The Apocalypse in Habakkuk.
Now while Nahum looked at the latter day deliverance of Israel through the fall of Nineveh, HABAKKUK contemplated the same consummation through the typical fall of Nebuchadnezzar's Dynasty. He saw Babylon in the plenitude of its power. Success would intoxicate the Golden Head, whose spirit would change, and he would transgress and offend by imputing his power to his own strength. And while Babylon triumphed, he saw that Israel and the nations were enclosed in its net, being subjected thereby to spoliation and great distress.
He was desirous to know what all this would result in. He therefore besought Yahweh to reveal to him what the end would be. His petition was granted, and the consummation was presented to him in a vision, which is to speak "at the end."
He saw in that epoch, which is termed "the Day of Trouble," a chief of nations, proud, covetous, rapacious, and impious, as Belshazzar; who will not confine himself to his own territories, but will enlarge his desire as the grave, and will be as death, which cannot be satisfied, but will gather to his throne all nations, and laden himself with all people as with thick clay.
He saw this Power in vision execrated in its time as the spoiler of the nations, and the violator of the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and its inhabitants. This is the Gog of Ezekiel, the Assyrian of Isaiah and Micah, the King of the North of Daniel, the Lawless One of Paul, and the Dragon of Apoc. xx.
Habakkuk saw that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea;" but he saw also that this could not be the character of the times until this CLAY-POWER should be removed out of the way. It was accordingly shown to him that the power should be broken by certain who should "rise up suddenly" and "awake;" and that the sleepers who shall awake to life and stand upon their feet for action, shall bite, and vex, and spoil him. These are the Saints he saw in vision, in whose midst is the STONE OF THE WALL, which shall cry out against him.
After the prophet had seen the vision, and heard the speech accompanying it, in his hymn to Yahweh he recounts the glorious apocalypse he beheld. He saw Israel in extremity, and the Thick-Clay Power in Egypt in all the confidence of victory. But the Stone out of the Wall makes proclamation against him, which results only in stirring him up to fury; and the prophet sees his hosts in tempestuous motion "coming out as a whirlwind to scatter me, and rejoicing in the prospect of devouring the poor in the lurking-place."
The tents of Cushan and Midian, in this "day of Midian" (Isa. 9:4), overspread the wilderness of Mount Paran, the country of Teman, situated between Palestine and Egypt, south of the Mediterranean, and between the Gulph of Suez and the Gulph of Akaba or Elath, north of Mount Sinai. The mistar, or lurking-place of Judah's Lion, the place of his encampment in the vision, is the region of Edom and Moab running down to the Gulph of Elath.
After the type of the Exodus from Egypt, Yahweh will rise up from Seir, and shine forth from Mount Paran (Isa. 16:3,4; Dan. 11:41; Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3). This arrangement places the Gulph of Elath, "the Tongue of the Egyptian Sea" (Isa. 11:15), the Elanitic Gulph of the Red Sea; in other words, between the Gogian army of Egypt, and, as the Egyptian forces imagine, the feeble and dispirited outcasts of Moab. But they know not that with these outcasts is the antitypical Joshua, the prophet like unto Moses, and the antitypical Gideon, with the sword of Yahweh and his chosen band, as represented in Apoc. 19:14; 17:14.
If the reader keep these geographical relations before his mind, he will discern what Habakkuk testifies in saying, "Thou didst march thine horses into the sea through a heap of great waters"; "was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thy horses, thy chariots of salvation?" No, the prophet saw that the wrath was against the tents of Cushan, and the curtains of the land of Midian, which, when they came to see the waters open a way into their encampment for their enemy's cavalry, trembled in dismay. Brightness as the light burst forth upon them; beams of light from his hand, the hiding-place of his power.
The prophet saw him march on in indignation, and thresh the heathen in anger. The conqueror's feet were like hind's feet; he overtook the flying enemy, and cut them in pieces with his troops. Israel in Egypt had cried unto Yahweh because of the oppressors, and he sent them "a Saviour, even a Great One," whom Habakkuk beholds from his watch-tower.
