appended in Habakkuk 3:8. a description of the execution of the judgment. Habakkuk 3:8. “Was it against rivers, O Jehovah, against the rivers that Thy wrath was kindled? that Thou ridest hither upon Thy horses, Thy chariots of salvation. Habakkuk 3:9. Thy bow lays itself bare; rods are sworn by word. Selah. Thou splittest the earth into rivers.” The ode, taking a new turn, now passes from the description of the coming of God, to an address to God Himself. To the mental eye of the prophet, God presents Himself as Judge of the world, in the threatening attitude of a warlike hero equipped for conflict, so that he asks Him what is the object of His wrath. The question is merely a poetical turn given to a lively composition, which expects no answer, and is simply introduced to set forth the greatness of the wrath of God, so that in substance it is an affirmation. The wrath of God is kindled over the rivers, His fury over the sea. The first clause of the question is imperfect; Jehovah is not the subject, but a vocative, or an appeal, since chârâh , when predicated of God, is construed with ל . The subject follows in the double clause, into which the question divides itself, in אפּך and עברתך . Here the indefinite בּנהרים is defined by בּנּהרים . Hann e hârı̄m , the rivers, are not any particular rivers, such as the arms of the Nile in Lower Egypt, or the rivers of Ethiopia, the Nile and Astaboras, the nahărē Khūsh (Isaiah 18:1; Zephaniah 3:10: see Delitzsch), but the rivers of the earth generally; and “the sea” ( hayyâm ) is not the Red Sea, but the world-sea, as in Nahum 1:4 (cf. Psalms 89:10; Job 38:8). It is true that this description rests upon the two facts of the miraculous dividing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan (Exodus 15:18; Psalms 114:3, Psalms 114:5); but it rises far above these to a description of God as the Judge of the world, who can smite in His wrath not only the sea of the world, but all the rivers of the earth. עברה is stronger than אף , the wrath which passes over, or breaks through every barrier. Kı̄ , quod, explaining and assigning the reason for the previous question. The riding upon horses is not actual riding, but driving in chariots with horses harnessed to them, as the explanatory words “thy chariots” ( מרכּבתיך ) clearly shows, and as râkhabh (to ride) always signifies when predicated of God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalms 68:34; Psalms 104:3). Y e shū‛âh is governed by mark e bhōthekhâ , with the freedom of construction allowed in poetry, as in 2 Samuel 22:33; Psalms 71:7, whereas in prose the noun is generally repeated in the construct state (vid., Genesis 37:23, and Ewald, §291, b). Y e shū‛âh signifies salvation, even in this case, and not victory, - a meaning which it never has, and which is all the more inapplicable here, because y e shū‛âh is interpreted in Habakkuk 3:13 by לישׁע . By describing the chariots of God as chariots of salvation, the prophet points at the outset to the fact, that the riding of God has for its object the salvation or deliverance of His people.
God has already made bare the bow, to shoot His arrows at the foe. תּעור , third pers. imperf. niph. of עוּר , equivalent to ערר (Isaiah 32:11), and the more usual ערה , to be naked. To strengthen the thought, the noun עריה is written before the verb instead of the inf. abs. (cf. Micah 1:11). The bow is made bare, not by the shooting of the arrows, but by its covering ( γωρυτός , corytus ) being removed, in order to use it as a weapon. The reference is to the bow used in war, which God carries as a warrior; so that we are not to think of the rainbow, even if the chariots might be understood as signifying the clouds, as in Isaiah 19:1 and Psalms 104:3, since the rainbow is a sign of peace and of the covenant, whereas God is represented as attacking His enemies. The next clause, שׁבעות מטּות אמר , is very obscure, and has not yet been satisfactorily explained. Of the two meanings which may be given to mattōth , viz., branches, rods, or staffs, and tribes of the people of Israel, the latter can hardly be thought of here, since mattōth would certainly have been defined by either a suffix or some determining clause, if the tribes of Israel were intended. On the other hand, the meaning staffs or sticks is very naturally suggested both by the context - viz. the allusion to the war-bow - and also by Habakkuk 3:14, where mattı̄m unquestionably signifies staves or lances. At the same time, the meaning spears or darts cannot be deduced from either Habakkuk 3:14 or 2 Samuel 18:14. In both passages the meaning staves, used as lances or weapons, is quite sufficient. Matteh , a stick or staff with which blows were struck, might stand, as an instrument of chastisement, for the punishment or chastisement itself (cf. Isaiah 9:3; Isaiah 10:5), and in Micah 6:9 it denotes the rod. שׁבעות may be either the plural construct of שׁבוּע , the