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Habakkuk 3:3-5 New English Translation (NET Bible)

God comes[a] from Teman,[b]
the Holy One[c] from Mount Paran.[d] Selah.[e]
His splendor has covered the skies,[f]
the earth is full of his glory.[g]
His brightness will be as lightning;[h]
a two-pronged lightning bolt flashing from his hand.[i]
This is the outward display of his power.[j]
Plague will go[k] before him;
pestilence[l] will march[m] right behind him.[n]


  1. Habakkuk 3:3 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. Habakkuk 3:3 sn Teman was a city or region in southern Edom.
  3. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “Sovereign One.” The term קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, “holy [one]”) here refers to God’s sovereignty. See v. 3b.
  4. Habakkuk 3:3 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. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Selah. The meaning of this musical term (which also appears in vv. 9, 13, and in the Psalms as well) is unknown.
  6. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “heavens.”
  7. Habakkuk 3:3 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 (tehillah, “praise”) can stand by metonymy for what prompts it (i.e., fame, glory, deeds).
  8. Habakkuk 3:4 tc The subject, נֹגָהּ (nogah, “brightness”), is masculine but the verb is feminine. The LXX and most English translations add “his” to the subject. The verb form in the MT, an imperfect form of the stative verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”) should always be future tense, as here in the LXX, and in English translations in the Psalms. But here most English translations use past or present. The BHS editors suggest emending the verb תִּהְיֶה (tihyeh) to the preposition and suffix תַּחְתָּיו (takhtayv) to make “[his] brightness is as lightning beneath him.” While this gets rid of the grammatical problem using similar looking consonants, it is speculative.tn Heb “[His] radiance is like light.” Some see a reference to sunlight, but the Hebrew word אוֹר (ʾor) 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. Habakkuk 3:4 tn Heb “two horns from his hand [belong] 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. The term קֶרֶן (qeren), here in the dual form, commonly means “horn” but can also be used metaphorically (HALOT 1145 s.v. 4).
  10. Habakkuk 3:4 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. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Or “goes.” The imperfect form of a dynamic verbal root may be either present or future. Here it is translated in parallel to the future tense in v. 4.
  12. Habakkuk 3:5 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.
  13. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Or “marches.” See note 1.
  14. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Heb “will go out at his feet.”
New English Translation (NET)

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