Habakkuk 3 - Outline of Habakkuk (Book Notes menu page)
1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
Having received the LORD's answer, Habakkuk has ceased wrestling with his questions.
He responds with an eloquent psalm of praise, reverberating with scriptural overtones.
...upon Shigionoth.
This term occurs only in one other place in scripture, in the heading of Psalm 7, where it is singular (here, it is in a plural form). The root word means 'to err,' 'to wander,' or 'to reel to and fro.' Since these terms do not describe the content of either psalm, this word is generally thought to be a musical notation (perhaps suggesting a free style, for passionate expression).
However, at least one translation applies this word to the people for whom Habakkuk prays:
     "A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet concerning erring ones..." [YLT]
[ Note that YLT applies the singular form of this word in a similar way, in the heading to Psalm 7:
     "'The Erring One,' by David, that he sung to Jehovah concerning the words of Cush a Benjamite."]
2 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.
  • ...I have heard {HB=shama'} thy speech {HB=shema', report} and was afraid {HB=yare'}.
    The word translated 'afraid' is used of 'fear' of evil (as Isaac's fear of Esau in Gen 32:11), and also of the 'dread' or 'awe' with which a person is overwhelmed in the Presence of God (Gen 28:17). For the believer, this awe is demonstrated by submission to the LORD's will (eg., Gen 22:12). Both senses are present here.
       Having received the LORD's revelation of His righteousness, wisdom, and power, Habakkuk was struck with awe, which profoundly affected his physical and mental constitution (v.16a).
       Having heard the LORD's declaration that He was preparing to judge His people with the Babylonian invasion, and that He would subsequently judge Babylon (ch. 2), Habakkuk was fearful of the consequences upon Judah and the nations. Perhaps, like Amos, he feared that the declared punishment would be more than they could bear (eg., Amos 7:1-5).
O LORD...- Habakkuk addresses the LORD twice in this verse (v.2):
First, in worship and in confession of the thoughts on his heart (above).
Then, in the presentation of his requests...
  • Revive {HB=chayah, preserve alive, make alive} thy work in the midst {ie., among} the years... make known.
    Habakkuk had complained that God was not doing anything about the sin of His people (Hab 1:2-4). Now, he understands that God is working according to His purpose. Habakkuk desires to see God's purpose fulfilled {revived, brought to life}, so that the glory of the LORD's Person and power would be made known, as it was in former days.
       Beginning in the next verse (v.3), Habakkuk will rehearse some of God's past working in behalf of His people. But recognizing that when God works in judgment, His people will endure years of trouble and sorrow, he makes another request...
  • in wrath remember mercy.-
    Aware of both the holiness of God and the sinfulness of Judah (and all mankind), Habakkuk knows that the full exercise of God's wrath would result in the annihilation of humanity. There is no hope for the sinner apart from God's mercy. eg., Num 14:17-19; Psa 38:1; Jer 10:24; Lam 3:32; Zech 1:12; Dan 9:4-19; Eph 2:4,5
In the next section, Habakkuk recalls the LORD's Powerful work (in years past)...
3. 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.
4 And [his] brightness was as the light;
he had horns [coming] out of his hand:
and there [was] the hiding of his power.
5 Before him went the pestilence,
and burning coals went forth at his feet.
6 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.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction:
[and] the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
8 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?
...Selah. (v.3)
This word is used frequently in the Psalms. It is thought to be a musical notation, indicating a 'pause' or 'break.' Although we may not be putting the words to music, when we encounter this word while reading, we should pause and reflect upon what we have just read.
     In this psalm of Habakkuk (ch.3), 'Selah' occurs three times (in v.3, v.9 and v.13), as a marker which divides the text into distinct sections. The subject of each section is presented in the line or verse immediately preceding the 'Selah.' After our pause to ponder that thought, the subsequent text expounds on that subject, until the next section is opened. (These divisions are shown in the Outline of Habakkuk.)
God came from Teman... from mount Paran... Selah. (v.3)
During the Exodus from Egypt, it was the LORD who went before the children of Israel.
He brought them through the wilderness of Sinai and the wilderness of Paran (Num 10:12). It was there that they turned back in unbelief, and where they spent forty years wandering (eg., Num 13:25,26). The LORD could have destroyed the rebellious people. But in answer to the prayers of Moses, He dealt with them in love and mercy... exercising His power to provide for them and to protect them.
