The Prophet in this chapter assails and severely reproves the chief men as well as the teachers; for both were given to avarice and cruelty, to plunder, and, in short, to all other vices. And he begins with the magistrates, who exercised authority among the people; and briefly relates the words in which he inveighed against them. We have said elsewhere, that the Prophets did not record all that they had spoken, but only touched shortly on the heads or chief points: and this was done by Micah, that we might know what he did for forty or more years, in which he executed his office. He could have related, no doubt, in half-an-hour, all that exists of his writings: but from this small book, however small it is, we may learn what was the Prophet’s manner of teaching, and on what things he chiefly dwelt. I will now return to his words.
He says that the chief men of the kingdom had been reproved by him. It is probable, that these words were addressed to the Jews; for though at the beginning he includes the Israelites, we yet know that he was given as a teacher to the Jews, and not to the kingdom of Israel. It was as it were accidental, that he sometimes introduces the ten tribes together with the Jews. This address then was made, as I think, to the king as well as to his counselors and other judges, who then ruled over the people of Judah.
Hear this, I pray, he says. Such a preface betokens carelessness in the judges; for why does he demand a hearing from them, except that they had become so torpid in their vices, that they would attend to nothing? Inasmuch then as so brutal a stupor had seized on them, he says, Hear now ye chiefs, or heads, of Jacob, and ye rulers of the house of Israel But why does he still speak of the house of Israel? Because that name was especially known and celebrated, whenever a mention was made of the posterity of Abraham: and the other Prophets, even while speaking of the kingdom of Judah, often make use of this title, “ye who are called by the name of Israel;” and they did this, on account of the dignity of the holy Patriarch; and the meaning of the word itself was no ordinary testimonial of excellency as to his whole race. And this is what is frequently done by Isaiah. But the name of Israel is not put here, as elsewhere, as a title of distinction: on the contrary, the Prophet here amplifies their sin, because they were so corrupt, though they were the chief men among the chosen race, being those whom God had honored with so much dignity, as to set them over his Church and elect people. It was then an ingratitude, not to be endured to abuse that high and sacred authority, which had been conferred on them by God.
Does it not belong to you, he says, to know judgment?Here he intimates that rectitude ought to have a place among the chief men, in a manner more especial than among the common people; for it behaves them to excel others in the knowledge of what is just and right: for though the difference between good and evil be engraven on the hearts of all, yet they, who hold supremacy among the people, and excel in power, are as it were the eyes of the community; as the eyes direct the whole body, so also they, who are placed in any situation of honor, are thus made eminent, that they may show the right way to others. Hence by the word, to know,the Prophet intimates that they wickedly subverted the whole order of nature, for they were blind, while they ought to have been the luminaries of the whole people. Is it not for you, he says, to know judgment and equity? But why was this said, especially to the chief men? Because they, though they of themselves knew what was right, having the law engraven within ought yet as leaders to have possessed superior knowledge, so as to outshine others. It is therefore your duty to know judgment. We hence learn that it is not enough for princes and magistrates to be well disposed and upright; but it is required of them to know judgment and wisdom that they may discern matters above the common people. But if they are not thus endued with the gift of understanding and wisdom let them ask of the Lord. We indeed know, that without the Spirit of God, the acutest men are wholly unfit to rule; nor is it in vain, that the free Spirit of God is set forth, as holding the supreme power in the world; for we are thus reminded, that even they who are endued with the chief gifts are wholly incapable of governing except the Spirit of God be with them. This passage then shows that an upright mind is not a sufficient qualification in princes; they must also excel in wisdom, that they may be, as we have already said, as the eyes are to the body. In this sense it is that Micah now says that it belonged to the leaders of the people to know judgment and justice.
And I said – God’s love for us is the great incitement, constrainer, vivifier of His creature’s love. Micah had just spoken of God’s love of Israel; how He would gather them into one fold under One Shepherd, guard them, lead them, remove all difficulties before them, be Himself their Head and enable them to follow Him. He turns then to them. These are God’s doings; this, God has in store for you hereafter. Even when mercy itself shall require chastisement, He doth not cast off forever. The desolation is but the forerunner of future mercy. What then do ye? The prophet appeals to them, class by class. There was one general corruption of every order of men, through whom Judah could be preserved, princes Mic_3:1-4, prophets Mic_3:5-7, priests Mic_3:11. The salt had lost its savor; wherewith could it be seasoned? whereby could the decaying mass of the people be kept from entire corruption?
Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel – He arraigns them by the same name, under which He had first promised mercy. He had first promised mercy to all Jacob and the remnant of Israel. So now he upraids the “heads of Jacob, and the princes of the house of Israel,” lest they should deceive themselves. At the same time he recalls them to the deeds of their father. Judah had succeeded to the birthright, forfeited by Reuben, Simeon and Levi; and in Judah all the promises of the Messiah were laid up. But he was not like the three great patriarchs, the father of the faithful (Abraham), or the meek Isaac, or the much-tried Jacob. The name then had not the reminiscences, or force of appeal, contained in the titles, seed of Abraham, or Isaac, or Israel.
Is it not for you to know judgment? – It is a great increase of guilt, when persons neglect or pervert what it is their special duty and office to guard; as when teachers corrupt doctrine, or preachers give in to a low standard of morals, or judges pervert judgment. The “princes” here spoken or are so named from judging, “deciding” causes. They are the same its the “rulers,” whom Isaiah at the same time upbraids, as being, from their sins, rulers of Sodom , whose hands were full of blood Isa_1:15. They who do not right, in time cease, in great measure, to know it. As God withdraws His grace, the mind is darkened and can no longer see it. So it is said of Eli’s sons, they were sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord 1Sa_2:12; and, Into a malicious soul Wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in a body that is subject unto sin (Wisd. 1:4). Such , “attain not to know the judgments of God which are a great deep: and the depth of His justice the evil mind findeth not.” But if men will not “know judgment” by doing it, they shall by suffering it.
Mic 3:2 Who hate the good, and love the evil,…. Instead of knowing and doing what was just and right; or, directly contrary to their light and knowledge, and the duty of their office, they hated that which is good, which is agreeable to the law, nature, and will of God, and loved that which is evil, which is contrary thereunto; or they hated to do good, and loved to do evil, as the Targum; as men do who are averse to good, and prone to evil; or they hated a good man, as Aben Ezra, and loved the evil man; not only delighted in committing sin themselves, but took pleasure in those that did it; and could not endure the company and conversation of holy and good men:
who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones: like wild beasts that tear off skin and flesh from the bones, and then devour them; or like cruel shepherds, that, not content to fleece their flocks, skin them, and take their flesh also, and feed themselves, and not the flock; or like butchers, that first take off the skin off a beast, and then cut up its flesh. The design of the expressions is to show what rigour, cruelty, and oppressions, these rulers exercised on the people and by their heavy taxes and levies, and exorbitant penalties and fines, pillaged and plundered them of all they had in the world, and left them quite bare, as bones stripped of their skin and flesh. So the Targum,
“seizing on their substance by violence, and their precious mammon they take away.”
Who hate the good and love the evil – that is, they hate, for its own sake, that which is good, and love that which is evil. The prophet is not here speaking of their “hating good” men, or “loving evil” men, but of their hating goodness and loving wickedness . : “It is sin not to love good; what guilt to hate it! it is faulty, not to flee from evil, what ungodliness to love it!” Man, at first, loves and admires the good, even while he cloth it not; he hates the evil, even while he does it, or as soon as he has done it. But man cannot bear to he at strife with his conscience, and so he ends it, by excusing himself and telling lies to himself. And then, he hates the truth or good with a bitter hatred, because it disturbs the darkness of the false peace with which he would envelop himself. At first, men love only the pleasure connected with the evil; then they make whom they can, evil, because goodness is a reproach to them: in the end, they love evil for its own sake Rom_1:32. pagan morality too distinguished between the incontinent and the unprincipled , the man who sinned under force of temptation, and the man who had lost the sense of right and wrong Joh_3:20. “Everyone that doeth evil, hateth the light. Whoso longeth for things unlawful, hateth the righteousness which rebuketh and punisheth” .
Who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones – He had described the Good Shepherd; now, in contrast, he describes those who ought to be “shepherds of the people,” to feed, guard, direct them, but who were their butchers; who did not shear them, but flayed them; who fed on them, not fed them. He heaps up their guilt, act by act. First they flay, that is, take away their outer goods; then they break their bones in pieces, the most solid parts, on which the whole frame of their body depends, to get at the very marrow of their life, and so feed themselves upon them. And not unlike, though still more fearfully, do they sin, who first remove the skin, as it were, or outward tender fences of God’s graces; (such as is modesty, in regard to inward purity; outward demeanor, of inward virtue; outward forms, of inward devotion;) and so break the strong bones of the sterner virtues, which hold the whole soul together; and with them the whole flesh, or softer graces, becomes one shapeless mass, shred to pieces and consumed. So Ezekiel says; “Woe to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves; should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ye eat the fat and ye clothe you, with the wool, ye kill them that are fed, ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened …” (Eze_34:2-4, add Eze_34:5-10).
Mic 3:2 Suetonius tells us, in his Life of Tiberius, that when the governors of provinces wrote to the emperor, entreating him to increase the tributes, he wrote back: “It is the property of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them.” Praesidibus onerandas tributo provincias suadentibus rescripsit: Boni Pastoris esse Tondere pecus, non Deglubebe. This is a maxim which many rulers of the earth do not seem to understand.
They devour, he says, the flesh of my people, and their skin they strip off from them, and their bones they break in pieces and make small, as that which into the pot is thrown, and which is in the midst of the caldron For when any one throws meat into the pot, he does not take the whole ox, but cuts it into pieces, and having broken it, he then fills with these pieces his pot or his caldron. The Prophet then enhances the cruelty of the princes; they were not content with one kind of oppression, but exercised every species of barbarous cruelty towards the people, and were in every respect like bears, or wolves, or lions, or some other savage beasts, and that they were also like gluttons. We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning.
Now this passage teaches us what God requires mainly from those in power, — that they abstain from doing injustice: for as they are armed with power, so they ought to be a law to themselves. They assume authority over others; let them then begin with themselves, and restrain themselves from doing evil. For when a private man is disposed to do harm, he is restrained at least by fear of the laws, and dares not to do any thing at his pleasure; but in princes there is a greater boldness; and they are able to do greater injustice: and this is the reason why they ought to observe more forbearance and humanity. Hence levity and paternal kindness especially become princes and those in power. But the Prophet here condemns the princes of his age for what deserved the highest reprehension; and their chief crime was cruelty or inhumanity, inasmuch as they spared not their own subjects.
We now see that the Prophet in no degree flattered the great, though they took great pride in their own dignity. But when he saw that they wickedly and basely abused the power committed to them, he boldly resisted them, and exercised the full boldness of the Spirit. He therefore not only calls them robbers or plunderers of the people; but he says, that they were cruel wild beasts; he says, that they devoured the flesh, tore and pulled it in pieces, and made it small; and he says all this, that he might convey an idea of the various kinds of cruelty which they practiced. Now follow threatenings —
Mic 3:3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skins from off them,…. Like cannibals, flay them alive, and then eat their flesh: this signifies, as before, devouring their substance, only expressed in terms which still more set forth their savageness, inhumanity, barbarity, and cruelty. So the Targum,
“who spoil the substance of my people, and their precious mammon they take from them;”
and what aggravated their guilt was, that they were the Lord’s people by profession and religion they so used; whom he had committed to their care to rule over, protect, and defend:
and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron: did with them as cooks do, who not only cut flesh off the bones, and into slices, but break the bones themselves, to get out the marrow, and chop them small, that they may have all the virtue that is in them, to make their soup and broth the richer; by which is signified, that these wicked and avaricious rulers took every method to squeeze the people, and get all their wealth and riches into their hands, that they might have in a more riotous and luxurious manner.
