Habakkuk 3:1
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
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(1-15) A hymn describing a future self-manifestation of Jehovah on Israel’s behalf, accompanied by the signs and wonders of the early history. It is impossible to give the English reader an idea of the rhythmical structure of this beautiful composition. We will only observe that it is independent of the arrangement in verses, and that the poem (except in Habakkuk 3:7-8; Habakkuk 3:13, fin.) consists of lines each containing exactly three words.

(1) Upon Shigionoth.—This term points, not to the contents of the composition, but either to its metrical structure or its musical setting. See on the Inscription of Psalms 7. Inasmuch as this ode is throughout an account of the deliverance anticipated by prayerful faith, it is called not a Psalm, mizmôr, but a Prayer, tphiltâh.

Habakkuk 3:1. A prayer of Habakkuk, &c. — The word prayer is here taken in a general sense for an act or exercise of devotion, including adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. The word shigionoth signifies wanderings, and may denote “cantio erratica, vel mixta,” a desultory, various, or mixed hymn; or, as Bishop Newcome thinks, “a musical instrument of great compass, with which the Jews accompanied this piece of poetry.”

3:1,2 The word prayer seems used here for an act of devotion. The Lord would revive his work among the people in the midst of the years of adversity. This may be applied to every season when the church, or believers, suffer under afflictions and trials. Mercy is what we must flee to for refuge, and rely upon as our only plea. We must not say, Remember our merit, but, Lord, remember thy own mercy.A prayer of Habakkuk - o. The "prayer" of the prophet, in the strictest sense of the word, is contained in the words of Habakkuk 3:2. The rest is, in its form, praise and thanksgiving, chiefly for God's past mercies in the deliverance from Egypt and the entering into the promised land. But thanksgiving is an essential part of prayer, and Hannah is said to have "prayed," whereas the hymn which followed is throughout one thanksgiving . In that also these former deliverances were images of things to come, of every deliverance afterward, and, especially, of that complete divine deliverance which our Lord Jesus Christ performed for us from the power of Satan 1 Corinthians 10:11, the whole is one prayer: "Do, O Lord, as Thou hast done of old; forsake not Thine own works. Such were Thy deeds once; fulfill them now, all which they shadowed forth." It is then a prayer for the manifestation of God's power, and therewith the destruction of His enemies, thenceforth to the Day of Judgment. Cyril: "Having completed the discourse about Babylon, and having fore-announced most clearly, that those who destroyed the holy city and carried Israel captive shall be severely punished, he passes suitably to the mystery of Christ, and from the redemption which took place partially in one nation, he carries on the discourse to that universal redemption, whereby the remnant of Israel, and no less the whole world has been saved."

Upon Shigionoth - The title, "Shiggaion," occurs only once besides Psalm 7. Upon, in the titles of the Psalms, is used with the instrument , the melody , or the first words of the hymn, whose melody has been adopted The two first are mentioned by a Jewish Commentator (Tanchum) with others, "in his delight," or "his errors," in the sense, that God will forgive them. This, which the versions and Jewish commentators mostly adopt, would be a good sense, but is hardly consistent with the Hebrew usage. "Shiggaion of David," as a title of a Psalm, must necessarily describe the Psalm itself, as "Mismor of David," "Michtam of David," "Tephillah of David," "Maschil of David." But "Shiggaion," as a "great error," is not a title: nor does it suit the character of the Psalm, which relates to calumny not to error.

It probably, then, means a psalm with music expressive of strong emotion, "erratic" or "dithyrambic." Habakkuk's title, on Shigionoth (plural) then would mean upon, or (as we should say,) "set to" music of psalms of this sort The number "three" remarkably predominates in this psalm (Habakkuk 3:6 has 15 words, in five combinations of three words; Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:10 have 12 words, in four 3's: Habakkuk 3:4, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:19 have 9 words in three 3's: Habakkuk 3:5, Habakkuk 3:12, Habakkuk 3:15, Habakkuk 3:18 have 6 words in two 3's: Habakkuk 3:17 is divided into 4-3-3-4-3-3; Habakkuk 3:8 is 3-3-3-3-2; Habakkuk 3:11 is 4-3-3; Habakkuk 3:16 is 3-3-3-2-2-2-3. This forces itself on every reader. Delitzsch quotes the Meor. Enaim, i. 60, "The prayer of Habakkuk goeth on three's") yet so that long measures are succeeded by very short.


Hab 3:1-19. Habakkuk's Prayer to God: God's Glorious Revelation of Himself at Sinai and at Gibeon, a Pledge of His Interposing Again in Behalf of Israel against Babylon, and All Other Foes; Hence the Prophet's Confidence Amid Calamities.

