Habakkuk 3:4
And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
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(4) And his brightness was as the light. . . .—Better, And a brightness shall there be, like sunlight, and rays are at His side; and there [i.e., in this radiance] is the tabernacle of His power.

Habakkuk 3:4-5. And his brightness was as the light — Green renders this verse thus: His brightness was as the brightness of the sun; he had rays of light beaming from his hand; and there was the hiding-place of his power. The Hebrew word אור, here rendered light, is translated the sun, Job 31:26; and that rendering seems to improve the sense here. The word קרנים, rendered horns, being derived from קרן, to shine, or emit rays of light, is much better rendered rays, or splendours, here, than horns: see Parkhurst on the word. In this illustrious passage, then, we see the brightness, or splendour, poetically represented as streaming from the hand of God, that awful hand which is mighty in operation, and which has so often manifested the divine power to a wondering world. Or, as others explain it, The Shechinah, or symbol of the divine presence, had rays of light issuing out on every side, and yet that was but a hiding, or veil, to the Divine Majesty, who covereth himself with light as with a garment, (Psalm 104:2,) and who dwelleth in light inaccessible, or of too resplendent brightness to be approached, or gazed at, by mortals. Before him went the pestilence — Occasionally inflicted on the Israelites for their guilt: see Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:37; Numbers 16:46. And burning coals — Or rather, as the expression would be better translated, devouring fire, or lightning, went forth at his feet — See Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 11:1; Numbers 16:35, in which passages we read of the Israelites being consumed by a fire which went out from Jehovah. And (Leviticus 9:24) we learn, that the burnt-offering was consumed by a fire which came out from before him.

3:3-15 God's people, when in distress, and ready to despair, seek help by considering the days of old, and the years of ancient times, and by pleading them with God in prayer. The resemblance between the Babylonish and Egyptian captivities, naturally presents itself to the mind, as well as the possibility of a like deliverance through the power of Jehovah. God appeared in his glory. All the powers of nature are shaken, and the course of nature changed, but all is for the salvation of God's own people. Even what seems least likely, shall be made to work for their salvation. Hereby is given a type and figure of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. It is for salvation with thine anointed. Joshua who led the armies of Israel, was a figure of Him whose name he bare, even Jesus, our Joshua. In all the salvations wrought for them, God looked upon Christ the Anointed, and brought deliverances to pass by him. All the wonders done for Israel of old, were nothing to that which was done when the Son of God suffered on the cross for the sins of his people. How glorious his resurrection and ascension! And how much more glorious will be his second coming, to put an end to all that opposes him, and all that causes suffering to his people!and His brightness - that wherein God dwelleth Ezekiel 10:4, "the brightness of the Lord's glory," before which darkness fleeth Psalm 18:12, "was as the light," or as the sun. Out of the midst of the darkness, wherewith God, as it were Exodus 19:9, Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:21, hid Himself, the brightness of the "inapproachable Light" wherein "He dwelleth," gleams forth Exodus 24:10, bright as the brightest "light" gathered into one, which man knows of and whereon he cannot gaze. So amid the darkness of the humiliation of His presence in the flesh, John 1:14 : "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father;" and, Isaiah 9:2, "the people that walked in darkness see a great light," not dim. Theoph.: "nor weak, nor shadowed, like that of Moses, but pure unimaginable light of the knowledge of God." The brightness too of His flesh was like the light of the Godhead on Mount Tabor; for the Godhead flashed through. Rup.: "As often as He did His marvelous works, He put forth His "brightness" (tempered for His creatures, since they could not approach the depth of His light, yet) as "light" to enlighten people to know Him. Yet the brightness issues from the Light, co-existing with it, and in it, while issuing from it. And so the words aptly express, how He who is the, Hebrews 1:3, "brightness of the Father's Glory and the express Image of His Person." Wisdom Hebrews 7:25, "brightness of the eternal light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness," is as the Light from whom He is. Nicene Creed: "Light of Light," Equal to the Father by whom He was begotten. As John says in John 1:9 : "That was the true Light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world." As He prayeth in John 17:5, "Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was."

