PSALM OR PRAYER OF HABAKKUK. (vs. 1-19)
1 “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.”
The title. A prayer. There is only one formal prayer in the
ode, that in v. 2; but the term is used of any devotional composition; and,
indeed, the whole poem may be regarded as the development of the
precatory sentences in the proemium (see the inscriptions in Psalm 17.; 86.;
90.; 102.; 142.; and the last verse of Psalm 72., the subscription of Book
II.). (For other hymns in the prophetical books, see Isaiah 24, and 35.;
Ezekiel 19.; Jonah 2.; Micah 6:6, etc.; and as parallel to this ode, compare
Deuteronomy 33:2, etc.; Judges 5:4, etc.; Psalm 68:7, etc.; 77:13-20; 114.;
Isaiah 63:11-14.) Of Habakkuk the prophet. The name and title of the author
are prefixed to show that this is no mere private effusion, but an outpouring of
prophecy under Divine inspiration. Upon Shigionoth (compare title of Psalm 7.);
Septuagint, μετὰ ᾠδῆς – meta odaes – with song - Vulgate, pro ignorantiis.
For this latter rendering Jerome had etymological ground, but did not sufficiently
consider the use of shiggayon in Psalm 7., where it indicates the style of poetry,
nor, as Keil shows, the fact that all the headings of Psalms introduced, as the
present, with al, refer either to the melody, or accompaniment, or style in which
they were to be sung. The Revised Version gives, “set to Shigionoth;” and the
expression is best explained to mean, in an impassioned or triumphal strain, with
rapid change of emotion, a dithy rambic song — a description which admirably
suits this ode.
Prayer and Praise. (v. 1)
This chapter records the remarkable “prayer” or “Code” of Habakkuk. The
superscription contained in the first verse and a cursory glance at the
chapter as thus described may be found suggestive of important teachings
respecting the sacred exercises of prayer and praise. Note:
Ø We do well to solicit present blessings. “In the midst of the years make
known” (v. 2); i.e. he sought the Divine manifestation in mercy to be
granted to his people in his own day.
Ø We should recount God’s goodness in the past. The prayer abounds in
reminiscences of God’s favor as bestowed upon His chosen in the days
Ø The comprehensive nature of prayer. This prayer of Habakkuk contains
o devout contemplation of God in His character and works;
o review of His providential doings; and,
o pervading the whole, the spirit of confiding and joyous trust.
Ø The desirability of employing in this exercise the devout compositions of
God’s servants in past ages, which have been preserved, in His Word.
Ø The appropriateness of the language of prayer as the medium of
expressing praise to God. “The prayers of David the son of Jesse”
(Psalm 72:20) are contained and expressed in his Psalms. “The prayer
of Habakkuk” is also “an ode” set to music, and used at his suggestion
in the liturgical services of the temple.
Ø The importance of cultivating correct musical expression in the
presentation of the sacrifice of praise to God. The tones should be in
harmony with the character of the thoughts and sentiments of the words
being sung. This is probably the meaning of the expression, “upon
Shigionoth’ (v. 1), ‘al shigyonoth meaning “in wandering measures,” the
tones to be varied according to the character of the thoughts and words.
The term “Selah,” used by him (vs. 3, 9,13), and the direction, “To the
chief singer on my stringed instruments,” with which he closes his book,
also indicate the carefulness in execution the prophet would have
exercised. All true worship to God must proceed from humble and
trusting hearts, and be presented “in spirit and in truth,” and this is
perfectly compatible with regard for all that is cultured and artistic in
method. Our motto should be, “The best for the Lord.”
2 “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD,
revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years
make known; in wrath remember mercy.” 2. The proemium, in which the
prophet expresses his fear at the coming judgment, and prays God in His wrath to
remember mercy. Thy speech; or, the report of thee; the declaration made by God in
the preceding chapters concerning the punishment of the Jews and the destruction
of the Chaldeans. The Septuagint, regarding the ambiguity of the Hebrew, gives
a double rendering, εἰσακήκοα τὴν ἀκοήν σου – eisakaekoa taen akoaen sou - I heard
thy report and κατενόησα τὰ ἕργα σου – katenoaesa ta erga sou - I considered thy
works. Pusey considers that both meanings are intended, viz. both what
God had lately declared, and all that might be heard of God, His greatness
and His workings. Was afraid. The revelation of God’s interposition
makes the prophet tremble. Revive thy work. God’s work is the twofold
judgment spoken of above; and the prophet prays God to “quicken” and
make it live, because, though it brings temporary distress upon his
countrymen, it will also cause the destruction of their enemies, and reestablish
the Jews and crown them with salvation, and make the glory of
God known to all the earth. Dr. Briggs (‘Messianic Prophecy,’ p. 234)
translates, “Jahveh, I have heard the report of thee; I fear, Jahveh, thy
work. In the midst of the years revive him (
“work” to be His acts in theophany — His judgment, especially as in v.16,
the cause of fear to the psalmist. In the midst of the years. The
“years” are the period between the announcement of the judgment and its
final accomplishment (ch.2:3); the prophet prays that God would manifest His
power, not merely at the extreme limit of this epoch, but earlier, sooner. This
overthrow of the world power forms, as it were, the central point of history, the
beginning of a new age which shall culminate in the Messianic kingdom.
Make known. Let all the earth know and acknowledge thy work. The Septuagint
gives two or more versions of this passage, one of which is remarkable. Thus they
read, “In the midst of two animals (δύο ζώων – duo zoon) thou shalt be known;
when the years draw nigh thou shalt be well known; when the time is come thou
shalt be revealed.” The rendering, “two animals,” arises from a confusion of words
but many of the Fathers, who were conversant with the Greek Scriptures, saw herein
a reference to the incarnation of our blessed Lord, as lying in the stable at
of Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s
crib.” Others interpreted the two animals of the two thieves between whom
Christ was crucified; or of angels and men; or Jews and Gentiles; or the
two Testaments; or Moses and Elias. Others again accented the word
ζώων so as to understand “two lives,” the present and the future, in the
midst of which the Judge shall appear; or the life of Christ before His death
and after His resurrection. There is a great truth underlying most of these
interpretations, namely, that this magnificent hymn is concerned with the
victories of Christ and his Church. In wrath remember mercy. When thine
anger is displayed by sending the Chaldeans against us, remember thy
mercy, and make a speedy end of our misery, and mitigate our enemies’
cruelty (compare ch. 1:13; and vs. 9,13,18-19 of this chapter). The Septuagint
gives a double version, “In the troubling of my soul, in wrath, thou wilt remember
The Prayer of an Alarmed Prophet. (v. 2)
Ø Its cause. The report of Jehovah; i.e. the communication received from
concerning the punishment of
of God’s voice (Genesis 3:10; Exodus 3:6), at the thought of His
presence (Job 23:15), at the manifestation of His power (Psalm 65:8),
at the contemplation of His judgments (Psalm 119:120). Nor will
they who hear the fame of His doings in the past or the announcement
of His “judgments to come,” as both of these are unfolded in Scripture,
fail to be similarly affected. Like the Canaanites before the advance of
Joshua and his host, their hearts will melt in them for fear (Joshua 2:11).
What excited terror in the breast of Habakkuk was the prospect Jehovah’s
“report” opened up before him! Though a pious man and a prophet, he
was at the same time a philanthropist and a patriot, who could not
contemplate without a shudder the decimation of his people or the
desolation of his country; and neither can the Christian anticipate without
apprehension those chastisements that are promised to himself for
correction of his backslidings, and to the Church for her recovery from
doctrinal aberration or spiritual declension. It may be better to fall into
God’s hands, because His mercies are great, than to fall into those of
man (II Samuel 24:14); but in any case it is a fearful thing to fall for
judgment into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). Again,
the fierce whirlwind of retribution, which in the end should throw
down the eagle’s nest of Chaldean pride and blow up the crackling
flames in which its palaces and temples were to be destroyed, raised
within him awe-inspiring conceptions of the omnipotence of Jehovah
which made him tremble, even though the downfall of
meant the deliverance of
of the ungodly will be to the saints a cause of rejoicing (Revelation
18:20), it will also inspire them with a solemn awe of the Divine
holiness and justice, majesty and power.
Ø Its cure. Prayer. Different from Adam, who, having heard God’s voice,
ran from God, Habakkuk, in his alarm, betook himself to God. Hiding
from God, the custom of sinners; hiding in God, the comfort of saints
(Psalm 143:9). Suitable for all times (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6;
I Thessalonians 5:17), prayer is specially appropriate for bad times
(Psalm 50:15). In addition to the promise that God will be a Refuge for
the oppressed, a Refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9), and to the fact
that good men in all ages have found him so (Psalm 48:3; 91:2;
Jeremiah 16:19), the practice of pouring one’s fears (Psalm 34:4) as
well as complaints (Psalm 142:2) and requests (Philippians 4:6) into
the ear of God seems justified by this, that He who by His judgment
causes, is by His wisdom and mercy best able to remove alarms.
Ø Its fervor. Intimated by the repetition of the term “Jehovah,” and by the
three short sentences of which the prayer is composed. Souls laboring
under strong emotion commonly express themselves in brief and broken
ejaculations, rather than in long and polished periods.
Ø Its tenor. A threefold petition.
o For the acceleration of Jehovah’s work. “O Lord, revive thy work
in the midst of the years.” The work referred to was the
It was thus a picture of God’s work in all ages — the deliverance
of the individual believer and of the Church in general,
first through the afflictions and trials of life from the moral
defilement of sin; and second, through the overthrow (by
Christ’s cross and rule) of the enemies of both from the legal and
spiritual bondage of sin. The prophet craved that Jehovah might
not defer the completion of
the time which had been appointed for this purpose, but that
He might cause His work to live (not suffer it to go to sleep,
but quicken and revive it), no that it might be finished in the
midst of the years, and
brought about long before the stipulated period had arrived.
Thus his prayer was one the believer might offer for himself,
that God would perfect that which concerned him
(Psalm 138:8), would carry on His work of grace within him
(Philippians 1:6), making all things work together for his good
(Romans 8:28), causing tribulation to work in him patience, etc.
(Romans 5:3), and afflictions to yield him the peaceable fruits of
righteousness (Hebrews 12:11), as well as to work out for him a
far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory (II Corinthians
4:17); and would crown that work by completely effecting his
deliverance from the curse and power of sin, from the terror of
death, the darkness of the grave, the misery of hell. It was also a
petition which the Church might present for herself, that she
might be purified, extended, completed, glorified, net after long
waiting, but soon, in the middle of the years. “Even
so, come [quickly], Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Ø For the manifestation of Jehovah’s glory. “In the midst of the years
make it known.” Make it known, the prophet meant, that the work of
punishing and purifying
so shall it comfort
so again shall
believer and the Church may also ask that God’s work in dealing with
them should be manifest, not to themselves merely, but to the world
at large. This would both sustain them and impress the world. Until
affliction is seen to be God’s work, it does little good to the soul; till
the world perceives that God is in the Church, it will not cease to
persecute and hinder the Church.