     At the end of the forty years, they left the wilderness behind, and came, next, to the land of Edom (here identified by Teman, one of its major cities), which they passed by, enroute to Canaan (Deu 33:1,2, where 'Seir' also refers to Edom). It was not Moses, but the Presence of the LORD, who prepared the way before them. Even under His pillar of cloud and fire, the people were often blinded with unbelief. But Moses leaned upon the LORD and saw His glory (Ex 33:12-18).
His glory covered the heavens... His brightness was as the light... He had horns coming out of His hand...
The LORD's glory is above the heavens (Psa 8:1). He who is the Light, and dwells in the light, is radiant in His holiness. The word 'horns' refers to 'rays' of light. The works of His hands shine in their perfections. The earth, being full of His works, is full of His praise-worthiness. Psa 104:2; Joh 1:5; 1Joh 1:5,6; 1Tim 6:16
     In the wilderness, the brightness of the LORD's glory was visible in the pillar of fire and of cloud (Ex 13:21).
     By His hand, Israel received the written revelation of the LORD of glory, in His glorious Law. (The word 'fire' speaks of His glory, in Deu 9:10; Deu 33:2.)
...there was a hiding of His power.
As the LORD's glory was veiled in the cloud and also behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, so, the greatness of His power was partially concealed from His people.
     His works revealed His power and glory, but not in their full measure. The hand which radiated with His glory, also shielded His people from full exposure to the power of His Person (Ex 33:18-23). (cp. God's glory veiled in flesh: Joh 1:14,18; 10:36-38; 14:10,11; and revealed when that veil was torn: Heb 10:20)
...before Him went the pestilence... and burning coals... at his feet.
The pestilence and burning coals refer to the plagues upon Egypt. The word for 'pestilence' is applied to those plagues in Ex 9:3,14 (trans. 'murrain' in v.3) and also in Psa 78:48-50 (where the word translated 'burning coals' is rendered 'hot thunderbolts.')
     That these things 'went forth at His feet,' means that they were brought forth by His authority and for His purpose (Ex 24:10).
He stood and measured the earth... the nations... the mountains... His ways are everlasting. (v.6)
By His authority, and at His discretion, the everlasting LORD (Hab 1:12a), divided the earth. He gave a portion to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and he gave portions to the nations. Deu 32:8; Acts 17:26
I {ie., Israel} saw the tents of Cushan in affliction... the land of Midian did tremble. (v.7)
The dwellings of Cush (Egypt) were troubled by the plagues, including the death of their firstborn (Ex 12:29,30). The Midianites trembled upon hearing of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, and again, upon suffering defeat at their hands (Num 31:7,8). As the outer 'curtains' (of their tents) trembled in the wind, the people 'trembled' within (both words are from the same Hebrew root). Although Rahab was not a Midianite, she expressed the fears of the surrounding nations, at the approach of Israel (Josh 2:9-11).
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers... was thy wrath against the sea...? (v.8)
Of course, the LORD was not angry with bodies of water that blocked the way of His people. Rather, He displayed His power in behalf of His people, turning the Nile into blood, opening a path through the Red Sea, and again through the Jordan River. The horses and chariots of Egypt perished in the sea, while the LORD 'rode' the forces of their destruction, to the salvation of His people. Deu 33:26,27; Psa 68:4; 104:3
9 Thy bow was made quite naked,
[according] to the oaths of the tribes, [even thy] word. Selah.
Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
10 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.
11 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.
12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation,
thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
Thy bow was made quite naked, ...to the oaths of the tribes, ...word. Selah
During the conquest of Canaan, God's power was uncovered for all to see, as He fulfilled the covenant, which He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He would give that land to their descendants (the 12 tribes of Israel). God's Word is sure. But He made it more sure, when He confirmed it with an oath. The word 'oaths' is in 'the plural of majesty,' because He swore by Himself, staking His reputation upon the fulfillment of His promise (Gen 15:13-21; 22:16,17; Heb 6:13-18).
Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers...
He brought water out of the rock (Psa 78:16; 105:41).
The mountains... trembled... the overflowing of the water passed by... the deep... lifted up his hands on high.
Mount Sinai trembled at the giving of the Law (Ex 19:16-19).
