Habakkuk 3:7
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) “I saw.”—Better, I see. Did tremble.—Better, are trembling. Probably the imagery is still borrowed from the Exodus story, the nations instanced being the borderers on the Red Sea—viz., Cushan (Cush, or Ethiopia) on the west, and Midian on the east side. A plausible theory, however, as old as the Targum, connects this verse with later episodes in Israel’s history. “Cushan” is identified with that Mesopotamian oppressor, “Cushan-rishathaim,” whom the judge Othniel overcame. (Judges 3:8-10). And “Midian” is interpreted by Judges 6, which records how Gideon delivered Israel from Midianite oppression. Both names thus become typical instances of tyranny subdued by Jehovah’s intervention. We prefer the other interpretation, because the prophet’s eye is still fixed apparently on the earlier history (see Habakkuk 3:8, et seq.), and a reference here to the time of the Judges would mar the elimactic symmetry of the composition. “Cushan,” however, is never used elsewhere for “Cush,” though the LXX. understood it in this meaning. “Curtains” in the second hemistich is merely a variation on “tents” in the first. (Comp. Song of Solomon 1:5.)

Habakkuk 3:7. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction — Since Moses’s wife, who was a Midianite, is called (Numbers 12:1) a Cushite, Cushan may be here another name for Midian, and then the two members of this period will be equivalent; but if they be different, then the Cushites must have been an Arabian nation who dwelt in tents near the Midianites, and were seized with the same consternation, at the approach of Jehovah and his people Israel, as the latter were. The total overthrow which the Israelites gave the Midianites and their allies, as recorded Numbers 31:7-12, is probably here referred to. We can never sufficiently admire the strength and spirit, as well as justness and propriety, of this whole description. “The glory with which Jehovah is arrayed, is such as fills the heaven and the earth; a glory arising not from the pomp of external grandeur, and the parade of honourable followers, but from himself. His power is the terror of all the world around him; the insignia of it being, not the sword or the fasces, but the pestilence and devouring fire; and so great is the dread of him, that the Canaanites flee at his approach, the land trembles at his presence, and the nations around are not able to hide their dismay. Such is Habakkuk’s description of Jehovah, simple and plain, but yet grand and sublime; as much excelling every pagan description of Jupiter, as light surpasses darkness.” — Green and Houbigant.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!I saw - in prophetic vision 1 Kings 22:17.

The tents of Cushan in (under) affliction - Upon the coming of the Lord there follows the visitation of those alien from Him. . Cushan-Rishathaim was the first, whose ambition God overruled to chasten His people Judges 3:8-10.. It has been remarked that as "king of Aram-Naharaim" or North Mesopotamia, he was probably sovereign of the Aram, from which Balak king of Moab, allied with Midian, sent for Balaam to curse Israel. Midian was the last enemy who, at the very entrance of the promised land, seduced God's people into idolatry and foul sin and lusts. Midian became then the object of the wrath of God Numbers 25:17. They were also among the early oppressors of Israel, leaving Judges 6:4, Judges 6:11. "no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor ass," driving them for refuge to dwell in the "dens and the mountains, caves and fastnesses," consuming the produce of their land like locusts, so that he whom God raised up as their subduer, was threshing even in a wine-press to hide it from them.

Both the kingdom of Aram-Naharaim and Midian disappear from history after those great defeats. Midian, beside its princes Judges 8:10. "lost," by mutual slaughter, "one hundred and twenty thousand men who drew sword." It left its name as a proverb for the utter destruction of these who sought to exterminate the people of God. Psalm 83:9, Psalm 83:11-12. "Do unto them as unto the Midianites; make them and their princes like Oreb and Zeeb; all their princes us Zebah and as Zalmunnah, who said, let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession." It was an exterminating warfare, which rolled back on those who waged it. So Isaiah sums up an utter breaking-off of the yoke and the rod of the oppressor, as being Isaiah 9:4 "as in the day of Midian." The same word, aven, is nothingness, iniquity, and the fruit of iniquity, trouble (Job 5:6; Job 26:14; Jeremiah 4:15; Hosea 9:4; not in Psalm 55:4; nor (as Gesenius) in Job 4:8; Psalm 22:8; Isaiah 59:4.) (since iniquity is emptiness and opposed to that which is, God and His Goodness, and ends in sorrow); so then Cushan is seen as lying as all sinners do, weighed down by and under what is very "emptiness."

