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    This sublime ode begins with an exordium (Hab 3:1, 2), then follows the main subject, then the peroration (Hab 3:16-19), a summary of the practical truth, which the whole is designed to teach. (De 33:2-5; Ps 77:13-20 are parallel odes). This was probably designed by the Spirit to be a fit formula of prayer for the people, first in their Babylonian exile, and now in their dispersion, especially towards the close of it, just before the great Deliverer is to interpose for them. It was used in public worship, as the musical term, "Selah!" (Hab 3:3, 9, 13), implies.

    1. prayer--the only strictly called prayers are in Hab 3:2. But all devotional addresses to God are called "prayers" (Ps 72:20). The Hebrew is from a root "to apply to a judge for a favorable decision." Prayers in which praises to God for deliverance, anticipated in the sure confidence of faith, are especially calculated to enlist Jehovah on His people's side (2Ch 20:20-22, 26).
    - upon Shigionoth--a musical phrase, "after the manner of elegies," or mournful odes, from an Arabic root [LEE]; the phrase is singular in Ps 7:1, title. More simply, from a Hebrew root to "err," "on account of sins of ignorance." Habakkuk thus teaches his countrymen to confess not only their more grievous sins, but also their errors and negligences, into which they were especially likely to fall when in exile away from the Holy Land [CALVIN]. So Vulgate and AQUILA, and SYMMACHUS. "For voluntary transgressors" [JEROME]. Probably the subject would regulate the kind of music. DELITZSCH and HENDERSON translate, "With triumphal music," from the same root "to err," implying its enthusiastic irregularity.

    2. I have heard thy speech--Thy revelation to me concerning the coming chastisement of the Jews [CALVIN], and the destruction of their oppressors. This is Habakkuk's reply to God's communication [GROTIUS]. MAURER translates, "the report of Thy coming," literally, "Thy report."
    - and was afraid--reverential fear of God's judgments (Hab 3:16).
    - revive thy work--Perfect the work of delivering Thy people, and do not let Thy promise lie as if it were dead, but give it new life by performing it [MENOCHIUS]. CALVIN explains "thy work" to be Israel; called "the work of My hands" (Isa 45:11). God's elect people are peculiarly His work (Isa 43:1), pre-eminently illustrating His power, wisdom, and goodness. "Though we seem, as it were, dead nationally, revive us" (Ps 85:6). However (Ps 64:9), where "the work of God" refers to His judgment on their enemies, favors the former view (Ps 90:16, 17; Isa 51:9, 10).
    - in the midst of the years--namely, of calamity in which we live. Now that our calamities are at their height; during our seventy years' captivity. CALVIN more fancifully explains it, in the midst of the years of Thy people, extending from Abraham to Messiah; if they be cut off before His coming, they will be cut off as it were in the midst of their years, before attaining their maturity. So BENGEL makes the midst of the years to be the middle point of the years of the world. There is a strikingly similar phrase (Da 9:27), In the midst of the week. The parallel clause, "in wrath" (that is, in the midst of wrath), however, shows that "in the midst of the years" means "in the years of our present exile and calamity."
    - make known--Made it (Thy work) known by experimental proof; show in very deed, that this is Thy work.

    3. God--singular in the Hebrew, "Eloah," instead of "Elohim," plural, usually employed. The singular is not found in any other of the minor prophets, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel; but it is in Isaiah, Daniel, Job, and Deuteronomy.
    - from Teman--the country south of Judea and near Edom, in which latter country Mount Paran was situated [HENDERSON]. "Paran" is the desert region, extending from the south of Judah to Sinai. Seir, Sinai, and Paran are adjacent to one another, and are hence associated together, in respect to God's giving of the law (De 33:2). Teman is so identified with Seir or Edom, as here to be substituted for it. Habakkuk appeals to God's glorious manifestations to His people at Sinai, as the ground for praying that God will "revive His work" (Hab 3:2) now. For He is the same God now as ever.
    - Selah--a musical sign, put at the close of sections and strophes, always at the end of a verse, except thrice; namely, here, and Hab 3:9, and Ps 55:19; 57:3, where, however, it closes the hemistich. It implies a change of the modulation. It comes from a root to "rest" or "pause" [GESENIUS]; implying a cessation of the chant, during an instrumental interlude. The solemn pause here prepares the mind for contemplating the glorious description of Jehovah's manifestation which follows.
    - earth . . . full of his praise--that is, of His glories which were calculated to call forth universal praise; the parallelism to "glory" proves this to be the sense.

    4. as the light--namely, of the sun (Job 37:21; Pr 4:18).
    - horns--the emblem of power wielded by "His hand" [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. "Rays" emanating from "His hand," compared by the Arabs to the horns of the gazelle (compare "hind of the morning," Ps 22:1, title, Margin). The Hebrew verb for to "emit rays," is from the root meaning "horns" (Ex 34:29, 30, 35) [GROTIUS]. The rays are His lightnings (Ps 18:8), [MAURER].
    - there--in that "brightness." In it, notwithstanding its brilliancy, there was but the veil "(the hiding) of His power." Even "light," God's "garment," covers, instead of revealing fully, His surpassing glory (Ps 104:2) [HENDERSON]. Or, on Mount Sinai [DRUSIUS]. (Compare Ex 24:17). The Septuagint and Syriac versions read for "there," He made a hiding, &c.; He hid Himself with clouds. English Version is better, which CALVIN explains, there is said to be "a hiding of God's power," because God did not reveal it indiscriminately to all, but specially to His people (Ps 31:20). The contrast seems to me to be between the "horns" or emanations out of His power ("hand"), and that "power" itself. The latter was hidden, whereas the "horns" or emanations alone were manifested. If the mere scintillations were so awfully overwhelming, how much more so the hidden power itself! This was especially true of His manifestation at Sinai (Ps 18:11; compare Isa 45:15, 17).

