|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1,2 The word prayer seems used here for an act of devotion. The Lord would revive his work among the people in the midst of the years of adversity. This may be applied to every season when the church, or believers, suffer under afflictions and trials. Mercy is what we must flee to for refuge, and rely upon as our only plea. We must not say, Remember our merit, but, Lord, remember thy own mercy.
Verses 1-19. - Part II. PSALM OR PRAYER OF HABAKKUK. Verse 1. - § 1. The title. A prayer. There is only one formal prayer in the ode, that in ver. 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 (seethe inscriptions in Psalm 17; Psalm 86; Psalm 90; Psalm 102; Psalm 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, comp. Deuteronomy 33:2, etc.; Judges 5:4, etc.; Psalm 68:7, etc.; Psalms 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 (comp. title of Psalm 7.); Septuagint, μετὰ ᾠδῆς, "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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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 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 Psa 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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Hab 3:1-19. Habakkuk's Prayer to God: God's Glorious Revelation of Himself at Sinai and at Gibeon, a Pledge of His Interposing Again in Behalf of Israel against Babylon, and All Other Foes; Hence the Prophet's Confidence Amid Calamities.
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.
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