Hymn About God’s Reign
1Prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet. According to Shigyonot.#Shigyonot: a Hebrew technical term no longer understood, but probably a musical notation regarding the following hymn. This term, the references to the leader and stringed instruments at the end of the hymn (v. 19), and the use of the term selah in vv. 3, 9, and 13 are found elsewhere in the Bible only in the Psalter, and they indicate that, like the psalms, this poem was once used in worship.
2O Lord, I have heard your renown,
and am in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In the course of years revive it,#In the course of years revive it: a plea for God to renew the works of the past.
in the course of years make yourself known;
in your wrath remember compassion!
3#Cf. the theophanies in Dt 33:2–3; Jgs 5:4–5; Ps 18:8–16; 68:8–9; 77:17–21; 97:1–5; Na 1:3–6, etc. Conventional language is employed to describe the appearance of the Lord, as in Ex 19:16–19. God came from Teman,#Teman: a region in Edom. Mount Paran: in the territory of Edom, or the northern part of the Sinai peninsula.
the Holy One from Mount Paran.#Dt 33:2.
His glory covered the heavens,
and his praise filled the earth;
4his splendor spread like the light.
He raised his horns high,#Ps 18:3.
he rejoiced on the day of his strength.
5Before him went pestilence,
plague: these may be figures who are part of the heavenly armies God leads into battle. followed in his steps.
6He stood and shook the earth;
he looked and made the nations tremble.
Ancient mountains were shattered,
the age-old hills bowed low,
age-old orbits#Age-old orbits: the regular paths through the skies of heavenly bodies are disrupted at the appearance of the divine warrior, as are the ancient mountains on earth. Such cosmic disruption is typical of divine appearances (Ps 18:8; Na 1:5). collapsed.
7The tents of Cushan trembled,
the pavilions of the land of Midian.#Cushan
Midian: the inhabitants of the area southeast of Judah where the divine march originates (Teman, Mount Paran), who are shaken, together with the cosmos, at God’s appearance.
8Was your anger against the rivers, O Lord?
your wrath against the rivers,
your rage against the sea,#Rivers
sea: the forces of chaos personified as yam (Sea) and nahar (River) try to destroy the order God imposed at creation by sweeping past their boundaries and covering the earth. Their mention here and in v. 15 emphasizes that God is both creator and deliverer, subduing historical enemies and cosmic forces. #Ps 74:13; 89:11; Is 51:9; Na 1:4.
That you mounted your steeds,
your victorious chariot?
9You readied your bow,
you filled your bowstring with arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10at the sight of you the mountains writhed.
The clouds poured down water;
the deep roared loudly.
moon: heavenly figures who, like pestilence and plague (v. 5), serve in God’s army, or are startled at God’s appearance, as are the ancient constellations (v. 6). forgot to rise,
11the moon left its lofty station,#Jos 10:12–13.
At the light of your flying arrows,
at the gleam of your flashing spear.
12In wrath you marched on the earth,
in fury you trampled the nations.
13You came forth to save your people,
to save your anointed one.#Your anointed one: the theocratic king, the head of God’s people. The back of the wicked: this may refer both to God’s cosmic enemy, River/Sea, and to the leader of Israel’s historical enemy.
You crushed the back of the wicked,
you laid him bare, bottom to neck.
14#The last two lines of this verse are obscure in Hebrew and difficult to translate. You pierced his head with your shafts;
his princes you scattered with your stormwind,
as food for the poor in unknown places.
15You trampled the sea with your horses
amid the churning of the deep waters.
16I hear, and my body trembles;
at the sound, my lips quiver.
Decay invades my bones,
my legs tremble beneath me.
I await the day of distress
that will come upon the people who attack us.
17For though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit appears on the vine,
Though the yield of the olive fails
and the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.
19God, my Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet swift as those of deer
and enables me to tread upon the heights.#The heights: this term can also mean “backs” and may be an image of conquest over the poet’s foes. #Ps 18:32–34.
For the leader; with stringed instruments.