The meaning of the first verse is somewhat doubtful: some refer what the Prophet says to punishment; and others to the wickedness of the people. The first think that the calamity, with which the Lord had visited the sins of the people, is bewailed; as though the Prophet looked on the disordered state of the whole land. But it may be easily gathered from the second verse, that the Prophet speaks here of the wickedness of the people, rather than of the punishment already inflicted. I have therefore put the two verses together, that the full meaning may be more evident to us.
Woe then to me! Why? I am become as gatherings Too free, or rather too licentious is this version, — “I am become as one who seeks to gather summer-fruits, and finds none;” so that being disappointed of his hope, he burns with desire. This cannot possibly be considered as the rendering of the Prophet’s words. There is indeed some difficulty in the expressions: their import, however, seems to be this, — that the land, which the Prophet undertakes here to represent and personify, was like to a field, or a garden, or a vineyard, that was empty. He therefore says, that the land was stripped of all its fruit, as it is after harvest and the vintage. So by gatheringswe must understand the collected fruit. Some understand the gleanings which remain, as when one leaves carelessly a few clusters on the vines: and thus, they say, a few just men remained alive on the land. But the former comparison harmonizes better with the rest of the passage, and that is, that the land was now stripped of all its fruit, as it is after the harvest and the vintage. I am become then as the gatherings of summer, that is, as in the summer, when the fruit has been already gathered; and as the clusters of the vintage,that is when the vintage is over.
There is no cluster, he says to eat.The Prophet refers here to the scarcity of good men; yea, he says that there were no longer any righteous men living. For though God had ever preserved some hidden seed, yet it might have been justly declared with regard to the whole people, that they were like a field after gathering the corn, or a vineyard after the vintage. Some residue, indeed, remains in the field after harvest, but there are no ears of corn; and in the vineyard some bunches remain, but they are empty; nothing remains but leaves. Now this personification is very forcible when the Prophet comes forth as though he represented the land itself; for he speaks in his own name and person, Woe is to me,he says, for I am like summer-gatherings! It was then the same thing, as though he deplored his own nakedness and want, inasmuch as there were not remaining any upright and righteous men.
Wo is me! – This is a continuation of the preceding discourse. And here the prophet points out the small number of the upright to be found in the land. He himself seemed to be the only person who was on God’s side; and he considers himself as a solitary grape, which had escaped the general gathering. The word קץ kayits, which is sometimes used for summer, and summer fruits in general, is here translated late figs; and may here, says Bishop Newcome, be opposed to the early ripe fig of superior quality. See on Hos_9:10 (note), and Amo_8:1 (note), Amo_8:2 (note). He desired to see the first-ripe fruit – distinguished and eminent piety; but he found nothing but a very imperfect or spurious kind of godliness.
Woe – o is me! for I am, as when they have gathered the summer fruits , as the grape-gleanings of the vintage “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts,” Isaiah said at the same time, “is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plants” Isa_5:7. Isaiah said, brought forth wild grapes; Micah, that there are but gleanings, few and poor.
It is as though Satan pressed the vineyard of the Lord, and made the most his prey, and few were left to those who glean for Christ; “the foxes have eaten the grapes” Son_2:15. Some few remain too high out of their reach, or hidden behind the leaves, or, it may be , falling in the time of gathering, fouled, sullied, marred and stained, yet left.” So in the gleaning there may be three sorts of souls; “two or three in the top of the uppermost bough” Isa_17:6, which were not touched; or those unripe, which are but imperfect and poor; or those who had fallen, yet were not wholly carried away. These too are all sought with difficulty; they had escaped the gatherer’s eye, they are few and rare; it might seem at first sight, us though there were none. There is no cluster to eat; for the vintage is past, the best is but as a sour grape which sets the teeth on edge.
My soul desired the first-ripe fig. These are they which, having survived the sharpness of winter, ripen early, about the end of June; they are the sweetest ; but he longed for them in vain. He addressed a carnal people, who could understand only carnal things, on the side which they could understand. Our longings, though we pervert them, are God’s gift. As they desired those things which refresh or recruit the thirsty body, as their whole self was gathered into the craving for that which was to restore them, so was it with him. Such is the longing of God for man’s conversion and salvation; such is the thirst of His ministers; such their pains in seeking, their sorrow in not finding. Dionysius: “There were none, through whose goodness the soul of the prophet might spiritually be refreshed, in joy at his growth in grace, as Paul saith to Philemon, “refresh my bowels in the Lord” Phm_1:20. So our Lord saith in Isaiah, “I said, I have labored in vain, I hate spent my strength for nought and in vain” Isa_49:4. “Jesus was grieved at the hardness of their hearts” Mar_3:5.
Rib.: “The first-ripe fig may be the image of the righteous of old, as the Patriarchs or the Fathers, such as in the later days we fain would see.”
