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This inscription, in the first place, shows the time in which Micah lived, and during which God employed his labors. And this deserves to be noticed: for at this day his sermons would be useless, or at least frigid, except his time were known to us, and we be thereby enabled to compare what is alike and what is different in the men of his age, and in those of our own: for when we understand that Micah condemned this or that vice, as we may also learn from the other Prophets and from sacred history, we are able to apply more easily to ourselves what he then said, inasmuch as we can view our own life as it were in a mirror. This is the reason why the Prophets are wont to mention the time in which they executed their office.
But how long Micah followed the course of his vocation we cannot with certainty determine. It is, however, probable that he discharged his office as a Prophet for thirty years: it may be that he exceeded forty years; for he names here three kings, the first of whom, that is Jotham, reigned sixteen years; and he was followed by Ahab, who also reigned as many years. If then Micah was called at the beginning of the first reign, he must have prophesied for thirty-two years, the time of the two kings. Then the reign of Hezekiah followed, which continued to the twenty-ninth year: and it may be, that the Prophet served God to the death, or even beyond the death, of Hezekiah. (59) We hence see that the number of his years cannot with certainty be known; though it be sufficiently evident that he taught not for a few years, but that he so discharged his office, that for thirty years he was not wearied, but constantly persevered in executing the command of God.
I have said that he was contemporary with Isaiah: but as Isaiah began his office under Uzziah, we conclude that he was older. Why then was Micah joined to him? That the Lord might thus break down the stubbornness of the people. It was indeed enough that one man was sent by God to bear witness to the truth; but it pleased God that a testimony should be borne by the mouth of two, and that holy Isaiah should be assisted by this friend and, as it were, his colleague. And we shall hereafter find that they adopted the very same words; but there was no emulation between them, so that one accused the other of theft, when he repeated what had been said. Nothing was more gratifying to each of them than to receive a testimony from his colleague; and what was committed to them by God they declared not only in the same sense and meaning, but also in the same words, and, as it were, with one mouth.
Of the expression, that the word was sent to him, we have elsewhere reminded you, that it ought not to be understood of private teaching, as when the word of God is addressed to individuals; but the word was given to Micah, that he might be God’s ambassador to us. It means then that he came furnished with commands, as one sustaining the person of God himself; for he brought nothing of his own, but what the Lord commanded him to proclaim. But as I have elsewhere enlarged on this subject, I now only touch on it briefly.
This vision, he says, was given him against two cities Samaria and Jerusalem (60) It is certain that the Prophet was specifically sent to the Jews; and Maresah, from which he arose, as it appears from the inscription, was in the tribe of Judah: for Morasthite was an appellative, derived from the place Maresah. (61) But it may be asked, why does he say that visions had been given him against Samaria? We have said elsewhere, that though Hosea was specifically and in a peculiar manner destined for the kingdom of Israel, he yet by the way mingled sometimes those things which referred to the tribe or kingdom of Judah: and such was also the case with our Prophet; he had a regard chiefly to his own kindred, for he knew that he was appointed for them; but, at the same time, he overlooked not wholly the other part of the people; for the kingdom of Israel was not so divided from the tribe of Judah that no connection remained: for God was unwilling that his covenant should be abolished by their defection from the kingdom of David. We hence see, that though Micah spent chiefly his labors in behalf of the Jews, he yet did not overlook or entirely neglect the Israelites.
But the title must be restricted to one part of the book; for threatenings only form the discourse here. But we shall find that promises, full of joy, are also introduced. The inscription then does not include all the contents of the book; but as his purpose was to begin with threatenings, and to terrify the Jews by setting before them the punishment that was at hand, this inscription was designedly given. There is, at the same time, no doubt but that the Prophet was ill received by the Jews on this account; for they deemed it a great indignity, and by no means to be endured, to be tied up in the same bundle with the Israelites; for Samaria was an abomination to the kingdom of Judah; and yet the Prophet here makes no difference between Samaria and Jerusalem. This was then an exasperating sentence: but we see how boldly the Prophet performs the office committed to him; for he regarded not what would be agreeable to men, nor endeavored to draw them by smooth things: though his message was disliked, he yet proclaimed it, for he was so commanded, nor could he shake off the yoke of his vocation. Let us now proceed —
(59) It is probable that the greater part of his Prophecy was written in the days of this king; for a portion of what is contained in the third chapter is referred to in Jeremiah 26:18, as having been delivered “in the days of Hezekiah.”—Ed.