Ø For the dispensation of Jehovah’s mercy. Habakkuk’s plea was not
merit. He knew well that what he asked could not be granted on the
score of justice.
“‘Tis from the mercy of our God
That all our hopes begin.”
1. That God’s voice should excite alarm even in the hearts of good men is
no mean proof of the fallen state of mankind generally.
2. It is a good sign of grace when an alarmed soul betakes itself to God.
3. The pre-eminence which belongs to redemption over all the other works
4. The only power that can awaken dead souls or revive unspiritual and
decadent Churches is God.
5. The chief hope of man lies in the mercy of Heaven, not in the goodness
Prayer for Revival (v. 2)
The revival of God’s work stands intimately connected with prayer. The
Holy Spirit is the Author of all true quickening of the Divine life in the
souls of men, and his renewing and sanctifying influences are secured in
response to earnest supplication (Ezekiel 36:37; Malachi 3:10;
Acts 1:14; 2:1). Observe:
APPREHENSION OF THE STATE OF THE AGE, AND THE CHURCH
IN THE AGE, IN WHICH IT IS OFFERED. The language of the prophet
in the former part of his prophecy indicates the possession by him of an
insight into the character and needs both of the Hebrew nation and Church
in his day; and this acquaintance prepared his mind and heart for pleading
so earnestly for a revival of God’s work Our own age and the state of
religion in it claims our thoughtful regard. Reflection upon it will show the
imperative need there is for the possession of a higher measure of
spirituality, consecration, Christian intelligence and courage, and will
impel the utterance of the earnest cry, “O Lord, revive thy work” (v. 2).
CONCERN IN VIEW OF THE EVIL CONSEQUENCES RESULTING
FROM THE PREVAILING DEGENERACY. “O Lord,” cried the
prophet, “I have heard thy speech, and I was afraid.” Jehovah had spoken
unto him in vision, unfolding the terrible judgments which should overtake
his people in consequence of their apostasy, and this vision of coming
Divine chastisement filled him with terror; and with the real concern of a
true patriot in view of the disastrous issue to which, through the prevailing
iniquity, the national interests were tending, he implored Divine
interposition and help (“O Lord, revive,” etc.). The Christian patriot in our
own land has reason for anxious solicitude as he views the present in its
relation to the future. He knows that there is danger lest the temporal
prosperity enjoyed in this age should result in the cherishing of pride, in
conformity to the world, and in apathy in holy service; and lest the
intellectual activity prevailing should lead to the weakening of conviction,
the cherishing of doubt, and resulting in complete indifference in relation to
spiritual realities. All this occasions him serious concern, which is
intensified as he beholds multitudes in whom these dire effects have been
already wrought; and in this spirit of solicitude he is led to the throne of
grace, and to cry with impassioned earnestness, “O Lord, revive thy work.”
SECURING OF SPIRITUAL RESULTS. “In wrath remember mercy”
(v. 2). The seer knew by revelation that his nation, owing to its
sinfulness, should be overtaken by judgment, and should fall into the power
of the Chaldeans; and in his prayer he did not ask for the reversal of this.
Divine wrath must follow transgression, but he prayed that in the midst of
this God would “remember mercy,” in other words, that He would so
interpose as to sanctify the dark experiences looming in the future, drawing
his erring people nearer to himself, so that they might trustfully pass
through the painful discipline in store for them, and come out of it at length
purified as gold. And so ever true prayer for revival seeks the spiritual
renewal of men; it solicits the manifestation of the Divine mercy in
delivering the plants of His own planting from the blighting effects of sin,
and in causing them to abound in all holy excellence and grace.
present blessing. “In the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make
known” (v. 2); i.e. without lingering, without postponement, forthwith,
in the seer’s own time. “How long, O Lord, how long?” “Thy kingdom
come;” “It is time for thee to work.”
Vs. 3-15 - § 3. The prophet or the congregation depicts in a majestic
theophany the coming of God to judge the world, and its effect
symbolically on material nature, and properly on evil men.
came from Teman, and the Holy One from
His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise.”
In this episode Habakkuk takes his imagery from the accounts
of God’s dealings with His people in old time, in
Sinai, at the
and the psalmist; and he looks on all these mighty deeds as anticipative of
God’s great work, the overthrow of all that opposes and the establishment
are connected with Moses’ description of the Lord’s appearance at Sinai
(Deuteronomy 33:2; compare Judges 5:4). As He then came in glory
to make a covenant with His people, SO WILL HE APPEAR AGAIN in majesty
to deliver them from the power of evil and to execute judgment. The verbs
throughout are best rendered in the present. The prophet takes his stand in
time preceding the action of the verb, and hence uses the future tense, thus
also showing that he is prophesying of a great event to come, symbolized
by these earlier manifestations. Habakkuk here and in ch. 1:11
uses the word Eloah, which is not found in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other
minor prophets; it occurs once in Isaiah, twice in Deuteronomy, and
frequently in Job. There is no ground for the contention that its
employment belongs to the latest stage of Hebrew. Teman; i.e.
Vulgate, ab Austro (see notes on Amos 1:12 and Obadiah 1:9). In
Moses’ song the Lord is said to come from Sinai. Habakkuk omits Sinai,
which was the emblem of the Law, and points to another
Lawgiver, like unto Moses, telling how He who spake the Law, God.
should come in the likeness of man. The Holy One. A name of God
(ch. 1:12), implying that He will not let iniquity pass unpunished,
and that He will preserve the holy seed. Mount Paran. The mountainous
district on the northeast of the
represented as flashing on the two hilly regions separated by the Arabah.
They both lay south of
redeemer and deliverer appearing in the south, as the Chaldean invader
comes from the north. The Septuagint adds two translations of the word
“Pharan,” viz. “shady,” “rough;” according to its etymology it might also
mean “lovely.” Selah; Septuagint, διάψαλμα – diapsalma - This term occurs
also in vs. 9, 13, and frequently in the Psalms, but nowhere else, and indicates
some change in the music when the ode was sung in the temple service.
What is the exact change is a matter of great uncertainty. Some take it to
indicate “a pause;” others, connecting it with salah, “to lift up,” render it
“elevation,” and suppose it means the raising of the voice, or the
strengthening of the accompaniment, as by the blast of trumpets. The
meaning must be left undetermined, though it must be added that it is
always found at the end of a verse or hemistich, where there is a pause or
break in the thought, or, as some say, some strongly accented words occur.
His glory covered the heavens. His majestic brightness spread over the
heavens, dimming the gleam of sun and stars; or it may mean his boundless
majesty fills the highest heavens and encompasses its inhabitants. His
praise. This is usually explained to signify that the earth and all that dwell
therein, at this glorious manifestation, utter their praise. But there is no
allusion as yet to the manner in which the appearance is received, and in
v. 6 it produces fear and trembling; so it is best to take “praise” in the
sense of “matter of praise,” that glory “which was calculated to call forth
4 “And His brightness was as the light; He had horns coming out of His
hand: and there was the hiding of His power.” His brightness was as the light;
brightness appeareth like light, The sunlight is meant, as Job 31:26; 37:21; Isaiah 18:4.
He had horns coming out of His hand; i.e. rays of light on either side. The
comparison of the first rays of light to the horns of the gazelle is common in
Arabic poetry (compare Exodus 34:29-30). In the original passage, Deuteronomy 33:2,
we read, “At his right hand was a fiery Law unto them” — a reference to the two
tables of stone, perhaps resplendent with light. The “hand” in our text is a general
expression, and is not to be taken with any special reference to lightning launched
by the hand (which is not a scriptural expression), nor to works effected by God’s
agency, but simply as signifying that the light of His presence streamed
forth from both sides, i.e. EVERYWHERE! There was the hiding of His
power. There, in that ineffable light, was the hiding place of His majesty.
He clothes Himself with light as with a garment (Psalm 104:2), and the
splendor is the mantle of that presence which eye of man cannot behold
(Exodus 24:17; I Timothy 6:16). Farrar quotes Psalm 18:11,
“He made darkness
his secret place;” and
“Dark with excess of light his skirts appear.”
Septuagint, ἔθετο ἀγάπησιν κραταιὰν ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ - etheto agapaesin krataian
ischuus autou – where His power is hidden - which rendering has arisen from
taking the adverb sham as a verb (sam), and mistaking the meaning of the following
The Divine Concealments. (v. 4)
“The hiding of His power.”
OPERATIONS OF OUR GOD WE ARE MET BY THE DIVINE
CONCEALMENTS. He is a God “that hideth Himself” (Isaiah 45:15);
“He doeth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without
number!” (Job 9:10); “He giveth no account of any of His matters”
(Job 33:13); “He maketh darkness His secret place” (Psalm 18:11);
“How unsearchable are His ways past finding out!” ” (Romans 11:33).
Ø We realize this as we think of His Being and perfections. “Who by
searching canst find out God?” (Job 11:7). He is veiled to us by the
very covering of His splendor. “Who coverest thyself with light as
as with a garment.” etc. (Psalm 104:2).
Ø And we also realize this as we think of His working. Mystery meets
us in every department of His operations. The scientist and the
theologian alike become baffled in their researches, the former
having to admit his partial failure as he strives to penetrate the
mystery of the universe, and the latter being perplexed at the
seeming inequality of God’s ways in the providential
government of the world, and feeling himself enclosed as with
a veil when he ventures to inquire into the high themes of revelation.
“There is the hiding of His power.” Notice:
Ø There is that which is pursued by the skeptic. He reasons — God
cannot be known; therefore all thought on the part of man concerning
Him is needless and vain; all worship of Him is folly; all structures
reared by His servants to His honor mean waste; His very existence
is but a possibility. Here we have THE OLD ATHEISM, banishing
God from His universe; the old atheism, only arrayed in a newer and
more subtle guise!
Ø There is, however, “a more excellent way.” Though our God is
infinitely beyond our poor stretch of thought, yet He may be known
by us. Beyond the comprehension of human reason He is nevertheless
present to faith, and deigns to reveal Himself to the pure and loving
heart. (“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8) And we do well to remember this, and to repose the
trust of our hearts in Him, and then to set ourselves to inquire whether,
after all, the partial obscurity of the Divine nature and operations may
not be wisely and graciously as well as necessarily designed. And
pursuing this course, such quieting thoughts as the following, bearing
upon the Divine concealments, will be suggested to us.
o That our personal well being is advanced by this partial
concealment which characterizes our God. It would not be
well for us to have complete knowledge of Him or His
purposes and plans, since then there would be no
room for the exercise of faith, patience, resignation; life
would cease to be a time of discipline; and there would be no
scope for trial and no stimulus to earnest and thoughtful inquiry.
o That these Divine Concealments, whilst they are for our good,
also contribute to the advancement of the Divine glory. “It is
the glory of God to conceal a thing” (Proverbs 25:2). It is in
this way that He makes His power felt; that He indicates His
superiority to man and His independence of him (Isaiah 40:13-14).
o That whilst much is thus concealed, everything essential to man’s
salvation is clearly unfolded.