"Thou wentest forth," says he, "for the salvation of thy people, for salvation with thy Christ (Anointed) thou woundedst the Head of the house of the wicked." Thus Yahweh becomes known to Egypt, and his outcasts in the land of Egypt are redeemed, and the way opened for them to return to the land of promise. The land of Judah now becomes a terror to the land of Egypt, and is terribly smitten from thence; so that every Egyptian that maketh mention thereof shall tremble because of the counsel of Yahweh of armies, which he determines against it.
His counsel is this. "I will bring Israel again out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria, and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, and room shall not be found for them. And he shall pass through the sea in adversity, and he shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up; and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away" (Zech. 10:10,11).
But though Yahweh Elohim shall thus "smite Egypt," he will afterwards "heal it." His conquests, however, and its terrible accompaniments will never be forgotten. For "in that day five cities in the land of Egypt shall speak the language of Canaan, and swear allegiance to Yahweh of armies, City of the Destruction shall one be called. In that day there shall be an altar to Yahweh in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Yahweh: and it shall be for a sign, and for a witness to Yahweh of armies in the land of Egypt.
And the Egyptians shall know Yahweh in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall promise a votive offering to Yahweh, and perform. And they shall turn to Yahweh, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria; and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land; whom Yahweh of armies shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (Isa. 19:17-25).
After the conquest of Egypt, then, Habakkuk, whose position may be supposed to be Jerusalem, sees, in the vision of the end, "Eloah coming out of Teman, and the Holy One (or Christ) from Mount Paran." He has now taken away the dominion of the Lion and the Bear from India to Ethiopia, and possesses for his own Egypt, Israel, and Assyria. "His glory covers the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise."
In making these conquests, and those which remain, in relation to the Leopard, and the Fourth Beast of Daniel, "the pestilence goes from before him, and a flame from his feet." What follows is very grand. Viewing the work of conquest to be done, the prophet says, "He stood and surveyed the earth; he beheld, and drove asunder the nations: and the mountains of antiquity (or empires) were scattered, the perpetual hills (or ancient kingdoms) did bow: the ways of antiquity are for him." That is, the kingdoms and empires existing in the hour of the end are for Yahweh's Christ.
These "mountains saw him and trembled: the overflowing of the water," their military inundation, "passed by: the deep uttered his voice," the roaring of the bottomless pit of nations; but He, after the type of Joshua, commanded "the Sun and the Moon to stand still in their habitation; and his arrows went in the light, and his glittering spear in the shining". Judah his bow, and Ephraim his arrow, arrest the sun and moon of the Gentile heavens, and go in the light thereof.
HABAKKUK lived in an epoch of impending crisis which was destined to completely change existing conditions. Once the judgment broke, nothing would ever be the same again. Appalled by what he heard, the prophet endeavoured to stand in the breach, and questioned God as to the wisdom of such a course; he tried to change the march of events.
He was not able to do that; but he did receive a revelation that enabled him to see beyond his times, and which completely changed his outlook. The record of his experience comprises this short book. The study of it can help us to see beyond present frustrations to the glory of the future; and so equip us to extract comfort and joy in the most difficult of situations.
...Nothing is known of Habakkuk apart from a few vague hints supplied by the prophet himself. From Chapter 3:19 it seems that he was of the tribe of Levi, and that he was numbered among the singers associated with the temple worship.
There were twenty-four orders of singers selected by David from the Levitical families of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun. Their duty was to "prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (IChron. 25:1), and, probably, Habakkuk was in the line of descent of one of these families...
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in Yahweh, I will joy in the Elohim of my salvation" (Ch. 3:17,18).
There is a literal and a symbolical application of these words. Israel experienced a drought which ruined the crops and decimated the herds. That drought was typical of the sterile condition of the nation as a whole (Amos 8:11-12).
"Fig tree," "vine," "olive tree," "flocks," "fields," are all familiar appellations of Israel; and in Habakkuk's time they failed to produce increase to the glory of their Creator. The prophet recognised the general failure to do so as a challenge,and boldly proclaimed that though the condition of the nation be as the land when drought-stricken, he would not succumb to such conditions, but, instead, would "rejoice in Yahweh, and joy in the God of his salvation."
A similar challenge faces individuals today. Will they succumb to the forces of darkness that are so much in evidence? Or have they sufficient faith to see beyond present conditions to the glorious future, and to boldly declare their intention to "rejoice in Yahweh..."
Bro HP Mansfield - The Christadelphian Expositor