Michael L. Barré, «Yahweh Gears Up for Battle: Habakkuk 3,9a», Vol. 87 (2006) 75-84
Hab 3,9a has proven to be a troublesome text, most of the difficulties stemming from the second colon, especially the last word, rm). The proposal argued here is that this reading results from a well attested scribal error. The original reading was rmeT;rm't@f, the Hiphil 2nd masculine singular yiqtol form of the verb rrm, 'to be bitter'. In this context it means 'to make bitter', specifically 'to poison (weapons) with serpents gall'. The connection of this root with '(serpents) poison' is well documented in a number of Semitic languages, and poisoning projectiles to make them especially deadly is well known in the ancient world. The Akkadian cognate appears in the Mari texts with reference to poisoning weapons. Hab 3,9a portrays YHWH as withdrawing his bow and poisoning his arrows as part of his preparation for battle with the powers of chaos.