In the second verse he expresses more clearly his mind, Perished,he says, has the righteous from the land, and there is none upright among men.Here now he does not personify the land. It was indeed a forcible and an emphatic language, when he complained at the beginning, that he groaned as though the land was ashamed of its dearth: but the Prophet now performs the office of a teacher, Perished,he says, has the righteous from the land; there is no one upright among men; all lay in wait for blood; every one hunts his brother as with a net
In this verse the Prophet briefly shows, that all were full both of cruelty and perfidy, that there was no care for justice; as though he said, In vain are good men sought among this people; for they are all bloody, they are all fraudulent. When he says, that they all did lay in wait for blood,he no doubt intended to set forth their cruelty, as though he had said, that they were thirsting for blood. But when he adds, that each did lay in wait for their brethren, he alludes to their frauds or to their perfidy.
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet: and the manner he adopts is more emphatical than if God, in his own name, had pronounced the words: for, as men were fixed, and as though drowned, in their own carelessness, the Prophet introduces here the land as speaking, which accuses its own children, and confesses its own guilt; yea, it anticipates God’s judgment, and acknowledges itself to be contaminated by its own inhabitants, so that nothing pure remained in it. It follows —
Mic 7:2 The good man is perished out of the earth,…. Here the prophet expresses in plain words what he had before delivered in figurative terms. The “good” or “godly” man, as in Psa_12:1; is one that has received the grace of God, and blessings of grace from him, and lives a godly life and conversation; who has the good work of grace begun in him and is found in the performance of good works, and does his duty both to God and man from godly principles; and particularly is kind and merciful to the poor and needy, and those in distress. The complaint is, that there were few, or scarce any, of this character in the earth, in the land of Israel, where there used to be great numbers of them, but now they were all dead and gone; for this is to be understood, not of the perishing of their graces or comforts, much less of their perishing in their sins, or perishing eternally, but of their corporeal death:
and there is none upright among men; that are upright in heart and life; that have right spirits renewed in them, are Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile; and walk uprightly, according to the rule of the divine word, truly honest, faithful men; very few such were to be found, scarce any; see Psa_12:1;
they all lie in wait for blood; for the substance, wealth, and riches of men, which is as their blood and life; is their livelihood, that on which they live; this they wait for an opportunity to get from them, and, when it offers, greedily seize it; and stick not even to shed blood, and take away life, for the sake of gain:
they hunt every man his brother with a net; as men lay nets for fish, and fowl, and beasts, and hunt them till they have got them into them; so these men laid snares, not for strangers only, but for their own brethren, to entangle them in, and cheat and defraud them of their substance; and this they would do, even to the destruction of them, as some (s) render it; for the word also signifies “anathema”, destruction, as well as a “net”. So the Targum.
“betray or deliver his brother to destruction.”
(s) חרם “ad necem”, Tigurine version; “anathema, caedes”, Drusius; “ad occasuinem”, ibid.
The, good – or godly, or merciful, the English margin
Man – The Hebrew word contains all. It is “he who loveth tenderly and piously” God, for His own sake, and man, for the sake of God. Mercy was probably chiefly intended, since it wits to this that the prophet had exhorted, and the sins which he proceeds to speak of, are against this. But imaginary love of God without love of man, or love of man without the love of God, is mere self-deceit. “Is perished out of the earth,” that is, by an untimely death. The good had either been withdrawn by God from the evil to come Isa_57:1, or had Leon cut off by those who laid wait for blood; in which case their death brought a double evil, through the guilt which such sin contracted, and then, through the loss of those who might be an example to others, and whose prayers God would hear. The loving and upright, all, who were men of mercy and truth, had ceased. They who were left, “all lie in wait for blood,” literally, bloods , that is, bloodshedding; all, as far as man can see; as Elijah complains that he was left alone.
Amid the vast number of the wicked, the righteous were as though they were not. Isaiah, at the same time, complains of the like sins, and that it was as though there were none righteous; “Your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips hate spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth” Isa_59:2-3. Indirectly, or directly, they destroyed life . To violence they add treachery. The good and loving had perished, and all is now violence; the upright had ceased, and all now is deceit. “They hunt every man his brother with a net.” Every man is the brother of every man, because he is man, born of the same first parent, children of the same Father: yet they lay wait for one another, as hunters for wild beasts (Compare Psa_35:7; Psa_57:7; Psa_140:6; Jer_5:26).
This verse is properly addressed to the judges and governors of the people, and also to the rich, who oppressed the miserable common people, because they could not redeem themselves by rewards. The Prophet therefore complains, that corruptions so much prevailed in judgments, that the judges readily absolved the most wicked, provided they brought bribes. The sum of what is said then is, that any thing might be done with impunity, for the judges were venal. This is the Prophet’s meaning.