He had horns coming out of His Hand - Jerome Dion: "Horns are everywhere in Holy Scripture the emblem of strength." It may be, that here "rays" are likened to horns, as the face of Moses is said, with the same image, to have "sent forth rays" after he had long been in the presence of God. So it may be a mingled image of the Glory and might; Light, which was also might. But "horns," though they may be a symbol of "light," are not of "lightning;" and the Hand of God is used as an emblem of His power, His protection, His bounty, His constraining force on His prophets. It is nowhere used of the side or sides. We have two images combined here; "horns" which in every other place in which they are used as a metaphor, is an emblem of power; and "from the hand of" which, wherever it is used of a person, means that the thing spoken of had been in his hand or power really or virtually. Both then combine in the meaning that the might came forth from the directing agency of God who wielded it.

When then did light or might, which lay, as it were, before in the hand of God, go forth from it? For "the hand of God" is always symbolic of His might, whether put forth, or for the time laid up in it. The form of the words remarkably corresponds to those of Moses, in the preface to the blessing on the tribes, which Habakkuk had in mind Deuteronomy 33:2, "From His right hand was a fiery law for them," and Paul says that the glory of Moses' face which he received from the Presence of God, was a symbol of the glory of the law. 2 Corinthians 3:7 says, "The ministration of death written and engraven on stone was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance." The law, being given by God, had a majesty of its own. The Psalms bear witness to its power in converting, enwisening, rejoicing, enlightening the soul Psalm 19:8. They in whose heart it was, none of their steps slipped Psalm 37:31. The whole 119th Psalm is one varied testimony of its greatness and its power. It was a guide on the way; it was a schoolmaster unto Christ Galatians 3:24, by whom it was fulfilled. But itself bare witness of the greater glory which should come forth from the Hand of God. 2 Corinthians 3:11 states, "If that which is done away were glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." Cyril: "The horn signifieth power, when it is spoken of God the Father exhibiting to us God the Son, Luke 2:69, 'He hath raised up a horn of salvation for us,' and again, Psalm 111:9, 'His horn shall be exalted in honor.' For all things which were marvelously done were glorious. The only-begotten One then came in our form, and, in regard to the flesh and the manhood, enduring the appearance of our weakness, but, as God, invisible in might and easily subduing whom He willed."

And what has been the weapon of His warfare, whereby He has subdued the might of Satan and the hearts of people, but "the horns" of His cross, whereto His sacred hands were once fastened by the sharp nails, where was the "hiding of His Power," when His almightiness lay hid in His passion Isaiah 53:3, and He was Psalm 22:6 "a worm and no man; a reproach of men and the despised of the people?" Now it is the scepter laid upon His shoulder Isaiah 9:6, the ensign and trophy of His rule, the rod of His strength Psalm 110:2, terrible to devils, salvation to mankind. In it lay His might, although concealed, as He said, "The words, horns are in His hands, show the insignia of His kingdom, by which horns, pushing and thrusting the invisible and opposing powers, He drove them away." Eusebius Dem. Evang. vi. 15. Add Cyprian Test. ad Quirin. ii. 21. p. 57. Oxford Translation: "The horns in His hands, what are they but the trophy of the cross?"

Augustine, de Civ. Dei xviii. 32), "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" John 12:32. His Might was lodged there, although hidden. It was "the hiding-place of His power." The cross was, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ crucified was the Power of God and the Wisdom of God." Through the Cross was, Matthew 28:18, "all power given to Him both in Heaven and earth." Daniel 7:14 : "there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him." From Him shall go forth all power in earth; by His hands shall be given the vacant thrones in Heaven, as He says in Revelation 3:21, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His Throne." There too was the hiding of His Power, in that there, in His Cross, is our shelter , and in His pierced Side our hiding place, where we may take refuge from Satan and our sins; for therein is power.

Consider John 10:28, "Neither shall any pluck them out of My Hand." Light and darkness always meet in God. His inapproachable light is darkness to eyes which would gaze on it. Psalm 104:2, "he covereth Himself with Light as with a garmemt." His light is the very veil which hideth Him. His Light is darkness to those who pry into Him and His Nature; His darkness is light to those who by faith behold Him. He "emptied Himself" Philippians 2:8 and hid Himself; He hid the power of His Godhead in the weakness of the Manhood, and so, 2 Corinthians 4:6, "He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the Face of Jesus Christ." Jerome: "In the Cross was for a while His might hidden, when He said to His Father, Matthew 26:38-39, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,' and on the Cross itself, Luke 23:13, 'Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit. '"

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).

