Habakkuk 3:3-15: A Theophany showing Christ’s return - from Edom to Armageddon.
It is remarkable that this prophecy is able to link up Bozrah, Mt. Zion and Armageddon.
Background-summary on the book Habakkuk: God reveals to Habakkuk that Babylon will be used to destroy Judah (1:3-6) and the prophet complains to God that this is unfair.
Chapter 1: His reason is Babylonians are unjust (1:7), violent (1:9) and proudly destructive (1:10). How can God inflict judgment on Judah using such a cruel race?
Chapter 2: God answers Habakkuk that the just must live by faith (2:4). In 2:6-19, God declares five woes or pronouncements of judgment on Babylon’s sins. However, this will only come in the future (2:16) and the prophet must wait in faith for God to judge them.
Explaining the Passage: Habakkuk 3:3-15 and manner of fulfillment.
The prophet knows he must wait but in 3:1-2, after receiving the report in chapter 2, he pleads with God to make known His work, which is to reveal that He will indeed judge. To assure the prophet, God gives him a theophany, a direct appearance of God in 3:3-15, to affirm that He will definitely punish sinful nations. Interpretations abound but it can be harmonized with Christ’s second coming. First, God comes to Teman and Mt. Paran in v3. The precise location is not known but this is definitely in Edom (Jer. 49:20). This ties in with the many OT predictions, of a great slaughter in Edom (Isa. 34:5-6; Isa. 63:1-3; Eze. 35:7-8 – Mt. Seir is Edom). In fact, Isa. 34:6 and Isa. 63:1 identify the center of this to be at Bozrah of Edom, in modern day Jordan. It is related to the antichrist sending his armies to destroy the 144,000 believing Jews in the Tribulation in Rev. 12:14-16. Thus, when Christ returns, He will first descends on Bozrah to destroy the antichrist’s troops with a big slaughter and delivers the 144,000. With great radiance, He appears in v3-5, powerfully destroying the antichrist’s army, like pestilence and plague going before Him. Then second, in v6, He seems to pause and stand to survey the earth, and look at all the nations. This makes some nations startle or tremble and v7 identifies their locations. They are from Cushan, which must be Ethiopia, all the way to Midian, in Northern Arabia. But where is Christ standing to survey these nations? In Isa. 62:11-12, Isaiah is standing on Zion or Jerusalem when he sees Christ flying to him from Bozrah (Isa. 63:1). In addition, Zech. 14:4-5 predicts that Christ on His return will land in Jerusalem to save Israel as the entire nation repents. Therefore, it all ties together. After the slaughter in Bozrah, He proceeds to Jerusalem, which is high up in the mountains, enabling Him to survey the nations in the south (7). Furthermore, Mt Zion must be among those perpetual mountains in v6, which will be shattered when Jesus lands and splits Mt. Olive (Zech. 14:4). Third, v8-15 fits the Battle of Armageddon in many ways. In v12, He come on horses to trample the nations and indeed in Rev. 19:11-14, Christ will come with His host on horses. The geography also fits, for it hits rivers (8), the sea (8), the earth (9) and mountains (10), as Armageddon, stretches from the Jordon Valley to the Mediterranean Sea. The purpose in v12-13 also ties in. It is for the salvation of His people and striking the head of the house of the evil, fits the antichrist. In v14-15 is the total destruction of antichrist’s evil armies.
On hearing all this, the prophet trembles (16) but is willing to wait quietly for that day of distress or judgment, to come on Babylon who will invade them. Still, the theophany has affirmed the prophet that God will surely judge the wicked. In v17-19, no matter how bleak the circumstances, he will exult in God, who is his strength. Most importantly, Habakkuk now knows that the just who lives by faith, must also be willing to wait.
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