Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 32
Chapter 32.—Of the Prophecy that is Contained in the Prayer and Song of Habakkuk.
In his prayer, with a song, to whom but the Lord Christ does he say, “O Lord, I have heard Thy hearing, and was afraid: O Lord, I have considered Thy works, and was greatly afraid?” 1173 What is this but the inexpressible admiration of the foreknown, new, and sudden salvation of men? “In the midst of two living creatures thou shalt be recognized.” What is this but either between the two testaments, or between the two thieves, or between Moses and Elias talking with Him on the mount? “While the years draw nigh, Thou wilt be recognized; at the coming of the time Thou wilt be shown,” does not even need exposition. “While my soul shall be p. 378 troubled at Him, in wrath Thou wilt be mindful of mercy.” What is this but that He puts Himself for the Jews, of whose nation He was, who were troubled with great anger and crucified Christ, when He, mindful of mercy, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do? 1174 “God shall come from Teman, and the Holy One from the shady and close mountain.” 1175 What is said here, “He shall come from Teman,” some interpret “from the south,” or “from the southwest,” by which is signified the noonday, that is, the fervor of charity and the splendor of truth. “The shady and close mountain” might be understood in many ways, yet I prefer to take it as meaning the depth of the divine Scriptures, in which Christ is prophesied: for in the Scriptures there are many things shady and close which exercise the mind of the reader; and Christ comes thence when he who has understanding finds Him there. “His power covereth up the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.” What is this but what is also said in the psalm, “Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; and Thy glory above all the earth?” 1176 “His splendor shall be as the light.” What is it but that the fame of Him shall illuminate believers? “Horns are in His hands.” What is this but the trophy of the cross? “And He hath placed the firm charity of His strength” 1177 needs no exposition. “Before His face shall go the word, and it shall go forth into the field after His feet.” What is this but that He should both be announced before His coming hither and after His return hence? “He stood, and the earth was moved.” What is this but that “He stood” for succor, “and the earth was moved” to believe? “He regarded, and the nations melted;” that is, He had compassion, and made the people penitent. “The mountains are broken with violence;” that is, through the power of those who work miracles the pride of the haughty is broken. “The everlasting hills flowed down;” that is, they are humbled in time that they may be lifted up for eternity. “I saw His goings [made] eternal for his labors;” that is, I beheld His labor of love not left without the reward of eternity. “The tents of Ethiopia shall be greatly afraid, and the tents of the land of Midian;” that is, even those nations which are not under the Roman authority, being suddenly terrified by the news of Thy wonderful works, shall become a Christian people. “Wert Thou angry at the rivers, O Lord? or was Thy fury against the rivers? or was Thy rage against the sea?” This is said because He does not now come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 1178 “For Thou shall mount upon Thy horses, and Thy riding shall be salvation;” that is, Thine evangelists shall carry Thee, for they are guided by Thee, and Thy gospel is salvation to them that believe in Thee. “Bending, Thou wilt bend Thy bow against the sceptres, saith the Lord;” that is, Thou wilt threaten even the kings of the earth with Thy judgment. “The earth shall be cleft with rivers;” that is, by the sermons of those who preach Thee flowing in upon them, mens hearts shall be opened to make confession, to whom it is said, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” 1179 What does “The people shall see Thee and grieve” mean, but that in mourning they shall be blessed? 1180 What is “Scattering the waters in marching,” but that by walking in those who everywhere proclaim Thee, Thou wilt scatter hither and thither the streams of Thy doctrine? What is “The abyss uttered its voice?” Is it not that the depth of the human heart expressed what it perceived? The words, “The depth of its phantasy,” are an explanation of the previous verse, for the depth is the abyss; and “Uttered its voice” is to be understood before them, that is, as we have said, it expressed what it perceived. Now the phantasy is the vision, which it did not hold or conceal, but poured forth in confession. “The sun was raised up, and the moon stood still in her course;” that is, Christ ascended into heaven, and the Church was established under her King. “Thy darts shall go in the light;” that is, Thy words shall not be sent in secret, but openly. For He had said to His own disciples, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light.” 1181 “By threatening thou shall diminish the earth;” that is, by that threatening Thou shall humble men. “And in fury Thou shall cast down the nations;” for in punishing those who exalt themselves Thou dashest them one against another. “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people, that Thou mightest save Thy Christ; Thou hast sent death on the heads of the wicked.” None of these words require exposition. “Thou hast lifted up the bonds, even to the neck.” This may be understood even of the good bonds of wisdom, that the feet may be put into its fetters, and the neck into its collar. “Thou hast struck off in amazement of mind the bonds” must be understood for, He p. 379 lifts up the good and strikes off the bad, about which it is said to Him, “Thou hast broken asunder my bonds,” 1182 and that “in amazement of mind,” that is, wonderfully. “The heads of the mighty shall be moved in it;” to wit, in that wonder. “They shall open their teeth like a poor man eating secretly.” For some of the mighty among the Jews shall come to the Lord, admiring His works and words, and shall greedily eat the bread of His doctrine in secret for fear of the Jews, just as the Gospel has shown they did. “And Thou hast sent into the sea Thy horses, troubling many waters,” which are nothing else than many people; for unless all were troubled, some would not be converted with fear, others pursued with fury. “I gave heed, and my belly trembled at the voice of the prayer of my lips; and trembling entered into my bones, and my habit of body was troubled under me.” He gave heed to those things which he said, and was himself terrified at his own prayer, which he had poured forth prophetically, and in which he discerned things to come. For when many people are troubled, he saw the threatening tribulation of the Church, and at once acknowledged himself a member of it, and said, “I shall rest in the day of tribulation,” as being one of those who are rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation. 1183 “That I may ascend,” he says, “among the people of my pilgrimage,” departing quite from the wicked people of his carnal kinship, who are not pilgrims in this earth, and do not seek the country above. 1184 “Although the fig-tree,” he says, “shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall lie, and the fields shall yield no meat; the sheep shall be cut off from the meat, and there shall be no oxen in the stalls.” He sees that nation which was to slay Christ about to lose the abundance of spiritual supplies, which, in prophetic fashion, he has set forth by the figure of earthly plenty. And because that nation was to suffer such wrath of God, because, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, it wished to establish its own, 1185 he immediately says, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in God my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He will set my feet in completion; He will place me above the heights, that I may conquer in His song,” to wit, in that song of which something similar is said in the psalm, “He set my feet upon a rock, and directed my goings, and put in my mouth a new song, a hymn to our God.” 1186 He therefore conquers in the song of the Lord, who takes pleasure in His praise, not in his own; that “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” 1187 But some copies have, “I will joy in God my Jesus,” which seems to me better than the version of those who, wishing to put it in Latin, have not set down that very name which for us it is dearer and sweeter to name.
Ps. 57:5, 11.378:1177
Heb. 11:13, 16.379:1185
Ps. 40:2, 3.379:1187
Jer. 9:23, 24, as in 1 Cor. 1.31.
Next: Chapter 33
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