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Habakkuk 3:6-15


3:6 He takes his battle position 1  and shakes 2  the earth;

with a mere look he frightens 3  the nations.

The ancient mountains disintegrate; 4 

the primeval hills are flattened.

He travels on the ancient roads. 5 

3:7 I see the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble; 6 

the tent curtains of the land of Midian are shaking. 7 

3:8 Is the Lord mad at the rivers?

Are you angry with the rivers?

Are you enraged at the sea? 8 

Is this why 9  you climb into your horse-drawn chariots, 10 

your victorious chariots? 11 

3:9 Your bow is ready for action; 12 

you commission your arrows. 13  Selah.

You cause flash floods on the earth’s surface. 14 

3:10 When the mountains see you, they shake.

The torrential downpour sweeps through. 15 

The great deep 16  shouts out;

it lifts its hands high. 17 

3:11 The sun and moon stand still in their courses; 18 

the flash of your arrows drives them away, 19 

the bright light of your lightning-quick spear. 20 

3:12 You furiously stomp on the earth,

you angrily trample down the nations.

3:13 You march out to deliver your people,

to deliver your special servant. 21 

You strike the leader of the wicked nation, 22 

laying him open from the lower body to the neck. 23  Selah.

3:14 You pierce the heads of his warriors 24  with a spear. 25 

They storm forward to scatter us; 26 

they shout with joy as if they were plundering the poor with no opposition. 27 

3:15 But you trample on the sea with your horses,

on the surging, raging waters. 28 

1 tn Heb “he stands.”

2 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.).

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

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

5 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.

6 tn Heb “under trouble I saw the tents of Cushan.”

sn Cushan was located in southern Transjordan.

7 tn R. D. Patterson takes תַּחַת אֲוֶן (takhataven) in the first line as a place name, “Tahath-Aven.” (Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 237.) In this case one may translate the verse as a tricolon: “I look at Tahath-Aven. The tents of Cushan are shaking, the tent curtains of the land of Midian.”

8 sn The following context suggests these questions should be answered, “Yes.” The rivers and the sea, symbolizing here the hostile nations (v. 12), are objects of the Lord’s anger (vv. 10, 15).

9 tn Heb “so that.” Here כִּי (ki) is resultative. See the note on the phrase “make it” in 2:18.

10 tn Heb “you mount your horses.” As the next line makes clear, the Lord is pictured here as a charioteer, not a cavalryman. Note NRSV here, “when you drove your horses, // your chariots to victory.”

11 tn Or “chariots of deliverance.”

12 tn Heb “[into] nakedness your bow is laid bare.”

13 tn Heb “sworn in are the arrow-shafts with a word.” The passive participle of שָׁבַע (shava’), “swear an oath,” also occurs in Ezek 21:23 ET (21:28 HT) referencing those who have sworn allegiance. Here the Lord’s arrows are personified and viewed as having received a commission which they have vowed to uphold. In Jer 47:6-7 the Lord’s sword is given such a charge. In the Ugaritic myths Baal’s weapons are formally assigned the task of killing the sea god Yam.

14 tn Heb “[with] rivers you split open the earth.” 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.

sn 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.

15 tn Heb “a heavy rain of waters passes by.” Perhaps the flash floods produced by the downpour are in view here.

16 sn The great deep, which is to be equated with the sea (vv. 8, 15), is a symbol of chaos and represents the Lord’s enemies.

17 sn Lifting the hands here suggests panic and is accompanied by a cry for mercy (see Ps 28:2; Lam 2:19). The forces of chaos cannot withstand the Lord’s power revealed in the storm.

18 tn Heb “in their lofty dwelling places.”

19 tn Or “at the light of your arrows they vanish.”

20 tn Heb “at the brightness of the lightning of your spear.”

21 tn Heb “anointed one.” In light of the parallelism with “your people” in the preceding line this could refer to Israel, but elsewhere the Lord’s anointed one is always an individual. The Davidic king is the more likely referent here.

22 tn Heb “you strike the head from the house of wickedness.”

23 tn Heb “laying bare [from] foundation to neck.”

24 tn Some take “warriors” with the following line, in which case one should translate, “you pierce [his] head with a spear; his warriors storm forward to scatter us” (cf. NIV). The meaning of the Hebrew term פְּרָזוֹ (pÿrazo), translated here “his warriors,” is uncertain.

25 tc Heb “his shafts.” Some emend to “your shafts.” The translation above assumes an emendation to מַטֶּה (matteh, “shaft, spear”), the vav-yod (ו-י) sequence being a corruption of an original he (ה).

26 tn Heb “me,” but the author speaks as a representative of God’s people.

27 tn Heb “their rejoicing is like devouring the poor in secret.”

28 tn Heb “the foaming of the mighty [or “many”] waters.”

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