Habakkuk 3:8-15

Faith In God And His Character Is The Key To Living In Times Of Violence And Perverted Justice!

I.   Why Is Yahweh Unresponsive to My Prayers? 1:1-11

II.  Yahweh’s Response Concerning Babylon, 2:1-20

III. Habakkuk’s Prayer, 3:1-19

        A.     Fear and Revival, 1-2

        B.   Theophany, 3-15 (Continued)


“This section of the ode is introduced in verse 8 by a series of questions that serve as a literary interruption to give life and vitality to the message and to provoke the reader to think about its implications. The questions are in a poetic style that expects no answer. They are thought-questions.” (BKC, loc. cit.) Some commentators suggest that the answer comes at verse 13 as the reason for Yahweh’s coming in verses 3ff.

הֲבִנְהָרִים֙ Interrogative + Preposition, Disadvantage + Noun MGP Absolute, is . . . against the rivers. Forward emphasis.

חָרָ֣ה QPf 3MS, Persistent Pf, kindling wrath? See NET note at verse 3.

יְהוָ֔ה Noun MNS Absolute, Subject N, Yahweh. Some translations see this as vocative (ESV, NKJV). Disjunctive accent.

אִ֤ם Disjunctive Particle (continuing הֲ above), or.

בַּנְּהָרִים֙ Preposition, Disadvantage + Article, Previous Reference + Noun MGP Absolute, against the rivers. Forward emphasis.

אַפֶּ֔ךָ Noun MNS Construct, Predicate N in Noun Clause + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = Yahweh, [is] your anger.  Disjunctive accent.

אִם־בַּיָּ֖ם Disjunctive Particle (continuing הֲ above) + Preposition, Disadvantage + Article, Particularizing + Noun FGS Absolute, or . . . against the sea?

עֶבְרָתֶ֑ךָ Noun FNS Construct, Subject N in Noun Clause + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, [is] your rage. Disjunctive accent.

כִּ֤י Hypotactic Conjunction, Resultative, that. “explaining and assigning the reason for the previous question.” (K&D, loc. cit.)

תִרְכַּב֙ QI 2MS, Persistent I, you ride. See NET note at verse 3.

עַל־סוּסֶ֔יךָ Preposition, Locative + Noun MGP Construct + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, upon your horses. Disjunctive accent.

מַרְכְּבֹתֶ֖יךָ Noun FGP Construct, G in Apposition + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, that is, your chariots of. The pronoun breaks into the construct chain (see Waltke & O’Connor, Syntax, 140).

יְשׁוּעָֽה׃ Noun FGS Absolute, G of Description, victory. The term occurs in a warfare motif and can refer to deliverance or victory. See NET, NIV, LEB, NRSV, HCSB. “[Yahweh’s] motive was to destroy His enemies and deliver His people. God was seen as a victor riding forth with His horses (cf. Hab. 3:15) and chariots in majestic power.” (BKC, loc. cit.)

9 “The warfare motif continues to develop. In general terms, this verse continues to describe the Lord’s activity in the storm by using symbolic language.” (Clark & Hatton, Habakkuk, 125)

עֶרְיָ֤ה Noun FAS Absolute, Adverbial A of Manner, naked. Forward emphasis. “To strengthen the thought, the noun עֶרְיָה is written before the verb instead of the inf. abs. (cf. Mic. 1:11).” (K&D, loc. cit.)

תֵעוֹר֙ NiI 2MS, Persistent I, is unsheathed. See NET note at verse 3.

קַשְׁתֶּ֔ךָ Noun FNS Absolute, Subject N + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, your bow. Disjunctive accent.

שְׁבֻע֥וֹת Noun FNP Construct, Subject N in Noun Clause, oaths [are given].

Both the syntax and translations here are guesses in trying to make sense of the words. “With so many possibilities to be found in reputable translations (and many other suggestions in scholarly writings), how are translators to decide what to do? Their first and most important duty is to say something that makes sense.” (Clark & Hatton, Habakkuk, 126).

