PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
The title of this chapter is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, composed after the manner of a psalm of David, and directed to the chief singer, ( Habakkuk 3:1,19). The occasion of it is expressed, ( Habakkuk 3:2) in which the prophet declares his concern for the work of the Lord, and the promotion of the kingdom and interest of Christ; and observes the various steps that were, or would be, taken for the advancement of it; for which he prays, and suggests that these would be after the manner of the Lord’s dealing with the people of Israel, and settling them in the land of Canaan, ( Habakkuk 3:3-15) and there being several things awful in this account, both with respect to the judgments of God on his enemies, and the conflicts and trials of his own people, it greatly affected the mind of the prophet, ( Habakkuk 3:16) and yet, in the view of the worst, he expresses his strong faith in the Lord, as to better times and things, that would most assuredly come, ( Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Ver. 1 . A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth .] Of the name, character, and office of the prophet, (see Gill on “ Habakkuk 1:1”). This chapter is entitled a “prayer” of his, a supplicatory one, put up in an humble and earnest manner, and in the exercise of faith, and under the influence of a spirit of prophecy. He before had a vision of the coming of Christ, and of what enemies would rise up, and obstruct his kingdom and interest in the world; and here lie prays that these obstructions might be removed, and that the kingdom of Christ, in its full extent and glory, might take place in the world; and is a prayer of faith, as he prayed it might be, he believed it would be; and left this prayer behind him, for the use and instruction of the church in all ages, until the whole should be accomplished. It seems to be composed after the manner of the psalms of David, to make it the more pleasant and agreeable; and that it might be the more regarded, and be more fitted for the public use and service of the sanctuary: this appears from the style of it, which is poetical, lofty, and sublime; from the frequent use of the word “Selah”, peculiar to the psalms of David, ( Habakkuk 3:3,9,13) and from the direction of it to the chief singer on the stringed instruments, ( Habakkuk 3:19) and from the phrase “upon”, or “according to Shigionoth” here, which the Septuagint version renders “with a song”; and so the Arabic version, “after [the manner] of a song”; for this word seems to be the plural of Shiggaion, the title of the seventh psalm ( Psalm 7:1); which was either the name, title, or first word of some song or songs, according to which this was to be sung; or the name of the tune with which it was to be sung; or of the instrument on which was to be sung: it very probably designs, and may called, an “erratic” or “wandering” song, because of the variableness of its metre, and of its tune. The Vulgate Latin version wrongly interprets it, “for ignorances”; as if this was a prayer of the prophet’s for the pardon sins of error and ignorance committed by himself, or by others, or both; which sense is favoured by the Targum, “a prayer which Habakkuk the prophet prayed, when it was revealed unto him concerning the length (of time) which (God) gave to the wicked; that, if they would return to the law with a perfect heart, they should be forgiven all the sins which they had committed before him as ignorance:” but there does not appear throughout the whole prayer one single petition for the pardon of any sin at all.
Ver. 2. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, [and] was afraid , etc.] Or, “thy hearing” f111 ; which the Lord had caused to be heard from and of himself; the report that had been made to him, and other prophets before him, particularly Isaiah, who says, “who hath believed our report?” ( Isaiah 53:1) where the same phrase is used as here: though it seems here not so much to regard the evangelical part of that report, concerning the coming of Christ, his sufferings and death, in order obtain redemption and salvation for his people; for this would have been, and was, matter of joy, and not of fear and consternation: but the truth is this, the Lord in the preceding speech, being a report he made to the prophet concerning the Messiah, had signified that Christ would have many enemies from the Jews and from the Gentiles, from Rome Pagan and Rome Papal; that the church of Christ would meet with great afflictions and persecutions, and be attended with many conflicts, temptations, and difficulties; that the interest of the Redeemer would be sometimes very low, and the work of the Lord at a stand in the world, yea, seemingly dead, quite lost and gone; this is what caused the fear and distress in the prophet’s mind, and gave him that pain and uneasiness: and hence the following petition, O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years ; which refers not to the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, which was fixed to a term of years, when, and not before, not in the midst of them it would be wrought; but to the great work of the Lord in the times of the Gospel. There is a double reading of these words in the Septuagint version of them, and both very different from the Hebrew text. The one is, “in the midst of two lives thou shalt be known”; the life that now is, and that which is to come. The other, by a change of the accent, is, “in the midst of two animals thou shall be known”; so the Arabic version. Theodoret makes mention of both, and inclines to the former; “some (he says) by two animals understand angels and men; some the incorporeal powers near the divine Glory, the cherubim and seraphim; others the Jews and Babylonians; but to me it seems that the prophet does not say animals, but lives, the present and future, in the midst of which he was a just Judge:” but the latter reading is followed by many of the ancients, whose different senses are given by Jerom on the place; some interpreting them of the Son and Spirit, by whom the Father is made known; others of the two cherubim in Exodus, and of the two seraphim in Isaiah; and there were some who understood them of the two Testaments, the Old and New, in the midst of which the Lord may be known; and others of Christ’s being crucified between two thieves, by which be might be known: but, besides these different sentiments, many of the ancients concluded from hence that Christ lay in the manger between two animals, the ox and the ass, and to which they refer in their ancient hymns f112 ; but though this is a wrong version of the text, and a wrong sense which is put upon it, together with ( Isaiah 1:3); yet, as Burkius observes, there is in this mistake a certain and ancient truth, that the text of Habakkuk belongs to the work of God in Christ, and especially to the nativity of our Lord Jesus; and so some later writers apply this to the wonderful work of the incarnation of Christ, that new, unheard of, and amazing thing the Lord would work in the earth; the promise of which, being delayed, might seem to be dead; and therefore it is entreated it might be revived, and the performance of it hastened; and others to the work of redemption by Christ, which the Father gave him to do, and he promised to come and perform; but, being deferred, the Old Testament saints were impatient of it. Cocceius and Van Till restrain it to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, his coming being prophesied of before; and render the words, “O Lord, thy work is his life f113 , in the midst of the years”; the resurrection of Christ from the dead, or the quickening of him, is prophesied of in many places as a work that would be done, and in which the hope and expectation of the saints were placed; this being a work of great importance both to Christ, his exaltation and glory, and to his people; their quickening together with him; their regeneration, or passing from death to life; their justification of life, and resurrection from the dead, depending upon it; and this is the Lord’s work, and owing to the exceeding greatness of his power, and is frequently ascribed to God the Father, who raised Christ from the dead, and gave him glory: and this was “in the midst of the years”, or between the years of the Old and of the New Testament; the former was the year of God’s longsuffering and forbearance, the time when the Jewish church, like children, were under governors and tutors, until the time appointed of the Father; the latter is the acceptable year of the Lord, and the year of the redeemed; and between these two years, at the end of the one, and the beginning of the other, the Messiah came, was cut off or died, and was quickened and raised again: but I should choose rather to understand this more generally of the work of the Lord in the Christian churches throughout the whole Gospel dispensation, or at least in some certain periods of it. The church itself is the work of the hands of the Lord, ( Isaiah 45:11) which sometimes has seemed to have been in a very dead and lifeless state and condition, as in the dark times of Popery; and though there was a reviving of it upon the Reformation, yet there has been a decline since; and the Sardian church state, in which we now are, is described as having a “name”, that it “lives”, and yet is “dead”; and the interest of religion, and the church of Christ, will be lower still when the witnesses are slain, and their dead bodies lie unburied, before the Spirit of the Lord enters into them, and revives them: now the prophet having in view these various intervals, and especially the last, prays for a reviving of the interest and church of Christ, and the work of the Lord in it; and which will be done when Christ will come in a spiritual manner, and destroy antichrist; when the Spirit will be poured down plentifully from on high; when