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Habakkuk 3:10

10. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.

10. Viderunt me, timuerunt montes; inundatio (vel, gurges) aquarum transivit; dedit abyssus vocen suam; in altum manus suas sustulit (vel, altitudo, [םור]; potest tam in casu nominandi legi quam in accusative.)


Habakkuk proceeds with the history of the people’s redemption. We have said what his object was, even this that the people, though in an extreme state of calamity, might yet entertain hope of God’s favor; for he became not a Redeemer to the race of Abraham for one time, but that he might continue the same favor to them to the end.

He says that mountains had seen and grieved. Some explain this allegorically of kings, and say, that they grieved when envy preyed on them: but this view is too strained. The Prophet, I have no doubt, means simply, that the mountains obeyed God, so as to open a way for his people. At the same time, the verb חול, chul, signifies not only to grieve, but also to bring forth, and then to fall and to abide in the same place. We might then with no less propriety read thus—see thee did the mountains, and were still, or fell down; that is, they were subservient to thy command, and did not intercept the way of thy people. I think the real meaning of the Prophet to be, that God had formerly imprinted on all the elements evident marks of his paternal favor, so that the posterity of Abraham might ever confide in him as their deliverer in all their distresses: and even the context requires this meaning; for he subjoins -

The stream or the inundation of waters, etc.: and this second part cannot be explained allegorically. We then see, that the import of the words is—That God removed all obstacles, so that neither mountains, nor waters, nor sea, nor rivers, intercepted the passage of the people. He says now, that the inundation of waters had passed away. This applies both to Jordan and to the Red Sea; for God separated the Red Sea, so that the waters stood apart, contrary to the laws of nature, and the same thing happened to Jordan; for the flowing of the water was stayed, and a way was opened, so that the people passed over dryshod into the land of Canaan. Thus took place what is said by the Prophet, the stream of waters passed away. We indeed know that such is the abundance of waters in the sea and in the rivers, that they cannot be dried up: when therefore waters disappear, it is what is beyond the course of nature. The Prophet, therefore, records this miracle, that the faithful might know, that though the whole world were resisting, their salvation would still be certain; for the Lord can surmount whatever impediments there may be.

He then ascribes life to waters; for he says, that the abyss gave its voice, and also, that the deep lifted up its hands; or that the abyss with uplifted hands was ready to obey God. It is a striking personification; for though the abyss is void of intelligence, and it cannot speak, yet the Prophet says, that the abyss with its voice and uplifted hands testified its obedience, when God would have his people to pass through to the promised land. When anxious to testify our obedience, we do this both with our voice and in our gesture. When any one is willing to do what is commanded, he says, “Here I am,” or “I promise to do this.” As, then, servants respond to others, so the Prophet says, that a voice was uttered by the abyss. The abyss indeed uttered no voice; but the event itself surpassed all voices. Now when a whole people meet together, they raise their hands; for their consent cannot be understood except by the outstretching of the hands, and hence came the word hand-extending, χειροτονια. This similitude the Prophet now takes, and says, that the abyss raised up its hands; that is, shows its consent by this gesture. As when men declare by this sign that they will do what they are bidden; so also the abyss lifted up its hands. If we read, The deep raised up its hands, the sense will be the same. 5959     Most critics have overlooked the peculiar construction of this verse; but it presents a striking instant of the order in which the Prophets often arrange their ideas. There are two things referred to—the mountains and the waters—and the first verb regards both; the nominative case being anticipated, and the first of the two last lines refers to the waters, and the last to the mountains. This is the literal version,—
   They saw thee, in pain were the mountains,
The flood of waters passed away,
Utter did the deep its voice,
The height its hands lifted up.

   To construe [רום] adverbially, “on high,” does not so well comport with the characters of the Hebrew language; and it evidently here refers to the “mountains,” as the “deep” refers to the water.—Ed.
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