Aron Pinker, «The Lord’s Bow in Habakkuk 3,9a», Vol. 84 (2003) 417-420
This note suggests that the enigmatic tw$+%m tw$(b# refers to the Lord’s bow, which in the Hebrew Bible is associated with the rainbow. Habakkuk views symbolically the Lord’s bow as an unusually powerful composite bow of seven rods, as the rainbow consists of seven colors. Hab 3,9a K1t@#q rw$(t hyr( hls rm) tw$+%m tw$(b# is understood in the sense Naked bare Your bow, of seven strips! (say Selah), where say Selah is a later editorial instruction to the person who recites the Psalm to say the word hls at this point, and thereby indicate an interlude, or distinction from what follows.
Habakkuk 3,9a has been and is considered by many as the most difficult passage in the book. Already Delitzsch wondered whether the second colon of 3,9a should not be considered the most difficult in Habakkuk 3, if not in the entire prophetic corpus, when one takes into account the more than one hundred interpretations that had been proposed for it by his time1. Since Delitzsch’s time scholars continued to struggle with the textual difficulties of the first two colons and the thematic ambiguity of the second colon.
The difficulties encountered with Hab 3,9a are to some extent mitigated if it is understood that the verse consists of two parts, each belonging to a different scene in the general theme of the theophany. The natural point of division in Hab 3,9 is the word hls, which the Septuagint usually translates as "Pause" (dia/yalma). hls rm) may be a later editorial instruction to the person who recites the Psalm to say at this point hls and thereby indicate an interlude, or distinction from what follows. Consequently, the first colon and the first two words of the second colon have to be merged into a single colon, which belongs to the preceding scene of "crowds" urging God on and encouraging God’s march to battle. Because the warrior is God, these "crowds" are virtual, their presence implied by the exhortations2. Verses 7-9a present a poetic rendition of these exhortations and should end with an uplifting hls, according to the instructions of a later editor. The last colon of this verse picks up the theme of "evening, or leveling, the path before the Lord," which was treated in verse 6.
In this thematic framework, the first two colons in the MT should be read: (hls rm)) tw$+%m tw$(b# (K1t@#$q) K1t@#q rw$(t hyr(. While t#q was included for explanatory purposes, it needs not be in the text per se, because the preceding K1t@#$q implies it. Thus, no textual emendations of the MT are necessary. The focus of this note is on the enigmatic tw$+%m tw$(b#$, which it is claimed describes the Lord’s bow.
Though Hab 3,9a has been subjected to numerous interpretations, there is general agreement that K1t@#$q refers to the Lord’s bow. There are numerous verses in the Hebrew Bible that use the term t#$q but few of these refer specifically to the Lord’s bow. The Lord’s bow is only referred to in Gen 9,13. 14. 16; Ezek 39,9; Hab 3,9; Lam 2,4 and 3,12. The use of the term in Lamentations, which appears as referring to the Lord’s bow (wt@#q Krd@), is in fact an expression of psychological ‘transfer.’ The enemy’s act of using the bow is construed as being performed by the Lord because He has permitted it. Thus, in essence, Lam 2,4 and 3,12 do not refer to Lord’s bow per se. This leaves Gen 9,13-14. 16; Ezek 39,9, and Hab 3,9. Except for Hab 3,9 the references to the Lord’s bow are in the context of the rainbow. The rainbow consists of seven colors. Naturally, it would make sense to associate tw$(b# with the seven components of the rainbow, the Lord’s bow. I suggest that the prophet considered the rainbow as seven "self bows", each made of