Translations of Habakkuk 3:13
You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You went out for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed.
You come forth for the salvation of your people,
for salvation with your anointed.
You march out to deliver your people,
to deliver your special servant.
You went forth for the salvation of Your people,
For the salvation of Your anointed.
This verse is of great significance for interpreting Habakkuk Chapter 3. In the NIV, NET, ESV, and NASB, these lines speak only of God saving His people. In the Teleioteti translation, the agent of His salvation is identified. What is most significant is that in context the anointed is not the Judean king but the ruler of the Chaldeans. Therefore, if the Teleioteti translation is correct, Habakkuk and whoever prays this prayer confesses God’s intent to save His people through the horrendous Chaldean invasion (cf. Hab. 1:5-11). (A decision about the tense [came or comes] made in the previous verses continues to affect the translation here, see A Comparison of Habakkuk Translations – 3:3.)
Reason for Translation
The translation of the NIV, NET, ESV, and NASB lead the reader to believe that verse 13a and b are syntactically the same. They are not: the author makes a significant change in the second line. The word meaning “salvation” is derived from a verb but functions as a noun, so it takes a noun construction found in the first line. In the second line, it appears to take a verbal construction, but the translations assume that the meaning is the same. However, the change in syntax suggests that the word thought to indicate a verbal construction should actually be read as a preposition meaning “with” (the words look the exact same, אֶת and אֶת [et and et]). The KJV and Latin Vulgate both read the text this way. Reading the preposition is syntactically the most evident option, and makes the best sense of the context. Furthermore, in the standard translation, there is a great problem identifying the referent of “Your anointed.” It cannot be the king, for he is the subject of judgment (the “head of the house of the wicked,” Hab. 3:13). It is also awkward to see “anointed” as referring to the entire nation of Israel, especially when a large portion of the nation is the subject of God’s judgment through Chaldea. There is, however, biblical precedence for the use of “anointed” with reference to God’s chosen gentile kings through whom He achieves His purpose (Isa. 45:1).
What Habakkuk 3:13 is saying, therefore, is that God is coming forth to save His people (cf. 1:1-4, 3:16-19) and He is doing so through Chaldea (cf. 1:5-11). This is the message of the entire book, yet it is here expressed as a prayer from Habakkuk: he expresses great faith in God’s unbelievable deed. Translated this way, the antecedent of “his… arrows” in Hab. 3:14 becomes clear. Usually this is translated “his own arrows” (cf. ESV), yet that is not most evident: the most immediate antecedent is the “anointed.”