Mic 4:1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains,…. It appears by the adversative but, with which these words are introduced, that they have a dependence upon and a connection with the last of the preceding chapter; signifying, that though “the mountain of the house”, on which the temple stood, should become desolate, yet “the mountain of the house of the Lord”, which is not literally the same, but what that was typical of, the church of Christ, should be greatly exalted and enlarged; and which, according to this prophecy, would be “in the last days”: that is, as Kimchi rightly interprets it, the days of the Messiah; and it should be observed, that all this will be in the last of his days, or of the Gospel dispensation: the first of these days were the days of Christ in the flesh, the times of his ministry, and of John the Baptist his forerunner, and of his disciples; and were indeed the last days of the Jewish world, or of their civil and church state; and when also it must be allowed the mountain of the Lord’s house, or the temple literally taken, became glorious by the presence of Christ in it, by his doctrine and miracles there, and by the effusion of the Spirit on his disciples in that place, and the ministration of the Gospel; but then all this was before the destruction of the second temple; whereas this prophecy follows that, and is opposed to it, and supposes it; besides, in those times there was not such an exaltation and stability of the church of Christ; nor such a flow of nations to it; nor such a settled and universal peace and security as here promised: this prophecy therefore respects times yet to come, as Aben Ezra observes; the last of the days of the Messiah, or the last times of the Gospel dispensation, when the reign of antichrist will be at an end; he will be destroyed, and the kingdom of Christ set up, established, and enlarged in the world. The Prophet Isaiah predicts the same things, and much in the same words, Isa_2:2; these two prophets were contemporary, and might converse together, and communicate to each other what they had received from the Lord upon this subject; but it is needless to inquire which might have them from the other, since they were both holy men of God, and moved by his Spirit, and were inspired by the same Spirit, with the same things, and to speak the same language; yet there is a diversity in words, though an agreement in sentiment nor does it appear a clear case that they borrowed, much less that they stole, their words from one other, as the false prophets did; for they do not always use the same words to convey the same idea; and there are some words which Isaiah has that Micah has not and there are others that Micah uses that Isaiah has not; though in the whole there is a most beautiful harmony of sense in their diversity of expression. By “the mountain of the house of the Lord” is not meant the temple built on Mount Moriah, where the divine Majesty resided; where were the symbols of his presence, the ark and mercy seat, and where he was worshipped, which has been destroyed long ago, and will never be rebuilt more; for a third temple hereafter to be built at Jerusalem is a mere fiction of the Jews; nor indeed is any material building here intended, and still less any such building to be erected in such an absurd sense, literally taken, as if mountain was piled on mountain, and hill on hill, to raise it higher; but, mystically and spiritually, it designs the church of God, called so because it is built by him, and built for a habitation for him; where he will, at the time here referred to, more manifestly dwell in a spiritual manner; and by whom, and by which spiritual and gracious presence of his, it will be made very beautiful and glorious: and it is signified by a “mountain”, to denote its visibility, immovableness, and perpetuity; and is said to be “established in the top of the mountains”, with respect to the kingdoms of this world, and especially antichristian churches, which, because of their eminence, and largeness, and national establishment, may seem like mountains; but, in the latter day, the true church of Christ, which now may seem like a mole hill to them, will be above them, and will be in a settled state and condition, and not be fluctuating, and tossed to and fro, and removing here and there, as now; but be fixed and stable, and continue so until the second and personal coming of Christ:
and it shall be exalted above the hills: by “hills” may be meant petty kingdoms, inferior to greater monarchies; or religious states, not of Christ’s constitution; and the “exaltation” of the church above them denotes her power over them, to enjoy the one, and crush the other: it may respect the glory of the church, both as to things temporal and spiritual; for now will the kingdoms under the whole heaven be given to the saints of the most High; civil government will come into their hands, the kings and princes of the earth being now members of Gospel churches; so that the church will be in a glorious and exalted state, having riches, power, and authority, a large extent everywhere, and a multitude of members, and those of the highest class and rank, as well as of the meaner and lower sort; and all of them possessed largely of the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God, and enjoying the Gospel and Gospel ordinances in their power and purity:
and the people shall flow unto it: in great abundance, in large numbers, in company like the flowing streams of a river; and may denote not only their numbers, but their swiftness and readiness to join themselves with the church of God, to hear the word, and partake of the ordinances, and of all the privileges of the house of the Lord. It may be rendered, “they shall look unto it”, as the word is translated in Psa_34:6; and so the Targum here,
“and the kingdoms shall look (or turn their faces) to serve upon it;”
and this sense is preferred by many learned Jewish writers (n); and the meaning may be, that multitudes, seeing the glory of the church, and the many desirable things in it, shall look to it with a look of love and affection, and with a wishful look, greatly desiring to be admitted into it. In Isa_2:2; it is said, “and all nations shall flow unto it”: not the people of the Jews only, now converted; or a single and, on only, or some out of that; but all the nations of the world, at least great numbers out of all, by far the greatest in them; such an increase will there be of the churches in the latter day.
(n) R. Saadiah, Abu Walid, R. Tanchuma apud Pocock in loc.
But (And) in the last days it shall come to pass – God’s promises, goodness, truth, fail not. He withdraws His Presence from those who receive Him not, only to give Himself to those who will receive Him. Mercy is the sequel and end of chastisement. Micah then joins on this great prophecy of future mercy to the preceding woe, as its issue in the order of God’s Will. “And it shall be.” He fixes the mind to some great thing which shall come to pass; “it shall be.” Then follows, in marked reference to the preceding privations, a superabundance of mercy. For “the mountain of the house,” which should be as a forest and which was left unto them desolate, there is “the mountain of the Lord’s house established;” for the heap of dust and the plowed field, there is the flowing-in of the Gentiles; for the night and darkness, that there shall be no vision, there is the fullness of revelation; for corrupt judgment, teaching, divining, a law from God Himself going forth through the world; for the building of Jerusalem with blood, one universal peace.
In the last days – Literally, the end of the days, that is, of those days which are in the thoughts of the speaker. Politically, there are many beginnings and many endings; as many endings as there are beginnings, since all human polity begins, only to end, and to be displaced in its turn by some new beginning, which too runs its course, only to end. Religiously, there are but two consummations. All time, since man fell, is divided into two halves, the looking forward to Christ to come in humility; the looking forward to His coming in glory. These are the two events on which man’s history turns. To that former people the whole period of Christ’s kingdom was one future, the fullness of all their own shadows, types, sacrifices, services, prophecies, longing, being. The “end of their days” was the beginning of the new Day of Christ: the coming of His Day was necessarily the close of the former days, the period of the dispensation which prepared for it.
The prophets then by the words, “the end of the days,” always mean the times of the Gospel . “The end of the days” is the close of all which went before, the last dispensation, after which there shall be no other. Yet this too hast “last days” of its own, which shall close God’s kingdom of grace and shall issue in the Second Coming of Christ; as the end of those former days, which closed the times of “the law,” issued in His First Coming. We are then at once living in the last times, and looking on to a last time still to come. In the one way Peter speaks Eph_1:20 of the last times, or the end of the times , in which Christ was manifested for us, in contrast with the foundations of the world, before which He was foreordained.
And Paul contrasts God’s Heb_1:1 speaking to the fathers in the prophets, and at the end of these days speaking to us in the Son; and of our Lord coming Heb_9:26 at the end, consummation, of the times , to put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself; and says that the things which befell the Jews 1Co_10:11 were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the times (that is, of those of the former people of whom he had been speaking) are come; and John speaks of this as 1Jo_2:18 the last time. In the other way, they contrast the last days, not with the times before them but with their own, and then plainly they are a last and distant part of this their own last time .
The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith ; In the last days perilous times shall come : There shall come at the end of the days scoffers : They told you that there should be mockers in the last time. The Jews distributed all time between “this world” and “the coming world” , including under “the coming world” the time of grace under the Messiah’s reign, and the future glory. To us the names have shifted, since this present world Mat_13:40; Eph_1:21; Tit_2:12 is to us the kingdom of Christ, and there remains nothing further on this earth to look to, beyond what God has already given us. Our future then, placed as we are between the two Comings of our Lord, is, of necessity, beyond this world .
The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be – abidingly
Established – He does not say merely, “it shall be established.” Kingdoms may be established at one time, and then come to an end. He says, “it shall be a thing established” . His saying is expanded by Daniel; “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed forever, and it shall abide forever” Dan_2:44. The house of the Lord was the center of His worship, the token of His Presence, the pledge of His revelations and of His abiding acceptance, protection, favor. All these were to be increased and continuous. The image is one familiar to us in the Hebrew Scriptures. People were said to go up to it, as to a place of dignity.
In the Psalm on the carrying of the Ark thither, the hill of God is compared to the many-topped mountains of Basan Psa_68:16-17, (the Hermon-peaks which bound Basan,) and so declared to be greater than they, as being the object of God’s choice. The mountain where God was worshiped rose above the mountains of idolatry. Ezekiel, varying the image, speaks of the Gospel as an overshadowing cedar Eze_17:22-23, planted by God upon an high mountain and an eminent, in the mountain of the height of Israel, under which should dwell all fowl of every wing; and, in his vision of the Temple, he sees this, the image of the Christian Church Eze_40:2, upon a very high mountain. Our Lord speaks of His Apostles and the Church in them, as Mat_5:14 a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid. The seat of God’s worship was to be seen far and wide; nothing was to obscure it. It, now lower than the surrounding hills, was then to be as on the summit of them. Human elevation, the more exalted it is, the more unstable is it. Divine greatness alone is at once solid and exalted. The new kingdom of God was at once to be “exalted above the hills,” and “established on the top of the mountains;” “exalted,” at once, above everything human, and yet “established,” strong as the mountains on which it rested, and unassailable, unconquerable, seated secure aloft, between heaven, whence it came and to which it tends, and earth, on which it just tests in the sublime serenity of its majesty.
The image sets forth the supereminence of the Lord’s House above all things earthly. It does not define wherein that greatness consists. The flowing in of the nations is a fruit of it Mic_4:1-2. The immediate object of their coming is explained to be, to learn to know and to do the will of God Mic_4:2. But the new revelation does not form all its greatness. That greatness is from the Presence of God, revealing and evermore teaching His Will, ruling, judging, rebuking, peacemaking Mic_4:3-4. Dionysius: “The ‘mountain of the Lord’s House’ was then ‘exalted above the hills’ by the bodily Presence of Christ, when He, in the Temple built on that mountain, spake, preached, worked so many miracles; as, on the same ground, Haggai says, ‘the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former’ Hag_2:9.” Lap.: “This ‘mountain,’ the church of Christ, transcends all laws, schools, doctrines, religions, Synagogues of Jews and Philosophers, which seemed to rise aloft among men, like mountain-tops, yea, whatever under the sun is sublime and lofty, it will overpass, trample on, subdue to itself.”
Even Jews have seen the meaning of this figure. Their oldest mystical book explains it. Zohar, f. 93: “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ when namely the Lord shall visit the daughter of Jacob, then shall ‘the mountain of the house of the Lord be firmly established, that is, the Jerusalem which is above, which shall stand firmly in its place, that it may shine by the light which is above. (For no light can retain its existence, except through the light from above.) For in that time shall the light from above shine sevenfold more than before; according to that, Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people and healeth the stroke of their wound” Isa_30:26. Another, of the dry literal school, says (Aben Ezra), “It is well known that the house of the Temple is not high. The meaning then is, that its fame shall go forth far, and there shall return to it from all quarters persons with offerings, so that it shall be, as if it were on the top of all hills, so that all the inhabitants of the earth should see it.”
Some interpret “the mountain” to be Christ, who is called the Rock 1Co_10:4-6, on the confession of whom, God-Man, “the house of the Lord,” that is, the Church is built , the precious Cornerstone Isa_28:16; 1Pe_2:6; Eph_2:20, which is laid, beside which no foundation can be laid 1Co_3:11; “the great mountain,” of which Daniel Dan_2:35 prophesied. It is “firmly established,” so that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, being built thereon; “exalted above hills and mountains”, that is above all beside, greater or smaller, which has any eminence; for He in truth is Phi_2:9 highly exalted and hath a Name above every name, being Eph_1:20-23 at the Right Hand of God in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come; and all things are under His Feet. And this for us, in that He, the Same, is the Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. Rup.: “He is God and Man, King and Priest, King of kings, and a Priest abiding forever. Since then His Majesty reacheth to the Right Hand of God, neither mountains nor hills, Angels nor holy men, reach thereto; for “to which of the Angels said God at any time, Sit thou on My Right Hand?” Heb_1:13. Cyril: “Aloft then is the Church of God raised, both in that its Head is in heaven and the Lord of all, and that, on earth, it is not like the Temple, in one small people, but “set on a hill that it cannot be hid” Mat_5:14, or remain unseen even to those tar from it. Its doctrine too and life are far above the wisdom of this world, showing in them nothing of earth, but are above; its wisdom is the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, and its life is bid with Christ in God, in those who are justified in Him and hallowed by His Spirit.” In Him, it is lifted above all things, and with the eyes of the mind beholdeth (as far as may be) the glory of God, soaring on high toward Him who is the Author of all being, and, filled with divine light, it owneth Him the Maker of all.