Micah now denounces judgment on the chief men, such as they deserved. He says, They shall cry then to Jehovah The adverb אז, az,is often put indefinitely in Hebrew, and has the force of a demonstrative, and may be taken as pointing out a thing, (δεικτικως— demonstratively,)then,or there, as though the Prophet pointed out by his finger things which could be seen, though they were far away from the sight of men. But in this place, the Prophet seems rather to pursue the subject to which I have already referred: for he had before stated that God would take vengeance on that people. This adverb of time then is connected with the other combinations, which have been already explained. If, however, any one prefer a different meaning, namely that the Prophet meant here to hold them in suspense, as to the nearness of God’s vengeance, I do not oppose him, for this sense is not unsuitable. However this may be, the Prophet here testifies that the crimes of the chief men would not go unpunished, though they did not think themselves to be subject either to laws or to punishment. As then the princes and magistrates regarded themselves as exempt, by some imaginary privilege, from the lot of other people, the Prophet declares here expressly, that a distress was nigh at hand, which would extort a cry from them: for by the word, cry, he means the miseries which were nigh at hand. They shall then cry in their distress. I have now explained the design of the Prophet.
We indeed see how at this day those who are in high stations swell with arrogance; for as they abound in wealth, and as honor is as it were an elevated degree, so that being propped up by the shoulders of others they seem eminent, and as they are also feared by the rest of the people, they are on these accounts led to think that no adversity can happen to them. But the Prophet says, that such would be their distress, that it would draw a cry from them.
They shall then cry, but Jehovah will not hear; that is, they shall be miserable and without any remedy. Jehovah will not answer them, but will hide from them his face, as they have done perversely; that is, God will not hear their complaints; for he will return on their own heads all the injuries with which he now sees his own people to be afflicted. And thus God will show that he was not asleep, while they were with so much effrontery practicing all kinds of wrong.
It may however be asked here, how it is that God rejects the prayers and entreaties of those who cry to him? It must first be observed, that the reprobate, though they rend the air with their cries, do not yet direct their prayers to God; but if they address God himself, they do this clamorously; for they expostulate with him, and contend with him, yea, they vomit out their blasphemies, or at least they murmur and complain of their evils. The ungodly then cry, but not to the Lord; or if they address their cries to God, they are, as it has been said, full of glamour. Hence, except one is guided by the Spirit of God, he cannot pray from the heart. And we know that it is the peculiar office of the Spirit to raise up our hearts to heaven: for in vain we pray, except we bring faith and repentance: and who is the author of these but the Holy Spirit? It appears then that the ungodly so cry, that they only violently contend with God: but this is not the right way of praying. It is therefore no wonder that God rejects their clamors. The ungodly do indeed at times pour forth a flood of prayers and call on God’s name with the mouth; but at the same time they are, as we have said, full of perverseness, and they never really humble themselves before God. Since then they pour forth their prayers from a bitter and a proud heart, this is the reason why the Prophet says now, that the Lord would not then hear, but hide his face from them at that time, inasmuch as they acted perversely
He shows here that God would not be reconciled to men wholly irreclaimable, who could not be restored by any means to the right way. But when any one falls [and repents] he will ever find God propitious to him, as soon as he cries to him; but when with obstinate minds we pursue our own course, and give no place to repentance, we close up the door of mercy against ourselves; and so what the Prophet teaches here necessarily takes place, — the Lord hides his face in the day of distress. And we also hear what the Scripture says, — that judgment will be without mercy to those who are not merciful, (Jas_2:11.) Hence if any one be inexorable to his brethren, (as we see at this day many tyrants to be, and we also see many in the middle class to be of the same tyrannical and wholly sanguinary disposition,) he will at length, whoever he may be, meet with that judgment which Micah here denounces. The sentence then is not to be taken in a general sense, as though he had said, that the Lord would not be reconciled to the wicked; but he points out especially those irreclaimable men, who had wholly hardened themselves, so that they had become, as we have already seen, altogether inflexible. The Prophet now comes to his second reproof.
Mic 3:4 Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them,…. When all the above evils threatened them in the preceding chapters shall come upon them; when the enemy shall invade their hind, besiege their cities, and take them, and they, their families and substance, just ready to fall into their hands, they shall cry unto the Lord; or pray unto him, as the Targum, in the time of their distress; but he will not hear their prayer, so as to answer it according to their desire; that is, he will not save them from imminent danger, but deliver them up, them, and all that belong unto them, into the hands of such that shall use them as they have done others:
he will even hide his face from them at that time; turn his back upon them, and a deaf ear to them, and show them no favour, nor grant them any help and protection:
as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings; he will punish them according to the law of retaliation; as when the poor cried unto them, when they were stripping them of their substance, and they would not hearken to them, so now, when they cry unto the Lord in their distress, he will not hearken to them; and as they turned their backs, and hid their faces from those that were afflicted by them, and would show them no favour, so will the Lord deal with them; and as they exercised the utmost cruelty and barbarity that could be done, they will now be given up into the hands of cruel and merciless men, that will use them in like manner: or, “because they have done ill in their doings” (b) to the poor, whose cause God will defend and vindicate.
(b) כאשר ανθ’ ων “eo quod”, Sept. “quia”, Drusius; “pro eo quod”, Grotius.
Then shall they cry unto the Lord – “Then.” The prophet looks on to the Day of the Lord, which is always before his mind. So the Psalmist, speaking of a time or place not expressed, says, “There were they in great fear” Psa_53:5. He sees it, points to it, as seeing what those to whom he spoke, saw not, and the more awfully, because he saw, with superhuman (certain) vision, what was “hidden from their eyes.” The then was not then, “in the time of grace,” but when the Day of grace should be over, and the Day of Judgment should be come. So of that day, when judgment should set in, God says in Jeremiah, “Behold I will bring evil upon them which they shall not be able to go forth of, and they will cry unto Me, and I will not hearken unto them” Jer_11:11. And David, “They cried and there was none to save; unto the Lord, and He answered them not” Psa_18:41. And Solomon; “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself and shall not be heard” Pro_21:13. And James, “He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy” Jam_2:13. The prayer is never too late, until judgment comes ; the day of grace is over, when the time of judgment has arrived. “They shall cry unto the Lord, and shall not be heard, because they too did not hear those who asked them, and the Lord shall turn His Face from them, because they too turned their face from those who prayed them.”
He will even hide His Face – He will not look in mercy on those who would not receive His look of grace. Your sins, He says by Isaiah, “have hid His face from you, that He heareth not.” O what will that turning away of the Face be, on which hangs eternity!
As – There is a proportion between the sin and the punishment . As I have done, so God hath requited me. “They have behaved themselves ill in their doings. literally have made their deeds evil.” The word rendered doings is almost always used in a bad sense, mighty deeds, and so deeds with a high hand. Not ignorantly or negligently, nor through human frailty, but with set purpose they applied themselves, not to amend but to corrupt their doings, and make them worse. God called to them by all His prophets, make good your doings Jer_35:15; and they, reversing it, used diligence to make their doings evil. Jerome: “All this they shall suffer, because they were not rulers, but tyrants; not Prefects, but lions; not masters of disciples, but wolves of sheep; and they sated themselves with flesh and were fattened, and, as sacrifices for the slaughter, were made ready for the punishment of the Lord. Thus far against evil rulers; then he turns to the false prophets and evil teachers, who by flatteries subvert the people of God, promising them the knowledge of His word.”
Micah accuses here the Prophets, in the first place, of avarice and of a desire for filthy lucre. But he begins by saying that he spoke by God’s command, and as it were from his mouth, in order that his combination might have more weight and power. Thus then saith Jehovah against the Prophets:and he calls them the deceivers of the people: but at the same time he points out the source of the evil, that is, why or by what passion they were instigated to deceive, and that was, because the desire of gain had wholly possessed them, so that they made no difference between what was true and what was false, but only sought to please for the sake of gain. And he shows also, on the other hand, that they were so covetous of gain, that they declared war, if any one did not feed them. And God repeats again the name of his people: this had escaped my notice lately in observing on the words of Micah, that the princes devoured the flesh of God’s people; for the indignity was increased when this wrong, was done to the people of God. Had the Assyrians, or the Ethiopians, or the Egyptians, been pillaged by their princes, it would have been more tolerable; but when the very people of God were thus devoured, it was, as I have said, less to be borne. So when the people of God were deceived, and the truth was turned to a lie, it was a sacrilege the more hateful.
This then was the reason why he said, Who deceive my people “This people is sacred to me, for I have chosen them for myself; as then they are destroyed by frauds and deceptions, is not my majesty in a manner dishonored — is not my authority lessened?” We now then see the reason why the Prophet says, They deceive my people.It is indeed certain, that the Jews were worthy of such deceptions; and God elsewhere declares, that whenever he permitted false prophets to come among them, it was to try them to see what sort of people they were, (Deu_13:0.) It was then their just reward, when liberty was given to Satan to prevent sound doctrine among the people. And no one is ever deceived, except through his own will. Though their own simplicity seems to draw many to destruction, yet there is ever in them some hypocrisy. But it does not extenuate the sin of false teachers, that the people deserve such a punishment: and hence the Prophet still goes on with his reproof and says, that they were the people of God, — in what respect? By adoption. Though then the Jews had rendered themselves unworthy of such an honor, yet God counts them his people, that he might punish the wickedness of the false teachers, of which he now accuses them. It now follows, that they did bite with their teeth But I cannot finish today.
Mic 3:5 Thus saith the Lord, concerning the prophets that make my people err,…. The false prophets, as the Targum; and as the description given of them shows; who, instead of directing the people in the right way, as by their office and characters as prophets they should have done, they led them into mistakes about matters of religion and civil government, and out of the way of their duty to God and men, and exposed them to great danger and distress; and this was the more aggravating, as they were the Lord’s people by name and profession, whom they caused to err from his ways and worship, which brought his displeasure upon them:
that bite with their teeth, and cry, peace; prophesy smooth things, promise all kind of prosperity and plenty, and bite their lips, and keep in those distresses and calamities which they could not but see coming upon the people; or, while they are prophesying good things, they gnash their teeth against the prophets of the Lord, and bitterly inveigh against them for threatening with war, destruction, and captivity; or, by flattering the people with their lips, they bite them, devour their substance, and are the cause of their hurt and ruin; or rather, so long as the people fed them well, and they had a sufficiency to bite and live upon, they foretold happy days unto them, So the Targum,
“he that feeds them with a feast of flesh, they prophesy peace to him;”
which sense is confirmed by what follows,
and he that putteth not into their mouth, they even declare war against him; who do not give them what they ask, or do not feed them according to their desire, do not keep a good table for them, and cram and pamper them, but neglect them, and do not provide well for them; these they threaten with one calamity or another that shall befall them; and endeavour to set their neighbours against them, and even the government itself, and do them all the mischief they can by defamation and slander.
That bite with their teeth – That eat to the full; that are well provided for, and as long as they are so, prophesy smooth things, and cry, Peace! i.e., Ye shall have nothing but peace and prosperity. Whereas the true prophet, “who putteth not into their mouths,” who makes no provision for their evil propensities, “they prepare war against him.” קדשו עליו מלחמה kiddeshu alaiv milchamah, “They sanctify a war against him.” They call on all to help them to put down a man who is speaking evil of the Lord’s people; and predicting the destruction of his temple, and Israel his inheritance.
The prophets that make My people err – Flattering them in their sins and rebellions, promising that they shall go unpunished, that God is not so strict, will not put in force the judgments tie threatens. So Isaiah saith Isa_3:12; O my? people, they which lead thee, mislead thee; and (Isa_9:16, (Isa_9:15 in Hebrew)), the leaders of this people are its misleaders, and they that are led of them are destroyed. And Jeremiah, “The prophets have seen for thee vanity and folly; and they have not discovered thine iniquity to turn away thy captivity, and have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment” Lam_2:14. No error is hopeless, save what is taught in the Name of God.