seventh, the heptad, or the plural of שׁבוּעה , an oath, or the passive participle of שׁבע , to be sworn, like שׁבעי שׁבעות in Ezekiel 21:23. There is no material difference in the meaning obtained from the last two; and the view we take of the word אמר must decide between them and the first explanation. This word, which is peculiar to poetry, denotes a discourse or a word, and in Job 22:28 the affair, or the occasion, like דּבר . Here, at any rate, it signifies the address or word of God, as in Psalms 68:12; Psalms 77:9, and is either a genitive dependent upon mattōth or an adverbial accusative. The Masoretic pointing, according to which mattōth is separated from 'ōmer by tiphchah , and the latter joined to selâh by munach , is connected with the evidently false rabbinical rendering of selah as eternity ( in sempiternum ), and being decidedly erroneous, cannot be taken into consideration at all. But the interpretation of שׁבעות as the seventh, does not suit either of these two possible views of 'ōmer . We therefore prefer the second meaning, chastising rods or chastisements. אמר , however, cannot be a genitive dependent upon mattōth ; since chastisements of speech would hardly stand for chastisements which God had spoken, but, according to the analogy of שׁבט פּיו in Isaiah 11:4, would point to chastisements consisting in words, and this does not agree with the present train of thought. 'Omer is rather an adverbial accusative, and belongs to שׁבעות , indicating the instrument or media employed in the swearing: sworn with the word or through the word, like חרבּך in Psalms 17:13 (for the use of the accusative to describe the substance or the instrumental medium of an action, see Ewald, §282, c).
Hence שׁבעות cannot be a noun, but must be a passive participle, sworn. The expression, “chastising rods (chastisements) are sworn through the word,” points to the solemn oath with which God promised in Deuteronomy 32:40-42 to take vengeance upon His enemies, and avenge the blood of His servants: “For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, As I live for ever, when I have sharpened my glittering sword, and my hand grasps for judgment, I will render vengeance to mine adversaries, and repay them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword will eat flesh; from the blood of the slain and the captives, from the hairy head of the enemy.” That Habakkuk had in his mind this promise of the vengeance of God upon His enemies, which is strengthened by a solemn oath, is unmistakeably evident, if we compare בּרק חניתך in Habakkuk 3:11 with בּרק חרבּי in Deuteronomy 32:41, and observe the allusion in ראשׁ מבּית רשׁע and ראשׁ פּרזו in Habakkuk 3:13 and Habakkuk 3:14 to ראשׁ פּרעות אויב in Deuteronomy 32:42. From this promise the words of the prophet, which are so enigmatical in themselves, obtain the requisite light to render them intelligible. Gesenius ( Thes. p. 877) has explained the prophet's words in a similar manner, jurejurando firmatae sunt castigationes promissae (the threatened rods, i.e., chastisements, are sworn), even without noticing the allusion to Deuteronomy 32:40. upon which these words are founded. Delitzsch was the first to call attention to the allusion to Deuteronomy 32:40.; but in his explanation, “the darts are sworn through his word of power ( jurejurando adstricta sunt tela verbo tuo ),” the swearing is taken in a sense which is foreign to Deuteronomy, and therefore conceals the connection with the original passage. Of the other explanations not one can be vindicated. The rabbinical view which we find in the Vulgate, juramenta tribubus quae locutus es , is overthrown by the fact that שׁבעות without a preposition cannot mean per , or ob , or juxta juramenta , as we should have to render it, and as Luther actually has rendered it in his version (“as Thou hadst sworn to the tribes”). Ewald's rendering, “sevenfold darts of the word,” is precluded by the combination of ideas, “darts of the word,” which is quite foreign to the context. According to our explanation, the passage does indeed form simply a parenthesis in the description of the judicial interposition of God, but it contains a very fitting thought, through which the description gains in emphasis. In the last clause of the verse the description is continued in the manner already begun, and the effect indicated, which is produced upon the world of nature by the judicial interposition of God: “Thou splittest the earth into rivers.” בּקּע is construed with a double accusative, as in Zechariah 14:4. This may be understood either as signifying that the earth trembles at the wrath of the Judge, and rents arise in consequence, through which rivers of water burst forth from the deep, or so that at the quaking of the earth the sea pours its waves over the land and splits it into rivers. The following verses point to an earthquake through which the form of the earth's surface is changed.