But as interpreters differ, something shall be said as to the import of the words. על הרע כפים, ol ero caphim, For the evil of their hands to do good. Some give this explanation, “Though they are openly wicked, yet they make pretenses, by which they cover their wickedness:” and the sense would be this, — that though they had cast aside every care for what was right, they yet had become so hardened in iniquity, that they wished to be deemed good and holy men; for in a disordered state of things the wicked always show an iron front, and would have silence to be observed respecting their shameful deeds. Some interpreters therefore think that the Prophet here complains, that there was now no difference between what was honorable and base, right and wrong; for wicked men dared so to disguise their iniquities, that they did not appear, or, that no one ventured to say any thing against them. Do you, however, examine and consider, whether what the Prophet says may be more fitly connected together in this way, That they may do good for the wickedness of their hands, that is, to excuse themselves for the wickedness of their hands, they agree together; for the prince asks, the judge is ready to receive a bribe. Thus, the rich saw that exemption might have been got by them, for they had the price of redemption in their hands: they indeed knew that the judges and princes could be pacified, when they brought the price of corruption. And this is the meaning which I approve, for it harmonizes best with the words of the Prophet. At the same time, some give a different explanation of the verb להיטיב, laeithib,that is that they acted vigorously in their wickedness: but this exposition is frigid. I therefore embrace the one I have just stated, which is, — that corruptions so prevailed in the administration of justice, that coverings were ready for all crimes; for the governors and judges were lovers of money, and were always ready to absolve the most guilty, but not without a reward. For the wickedness then of their works, that they may do good, that is, that they may obtain acquittance, the princeonly asks;he examines not the case, but only regards the hand; and the judge, he says, judges for reward: the judges also were mercenary. They did not sit to determine what was right and just; but as soon as they were satisfied by bribes, they easily forgave all crimes; and thus they turned vices into virtues; for they made no difference between white and black, but according to the bribe received.
This view is consistent with what the Prophet immediately subjoins, The great, he says, speaks of the wickedness of his soul, even he By the great, he does not mean the chief men, as some incorrectly think, but he means the rich, who had money enough to conciliate the judges. They then who could bring the price of redemption, dared to boast openly of their wickedness: for so I render the word הות, eut,as it cannot be suitable to translate it here, corruption. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does the great; there was then nothing, neither fear nor shame, to restrain the rich from doing wrong. — How so? For they knew that they had to do with mercenary judges and could easily corrupt them. They hence dared to speak of the wickedness of their soul: they did not cloak their crimes, as it is the case when some fear of the Law prevails, when justice is exercised: but as no difference was made between good and evil, the most guilty boasted openly of his wickedness. And the pronoun הוא, eva, he himself, is also emphatical; and this has not been observed by interpreters. He then himself speaks of the wickedness of his soul; he did not wait until others accuse him of doing wrong, but he shamelessly dared to glory in his crimes; for impunity was certain, as he could close the mouth of the judges by bringing a bribe. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does he himself.
And further, they fold up wickedness; which means, that raging cruelty prevailed, because the governors, and those who wished to purchase liberty to sin, conspired together; as though they made ropes, and thus rendered firm their wickedness. For the great man, that is, the rich and the monied, agreed with the judge, and the judge with him; and so there was a collusion between them. It hence happened, that wickedness possessed, as it were, a tyrannical power; for there was no remedy. We now apprehend the real design of the Prophet, at least as far as I am able to discover. It now follows —
Mic 7:3 That they may do evil with both hands earnestly,…. Or “well” (t), strenuously, diligently, to the utmost of their power, labouring at it with all their might and main; as wicked men generally are more industrious, and exert themselves more to do evil than good men do to do good; and even weary themselves to commit iniquity: or, “instead of doing good”, as Marinus in Aben Ezra, take a great deal of pains to do evil; work with both hands at it, instead of doing good. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, “they prepare their hands for evil”; the Syriac version is, “their hands are read? to evil, and they do not do good”; with which agrees the Targum,
“they do evil with their hands, and do not do good.”
Some make the sense to depend on what goes before and follows; “to do evil, both hands” are open and ready, and they hurt with them; “but to do, good the prince asketh, and the judge for a reward” (u); forward enough to do evil, but very backward to do any good office;
the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and, if they do it, must be bribed, and have a reward for it, even persons of such high character; but this sense is not favoured by, the accents; besides, by what follows, it seems as if the “prince”, by whom may be meant the king upon the throne, and the “judge” he that sits upon the bench under him, sought for bribes to do an ill thing; to give a cause wrong against a poor man, and in favour of a rich man that will bribe high:
and the great man he uttereth his mischievous desire; the depravity, corruption, and perverseness of his soul; who is either some great man at court, that, being encouraged by the example of the prince and judge, openly and publicly requires a bribe also to do an ill thing; and without any shame or blushing promises to do it on that consideration; or a counsellor at the bar, who openly declares that he will speak in such a cause, though a bad one, and defend it, and not doubt of carrying it; or else this is some rich wicked man, that seeks to oppress his poor neighbour, and, being favoured by the prince and judge he has bribed, does without fear or shame speak out the wickedness of his heart, and what an ill design he has against his neighbour, whose mischief, hurt, and ruin, he seeks:
so they wrap it up together; or, “twist it together” (w); as cords are, which thereby become strong; slid so these three work up this mischievous business, and strengthen and establish it; and such a threefold cord of wickedness is not easily broken or unravelled: or, “they perplex it” (x); as thick branches of trees are implicated and wrapped together; so these agree to puzzle and perplex a cause, that they may have some show of carrying it with justice and truth. So the Vulgate Latin version renders it, “they trouble it”; confound the matter, and make it dark, dubious, and difficult. The Targum is, “they corrupt it”; or deprave it; put an ill sense on things, and make a wrong construction of them.
