It is easy to skim through the prophets, brushing by all the unfamiliar proper nouns. However, recently I've been trying to be more attentive to the details of meaning that the prophets are including by naming specific places and people; that is why I created the "geography" tag.

Today I came across Habakkuk 3:3 (ESV):

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.

Where were these locations? The way this is phrased, it sounds like the prophet is referring to a historical event (because of the naming of specific places). If so, what would he be referring to? If not, what does he mean? What is the significance of the mention of these particular locations?

  • Teman means 'South' or 'right" since south is to the right when looking east. This double meaning allows for a reversal of metaphor. South represents the earthly but right represents spiritual. We must be careful how we divide it. In a 'spiritual' shadow of Christ, he came from the spirit (right). This is validated by Mt. Paran which is a mountain of caverns (tombs) with a root of 'beautiful'. The mixup is understandable: the sheep are on God's right which is north looking from the east.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 15, 2012 at 21:08
  • 1
    Deut. 33:2 ESV "He said, “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." Paran would be directly south of Israel. And Mt Horeb south of that (things make more sense if you consider accepting Mt Sinai/Horeb in Arabia/Arabah as Deut 1:1 and Paul in Galatians tell us.)
    – Joshua
    Aug 4, 2015 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


"Teman" is OT for "south". In Hab 3:3 the context is description of God's awesome power. So "teman" is used here as a short form of "storms of the south", the powerful "sharav" (Heb.) or "chamsin" (Ar.) blasts of hot southern wind that the Land of Israel is known for. See Zach 9:14 and Psalms 70:26.

As a general geographic location "teman" appears in Josh 15:1, Jer 49:19, Obad 1:9, Amos 1:11,12, Song 4:16.

"Teman" is also used as a proper name of a person, the firstborn of Eliphaz who was the firstborn of Esau, see Gen 36:11,15,42, and in I Chron 1:36,53.

Mount Paran is a synonym for Mount Sinai, or at least one of the other places in the desert where God spoke to Moses. See Deut 33:2. The land of Paran is south of the Land, so it is also a parallelism to "Teman".

To paraphrase the verse, God's awesome power was revealed at Sinai, his majesty fills the sky, his glory covers the earth.

The transliteration is:

Eloha mi teman yavo, v'Kadosh mehar Paran selah

kisa shamayim hodo, u'thilato mala'ah ha arets

Attribution: (1)The Jewish Encyclopdia (Heb.), (2) Yehudah Keill's commentary in Book of the Thirteen, Daat Mikra Bible series published by Mossad HaRav Kook, Jerusalem, 1990.

Of the three meanings of "teman"; "south", "storm" and a proper name, I selected "storm" as the primary meaning, based on the parallel with "wrath" (Heb. "rogez") in verse 2. I did not see this interpretation in the classical commentaries.

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