And people (peoples, nations) shall flow unto (literally upon) it – A mighty tide should set in to the Gospel. The word is used only figuratively) is appropriated to the streaming in of multitudes, such as of old poured into Babylon, the merchant-empress of the world Jer_51:44. It is used of the distant nations who should throng in one continuous stream into the Gospel, or of Israel streaming together from the four corners of the world . So, Isaiah foretells, “Thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that they may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought” (Isa_60:11, add Rev_21:25-26). These were to flow upon it, perhaps so as to cover it, expressing both the multitude and density of the throng of nations, how full the Church should be, as the swollen river spreads itself over the whole champaign country, and the surging flood-tide climbs up the face of the rock which hounds it. The flood once covered the highest mountains to destroy life; this flood should pour in for the saving of life. Lap.: “It is a miracle, if waters ascend from a valley and flow to a mountain. So is it a miracle that earthly nations should ascend to the church, whose doctrine and life are lofty, arduous, sublime. This the grace of Christ effecteth, mighty and lofty, as being sent from heaven. As then waters, conducted from the fountains by pipes into a valley, in that valley bound up and rise nearly to their original height, so these waters of heavenly grace, brought down into valleys, that is, the hearts of men, make them to bound up with them into heaven and enter upon and embrace a heavenly life.”
Mic 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob,…. In Isa_2:3; it is, “many people”, &c. the sense is the same; See Gill on Isa 2:3;
and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; the teacher is the King Messiah, as Kimchi observes; the great Prophet of his people, the teacher sent from God; and will in the last days teach men by his Spirit and word, in a very plentiful manner, and with great success:
for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; these, according to Kimchi, are the words of the prophet, and not of the people, that encourage one another to go up to the house of the Lord; but the sense is much the same; for they contain a reason why the people of different nations would encourage one another to go to the house of the Lord, that they might learn his ways, and walk in his statutes, because here the word of the Lord is preached; the word which comes from God, and is concerning him, his love and grace to men; the word of peace and righteousness, of life and salvation, by Jesus Christ: and each of the doctrines of grace intended by the “law” or “doctrine” of the Lord; the doctrines of God’s everlasting love, of election in Christ, and redemption by him; of justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and satisfaction by his atonement; as well as of regeneration by the Spirit of God, and of perseverance in grace: in these, and others, now shall all the Lord’s people be taught more clearly, distinctly, and comfortably; all shall know him, from the least to the greatest; and not only their light and knowledge, under such a teacher and such will be very great, but their practice will be answerable to it; as they will be instructed in all the ways of the Lord, and in the methods of his grace, so they will walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; See Gill on Isa_2:3.
And many nations shall come – Isaiah Isa_2:2 added the world all to Micah’s prophecy. So our Lord said, “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” Mat_24:14; and the elect are to be gathered out “of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues” Rev_7:9. All nations shall flow into it. The all might be many or few. Both prophets say that those all should be many. Judah probably knew already of many. The history of Genesis gave them a wide-expanding knowledge of the enlargement of mankind alter the flood, in Europe, Asia, Africa, as they then existed in their nations. The sons of Japhet had already spread over the whole coast of our Western sea, and far North; the Cimmerians , or Cwmry, Scandinavians , Carpathians , (probably Celts,) Armenians ; (including the kindred Phrygians,) Scythians , Medes, Ionians , Aeolians , Iberians , Cypriotes , Dardani , Tybarenes , Moschi , and the Turseni , or perhaps the Thracians. On the East, the sons of Shem had spread in Elam, Asshur, Arrapachitis ; they occupied the intervening tract of Aram; in the northwest they reached to Lydia. Southward the sons of Joktan were in Arabia. Micah’s hearers knew how, of the sons of Ham, Cush had spread far to the southeast and south from Babylonia to Aethiopia; Egypt they remembered too well, and, beyond it, they knew of the far-scattered tribes of the Libyans, who extended along the coast of Africa. Phoenician trade filled up this great outline.
They themselves had, in Solomon’s time, traded with India ; about this time, we know that they were acquainted with the furthest East, China . Such was the sight before the human mind of the prophet; such the extent of the nations whom his people knew of.
Some were the deadly enemies of his people; some were to be its conquerors. He knew that the the ten tribes were to be abidingly wanderers among the nations , despised by them ; “a people, the strangers and sojourners of the whole world” . He knew many of those nations to be sunk in idolatry, viciousness; proud, contemptuous, lawless; he saw them fixed in their idolatries. “All people will walk every one in the name of his god.” But he saw what eye of man could not see, what the will of man could not accomplish, that He, whom now Judah alone partially worshiped, would turn the hearts of His creatures to Himself, to seek Him, not in their own ways, but as He should reveal Himself at Jerusalem. Micah tells them distinctly, that those who should believe would be a great multitude from many nations. In like way Isaiah expresses the great multitude of those for whom Christ should atone Isa_53:12. He bare the sin of many Isa_53:11. By knowledge of Him shall My righteous Servant make many righteous. And our Lord Himself says Mat_20:28; The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many (Mat_26:28, add Rom_5:15). This is my Blood – which is shed for many for the remission of sins. In Micah’s time not one people, scarcely some poor fragments of the Jewish people, went up to worship God at Zion, to call to remembrance His benefits, to learn of Him. Those who should thereafter worship Him, should be many nations.
And say – Exhorting one another, in fervor and mutual love, as Andrew exhorted his brother Simon, and Philip Nathanael, and the woman of Samaria those of her city, to come to Christ: and so all since, who have been won by Him, by word or example, by preaching or by deed, in public or in private, bear along with them others to seek Him whom they themselves have found.
Let us go up – leaving the lowness and earthliness of their former conversation, and mounting upward on high where Christ is, desiring righteousness, and athirst to know His ways.
To the house of the God of Jacob – They shall seek Him as Jacob sought Him, , “who left his father’s house and removed into another land, was a man of heavy toils and served for hire, but obtained special help from God, and, undistinguished as he was, became most glorious. So too the Church, leaving all pagan wisdom, and having its conversation in Heaven, and therefore persecuted and enduring many hardships, enjoys now glory with God.”
And He – , that is, the God of Jacob of whom he had just spoken, shall teach us of His ways They do not go to God, because they know Him, but that they may know Him. They are drawn by a mighty impulse toward Him. Howsoever attracted, they come, not making bargains with God, (as some now would,) what they should be taught, that He should reveal to them nothing transcending reason, nothing exceeding or contradicting their notions of God; they do not come with reserves, that God should not take away this or that error, or should not disclose anything of His incomprehensibleness. They come in holy simplicity, to learn whatever He will condescend to tell them; in holy confidence, that He, the Infallible Truth, will teach them infallibly. They say, “of His ways.” For all learning is by degrees, and all which all creatures could learn in all eternity falls infinitely short of His truth and Holiness. Nay, in all eternity the highest creature which He has made and which He has admitted most deeply into the secrets of His Wisdom will be as infinitely removed as ever from the full knowledge of His Wisdom and His Love. For what is finite, enlarged, expanded, accumulated to the utmost degree possible, remains finite still.
It has no proportion to the Infinite. But even here, all growth in grace implies growth in knowledge. The more we love God, the more we know of Him; and with increased knowledge of Him come higher perceptions of worship, praise, thanksgiving, of the character of faith, hope, charity, of our outward and inward acts and relations to God, the unboundedness of God’s love to us and the manifoldness of the ways of pleasing Him, which, in His love, He has given us. Since then the whole Christian life is a growth in grace, and even Paul Phi_3:13-14, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those which are before, pressed toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, then Paul too was ever learning, in intensity, what he knew certainly by revelation, of His ways. Again, as each blade of grass is said to differ from another, so, and much more, each soul of man which God has created for Himself. No one ever saw or could imagine two human beings, in whom the grace of God had unfolded itself in exactly the same way.
Each saint will have his distinct beauty around the throne. But then each will have learnt “of His ways,” in a different proportion or degree. His greatest saints, yea His Apostles, have been pre-eminent, the one in one grace, another in another. John the Immerser came as a pattern of repentance and contempt of self; John the Evangelist stood out pre-eminent in deep tender burning personal love; Paul was known for his zeal to spread the knowledge of Christ Crucified; Mary Magdelene was famous for her loving penitence. Even the Blessed Virgin herself, under inspiration, seems, in part, to speak of her lowly lowness , as that which God specially regarded in her, when He made her the Mother of God. Eternity only will set forth the fullness of the two words “He will teach us of His ways.” For eternity will shew, how in all 1Co_12:11 worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will; and how the countless multitude of the redeemed have corresponded to His gifts and drawings. : “The way of the life to God-ward is one, in that it looketh to one end, to please God; but there are many tracks along it, as there are many modes of life;” and each several grace is a part of the way to God.
And we will walk in His paths – o: “By believing, hoping, loving, well-doing, and bearing patiently all trouble.” Rup.: “For it sufficeth not to believe, unless we act as He commandeth, and strive to enter on His ways, the strait and narrow path which leadeth unto life. He Himself then, when He had said, “Go, teach all nations,” baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, added, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” Mat_28:19-20. They say too, “we will walk,” that is, go on from strength to strength, not stand still after having labored for a while to do His Will, but hold on to all His ways and to Himself who is the Way, until they appear before the Lord in Zion.
For the law – (literally, law,) shall go forth from Zion These are the prophet’s words, declaring why the nations should so flock to Zion. For he says, “shall go forth,” but the nations were not gathered to Zion, until the Gospel was already gone forth. He speaks of it as law simply, not the Jewish law as such, but a rule of life Man’s better nature is ill at ease, being out of harmony with God. It cannot be otherwise. Having been made in His likeness, it must be distressed by its unlikeness; having been made by Him for Himself, it must be restless without Him. What they indistinctly longed for, what drew them, was the hope to be conformed by Him to Him. The sight of superhuman holiness, life, love, endurance, ever won and wins those without to the Gospel or the church. Our Lord Himself gives it, as the substance of prophecy Luk_24:47, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. The image may be that of a stream, issuing forth from Jerusalem and watering the whole world. Theodoret: “The law of the Gospel and the word of the Apostles, beginning from Jerusalem, as from a fountain, ran through the whole world, watering those who approached with faith.” But in that it “went forth,” it may be meant, that it left those from among whom it “went forth,” and Cyril, “Zion was indeed desolate of the law and Jerusalem bared of the divine word.” Jerome: “The word of God passed from Jerusalem to the Gentiles.” Rup.: “For the shadow was done away, and the types ceased, and sacrifices were abolished, and everything of Moses was, in the letter, brought to a close.”
He does not say here, through whom God would so teach, but he does speak of a direct teaching of God. He does not say only, “God will give us a law,” or “will make a revelation of Himself.” He speaks of a Personal, direct, continuous act of teaching by God, carried on upon earth, whether the teacher be our Lord’s word spoken once on earth, which does “not pass away” Mat_24:35, or God the Holy Spirit, as teaching in the Church and in the hearts which receive Him. The words which follow speak of a personal reign, as these speak of personal teaching.
The Prophet here describes the fruit of Divine truth, — that God would restore all nations to such gentleness, that they would study to cultivate fraternal peace among themselves, and that all would consult the good of others, having laid aside every desire for doing harm. As then he has lately showed, that the Church of God could not be otherwise formed than by the Word, and that the legitimate worship of God cannot be set up and continued, except where God is honored with the obedience of faith; so now he shows that Divine truth produces this effect, — that they, who before lived in enmity towards one another and burned with the lust of doing harm, being full of cruelty and avarice, will now, having their disposition changed, devote themselves wholly to acts of kindness. But, before the Prophet comes to this subject, he says, —
He will judge(122) among many people, and will reprove strong nations. The word judge, in Hebrew, means the same as to rule or govern. It is certain that God is spoken of here: it is then the same as though the Prophet had said that though the nations had not hitherto obeyed God, they would now own him as king and submit to his government. God has indeed ever governed the world by his hidden providence, as he does still govern it: for how much soever the devil and the ungodly may rage; nay, how ever much they may boil with unbridled fury, there is no doubt but that God restrains and checks their madness by his hidden bridle. But the Scripture speaks of God’s kingdom in two respects. God does indeed govern the devil and all the wicked, but not by his word, nor by the sanctifying power of his Spirit: it is so done, that they obey God, not willingly, but against their will. The peculiar government of God is that of his Church only, where, by his word and Spirit, He bends the hearts of men to obedience, so that they follow him voluntarily and willingly, being taught inwardly and outwardly, — inwardly by the influence of the Spirit, — outwardly by the preaching of the word. Hence it is said in Psa_110:0, ‘Thy willing people shall then assemble.’ This is the government that is here described by the Prophet; God then shall judge; not as he judges the world, but he will, in a peculiar manner, make them obedient to himself so that they will look for nothing else than to be wholly devoted to him.
But as men must first be subdued before they render to God such obedience, the Prophet expressly adds, And he will reprove (corripiet)or convince (arguet) many people. And this sentence ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence learn, that such is our innate pride, that not one of us can become a fit disciple to God, except we be by force subdued. Truth then would of itself freeze amidst such corruption as we have, except the Lord proved us guilty, except he prepared us beforehand, as it were, by violent measures. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in connecting reproof with the government of God: for the verb יכח, ikech,signifies sometimes to expostulate, to convince, and sometimes to correct or reprove. In short, the wickedness and perversity of our flesh are here implied; for even the best of us would never offer themselves to God, without being first subdued, and that by God’s powerful correction. This, then, is the beginning of the kingdom of Christ.