(t) להיטיב “bene”, Drusius. (u) So Grotius. יעבתוה “contorquent”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius; “contorquere solent”, Burkius; “contortuplicant”, Junius, Grotius; so R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 38. 2. (x) “A radice עבת quae intricare significat, atque confusum reddere, atque perplexum”, Sanctius,
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly – (Literally, upon evil both hands to do well,) that is, “both their hands are upon evil to do it well,” or “earnestly” , as our translation gives the meaning; only the Hebrew expresses more, that evil is their good, and their good or excellence is in evil. Bad men gain a dreadful skill and wisdom in evil, as Satan has; and cleverness in evil is their delight. Jerome: “They call the evil of their hands good.” “The prince asketh, and the judge asketh (or, it may more readily be supplied, judgeth, doth that which is his office,) against right “for a reward”, (which was strictly forbidden,) “and the great man he uttereth his mischievos desire” (Deu_16:19. See above Mic_3:11), (or the “desire of his soul”.) Even the shew of good is laid aside; whatever the heart conceives and covets, it utters; – mischief to others and in the end to itself.
The mischief comes forth from the soul, and returns upon it. “The elders and nobles in the city” 1Ki_21:8, 1Ki_21:11, as well as Ahab, took part, (as one instance,) in the murder of Naboth. The great man, however, here, is rather the source of the evil, which he induces others to effect; so that as many as there were great, so many sources were there of oppression. All, prince, judges, the great, unite in the ill, and this not once only, but they are ever doing it and “so they wrap it up”, (literally, twist, intertwine it.) Things are twisted, either to strengthen, or to pervert or intricate them. It might mean, they “strengthen” it, that which their soul covets against; the poor, or they “pervert” it, the cause of the poor.
The Prophet confirms what he had previously said, — that the land was so full of every kind of wickedness, that they who were deemed the best were yet thorns and briers, full of bitterness, or very sharp to prick; as though he said, “The best among them is a thief; the most upright among them is a robber.” We hence see, that in these words he alludes to their accumulated sins, as though he said, “The condition of the people cannot be worse; for iniquity has advanced to its extreme point: when any one seeks for a good or an upright man, he only finds thorns and briers; that is, he is instantly pricked.” But if the best were then like thorns, what must have been the remainder? We have already seen that the judges were so corrupt that they abandoned themselves without feeling any shame to any thing that was base. What then could have been said of them, when the Prophet compares here the upright and the just to thorns; yea, when he says, that they were rougher than briers? Though it is an improper language to say, that the good and the upright among them were like briers; for words are used contrary to their meaning, as it is certain, that those who inhumanely pricked others were neither good nor just: yet the meaning of the Prophet is in no way obscure, — that there was then such license taken in wickedness, that even those who retained in some measure the credit of being upright were yet nothing better than briers and thorns. There is then in the words what may be deemed a concession.
He then adds, The day of thy watchmen, thy visitation comes He here denounces the near judgment of God, generally on the people, and especially on the rulers. But he begins with the first ranks and says The day of thy watchmen;as though he said, “Ruin now hangs over thy governors, though they by no means expect it.” Watchmen he calls the Prophets, who, by their flatteries, deceived the people, as well as their rulers: and he sets the Prophets in the front, because they were the cause of the common ruin. He does not yet exempt the body of the people from punishment; nay, he joins together these two things, — the visitation of the whole people, and the day of the watchmen.
And justly does he direct his discourse to these watchmen, who, being blind, blinded all the rest; and who, being perverted, led astray the whole people. This is the reason why the Prophet now, in an especial manner, threatens them; but, as I have already said, the people were not on this account to be excused. There may seem indeed to have been here a fair pretense for extenuating their guilt: the common people might have said that they had not been warned as they ought to have been; nay, that they had been destroyed through delusive falsehoods. And we see at this day that many make such a pretense as this. But a defense of this kind is of no avail before God; for though the common people are blinded, yet they go astray off their own accord, since they lend a willing ear to impostors. And even the reason why God gave loose reins to Satan as well as to his ministers, and why he gives, as Paul says, (2Th_2:11,) power to delusion, is this, — because the greater part of the world ever seeks to be deceived. The denunciation of the Prophet then is this, — that as the judges and the Prophets had badly exercised their office, they would be led to the punishment which they deserved, for they had been, as it has been elsewhere observed, the cause of ruin to others: in the meantime, the common people were not excusable. The vengeance of God then would overtake them and from the least to the greatest, without any exemption. Thy visitation then comes.
He afterwards speaks in the third person, Then shall be their confusion, or perplexity, or they shall be ashamed. The Prophet here alludes indirectly to the hardness of the people; for though the Prophets daily threatened them, they yet remained all of them secure; nay, we know that all God’s judgments were held in derision by them. As then the faithful teachers could not have moved wicked men either with fear or with shame, the Prophet says, Then confusion shall come to them;as though he said, “Be hardened now as much as ye wish to be, as I see that you are stupid, yea, senseless, and attend not to the word of the Lord; but the time of visitation will come, and then the Lord will constrain you to be ashamed, for he will really show you to be such as ye are; and he will not then contend with you in words as he does now; but the announced punishment will divest you of all your false pretenses; and he will also remove that waywardness which now hardens you against wholesome doctrine and all admonitions.”