“The mountains see Thee, they writhe: a shower of waters passes along: the abyss lifts up its voice, it lifts up its hands on high. Habakkuk 3:11. Sun, moon, enter into their habitation at the light of Thine arrows which shoot by, at the shining of the lightning of Thy spear.” The effect of the coming of God upon the mountains was already referred to in Habakkuk 3:6. There they crumbled into ruins, here they writhe with terror. This difference is to be explained from the fact that there (Habakkuk 3:6) the general effect of the omnipotence of God upon nature was intended, whereas here (Habakkuk 3:10, Habakkuk 3:11) the special effect is described, which is produced upon nature by the judgment about to be executed by God upon the nations. The perfects in the description represent this effect as following immediately upon the coming of God. But in the first clause of Habakkuk 3:10 the perfect ראוּך is followed by the imperfect יחילוּ , because the writhing is a lasting condition. The force of the description is heightened by the omission of the copula before the clauses and the particular objects. The two verbs of the first clause stand in the relation of cause and effect to one another: when the mountains have seen Thee, they writhe with terror. The further description is not founded upon the idea of a terrible storm; for there is no reference to thunder, nor even to lightnings, but only to the arrows (Habakkuk 3:11), which may be explained from the idea of God, as a warlike hero, making bare His bow. The colours and different features of the description are borrowed from the judgment of the flood. Habakkuk 3:10 ( a and b) points to this divine judgment of the olden time, both the coming of the showers of water ( geshem as in Genesis 7:12 and Genesis 8:2, and strengthened by mayim , analogous to hammabbūl hâyâh mayim in Genesis 7:6; ‛âbhar as in Nahum 3:19; Psalms 48:5), and also the nâthan t e hōm qōlō , the raging outburst of the abyss. T e hōm is the mass of water in the abyss, not merely that of the ocean, but that of the subterranean waters also (Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13), the “great deep” ( t e hōm rabbâh ), whose fountains were broken up at the flood (Genesis 7:11); and not the ocean of heaven, as Hitzig erroneously infers from Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2, and Proverbs 8:27. To this mass of water, which is called t e hōm from its roaring depth, the prophet attributes a voice, which it utters, to express the loud, mighty roaring of the waters as they rush forth from the bursting earth. As at the time of the flood, which was a type of the last judgment (Isaiah 24:18), the windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep were opened, so that the upper and lower waters, which are divided by the firmament, rushed together again, and the earth returned, as it were, to its condition before the second day of creation; so here also the rivers of the earth and rain-showers of heaven come together, so that the abyss roars up with a loud noise (Delitzsch). This roaring outburst of the mass of waters from the heart of the earth is then represented as a lifting up of the hands to heaven, with reference to the fact that the waves are thrown up. Rōm = rūm (Proverbs 25:3; Proverbs 21:4) is an accusative of direction, like mârōm in 2 Kings 19:22. ידיהוּ , for ידיו , a full-sounding and more extended form, possibly to express by the rhythm the greatness of the prodigy, how magna vi brachii tollunt (Delitzsch). The lifting up of the hands is not a gesture denoting either an oath or rebellion; but it is an involuntary utterance of terror, of restlessness, of anguish, as it were, with a prayer for help (Delitzsch).
