HABAKKUK CHAPTER 3.
The Prophet’s Prayer for Mercy in the Lord’s Judgment.
JEHOVAH’S MAJESTIC COMING TO JUDGMENT. — V. 1. A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet, in the form of the Davidic psalms, upon Shigionoth, after the manner of a dithyramb, in reeling, exciting time, with triumphal music. V. 2. O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, the announcement of the judgment of punishment through the Chaldeans, and was afraid. O Lord, revive Thy work, call into existence once more the former way of dealing with Thy people, as well as the double judgment of which the prophecy had spoken till now, in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known, so that the delay in bringing eventual redemption to His people may not be too great; in wrath, namely, while He expressed His indignation through the punishment carried out by the Chaldeans, remember mercy, so that the severity of the punishment might be tempered at least to some extent. The prophet having thus announced the theme of his psalm, he immediately launches forth in his prayer. V. 3. God came from Teman, cp. Deut. 33, 2, the eastern division of Edom, and the Holy One from Mount Paran, the mountainous country between Idumea and Egypt. Selah. The description shows the Lord approaching from this region with all the glory of His majesty. His glory covered the heavens, extending as far as the eye could see, and the earth was full of His praise, so that His splendor covered its whole expanse. “The flaming glory of Jehovah filling everything is a vision of such excessive sublimity that one scarcely dares to follow the prophet in spirit to meditate upon it.” (Lange.) V.4. And His brightness was as the light, bursting forth as the sunlight when the ball of the sun rises above the horizon; He had horns, the rays of the sun as it first appears, coming out of His hand, on either side, the appearance of God being attended with brilliant light; and there was the hiding of His power, His almighty power, as it were, being veiled by the splendor of His appearance. V. 5. Before Him went the pestilence, or, the plague goes before Him, and burning coals went forth at His feet, the excessive heat of the fever of various pestilences, these angels of death being His attendants on His triumphal march. V. 6. He stood and measured the earth, calmly standing, amidst the general commotion, as the Judge of the world, measuring the countries and their doings, or causing them to shake in terror, in order to execute judgment; He beheld and drove asunder the nations, making the heathen tremble; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, or, “the primeval mountains burst asunder,” dissolving in dust, the perpetual hills did bow, the hills of the early world sink down. His ways are everlasting, or, “the paths of olden time, He follows them.” As He once came in earthquakes and terrible manifestations of His majesty in order to make Israel His covenant nation, so He may once more be expected to come to Judgment. V. 7. I saw the tents of Cushan, of the Ethiopian armies, in affliction, in the distress of terror; and the curtains, the tent-cloths, of the land of Midian did tremble, that is, all the inhabitants of the heathen countries round about were filled with terror. V. 8. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was Thine anger against the rivers? literally, “Was it against the rivers that was kindled, Jehovah, was it against the rivers that Thy wrath was kindled ?“ Was Thy wrath against the sea that Thou didst ride upon Thine horses and Thy chariots of salvation? the winds and clouds being considered the vehicles bearing the Lord as He goes forth to redeem His people. The cause of His dividing the Red Sea and the Jordan was not His displeasure against these waters, but His intention of interposing for His people’s salvation. V. 9. Thy bow was made quite naked, drawn forth from the quiver and made ready to send forth its arrow, according to the oaths of the tribes, even Thy word, literally, “sworn are the scourges by the word, rods of chastisement are sworn by the word,” that is, the chastisements of Jehovah are definitely decided upon and even supported by oaths. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers, as when masses of water rush from the mountains, or when tidal waves cut deep gullies into the earth. V. 10. The mountains saw Thee, and they trembled, shaken by storms and earthquakes; the overflowing of the water passed by, a torrent of water, from subterranean sources or as the result of a cloudburst, rushes along; the deep, the abyss of the ocean, uttered His voice and lifted up His hands on high, in a mighty noise accompanying their breaking forth. V. 11. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation, or have entered their dwelling, so that a terrifying darkness ensues; at the light of Thine arrows they went and at the shining of Thy glittering spear, as God manifested Himself as the judge of the world, executing justice and righteousness upon all men. V. 12. Thou didst march through the land in indignation, through all the countries of the earth; Thou didst thresh the heathen in anger, stamping them under foot. V. 13. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people, Israel, as representative of all true children of God, even for salvation with Thine Anointed, all the leaders of the people being types of the Messiah, by whom the Lord’s kingdom would be permanently established. Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, crushing the Chaldean nation with its ruler, typical of the antichristian forces, by discovering the foundation unto the neck, laying bare the foundations being the same as razing the entire building to the ground. Selah. V. 14. Thou didst strike through with his staves, piercing with the spear or weapons of the wicked one, the head of his villages, the ruler of his hordes, or the chief of his princes, so that the soldiers of the hostile armies would turn one against the other; they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me, rushing in to disperse the people of Israel; their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly, that is, the enemies are like assassins, who delight in pouncing upon the unsuspecting wayfarer and in taking his life. V. 15. Thou didst walk through the sea with Thine horses, as when Jehovah destroyed the army of Pharaoh and delivered His people, through the heap of great waters, upon the billows of great waters, the expression serving to bring out the almighty power of Jehovah in the deliverance of His people. Thus the majesty of the Lord in overcoming all His enemies is set forth in a word-painting of singular beauty and power, with the Messianic background clearly in evidence.
A PLEA FOR MERCY. — V. 16. When I heard, my belly trembled, namely, with terror at the revelation of the mighty judgment of Jehovah, my lips quivered at the voice, so that he was unable to steady them; rottenness entered into my bones, a feeling of overpowering weakness, and I trembled in myself that I might rest in the day of trouble, quietly, in silent submission, awaiting the day of distress. When he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops, or, “when he comes up against the people who will attack it,” when the conquest on the part of the invader may be expected. V. 17. Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive, as it brings forth its blossoms and yields its fruit, shall fail, shriveling up, and the fields shall yield no meat, no grain for food; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, orchards and cultivated fields are barren, granaries and barns are empty in consequence of the desolation of the land caused by the enemy; V. 18. yet I will rejoice in the Lord, in spite of all these afflictions, I will joy in the God of my salvation, exulting in Him on whom the salvation of all mankind rests. V. 19. The Lord God is my Strength, Ps. 27, 1, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, strong and sure-footed, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places, on the heights of salvation to which one climbs from the valley of affliction on the basis of the confidence of faith. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments, this being a note to the leader of the Temple-music, directing him to have the psalm accompanied by music on stringed instruments. The God of salvation is on the side of His children, so that they are safe in the midst of all their enemies and will eventually enjoy the fullness of the redemption earned and prepared by the Messiah.