Mic 7:4 The best of them is as a brier,…. Good for nothing but for burning, very hurtful and mischievous, pricking and scratching those that have to do with them:
the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge; which, if a man lays hold on to get over, or attempts to pass through, his hands will be pricked, his face scratched, and his clothes tore off his back; so the best of these princes, judges, and great inch, who put on a show of goodness, and pretended to do justice, yet fetched blood, and got money out of everyone they were concerned with, and did them injury in one respect or another; or the best and most upright of the people of the land in general, that made the greatest pretensions to religion and virtue, yet in their dealings were sharp, and biting, and tricking; and took every fraudulent method to cheat, and overreach, and hurt men in their property:
the day of thy watchmen; either which the true prophets of the Lord, sometimes called watchmen, foretold should come, but were discredited and despised, will now most assuredly come; and it will be found to be true what they said should come to pass: or the day of the false prophets, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; either which they predicted as a good day, and now it should be seen whether it would be so or not; or the day of their punishment, for their false prophecies and deception of the people:
and thy visitation cometh; the time that God would punish the people in general for their iniquities, as! well as their false prophets, princes, judges, and great men; who also may be designed by watchmen:
now shall be their perplexity: the prince, the judge, and the great man, in just retaliation for their perplexing the cause of the poor; or of all the people, who would be surrounded and entangled with calamities and distresses, and not know which way to turn themselves, or how to get out of them.
The best of them is as a brier – The gentlest of them is a thorn , strong, hard, piercing, which letteth nothing unresisting pass by but it taketh from it, “robbing the fleece, and wounding the sheep.” “The most upright”, those who, in comparison of others still worse, seem so, “is sharper than a thorn hedge”, (literally, the upright, them a thorn hedge.) They are not like it only, but worse, and that in all ways; none is specified, and so none excepted; they were more crooked, more tangled, sharper. Both, as hedges, were set for protection; both, turned to injury. Jerome: “So that, where you would look for help, thence comes suffering.” And if such be the best, what the rest?
The day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh – When all, even the good, are thus corrupted, the iniquity is full. Nothing now hinders the “visitation”, which “the watchmen”, or prophets, had so long foreseen and forewarned of. “Now shall be their perplexity” ; “now”, without delay; for the day of destruction ever breakcth suddenly upon the sinner. “When they say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them” 1Th_5:3. : “whose destruction cometh suddenly at an instant”. They had perplexed the cause of the oppressed; they themselves were tangled together, intertwined in mischief, as a thorn-hedge. They should be caught in their own snare; they had perplexed their paths and should find no outlet.
The Prophet pursues the subject we discussed yesterday, — that liberty, in iniquity, bad arrived to its highest point, for no faithfulness remained among men; nay, there was no more any humanity; for the son performed not his duty towards his father, nor the daughter-in-law towards her mother-in-law; in short, there was then no mutual love and concord. He does not here speak of that false confidence, by which many deceive themselves, who rely on mortals, and transfer to them the glory which belongs to God. Those therefore without any reason, philosophize here, who say, that we ought not to trust in men; for this was not the design of the Prophet. But our Prophet complains of his times according to the tenor of Ovid’s description of the iron age, who says –
“—A guest is not safe from his host; Nor a brother-in-law from a son-in-law; and brotherly love is rare: A husband seeks the death of his wife, and she, of her husband; Cruel stepmothers mingle the lurid poison; The son, before the day, inquires into the years of his father.”
So also our Prophet says, that there was no regard to humanity among men; for the wife was ready to betray her husband, the son treated his father with reproach; in short, they had all forgotten humanity or natural affection. We now then understand what the Prophet means by saying, Trust not a friend; that is, if any one hopes for any thing from a friend, he will be deceived; for nothing can be found among men but perfidy.
Put no faith in a counselor: So I render the word אלוף, aluph; some translate it, an elder brother; but there is no necessity to constrain us to depart from the proper and true meaning of the word. As then the Prophet had spoken of an associate or a friend, so he now adds a counselor. And it proves what he had in view, when he says in the next clause, that no enemies are worse than domestics. We hence see that the Prophet simply means, that the men of his age were not only avaricious and cruel to one another, but that without any regard to human feelings the son rebelled against his father, and thus subverted the whole order of nature; So that they had none of those affections, which seem at the same time to be incapable of being extinguished in men. Let us now proceed —
Mic 7:5 Trust ye not in a friend,…. This is not said to lessen the value of friendship; or to discourage the cultivation of it with agreeable persons; or to dissuade from a confidence in a real friend; or in the least to weaken it, and damp the pleasure of true friendship, which is one of the great blessings of life; but to set forth the sad degeneracy of the then present age, that men, who pretended to be friends, were so universally false and faithless, that there was no dependence to be had on them:
put ye not confidence in a guide; in political matters, in civil affairs, as civil magistrates, judges, counsellors; or in domestic matters. The Targum renders it, in one near akin. Kimchi interprets it of an elder brother; and Aben Ezra of a husband, who is to his wife the guide of her youth; and in religious matters as prophets, priests who were false and deceitful. It may design a very intimate friend, a familiar acquaintance, who might of all men be thought to be confided in; of whom the word is used, Psa_55:13;
keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom; from a wife, and much more from a concubine or harlot. The Targum is,
“from the wife of thy covenant keep the words of thy mouth;”
divulge not the thoughts of thine heart, or disclose the secrets of it, to one so near; take care of speaking treason against the prince, or ill of a neighbour; it may be got out of such an one, and who may be so base as to betray it: or utter not anything whatever that is secret, the divulging of which may be detrimental; for, in such an age as this was, one in so near a relation might be wicked enough to discover it; see Ecc_10:20.