HIDDEN WAYS AND REVEALS HIMSELF AND HIS
OPERATIONS MORE FULLY TO THE VIEW.
Ø It has been so in reference to the sacred Scriptures. During the lapse of
ages God gradually drew back the veil, revealing more of His will than
had been unfolded before.
Ø It has been so in the working out of the purpose of redeeming mercy.
In the cross of Christ there was expressed the power as well as the
wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24); but there was the hiding of this
Divine power. The
spectators of the scene at
weakness, and the cross was suggestive to them of shame and reproach
and dishonor; BUT THE POWER WAS THERE, although hidden,
which soon began to be felt, one of the criminals crucified at the side
of the Saviour being the first to experience it. The macerated
body of the Redeemer was taken down from the cross, and laid in the
sepulcher hewn out of the rock; and again there was the hiding of God’s
power, and it seemed as though death had conquered; but with the dawn
of the first day of the week this power became revealed — the mighty
Victor rose, despite seal and guard, the earnest and pledge of the
ULTIMATE RESURRECTION OF ALL HIS SAINTS!
Ø And it has been so in human experience. In the dark days of sorrow
there has been realized “the hiding of God’s power;” but there has
followed the revelation of His loving purpose and the making clear
to troubled hearts that in all “His banner over them was love.”
(Song of Solomon 2:4) (I highly recommend The Cedarmont
Kids – His Banner over Me is Love – CY – 2015 -
www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxgw6pbW59E - And this shall
be made still more manifest hereafter, for the eternal day shall
break, and the shadows flee away forever!
5 “Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at His feet.”
After describing the splendor of the theophany, the prophet
now turns to the purpose and effects of God’s appearing. He comes to
avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before Him
stalks plague, to punish His enemies and the disobedient,
Canaan (Exodus 23:27; I Samuel 5:9, 11); and among His own
people (Numbers 11:33; 14:37, etc.; Leviticus 26:25). For“pestilence”
the Septuagint reads “word.” Burning coals went forth at His feet.
“Fiery bolts” followed His advance, “hailstones and coals of fire” (Psalm
18:12-13); as in Psalm 97:3, “A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up
His enemies on every side.” But, regarding the parallelisms of the
hemistiches, it is better to take resheph in the sense of “fever heat,” as in
Deuteronomy 32:24; scorching fever follows in His train. Jerome
translates the word, diabolus, looking on the evil spirit as the agent of the
Divine vengeance. The Jews, he says, had a tradition that Satan was called
Reseph, from the speed of his movements. The Septuagint has, “It (the word)
shall go forth into the plains,” which Jerome interprets, “shall make the
crooked straight and the rough ways smooth.”
An Ideal Theophany: 1. The Onward March of the Deity. (vs. 3-5)
Ø God, or Eloah, the Strong or Powerful One. A name for the Supreme
used for the first time by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:15) to portray God
as the Creator of Israel, and employed by Habakkuk to designate God
as the Lord and Governor of the whole world. Omnipotence is an
essential attribute of Divinity (Genesis 17:1; Joshua 4:24; I Chronicles
29:12; Job 36:5; 42:2; Psalm 62:11); the impotence of heathen idols
was the best proof that they were no gods (Isaiah 45:20; Jeremiah 2:28).
Ø The Holy One. An appellation given to God at least three times in the
Psalter (Psalm 71:2; 78:41; 89:18), twice in Jeremiah (Jeremiah
50:29; 51:5), once in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:7), once in Hosea (Hosea
11:9), twice in Habakkuk (ch. 1:12; 3:3), and occurring frequently in
Isaiah. Equally with strength is purity an indispensable quality
in the Supreme; and this no less than that in an infinite measure and
degree. An unholy God could not be all-powerful, all-wise, all-just,
or all-good. Holiness is the guarantee and guardian of the other attributes
of His nature. Least of all could an unholy God be either a Saviour or a
Judge of men.
Ø Its extent. All-pervading, irradiating the entire universe, covering the
heavens and spreading over the earth (Ezekiel 43:2), What is here
declared of the material or symbolic presence of Deity is true of His real,
though unseen, presence (Psalm 8:1; 19:1; Isaiah 6:3).
Ø Its brightness. Resembling the light, i.e. the sun, to which Scripture
likens God Himself (Psalm 84:11), and Christ (Malachi 4:2;
John 9:5), who is God’s Image (II Corinthians 4:4), the Brightness
of His Father’s glory, and the express Image of His Person (Hebrews
1:3). In exact accordance with the prophet’s thought, God is represented
as covering Himself with light as with a garment (Psalm 104:2), and as
dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto (I Timothy 6:16);
while Christ is ever set forth as the highest expression of the
uncreated glory of the Supreme (John 1:14).
Ø Its manifestation. Emitting rays or shooting forth beams on all sides,
like the rising sun, an emblem suggestive of the partial and gradual,
though universal, manner in which the Divine glory unveils itself
to intelligent spectators on earth (Job 26:14).
Ø Its power. Emanating from His hand, like rays darting forth from the
sun’s disc, or like horns shooting out from the head of a gazelle.
The allusion may have been to the lightnings which flashed forth
from the cloud upon
thought is that one principal aspect of God’s glory is the exhibition of
power which He furnishes to men in the material creation
(Isaiah 40:26, 28), in the phenomena of nature (Job 36:22, etc.), and
in the scheme of grace (I Corinthians 1:24).
Ø Its essence. Hidden, unsearchable, unfathomable, the above-mentioned
coruscations of His glory being not so much unveilments as concealments
of His ineffable Personality, not so much exhibitions as hidings of His
power. That which may be known of God from the outshinings of His
glory is the fact, not the fullness, of His power and Godhead, The
grand truth symbolized by the cloudy pillar infolding brightness, viz.
(Isaiah 45:15), was in the Incarnation exemplified and emphasized
(compare John 1:14 with 7:27), and is receiving confirmation by
every advance the human mind makes in knowledge (Job 11:7-9;
26:9; 37:23; Psalm 145:3; 147:5; Isaiah 40:28; Romans 11:33).
Agnoscticism is a witness to the truth here stated.
Ø The quarter whence He comes. Teman and Paran, i.e. the country south
Sinai (see Exposition). Separated only by the Wady-el-Arabah, the two
localities were intended to indicate the Sinaitic region as the spot whence
this sublime theophany of the future should proceed. In so defining its
starting point, the prophet probably wished to suggest a variety of
thoughts, as e.g. that the future glorious manifestation of Jehovah was
rendered possible, and even probable, by what had in the past occurred at
Sinai; that it would proceed in the line of that earlier theophany, and be a
carrying out of the Divine policy therein revealed a policy of mercy and
judgment, of salvation and destruction; and that in it, as in the ancient
Apocalypse, both the power and the holiness of God would be
SIGNALLY DISPLAYED! True of the Divine advent in the overthrow
fullness of the times, and will be conspicuous in the final advent at the
close of human history.
Ø The purpose for which He comes. To execute judgment upon the
ungodly world (Jude 1:15), and so to effect the deliverance of His
people. This was to be the object of His interposition in the overthrow
end aimed at in the first coming of the Saviour, the redemption of
His Church by the annihilation of her foes; this will be the purpose
of HIS APPEARING at the end of the world, to complete the
REDEMPTION OF HIS PEOPLE by completing the punishment
of the ungodly. (II Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Ø The attendants by whom He is served. Pestilence in front, and fiery
bolts in the rear, signifying that God will be accompanied with
sufficient instruments to effect his purpose. DEATH and
DESTRUCTION of all sorts are a great army at His command.
1. The certainty of a future manifestation of Jehovah in the Person of the
6 “He stood, and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder
the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the
perpetual hills did bow: His ways are everlasting.”
He stood, and measured the earth. God takes His stand, and
surveys the earth which He is visiting in judgment. As His glory filled the
heavens, so now He with His presence paces the earth, measuring it, as it
were, with His foot. He considers, too, all the doings of the children of
men, and requites them accordingly. Vulgate, Stetit, et mensus est terram.
So the Syriac. On the other hand, the Septuagint gives, Αστη καὶ ἐσαλέυθη ἡ γῆ -
Astae kai esaleuthae hae gae - The earth stood and quaked. Thus the Chaldee,
and many modem commentators, “rocketh the earth.” This rendering seems to
anticipate what follows, and is not so suitable as the other, though it is quite
admissible. Drove asunder. Dispersed and scattered. Septuagint, διετάκη ἔθνη –
dietakae ethen - nations melted away. Others translate, “made to tremble”
(Exodus 15:15, etc.). The everlasting mountains. Mountains that
have lasted as long as creation, and are emblems of stability and
permanence (Deuteronomy 33:15). Were scattered; or, were shattered
(compare Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5). His ways are everlasting. This is
best taken alone, not as connected grammatically with the preceding
clause, and epexegetical of the “hills and mountains,” which are called
God’s “ways,” i.e. His chief creative acts, as Job 40:19; Proverbs 8:22;
but it means that, AS GOD ACTED OF OLD, SO HE ACTS NOW!;
“The ancient ways of acting are His” (Proverbs 31:27). The eternal,
unchangeable purpose and operation of God are contrasted with the
disruption of “the everlasting hills.” The Greek and Latin Versions connect
the words with what precedes.Septuagint, Ἐτάκησαν βουνοὶ αἰώνιοι πορείας
αἰωνίας, - Etakaesan bounoi aionisis poreias – The everlasting hills melted at
His everlasting goings -Vulgate, Incurvati sunt colles mundi ab itineribus
aeternitatis ejus, where the idea seems to be that the high places of the earth
are God’s paths when He visits the world.
7 “I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land
of Midian did tremble.” As God moves in His majesty the various nations are
struck with fear, as of old were the peoples that heard of the Exodus (see Exodus
15:14-16). I saw. In prophetic vision (I Kings 22:17). The tents of Cushan;
Septuagint - σκηνώματα Αἰθίοτων – skaenomata Aithioton - the tents of the
Ethiopians; Vulgate, tentoria AEthiopiae. “Cushan” is not Chushan-Rishathaim,
the Mesopotamian king mentioned in Judges 3., but is a lengthened form of
Here the African country is meant, lying along the west coast of the Red
Sea. In affliction. Panic-stricken. The prophet particularizes what he had
said above generally of the nations hostile to the people of God. The
curtains; the tent curtains; Vulgate, pelles. Both “tents” and “curtains” are
used by metonymy for their inhabitants. Midian. The country on the Gulf
of Akaba, the eastern arm of the
as God is supposed to advance from the south.
An Ideal Theophany: 2. The Wonderful Acts of the Deity. (vs. 6-7)
Ø Measuring the earth; i.e. either surveying it with His all-seeing glance
whereat there is universal consternation, or measuring it out among the
peoples on its surface, as Joshua partitioned the
its conquest among the tribes. Both ideas are historically true, no
Divine interposition of any magnitude occurring among earth’s
inhabitants without bringing with it to thoughtful minds a conviction
that the hand and eye of God are at work, and leaving after it, as a
result, a rearrangement of the map of the globe. The marginal reading,
“shaking the earth,” causing it to reel, as David says it trembled on the
occasion of Jehovah’s coming down on
presents also a valuable truth that the Divine providential government
of the world, especially when it takes to deal with long established
iniquity for the purpose of punishing and destroying the same, is
calculated to inspire awe among earth’s inhabitants (Psalm 99:1),
as it did when it broke the pride of
to do when it overthrew the Chaldean power, and as it will do when
it hurls the mystical
thought contained in the parallel clause.
