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Verse 3

Habakkuk 3:3. God came from Teman, &c. Bishop Lowth observes, that “this chapter affords us a remarkable instance of that sublimity which is peculiar to the ode, and which is principally owing to a bold and yet easy digression, or transition. The prophet, foreseeing the judgments of God, the calamities which were to be brought upon his countrymen by the Chaldeans, and then the punishments which awaited the Chaldeans themselves; partly struck with terror, partly revived with hope and confidence in the divine mercy, he prays that God would hasten the redemption and deliverance of his people, Habakkuk 3:3. Now here immediately occurs to every one’s mind a similitude between the Babylonish and Egyptian captivity; that it was possible an equal deliverance might be procured by the help of God; and how aptly the prophet might so have continued his prayer, namely, that God, who had wrought so many miracles in ancient days for the sake of his people, would likewise continue his providential regard toward them; and how much it would contribute to confirm and strengthen the minds of the pious, who should remember, that the God who formerly had manifested his infinite power in rescuing the Israelites out of such great calamities, was able to do the same by avenging their posterity likewise. But the prophet has omitted all these topics, for this very reason, because they so readily occur to the mind; and instead of expatiating in so large a field, he bursts forth with an unexpected impetuosity, God came from Teman, &c.” Præl. Hebrews 28. Habakkuk, therefore, having offered up his petitions to God for the preservation and support of his people during their captivity, proceeds, from hence to Habakkuk 3:16, to recount, for their encouragement, the wonderful works which Jehovah had formerly wrought for them to deliver them from Egyptian slavery, and to put them in possession of the land of Canaan, intimating by this, that he would in due time show himself equally powerful in delivering them from the Babylonish captivity, and restoring them to their own land. In recounting these wonderful works he first exhibits a description of Jehovah, as king and commander of the thousands of Israel, marching at their head in a pillar of a cloud, to conduct them, and put them in possession of the promised land. When Jehovah sets out from Teman and Paran, so great is the majesty and glory with which he is arrayed, that the heaven and the earth are too little to contain them, Habakkuk 3:3. His brightness, like that of the meridian sun, is insupportable, and his power irresistible, Habakkuk 3:4. The pestilence and devouring fire attending him to do execution upon the enemy at his command, Habakkuk 3:5. As soon as he enters the land of Canaan, (Habakkuk 3:6,) he takes possession of it as rightful Lord; and the seven nations of Canaan, conscious that they had forfeited it by their wickedness, flee at the sight of him. The mountains of the land disperse to make way for him, the hills bow to pay him obeisance, and the highways own him for their Lord; and so great is the dread of him, that the neighbouring nations tremble while he passes by, Habakkuk 3:7. “Throughout the whole passage the prophet preserves the same magnificence with which he begins, choosing the noblest images which so copious a subject could afford, and illustrating them with the most splendid colours, images, figures, and the most elevated style. What crowns the sublimity of this piece, is the singular elegance of the close; and were it not that antiquity hath here and there thrown its veil of obscurity over it, there could not be conceived a more perfect and masterly poem of the kind.” Bishop Lowth. “The grandest images,” adds Bishop Newcome, “are selected; and the diction is as splendid as the subjects.” Teman is thought to have been first the name of an encampment, and afterward of an Idumean city: see Job 2:11; Jeremiah 49:7. Paran was a part of Arabia Petræa, near mount Sinai: see Genesis 21:21; Deuteronomy 33:2. His glory covered the heavens That excessive splendour which filled the air when God descended on mount Sinai, in flames of fire, lightnings, and thunders, to give the law to his people. And the earth was full of his praise Green reads, And his glory filled the earth.

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