His brightness, that lustre in which God appeared, that unparalleled splendour which shined from him, was as the light; pure, clear as the sun, but much more dazzling and overcoming.

Horns: some read it beams or rays of light, and so the Hebrew will bear, and thus it is plain.

Out of his hand: our God is all glory and light; Moses’s face shined; the face, yea hands, of our God shine with glorious light; he dwelleth in light.

There; either in that place where he thus appeared, or in that light wherewith he appeared·

Was the hiding of his power: one would think his brightness should have discovered, not hid his power; it did both, it discovered much of it, but hid much more; it was light inaccessible, and therefore a hiding light.

Power; strength or might: by what was there done it did evidently appear, God, who was there, could do much more, but it could not appear how much he could do.

His brightness, that lustre in which God appeared, that unparalleled splendour which shined from him, was as the light; pure, clear as the sun, but much more dazzling and overcoming.

Horns: some read it beams or rays of light, and so the Hebrew will bear, and thus it is plain.

Out of his hand: our God is all glory and light; Moses’s face shined; the face, yea hands, of our God shine with glorious light; he dwelleth in light.

There; either in that place where he thus appeared, or in that light wherewith he appeared·

Was the hiding of his power: one would think his brightness should have discovered, not hid his power; it did both, it discovered much of it, but hid much more; it was light inaccessible, and therefore a hiding light.

Power; strength or might: by what was there done it did evidently appear, God, who was there, could do much more, but it could not appear how much he could do.

And his brightness was as the light,.... 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 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 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" (g); and be understood of Christ, who has beams and rays of glory on all sides of him, all around him; he is all glory (h); 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 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. 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", Psalm 132:8.

(g) "e lateribus utrinque emicabant cornua", i. e. "radii", Drusius. (h) So R. Joseph Albo interprets them of sparks of spiritual light, which come from God himself, and not another. Vid. Sepher Ikkarim, l. 2. c. 29.

And his brightness was as the light; {e} he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

(e) By which is meant a power that was joined with his brightness, which was hidden to the rest of the world, but was revealed at Mount Sinai to his people; Ps 31:16.

4. his brightness was as the light] And there is a brightness like the sunJob 31:26; Proverbs 4:18. Attention is drawn away from the general splendour which overspread the heavens and filled the earth and concentrated upon the central point of the appearance, which was (appeared as) a brightness like the sun.

He had horns coming out of his hand] he hath rays (coming forth) at his side. The rays of the sun are compared to horns in the East; in Exodus 34:29-30; Exodus 34:35 the verb is used of the face of Moses which shot out rays. The rays are probably lightning flashes. The rendering at his side is more probable than the literal out of his hand. So probably Deuteronomy 33:2 at his right hand; the rubente dextera jaculatus is less likely in Hebrew. Of course “at his side” means at each side, cf. Psalm 50:3.

there was the hiding] there is the hiding-place of His power, i.e. omnipotence, or, the specially divine in the manifestation.

Verse 4. - His brightness was as the light; brightness appeareth like light, The sunlight is meant, as Job 31:26; Job 37:21; Isaiah 18:4. He had horns coming out of his hand; i.e. rays of light on either side. The comparison of the first rays of light to the horns of the gazelle, according to Keil, is common in Arabic poetry (comp. Exodus 34:29, 30). In the original passage, Deuteronomy 33:2, we read, "At his right hand was a fiery Law unto them" - a reference to the two tables of stone, perhaps resplendent with light. The "hand" in our text is a general expression, and is not to be taken with any special reference to lightning launched by the hand (which is not a scriptural expression), nor to works effected by God's agency, but simply as signifying that the light of his presence streamed forth from both sides, i.e. everywhere. There was the hiding of his power. There, in that ineffable light, was the hiding place of his majesty. He clothes himself with light as with a garment (Psalm 104:2), and the splendour is the mantle of that presence which eye of man cannot behold (Exodus 24:17; 1 Timothy 6:16). Farrar quotes Psalm 18:11, "He made darkness his secret place;" and Milton -