Tents and curtains are emblems of what shall pass away, under which the wicked shelter themselves from the troubles of this present life, as from heat and rain, "but which in themselves decay, and are consumed by fire." "The curtains of Midian tremble." The prophet uses the present to shew that he was not speaking of any mere past terror, but of that terror, which should still seize those opposed to God. The word "wrath" (רגז rôgez) echoes through the hymns; Habakkuk 3:2. here the wicked tremble, רגז râgaz, under it, to perish; afterward the prophet Habakkuk 3:16. to live.

7. the tents—that is, the dwellers.

Cushan—the same as Cush; made "Cush-an" to harmonize with "Midi-an" in the parallel clause. So Lotan is found in the Hebrew of Genesis for Lot. Bochart therefore considers it equivalent to Midian, or a part of Arabia. So in Nu 12:1, Moses' Midianite wife is called an Ethiopian (Hebrew, Cushite). Maurer thinks the dwellers on both sides of the Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, are meant; for in Hab 3:6 God's everlasting or ancient ways of delivering His people are mentioned; and in Hab 3:8, the dividing of the Red Sea for them. Compare Miriam's song as to the fear of Israel's foes far and near caused thereby (Ex 15:14-16). Hebrew expositors refer it to Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, or Syria, the first oppressor of Israel (Jud 3:8, 10), from whom Othniel delivered them. Thus the second hemistich of the verse will refer to the deliverance of Israel from Midian by Gideon (Jud 6:1-7:25) to which Hab 3:11 plainly refers. Whichever of these views be correct, the general reference is to God's interpositions against Israel's foes of old.

in affliction—rather, "under affliction" (regarded) as a heavy burden. Literally, "vanity" or "iniquity," hence the punishment of it (compare Nu 25:17, 18).

curtains—the coverings of their tents; the shifting habitations of the nomad tribes, which resembled the modern Bedouins.

tremble—namely, at Jehovah's terrible interposition for Israel against them.

I saw; not with the eye, but with his mind and understanding, in reading the history of Israel’s travels.

The tents, for the people that dwelt in them. Of Cushan; some say of Cushen-rishathaim, in Othniel’s time, and under his victories over them; but I rather think it is meant of the Ethiopians, on the confines of Arabia, that land of Cush, near whose borders Israel’s march through and encampings in the wilderness had very often lain.

In affliction; in fear and pain, lest that mighty people, under the conduct of their general, (famed for miracles,) should, as a violent storm, fall on them and despoil them.

The curtains, for those that dwell within them; these people dwelt in tents, and these made up on the sides with curtains.

The land; people of the land. Midian; a people sprung from one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah, who gave his name Midian to the land, as well as to the people.

Did tremble; were sore afraid of the arms of Israel, which at last, by God’s express direction, were employed against Midian, and cut off five kings, and destroyed the country. These terrible things our God, whose ways are everlasting, hath done to carry our fathers from Egypt to Canaan: let him, who is our God, still revive his work, &c. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction,.... The same with Cush or Ethiopia; hence the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "the tents of the Ethiopians"; and these are the same with "the curtains of Midian" in the next clause, tents being made of curtains, and the Ethiopians and Midianites the same people; so the daughter of the priest of Midian, whom Moses married, is called an Ethiopian woman, Exodus 2:21. This seems to have respect to that panic which seized the neighbouring nations by whom the Israelites passed, as well as the Canaanites, into whose land they were marching, when they heard what wonderful things were done for them in Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, which was predicted by Moses in Exodus 15:14 and not only fulfilled in the Canaanites, as appears from what Rahab says, Joshua 2:9 but particularly in the Moabites and Midianites, who sent to each other, and consulted together against Israel; and, by the advice of Balaam, found ways and means to draw them into fornication, and so to idolatry; for which the Israelites having suffered, were stirred up to avenge themselves on them, and slew five of their kings, and a great multitude of their people; and so the words may be rendered, "for iniquity" (l); and the word is often used for idolatry; that is, for the sin they drew the Israelites into, they were brought into trembling and great distress, which the prophet saw, perceived, and understood by reading the history of those times; see Numbers 22:3 though the Jewish commentators, and others, generally refer this to the case of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia, who carried Israel into captivity, from whence they were delivered by Othniel, who prevailed against Cushan, and into whose hands he fell; and so then he and his people were seen in affliction, Judges 3:7 but Cushan here is not the name of a man, but of a country: and whereas it follows,

