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Habakkuk 3:11

11. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.

11. Sol, luna stetit in habitaculo, ad lucem sagittarum tuarum ambulabunt, ad splendorum fulguris hastae tuae.


Here the Prophet refers to another history; for we know that when Joshua fought, and when the day was not long enough to slay the enemies, the day was prolonged according to his prayer, (Joshua 10:12.) He seems indeed to have authoritatively commanded the sun to stay its course: but there is no doubt, but that having been answered as to his prayer, when he expressed this, he commanded the sun, as he did, through the secret impulse of the Holy Spirit: and we know that the sun would not have stopped in its course, except the moon also was stayed. There must indeed have been the same action as to these two luminaries.

Hence Habakkuk says, that the sun and moon stood still in their habitation; that is, that the sun then rested as it were in its dwelling. When it was hastening in its course, it then stood still for the benefit of God’s people. The sun then and the moon stood,—How? At the light of thy arrows shall they walk. Some refer this to the pillar of fire, as though the Prophet had said, that the Israelites walked by that light, by which God guided them: but I doubt not but that this is said of the sun. The whole sentence is thus connected—that the sun and moon walked, not as from the beginning, but at the light of God’s arrows; that is, when instead of God’s command, which the sun had received from the beginning as its direction, the sun had God’s arrows, which guided it, retarded its course, or restrained the velocity which it had before. There is then an implied contrast between the progress of the sun which it had by nature to that day, and that new direction, when the sun was retained, that it might give place to the arrows of God, and to the sword and the spear; for by the arrows and the spear he means nothing else but the weapons of the elect people; for we know, that when that people fought under the protection of God, they were armed as it were from above. As then it is said of Gideon, “The sword of God and of Gideon;” so also in this place the Prophet calls whatever armor the people of Israel had, the arrows of God and his spear; for that people could not move—no, not a finger’s breadth—without the command of God. The sun then was wont before to regard the ordinary command, of which we read in Genesis; but it was then directed for another purpose: for it had regard to the arrows of God flying on the earth as lightning; and it had regard to the arrows, as though it stood astonished and dared not to advance. Why? because it behoved it to submit to God while he was carrying on war. 6060     There is much beauty and force in this explanation: and accordant with it is the version of Henderson. But that of Newcome is somewhat different—
   The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation:
their light thine arrows went abroad;
their brightness, the lightning of thy spear.

   To avoid the insertion of so many words in italics which are not in the original, I would render the verse thus—

   The sun! the moon! it stood she remained stationary,
For light to thine arrows
which went forth,
For brightness to the flashing of thy spear.

   The genitive case is often to be rendered as a dative, as in Jeremiah 31:35, [לאור לילה], “for the light of the night;” that is, “for light to the night.”

   There are twelve MSS. which have “and,” [ו], before “moon:” but it is not wanted, the verb “stood” being singular; and it is followed, as I conceive, by another verb in the singular number, and in the feminine gender, while “stood” is in the masculine, and refers to the moon, and the last refers to the sun; which is sometimes feminine, while moon is ever the masculine. The verb [זבל] is not properly to dwell, but to continue fixed, or to remain stationary. The order in our language would be this—

   The sun remained stationary, the moon stood.

We now then perceive how much kindness is included in these words.

What, therefore, we have already referred to, ought to be borne in mind—that in this place there is no frigid narrative, but such things are brought before the faithful as avail to confirm their hope, that they may feel assured, that the power of God is sufficient for the purpose of delivering them; for it was for this end that he formerly wrought so many miracles. It follows—

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