But when he says, that strong nations would be reproved, he hereby eulogizes and sets forth the character of the kingdom of which he speaks: and we hence learn the power of truth, — that strong men, when thus reproved, shall offer themselves, without any resistance, to be ruled by God. Correction is indeed necessary, but God employs no external force, nor any armed power, when he makes the Church subject to himself: and yet he collects strong nations. Hence then is seen the power of truth: for where there is strength, there is confidence and arrogance, and also rebellious opposition. Since then the Lord, without any other helps, thus corrects the perverseness of men, we hence see with what inconceivable power God works, when he gathers his own Church. It is to be added, that there is not the least doubt, but that this is to be applied to the person of Christ. Micah speaks of God, without mentioning Christ by name; for he was not yet manifested in the flesh: but we know that in his person has this been fulfilled, — that God has governed the universe, and subjected to himself the people of the whole world. We hence conclude that Christ is true God; for he is not only a minister to the Father, as Moses, or any one of the Prophets; but he is the supreme King of his Church.
Before I proceed to notice the fruit, the expression, רחוק עד, od rechuk,“afar off” must be observed. It may intimate a length of time as well as distance of place. Jonathan applies it to a long continuance of time, — that God would convince men to the end of the world. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intended to include the most distant countries; as though he had said, that God would not be the king of one people only, or of Judea alone, but that his kingdom would be propagated to the extremities of the earth. He will then convince people afar off
He afterward adds, with respect to the fruit, They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks I have already briefly explained the meaning of the Prophet: he in fact shows that when the nations should be taught by the word of God, there would be such a change, that every one would study to do good, and to perform the duties of love towards his neighbors. But by speaking of swords and spears he briefly intimates, what men, until they are made gentle by the word of the Lord, are ever intent on iniquitous tyranny and oppression; nor can it be otherwise, while every one follows his own nature; for there are none who are not wedded to their own advantages, and the cupidity of men is insatiable. As then all are thus intent on gain, while every one is blinded by self-love, what but cruelty must ever break forth from this wicked principle? Hence then it is, that men cannot cultivate peace with one another; for every one seeks to be the first, and draws every thing to himself; no one will willingly give way: then dissensions arise, and from dissensions, fightings. This is what the Prophet intimates. And then he adds, that the fruit of the doctrine of Christ would however be such, that men, who were before like cruel wild beasts, would become gentle and meek. Forge then shall they their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.
Raise, he says, shall not a nation a sword against a nation, and accustom themselves they shall no more to war He explains here more fully what I have before said, — that the Gospel of Christ would be to the nations, as it were, a standard of peace: as when a banner is raised up, soldiers engage in battle, and their fury is kindled; so Micah ascribes a directly opposite office to the Gospel of Christ, — that it will restore those to the cultivation of peace and concord, who before were given to acts of hostility. For when he says, ‘Raise a sword shall not a nation against nation,’ he intimates, as I have already stated, that wherever Christ does not reign, men are wolves to men, for every one is disposed to devour all others. Hence as men are naturally impelled by so blind an impulse, the Prophet declares, that this madness cannot be corrected, that men will not cease from wars, that they will not abstain from hostilities, until Christ becomes their teacher: for by the word למד, lamed, he implies, that it is a practice which ever prevails among mankind, that they contend with one another, that they are ever prepared to do injuries and wrongs, except when they put off their natural disposition. But gentleness, whence does it proceed? Even from the teaching of the Gospel.
This passage ought to be remembered; for we here learn, that there is not growing among us the real fruit of the Gospel, unless we exercise mutual love and benevolence, and exert ourselves in doing good. Though the Gospel is at this day purely preached among us, when yet we consider how little progress we make in brotherly love, we ought justly to be ashamed of our indolence. God proclaims daily that he is reconciled to us in his Son; Christ testifies, that he is our peace with God, that he renders him propitious to us, for this end, that we may live as brethren together. We indeed wish to be deemed the children of God, and we wish to enjoy the reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ; but in the meantime we tear one another, we sharpen our teeth, our dispositions are cruel. If then we desire really to prove ourselves to be the disciples of Christ, we must attend to this part of divine truth, each of us must strive to do good to his neighbors. But this cannot be done without being opposed by our flesh; for we have a strong propensity to self-love, and are inclined to seek too much our own advantages. We must therefore put off these inordinate and sinful affections, that brotherly kindness may succeed in their place.
We are also reminded that it is not enough for any one to refrain from doing harm, unless he be also occupied in doing good to his brethren. The Prophet might indeed have said only They shall break their swords and their spears; so that they shall hereafter abstain from doing any hurt to others: this only is not what he says; but, “They shall forge,” or beat,” their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;” that is, when they shall abstain from all injuries they will seek to exercise themselves in the duties of love, consistently with what Paul says, when he exhorts those who had stolen to steal no more, but to work with their own hands, that they might relieve others (Eph_4:28.) Except then we endeavor to relieve the necessities of our brethren, and to offer them assistance, there will not be in us but one part of true conversion, as the case is with many, who are not indeed inhuman, who commit no plunder, who give no occasion for complaint, but they live to themselves, and enjoy unprofitable leisure. This indolence the Prophet here indirectly condemns, when he speaks of the plowshares and the pruning hooks.
Again, a question may be here asked, — Was this fulfilled at the coming of Christ? It seems that the Prophet does not describe here the state of the Church for a time, but shows what would be the kingdom of Christ to the end. But we see, that when the Gospel was at first preached, the whole world boiled with wars more than ever; and now, though the Gospel in many parts is clearly preached, yet discords and contentions do not cease; we also see that rapacity, ambition, and insatiable avarice, greatly prevail; and hence arise contentions and bloody wars. And at the same time it would have been inconsistent in the Prophet to have thus spoken of the kingdom of Christ, had not God really designed to perform what is here predicted. My answer to this is, — that as the kingdom of Christ was only begun in the world, when God commanded the Gospel to be everywhere proclaimed, and as at this day its course is not as yet completed; so that which the Prophet says here has not hitherto taken place; but inasmuch as the number of the faithful is small, and the greater part despise and reject the Gospel, so it happens, that plunders and hostilities continue in the world. How so? Because the Prophet speaks here only of the disciples of Christ. He shows the fruit of his doctrine, that wherever it strikes a living root, it brings forth fruit: but the doctrine of the Gospel strikes roots hardly in one out of a hundred. The measure also of its progress must be taken to the account; for so far as any one embraces the doctrine of the Gospel, so far he becomes gentle and seeks to do good to his neighbors. But as we as yet carry about us the relics of sin in our flesh, and as our knowledge of the Gospel is not yet perfect, it is no wonder, that not one of us has hitherto wholly laid aside the depraved and sinful affections of his flesh.
It is also easy hence to see, how foolish is the conceit of those, who seek to take away the use of the sword, on account of the Gospel. The Anabaptists, we know, have been turbulent, as though all civil order were inconsistent with the kingdom of Christ, as though the kingdom of Christ was made up of doctrine only, and that doctrine without any influence. We might indeed do without the sword, were we angels in this world; but the number of the godly, as I have already said, is small; it is therefore necessary that the rest of the people should be restrained by a strong bridle; for the children of God are found mixed together, either with cruel monsters or with wolves and rapacious men. Some are indeed openly rebellious, others are hypocrites. The use of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world.
We must now understand that at the time our Prophet delivered this discourse, Isaiah had used the very same words, (Isa_2:4 ) and it is probable that Micah was a disciple of Isaiah. They, however, exercised at the same time the Prophetic office, though Isaiah was the oldest. But Micah was not ashamed to follow Isaiah and to borrow his words; for he was not given to self ostentation, as though he would not adduce any thing but what was his own; but he designedly adopted the expressions of Isaiah, and related verbally what he had said, to show that there was a perfect agreement between him and that illustrious minister of God, that his doctrine might obtain more credit. We hence see how great was the simplicity of our Prophet, and that he did not regard what malevolent and perverse men might say: “What! he only repeats the words of another.” Such a calumny he wholly disregarded; and he thought it enough to show that he faithfully declared what God had commanded. Though we have not the עד רחיק, od rechuk, in Isaiah, yet the meaning is the same: in all other things they agree. It now follows—
(122) There is a difference of opinion as to the nominative case to the verb “judge;” whether it be Jehovah in the preceding line, or the word of Jehovah. The most natural construction is the last supposition. Jeromeand Cyril,as quoted by Marckius,refer it to the word of Jehovah, taking the word for Christ: but this cannot be admitted, as the law and the word seem to mean the same thing, and must be considered as the word of the Gospel; and Justin Martyrand Irenaeus,when referring to this passage regard it as such. And this is the view which Marckiusseems to prefer. The rendering then would be, And it shall judge among many people, And convince strong nations afar off.
Mic 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off,…. That are in the most distant parts of the world; not only the isles afar off, but the remotest parts of the continent, the American nations found out since. In Isa_2:4, it is, “and he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people”; that is, the King Messiah, as Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech. Some render it, “it shall judge”, &c. and interpret it either of the Church, the mountain of the Lord’s house; or of the word and doctrine of the Lord; or of the Lord in the church, by the ministry of the word, The phrase, “afar off”, is not in Isa_2:4; which the Targum interprets “for ever”, and the “strong nations” of strong kings; signifying that the kingdom of Christ should not only be to the ends or the earth, but should endure for ever, unto distant time, even till it shall be no more; as well as shall reach to distant lands, as to situation, and to the Gentiles afar off, as to state and condition; see Eph_2:14;
and they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more; which as yet has never been fulfilled; but will be the case when Christ’s kingdom appears in its glory, and the kingdoms of this world become his, and all the enemies of the church are destroyed; See Gill on Isa_2:4. These words are by the Jews (o) applied to the days of the Messiah.
(o) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 63. 1.
And He shall judge among many people and rebuke strong nations afar off – Hitherto, they had walked each in their own ways Isa_53:6; now, they sought to be taught in the ways of God. Before, they had been lords of the world; now they should own a Judge higher than themselves. They were no common, but mighty nations, such as had heretofore been the oppressors of Israel. They were to be many, and those mighty, nations. He should , “not only command, but “rebuke,” not weak or petty nations only, but mighty, and those not only near but afar.” Mohammed had moral strength through what he stole from the law and the Gospel, and by his owning Christ as the Word of God. He was a heretic, rather than a pagan. Fearful scourge as he was, and as his successors have been, all is now decayed, and no mighty nation is left upon earth, which does not profess the Name of Christ.
He shall rebuke them – For it was an office of the Holy Ghost “to reprove the world as to its sin, the righteousness of Christ, the judgment of the prince of this world” Joh_16:8-11. The Gospel conquered the world, not by compromises or concordants, but by convicting it. It alone could “rebuke” with power; for it was, like its Author, all-holy. It could rebuke with efficacy; for it was the word of Him who knew what is in man. It could rebuke with awe; for it knew the secrets of eternal Judgment. It could rebuke winningly; for it knew “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” Eph_3:19. Its martyrs suffered and rebuked their judges; and the world was amazed at the impotence of power and the might of suffering. It rebuked the enthroned idolatry of centuries; it set in rebellion by its rebukes every sinful passion of man, and it subdued them. Tyrants, whom no human power could reach, trembled before its censures. Then only is it powerless, if its corrupted or timid or paralyzed ministers forfeit in themselves the power of rebuke.
And they shall beat their spears into plowshares – “All things are made new in Christ.” As the inward disquiet of evil men makes them restless, and vents itself toward others in envy, hatred, maliciousness, wrong, so the inward peace whereof He saith, My peace I give unto you, shall, wherever it reacheth, spread out abroad and, by the power of grace, bring to “all nations unity, peace, and concord.” All, being brought under the one empire of Christ, shall be in harmony, one with the other. As far as in it lies, the Gospel is a Gospel of peace, and makes peace. Christians, as far as they obey Christ, are at peace, both in themselves and with one another. And this is what is here prophesied. The peace follows from His rule. Where He judges and rebukes, there even the mighty “beat their swords into plowshares.” The universal peace, amid which our Lord was born in the flesh, the first which there had been since the foundation of the Roman empire, was, in God’s Providence, a fruit of His kingdom.
It was no chance coincidence, since nothing is by chance. God willed that they should be contemporaneous. It was fitting that the world should be still, when its Lord, the Prince of peace, was born in it. That outward cessation of public strife, though but for a brief time, was an image how His peace spread backward as well as forward, and of the peace which through Him, our Peace, was dawning on the world. : “First, according to the letter, before That Child was born to us, “on whose shoulder the government is” Isa. 1, the whole world was full of blood; people fought against people, kings against kings, nations against nations. Lastly, the Roman state itself was torn by civil wars, in whose battles all kingdoms shed blood. But after that, at the time of the Empire of Christ, Rome gained an undivided empire, the world was laid open to the journeys of Apostles, and the gates of cities were open to them, and, for the preaching of the One God, one single empire was formed.
