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Habakkuk’s Vision of the Divine Warrior

This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:[a]

Lord, I have heard the report of what you did;[b]
I am awed,[c] Lord, by what you accomplished.[d]
In our time[e] repeat those deeds;[f]
in our time reveal them again.[g]
But when you cause turmoil, remember to show us mercy![h]
God comes[i] from Teman,[j]
the Holy One[k] from Mount Paran.[l] Selah.[m]
His splendor has covered the skies,[n]
the earth is full of his glory.[o]
His brightness will be as lightning;[p]
a two-pronged lightning bolt flashing from his hand.[q]
This is the outward display of his power.[r]
Plague will go[s] before him;
pestilence[t] will march[u] right behind him.[v]
He took his battle position[w] and shook[x] the earth;
with a mere look he frightened[y] the nations.
The ancient mountains disintegrated;[z]
the primeval hills were flattened.
His are ancient roads.[aa]
I saw the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble;[ab]
the tent curtains of the land of Midian were[ac] shaking.[ad]
Was[ae] the Lord mad at the rivers?
Were you angry with the rivers?
Were you enraged at the sea?[af]
Such that[ag] you would climb into your horse-drawn chariots,[ah]
your victorious chariots?[ai]
Your bow is ready for action;[aj]
you commission your arrows.[ak] Selah.
You cause flash floods on the earth’s surface.[al]
10 When the mountains see you, they shake.
The torrential downpour sweeps through.[am]
The great deep[an] shouts out;
it lifts its hands high.[ao]
11 The sun and moon stand still in their courses;[ap]
the flash of your arrows drives them away,[aq]
the bright light of your lightning-quick spear.[ar]
12 You furiously stomp on the earth;
you angrily trample down the nations.
13 You march out to deliver your people,
to deliver your special servant.[as]
You strike the leader of the wicked nation,[at]
laying him open from the lower body to the neck.[au] Selah.
14 You pierce the heads of his warriors[av] with a spear.[aw]
They storm forward to scatter us;[ax]
they shout with joy as if they were plundering the poor with no opposition.[ay]
15 But you trample on the sea with your horses,
on the surging, raging waters.[az]

Habakkuk Declares His Confidence

16 I listened and my stomach churned;[ba]
the sound made my lips quiver.
My frame went limp, as if my bones were decaying,[bb]
and I shook as I tried to walk.[bc]
I long[bd] for the day of distress
to come upon[be] the people who attack us.
17 When[bf] the fig tree does not bud,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
when the olive trees do not produce[bg]
and the fields yield no crops;[bh]
when the sheep disappear[bi] from the pen
and there are no cattle in the stalls—
18 I will rejoice because of[bj] the Lord;
I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my source of strength.[bk]
He gives me the agility of a deer;[bl]
he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.[bm]

(This prayer is for the song leader. It is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)[bn]