(60) “He mentions Samaria first,” says Marckius, “not because it was superior to Jerusalem, or more regarded by the Prophet, but because it would be first in undergoing judgment, as it had been first in transgression.” The preposition
(61) It was a village, according to Eusebius and Jerome, west of Jerusalem, near Eleutheropolis, not far from the borders of the Philistines. See Joshua 15:44; 1 Chronicles 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:8. There is another circumstance, besides that of his birth in the land of Judah, which tends to prove his special mission to the Jews, — he mentions in the first verse only the kings of Judah. — Ed.
The Prophet here rises into an elevated style, being not content with a simple and calm manner of speaking. We hence may learn, that having previously tried the disposition of the people, he knew the stubbornness of almost all classes: for except he was persuaded that the people would be rebellious and obstinate, he would certainly have used some mildness, or have at least endeavored to lead them of their own accord rather than to drive them thus violently. There is then no doubt but that the obstinacy of the people and their wickedness were already fully known to him, even before he began to address one word to them. But this difficulty did not prevent him from obeying God’s command. He found it necessary in the meantime to add vehemence to his teaching; for he saw that he addressed the deaf, yea, stupid men, who were destitute of every sense of religion, and who had hardened themselves against God, and had not only fallen away through want of thought, but had also become immersed in their sins, and were wickedly and abominably obstinate in them. Since then the Prophet saw this, he makes here a bold beginning, and addresses not only his own nation, for whom he was appointed a Teacher; but he speaks to the whole world.
For what purpose does he say, Hear, all ye people? (62) It was not certainly his object to proclaim indiscriminately to all the truth of God for the same end: but he summons here all nations as witnesses or judges, that the Jews might understand that their impiety would be made evident to all, except they repented, and that there was no reason for them to hope that they could conceal their baseness, for God would expose their hidden crimes as it were on an open stage. We hence see how emphatical are the words, when the Prophet calls on all nations and would have them to be witnesses of the judgment which God had resolved to bring on his people.
He afterwards adds, Let also the earth give ear and its fullness We may take the earth, by metonymy, for its inhabitants; but as it is added, and its fullness, the Prophet, I doubt not, meant here to address the very earth itself, though it be without reason. He means that so dreadful would be the judgment of God, as to shake created things which are void of sense; and thus he more severely upbraids the Jews with their stupor, that they heedlessly neglected the word of God, which yet would shake all the elements by its power.
He then immediately turns his discourse to the Jews: after having erected God’s tribunal and summoned all the nations, that they might form as it were a circle of a solemn company, he says, There will be for me the Lord Jehovah against you for a witness —the Lord from the temple of his holiness. By saying that God would be as a witness for him, he not only affirms that he was sent by God, but being as it were inflamed with zeal, he appeals here to God, and desires him to be present, that the wickedness and obstinacy of the people might not be unpunished; as though he said, “Let God, whose minister I am, be with me, and punish your impiety; let him prove that he is the author of this doctrine, which I declare from his mouth and by his command; let him not suffer you to escape unpunished, if ye do not repent.”
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says that God would be for him a witness; as though he had said, that there was no room here to trifle; for if the Jews thought to elude God’s judgment they greatly deceived themselves; inasmuch as when he has given a command to his servants to treat with his people, he is at the same time present as a judge, and will not suffer his word to be rejected without immediately undertaking his own cause.
Nor is this addition superfluous, The Lord from the temple of his holiness: for we know how thoughtlessly the Jews were wont to boast that God dwelt in the midst of them. And this presumption so blinded them that they despised all the Prophets; for they thought it unlawful that any thing should be said to their disgrace, because they were the holy people of God, his holy heritage and chosen nation. Inasmuch then as the Lord had adopted them, they falsely boasted of his favors. Since then the Prophet knew that the people insolently gloried in those privileges, with which they had been honored by God, he now declares that God would be the avenger of impiety from his temple; as though he said, Ye boast that God is bound to you, and that he has so bound up his faith to you as to render his name to you a sport: he indeed dwells in his temple; but from thence he will manifest himself as an avenger, as he sees that you are perverse in your wickedness. We hence see that the Prophet beats down that foolish arrogance, by which the Jews were inflated; yea, he turns back on their own heads what they were wont boastingly to bring forward. After having made this introduction, to awaken slumbering men with as much vehemence as he could, he subjoins —
Hear, ye nations, —all of them;
Give ear, thou earth, —even its fullness;
And the Lord Jehovah shall be against you a witness
The Lord from the temple of his holiness.
