Habakkuk 3:8
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was your anger against the rivers? was your wrath against the sea, that you did ride on your horses and your chariots of salvation?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Was the Lord displeased?—Better, Is it with the rivers Jehovah is wroth? Is Thine anger against the rivers? Is Thy wrath against the sea?—that Thou (thus) ridest upon Thy horses, that Thy chariots (thus appear) for deliverance?

Of salvation.—Better, for salvation, or for deliverance. The allusion is obviously to Israel’s miraculous passage through the Red Sea and the Jordan. The “horses” and “chariots” which are here the symbols of Divine might, come in the more fittingly in view of Exodus 14 (see Habakkuk 3:14 seq.), where Pharaoh, pursued with “horses and chariots,” only to find Jehovah Himself arrayed against him.

Habakkuk 3:8-10. Was the Lord, &c. — After the description of Jehovah, given in the preceding verses, the first of his wonderful works, recounted by the prophet, is the passage through the Red sea, where he represents the Lord as appearing at the head of the Israelites in his chariot of war, with his bow drawn in his hand, to rescue them from their cruel oppressors the Egyptians, and to give them the land of Canaan, according to the oath which he sware unto them, Habakkuk 3:8-9. The next is his giving them water to drink in the wilderness, where the mountains moved at his presence. The next, his passage over Jordan, where the waters, testifying their ready obedience to his will, opened to the right and left to make way for his people to pass through. The next, his interposition at Joshua’s engagement with the Amorites, when the sun and moon stood still to give them time to discomfit their enemies, Habakkuk 3:9-11. The last wonderful works which the prophet recounts were performed after this engagement, when Jehovah marched before them to execute vengeance on the Canaanites, and to protect the Israelites; destroying utterly the princes of Canaan and their states, at a time when they made sure of Israel for their prey; and giving his own people entire possession of their country, from the river Jordan on the east, to the Mediterranean sea on the west, Habakkuk 3:12-15. — Green.

Was the Lord displeased against the rivers — Can it be imagined, that when God caused the Red sea to be dry in the midst of it, and the waters of the river Jordan to stop, it was done out of displeasure against the waters? Surely not. But it was done out of God’s singular care of, and regard for, his people, for whose deliverance he appeared in as illustrious a manner, as if he had been seen riding in the clouds, (here termed his horses,) and carried upon the wings of the wind as in a chariot: see notes on Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1. Thy bow was made quite naked — Or, Thou didst lay bare thy bow, to fight for Israel; that is, thou didst fight for Israel, as evidently as if thou hadst been seen with a bow in thy hand; according to the oath, &c. — That thou mightest fulfil the oaths and promises which thou hadst made, to give the tribes of Israel full possession of Canaan. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers — Thou didst cleave the hard rocks, and the earth about them, and make the waters to run down in great streams, like rivers, which followed them a great part of their journey. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled — Mount Sinai, and the hills adjoining, felt the effects of thy presence. The overflowing of the water passed by — Or, hasted away, as Green renders it. “At the season when the Israelites passed over Jordan, this river over-flowed its banks; but as soon as the priests who bare the ark entered into it, the waters, rearing themselves upon the right hand and upon the left, parted asunder with a mighty noise; here nobly described by the deep uttering its voice, and lifting up its hands on high:” see Joshua 3:15-16.3:3-15 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!Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? - The prophet asks the question thrice, as to the two miracles of the dividing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, thereby the more earnestly declaring, that God meant somewhat by these acts and beyond them. He asks, as Daniel Dan 7:16. and Zechariah asked, what was the truth of the things which they saw. God's defilings with His former people were as much ensamples of what should be with us 1 Corinthians 10:11. as the visions shown to the prophets. Hereafter too, there shall be Luke 21:25; Revelation 8:6 "signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;" there shall be deepening plagues upon the sea and the rivers and fountains of waters; and every living soul in the sea shall die Revelation 16:3. But God's purpose therein aforetime was not as to the sea or the rivers, but for the salvation of His elect; so shall it be to the end. Mighty as may be the "mighty waves of the sea" which lift themselves up against the Lord, "mightier on high is the Lord" Psalm 93:4. Jerome: "As Thou didst dry up the Jordan and the Red Sea, fighting for us; for Thou wert not wroth with the rivers or the sea, nor could things without sense offend Thee; so now mounting Thy chariots, and taking Thy bow, Thou wilt give salvation to Thy people; and the oaths which Thou swarest to our fathers and the tribes, Thou wilt fulfill forever."

