Habakkuk 3:17
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Although.—Better, For. The conjunction connects this verse with what precedes, and explains Habakkuk’s affliction more fully. With the sword shall come famine, invasion as usual producing desolation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18. Although the fig-tree shall not blossom — Though all outward means of support should fail, yet will I still have a firm confidence in the power, goodness, and faithfulness of God, that he will preserve me, and supply me with all things necessary; and therefore, amidst the most threatening appearances of affairs, I shall still preserve inward peace and serenity of mind, as trusting in him in whom is everlasting strength, Isaiah 26:3-4. The state of the land during the captivity may be here prophetically described, when the vineyards, olive-yards, fields, and pastures, would be in a desolate and barren state: or the prophet may be considered as declaring, that even such circumstances should not shake his confidence in God. Yet will I rejoice in the Lord — I shall have him to rejoice in, and will rejoice in him. I will joy in the God of my salvation —

In the knowledge and love, the favour and friendship, the care and kindness of him in whom I have present, and hope to have future and eternal salvation. Observe: reader, this is the principal ground of our joy in God, that he is the God of our salvation; our everlasting salvation, the salvation of our souls; and if he be so, we may rejoice in him as such in our greatest distresses, since by them our salvation cannot be hindered, but may be furthered. Instead of, the God of my salvation, the LXX. read, επι τω Θεω τω σωτηρι μου, in God my Saviour; and the Vulgate, in Deo Jesu meo, in God my Jesus, or, in Jesus my God. “That Jesus,” says Calmet, “who is the joy, the consolation, the hope, the life of believers; without whom the world can offer us nothing but false joys; who was the object of the desires, and the perpetual consolation of the prophets and patriarchs:” see John 8:56.3:16-19 When we see a day of trouble approach, it concerns us to prepare. A good hope through grace is founded in holy fear. The prophet looked back upon the experiences of the church in former ages, and observed what great things God had done for them, and so was not only recovered, but filled with holy joy. He resolved to delight and triumph in the Lord; for when all is gone, his God is not gone. Destroy the vines and the fig-trees, and you make all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease. But those who, when full, enjoyed God in all, when emptied and poor, can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of the ruins of their creature-comforts, and even then praise the Lord, as the God of their salvation, the salvation of the soul, and rejoice in him as such, in their greatest distresses. Joy in the Lord is especially seasonable when we meet with losses and crosses in the world. Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man lives not by bread alone, we may be supplied by the graces and comforts of God's Spirit. Then we shall be strong for spiritual warfare and work, and with enlargement of heart may run the way of his commandments, and outrun our troubles. And we shall be successful in spiritual undertakings. Thus the prophet, who began his prayer with fear and trembling, ends it with joy and triumph. And thus faith in Christ prepares for every event. The name of Jesus, when we can speak of Him as ours, is balm for every wound, a cordial for every care. It is as ointment poured forth, shedding fragrance through the whole soul. In the hope of a heavenly crown, let us sit loose to earthly possessions and comforts, and cheerfully bear up under crosses. Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry; and where he is, we shall be also.Although - literally, For

The fig tree shall not blossom - The prophet repeats his confidence in God, premising his knowledge that all human hopes should fail. I know, he says, all stay and support shall fail; he numbers from the least to the greatest, the fruits of trees, the fig, vine and olive, for sweetness, gladness, cheerfulness Psalm 104:15. whereof the well-being of the vine and fig tree furnishes the proverbial picture of peace and rest. These shall either not shoot forth, or shall at time of fruit-gathering have no produce or having, as it were, labored to bring forth fruit shall lie and fail: yet further "the staff of life" itself shall fail; "the fields shall yield no meat;" all the fields, as though they were but one shall have one common lot, barrenness.

Yet more; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold; not those only, feeding abroad in fields and open plains, shall be driven away, but they shall be carried away by the enemy from the folds, where they seemed penned securely; and not these only, but "there shall be no herd in the stalls," even the stronger animals shall utterly fail; every help for labor, or for clothing, or for food shall cease; he speaks not of privation, partial failure, but of the entire loss of all things, no meat from the fields, no herd in the stalls; and what then?

17. Destroy the "vines" and "fig trees" of the carnal heart, and his mirth ceases. But those who when full enjoyed God in all, when emptied can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of ruined creature comforts, and rejoice in Him as the "God of their salvation." Running in the way of His commandments, we outrun our troubles. Thus Habakkuk, beginning his prayer with trembling, ends it with a song of triumph (Job 13:15; Ps 4:7; 43:3, 5).

labour of the olive—that is, the fruit expected from the olive.

fail—literally, "lie," that is, disappoint the hope (Isa 58:11, Margin).

fields—from a Hebrew root meaning "to be yellow"; as they look at harvest-time.

meat—food, grain.

cut off—that is, cease.