That bite with their mouths – The word is used of no other biting than the biting of serpents. They were doing real, secret evil “while they cry, that is, proclaim peace;” they bit, as serpents, treacherously, deadlily. They fed, not so much on the gifts, for which they hired themselves to Eze_13:10 speak peace when there was no peace, as on the souls of the givers. So God says by Ezekiel, “Will ye pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls live that should not live, by your lying to My people that hear your lies? Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life – therefore ye shall see no more vanity nor divine divinations” Eze_19:1-14, 22-23. It was with a show of peace that Joab slew Abner and Amasa, and with a kiss of peace Judas betrayed our Lord.
And he that putteth not into their mouths, they prepare war against him – Literally, and (that is, immediately; it was all one; bribes refused, war proclaimed,) “they sanctify war against him.” Like those of whom Joel prophesied , they proclaim war against him in the Name of God, by the authority of God which they had taken to themselves, speaking in His Name who had not sent them. So when our Lord fed the multitude, they would take Him by force and make Him a king; when their hopes were gone and they saw that His Kingdom was not of this world, they said, Crucify him, crucify Him. Much more the Pharisees, who, because He rebuked their covetousness, their devouring widows’ houses, their extortion and excess, their making their proselytes more children of hell than themselves, said, Thou blasphemest. So, when the masters of the possessed damsel whom Paul freed Act_16:19-21, saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they accused him, that he exceedingly troubled their city, teaching customs not lawful to be received.
So Christians were persecuted by the pagan as “hating the human race,” because they would not partake of their sins; as “atheists,” because they worshiped not their gods; as “disloyal” and “public enemies,” because they joined not in unholy festivals; as “unprofitable,” because they neglected things not profitable but harmful. So men are now called “illiberal,” who will not make free with the truth of God; “intolerant,” who will not allow that all faith is matter of opinion, and that there is no certain truth; “precise,” “censorious,” who will not connive at sin, or allow the levity which plays, mothlike, around it and jests at it. The Church and the Gospel are against the world, and so the world which they condemn must be against them; and such is the force of truth and holiness, that it must carry on the war against them in their own name.
God declares here to the false teachers by the mouth of Micah, that he would inflict punishment on them, so that they should be exposed to the reproach of all. Hence the kind of punishment of which the Prophet speaks is — that he would strip the false teachers of all their dignity, so that they should hereafter in vain put on an appearance, and claim the honorable name which they had so long abused. We indeed know, when ungodly and profane men clothe themselves with the dignified titles of being the princes, or bishops, or prelates of the Church, how audaciously they pervert every thing, and do so with impunity. There is then no other remedy, except God pulls off the mask from them, and openly discovers to all their baseness. Of this punishment Micah now speaks.
There shall be to you a night from vision; so is the phrase literally, but the particle מ, mem,means often, for, or, on account of; and we can easily see that the Prophet represents night as the reward for visions and darkness for divination. “As then my people have been deceived by your fallacies, for your visions and divinations have been nothing but lies and deceits, I will repay you with the reward which you have deserved: for instead of a vision you shall have night, and instead of divination you shall have thick darkness.” It is indeed certain, that the false teachers, even when they were, as they say, in great reputation, that is, when they retained the honor and the title of their office, were blind and wholly destitute of all light: but the Prophet here declares, that as their baseness did not appear to the common people, God would cause it to be made at length fully evident. As for instance, there is nothing at this day more stupid and senseless than the bishops of the Papacy: for when any one draws from them any expression about religion, they instantly betray not only their ignorance, but also their shameful stupidity. With regard to the monks, though they be the most audacious kind of animals, (audacissimum animalium genus,) yet we know how unlearned and ignorant they are. Therefore at this time the night has not yet passed away, nor the darkness, of which Micah speaks here.
We now then understand what the Holy Spirit teaches here, and that is, — that God would at length strip those false teachers of that imaginary dignity, on account of which no one dared to speak against them, but received as an oracle whatever they uttered. Night, then, shall be to you instead of a vision; that is, “The whole world shall understand that you are not what you boast yourselves to be: for I will show that there is not in you, no, not a particle of the prophetic spirit, but that ye are men as dark as night, and darkness shall be to you instead of divination. Ye boast of great acuteness and great perspicuity of mind; but I will discover your baseness, so that the very children may know that you are not endued with the spirit.”
To the same purpose is what he adds, Go down shall the sun upon you, and darkened over you shall be the day; that is, such will be that darkness, that even at noon they will see nothing; the sun will shine on all, but they shall grope as in the dark; so that Gods vengeance would be made so manifest, that it might be noticed by all, from the least to the greatest.
Mic 3:6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision,…. Not that those outward gifts and illuminations, and that prophetic light they had, or seemed to have should be taken away from them, and it should be quite a night with them; because these men were never sent of God, or received any message from him, or had any prophetic talents at all, and therefore could not be taken away from them, and they be benighted in this sense; though, it is true, such might be the circumstances they would be brought into, that it should appear to the people that they are the dark persons they were, that they have no vision, nor never had any; but rather the sense is, that such dark providences and dreadful calamities should come upon the people in general, and upon those prophets in particular, often signified by “night” in Scripture, that they would not have the face to pretend any more that they had any vision from God of good times and things. It may be rendered, “therefore night shall be unto you because of vision” (c); calamity should come upon them because of their false and pretended visions of peace and prosperity they deluded the people with:
and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; such darkness of affliction should be upon them, that they would not offer to deliver out any divination or prediction of good things coming upon them; or such darkness and distress would be their portion “because of divination” (d), on account of their lying divinations they had imposed upon the people:
and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them; their time of prosperity will be over, and they shall be no more in favour with the people, or courted and feasted by them; but shall be had in the utmost contempt and abhorrence. The Targum of the whole is,
“therefore ye shall blush at prophesying, and be ashamed of teaching; and tribulation as darkness shall cover the false prophets, and the time shall be darkened upon them.”
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision – In the presence of God’s extreme judgments, even deceivers are at length still; silenced at last by the common misery, if not by awe. The false prophets had promised peace, light, brightness, prosperity; the night of trouble, anguish, darkness, fear, shall Come upon them. So shall they no more dare to speak in the Name of God, while He was by His judgments speaking the contrary in a way which all must hear. They abused God’s gifts and long-suffering against Himself: they could misinterpret His long-suffering into favor, and they did it: their visions of the future were but the reflections of the present and its continuance; they thought that because God was enduring, He was indifferent, and they took His government out of His Hands, and said, that what He appeared to be now, He would ever be. They had no other light, no other foresight. When then the darkness of temporal calamity enveloped them, it shrouded in one common darkness of night all present brightness and all sight of the future.
Rup.: “After Caiaphas had in heart spoken falsehood and a prophecy of blood, although God overruled it to truth which he meant not, all grace of prophecy departed Mat_11:13. The law and the prophets prophesied until John. “The Sun of Righteousness went down over them,” inwardly and outwardly, withdrawing the brightness of His Providence and the inward light of grace.” So Christ Himself forewarned; “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you” Joh_12:35. And so it has remained ever since 2Co_3:15. The veil has been on their hearts. The light is in all the world, but they see it not; it arose to lighten the Gentiles, but they walk on still in darkness. As opposed to holiness, truth, knowledge, divine enlightening of the mind, bright gladness, contrariwise darkness is falsehood, sin, error, blindness of soul, ignorance of divine things, and sorrow. In all these ways, did the Sun go down “over them,” so that the darkness weighed heavily upon them. So too the inventors of heresies pretend to see and to enter into the mysteries of Christ, yet find darkness instead of light, lose even what they think they see, fail even of what truth they seem most to hold; and they shall be in night and darkness, being cast into outer darkness 1Co_8:12; sinning against the brethren, and wounding the weak conscience of those for whom Christ died.
He confirms the same thing in the next verse, And ashamed shall be the seers and confounded the diviners, and they shall cover their lip; that is they will put veils on their mouths. In short, he means, that they would become a reproach to all, so that they would be ashamed of themselves, and no more dare to boast with so much confidence of their name and of the prophetic office.
As to this form of expression, ועטו על-שפם, uothu ol shephim,some think that the practice of mourners is referred to; but this interpretation is frigid. I have therefore no doubt but that Micah intimates that the mouths of the false teachers would be closed. There is nearly the same denunciation mentioned by Zechariah; for speaking of the restoration of the Church, he says, — They who before went about boasting greatly, and gloried in the name of Prophets, shall cast away their mantle, and will no longer dare to show themselves; yea, when they shall come abroad, they shall be as it were herdsman or private persons, and shall say, “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I am chastised by my father;” that is, they shall profess themselves unworthy of being called prophets; but that they are scholars under discipline, (Zec_13:5.) So also in this place, “They deceive at this day my people,” saith the Lord; “I will reward them as they deserve; I will fill them with disgrace and contempt. They shall not then dare hereafter to show themselves as they have been wont to do; they shall not presume boastingly to profess themselves to be the pillars of the Church, that the whole world may be made subject to them; they shall not dare with tyrannical force to oppress the common and ignorant portions of society Veil, then, shall they their mouth; that is, “I will cause their mouth to be closed, so that they shall not dare hereafter to utter even a word.”
It follows, For there will be no answer from God. Some so explain this sentence, as though the Prophet upbraided them with their old deceits, which they boasted were the words of God: as then they were not faithful to God, but lied to miserable men, when they said, that they were sent from above, and brought messages from heaven, while they only uttered their own inventions or fables, they should on these accounts be constrained to cover their mouth. But different is the meaning of the Prophet, and it is this, — that they were to be deprived of any answer, so that their want of knowledge might be easily perceived even by the most ignorant: for false teachers, though they possess nothing certain, yet deceive the simple with disguises, and render plausible their absurdities, that they may seem to be the interpreters of God; and they further add great confidence: and then the stupidity of the people concedes to them such great power, according to what is said by Jer_5:0 where he says that the priests received gifts and that for gifts the Prophets divined, and that the people loved such deprivations. But Micah declares here that such delusions would no longer be allowed, for God would dissipate them. It will then be made evident, that you have no answer from God;that is, “All will perceive that you are void and destitute of every celestial truth, and that you were formerly but gross cheats, when ye passed yourselves as God’s servants, though you had no ground for doing so.”
We now perceive what the Prophet means. But this punishment might have then contributed to the benefit of the people: for as it is a cause of ruin to the world, when there is no difference made between light and darkness; so when the baseness of those is discovered, who abuse God’s name and adulterate his pure truth, there is then a door open to repentance. Rightly then is this combination addressed to false prophets. It now follows —
Mic 3:7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded,…. When the events of things will make it most clearly appear to all that their visions, divinations, and prophecies, are false; they will not be able to lift up their heads, or show their faces, but shame and confusion will cover them:
yea, they shall all cover their lips; stop their mouths, hold their tongues, and be entirely and totally silenced; they will not pretend to utter any other vision or prophecy; nor be able to say one word in defence of themselves, and of what they have before prophesied; every thing in providence being contrary to what they had said, and agreeable to the words of the true prophets; or they shall cover their lips as mourners; as the Targum adds, by way of explanation; see Eze_24:17. It is said (e) there were two gates in Solomon’s temple; one called the gate of the bridegrooms, the other the gate of mourners; to those that entered the latter, if their lip was covered, it was said, he that dwells in this house comfort thee; and so the lips of the false prophets being covered may signify that they were now sorry for what they had done, at least because of the calamities on them and the people; though the former sense seems best:
for there is no answer of God; not that they shall be ashamed and silenced because they shall now have no answer of God, for they never had any, which this would imply; but that it shall now be most plain and clear to all that the Lord never spoke by them, and they never had any answer from him; all their visions, divinations, and prophecies, were of, themselves, and not of him; what they delivered was not the word of the Lord, but their own; and this now being discovered and manifest to everyone, wilt put them to utter silence and shame. The Targum is,
“for there is not in them a spirit of prophecy from the Lord.”