    5. pestilence--to destroy His people's foes (1Sa 5:9, 11). As Jehovah's advent is glorious to His people, so it is terrible to His foes.
    - burning coals-- Ps 18:8 favors English Version. But the parallelism requires, as the Margin translates, "burning disease" (compare De 32:24; Ps 91:6).
    - went . . . at his feet--that is, after Him, as His attendants (Jud 4:10).

    6. He stood, and measured the earth--Jehovah, in His advance, is represented as stopping suddenly, and measuring the earth with His all-seeing glance, whereat there is universal consternation. MAURER, from a different root, translates, "rocked the earth"; which answers better to the parallel "drove asunder"; the Hebrew for which latter, however, may be better translated, "made to tremble."
    - everlasting mountains--which have ever been remembered as retaining the same place and form from the foundation of the world.
    - did bow--as it were, in reverent submission.
    - his ways are everlasting--His marvellous ways of working for the salvation of His people mark His everlasting character: such as He was in His workings for them formerly, such shall He be now.

    7. the tents--that is, the dwellers.
    - Cushan--the same as Cush; made "Cush-an" to harmonize with "Midi-an" in the parallel clause. So Lotan is found in the Hebrew of Genesis for Lot. BOCHART therefore considers it equivalent to Midian, or a part of Arabia. So in Nu 12:1, Moses' Midianite wife is called an Ethiopian (Hebrew, Cushite). MAURER thinks the dwellers on both sides of the Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, are meant; for in Hab 3:6 God's everlasting or ancient ways of delivering His people are mentioned; and in Hab 3:8, the dividing of the Red Sea for them. Compare Miriam's song as to the fear of Israel's foes far and near caused thereby (Ex 15:14-16). Hebrew expositors refer it to Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, or Syria, the first oppressor of Israel (Jud 3:8, 10), from whom Othniel delivered them. Thus the second hemistich of the verse will refer to the deliverance of Israel from Midian by Gideon (Jud 6:1-7:25) to which Hab 3:11 plainly refers. Whichever of these views be correct, the general reference is to God's interpositions against Israel's foes of old.
    - in affliction--rather, "under affliction" (regarded) as a heavy burden. Literally, "vanity" or "iniquity," hence the punishment of it (compare Nu 25:17, 18).
    - curtains--the coverings of their tents; the shifting habitations of the nomad tribes, which resembled the modern Bedouins.
    - tremble--namely, at Jehovah's terrible interposition for Israel against them.

    8. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers?--"Was the cause of His dividing the Red Sea and Jordan His displeasure against these waters?" The answer to this is tacitly implied in "Thy chariots of salvation." "Nay; it was not displeasure against the waters, but His pleasure in interposing for His people's salvation" (compare Hab 3:10).
    - thy chariots--in antithesis to Thy foe, Pharaoh's chariots," which, notwithstanding their power and numbers, were engulfed in the waters of destruction. God can make the most unlikely means work for His people's salvation (Ex 14:7, 9, 23, 25-28; 15:3-8, 19). Jehovah's chariots are His angels (Ps 68:17), or the cherubim, or the ark (Jos 3:13; 4:7; compare So 1:9).

    9. bow . . . made . . . naked--that is, was drawn forth from its cover, in which bows usually were cased when not in use. Compare Isa 22:6, "Kir uncovered the shield."
    - according to the oaths of the tribes even thy word--that is, Thy oaths of promise to the tribes of Israel (Ps 77:8; Lu 1:73, 74). Habakkuk shows that God's miraculous interpositions for His people were not limited to one time, but that God's oaths to His people are sure ground for their always expecting them. The mention of the tribes, rather than Abraham or Moses, is in order that they may not doubt that to them belongs this grace of which Abraham was the depository [CALVIN and JEROME]. MAURER translates, "The spears were glutted with blood, the triumphal song!" that is, no sooner did Jehovah begin the battle by baring His bow, than the spears were glutted with blood and the triumphal song sung.
    - Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers--the result of the earthquake caused by God's approach [MAURER]. GROTIUS refers it to the bringing forth water from the rock (Ex 17:6; Nu 20:10, 11; Ps 78:15, 16; 105:4). But the context implies not the giving of water to His people to drink, but the fearful physical phenomena attending Jehovah's attack on Israel's foes.

    10. The mountains--repetition with increased emphasis of some of the tremendous phenomena mentioned in Hab 3:6.
    - overflowing of the water passed by--namely, of the Red Sea; and again, of the Jordan. God marked His favor to His people in all the elements, causing every obstacle, whether mountains or waters, which impeded their progress, to "pass away" [CALVIN]. MAURER, not so well, translates, "torrents (rains) of water rush down."
    - lifted . . . hands on high--namely, its billows lifted on high by the GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - D. J-F-B INDEX & SEARCH

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