The Red Sea overflowed the Egyptians. The Jordan River, overflowing in a seasonal flood, stopped and was lifted up, allowing the people to cross as the waters receded below the stoppage (Josh 3:13-17). Similar language is used in Psa 93:3; 98:7,8.
The sun and moon stood still... thine arrows... thy glittering {ie., flashing} spear. (v.11)
This describes the victory which the LORD gave Joshua, at Gibeon, over the combined forces of five kings (Josh 10:9-14).
Thou didst march through the land in indignation... thou didst thresh... in anger.
The LORD went before the Israelites to judge the heathen nations of Canaan, whose iniquities had become full. Gen 15:13-21; Psa 78:55; Acts 13:19
Next, Habakkuk recognizes that in these past events, the LORD was powerfully working for one Purpose...
13 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.
14 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.
15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses,
[through] the heap of great waters.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people... with thine anointed...
Historically, the LORD exercised His power in order to save and preserve Israel. He acted in concert with human agents, whom He anointed to shepherd His people, in successive generations (eg., Moses, Joshua, David, Psa 77:20; 89:19-21; 99:6).
     Ultimately, the word 'anointed' {HB=mashiach} refers to the Messiah, the prophet like unto Moses, and the son of David, who will rule from his throne forever (Acts 7:37; Luk 1:30-33). The Greek word 'Christos' has exactly the same meaning as 'Messiah,' and applies to the same Person.
     The LORD enabled Daniel to understand that God will eventually "make an end of sin... make reconciliation for iniquity... and bring in everlasting righteousness..." (Dan 9:24). The salvation, of the LORD's people, will not be complete until these things are fulfilled. Daniel also understood, that this salvation would require the coming of the Messiah, who would be 'cut off,' but not for His own sins (Dan 9:25,26; Mat 1:21-23; Isa 53:4-6; 1Pet 3:18).
     Because full salvation is the work of God through the Messiah, Satan sought to prevent His coming, through numerous attempts to destroy Israel, the nation through which and for which, He must come. Therefore, the LORD's preservation of Israel was and is essential to the Messiah's work of salvation.
     Likewise, it was necessary for the LORD to preserve the Messiah from His enemies, until the hour when He would offer Himself as a sacrifice for His people. The Hebrew of v.13 can also be translated "Thou wentest forth... for the salvation of thine anointed" (eg., Mat 2:1-18; Luk 4:28-30; Joh 7:30).
Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked,
by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.
The enemies of God's people will be totally destroyed.
     Habakkuk had prayed for judgment upon Babylon, which he had seen as the epitome of wickedness (Hab 1:12,13). But 'the head of the house of wickedness' is Satan himself, who will empower the Antichrist during the future Tribulation (as described in Dan 9:27; Rev 13:1-8). It is the destruction of his realm, by which the captives are set free from sin and death. The deadly wound, by which the foundation of Satan's realm of wickedness will be laid bare and brought down, was accomplished by the seed of the woman, the virgin born Son (Gen 3:14,15; Joh 12:27-33).
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages:
they came out... to scatter me {ie., Israel}...
In the closing conflict of the age, the heads of lesser entities (the nations, in league with Satan and his Antichrist) will lead their forces against God's people. Then, the Messiah will deliver the final blow against 'the head of the wicked' and his followers (Zech 14:1-3; Rev 19:11-21). See also the prophetic foreview of the Messiah's destruction of His enemies in Psalm 18:37-45.
Thou didst walk through {or, 'tread on'} the sea... the heap of great waters...
This phrase reminds us of the victory over Egypt at the Red Sea. However, in the context of the future salvation of Israel, this verse looks forward to the LORD's victory over the sea of gentile nations, who will rise up against Israel at the closing battle of the Tribulation (see references above, and Rev 16:13-16). In the OT, "great waters" frequently depict a swelling tide of enemies which threaten to overflow and overwhelm God's people and land (eg., Psa 144:6-8; Isa 8:7,8; 17:12,13).
16. 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.
When Habakkuk heard and understood the LORD's answer (in ch.2), he was afraid (v.2).
The message shook him to the core. His lips, by which he had voiced his complaints (in ch.1), were unable to find words. Confronted with the LORD's Person, purpose, and power, he was convicted of the rottenness {corruption} of his own inner being (cp. Isa 6:1-5; Dan 10:15-17).
I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble...
