Habakkuk 3:5
Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
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(5) Before him went the pestilence. . . .—Better, Before Him shall go the plague, and burning pestilence shall go forth where He sets His feet. Kleinert remarks that it was with these angels of death that Jehovah revealed Himself in the south, and destroyed the armies of Sennacherib (2Kings 19:35).

3:3-15 God's people, when in distress, and ready to despair, seek help by considering the days of old, and the years of ancient times, and by pleading them with God in prayer. The resemblance between the Babylonish and Egyptian captivities, naturally presents itself to the mind, as well as the possibility of a like deliverance through the power of Jehovah. God appeared in his glory. All the powers of nature are shaken, and the course of nature changed, but all is for the salvation of God's own people. Even what seems least likely, shall be made to work for their salvation. Hereby is given a type and figure of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. It is for salvation with thine anointed. Joshua who led the armies of Israel, was a figure of Him whose name he bare, even Jesus, our Joshua. In all the salvations wrought for them, God looked upon Christ the Anointed, and brought deliverances to pass by him. All the wonders done for Israel of old, were nothing to that which was done when the Son of God suffered on the cross for the sins of his people. How glorious his resurrection and ascension! And how much more glorious will be his second coming, to put an end to all that opposes him, and all that causes suffering to his people!Before Him went (goeth) the pestilence - then to consume His enemies. Exodus 23:27 : "I will send My fear before thee, and will destroy all the people, to whom thou shalt come," and the lightnings are a token that, Psalm 68:1-2, "they which hate Him, flee before Him, and the wicked perish at the Presence of God." So, on His Ascension, Herod and Pilate were smitten by Him, and Elymas and Simon Magus before His apostles, and whatsoever hath lifted itself up against Him hath perished, and antichrist shall perish, Psalm 11:4, "at the breath of His mouth," and all the ungodly on the Day of Judgment.

And burning coals - rather, as English, "burning fever", Deuteronomy 32:2. (where also it is singular, as only beside in רשׁף בני benēy resheph Job 5:7.) So A. E., "burning coals" is from Kimchi, Tanchum gives as different opinions "sparks" or "arrows" or "pestilence;" but the meanings "sparks, arrows," are ascribed only to the plural. Psalm 76:4; Psalm 88:48; Sol 8:6. The central meaning is probably "burning heat."

Went forth at his feet - i. e., followed Him. Messengers of death went as it were before Him, as the front of His army, and the rear thereof was other forms of death Death and destruction of all sorts are a great army at His command, going before Him as heralds of His Coming (such as are judgments in this world) or attendants upon Him, at the judgment when He appeareth 2 Timothy 6:1. in His kingdom, when, Matthew 13:51, Matthew 13:42, "they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire."

5. pestilence—to destroy His people's foes (1Sa 5:9, 11). As Jehovah's advent is glorious to His people, so it is terrible to His foes.

burning coals—Ps 18:8 favors English Version. But the parallelism requires, as the Margin translates, "burning disease" (compare De 32:24; Ps 91:6).

went … at his feet—that is, after Him, as His attendants (Jud 4:10).

Before him: when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan, he made the pestilence to go before him, so preparing room for his people.

The pestilence, which wasted the inhabitants of Canaan, swept them out.

Burning coals; burning fevers, and other distempers of fiery and destructive nature, which destroyed the accursed nations.

Went forth; as sent, and observing the way he directed.

At his feet; kept even pace, or waited on him, were his immediate forerunners. All this mentioned as arguments to prevail for somewhat like these for Israel, and against Israel’s enemies. O God, revive some such work amidst us.

Before him went the pestilence,.... Either in the land of Egypt, when he marched through that, and slew all their firstborn, Psalm 78:50 or rather which he sent before him, and Israel his people among the nations of the land of Canaan, with other diseases and judgments, and destroyed them to make way for his people, which may be here alluded to, Exodus 23:27 and may point at the judgments of God, and those pestilential diseases which seized upon the persecutors of the Christians, both among the Jews, as Herod, Acts 12:23 and among the Gentiles, as many of the Roman emperors, who died violent and grievous deaths; and particularly it may regard the pestilence, famine, and other sore judgments preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of it, for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah:

and burning coals went forth at his feet; which some understand of hailstones mingled with fire, to which the allusion may be, being one of the plagues of Egypt, Exodus 9:23. Some interpret it of hot diseases, burning fevers, so Kimchi; which are at the command of God, and sent forth by him when he pleases, to do his will. The ancient fathers expound all this of the destruction of death, and the devil, and his principalities, by Christ upon the cross; and the Targum is,

"from before him was sent forth the angel of death, and his word went forth in a flame of fire;''

but this seems to have respect to the burning of the city and temple of Jerusalem, which was done by the Romans as instruments, but according to the direction, order, and will of Christ, Matthew 22:7 see Psalm 18:12.

Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
5. went the pestilence] goeth pestilence. His manifestation carries death in its train.

burning coals went forth] and burning plague goeth forth at his feet, i.e. behind Him. The word again in this sense Deuteronomy 32:24.

