1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
1. Precatio Chabakuk Prophetae super ignorantiis (vel, super canticis, aut instrumentis musicis.)
There is no doubt but that the Prophet dictated this form of prayer for his people, before they were led into exile, that they might always exercise themselves in the study of religion. We indeed know that God cannot be rightly and from the heart worshipped but in faith. Hence, in order to confine the dispersed Israelites within due limits, so that they might not fall away from true religion, the Prophet here sets before them the materials of faith, and stimulates them to prayer: and we know, that our faith cannot be supported in a better way than by the exercise of prayer.
Let us then bear in mind, that the way of fostering true religion, prescribed here to the miserable Israelites while dispersed in their exile, was to look up to God daily, that they might strengthen their faith; for they could not have otherwise continued in their obedience to God. They would, indeed, have wholly fallen away into the superstitions of the Gentiles, had not the memory of the covenant, which the Lord had made with them, remained firm in their hearts: and we shall presently see that the Prophet lays much stress upon this circumstance.
He calls it his own prayer, 1 not because he used it himself privately, or composed it for himself, but that the prayer might have some authority among the people; for they knew that a form of prayer dictated for them by the mouth of a Prophet, was the same as though the Spirit itself was to show them how they were to pray to God. The name, then, of Habakkuk is added to it, not because he used it himself, but that the people might be more encouraged to pray, when they knew that the Holy Spirit, through the Prophet, had become their guide and teacher.
There is some difficulty connected with the word
But the Prophet, by asking for the pardons of ignorances, does not omit more grievous sins; but intimates that though their conscience does not reprove men, they are yet not on that account innocent and without guilt; for they often inconsiderately fall, and their faults are not to be excused for inadvertence. It is, then, the same thing as though the Prophet reminded his own people, that there was no remedy for them in adversity but by fleeing to God, and fleeing as suppliants, in order to solicit his forgiveness; and that they were not only to acknowledge their more grievous sins, but also to confess that they were in many respects guilty; for they might have fallen through error a thousand times, as we are inconsiderate almost through the whole course of our life. We now, then, perceive what this word means, and why the Prophet spoke rather of ignorances than of other sins. But I shall not proceed farther now, as there is some other business.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to make thyself known to us by thy word, and as thou elevates us to thyself in a way suitable to the ignorance of our minds, -- O grant, that we may not continue fixed in our stupidity, but that we may put off all superstitions, and also renounce all the thoughts of our flesh, and seek thee in the right way; and may we suffer ourselves to be so ruled by thy word, that we may purely and from the heart call upon thee, and so rely on thine infinite power, that we may not fear to despise the whole world, and every adversity on the earth, until, having finished our warfare, we shall at length be gathered into that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood -- Amen.
1 The more correct rendering here would be, "A Prayer (or rather, An Intercession) by Habakkuk the Prophet;" that is, It was a prayer composed by him. The preposition [
2 This explanation, adopted by Calvin, is derived originally from Aquila and Symmachus, who rendered the phrase, ejpi ajgohmatwn, -- respecting oversights or errors: and they have been followed by Jerome, Vulgate, etc. The prior version of the Septuagint is, met j wjddhv, -- with an ode. that this prayer is composed in metre, is evident from the word, "Selah," and from the conclusion of the chapter. The most probable meaning of the word is what Drusius has suggested, and adopted by Grotius, Marckius, and Henderson, and that is, that it refers to a peculiar metre, a kind of composition, which from its irregularity is called erratica cantio, an erratic verse. "The prayer of Habakkuk," says Drusius, "was to be sung according to the odes which they called Sigionoth." To the same purpose is what Grotius says, that is, it is "a song according to the notes of an ancient ode which began with this word." It is derived from [
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