Ø Driving asunder the nations. “He beheld and drove asunder [or, ‘made
to tremble’] the nations.” He so paralyzed them with fear that He drove
them asunder, rendering combination amongst them impossible.
Not the lesser heights of comparatively recent formation, but the primeval
altitudes, whose hoary peaks have witnessed the passing by of millenniums,
and whose roots go down amid the granite bars of the earth (Psalm 90:2).
These by His encampment on their summits He causes to crumble,
resolve themselves into dust, and vanish into naught (Nahum 1:5;
Micah 1:4). The image may point to the convulsions on
and to the earthquake which announced the descent of the Most High,
but it signifies the utter impossibility of even the strongest forces of nature,
whether in matter or in man, resisting the advance of God, and that because
His ways are older than even the everlasting hills (Psalm 90:2) are the only things
on earth to which everlastingness belongs. “The everlasting ways of the everlasting
God are mercy and truth” (St. Bernard).
ADVERSARIES OF HIS PEOPLE. In prophetic vision Habakkuk
beheld the impression made upon the neighboring nations through which
passed on His march from Teman to the
African Ethiopians on the west“in affliction;” and the Midianites towards the
east, “trembling.” A different interpretation makes Cushan the Mesopotamian
king, Chushan-Rishathaim, who oppressed
(Judges 3:8-10), and Midian the last enemy who
when on the borders of the promised land (Numbers 25:17), and came up
against them after they had settled in it (Judges 6:4-11). In this case the
prophet selects the judgments executed upon these — upon the first by
Othniel, upon the second by Gideon — as typical of the inflictions that
would fall upon Jehovah’s enemies at His future coming.
1. The sovereignty of God over men and kings.
2. The duty and wisdom of recognizing God’s hand in the movements of
nations and in the phenomena of nature.
3. The impossibility of defeating the ultimate realization of God’s purposes,
whether of judgment or of mercy.
8 “Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger
against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst
ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?”
Interrupting his description of the theophany, the prophet asks
the motive of this wrathful revelation. This is done, not with expectation of
an answer, but giving life and vigor to the composition. Such sudden
transitions are not uncommon (compare Judges 5:12; Psalm 78:19,
etc.). Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was it against the
rivers, O Jehovah? was thy wrath kindled against the rivers? Was God
angry with inanimate nature, when He showed His power, for instance, in
the Nile and the
He showed His supremacy over all creation, and His will to save His people
and to crush all opposition to the execution of His great design (see
Psalm 106:9; 114:3, etc.). That thou didst ride upon thine horses.
The prophet speaks of the Lord as a Leader of a mighty host which came
with chariots and horses to defend the Israelites and to crush their foes
(compare Psalm 18:10). And thy chariots of salvation. “And,” which is
not in the Hebrew, is better omitted, the clause being an explanation of
“thine horses.” The chariots come for the salvation, i.e. the deliverance,
Septuagint, καὶ ἡ ἱππασία σου σωτηρία – kai hae ippasia sou sotaeria –
on your chariots of salvation - and Vulgate, et quadrigae
tuae salvatio. It comes to the same thing, whichever rendering we adopt.
An Ideal Theophany: 3. The Terrible Wrath of the Deity. (v. 8)
“a warlike hero equipped for conflict,” depicts Him as marching forth
against His enemies, and throwing all nature (especially its rivers and seas,
emblems of the earth’s populations) into consternation, and inquires of Him
what had been the cause of His vehement displeasure. The form of the
question suggests that Jehovah’s anger had not been directed against
inanimate nature, but that the commotions visible in the rivers and the seas
were only symbols of His wrath against men.
Ø The destruction of His enemies. Of these the rivers and seas were
merely emblems (v. 14).
Ø The salvation of His people. Jehovah’s horses and chariots were horses
and chariots of salvation (v. 13). “The end of God’s armies, His
visitations and judgments, is the salvation of His elect, even while
they who are inwardly dead perish outwardly also” (Pusey).
Ø The vindication of His own honor. His bow had been (and was to be)
made quite bare, i.e. drawn from its scabbard in fulfillment of the oaths
He had given to the tribes — first to Abraham, then to Isaac, next to
Jacob, and afterwards to David — that He would deliver them from
the hand of their enemies (Luke 1:73-75); or, accepting the marginal
translation, because “sworn were the chastisements [literally, ‘rods’]
of His word,” i.e. because the threatenings He had uttered against His
people’s enemies (Deuteronomy 32:40-42) were as sure as the promises
of deliverance bestowed upon his people themselves.
1. That the wrath of God is as much a reality as the love of God is.
2. That the destruction of God’s enemies is as sure as is the salvation of His
3. That in both God will be glorified.
9 “Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the
tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.”
The prophet continues his description of the Lord as “a man of
war” (Exodus 15:3). Thy bow was made quite naked. The sheath of
the bow was laid aside to make it ready for use. In the Assyrian
monuments the bow case forms part of the quiver, and holds only the
lower half of the bow (Rawlinson, ‘Anc. Mon.,’ 2:55, edit. 1864). It was
fastened to the side of the chariot or carried at the back of the archer. (For
the general sense, compare Deuteronomy 32:40-42; Psalm 45:5-7) In
the Revelation (Revelation 6:2) He that sits on the white horse has a
bow. According to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word; i.e. thou
doest all this to confirm the promises of deliverance and salvation made to
the tribes of
corrupt, and cannot be explained with any certainty. The Revised Version
gives,” The oaths to the tribes were a sure word;” in the margin, “Sworn
were the chastisements (Hebrew, ‘rods’) of thy word.” Thus Dr. Briggs:
“Sworn are the rods of thy word.” Orelli translates,” Oaths, rods of the
word,” and explains the clause to mean that the Lord comes to execute the
denounced punishment, which proceeds from his mouth like chastising
rods. The word mattoth is translated “tribes” (as in II Chronicles 5:2) or
“rods.” Keil contends for the latter, as instruments of chastisement,
rendering,” Rods are sworn by word” Henderson, taking the words as a
military signal, curiously translates, “‘Sevens of spears’ was the word.”
Pusey supports the Authorized Version, which, indeed. gives a good sense,
and is probably correct It is virtually supported by Jerome, who has,
“Suscitans suscitabis arcum tuum, juramenta tribubus quae locutus es,”
“Thou wilt awaken the oaths,” which, so long as the evil prospered,
seemed to be forgotten and sleeping. The Septuagint omits the word rendered
“oaths,” and translates mattoth, σκῆπτρα – skaeptra - thus: Ἐντείνων ἐνέτεινας
τόξον σου ἐπὶ σκῆπτρα λέγει Κύριος – Enteinon eneteinas toxon sou epi skaeptra
legei Kurios – Thou didst surely bend thy bow against sceptres.” Selah. A pause
ensues before the introduction of a new series of natural phenomena, accompanying
the Lord’s epiphany (see on v. 3). The next clause would be more fitly joined with
v. 10. Thou didst cleave the earth with (or, into) rivers. This refers to some
catastrophe like that which happened at the Flood, when “the fountains of
the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11; compare Psalm 77:16). Others
think that the allusion is to the miracles at the
in the wilderness, as in Psalm 74.; 78.; 105. But though the prophet glances at
such particular circumstances, his scope is more general.
10 “The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the
water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands
on high.” The mountains saw thee, and they trembled; literally, were
in pain, Septuagint, ὠδινήσουσι. - The words point to the phenomena of
an earthquake, as Sinai shook at the presence of the Lord (Exodus 19:18;
Psalm 114:6). So Virgil, ‘AEn.,’ 6:256 —
“Sub pedibus mugire solum, et juga coepta moveri
Silvarum… Adventante des.”
For “mountains,” the Septuagint reads, “peoples” The overflowing of the
water passed by; the talent of water passed along. Cataracts of rain fell,
as in the Deluge. “The windows on high are open, and the foundations of
the earth do shake” (Isaiah 24:18). Those who confine the reference to
past events see here an intimation of the passage of the Jordan (Joshua
3:15-16). The deep uttered his voice. The mass of waters in the ocean
and under the earth rears mightily as it bursts forth (Genesis 49:25;
Deuteronomy 33:13). His hands. Its waves (Psalm 98:8).
Septuagint, ὕψος φαντασίας αὐτῆς – hupsos phantasiaqs autaes –
the height of its form.
11 “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of
thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.”
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; or, stand
still, or withdraw into their habitation. They hide themselves in the
tabernacles whence they are said to emerge when they shine (Psalm 19:4-6).
Overpowered with the splendor of God’s presence, the heavenly luminaries hide
their light in this day of the Lord (compare Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:2, 10, 31; 3:15;
Amos 5:20; Matthew 24:29). The miracle of Joshua (Joshua 10:12-14) may have
suggested some of the language here, but the idea is quite different. At the light of
thine arrows they went; i.e. the sun and moon fled away discomfited at
the glory of God’s weapons, His arrows gleaming with light. The idea may
be that, in the absence of the sun and moon, the terrific scene was
illuminated only by flashes of lightning. “Lightnings” are sometimes celled
God’s “arrows,” as in Psalm 18:14; 77:17-18; but the image here is
rather of the arms of a warrior. Many supply the relative in the sentence,
and render, “arrows which shoot along.” This seems to be unnecessary,
and is not supported by the versions. There is no special reference to the
hailstorm at Beth-horon, which discomfited the Cananites, but enabled the
Israelites to pass on to victory (Joshua, loc. cit.). It is the terror of the
judgment that is adumbrated, when the Lord shall come in flames of fire
(II Thessalonians 1:8), and the heavens shall be dissolved, and the
elements shall melt with fervent heat (II Peter 3:12).
12 “Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh
the heathen in anger.” Thou didst march through the land in indignation;
thou treadest the earth in .fury. The mighty Judge stalks over the earth (v. 6;
compare Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:7-8). It is a general statement, and not to
be confined to the successes of Joshua and the destruction of the
Canaanites. Septuagint, Ἐν ἀπειλῇ ὀλιγώσεις γῆν – En apeilae oligoseis gaen –
with the alteration of a letter,Thou wilt bring low the land with threats. Thou
didst thresh the heathen (nations) in anger; Septuagint, ἐν θυμῷ κατάξεις –
en Thumo kataxeis – thou wilt break in pieces - ἔθνη – ethen – the heathern
Jerome here renders the verb, obstupefacies; but elsewhere, as Isaiah 28:28;
Hosea 10:11; Amos 1:3, he uses triturare which gives the best meaning. The
kindred figure is found in Micah 4:13; Isaiah 63:1-.
13 “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for
salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the
house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck.