the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble; this is thought to refer to the times of Gideon, when the Midianites were overcome by him with three hundred men, and in their fright fell upon and destroyed each other; signified by a barley cake tumbling into the host of Midian, and overturning a tent, as represented in a dream to one of Gideon's men, Judges 7:13 but the former reference seems best; and it should be observed, that Cush or Ethiopia, and Midian, were parts of Arabia; for not only the Arabians are said to be near the Ethiopians, or at the hand of the Cushites, 2 Chronicles 21:16 but Sinai, a part of Horeb, where Moses fed the flock of his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, is expressly said to be in Arabia; compare Exodus 3:1 and with those Arabians called Scenitae, from their dwelling in tents, agree the characters in the text: now the people inhabiting those places, the prophet foresaw by a spirit of prophecy "under vanity" (m), as it may be rendered; that is, "subject" to it, as the whole Gentile world was, Romans 8:20 or under the power of idolatry; but it was foretold that these should be converted in Gospel times, Psalm 68:31 which was brought about, partly by the Apostles Matthew and Matthias, said to be sent into Ethiopia; and partly by the Ethiopian eunuch, converted and baptized by Philip, who doubtless was the means of spreading the Gospel in his own country, when returned to it, Acts 8:27 and chiefly by the Apostle Paul, who went into Arabia, and preached there, quickly after his conversion; and here were churches in the first times of Christianity; See Gill on Galatians 1:17 and at this time Cushan or Ethiopia was in affliction; and the Midianites trembled, such of them to whom the word came in power, and they were made sensible of their danger and misery, as the apostle did, the instrument of their conversion, Acts 9:6 once more, as an Ethiopian is an emblem of a man in a state of nature, and describes very aptly wicked and profligate persons, apostates from religion, and such as are persecutors of good men, Jeremiah 13:23 it may design such here; and be expressive of their distress and trouble, the fear and dread they would be seized with on seeing Christianity prevail, and Paganism falling in the Roman empire; which distress and trembling are in a very lively manner set forth in Revelation 6:15.

(l) "propter iniquitatem", V. L. Calvin, Tigurine version. (m) "Subjecta vanitati", Heb.; "sub vanitate", Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till.

{g} I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian trembled.

(g) The iniquity of the king of Syria in vexing your people was made manifest by your judgment, to the comfort of your Church, Jud 5:10, and also of the Midianites, who destroyed themselves, Jud 7:22.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. tents of Cushan] Cushan here cannot be Cush or Ethiopia in Africa. In Numbers 12:1 it is said that Moses had married a Cushite wife, though she was a Midianite; and in the next clause here Midian is parallel to Cushan (cf. the name Lotan for Lot, Genesis 36:29). Cushan and Midian consequently are either names for the same people or for branches of it. This people dwelt in the neighbourhood of Sinai. Mention of the ancient Cushan and Midian suggests that it is the Theo phany of the Exodus that the poet is describing, though perhaps the inference is not conclusive, as he might suppose the ancient conditions still existing in his day, or even of purpose use archaic names. Present tenses are preferable:

Under affliction I see the tents of Cushan,

The curtains of the land of Midian do tremble.