Mic 7:6 For the son dishonoureth the father,…. Speaks contemptibly of him; behaves rudely towards him; shows him no respect and reverence; exposes his failings, and makes him the object of his banter and ridicule; who ought to have honoured, reverenced, and obeyed him, being the instrument of his being, by whom he was brought up, fed, clothed, and provided for; base ingratitude!
the daughter riseth up against her mother; by whom she has been used in the most tender and affectionate manner; this being still more unnatural, if possible, as being done by the female sex, usually more soft and pliable; but here, losing her natural affection, and forgetting both her relation and sex, replies to her mother, giving ill language; opposes and disobeys her, chides, wrangles, and scolds, and strives and litigates with her, as the Targum: or rises up as a witness against her, to her detriment, if not to the taking away of her life:
the daughter in law against her mother in law; this is not so much to be wondered at as, the former instances, which serve to encourage and embolden those that are in such a relation to speak pertly and saucily; to reproach and make, light of mothers in law, as the Targum; or slight and abuse them:
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house; his sons and his servants, who should honour his person, defend his property, and promote his interest; but, instead of that, do everything that is injurious to him. These words are referred to by Christ, and used by him to describe the times in which he lived, Mat_10:35; and the prophet may be thought to have an eye to the same, while he is settling forth the badness of his own times; and the Jews seem to think be had a regard to them, since they say (y), that, when the Messiah comes, “the son shall dishonour his father”, &c. plainly having this passage in view; and the; whole agrees with the times of Christ, in which there were few good men; it was a wicked age, an adulterous generation of men, he lived among; great corruption there was in princes, priests, and people; in the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, and in all ranks and degrees of men; and he that ate bread with Christ, even Judas, lifted up his heel against him. The times in which Micah the prophet here speaks of seem to he the times of Ahaz, who was a wicked prince; and the former part of Hezekiah’s reign, before a reformation was started, or at least brought about, in whose reigns he prophesied; though some have thought he here predicts the sad times in the reign of Manasseh, which is not so probable.
(y) Misn. Sotah, c. 9. sect. 15.
Trust ye not in a friend – It is part of the perplexity of crooked ways, that all relationships are put out of joint. Selfishness rends each from the other, and disjoints the whole frame of society. Passions and sin break every band of friendship, kindred, gratitude, nature. “Everyone ‘seeketh his own’.” Times of trial and of outward harass increase this; so that God’s visitations are seasons of the most frightful recklessness as to everything but sell: So had God foretold Deu_28:53; so it was in the siege of Samaria 2Ki_6:28, and in that of Jerusalem both by the Chaldeans Lam_4:3-16 and by the Romans . When the soul has lost the love of God, all other is but sceming love, since “natural affection” is from Him, and it too dies out, as God gives the soul over to itself Rom_1:28. The words describe partly the inward corruption, partly the outward causes which shall call it forth.
There is no real trust in any, where all are corrupt. The outward straitness and perplexity, in which they shall be, makes that to crumble and fall to pieces, which was inwardly decayed and severed before. The words deepen, as they go on. First, “the friend”, or neighbor, the common band of man and man; then “the guide”, (or, as the word also means, one “familiar”, united by intimacy, to whom, by continual intercourse, the soul was “used”;) then the wife who lay in the bosom, nearest to the secrets of the heart; then those to whom all reverence is due, “father” and “mother”. Our Lord said that this should be fulfilled in the hatred of His Gospel. He begins His warning as to it, with a caution like that of the prophet; “Be ye wise as serpents” Mat_10:16-17, and “beware of men”. Then He says, how these words should still be true Mat_10:21, Mat_10:35-36. There never were wanting pleas of earthly interest against the truth.
He Himself was “cut off” lest “the Romans should take away their place and nation” Joh_11:48. The Apostles were accused, that they meant to “bring this Man’s Blood upon” the chief priests Act_5:28; or as “ringleaders of the sect of the Nazarenes, pestilant fallows and movers of sedition, turning the world upside down, setters up of another king; troublers of the city; comanding things unlawful for Romans to practice; setters forth of strange gods; turning away much people” Act_24:5; Act_16:20-21; Act_17:6-7, Act_17:18; 1Pe_2:12; endangering not men’s craft only, but the honor of their gods; “evil doers”. Truth is against the world’s ways, so the world is against it. Holy zeal hates sin, so sinners hate it. It troubles them, so they count it, “one which troubleth Israel” 1Ki_18:17. Tertullian, in a public defense of Christians in the second century, writes, , “Truth set out with being herself hated; as soon as she appeared, she is an enemy. As many as are strangers to it, so many are its foes; and the Jews indeed appropriately from their rivalry, the soldiers from their violence, even they of our own household from nature. Each flay are we beset, each day betrayed; in our very meetings and assemblies are we mostly surprised.”