To war foreseen the prophet supposeth famine, and describeth the most grievous, as indeed it fell out.

Although the fig tree, which was in that country a very considerable part of their provision to live upon,

shall not blossom; not give the least sign of bringing forth fruit.

Neither shall fruit be in the vines, which were also the riches and provision of those countries.

The labour of the olive; either labour bestowed upon the olive, or the fruit which the olive brings forth, called here labour by an allusion to our labour.

Shall fail; disappoint the expectation of both dresser and eater.

The fields, ploughed and sown, shall yield no meat; corn for bread.

The flock of sheep, kept out in the field, shall be cut off, either by wolf, murrain, or by the wasting Babylonians,

from the fold; where they were wont to be safe. now they are in greatest danger, and that because they may be swept away all at once.

No herd in the stall; greater cattle kept in the stall for labour, or for feeding.

To war foreseen the prophet supposeth famine, and describeth the most grievous, as indeed it fell out.

Although the fig tree, which was in that country a very considerable part of their provision to live upon,

shall not blossom; not give the least sign of bringing forth fruit.

Neither shall fruit be in the vines, which were also the riches and provision of those countries.

The labour of the olive; either labour bestowed upon the olive, or the fruit which the olive brings forth, called here labour by an allusion to our labour.

Shall fail; disappoint the expectation of both dresser and eater.

The fields, ploughed and sown, shall yield no meat; corn for bread.

The flock of sheep, kept out in the field, shall be cut off, either by wolf, murrain, or by the wasting Babylonians,

from the fold; where they were wont to be safe. now they are in greatest danger, and that because they may be swept away all at once.

No herd in the stall; greater cattle kept in the stall for labour, or for feeding.

To war foreseen the prophet supposeth famine, and describeth the most grievous, as indeed it fell out.

Although the fig tree, which was in that country a very considerable part of their provision to live upon,

shall not blossom; not give the least sign of bringing forth fruit.

Neither shall fruit be in the vines, which were also the riches and provision of those countries.

The labour of the olive; either labour bestowed upon the olive, or the fruit which the olive brings forth, called here labour by an allusion to our labour.

Shall fail; disappoint the expectation of both dresser and eater.

The fields, ploughed and sown, shall yield no meat; corn for bread.

The flock of sheep, kept out in the field, shall be cut off, either by wolf, murrain, or by the wasting Babylonians,

from the fold; where they were wont to be safe. now they are in greatest danger, and that because they may be swept away all at once.

No herd in the stall; greater cattle kept in the stall for labour, or for feeding.

To war foreseen the prophet supposeth famine, and describeth the most grievous, as indeed it fell out.

Although the fig tree, which was in that country a very considerable part of their provision to live upon,

shall not blossom; not give the least sign of bringing forth fruit.

Neither shall fruit be in the vines, which were also the riches and provision of those countries.

The labour of the olive; either labour bestowed upon the olive, or the fruit which the olive brings forth, called here labour by an allusion to our labour.

Shall fail; disappoint the expectation of both dresser and eater.

The fields, ploughed and sown, shall yield no meat; corn for bread.

The flock of sheep, kept out in the field, shall be cut off, either by wolf, murrain, or by the wasting Babylonians,

from the fold; where they were wont to be safe. now they are in greatest danger, and that because they may be swept away all at once.

No herd in the stall; greater cattle kept in the stall for labour, or for feeding. Although the fig tree shall not blossom,.... 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" (a); 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, Sol 2:13 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 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. 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:

(a) Sept.; "mentietur", V. L. Piscator; "mentiebatur", Pagninus.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17–19. It is not easy to say whether Habakkuk 3:17 contains a series of suppositions referring to what may happen in the future, or describes a condition of things actually existing. The latter way of reading the verse is the more natural. The verse does not suggest a condition of scarcity and barrenness arising from a hostile invasion of the land, but rather one due to the incidence of severe natural calamities. The word for, with which the verse begins, connects very loosely with the preceding Habakkuk 3:16. The mood of the speaker also in Habakkuk 3:18-19 is confident and jubilant, in strong contrast to the gloom and terror of Habakkuk 3:16. It is possible that the poem originally ended with Habakkuk 3:16, and that Habakkuk 3:17-19 are an addition. The difference of tone in Habakkuk 3:16 and Habakkuk 3:17-19 is not decisive, for in such poems the author’s mind not unusually passes from gloomy anticipations to confidence.

