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
3:7 I see the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble; 18
the tent curtains of the land of Midian are shaking. 19
3:8 Is the Lord mad at the rivers?
Are you angry with the rivers?
Are you enraged at the sea? 20
Is this why 21 you climb into your horse-drawn chariots, 22
your victorious chariots? 23
3:9 Your bow is ready for action; 24
you commission your arrows. 25 Selah.
You cause flash floods on the earth’s surface. 26
3:10 When the mountains see you, they shake.
The torrential downpour sweeps through. 27
The great deep 28 shouts out;
it lifts its hands high. 29
3:11 The sun and moon stand still in their courses; 30
the flash of your arrows drives them away, 31
the bright light of your lightning-quick spear. 32
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. 33
You strike the leader of the wicked nation, 34
laying him open from the lower body to the neck. 35 Selah.
3:14 You pierce the heads of his warriors 36 with a spear. 37
They storm forward to scatter us; 38
they shout with joy as if they were plundering the poor with no opposition. 39
3:15 But you trample on the sea with your horses,
on the surging, raging waters. 40
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
18 tn Heb “under trouble I saw the tents of Cushan.”
sn Cushan was located in southern Transjordan.
19 tn R. D. Patterson takes תַּחַת אֲוֶן (takhat ’aven) 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.”
20 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).
21 tn Heb “so that.” Here כִּי (ki) is resultative. See the note on the phrase “make it” in 2:18.
22 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.”
23 tn Or “chariots of deliverance.”
24 tn Heb “[into] nakedness your bow is laid bare.”
25 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
26 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
27 tn Heb “a heavy rain of waters passes by.” Perhaps the flash floods produced by the downpour are in view here.
28 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.
29 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.
30 tn Heb “in their lofty dwelling places.”
31 tn Or “at the light of your arrows they vanish.”
32 tn Heb “at the brightness of the lightning of your spear.”
33 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.
34 tn Heb “you strike the head from the house of wickedness.”
35 tn Heb “laying bare [from] foundation to neck.”
36 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.
37 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).
38 tn Heb “me,” but the author speaks as a representative of God’s people.
39 tn Heb “their rejoicing is like devouring the poor in secret.”
40 tn Heb “the foaming of the mighty [or “many”] waters.”