Prayer of a prophet in crisis
A prayer song1This is Habakkuk’s prayer. Accompany it with music that matches the message.
Save us again2
LORD, I’ve heard your reputation.
I’m amazed at what you’ve done.
Do it again for us.
Even if you’re angry with us,
Let us see your mercy.
Like he did in ancient times.
The Holy God is coming from Mount Paran.
His splendor hangs on display in the sky.
Praises rise to him from all over the earth.
God on fire4
He’s cloaked in brilliant light, bright as the sun.
Rays of light stream from his hands.
Behind, a legion of plagues.
6When he stops, the ground shakes.
When he looks around, nations tremble,
Ancient mountains collapse,
Age-old trails and everlasting hills sink.
7I saw chaos in camps of desert nomads,
Cushan and Midian tents both in trouble.
Midian’s tent curtains were shaking.
God the monster killer8
Why are you angry, LORD?
Are you upset at the river beast, Neharim?
Are you angry with Yam, monster of the sea?
Is that why you race to victory,
With horses thundering ahead of your chariot?
Arrows are waiting.
All you need is the word.
The ground broke open
And rivers gushed out.
10Mountains see you and start to shake.
Rain pounds the ground in flooding torrents.
The ocean howls beneath soaring waves.
The dull moon watches your gleaming spear
And your lightening arrows
As they cut through the sky.
And you crush the enemy nations.
13You came to rescue your people,
To save your anointed king.
You crush the skull of the enemy,
Then display its corpse from neck to feet.
14You stop enemy soldiers,
Killing them with their own weapons.
They came at us in a whirlwind,
Scattering us in all directions, then gloating.
They loved robbing poor refugees.
15You storm into the sea to save your people,
Churning the water as you charge,
Trusting God no matter what16
When I heard this story of what would happen,
I started shaking all over.
My lips quivered. My legs gave way.
All I could do was lay there and tremble.
I’m waiting now for the inevitable day of trouble,
For invaders to wake and attack.
Grapes don’t grow,
When olive crops disappear,
Fields produce dirt,
When sheep are taken,
Cattle gone from their stalls,
18What will I do?
19I will thank God that he is my Savior.
He gives me the strength to go on.
He gives me the sure-footed speed of a deer,
And to higher ground he leads on.
“Solemn music” and “sad song” (Psalm 7) are guesses about how to translate the mysterious Hebrew words: shigionoth and its apparent cousin shiggaion in Psalm 7. Bible scholars say the word in Habakkuk could describe the type of prayer: request for help. Or it might describe music suited to accompany a sad and serious prayer. The word in Psalm 7 could mean one of many things. Perhaps it’s just another word for “psalm.” Or maybe it’s a type of song, such as a lament or a rambling flow of consciousness psalm, with an uneven beat. Some scholars say the best guess so far: song of lament.
Some of what the poetic prophet talks about in this song may refer to moments in history when God saved Israel, reported as a way of assuring readers that he’ll do it again. The word in Hebrew is “Teman,” the name of one of Esau’s grandsons. The writer of Obadiah 1:9 seemed to use it as a nickname, another way of talking about the people of Edom. Esau’s name was also used as a nickname for Edom. It’s not as though God is actually coming from the south, as though he lives there. This reads like a metaphor, a symbolic way of saying he’ll save his people like he did before, when he came from the south, “Edom” and “Mount Paran” (Deuteronomy 33:2), to part the sea for Moses and the Hebrews fleeing from Egypt during the Exodus.
Mount Paran is mentioned with locations south of Israel, including Mount Sinai and Edom (Deuteronomy 33:2). There, God is described as coming “from the mountain slopes of the southland,” possibly in Edom. Hebrews in the Exodus out of Egypt passed through Paran Desert on the road north to Moab, in what is now the country of Jordan (Numbers 11:35; 12:16). Edom was Moab’s neighbor to the south.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
Bible writers often describe God as shining, bright, or coming in fire, which was the ancient form of light. God came to Moses in the glow of a bush, “fire that didn’t burn out” (Exodus 3:2). God also led Moses and the Hebrews out of Egypt with “a rising column of smoke by day and a column of fire at night, which lit their way (Exodus 13:21).
Perhaps a way of saying God controls diseases and plagues and can weaponize them against his enemies.
Cushan and Midian were nomadic communities—families and tribes that formed nations. They lived south of what is now Israel. Some lived east of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia. Some seemed to live at least part of the time in the Sinai Peninsula, perhaps grazing their flocks in the winter. Centuries after Habakkuk, during the time of Gideon and other Israelite leaders known as “the judges,” Midian raiders would attack Israelites at harvesttime to steal their crops and livestock.
Neharim and Yam are names of legendary animals described sometimes as monsters. They show up in Canaanite stories. Jewish writers sometimes refer to them as a way of reminding readers that God is more powerful than anything we could imagine. “You defeated the huge sea creatures. You crushed the skulls of the sea monster Leviathan” (Psalm 74:13-14, see also Job 7:12).
Literally, “anointed,” without mention of a king. But each king was anointed with oil to signify that God had chosen him. The king became known as God’s “anointed,” or “the anointed one.” In the original language of Hebrew, the word is “messiah.” Many Christians often see this word in the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of Jesus the Messiah a thousand years before he came to earth. But to the readers in Bible times, the word simply meant their king. Israel’s kings were presented to the nation as God’s chosen leader, literally God’s anointed one. The ritual of crowning someone king involved an anointing—pouring olive oil over the ruler’s head. Samuel anointed young David as Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:12-13). The ritual sounds messy, but the olive oil would have felt refreshing poured onto someone living without air-conditioning in the ancient Middle Eastern heat.
Some scholars say this reads like a metaphor from an ancient legend about gods or heroes killing a dragon. That’s not to give support to the legend. But it’s using a well-known story to illustrate how powerful God is. He’s strong enough to kill the biggest and most terrifying monster on earth.
This recalls the story of Gideon’s midnight attack on a Midian camp. Midianites were so confused that in the black of night they killed each other (Judges 7:16-25).
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.