Selah.” Thou wentest forth. The prophet specifies the end which
these manifestations were designed to effect. God is said to “go forth”
when He intervenes for the aid of His people, as Judges 5:4; II Samuel 5:24;
Isaiah 42:13. For salvation with thine anointed; In salutem cum Christo tuo (Vulgate);
τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν χριστὸν σου – tou sosai ton christen sou - to save thine anointed –
(Septuagint). If the signification of the word “with” (eth) be pressed, the passage
is taken to mean that, as God manifested Himself in old time for the salvation of
His people with His chosen “Christ,” Moses; so He will hereafter reveal His
power for the destruction of the Chaldeans with His chosen “Christ,”
Cyrus. But this is too definite, and cannot be shown to be intended. The
again, is not the nation of
applied to a single individual and never to the people collectively; so here it
is the theocratic king who is meant — first, the representative of David;
and secondly, the Messiah. God reveals Himself for the salvation of His
people in union with the work especially of His anointed Son, Christ. This
is how the passage is taken by Eusebius (‘Dem. Evang.,’ 4:16), Αἰς σωτηρίαν
λαον σου σὺν Ξριστῷ σου – Ais swtaerian laon sou sun Christo sou. It must
be confessed, however, that most modern commentaters translate, for the
salvation of thy anointed, taking the last expression (contrary to all usage) to
mean the Israelites, as being a kingdom and nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). In
this case the present clause is merely a repetition of the preceding one.
Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked; thou dashest
in pieces the head. As in the following clause the metaphor of a house is
plainly employed, “the head” must be taken for the gable or topmost ridge.
“The house of the wicked” is an allegorical description of the Chaldaic
dominion and its king; and the prophet declares that God will smite with
destruction both the ungodly monarch and the kingdom that opposes itself.
Some commentators see here an allusion to the primeval sentence
(Genesis 3:15): others to the destruction of the Egyptians’ firstborn;
others to the incident of Jael and Sisera (Judges 5:26). If the prophet’s
language was influenced by any of these matters, his view and his oracle
are concerned with the mighty future. The Septuagint has, “Thou wilt east death
upon the heads of the evil.” By discovering (literally, making naked) the
foundations unto the neck. “By” is better omitted. The general meaning is plain —
the metaphorical house is destroyed from summit to base, the destruction
beginning at the gable is carried on to the very foundations According to
this view, “the neck” should mean the very lowest basis of the walls.
Henderson (after Capellus and others) suggests that we should read
“rock,” a word derived from the same root. Septuagint, Ἐξήγειρας δεσμοὺς
ἕως τραχήλου – Exaegeiras desmous heos trachaelou - Thou didst raise chains
unto the neck. It is possible that the mention of “the head,” just above, has led
the prophet to use the term “neck” in order to express the utter destruction of
the whole body. Selah. Another solemn pause ensues.
14 “Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages:
they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as
to devour the poor secretly.” Thou didst strike through with his staves; thou didst
pierce with his own spears. Thou dost turn on the Chaldeans and all thine enemies
the destruction which they intended for others. The people meet with the
same fate as the royal house (v. 13); Vulgate, maledixisti sceptris ejus,
which seems to be a mistranslation. The head of his villages (פרזים).
There is a difficulty in arriving at the meaning of this last word. The Septuagint
renders it, “mighty men;” Jerome, “warriors;” Chaldee, “army;” Delitzsch
and many modern critics, “hordes” or “inhabitants of the plain;” others
again, “rulers” or “judges.” The most probable version is either “warriors”
or “hordes.” The head, i.e. collectively the heads of his warlike troops.
They came out (or, who rush) as a whirlwind to scatter me (see the
description of the Chaldees, ch. 1:6-10). The prophet identifies
himself with his people. (For the figure of the whirlwind, compare Isaiah
41:16; Jeremiah 13:24; Hosea 13:3.) Dr. Briggs renders, “Thou
dost pierce with his rods the chief, when his rulers are rushing in to scatter
me.” Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly; or, as in
ambush, to devour the helpless. They exult in acting the part of robbers
and murderers, who lurk for the defenseless and afflict the poor (Psalm10:8-10).
As is equivalent to “as it were.” Vulgate, Sicut ejus qui. “The poor” are primarily
the Israelites, and then all meek worshippers of God.
15 “Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the
heap of great waters.” The Exodus is the type of the deliverance of God’s people.
Thou didst walk through (didst tread) the sea with thine horses;
literally, thou treadest the sea, thy horses, the horses being explanatory.
The prophet takes his imagery from Exodus 15:1-19. He represents
God as a warrior in His chariot, leading the way through the waters to the
destruction of His enemies and to the salvation of His own people. Through
the heap of great waters; or, upon the surge of mighty waters. The verse
may also be rendered, Thou treadest the sea — thy horses (tread) the heap
of great waters (Psalm 77:19). Past mercies and deliverances are TYPES
AND PLEDGES OF THE FUTURE!
God Poetically Portrayed and Practically Remembered. (vs. 3-15)
“God came from Teman, and the
Holy One from
The Bible contains many grand songs and odes. There is the song that
song of Deborah and Barak (Judges 5.). There is the song of Hannah, the
mother of Samuel (I Samuel 2:1). There is the song of David bewailing
the death of Saul and Jonathan (II Samuel 1:19-27), and his song of
thanksgiving after the communication of Nathan respecting the building of
the temple (ibid. 7:18-29). There is the song of Hezekiah after he had
received comfort in his sickness and recovered his health (Isaiah 38:9-20).
There is the song of the blessed Virgin, Magnificat; the song of
Zacharias, Benedictus; the song of Simeon, Nunc dimittis. But this song of
Habakkuk stands in peerless splendor amongst them all. Here the majesty
of God in Jewish history is poetically portrayed and practically
Himself — the Absolute One, whom “no one hath seen or can see,” nor as
He appears to philosophical or logical minds, but as He appears to a lofty
imagination divinely inspired. To the prophet’s imagination He appears as
coming from Teman and
of His glory when He gave the Law upon
lightnings and earthquakes. Then, indeed, His glory covered the heavens.
People at a distance witnessed the splendor of His appearance and shouted
His praise. He seemed encircled in surpassing radiance; His brightness was
as the light; He “had horns coming out of His hand,” and there was the
“hiding of His power.”
hand, yet the concealment of His glory was there.” The idea, perhaps, is
that the brightness that was seen was not His full glory, but mere
scintillations or emanations of those infinite abysses of His unrevealed and
unrevealable glory. What is revealed of God is as nothing compared with
the unrevealed. “Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went
forth at his feet.” Or, as Keil renders it, “Before Him goes the plague, and
the pestilence follows His feet.” The reference is, perhaps, to the plagues
which He brought upon the Egyptians in order to obtain the deliverance of
His people. “He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove
asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the
perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.” “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 the ways of the olden
time” (Keil). “While,” says
deliverance of His people, He stops all of a sudden in His progress, the
immediate effects of which are universal consternation and terror.” “I saw
the tents of Cushan in affliction:
and the curtains of the
tremble.” “When he
drove asunder the nations of
writer, “one might have seen the tents of Cushan in affliction, and the
curtains of the
neighboring countries taking alarm. He struck consternation into the heart
of His enemies.” “Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine
anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride
upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation? The bow was made quite
naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word? Thou didst
cleave the earth with rivers.” “‘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? Thy bow lays itself bare. 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” (Keil). The riding upon horses is a figurative
representation of the celerity of His triumphant progress. “The mountains
saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the
deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.” “The mountains
saw thee, they were in pain: the inundation of water overflowed; the abyss
uttered its voice, it raised its hands on high.” “The mountains being the
most prominent objects on the surface of the globe, Habakkuk reiterates in
a somewhat prominent form what he had expressed in the sixth verse in
order to preserve the impression of the tremendous character of the
transactions to illustrate which they had been figuratively introduced”
of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear” (see
Joshua 10:12-13). Some, however, suppose that the reference here is
to the surpassing splendor of the Divine manifestation, that the heavenly
orbs withdraw altogether from the fear and horror that pervade all nature,
which are expressed in the mountains by trembling, and in the waters by
roaring, and in the sun and moon by obscuration. God is here viewed as a
warrior whose darts are so brilliant that sun and moon pale before them.
“Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the
heathen in anger.” The special reference here may be to His march in
leading the children of
enemies. “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for
salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of
the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck.” “Having
described, in language of the most sublime and terrible import, the
manifestations of Jehovah in reference to His enemies, Habakkuk now
proceeds to specify in express terms the end which they were designed to
answer, viz. the deliverance and safety of the chosen people, and then
depicts their fatal effects in the destruction of every hostile power”
villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as
to devour the poor secretly. Thou didst walk through the sea with thine
horses, through the heap of great waters.’ 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. 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. Thou treadest upon the seas: 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 wine press in Isaiah 63:1, 6). Not all nations, however,
but only those who are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His
people and His anointed one. The perfects in vs. 13-15 are prophetic,
describing the future in spirit as having already occurred” (Keil). Now, all
this sublime representation of God is poetic, highly poetic. It is the
characteristic of poetry that it ascribes to one class of objects attributes
that belong to another; and in this ode we find attributes ascribed to the
Creator which belong to the creature. For example, He is here represented
as moving from one place to another, from Teman and from Paran; as
standing, “He stood,” etc.; as conquering His enemies by human weapons;
as riding upon horses and driving in chariots; and as fired with indignation.
All this is human. The Infinite One does not move from place to place,
does not stand in any one spot, knows no rage, fury is not in Him. Whilst in
this ode the attributes of the creature are applied to the Creator, we find
also the attributes of the living ascribed to dead and insentient existences.
The mountains are here represented as writhing and in pain, the deep as
uttering its voice and lifting up its hands. But whilst we take this as a
poetic representation, we must not fail to notice some of the grand truths
which it contains.
Ø That God’s glory transcends all revelations. The brightness of the
Shechinah, in which He appeared on Sinai and elsewhere to the Jews,
however effulgent, was but a mere scintillation of the INFINITE
SPLENDOR OF HIS BEING, the mere “hiding of His power.”
All His glory as seen in nature, both in the material and spiritual
universe, is but as one ray to the eternal sun.
Ø That God’s power over the material universe is absolute. He makes
the mountains tremble, and the seas divide, and the orbs of heaven
stand still. In the Apocalypse the refulgent glory of the judgment
throne is represented as causing the material universe to melt away
before it. (Revelation 20;11) And before a full manifestation of
Himself, what are mountains, rivers, sun, and stars? Mere vapors on
the wings of the storm.
Ø That God’s interest in good men is profound and practical. All His
operations, as here poetically described, are on behalf of His chosen
people. Though He is high, he has respect to the lowly, and to that
man He ever looks who is of a contrite and humble spirit.
these Divine manifestations made to the Hebrew people in past times?
Undoubtedly to encourage in himself and in his countrymen unbounded
confidence in God at the critical and dangerous period in which they were
placed. The Chaldean hosts were threatening their ruin, the political
heavens were black with thunderclouds under which his countrymen might
well shiver and stand aghast. Under these perilous circumstances HE
TURNS TO GOD! He calls to mind and portrays in vivid poetry what God
had been to His people in ancient times.