(e) R. Jacob, Sepher Musar, c. 9. apud Drusii Proverb. class. 2. l. 21. sect. 194.
They shall cover their lips – Literally, the hair of the upper lip . This was an action enjoined on lepers Lev_13:45, and a token of mourning Eze_24:17, Eze_24:22; a token then of sorrow and uncleanness. With their lips they had lied, and now they should cover their lips, as men dumb and ashamed. “For there is no answer of God,” as these deceivers had pretended to have. When all things shall come contrary to what they had promised, it shall be clear that God did not send them. And having plainly no answer of God, they shall not dare to feign one then.
Jerome: “Then not even the devils shall receive power to deceive them by their craft. The oracles shall be dumb; the unclean spirit shall not dare to delude.”
Dionysius: “All this is spoken against those who, in the Church of Christ, flatter the rich, or speak as menpleasers, out of avarice, ambition, or any like longing for temporal good, to whom that of Isaiah Isa_3:12 fitteth; the leaders of this people (they who profess to lead them aright) mislead them, and they that are led of them are destroyed.”
Here Micah, in a courageous spirit, stands up alone against all the false teachers even when he saw that they were a large number, and that they appealed to their number, according to their usual practice, as their shield. Hence he says, I am filled with power by the Spirit of Jehovah This confidence is what all God’s servants should possess, that they may not succumb to the empty and vain boastings of those who subvert the whole order of the Church. Whenever then, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false teachers, and them to be popular among those high in honor, as well as the multitude, let this striking example be remembered by us, lest we be discouraged, lest the firmness and invincible power of the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts, but that we may proceed in the course of our calling, and learn to oppose the name of God to all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our service is approved by him, as being faithful. Since, then, Micah says, that he was filled with power,he no doubt stood, as it were, in the presence of the whole people, and alone pitched his camp against the whole multitude; for there were then false teachers going about every where, as the devil sows always seed enough, whenever God lets loose the reins. Though then their number was not small, yet Micah hesitated not to go forth among them: I, he says; there is stress to be laid on the pronoun אנכי, anki,— Ye despise me, being one man, and ye despise a few men; ye may think that I alone serve the Lord; but I am a match for a thousand, yea, for an innumerable multitude; for God is on my side, and he approves of my ministry as it is. from him, nor do I bring any thing to you but what he has commanded: It is then I.
He further expresses a fuller confidence by using the word אולם, aulam; Verily, he says, I am filled with power. This “verily” or truly is opposed to those lofty boastings by which the false prophets were ever wont to attain a name and honor among the people. But Micah intimates that all that they uttered was only evanescent: “Ye are,” he says, “wonderful prophets; nay, ye are superior to the angels, if you are to be believed; but show that you are so in reality; let there be some proof by which your calling can be confirmed. There is no proof. It then follows, that ye are only men of wind, and not really spiritual: but there is really in me what ye boast of with your mouths.” And he says, that he was filled, that he might not be thought one of the common sort: and Micah no doubt shows here, on account of the necessity of the occasion, that he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power; for, according as God employs the labors of his servants, so is he present with them, and furnishes them with suitable protection. When any one is not exercised with great difficulties in discharging his office of teaching, a common measure of the Spirit is only necessary for the performance of his duties; but when any one is drawn into arduous and difficult struggles, he is at the same time especially strengthened by the Lord: and we see daily examples of this; for many simple men, who have never been trained up in learning, have yet been so endued by the celestial Spirit, when they came to great trials, that they have closed the mouths of great doctors, who seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God openly proves at this day, that he is the same now as when he formerly endued his servant Micah with a power so rare and so extraordinary. This then is the reason why he says, that he was filled with power.
He afterwards adds, By the Spirit of Jehovah Here the Prophet casts aside every suspicious token of arrogance; lest he should seem to claim anything as his own, he says, that this power was conferred on him from above: and this circumstance ought to be particularly noticed. Though Micah rightly and justly claimed to himself the name of a teacher, he yet had nothing different from others before the world; for all his opponents discharged the same office, and obtained the same honor: the office was common to both parties. Micah was either alone, or connected with Isaiah and a few others. Since then he here dares to set up himself, we see that his call alone must be regarded; for we know how great is the propensity of Satan to oppose the kingdom of Christ, and also how proud and fierce are false teachers. Since then the rage of Satan is well known and the presumption of false teachers, there is no reason why the faithful should make much of mere naked titles: and when they, who lived at that time, declared, as Papists do at this day, that they had no discrimination nor judgment to know, whether of them ought to have been deemed impostors or the ministers of God, inasmuch as Micah was alone and they were many, and also that the others were prophets that at least they had the name and repute of being so, — what was to be done? This was the reason why I have said that this circumstance was worthy of special notice, — that though their vocation was common, yet as they had acted perfidiously, and Micah alone, or with few others, had faithfully performed what the Lord had commanded, he alone is to be deemed a Prophet and a teacher: in short, there is no reason for false prophets to set up against us a mere coveting, when they cannot prove that they are endued with the Spirit of God. Whosoever then desires to be deemed a servant of God, and a teacher in his Church, must have this seal which Micah here adduces; he must be endued with the Spirit of God; honor then will be given to God. But if any one brings nothing but the name, we see how vain before God it is.
He afterwards subjoins With judgment and courage. (fortitudine) By judgment, I have no doubt, he understands discernment, as this is also the common meaning of the word. He then adds courage. These two things are especially necessary for all ministers of the word, — that is, to excel in wisdom, to understand what is true and right, and to be also endued with inflexible firmness, by which they may overcome both Satan and the whole world, and never turn aside from their course, though the devil may in all ways assail them. We hence see what these two words import. He had put כח, kech, first, power; but now he mentions גבורה, gebure, courage or magnanimity. By the term, power, he meant generally all the endowments, with which all who take upon them the office of teaching ought to be adorned. This qualification is then first required, and it is a general one: but Micah divides this power of the prophets into two kinds, even into wisdom or judgment, and into courage; and he did this, that they might understand what God intended: Let them excel in doctrine; and then that they may be confirmed, let them not yield to any gales that may blow, nor be overcome by threats and terrors; let them not bend here and there to please the world; in a word, let them not succumb to any corruptions: it is therefore necessary to add courage to judgment.
He then adds, To declare to Jacob his wickedness, and to Israel his sin. We here see that the Prophet did not hunt for the favor of the people. Had he courted their approbation, he must have soothed with flatteries those who sought flatteries; and were already seized with such hatred and malignant feelings, that they had rejected Micah. He must then have spoken softly to them, to please them; but this he did not do. “On the one hand,” he says, “these men sell to you their blessings and deceive you with the hope of peace; and, on the other, they denounce war, except their voracity is satisfied; and thus it is that they please you; for so ye wish, and ye seek such teachers as will promise you wine and strong drink: but I am sent to you for another purpose; for the Lord has not deposited flatteries with me, such as may be pleasant to you; but he has deposited reproofs and threatenings. I shall therefore uncover your crimes, and will not hesitate to condemn you before the whole world, for ye deserve to be thus treated.” We now perceive why the Prophet says, that he was endued with power to declare his wickedness to Jacob, etc.
But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God’s servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as it is said in Eze_3:8; nor must we yield to their fury, but preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this courage of which Micah speaks.
As I have already shown that God’s servants ought courageously to break through all those obstacles by which Satan may attempt either to delay or to force them backward; so also the doctrine taught here ought to be applied to all the godly: they ought wisely to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors who falsely pretend his name. Then no one, who desires truly and from the heart to obey God, will be deceived; for the Lord will ever give the spirit of judgment and discrimination. And the reason why at this day many miserable souls are led to endless ruin is, because they either shut their eyes, or willfully dissemble, or designedly involve themselves in such subterfuges as these, — “I cannot form any judgment; I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, at least those who are in some repute and esteem: some call me to the right hand, and others to the left, where am I to retake myself? I therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears.” Thus many, seeking a cloak for their sloth, often manifest their ignorance: for we see that the eyes must be opened when the Lord exercises and tries our faith: and he suffers discords and contentions to arise in the Church that some may choose this, and others that. Though God then relaxes the reins of Satan, that contests and turmoils of this kind may be excited in the Church, there is yet no excuse for us, if we follow not what the Lord prescribes; for he will ever guide us by his Spirit, provided we foster not our own slothfulness. It follows—
And truly I – (Literally, contrariwise I,) that is, whereas they shall be void and no word in them, “I am full of (or filled with) power by the Spirit of the Lord and of judgment and might.” The false prophets, walked after their own spirit, Eze_13:3. Their only power or influence was from without, from favoring circumstances, from adapting themselves to the great or to the people, going along with the tide, and impelling persons whither they wished to go. The power of the true prophet was inherent, and that by gift of “the Spirit of the Lord”. And so, while adverse circumstances silenced the false prophets, they called forth the more the energy of the true, whose power was from Him in whose Hands the world is. The adverse circumstances to the false prophets were God’s judgments; to the true, they were man’s refractoriness, rebellion, oppressiveness. Now was the time of the false prophets; now, at a distance, they could foretell hardily, because they could not yet be convicted of untruth. When trouble came, they went into the inner chamber to hide 1Ki_22:25 themselves. Micah, amid the wild tumult of the people Psa_65:7, was fearless, upborne by Him who controls, stills, or looses it, to do His Sovereign Will.
I am filled with power – So our Lord bade His Apostles, “Tarry ye, until ye be endued with power from on high” Luk_24:49 : “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” Act_1:8; and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” Act_2:4. The three gifts, “power, judgment, might,” are the fruits of the One Spirit of God, through whom the prophet was filled with them. Of these, “power” is always strength residing in the person, whether it be the “power” (Exo_15:6; Exo_32:11; Num_14:17, etc.) or “might of wisdom” Job_36:5 of Almighty God Himself, or “power” which He imparts Deu_8:18; Jdg_16:5, Jdg_16:9, Jdg_16:19 or implants . But it is always power lodged in the person, to be put forth by him. Here, as in John the Immerser Luk_1:17 or the Apostles Luk_24:49, it is divine power, given through God the Holy Spirit, to accomplish that for which he was sent, as Paul was endued with might 2Co_10:5, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. It is just that, which is so wanting to human words, which is so characteristic of the word of God, “power.”
“Judgment” is, from its form, not so much discernment in the human being, as “the thing judged,” pronounced by God, the righteous judgment of God, and righteous judgment in man conformably therewith (as in Pro_1:3; Isa_1:21; Isa_5:7). It was what, he goes on to say, the great men of his people abhorred Mic_3:9, equity. With this he was filled. This was the substance of his message, right judgment to be enacted by them, to which he was to exhort them, or which, on their refusal, was to be pronounced upon them in the Name of God the Judge of all, and to be executed upon them. “Might” is courage or boldness to deliver the message of God, not awed or hindered by any adversaries. It is that holy courage, of which Paul speaks, “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds, that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” Eph_6:19-20. So too, after the Apostles had been “straitly threatened that they should speak no more in the Name of Jesus, all, having prayed, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spake the word of God with boldness” Act_4:18, Act_4:31. Dionysius: “Whoso is so strengthened and arrayed, uttereth fiery words, Whereby hearers’ hearts are moved and changed. But whoso speaketh of his own mind, doth good neither to himself nor others.”
So then, of the three gifts, “power” expresses the divine might lodged in him; “judgment,” the substance of what he had to deliver; “might or courage,” the strength to deliver it in face of human power, persecution, ridicule, death.
Lap.: “These gifts the prophets know are not their own, but are from the Spirit of God, and are by Him inspired into them. Such was the spirit of Elijah, unconquered, energetic, fiery, of whom it is said, ‘Then stood up Elias as fire, and his word burned like a lamp’ (Ecclus. 48:1). Such was Isaiah, ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins’ Isa_58:1. Such was Jeremiah; ‘Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary of holding in. I have set thee for a trier among My people, a strong fort; and thou shalt know and try their ways’ Jer_6:11, Jer_6:27. Such was John Baptist, who said, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’ Mat_3:7. Such was Paul, who, when he Act_24:25 reasoned of temperance, righteousness and judgment to come, made Felix tremble, though unbelieving and ungodly. Such were the Apostles, who, when they had received the Holy Spirit Psa_48:8, broke, with a mighty breath, ships and kings of Tarshish. Such will be Elias and Enoch at the end of the world, striving against antichrist, of whom it is said Rev_11:5, if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies.”