the Gospel will be purely and powerfully preached all over the world; when the ordinances of it will be administered as at the beginning; when multitudes of churches will be raised and formed, the Jews will be converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in: this will be a reviving time indeed! and there never will be a thorough one till this time comes; and this will be in “the midst of the years”; between the years of the reign of antichrist, the 1260 days or years of it, which will now expire, and the thousand years of Christ’s personal reign on earth; between these two will be this reviving time or spiritual reign of Christ f114 . The words may to good purpose be applied to the work of grace in the hearts of true believers in Christ, which is the Lord’s work, and his only; not men, not ministers, not angels, but Jehovah only is the author and finisher of it. This sometimes seems as it were to be dead, when the graces of the Spirit are not in exercise; when saints are in dead and lifeless frames of soul; when they are backward to spiritual and religious exercises; when the world, and the things of it, have got power over them, and they are unconcerned for the things of Christ, the honour of his name, and the good of their own souls; when they are under the power of some sin, and are carried captive by it, as was the case of David, Peter, and others: now this work is revived, when the graces of the Spirit are called forth again into lively exercise; when the affections go out strongly after divine objects and things; when the thoughts of the mind, and the meditations of the heart, are on spiritual subjects; when the talk and conversation turns chiefly on things of a religious and heavenly nature; when there is a forwardness to spiritual exercises, a stirring up of themselves and others to them, and a continuance in them; when there is a visible growing in grace, and a fruitfulness in every good work: this is to be prayed for, and is from the Lord; and is owing to his setting his hand a second time to the work; to his being as the dew to his people; to Christ the sun of righteousness arising on them, with healing in his wings; and to the south wind of the Spirit blowing upon them, and causing their spices to flow out; and this is desirable in the midst of their years, before the years come on in which they have no pleasure, or before they go hence, and be no more: in the midst of the years make known ; which Cocceius and Van Till restrain to the notification of Christ’s resurrection from the dead by the ministry of the Gospel, for the benefit of the Lord’s people, both Jews and Gentiles; as being a matter of great consequence to them, and for the confirmation of the Christian religion, as it undoubtedly was: but it seems better to understand it in a more general sense, that God would make known more of himself, as the covenant God and Father of his people, of his mind and will, of his love, grace, and mercy in Christ; that he would make known more of Christ, of his person, offices, and grace; that he would make known more clearly the work of his Spirit and grace upon their hearts, and display his power, and the efficacy of his grace, in reviving it, and carrying it on; that he would make known more largely his covenant and promises, his truth and faithfulness in the performance of them; that he would grant a larger measure of knowledge of all divine things of the Gospel, and the truths of it; such as is promised, and is expected will be in the latter day, when the earth shall be everywhere filled with the knowledge of the Lord, ( Habakkuk 2:14): in wrath remember mercy ; the above interpreters refer this to the time of God’s wrath and vengeance upon the Jewish nation for their rejection of the Messiah; and which the prophet does not pray might be averted, but that mercy might be remembered to his own people among them, as was; who had the Gospel first preached to them, and were called by grace and saved; and who had an opportunity given them of escaping from Jerusalem, before the destruction of that city: but it may be more agreeable to interpret this of the state of the churches of Christ and true believers; who, when under affliction and distress, or in temptation and desertion, are ready to conclude that God is dealing with them in wrath; and whom the prophet personates, and by him they are taught to pray, that at such seasons God would remember his covenant, his promises, his lovingkindness and tender mercies, the favour he bears to his own people, and smile on them again, and comfort their souls.
Ver. 3. God came from Teman , etc.] Or, “may God come from Teman” f115 ; since it is part of the prayer of Habakkuk: or, as “from Teman” f116 ; as he of old came from thence, a city in the land of Edom, ( Jeremiah 49:7 Amos 1:12) it was five miles from Petra, in Idumea, where was Mount Seir, from whence the Lord arose, and shone forth from Mount Paran, at the giving of the law, ( Deuteronomy 33:2) to which the allusion is here.
So the Targum, “at the giving of the law to his people, God was revealed from the south;” for so Teman signifies. The prophet, to encourage his own faith, and the faith of others, takes notice, in this and the following verses, of the instances of the grace, goodness, and power of God to his people Israel, in appearing to them at Mount Sinai, going before them in the wilderness, destroying their enemies, casting them out before them, and introducing them into the land of Canaan, and settling them there; suggesting, that he that had done these great and wonderful things would support and maintain, carry on and promote, his own kingdom and interest in the world; in order to which the prophet prays to God the Father for the coming of his Son, either in the flesh, that the incarnate God would appear in the world, and set up his kingdom in it; or, in prayer, he prophesies of it, and expresses his faith in it: “God cometh from the south”; or, “he shall come” f117 , as it may be rendered: he knew, from the prophecy of Micah, that he that was to be ruler in Israel was to come from Bethlehem, ( Micah 5:2) which lay to the south of Jerusalem; and from hence he expected him, and believed he would come, and prayed for it as being most desirable and welcome: or else this respects the coming of the Messiah, in the ministration of the word to Jews and Gentiles, after his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven, and the pouring forth of his Spirit on the day of Pentecost; that as the Lord came from the places here mentioned, when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, so he would send forth his Gospel out of Zion and Jerusalem, and go forth himself along with it, riding in his glory, and in his majesty, conquering and to conquer; causing his ministers to triumph in him, and by them subdue multitudes of souls to him, both in Judea, and in the Gentile world, whereby his kingdom might appear in it: and the Holy One from Mount Paran ; or, “even the Holy One” f118 ; that came or shined forth “from Mount Paran” formerly; for it was Christ then that appeared on Mount Sinai, and gave to Moses the lively oracles of God; (see Psalm 68:17,18 Acts 7:38) he, as he is truly God, God manifest in the flesh, “Immanuel”, God with us; so he is the holy One of God, infinitely and essentially holy, as a divine Person; and holy, and harmless, and without sin in his human nature and life; and is the sanctifier and sanctification of his people. Mount Paran was situated to the south of the land of Canaan, as well as Teman, which so signifies, as before observed. It is called by Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and others, Strobilus, from its likeness to a pineapple. It had its name from the city Paran, which lay between Egypt and Arabia f119 ; (see 1 Kings 11:18) which Jerom says was three days’ journey from Aila to the east; mention is made of Ail, or Elparan in ( Genesis 14:6) near to which was the wilderness of Paran, frequently spoken of in Scripture, ( Genesis 21:21 Numbers 10:12 Numbers 13:3,26 1 Samuel 25:1) the same which Josephus f121 calls the valley or plain of Pharan, where Simon of Gerasa made caves and dens, and hid the treasure he plundered from the people: according to Adrichomius f122 , it was a most dreadful barren desert, where nothing grew, or was to be had, through which the children of Israel journeyed; and was sometimes taken for the first part of the desert of Arabia, near Mount Sinai, and sometimes for the last part of it, towards the land of promise; sometimes it was called the desert of Sin, and sometimes the desert of Sinai, from that mountain; but its most general name was that of Paran, and contained eleven days’ journey from Mount Sinai to Kadeshbarnea. Mount Paran (he says f123 ) is thick and shady, near to Mount Sinai, and even “contiguous”, as it should seem to be from ( Deuteronomy 33:2) to which the reference is here. So Hillerus interprets it, “full of boughs”, or “branches”; or else he would have it to signify “the corner of Aran”, the son of Dishan, a son of Seir the Horite, who inhabited this country; (see Genesis 36:20,28) and both Teman and Paran being to the south, may point to the place of the Redeemer, by whom the great work was to be done, referred unto. Jerom says he heard a Hebrew man discourse on this passage, thus, “that Bethlehem lies to the south, where the Lord and Saviour was born: and that he it is of whom it is here said, “the Lord shall come from the south”; that is, shall be born in Bethlehem, and thence arise; and because he who is born in Bethlehem formerly gave the law on Mount Sinai, he is “the Holy One” that came from “Mount Paran”; seeing Paran is a place near to Mount Sinai; and the word “Selah” signifies “always”; and the sense is, he who is born in Bethlehem, and who on Mount Sinai, that is, on Mount Paran, gave the law, always is the author and giver of all blessings, past, present, and to come.”