Ø He recalls the fact that God had delivered His people in ancient times
from perils as great as those to which they were now exposed. From the
Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Philistines, etc.
Ø That God had done this by stupendous manifestations of His power.
Manifestations of His power in the sea, in the mountains, in the orbs
of heaven, etc.
Ø That what God had done for His people He would continue to do. “His
ways are everlasting,” or, as Keil renders it, “His are ways of the olden
times.” The idea, perhaps, is that He has an eternal plan, fixed and
settled. What He has done for them HE WILL STILL DO! Thus the
prophet remembered the days of old, and took courage.
Vs. 16-17 - § 4. The contemplation of the Divine judgments produces
in the people of God at first, fear and trembling at the prospect of
16 “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice:
rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I
might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the
people, he will invade them with his troops.” When I heard. “When” is
better omitted. “I heard” the report of thee (v. 2). The Septuagint refers to
ch. 2:1, rendering, “I watched.” If the former part is the paean of the congregation,
the present is the prophet’s own utterance expressive of his dismay at the prospect
before him. My belly trembled. My inmost part, my inward self, trembled
with fear (compare Isaiah 16:11). My lips quivered at the voice. My lips
quivered with fear at the voice of God that sounded in me (ch.2:1), proclaiming
these awful judgments. The word rendered “quivered” (tsalal) is applied to the
tingling of the ears (I Samuel 3:11; II Kings 21:12), and implies that the prophet’s
lips so trembled that he was scarcely able to utter speech. The Septuagintrenders,
“from the voice of the prayers of my lips.” Rottenness entered into my bones.
This is an hyperbolical expression, denoting that the firmest, strongest parts of his
body were relaxed and weakened with utter fear, as if his very bones were
cankered and corrupted, and there was no marrow in them. And I
trembled in myself. The last word (tachtai) is rendered variously: “under
me,” according to the Greek and Latin Versions, i.e. in my knees and feet,
so that I reeled and stumbled; or, “in my place,” on the spot where I stand
(as Exodus 16:29). That I might rest in the day of trouble; better, I
who shall rest in the day of tribulation. The prophet suddenly expresses his
confidence that he shall have rest in this affliction; amid this terror and awe
he is sure that there remaineth A REST FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD!
This sentiment leads naturally to the beautiful expression of hope in the
concluding paragraph (v. 17, etc.). Thus the Septuagint, Ἀναπαύσομαι ἐν
ἡμέρα θλίψεως - Anapausomai en haemera thlipseos - I will rest in the day
of affliction;” Vulgate, Ut requiescam in die tribulationis. When he cometh
up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. This should be, When
he that invades with bands comes up against the people; i.e. in the day when the
Chaldeans attack the Israelites (compare II Kings 24:2, where the word
“bands” is also used). Septuagint, Τοῦ ἀναβῆναι εἰς λαὸν παροικίας μου -
Tou anabaenai eis laon paroikias - To go up against the people of my sojourning –
Vulgate, Ut ascendam ad populum aecinctum nostrum, which is thus explained:
“I will bear all things patiently, even death itself, that I may attain to the happy
company of those blessed heroes who fought for their country and their
God.” It is obvious to remark that this is a gloss, not on the original text,
but on the erroneous version.
An Ideal Theophany: 4. The Glorious Interposition of the Deity. (vs. 9-16)
presence on that great and terrible day will be attested by a succession of
Ø Wonders in the earth.
o The cleaving of the earth with rivers (v. 9) may point to the
bursting forth of waters from the deep places of the earth,
which are again opened as at the Flood (Genesis 7:11) through
violent convulsions, or to the overflowing of the land by the
agitated and swollen waters, as also happened on the occasion
of that appalling catastrophe (Genesis 7:11, 17, 19).
o The trembling of the mountains, which writhe as if in pain, may
contain an allusion to earthquakes and similar cataclysms.
Ø Wonders in the sea. The tempest of waters passed by, the deep uttered
his voice, and lifted up his hands on high” (v. 10). These words possibly
allude to what occurred both in the Flood and in the dividing of the Red
Sea and the
Ø Wonders in the sky. “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation:
at the light of thine arrows they went, at the shining of thy glittering
spear” (v. 11), as they did in the time of Joshua, when Jehovah fought
Apocalypse of the great day of the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation
Ø Marching through the land in indignation. The land referred to is in the
Ø Threshing the nations in anger. Not the Chaldean people only, but all
the peoples who, like them, shall have become the oppressors of God’s
heritage, all the nations that have not known or served God, will
experience the strokes of His anger.
Ø Wounding the head of the house of the wicked, laying bare the
foundation even to the neck. The wicked one is first the Chaldean king,
the head of the Chaldean power, and lastly that wicked one whom Christ
will destroy with the brightness of His coming (II Thessalonians 4:8). The
image is that of complete destruction.
Ø Piercing with his own staves the head of his warriors or hordes. These
were the Chaldean troops, whom the prophet saw coming up against
lying in wait to devour the poor secretly, but whom he also beheld falling
upon and destroying one another, wounding themselves with their own
swords (compare I Samuel 14:20; II Chronicles 20:23-24). So will God’s
enemies in the end consume and devour one another.
Ø Overcoming every obstacle that might be supposed to hinder His
purpose, viz. the execution of wrath upon His foes, or the deliverance of
always will be) the salvation of His people and of His anointed, i.e. of His
Church with its anointed Head. If God executes judgment upon the
ungodly, it is because otherwise the salvation of the godly cannot be
1. The certainty of a day of judgment.
2. The terrifying aspect to the wicked of THE GLORY OF GOD!
3. The infinite fierceness of the wrath of the Almighty.
4. The ability of God to execute His purposes both of judgment and
5. The graciousness towards believers of all God’s interpositions.
Horror of God (v. 16)
“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness
entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day
of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with
his troops.” Having finished the poetic rehearsal of the mighty acts of
Jehovah on behalf of His people in ancient times, which he had composed in
order to inspire the pious with unshaken confidence in Him as their
covenant God, Habakkuk reverts to the fear which had seized him on
hearing of the judgments that were to be inflicted upon his country by the
Chaldeans. Our subject is horror of God; and we offer three remarks on this
state of mind.
of God, and the moral constitution of the soul are sufficient to show that it
was never intended that man should ever dread his Maker or be touched
with any servile feelings in relation to Him. Unbounded confidence, cheerful
trust, loyal love, — these are the normal states of mind in relation to the
Creator. How has the abnormal state arisen? The history of the Fall shows
this, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and was afraid.” (Genesis 3:10)
Having sinned, a sense of guilt came to the conscience, and conscience under
the sense of guilt invested almighty love with attributes of terror. Horror of
God springs from A SENSE OF GUILT!
There is nothing in Him to dread. “Fury is not in me.” (Isaiah 27:4)
He is love. His voice to man:
Ø In all nature is, “Be not afraid.” The smiling heavens, the blooming
earth, the warbling songsters of the air, in all He says to man,
“Be not afraid.” All things show benevolence in intention, and
breathe the genius of love.
Ø In all true Christianity is, “Be not afraid.” Corrupt Christianity, it is true,
makes him horrific; but the Christianity of Christ reveals Him in love
and in love only. In Christ He comes down in man to man, and
demonstrates His love.
(destructive) state of mind in every way. It is pernicious to the body. The
language of the text implies this, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my
lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled
in myself.” The prophet’s alarm drove back the blood from the extremities
to the heart, his flesh grew cold, contracted, his voice quivered, and his very
bones seemed to rot. Horrific feeling is inimical to physical health. But dread
of God is even more pernicious to SOUL!
Ø It destroys its peace. Fear shakes every power of the soul as the winds
shake the leaves of the forest.
Ø It depresses its powers. All the faculties of the soul shrink and shiver
under the influence of fear, as the herds of the mountain at the
Ø It distorts its views. Fear of God gives men horrid ideas of Him. It has
forged all the theologies, both in heathendom and Christendom, that
have frightened men away from THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF
THE BLESSED GOD!
who says to all men, “It is I: be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27; John 6:20)
17 “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the
vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no
meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no
herd in the stalls:” The prophet depicts the effects of the hostile invasion, which
are such as to make the natural heart despair. Although the fig tree shall
not blossom. The devastations of the enemy leave the country bare and
uncultivated. The Chaldeans, like the Assyrians and Egyptians, cut down
and burnt the fruit-bearing trees of the countries which they invaded
(compare Deuteronomy 20:19; Isaiah 9:10; 37:24; Jeremiah 6:6).
The trees most useful and abundant in
Deuteronomy 6:11; Hosea 2:12; Joel 1:7; Micah 4:4; 6:15, etc.). The labor of
the olive shall fail; literally, shall lie. The “labor” is the produce, the fruit.
Though the yield shall disappoint all expectation. The use of the verb “to lie”
in this sense is found elsewhere; e.g. Isaiah 58:11; Hosea 9:2. So Horace,
‘Carm.,’ 3:1, 30, “Fundus mendax;” and ‘ Epist.,’ 1:7. 87, “Spem mentita seges.”
The fields; the cornfields (Isaiah 16:8). The flock shall be cut off from the fold.
There shall be no flocks in the fold, all having perished for lack of food.
Vs. 18-19 - § 5. In spite of the terror produced by these judgments,
the true Israelite is blessed with hope of salvation and joy in the Lord.
18 “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my
salvation.” Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. Unshaken in confidence, the
prophet, representing the faithful Israelite, expresses his unbounded joy at
the prospect of salvation which opens to him BEYOND THE PRESENT
AFFLICTION. The psalmist often thus shews his exulting faith (see Psalm 5:7;
13:6; 17:14-15; [138:8 – CY – 2015] 31:19). I will joy. I will shout for joy; my joy
shall express itself outwardly. The God of my salvation (see note on Micah 7:7).
The God who judges the nations to procure the final salvation of His people.
Septuagint, Τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου – To Theo to sotaeri mou - God my Saviour;
Vulgate, In Deo Jesu meo. From this gloss of
argued for the existence in this passage of a revelation of the incarnation of
Christ and the redemption wrought by Him.
God in History. (vs. 3-18)
On reading these verses containing the ode of Habakkuk we find that they
abound in historical allusions. The prophet recalled to mind the Divine
interpositions both in mercy and in judgment which had taken place in the
bygone days, and in the light of them contemplated the position and
prospects of his people in his own time. This course was a very customary
one with the Hebrew bards. They were eminently patriotic, and delighted
to touch upon the national experiences of sorrow and conflict, of joy and
triumph; and, indeed, to such an extent did they carry this, that an
acquaintance with the facts of Jewish history is essential in order that we
may apprehend the meaning and appreciate the beauty of their poetic
strains. But whilst thus national, these sacred songs, in that they refer to
principles which are of general application, and to experiences which are
common to humanity, are felt by us to be universal in their character, and
to belong unto us as well as to the Hebrews, that in reference to them
“there is neither Jew nor Greek,” in that they are calculated to instruct and
edify, to stimulate and strengthen us all. Viewing in this light the celebrated
“ode” of Habakkuk here recorded, we see illustrated in it the great fact of
God’s working in human history, together with the design and influence of
this Divine operation.