The chaotic condition into which the earth has been brought is heightened by the darkness in which the heaven clothes itself. Sun and moon, which give light to day and night, have put themselves, or entered, into their habitation. זבוּל with ה local, a dwelling-place, is, according to oriental view, the place from which the stars come out when they rise, and to which they return when they set. Nevertheless it is not actual setting that is spoken of here, but simply their obscuration, which is not the effect of heavy clouds that pour out their water in showers of rain, but is caused by the shining of the arrows of God ( ל in לאור and לנגהּ denoting the outward cause or occasion). It is not, however, that they “turn pale in consequence of the surpassing brilliancy of the lightnings” (Ewald), but that they “withdraw altogether, from the fear and horror which pervade all nature, and which are expressed in the mountains by trembling, in the waters by roaring, and in the sun and moon by obscuration” (Delitzsch). The idea that this verse refers to the standing still of the sun and moon at the believing word of Joshua (Joshua 10:12.), in which nearly all the earlier commentators agreed, is quite untenable, inasmuch as עמד זבוּלה cannot mean to stand still in the sky. The arrows and spear ( chănı̄th ) of God are not lightnings, as in Psalms 77:18-19; Psalms 18:15, etc., because this theophany is not founded upon the idea of a storm, but the darts with which God as a warrior smites down His foes, as the instruments and effects of the wrath of God. A brilliant splendour is attributed to them, because they emanate from Him whose coming, like the sunlight, pours out its rays on both sides (Habakkuk 3:4). בּרק חנית has the same meaning here as in Nahum 3:3: the flashing, because naked and sharpened, spear. And just as we cannot understand the “bright sword” of Nahum 3:3 as signifying flashes of lightning, so here we cannot take the arrows as lightnings. יהלּכוּ is to be taken relatively, “which pass alone, or shoot by.”
In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. “In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters.” The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא , referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע , rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, §239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one ( hammâshı̄ăch ) by virtue of its calling to be “a kingdom of priests” ( mamlekheth kohănı̄m , Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalms 28:8 nor in Psalms 84:10; Psalms 89:39. Even in Psalms 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God “my anointed” ( meshı̄chai ), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king - say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin - but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, “just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalms 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally” (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms. This help God bestows upon His people and His anointed, by dashing in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one. The râshâ‛ (wicked one) is the Chaldaean, not the nation, however, which is spoken of for the first time in Habakkuk 3:14, but the Chaldaean king, as chief of the imperial power which is hostile to the kingdom of God. But, as the following clause clearly shows, the house is the house in the literal sense, so that the “head,” as part of the house, is the gable. A distinction is drawn between this and y e shōd , the foundation, and צוּאר , the neck, i.e., the central part looking from the gable downwards. The destruction takes place both from above and below at once, so that the gable and the foundation are dashed in pieces with one blow, and that even to the neck, i.e., up to the point at which the roof or gable rests upon the walls. עד , inclusive, embracing the part mentioned as the boundary; not exclusive, so as to leave the walls still rising up as ruins. The description is allegorical, the house representing the Chaldaean dynasty, the royal family including the king, but not “including the exalted Chaldaean kingdom in all its prosperity” (Hitzig). ערות , a rare form of the inf. abs., like שׁתות in Isaiah 22:13 (cf. Ewald, §240, b), from ערה , to make bare, to destroy from the very foundation, the infinitive in the sense of the gerund describing the mode of the action.