The word Selah stands here in the middle of the verse. It is interpreted, by several of the Jewish writers, “for ever”, as by the aforementioned Hebrew; and by others as an affirmation, and render it, “verily, truly”, as answering to “Amen”. Some understand it as a pause or full stop, denoting attention to something said that is remarkable; and others take it to be a note, directing the singer to the elevation of his voice, where it stands; and so it is no other than a musical note; hence the Septuagint render it diaqalma . A very learned man has wrote a dissertation upon it, showing that it is one of the names of God; and used differently, as the sense requires, either in the vocative case, as “Selah”, that is, O God; or in the other cases, of God, to God, etc.: his glory covered the heavens ; that is, the glory of God, the Holy One, when he came, or should come: this was true of him when he descended on Mount Sinai, and his glory abode upon it; and the sight of his glory was like devouring fire; and the elders saw the God of Israel, under whose feet was as a paved work of sapphire, and as the body of heaven in its clearness; yea, so great as to make the light and glory of the celestial bodies useless, even to cover and hide the shining of them; (see Exodus 24:10,16,17) and may respect the glorious appearances at the birth of Christ, when the heavenly host descended, and sung Glory to God in the highest, and when the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds, ( Luke 2:9-14) and at his baptism, when the heavens were opened, the Father’s voice was heard, and the Spirit descended on Christ, as a dove; and at his transfiguration, when his face shone as the sun; and Moses and Elias appeared in glorious forms, and a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice was heard from the excellent Glory, ( Matthew 3:16,17 17:2-5 2 Peter 1:19) or rather it may be, this may respect Christ as the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the glory of God in the face of Christ, as set forth in the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, when carried throughout the world by his apostles; whereby his glory was so spread in it, that the heavens were covered with it, and declared it; yea, it was set above the heavens, and the name of the Lord became excellent in all the earth, as follows; (see Psalm 19:1-4 8:1): and the earth was full of his praise ; with the words of his praise, as the Targum; so the fame of the mighty things done by the Lord in Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, for his people, reached the nations of the world, and especially those of the land of Canaan, and struck them with awe and dread, ( Joshua 2:9,10) and the fame of Christ, his miracles and doctrines, went through the land of Israel, and all Syria; and multitudes glorified God, and praised him for what was done by him, ( Matthew 4:23,24 15:31) and more especially the earth was filled with his glory and praise when his Gospel was carried into all the parts of it by his apostles; which occasioned universal joy to all sensible sinners, and filled their hearts and mouths with praise to God for such a Saviour, and for such blessings of grace and good things that came by him: or, “the earth was full of his light” f126 ; of the light of his Gospel, and of the knowledge of himself by it.
Ver. 4 . And [his] brightness was as the light , etc.] Of fire, of devouring fire on the top of the mount, to which the sight of his glory was like, ( Exodus 24:16) to which Kimchi refers it. Aben Ezra thinks the pillar of fire is intended, in which the Lord went before his people in the wilderness, ( Exodus 13:21,22) or as the light and splendour of Bereshith, as the Targum, of that primogenital light which was produced on the first day of the creation; or as the light of the seven days of the creation, as Jarchi; (see Isaiah 30:26) or rather as the light of the sun shining in its full strength, Christ being the light of the world, and the sun of righteousness; and so may describe him as the brightness of his Father’s glory; or his glory, as the only begotten of the Father, seen by his own disciples in the days of his flesh, shining through his works and miracles; or as exhibited in the light of his glorious Gospel, which is the great light that shined on men; and in and by which they that sat in darkness saw light, and who were darkness itself were made light in the Lord: what a glory, lustre, brightness, and light, did the Gospel spread in the world at the first publication of it! he had horns coming out of his hand ; which the Jewish interpreters understand of Moses having horns or beams of light and glory from the hand and power of God, when he conversed with him on the mount, and the skin of his face shone, where the same word is used as here, ( Exodus 34:29,35) though some of them interpret it of the two tables of the law, which came from the hand of the Lord, edged with glory and brightness, and looked like fire; hence called a “fiery law”, ( Deuteronomy 33:2). The words may be rendered, as in the margin, “he had beams” coming “out of his side” f127 ; and be understood of Christ, who has beams and rays of glory on all sides of him, all around him; he is all glory f128 ; he is crowned with glory and honour, and highly exalted at his Father’s right hand, above all principalities and powers: and “horns” being an emblem of power and might, authority and dominion, the phrase may denote that power and authority in heaven and in earth are given to him as Mediator, and exercised by him. Van Till observes, that the word “horn” is a military term, and is used for the wings of armies, the right and left; and as Christ is here described as a General of an army, marching forth in a warlike manner; these may denote the armies or companies under him, at his hand, and under his command, accoutred, and ready to obey his orders; and particularly may have respect to the division made among the apostles, whom he sent forth to subdue men to him; committing the Gospel of the circumcision to Peter, and of the uncircumcision to Paul, ( Galatians 2:7,8) whose ministrations were made successful to the pulling down of the strong holds of sin and Satan, and reducing many to the obedience of Christ: and there [was] the hiding of his power ; that is, in his hand; there his power, which before was hidden, was made manifest; and yet so little displayed, in comparison of what it is in itself, that it may be rather said to be hid than revealed; or there, in his hand, lies his power, with which he hides and covers his people in the day of battle; especially his ministering servants, whom he holds in his right hand, and preserves them amidst a thousand dangers and difficulties, and keeps them for further usefulness; (see Acts 18:10 Revelation 2:1). The Targum is, “sparks went out from the chariot of his glory; there he revealed his majesty, which was hid from the children of men, with sublime power.”
Aben Ezra thinks the ark is meant by “the hiding of his power”, called “the ark [of his] strength”, ( <19D208> Psalm 132:8).
Ver. 5. Before him went the pestilence , etc.] Either in the land of Egypt, when he marched through that, and slew all their firstborn, ( Psalm 78:50,51) or rather which he sent before him, and Israel his people among the nations of the land of Canaan, with other diseases and judgments, and destroyed them to make way for his people, which may be here alluded to, ( Exodus 23:27,28) and may point at the judgments of God, and those pestilential diseases which seized upon the persecutors of the Christians, both among the Jews, as Herod, ( Acts 12:23) and among the Gentiles, as many of the Roman emperors, who died violent and grievous deaths; and particularly it may regard the pestilence, famine, and other sore judgments preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of it, for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah: and burning coals went forth at his feet ; which some understand of hailstones mingled with fire, to which the allusion may be, being one of the plagues of Egypt, ( Exodus 9:23,24). Some interpret it of hot diseases, burning fevers, so Kimchi; which are at the command of God, and sent forth by him when he pleases, to do his will. The ancient fathers expound all this of the destruction of death, and the devil, and his principalities, by Christ upon the cross; and the Targum is, “from before him was sent forth the angel of death, and his word went forth in a flame of fire;” but this seems to have respect to the burning of the city and temple of Jerusalem, which was done by the Romans as instruments, but according to the direction, order, and will of Christ, ( Matthew 22:7) see ( Psalm 18:12,13).