WORKING IN HUMAN HISTORY. Looking back, the prophet traced
Ø In the giving of the Law on Sinai (compare vs. 3-4, with
Deuteronomy 33:2; Judges 5:4-5; Psalm 68:8; Teman being
another name for Seir). The manifestation of “the eternal light” is thus
fittingly compared to the rising of the sun, heaven and earth reflecting
His glory. The coming of God in judgment was the thought which, in the
circumstances, was necessarily the most vividly present to the prophet’s
mind; and his allusion here to the manifestation of God in His infinite
purity served as an appropriate prelude to this.
Ø In the plagues which fell upon the Israelites in the desert, as the result of
their disobedience (compare v. 5 with Deuteronomy 32:24). The plague
is referred to as going before God, like the ancient shield bearer before
the warrior (I Samuel 17:7), or the courier before the man of rank
(II Samuel 15:1); and pestilence as coming after, as an attendant
following his master.
Ø In the effects produced upon the Midianites by the advance of the hosts
of God’s chosen (compare vs. 6-7 with Exodus 15:13-15).
In the dividing of the
Red Sea and the passage of the
v. 8 with Exodus 15:8; Psalm 114:3-5). V. 8 clearly has reference to
these Divine interpositions, although the poet, rising with his theme,
looked beyond those events and took a wider sweep, and beheld God as
going forth, the Divine Warrior in His chariot of salvation, to put Hs foes
to confusion and to effect deliverance for his own.
Ø Expressions also are used in vs. 11-15 which, though somewhat
veiled, doubtless suggested to the Hebrews, as they raised this song of
praise, the sun standing still in
Ajalon, in the time of Joshua’s victory over the Amorites (v. 11); the
tragedy of the slaughter of Sisera, the representative of the head of the
Canaanitish tribes (vs. 13-14); and the complete discomfiture of the
Canaanites (v. 12). So that the “ode” sets forth God’s hand in the events
connected with the Jewish nation, and in this way illustrates most
forcibly the great fact of the Divine working in human history through
all the ages.
WORKING IN HUMAN HISTORY. This is ever wise and good (v. 13).
God rules over all, making all events contribute to the working out of His
purposes of love and mercy in the interests of the whole race. Earthly
rulers pursue their own ends, and are prompted by considerations of glory
and ambition, but their working is in subjection to the Divine control. “The
king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:1). Nothing can befall
us, whether individually or nationally, without the permission of our heavenly
Father — nothing. too, which He cannot or will not overrule to the
advancement of our highest interests.
“All change changing
Works and brings good;
And though frequent storms, raging,
Carry fire and flood;
And the growing corn is beaten down,
The young fruits fall and molder,
The vessels reel, the mariners drown
Awing the beholder;
Yet in evil to men is good for man.
Then let our heart be bolder,
For more and more shall appear the plan
As the world and we grow older.”
By a process of Divine progression, God causes the upheavings and
commotions of all kinds which occur in the history of the world to result in
the good of humanity; and whilst there is occasion for us, as we note His
hand in human history, to say to Him with reverence and awe, “In anger
thou marchest through the earth; in wrath thou treadest down the nations”
(Revised Version), yet we find abundant reason for adding, in the spirit of
true adoration, “Thou goest forth for the salvation of thy people, for the
salvation of thine anointed” (v. 13).
THE DIVINE WORKING IN HUMAN HISTORY EXERTS UPON
Ø In view of God’s terribleness in judgment which marks His working in
human history, such are filled with sacred awe. The prophet represents
his whole being as convulsed with terror as he thought of the
retributions God would, in righteousness, inflict (v. 16).
Ø In view of God’s gracious purpose, in all His interpositions to save,
restore, and bless the race, such are inspired with holy joy. Hence,
strange paradox! whilst oppressed in spirit they are also glad in heart.
“They tremble and rejoice,” and this is their rapturous song in the
night, expressive of their whole-souled trust through all, “Although
the fig tree shall not blossom,……….yet I will rejoice in the Lord!”
Songs in the Night. (vs. 17-18)
The thought underlying these intensely human words is that of holy and
triumphant joy manifesting itself on occasions when in the ordinary course
of things the very opposite experience might naturally have been expected.
The writer was under the elevating influence of sincere piety, and his
rapturous outburst sets forth the truth that true religion excites within its
recipients such thoughts, inspires within them such emotions, and imparts
to them such confidence, as to enable them, even when all is adverse in
their experience, to rejoice and shout aloud for joy. These songsters can
break forth in song, not only in fair weather, when the sun is shining and
the sky is clear and blue, and when all nature is full of exhilaration, but also
when the sun is withdrawn, and when no rift can be traced in the dark
Ø The language employed is figurative, and strikingly suggests to us
circumstances of the deepest human need. The fruit of the fig tree was
an extensive article both of food and commerce. The vine was diligently
cultivated from the earliest times, and, with its rich clusters of grapes and
its refreshing shade, became a very appropriate symbol of prosperity;
whilst the olive, living from age to age, and yielding an abundant supply
of oil, was also typical of abundance. Hence the failure of all these
indicates the deepest affliction, the direst calamity (Psalm 105:33), and
the picture of desolation is rendered still more complete when, in addition
to these, the bread corn is represented as ceasing, and the flocks and herds
as being cut off (v. 17).
Ø These adverse circumstances befell the nation, and, as the result of the
Chaldean invasion, the direst woes had to be experienced.
Ø The children of men still have to pass through such dark seasons.
There is extremity arising from
o temporal want occasioned by reverses in circumstances;
o slander, charges having no foundation in truth, being made and
resulting in mistrust and alienation;
o mental depression, the strong man being brought down to the
weakness of the child, the sturdy oak becoming feebler than the
o bereavement, home being rendered “desolate as birds’ nests, when
the fledglings have all flown.”
THEMSELVES UPON GOD, AND ON HIM AS WORKING IN ALL
FOR THEIR SALVATION. “In God,” “the God of my salvation” (v.18).
The thought which appears specially to have been present to the mind
of the prophet was that of adversity as being God’s loving discipline to
result in the perfecting of the tried, and resulting in their salvation: “the
God of my salvation.” A picture called “Cloudland,” by a German painter,
viewed at a distance appears a mass of gloom and cloud, but on closer
inspection every cloud is an angel or an angel’s wing; and so our sorrows,
when interpreted in the light of this gracious design of our God, become
changed into blessings. The thought that God is with us in our darkest
experiences, working for our salvation and to secure to us the highest
good, that the narrow path through which He, our Captain, causes us to
fight our way will bring us to “the prize of our high calling” (Philippians
3:14), is indeed inspiring, and grasping it we may well press on, raising
high our banners, and cheering the way and the conflict with music and song.
HIS GRACIOUS DESIGN, BEING RENDERED TRANQUIL AND
TRIUMPHANT AND INSPIRED WITH HOLY JOY. “Yet will I rejoice
in the Lord, I will joy,” etc. (v. 18). The joy of the wicked ceases when
the fig trees cease to blossom, and the vines to yield their fruit (Hosea 2:11-12),
for it lies upon the surface; but the joy of the holy lies deep in the soul, and is
a settled and abiding possession, and triumphs under the darkest circumstances
of life. Illustrations: David (Psalm 42:7-9); Asaph (Psalm 73:2, 24-25); Paul and
Silas (Acts 16:25). Resting in God and apprehending His loving working in our
life experiences, He will prove Himself our Strength and Song, and will become
19 “The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like
hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.
To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”
The Lord God is my strength; more accurately, Jehovah, the
Lord, is my strength, from Psalm 18:32; compare Psalm 27:1. He will
make my feet like hinds’ feet (Psalm 18:33). He makes me active and
swift-footed as the gazelle, as a lusty warrior (II Samuel 1:23; 2:18)
should be. So by the help of God I shall be superior to my enemies. He will
make me to walk upon mine high places. The expression is used
properly of God (Micah 1:3), and elsewhere to denote the
victorious possession and government of a country (see Deuteronomy
32:13; 33:29). Here it signifies that believing
opposition and dwell in safety in its own land. To the chief singer
(musician) on my stringed instruments (neginoth). This is a musical
direction, answering to the heading in v. 1, and implies that the ode is
committed to the conductor of the temple music, to be by him adapted for
the public service to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. Such
directions are elsewhere always found at the beginning, not the end, of
psalms (see Psalm 4.; 6.; 54.; 55.; 67.; 76.). It has been thought that the
suffix of the first person, “my stringed instruments,” denotes that
Habakkuk had a right to take part in the temple service, and was therefore
a Levite; but it is very doubtful whether this suffix is not a clerical error, as
or merely paragogic (the addition of a sound to the end of a word). Certainly
neither the Greek, Latin, nor Syriac Versions afford it any confirmation. These
versions make the subscription part of the ode. Thus the Septuagint -
Ἐπι τὰ ὑψηλὰ ἐπιβιβᾶ με, τοῦ νικῆσαι ἐν τῇ ὠδῇ αὐτοῦ - Epi ta hupsaela epibiba
me, tou nikaesai en tae odae autou - He maketh me to mount upon the high places,
that I may conquer by his song; Vulgate, Super excelsa mea deducet me victor
(victori, Cod. Amiat.) in psalmis canentem.
Sorrowing, yet Rejoicing. (vs. 17-19)
Ø Extremely unusual. Even the worst are seldom reduced to the bare
boards of absolute privation (Psalm 145:9; Matthew 5:45). David
confesses in old age that he had “never seen the righteous forsaken,
nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
Ø Not impossible or unknown. Persons, and these by no means always the
ungodly, but sometimes the good, the excellent of the earth, the pious, the
people who fear God and keep His commandments, who believe in His
Word and delight in His ways, have been known to be placed in
circumstances of utter destitution, such as Habakkuk so touchingly
describes. Whether Habakkuk himself was in it, he expected that he might
be, as he foresaw that many of his countrymen would be when the terrible
Chaldean invasion came. Job had experience of such a situation as
Habakkuk portrayed (Job 1:13-22); Paul (II Corinthians 11:27) and
many others both before and since have known it.
Ø Always sad. No blossom on the fig tree, no fruit upon the vine, no
harvest from the olive trees or cornfields, no flocks in either fold or stall.
Everything gone. Every prop and stay taken — money scattered to the
winds by unsuccessful trading, household furniture arrested and sold to
pay debt, means of earning a livelihood gone, friends vanished just at the
moment when most required, children laid down with sickness when
money to pay for medical relief is wanting, health precarious through age
or infirmity. When a case like this occurs it is sad.
Ø Yet it might be worse. It would be if a Christian were to lose not the
creature comforts merely, but the Creator Himself, from whom these
comforts flow. Let a man lose what he may, so long as he has God and
Jesus Christ, the Bible and the throne of grace, with the gift of
forgiveness and the hope of heaven, he is not utterly undone.