The Prophet begins really to prove what he had stated, — that he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: and it was, as they say, an actual proof, when the Prophet dreaded no worldly power, but boldly addressed the princes and provoked their rage against him, Hear,he says, ye heads, ye rulers of the house of Jacob, ye men who are cruel, bloody, and iniquitous. We then see that the Prophet had not boasted of what he did not without delay really confirm. But he began with saying, that he was filled with the Spirit of God, that he might more freely address them, and that he might check their insolence. We indeed know that the ungodly are so led on headlong by Satan, that they hesitate not to resist God himself: but yet the name of God is often to them a sort of a hidden chain. However much then the wicked may rage, they yet become less ferocious when the name of God is introduced. This is the reason why the Prophet had mentioned the Spirit of God; it was, that there might be a freer course to his doctrine.
When he now says, Ye heads of the house of Jacob, ye rulers of the house of Israel, it is by way of concession, as though he had said, that these were indeed splendid titles, and that he was not so absurd as not to acknowledge what had been given them by God, even that they were eminent, a chosen race, being the children of Abraham. The Prophet then concedes to the princes what belonged to them, as though he had said, that he was not a seditious man, who had no care nor consideration for civil order. And this defense was very necessary, for nothing is more common than for the ungodly to charge God’s servants with sedition, whenever they use a freedom of speech as it becomes them. Hence all who govern the state, when they hear their corruptions reproved, or their avarice, or their cruelty, or any of their other crimes, immediately cry out, — “What! if we suffer these things, every thing will be upset: for when all respect is gone, what will follow but brutal outrage? for every one of the common people will rise up against the magistrates and the judges.” Thus then the wicked ever say, that God’s servants are seditious whenever they boldly reprove them. This is the reason why the Prophet concedes to the princes and judges of the people their honor; but a qualifying clause immediately follows, — Ye are indeed the heads, ye are rulers; but yet they hate judgment:” he does not think them worthy of being any longer addressed. He had indeed bidden them to hear as with authority; but having ordered them to hear, he now uncovers their wickedness, They hate,he says, judgments and all rectitude pervert: each of them builds Zion by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity; that is, they turn their pillages into buildings: “This, forsooth, is the splendor of my holy city even of Zion! where I designed the ark of my covenant to be placed, as in my only habitation, even there buildings are seen constructed by blood and by plunder! See, he says, how wickedly these princes conduct themselves under the cover of their dignity!”
We now see that the word of God is not bound, but that it puts forth its power against the highest as well as the lowest; for it is the Spirit’s office to arraign the whole world, and not a part only. ‘When the Spirit shall come,’ says Christ, ‘it will convince the world,’ (Joh_16:8.) He speaks not there of the common people only, but of the whole world, of which princes and magistrates form a prominent part. Let us then know, that though we ought to show respect to judges, (as the Lord has honored them with dignified titles, calling them his vicegerents and also gods,) yet the mouths of Prophets ought not to be closed; but they ought, without making any difference, to correct whatever is deserving of reproof, and not to spare even the chief men themselves. This is what ought in the first place to be observed.
Hear this, I pray you – The prophet discharges upon them that “judgment” whereof, by the Spirit of God, he was full, and which they “abhorred; judgment” against their perversion of judgment. He rebukes the same classes as before “the heads and judges” Mic_3:1, yet still more sternly. They abhorred judgment, he says, as a thing loathsome and abominable, such as men cannot bear even to look upon; they not only dealt wrongly, but they “perverted, distorted, all equity:” “that so there should not remain even some slight justice in the city” . “All equity;” all of every sort, right, rectitude, uprightness, straight-forwardness, whatever was right by natural conscience or by God’s law, they distorted, like the sophists making the worse appear the better cause. Naked violence crushes the individual; perversion of equity destroys the fountain-head of justice. The prophet turns from them in these words, as one who could not bear to look upon their misdeeds, and who would not speak to them; “they pervert;” building; “her heads, her priests, her prophets;” as Elisha, but for the presence of Jehoshaphat, would not look on Jehoram, nor see him 2Ki_3:14. He first turns and speaks of them, as one man, as if they were all one in evil;
Then when he says, that Zion was built by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity,it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that whatever the great men expended on their palaces had been procured, and, as it were, scraped together from blood and plunder. The judges could not have possibly seized on spoils on every side, without being bloody, that is, without pillaging the poor: for the judges were for the most part corrupted by the rich and the great; and then they destroyed the miserable and the innocent. He then who is corrupted by money will become at the same time a thief; and he will not only extort money, but will also shed blood. There is then no wonder that Micah says, that Zion was built by bloodHe afterwards extends wider his meaning and mentions iniquity,as he wished to cast off every excuse from hypocrites. The expression is indeed somewhat strong, when he says, that Zion was built by blood. They might have objected and said, that they were not so cruel, though they could not wholly clear themselves from the charge of avarice. “When I speak of blood,” says the Prophet, “there is no reason that we should contend about a name; for all iniquity is blood before God: if then your houses have been built by plunder, your cruelty is sufficiently proved; it is as though miserable and innocent men had been slain by your own hands.” The words, Zionand Jerusalem,enhance their sin; for they polluted the holy city and the mount on which the temple was built by the order and command of God.
Mic 3:10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. Or, “O thou that buildest up” (g), &c. or “everyone of them that buildeth up” (h), &c. for the word is in the singular number; but, be fire words rendered either of these ways, they respect the heads and princes of the people; who either repaired the temple on Zion, or ornamented the king’s palace, or built themselves fine stately houses in Jerusalem, or large streets there, by money they took of murderers to save them, as Kimchi; or by money got by rapine and oppression, by spoiling the poor of their goods and their livelihood, for them and their families, which was all one as shedding innocent blood; and by money obtained by bribes, for the perversion of justice, and such like illegal proceedings, truly called iniquity. The Targum is,
“who build their houses in Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with deceits.”
(g) בונה “aedificans”, Montanus, Munster, Burkius. (h) “Quisque eorum aedificat”, Vatablus, Piscator, Drusius.
They build up – (literally, building, sing.) Zion with blood This may be taken literally on both sides, that, the rich built their palaces, “with wealth gotten by bloodshed , by rapine of the poor, by slaughter of the saints,” as Ezekiel says, ‘her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves, to shed blood, to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain’ Eze_22:27. Or by blood he may mean that they indirectly took away life, in that, through wrong judgments, extortion, usury, fraud, oppression, reducing wages or detaining them, they took away what was necessary to support life. So it is said; ‘The bread of the needy is their life, he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbor’s living slayeth him, and he that defraudeth the laborer of his hire is a bloodshedder’ (Ecclus. 34:21, 22). Or it may be, that as David prayed to God, ‘Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem, asking Him thereby to maintain or increase its well-being’ Psa_51:18, so these men thought to promote the temporal prosperity of Jerusalem by doings which were unjust, oppressive, crushing to their inferiors.
So Solomon, in His degenerate days, made the yoke upon his people and his service grievious 1Ki_12:4. So ambitious monarchs by large standing-armies or filling their exchequers drain the life-blood of their people. The physical condition and stature of the poorer population in much of France was lowered permanently by the conscriptions under the first Emperor. In our wealthy nation, the term poverty describes a condition of other days. We have had to coin a new name to designate the misery, offspring of our material prosperity. From our wealthy towns, (as from those of Flanders,) ascends to heaven against us , “the cry of ‘pauperism’ that is, the cry of distress, arrived at a condition of system and of power, and, by an unexpected curse, issuing from the very development of wealth. The political economy of unbelief has been crushed by facts on all the theaters of human activity and industry.”
Truly we “build up Zion with blood,” when we cheapen luxuries and comforts at the price of souls, use Christian toil like brute strength, tempt men to dishonesty and women to other sin, to eke out the scanty wages which alone our selfish thirst for cheapness allows, heedless of every thing save of our individual gratification, or the commercial prosperity, which we have made our god. Most awfully was “Zion built with blood,” when the Jews shed the innocent Blood, that Joh_11:48 the Romans might not take away their place and nation. But since He has said, “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it not unto Me” Mat_25:45, and, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Act_9:4, when Saul was persecuting Christ’s members, then, in this waste of lives and of souls, we are not only wasting the Price of His Blood in ourselves and others, but are slaying Christ anew, and that, from the same motives as those who crucified Him 1Co_8:12. When ye sin (against the members, ye sin against Christ. Our commercial greatness is the Price of His Blood Mat_27:6. In the judgments on the Jews, we may read our own national future; in the woe on those through whom the weak brother perishes for whom Christ died 1Co_8:11, we, if we partake or connive at it, may read our own.
The Prophet shows here first, how gross and supine was the hypocrisy of princes as well as of the priests and prophets: and then he declares that they were greatly deceived in thus soothing themselves with vain flatteries; for the Lord would punish them for their sins since he had in his forbearance spared them, and found that they did not repent. But he does not address here the common people or the multitude, but he attacks the chief men: for he has previously told us, that he was endued with the spirit of courage. It was indeed necessary for the Prophet to be prepared with invincible firmness that he might freely and boldly declare the judgment of God, especially as he had to do with the great and the powerful, who, as it is well known, will not easily, or with unruffled minds, bear their crimes to be exposed; for they wish to be privileged above the ordinary class of men. But the Prophet not only does not spare them, but he even arraigns them alone, as though the blame of all evils lodged only with them, as indeed the contagion had proceeded from them; for though all orders were then corrupt, yet the cause and the beginning of all the evils could not have been ascribed to any but to the chief men themselves.
And he says, Princes for reward judge, priests teach for reward, the prophets divine for money: as though he had said, that the ecclesiastical as well as the civil government was subject to all kinds of corruptions, for all things were made matters of sale. We know that what the Holy Spirit declares elsewhere is ever true, — that by gifts or rewards the eyes of the wise are blinded and the hearts of the just are corrupted, (Sir_20:29,) for as soon erg judges open a way for rewards, they cannot preserve integrity, however much they may wish to do so. And the same is the case with the priests: for if any one is given to avarice, he will adulterate the pure truth: it cannot be, that a complete liberty in teaching should exist, except when the pastor is exempt from all desire of gain. It is not therefore without reason that Micah complains here, that the princes as well as the priests were hirelings in his day; and by this he means, that no integrity remained among them, for the one, as I have said, follows from the other. He does not say, that the princes were either cruel or perfidious, though he had before mentioned these crimes; but in this place he simply calls them mercenaries. But, as I have just said, the one vice cannot be separated from the other; for every one who is hired will pervert judgment, whether he be a teacher or a judge. Nothing then remains pure where avarice bears rule. It was therefore quite sufficient for the Prophet to condemn the judges and the prophets and the priests for avarice; for it is easy hence to conclude, that teaching was exposed to sale, and that judgments were bought, so that he who offered most money easily gained his cause. Princes then judge for reward,and priests also teach for reward
We can learn from this place the difference between prophets and priests. Micah ascribes here the office or the duty of teaching to the priests and leaves divination alone to the prophets. We have said elsewhere, that it happened through the idleness of the priests, that prophets were added to them; for prophesying belonged to them, until being content with the altar, they neglected the office of teaching: and the same thing, as we find, has taken place under the Papacy. For though it be quite evident for what reason pastors were appointed to preside over the Church, we yet see that all, who proudly call themselves pastors, are dumb dogs. Whence is this? Because they think that they discharge their duties, by being only attentive to ceremonies; and they have more than enough to occupy them: for the priestly office under the Papacy is laborious enough as to trifles and scenic performances: (ritus histrionicos— stage-playing rites) but at the same time they neglect the principal thing — to feed the Lord’s flock with the doctrine of salvation. Thus degenerated had the priests become under the Law. What is said by Malachi ought to have been perpetuated, — that the law should be in the mouth of the priest, that he should be the messenger and interpreter of the God of hosts, (Mal_2:7;) but the priests cast from them this office: it became therefore necessary that prophets should be raised up, and as it were beyond the usual course of things while yet the regular course formally remained. But the priests taught in a cold manner; and the prophets divined, that is professed that oracles respecting future things were revealed to them.