Ver. 6. He stood and measured the earth , etc.] This alludes to the ark of the Lord, the symbol of his presence, standing and abiding at Gilgal for the space of fourteen years, while the land of Canaan was subdued by Joshua; and then measured out by him, and divided by lot, as an inheritance to the children of Israel, according to the direction and appointment of the Lord, ( Joshua 13:1-33) etc.: here it may have respect to the mission of the apostles into the various parts of the world, and the distribution of it among them; some being sent into one part, and some into another, called their particular line and measure, ( 2 Corinthians 10:14-16) some into India, others into Ethiopia; some into Asia, and others into Europe; by which means the Gospel was preached everywhere, and great part of the world became Christians: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations ; with a look of his he made them give way; he drove the Canaanites out of the land, and separated them from one another, and scattered them about, to make room for his people Israel, ( Psalm 78:55): and the everlasting mountains were scattered ; or, “were broken” f129 : the perpetual hills did bow ; the mountains and hills that were from the beginning of the creation, that were settled upon their bases, and never moved, now trembled, shook, and bowed, as Sinai and others did, at the presence of the God of Israel; (see Judges 5:5 Psalm 68:8,16) or rather, figuratively, these may design the kingdoms and states, kings and princes, greater and lesser, belonging to the land of Canaan, which were shaken, moved, and taken by the Israelites, and brought into subjection to them; and in like manner kings and kingdoms, comparable to mountains and hills, through the preaching of the Gospel, and the power of Christ attending it, were brought to yield unto him, at the downfall of Paganism in the Roman empire: this is signified by every mountain and island being moved out of their places, and kings and great men calling to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, ( Revelation 6:14-17): his ways [are] everlasting ; and what he has done in ages past he can do again; his power, his wisdom, and his grace, are unchangeably the same; and all he does in time, every step he takes, is according to his counsels, purposes, and decrees in eternity, which infallibly come to pass; nor can he be hindered and frustrated in the execution of them; as he has begun, he will go on; as he has set up his kingdom in the world, he will support and maintain it; and though there are many obstructions and remoras in the way of it, he will go on, and remove them, until he has thoroughly established it, and brought it to its highest glory, which he has designed; all mountains and hills are nothing before him; he can soon make them a plain; (see Revelation 11:15,17): or, “the ways of the world are his”; the world is under his government, and all things in it subject to his providence; he can rule and overrule all things for his own glory, and the good of his interest, and he will do it; everything is subject to his control, and under his direction; not a step can be taken without his will. This the prophet observes along with the above things, to encourage the faith and expectation of the saints, that the work of the Lord will be revived, and his kingdom and interest promoted and established in the world; though there may, and will, be many difficulties and distresses previous to it.
Ver. 7. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction , etc.] The same with Cush or Ethiopia; hence the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, “the tents of the Ethiopians”; and these are the same with “the curtains of Midian” in the next clause, tents being made of curtains, and the Ethiopians and Midianites the same people; so the daughter of the priest of Midian, whom Moses married, is called an Ethiopian woman, ( Exodus 2:21 Numbers 12:1). This seems to have respect to that panic which seized the neighbouring nations by whom the Israelites passed, as well as the Canaanites, into whose land they were marching, when they heard what wonderful things were done for them in Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, which was predicted by Moses in ( Exodus 15:14,15) and not only fulfilled in the Canaanites, as appears from what Rahab says, ( Joshua 2:9-11) but particularly in the Moabites and Midianites, who sent to each other, and consulted together against Israel; and, by the advice of Balaam, found ways and means to draw them into fornication, and so to idolatry; for which the Israelites having suffered, were stirred up to avenge themselves on them, and slew five of their kings, and a great multitude of their people; and so the words may be rendered, “for iniquity” f131 ; and the word is often used for idolatry; that is, for the sin they drew the Israelites into, they were brought into trembling and great distress, which the prophet saw, perceived, and understood by reading the history of those times; (see Numbers 22:3,4,7 25:6,17,18 31:2-8) though the Jewish commentators, and others, generally refer this to the case of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia, who carried Israel into captivity, from whence they were delivered by Othniel, who prevailed against Cushan, and into whose hands he fell; and so then he and his people were seen in affliction, ( Judges 3:7-10) but Cushan here is not the name of a man, but of a country: and whereas it follows, the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble ; this is thought to refer to the times of Gideon, when the Midianites were overcome by him with three hundred men, and in their fright fell upon and destroyed each other; signified by a barley cake tumbling into the host of Midian, and overturning a tent, as represented in a dream to one of Gideon’s men, ( Judges 7:13,21,22) but the former reference seems best; and it should be observed, that Cush or Ethiopia, and Midian, were parts of Arabia; for not only the Arabians are said to be near the Ethiopians, or at the hand of the Cushites, ( 2 Chronicles 21:16) but Sinai, a part of Horeb, where Moses fed the flock of his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, is expressly said to be in Arabia; compare ( Exodus 3:1 Galatians 4:25) and with those Arabians called Scenitae, from their dwelling in tents, agree the characters in the text: now the people inhabiting those places, the prophet foresaw by a spirit of prophecy “under vanity” f132 , as it may be rendered; that is, “subject” to it, as the whole Gentile world was, ( Romans 8:20) or under the power of idolatry; but it was foretold that these should be converted in Gospel times, ( Psalm 68:31 87:4) which was brought about, partly by the Apostles Matthew and Matthias, said to be sent into Ethiopia; and partly by the Ethiopian eunuch, converted and baptized by Philip, who doubtless was the means of spreading the Gospel in his own country, when returned to it, ( Acts 8:27) and chiefly by the Apostle Paul, who went into Arabia, and preached there, quickly after his conversion; and here were churches in the first times of Christianity; (see Gill on “ Galatians 1:17”) and at this time Cushan or Ethiopia was in affliction; and the Midianites trembled, such of them to whom the word came in power, and they were made sensible of their danger and misery, as the apostle did, the instrument of their conversion, ( Acts 9:6) once more, as an Ethiopian is an emblem of a man in a state of nature, and describes very aptly wicked and profligate persons, apostates from religion, and such as are persecutors of good men, ( Jeremiah 13:23 Amos 9:7) it may design such here; and be expressive of their distress and trouble, the fear and dread they would be seized with on seeing Christianity prevail, and Paganism falling in the Roman empire; which distress and trembling are in a very lively manner set forth in ( Revelation 6:15-17).
Ver. 8. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? [was] thine anger against the rivers ? etc.] Referring, as is commonly thought, either to the rivers in Egypt turned into blood, which was one of the plagues of that land, ( Exodus 7:20) when the resentment of the Lord was not so much against them as against the Egyptians; and as a punishment of them for drowning the infants of the Israelites in them, and in order to obtain the dismissal of his people from that land: or else to the river Jordan, called “rivers”, because of the largeness of it, and the abundance of water in it; against which the Lord was not angry, when he divided the waters of it, which was done only to make a passage through it for his people into the land of Canaan, ( Joshua 3:16,17): [was] thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses [and] thy chariots of salvation ? the Red sea, when a strong east wind was sent, and divided the waters of it, which was no mark of displeasure against that; but for the benefit of the people of Israel, that they might pass through it as on dry land; and for the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts, who, entering into it with his horses and chariots, were drowned; the Lord coming forth against him, riding on his horses and chariots, the pillar of fire and cloud, by which he defended Israel, and through which he looked, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, and wrought salvation for his people; (see Exodus 14:19-28) with which compare ( <19B403> Psalm 114:3).
The clouds are the chariots of the Lord, ( <19A403> Psalm 104:3) so angels, who are sometimes signified by horses and chariots, ( Psalm 18:10 68:17 2 Kings 2:11 6:17) ( Zechariah 1:8 6:1-5) and here they may design the angels of Michael, or Christ, ( Revelation 12:7,8) the Christian emperors, Constantine and Theodosius, whom the Lord raised up, and made use of as instruments to demolish Paganism, establish Christianity, and deliver and save his people from their persecutors, who came in like a flood upon them; and who, for their number and force, were comparable to rivers, yea, to the sea; and upon whom the Lord showed some manifest tokens of his wrath and displeasure; so people, tongues, and nations, are compared to many waters, ( Revelation 17:15) and monarchs and their armies, ( Isaiah 8:7,8) and the Targum here interprets the rivers of kings and their armies: and it may be observed that some parts of the Roman empire are signified by the sea, and rivers and fountains of waters, on which the blowing of the second and third trumpets brought desolation; as the antichristian states are described by the same, on which the second and third vials of God’s wrath will be poured, when he will indeed be displeased and angry with the rivers and the sea, figuratively understood, ( Revelation 8:8,10 16:3,4).
