Habakkuk 3:9
Your bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even your word. Selah. You did split the earth with rivers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Thy bow was made quite naked.—Better, Thy bow shall be bared, even the chastisements sworn by Thy word. Selah. With rivers shalt thou cleave the earth. God’s chastisements, which are compared in Psalm 21:12 to arrows fitted to the string, are here represented as a bow taken out of the case, and so “made naked,” or “bared.” The word matteh, “rod,” “stem” (hence, also, “tribe”), used to denote an instrument of chastisement in Micah 6:9, Isaiah 30:32, here apparently means the punishment, or chastisement, of heathen iniquities, which God has sworn (see Deuteronomy 32:40-41) to execute. On the term Selah see Psalm 3:4 note. With rivers shalt thou cleave the earth, i.e., the rocks shall send forth new watercourses at Jehovah’s bidding, so that “rivers run in the dry places.” (See Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11.)

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!Thy bow was made quite naked - The word is repeated for emphasis. Literally, (In) "nakedness, it was laid naked;" the sheath being laid aside and cast away, as Isaiah says, Isaiah 22:6. "Kir laid bare the shield." Gregory, Mor. xix. 9. n. 54, Compare Augustine in Psalm 59, n. 6.: The bow represents the threat of the vengeance of Almighty God, from which it is at length discharged, if not turned aside; the longer the string is drawn, the sharper issueth the arrow. So then the more the coming of the day of judgment is delayed, the stricter is the severity of the judgment then issuing. So long as judgment is delayed, the bow seems laid up in its sheath. God's judgments mostly strike suddenly. Psalm 64:7, "as with a swift arrow," because men regard them not, coming from a bow at a distance which they see not. His more signal judgments He makes bare in sight of all.

According to the oath of (to) the tribes - "the oath which He swore unto our father Abraham," which oath He often renewed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and again to David This oath, the word and promise of God, was the pledge of the deliverance of His people, that they "should be saved from their enemies, and from the hand of all that hate them." It lay, as it were, covered and hid, so long as God completed it not. Selah. A pause followeth, wherein to meditate on all which is contained in the word or promise of God, which is all time and eternity.

Thou didst cleave the earth with (into) rivers - Sea and river had become dry land for the passing through of God's people; again, the rock, struck by Moses' rod, was split, so that "rivers ran in the dry places." Until that Rock, which was Christ, was stricken, and "out of His side came blood and water" John 19:24, the whole world was desert and barren; then it was turned into streams of water, and "now not four but twelve streams went forth from the Paradise of Scriptures" (Jerome) For from the One Fountain which is Christ, there issue many streams, even as many as convey the waters of His teaching, to water the earth.

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.

Thy bow; one part of armour put for the whole; or else the Lord here is represented as armed, in readiness to smite through all enemies, having his bow in his hand.

Was made quite naked; the case taken off, that when it was to be used there might be no delay.

According to the oaths of the tribes; in pursuance of his oath made to our fathers: he promised, and confirmed the promise by oath, that he would drive out the Canaanites, and this oath is here called

oaths, because repeated and renewed at several times; and it is oaths of, i.e. to, the tribes, to raise their hope in their present low condition not Abraham here mentioned, lest they should be upbraided with degenerating and losing the right to the promises; but it is

tribes, the right is in them.

Even thy word of promise.

Selah; note it well.

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers: when they were to march through a dry and thirsty land where no water was, how should they subsist? What good to be defended from perishing by the sword of an enemy, and be left to perish for want of refreshing waters? This then is added to complete the mercy; our God made rivers in the desert for them, and satisfied them with streams out of the flinty rock. Thy bow was made quite naked,.... It was took out of its case, and arrows out of their quiver, and these made use of against the enemies of his people: this is put for all weapons of war; the sword was unsheathed, and all military weapons employed, and the power of the Lord was exerted; or, as the Targum,

"the Lord was revealed in his power;''

fighting the battles of his people, as in the times of Joshua:

according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. That is, to fulfil his word of promise, to which he had annexed his oaths, he at several times swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to the fathers of the Israelites, that he would put them in possession of the land of Canaan; and which being worthy of notice, and to be remarked, the word "Selah" is added. So the Targum,

"in revealing thou art revealed in thy power, because of thy covenant which thy word made with the tribes for ever.''

The "bow" here is an emblem of the Gospel, with which Christ the Captain of our salvation, the antitype of Joshua, went forth, more especially in the first ages of Christianity, conquering and to conquer, Revelation 6:2. The arrows of this bow are the doctrines of the Gospel, which are sharp in the heart of Christ's enemies, his elect; who are so in a state of nature, whereby they are brought into subjection to him, Psalm 45:5 and hereby the promises of God confirmed by his oaths are accomplished, that the spiritual seed of Christ shall endure for ever; or he shall never want a seed to serve him, Psalm 89:35,

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers; which is generally supposed to allude to the smiting of the rock, from whence waters gushed out, and ran in dry places like a river; for which channels or canals were made in the earth, in which they flowed and followed the Israelites wherever they went, and supplied man and beast with water. So the Targum,

"for thou didst break strong rocks, rivers came forth overflowing the earth;''

see Psalm 105:41 but this seems to be going back in the history; rather therefore this refers to the rivers formed in the land of Canaan, whereby it became fertile; hence it is called a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills, Deuteronomy 8:7. This may respect, in futurity, either the provisions of grace, and the large abundance of the blessings of it, made for the supply and satisfaction of the children of God in times of distress and difficulty, Isaiah 41:17 or that help and assistance against, protection and deliverance from, the flood of persecution, cast out after the church by Satan, in order to overwhelm her, by the earth opening its mouth, and swallowing up the flood, Revelation 12:15.