“Curtains,” parallel to tents, are the tent hangings.Verse 7. - As God moves in his majesty the various nations are struck with fear, as of old were the peoples that heard of the Exodus (see Exodus 15:14-16). I saw. In prophetic vision (1 Kings 22:17). The tents of Cushan; LXX.. σκηνώματα Αἰθίοτων "the tents of the Ethiopians;" Vulgate, tentoria AEthiopiae. "Cushan" is not Chushan-Rishathaim, the Mesopotamian king mentioned in Judges 3, but is a lengthened form of Cush (as Lotan for Lot, Genesis 36:20), the biblical name for Ethiopia. Here the African country is meant, lying along the west coast of the Red Sea. In affliction. Panic-stricken. The prophet particularizes what he had said above generally of the nations hostile to the people of God. The curtains; the tent curtains; Vulgate, pelles. Both "tents" and "curtains" are used by metonymy for their inhabitants. Midian. The country on the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Ethiopia and Midian are named, as God is supposed to advance from the south. From this salvation even the Israel that may be in misery or scattered abroad will not be excluded. Micah 4:6. "In that day, is the saying of Jehovah, will I assemble that which limps, and gather together that which has been thrust out, and which I have afflicted. Micah 4:7. And I will make that which limps into a remnant, and that which is far removed into a strong nation; and Jehovah will rule over them from henceforth, even for ever." "In that day" points back to the end of the days in Micah 4:1. At the time when many nations shall go on pilgrimage to the highly exalted mountain of the Lord, and therefore Zion-Jerusalem will not only be restored, but greatly glorified, the Lord will assemble that which limps and is scattered abroad. The feminines הצּלעה and הנּדּחה are neuters, and to be understood collectively. Limping denotes the miserable condition into which the dispersed have been brought (cf. Psalm 35:15; Psalm 38:18). And this misery is inflicted by God. The limping and dispersed are those whom Jehovah has afflicted, whom He has punished for their sins. The gathering together of the nation has already been promised in Micah 2:12; but there the assembling of all Israel was foretold, whereas here it is merely the assembling of the miserable, and of those who are scattered far and wide. There is no discrepancy in these two promises. The difference may easily be explained from the different tendencies of the two addressed. "All Jacob" referred to the two separate kingdoms into which the nation was divided in the time of the prophet, viz., Israel and Judah, and it was distinctly mentioned there, because the banishment of both had been foretold. This antithesis falls into the background here; and, on the other hand, prominence is given, in connection with what precedes, to the idea of happiness in the enjoyment of the blessings of the holy land. The gathering together involves reinstatement in the possession and enjoyment of these blessings. Hence only the miserable and dispersed are mentioned, to express the thought that no one is to be excluded from the salvation which the Lord will bestow upon His people in the future, though now he may be pining in the misery of the exile inflicted upon them. But just as the whole of the nation of Israel to be gathered together, according to Micah 2:12, consists of the remnant of the nation only, so does the gathering together referred to here point only to the restoration of the remnant, which is to become a strong nation, over which Jehovah reigns as King in Zion. מלך is emphatic, expressing the setting up of the perfected monarchy, as it has never yet existed, either in the present or the past.

(Note: "Micah does not mention the descendants of David here, but Jehovah Himself, not to exclude the kingdom of David, but to show that God will prove that He was the author of that kingdom, and that all the power is His. For although God governed the ancient people by the hand of David, and by the hand of Josiah and Hezekiah, yet there was as it were a cloud interposed, so that God then reigned obscurely. The prophet therefore indicates a certain difference here between that shadowy kingdom and the new kingdom which God will openly manifest at the advent of the Messiah." - Calvin.)

This dominion will never be interrupted again, as it formerly was, by the banishment of the nation into exile on account of its sins, but will endure מעתּה (henceforth), i.e., from the future, which is regarded as present, even for ever.

So far as the realization of this exceedingly glorious promise is concerned, the expression standing at the head, be'achărı̄th hayyâmı̄m (at the end of the days), already points to the Messianic times: and the substance of the promise itself points to the times of the completion of the Messianic kingdom, i.e., to the establishment of the kingdom of glory (Matthew 19:28). The temple mountain is a type of the kingdom of God in its New Testament form, which is described by all the prophets after the forms of the Old Testament kingdom of God. Accordingly, the going of the nations to the mountain of the house of Jehovah is, as a matter of fact, the entrance of the heathen who have been brought to the faith into the kingdom of Christ. This commenced with the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles, and has been continued through all the ages of the Christian church. But however many nations have hitherto entered into the Christian church, the time has not yet come for them to be so entirely pervaded with the spirit of Christ, as to allow their disputes to be settled by the Lord as their King, or to renounce war, and live in everlasting peace. Even for Israel the time has not yet come for the limping and exiled to be gathered together and made into a strong nation, however many individual Jews have already found salvation and peace within the bosom of the Christian church. The cessation of war and establishment of eternal peace can only take place after the destruction of all the ungodly powers on earth, at the return of Christ to judgment and for the perfecting of His kingdom. But even then, when, according to Romans 11:25., the pleroma of the Gentiles shall have entered into the kingdom of God, and Israel as a nation (πᾶς Ἰσραήλ equals יעקב כּלּו in Micah 2:12) shall have turned to its Redeemer, and shall be assembled or saved, no physical elevation of the mountain of Zion will ensue, nor any restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, or return of the dispersed of Israel to Palestine. The kingdom of glory will be set up on the new earth, in the Jerusalem which was shown to the holy seer on Patmos in the Spirit, on a great and lofty mountain (Revelation 21:10). In this holy city of God there will be no temple, "for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof" (Revelation 21:22). The word of the Lord to the Samaritan woman concerning the time when men would neither worship God on this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, but worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:21, John 4:23), applies not only to the kingdom of God in its temporal development into the Christian church, but also to the time of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory.

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