A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
Verses 1-19. - Part II. PSALM OR PRAYER OF HABAKKUK. Verse 1. - § 1. The title. A prayer. There is only one formal prayer in the ode, that in ver. 2; but the term is used of any devotional composition; and, indeed, the whole poem may be regarded as the development of the precatory sentences in the proemium (seethe inscriptions in Psalm 17; Psalm 86; Psalm 90; Psalm 102; Psalm 142; and the last verse of Psalm 72, the subscription of Book II.). (For other hymns in the prophetical books, see Isaiah 24, and 35; Ezekiel 19; Jonah 2; Micah 6:6, etc.; and as parallel to this ode, comp. Deuteronomy 33:2, etc.; Judges 5:4, etc.; Psalm 68:7, etc.; Psalms 77:13-20; 114; Isaiah 63:11-14.) Of Habakkuk the prophet. The name and title of the author are prefixed to show that this is no mere private effusion, but an outpouring of prophecy under Divine inspiration. Upon Shigionoth (comp. title of Psalm 7.); Septuagint, μετὰ ᾠδῆς, "with song;" Vulgate, pro ignorantiis. For this latter rendering Jerome had etymological ground, but did not sufficiently consider the use of shiggayon in Psalm 7, where it indicates the style of poetry, nor, as Keil shows, the fact that all the headings of Psalms introduced, as the present, with al, refer either to the melody, or accompaniment, or style in which they were to be sung. The Revised Version gives, "set to Shigionoth;" and the expression is best explained to mean, in an impassioned or triumphal strain, with rapid change of emotion, a dithy rambic song - a description which admirably suits this ode.
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
Verse 2. - § 2. The proemium, in which the prophet expresses his fear at the coming judgment, and prays God in his wrath to remember mercy. Thy speech; or, the report of thee; the declaration made by God in the preceding chapters concerning the punishment of the Jews and the destruction of the Chaldeans. The LXX., regarding the ambiguity of the Hebrew, gives a double rendering, εἰσακήκοα τὴν ἀκοήν σου, and κατενόησα τὰ ἕργα σου, "I heard thy report," and "I considered thy works." Pusey considers that both meanings are intended, viz. both what God had lately declared, and all that might be heard of God, his greatness and his workings. Was afraid. The revelation of God's interposition makes the prophet tremble. Revive thy work. God's work is the twofold judgment spoken of above; and the prophet prays God to "quicken" and make it live, because, though it brings temporary distress upon his countrymen, it will also cause the destruction of their enemies, and re-establish the Jews and crown them with salvation, and make the glory of God known to all the earth. Dr. Briggs ('Messianic Prophecy,' p. 234) translates, "Jahveh, I have heard the report of thee; I fear, Jahveh, thy work. In the midst of the years revive him (Israel)." He explains God's "work" to be his acts in theophany - his judgment, especially as in ver. 16, the cause of fear to the psalmist. In the midst of the years. The "years" are the period between the announcement of the judgment and its final accomplishment (Habakkuk 2:3); the prophet prays that God would manifest his power, not merely at the extreme limit of this epoch, but earlier, sooner. This overthrow of the world power forms, as it were, the central point of history, the beginning of a new age which shall culminate in the Messianic kingdom. Make known. Let all the earth know and acknowledge thy work. The LXX. have given two or more versions of this passage, one of which is remarkable. Thus they read, "In the midst of two animals (δύο ζώων) thou shalt be known; when the years draw nigh thou shalt be well known; when the time is come thou shalt be revealed." The rendering, "two animals," arises from a confusion of words but many of the Fathers, who were conversant with the Greek Scriptures, saw herein a reference to the incarnation of our blessed Lord, as lying in the stable at Bethlehem between the ox and the ass, which was the mystical explanation of Isaiah 1:3, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib." Others interpreted the two animals of the two thieves between whom Christ was crucified; or of angels and men; or Jews and Gentiles; or the two Testaments; or Moses and Elias. Others again accented the word ζῶων so as to understand "two lives," the present and the future, in the midst of which the Judge shall appear; or the life of Christ before his death and after his resurrection. There is a great truth underlying most of these interpretations, namely, that this magnificent hymn is concerned with the victories of Christ and his Church. In wrath remember mercy. When thine anger is displayed by sending the Chaldeans against us, remember thy mercy, and make a speedy end of our misery, and mitigate our enemies' cruelty (comp. Habakkuk 1:13; and vers. 9, 13, 18, 19 of this chapter). The LXX. gives a double version, "In the troubling of my soul, in wrath, thou wilt remember mercy."