Thy {k} bow was made quite naked, according to the {l} oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou {m} didst cleave the earth with rivers.

(k) That is, your power.

(l) For he had not only made a covenant with Abraham, but renewed it with his posterity.

(m) Read Nu 20:11.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Thy bow was made quite naked] is made bare. The “bow” is the battle-bow. It is bared of its covering in order to be freely used and to discharge its arrows—a figure for the flashing thunderbolts, or for the missiles with which Jehovah smites the rivers and the sea.

According to the oaths of the tribes] The words down to Selah form a riddle which all the ingenuity of scholars has not been able to solve. Delitzsch calculates that a hundred translations of them have been offered. The clause no doubt carries on the previous one, “thy bow is made bare,” just as it is taken up by the following one, “thou cleavest the rivers (or, currents) into dryland.” What must be described therefore is the discharge from the naked bow of the shafts which smote the rivers. The word rendered “tribes” (which have nothing to do here) may mean staves (Habakkuk 3:14), i.e. spears or shafts. The term “oaths” might more naturally be some derivative of the word seven and mean sevens, heptads (so Ewald), sevens of spears, with the meaning that Jehovah’s shafts were discharged not singly but in sevens. There still remains the expression word (A. V. even thy word), which is difficult to connect with the preceding. The idea that Jehovah’s arrows are really His “word,” whereby He rebukes and cleaves the sea, is not very natural. The multiplication of conjectures would serve no purpose.

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers] The language certainly admits of this sense, but the connexion seems rather to require: thou dost cleave the rivers (or, water-currents) into dryland. Both the words “rivers” and “earth” are in the accus.; and only the connexion can shew which is the direct object and which the more remote (acc. of result).Verse 9. - The prophet continues his description of the Lord as "a man of war" (Exodus 15:3). Thy bow was made quite naked. The sheath of the bow was laid aside to make it ready for use. In the Assyrian monuments the bow case forms part of the quiver, and holds only the lower half of the bow (Rawlinson, 'Anc. Mon.,' 2:55, edit. 1864). It was fastened to the side of the chariot or carried at the back of the archer. (For the general sense, comp. Deuteronomy 32:40, etc.; Psalm 45:5.) In the Revelation (Revelation 6:2) he that sits on the white horse has a bow. According to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word; i.e. thou doest all this to confirm the promises of deliverance and salvation made to the tribes of Israel This sense is satisfactory; but the Hebrew text is corrupt, and cannot be explained with any certainty. The Revised Version gives," The oaths to the tribes were a sure word;" in the margin, "Sworn were the chastisements (Hebrew, 'rods') of thy word." Thus Dr. Briggs: "Sworn are the rods of thy word." Orelli translates," Oaths, rods of the word," and explains the clause to mean that the Lord comes to execute the denounced punishment, which proceeds from his mouth like chastising rods. The word mattoth is translated "tribes" (as in 2 Chronicles 5:2) or "rods." Keil contends for the latter, as instruments of chastisement, rendering," Rods are sworn by word" Henderson, taking the words as a military signal, curiously translates, "'Sevens of spears' was the word." Pusey supports the Authorized Version, which, indeed. gives a good sense, and is probably correct It is virtually supported by Jerome, who has, "Suscitans suscitabis arcum tuum, juramenta tribubus quae locutus es," "Thou wilt awaken the oaths," which, so long as the evil prospered, seemed to be forgotten and sleeping. The LXX. emits the word rendered "oaths," and translates mattoth, σκῆπτρα, thus: Ἐντείνων ἐνέτεινας τόξον σου ἐπὶ σκῆπτρα λέγει Κύριος, "Thou didst surely bend thy bow against sceptres." Selah. A pause ensues before the introduction of a new series of natural phenomena, accompanying the Lord's epiphany (see on ver. 3). The next clause would be more fitly joined with ver. 10. Thou didst cleave the earth with (or, into) rivers. This refers to some catastrophe like that which happened at the Flood, when "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" (Genesis 7:11; comp. Psalm 77:16). Others think that the allusion is to the miracles at the Red Sea, or Sinai, or Rephidim in the wilderness, as in Psalm 74; Psalm 78; Psalm 105. But though the prophet glances at such particular circumstances, his scope is more general. The prophecy turns from the highest glorification of Zion to the throne of Zion, which had been founded by David, and swept away with the destruction of Jerusalem (Micah 3:12), and predicts its restoration in the future. Consequently the reign of Jehovah upon Mount Zion, promised in Micah 4:7, is still further defined as effected through the medium of the Davidico-Messianic dominion. Micah 4:8. "And thou flock-tower, hill of the daughter Zion, to thee will the former dominion reach and come, the reign over the daughter Jerusalem." This announcement is attached primarily to Micah 4:6 and Micah 4:7. As the remnant of Israel gathered together out of the dispersion will become a strong nation, so shall the reign of the daughter Zion be also restored. The address to the flock-tower, the hill of the daughter Zion, shows that these two notions express the same thing, looked at from two sides, or with two different bearings, so that the flock-tower is more precisely defined as the "hill of the daughter Zion." Now, as the daughter Zion is the city of Zion personified as a virgin, the hill of the daughter Zion might be understood as denoting the hill upon which the city stood, i.e., Mount Zion. But this is precluded by Isaiah 32:14, where hill and watch-tower (‛ōphel vâbhachan) are mentioned in parallelism with the palace ('armōn), as places or buildings which are to serve as dens for ever. From this it is obvious that ‛ōphel was a place either at the side or at the top of Zion. If we compare with this 2 Chronicles 27:3 and 2 Chronicles 33:14, according to which Jotham built much against the wall of the Ophel (hâ‛ōphel), and Manasseh encircled the Ophel with a wall, and made it very high, Ophel must have been a hill, possibly a bastion, on the south-eastern border of Zion, the fortification of which was of great importance as a defence to the city of Zion against hostile attacks.