“The next clause, שְׁבֻעֹות מַטֹּות אֹמֶר, is very obscure, and has not yet been satisfactorily explained.” K&D, loc. cit.) Note the following:

  • according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word (KJV)
  • Oaths were sworn over Your arrows (NKJV)
  • The oaths to the tribes were a sure word (RV)
  • The rods of chastisement were sworn (NASB)
  • Sworn are the rods of the word (NJPS)
  • Oaths were sworn over thine arrows (NKJV)
  • Sated were the arrows at your command (NRSV)
  • and charge your quiver with arrows (REB)
  • filled with arrows is your quiver (NAB)
  • You sated the shafts of your quiver (Hiebert 1986)
  • Arrows in abundance thou didst let whiz (Rudolph 1975)
  • calling for many arrows (ESV)
  • you commission your arrows (NET)
  • swearing oaths with the arrows of your word (LEB)
  • you called for many arrows (NIV)

מַטּ֖וֹת Noun FGP Construct, Appositional N to קַשְׁתֶּ֔ךָ (the P would agree in sense), namely, arrows. See KB, Lexicon, 573.

אֹ֣מֶר Noun MAS Absolute, A of Manner, with a [divine] command.

סֶ֑לָה Interjection, Selah. Unclear but possibly a musical notation (see note below). “סֶ֫לָה, a word of unknown sense found only in the Psalter and in the psalm of Habakkuk 3 and apparently some sort of exclamation.” (Waltke & O’Connor, Syntax, 681). Disjunctive accent.

נְהָר֖וֹת Noun FAP Absolute, Adverbial A of Means, with rivers. Forward emphasis.

תְּבַקַּע־אָֽרֶץ׃ PiI 2MS, Persistent I + Noun FAS Absolute, A Direct Object, you split the earth. See NET note at verse 3.

“A literal rendering like ‘You split the earth with rivers’ (so NIV, NRSV) suggests geological activity to the modern reader, but in the present context of a violent thunderstorm, the idea of streams swollen to torrents by downpours better fits the imagery. As the Lord comes in a thunderstorm the downpour causes streams to swell to river-like proportions and spread over the surface of the ground, causing flash floods. (NET, loc. cit.)

“This may be understood either as signifying that the earth trembles at the wrath of the Judge, and rents arise in consequence, through which rivers of water burst forth from the deep, or so that at the quaking of the earth the sea pours its waves over the land and splits it into rivers. The following verses point to an earthquake through which the form of the earth’s surface is changed. (K&D, loc. cit.)

“The parallel between this verse and parts of Deuteronomy 32 is striking. The Song of Moses speaks of a consuming fire (Deut. 32:22), pestilence and plagues (Deut. 32:24), and arrows drunk with blood (Deut. 32:42) as part of His oath for vengeance against His adversaries (Deut. 32:41).” (BKC, loc. cit.)

10 “The effect of the coming of God upon the mountains was already referred to in v. 6. There they crumbled into ruins, here they writhe with terror. This difference is to be explained from the fact that there (v. 6) the general effect of the omnipotence of God upon nature was intended, whereas here (vv. 10, 11) the special effect is described, which is produced upon nature by the judgment about to be executed by God upon the nations. (K&D, loc. cit.)

רָא֤וּךָ QPf 3CP, Persistent Pf + Personal Pronoun MAS, A Direct Object, Antecedent = הָרִ֔ים below, P= sense agreement), they see you. See NET note at verse 3. Disjunctive accent.

יָחִ֙ילוּ֙ QI 3MP, Progressive I, they writhe. Copulative asyndeton. See NET note at verse 3.

הָרִ֔ים Noun MNP Absolute, Subject N, the mountains. Disjunctive accent.

זֶ֥רֶם Noun MNS Construct, Subject N in Noun Clause, a heavy rain of. Forward emphasis.

מַ֖יִם Noun MGP Absolute, Descriptive G, waters.

עָבָ֑ר QPf 3MS, Persistent Pf, passes through. Disjunctive accent. See NET note at verse 3.

נָתַ֤ן QPf 3MS, Persistent Pf, gives. Copulative asyndeton. See NET note at verse 3.

תְּהוֹם֙ Noun MNS Absolute, Subject N, the deep.