  1. Habakkuk 3:1 tn The Hebrew text adds עַל שִׁגְיֹנוֹת (ʿal shigyonot, “upon [or, “according to”] shigyonot”). The meaning of this word is uncertain. It may refer to the literary genre of the prayer or to the musical style to be employed when it is sung. The NEB leaves the term untranslated; several other modern English versions transliterate the term into English, sometimes with explanatory notes (NASB, NRSV “according to Shigionoth”; NIV “On shigyonoth”).
  2. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “your report,” that is, “the report concerning you.”
  3. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “I fear.” Some prefer to read, “I saw, Lord, what you accomplished” (cf. NEB).
  4. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “your work.”
  5. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “in the midst of years.” The meaning of the phrase, which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain (cf. NIV “in our day”; NEB, NASB “in the midst of the years”).
  6. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “revive it” (i.e., “your work”).
  7. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “make known.” The implied object is “your deeds”; the pronoun “them,” referring to “deeds” in the previous line, was employed in the translation to avoid redundancy. The suffix on the form חַיֵּיהוּ (khayyehu, “revive it”) does double duty in the parallelism.
  8. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “in turmoil remember [to show] compassion.”
  9. 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.
  10. Habakkuk 3:3 sn Teman was a city or region in southern Edom.
  11. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “Sovereign One.” The term קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, “holy [one]”) here refers to God’s sovereignty. See v. 3b.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “heavens.”
  15. 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).
  16. 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 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.
  17. 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).
  18. 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”].”
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Or “marches.” See note 1.
  22. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Heb “will go out at his feet.”
  23. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Heb “he stood” or “took a stand.” The verb forms change to perfects and preterites in this verse, signaling past time and therefore a shift in perspective. The section starting here, the memory of the past, functions to certify the character of the future.
  24. Habakkuk 3:6 tn This verb has been traditionally understood as “measure” (from מָדַד, madad), but the immediately following context (vv. 6b-7) favors the meaning “shake” from מוּד (mud; see HALOT 555 s.v.).
  25. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Heb “he looked and made [the] nations jump back [in fear].”
  26. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Or “crumbled,” “broke into pieces.”
  27. Habakkuk 3:6 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.
  28. Habakkuk 3:7 tn Heb “under trouble I saw the tents of Cushan.”sn Cushan was located in southern Transjordan.
  29. Habakkuk 3:7 tn The prefixed verb form is understood as past habitual just as the imperfect functions in background clauses in narrative.
  30. Habakkuk 3:7 tn R. D. Patterson takes תַּחַת אֲוֶן (takhat ʾaven) 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.”
  31. Habakkuk 3:8 tn The verb is a perfect form and the root is stative so it could be past or present. Most translations render it as past (e.g. NASB, NIV, ESV, KJV, NRSV), though Holman renders it present tense.
  32. Habakkuk 3:8 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).
  33. Habakkuk 3:8 tn Heb “so that.” Here כִּי (ki) is resultative. See the note on the phrase “make it” in 2:18.
  34. Habakkuk 3:8 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.”
  35. Habakkuk 3:8 tn Or “chariots of deliverance.”
  36. Habakkuk 3:9 tn Heb “[into] nakedness your bow is laid bare.”
  37. Habakkuk 3:9 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.
  38. Habakkuk 3:9 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 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.
  39. Habakkuk 3:10 tn Heb “a heavy rain of waters passes by.” Perhaps the flash floods produced by the downpour are in view here.
  40. Habakkuk 3:10 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.
  41. Habakkuk 3:10 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.
  42. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Heb “in their lofty dwelling places.”
  43. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Or “at the light of your arrows they vanish.”
  44. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Heb “at the brightness of the lightning of your spear.”
  45. Habakkuk 3:13 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.
  46. Habakkuk 3:13 tn Heb “you strike the head from the house of wickedness.”
  47. Habakkuk 3:13 tn Heb “laying bare [from] foundation to neck.”
  48. Habakkuk 3:14 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 (perazo), translated here “his warriors,” is uncertain.
  49. Habakkuk 3:14 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 derived from an original he (ה).
  50. Habakkuk 3:14 tn Heb “me,” but the author speaks as a representative of God’s people.
  51. Habakkuk 3:14 tn Heb “their rejoicing is like devouring the poor in secret.”
  52. Habakkuk 3:15 tn Heb “the foaming of the mighty [or “many”] waters.”
  53. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “my insides trembled.”
  54. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “decay entered my bones.”
  55. Habakkuk 3:16 tc Heb “beneath me I shook, which….” The Hebrew term אֲשֶׁר (’asher) appears to be a relative pronoun, but a relative pronoun does not fit here. The translation assumes a reading אֲשֻׁרָי (’ashuray, “my steps”) as well as an emendation of the preceding verb to a third plural form.
  56. Habakkuk 3:16 tn The translation assumes that אָנוּחַ (’anuakh) is from the otherwise unattested verb נָוָח (navakh, “sigh”; see HALOT 680 s.v. II נוח; so also NEB). Most take this verb as נוּחַ (nuakh, “to rest”) and translate, “I wait patiently” (cf. NIV).
  57. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “to come up toward.”
  58. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Or “though.”
  59. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Heb “the produce of the olive disappoints.”
  60. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Heb “food.”
  61. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Or “are cut off.”
  62. Habakkuk 3:18 tn Or “in.”
  63. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Or perhaps, “is my wall,” that is, “my protector.”
  64. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “he makes my feet like those of deer.”
  65. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “he makes me walk on my high places.” sn Difficult times are coming, but Habakkuk is confident the Lord will sustain him. Habakkuk will be able to survive, just as the deer negotiates the difficult rugged terrain of the high places without injury.
  66. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “For the leader, on my stringed instruments.”