Habakkuk 3:17 MEANING

Habakkuk 3:17
(17) Although.--Better, For. The conjunction connects this verse with what precedes, and explains Habakkuk's affliction more fully. With the sword shall come famine, invasion as usual producing desolation.

Verse 17. - The prophet depicts the effects of the hostile invasion, which are such as to make the natural heart despair. Although the fig tree shall not blossom. The devastations of the enemy leave the country bare and uncultivated. The Chaldeans, like the Assyrians and Egyptians, cut down and burnt the fruit-bearing trees of the countries which they invaded (comp. Deuteronomy 20:19; Isaiah 9:10; Isaiah 37:24; Jeremiah 6:6). The trees most useful and abundant in Palestine are mentioned (comp. Deuteronomy 6:11; Hosea 2:12; Joel 1:7; Micah 4:4; Micah 6:15, etc.). The labour of the olive shall fail; literally, shall lie. The "labour" is the produce, the fruit. Though the yield shall disappoint all expectation. The use of the verb "to lie" in this sense is found elsewhere; e.g. Isaiah 58:11; Hosea 9:2. So Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:1, 30, "Fundus mendax;" and ' Epist.,' 1:7. 87, "Spem mentita seges." The fields; the cornfields (Isaiah 16:8). The flock shall be cut off from the fold. There shall be no flocks in the fold, all having perished for lack of food. "Omnia haec," says St. Jerome, "auferentur a populo, quia inique egit in Deum creatorem suum."

3:16-19 When we see a day of trouble approach, it concerns us to prepare. A good hope through grace is founded in holy fear. The prophet looked back upon the experiences of the church in former ages, and observed what great things God had done for them, and so was not only recovered, but filled with holy joy. He resolved to delight and triumph in the Lord; for when all is gone, his God is not gone. Destroy the vines and the fig-trees, and you make all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease. But those who, when full, enjoyed God in all, when emptied and poor, can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of the ruins of their creature-comforts, and even then praise the Lord, as the God of their salvation, the salvation of the soul, and rejoice in him as such, in their greatest distresses. Joy in the Lord is especially seasonable when we meet with losses and crosses in the world. Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man lives not by bread alone, we may be supplied by the graces and comforts of God's Spirit. Then we shall be strong for spiritual warfare and work, and with enlargement of heart may run the way of his commandments, and outrun our troubles. And we shall be successful in spiritual undertakings. Thus the prophet, who began his prayer with fear and trembling, ends it with joy and triumph. And thus faith in Christ prepares for every event. The name of Jesus, when we can speak of Him as ours, is balm for every wound, a cordial for every care. It is as ointment poured forth, shedding fragrance through the whole soul. In the hope of a heavenly crown, let us sit loose to earthly possessions and comforts, and cheerfully bear up under crosses. Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry; and where he is, we shall be also.Although the fig tree shall not blossom,.... Or rather, as the Septuagint version, "shall not bring forth fruit"; since the fig tree does not bear blossoms and flowers, but puts forth green figs at once. This was a tree common in the land of Canaan, and its fruit much in use, and for food; hence we read of cakes of figs among the provisions Abigail brought to David, 1 Samuel 25:18 so that, when there was a scarcity of these, it was a bad time:

neither shall fruit be in the vines; no grapes, or clusters of them, out of which wine was pressed; a liquor very refreshing and reviving to nature; and is said to cheer God and man, being used in sacrifices and libations to God, and the common drink of men, Judges 9:13 so that, when it failed, it was a public calamity:

the labour of the olive shall fail; or "lie" (a); disappoint the expectation of those who planted and cultivated it with much toil and labour, it not producing fruit as looked for. This tree yielded berries of an agreeable taste, and out of which oil was extracted, the Jews used instead of butter, and for various purposes; so that, when it failed of fruit, it was a great loss on many accounts:

and the fields shall yield no meat; the grass fields no herbage for beasts; the grain fields no grain for man; the consequence of which must be a famine to both; and this must be very dismal and distressing:

the flock shall be cut off from the fold; flocks of sheep; either by the hand of God, some disease being sent among them; or by the hand of man, drove off by the enemy, or killed for their use; so that the folds were empty of them, and none to gather into them:

and there shall be no herd in the stalls; or oxen in the stables, where they are kept, and have their food; or stalls in which they are fattened for use; and by all these are signified the necessaries of life, which, when they fail, make a famine, which is a very distressing case; and yet, in the midst of all this, the prophet, representing the church, expresses his faith and joy in the Lord, as in the following verse Habakkuk 3:18; though all this is to be understood, not so much in a literal as in a figurative sense. "Fig trees, vines", and "olives", are often used as emblems of truly gracious persons, Sol 2:13 partly because of their fruitfulness in grace and good works, and partly because of their perseverance therein; all these trees being fruitful ones; and some, as the olive, ever green: of such persons there is sometimes a scarcity, as is complained of in the times of David and Micah, Psalm 12:1 and especially there will be in the latter day; for righteous and merciful men will be taken away from the evil to come, Isaiah 57:1 and, however, there will be very few lively, spiritual, and fruitful Christians, such as abound in the exercise of grace, and are diligent in the discharge of duty; for, when the Son of Man cometh, he will not find faith on the earth; and he will find the virgins sleeping, Luke 18:8. The "fields not" yielding "meat" may signify that the provisions of the house of God will be cut off; there will be no ministration of the word, or administration of ordinances; the word of the Lord will be scarce, rare, and precious; there will be a famine, not of bread and of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord; one of the days of the Son of Man will be desired, but not enjoyed; so no spiritual food in the use of means to be had; a very uncomfortable time this will be, Amos 8:11 Luke 17:22. The "flock" being "cut off from the fold" may denote that the sheep of Christ will be given up to the slaughter of the enemy, or be scattered abroad in this dark and cloudy day of persecution; so that there will be no fold, no flock, no sheep gathered together; and perhaps such will be the case, that there will not be one visible congregated church in due order throughout the whole world; all will be broke up, and dispersed here and there: no "herd" or "oxen in the stall" may signify that the ministers of the Gospel, compared to oxen for their strength, industry, and laboriousness in the work of the Lord, will be removed, or not suffered to exercise their ministry, nor be encouraged by any in it: this will be the case at the slaying of the witnesses, and a most distressing time it will be; and yet the prophet, or the church represented by him, expresses an uncommon frame of spirit in the following verse Habakkuk 3:18. The Targum interprets all this figuratively of each of the monarchies of the world, which should be no more;

"the kingdom of Babylon shall not continue, nor shall it exercise dominion over Israel; the kings of the Medes shall be killed; and the mighty men of Greece shall not prosper; and the Romans shall be destroyed, and shall not collect tribute from Jerusalem; therefore for the wonder, and for the redemption, thou shalt work for thy Messiah; and for the rest of thy people who shall remain, they shall praise, saying: the prophet said;''

as follows:

(a) Sept.; "mentietur", V. L. Piscator; "mentiebatur", Pagninus.

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