The Prophet pursues the same subject; and he dwells especially on this — that God would be a witness against his people from his sanctuary. He therefore confirms this, when he says that God would come from his place Some interpreters do at the same time take this view — that the temple would hereafter be deprived of God’s presence, and would hence become profane, according to what Ezekiel declares. For as the Jews imagined that God was connected with them as long as the temple stood, and this false imagination proved to them an allurement, as it were, to sin, as on this account they took to themselves greater liberty, — this was the reason why the Prophet Ezekiel declares that God was no longer in the temple; and the Lord had shown to him by a vision that he had left his temple, so that he would no longer dwell there. Some, as I have said, give a similar explanation of this passage; but this sense does not seem to suit the context. I therefore take another view of this sentence — that God would go forth from his place. But yet it is doubted what place the Prophet refers to: for many take it to be heaven, and this seems probable, for immediately after he adds, Descend shall God, and he will tread on the high places of the earth This descent seems indeed to point out a higher place: but as the temple, we know, was situated on a high and elevated spot, on mount Zion, there is nothing inconsistent in saying that God descended from his temple to chastise the whole of Judea as it deserved. Then the going forth of God is by no means ambiguous in its meaning, for he means that God would at length go forth, as it were, in a visible form. With regard then to the place, I am inclined to refer it to the temple; and this clause, I have no doubt, has proceeded from the last verse.
But why is going forth here ascribed to God? Because the Jews had abused the forbearance of God in worshipping him with vain ceremonies in the temple; and at the same time they thought that they had escaped from his hand. As long then as God spared them, they thought that he was, as it were, bound to them, because he dwelt among them. Besides, as the legal and shadowy worship prevailed among them, they imagined that God rested in their temple. But now the Prophet says, “He will go forth: ye have wished hitherto to confine God to the tabernacle, and ye have attempted to pacify him with your frivolous puerilities: but ye shall know that his hand and his power extend much farther: he shall therefore come and show what that majesty is which has been hitherto a derision to you.” For when hypocrites set to sale their ceremonies to God, do they not openly trifle with him, as though he were a child? and do they not thus rob him of his power and authority? Such was the senselessness of that people. The Prophet therefore does not say without reason that God would go forth, that he might prove to the Jews that they were deluded by their own vain imaginations, when they thus took away from God what necessarily belonged to him, and confined him to a corner in Judea and fixed him there, as though he rested and dwelt there like a dead idol.
The particle, Behold, is emphatical: for the Prophet intended here to shake off from the Jews their torpidity, inasmuch as nothing was more difficult to them than to be persuaded and to believe that punishment was nigh at hand, when they flattered themselves that God was propitious to them. Hence that they might no longer cherish this willfulness, he says, Behold, come shall the Lord, forth shall he go from his place Isaiah has a passage like this in an address to the people, Isaiah 26:0; but the object of it is different; for Isaiah intended to threaten the enemies of the Church and heathen nations: but here Micah denounces war on the chosen people, and shows that God thus dwelt in his temple, that the Jews might perceive that his hand was opposed to them, as they had so shamefully despised him, and, by their false imaginations reduced, as it were, to nothing his power.
He shall tread, he says, on the high places of the earth. By the high places of the earth I do not understand superstitious places, but those well fortified. We know that fortresses were then fixed, for the most part, on elevated situations. The Prophet then intimates, that there would be no place into which God’s vengeance would not penetrate, however well fortified it might be: “No enclosures,” he says, “shall hinder God from penetrating into the inmost parts of your fortresses; he shall tread on the high places of the earth.” At the same time, I doubt not but that he alludes, by this kind of metaphor, to the chief men, who thought themselves exempted from the common lot of mankind; for they excelled so much in power, riches, and authority, that they would not be classed with the common people. The Prophet then intimates, that those, who were become proud through a notion of their own superiority would not be exempt from punishment.
And he afterwards adds, that this going forth of God would be terrible, Melt, he says, shall the mountains under him It hence appears, that the Prophet did not speak in the last verse of the departure of God, as though he was going to forsake his own temple, but that he, on the contrary, described his going forth from the temple, that he might ascend his tribunal and execute punishment on the whole people, and thus, in reality, prove that he would be a judge, because he had been very daringly despised. Hence he says, Melt shall the mountains under him, the valleys shall be rent, or cleave, as wax before the fire, as waters rolling into a lower place (63) The Prophets do not often describe God in a manner so awful; but this representation is to be referred to the circumstance of this passage, for he sets forth God here as the judge of the people: it was therefore necessary that he should be exhibited as furnished and armed with powers that he might stake such vengeance on the Jews as they deserved. And other similar passages we shall hereafter meet with, and like to those which we found in Hosea. God then is said to melt the mountains, and he is said to strike the valleys with such terror that they cleave under him; in short, he is said so to terrify all elements, that the very mountains, however stony they may be, melt like wax or like waters which flow, — because he could not otherwise produce a real impression on a people so obstinate, and who, as it has been said, so flattered themselves even in their vices.