Thou didst ride upon Thy horses - as though God set His army Psalm 103:12. "the Hosts which do His pleasure," against the armies of earth, as the prophet's servant had his eyes opened to see 2 Kings 6:15. "the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." Jerome: "Yet amidst so many thousands of horses and chariots, there was no rider; He was the Rider and Ruler of those horses, of whom the Psalmist says Psalm 80:1. 'Thou that sittest above the Cherubim, shew Thyself.' With such horses and such chariots was Elijah also taken up into Heaven."

And Thy chariots of salvation - literally "Thy chariots are salvation." Not, as in human armies, except as far as they are the armies of God, to destruction. The end of God's armies, His visitations and judgments, is the salvation of His elect, even while they who are inwardly dead, perish outwardly also. Nor, again, do they prepare for the deliverance for which He intends them. With God, to will is to do. His chariots are salvation. His help is present help. His chariots are the tokens and channels of His Presence to aid. And so, they who bore His "Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, chosen vessels" to bear it, are, in a yet fuller sense, His chariots, which are salvation. Jerome said that they "are holy souls, upon which the word of God cometh, to save them and others by them Sol 1:9.. 'I have compared thee,' saith the Spouse, 'to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.' However holy the soul, yet compared to God, it is like the chariot of Pharaoh; and a beast, yet still a beast, before Thee." Psalm 73:23.. Yet such an one, as endowed with might and ready obedience, and swiftness and nobleness to bear the Word of God, and through His might whom they bore, not their own, nor making it their own, bearing down everything which opposed itself.

Cyril: "The object of the prophet, is to show that the second dispensation is better and more glorious, and of incomparably better things than the old. For of old He led Israel forth, through the bodily service of Moses, changing into blood the rivers of Egypt, and doing signs and wonders; then dividing the Red Sea, and carrying over the redeemed, and choking in the waters the most warlike of the Egyptians. But when the only-begotten Word of God became Man, He withdrew the whole human race under heaven from the tyranny of Satan, not changing rivers into blood, nor pouring forth His anger upon waters, nor dividing waves of the sea, nor bringing destruction upon people, but rather destroying the murderous Serpent himself, and taking away the sin which had been invented by him and for him, and loosing the unconquered might of death, and calling all to the knowledge of God, through the holy apostles, who, running forth their course under the whole heaven and bearing about the name of Christ, were very rightly had in admiration.

He saith then, O Lord, most worthy to be heard are those things, of which Thou hast Thyself been the Doer, and what Thou hast done anew is far better than what Thou didst through Moses. For Thou wilt not inflict wrath on rivers, nor show Thy might on the sea; not in these things will Thy divine and marvelous power gleam forth, but 'Thou wilt ride upon Thy horses,' and 'Thy chariots are Salvation.' What may these horses be? The blessed disciples, apostles and evangelists, they who took on them wholly the yoke of all His divine will, they, the noble, the obedient, ready for all things, whatsoever should please Him; who had Christ to sit upon them, whereof one is the blessed Paul, of whom Himself saith, Acts 9:15 : 'He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles.' Of fiery speed were these Horses, encompassing the whole earth; so then the chariots of God are said to be 'ten thousand times ten thousand' Psalm 68:17. For countless, each in their times, and after them, became leaders of the people, and subjected the neck of the understanding to the yoke of the Saviour, and bare about His glory throughout the whole earth, and rightly divided the word of truth, and subdued the whole earth, as with the speed of horsemen."

His chariots are salvation - Cyril: "for they ran not in vain, but to save cities and countries and nations together, Christ overthrowing the empires of devils, who, so to speak, divided among themselves the whole earth, subduing its dwellers to their own will."

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).

