3:13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.

 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed”—Here the purpose of intervention is plainly stated. The object of the vision is to save Israel, Yahweh’s people and at the same time to destroy her enemies by the “Anointed”, the Messiah. At a point of utter desperation, when the fortunes of Israel will be at their lowest ebb, and when the Gogian host will have swamped the land and threatened to annihilate the nation, then will God step in. This is the consistent picture presented by the prophets. “When Israel sees that her power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free,” then God will vindicate His people (Deut 32:36 RSV). Brother Thomas says, “it is the perfect helplessness of the tribes before their enemies that excites the indignation and compassion of Yahweh” (Eureka). Compare also Zechariah 1:15–16; 13:8–9; 14:1–3; Jeremiah 30:7-8. Victory is here given a deeper meaning and styled “salvation”, for this is what the Kingdom of God will bring (Exod 15:1–2; Psa 68:7, 19–20).

Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked”—RSV “Thou didst crush the head of the wicked”; Roth “thou hast crushed the head out of the house of the lawless one” (Cp Psa 68:21; 18:37–40). The promise in Eden will receive further fulfilment (it will be consummated at the end of the millennium when there will be “no more death”, 1 Cor 15:24-28). “Satan” (sin, in political manifestation) will be bound and the tide of iniquity will be held at bay by the righteous rule of Christ and his brethren (Rev 20:1-4). The very terms of Genesis 3:15 are here used. Consider Paul’s use of them in Romans 16:16-20. The seed of the woman will crush the confederated serpent’s progeny in the place where Christ destroyed sin in himself—even at Golgotha, the place of a skull, a dead human head (John 19:17). The Hebrew word for head is “Rosh”. Russia will be the overlord of the united hosts of Europe—the “head of the wicked”. The ancient name for Russia is Ros, and in Ezekiel 38:2, Gogue is styled the “prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (RV, Roth), by which is indicated that Gogue will rule Russia, Moscow and Tubal.

The ancient name for Russia appears from many sources to correspond to the Hebrew word for “head”. The Hebrew word “Rosh” is also used of the opium poppy because of its large red head (see Deut 29:18). It is used as a figure for apostates who would bring idolatry into Israel’s midst. This is because it dulls the senses, being a narcotic or sedative drug. Roman Catholicism has deceived all the nations and is likened to a whore who has made the inhabitants of the earth drunk (Rev 17:1–2). When fully united with Gogue this grand alliance of northern nations will come against God’s land and there be destroyed.

When this “head” of the wicked is concussed by God, the nations will be brought to their senses. No longer will they be deceived, for God will magnify Himself, and sanctify Himself; and be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that He is Yahweh (Ezek 38:23).

By discovering the foundation even unto the neck”—Roth. “Baring the foundation up to the neck.” “Discovering” in the Hebrew means “making naked”. This exposes their shame and sin, and is a figure for their utter confusion and destruction. The judgment of Habakkuk 2:16 is thus fulfilled (Gen 3:7–8; Job 12:18).

Even unto the neck”—To have power over the neck of an enemy is to have him in submission. Jacob promised this power, to Shiloh, “Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies” (Gen 49:8), and here, the same promise is made to the Anointed one. Joshua, the anti-typical Christ, destroyed the confederacy of southern kings when he commanded the captains, “Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings” (Josh 10:24). The victory will be Christ’s and the saints’ in days soon to dawn. The same figure is used of David and Christ in particular in Psalm 18:40.

3:14 Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was to devour the poor secretly—RV “Thou didst pierce with his own staves the head of his warriors” (and RSV); Roth. “Thou hast pierced with his own staves the head of his chiefs”. Note the change of “villages” to “warriors” (RV, RSV) or “chiefs” (Roth). The idea is one of utter confusion when Gogue’s multiracial confederacy will break up and turn their vengeance upon one another in internecine warfare. In this way the prophets depict much of the bloodshed at Armageddon taking place. It is like the “day of Midian” (See notes 3:7).

They came out as a whirlwind to scatter ME”— Habakkuk is relating the vision. He identifies himself with the plight of his people. His hopes were vested in the salvation of his people as are ours. He prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, knowing that they shall prosper who love her (Psa 122:6). Even so today the true saint will feel keenly the misfortunes of God’s chosen people and long for their vindication and glory. Refer also to verse 16 where the R.S.V. and Moffat have “invade US”.