(Note: The opinion that Ophel is the whole of the southern steep rocky promontory of Moriah, from the southern end of the temple ground to its extreme point (Robinson, Schultz, Williams), viz., the Ophla or Ophlas of Josephus, as Arnold (Herzog's Cycl.) and Winer (Bibl. R.W.) suppose, would be in perfect harmony with this. At the same time, all that can be inferred with any certainty from the passages from Josephus which as cited in support of it (viz., Wars of the Jews, v. 6, 1; cf. vi. 6, 3 and v. 4, 2) is, that the place called Ophla was in the neighbourhood of the valley of Kidron and of the temple mountain. The question then arises, whether the Ophla of Josephus is identical with the Ophel of the Old Testament, since Josephus does not mention the Ophel in his list of the hills of Jerusalem, but simply mentions Ophla as a special locality (see Reland, Pal. p. 855). And lastly, the situation of the Ophel, upon which the Nethinim dwelt (Nehemiah 3:26), is still a matter of dispute, Bertheau supposing it to be the habitable space to the east of the eastern side of the temple area.)

Consequently migdal-‛ēder cannot be the flock-tower in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, which is mentioned in Genesis 35:21, but can only be a (or rather the) tower of the Davidic palace, or royal castle upon Zion, namely the town mentioned in Nehemiah 3:25, which stood out against the upper king's house, by the court of the prison (cf. Nehemiah 3:26). For the prison, which also belonged to the king's house, according to Jeremiah 32:2, formed a portion of the royal castle, according to the custom of the East. And that it had a lofty tower, is evident from Sol 4:4 : "Thy neck is like David's tower, built for an armoury: a thousand shields hang thereon, all heroes' weapons;" according to which the tower of the royal castle was ornamented with the weapons or shields of David's heroes (1 Chronicles 12:1). And the tower of the king's castle was so far specially adapted to represent the sovereignty of David, "that by its exaltation above Zion and Jerusalem, by the fact that it ruled the whole city, it symbolized the Davidic family, and its rule over the city and all Israel" (Caspari). This tower, which is most likely the one called bachan (the watch-tower) in Isaiah (l.c.), is called by Micah the flock-tower, probably as a play upon the flock-tower by which the patriarch Jacob once pitched his tent, because David, the ancestor of the divinely-chosen royal house, had been called from being the shepherd of a flock to be the shepherd of the nation of Israel, the flock of Jehovah (Jeremiah 13:17; cf. 2 Samuel 7:8; Psalm 78:70). This epithet was a very natural one for the prophet to employ, as he not only describes the Messiah as a shepherd in Micah 5:3, but also represents Israel as the sheep of Jehovah's inheritance in Micah 7:14, and the flock-tower is the place where the shepherd takes up his position to see whether any danger threatens his flock (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4). עדיך תאהת, "unto thee shall it come."

(Note: Luther's rendering, "thy golden rose will come," arose from his confounding עדיך (from עד, unto) with עדיך, thine ornament.)

עדיך affirms more than אליך, to thee: expressing the conquest of every obstacle that blocks up the way to the goal. תּאהת is separated from what follows, and exhibited as independent not only by the athnach, but also by the change of tense occurring in בּאה: "to thee will it come," sc. what the prophet has in his mind and mentions in the next clause, but brings into special prominence in וּבאה. הם הראשׁנה, the former (first) reign, is the splendid rule of David and Solomon. This predicate presupposes that the sovereignty has departed from Zion, i.e., has been withdrawn from the Davidic family, and points back to the destruction of Jerusalem predicted in Micah 3:12. This sovereignty is still more precisely defined as kingship over the daughter of Jerusalem (ל before בת is a periphrasis of the gen. obj.). Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, represents as the object sovereignty over the whole kingdom. This is to be restored to the hill of Zion, i.e., to the royal castle upon the top of it.

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