The prophet recalls to memory the miraculous dividing of the Red Sea and Jordan, when God divided them to make a passage for his people, when by a miracle he made the devouring element to be a safeguard to his people, when it was not displeasure against the sea or the river, but favour to Israel, that moved him to do this. The prophet repeats the question, to impress the mind of the captive Jews with deeper apprehensions of the mercy of their God.

The rivers: see Nahum 1:4.

The sea; the Red Sea.

Didst ride, as a general at the head of his army, leading them forward on some great exploit. Upon thine horses; alluding to the manner of men, with whom horses are of greatest, strongest, and stateliest preparations against an enemy; but these were not designed against the sea as against an enemy.

Thy chariots of salvation: but with these horses are joined (for the decorum of the figure) chariots, that are chariots of salvation for his people: cheer up then, the Lord hath the same love and power still. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers?.... 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,

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 with which compare Psalm 114:3. The clouds are the chariots of the Lord, Psalm 104:3 so angels, who are sometimes signified by horses and chariots, Psalm 18:10 Zechariah 1:8 and here they may design the angels of Michael, or Christ, Revelation 12:7 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 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.

Was the LORD displeased against the {h} rivers? was thy anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride {i} upon thy horses and thy chariots of salvation?

(h) Meaning that God was not angry with the waters, but that by this means he would destroy his enemies, and deliver his Church.

(i) And so did use all the elements as instruments for the destruction of your enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Was the Lord displeased?] Perhaps strictly this must be rendered: art thou displeased, O Lord? lit. is it hot to thee? or, is thine anger hot? All the other verbs would be better in the present: is thine anger … is thy wrath … that thou dost ride.

chariots of salvation] Or, of victory, deliverance; lit. thy chariots which are victory, i.e. victorious, used to victory. The “horses” and “chariots” here are the storm-clouds on which Jehovah rides. Psalm 18:10; Isaiah 19:1; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:33.

8–11. Is Jehovah’s anger against the rivers and the sea?

The reference to the “sea,” which is naturally to be understood as the Red Sea, is in favour of taking the whole passage as a description of the redemption of the Exodus. Jehovah moves in a glorious manifestation of light from His ancient seats in Paran and Sinai; He directs His movement towards the Red Sea for the delivery of His people. Sea and land are thrown into wild commotion and terror at His appearing. This suggests the prophet’s question, Is thine anger against the sea?Verse 8. - Interrupting his description of the theophany, the prophet asks the motive of this wrathful revelation. This is done, not with expectation of an answer, but giving life and vigour to the composition. Such sudden transitions are not uncommon (camp. Judges 5:12; Psalm 78:19, etc.). Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was it against the rivers, O Jehovah? was thy wrath kindled against the rivers? Was God angry with inanimate nature, when he showed his power, for instance, in the Nile and the Jordan and the Red Sea? God meant more by these acts. He showed his supremacy over all creation, and his will to save his people and to crush all opposition to the execution of his great design (see Psalm 106:9; Psalm 114:3, etc.). That thou didst ride upon thine horses. The prophet speaks of the Lord as a Leader of a mighty host which came with chariots and horses to defend the Israelites and to crush their foes (comp. Psalm 18:10). And thy chariots of salvation. "And," which is not in the Hebrew, is better omitted, the clause being an explanation of "thine horses." The chariots come for the salvation, i.e. the deliverance, of Israel (ver. 13). Some translate, "Thy chariots are salvation;" as the Septuagint, καὶ ἡ ἱππασία σου σωτηρία: and Vulgate, et quadrigae tuae salvatio. It comes to the same thing, whichever rendering we adopt. From this salvation even the Israel that may be in misery or scattered abroad will not be excluded. Micah 4:6. "In that day, is the saying of Jehovah, will I assemble that which limps, and gather together that which has been thrust out, and which I have afflicted. Micah 4:7. And I will make that which limps into a remnant, and that which is far removed into a strong nation; and Jehovah will rule over them from henceforth, even for ever." "In that day" points back to the end of the days in Micah 4:1. At the time when many nations shall go on pilgrimage to the highly exalted mountain of the Lord, and therefore Zion-Jerusalem will not only be restored, but greatly glorified, the Lord will assemble that which limps and is scattered abroad. The feminines הצּלעה and הנּדּחה are neuters, and to be understood collectively. Limping denotes the miserable condition into which the dispersed have been brought (cf. Psalm 35:15; Psalm 38:18). And this misery is inflicted by God. The limping and dispersed are those whom Jehovah has afflicted, whom He has punished for their sins. The gathering together of the nation has already been promised in Micah 2:12; but there the assembling of all Israel was foretold, whereas here it is merely the assembling of the miserable, and of those who are scattered far and wide. There is no discrepancy in these two promises. The difference may easily be explained from the different tendencies of the two addressed. "All Jacob" referred to the two separate kingdoms into which the nation was divided in the time of the prophet, viz., Israel and Judah, and it was distinctly mentioned there, because the banishment of both had been foretold. This antithesis falls into the background here; and, on the other hand, prominence is given, in connection with what precedes, to the idea of happiness in the enjoyment of the blessings of the holy land. The gathering together involves reinstatement in the possession and enjoyment of these blessings. Hence only the miserable and dispersed are mentioned, to express the thought that no one is to be excluded from the salvation which the Lord will bestow upon His people in the future, though now he may be pining in the misery of the exile inflicted upon them. But just as the whole of the nation of Israel to be gathered together, according to Micah 2:12, consists of the remnant of the nation only, so does the gathering together referred to here point only to the restoration of the remnant, which is to become a strong nation, over which Jehovah reigns as King in Zion. מלך is emphatic, expressing the setting up of the perfected monarchy, as it has never yet existed, either in the present or the past.

