Habakkuk 3 [cntrl/click to read Habakkuk 3]
Now that Habakkuk has had his question-and-answer time with God, he settles into a prayer and praise mode. He fully realizes who God is. His questions come from an inquiring heart, not from a heart that questions God himself. Habakkuk now inquires to gain understanding, not to accuse or to cross-examine. He fully understands who God is and will always be.
In Habakkuk we do find an oddness. Habakkuk begins his book with a statement or question to God of why he does not answer Habakkuk’s prayers. Habakkuk can’t figure out why God seems to do nothing about the evils of this world. He wants judgment from God. Then a sudden reconciliation. In chapter 3 Habakkuk asks God to be careful with his judgments…”in your wrath don’t forget your mercy.” First, he wanted God’s judgments then he wants God’s restraint.
Habakkuk 3:1 uses the term Shigionoth. We do not know its exact meaning. This word is only used once in the entire Bible. We can connect some possibly related dots as to its intended implication or application. Chapter 3 is poetic. We often find the word Selah in the poetic Psalms. Selah is also found in Habakkuk 3. We do not fully understand its meaning either. Since these words are used in poetic passages, they must have something to do with song, perhaps prayer. Chapter 3, as noted in verse 1, is a prayer or song of praise to God from the lips of Habakkuk. As written in the LITV, MKJV, and the YLT Shigionoth is written erring ones. We suggest this word Shigionoth means the inner most strings of one’s heart…a prayer, confession, joy, a song being composed from within one’s heart, a Psalm such as King David or Solomon would write.
Habakkuk 3:2 Habakkuk realizes that revival within his people of Judah (perhaps all Israelis) requires a work of God (Holy Spirit) not an achievement of man. Cry out confession to God and expect (wait for) atonement. He is asking God for a return to the times when Israel followed in obedience. Habakkuk fears for the loss of Israeli worship of Jehovah their God. PROBLEM? Habakkuk forgets the free will of man, or does he? Next paragraph:
He does understand God’s judgment per chapters 1 and 2. In chapter 3 he fears for the consequences. Habakkuk begs God to remember mercy in his wrath against his chosen people. It is the opposite of his opening verse in chapter 3. He questions why God does not judge the evils of the world especially within Judah itself hoping to restrain the harshness of God’s judgments upon his chosen people of Israel (Judah).
Habakkuk 3:3 Teman? Where is Teman? God came from there? The Holy One came from Mount Paran? These are physical locations near Sinai but the implication is not that God the Holy One originally resided there. It means, out of Teman and Paran God’s official commandments came into the hands of Israel via Moses. Habakkuk is giving God praise for his continual guidance. [Mt. Paran; see Deuteronomy 33:2]
Habakkuk 3:4 (aha moment) Does the reader recall watching a TV show, cartoon, or movie where the villain and/or the good guy radiate what seems to be power charges from the fingers of his or her outreached hand? Guess from where this originates? Yup! Habakkuk 3:4b. “He had rays flashing from His hand…” Even so-called magicians allude to the power of the raised hand and pointed fingers. Abracadabra, BOOM!
In verse 4c we read…”and there his power was hidden.” As off the wall or odd as it may seem, perhaps this scripture of punishment by God with the tips of his fingers is not far off from Habakkuk’s plea to show mercy in his wrath. He wants the enemies of Israel to see God’s wrath, but is asking like the final plague in Egypt, to overlook the sins of Israel. Pass your finger of judgement over the Egyptians (meaning enemies of Judah) but have mercy on Israelis.
Habakkuk 3:5 This verse has much controversy in other commentaries. Speculation is dominant. Keep in mind that chapter 3 is a psalm or something of a poem to be sung. Perhaps verse 5 is a phrase to be recited. Before Him went pestilence, And fever followed at His feet. Similar to King Saul has killed his thousands but David has slain his ten thousand [I Samuel 18:7], this is a recital or chant.
Habakkuk 3:6 This recital continues into verse 6. It is a remembrance of God’s power and judgment: yesterday, today, and forever. Habakkuk is exalting God in praise and celebration. He recognizes that God is Jehovah-God. He praises God for who and what he is. God’s ways are everlasting.
Habakkuk 3:7 Habakkuk continues with his vision of God-in-charge. The world recognizes God but that does not mean they put trust in him. It has been, is, and continues to be more of an avoidance of God. Frank Sinatra sang the song…I Did It My Way. This is the basic attitude of the world, to do it their way.
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;
The curtains of the land of Midian trembled
Habakkuk 3:8 The Expositor’s Bible states per verse 8: “it is not with hills, rivers, or sea that God is angry, but with the nations, the oppressors of His poor people…” God is displeased with the people. Nature and life are both God’s creation. Only man has free will.
Habakkuk 3:9,10 Note that “selah” is inserted after the first two sentences of verse 9. It is a break from one thought going to another just as in poetry or verse in a song. ”You divided the earth with rivers” could easily be a part of the next verse (v10). Nature is defined as different from mankind. BUT…even nature recognizes God as its creator and sustenance. [See Luke 19:40]
Verse 10b is not clear enough to understand its application. It may mean that the earth such as during a volcanic eruption, the deep rumbles its voice. Throwing up or lifting its hands on high, into the skies, closely resembles that of an active volcano. You decide.
Habakkuk 3:11 Habakkuk continues to acknowledge that all creation is in God’s hands and will stand still or respond according to his thoughts, wishes, or command. Even nature refuses to counter God’s direction or instructions (cf. Luke 19:40). Why then does man not follow the lead of nature? [verse 12] Perhaps Free Will?
V12: to trample nations (ethnos). There is a difference in translations between the King James and the New King James. KJV says the heathen whereas the NKJV says nations. The thought is the same. Habakkuk’s thought here is the difference between nature and mankind. ‘Erets’ or earth understands the might of God and recognizes it owes its very existence to him. Mankind, in many cases, has lost obligation to God. God assigned free-will to man but not to all creation. [Matthew 12:37]. We note here that the words’ Free Will are not found in scripture. We conclude the free will of man by study of what it takes to find salvation and eternity through God instead of spending it with Satan and his minions. We have choice…that equals free will.
Habakkuk 3:13 concludes this section of Habakkuk’s prayer and recognition of God. God wished that all mankind would bow a knee to him in true worship. He intended this beginning in the Garden of Eden when all creation was peaceful.
JIV NOTE: This curse at the Garden of Eden includes climate change and seasons we know of today; the tropics, north and south poles. At the time of creation, the sun was possibly constant during the day sending its life-giving values (and vitamin D) to all. After the flood, the earth may have tilted to the 3o wobble of today giving us the four seasons. Hot, cold, and moderate, but changing weather.
We Teach – You Decide
V13 has an interesting sentence…”you struck the head of the house of the wicked.” Note that this is not the heads of the houses of the wicked, but it is singular, head of the house. There is but one house of the wicked and from where rebellion against God began…SATAN! Satan had already been cast out of heaven. Prophetically he will be given the final blow from God. He will not be destroyed but eternally condemned. As head of the house of all wickedness, there can be no other inference. SELAH.
Habakkuk 3:14-16: Instead of Habakkuk continuing to question God or his character as in chapters 1 and 2, he now trembles at the very thought of God’s pre-eminence. As he does in chapters 1 and 2, he no longer wishes to question God.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 This is Habakkuk’s faith in action. We might call these three closing verses of Habakkuk 3 a hymn of his faith. Verse 19 is from where we get the chorus “Like (as) a Deer Panteth.” (cf. Psalm 42)
Rev. Dr. Jstark