It may too be understood as an image, that, on receiving the faith of Christ, anger and unrestrained revilings were laid aside, so that each putteth his hand to the plow and looketh not back, and, breaking in pieces the shafts of contumelies, seeketh to reap spiritual fruit, so that, others laboriing, we enter into their labors; and of us it is said, “They shall come with joy, bringing their sheaves” Psa_126:6. Now no one fighteth; for we read “Blessed are the peacemakers” Mat_5:9; no one learneth to “strive, to the subverting of the hearers” 2Ti_2:14. And every one shall rest under his vine, so as to press out that “Wine which gladdeneth the heart of man” Psa_104:15, under that “Vine,” whereof the “Father is the Husbandman” Joh_15:1; and under his fig tree, gathering the sweet “fruits of the Holy Spirit love, joy, peace, and the rest” Gal_5:22.
The fathers had indeed a joy, which we have not, that wars were not between Christians; for although “just wars are lawful,” war cannot be on both sides just; very few wars have not, on both sides, what is against the spirit of the Gospel. For, except where there is exceeding wickedness on one side, or peril of further evil, the words of our Lord would hold good, in public as in private, “I say unto you, that ye resist not evil” Mat_5:39.
This prophecy then is fulfilled:
(1) in the character of the Gospel. Ribera: “The law of the Gospel worketh and preserveth peace. For it plucketh up altogether the roots of all war, avarice, ambition, injustice, wrath. Then, it teacheth to bear injuries, and, so far from requiting them, willeth that we be prepared to receive fresh wrongs. He saith, “If anyone smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also …” Mat_5:39-42. “I say unto you, Love your enemies …” Mat_5:44-48. For neither did the old law give these counsels, nor did it explain so clearly the precept implied in them, nor had it that wonderful and most efficacious example of the and love of Christ, nor did it supply whereby peace could be preserved; whereas now the first fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness.”
(2) The prophecy has been fulfilled within and without, among individuals or bodies of men, in body or mind, in temper or in deed, as far as the Gospel has prevailed. “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one mind” Act_4:32; one, through One indwelling Spirit; one, though a great multitude, through one bond of love. : “See how these Christians love one another;” “see how ready they are to die for one another,” was, in the third century, a pagan proverb as to Christian love. : “They love one another, almost before they know one another.” : “Their first lawgiver has persuaded them that they are all brethren.” “We (which grieves you,)” the Christian answered , “so love one another, because we know not how to hate. We call ourselves ‘brethren’ which you take ill, as men who have one Father, God, and are sharers in one faith, in one hope, coheirs.”
For centuries too, there was, for the most part, public peace of Christians among themselves. Christian soldiers fought only, as constrained by the civil law, or against Barbarian invaders, to defend life, wife, children, not for ambition, anger, or pride. Christians could then appeal, in fulfillment of the prophecy, to this outward, the fruit of the inward, peace. “We,” says an early martyr, , “who formerly stained ourselves with mutual slaughter, not only do not wage war with foes, but even, in order not to lie and deceive those who consume us, willingly professing Christ, meet death.” “From the coming of the Lord,” says another martyr, . “the New Testament, reconciling unto peace, and a life-giving law, went forth into all lands. If then another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, produced such peace among the nations which received it, and thereby reproved much people of want of wisdom, then it would follow that the prophets spake of some other. But if the law of liberty, that is, the law of God preached by the Apostles, which went forth out of Jerusalem to all the world, worked such a transformation, that swords and spears of war He wrought into plow-shares and pruning-hooks, instruments of peace, and now men know not how to fight, but, when smitten, yield the other cheek, then the prophets spake of no other, but of Him who brought it to pass.” “Even from this,” says Tertullian , “you may know that Christ was promised, not as one mighty in war, but as a peace-bringer. Either deny that these things were prophesied, since they are plain to see; or, since they are written, deny that they are fulfilled. But if thou mayest deny neither, thou must own that they are fulfilled in Him, of whom they are prophesied.” “Of old” , says Athanasius, “Greeks and Barbarians, being idolaters, warred with one another, and were fierce toward those akin. For through their implacable warfare no one might pass land or sea, unarmed. Their whole life was passed in arms; the sword was to them for staff and stay. They worshiped idols, sacrificed to demons, and yet from their reverence for idols they could gain no help to correct their minds. But when they passed into the school of Christ, then, of a truth, pricked in mind, they wondrously laid aside their savage slaughters, and now think no more of things of war; for now all peace and friendship are alone their mind’s delight. who then did this, who blended in peace those who hated one another, save the Beloved Son of the Father, the common Saviour of all, Christ Jesus, who, through His love, endured all things for our salvation?
For of old too, the peace which should hold sway from Him was prophesied, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares.” Nor is this incredible, since now too, the Barbarians with innate savageness, while they yet sacrifice to their idols, are mad with one another, and cannot for one hour part with their swords. But when they have received the teaching of Christ, immediately forever they turn to husbandry; and, in lieu of arming their hands with swords, stretch them out to prayer. And altogether, instead of warring with one another, they arm themselves against the devil and demons, warring against them with modesty and virtue of soul. This is a token of the Godhead of the Saviour. For what men could not learn among idols, this they have learned from Him. Christ’s disciples, having no war with one another, array themselves against demons by their life and deeds of virtue, chase them and mock their captain the devil, chaste in youth, enduring in temptation, strong in toils, tranquil when insulted, unconcerned when despoiled.”
And yet later, Chrysostom says , “Before the Coming of Christ, all men armed themselves and no one was exempt from this service, and cities fought with cities, and everywhere were men trained to war. But now most of the world is in peace; all engage in mechanical art or agriculture or commerce, and few are employed in military service for all. And of this too the occasion would cease, if we acted as we ought and did not need to be reminded by afflictions.” : “After the Sun of righteousness dawned, so far are all cities and nations from living in such perils, that they know not even how to take in hand any affairs of war. – Or if there be still any war, it is far off at the extremity of the Roman Empire, not in each city and country, as heretofore. For then, in any one nation, there were countless seditions and multiform wars. But now the whole earth which the sun surveys from the Tigris to the British isles, and therewith Lybia too and Egypt and Palestine, yea, all beneath the Roman rule, – ye know how all enjoy complete security, and learn of war only by hearsay.”
Cyril (on Isa. 2 and here) and Theodoret (on Isa. 2 and here) carry on this account into the fifth century after our Lord’s Coming. Christians then during those four centuries could point to a present fulfillment of prophecy, when we, for our sins, can only speak of the past Isa_59:1-2. The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but our iniquities have separated between us, and our God, and our sins have hid His Face from us, that He will not hear. Those first Christians could urge against the Jews the fulfillment of their prophecies herein, where the Jews can now urge upon us their seeming non-fulfillment; : “In the time of King Messiah, after the wars of Gog and Magog, there shall be peace and tranquillity in all the world, and the sons of men shall have no need of weapons, but these promises were not fulfilled.”
The prophecy is fulfilled, in that the Gospel is a Gospel of peace and makes peace. Christians, as far as they obey Christ, are at peace both in themselves and with one another. The promises of God are perfect on His part: He is faithful to them. But He so wills to be freely loved by His intelligent creatures whom He formed for His love, that He does not force our free-agency. We can fall short of His promises, if we will. To those only who will it, the Gospel brings peace, stilling the passions, quelling disputes, banishing contentions, removing errors, calming concupiscence, soothing and repressing anger, in individuals, nations, the Church; giving oneness of belief, harmony of soul, contentment with our own, love of others as ourselves; so that whatever is contrary to this has its origin in something which is not of Christ nor of His Gospel.
Micah goes on here with the same subject, — that when the minds of men shall be disposed to acts of kindness, every one shall enjoy God’s blessing without being disturbed. There seems indeed to be two things here included, — that acts of hostility shall cease, — and that real happiness cannot exist among men, except Christ rules among them by the doctrine of his Gospel. And the same thing the prophets teach elsewhere, that is, that every one shall live without fear; and this they do, in order to show that men ever live in a miserable dread, except when they are safe under the protection of God. It is the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that the life of men is most miserable, where the doctrine of the Gospel is not had, inasmuch as when they are disturbed by continual disquietude, every one fears for himself, every one suffers constant terrors. There is nothing more miserable than such a state of things, for peace is the chief good.
We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, — that under the reign of Christ the faithful shall enjoy true and full happiness, as they shall be exempt from trembling and fear; hence he names the vine and the fig-tree. He might have said, “Every one shall live securely at home;” but he says, Every one shall rest under his own fig-tree and under his own vine; that is, though exposed to thieves, he shall yet fear no violence, no injury; for those who were thieves shall observe what is just and right; those who were bloody shall study to do good. Hence when no one closes the door of his house, yea, when he goes out into the fields and sleeps in the open air; he will still be safe and secure. We now then see why the Prophet mentions here the fig-tree and the vine, rather than the dwelling-house.
And there will be no one to terrify them. What the Prophet designed to express is here more clearly specified, — that there would be no danger, and that there would therefore be no need of hiding-places or of any defenses. Why? Because the very fields, he says, will be free from every thing that may hurt, as there will be none to cause fear. And the Prophet seems to allude to the blessing promised in the Law, for Moses used nearly the very same words: and the Prophets, we know, drew many things from the Law; for their design was to retain the people in its doctrine, and to render it as familiar as possible to them. As then Moses promised, among other things, this security,
‘Ye shall sleep, and none shall terrify you,’ (Lev_26:6;) so the Prophet also, in speaking here of the kingdom of Christ, shows that this blessing would be then fully accomplished.
He now at last subjoins, The mouth of Jehovah hath thus spoken,that he might confirm what seemed incredible: for, as I have already said, since he had shortly before predicted the devastation of mount Zion and the ruin of the temple, it seemed very improbable that the nations would come there to worship God. But he declares that the mouth of God had thus spoken, that the faithful might overcome all obstacles and struggle against despair; though they saw the temple destroyed, the mount Zion desolated, though they saw a horrible waste and wild beasts occupying the place of men; they were yet to continue to entertain firm hope. — How so? Because Jehovah has made a promise and he will fulfill it: for when mention is made of God’s mouth, his omnipotence is to be understood by which will be executed whatever he has promised.
Mic 4:4 But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig tree,…. A proverbial phrase, expressive of the greatest tranquillity, security, and enjoyment of property; see 1Ki_4:25; when persons need not keep within their walled towns and cities, and lack themselves up in their houses, but may sit down in their gardens, fields, and vineyards, and enjoy the fruit thereof; as the Targum interprets it,
“under the fruit of his vine, and under, the fruit of his fig tree.”
It was usual for persons in the eastern countries to sit under vines and fig trees to read, meditate, pray, or converse together, where they grow very large, as were their vines; and even with us they are frequently raised and carried over supporters, so as to be sat under; and of fig trees, we frequently read in Jewish writings of their being very large, and of their going up to them, and praying on the top of them; and of sitting under them, and studying in the law there. So one of the Rabbins says (p), he went up into his mustard tree, as one goes up to the top of a fig tree; and it is said (q), he that prays on the top of an olive tree, or on the top of a fig tree must come down, and pray below; and again (r), R. Jacob and his companions were fasting, studying in the law, under a certain fig tree; and sometimes they speak of all these together, of sitting under olives, and under vines, and under fig trees, and studying in the words of the law (s); see Joh_1:48. This is to be understood, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi explain it, of all men; not of the Israelites only, but of all nations, since there will be no more war any where; hence it follows:
and none shall make them afraid; the enemies of God’s people will be no more, neither Turk nor pope, eastern or western antichrist, beast or, false prophet; wherefore, in those days of the Messiah, Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, even all the spiritual Israel of God, Jews and Gentiles; there shall be none to hurt in the holy mountain of the Lord, or any violence and oppression, wasting and destruction, anywhere; see Jer_23:5;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it; who speaks nothing but truth, and who is able and faithful to perform what he has spoken; and therefore all this may be depended on.
(p) T. Hieros. Peah, c. 7. fol. 20. 2. (q) T. Hieros. Beracot, c. 2. fol. 5. 1. (r) Ib. col. 3. (s) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 16. 4.
But – And
They shall sit every man, under his vine and under his fig-tree – Palestine was a home of the vine and the fig-tree. Vineyards were a common property, possessed by all but the very poor , or even by them Neh_5:4; Jer_39:10. The land was “a land of bread and vineyards” 2Ki_18:32. The vine was the emblem of the people, in Psalmists and prophets (Psa_80:8 ff; Isa_3:14; Isa_5:1 ff; Isa_27:2; Jer_2:21; Jer_12:10; Eze_15:1-8; Eze_17:5-10; Eze_19:10; Hos_10:1). The bunch of grapes or the vine-leaf appear as characteristic emblems on Jewish coins , chiefly in the times of their revolts under Vespasian and Hadrian . The fig is also mentioned as part of the characteristic fruitfulness of Palestine Deu_8:8.
It too was an universal property 2Ki_18:32. Both formed natural arbors; the fig had its name probably from its length, the vine from the arch made by its drooping boughs. Both formed, in those hot countries, a grateful shade. The vine, rising with its single stem, was spread over trellis-work or by props, so as to enclose a considerable space . Even in Italy, a single vine shaded a portico . In Palestine it grew by the walls of the house Psa_128:3.