We may further easily learn what application to make of this truth in our day. We find the Papists boasting of the title Church, and, in a manner, with vain confidence, binding God to themselves, because they have baptism, though they have adulterated it with their superstitions; and then, they think that they have Christ, because they still retain the name of a Church. Had the Lord promised that his dwelling would be at Rome, we yet see how foolish and frivolous would be such boasting: for though the temple was at Jerusalem, yet the Lord went forth thence to punish the sins of the people, yea, even of the chosen people. We further know, that it is folly to bind God now to one place, for it is his will that his name should be celebrated without any difference through the whole world. Wheresoever, then, the voice of the Gospel sounds, God would have us to know that he is present there. What the Papists then proudly boast of — that Christ is joined to them — will turn out to their own condemnation; — why so? Because the Lord will prove that he is the avenger of so impious and shameful a profanation, as they not only presumptuously lay claim to his name, but also tear it in pieces, and contaminate it with their sacrilegious abominations.
Again, since God is said to melt the mountains with his presence, let us hence learn to rouse up all our feelings whenever God comes forth not that we may flee to a distance from him, but that we may reverently receive his word, so that he may afterwards appear to us a kind and reconciled Father. For when we become humble, and the pride and height of our flesh is subdued, he then immediately receives us, as it were, into his gentle bosom, and gives us an easy access to him, yea, he invites us to himself with all possible kindness. That the Lord then may thus kindly receive us, let us learn to fear as soon as he utters his voice: but let not this fear make us to flee away but only humble us, so that we may render true obedience to the word of the Lord. It follows —
(63) These two similes, as observed by Marckius and others, refer not to the same thing, but to the two things previously mentioned,—the wax, to the mountains,—and the waters, to the valleys. This kind of order, in a sentence, is common in Hebrew. The Septuagint presents an instance, not uncommon, of an attempt to reconcile what, from not apprehending the sense, appeared incongruous; for motion is ascribed to the mountains—
“As waters poured down a steep place.”
Henderson renders the last word, “a precipice;” and Marckius, declive —”a declivity.” I would give this version of the whole verse, —
For, behold, Jehovah shall go forth from his place;
Yea, he shall descend and tread on the high places of the land;
And dissolve shall the mountains under him,
And the valleys shall burst forth;
Like the wax before the fire,
Like waters rolling down a declivity.
“Do men trust to the height and strength of mountains, as if they were sufficient to bear up their hopes and bear off their fears? They shall be molten under him. — Do they trust to the fruitfulness of the valleys and their products? They shall be cleft, or rent, — and be wasted away as the ground is by the waters that are poured down a steep place.” — Henry.
The Prophet teaches, in this verse, that God is not angry for nothing; though when he appears rigid, men expostulate with him, and clamor as though he were cruel. That men may, therefore, acknowledge that God is a just judge, and that he never exceeds moderation in punishments, the Prophet here distinctly states that there was a just cause, why God denounced so dreadful a judgment on his chosen people, — even because not only a part of the people, but the whole body had, through their impiety, fallen away; for by the house of Jacob, and by the house of Israel, he means that impiety had everywhere prevailed, so that no part was untainted. The meaning then is, — that the contagion of sin had spread through all Israel, that no portion of the country was free from iniquity, that no corner of the land could bring an excuse for its defection; the Lord therefore shows that he would be the judge of them all, and would spare neither small nor great.
We now then understand the Prophet’s object in this verse: As he had before taught how dreadful would be God’s vengeance against all the ungodly, so now he mentions their crimes, that they might not complain that they were unjustly treated, or that God employed too much severity. The Prophet then testifies that the punishment, then near at hand, would be just.
He now adds, What is the wickedness of Jacob? The Prophet, no doubt, indirectly reproves here the hypocrisy which ruled dominant among the people. For he asks not for his own satisfaction or in his own person; but, on the contrary, he relates, by way of imitation, (
But it sometimes happens that the common people become degenerated, while some integrity remains among the higher orders: but the Prophet shows that the diseases among the people belonged to the principal men; and hence he names the two chief cities, Jerusalem and Samaria, as he had said before, in the first verse, that he proclaimed predictions against these: and yet it is certain, that the punishment was to be in common to the whole people. But as they thought that Jerusalem and Samaria would be safe, though the whole country were destroyed, the Prophet threatens them by name: for, relying first on their strength, they thought themselves unassailable; and then, the eyes of nearly all, we know, were dazzled with empty splendor, powers and dignity: thus the ungodly wholly forget that they are men, and what they owe to God, when elevated in the world. So great an arrogance could not be subdued, except by sharp and severe words, such as the Prophet, as we see, here employs. He then says, that the wickedness of Israel was Samaria; the fountain of all iniquities was the royal city, which yet ought to have ruled the whole land with wisdom and justice: but what any more remains, when kings and their counselors tread under foot all regard for what is just and right, and having cast away every shame, rise up in rebellion against God and men? When therefore kings thus fall from their dignity, an awful ruin must follow.