This distinction is now observed by the Prophet, when he says, The priests teach for reward,that is, they were mercenaries, and hirelings in their office: and the prophets divined for moneyIt then follows, that they yet leaned on Jehovah,and said, Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? Come then shall not evil upon us.The Prophet shows here, as I have said at the beginning, that these profane men trifled with God: for though they knew that they were extremely wicked, nay, their crimes were openly known to all; yet they were not ashamed to lay claim to the authority of God. And it has, we know, been a common wickedness almost in all ages, and it greatly prevails at this day, — that men are satisfied with having only the outward evidences of being the people of God. There was then indeed an altar erected by the command of God; there were sacrifices made according to the rule of the Law; and there were also great and illustrious promises respecting that kingdom. Since then the sacrifices were daily performed, and since the kingdom still retained its outward form, they thought that God was, in a manner, bound to them. The same is the case at this day with the great part of men; they presumptuously and absurdly boast of the external forms of religion. The Papists possess the name of a Church, with which they are extremely inflated; and then there is a great show and pomp in their ceremonies. The hypocrites also among us boast of Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and the name of Reformation; while, at the same time, these are nothing but mockeries, by which the name of God and the whole of religion are profaned, when no real piety flourishes in the heart. This was the reason why Micah now expostulated with the prophets and the priests, and the king’s counselors; it was, because they falsely pretended that they were the people of God.
But by saying; that they relied on Jehovah,he did not condemn that confidence which really reposes on God; for, in this respect, we cannot exceed the bounds: as God’s goodness is infinite, so we cannot trust in his word too much, if we embrace it in true faith. But the Prophet says, that hypocrites leaned on Jehovah, because they flattered themselves with that naked and empty distinction, that God had adopted them as his people. Hence the word, leaning or recumbing, is not to be applied to the real trust of the heart, but, on the contrary, to the presumption of men, who pretend the name of God, and so give way to their own will, that they shake off not only all fear of God, but also thought and reason. When, therefore, so great and so supine thoughtlessness occupies the minds of men, stupidity presently follows: and yet it is not without reason that Micah employs this expression, for hypocrites persuade themselves that all things will be well with them, as they think that they have God propitious to them. As then they feel no anxiety while they have the idea that God is altogether at peace with them, the Prophet declares, by way of irony, that they relied on Jehovah;as though he had said, that they made the name of God their support: but yet the Prophet speaks in words contrary to their obvious meaning, (καταχρηστικῶς loquitur— speaks catachrestically;) for it is certain that no one relies on Jehovah except he is humbled in himself. It is penitence that leads us to God; for it is when we are cast down that we recumb on him; but he who is inflated with self-confidence flies in the air, and has nothing solid in him. And our Prophet, as I have said, intended indirectly to condemn the false security in which hypocrites sleep, while they think it enough that the Lord had once testified that they would be his people; but the condition is by them disregarded.
He now recites their words, Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? Come will not evil upon us This question is a proof of a haughty self-confidence; for they ask as of a thing indubitable, and it is an emphatic mode of speaking, by which they meant to say, that Jehovah was among them. He who simply affirms a thing, does not show so much pride as these hypocrites when they set forth this question, “Who shall deny that Jehovah dwells in the midst of us?” God had indeed chosen an habitation among them for himself; but a condition was interposed, and yet they wished that he should be, as it were, tied to the temple, though they considered not what God required from them. They hence declared that Jehovah was in the midst of them; nay, they treated with disdain any one who dared to say a word to the contrary: nor is there a doubt but that they poured forth blasts of contempt on the Prophets. For whenever any one threatened what our Prophet immediately subjoins, such an answer as this was ever ready on their lips, — “What! will God then desert us and deny himself? Has he in vain commanded the temple to be built among us? Has he falsely promised that we should be a priestly kingdom? Dost thou not make God a covenant-breaker, by representing him as approving of the terrors of thy discourse? But he cannot deny himself:” We hence see why the Prophet had thus spoken; it was to show that hypocrites boasted so to speaks of their proud confidence, because they thought that God could not be separated from them.
Now this passage teaches us how preposterous it is thus to abuse the name of God. There is indeed a reason why the Lord calls us to himself, for without him we are miserable; he also promises to be propitious to us, though, in many respects, we are guilty before him: he yet, at the same time, calls us to repentance. Whosoever, then, indulges himself and continues sunk in his vices, he is greatly deceived, if he applies to himself the promises of God; for, as it has been said, the one cannot be separated from the other. But when God is propitious to them, they rightly conclude, that all things will be well with them, for we know that the paternal favor of God is a fountain of all felicity. But in this there was a vicious reasoning, — that they promised to themselves the favor of God through a false imagination of the flesh, and not through his word. Thus we see that there is ever in hypocrisy some imitation of piety: but there is a sophistry (paralogismus) either in the principle itself or in the argument.
Mic 3:11 The heads thereof judge for reward,…. That is, the heads or principal men of Zion and Jerusalem; the kings, or sanhedrim, according to Kimchi; but as this prophecy was delivered in the times of Hezekiah, Jer_26:18, be who was so good a king must be excepted from this charge; perhaps it was delivered in the beginning of his reign, before a reformation was made, and might be the occasion of it: the former reign was a very wicked one; and very likely the public officers, judges, and civil magistrates, were as yet continued, and who went on in the same course of injustice, giving the cause not on the right side, but to them that gave them most money, or bribed highest, contrary to the law of God, Deu_16:19;
and the priests thereof teach for hire; for though they had a sufficient and honourable maintenance provided by the law of God for them, yet, not content with this, they took a price of the people for teaching them; and that not such things as were agreeable to the will of God declared in his word, which they ought to have done freely; but such doctrines as were most pleasing to carnal men, and indulged them in their lusts, presumption, and vain confidence:
and the prophets thereof divine for money; tell men what should befall them; what good things they should be possessed of; what plenty and prosperity they should enjoy; and this they did according to the sum of money given them, more or less. This must be understood of the false prophets:
yet will they lean upon the Lord; on his are, providence, and protection, as if they were filled to these things, and might securely rely and depend upon them; though by their sins and transgressions they had forfeited all the bent fits and privileges thereof. To lean by faith upon the Lord; or in his Word, as the Targum; and to trust in his promises, in his power, and faithfulness, and goodness; when this springs from an honest and upright heart, and is attended with the fruits of righteousness and holiness, it is well pleasing to God, and highly regarded by him, and such may, depend upon his blessing and protection; but to talk of faith in him, and reliance upon him, when the whole course of the conversation is wicked, this is abominable in the sight of God, and displeasing to him:
and say, is not the Lord among us? trusting to this, that the temple of the Lord was among them, and that the temple of God were they; that the most holy place was there, where were the symbols of the divine Presence, the ark, cherubim, and mercy seat; and so concluding from hence their safety and security; putting their confidence in outward places and things, in external worship, sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies, when they neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, truth, and mercy: and so
none evil can come upon us: as pestilence, famine, sword, and captivity, the prophets of the Lord had threatened them with.
The heads thereof judge for reward – Every class was corrupted. One sin, the root of all evil 1Ti_6:10, covetousness, entered into all they did. It, not God, was their one end, and so their God. Her heads, the secular authority who Act_23:3 sat to judge according to the law, judged, contrary to the law, “for rewards.” They sat as the representatives of the Majesty of God, in whose Name they judged, whose righteous Judgment and correcting Providence law exhibits and executes, and they profaned it. “To judge for rewards” was in itself sin, forbidden by the law Exo_23:8; Deu_16:19. To refuse justice, unless paid for it, was unjust, degrading to justice. The second sin followed hard upon it, to judge unjustly, absolving the guilty, condemning the innocent, justifying the oppressor, legalizing wrong.
And her priests teach for hire – The Lord was the portion and inheritance Num_18:20; Deu_18:2 of the priest. He had his sustenance assigned him by God, and, therewith, the duty to (Lev_10:10-11, add Deu_17:10-11; Deu_33:10; Hag_2:11 ff) put difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean, and to teach all the statutes, which God had commanded. Their lips were to keep knowledge Mal_2:7. This then, which they were bound to give, they sold. But “whereas it is said to the holy, “Freely ye have received, freely give” Mat_10:8, these, producing the answer of God upon the receipt of money, sold the grace of the Lord for a covetous price.” Probably too, their sin co-operated with and strengthened the sin of the judges. Authorized interpreters of the law, they, to please the wealthy, probably misinterpreted the law. For wicked judges would not have given a price for a righteous interpretation of the law.
The civil authorities were entrusted by God with power to execute the law; the priests were entrusted by Him with the knowledge to expound it. Both employed in its perversion that which God gave them for its maintenance. The princes obtained by bribery the misjudgment of the priests and enforced it; the priests justified the injustice of the Princes. So Arian Bishops, themselves hirelings , by false expositions of Scripture, countenanced Arian Emperors in the oppression of the faithful . “They propped up the heresy by human patronage;” the Emperors “bestowed on” them their “reign of irreligion.” The Arian Emperors tried to efface the Council of Nice by councils of Arian Bishops . Emperors perverted their power, the Bishops their knowledge.
Not publicly only but privately doubtless also, these priests taught falsely for hire, lulling the consciences of those who wished to deceive themselves as to what God forbade, and to obtain from His priests answers in His Name, which might explain away His law in favor of laxity or sin. So people now try to get ill-advised to do against God’s will what they are bent on doing; only they get ill-advised for nothing. One who receives money for giving an irresponsible opinion, places himself in proximate peril of giving the answer which will please those who pay him . “It is Simony to teach and preach the doctrine of Christ and His Gospel, or to give answers to quiet the conscience, for money. For the immediate object of these two acts, is the calling forth of faith, hope, charity, penitence, and other supernatural acts, and the reception of the consolation of the Holy Spirit; and this is, among Christians, their only value. Whence they are accounted things sacred and supernatural; for their immediate end is to things supernatural; and they are done by man, as he is an instrument of the Holy Spirit.”
Jerome: “Thou art permitted, O Priest, to live 1Co_9:13, not to luxuriate, from the altar 1Co_9:9. The mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn is not muzzled. Yet the Apostle 1Co_9:18 abused not the liberty, but 1Ti_6:8 having food and raiment, was therewith content 1Th_2:6; 2Th_3:8; laboring night and clay, that he might not be chargeable to anybody. And in his Epistles he calls God to witness that he 1Th_2:10 lived holily and without avarice in the Gospel of Christ. He asserts this too, not of himself alone but of his disciples, that he had sent no one who would either ask or receive anything from the Churches 2Co_12:17-18. But if in the gifts of those who sent, the grace 2Co_8:6-7 of God, he gathers not for himself but for the Rom_15:26 poor saints at Jerusalem. But these poor saints were they who of the Jews first believed in Christ, and, being cast out by parents, kinsmen, connections, had lost their possessions and all their goods, the priests of the temple and the people destroying them. Let such poor receive. But if on plea of the poor, a few houses are enriched, and we eat in gold, glass and china, let us either with our wealth change our habit, or let not the habit of poverty seek the riches of Senators. What avails the habit of poverty, while a whole crowd of poor longs for the contents of our purse? Wherefore, for our sake who are such, “who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem by iniquity, who judge for gifts, give answers for rewards, divine for money,” and thereon, claiming to ourselves a fictitious sanctity, say, Evil will not come upon us, hear we the sentence of the Lord which follows. Sion and Jerusalem and the mountain of the temple, that is, the temple of Christ, shall, in the consummation and the end, when “love shall wax cold” Mat_24:12 and the faith shall be rare, “be plowed as a field and became heaps as the high places of a forest” Luk_18:8; so that, where once were ample houses and countless heaps of corn, there should only be a poor cottage, keeping up the show of fruit which has no refreshment for the soul.”