The warlike nation meets with the same fate as the royal house (Habakkuk 3:14). The meaning of the first clause of the verse depends upon the explanation to be given to the word p e râzâv . There is no foundation for the meaning leaders or judges, which has been claimed for the word p e râzı̄m ever since the time of Schroeder and Schnur. In Hebrew usage p e râzı̄ signifies the inhabitant of the plain (Deuteronomy 3:5; 1 Samuel 6:18), and p e râzōth the plains, the open flat land, as distinguished from walled cities (Ezekiel 38:11). P e râzōn has the same meaning in Judges 5:7 and Judges 5:11. Consequently Delitzsch derives p e râzâv from a segholate noun perez or pērez , in the sense of the population settled upon the open country, the villagers and peasantry, whence the more general signification of a crowd or multitude of people, and here, since the context points to warriors, the meaning hordes, or hostile companies, which agrees with the Targum, Rashi, and Kimchi, who explain the word as signifying warriors or warlike troops. ראשׁ , the head of his hordes, cannot be the leader, partly because of what follows, “who come storming on,” which presupposes that not the leader only, but the hordes or warriors, will be destroyed, and partly also because of the preceding verse, in which the destruction of the king is pronounced, and also because the distinction between the king and the leader of the army is at variance with the complex character of the prophetic description. We must take ראשׁ in the literal sense, but collectively, “heads.” The prophet was led to the unusual figure of the piercing of the head by the reminiscence of the piercing of Sisera's head by Jael (Judges 5:26). The suffixes in בּמטּיו and פּרזו refer back to רשׁע מטּיו , sticks, for lance or spears, after 2 Samuel 18:14. The meaning of the words is this: with the spear of the king God pierces the heads of his warlike troops; and the thought expressed is, that the hostile troops will slay one another in consequence of the confusion, as was the case in the wars described in 1 Samuel 14:20 and 2 Chronicles 20:23-24, and as, according to prophecy, the last hostile power of the world is to meet with its ruin when it shall attack the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 38:21; Zechariah 14:13). יסערוּ להף is to be taken relatively: “which storm hither ( sâ‛ar , approach with the swiftness and violence of a storm) to destroy me.” The prophet includes himself along with the nation, and uses hēphı̄ts with reference to the figure of the dispersion or powdering of the chaff by a stormy wind (Isaiah 41:16; Jeremiah 13:24; Jeremiah 18:17). עליצתם forms a substantive clause by itself: “their rejoicing is,” for they who rejoice, as if to swallow, i.e., whose rejoicing is directed to this, to swallow the poor in secret. The enemies are compared to highway murderers, who lurk in dark corners for the defenceless traveller, and look forward with rejoicing for the moment when they may be able to murder him. עני forms the antithesis to רשׁע . Inasmuch as “the wicked” denotes the Chaldaean; “the poor” is the nation of Israel, i.e., the congregation of the righteous, who are really the people of God. To devour the poor, i.e., to take violent possession of his life and all that he has (cf. Proverbs 30:14, and for the fact itself, Psalms 10:8-10), is, when applied to a nation, to destroy it (vid., Deuteronomy 7:16 and Jeremiah 10:25).
In order that these enemies may be utterly destroyed, God passes through the sea. This thought in Habakkuk 3:15 connects the conclusion of the description of the judicial coming of God with what precedes. The drapery of the thought rests upon the fact of the destruction of Pharaoh and his horsemen in the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The sea, the heap of many waters, is not a figurative expression for the army of the enemy, but is to be taken literally. This is required by דּרכתּ ביּם , since דּרך with ב , to tread upon a place, or enter into it (cf. Micah 5:4; Isaiah 59:8; Deuteronomy 11:24-25), does not suit the figurative interpretation; and it is required still more by the parallel passages, viz., Psalms 77:20 ( בּיּם דּרכּך ), which floated before the prophet's mind, and Zechariah 10:11. Just as God went through the Red Sea in the olden time to lead Israel through, and to destroy the Egyptian army, so will He in the future go through the sea and do the same, when He goes forth to rescue His people out of the power of the Chaldaean. The prophet does not express the latter indeed, but it is implied in what he says. סוּסיך is an accusative, not instrumenti , however, but of more precise definition: thou, namely, according to thy horses; for “with thy horses,” as in Ps. 83:19; Psalms 44:3 ( אתּה ידך ); cf. Ewald, §281, c, and 293, c. The horses are to be taken, as in Habakkuk 3:8, as harnessed to the chariots; and they are mentioned here with reference to the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, which were destroyed by Jehovah in the sea. Chōmer , in the sense of heap, as in Exodus 8:10, is not an accusative, but is still dependent upon the ב of the parallel clause. The expression “heap of many waters” serves simply to fill up the picture, as in Psalms 77:20.