"Dark with excess of light his skirts appear." Septuagint, Αθετο ἀγάπησιν κραταιὰν ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, which rendering has arisen from taking the adverb sham as a verb (sam), and mistaking the meaning of the following word. Habakkuk 3:4A splendour shines or arises like the light. תּהיה does not point back to תּהלּתו, "splendour like the sun will His glory be" (Hitzig); but it is the predicate to nōgah in the sense of to become, or to arise. האור is the light of the sun. Like this light, or like the rising sun, when the Lord comes, there arises (spreads) a brilliant light, from which the rays emanate on its two sides. קרנים, according to קרן in Exodus 34:29-30, is to be taken in the sense of rays; and this meaning has developed itself from a comparison of the first rays of the rising sun, which shoot out above the horizon, to the horns or antlers of the gazelle, which is met with in the Arabian poets. מיּדו, from His hand, i.e., since the hand is by the side, "at His side" (after the analogy of מימינו and משּׂמאלו), and indeed "His hand" in a general sense, as signifying the hand generally, and not one single hand, equivalent therefore to "on both sides" (Delitzsch). As the disc of the sun is surrounded by a splendid radiance, so the coming of God is enclosed by rays on both sides. לו refers to God. "Such a radiant splendour (קרנים) surrounding God is presupposed when it is affirmed of Moses, that on coming from the presence of Jehovah his face was radiant, or emitted rays" (קרן, Exodus 34:29-30). This interpretation of the words is established beyond all doubt, not only by the מימינו of the original passage in Deuteronomy 33:2, but also by the expressions which follow in Habakkuk 3:5, viz., לפניו (before him) and לרגלויו (behind him); and consequently the interpretation "rays (emanating) from His hand are to Him," with the idea that we are to think of flashes of lightning darting out of God's hand (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Maurer, etc.), is proved to be untenable. According to Hebrew notions, flashes of lightning do not proceed from the hand of God (in Psalm 18:9, which has been appealed to in support of this explanation, we have ממּנּוּ); and קרנים does not occur either in Arabic or the later Hebrew in the sense of flashes of lightning, but only in the sense of the sun's rays. ושׁם חביון עזּה, and there - namely, in the sun-like splendour, with the rays emanating from it - is the hiding of His omnipotence, i.e., the place where His omnipotence hides itself; in actual fact, the splendour forms the covering of the Almighty God at His coming, the manifestation of the essentially invisible God. The cloudy darkness is generally represented as the covering of the glory of God (Exodus 20:21; 1 Kings 8:12), not merely when His coming is depicted under the earthly substratum of a storm (Psalm 18:12-13), but also when God was manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21) on the journey of the Israelites through the desert, where it was only by night that the cloud had the appearance of fire (Numbers 9:15-16). Here, on the contrary, the idea of the splendour of the rising sun predominates, according to which light is the garment in which God clothes Himself (Psalm 104:2, cf. 1 Timothy 6:16), answering to His coming as the Holy One (Habakkuk 3:3). For the sun-light, in its self-illumining splendour, is the most suitable earthly element to serve as a symbol of the spotless purity of the Holy One, in whom there is no variation of light and darkness (James 1:17; see at Exodus 19:6). The alteration of ושׁם into ושׂם (he provides or contrives the concealment of His power), which Hitzig proposes after the lxx (Aq., Symm., and Syr.), must be rejected, inasmuch as in that case the object, which he makes into the covering (cf. Psalm 18:12), could not be omitted; and this thought is by no means suitable here, and has merely been brought into the text on the assumption that God appears in a storm. As the Holy One, God comes to judgment upon the unholy world (Habakkuk 3:5). Before Him goes debher, plague, and after His feet, i.e., behind Him, resheph, lit., burning heat, or a blaze (Sol 8:6), here the burning heat of the pestilence, fever-heat, as in Deuteronomy 32:24. Plague and pestilence, as proceeding from God, are personified and represented as satellites; the former going before Him, as it were, as a shield-bearer (1 Samuel 17:7), or courier (2 Samuel 15:1); the latter coming after Him as a servant (1 Samuel 25:42). This verse prepares the way for the description, which commences with Habakkuk 3:6, of the impression produced by the coming of God upon the world and its inhabitants.
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