Translations of Habakkuk 3:3

NIV: 

God came from Teman,

the Holy One from Mount Paran.

ESV: 

God came from Teman,

and the Holy One from Mount Paran.

Teleioteti: 

3God comes in from Teman,

the Holy One from Mount Paran.

NET: 

God comes from Teman,

the sovereign one from Mount Paran.

NASB: 

God comes from Teman,

And the Holy One from Mount Paran.

(Emphasis added)


Significance

Does Habakkuk Chapter 3 refer to God’s past actions or to His present work? This question is essential to any interpretation of the book of Habakkuk. If Chapter 3 refers to God’s past actions, the song would be intended to encourage the Judeans in light of the Chaldean Invasion. It would probably give confidence that God would fulfill His promise of judgment recounted in Chapter 2. If, however, Chapter 3 refers to the present events Habakkuk experiences or will shortly experience, namely the Chaldean invasion (Hab. 1:5, 3:2), the picture is drastically different.

Instead of finding encouragement that God will eventually judge Chaldea, Habakkuk and the Judeans singing this song praise God for the unbelievable act He is performing through the Chaldeans. They praise Him for bringing forth the Chaldean invasion as an act of salvation (3:13, Teleioteti translation). This song would then be an expression of incredible faith, praising God for an event that seems utterly horrifying (Hab. 3:16-19).

Reason for Translation

Though the Hebrew verb here has a form that usually gives a present or future time value, all the translations recognize that in context—especially in poetry—either past or present could be a valid translation. However, the opening lines of the song (“make your deed come to life,” cf. 1:5) and its function within the book (a prayer of faith in light of God’s vision, cf. 2:4) makes present time the preferred translation (“God comes”). This translation is well suited to the verbal form Habakkuk has chosen.

In the Teleioteti translation, Habakkuk’s song is seen to be an incredible expression of faith. God has said He was performing an unbelievable deed (1:5), yet He called His people to wait for and believe Him for this very act (2:2-4). In this song, Habakkuk and the righteous who sing it express the deepest faith in Yahweh, believing Him when He does the unbelievable. Habakkuk recounts the Chaldean invasion not in the terrifying language with which God first introduces it (1:5-11) but with the langauge of Yahweh’s past acts. Allusions to Genesis, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel abound in this song (e.g. Hab. 3:11, Josh 10:12-13). In light of the coming of such a wicked nation, Habakkuk nevertheless sings out “The Lord YHWH is my strength, He sets my feet like a doe and causes me to tread upon high places” (Hab. 3:19).

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