Rabbis relate how their forefathers sat and studied under the fig-tree , as Nathanael was doubtless meditating or praying under one, when Jesus, being God, saw him Joh_1:48. It exhibits a picture of domestic peace, each family gathered in harmony and rest under the protection of God, each content with what they have, neither coveting another’s, nor disturbed in their own. Wine is explained in Holy Scripture to be an emblem of gladness, and the fig of sweetness . Cyril: “For exceeding sweet is the word of the Saviour, and it knoweth how to gladden man’s heart; sweet also and full of joy is the hope of the future, wherewith we are enriched in Christ.
Such had been Israel’s lot in the peaceful days of Solomon 1Ki_4:25, the peace of whose times had already been made the image of the Gospel Ps. 72; the coming of the Queen of the South from the uttermost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon Mat_12:42, had made her kingdom to be selected as an emblem of those who should fall down before Christ and serve Him Psa_60:12 :10-11. Lap.: “Such is that most quiet fearlessness which the law of Christ bringeth, as being the law of charity, peace, and concord.”
And none shall make them afraid – o: “Neither man, nor devil; for the Lord hath given us power to “tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and said, nothing shall by any means hurt you” Luk_10:19, and bade us, “fear not them which kill the body” Mat_10:28. Witness the might which He gave to His Apostles and Martyrs.
For the mouth of the Lord of Host hath spoken it – The prophets often add this, when what they say, seems, for its greatness, past belief Yet it will be, because He hath spoken it, “the Lord” who changeth not, “the Lord of Hosts,” to whose commands all creatures are subject, whose word is truth with whom to speak is to do.
To encourage the faithful to patience, the Prophet again reminds them that hard and severe time was nigh; for it was needful to put them in mind often of the approaching calamity, lest terror should wholly discourage them. As then there was danger from despair, the Prophet often repeats what he has already said of God’s judgment, which was then suspending over the people of Israel. And this mode and order of teaching ought to be observed. When the Prophets threaten us, or denounce the punishment we have deserved, we either become torpid, or grow angry with God, and murmur: but when they set forth any thing of comfort, we then indulge ourselves and become too secure. It is therefore necessary to connect threatening with promises, so that we may be always ready to endure temporal evils, and that our minds, sustained by hope, may, at the same time, depend on the Lord, and recomb on him. It was for this reason that the Prophet again mentions what he had already several times stated, — that the Jews would be surrounded by a siege. How do these two things agree, — that the enemies, assembled together, would be like sheaves which are taken to the floor to be trodden by the feet of animals, — and that the Jews would be besieged? I answer, that these things harmonize, because the temporary punishment, which God would inflict on his Church, would not prevent him to restore it again whenever it pleased him. Lest, therefore, security should creep over the minds of the godly, the Prophet designed often to remind them of that dreadful calamity which might have entirely upset them, had no support been afforded them, that is, had not God sustained them by his word.
Now then thou shalt assemble thyself,he says, O daughter of a troop The verb התגדדי, etgaddi, and the noun גדוד, gadud, sound alike; as though he said, Thou shalt he collected, O daughter of collection. The Prophet addresses Jerusalem: but we must see why he calls her the daughter of collection. Some think that by this word is designated the splendid and wealthy state of Jerusalem; as though the Prophet said, — “This city has been hitherto populous, but now it shall be reduced to such straits that none shall dare to go forth beyond its gates, for they shall on every side be surrounded.” But the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop in another sense, — because they were wont to occasion great troubles: as thieves agree together, and meet in troops for the purpose of committing plunder; so also the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop, for its citizens were wont willfully to do great evils, and like robbers to use violence. Thou then, he says, shalt now be collected; that is, thou shalt not send forth thy troops, but enemies shall assemble thee together by a severe siege, so that thou shalt contract thyself like a bundle.
There are, then, two clauses in this verse, — that though the Lord resolved to help his Church, he would yet straiten her for a time, — and then the Prophet shows the reason, lest they complained that they were too severely treated: “You have been hitherto,” he says, “without a cause oppressive to others: the time then is come when the Lord will return to you your recompense.” As Isaiah says ‘Woe to thee, plunderer! Shalt thou not also be exposed to plunder?’ Isa_33:1; so also in this place, — “Ye have assembled in troops, that ye might pillage innocent men; therefore other troops shall now encircle you; nay, ye shall be beset by your own fear.” The verb is in Hithpael: he says not, “Thou daughter of a troop shalt be now encircled;” but he says “Thou shalt gather thyself.”
He then adds, A siege has he set against thee. This may refer to God; but it must be understood only of enemies: for the Prophet immediately adds, They shall strive with the rod, etc. in the pleural number, — They shall then strike with the rod the cheek of the judge of Israel. He means that the Jews would be subdued by their enemies that their judges and governors would be exposed to every kind of contumely and dishonor, for to strike on the cheek is to offer the greatest indignity; as indeed it is the greatest contempt, as Demosthenes says, and is so mentioned by the lawyers. We now then perceive, that the Prophet’s object was to show, — that the Jews in vain boasted of their kingdom and civil constitution, for the Lord would expose the governors of that kingdom to extreme contempt. The enemies then shall strike their judges even on the cheek.
But there follows immediately a consolation: we hence see that the Prophet, at one time, humbles the children of God: and prepares them for enduring the cross; and then he mitigates all sorrow; yea, and makes them to rejoice in the midst of their evils. For this purpose he adds what follows —
Mic 5:1 Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops,…. Not Jerusalem, full of people, called to draw out their forces, and fall upon the enemy besieging them, whether Chaldeans or Romans; but rather the Babylonians, whose armies were large, and their troops numerous; who are called upon by the people of God, encouraged by the foregoing prophecies, as well as by what follows, to come forth with all their forces, and muster up all their armies, and exert all the power and strength they had, thus suiting them; being assured, by the above promises, that in the issue they should prevail over all their enemies: unless the Romans should be intended, to whom this character of “daughter of troops” well agrees, of whose legions all have heard; and since the Babylonish attempt on Jerusalem, and the carrying the Jews captive into Babylon, are before predicted, with their deliverance from it, and what they should do in the times of the Maccabees; a prophecy of the Romans, or a representation of them, a gathering their troops and legions together to besiege Jerusalem, very naturally comes in here;
he hath laid siege against us; either Nebuchadnezzar, and the Chaldean army; or Vespasian with the Romans: this, according to the prophetic style, is spoken of as if actually done, because of the certainty of it;
they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek; that is, either they, the besiegers, the king of Babylon and his army, when they shall have taken Jerusalem, besieged by them, shall use Zedekiah the king of Judah, and judge of Israel, and his princes and nobles, very ill, signified by this phrase; yea, in a very cruel and barbarous manner; first slaying his sons and his princes before his eyes, then putting his eyes out, binding him in chains, and carrying him to Babylon, and there laying him in a prison, Jer_52:10; or else they, the besieged, would use the Messiah, the King, Judge, and Ruler in Israel, in such a spiteful and scandalous manner; and so the Messiah was to be used by them, who according to prophecy gave his cheek to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting; and so Jesus, the true Messiah, was smitten, both with rods, and with the palms of men’s hands, and buffeted and spit upon, Isa_50:6; and this is mentioned as a reason why Jerusalem would be encompassed with the Roman armies, and besieged by their troops and legions, and become desolate, even for their rejection and ill usage of the Messiah. Aben Ezra says, it is right in my eyes that the judge of Israel is the Messiah, or Zerubbabel; not the latter, who never was so used, but the former.
Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, art small, that thou shouldest be among the thousands of JudahAs Matthew quotes this passage differently, some think that it ought to be read as a question, And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art thou the least among the provinces of Judah? Matthew says “Thou art by no means the least, thou excellest.” But what need there is of distorting the words of the Prophet, as it was not the design of the Evangelist to relate the expressions of the Prophet, but only to point out the passage. As to the words, Matthew had regards to the condition of the town Bethlehem, such as it was at the coming of Christ. It then indeed began to be eminent: but the Prophet represents here how ignoble and mean a place Bethlehem then was, Thou, he says, art the least among the thousands of Judah.Some, not very wisely, give this explanation, “Thou art the least among the thousands of Judah”; that is, “Though there might be a thousand towns in the tribe of Judah, yet thou couldest hardly have a place among so great a number.” But this has been said through ignorance of a prevailing custom: for the Jews, we know, were wont to divide their districts into thousands or chiliads. As in the army there are centurions, so also in the divisions of every nation there are hundreds; there are also in an army tribunes, who preside over a thousand men. Thus the Prophet calls them thousands, that is, tribunes; for the districts are so arranged, that the town, which, with its villages, could bring forth three thousand men, had three prefectures; and it had three tribunes, or four or five, if it was larger. The Prophet then, in order to show that this town was small and hardly of any account, says, Thou, Bethlehem, art hardly sufficient to be one province. And it was a proof of its smallness that hardly a thousand men could be made up from Bethlehem and its neighboring villages. There were not, we know, many towns in the tribe of Judah; and yet a large army could be there collected. Since then the town of Bethlehem was so small, that it could hardly attain the rank of a province, it is hence no doubt evident that it was but a mean town. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view.
Thou, Bethlehem, he says, art small among the cities of Judah;yet arise,or go forth, for me shall one from thee, who is to be a Ruler in Israel.He calls it Bethlehem Ephratah; for they say that there was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulon, and we know that Ephratah in meaning is nearly the same with Bethlehem; for both designate an abundance of fruit or provisions: and there David was born.
I will now proceed to the second clause, From thee shall go forth for me one who is to be a Ruler Here the Prophet introduces God as the speaker, go forth,he says, shall one for me.God declares in this passage that it was not his purpose so to destroy his people, but that he intended, after a season, to restore them again. He therefore recalls the attention of the faithful to himself and to his eternal counsel; as though he said, — “I have thus for a time cast you away, that I may yet manifest my care for you.” For me then shall go forth one who is to be a Ruler in Israel.Now there is no doubt but that the Prophet at the sable time recalls the attention of the faithful to the promise which had been given to David. For whence arises the hope of salvation to the chosen people, except from the perpetuity of that kingdom? The Prophet now says, — “There is indeed a reason, according to the perception of the flesh, why the faithful should despond; for whence does their confidence arise, except from the kingdom of David? and from what place is David to arise? Even from Bethlehem; for Bethlehem has been called the city of David; and yet it is an obscure and a small town, and can hardly be considered a common province. Since it is so, the minds of the faithful may be depressed; but this smallness shall be no hindrance to the Lord, that he should not bring forth from thence a new king.”
Even before the time of David Bethlehem was a small town, and one of the most common provinces. Who could have expected that a king would have been chosen from such a hamlet, and then, that he should come from a hut? for David belonged to a pastoral family; his father was a shepherd, and he was the least among his brethren. Who then could have thought that light would have arisen from such a corner, yea, from so mean a cottage? This was done contrary to the expectations of men. Hence the Prophet sets here before the faithful a similar expectation for their comfort; as though he said, — “Has not God once formed a most perfect state of things by making David a king, so that the people became in every respect happy and blessed? And whence did David come? It was from Bethlehem. There is then no reason why your present miseries should over-much distress you; for God can again from the same place bring forth a king to you, and he will do so.”
Thou then Bethlehem, small art thou, etc. The prophet doubtless intended here that the faithful should consider of what kind was the beginning of that most perfect state, when David was chosen king. David was a shepherd, a man in humble life, without reputation, without influence, and even the humblest among his brethren. Since then God had drawn light out of darkness there was no cause for the faithful to despair of a future restoration, considering what had been the beginning of the previous happy condition of the people. We now understand the Prophet’s meaning. But the rest I cannot finish today; I must therefore defer it till tomorrow.
Mic 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah,…. But though Jerusalem should be besieged and taken, and the land of Judea laid waste, yet, before all this should be, the Messiah should be born in Bethlehem, of which this is a prophecy, as is evident from Mat_2:4; the place is called by both the names it went by, to point it out the more distinctly, and with the greater certainty, Gen_35:19; the former signifies “the house of bread”, and a proper place for Christ to be born in, who is the bread of life; and it has the name of the latter from its fruitfulness, being a place of pasture, and as we find it was at the time of our Lord’s birth; for near it shepherds were then watching over their flocks; and it is here added, to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun, Jos_19:15; from which tribe the Messiah was not to come, but from the tribe of Judah; and in which this Bethlehem was, and therefore called, by Matthew, Bethlehem in the land of Judah; as it appears this was, from Rth_1:1; and from the Septuagint version of Jos_15:60, where, as Jerom observes, it was added by the Greek interpreters, or erased out of the Hebrew text by the wickedness of the Jews: the former seems most correct;
though thou be little among the thousands of Judah; this supplement of ours is according to Kimchi’s reading and sense of the words; which, in some measure, accounts for the difference between the prophet and the Evangelist Matthew, by whom this place is said to be “not the least”, Mat_2:6, as it might, and yet be little; besides, it might be little at one time, in Micah’s time, yet not little at another time; in Matthew’s; it might be little with respect to some circumstances, as to pompous buildings, and number of inhabitants, and yet not little on account of its being the birth place of great men, as Jesse, David, and especially the Messiah: or the words may be rendered with an interrogation, “art thou little?” &c. (d); thou art not: or thus, it is a “little thing to be among the thousands of Judah” (e); a greater honour shall be put upon thee, by being the place of the Messiah’s birth. Moreover, Mr, Pocock has shown out of R. Tanchum, both in his commentary on this place, and elsewhere (f), that the word צעיר signifies both “little” and “great”, or of great note and esteem. The tribes of Israel were divided into tens, hundreds, and thousands, over which there was a head or prince; hence, in Matthew, these are called “the princes of Judah”, Mat_2:6;
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; not Hezekiah, who very probably was now born at the time of this prophecy; nor was he born at Bethlehem, nor a ruler in Israel, only king of Judah: nor Zerubbabel, who was born in Babylon, as his name shows, was governor of Judah, but not of Israel; nor can it be said of him, or any mere man, what is said in the next clause: but the Messiah is intended, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi confess, and other Jewish writers. The Targum is, “out of thee shall come forth before me the Messiah, that he may exercise dominion over Israel.”
