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Habakkuk 3:3-6

Context

3:3 God comes 1  from Teman, 2 

the sovereign 3  one from Mount Paran. 4  Selah. 5 

His splendor covers the skies, 6 

his glory 7  fills the earth.

3:4 He is as bright as lightning; 8 

a two-pronged lightning bolt flashes from his hand. 9 

This is the outward display of his power. 10 

3:5 Plague goes before him;

pestilence 11  marches right behind him. 12 

3:6 He takes his battle position 13  and shakes 14  the earth;

with a mere look he frightens 15  the nations.

The ancient mountains disintegrate; 16 

the primeval hills are flattened.

He travels on the ancient roads. 17 

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.

3 tn Or traditionally, “holy one.” The term קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, “holy [one]”) here refers to God’s sovereignty. See v. 3b.

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.

5 tn Selah. The meaning of this musical term (which also appears in vv. 9, 13, and in the Psalms as well) is unknown.

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”].”

11 tn Because of parallelism with the previous line, the meaning “pestilence” is favored for רֶשֶׁף (reshef) here, but usage elsewhere suggests a destructive bolt of fire may be in view. See BDB 958 s.v.

sn There are mythological echoes here, for in Canaanite literature the god Resheph aids Baal in his battles. See J. Day, “New Light on the Mythological Background of the Allusion to Resheph in Habakkuk III 5,” VT 29 (1979): 353-55.

12 tn Heb “goes out at his feet.”

13 tn Heb “he stands.”

14 tn This verb has been traditionally understood as “measure” (from מוּד, mud), but the immediately following context (vv. 6b-7) favors the meaning “shake” from מָוד (mavd; see HALOT 555 s.v.).

15 tn Heb “makes [the nations] jump [in fear].”

16 tn Or “crumbled,” broke into pieces.”

17 tn Heb “ancient ways [or, “doings”] are his.” The meaning of this line is unclear. Traditionally it has been translated, “his ways are eternal.” However, in this context (see vv. 3, 7) it is more likely that the line speaks of the Lord taking the same route as in the days of Moses and Deborah (see Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4). See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 154.



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