Verse 5. - After describing the splendour of the theophany, the prophet now turns to the purpose and effects of God's appearing. He comes to avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before him stalks plague, to punish his enemies and the disobedient, as in Egypt, in Canaan (Exodus 23:27; 1 Samuel 5:9, 11); and among his own people (Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:37, etc.; Leviticus 26:25). For "pestilence" the LXX. reads "word." Burning coals went forth at his feet. "Fiery belts" followed his advance, "hailstones and coals of fire" (Psalm 18:12, 13); as in Psalm 97:8, "A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies on every side." But, regarding the parallelisms of the hemistiches, it is better to take resheph in the sense of "fever heat," as in Deuteronomy 32:24; scorching fever follows in his train. Jerome translates the word, diabolus, looking on the evil spirit as the agent of the Divine vengeance. The Jews, he says, had a tradition that Satan was called Reseph, from the speed of his movements. The LXX. has, "It (the word) shall go forth into the plains," which Jerome interprets, "shall make the crooked straight and the rough ways smooth." Habakkuk 3:5A splendour shines or arises like the light. תּהיה does not point back to תּהלּתו, "splendour like the sun will His glory be" (Hitzig); but it is the predicate to nōgah in the sense of to become, or to arise. האור is the light of the sun. Like this light, or like the rising sun, when the Lord comes, there arises (spreads) a brilliant light, from which the rays emanate on its two sides. קרנים, according to קרן in Exodus 34:29-30, is to be taken in the sense of rays; and this meaning has developed itself from a comparison of the first rays of the rising sun, which shoot out above the horizon, to the horns or antlers of the gazelle, which is met with in the Arabian poets. מיּדו, from His hand, i.e., since the hand is by the side, "at His side" (after the analogy of מימינו and משּׂמאלו), and indeed "His hand" in a general sense, as signifying the hand generally, and not one single hand, equivalent therefore to "on both sides" (Delitzsch). As the disc of the sun is surrounded by a splendid radiance, so the coming of God is enclosed by rays on both sides. לו refers to God. "Such a radiant splendour (קרנים) surrounding God is presupposed when it is affirmed of Moses, that on coming from the presence of Jehovah his face was radiant, or emitted rays" (קרן, Exodus 34:29-30). This interpretation of the words is established beyond all doubt, not only by the מימינו of the original passage in Deuteronomy 33:2, but also by the expressions which follow in Habakkuk 3:5, viz., לפניו (before him) and לרגלויו (behind him); and consequently the interpretation "rays (emanating) from His hand are to Him," with the idea that we are to think of flashes of lightning darting out of God's hand (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Maurer, etc.), is proved to be untenable. According to Hebrew notions, flashes of lightning do not proceed from the hand of God (in Psalm 18:9, which has been appealed to in support of this explanation, we have ממּנּוּ); and קרנים does not occur either in Arabic or the later Hebrew in the sense of flashes of lightning, but only in the sense of the sun's rays. ושׁם חביון עזּה, and there - namely, in the sun-like splendour, with the rays emanating from it - is the hiding of His omnipotence, i.e., the place where His omnipotence hides itself; in actual fact, the splendour forms the covering of the Almighty God at His coming, the manifestation of the essentially invisible God. The cloudy darkness is generally represented as the covering of the glory of God (Exodus 20:21; 1 Kings 8:12), not merely when His coming is depicted under the earthly substratum of a storm (Psalm 18:12-13), but also when God was manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21) on the journey of the Israelites through the desert, where it was only by night that the cloud had the appearance of fire (Numbers 9:15-16). Here, on the contrary, the idea of the splendour of the rising sun predominates, according to which light is the garment in which God clothes Himself (Psalm 104:2, cf. 1 Timothy 6:16), answering to His coming as the Holy One (Habakkuk 3:3). For the sun-light, in its self-illumining splendour, is the most suitable earthly element to serve as a symbol of the spotless purity of the Holy One, in whom there is no variation of light and darkness (James 1:17; see at Exodus 19:6). The alteration of ושׁם into ושׂם (he provides or contrives the concealment of His power), which Hitzig proposes after the lxx (Aq., Symm., and Syr.), must be rejected, inasmuch as in that case the object, which he makes into the covering (cf. Psalm 18:12), could not be omitted; and this thought is by no means suitable here, and has merely been brought into the text on the assumption that God appears in a storm. As the Holy One, God comes to judgment upon the unholy world (Habakkuk 3:5). Before Him goes debher, plague, and after His feet, i.e., behind Him, resheph, lit., burning heat, or a blaze (Sol 8:6), here the burning heat of the pestilence, fever-heat, as in Deuteronomy 32:24. Plague and pestilence, as proceeding from God, are personified and represented as satellites; the former going before Him, as it were, as a shield-bearer (1 Samuel 17:7), or courier (2 Samuel 15:1); the latter coming after Him as a servant (1 Samuel 25:42). This verse prepares the way for the description, which commences with Habakkuk 3:6, of the impression produced by the coming of God upon the world and its inhabitants.
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