Their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly— Roth “Their exultant thought is in very deed to devour the oppressed one in a secret place”. While Israel may have held her Arab neighbours at bay, she will be fighting a different foe when the colossal hordes of Gogue overflow her borders. The secret thought of Gogue is revealed to us in Ezek 38:10-12, “and shalt think an evil thought: and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest… to take a spoil and to take a prey.” Such will be the pride and “exalted thought” of Gogue. The Gogian hierarchy are ignorant of the fact there is a God, and that Israel is His chosen people. Thus he thinks he can, with impunity, destroy the people to whom God has linked His own existence (Mal 3:6; Jer 33:25–26). To him the desecration of Israel will be like a powerful giant over-powering a weak person in a secret place, where there is no hope of anyone answering to the victim’s cries. But he is ignorant of the fact that the eyes of Yahweh are always on Israel, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of it” (Deut 11:12), and so he will not go unrequited.

3:15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters—RSV “Thou didst trample the sea with thy horses, the surging of mighty waters”; LXX “Thou dost cause thine horses to enter the sea, disturbing much water.” Roth “Thou hast driven into the sea thy chariot horses. Foaming are the mighty waters”. Verse 15 is a summary statement. In the vision the nations are again likened to the “sea” and “mighty waters” and Yahweh’s power is represented as being vested in His Cherubic chariots and horses (see notes v8). The victory of Yahweh and the saints over the nations will be like powerful war-horses trampling and churning up the waters of the sea.

3:16-19 A Prayer of Confidence in the Justice of Yahweh.

 Habakkuk is now fully assured that God will vindicate the people who bear His Name and bring just retribution on the head of the wicked. In this confidence he quietly waits, despite the intervening calamities which he knew would overtake Judah.

3:16 When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Moffat gives the sense of this verse very well: “The sound of this sets our heart shaking, we listen with lips a-quiver, our very bones are breaking, and as we stand we shiver; Yet calmly we await the day of doom that dawns upon the folk who would assail us”. RSV (latter part of the verse) “I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”. Habakkuk has been converted to an attitude of humble trust in God. He no longer doubts the righteousness of God but submits. He has just been permitted to see a symbolic vision of the out-pouring of the wrath of the Almighty. This has made him tremble. But despite this, the knowledge enables him to patiently wait. Is not this true in our own case? We know, too, what will befall this world and that righteousness will prevail. We know that the judgments will be very terrible upon the ungodly. The exhortation is to work now in the high service we have chosen, and by so doing “make our calling and election sure.” Then fears will be less, being cast out by the love of God. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:16-18). This is the ideal set before us. Consider the effect of judgment on the faithful in Daniel 8:27; 10:8-9,12; Revelation 1:17; Ezekiel 1:28; Psalm 119:120; Jeremiah 23:9; Joshua 5:14.

When he cometh up unto the people”—there are two applications:

1 The Babylonian in Habakkuk’s day—who invaded the people, that is, His people, Judah (1:6-10).

2 The latter day Babylonian in whom the prophecy will have its final and greatest fulfilment.

3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold , and their be no herd in the stalls. Read similar words in Jeremiah 8:13. Having learned of the ultimate salvation of his people Habakkuk is able to face present calamities. Though the direst agricultural calamities should befall his people he can still rejoice. These are the curses specifically outlined to come upon them as a consequence of disobedience (Deut 28:16,18,30–31,33,38–40).

The three trees mentioned are prolific in Israel and are used by God as symbols of Israel.

1 The vine—Psa 80:8; Ezek 15: Isa 5:2; Matt 21:19,33.

2 The olive—Rom 11:17; Zech 4:2; Jer 11:16.

3 The fig—Lk 13:6–9; 21:29; Mk 11:13,20; Matt 21:19; Jer 24:1; Joel 1:7.

The failure of the natural fruits of these trees indicates that judgment was to come upon Israel for iniquity. Because of failure to bring forth fruit, “the kingdom” has been taken from the seed of Jacob, and “given to a nation (Gentiles) bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt 21:41-43). Herein lies the exhortation to us … for “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” (Rom 11:21). We must abound in the fruits of the Spirit (see verse 18).

3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

 Rejoice”—Heb “alliyz”, from a root “to jump for joy”, hence to exalt, be joyful, rejoice, triumph (cp Psa 68:4; Prov 23:16) “my reins shall rejoice;” Isa 13:3; Zeph 3:14, ”rejoice with all the heart”; Psa 149:5, “Let the saints be joyful in glory”.