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
Verses 3-15. - § 3. The prophet or the congregation depicts in a majestic theophany the coming of God to judge the world, and its effect symbolically on material nature, and properly on evil men. Verse 3. - In this episode Habakkuk takes his imagery from the accounts of God's dealings with his people in old time, in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Sinai, at the Jordan, in Canaan; he echoes the songs of Moses and Deborah and the psalmist; and he looks on all these mighty deeds as antici-pative of God's great work, the overthrow of all that opposes and the establishment of the kingdom of Messiah. God (Eloah) came from Teman. The words are connected with Moses' description of the Lord's appearance at Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2; comp. Judges 5:4). As he then came in glory to make a covenant with his people, so will he appear again in majesty to deliver them from the power of evil and to execute judgment. The verbs throughout are best rendered in the present. The prophet takes his stand in time preceding the action of the verb, and hence uses the future tense, thus also showing that he is prophesying of a great event to come, symbolized by these earlier manifestations. Habakkuk here and in Habakkuk 1:11 trees the word Eloah, which is not found in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other minor prophets; it occurs once in Isaiah, twice in Deuteronomy, and frequently in Job. There is no ground for the contention that its employment belongs to the latest stage of Hebrew. Teman; i.e. Edom; Vulgate, ab Austro (see notes on Amos 1:12 and Obadiah 1:9). In Moses' song the Lord is said to come from Sinai. Habakkuk omits Sinai, says Pusey which was the emblem of the Law, and points to another Lawgiver, like unto Moses, telling how he who spake the Law, God. should come in the likeness of man. The Holy One. A name of God (Habakkuk 1:12), implying that he will not let iniquity pass unpunished, and that he will preserve the holy seed. Mount Paran. The mountainous district on the northeast of the desert of Et-Tih. The glory of the Lord is represented as flashing on the two hilly regions separated by the Arabah. They both lay south of Canaan; and there is propriety in representing the redeemer and deliverer appearing in the south, as the Chaldean invader comes from the north. The LXX. adds two translations of the word "Pharan," viz. "shady," "rough;" according to its etymology it might also mean "lovely." Selah; Septuagint, διάψαλμα. This term occurs also in vers. 9, 13, and frequently in the Psalms, but nowhere else, and indicates some change in the music when the ode was sung in the temple service. What is the exact change is a matter of great uncertainty. Some take it to indicate "a pause;" others, connecting it with salah, "to lift up," render it "elevation," and suppose it means the raising of the voice, or the strengthening of the accompaniment, as by the blast of trumpets. The meaning must be left undetermined, though it must be added that it is always found at the end of a verse or hemistich, where there is a pause or break in the thought, or, as some say, some strongly accented words occur. His glory covered the heavens. His majestic brightness spread over the heavens, dimming the gleam of sun and stars; or it may mean his boundless majesty fills the highest heavens and encompasses its inhabitants. His praise. This is usually explained to signify that the earth and all that dwell therein, at this glorious manifestion, utter their praise. But there is no allusion as yet to the manner in which the appearance is received, and in ver. 6 it produces fear and trembling; so it is best to take "praise" in the sense of "matter of praise," that glory "which was calculated to call forth universal adoration" (Henderson).
And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
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.
Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
Verse 5. - After describing the splendour of the theophany, the prophet now turns to the purpose and effects of God's appearing. He comes to avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before him stalks plague, to punish his enemies and the disobedient, as in Egypt, in Canaan (Exodus 23:27; 1 Samuel 5:9, 11); and among his own people (Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:37, etc.; Leviticus 26:25). For "pestilence" the LXX. reads "word." Burning coals went forth at his feet. "Fiery belts" followed his advance, "hailstones and coals of fire" (Psalm 18:12, 13); as in Psalm 97:8, "A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies on every side." But, regarding the parallelisms of the hemistiches, it is better to take resheph in the sense of "fever heat," as in Deuteronomy 32:24; scorching fever follows in his train. Jerome translates the word, diabolus, looking on the evil spirit as the agent of the Divine vengeance. The Jews, he says, had a tradition that Satan was called Reseph, from the speed of his movements. The LXX. has, "It (the word) shall go forth into the plains," which Jerome interprets, "shall make the crooked straight and the rough ways smooth."
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
Verse 6. - He stood, and measured the earth. God takes his stand, and surveys the earth which he is visiting in judgment. As his glory filled the heavens, so now he with his presence paces the earth, measuring it, as it were, with his foot. He considers, too, all the doings of the children of men, and requites them accordingly. Vulgate, Stetit, et mensus est terram. So the Syriac. On the other hand, the LXX. gives, Αστη καὶ ἐσαλέυθη ἡ γῆ, "The earth stood and quaked." Thus the Chaldee, and many modern commentators, "rocketh the earth." This rendering seems to anticipate what follows, and is not so suitable as the other, though it is quite admissible. Drove asunder. Dispersed and scattered. Septuagint, διετάκη ἔθνη, "nations melted away." Others translate, "made to tremble" (Exodus 15:15, etc.). The everlasting mountains. Mountains that have lasted as long as creation, and are emblems of stability and permanence (Deuteronomy 33:15). Were scattered; or, were shattered (comp. Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5). His ways are everlasting. This is best taken alone, not as connected grammatically with the preceding clause, and epexegetical of the "hills and mountains," which are called God's "ways," i.e. his chief creative acts, as Job 40:19; Proverbs 8:22; but it means that, as God acted of old, so he acts now; "The ancient ways of acting are his" (Proverbs 31:27). "He reneweth his progresses of old time" (Delitzsch). The eternal, unchangeable purpose and operation of God are contrasted with the disruption of "the everlasting hills." The Greek and Latin Versions connect the words with what precedes. Septuagint, Ἐτάκησαν βουνοὶ αἰώνιοι πορείας αἰωνίας, "The everlasting hills melted at his everlasting goings;" Vulgate, Incurvati sunt colles mundi ab itineribus aeternitatis ejus, where the idea seems to be that the high places of the earth are God's paths when he visits the world.
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
Verse 7. - As God moves in his majesty the various nations are struck with fear, as of old were the peoples that heard of the Exodus (see Exodus 15:14-16). I saw. In prophetic vision (1 Kings 22:17). The tents of Cushan; LXX.. σκηνώματα Αἰθίοτων "the tents of the Ethiopians;" Vulgate, tentoria AEthiopiae. "Cushan" is not Chushan-Rishathaim, the Mesopotamian king mentioned in Judges 3, but is a lengthened form of Cush (as Lotan for Lot, Genesis 36:20), the biblical name for Ethiopia. Here the African country is meant, lying along the west coast of the Red Sea. In affliction. Panic-stricken. The prophet particularizes what he had said above generally of the nations hostile to the people of God. The curtains; the tent curtains; Vulgate, pelles. Both "tents" and "curtains" are used by metonymy for their inhabitants. Midian. The country on the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Ethiopia and Midian are named, as God is supposed to advance from the south.
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?
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.
Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
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 mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
Verse 10. - The mountains saw thee, and they trembled; literally, were in pain, Septuagint, ὠδινήσουσι. The words point to the phenomena of an earthquake, as Sinai shook at the presence of the Lord (Exodus 19:18; Psalm 114:6). So Virgil, 'AEn.,' 6:256 -
"Sub pedibus mugire solum, et juga coepta moveri
Silvarum... Adventante des." For "mountains," the LXX. reads, "peoples" The overflowing of the water passed by; the talent of water passed along. Cataracts of rain fell, as in the Deluge. "The windows on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake" (Isaiah 24:18). Those who confine the reference to past events see here an intimation of the passage of the Jordan (Joshua 3:15, 16). The deep uttered his voice. The mass of waters in the ocean and under the earth rears mightily as it bursts forth (Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13). His hands. Its waves (Psalm 98:8). Septuagint, ὕψος φαντασίας αὐτῆς, "the height of its form."