קוֹל֔וֹ Noun MAS Construct, A Direct Object + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive, Antecedent = תְּהוֹם֙, its voice. Disjunctive accent.

ר֖וֹם Noun MAS Construct, A of Manner, on high. Forward emphasis.

יָדֵ֥יהוּ Noun FAD Construct, A Direct Object + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive, Antecedent = תְּהוֹם֙‌, its hands. KB, Lexicon, 388, “of a watercourse: bank.”

נָשָֽׂא׃ QPf 3MS, Persistent Pf, lifts up. See NET note at verse 3.

11 With asyndeton the imagery of verses 8-10 continue. “The God of nature can alter and control all the powers of nature to make earth, sea and heavenly bodies carry out the purposes of His judgment against sinners, or for the salvation of His people.” (Brooks, K. (2009). Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (p. 207). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.) [Hereafter as Brooks, Summarized Bible]

שֶׁ֥מֶשׁ Noun MNS Absolute, Subject N, the sun. Forward emphasis.

יָרֵ֖חַ Noun MNS Absolute, Subject N, the moon. Copulative asyndeton. Forward emphasis.

עָ֣מַד QPf 3MS, Persistent Pf, stand. See NET note at verse 3.

זְבֻ֑לָה Noun MAS Absolute, Adverbial A of Place + Directional ה, in lofty habitation. “זְבוּל with ה local, a dwelling-place, is, according to oriental view, the place from which the stars come out when they rise, and to which they return when they set.” (K&D, loc. cit.)  Disjunctive accent.

לְא֤וֹר Preposition, Directive + Noun MGS Absolute, towards the light. Forward emphasis. Probably a metonomy of effect for the sun. “This is when the effect is put for the cause producing it.” (Bullinger, Figures of speech, 560).

חִצֶּ֙יךָ֙ Noun MNP Construct, Subject N + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, your arrows. אוֹר חִצֶּיךָ (lightnings, KB, Lexicon, 342)

יְהַלֵּ֔כוּ PiI 3CP, Progressive I, vanish. See KB, Lexicon, 247. Disjunctive accent. See NET note at verse 3.

It is not, however, that they “turn pale in consequence of the surpassing brilliancy of the lightnings” (Ewald), but that they “withdraw altogether, from the fear and horror which pervade all nature, and which are expressed in the mountains by trembling, in the waters by roaring, and in the sun and moon by obscuration” (K&D, loc. cit).  “In His wrath God often used and controlled the forces of nature.” (BKC, loc. cit.)

לְנֹ֖גַהּ Preposition, Reference + Noun MGS Construct, with respect to the brightness of. Hb 3:11(of glitter of י׳’s spear),” BDB, Lexicon, 618.

בְּרַ֥ק Noun MGS Construct, Verbal G of Means, the flashes of lightning. “ בְּרַקחֲנִיתhas the same meaning here as in Nah. 3:3.” (K&D, loc. cit.)

חֲנִיתֶֽךָ׃ Noun FGS Construct, Verbal G of Instrument + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, coming from your spear.

12 Asyndetically “a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God.” (K&D, loc. cit.); also, “The preternatural dimension of the saving theophany is described in mythological language. The parallelism of v 12 is perfect.” (Anderson, Habakkuk, 334)

בְּזַ֖עַם Preposition, Manner + Noun MGS Absolute, with indignation. Forward emphasis.

תִּצְעַד־אָ֑רֶץ QI 2MS, Progressive I + Noun FAS Absolute, G of Place, you march through the earth. Disjunctive accent. See NET note at verse 3.

בְּאַ֖ף Preposition, Manner + Noun MGS Absolute, with anger. Forward emphasis and asyndetic.

תָּד֥וּשׁ QI 2MS, Progressive I, you trample down. See NET note at verse 3.

גּוֹיִֽם׃ Noun MAP Absolute, A Direct Object, nations. Disjunctive accent.

13 “Here at last is the answer to the questions of verse 8.” (Clark & Hatton, Habakkuk, 129)

יָצָ֙אתָ֙ QPf 2MS, Persistent Pf, you go forth. Copulative asyndeton. See NET note at verse 3.

לְיֵ֣שַׁע Preposition, Purpose + Noun MGS Construct, for the salvation of.

עַמֶּ֔ךָ Noun MGS Absolute, Objective G + Personal Pronoun MGS, G of Relationship, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, your people. Disjunctive accent.

לְיֵ֖שַׁע Preposition, Purpose + Noun MGS Construct, for the salvation of. Asyndetic in apposition.

אֶת־מְשִׁיחֶ֑ךָ Particle of Direct Object + Noun MAS Absolute, A Direct Object + Personal Pronoun MGS, G of Relationship, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, that is, your anointed. Disjunctive accent. Consider the various opinions in the following notes.

“Salvation was for God’s people, but it was also for the anointed One, a term never used in the Old Testament for the nation Israel. The term probably refers to the coming Messiah (cf. Ps. 2:2; Dan. 9:26). By preserving the people of Israel (delivering them from Egypt and then later from Babylonian Captivity), God maintained the line for the Messiah.” (BKC, loc. cit.)

“In this context the term has multiple meanings. In reference to the exodus it would most likely point to Moses. But in Habakkuk’s day it referred to God’s anointed people in general and a hoped-for king/deliverer in particular. In the context of sacred canon it looked forward to Messiah, fulfilled in the life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and salvation of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Barker, Habakkuk, 369)

“However, in this context, where thy anointed is parallel with thy people, it seems more likely that it refers to the nation of Israel as a whole.” (Clark & Hatton, Habakkuk, 129)

“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.” (Spence-Jones, Habakkuk, p. 54).

מָחַ֤צְתָּ QPf 2MS, Persistent Pf, you smash. See NET note at verse 3.

רֹּאשׁ֙ Noun MAS Absolute, A Direct Object, the head.

מִבֵּ֣ית Preposition, Source + Noun MGS Construct, from the house of.

רָשָׁ֔ע Noun MGS Absolute, the wicked. Disjunctive accent.

עָר֛וֹת PiInf Absolute, Adverbial Gerund, laying bare. “עָרֹות, a rare form of the inf. abs., like שָׁתֹות in Isa. 22:13 (cf. Ewald, § 240, b), from עֵרָה, to make bare, to destroy from the very foundation, the infinitive in the sense of the gerund describing the mode of the action.” (K&D, loc. cit.) Forward emphasis and Asyndetic.

יְס֥וֹד Noun MAS Absolute, A Direct Object, the foundation.

עַד־צַוָּ֖אר Preposition, Inclusive + Noun MGS Absolute, the neck.

פ סֶֽלָה׃ Interjection, selah.

14 “These final two verses of this ode on God’s awesome self-revelation speak of the ultimate destruction of the enemy.” (BKC, loc. cit.) Copulative asyndeton.

נָקַ֤בְתָּ QP 2MS, Persistent P, You pierce. See NET note at verse 3.

בְמַטָּיו֙ Preposition, Means + Noun MGP Construct + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = פְּרָ֯זָ֔ו‌, Collective S, with their arrows. KB, Lexicon, 573.

רֹ֣אשׁ Noun MAS Construct, A Direct Object, Collective S, the heads of.

פְּרָזוֹ Noun MGS Construct, Possessive G, Collective S + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Collective S, their warriors. “The meaning of the Hebrew term פְּרָזוֹ (pérazo), translated here ‘his warriors,’ is uncertain.” (NET loc. cit.) Disjunctive accent over the variant פְּרָזָ֔יו.

יִסְעֲר֖וּ QI 3CP, Progressive I, they storm in. See NET note at verse 3.

לַהֲפִיצֵ֑נִי Preposition, Purpose + HiInf Construct + Personal Pronoun MAS, A Direct Object, Collective S (but see ESV as a reference to Habakkuk; see note below after בַּמִּסְתָּֽר), Antecedent = Judah, to scatter us. Disjunctive accent.

עֲלִ֣יצֻתָ֔ם Noun FAS Construct, Adverbial A of Manner + Personal Pronoun MGP (P=reversal from previous S; see above), Adjectival Attributive G, Antecedent = warriors, in their rejoicing. Disjunctive accent.

כְּמוֹ־לֶאֱכֹ֥ל Preposition, Comparative + Q Inf Construct, like devouring.

עָנִ֖י Adjective MAS Absolute, Substantival A Direct Object, the oppressed.

בַּמִּסְתָּֽר׃ Preposition, Manner + Article, Abstract + Noun MGS Absolute, in secret. KB, Lexicon, 608, “in the secret place.”

“The remainder of v. 14 [beginning at יִסְעֲר֖וּ] is extremely difficult textually. According to Roberts it is ‘quite obscure.’ In the Hebrew text the next line is ‘they stormed to scatter me.’ According to Robertson ‘me’ is most likely the prophet who in spite of his visionary state still sees himself as experiencing the onslaughts of the enemy. Robertson’s translation of the rest of the verse is perhaps the best attempt to understand the Hebrew as it stands: ‘Their rejoicing (is) / as one who devours the poor in secret.’” (Barker, Habakkuk, 371)

15 Copulative asyndeton.

דָּרַ֥כְתָּ QPf 2MS, Persistent Pf, you trample. See NET note at verse 3.

בַיָּ֖ם Preposition, Locative + Article, Particularizing + Noun MGS Absolute, in the sea.

סוּסֶ֑יךָ Noun MAP Construct, Adverbial A of Manner + Personal Pronoun MGS, Possessive G, Antecedent = יְהוָ֔ה‌, with your horses. Disjunctive accent.

חֹ֖מֶר Noun MGS Construct, the heap of. KB, Lexicon, 330, translates as “foaming” as the only OT use with this sense. However, K&D, loc. cit., prefers “Chōmer, in the sense of heap, as in Ex. 8:10, is not an accusative, but is still dependent upon the ב of the parallel clause. The expression ‘heap of many waters’ serves simply to fill up the picture, as in Ps. 77:20.” This would be an appositional statement. Other translations (NASB, ESV, NET) prefer “surge/surging.” The semantic differences appear to be negligible.

מַ֥יִם Noun MGP Absolute, G of Description, waters.

רַבִּֽים׃ Adjective MGP, Attributive, many.


Verse 8     

Did the LORD rage against the rivers,

Or was Your anger against the rivers,

Or was Your wrath against the sea,

That You rode on Your horses,

On Your chariots of salvation?

  • Rhetorical question.
  • Change of person from 3rd to 2nd.
  • All lines = grammatical and semantic parallelism.

Verse 9

Your bow was made bare,

The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah.

You cleaved the earth with rivers.

  • Semantic parallelism in lines 1 & 2.
  • Line 3 is the cause of the effects in verse 10.

Verse 10

(A) The mountains saw You and quaked;

(B) The downpour of waters swept by.

(A) The deep uttered forth its voice,

(B) It lifted high its hands.

  • ABAB Parallel lines (B’s adding to A’s).
  • Verses 9 and 10 need to be read together.

Verse 11

Sun and moon stood in their places;

They went away at the light of Your arrows,

At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.

  • Semantic parallels of the light motif in all lines.
  • Lines 1 and 2 have a progressive parallelism pattern.
  • Line 3 adds to line 2 with apposition of light motifs and warfare items.

Verse 12

In indignation You marched through the earth;

In anger You trampled the nations.

  • Grammatical parallelism.
  • Line 2 interprets line 1.

Verse 13     

(A) You went forth for the salvation of Your people,

(B) For the salvation of Your anointed.

(A) You struck the head of the house of the evil

(B) To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.

  • ABAB poetic pattern (B’s interpreting A’s).
  • Line 2 has verbal ellipsis.
  • Lines 1 and 2 = Interpretive parallelism (see the notes).
  • See the notes on line 4.

Verse 14     

You pierced with his own spears

The head of his throngs.

They stormed in to scatter us;

Their exultation was like those

Who devour the oppressed in secret.

  • A 3 line verse based on the Hebrew accents.
  • The verb “pierced” in line 1 parallels “struck” in verse 13, line 3.
  • The “head” in line one connects to line 3 of verse 13.

Verse 15     

You trampled on the sea with Your horses,

On the surge of many waters.

  • Line 2 semantically interprets line 1.
  • Verbal ellipsis in line 2.

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