This is the reason why the Prophet says that the wickedness of Israel was Samaria, that thence arose all iniquities. But we must at the same time bear in mind, that the Prophet speaks not here of gross crimes; but, on the contrary, he directs his reproof against ungodly and perverted forms of worship; and this appears more evident from the second clause, in which he mentions transgressions in connection with the high places. We hence see, that all sins in general are not here reproved, but their vicious modes of worship, by which religion had been polluted among the Jews as well as the Israelites. But it might seem very unjust, that the Prophet should charge with sin those forms of worship in which the Jews laboriously exercised themselves with the object of pacifying God. But we see how God regards as nothing whatever men blend with his worship out of their own heads. And this is our principal contest at this day with the Papists; we call their perverted and spurious modes of worship abominations: they think that what is heavenly is to be blended with what is earthly. We diligently labor, they say, for this end — that God may be worshipped. True; but, at the same time, ye profane his worship by your inventions; and it is therefore an abomination. We now then see how foolish and frivolous are those delusions, when men follow their own wisdom in the duty of worshipping God: for the Prophet here, in the name of God, fulminates, as it were, from heaven against all superstitions, and shows that no sin is more detestable, than that preposterous caprice with which idolaters are inflamed, when they observe such forms of worship as they have themselves invented.
Now with regard to the high places, we must notice, that there was a great difference between the Jews and the Israelites at that time as to idolatry. The Israelites had so fallen, that they were altogether degenerated; nothing could be seen among them that had an affinity to the true and legitimate worship of God: but the Jews had retained some form of religion, they had not thus abandoned themselves; but yet they had a mixture of superstitions; such as one would find, were he to compare the gross Popery of this day with that middle course which those men invent, who seem to themselves to be very wise, fearing, forsooth, as they do, the offenses of the world; and hence they form for us a mixture, I know not what, from the superstitions of the Papacy and from the Reformation, as they call it. Something like this was the mixture at Jerusalem. We however see, that the Prophet pronounces the same sentence against the Jews and the Israelites and that is, that God will allow nothing that proceeds from the inventions of men to be joined to his word. Since then God allows no such mixtures, the Prophet here says that there was no less sin on the high places of Judea, than there was in those filthy abominations which were then dominant among the people of Israel. But the remainder we must defer until to-morrow.
Though Micah intended especially to devote his services to the Jews, as we have said yesterday, he yet, in the first place, passes judgment on Samaria; for it was his purpose afterwards to speak more fully against Jerusalem and the whole of Judea. And this state of the case ought to be borne in mind; for the Prophet does not begin with the Israelites, because he directs his discourse peculiarly to them; but his purpose was briefly to reprove them, and then to address more especially his own people, for it was for this purpose that he was called. Now, as he threatens destruction to Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel on account of their corrupted forms of worship, we may hence learn how displeasing to God is superstition, and that he regards nothing so much as the true worship of his name. There is no reason here for men to advance this position — that they do not designedly sin; for God shows how he is to be worshipped by us. Whenever, then, we deviate in any thing from the rule which he has prescribed, we manifest, in that particular, our rebellion and obstinacy. Hence the superstitious ever act like fools with regard to God, for they will not submit to his word, so as to be thereby alone made wise.
And he says, I will set Samaria as an heap of the field, that is, such shall be the ruins that they shall differ nothing from the heaps of the fields: for husband men, we know, when they find stones in their fields, throw them into some corner, that they may not be in the way of the slough. Like such heaps then, as are seen in the fields, Samaria would be, according to what God declared. He then says, that the place would be empty, so that vines would be planted there; and, in the third place, that its stones would be scattered through the valley; as when one casts stones where there is a wide plain, they run and roll far and wide; so would be the scattering of Samaria according to what the Prophet says, it was to be like the rolling of stones in a wide field. He adds, in the fourth place, I will uncover her foundations, that is, I will entirely demolish it, so that a stone, as Christ says, may not remain on a stone, (Matthew 24:2.) We now perceive the import of the words; and we also perceive that the reason why the Prophet denounces on Samaria so severe a judgment was, because it had corrupted the legitimate worship of God with its own inventions; for it had devised, as we well know, many idols, so that the whole authority of the law had been abolished among the Israelites. It now follows —
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, and says, that the ruin of Samaria was at hand, so that its idols would be broken, and also, that its wealth would be destroyed which she had gathered by illegitimate means, and which she thought to be the reward of her idolatry. But God mentions idols here expressly by his Prophet, in order to confirm what we noticed yesterday — that the cause of vengeance was, because Samaria had abandoned itself to ungodly forms of worship, and had departed from the Law. That the Israelites might then understand the cause for which God would so severely punish them, the Prophet here makes express mention of their graven images and idols. God is not indeed angry with stones and wood; but he observes the abuse and the perversion of them, when men pollute themselves by wickedly worshipping such things. This is the reason why God says here that the graven images of Samaria would be broken in pieces, and that its idols would be destroyed.