Ver. 9 . Thy bow was made quite naked , etc.] It was took out of its case, and arrows out of their quiver, and these made use of against the enemies of his people: this is put for all weapons of war; the sword was unsheathed, and all military weapons employed, and the power of the Lord was exerted; or, as the Targum, “the Lord was revealed in his power;” fighting the battles of his people, as in the times of Joshua: [according] to the oaths of the tribes, [even thy] word. Selah . That is, to fulfil his word of promise, to which he had annexed his oaths, he at several times swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to the fathers of the Israelites, that he would put them in possession of the land of Canaan; and which being worthy of notice, and to be remarked, the word “Selah” is added. So the Targum, “in revealing thou art revealed in thy power, because of thy covenant which thy word made with the tribes for ever.”
The “bow” here is an emblem of the Gospel, with which Christ the Captain of our salvation, the antitype of Joshua, went forth, more especially in the first ages of Christianity, conquering and to conquer, ( Revelation 6:2).
The arrows of this bow are the doctrines of the Gospel, which are sharp in the heart of Christ’s enemies, his elect; who are so in a state of nature, whereby they are brought into subjection to him, ( Psalm 45:5) and hereby the promises of God confirmed by his oaths are accomplished, that the spiritual seed of Christ shall endure for ever; or he shall never want a seed to serve him, ( Psalm 89:35,36): Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers ; which is generally supposed to allude to the smiting of the rock, from whence waters gushed out, and ran in dry places like a river; for which channels or canals were made in the earth, in which they flowed and followed the Israelites wherever they went, and supplied man and beast with water. So the Targum, “for thou didst break strong rocks, rivers came forth overflowing the earth;” (see <19A541> Psalm 105:41 1 Corinthians 10:4) but this seems to be going back in the history; rather therefore this refers to the rivers formed in the land of Canaan, whereby it became fertile; hence it is called a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills, ( Deuteronomy 8:7). This may respect, in futurity, either the provisions of grace, and the large abundance of the blessings of it, made for the supply and satisfaction of the children of God in times of distress and difficulty, ( Isaiah 41:17,18) or that help and assistance against, protection and deliverance from, the flood of persecution, cast out after the church by Satan, in order to overwhelm her, by the earth opening its mouth, and swallowing up the flood, ( Revelation 12:15,16).
Ver. 10. The mountains saw thee, [and] they trembled , etc.] At the power and presence of God, as Sinai of old; (see Gill on “ Habakkuk 3:6”) by which are signified mighty people and nations, kings and great men, struck with terror at the amazing providence of God in the world, on the behalf of his own people, and against their enemies; (see Revelation 6:14-17): the overflowing of the water passed by ; which is usually referred to the overflowing of the river Jordan at the time of the passage of the Israelites through it, when the waters above stood and rose up as a heap, and those below failed, and were cut off, and passed away into the salt sea, ( Joshua 3:15,16) but perhaps it may refer to the times of David, when he conquered all his enemies round about, who were like an overflowing flood; but now passed away, particularly the Philistines, who had always been very troublesome to Israel, but now were overcome by David at Baalperazim; where the Lord, on the contrary, broke forth upon his enemies as the breach of waters, from whence the place had its name, ( Samuel 5:20) and as this respects time that was then to come, when this prayer was made, it may regard the flood of persecution, which ceased in Constantine’s time, when Paganism was abolished, and Christianity established; concerning which it might be said, “the winter is past, the rain is over and gone”, ( Song of Solomon 2:11) and the word here used signifies a large shower of rain, causing an inundation, a storm, a tempest; and so fitly expresses the violence of persecution, now at an end: the deep uttered his voice, [and] lifted up hands on high ; language very poetical, exceeding striking, very beautiful and elegant. It is generally understood of the deep waters of the Red sea, or of Jordan, or both, when divided for the Israelites to pass through; at which time, when they rose up, they made a great noise, and stood on a heap; and so the phrases are expressive of the roaring and raging of them as they rose up, which was as if they had spoken; and of the position in which they were, standing up on high, as if they had hands, and these lifted up: but rather they figuratively refer to the mighty nations conquered by David, who asked favour and mercy of him, and signified their subjection to him; and, having respect to times to come, may denote the subjection of the multitude of people and nations in the Roman empire to Christ, when heathenism was abolished in it; and the joy and rejoicing of Christians upon it, and the ceasing of persecution in it, even high and low, rich and poor, all ranks and degrees of men; height and depth, men in high or low circumstances, signified by the depth uttering his voice, and the height lifting up its hands, in token of praise and thankfulness; for so the latter clause may be rendered, “the height lifted up his hands” f134 ; and answers to the deep in the preceding clause; agreeable to this sense is Jarchi’s note, ““the deep uttered his voice”: the inhabitants of the earth praised him; “the height lifted up his hands”; the host of heaven confessed unto him;” every creature in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, ascribed blessing, honour, glory, and power, to the Lord on this occasion, ( Revelation 5:13). The Targum is, “the powers on high stood wondering;” amazed at what was done, and lifted up their hands with astonishment.
Ver. 11 . The sun [and] moon stood still in their habitation , etc.] This is generally thought to refer to the miracle in the times of Joshua, ( Joshua 10:12,13) but a different word is there used, especially of the standing still of the sun; nor are the sun and moon said there to stand in their habitation; nor will the series of the history of times past, or the thread of prophecy of things to come, admit of this reference; nor do the words express the clear shining of the sun and moon at their standing still, but the reverse; for the phrase, “in their habitation”, may be rendered, “within their tent” f135 , or pavilion; (see Gill on “ Psalm 19:4”); which is no other than their being encompassed and covered with clouds; which is just such a pavilion as God is said to be in, when “darkness was his secret place; his pavilion round about him dark waters and thick clouds of the skies”, ( Psalm 18:11) and so is expressive of the dark times of antichrist, which followed, when the Pagan persecutions were over, Christianity supported by secular powers, and the Christian churches raised to the height of riches and honour; and then the man of sin showed himself, the pope of Rome took upon him the title of universal bishop, and introduced false doctrines, strange worship, and bad discipline, into the church, and obscured the glorious light of it; and Mahomet also arose with his locusts, the Saracens, out of the bottomless pit opened, from whence came a smoke which darkened the sun and air, ( Revelation 9:1,2): at the light of thine arrows they went, [and] at the shining of thy glittering spear ; the commonly received sense of the words is, either at the light and shining of the sun and moon, when they stood still in Joshua’s time; the arrows of the Almighty, and the lightning of his spear, that is, hailstones mingled with fire, and thunder, and lightning, which the heathens call Jupiter’s arrows; these steered their course, being directed against the enemies of the Lord’s people, and fought for them, ( Joshua 10:10,11) or at the light of these, which looked very bright and dazzling through the rays of the sun upon them, the Israelites marched against their enemies, and avenged themselves on them: but these bright arrows and glittering spear, and the light and shining of them, seem to design no other than the weapons of the Christian ministry or warfare; the Gospel, and the doctrines of it; the light of which broke forth at the Reformation, the same that is meant by the “morning star”, ( Revelation 2:28) irradiated by which, the ministers of it especially went forth with courage against their antichristian enemies, and prevailed, and spread the Gospel in many countries. It may be rendered as a petition, “let them walk at the light” f136 , etc.; a prayer of faith that it might be, and which is a prophecy that it would be.