Joy”—Heb “guwl” a root signifying “to spin round” (under the influence of any violent emotion) that is, usually translated “rejoice”, “be glad,” “joy” (Strong).

  • Cp Isaiah 35:2 “Rejoice even with joy and singing” (i.e. the redeemed)
  • Zephaniah 3:17 “he will joy over thee with singing
  • Psalm 149:2 “children of Zion be joyful in their king”.
  • Isaiah 61:10;49:13. “Sing O heavens; and be joyful, O earth”.

From what these two words mean and how they are used we can feel a kindred spirit with the prophet as, in fullness of faith, he exults in the coming salvation of God. One of the FRUITS of the Spirit is “joy” (Gal 5:22). Where there is no rejoicing in Yahweh there is no fruit of the Word. Do you rejoice inwardly? Do you inwardly “spin” and “leap for joy”, that you “know God and His Son Jesus Christ?” (John 17:3). “Joy” is then inseparable from true worship and becomes a real test of faith and service. Notice how often Paul called on the Philippians to rejoice and joy in God (1:4,18,25-26; 2:2,17,18,28; 3:3; 4:4,10). The fact is that when we rejoice in God, we have already put our faith and trust in Him. We have the right attitude towards our Creator and we are not putting our trust in flesh and blood. Thus we read “We… worship God in the spirit (mind) and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”(Phil 3:3). The just shall live by faith.

3:19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

The LORD God is my strength”. This expresses his total reliance and confidence in God. David had learned this through the experience of tribulation (Psa 18:1). We, too, must learn by prayer and the indwelling of the Word, “to know” and to cast our burdens upon Him. Then He can interact with our lives and we will learn to be sensitive to His guidance. But if we trust not and pray not, and wait not upon Him, how can He guide us? But confidence in Him works patience and patience, experience, and experience hope (Rom 5:1-6). If we have “tasted and seen that He is good”, we will be disposed to rely on Him again, and again. David exhorts us to “taste and see” that this is so (Psa 34:6–9). Compare also Psalm 27:1; 46:1; Isaiah 12:2; 45:24; 2 Corinthians 12:9–10; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 3:16; 6:10; Colossians 1:11.

He will make my feet like hind’s feet”—LXX “he will perfectly strengthen my feet” This gives the sense, that is, “sure and safe” (Psa 18:33; 2 Sam 22:34). It also is notable how many times the same expressions are found in Psalm 18 and Habakkuk 3. “And he will make me to walk upon mine high places”—Moffat “He makes our feet sure as the feet of hinds, helps us to keep our footing on the heights”. Being cast to the ground is a synonym for shame and destruction, whilst being elevated to walk in high places is a term in Scripture to describe victory, glory, and exaltation (Isa 40:31; Psa 18:33; Deut 32:13; 33:29). God says He will cause the elect, who keep the spirit of the Sabbath, to “ride upon the high places of the earth”, and to be fed “with the heritage of Jacob” (Isa 58:14). Clearly this involves an eternal inheritance in Emmanuel’s land by resurrection or “standing again” (anastasis) “with hinds’ feet”.

To the chief singer on my stringed instruments”— RSV “To the choir-master: with stringed instruments (margin, Heb—my stringed instruments); Roth. “To the chief musician on my double harp”.

This is the subscription. The last phrase is the Hebrew word “neginoth” and comes from a root “to thrum” or to beat a tune with the fingers; especially to play on a stringed instrument (Strong), for example, a harp (cp Roth) or any other percussion instrument. Compare the subscriptions to Psalm 3 (appears as title of Psalm 4 but applies to Psalm 3. This also applies to the other Psalms listed), 5, 53, 54, 66 and 75.

The fact that Habakkuk uses the personal pronoun “my” may suggest that he was a Levite. Also his despair at the relaxation of the Law of Moses (1:4) would suggest the same, seeing the priests were responsible for the upholding of the Law (Mal 2:7; Hos 4:6; Neh 8:1–8).

Notice how close in thought the last four verses Moses uttered (Deut 33:26–29) are to the themes of Habakkuk 3.

This article concludes the very interesting and valuable series prepared by Brethren James Luke and Andrew Johns. These notes could well form the basis for a Bible Marking Project for any who have not yet “marked up” the prophecy of Habakkuk. Bible Marking is an excellent medium for consolidating a study and recording the information in a place and fashion which makes it the most readily accessible. Habakkuk is a prophecy which contains much important detail that is not easily remembered and therefore it particularly lends itself to Bible Marking.