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 form the second part of the psalm, in which the prophet describes the feelings that are produced within himself by the coming of the Lord to judge the nations, and to rescue His own people; viz., first of all, fear and trembling at the tribulation (Habakkuk 3:16, Habakkuk 3:17); then exulting joy, in his confident trust in the God of salvation (Habakkuk 3:18, Habakkuk 3:19). Habakkuk 3:16. “I heard it, then my belly trembled, at the sound my lips yelled; rottenness forces itself into my bones, and I tremble under myself, that I am to wait quietly for the day of tribulation, when he that attacketh it approacheth the nation. Habakkuk 3:17. For the fig-tree will not blossom, and there is no yield on the vines; the produce of the olive-tree disappoints, and the corn-fields bear no food; the flock is away from the fold, and no ox in the stalls.” שׁמעתּי is not connected with the theophany depicted in Habakkuk 3:3-15, since this was not an audible phenomenon, but was an object of inward vision, “a spectacle which presented itself to the eye.” “I heard” corresponds to “I have heard” in Habakkuk 3:2, and, like the latter, refers to the report heard from God of the approaching judgment. This address goes back to its starting-point, to explain the impression which it made upon the prophet, and to develop still how he “was afraid.” The alarm pervades his whole body, belly, and bones, i.e., the softer and firmer component parts of the body; lips and feet, i.e., the upper and lower organs of the body. The lips cried l e qōl , at the voice, the sound of God, which the prophet heard. Tsâlal is used elsewhere only of the ringing of the ears (1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 19:3); but here it is applied to the chattering sound produced by the lips, when they smite one another before crying out, not to the chattering of the teeth. Into the bones there penetrates râqâbh , rottenness, inward consumption of the bones, as an effect of alarm or pain, which paralyzes all the powers, and takes away all firmness from the body (cf. Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 14:30). Tachtai , under me, i.e., in my lower members, knees, feet: not as in Exodus 16:29; 2 Samuel 2:23, on the spot where I stand (cf. Ewald, §217, k). אשׁר אנוּח might mean, “I who was to rest;” but it is more appropriate to take 'ăsher as a relative conjunction, “that I,” since the clause explains the great fear that had fallen upon him. אשׁר is used in a similar way viz., as a conjunction with the verb in the first person, in Ezek. 29:29. Nūăch , to rest, not to rest in the grave (Luther and others), nor to bear quietly or endure (Ges., Maurer), but to wait quietly or silently. For it could hardly occasion such consuming pain to a God-fearing man as that which the prophet experienced, to bear misfortune quietly, when it has already come, and cannot be averted; but it might be to wait quietly and silently, in constant anticipation. Tsârâh , the trouble which the Chaldaeans bring upon Judah. לעלות is not subordinate to ליום צרה , but co-ordinate with it, and is still dependent upon אנוּח ; and יגוּדנּוּ , as a relative clause (who oppresses it), is the subject to לעלות : “that I am to wait quietly for him that attacketh to approach my nation.” For if לעלוי were dependent upon ליום , it would be necessary to supply יום as the subject: “when it (the day) comes.” But this is precluded by the fact that עלה is not used for the approach or breaking of day. לעם , to the people, dativ. incomm., is practically equivalent to על עם , against the people. עם , used absolutely, as in Isaiah 26:11; Isaiah 42:6, is the nation of Israel. Gūd , as in Genesis 49:19-20, i.e., gâdad , to press upon a person, to attack him, or crowd together against him (cf. Psalms 94:21). In Habakkuk 3:17 the trouble of this day is described; and the sensation of pain, in the anticipation of the period of calamity, is thereby still further accounted for. The plantations and fields yield no produce. Folds and stalls are empty in consequence of the devastation of the land by the hostile troops and their depredations: “a prophetic picture of the devastation of the holy land by the Chaldaean war” (Delitzsch). Fig-tree and vine are mentioned as the noblest fruit-trees of the land, as is frequently the case (see Joel 1:7; Hosea 2:14; Micah 4:4). To this there is added the olive-tree, as in Micah 6:15; Deuteronomy 6:11; Deuteronomy 8:8, etc. Ma‛asēh zayith is not the shoot, but the produce or fruit of the olive-tree, after the phrase עשׂה פרי , to bear fruit. Kichēsh , to disappoint, namely the expectation of produce, as in Hosea 9:2. Sh e dēmôth , which only occurs in the plural, corn-fields, is construed here as in Isaiah 16:8, with the verb in the singular, because, so far as the sense was concerned, it had become almost equivalent to sâdeh , the field (see Ewald, §318, a). Gâzar , to cut off, used here in a neuter sense: to be cut off or absent. מכלה , contracted from מכלאה : fold, pen, an enclosed place for sheep. Repheth , ἁπ. λεγ. , the rack, then the stable or stall.