This sublime ode begins with an exordium (Hab 3:1, 2), then follows the main subject, then the peroration (Hab 3:16-19), a summary of the practical truth, which the whole is designed to teach. (De 33:2-5; Ps 77:13-20 are parallel odes). This was probably designed by the Spirit to be a fit formula of prayer for the people, first in their Babylonian exile, and now in their dispersion, especially towards the close of it, just before the great Deliverer is to interpose for them. It was used in public worship, as the musical term, "Selah!" (Hab 3:3, 9, 13), implies.

1. prayer—the only strictly called prayers are in Hab 3:2. But all devotional addresses to God are called "prayers" (Ps 72:20). The Hebrew is from a root "to apply to a judge for a favorable decision." Prayers in which praises to God for deliverance, anticipated in the sure confidence of faith, are especially calculated to enlist Jehovah on His people's side (2Ch 20:20-22, 26).

upon Shigionoth—a musical phrase, "after the manner of elegies," or mournful odes, from an Arabic root [Lee]; the phrase is singular in Ps 7:1, title. More simply, from a Hebrew root to "err," "on account of sins of ignorance." Habakkuk thus teaches his countrymen to confess not only their more grievous sins, but also their errors and negligences, into which they were especially likely to fall when in exile away from the Holy Land [Calvin]. So Vulgate and Aquila, and Symmachus. "For voluntary transgressors" [Jerome]. Probably the subject would regulate the kind of music. Delitzsch and Henderson translate, "With triumphal music," from the same root "to err," implying its enthusiastic irregularity.Habakkuk’s prayer, Habakkuk 3:1,2. He describeth God’s majesty, and wonders wrought in his people’s behalf, Habakkuk 3:3-16. He professeth his unshaken trust in God, Habakkuk 3:17-19.

A prayer: the prophet required the earth Should be silent before God, and now gives them example; he waits on and prays to God in his holy temple: some say it is a prayer of intercession, and that the word carrieth it so. Habakkuk the prophet: see Habakkuk 1:1.

Shigionoth; a musical note, say some, and such note as the Jews have no certain knowledge of. Others say Shigionoth is ignorances, which the prophet doth confess, and sueth for the pardon of; both he and the people had erred, were offended at the darkness of Divine providences, and needed pardon as well as instruction: or it may be a prayer on occasion of the many and great changes Providence wrought in the affairs of the world and the church.

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. Of the name, character, and office of the prophet; see Gill on Habakkuk 1:1. This chapter is entitled a "prayer" of his, a supplicatory one, put up in an humble and earnest manner, and in the exercise of faith, and under the influence of a spirit of prophecy. He before had a vision of the coming of Christ, and of what enemies would rise up, and obstruct his kingdom and interest in the world; and here lie prays that these obstructions might be removed, and that the kingdom of Christ, in its full extent and glory, might take place in the world; and is a prayer of faith, as he prayed it might be, he believed it would be; and left this prayer behind him, for the use and instruction of the church in all ages, until the whole should be accomplished. It seems to be composed after the manner of the psalms of David, to make it the more pleasant and agreeable; and that it might be the more regarded, and be more fitted for the public use and service of the sanctuary: this appears from the style of it, which is poetical, lofty, and sublime; from the frequent use of the word "Selah", peculiar to the psalms of David, Habakkuk 3:3 and from the direction of it to the chief singer on the stringed instruments, Habakkuk 3:19 and from the phrase "upon", or "according to Shigionoth" here, which the Septuagint version renders "with a song"; and so the Arabic version, "after the manner of a song"; for this word seems to be the plural of Shiggaion, the title of the seventh psalm Psa 7:1; which was either the name, title, or first word of some song or songs, according to which this was to be sung; or the name of the tune with which it was to be sung; or of the instrument on which was to be sung: it very probably designs, and may called, an "erratic" or "wandering" song, because of the variableness of its metre, and of its tune. The Vulgate Latin version wrongly interprets it, "for ignorances"; as if this was a prayer of the prophet's for the pardon sins of error and ignorance committed by himself, or by others, or both; which sense is favoured by the Targum,

"a prayer which Habakkuk the prophet prayed, when it was revealed unto him concerning the length (of time) which (God) gave to the wicked; that, if they would return to the law with a perfect heart, they should be forgiven all the sins which they had committed before him as ignorance:''

but there does not appear throughout the whole prayer one single petition for the pardon of any sin at all.

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet {a} upon Shigionoth.

(a) upon Shigionoth or for the ignorance. The prophet instructs his people to pray to God, not only because of their great sins, but also for those they had committed in ignorance.