The three places, Zion, Jerusalem, the Temple, describe the whole city in its political and religious aspects. Locally, Mount Zion, which occupies the southwest, “had upon it the Upper city,” and “was by much the loftier, and length-ways the straighter.” Jerusalem, as contrasted with Zion, represented the lower city , “supported” on the East by Mount Acra, and including the valley of Tyropoeon. South of Mount Acra and lower than it, at the South Eastern corner of the city, lay Mount Moriah or the Mount of the Lord’s House, separated at this time from Mount Acra by a deep ravine, which was filled up by the Asmonaean princes, who lowered Mount Acra. It was joined to the northeast corner of Mount Zion by the causeway of Solomon across the Tyropoeon. The whole city then in all its parts was to be desolated.
And her prophets divine for money – The word rendered , “divine,” is always used in a bad sense. These prophets then were false prophets, “her prophets” and not God’s, which “divined,” in reality or appearance, giving the answer which their employers, the rich men, wanted, as if it were an answer from God . Yet they also “judge for rewards,” who look rather to the earthly than to the spiritual good; “they teach for hire,” who seek in the first place the things of this world, instead of teaching for the glory of God and the good of souls, and regarding earthly things in the second place only, as the support of life.
And say, Is not the Lord among us? – And after all this, not understanding their sin, as though by their guilt they purchased the love of God, they said in their impenitence, that they were judges, prophets, priests, of God. They do all this, and yet “lean on the Lord;” they stay and trust, not in themselves, but in God; good in itself, had not they been evil! “And say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can (shall) come upon us.” So Jeremiah says, “Trust ye not in lying words saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these” Jer_7:4. Sanch.: “He called them lying words, as being ofttimes repeated by the false prophets, to entice the credulous people to a false security” against the threatenings of God. As though God could not forsake His own people, nor cast away Zion which He had chosen for an habitation for Himself, nor profane His own holy place! Yet it was true that God “was among them,” in the midst of them, as our Lord was among the Jews, though they knew Him not.
Yet if not in the midst of His people so as to hallow, God is in the midst of them to punish. But what else do we than these Jews did, if we lean on the Apostolic line, the possession of Holy Scripture, Sacraments, pure doctrine, without setting ourselves to gain to God the souls of our pagan population? or what else is it for a soul to trust in having been made a member of Christ, or in any gifts of God, unless it be bringing forth fruit with patience? : “Learn we too hence, that all trust in the Merits of Christ is vain, so long as any willfully persist in sin.” John H. Mich: “Know we, that God will be in us also, if we have not faith alone, nor on this account rest, as it were, on Him, but if to faith there be added also the excelling in good works. For faith without works is dead. But when with the riches of faith works concur, then will God indeed be with us, and will strengthen us mightily, and account us friends, and gladden us as His true sons, and free us from all evil.”
Now follows a threatening, Therefore, on your account, Zion as a field shall be plowed, and Jerusalem a heap shall be, and the mount of the house as the high places of a forest We here see how intolerable to God hypocrites are; for it was no ordinary proof of a dreadful vengeance, that the Lord should expose to reproach the holy city, and mount Zion, and his own temple. This revenge, then, being so severe, shows that to God there is nothing less tolerable than that false confidence with which hypocrites swell, for it brings dishonor on God himself; for they could not boast that they were God’s people without aspersing him with many reproaches. What then is the meaning of this, “God is in the midst of us,” except that they thereby declared that they were the representatives (vicarios) of God, that the kingdom was sacred and also the priesthood? Since then they boasted that they did not presumptuously claim either the priesthood or the regal power, but that they were divinely appointed, we hence see that their profanation of God’s name was most shameful. It is then no wonder that God was so exceedingly displeased with them: and hence the Prophet says, For you shall Zion as a field be plowed; as though he said, “This is like something monstrous, that the temple should be subverted, that the holy mount and the whole city should be entirely demolished, and that nothing should remain but a horrible desolation, — who can believe all this? It shall however, take place, and it shall take place on your account; you will have to bear the blame of this so monstrous a change.” For it was as though God had thrown heaven and earth into confusion; inasmuch as he himself was the founder of the temple; and we know with what high encomiums the place was honored. Since then the temple was built, as it were, by the hand of God, how could it be otherwise, but that, when destroyed, the waste and desolate place should be regarded as a memorable proof of vengeance? There is therefore no doubt but that Micah intended to mark out the atrocity of their guilt, when he says, For you shall Zion as a field be plowed, Jerusalem shall become a heap of stones; that is, it shall be so desolated, that no vestige of a city, well formed and regularly built, shall remain.
And the mount of the house, etc.He again mentions Zion, and not without reason: for the Jews thought that they were protected by the city Jerusalem; the whole country rested under its shadow, because it was the holy habitation of God. And again, the city itself depended on the temple, and it was supposed, that it was safe under this protection, and that it could hardly be demolished without overthrowing the throne of God himself: for as God dwelt between the cherubim, it was regarded by the people as a fortress incapable of being assailed. As then the holiness of the mount deceived them, it was necessary to repeat what was then almost incredible, at least difficult of being believed. He therefore adds, The mount of the houseshall be as the high places of a forest;that is, trees shall grow there.
Why does he again declare what had been before expressed with sufficient clearness? Because it was not only a thing difficult to be believed, but also wholly inconsistent with reason, when what the Lord had said was considered, and that overlooked which hypocrites ever forget. God had indeed made a covenant with the people; but hypocrites wished to have God, as it were, bound to them, and, at the same time, to remain themselves free, yea, to have a full liberty to lead a wicked life. Since then the Jews were fixed in this false opinion, — that God could not be disunited from his people, the Prophet confirms the same truth, that the mount of the house would be as the high places of a forest. And, by way of concession, he calls it the mount of the house, that is, of the temple; as though he said, “Though God had chosen to himself a habitation, in which to dwell, yet this favor shall not keep the temple from being deserted and laid waste; for it has been profaned by your wickedness.”
Let us now see at what time Micah delivered this prophecy. This we learn from Jer_26:0; for when Jeremiah prophesied against the temple, he was immediately seized and cast into prison; a tumultuous council was held, and he was well nigh being brought forth unto execution. All the princes condemned him; and when now he had no hope of deliverance, he wished, not so much to plead his own cause, as to denounce a threatening on them, that they might know that they could effect no good by condemning an innocent man. “Micah, the Morasthite,” he said, “prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, and said thus, ‘Zion as a field shall be plowed, Jerusalem shall be a heap, and the mount of the house as the high placers of a forest.’” Did the king and the people, he said, consult together to kill him? Nay, but the king turned, and so God repented; that is, the Lord deferred his vengeance; for king Hezekiah humbly deprecated the punishment which had been denounced. We now then know with certainty the time.
But it was strange that under such a holy king so many and so shameful corruptions prevailed, for he no doubt tried all he could to exercise authority over the people, and by his own example taught the judges faithfully and uprightly to discharge their office; but he was not able, with all his efforts, to prevent the Priests, and the Judges, and the Prophets, from being mercenaries. We hence learn how sedulously pious magistrates ought to labor, lest the state of the Church should degenerate; for however vigilant they may be, they can yet hardly, even with the greatest care, keep things (as mankind are so full of vices) from becoming very soon worse. This is one thing. And now the circumstance of the time ought to be noticed for another purpose: Micah hesitated not to threaten with such a judgment the temple and the city, though he saw that the king was endued with singular virtues. He might have thought thus with himself, “King Hezekiah labored strenuously in the execution of his high office: now if a reproof so sharp and so severe will reach his ears, he will either despond, or think me to be a man extremely rigid, or, it may be, he will become exasperated against sound doctrine.” The Prophet might have weighed these things in his mind; but, nevertheless, he followed his true course in teaching, and there is no doubt but that his severity pleased the king, for we know that he was oppressed with great cares and anxieties, because he could not, by all his striving, keep within proper bounds his counselors, the priests and the prophets. He therefore wished to have God’s servants as his helpers. And this is what pious magistrates always desire, that their toils may in some measure be alleviated by the aid of the ministers of the word; for when the ministers of the word only teach in a cold manner, and are not intent on reproving vices, the severity of the magistrates will be hated by the people. “Why, see, the ministers say nothing, and we hence conclude that they do not perceive so great evils; and yet the magistrates with the drawn sword inflict new punishments daily.” When, therefore, teachers are thus silent, a greater odium no doubt is incurred by the magistrates: it is hence, as I have said, a desirable thing for them, that the free reproofs of teachers should be added to the punishments and judgments of the law.
We further see how calm and meek was the spirit of the king, that he could bear the great severity of the Prophet: Behold, he said, on your accounts etc.:“Thou oughtest at least to have excepted” me.” For the king was not himself guilty. Why then did he connect him with the rest? Because the whole body was infected with contagion, and he spoke generally; and the good king did not retort nor even murmur, but, as we have recited from Jeremiah, he humbly deprecated the wrath of God, as though a part of the guilt belonged to him.
Mic 3:12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field,…. That is, for your sins, as the Targum; for the bloodshed, injustice, and avarice of the princes, priests, and prophets; not that the common people were free from crimes; but these are particularly mentioned, as being ringleaders into sin, and who ought to have set better examples; as also to take off their vain confidence in themselves, who thought that Zion and Jerusalem would be built up and established by them, and preserved for their sakes; as well as to show the prophet’s boldness and intrepidity in his rebukes and menaces of them: now this was prophesied of in the days of Hezekiah, before the invasion of Judea and siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib; it was deferred upon the repentance and reformation of the people; and was fulfilled in part at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, when the city was reduced to a heap of rubbish; and more fully when it was destroyed by the Romans, and ploughed up by Terentius, or Turnus Rufus, as the Jews say; so that there was not a house or building left upon it, but it became utterly desolate and uninhabited, especially in the reign of Adrian:
and Jerusalem shall become heaps; not only the city of David, built on Mount Zion, should be demolished, but the other part of the city called Jerusalem should be thrown down, and its walls and houses lie in heaps, like heaps of stones in the midst of a ploughed field:
and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest; Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built; hence called here, by the Targum, the mountain of the house of the sanctuary; the temple upon it should be destroyed, and not one, tone left upon another; and the place on which it stood be covered with grass and trees, with briers and thorns, as a forest is, all which have been exactly fulfilled. The Jews say (i) of Turnus Rufus before mentioned, that he both ploughed up the city of Jerusalem, and the temple, the ground on which they stood; and Jerom (k) affirms the temple was ploughed up by Titus Annius Ruffus; which, as it literally fulfilled this prophecy, denotes the utter destruction of them; for, as it was usual with the ancients to mark out with a plough the ground on which a city was designed to be built; so they drew one over the spot where any had stood, which was become desolate, and to signify that the city was no more to be rebuilt and inhabited: thus Seneca (l), Horace (m), and other writers, express the utter destruction of a city by such phrases.
(i) T. Hieros. Taaniot. fol. 69. 2. Juchasin, fol. 36. 2. & Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 28. 1. (k) Comment. in Zech. viii. 19. (l) “Aratrum vetustis urbibus inducere”, Seneca de Clementia, l. 1. c. 26. (m) “——Imprimeretque muris Hostile aratrum exercitus insolens”. Hor. Carmin. l. 1. Ode 36.
Therefore shall Zion – be ploughed as a field – It shall undergo a variety of reverses and sackages, till at last there shall not be one stone left on the top of another, that shall not be pulled down; and then a plough shall be drawn along the site of the walls, to signify an irreparable and endless destruction. Of this ancient custom Horace speaks, Odar. lib. i., Od. 16, ver. 18.
