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Decay would come into my bones,
That I might be quiet at the day of distress,
For the fig-tree shall not blossom,
The yield of the olive has failed,
The flock is cut off from the fold,
Jehovah the Lord is my might;
COMMENTARY. The inscription (verse 1) entitles this composition a "prayer,” noon, because it has in general an intercessory or deprecatory tone in view of the impending calamities, which it nevertheless describes as actually present, at least to the prophet's mind. The word, however, will bear the sense of sacred "song,' and is applied in Psalm lxxii, 20, to the preceding musical compositions of David. The ode of Habakkuk is in fact a true Psalm, partaking of all the characteristics of Hebrew lyrical poetry in their highest form. As such, it contains even the technical directions to the Levitical orchestra ; an evidence, it may be observed, of the authenticity of these artistic notanda, in opposition to the views of those who attribute them altogether to the performers of later date. One of these terms is the nisi, shigyonóth, the singular yin of which occurs in Psalm vii, 1, and is referred by Gesenius to an obsolete root now, ascertained from its use in the cognate dialects to signify in Piel, to “magnify” with praises. Others, seeking a more definite import, derive it from another frequent root of the same form, meaning to “wander” or “ reel," thus deducing the sense of an “erratic," or rambling composition, q. d., (so Delitzsch,) a dithyramb. Others again, deeming this interpretation little more to the point, have recourse to a similar Arabic root, signifying to be sad," and hence understand this to be designated as an elegiac or penitential ode; but this is little appropriate to the contents of either of the two poems to which it is applied. The particle 39, “ upon,” which is here prefixed, would most naturally point to some musical instrument as being denoted by the term; but, as this application is otherwise unsupported, it seems best on the whole to understand the two words to contain a general intimation of the psalmodic character of the present chapter, as distinguished from the preceding prophecies, and as a qualifying epithet of the associated title “ a prayer.” The prefix 3 in connection with the prophet's name of course denotes authorship, as usual in such cases.
Strophe I contains the expression of three somewhat distinct ideas in as many parallelisms: first, the prophet's dismay at the intimation of the coming disasters; second, his entreaties for a mitigation of the divine stroke; third, an allusion to the ancient exodus of the chosen people from national distress.
Verse 2. The you, “hearing,” of Jehovah, here referred to, may be (and is by different interpreters) taken in either of two senses : Jehovah's announcement of the future inflictions, or the traditionary fame of his early acts; that the former is the true meaning, we think, must appear from several considerations: (1.) The phrase no monn, “I have heard thy hearing,” is a Hebrew intensive, equivalent to I have fully heard thee, that is, I now distinctly and vividly apprehend thy communication. (2.) The suffix “thy” more naturally refers to the source than to the mere subject of the report. (3.) The past tense employed carries us almost necessarily back to the foregoing announcements of imminent ruin, and is especially appropriate to the injunction of silence upon all the earth that just precedes, (chapter ii, 20,) namely, that during the intervening pause the divine message may fall with full effect upon every ear. (4.) The terror immediately stated as the effect of the tidings upon the prophet is exactly parallel with the tremor which he describes in verse 16 as seizing his whole frame at the vision of the approaching conflict; whereas any fear would be out of place if the divine interposition simply were the subject of contemplation. (5.) The alarm at this distressing picture of his country's downfall is much better calculated to elicit the deprecatory outburst that follows, and far more suited to the melancholy tinge of even its consolations than the opposite view. The transposition of the name of Jehovah in the second line, seems to indicate that it belongs to the counterpart of the first line, as we have arranged the couplet, although the punctuation is conformed to that of the Masoretes. In the triplet that follows the parallelism explains the several phrases: Jehovah's Brid, or “deed,” is his own favorite act of “sympathy" for his people, which he is now implored to “cause to live" again, or flourish anew, (nan), although apparently forgotten amid this period of vindictiveness. The infinitive any is used as the object of wibra, and is also to be supplied after yogin, which has the customary sense of “exhibiting.” The term p2, "amid,” implies a staying of the uplifted hand of vengeance, at least a mitigating ingredient within the bitter cup which must be pressed to the country's lip. It was this sense of the divine regard, despite the severe chastisement, that formed the prophet's only source of confidence or comfort, (verse 18.)
