Habakkuk praises Yahweh’s glory, might, and control of nature.
Habakkuk describes Yahweh: “You will smash the roof of the villain’s house, raze it from foundation to top!” (v. 13)
III. Selected Verses
3-4: God is coming from Teman, The Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His majesty covers the skies, His splendor fills the earth: It is a brilliant light Which gives off rays on every side — And therein His glory is enveloped.
6: When He stands, He makes the earth shake; When He glances, He makes nations tremble. The age-old mountains are shattered, The primeval hills sink low. His are the ancient routes.
16: I heard and my bowels quaked, My lips quivered at the sound; Rot entered into my bone, I trembled where I stood. Yet I wait calmly for the day of distress, For a people to come to attack us.
17-19: Though the fig tree does not bud And no yield is on the vine, Though the olive crop has failed And the fields produce no grain, Though sheep have vanished from the fold And no cattle are in the pen, Yet will I rejoice in the LORD, Exult in the God who delivers me. My Lord GOD is my strength: He makes my feet like the deer’s And lets me stride upon the heights.
2c. Petition for God to make himself known
3-6. God’s glory
7-9a. God’s might
9b-11. God’s control of nature
12-15. God will deliver his nation by punishing the villains
16. Habakkuk’s fear
17-19a. Trust in God
Chapter 3 is a theophoric description of God’s glory and might. Habakkuk describes God as a divine warrior battling the “sea” (vv. 8, 15), and this theme is found in many other passages of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, this theme wasn’t explored with great detail until the 19th century. Oden Jr. writes: “Already at the end of the 19th century the great scholar of Israel’s preliterary traditions, Hermann Gunkel, noted that a careful reading of the Hebrew Bible revealed allusions to a common ANE cosmogony based upon a primordial combat between the creator and the forces of chaos (Gunkel 1895). Prior to the uncovering and translation of the Ugaritic texts, the source of these traditions was regularly seen to be Mesopotamia, the location of the creation tale Enuma Elish with its account of the battle between the god Marduk and the dragon goddess Tiamat, and perhaps too in Egypt, which knew the tradition of a fundamental combat between the creator god Re and the dragon Apophis. The mythological texts from Ugarit in Syria now demonstrate that there is no need to go so far afield in the search for the literary and theological models which Israelite poets found so useful. These texts, as best the narratives they relate can be reconstructed at present, tell of a primeval battle between the god Ba’l Haddu (familiar as Ba’al in the Hebrew Bible) and the forces of chaotic destruction and death. The latter are called by such titles as Prince Sea (ym) and Judge River (nhr) in the primary version of this combat tale, while what appear to be alternate versions of the same, basic tale label these forces Lotan (ltn, the equivalent of the biblical Leviathan) or the seven-headed serpent (Herdner 1963: CTCA Text 2 or 5).
“On the basis of these texts from ancient Syria and of their transformations in the Hebrew Bible, a common Syria-Palestinian pattern for the shape of the cosmogonic battle myth can be reconstructed. This pattern consists of four rounds: (1) a Divine Warrior goes forth to battle the chaotic monsters, variously called Sea, Death, Leviathan, Tannin; (2) the world of nature responds to the wrath of the Divine Warrior and the forces of chaos are defeated; (3) the Divine Warrior assumes his throne on a mountain, surrounded by a retinue of other deities; and (4) the Divine Warrior utters his powerful speech, which leads nature to produce the created world (CMHE, 162–63). Though there is no single biblical text which relates this battle in its fullest form, once the pattern is made clear, it seems undeniable that it lies behind and is responsible for a great number of biblical allusions which should be accounted as cosmogonic. For example, the titles Leviathan, Sea, River, Sea Monster (tann’în or the like), and Dragon (rahab) all are used of opponents of [God] the God of Israel in settings describing the earlier days of the cosmos…
“The cumulative effect of all these allusions, tantalizingly brief and vague though each may seem when seen in isolation, is impressive. The texts’ very brevity bears witness to the familiarity with the cosmic battle pattern that the author of each could assume on behalf of his listeners. Just as the briefest mention of words and phrases like the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, or the Gettysburg Address will resonate widely to an American audience, so too the very spare report of the Sea, the Dragon, or of [God]’s splitting a sea monster will have called forth for an Israelite audience the entire myth in which these cosmic enemies attempt to play their destructive roles.
“Earlier scholars were troubled by the implications of these battle scenes, since they so clearly compromise later Jewish and Christian understandings of the Hebrew Bible as consistently monotheistic. But the Hebrew Bible itself bears clear witness to monotheism as a slowly developing notion within early Israel, and one that for many centuries found no difficulty in portraying [God]’s creative activity in the terms of the familiar cosmogonic battle pattern.” (5:1,165-1,166)
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Oden Jr., Robert A. “COSMOGONY, COSMOLOGY,” Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 5:1,165-1,166.
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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