“From hence proud cities date their utter falls;
When, insolent in ruin, o’er their walls
The wrathful soldier drags the hostile plough,
That haughty mark of total overthrow.”
Thus did the Romans treat Jerusalem when it was taken by Titus. Turnus Rufus, or as he is called by St. Jerome, Titus Arinius Rufus, or Terentius Rufus, according to Josephus, caused a plough to be drawn over all the courts of the temple to signify that it should never be rebuilt, and the place only serve for agricultural purposes. See the note on Mat_24:2. Thus Jerusalem became heaps, an indiscriminate mass of ruins and rubbish; and the mountain of the house, Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, became so much neglected after the total destruction of the temple, that it soon resembled the high places of the forest. What is said here may apply also, as before hinted, to the ruin of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in the last year of the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of the Jews.
As the Masoretes, in their division of the Bible, reckon the twelve minor prophets but as one book, they mark this verse (Mic_3:12) the Middle verse of these prophets.
Therefore shall Zion for your sake – for your sake shall Zion
Be plowed as a field – They thought to be its builders; they were its destroyers. They imagined to advance or secure its temporal prosperity by bloods; they (as men ever do first or last,) ruined it. Zion might have stood, but for these its acute, far-sighted politicians, who scorned the warnings of the prophets, as well-meant ignorance of the world or of the necessities of the state. They taught, perhaps they thought, that “for Zion’s sake” they, (act as they might,) were secure. Practical Antinomians! God says, that, “for their sake,” Zion, defiled by their deeds, should be destroyed. The fulfillment of the prophecy was delayed by the repentance under Hezekiah. Did he not, the elders ask Jer_26:19, fear the Lord and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them? But the prophecy remained, like that of Jonah against Nineveh, and, when man undid and in act repented of his repentanee, it found its fulfillment.
Jerusalem shall become heaps – (Literally, of ruins) and “the mountain of the house,” Mount Moriah, on which the house of God stood, “as the high places of the forest,” literally “as high places of a forest.” It should return wholly to what it had been, before Abraham offered up the typical sacrifice of his son, a wild and desolate place covered with tangled thickets Gen_22:13.
The prophecy had a first fulfillment at its first capture by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah mourns over it; “Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, foxes walk” Lam_5:18 (habitually upon it. Nehemiah said, “Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste” Neh_2:17; and Sanballat mocked at the attempts to rebuild it, as a thing impossible; “Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of dust, and these too, burned?” (Neh_4:2, (3:34, Hebrew)), and the builders complained; “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed (literally, sinketh under them), and there is much dust, and we are not able to build the wall” (Neh_4:10, (Neh_4:4, Hebrew)). In the desolation under Antiochus again it is related; “they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts, as in a forest or in one of the mountains” (1 Macc. 4:38). When, by the shedding of the Blood of the Lord, they “filled up the measure of their fathers” Mat_23:32, and called the curse upon themselves, “His Blood be upon us and upon our children” Mat_27:25, destruction came upon them to the uttermost.
With the exception of three towers, left to exhibit the greatness of Roman prowess in destroying such and so strong a city, they , “so levelled to the ground the whole circuit of the city, that to a stranger it presented no token of ever having been inhabited.” He “effaced the rest of the city,” says the Jewish historian, himself an eyewitness . The elder Pliny soon after, 77 a.d., speaks of it, as a city which had been and was not . “Where was Jerusalem, far the most renowned city, not of Judaea only, but of the East” , a funeral pile.”
With this corresponds Jerome’s statement , “relics of the city remained for fifty years until the Emperor Hadrian.” Still it was in utter ruins . The toleration of the Jewish school at Jamnia the more illustrates the desolation of Jerusalem where there was none. The Talmud relates how R. Akiba smiled when others wept at seeing a fox coming out of the Holy of holies. This prophecy of Micah being fulfilled, he looked the more for the prophecy of good things to come, connected therewith. Not Jerusalem only, but well-nigh all Judaea was desolated by that war, in which a million and a half perished , beside all who were sold as slaves. “Their country to which you would expell them, is destroyed, and there is no place to receive them,” was Titus’ expostulation to the Antiochenes, who desired to be rid of the Jews their fellow-citizens.
A pagan historian relates how, before the destruction by Hadrian , “many wolves and hyenas entered their cities howling.” Titus however having left above 6,000 Roman soldiers on the spot, a civil population was required to minister to their needs. The Christians who, following our Lord’s warning, had fled to Pella , returned to Jerusalem , and continued there until the second destruction by Hadrian, under fifteen successive Bishops . Some few Jews had been left there ; some very probably returned, since we hear of no prohibition from the Romans, until after the fanatic revolt under Barcocheba. But the fact that when toward the close of Trajan’s reign they burst out simultaneously, in one wild frenzy , upon the surrounding pagan, all along the coast of Africa, Libya, Cyrene, Egypt, the Thebais, Mesopotamia, Cyprus , there was no insurrection in Judaea, implies that there were no great numbers of Jews there.
Judaea, aforetime the center of rebellion, contributed nothing to that wide national insurrection, in which the carnage was so terrible, as though it had been one convulsive effort of the Jews to root out their enemies . Even in the subsequent war under Hadrian, Orosius speaks of them, as “laying waste the province of Palestine, once their own,” as though they had gained possession of it from without, not by insurrection within it. The Jews assert that in the time of Joshua Ben Chananiah (under Trajan) “the kingdom of wickedness decreed that the temple should be rebuilt” . If this was so, the massacres toward the end of Trajan’s reign altered the policy of the Empire. Apparently the Emperors attempted to extinguish the Jewish, as, at other times, the Christian faith. A pagan Author mentions the prohibition of circumcision .
The Jerusalem Talmud speaks of many who for fear became uncircumcised, and renewed the symbol of their faith “when Bar Cozibah got the better, so as to reign 2 12 years among them.” The Jews add, that the prohibition extended to the keeping of the sabbath and the reading of the law . Hadrian’s city, Aelia, was doubtless intended, not only for a strong position, but also to efface the memory of Jerusalem by the Roman and pagan city which was to replace it. Christians, when persecuted, suffered; Jews rebelled. The recognition of Barcocheba, who gave himself out as the Messiah , by Akibah and “all the wise (Jews) of his generation” , made the war national.
Palestine was the chief seat of the war, but not its source. The Jews throughout the Roman world were in arms against their conquerors ; and the number of fortresses and villages which they got possession of, and which were destroyed by the Romans , shows that their successes were far beyond Judaea. Their measures in Judaea attest the desolate condition of the country. They fortified, not towns, but “the advantageous positions of the country, strengthened them with mines and walls, that, if defeated, they might have places of refuge, and communication among themselves underground unperceived.”
For two years, (as appears from the coins struck by Barcocheba They had possession of Jerusalem. It was essential to his claim to be a temporal Messiah. They proposed, at least, to “rebuild their temple” and restore their polity.” But they could not fortify Jerusalem. Its siege is just named ; but the one place which obstinately resisted the Romans was a strong city near Jerusalem , known before only as a deeply indented mountain tract, Bether . Probably, it was one of the strong positions, fortified in haste, at the beginning of the war .
The Jews fulfilled our Lord’s words, “I am come in My Father’s Name and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” Joh_5:43. Their first destruction was the punishment of their Deicide, the crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ; their second they brought upon themselves by accepting a false Christ, a robber and juggler . “580,000 are said to have perished in battle” , besides “an incalculable number by famine and fire, so that all Judaea was made well-nigh a desert.” The Jews say that “no olives remained in Palestine.” Hadrian “destroyed it,” making it “an utter desolation” and “effacing all remains of it.” “We read” , says Jerome (in Joe_1:4), “the expedition of Aelius Hadrianus against the Jews, who so destroyed Jerusalem and its walls, as, from the fragments and ashes of the city to build a city, named from himself, Aelia.” At this time there appears to have been a formal act, whereby the Romans marked the legal annihilation of cities; an act esteemed, at this time, one of most extreme severity . When a city was to be built, its compass was marked with a plow; the Romans, where they willed to unmake a city, did, on rare occasions, turn up its soil with the plow. Hence, the saying , “A city with a plow is built, with a plow overthrown.” The city so plowed forfeited all civil rights ; it was counted to have ceased to be.
The symbolical act under Hadrian appears to have been directed against both the civil and religious existence of their city, since the revolts of the Jews were mixed up with their religious hopes. The Jews relate that both the city generally, and the Temple, were plowed. The plowing of the city was the last of those mournful memories, which made the month Ab a time of sorrow. But the plowing of the temple is also especially recorded. Jerome says , “In this (the 5th Month) was the Temple at Jerusalem burnt and destroyed, both by Nebuchadnezzar, and many years afterward by Titus and Vespasian; the city Bether, whither thousands of Jews had fled, was taken; the Temple was plowed, as an insult to the conquered race, by Titus Annius Rufus.” The Gemara says , “When Turnus, (or it may be “when Tyrant) Rutus plowed the porch,” (of the temple) Perhaps Hadrian meant thus to declare the desecration of the site of the Temple, and so to make way for the further desecration by his temple of Jupiter. He would declare the worship of God at an end.
The horrible desecration of placing the temple of Ashtaroth over the Holy Sepulchre was probably a part of the same policy, to make the Holy City utterly pagan. The “Capitoline” was part of its new name in honor of the Jupiter of the Roman Capitol. Hadrian intended, not to rebuild Jerusalem, but to build a new city under his own name . “The city being thus bared of the Jewish nation, and its old inhabitants having been utterly destroyed, and an alien race settled there, the Roman city which afterward arose, having changed its name, is called Aelia in honor of the Emperor Aelius Hadrianus.” It was a Roman colony , with Roman temples, Roman amphitheaters.
Idolatry was stamped on its coins . Hadrian excluded from it, on the North, almost the whole of Bezetha or the new city, which Agrippa had enclosed by his wall, and, on the South, more than half of Mount Zion , which was left, as Micah foretold, to be plowed as a field. The Jews themselves were prohibited from entering the Holy Land , so that the pagan Celsus says , “they have neither a clod nor a hearth left.” Aelia, then, being a new city, Jerusalem was spoken of, as having ceased to be. The Roman magistrates, even in Palestine, did not know the name . Christians too used the name Aelia and that, in solemn documents, as the Dr. of Nice .
In the 4th century the city was still called Aelia by the Christians , and, on the first Mohammedan coin in the 7th century, it still bore that name. A series of writers speak of the desolation of Jerusalem. In the next century Origen addresses a Jew , “If going to the earthly city, Jerusalem, thou shalt find it overthrown, reduced to dust and ashes, weep not, as ye now do.” : “From that (Hadrian’s) time until now, the extremest desolation having taken possession of the place, their once renowned hill of Zion – now no wise differing from the rest of the country, is cultivated by Romans, so that we ourselves have with our own eyes observed the place plowed by oxen and sown all over. And Jerusalem, being inhabited by aliens, has to this day the stones gathered out of it, all the inhabitants, in our own times too, gathering up the stones out of its ruins for their private or public and common buildings. You may observe with your own eyes the mournful sight, how the stones from the Temple itself and from the Holy of holies have been taken for the idol-temples and to build amphitheaters.” : “Their once holy place has now come to such a state, as in no way to fall short of the overthrow of Sodom.” Hilary, who had been banished into the East, says , “The Royal city of David, taken by the Babylonians and overthrown, held not its queenly dignity under the rule of its lords; but, taken afterward and burnt by the Romans, it now is not.”
Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop of the new town, and delivering his catechetical lectures in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pointed out to his hearers the fulfillment of prophecy ; “The place (Zion) is now filled with gardens of cucumbers.” “If they (the Jews) plead the captivity,” says Athanasius , “and say that on that ground Jerusalem is not.” “The whole world, over which they are scattered,” says Gregory of Nazianzum , “is one monument of their calamity, their worship closed, and the soil of Jerusalem itself scarcely known.”