1–2. Introduction

1. A prayer of Habakkuk] The only part of the passage which is strictly prayer is Habakkuk 3:2. But the whole poem is nothing but an amplification of the words “renew thy work.” The earnest direction of the poet’s mind towards God, and its absorption and loss of itself in the thought of Him and His operations is a prayer. For this wider idea of prayer cf. 1 Samuel 2:1; Psalm 72:20. Comp. the title to Psalms 90.

upon Shigionoth] The word is plur. of Shiggaion in the title of Psalms 7 and may mean a wild, tumultuous and ecstatic poem. The word “upon” in such superscriptions appears to mean “after the mode of,” “to the music of” Shigionoth.

Verses 1-19. - Part II. PSALM OR PRAYER OF HABAKKUK. Verse 1. - § 1. The title. A prayer. There is only one formal prayer in the ode, that in ver. 2; but the term is used of any devotional composition; and, indeed, the whole poem may be regarded as the development of the precatory sentences in the proemium (seethe inscriptions in Psalm 17; Psalm 86; Psalm 90; Psalm 102; Psalm 142; and the last verse of Psalm 72, the subscription of Book II.). (For other hymns in the prophetical books, see Isaiah 24, and 35; Ezekiel 19; Jonah 2; Micah 6:6, etc.; and as parallel to this ode, comp. Deuteronomy 33:2, etc.; Judges 5:4, etc.; Psalm 68:7, etc.; Psalms 77:13-20; 114; Isaiah 63:11-14.) Of Habakkuk the prophet. The name and title of the author are prefixed to show that this is no mere private effusion, but an outpouring of prophecy under Divine inspiration. Upon Shigionoth (comp. title of Psalm 7.); Septuagint, μετὰ ᾠδῆς, "with song;" Vulgate, pro ignorantiis. For this latter rendering Jerome had etymological ground, but did not sufficiently consider the use of shiggayon in Psalm 7, where it indicates the style of poetry, nor, as Keil shows, the fact that all the headings of Psalms introduced, as the present, with al, refer either to the melody, or accompaniment, or style in which they were to be sung. The Revised Version gives, "set to Shigionoth;" and the expression is best explained to mean, in an impassioned or triumphal strain, with rapid change of emotion, a dithy rambic song - a description which admirably suits this ode. Habakkuk 3:1The song has a special heading, after the fashion of the psalms, in which the contents, the author, and the poetical character of the ode are indicated. The contents are called tephillâh, a prayer, like Psalm 17:1-15; 86; 90; 102, and Psalm 142:1-7, not merely with reference to the fact that it commences with a prayer to God, but because that prayer announces the contents of the ode after the manner of a theme, and the whole of the ode is simply the lyrical unfolding of that prayer. In order, however, to point at the same time to the prophetic character of the prayer, that it may not be regarded as a lyrical effusion of the subjective emotions, wishes, and hopes of a member of the congregation, but may be recognised as a production of the prophets, enlightened by the Spirit of Jehovah, the name of the author is given with the predicate "the prophet;" and to this there is added על שׁגינות, to indicate the poetico-subjective character, through which it is distinguished from prophecy in the narrower sense. The expression "upon Shigionoth" cannot refer to the contents or the object of the ode; for although shiggâyōn, according to its etymon shâgâh equals shâgag, to transgress by mistake, to sin, might have the meaning transgression in a moral sense, and consequently might be referred to the sins of transgressors, either of the Judaeans or the Chaldaeans, such an assumption is opposed both to the use of shiggâyōn in the heading to Psalm 7, and also to the analogy between ‛al shigyōnōth, and such headings to the psalms as ‛al haggittı̄th, ‛al negı̄nōth, and other words introduced with ‛al. Whilst shiggâyōn in Psalm 7:1 indicates the style of poetry in which the psalm is composed, all the notices in the headings to the psalms that are introduced with ‛al refer either to the melody or style in which the psalms are to be sung, or to the musical accompaniment with which they are to be introduced into the worship of God. This musico-liturgical signification is to be retained here also, since it is evident from the subscription in Habakkuk 3:19, and the repetition of Selah three times (Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:13), that our hymn was to be used with musical accompaniment. Now, as shâgâh, to err, then to reel to and fro, is applied to the giddiness both of intoxication and of love (Isaiah 28:7; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 5:20), shiggâyōn signifies reeling, and in the terminology of poetry a reeling song, i.e., a song delivered in the greatest excitement, or with a rapid change of emotion, dithyrambus (see Clauss on Psalm 7:1; Ewald, Delitzsch, and others); hence על שׁגינות, after dithyrambs, or "after the manner of a stormy, martial, and triumphal ode" (Schmieder).
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