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.
Verse 11. - The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; or, stand still, or withdraw into their habitation. They hide themselves in the tabernacles whence they are said to emerge when they shine (Psalm 19:4, etc.). Overpowered with the splendour of God's presence, the heavenly luminaries hide their light in this day of the Lord (comp. Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:2, 10, 31; Joel 3:15; Amos 5:20; Matthew 24:29). The miracle of Joshua (Joshua 10:12, etc.) may have suggested some of the language here, but the idea is quite different. At the light of thine arrows they went; i.e. the sun and moon fled away discomfited at the glory of God's weapons, his arrows gleaming with light. The idea may be that, in the absence of the sun and moon, the terrific scene was illuminated only by flashes of lightning. "Lightnings" are sometimes celled God's "arrows," as in Psalm 18:14; Psalm 77:17, etc.; but the image here is rather of the arms of a warrior. Many supply the relative in the sentence, and render, "arrows which shoot along." This seems to be unnecessary, and is not supported by the versions. There is no special reference to the hailstorm at Beth-horon, which discomfited the Cananites, but enabled the Israelites to pass on to victory (Joshua, loc. cit.). It is the terror of the judgment that is adumbrated, when the Lord shall come in flames of fire (2 Thessalonians 1:8), and the heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:12).
Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
Verse 12. - Thou didst march through the land in indignation; thou treadest the earth in fury. The mighty Judge stalks over the earth (ver. 6; comp. Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:7). It is a general statement, and not to be confined to the successes of Joshua and the destruction of the Canaanites. Septuagint, Ἐν ἀπειλῇ ὀλιγώσεις γῆν, with the alteration of a letter," Thou wilt bring low the land with threats." Thou didst thresh the heathen (nations) in anger; Septuagint, ἐν θυμῷ κατάξεις ("thou wilt break in pieces") ἔθνη. Jerome here renders the verb, obstupefacies; but elsewhere, as Isaiah 28:28; Hosea 10:11; Amos 1:3, he uses triturare which gives the best meaning. The kindred figure is found in Micah 4:13; Isaiah 63:1, etc.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.
Verse 13. - Thou wentest forth. The prophet specifies the end which these manifestations were designed to effect. God is said to "go forth" when he intervenes for the aid of his people, as Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13. For salvation with thine anointed; In salutem cum Christo tuo (Vulgate); τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν χριστὸν σου (τοὺς χριστούς σου, Alex., Sin.), "to save thine anointed" (Septuagint). If the signification of the word "with" (eth) be pressed, the passage is taken to mean that, as God manifested himself in old time for the salvation of his people with his chosen "Christ," Moses; so he will hereafter reveal his power for the destruction of the Chaldeans with his chosen "Christ," Cyrus. But this is too definite, and cannot be shown to be intended. The "anointed one," again, is not the nation of Israel, for the term is always applied to a single individual and never to the people collectively; so here it is the theocratic king who is meant - first, the representative of David; and secondly, the Messiah. God reveals himself for the salvation of his people in union with the work especially of his anointed Son, Christ. This is how the passage is taken by Eusebius ('Dem. Evang.,' 4:16), Αἰς σωτηρίαν λαον σου σὺν Ξριστῷ σου. It must be confessed, however, that most modern commentaters translate, "for the salvation of thy anointed," taking the last expression (contrary to all usage) to mean the Israelites, as being a kingdom and nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). In this case the present clause is merely a repetition of the preceding one. Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked; thou dashest in pieces the head. As in the following clause the metaphor of a house is plainly employed, "the head" must be taken for the gable or topmost ridge. "The house of the wicked" is an allegorical description of the Chaldaic dominion and its king; and the prophet declares that God will smite with destruction both the ungodly monarch and the kingdom that opposes itself. Some commentators see here an allusion to the primeval sentence (Genesis 3:15): others to the destruction of the Egyptians' firstborn; others to the incident of Jael and Sisera (Judges 5:26). If the prophet's language was influenced by any of these matters, his view and his oracle are concerned with the mighty future. The LXX. has, "Thou wilt east death upon the heads of the evil." By discovering (literally, making naked) the foundations unto the neck. "By" is better omitted. Keil supposes that "the neck" is the central part of the house, looking from the gable downwards; though why this should be so called is not apparent; and the wording of the original, "the foundations even to the neck," compels us to connect the two words together, and will not allow us to interpret "the neck" of some higher part of the building. The general meaning is plain - the metaphorical house is destroyed from summit to base, the destruction beginning at the gable is carried on to the very foundations According to this view, "the neck" should mean the very lowest basis of the walls. Henderson (after Capellus and others) suggests that we should read "rock," a word derived from the same root. Septuagint, Ἐξήγειρας δεσμοὺς ἕως τραχήλου, "Thou didst raise chains unto the neck." It is possible that the mention of "the head," just above, has led the prophet to use the term "neck" in order to express the utter destruction of the whole body. Selah. Another solemn pause ensues.