Jarchi’s note is, “out of thee shall come forth unto me Messiah, the son of David;” and so he says, “the stone which the builders refused”, &c. Psa_118:22; plainly suggesting that that passage also belongs to the Messiah, as it certainly does. Kimchi’s paraphrase is, “although thou art little among the thousands of Judah, of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah.”
And Abarbinel (g), mentioning those words in Mic_4:13; “arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion”, observes, “this speaks concerning the business of the King Messiah, who shall reign over them, and shall be the Prince of their army; and it is plain that he shall be of the house of David: and it is said, “O thou, Bethlehem Ephratah”, which was a small city, in the midst of the cities of Judah; and “although thou art little in the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall come forth unto me” a man, a ruler in Israel, “whose goings forth are from the days of old”; the meaning is, the goings forth of the family of that ruler are from the days of old; that is, from the seed of David, and a rod from the stem of Jesse, who was of Bethlehem Judah.”
So Abendana (h), a more modern Jew, paraphrases the words thus, “out of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, that is to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah; for because he is to be of the seed of David, from Bethlehem he will be.”
To which may be added R. Isaac (i), who, having cited this passage, observes, and, he, the ruler in Israel, is the King Messiah, who shall come forth from the seed of David the king; who was of Bethlehem Judah, as in 1Sa_17:12. Wherefore Lyra, having quoted Jarchi, and given his sense of the passage, remarks, hence it is plain that some Catholics, explaining this Scripture of King Hezekiah, “judaize” more than the Hebrews. Though some of them object the application of it to Jesus, who they say ruled not over Israel, but Israel over him, and put him to death; which it is true they did; but God exalted him to be a Prince, as well as a Saviour, unto Israel, notwithstanding that, and declared him to be Lord and Christ; besides, previous to his death, and in the land of Israel, he gave abundant proof of his power and rule over universal nature, earth, air, and sea; over angels, good and bad; and over men and beasts: all creatures obeyed him; though indeed his kingdom is not of this world, but of a spiritual nature, and is over the spiritual Israel of God; and there is a time coming when he will be King over all the earth. Now out of Bethlehem was the King Messiah, the ruler in Israel, to come forth; that is, here he was to be born, as the phrase signifies; see Gen_10:14; and here our Jesus, the true Messiah, was born, as appears from Mat_2:8; and this is not only certain from the evangelic history, but the Jews themselves acknowledge it. One of their chronologers (k) affirms that Jesus the Nazarene was born at Bethlehem Judah, a parsa and a half from Jerusalem; that is, about six miles from it, which was the distance between them: and even the author of a blasphemous book (l), pretending to give the life of Jesus, owns that Bethlehem Judah was the place of his nativity: and it is clear not only that the Jews in the times of Jesus expected the Messiah to come from hence, even both the chief priests and scribes of the people, who, in answer to Herod’s question about the place of the Messiah’s birth, direct him to this, according to Micah’s prophecy, Mat_2:4; and the common people, who thought to have confronted the Messiahship of Jesus with it, Joh_7:41; but others also, at other times. The tower of Edar being a place near to Bethlehem Ephratah, Gen_35:19; Jonathan ben Uzziel, in his Targum of Gen_35:19, says of the tower of Edar, this is the place from whence the King Messiah shall be revealed in the end of days; nay, some of them say he is born already, and was born at Bethlehem. An Arabian, they say (m), told a Jew, “the King Messiah is born; he replied to him, what is his name? he answered, Menachem (the Comforter) is his name; he asked him, what is his father’s name? he replied, Hezekiah; he said to him, from whence is he? he answered, from the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah.”
This same story is told elsewhere (n), with some little variation, thus, that the Arabian should say to the Jew, “the Redeemer of the Jews is both; he said to him, what is his name? he replied, Menachem is his name; and what is his father’s name? he answered, Hezekiah; and where do they dwell? (he and his father;) he replied, in Birath Arba, in Bethlehem Judah.”
These things show their sense of this prophecy, and the convictions of their minds as to the births of the Messiah, and the place of it. The words “unto me” are thought by some to be redundant and superfluous; but contain in them the glory and Gospel of the text, whether considered as the words of God the Father; and then the sense is, that Christ was to come forth in this place in human nature, or become incarnate, agreeably to the purpose which God purposed in himself; to the covenant made with him, before the world was; to an order he had given him as Mediator, and to his promise concerning him; and he came forth to him, and answered to all these; as well as this was in order to do his will and work, by fulfilling the law; preaching the Gospel; doing miracles; performing the work of redemption and salvation; by becoming a sacrifice for sin, and suffering death; and likewise it was for the glorifying of all the divine perfections: or whether as the words of the prophet, in the name of the church and people of God, to and for whom he was born, or became incarnate; he came forth unto them, to be their Mediator in general; to be the Redeemer and Saviour of them in particular; to execute each of his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; and to answer and fill up all relations he stands in to them, of Father, Brother, Head, and Husband;
whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting; which is said of him, not because his extraction was from David, who lived many ages before him; for admitting he was “in him, in his loins”, as to his human nature, so long ago, yet his “goings forth” were not from thence: nor because he was prophesied of and promised very early, as he was from the beginning of the world; but neither a prophecy nor promise of him can be called his “going forth”; which was only foretold and spoken of, but not in actual being; nor because it was decreed from eternity that he should come forth from Bethlehem, or be born there in time; for this is saying no more than what might be said of everyone that was to be born in Bethlehem, and was born there: nor is this to be understood of his manifestations or appearances in a human form to the patriarchs, in the several ages of time; since to these, as to other of the above things, the phrase “from everlasting” cannot be ascribed: but either of his going forth in a way of grace towards his people, in acts of love to them, delighting in those sons of men before the world was; in applying to his Father on their account, asking them of him, and betrothing them to himself; in becoming their surety, entering into a covenant with his Father for them, and being the head of election to them, receiving all blessings and promises of grace for them: or else of his eternal generation and sonship, as commonly interpreted; who the only begotten of the Father, of the same nature with him, and a distinct person from him; the eternal Word that went forth from him, and was with him from eternity, and is truly God. The phrases are expressive of the eternity of his divine nature and person; Jarchi compares them with Psa_72:17; “before the sun was, his name was Jinnon”; that is, the Son, the Son of God; so as the former part of the text sets forth his human birth, this his divine generation; which, cause of the excellency and ineffableness of it, is expressed in the plural number, “goings forth”. So Eliezer (o), along with the above mentioned passage in the Psalms, produces this to prove the name of the Messiah before the world was, whose “goings forth were from everlasting”, when as yet the world was not created.
(d) צעיר להיות באלפי יהודה “parvulane es?” Drusius; “parvane sis?” Grotius; “parva es?” Cocceius. (e) “Parum est ut sis inter chiliarchas Judae”, Osiander, Grotius; “vile, ignominiosum est, esse inter millia Judae”, De Dieu. (f) Not. Misn. in Port. Mosis, p. 17, 18. (g) Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 62. col. 2. (h) Not. in Miclol Yophi in loc. (i) Chizzuk Emuuah, par. 1. p. 279. (k) R. David Ganz, Tzemach David, par. 2. fol. 14. 2. (l) Toldos Jesu, p. 7. Ed. Wagenseil. (m) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1. (n) Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1. (o) Pirke Eliezer, c. 3. fol. 2. 2.
But – (And) thou, Bethlehem Ephratah With us, the chequered events of time stand in strong contrast, painful or gladdening. Good seems to efface evil, or evil blots out the memory of the good. God orders all in the continuous course of His Wisdom. All lies in perfect harmony in the Divine Mind. Each event is the sequel of what went before. So here the prophet joins on, what to us stands in such contrast, with that simple, And. Yet he describes the two conditions bearing on one another. He had just spoken of the “judge of Israel” smitten on the cheek, and, before Mic_4:9, that Israel had neither king nor “counsellor;” he now speaks of the Ruler in Israel, the Everlasting. He had said, how Judah was to become mere bands of men; he now says, how the “little Bethlehem” was to be exalted. He had said before, that the rule of old was to come to “the tower of the flock, the daughter of Jerusalem;” now, retaining the word, he speaks of the Ruler, in whom it was to be established.
Before he had addressed “the tower of the flock;” now, Bethlehem. But he has greater things to say now, so he pauses , And thou! People have admired the brief appeal of the murdered Caesar, “Thou too, Brutus.” The like energetic conciseness lies in the words, “And thou! Bethlehem Ephratah.” The name Ephratah is not seemingly added, in order to distinguish Bethlehem from the Bethlehem of Zabulon, since that is only named once Jos_19:15, and Bethlehem here is marked to be “the Bethlehem Judah” , by the addition, “too little to be among the thousands of Judah.” He joins apparently the usual name, “Bethlehem,” with the old Patriarchal, and perhaps poetic Psa_132:6 name “Ephratah,” either in reference and contrast to that former birth of sorrow near Ephratah Gen_35:19; Gen_48:7, or, (as is Micah’s custom) regarding the meaning of both names.
Both its names were derived from “fruitfulness;” “House of Bread” and “fruitfulness;” and, despite of centuries of Mohammedan oppression, it is fertile still. .
It had been rich in the fruitfulness of this world; rich, thrice rich, should it be in spiritual fruitfulness. : “Truly is Bethlehem, ‘house of bread,’ where was born “the Bread of life, which came down from heaven” Joh_6:48, Joh_6:51. : “who with inward sweetness refreshes the minds of the elect,” “Angel’s Bread” Psa_78:25, and “Ephratah, fruitfulness, whose fruitfulness is God,” the Seed-corn, stored wherein, died and brought forth much fruit, all which ever was brought forth to God in the whole world.
Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah – Literally, “small to be,” that is, “too small to be among” etc. Each tribe was divided into its thousands, probably of fighting men, each thousand having its own separate head Num_1:16; Num_10:4. But the thousand continued to be a division of the tribe, after Israel was settled in Canaan Jos_22:21, Jos_22:30; 1Sa_10:19; 1Sa_23:23. The “thousand” of Gideon was the meanest in Manasseh. Jdg_6:15. Places too small to form a thousand by themselves were united with others, to make up the number . So lowly was Bethlehem that it was not counted among the possessions of Judah. In the division under Joshua, it was wholly omitted . From its situation, Bethlehem can never have been a considerable place.
It lay and lies, East of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron, at six miles from the capital. “6 miles,” Arculf, (Early Travels in Palestine, p. 6) Bernard (Ibid. 29) Sae, wulf, (Ibid. 44) “2 hours.” Maundrell, (Ibid. 455) Robinson (i. 470)). It was “seated on the summit-level of the hill country of Judaea with deep gorges descending East to the Dead Sea and West to the plains of Philistia,” “2704 feet above the sea” . It lay “on a narrow ridge” , whose whole length was not above a mile , swelling at each extremity into a somewhat higher eminence, with a slight depression between . : “The ridge projects Eastward from the central mountain range, and breaks down in abrupt terraced slopes to deep valleys on the N. E. and S.” The West end too “shelves gradually down to the valley” . It was then rather calculated to be an outlying fortress, guarding the approach to Jerusalem, than for a considerable city.
As a garrison, it was fortified and held by the Philistines 2Sa_23:14 in the time of Saul, recovered from them by David, and was one of the 15 cities fortified by Rehoboam. Yet it remained an unimportant place. Its inhabitants are counted with those of the neighboring Netophah, both before 1Ch_2:54 and after Neh_7:26 the captivity, but both together amounted after the captivity to 179 Ezr_2:21, Ezr_2:2, or 188 Neh_7:26 only. It still does not appear among the possessions of Judah Neh_11:25-30. It was called a city (Rth_1:19; Ezr_2:1, with 21; Neh_7:6, with 26), but the name included even places which had only 100 fighting men Amo_5:3. In our Lord’s time it is called a village Joh_7:42, a city, Luk_2:4, or a strong . The royal city would become a den of thieves. Christ should be born in a lowly village. : “He who had taken the form of a servant, chose Bethlehem for His Birth, Jerusalem for His Passion.”
Matthew relates how the Chief Priest and Scribes in their answer to Herod’s enquiries, where Christ should be born, Mat_2:4-6, alleged this prophecy. They gave the substance rather than the exact words, and with one remarkable variation, art not the least among the princes of Judah. Matthew did not correct their paraphrase, because it does not affect the object for which they alleged the prophecy, the birth of the Redeemer in Bethlehem. The sacred writers often do not correct the translations, existing in their time, when the variations do not affect the truth .