Ver. 12 . Thou didst march through the land with indignation , etc.] Not the land of Canaan, fighting against the inhabitants of it, dispossessing them to make room for the Israelites, whatever allusion may be to it; but the antichristian land, the whole Romish jurisdiction, and all the states of it, through which the Lord will march in wrath and fury, when he pours out the vials of it upon them; or this is desired, and prayed for; for it may be rendered, “do thou march through the land” f137 , etc.; foreseeing and believing that he would: thou didst thresh the heathen in anger ; or, “do thou thresh” f138 , etc.; these are the Papists, called heathens and Gentiles in Scripture, because of the heathenish customs and practices they have introduced into the Christian religion, ( Psalm 10:16 Revelation 11:2) these are the nations that will be gathered together like sheaves of grain on a floor to be threshed; and when Zion the church of Christ, and Christian princes, will be called upon to arise, and thresh them; and the Lord by them will do it, namely, separate his own people from them, which are like wheat, and utterly destroy them, as chaff and stubble, ( Micah 4:12,13).
Ver. 13. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of that people, [even] for salvation with thine anointed , etc.] Or, “thy Messiah”; which Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret of Messiah the son of David; and read and give the sense of the words thus, “as thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, by bringing them into the land of Canaan, so do thou go forth for salvation with thy Messiah.”
God of old went forth in his power and providence for the salvation of his people, whom he chose above all people to be his special and peculiar people; making use of Moses and Aaron in bringing them out of Egypt, and leading them through the wilderness, and of Joshua to introduce them, and settle them in the land of Canaan; who were all types of Christ in the salvation of the chosen people. Joshua particularly was a type of Jesus; they agree in their name, which signifies a Saviour the salvation of God, or God the salvation; and in their character, office, and usefulness to the people of God, Jesus is the Lord’s “anointed”; anointed with the Holy Ghost, the oil of gladness, above his fellows, which he received without measure; anointed to the office of Prophet, Priest, and King; and from whom his people receive the unction, and are denominated Christians, or anointed ones: and the “people” of God, for whose salvation he went forth with him, are not all mankind, who are not all saved; nor the people of the Jews only, or all of them; but a peculiar people, out of Jews and Gentiles, loved with a special love; chosen to salvation, secured in the covenant of grace, and given to Christ as his portion and people, and so saved by him, ( Matthew 1:21). The “salvation” of them is a spiritual one, a salvation from all their sins; from the power and dominion, pollution and guilt, the damning power of them, and at last from the very being of them; as well as from Satan, the law, death, hell, and wrath to come: it is perfect and complete, and endures for ever. Jehovah the Father “went forth” with Christ his Son for this salvation, in his purposes and decrees concerning it; in his council and covenant relating to it; in the mission of him into this world to effect it; and by helping and assisting him in it, as man and Mediator. The words may be rendered, “thou wentest forth”; or, “thou goest forth”; thou wilt do so; and mayest thou do so, “to save thy people, to save thy anointed” f139 ; and so respect not the salvation of Israel by Moses or Joshua; nor the spiritual and eternal salvation of God’s elect by the Messiah; but the salvation of the Lord’s people from mystical Babylon, from the oppression and tyranny of antichrist, and from all his false doctrines, superstition, and idolatry, and ruin by them; and particularly the salvation of the two witnesses, the two olive trees, the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord of the whole earth; the singular being put for the plural, “anointed” for “anointed ones”; and so the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint version, and the Arabic version, render it, “thy Christs”, or “thy anointed ones”; now this will be done when the Lord shall go forth in his power and providence, and quicken and raise their dead bodies, when they have lain three days and a half, and shall cause them to ascend to heaven in the sight of their enemies; (see Zechariah 4:14 Revelation 11:3,4,11,12): thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked ; not the princes of the families of the land of Canaan, as some; nor the first born of Pharaoh’s family in Egypt, or him and his host at the Red sea, as, others; nor Goliath of Gath, smitten by David, as Burkius; nor Satan and his principalities and powers by Christ on the cross; but antichrist the man of sin, that wicked and lawless one, who is at the bead of a wicked house or family, the antichristian party; who received a wound at the Reformation; and ere long the kings of the earth will hate the whore, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire; and Christ, will utterly consume and destroy this wicked one with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming, ( Revelation 13:3 17:16 2 Thessalonians 2:8) (see <19B006> Psalm 110:6). Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret this of the head of the army of wicked Gog, the king of Magog, taking it to belong to future time; and so some render all those phrases, “thou wilt go forth, thou wilt wound” f140 , etc.: by discovering the foundation unto the neck ; or “razing the foundation”, as in ( <19D707> Psalm 137:7). There seems to be a double metaphor in the words, expressing the utter ruin and destruction of antichrist and his party; who, being compared to a building, will be demolished, and razed to the very foundation; that will be dug up, and laid bare, and no trace of an edifice to be seen any more; and, being compared to a human body, will be plunged into such distresses and calamities, as to be as it were up to the neck in them, from whence there is no escape and deliverance. Some understand this of the princes of this head, or of his friends, and those of his family that are nearest to him, as the neck is to the head; or of the whole body of the people under him, of which he will be deprived; and so be as a head without a body, and who cannot long survive them. Selah is added as a mark of attention, something of moment and importance being observed.
Ver. 14 . Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages , etc.] Of his warriors, mighty men, princes; so the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions; or of his armies, as Jarchi and Kimchi; which some interpret of Pharaoh and his host, who were destroyed by the steps and methods which they themselves took, going into the sea of themselves, and so were struck through with their own staves: others of the princes and armies of the Canaanites, who destroyed one another with their own weapons of war, as the Midianites did; though we have no instance of it on record: others of Goliath, as Burkius, called before “the head out of the house of the wicked”, with respect to his rise from Gath; here, “the head of his Pagans”, as he renders it, or Gentiles, with respect to his preeminence over the common soldiers, and all the Philistines: others of Sennacherib and his army, as Jarchi; but Kimchi’s sense is much better, who interprets it of Gog and his army; and which, if understood of the Turk, the eastern antichrist, is not amiss; and so, as the western antichrist and his destruction are pointed at in the preceding verse ( Habakkuk 3:13), the ruin of the other is intimated here; whose armies are expressed by a word which sometimes has the signification of villages; because he said, “I will go up to the land of unwalled villages”, ( Ezekiel 38:11) in the land of Judea about Jerusalem, where he will distribute and quarter his soldiers; and where he and they at the head of them in these villages will be cut to pieces with their own weapons; as it is said, “every man’s sword shall be against his brother”, ( Ezekiel 38:21), Cocceius and Van Till render the words, “thou hast designed”, marked out, or expressed by name, “in his tribes, the head of his villages”; and understand them, not of the enemy, but of Christ the anointed One, and his people; the Protestants, or reformed churches, who, being separated from antichrist, are represented as divided into tribes, and as dwelling in villages alone, and in separate states and kingdoms; and suppose that God has designed in his purposes and decrees some particular place, called the head or beginning of these villages, where his great and glorious work in the latter day will first appear; but what and where that place is is not said: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me ; the prophet representing the true Israel, or the whole church of Christ: it is not unusual for mighty armies to be compared to a whirlwind coming forth with great force, suddenly and swiftly; (see Jeremiah 4:13) and particularly it is said of the army of Gog or the Turk, which shall invade Judea, in order to dispossess the Jews of their land, when converted and returned to it; “thou shall ascend and come like a storm, thou shall be like a cloud, to cover the land, thou and all thy bands, and many people with thee”, ( Ezekiel 38:9) who will think to scatter the people of the Jews again among the nations, as they have been: their rejoicing [was] as to devour the poor secretly ; the poor people of the Jews, to strip them of their substance, to carry off their gold and silver, their cattle and their goods; and which they thought they should as easily accomplish as a rich man gets the mastery over a poor man, and ruins him, that has none to help him; and that they should do this in a still, private, secret manner, so as that the Christian princes should have no knowledge of it, and come in to their assistance; and this they rejoiced at in themselves, and pleased themselves with it; (see Ezekiel 38:10-13 <19A810> Psalm 108:10). The above interpreters render this clause as a prayer, “let them tremble for fear”: or be filled with horror, who come “to scatter me, whose rejoicing is as to devour the poor in secret”; which is interpreted of the Papists being terrified by some Christian princes, since the Reformation, from carrying some of their designs into execution; and of the clandestine arts and secret methods the Jesuits particularly use to do injury to the interest of Christ and true religion.
Ver. 15 . Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses , etc.] And as thou didst of old, so do again; as Jehovah walked through the Red sea in a pillar of cloud and fire, which were his horses and chariots, and destroyed the Egyptians; so may he walk through another sea by his instruments, and destroy the enemies of his church and people; (see Gill on “ Habakkuk 3:8”). The “sea” here signifies the world, compared to it for the multitude of its people; the noise, fluctuation, and uncertainty of all things in it; and particularly the Roman empire, the sea out of which the antichristian beast arose, ( Revelation 13:1). The “horses” are the angels or Christian princes, with whom the Lord will walk in majesty, and in the greatness of his strength, pouring out the vials of his wrath on the antichristian states: through the heap of many waters ; or “the clay”, or “mud of many waters” f141 ; that lies at the bottom of them; which being walked through and trampled on by horses, is raised up, and “troubles” them, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions render it: these “many waters” are those on which the whore of Rome is said to sit; and which are interpreted of people, multitudes, nations, and tongues, ( Revelation 17:1,15) and the “mud” of them is expressive of their pollution and corruption, with her false doctrines, idolatry, superstition, and immoralities; and of their disturbed state and condition, through the judgments of God upon them, signified by his horses walking through them; trampling upon them in fury; treating them with the utmost contempt; treading them like mire and clay, and bringing upon them utter ruin and destruction.
Ver. 16 . When I heard, my belly trembled , etc.] His bowels, his heart within him, at the report made of what would come to pass in future time; and not so much at hearing of the judgments of God that should come upon the enemies of his Church, antichrist and his followers; though even these are awful and tremendous to good men; (see <19B9120> Psalm 119:120) but upon hearing what troubles and distresses would come upon the churches of Christ, previous to these, afterwards called a day of trouble in this verse, and more particularly described in the next ( Habakkuk 3:17): my lips quivered at the voice ; at the voice of these words, as the Targum; at the voice of the Lord, expressing and foretelling these calamities, through fear and dread, consternation and amazement; under which circumstances the natural heat of the outward parts of the body retires to defend the heart, and leaves them trembling and quivering, particularly the lips, so that they lose their use for a time; and a person in such a case can hardly speak: rottenness entered into my bones ; he became weak and without strength, as if he had long been in a wasting consumption; or was at once deprived of all his strength, and it was turned into corruption; (see Daniel 10:8): and I trembled in myself ; within himself, in all his inward parts, as well as in his outward parts: or, “under myself” f142 ; was not able to keep his place, could not stand upon the ground that was under him; his knees trembled, as the Syriac version: that I might rest in the day of trouble ; rather, as Noldius renders the particle, “yet”, or “notwithstanding, I shall rest in the day of trouble”; which had been represented to him in vision; and which he had a sight of by a spirit of prophecy, as coming upon the church of Christ, and had given him that concern before expressed. The Syriac version of this and the next clause, which it joins, is, “he showed me the day of calamity, which is about to come upon the people”. Here begins the prophet’s expression of his strong faith and joy in the midst of all the distresses he saw were at hand; herein representing the church, and all true believers helped to exercise faith in those worst of times. This “day of trouble” is the same with the hour of temptation that shall come upon all the earth to try the inhabitants of it; the time of the slaying of the witnesses, which will be such a time of trouble as never was in the world; (see Revelation 3:10 Daniel 12:1). The “rest” the people of God will have then, which the prophet had faith in for them, will lie in the Lord’s protection and keeping of his people; his perfections, power, and providence, are the chambers of rest and safety he will call them unto, and the shadow of his wings, which they will make their refuge till these calamities and indignation be overpast, ( Isaiah 26:20 Psalm 52:1) when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops ; or rather “him”; not “the people”; the people of God, “he” the Lord or Christ comes unto; but the enemy of them: this is the ground of the prophet’s faith and confidence before expressed, or of the church’s he personated; namely, that when Christ, Michael the great Prince, should come up to his people, appear for them, and stand on their side, he would lead his troops and march his army against their grand enemy antichrist; and “cut him to pieces” f144 , as some render the word: so Christ is represented as a mighty warrior, marching at the head of his troops, the armies of heaven following him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, who are the called, chosen, and faithful; and with these he will fall upon the beast, the false prophet, and the kings of the earth, gathered together at Armageddon, and utterly destroy them, ( Revelation 16:14,16 17:14 19:14-21).
Ver. 17. Although the fig tree shall not blossom , etc.] Or rather, as the Septuagint version, “shall not bring forth fruit”; since the fig tree does not bear blossoms and flowers, but puts forth green figs at once. This was a tree common in the land of Canaan, and its fruit much in use, and for food; hence we read of cakes of figs among the provisions Abigail brought to David, ( 1 Samuel 25:18) so that, when there was a scarcity of these, it was a bad time: neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines ; no grapes, or clusters of them, out of which wine was pressed; a liquor very refreshing and reviving to nature; and is said to cheer God and man, being used in sacrifices and libations to God, and the common drink of men, ( Judges 9:13) so that, when it failed, it was a public calamity: the labour of the olive shall fail ; or “lie” f145 ; disappoint the expectation of those who planted and cultivated it with much toil and labour, it not producing fruit as looked for. This tree yielded berries of an agreeable taste, and out of which oil was extracted, the Jews used instead of butter, and for various purposes; so that, when it failed of fruit, it was a great loss on many accounts: and the fields shall yield no meat ; the grass fields no herbage for beasts; the grain fields no grain for man; the consequence of which must be a famine to both; and this must be very dismal and distressing: the flock shall be cut off from the fold ; flocks of sheep; either by the hand of God, some disease being sent among them; or by the hand of man, drove off by the enemy, or killed for their use; so that the folds were empty of them, and none to gather into them: and there [shall be] no herd in the stalls ; or oxen in the stables, where they are kept, and have their food; or stalls in which they are fattened for use; and by all these are signified the necessaries of life, which, when they fail, make a famine, which is a very distressing case; and yet, in the midst of all this, the prophet, representing the church, expresses his faith and joy in the Lord, as in the following verse ( Habakkuk 3:18); though all this is to be understood, not so much in a literal as in a figurative sense. “Fig trees, vines”, and “olives”, are often used as emblems of truly gracious persons, ( Song of Solomon 2:13 Psalm 52:8) partly because of their fruitfulness in grace and good works, and partly because of their perseverance therein; all these trees being fruitful ones; and some, as the olive, ever green: of such persons there is sometimes a scarcity, as is complained of in the times of David and Micah, ( Psalm 12:1 Micah 7:1) and especially there will be in the latter day; for righteous and merciful men will be taken away from the evil to come, ( Isaiah 57:1) and, however, there will be very few lively, spiritual, and fruitful Christians, such as abound in the exercise of grace, and are diligent in the discharge of duty; for, when the Son of Man cometh, he will not find faith on the earth; and he will find the virgins sleeping, ( Luke 18:8 Matthew 25:5). The “fields not” yielding “meat” may signify that the provisions of the house of God will be cut off; there will be no ministration of the word, or administration of ordinances; the word of the Lord will be scarce, rare, and precious; there will be a famine, not of bread and of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord; one of the days of the Son of Man will be desired, but not enjoyed; so no spiritual food in the use of means to be had; a very uncomfortable time this will be, ( Amos 8:11) ( Luke 17:22). The “flock” being “cut off from the fold” may denote that the sheep of Christ will be given up to the slaughter of the enemy, or be scattered abroad in this dark and cloudy day of persecution; so that there will be no fold, no flock, no sheep gathered together; and perhaps such will be the case, that there will not be one visible congregated church in due order throughout the whole world; all will be broke up, and dispersed here and there: no “herd” or “oxen in the stall” may signify that the ministers of the Gospel, compared to oxen for their strength, industry, and laboriousness in the work of the Lord, will be removed, or not suffered to exercise their ministry, nor be encouraged by any in it: this will be the case at the slaying of the witnesses, and a most distressing time it will be; and yet the prophet, or the church represented by him, expresses an uncommon frame of spirit in the following verse ( Habakkuk 3:18). The Targum interprets all this figuratively of each of the monarchies of the world, which should be no more; “the kingdom of Babylon shall not continue, nor shall it exercise dominion over Israel; the kings of the Medes shall be killed; and the mighty men of Greece shall not prosper; and the Romans shall be destroyed, and shall not collect tribute from Jerusalem; therefore for the wonder, and for the redemption, thou shalt work for thy Messiah; and for the rest of thy people who shall remain, they shall praise, saying: the prophet said;” as follows:
Ver. 18. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord , etc.] In the Word of the Lord, as the Targum; the essential Word of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ; in his person, the greatness and glory of it; in his offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King, the only Mediator and Saviour; in his relations, as head and husband, father, brother, friend; in his fulness, grace, and righteousness; in his spiritual presence, and comfortable communion with him, which may be expected in a remarkable manner after the above day of trouble is over; and in his personal appearance, which will shortly be, and when his tabernacle will be with men on earth: I will joy in the God of my salvation ; in Christ, who is God, and so able to save his people; to make everything he did and suffered in human nature effectual and available to them; to supply all their wants, and to keep what they commit unto him, and to preserve them safe to his kingdom and glory: and who also joy in the salvation of their God, or which he is the author of, both temporal and spiritual, especially the latter; which is so great and glorious in itself, so suitable to their case, so complete and perfect, and makes so much for the glory of all the divine perfections, and is all of free grace, and lasts for ever: this salvation is peculiar to the people of God; it is theirs, and theirs only; it is what they choose and prefer to all other ways of salvation; it is brought and applied to them by the Spirit, and which they appropriate to themselves under his witnessings; and then it is they can and do rejoice: particularly salvation and deliverance from antichristianism, in all the branches of it, may be chiefly pointed at as the matter and ground of joy; and the enjoyment of Gospel privileges in the full extent of them; the word and ordinances in their power and purity; and the presence of Christ in them.
Ver. 19 . The Lord God [is] my strength , etc.] The author and giver of natural and spiritual strength, as he is to all his people; he is the strength of their hearts when ready to faint and sink, and of their graces, faith, hope, love, patience, etc. and continues and increases them, and draws them forth into lively acts and exercise; and of their lives, natural and spiritual, which he supports and maintains, secures and defends; from him they have their strength to perform the duties of religion; to oppose their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and the world; and to bear them up under all trials and afflictions, and carry them through them, and deliver out of them, and which is principally intended here: the church, though in distress, and pressed with sorrows, yet believed the strength of Christ would be made perfect in her weakness, and she should be upheld by him under all, and brought out of it: and he will make my feet like hinds’ [feet] ; swift as they, as the Targum, which are very swift; and on account of the swiftness of them is the comparison used: and which is to be understood, not barely of the Jews being swift of foot to return to their own country, when the time of their conversion is come; or to pursue their enemies, as Kimchi; that is, Gog or the Turks, having got the victory over them: but of all Christians, whose feet will be swift to run, in a lively cheerful manner, the way of Christ’s commandments; their souls being strengthened, and their hearts enlarged with the love and grace of God; and to surmount with ease all difficulties and obstructions that lie in their way: and chiefly this regards the ministers of the Gospel, and the swift progress they will make in spreading it in the world; as the apostles and first ministers of the word, having their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, went swiftly through all parts of the world, even to the ends of the earth, with it; so in the latter day many will run to and fro, everywhere preaching the everlasting Gospel to all nations; the knowledge of it shall greatly increase; (see Daniel 12:4 Revelation 14:6) this passage seems to be taken out of ( Psalm 18:33) and there may be not only an allusion to the swiftness of those creatures, but to the strength and firmness of their feet; so that they can go upon rocks and mountains securely, and tread and walk, and even run upon them with safety; and this sense is directed to, not only by what follows, concerning “walking” on “high places”; but by the word here used, which signifies to “make”, or “set”, fix, place, order, and settle f146 ; and this agrees with the nature of those creatures, whose feet are not only swift, but firm; they tread sure and stable; hence hinds and harts are by the poets called the “brasen footed hinds”, or “harts”; because of the firmness and stability of their going; and it is an observation of Jarchi’s f148 , that the feet of the females stand firmer and more upright than the feet of the males; wherefore, both here, and in ( Psalm 18:33), not harts, but hinds, are made mention of; and so this may also denote the stability of the saints in those times, both ministers and common Christians, in the exercise of grace, and in the performance of duty; their hearts will be established in the faith of Christ, and in love to him, and in the hope of eternal life by him; all which they will be settled in, and will hold fast, and not let go; and will be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord their God; and so in the Gospel of Christ, and in the ordinances of it, their souls will be established in and with the doctrines of grace, and will continue steadfastly in them, and abide by and keep the ordinances as they have been delivered to them; nor will any difficulties, which may seem like hills and mountains, and cragged rocks, deter or discourage them, or move them from the hope of the Gospel, or from their duty; but they shall walk on securely and firmly: and he will make me to walk upon mine high places : meaning not so much the high places of the land of Judea, some part of it being mountainous, though there may be some reference to them; but it signifies the exalted state of the church after the troublesome times, when it shall be exalted above the hills, and established on the top of the mountains; when Christ the Lamb, with his 144,000 sealed ones, shall stand upon Mount Zion with harps in their hands, having gotten the victory over the antichristian beast and his image; and when the saints shall have the dominion of the world; and the kingdom and the greatness of it, under the whole heaven, shall be given to them, ( Isaiah 2:2 Revelation 14:1 15:1 Daniel 7:27) as well as they shall be in lively, spiritual, and heavenly frames of soul; mount up with wings, as eagles; soar aloft in the exercise of faith; dwell on high in the contemplation of divine things; have their affections set on things above; and their conversation in heaven while they are on earth: especially this may be said of them when they shall have the glory of God upon them in the New Jerusalem state, and shall dwell in the new heavens and the new earth, with Christ at the head of them; and when they shall possess the ultimate glory in the highest heavens to all eternity; (see Deuteronomy 33:29) and thus ends this prayer of Habakkuk; which serves to draw out the desires of good men after the flourishing estate of the kingdom and interest of Christ; to assist their faith in the belief, hope, and expectation of it; and to lead their views to its summit and perfection, notwithstanding all the difficulties and discouragements that may lie in its way: and being of so much moment and importance, that it might remain and continue, and be of use to the church in succeeding ages, the prophet delivered or directed it to the chief singer , to be set to tune, and sung by him, as David’s prayers, and others, sometimes were, and to be preserved for future usefulness; and this he would have sung (he says) on my stringed instruments ; which were either invented by him, or used by him in the temple, or were his own property: or he sent this prayer or ode to him who was over these instruments, had the care and use of them; and which were such as were to be stricken with the hand, bone, or quill; and are the same that are called “Neginoth” in the title of the fourth Psalm ( Psalm 4:1), and others.