Question: "What does it mean that God came from Teman (Habakkuk 3:3)?"
Answer: Habakkuk 3 consists of a hymn of praise to God. Verse 3 begins a section that says, “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.” What exactly does this mean? What is the significance of God’s coming from Teman?
When Habakkuk states, “God came from Teman,” he speaks of God as appearing out of the East; that is, He is shining over His people like the rising sun. God breaks the darkness and initiates a new day. Teman was a city or region in southern Edom, to the east of Israel (Genesis 36:11, 15, 34, 42; 1 Chronicles 1:36, 45, 53; Jeremiah 49:7; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:9). Teman was also the home of one of Job’s friends (Job 22:1; 42:7, 9). Likewise, Mount Paran, a mountain opposite of Teman (Deuteronomy 33:2-4), was also east of Israel (Genesis 21:21).
The next verses in Habakkuk 3 emphasize this theme: “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise” (verses 3b-4). Here we are told explicitly that God’s coming from Teman is like the rising of the sun.
The “splendor” referred to in verse 3 is from the Hebrew word hod, associated with kingly authority (Numbers 27:20; 1 Chronicles 29:25). In this context, God’s splendor is His glory as the sovereign King, reigning over all creation and for all time.
The language in Habakkuk 3 is strikingly similar to God’s appearance at Mount Sinai. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses blesses the Israelites one final time: “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deuteronomy 33:2). Habakkuk’s use of similar phrases connects his song of praise with Moses’ blessing. Habakkuk praises God’s sovereign power and ability to provide a “second exodus” for His people—not from Egypt but from Babylon.
Habakkuk 3:3 marks a shift in Habakkuk’s hymn from request to praise. He notes God’s power in bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Because the Lord had accomplished this great work in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would deliver His people from Babylon and bring them back to their homeland once again. After the darkness of captivity, God would be the sunrise of freedom and hope.