(Note: "Micah does not mention the descendants of David here, but Jehovah Himself, not to exclude the kingdom of David, but to show that God will prove that He was the author of that kingdom, and that all the power is His. For although God governed the ancient people by the hand of David, and by the hand of Josiah and Hezekiah, yet there was as it were a cloud interposed, so that God then reigned obscurely. The prophet therefore indicates a certain difference here between that shadowy kingdom and the new kingdom which God will openly manifest at the advent of the Messiah." - Calvin.)

This dominion will never be interrupted again, as it formerly was, by the banishment of the nation into exile on account of its sins, but will endure מעתּה (henceforth), i.e., from the future, which is regarded as present, even for ever.

So far as the realization of this exceedingly glorious promise is concerned, the expression standing at the head, be'achărı̄th hayyâmı̄m (at the end of the days), already points to the Messianic times: and the substance of the promise itself points to the times of the completion of the Messianic kingdom, i.e., to the establishment of the kingdom of glory (Matthew 19:28). The temple mountain is a type of the kingdom of God in its New Testament form, which is described by all the prophets after the forms of the Old Testament kingdom of God. Accordingly, the going of the nations to the mountain of the house of Jehovah is, as a matter of fact, the entrance of the heathen who have been brought to the faith into the kingdom of Christ. This commenced with the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles, and has been continued through all the ages of the Christian church. But however many nations have hitherto entered into the Christian church, the time has not yet come for them to be so entirely pervaded with the spirit of Christ, as to allow their disputes to be settled by the Lord as their King, or to renounce war, and live in everlasting peace. Even for Israel the time has not yet come for the limping and exiled to be gathered together and made into a strong nation, however many individual Jews have already found salvation and peace within the bosom of the Christian church. The cessation of war and establishment of eternal peace can only take place after the destruction of all the ungodly powers on earth, at the return of Christ to judgment and for the perfecting of His kingdom. But even then, when, according to Romans 11:25., the pleroma of the Gentiles shall have entered into the kingdom of God, and Israel as a nation (πᾶς Ἰσραήλ equals יעקב כּלּו in Micah 2:12) shall have turned to its Redeemer, and shall be assembled or saved, no physical elevation of the mountain of Zion will ensue, nor any restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, or return of the dispersed of Israel to Palestine. The kingdom of glory will be set up on the new earth, in the Jerusalem which was shown to the holy seer on Patmos in the Spirit, on a great and lofty mountain (Revelation 21:10). In this holy city of God there will be no temple, "for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof" (Revelation 21:22). The word of the Lord to the Samaritan woman concerning the time when men would neither worship God on this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, but worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:21, John 4:23), applies not only to the kingdom of God in its temporal development into the Christian church, but also to the time of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory.

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