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.
Verse 14. - Thou didst strike through with his staves; thou didst pierce with his own spears. Thou dost turn on the Chaldeans and all thine enemies the destruction which they intended for others. The people meet with the same fate as the royal house (ver. 13); Vulgate, maledixisti sceptris ejus, which seems to be a mistranslation. The head of his villages (פרזים). There is a difficulty in arriving at the meaning of this last word. The LXX. renders it, "mighty men;" Jerome, "warriors;" Chaldee, "army;" Delitzsch and many modern critics, "hordes" or "inhabitants of the plain;" others again, "rulers" or "judges." The most probable version is either "warriors" or "hordes." The head, i.e. collectively the heads of his warlike troops. They came out (or, who rush) as a whirlwind to scatter me (see the description of the Chaldees, Habakkuk 1:6, etc.). The prophet identifies himself with his people. (For the figure of the whirlwind, comp. Isaiah 41:16; Jeremiah 13:24; Hosea 13:3.) Dr. Briggs renders, "Thou dost pierce with his rods the chief, when his rulers are rushing in to scatter me." Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly; or, as in ambush, to devoter the helpless. They exult in acting the part of robbers and murderers, who lurk for the defenceless and afflict the poor (Psalm 10:8, etc.). As is equivalent to "as it were." Vulgate, Sicut ejus qui. "The poor" are primarily the Israelites, and then all meek worshippers of God.
Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters.
Verse 15. - The Exodus is the type of the deliverance of God's people. Thou didst walk through (didst tread) the sea with thine horses; literally, thou treadest the sea, thy horses, the horses being explanatory. The prophet takes his imagery from Exodus 15:1-19. He represents God as a warrior in his chariot, leading the way through the waters to the destruction of his enemies and to the salvation of his own people. Through the heap of great waters; or, upon the surge of mighty waters. The verse may also be rendered, Thou treadest the sea - thy horses (tread) the heap of great waters (Psalm 77:19). Past mercies and deliverances are types and pledges of future.