Both words are true here. Micah speaks of Bethlehem, as it was in the sight of men; the chief priests, whose words Matthew approves, speak of it as it was in the sight of God, and as, by the Birth of Christ, it should become. : “Nothing hindered that Bethlehem should be at once a small village and the Mother-city of the whole earth, as being the mother and nurse of Christ who made the world and conquered it.” : “That is not the least, which is the house of blessing, and the receptacle of divine grace.” : “He saith that the spot, although mean and small, shall be glorious. And in truth,” adds Chrysostom, “the whole world came together to see Bethlehem, where, being born, He was laid, on no other ground than this only.” : “O Bethlehem, little, but now made great by the Lord, He hath made thee great, who, being great, was in thee made little. What city, if it heard thereof, would not envy thee that most precious Stable and the glory of that Crib? Thy name is great in all the earth, and all generations call thee blessed. “Glorious things are everywhere spoken of thee, thou city of God” Psa_87:3. Everywhere it is sung, that this Man is born in her, and the Most High Himself shall establish her.
Out of thee shall He come forth to Me that is to be Ruler in Israel – (Literally, shall (one) come forth to Me “to be Ruler.”) Bethlehem was too small to be any part of the polity of Judah; out of her was to come forth One, who, in God’s Will, was to be its Ruler. The words to Me include both of Me and to Me. Of Me, that is, , by My Power and Spirit,” as Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God” Luk_1:35. To Me, as God said to Samuel, “I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided Me a king among his sons” 1Sa_16:1. So now, “one shall go forth thence to Me,” to do My Will, to My praise and glory, to reconcile the world unto Me, to rule and be Head over the true Israel, the Church. He was to “go forth out of Bethlehem,” as his native-place; as Jeremiah says, “His noble shall be from him, and his ruler shall go forth out of the midst of him” Jer_30:21; and Zechariah, “Out of him shall come forth the cornerstone; out of him the nail, out of him the battle-bow, out of him every ruler together” Zec_10:4. Before, Micah had said “to the tower of Edar, Ophel of the daughter of Zion, the first rule shall come to thee;” now, retaining the word, he says to Bethlehem, “out of thee shall come one to be a ruler.” “The judge of Israel had been smitten;” now there should “go forth out of” the little Bethlehem, One, not to be a judge only, but a Ruler.
Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting – Literally, “from the days of eternity.” “Going forth” is opposed to “going forth;” a “going forth” out of Bethlehem, to a “going forth from eternity;” a “going forth,” which then was still to come, (the prophet says, “shall go forth,”) to a “going forth” which had been long ago (Rup.), “not from the world but from the beginning, not in the days of time, but “from the days of eternity.” For “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God.” Joh_1:1-2. In the end of the days, He was to go forth from Bethlehem; but, lest he should be thought then to have had His Being, the prophet adds, His ‘goings forth are from everlasting.’” Here words, denoting eternity and used of the eternity of God, are united together to impress the belief of the Eternity of God the Son. We have neither thought nor words to conceive eternity; we can only conceive of time lengthened out without end. : “True eternity is boundless life, all existing at once,” or , “to duration without beginning and without end and without change.”
The Hebrew names, here used, express as much as our thoughts can conceive or our words utter. They mean literally, from afore, (that is, look back as far as we can, that from which we begin is still “before,”) “from the days of that which is hidden.” True, that in eternity there are no divisions, no succession, but one everlasting “now;” one, as God, in whom it is, is One. But man can only conceive of Infinity of space as space without bounds, although God contains space, and is not contained by it; nor can we conceive of Eternity, save as filled out by time. And so God speaks after the manner of men, and calls Himself “the Ancient of Days” Dan_7:9, , “being Himself the age and time of all things; before days and age and time,” “the Beginning and measure of ages and of time.” The word, translated “from of old,” is used elsewhere of the eternity of God Hab_1:12. “The God of before” is a title chosen to express, that He is before all things which He made. “Dweller of afore” Psa_55:20 is a title, formed to shadow out His ever-present existence.
Conceive any existence afore all which else you can conceive, go back afore and afore that; stretch out backward yet before and before all which you have conceived, ages afore ages, and yet afore, without end, – then and there God was. That afore was the property of God. Eternity belongs to God, not God to eternity. Any words must be inadequate to convey the idea of the Infinite to our finite minds. Probably the sight of God, as He is, will give us the only possible conception of eternity. Still the idea of time prolonged infinitely, although we cannot follow it to infinity, shadows our eternal being. And as we look along that long vista, our sight is prolonged and stretched out by those millions upon millions of years, along which we can look, although even if each grain of sand or dust on this earth, which are countless, represented countless millions, we should be, at the end, as far from reaching to eternity as at the beginning. “The days of eternity” are only an inadequate expression, because every conception of the human mind must be so.
Equally so is every other, “From everlasting to everlasting” Psa_90:2; Psa_103:17; “from everlasting” (Psa_93:2, and of Divine Wisdom, or God the Son, Pro_8:23); “to everlasting” Psa_9:8; Psa_29:10; “from the day” Isa_43:13, that is, since the day was. For the word, from, to our minds implies time, and time is no measure of eternity. Only it expresses pre-existence, an eternal Existence backward as well as forward, the incommunicable attribute of God. But words of Holy Scripture have their full meaning, unless it appear from the passage itself that they have not. In the passages where the words, forever, from afore, do not mean eternity, the subject itself restrains them. Thus forever, looking onward, is used of time, equal in duration with the being of whom it is written, as, “he shall be thy servant forever” Exo_21:6, that is, so long as he lives in the body. So when it is said to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever” Psa_45:6, it speaks of a kingdom which shall have no end. In like way, looking backward, “I will remember Thy wonders from old” Psa_77:12, must needs relate to time, because they are marvelous dealings of God in time. So again, “the heavens of old, stand simply contrasted with the changes of man” Psa_68:34. But “God of old is the Eternal God” Deu_33:27. “He that abideth of old” Psa_55:20 is God enthroned from everlasting In like manner the “goings forth” here, opposed to a “going forth” in time, (emphatic words being moreover united together,) are a going forth in eternity.
The word, “from of old,” as used of being, is only used as to the Being of God. Here too then there is no ground to stop short of that meaning; and so it declares the eternal “going-forth,” or Generation of the Son. The plural, “goings forth,” may here be used, either as words of great majesty, “God,” “Lord,” “Wisdom,” (that is, divine Pro_1:20; Pro_9:1) are plural; or because the Generation of the Son from the Father is an Eternal Generation, before all time, and now, though not in time, yet in eternity still. As then the prophet saith, “from the days of eternity,” although eternity has no parts, nor beginning, nor “from,” so he may say “goings forth,” to convey, as we can receive it, a continual going-forth. We think of Eternity as unending, continual, time; and so he may have set forth to us the Eternal Act of the “Going Forth” of the Son, as continual acts.
The Jews understood, as we do now, that Micah foretold that the Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, until they rejected Him, and were pressed by the argument. Not only did the chief priests formally give the answer, but, supposing our Lord to be of Nazareth, some who rejected Him, employed the argument against Him. “Some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” Joh_7:41-42. They knew of two distinct things: that Christ was:
(1) to be of the seed of David; and (2) out of the town of Bethlehem.
Christians urged them with the fact, that the prophecy could be fulfilled in no other than in Christ. : “If He is not yet born, who is to go forth as a Ruler out of the tribe of Judah, from Bethlehem, (for He must needs come forth out of the tribe of Judah, and from Bethlehem, but we see that now no one of the race of Israel has remained in the city of of Bethlehem, and thenceforth it has been interdicted that any Jew should remain in the confines of that country) – how then shall a Ruler be born from Judaea, and how shall he come forth out of Bethlehem, as the divine volumes of the prophets announce, when to this day there is no one whatever left there of Israel, from whose race Christ could be born?”
The Jews at first met the argument, by affirming that the Messiah was born at Bethlehem on the day of the destruction of the temple ; but was hidden for the sins of the people. This being a transparent fable, the Jews had either to receive Christ, or to give up the belief that He was to be born at Bethlehem. So they explained it, “The Messiah shall go forth thence, because he shall be of the seed of David who was out of Bethlehem.” But this would have been misleading language. Never did man so speak, that one should be born in a place, when only a remote ancestor had been born there. Micah does not say merely, that His family came out of Bethlehem, but that He Himself should thereafter come forth thence. No one could have said of Solomon or of any of the subsequent kings of Judah, that they should thereafter come forth from Bethlehem, any more than they could now say, ‘one shall come forth from Corsic,’ of any future sovereign of the line of Napoleon III., because the first Napoleon was a Corsican; or to us, ‘one shall come out of Hanover,’ of a successor to the present dynasty, born in England, because George I. came from Hanover in 1714.
The Prophet here again so moderates his words, that the Jews might understand, that they were to endure many evils before God relieved their miseries. He wished then here to prepare the minds of the godly to bear evils, that they might not despair in great troubles, nor be depressed by extreme fear. He then states these two things, — that the people, as they deserved, would be heavily afflicted, — and then that God, notwithstanding such severe punishment, would be mindful of his covenant, so as to gather at length some remnants and not to suffer his people to be wholly destroyed. He therefore promises a middle course between a prosperous state and destruction. The people, says the Prophet, shall not continue entire. — How so? For God will cut off the kingdom and the city; and yet he will afford relief to the miserable: When they shall think that they are given up to entire ruin, he will stretch forth his hand to them. This is the sum of the whole.
He then says that they shall be delivered up, that is, forsaken by God, until she who is in travail bringeth forth There are those who apply this to the blessed virgin; as though Micah had said that the Jews were to look forward to the time when the Virgin would bring forth Christ: but all may easily see that this is a forced interpretation. The Prophet, I have no doubt, in using this similitude, compares the body of the people to a woman with child. The similitude of a woman in travail is variously applied. The wicked, when they promise to themselves impunity, are suddenly and violently laid hold on: thus their destruction is like the travail of a woman with child. But the meaning of this passage is different; for the Prophet says that the Jews would be like pregnant women, for this reason, — that though they would have to endure the greatest sorrows, there yet would follow a joyful and happy issue. And Christ himself employs this example for the same purpose, ‘A woman,’ he says, ‘has sorrow when she brings forth, but immediately rejoices when she sees a man born into the world,’ (Joh_16:21.)
So Micah says in this place, that the chosen people would have a happy deliverance from their miseries, for they would bring forth. There shall indeed be the most grievous sorrows, but their issue will be joy, that is, when they shall know that they and their salvation had been the objects of God’s care, when they shall understand that their chastisements had been useful to them. Until then she who is in travail bringeth forth, God, he says, will forsake them
There are then two clauses in this verse; — the first is, that the Jews were for a time to be forsaken, as though they were no longer under the power and protection of God; — the other is that God would be always their guardian, for a bringing forth would follow their sorrows. The following passage in Isaiah is of an opposite character; ‘We have been in sorrow, we have been in travail, and we brought forth wind,’ (Isa_26:18.)
The faithful complain there that they had been oppressed with the severest troubles, and had come to the birth, but that they brought forth nothing but wind, that is, that they had been deceived by vain expectation, for the issue did not prove to be what they had hoped. But the Lord promises here by Micah something better, and that is, that the end of all their evils would be the happy restoration of the people, as when a woman receives a compensation for all her sorrows when she sees that a child is born.
And he confirms this sentence by another, when he says, To the children of Israel shall return, or be converted, the residue of his brethren The Prophet then intimates that it could not be otherwise but that God would not only scatter, but tread under foot his people, so that their calamity would threaten an unavoidable destruction. This is one thing; but in the meantime he promises that there would be some saved. But he speaks of a remnant, as we have observed elsewhere, lest hypocrites should think that they could escape unpunished, while they trifled with God. The Prophet then shows that there would come such a calamity as would nearly extinguish the people, but that some would be preserved through God’s mercy and that beyond ordinary expectation. We now perceive the intention of the Prophet. It now follows —
Mic 5:3 Therefore will he give them up,…. Or “notwithstanding”, as this particle signifies; see Hos_2:14; though all this shall be, yet, previous to the birth of this person, the Lord would give up the Jews to trouble and distress, and into the hands of their enemies; and the time from this prophet to the birth of Christ was a time for the most part of great trouble to, the Jews; not only was their country invaded and their city besieged by Sennacherib in Hezekiah’s time, but, some years after that, they were wholly carried captive into Babylon: and when they returned it was troublesome times with them; they met with many enemies that disturbed them while they were rebuilding the city and temple; and after that they endured much tribulation, in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, or of the Maccabees; nor were they long in any quiet, nor in any settled state, unto the coming of the Messiah. Or else this is to be understood of what should be after his coming; for though Jesus was born at Bethlehem, according to this plain prophecy, and had all the characters of the Messiah in him, yet the Jews rejected him, and would not have him to reign over them: wherefore he, the Messiah, as Japhet interprets it, gave them up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, and into the hands of their enemies the Romans; by whom they were destroyed or carried captive, and dispersed among the nations; in which condition they still remain, and will, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled; so long will Jerusalem be trodden under foot, or the Jews be given up to their will, according to Luk_21:24; or, as here expressed,
until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: that is, according to the first sense until the Virgin Mary travailed in birth with the Messiah, and brought forth him her firstborn, Mat_1:25; or according to the latter, until Zion, or, the church of God, travailed in prayer, in the ministry of the word, and brought forth many children to Christ, both among Jews and Gentiles; and the sense is, that the Jews shall be given up to distress and trouble, till the time of their conversion, see Isa_66:7; The Jews have a tradition in their Talmud, that
“the son of David would not come until the kingdom spreads itself over the whole world for nine months; as it is said, “therefore will he give them up until the time that she that travaileth hath brought” forth; which is the time of a woman’s going with child.”