Verse 3. The term for “God” here, mix, seems to be em. phatic, i. q. Deity, in distinction from the ordinary plural form
3. Teman, or “the South,” was a frequent designation of Idumea, of which it was strictly only the eastern part bordering on Arabia; Paran was the name of the desert adjoining it, through which the Israelites wandered; the high rocky plateau immediately southwest of Palestine especially being poetically styled Mount Paran, (Deut. xxxiii, 2,) grammatically construed as a single name, (the may being treated, as frequent with this and similar geographical terms, like a sort of prefix :) the two names are, therefore, here used as synonymously equivalent to the region of the exode, and the allusion must be to the many glorious displays of the divine power in conducting his people safely through that perilous route; the Almighty being said to come from Idumea because it was the last stage of the journey and nearest the writer. The future sia is evidently the customary aorist, i. q., “arrived,” like the usage in English biography, “He would often do so and so;" to render it directly by a preterite tense, however, as translators generally do, is to fail to represent the idiom. The employment of phrases significant of Jehovah's coming for his appearance in miraculous exhibitions, especially of a national character, is too frequent in Scripture, from the first theophany or record down to the intimations of the final Advent, to require special elucidation. The key-note in the lyrist's theme is here struck, and it was a chord that ever vibrated in symphony with the pulsations of the Jewish heart. The opening stanza introduces us“ in medias res," to the main topic of the poem. But for the distinctive musical notation at the close of this couplet, it might seem to be more naturally joined to the following; and yet, from the reflection that a Father's hand still guides the penal rod, the transition is not very abrupt to the thought that the great King will not fail to avenge the oppression of his peculiar subjects by their fellow-mortals. The latter eminently Hebraistic idea at once kindles the seer into rhapsody. The word no, Sélah, which is subjoined as a separatrix of the strophes, is generally conceded to have the exclamatory force of “Stop!” like the modern rest in music, being probably designed to allow an instrumental interlude in the vocal performance. By a suspension of the chant it thus naturally gives impressiveness to the sentiment just preceding it. It seems to be derived, by an interchange of sibilants, from the root om, to “suspend,” hence to “be silent."
Strophe II describes the splendid phenomena and dread attendants of the divine Shekinah, which, in the figurative representations of Scripture, is always assumed as the special symbol of Jehovah's presence and power. (a.) In general terms, the celestial radiance was reflected by the whole land beneath. ninn, “laudation,” is evidently the correlative, as the appropriate effect in the human sphere, of win,"majesty," the exhibition in the supernal vault. There is an idiomatic transposition in the members of the parallelism, “ Covered the heavens, his glory, And (with) his praise, was full the earth."
Verse 4. (6.) The picture proceeds to the active state of this preternatural splendor. Brilliant beams emanated from the hands that now appear as more palpable indications of con
Carens, his in the me supernal man sphere the comm
And (with) me parallelism.
erse 4. (6.)
crete potency. Henderson renders niny,“like that of the sun," regarding the kamets of the prefix, as equivalent to the article, and thus rendering the noun emphatic; but it is simply the regular pointing before an accented syllable, and the noun (as in Job xxxvi, 32) is significant of lightning, which renders the mention of the right hand appropriate, and is tantamount to the parallel by2, “two horns,” that is, forked flashes, as if it were said, thunderbolts. Yet even this halo is but the screen of his more awful energy. The obscurity of this clause is enhanced by the ambiguity of do, which, if pointed as in the Masoretic text bw, signifies “there” or “then;" if as in the Septuagint (EDETO) Din, will signify “he put” or “caused.” The leading idea is, in either case, essentially the same, that these visible tokens were not the full development, but the mere 919, or vail, of the Almighty's ability to vindicate the cause of his people. · Verse 5. (c.) A glance is allowed at some of these direr messengers 'of God's vengeance. The plague stalks as his vanguard, and its fiercest symptom attends close behind him. In the poetic "machinery” of the Hebrews the angel of death is always depicted as bearing a special commission from divine providence. Compare 2 Samuel xxii, 10–17. .
Strophe III contains a representation of some of the 'terrestrial or physical convulsions that evince the divine sovereignty over the realm of nature, and tend to inspire awe in his subjects. This is the well-known scriptural imagery for national disturbances and political overthrow.
Verse 6. The mere presence of Jehovah, although silent and stationary, is like the tread of an earthquake; his gaze alone throws consternation amid the ranks of his enemies. The verb 7722is ambiguous, like “shook," so that y, the “land,” may be either its subject or object; but the parallelism seems to show that it is here transitive. The granite peaks of the enduring hills are riven by the volcanic shock, and fall in ruins at their Maker's approach. The concluding clause of the triplet is somewhat uncertain in its construction and application, some rendering it simply “His ancient paths," referring merely to the mountains. But this is rather jejune. The words are literally, “goings of old [are] to him," is pais nians. The sentiment seems to be, that God's march