With regard to the wages, the Prophet no doubt designed to stamp with disgrace all the wealth of Samaria.
This last clause ought to be restricted to the gifts or wealth of Samaria; for it cannot properly be applied to idols or graven images. The import of the whole then is that God would be the avenger of idolatry with regard to the city of Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel. Besides, as the Israelites boasted that their ungodly forms of worship turned out to their happiness and prosperity, God declares that the whole of this success would be evanescent, like that of the harlot, who amasses great wealth, which soon vanishes away: and we see that thus it commonly happens.
Some explain the passage thus, — that the gifts, with which the Israelites adorned their temples, would return to be the reward of an harlot, that is, would he transferred to Chaldea, and that the Babylonians would, in their turn, adorn with them their idols. But this view is not suitable to the place; for the Prophet does not say that what Samaria had gathered would be a prey or a spoil to enemies but that it would perish by fire. (66) He speaks therefore, proverbially when he says that the produce, from the reward of an harlot, would return to be the reward of an harlot, that is, that it would become nothing; for the Lord sets a curse on such riches as strumpets gain by their baseness, while they prostitute themselves. Since, then, the whole of such wealth is under the curse of God, it must necessarily soon pass away like smoke: and this, in my view, is the real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows —
(66) The view given above is the one embraced by Henderson; but the reason given here is improbable. Newcome mentions the above, and also the following, “She imputed her wealth to her spiritual idolatry, and her conquerors shall distribute it as the reward of harlots in the literal sense.” But inasmuch as it is said, that her rewards would be burnt, it is more consistent to take the last clause as a proverbial expression, signifying the destruction of all the wealth that was ascribed to idolatry as its source.
“It is common,” says Henry, “that what is squeezed out by one lust, is squandered away by another.” — Ed.
The Prophet here assumes the character of a mourner, that he might more deeply impress the Israelites; for we have seen that they were almost insensible in their torpidity. It was therefore necessary that they should be brought to view the scene itself, that, seeing their destruction before their eyes they might be touched both with grief and fear. Lamentations of this kind are everywhere to be met with in the Prophets, and they ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence gather how great was the torpor of men, inasmuch as it was necessary to awaken them, by this form of speech, in order to convince them that they had to do with God: they would have otherwise continued to flatter themselves with delusions. Though indeed the Prophet here addresses the Israelites, we ought yet to apply this to ourselves; for we are not much unlike the ancient people: for however God may terrify us with dreadful threatening, we still remain quiet in our filth. It is therefore needful that we should be severely treated, for we are almost void of feeling.
But the Prophets sometimes assumed mourning, and sometimes they were touched with real grief: for when they spoke of aliens and also of the enemies of the Church, they introduce these lamentations. When a mention is made of Babylon or of Egypt, they sometimes say, Behold, I will mourn, and my bowels shall be as a timbrel. The Prophets did not then really grieve; but, as I have said, they transferred to themselves the sorrows of others, and ever with this object, that they might persuade men that God’s threatenings were not vain, and that God did not trifle with men when he declared that he was angry with them. But when the discourse was respecting the Church and the faithful, then the Prophets did not put on grief. The representation here is then to be taken in such a way as that we may understand that the Prophet was in real mourning, when he saw that a dreadful ruin was impending over the whole kingdom of Israel. For though they had perfidiously departed from the Law, they were yet a part of the holy race, they were the children of Abraham, whom God had received into favor. The Prophet, therefore, could not refrain from mourning unfeignedly for them. And the Prophet does here these two things, — he shows the fraternal love which he entertained for the children of Israel, as they were his kindred, and a part of the chosen people, — and he also discharges his own duty; for this lamentation was, as it were, the mirror in which he sets before them the vengeance of God towards men so extremely torpid. He therefore exhibits to them this representation, that they might perceive that God was by no means trifling with men, when he thus denounced punishment on the wicked and such as were apostates.