Ø Sensible. If a man loses three-fourths of his fortune, it may be natural to
grieve over what is lost, but it cannot fail to strike one as more sensible to
make much of and rejoice in what remains. So a good man, when he sees
his creature comforts taken from him, will show himself a wise man by
letting these go without too great indulgence in sorrow and cleaving to
the Creator, who is INFINITELY MORE PRECIOUS than all
Ø Satisfactory. What remains to the good man after the departure of
creature comforts is the best part of his estate. It is the part he can least
want; he might do without his fig trees, etc., but not without his God;
and the part that is most satisfying — fig trees, etc., might feed the body,
but only God can support a soul; and the part that is most permanent —
the only part that is permanent, all earthly things being subject to decay.
Ø Sanctifying. No man can make and keep it without becoming holier and
better because of it. He who rejoices in God will gradually grow like God.
Ø Profitable. It will come back to him who adopts it in blessings upon his
head. If any man will delight in God. God will delight in him, will rejoice
over him to do him good. (See Zephaniah 3:17)
Ø By imparting to him strength. “Jehovah, the Lord, is my Strength.” The
man who used these words had made three great discoveries:
o that man’s strength at the best is little better than weakness —
in the domain of the body, and in that of the mind, but chiefly
in that of the spirit;
o that the source of all strength, whether physical, intellectual, or
spiritual, for the human being, is God (Zechariah 10:12;
II Corinthians 3:5; 9:8; 10:4; Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:11);
o that this Divine strength is indispensable for enabling the soul to
cling to God in the day of trouble and season of calamity
(Philippians 1:6; 2:13; I Peter 1:5).
Ø By inspiring him with eagerness or zeal. “He maketh my feet like hinds’
feet;” (v. 19) i.e. maketh them lithe and nimble, active and steady,
skilful to climb, and tenacious to hold on like those of the female deer,
which quickly scents danger, and bounds along with safety among the
crags and cliffs of its native haunts. The language is descriptive of one
who, in the season of adversity, in the hour of trial, temptation, and
danger, is quick to discern, eager in adopting, and steadfast in pursuing
the path of duty, which for him, as for all, is the path of safety. Moreover,
the man who rejoices in God will commonly find himself advised in due
season of the approach of danger, assisted in ascertaining the path of
duty, and strengthened both to enter upon and adhere to it.
Ø By exalting him to safety. “He maketh me to walk upon mine high
places.” (ibid.) The man who can rejoice in God will sooner or later
find that God has begun to exalt him beyond common men:
o has set him on a high place of safety beyond the reach of
o is setting him upon a high path of moral and spiritual elevation;
o will set him in the end upon a high throne of glory.
1. The vanity of creature comforts.
2. The sweetness of Divine comforts.
3. The secret of true happiness.
4. The certainty of final glory.
The Possibilities in the Life of a Good Man (vs. 17-19)
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines;
the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock
shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I
will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation,” etc. The
desolation here so graphically and forcibly described is that which was to
be effected by the Chaldeans, whose army would consume or destroy the
best and most necessary productions of the land; not only seizing upon the
cattle and devouring the fruits of the earth, but so injuring the trees as to
render them incapable of yielding any produce. The passage contains the
most beautiful exhibition of the power of true religion to be found in the
Bible. The language is that of a mind weaned from earthly enjoyments, and
habituated to find the highest fruition of its desires IN GOD! When every
earthly stream is dried up, it has an infinite supply in His all-sufficient and
exhaustless fullness.” Our subject is — The possibilities in the life of a
GOOD MAN. It is possible for the fig tree not to blossom, etc. Man lives
by the fruits of the earth. These may fail from one of two reasons:
Ø From human neglect. It is the eternal ordinance of God, that what man
wants from the earth for his existence he must get from it by labor —
skillful, timely, persevering labor. The earth gives to the brute what he
wants without his labor, because the brute is not endowed with
qualifications for agricultural work. But man must labor, and this
arrangement is wise and beneficent. It promotes health, imparts vigor,
and develops faculties both intellectual and moral. Let man cease to
cultivate the soil, and the earth will fail to support him either with the
right animal or vegetable productions.
Ø From Divine visitation. The mighty Maker can, and sometimes does,
wither the fruits of the earth, destroy the cattle of the fields. He does this
sometimes without instrumentality, by mere volition; sometimes with the
feeblest instrumentality — locusts, worms, etc.; sometimes with human
instrumentality — war, etc. We say the greatest material destitution is
possible to a good man. Possible? It is frequent. In all ages some of the
best men have been found in the most destitute circumstances. Even
Christ Himself had nowhere to lay His head; and the apostles, what
MAN. “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
“Spiritual joy,” says Caleb Morris, “is a free, full, and overflowing stream,
that takes its rise in the very depth of the Divine essence, in the
immutability, perfection, abundance, munificence, of the Divine nature.
While there is a God, and that God is happy, there is no necessity that there
should be any unhappy Christians.” What is it to “joy in God”?
Ø It is the joy of the highest contemplation. The joys of contemplation are
amongst the most pure and elevating which intelligent creatures can
experience. These rise in the character according to their subjects. The
highest subject is GOD, HIS ATTRIBUTES AND HIS WORKS!
Ø It is the joy of the most elevating friendship. The joys of friendship are
amongst the chief joys of earth; but the joys of friendship depend upon
the purity, depth, constancy, reciprocity of love; and friendship with
God secures all this in the highest degree. (Consider Jonathan and
David! I recommend http://rcg.org/youth/articles/0201-jadatalf.html
which I copied from The
the introduction of which is given below: - CY – 2015)
You have probably met and known many different people in your life. Most of them may
simply be acquaintances, while others you might consider friends. Of these, there may be
only a few that you would consider close friends. Most likely, there is one person who is
as close to you as a brother or sister. He or she could be, as the Bible says, “a friend that
sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), someone in whom you can confide and trust,
and with whom you can share your hopes and dreams. A friend who is there not only
through the good times, but also the bad—through thick and thin—someone who will
not desert you when the going gets tough. A true friendship that stands the test of trials
and time is rare. Friends may come and go, but to have a lifelong, close, personal
friendship is truly a great blessing. The story of Jonathan and David is the story of one
such friendship. As you read about this friendship, you will find that they shared
much in common. There were also things that could have easily destroyed their bond,
but instead, they made it stronger.
Ø It is the joy of the sublimest admiration. Whatever the mind admires it
enjoys, and enjoys in proportion to its admiration, whether it be a
landscape or a painting. Moral admiration is enjoyment of the
highest kind, and this in proportion to the grandness of the character.
Admiration of DIVINE EXCELLENCE is the sublimest joy.
“I will joy in God.” (Like He was to Abraham, God is to me my
SHIELD AND EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD” – Genesis 15:1 –
CY – 2015) To joy in God is to:
o bask in sunshine,
o to luxuriate in abundance,
o to revel in the immensity of moral beauty, and,
o to dwell with God.
GREATEST MATERIAL DESTITUTION IS POSSIBLE TO A GOOD
MAN “Although” every material blessing is gone, “I will rejoice.” Good
men have always been enabled to do so. They have been happy:
o in poverty,
o exultant in prisons, and
o even triumphant in the martyr’s flames.
Having God with them, they have had the reality without the forms, they
have had the crystal fountain rather than the shallow and polluted streams.
Like Paul, they have “gloried in tribulation,” (Romans 5:3) All things have
been theirs. In material destitution they felt:
Ø In God they had strength. “The Lord God is my Strength.” “As thy
days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25)
Ø In God they had swiftness. “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet.”
The reference is here, perhaps, to the swiftness with which God
would enable him to flee from the dangers which were overtaking
his country. It is, however, a universal truth that God gives to a
good man a holy readiness in duty. Duty to him is not a clog or a
burden, but a delight.
Ø In God they had elevation. “He will make me to walk upon mine high
places.” “They that wait upon God shall renew their strength; they
shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk, and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31) - up upon the
mountains, far too high for any enemies to scale. “God, willing more
abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His
counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in
which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong
consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon
the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18).
God our Strength. (v. 19)
“The Lord God is my Strength.”
SIN. Men are drawn into sin in the hope of securing some personal
gratification; they yearn after some unattained good, some unrealized
satisfaction, and they yield to the enticements of evil in the hope of
securing that for which they are thus craving. But the man whose hope is in
God, and to whom He is his “exceeding joy,” has parted with these earthly
yearnings; in proportion as the higher and the eternal has gained an
influence over him, this attachment to the lower and the fleeting has been
rooted out. With hearts uncentered from the true God, the Chaldeans craved
worldly dominion, and in seeking this “rejoiced to devour the poor
secretly” (v. 14), whereas Habakkuk with God as his Portion was as
unaffected by the vanities of earth as dwellers inland are by the noise of the
distant sea. So the good, rejoicing in God, are unallured by the baits of
temptation, and are rendered strong to war against evil.
ADVERSE SCENES OF LIFE. Man, seeking his satisfaction in earthly
things, must be feeble indeed when these fail him, since, with thoughts and
affections centered in these, as they depart they leave him without comfort
and in a state of orphanage. But he who has sought and found his
satisfaction in God has remaining with him, when things seen and temporal
have taken their flight, the unseen and the eternal to cheer and gladden his
soul. (II Corinthians 4:17-18) Hence he is strong, and in the light of the
Divine teaching and the Divine love can calmly look at his sorrows until,
interpreted thus, they become to him light afflictions which are but for a
moment, and which work for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight
service is ever attended with difficulties and discouragements, and it is only
as we lift up our eyes to the everlasting hills, rejoicing in God and
becoming strengthened by Him, that we can grapple with these and
overcome them. It was this prophet’s strong faith and delight in his God
that enabled him to prove himself so true a witness in the corrupt age in
which his lot was cast. It has ever been the case that the men who have
been the most effective workers for God have been the men to whom His
living Presence has been an intense reality.
HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEIR TIME OF SERVICE SHALL CLOSE.
Whether this prophet lived to see the devastation of his country which he
predicted, we cannot tell, the accounts of his life being so meager and for
the most part apocryphal. We know, however, that, from the state of
mental doubt and distress in which he was when he commenced his
prophecy (ch. 1:2), he fought his way to unswerving trust in
God; for his brief prophecy, opening with the expression of his ardent
yearning for more light in reference to the mystery of God’s ways, closes
with notes of triumphant confidence and hope. Often, doubtless, as his faith
became strengthened, did he feel himself in life to be so raised and elevated
through his hope and joy in God, as to be like the hind bounding joyously
to the high places: and raised above the tumults of earth, though not in
heaven, yet in “heavenly places” he communed with his God. (Ephesians
2:6) Even so we should believe that, as his life terminated, he calmly departed in
peace, having seen God’s salvation. And all faithful servants of Heaven shall
find that when heart and flesh fail, God will be the Strength of their hearts and
their Portion forever. Happy, then, in life and in death such as can say from
their inmost souls, “The Lord is my Strength”
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