Damien F. Mackey
“Never forget the works of the Lord”
Psalm 77:7 (Douay)
This was a constant theme throughout the Old Testament, especially regarding those great “works” that the Lord had done on behalf of Israel in delivering that nation from its oppression in Egypt.
Unfortunately, the people forgot very quickly.
Indeed, Moses apparently found it far easier to take Israel out of the heart of Egypt, than to take Egypt out of the hearts of the Israelites (e.g., Exodus 14:11).
Psalm 105:21-25 (Douay) recalls the ingratitude of Israel:
They forgot God, who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, Wondrous works in the land of Cham: terrible things in the Red Sea. And he said that he would destroy them: had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach: To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. And they set at nought the desirable land. They believed not his word, And they murmured in their tents: they hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.
The Judges and the Prophets of Israel were forever calling the lapsed people back to the remembrance of these wonders; for example, the prophet Habakkuk, he being one who had not forgotten the works of the Lord, and who greatly desired further manifestations of them. And so he prayed (Habakkuk 3:1-10):
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
True Mount Sinai in the Paran Desert
The prophet Habakkuk continued with his prayer:
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.
Were you angry with the rivers, LORD?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.
Habakkuk, though, despite his admitted ‘great literary talent’, amongst other attributes of his, can fail to capture the imagination of some, it seems. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen told of this amusing incident regarding the so-called “minor” prophet, Habakkuk, that occurred in 1970 (https://www.k-state.edu/landon/speakers/fulton-sheen/transcript.html):
We have 19 minutes to go through the other two. I want to tell you that 19 minutes is going to seem long, because my talks always seem longer than they are. I know of a Biblical lecturer who had as his subject the 12 minor prophets. After one hour and 45 minutes, he had finished three. He had a dim sense that maybe the audience was getting tired and perhaps he should introduce the next one with some degree of histrionics.
He said, “And now… and now… Where shall I place Habakkuk?”
Someone got up in the back and said, “He can take my seat.”
Moving on to Habakkuk 3:11-14, we find what appears to be reference to the Joshuan miracle:
Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
At least that is how these verses have been interpreted at: http://www.refuteit.com/joshua-sun-stopped.html
The Book of Habakkuk gives a few more details of the Joshua battle:
“The sun and moon stood still in the sky, at the light of your arrows as they went, at the shinning of your glittering spear. You marched through the land in wrath. You threshed the nations in anger. You went forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the land of wickedness. You stripped them head to foot. Selah. You pierced the head of the land of the warriors with their own spears. They came as whirlwind to scatter me, gloating as if to devour the wretched in secret.” Habakkuk 3:11-14 WEB
The details from Habakkuk and the Book of Joshua do line up:
1. “All five kings of the Amorites joined together to make war with Gibeon” (Joshua 10:1-5) Habakkuk: “They came as whirlwind to scatter me, gloating as if to devour the wretched in secret.”
2. “Yahweh said to Joshua, ‘Don’t fear them, for I have delivered them into your hands. Not a man of them will stand before you’.” (Joshua 10:8) Habakkuk: “You went forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.”
3. “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies.” (Joshua 10:13) Habakkuk: “The sun and moon stood still in the sky, at the light of your arrows as they went, at the shinning of your glittering spear.”
4. “Yahweh confused them before Israel, and he killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and he chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth Horon, and struck them to Azekah and Makkedah. It happened as they fled from Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth Horon, that Yahweh cast down great stones from the sky on them to Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from hailstones than who the children of Israel killed with swords.” (Joshua 10:10-11) Habakkuk: “At the light of your arrows as they went, at the shinning of your glittering spear. You marched through the land in wrath. You threshed the nations in anger… You crushed the head of the land of wickedness. You stripped them head to foot.”
The greatest part of this battle was fought by Yahweh, who destroyed more of the enemy than Joshua’s army. Yahweh himself caused light to occur on the battlefield: “The sun and moon stood still in the sky, at the light of your arrows as they went, at the shinning of your glittering spear.” (Habakkuk 3:11)
This shows that besides the light of the sun and the reflection of the light from the moon, there may have been even more light from a lightning storm and a hail storm, “There were more who died from hailstones than who the children of Israel killed with swords”(Joshua 10:11).