Although trembling on account of the approaching trouble, the prophet will nevertheless exult in the prospect of the salvation that he foresees. Habakkuk 3:18. “But I, in Jehovah will I rejoice, will shout in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:19. Jehovah the Lord is my strength, and makes my feet like the hinds, and causes me to walk along upon my high places.” The turning-point is introduced with ואני ht , as is frequently the case in the Psalms. For this exaltation out of the sufferings of this life to believing joy in God, compare Psalms 5:8; Psalms 13:6; Psalms 31:15, etc. עלז , a softened form of עלץ , to rejoice in God (cf. Psalms 5:12), i.e., so that God is the inexhaustible source and infinite sphere of the joy, because He is the God of salvation, and rises up to judgment upon the nations, to procure the salvation of His people (Habakkuk 3:13). Elōhē yish‛ı̄ (the God of my salvation), as in Psalms 18:47; Psalms 25:5 (see at Micah 7:7). The thoughts of the 19th verse are also formed from reminiscences of Psalm 18: the first clause, “the Lord is my strength,” from Psalms 18:33. “God, who girdeth me with strength,” i.e., the Lord gives me strength to overcome all tribulation (cf. Psalms 27:1 and 2 Corinthians 12:9). The next two clauses are from Psalms 18:34, “He maketh my feet like hinds',” according to the contracted simile common in Hebrew for “hinds' feet;” and the reference is to the swiftness of foot, which was one of the qualifications of a thorough man of war (2 Samuel 1:23; 1 Chronicles 12:8), so as to enable him to make a sudden attack upon the enemy, and pursue him vigorously. Here it is a figurative expression for the fresh and joyous strength acquired in God, which Isaiah calls rising up with eagles' wings (Isaiah 40:29-31). Causing to walk upon the high places of the land, was originally a figure denoting the victorious possession and government of a land. It is so in Deuteronomy 32:13 and Deuteronomy 33:29, from which David has taken the figure in Psalm 18, though he has altered the high places of the earth into “my high places” ( bâmōthai ). They were the high places upon which the Lord had placed him, by giving him the victory over his enemies. And Habakkuk uses the figurative expression in the same sense, with the simple change of יעמידני into ידרכני after Deuteronomy 33:29, to substitute for the bestowment of victory the maintenance of victory corresponding to the blessing of Moses. We have therefore to understand bâmōthai neither as signifying the high places of the enemy, nor the high places at home, nor high places generally. The figure must be taken as a whole; and according to this, it simply denotes the ultimate triumph of the people of God over all oppression on the part of the power of the world, altogether apart from the local standing which the kingdom of God will have upon the earth, either by the side of or in antagonism to the kingdom of the world. The prophet prays and speaks throughout the entire ode in the name of the believing congregation. His pain is their pain; his joy their joy. Accordingly he closes his ode by appropriating to himself and all believers the promise which the Lord has given to His people and to David His anointed servant, to express the confident assurance that the God of salvation will keep it, and fulfil it in the approaching attack on the part of the power of the world upon the nation which has been refined by the judgment.
The last words, למנצּח בּנגינותי , do not form part of the contents of the supplicatory ode, but are a subscription answering to the heading in Habakkuk 3:1, and refer to the use of the ode in the worship of God, and simply differ from the headings למנצּח בּנגינות in Psalms 4:1-8; Psalms 6:1-10; 54:1-55:23; Psalms 67:1-7, and Psalms 76:1-12, through the use of the suffix in בּנגינותי . Through the words, “to the president (of the temple-music, or the conductor) in accompaniment of my stringed playing,” the prophet appoints his psalm for use in the public worship of God accompanied by his stringed playing. Hitzig's rendering is grammatically false, “to the conductor of my pieces of music;” for ב cannot be used as a periphrasis for the genitive, but when connected with a musical expression, only means with or in the accompaniment of ( ה instrumenti or concomitantiae ). Moreover, נגינות does not mean pieces of music, but simply a song, and the playing upon stringed instruments, or the stringed instrument itself (see at Psalms 4:1-8). The first of these renderings gives no suitable sense here, so that there only remains the second, viz., “playing upon stringed instruments.” But if the prophet, by using this formula, stipulates that the ode is to be used in the temple, accompanied by stringed instruments, the expression bingı̄nōthai , with my stringed playing, affirms that he himself will accompany it with his own playing, from which it has been justly inferred that he was qualified, according to the arrangements of the Israelitish worship, to take part in the public performance of such pieces of music as were suited for public worship, and therefore belonged to the Levites who were entrusted with the conduct of the musical performance of the temple.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27