Habakkuk trembled to hear of the judgments, with which the LORD will trouble the earth. Yet, because he trusted the LORD, he knew that he would rest in peace, when that trouble came. cp. Dan 12:8-9,13; 2The 1:6-9
...when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
The peace of God secures the believer, in every time of trouble, including the invasions of Jerusalem by...
  • Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian, c. 586 BC (foretold in Hab 1:5-11)
  • Antiochus Epiphanes, the Grecian, c. 175 BC (foretold in the context of Dan 8:23-27)
  • Vespasian and Titus, the Romans, c. 70 AD (foretold in Dan 9:26b)
  • The Antichrist, the final emperor of gentile world dominion, at the end of the Great Tribulation (foreshadowed by Antiochus Epiphanes and foretold in Dan 9:27).
       In the day of the Antichrist's terrible dominion, Israel will turn in desperation to the LORD in prayer. He will answer, delivering them and destroying their enemies (Isa 26:12-21).
In that day, the wrath of God will overtake 'the head of the house of the wicked' with woes (v.12,13; Hab 2:6,9,12,15,19).
17 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:
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 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 17 describes the complete failure of commodities essential to life, during a time of trouble.
The LORD had foretold that such things would come upon Israel, in judgment for their sin (Deu 28:15-41). Yet, even in a time of deep distress, the LORD is Israel's hope, if only they would turn to Him (Jer 14:2-8).
Yet I will rejoice {ie., exult, triumph} in the LORD... the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk, no longer wrestling with the LORD, has found rest in Him.
Faith rests in the LORD alone...
  • I have limited understanding of His purposes,
    but I am convinced that His purposes are pure and sure.
    Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever the future holds.
  • I have no other means of salvation,
    for I am full of rottenness, and all of my resources have failed (v.16,17).
    My confidence is wholly in Him, who is full of life and power, to accomplish His purposes (v.13).
  • I rejoice, because the One, in whom I trust, is ever victorious.
    As He was, in the past, so, He is and will be, in the future. v.3-12; Isa 61:10,11
The LORD is my strength... he will make my feet like hind's feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
He makes the 'weak and trembling' confident. For in Him, they have sure footing in treacherous conditions, and sure victory over their enemies. The word for 'high places' {HB=bama', an elevation} has several connotations in scripture. Literally, it refers to the 'backs' of men or animals, or to elevated terrain ('hills'). However, frequently, the word is used metaphorically. The sense, here, may include all of the following...
  • The 'high places' of idolatrous worship, or the seat of an enemy's authority.
    The LORD destroys destructive evil influences, causing His people to triumph over them.
    eg., Num 33:52; Lev 26:30; Deu 33:29; cp. 2Cor 10:4,5
  • The heights of earthly blessing, to which God previously elevated His people, Israel,
    and to which He will eventually restore them (Deu 32:9-14).
  • The height of spiritual strength, to which the Lord raises otherwise weak believers.
    See Psa 18:30-33. This psalm was originally written by king David, to express his praise to God for deliverance from death under king Saul. But in multiple ways, the psalm looks beyond David's experience to that of his greater Son. It speaks of Christ's victory over sin and death and every ungodly enemy. The duplication of this psalm (in 2Samuel ch. 22) emphasizes the powerful work of God, in and through the Messiah.
    Those, who trust in Christ, are participants in His victory (1Joh 5:4,5).
  • The heavenly position, which pertains to believers, who are 'in Christ.'
    See Eph 1:3-9,20-23.
    Verse 19 and also Psa 18:33, refer to 'my high places.' Christ has been exalted to the position which is rightfully His, the highest place, at the Father's right hand. Those who believe God's promise of salvation, through Him, are 'in Christ.' Thus, to be seated with Him, in the heavenly places, is the rightful possession, or inheritance, of the person who makes the LORD God his strength.
       Habakkuk was absolutely certain that the LORD would fulfill His purpose (the salvation of His people), despite his limited understanding of seemingly contradictory difficulties. Likewise, regardless of fleshly weakness, fiery trials and persecution, God has pre-determined that the salvation, of all who are in Christ, will culminate in the promised inheritance (Eph 1:11-14). Then, we will be forever with our exalted Lord, where He is.
To the chief singer...
Those, who trust in LORD, have reason to sing joyfully.

This concludes the study in Habakkuk.
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