This both Jarchi and Kimchi take notice of. In one place (p) it is called the kingdom of Aram or Syria; and in another (q) a blank is left for Edom, that is, Rome; for by the kingdom is meant the Roman empire, and which did extend all over the world before the coming of the Messiah Jesus, as appears from Luk_2:1; as well as from all profane history;
then the remnant of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel; that is, the brethren of the Messiah, as Kimchi and Abendana interpret it; who should return with the children of Israel, as both they and Jarchi explain it; to which the Targum agrees. Kimchi’s note is, “”the remnant of his brethren”; they are the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which remained when the ten tribes were carried captive; and the surnames, his brethren, relate to the Messiah.”
So Abendana (r), “and “the remnant his brethren”; they are the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, they shall return with the children of Israel, who are the ten tribes; as if he should say, these and these shall return to their land, and King Messiah shall reign over them; and the surnames, his brethren, respect the Messiah.”
And to the same purpose R. Isaac (s), “the remnant of the brethren of the Messiah, who are the children of Judah and Benjamin, that are left and remain of the calamities and persecutions of the captivities, shall return to their own land, together with the children of Israel, who are the ten tribes.”
Meaning either the remnant, according to the election of grace, among the Gentiles; who with those among the Jews should be converted to Christ in the first times of the Gospel, those immediately following the birth of Christ; the Gospel being preached both to the Jews and Gentiles, and some of both were called and converted, and whom Christ owned as his brethren, and were not ashamed of; see Mat_12:49 Heb_2:11; or the Lord’s chosen people, and brethren of Christ, those of, he two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and those of the ten tribes of Israel; who shall join and coalesce together in seeking the Messiah, embracing and professing him, and appointing him the one Head over them, when they will turn to the Lord, and all Israel shall be saved; see Jer_50:4.
(p) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 10. 1. (q) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2. (r) Not. in Miclol Yophi in loc. (s) Chizzuk Emunah, par. 1. p. 281.
Therefore – Since God has so appointed both to punish and to redeem, He, God, or the Ruler “whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting,” who is God with God, “shall give them up, that is, withdraw His protection and the nearness of His Presence, “giving them up:”
(1) into the hands of their enemies. And indeed the far greater part never returned from the captivity, but remained, although willingly, in the enemy’s land, outwardly shut out from the land of the promise and the hope of their fathers (as in 2Ch_36:17).
(2) But also, all were, more than before, “given up” Act_7:42; Rom_1:24, Rom_1:26, Rom_1:28, to follow their own ways.
God was less visibly present among them. Prophecy ceased soon after the return from the captivity, and many tokens of the nearness of God and means of His communications with them, the Ark and the Urim and Thummim were gone. It was a time of pause and waiting, wherein the fullness of God’s gifts was withdrawn, that they might look on to Him who was to come. “Until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth,” that is, until the Virgin who should conceive and bear a Son and call His Name Emmanuel, God with us, shall give birth to Him who shall save them. And then shall be redemption and joy and assured peace. God provides against the fainting of hearts in the long time before our Lord should come.
Then – (And). There is no precise mark of time such as our word then expresses. He speaks generally of what should be after the Birth of the Redeemer. “The remnant of His brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.” “The children of Israel” are the true Israel, “Israelites indeed” Joh_1:47; they who are such, not in name (Rom_9:6, etc.) only, but indeed and in truth. His brethren are plainly the brethren of the Christ; either because Jesus vouchsafed to be born “of the seed of David according to the flesh” Rom_1:3, and of them “as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” Rom_9:5; or as such as He makes and accounts and “is not ashamed to call, brethren” Heb_2:11, being sons of God by grace, as He is the Son of God by nature. As He says, “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother” Mat_12:50; and, “My brethren are these who hear the word of God and do it” Luk_8:21.
The residue of these, the prophet says, shall return to, so as to be joined with , the children of Israel; as Malachi prophesies, “He shall bring back the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers” (Mal. 3:24, Hebrew). In the first sense, Micah foretells the continual inflow of the Jews to that true Israel who should first be called. All in each generation, who are the true Israel, shall be converted, made one in Christ, saved. So, whereas, since Solomon, all had been discord, and, at last, the Jews were scattered abroad everywhere, all, in the true Prince of Peace, shall be one (see Hos_1:11; Isa_11:10, etc.). This has been fulfilled in each generation since our Lord came, and shall be yet further in the end, when they shall haste and pour into the Church, and so “all Israel shall be saved” Rom_11:26.
But “the promise of God was not only to Israel after the flesh, but to all” also that were afar off, even as many as the Lord our God should call Act_2:39. All these may be called the remnant of His brethren, even those that were, before, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and afar off Eph_2:12-14, but now, in Christ Jesus, made one with them; all, brethren among themselves and to Christ their ruler. : “Having taken on Him their nature in the flesh, He is not ashamed to call them so, as the Apostle speaketh, confirming it out of the Psalm, where in the Person of Christ he saith, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren” Psa_22:22. There is no reason to take the name, brethren, here in a narrower sense than so to comprehend all “the remnant whom the Lord shall call” Joe_2:32, whether Jews or Gentiles. The word “brethren” in its literal sense includes both, and, as to both, the words were fulfilled.
Mic 5:4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord,…. The ruler in Israel, before described and prophesied of; the Messiah, as Kimchi himself interprets it, and other Jewish writers. Kimchi’s note is, “after the affliction, the King Messiah shall stand and feed Israel in the strength of the Lord;” and so R. Isaac (t) paraphrases the words exactly in the same way: wherefore, as another learned Jew (u) observes, these expressions evince that the ruler here spoken of can be no other than the Messiah; not Zerubbabel, who never attained to this height and happiness. He is both King and Shepherd, and to each of these the act of feeding is ascribed. The same word, in the Greek language, signifies both to rule and to feed and is used by Matthew, Mat_2:6; and kings are often compared to shepherds. Christ feeds his people, his brethren, his flock, his sheep, and lambs all truly converted ones; and this takes in the whole office of a shepherd, and the care he has of his flock; he takes an exact account of them, goes before them, and leads them out into good pastures; sets under shepherds over them; protects them from, all their enemies; looks after what is lost or driven away; heals the sick, strengthens the weak, binds up the broken, and watches over his flock continually: he feeds them with, himself, the bread of life, with his flesh and blood, which are meat and drink indeed; with the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel; and which are found to be spiritual, savoury, strengthening, satisfying, and soul nourishing food: and he “stands” and does this, being raised from the dead, and possessed of all power in heaven and in earth; which designs not the position of his body, but the ministration of his office, and his alacrity and readiness to perform it, and his constancy in it: and all this “in the strength of the Lord”; in his own strength, as a divine Person, which is the same with the strength of Jehovah; and in the power and strength that is dispensed to him as Mediator; and with his Gospel, the rod of his strength, and in such manner as to defend his flock from all that would devour them:
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; Jehovah the Father is the God of Christ, as is Mediator; and his name is in him, even the majesty of it; for, as a divine Person, he has the same nature and perfections with him; and as man, exalted at his right hand, has a name above every name in this world, or that to come; and it is by authority from him, in his office capacity, that he rules and feeds his people, having all judgment committed to him:
and they shall abide; that is, his people, his flock, his sheep fed and ruled by him; these shall continue and persevere under his care and keeping; in him, in whom they are chosen and preserved; in his love, from which they can never be separated; in his hands, out of which none can pluck them; in his church, where they shall ever remain; and so may be considered as a promise of the perseverance of the saints in faith and holiness to the end: or, “they shall sit” (w); quietly and securely, being freed from persecution, with which the Christians were at, ended in the first three centuries: this began to be accomplished in the times of Constantius Chlorus, who helped the Christians in the times of Dioclesian, and with whom the persecutions ended, and peace and prosperity followed:
for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth; as, he was in the times of Constantine, and will be again. Christ is great in himself, in, his person and offices; and will appear to be so unto all men, even unto the ends of the earth, when his Gospel shall be preached and spread, everywhere; when his kingdom shall be enlarged, and be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; even then shall he appear to be a great King over all the earth, and, the great Shepherd of the sheep, the man, Jehovah’s fellow; and to have such a flock, and so large, as never any had; when there will be one fold, and one shepherd; for this prophecy respects the latter day glory. Kimchi’s gloss is,
“the name of the Messiah shall be magnified, after the judgment of the wicked.”
(t) Ibid. (Chizzuk Emunah, par. 1. p. 281.) (u) Tanchuma apud Pocock in loc. ישבו “sedebunt”, Tigurine version, Vatablus, Drusius; “considebunt”, Cocceius; so R. Isaac, “they shall sit safely in his time”, as is said above, ch. iv. 4. “they shall sit every man”, &c. Chizzuk Emunah, ut supra. (par. 1. p. 281.)
And He shall stand – The prophet continues to speak of personal acts of this Ruler who was to be born. He was not to pass away, not to rule only by others, but by Himself. To stand is the attitude of a servant, as Jesus, although God and Lord of all, said of Himself, “He shall come forth and serve them” Luk_12:37; “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” Mat_20:28. “He shall stand” as a Shepherd Isa_61:5, to watch, feed, guard them, day and night; “He shall stand,” as Stephen saw Christ “standing on the Right Hand of God” Act_7:55, “to succor all those who suffer for Him.” : “For to sit belongs to one judging; to stand, to one fighting or helping.” “He shall stand,” as abiding, not to pass from them, as Himself saith, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” Mat_28:20 : and He shall feed His flock by His Spirit, His Word, His Wisdom and doctrine, His example and life; yea, by His own Body and Blood John 6. They whom He feedeth “lack nothing” Psa_23:1.
In the strength of the Lord – He, who feedeth them with divine tenderness, shall also have divine might, His Father’s and His own, to protect them; as He saith, “My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them and they follow Me, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. My Father Which gave them Me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s Hand. I and My Father are One” Joh_10:27-30. With authority, it is said, “He commandeth even the unclean spirits and they come out” Luk_4:36. His feeding or teaching also was “with authority, and not as the scribes” Mat_7:29.
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God – As John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of His Father” Joh_1:14; and He saith, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” Mat_28:18; so that the divine glory should shine through the majesty of His teaching, the power of His Grace, upholding His own, and the splendor of the miracles wrought by Him and in His Name. “Of the Name of the Lord;” as He saith again, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name” Joh_17:11-12. : “Whoever then is sent to feed His flock must stand, that is, be firm and unshaken; feed, not sell, nor slay; and feed in might, that is, in Christ.” His God, as our Lord Himself, as Man, saith, “Unto My Father, and your Father, and to My God and your God” .
But that Majesty He Himself wields, as no mere man can; He Himself is invested with it. : “To ordinary kings God is strength Psa_28:7; Psa_140:7, or gives strength 1Sa_2:10; men have strength in God; this Ruler is clad in the strength of the Lord, that same strength, which the Lord hath, whose is strength. Of Him, as Israel’s King, the same is said as of the Lord, as King of the whole earth Psa_93:1; only that the strength of the Messiah is not His own, but the Lord’s. He is invested with the strength of the Lord, because He is Man; as Man, He can be invested with the whole strength of the Lord, only because He is also God.”
And they shall abide – (Literally, sit, dwell) in rest and security and unbroken peace under Christ their Shepherd and their King; they shall not wander to and fro as heretofore “He, their Shepherd, shall stand; they shall sit.” “The word is the more emphatic, because it stands so absolutely. This will be a sitting or dwelling, which will indeed deserve the name. The original promise, so often forfeited by their disobedience should be perfectly fulfilled; “and ye shall dwell in your land safely, and I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid” . So Amos and Micah had before promised . And this is the result of the greatness of the promised Ruler, as the like promise of the Psalm is rested on the immutability of God; “Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall dwell, and their seed shall be established before Thee.” Psa_102:27-28. For it follows,”
For now – (In the time which Micah saw as did Abraham with the eye of faith,) “now,” in contrast to that former time of lowliness. His life shall be divided between a life of obscurity, and a life of never-ending greatness.
Shall He be great unto the (very) ends of the earth – embracing them in His rule, (as David and Solomon had foretold ,) and so none shall harm those whom He, the King of all the earth, shall protect. The universality of protection is derived from an universality of power. To David God says, “I have made thee a great name, like the name of the great that are in the earth” 2Sa_7:9. Of Uzziah it is said, “His name went forth far; for he was marvelously helped, until he was strong” (2Ch_26:15, add 2Ch_26:8); but of the Messiah alone it is said, that His power should reach to the ends of the earth; as God prophesies of Himself, that His “Name should be great among the pagan” Mal_1:11, Mal_1:14. So Gabriel said to His Mother, “This,” whom she should bear, “shall be great” .