The Word of the Lord to Habakkuk

Chapter 3

Habakkuk, in his prayer, trembles at God's majesty, 1-16. The confidence of his faith, 17-19.

1 [A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.]

O LORD, I have heard your speech and was afraid./
O LORD, revive your work in the midst of the years./
In the midst of the years make it known./
In wrath remember mercy.

God came from Teman,/
and the Holy One from mount Paran./
His glory covered the heavens,/
and the earth was full of his praise.

And his brightness was as the light./
He had rays coming out of his hand,/
and there was the hiding of his power.

Before him went the pestilence,/
and burning coals went forth at his feet.

He stood and measured the earth./
He beheld and drove apart the nations./
The everlasting mountains were scattered/
and the perpetual hills bowed./
His ways are everlasting.

I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction./
And the curtains of the land of Midian trembled.

Was the LORD displeased with the rivers?/
Was your anger against the rivers?/
Was your wrath against the sea/
that you rode upon your horses/
and your chariots of salvation?

Your bow was made quite ready,/
according to the oaths of the tribes, even your word./
You cleaved the earth with rivers.

10 The mountains saw you and they trembled./
The overflowing of the water passed by./
The deep uttered his voice/
and lifted up his hands on high.

11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation./
At the light of your arrows they went,/
and at the shining of your glittering spear.

12 You marched through the land in indignation./
You threshed the heathen in anger.

13 You went forth for the salvation of your people,/
even for salvation with your anointed./
You wounded the head of the house of the wicked/
by uncovering the foundation to the neck./

14 You struck through with his staffs/
the head of his villages./
They came out as a whirlwind to scatter me./
Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.

15 You walked through the sea with your horses,/
through the heap of great waters.

16 When I heard, my belly trembled./
My lips quivered at the voice./
Rottenness entered into my bones,/
and I trembled in myself,/
so that I might rest in the day of trouble./
When he comes up to the people,/
he will invade them with his troops.

17 Though the fig-tree does not blossom/
and no fruit is on the vines,/
though the labor of the olive fails/
and the fields yield no food,/
though the flock is cut off from the fold/
and there is no herd in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD./
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.

19 The LORD God is my strength,/
and he will make my feet like those of a doe/
and make me to walk upon my high places.

[To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.]


Matthew Henry Commentary - Habakkuk, Chapter 3[➚]


John Gill's Chapter Summary:

The title of this chapter is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, composed after the manner of a psalm of David, and directed to the chief singer (verses 1, 19). The occasion of it is expressed (verse 2); in which the prophet declares his concern for the work of the Lord, and the promotion of the kingdom and interest of Christ; and observes the various steps that were, or would be, taken for the advancement of it; for which he prays, and suggests that these would be after the manner of the Lord's dealing with the people of Israel, and settling them in the land of Canaan (verses 3-15); and there being several things awful in this account, both with respect to the judgments of God on his enemies, and the conflicts and trials of his own people, it greatly affected the mind of the prophet (verse 16); and yet, in the view of the worst, he expresses his strong faith in the Lord, as to better times and things, that would most assuredly come (verses 17-19).

[v.2a] - "speech" - Or, "voice."

[v.2b] - "revive" - Or, "preserve."

[v.4] - "rays" - Originally, "horns," but here, "rays of light," is meant.

[v.5] - This verse is rendered in various ways. ASV: "Before him went the pestilence, and fiery bolts went forth at his feet." John Owen rendered it, "From before him proceeded the word (i.e., the law), and forth came lightning at his feet." Others substitute "burning coals" with, "plague," or "pestilence," and render the verse to say that pestilence went before him and plague followed him.

[v.9a] - "quite ready" - Literally, "quite bare." The idea is that the bow has been made bare by being pulled out of its sheath, and therefore, it is ready for use.

[v.9b] - "according to the oaths of the tribes, even your word" - It seems as if every English translation has a different rendering of this text. The Pulpit Commentary agrees with the WBS/KJV, but then adds, "the Hebrew text is corrupt, and cannot be explained with any certainty." ASV: "the oaths to the tribes were a sure word." The word, tribes, can also be translated to shafts, rods, or arrows, and the phrase, even your word, can be translated as appointment, decree, or command. With those two alternate translations, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon offers this rendering of the text: "Sworn are the rods (or, arrows) of appointment." Though that rendering is given, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon states that the text is not reliable.

[v.10] - "The overflowing of the water passed by" - John Calvin said that this text is applied to the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31) and the crossing of the Jordan into Canaan (Joshua 3:14-17).

[v.11] - "The sun and moon stood still in their habitation" - Reference, Joshua 10:12-14.

[v.12] - Reference, Psalm 44:5.

[v.14] - "villages" - The Hebrew word here can refer to two different things, though the overall meaning doesn't change too much. It can refer to what is here used, villages, as in an open unfortified village (John Owen). It can also refer to the inhabitants of a village, for the Hebrew word is in the masculine form (the feminine form is used to refer to cities and towns), and in this case, it can be translated as warriors, leaders, or inhabitants (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon; John Calvin). The ASV renders the word as warriors.

[v.15] - "through the heap of great waters" - The Pulpit Commentary offers this alternate rendering of this text: "upon the surge of mighty waters."