Moreover, he speaks not of a common lamentation, but says, I will wail and howl, and then, I will go spoiled The word
He afterwards subjoins, that the wounds vault be grievous; but he speaks as of what was present, Grievous, he says, are the wounds Grievous means properly full of grief; others render it desperate or incurable, but it is a meaning which suits not this place; for
(68) Or rather the stroke before mentioned; for the true reading is no doubt
The Prophet seems here to be inconsistent with himself: for he first describes the calamity that was to be evident to all; but now he commands silence, lest the report should reach the enemies. But there is here nothing contradictory; for the evil itself could not be hid, since the whole kingdom of Israel would be desolated, the cities demolished or burnt, the whole country spoiled and laid waste, and then the enemies would enter the borders of Judah: and when Jerusalem should have been nearly taken how could it have been concealed? No, this could not have been. There is no wonder then that the Prophet had referred here to a solemn mourning. But he now speaks of the feeling of those who were desirous of hiding their own disgrace, especially from their enemies and aliens: for it is an indignity which greatly vexes us, when enemies taunt us, and upbraid us in our misfortunes; when no hope remains, we at least wish to perish in secret, so that no reproach and disgrace should accompany our death; for dishonor is often harder to be borne, and wounds us more grievously, than any other evil. The Prophet then means that the Israelites would not only be miserable, but would also be subject to the reproaches and taunts of their enemies. We indeed know that the Philistine were inveterate in their hatred to the people of God; and we know that they ever took occasion to upbraid them with their evils and calamities.
This then is the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, In Gath declare it not, by weeping weep not; as though he said, “Though extreme evils shall come upon you, yet seek to perish in silence; for you will find that your enemies will gape for the opportunity to cut you with their taunts, when they shall see you thus miserable. He then forbids the people’s calamities to be told in Gath; for the Philistine usually desired nothing more than the opportunity to torment the people of God with reproaches.
It now follows, In the house of Aphrah, in dust roll thyself There is here an alliteration which cannot be conveyed in Latin: for
But we must ever bear in mind the object of the Prophet: for he here rouses the Israelites as it were with the sharpest goads, who entertained no just idea of the dreadfulness of God’s vengeance, but were ever deaf to all threatening. The Prophet then shows that the execution of this vengeance which he denounced was ready at hand; and he himself not only mourned, but called others also to mourning. He speaks of the whole country, as we shall see by what follows. I shall quickly run over the whole of this chapter; for there is no need of long explanation, as you will find.
The Prophet here addresses the cities which were on the borders of the kingdom of Israel, and through which the enemy would pass in entering the kingdom of Judah. He therefore bids the inhabitants of the city Saphir to pass over, and says, that the city would be ashamed or in a shameful manner naked. The word
He now adds, Take will the enemy from you his station. The verb
(71) This verse is variously rendered; by Newcome thus,—
Pass on, thou inhabitress of Saphir, naked and in confusion.
The inhabitants of Zanan went not forth to wailing.
O Beth-Ezel, he shall receive of you the reward ofhis station against you.
By Henderson thus,—
Pass on, thou inhabitant of Shaphir, naked and ashamed;
The inhabitant of Zanan goeth not forth;
The wailing of Beth-Ezel will take away continuance from you.
It seems more consistent to take all the verbs in this and the preceding verse as imperatives, though they be not in the same person. Those in the second are evidently so; and I would render such as are in the third person as imperatives too. That Saphir, Zaanan, etc, as well as those which follow, are not appellatives, but proper names of places within or on the borders of Judah, is what is allowed by most, though not by all, especially by some of the ancient commentators, at least with regard to some of the names. I offer the following version of the tenth and eleventh verses, —
10. In Gath declare ye it not, in Acco weep not;
In Beth-Ophrah, roll thyself in dust:
11. Pass thou over, yea, thou, O inhabitant of Saphir,
Naked andin shame;
Let not the inhabitant of Zaanan go forth wailing;
Let Beth-Azel take from you its position;
that is, follow your example.