The verse may read:

For though the figtree doth not blossom,

And there is no fruit in the vines;

The produce of the olive faileth,

And the fields yield no meat;

The flock is cut off from the fold,

And there is no herd in the stalls.

It is the community that speaks in Habakkuk 3:17-19, as is evident from Habakkuk 3:18-19.Verse 17. - The prophet depicts the effects of the hostile invasion, which are such as to make the natural heart despair. Although the fig tree shall not blossom. The devastations of the enemy leave the country bare and uncultivated. The Chaldeans, like the Assyrians and Egyptians, cut down and burnt the fruit-bearing trees of the countries which they invaded (comp. Deuteronomy 20:19; Isaiah 9:10; Isaiah 37:24; Jeremiah 6:6). The trees most useful and abundant in Palestine are mentioned (comp. Deuteronomy 6:11; Hosea 2:12; Joel 1:7; Micah 4:4; Micah 6:15, etc.). The labour of the olive shall fail; literally, shall lie. The "labour" is the produce, the fruit. Though the yield shall disappoint all expectation. The use of the verb "to lie" in this sense is found elsewhere; e.g. Isaiah 58:11; Hosea 9:2. So Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:1, 30, "Fundus mendax;" and ' Epist.,' 1:7. 87, "Spem mentita seges." The fields; the cornfields (Isaiah 16:8). The flock shall be cut off from the fold. There shall be no flocks in the fold, all having perished for lack of food. "Omnia haec," says St. Jerome, "auferentur a populo, quia inique egit in Deum creatorem suum." "Therefore will He give them up until the time when a travailing woman hath brought forth, and the remnant of His brethren will return, together with the sons of Israel. Micah 5:4. And He will stand and feed in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah His God, and they will dwell, for now will He be great to the ends of the earth." "Therefore" (lâkhēn): i.e., "because the great divine Ruler of Israel, from whom alone its redemption can proceed, will spring from the little Bethlehem, and therefore from the degraded family of David" (Caspari). This is the correct explanation; for the reason why Israel is to be given up to the power of the nations of the world, and not to be rescued earlier, does not lie in the appearance of the Messiah as such, but in His springing from little Bethlehem. The birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, and not in Jerusalem the city of David, presupposes that the family of David, out of which it is to spring, will have lost the throne, and have fallen into poverty. This could only arise from the giving up of Israel into the power of its enemies. Micah had already stated clearly enough in what precedes, that this fate would fall upon the nation and the royal house of David, on account of its apostasy from the Lord; so that he could overlook this here, and give prominence to the other side alone, namely to the fact that, according to the counsel of God, the future Deliverer and Ruler of Israel would also resemble His royal ancestor David in the fact that He was not to spring from Zion the royal city built on high, but from the insignificant country town of Bethlehem, and that for this very reason Israel was to remain so long under the power of the nations of the world. The suffix attached to יתּנם points to ישׂראל in Micah 5:1; and נתן is applied, as in 1 Kings 14:16, to the surrender of Israel into the power of its enemies as a punishment for its sins. This surrender is not the last of many oppressions, which are to take place in the period before the birth of the Messiah (the Roman oppression), but a calamity lasting from the present time, or the coming of the judgment threatened in ch. 3, until the time of the Messiah's coming; and יתּנם points back not merely to Micah 5:1, but also to Micah 4:9-10. The travailing woman (yōlēdâh) is not the community of Israel (Theodoret, Calvin, Vitringa, and others), but the mother of the Messiah (Cyril, and most of the Christian expositors, including even Ewald and Hitzig). The supposition that the congregation is personified here, is precluded not only by the fact that in the very same sentence the sons of Israel are spoken of in the plural, but still more by the circumstance that in that case the bringing forth would be only a figurative representation of the joy following the pain, in which the obvious allusion in the words to the Messiah, which is required by the context, and especially by the suffix to אחיו, which refers to the Messiah, and presupposes that His birth is referred to in יולדה ילדה, would entirely fall away. But Micah had all the more ground for speaking of this, inasmuch as Isaiah had already predicted the birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:14). יולדה has no article, and the travailing woman is thereby left indefinite, because the thought, "till He is born," or "till a mother shall bring Him forth," upon which alone the whole turns, did not require any more precise definition.

In the second clause of the verse there commences the description of the blessing, which the birth of the Messiah will bring to Israel. The first blessing will be the return of those that remain of Israel to the Lord their God. אחיו, the brethren of the Ruler born at Bethlehem, are the Judaeans as the members of the Messiah's own tribe; just as, in 2 Samuel 19:13, David calls the Judaeans his brethren, his flesh and bone, in contrast with the rest of the Israelites. יתר אחיו, the remnant of his brethren, are those who are rescued from the judgment that has fallen upon Judah; yether, as in Zephaniah 2:9 and Zechariah 14:2, denoting the remnant, in distinction from those who have perished ( equals שׁארית, Micah 2:12; Micah 4:7, etc.). ישׁוּבוּן, to return, not from exile to Canaan, but to Jehovah, i.e., to be concerted. על־בּגי ישׂ, not "to the sons of Israel;" for although שׁוּב, construed with על, is met with in the sense of outward return (e.g., Proverbs 26:11) as well as in that of spiritual return to the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:9), the former explanation would not give any suitable meaning here, not only because "the sons of Israel," as distinguished from the brethren of the Messiah, could not possibly denote the true members of the nation of God, but also because the thought that the Judaeans are to return, or be converted, to the Israelites of the ten tribes, is altogether unheard of, and quite at variance with the idea which runs through all the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament, - namely, that after the division of the kingdom, Judah formed the kernel of the covenant nation, with which the rebellious Israelites were to be united once more. על signifies here together with, at the same time as (Hofmann, Caspari), as in Jeremiah 3:18 with the verb ילכוּ, and in Exodus 35:22 with בּוא; and "the sons of Israel" are the Israelites of the ten tribes, and, in this connection, those that are left of the ten tribes. There is no ground for the objection offered by Hengstenberg to this explanation, namely, that "it is absurd that the ten tribes should appear to be the principal persons redeemed;" for this is not implied in the words. The meaning "together with," for על, is not derived from the primary meaning, thereupon, in addition to, insuper, as Ewald supposes (217, i), nor from the idea of accompanying, as Ges. and Dietrich maintain. The persons introduced with על are never the principal objects, as the two passages quoted sufficiently prove. The women in Exodus 35:22 (על הנּשׁים) are not the principal persons, taking precedence of the men; nor is the house of Israel placed above the house of Judah in Jeremiah 3:18. The use of על in the sense of together with has been developed rather from the idea of protecting, shielding, as in Genesis 32:12, slaying the mothers upon, i.e., together with, the children, the mothers being thought of as screening the children, as Hosea 10:14 and other passages clearly show. Consequently the person screening the other is the principal person, and not the one covered or screened. And so here, the brethren of the Messiah, like the sons of Judah in Jeremiah 3:18, which passages is generally so like the one before us that it might be regarded as an exposition of it, are those who first receive the blessing coming from the Messiah; and the sons of Israel are associated with them as those to whom this blessing only comes in fellowship with them. In Micah 5:3 there follows what the Messiah will do for Israel when it has returned to God. He will feed it (עמר simply belongs to the pictorial description, as in Isaiah 61:5) in the strength of Jehovah. The feeding, as a frequent figure for governing, reminds of David, whom the Lord had called from the flock to be the shepherd of His people (2 Samuel 5:2). This is done in the strength of Jehovah, with which He is invested, to defend His flock against wolves and robbers (see John 10:11-12).

(Note: The word "feed" expresses what Christ is towards His people, the flock committed to His care. He does not rule over the church like a formidable tyrant, who oppresses his people by fear; but He is a shepherd, and leads His sheep with all the gentleness to be desired. And inasmuch as we are surrounded on all sides by enemies, the prophet adds, "He will feed in the strength," etc.; i.e., as much power as there is in God, so much protection will there be in Christ, whenever it shall be necessary to defend the church, and guard it against its foes (Calvin).)

This strength is not merely the divine authority with which earthly rulers are usually endowed (1 Samuel 2:10), but גּאון, i.e., the exaltation or majesty of the name of Jehovah, the majesty in which Jehovah manifests His deity on earth. The Messiah is El gibbōr (the Mighty God, Isaiah 9:5), and equipped with the spirit of might (rūăch gebhūrâh, Isaiah 11:2). "Of His God;" for Jehovah is the God of this Shepherd or Ruler, i.e., He manifests Himself as God to Him more than to any other; so that the majesty of Jehovah is revealed in what He does. In consequence of this feeding, they (the sons of Israel) sit (yâshâbhū), without being disturbed (cf. Micah 4:4; Leviticus 26:5-6; 2 Samuel 7:10), i.e., will live in perfect undisturbed peace under His pastoral care. For He (the Messiah) will now (עתּה, now, referring to the time when He feeds Israel, in contrast with the former oppression) be great (auctoritate et potentia valebit: Maurer) to the ends of the earth, i.e., His authority will extend over the whole earth. Compare the expression in Luke 1:32, οὗτος ἔσται μέγας, which has sprung from the passage before us, and the parallel in Malachi 1:14.

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