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
Verses 16, 17. - § 4. The contemplation of the Divine judgments produces in the people of God at first, fear and trembling at the prospect of chastisement Verse 16. - When I heard. "When" is better omitted. "I heard" the report of thee (vex. 2). The LXX. refers to Habakkuk 2:1, rendering, "I watched." If the former part is the paean of the congregation, the present is the prophet's own utterance expressive of his dismay at the prospect before him. My belly trembled. My inmost part, my inward self, trembled with fear (comp. Isaiah 16:11). My lips quivered at the voice. My lips quivered with fear at the voice of God that sounded in me (Habakkuk 2:1), proclaiming these awful judgments. The word rendered" quivered" (tsalal) is applied to the tingling of the ears (1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:12), and implies that the prophet's lips so trembled that he was scarcely able to utter speech. The LXX. renders, "from the voice of the prayers of my lips." Rottenness entered into my bones. This is an hyperbolical expression, denoting that the firmest, strongest parts of his body were relaxed and weakened with utter fear, as if his very bones were cankered and corrupted, and there was no marrow in them. And I trembled in myself. The last word (tachtai) is rendered variously: "under me," according to the Greek and Latin Versions, i.e. in my knees and feet, so that I reeled and stumbled; or, "in my place," on the spot where I stand (as Exodus 16:29). That I might rest in the day of trouble; better, I who shall rest in the day of tribulation. The prophet suddenly expresses his confidence that he shall have rest in this affliction; amid this terror and awe he is sure that there remaineth a rest for the people of God. This sentiment leads naturally to the beautiful expression of hope in the concluding paragraph (ver. 17, etc.). Keil and others render, "tremble that I am to wait quietly for the day of tribulation;" that I am to sit still and await the day of affliction. But Pusey denies that the verb (nuach) ever means "to wait patiently for," or "to be silent about;" its uniform signification is "to rest" from labour or from trouble. Thus the Septuagint, Ἀναπαύσομαι ἐν ἡμέρα θλίψεως, "I will rest in the day of affliction;" Vulgate, Ut requiescam in die tribulationis. When he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. This should be, When he that invades with bands comes up against the people; i.e. in the day when the Chaldeans attack the Israelites (comp. 2 Kings 24:2, where the word "bands" is also used). Septuagint, Τοῦ ἀναβῆναι εἰς λαὸν παροικίας μου: "To go up against the people of my sojourning;" Vulgate, Ut ascendam ad populum aecinctum nostrum, which is thus explained: "I will bear all things patiently, even death itself, that I may attain to the happy company of those blessed heroes who fought for their country and their God." It is obvious to remark that this is a gloss, not on the original text, but on the erroneous version.
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:
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."
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Verses 18, 19. - § 5. In spite of the terror produced by these judgments, the true Israelite is blessed with hope of salvation and joy in the Lord. Verse 18. - Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. Unshaken in confidence, the prophet, representing the faithful Israelite, expresses his unbounded joy at the prospect of salvation which opens to him beyond the present affliction. The psalmist often thus shews his exulting faith (see Psalm 5:7; Psalm 13:6; Psalm 17:14, 15; Psalm 31:19). I will joy. I will shout for joy; my joy shall express itself outwardly. The God of my salvation (see note on Micah 7:7). The God who judges the nations to procure the final salvation of his people. Septuagint, Τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, "God my Saviour;" Vulgate, In Deo Jesu meo. From this gloss of St. Jerome some of the Fathers have argued for the existence in this passage of a revelation of the incarnation of Christ and the redemption wrought by him.
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
Verse 19. - The Lord God is my strength; more accurately, Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength, from Psalm 18:32; comp. Psalm 27:1. He will make my feet like hinds' feet (Psalm 18:33). He makes me active and swift-footed as the gazelle, as a lusty warrior (2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18) should be. So by the help of God I shall be superior to my enemies. He will make me to walk upon mine high places. The expression is used properly of God (Micah 1:3), and elsewhere, says Keil, to denote the victorious possession and government of a country (see Deuteronomy 32:13; Deuteronomy 33:29). Here it signifies that believing Israel shall overcome all opposition and dwell in safety in its own land. To the chief singer (musician) on my stringed instruments (neginoth). This is a musical direction, answering to the heading in ver. 1, and implies that the ode is committed to the conductor of the temple music, to be by him adapted for the public service to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. Such directions are elsewhere always found at the beginning, not the end, of psalms (see Psalm 4; Psalm 6; Psalm 54; Psalm 55; Psalm 67; Psalm 76.). It has been thought that the suffix of the first person, "my stringed instruments," denotes that Habakkuk had a right to take part in the temple service, and was therefore a Levite; but it is very doubtful whether this suffix is not a clerical error, as Kuenen and Ewald suppose, or merely paragogic. Certainly neither the Greek, Latin, nor Syriac Versions afford it any confirmation. These versions make the subscription part of the ode. Thus LXX., Ἐπι τὰ ὑψηλὰ ἐπιβιβᾶ με, τοῦ νικῆσαι ἐν τῇ ὠδῇ αὐτοῦ, He maketh me to mount upon the high places, that I may conquer by his song;" Vulgate, Super excelsa mea deducet me victor (victori, Cod. Amiat.) in psalmis canentem.