The last word,
The Prophet joins here another city even Maroth, and others also in the following verses. But in this verse he says, that Maroth would be in sorrow for a lost good. The verb
But we must notice, that evil was nigh at hand from Jehovah, for he reminds them, that though the whole country would be desolated by the Assyrians, yet God would be the chief leader, since he would employ the work of all those who would afflict the people of Israel. That the Jews then, as well as the Israelites might know, that they had to do, not with men only, but also with God, the celestial Judge, the Prophet distinctly expresses that all this would proceed from Jehovah. He afterwards adds —
(72) Grieving is the idea commonly given to the verb here used. “
By bidding the citizens of Lachish to tie their chariots to dromedaries he intimates that it would not be not safe for them to remain in their city, and that nothing would be better for them than to flee elsewhere and to carry away their substance. “Think,” he says, “of flight, and of the quickest flight.” The word
And he then subjoins that that city had been the beginning of sin to the Jews; for though he names here the daughter of Zion, he still includes, by taking a part for it the whole, all the Jews. And why he says that Lachish had been the beginning of sin to the citizens of Jerusalem, we may collect from the next clauses, In thee, he says, were found the transgressions of Israel. The citizens of Lachish were then, no doubt, the first who had embraced the corruptions of Jeroboam, and had thus departed from the pure worship of God. When, therefore, contagion had entered that city, it crept, by degrees, into neighboring places, until at length, as we find, the whole kingdom of Judah had become corrupt: and this is what the Prophet repeats more fully in other places. It was not then without reason that he denounces desolation here on the citizens of Lachish; for they had been the authors of sin to their own kindred. However alienated the ten tribes had become from pure faith and pure worship, the kingdom of Judah remained still upright, until Lachish opened the door to ungodly superstitions; and then its superstitions spread through the whole of Judea. She therefore suffered the punishment which she deserved, when she was drawn away into distant exile, or, at least, when she could not otherwise escape from danger, than by fleeing into some fear country, and that very swiftly. She is the beginning, he says, of sin to the daughter of Zion How so? For in thee — (it is more emphatical when the Prophet turns his discourse to Lachish itself) — in thee, he says, were found the transgressions of Israel. It follows —
Here the Prophet alludes to another thing, — that they would attempt to pacify their enemies with gifts, and would try to redeem themselves and their neighbors. But the Prophet expressly mentions this, that the event might teach them that nothing happens without a design; for it ought to work a greater conviction in blind and obstinate men, when they see that they really find that to be true which had been long before predicted. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet enumerates here various particulars; it was, that the hand of God might be more evident and conspicuous when he would begin, in an especial manner, to fulfill all the things which he now in words foretells, Thou, he says, wilt send a gift for Moreseth-gath; that is, for a neighboring city. And he calls it Moreseth-gath, to distinguish it from another city of the same name. Thou wilt then send gifts for Moreseth-gath, to the sons of Achzib for a lie
(73) The two lines of this verse are improperly connected, and the word “sons” is substituted for “houses,”
Therefore thou wilt send presents to Moresheth-gath:
The houses of Achzib will be a lie ( i.e.,false) to the kings of Israel.
Henderson, after Cocceius, gives a different meaning to “presents,”
The Prophet here threatens his own birth place, as he had done other cities; for, as we have stated, he sprung from this city. He does not now spare his own kindred: for as God is no respecter of persons, so also God’s servants ought, as with closed eyes, to deal impartially with all, so as not to be turned here and there either by favor or by hatred, but to follows without any change, whatever the Lord commands them. We see that Micah was endued with this spirit, for he reproved his own kindred, as he had hitherto reproved others.
There is a peculiar meaning in the word, Mareshah, for it is derived from
(75) The instances of paranomasia or alliteration in this passage, including this line and the five preceding verses, are unparalleled in any other parts of the Prophets; and when there is no coincidence of sound in the words, there is sometimes a direct contrast in the ideas, as good and evil in verse12. — Ed.
(76) Of all the various renderings of this clause, this is the most satisfactory, which is that of our own version. The substitution of “honor” for “glory,” on the mere authority of the Targum, as is done by Newcome, is wholly indefensible.
The Prophet at length concludes that nothing remained for the people but lamentation; for the Lord had resolved to desolate and destroy the whole country. Now they were wont in mourning, as we have seen in other places, to shave and even tear off their hair: and some think that the verb
Make bald, he says, for the children of thy delicacies (77) The Prophet here indirectly upbraids those perverse men, who after so many warnings had not repented, with the neglect of God’s forbearance: for whence did those delicacies proceed, except from the extreme kindness of God in long sparing the Israelites, notwithstanding their disobedience? The Prophet then shows here that they had very long abused the patience of God, while they each immersed themselves in their delicacies. Now, he says, Enlarge thy baldness as the eagle Eagles are wont to cast off their feathers; and hence he compares here bald men to eagles, as though he called them, Hairless. As then the eagles are for a certain time without feathers until they recover them; so also you shall be hairless, even on account of your mourning. He says, For they have migrated from thee He intimates that the Israelites would become exiles, that the land might remain desolate. Now follows —
(77) Or, “children of thy indulgences or luxuries,” i.e., luxurious children, rather than “darling children,” as rendered by Henderson. The Septuagint has
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Micah 1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany