His splendor covers the skies, 6
his glory 7 fills the earth.
a two-pronged lightning bolt flashes from his hand. 9
This is the outward display of his power. 10
1 tn In vv. 3-15 there is a mixture of eleven prefixed verbal forms (without vav [ו] consecutive or with vav conjunctive), sixteen suffixed forms, and three prefixed forms with vav consecutive. All of the forms are best taken as indicating completed action from the speaker’s standpoint (all of the prefixed forms being regarded as preterites). The forms could be translated with the past tense, but this would be misleading, for this is not a mere recital of God’s deeds in Israel’s past history. Habakkuk here describes, in terms reminiscent of past theophanies, his prophetic vision of a future theophany (see v. 7, “I saw”). From the prophet’s visionary standpoint the theophany is “as good as done.” This translation uses the English present tense throughout these verses to avoid misunderstanding. A similar strategy is followed by the NEB; in contrast note the NIV and NRSV, which consistently use past tenses throughout the section, and the NASB, which employs present tenses in vv. 3-5 and mostly past tenses in vv. 6-15.
2 sn Teman was a city or region in southern Edom.
4 sn The precise location of Mount Paran is unknown, but like Teman it was located to the southeast of Israel. Habakkuk saw God marching from the direction of Sinai.
6 tn Or “heavens.”
7 tn Heb “praise.” This could mean that the earth responds in praise as God’s splendor is observed in the skies. However, the Hebrew term תְּהִלָּה (tÿhillah, “praise”) can stand by metonymy for what prompts it (i.e., fame, glory, deeds).
8 tn Heb “[His] radiance is like light.” Some see a reference to sunlight, but the Hebrew word אוֹר (’or) here refers to lightning, as the context indicates (see vv. 4b, 9, 11). The word also refers to lightning in Job 36:32 and 37:3, 11, 15.
9 tn Heb “two horns from his hand to him.” Sharp, pointed lightning bolts have a “horn-like” appearance. The weapon of “double lightning” appears often in Mesopotamian representations of gods. See Elizabeth Van Buren, Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian Art (AnOr), 70-73.
10 tn Heb “and there [is] the covering of his strength”; or “and there is his strong covering.” The meaning of this line is unclear. The point may be that the lightning bolts are merely a covering, or outward display, of God’s raw power. In Job 36:32 one reads that God “covers his hands with light [or, “lightning”].”