There was no lack of pleas. : “A Christian thou deemest a man guilty of every crime, an encmy of the goals, of the Emperors, of law, of morals, of all nature;” “factious,” “authors of all public calamities through the anger of the pagan gods,” “impious,” “atheists,” “disloyal,” “public enemies.” The Jews, in the largest sense of the word “they of their own household”, were ever the deadliest enemies of Christians, the inventors of calumnies, the authors of persecutions. “What other race,” says , Tertullian, “is the seed-plot of our calumnies?”
Then the Acts of the Martyrs tell, how Christians were betrayed by near kinsfolk for private interest, or for revenge, because they would not join in things unlawful. Jerome: “So many are the instances in daily life, (of the daughter rising against the mother) that we should rather mourn that they are so many, than seek them out.” – “I seek no examples, (of those of a man’s own househould being his foes) they are too many, that we should have any need of witness.” Dionysius: “Yet ought we not, on account of these and like words of Holy Scripture, to be mistrustful or suspicious, or always to presume the worst, but to be cautious and prudent. For Holy Scripture speaketh with reference to times, causes, persons, places.” So John saith, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God” 1Jo_4:1.
The Prophet points out here the only remedy, to preserve the faithful from being led away by bad examples and that is, to fix their eyes on God, and to believe that he will be their deliverer. Nothing is more difficult than to refrain from doing wrong, when the ungodly provoke us; for they seem to afford us a good reason for retaliation. And when no one injures us, yet custom is deemed almost a law: thus it happens that we think that to be lawful which is sanctioned by the manners and customs of the age; and when success attends the wicked, this becomes a very strong incentive. Thus it happens, that the faithful can hardly, and with no small difficulty, keep themselves within proper bounds: when they see that wickedness reigns everywhere, and that with impunity; and still more, when they see the abettors of wickedness increasing in esteem and wealth, immediately the corrupt lust of emulation creeps in. But when the faithful themselves are provoked by injuries, there seems then to be a just reason for doing wrong; for they say that they willfully do harm to no one, but only resist an injury done to them, or retaliate fraud with fraud: this they think is lawful. The Prophet, in order to prevent this temptation, bids the faithful to look to God. The same sentiment we often meet with in Psa_119:0 : its import is, that the faithful are not to suffer themselves to be led away by bad examples, but to continue ever obedient to God’s word, however great and violent the provocations they may receive. Let us now consider the words of the Prophet.
To Jehovah,he says, will I look The verb צפה, tsaphe,properly means to look on, to behold; (speculari;) it is sometimes taken in the sense of expecting; but I am inclined to retain its proper meaning, I will look, he says, on God; that is, I will do the same as though the only true God were before my eyes. How indeed does it happen that even the good indulge themselves while living among the wicked and ungodly, except that they are too much occupied with things around them? If then we desire to maintain integrity, while the world presents to us nothing but examples of sin, let us learn to pass by these temptations as with closed eyes. This may be done, if we direct our eyes to God alone. I will look, he says, to Jehovah
He then adds, I will wait for the God of my salvation The Prophet says nothing new here, but only explains more clearly the last clause, defining the manner of the looking of which he had spoken; as though he said, — “Patiently will I bear, while God helps me:” for when the wicked harass us on every side, we shall no doubt soon turn away our eyes from Gods except we be armed with patience. And how comes patience, unless we be fully persuaded that God will be our deliverer, when the suitable time shall come? We now perceive the intention of the Prophet. He shows that the godly cannot otherwise continue constant in their integrity, except they turn their eyes to the only true God. Then he adds, that they cannot be preserved in this contemplation, unless they wait patiently for God, that is, for his help.
And he calls him the God of his salvation; by which he intimates that, relying on his word, he thus perseveres in enduring injuries: for it cannot be but that every one will submit himself to God, and surrender himself to be protected by him, if this truth be first fixed in his mind — that God will never forsake his own people. This then is the reason why he calls him the God of his salvation. But this title must be referred to his present circumstances, as though he said, — “Though God’s hand does not now appear to help or to bring me aid, I yet feel assured of his favor, and I know that my salvation is secured by it.”
He then adds, Hear me will my God He here confirms what we have already said, — that, being supported by the promises of God, he thus composes his mind to patience; for patience would often vanish or would be shaken off by temptations, unless we were surely persuaded that God provides for our salvation, and that we shall not hope in him in vain. Nor is it to no purpose that he says, that God was his God. He was one of his people; and this seems to have been the common privilege of all the Jews: yet the Prophet no doubt connects God with himself here in a peculiar manner; for men in general had fallen away into ungodliness. They all indeed gloried in the name of God, but absurdly and falsely. Hence the Prophet intimates, that he was under his protection in a manner different from the rest: for when any one allows himself the liberty of doing evil, he, at the same time, renounces God and his protection. Therefore, the Prophet no doubt alludes indirectly to the irreligion of the people. For though the vain boasting, that they had been adopted by God, that they were the holy race of Abraham, was everywhere in the mouth of all, yet hardly one in a hundred had any regard for God. But it is also of importance to notice, that the Prophet, by saying, Hear me will God, gives a testimony, at the same time, respecting his own faith, — that he would always apply to God for help, and exercise himself in prayer whenever necessity urged him; for God hears not except when he is called upon. The Prophet then recommends here, by his example, an attention to prayer.
Now this verse shows to us in general that there is no excuse for us if we suffer ourselves to be led away, as it is daily the case, by bad examples. And then to look to God is especially needful, when all excesses of wickedness prevail in the world: when the lusts of men become the rule and the law, we ought then to renounce in a manner the society of men, that they may not implicate us in their wickedness. They, therefore, who allege for themselves the examples of others, employ a frivolous excuse, as many do in the present day, who set up the shield of custom: though they are clearly condemned by the word of God, yet they think it a sufficient defense, that they follow others. But we see how frivolous is this confidence; for the Prophet no doubt prescribes here a law for all the children of God as to what they ought to do, when the devil tempts them to sin by the bad examples and shameful deeds of the majority. Let us go on —
Therefore – (And,) when all these things come to pass and all human help fails, “I”, for my part, “will look unto”, (literally, “on”) “the Lord” God, the Unchangeable. The prophet sets himself, I, with emphasis, against the multitude of the ungodly. When all forsake, betray, fail, when “love is waxed cold” Mat_24:12, and men, in the last days, shall be “lovers of their ownselves” 2Ti_3:2, 2Ti_3:4, “not lovers of God”, I, – he does not say, “will trust,” but – , “will” (Jerome), “with the eye of the heart contemplating, loving, venerating God most High, and weighing His mercy and justice,” “gaze intently” with the devotion of faith toward Him, though I see Him not: yet so too I will rest “in” Him (compare Psa_25:15; Psa_123:1; Psa_141:8) and “on” Him, as the eyes are accustomed to rest in trust and love and dependence, and as, on the other hand, the eyes of God “espy into” Psa_66:7 man and dwell on him, never leaving him unbeheld.
I will “espy” Him, although from afar, with the eyes of the soul, as a watchman, (the word is the same,) looking for His coming and announcing it to others; and until He comes, “I will wait (I would wait”) with trust unbroken by any troubles or delay, as Job saith, “Though He slay me, yet will I put my trust in Him” Job_13:15. The word is almost appropriated to a longing waiting for God. “For the God of my salvation”. This too became a customary title of God , a title, speaking of past deliverances, as well as of confidence and of hope. Deliverance and salvation are bound up with God, and that, in man’s personal experience. It is not only, “Saviour God,” but “God, my Saviour,” Thou who hast been, art, and wilt be, my God, my saving God. It is a prelude to the name of Jesus, our Redeeming God. “The Lord will hear me”.
His purpose of waiting on God he had expressed wistfully. “I would wait;” for man’s longing trust must be upheld by God. Of God’s mercy he speaks confidently, “the Lord will hear me”, He, who is ever “more ready to hear than we to pray.” He has no doubts, but, as Abraham said, “the Lord will provide” Gen_22:8, Gen_22:14, so he, “The Lord will hear me”. So, when Jehoshaphat prayed, “We have no might against this great company that cometh, against us, neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon Thee” 2Ch_20:12, 2Ch_20:15; God answered by the prophet, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s”. Micah unites with himself all the faithful as one, “in the unity of the spirit,” where in all are one band, looking, waiting, praying for His Coming in His kingdom. Lap.: “God is our only refuge and asylum in things desperate, and rejoices to help in them, in order to shew His supreme Power and Goodness especially to those who believe, hope, and ask it. Therefore all mistrust and despondency is then to be supremely avoided, and a certain hope and confidence in God is to be elicited. This will call forth the help of God assuredly, yea though it were by miracle, as to Lot in Sodom, to Moses and the people from Pharaoh, to David from Saul, to Hezekiah from Sennacherib, to the Maccabees from Antiochus. This our proverbs express , how God aids, when there is least sign of it.”
The Prophet here exclaims that God ought to be glorified especially for this — that he is merciful to his people. When he says, Who is God as thou art? he does not mean that there are other gods; for this, strictly speaking, is an improper comparison. But he shows that the true and only God may be distinguished from all idols by this circumstance — that he graciously forgives the sins of his people and bears with their infirmities. It is indeed certain, that all nations entertained the opinion, that their gods were ready to pardon; hence their sacrifices and hence also their various kinds of expiations. Nor has there been any nation so barbarous as not to own themselves guilty in some measure before God; hence all the Gentiles were wont to apply to the mercy of their gods; while yet they had no firm conviction: for though they laid hold on this first principle, — that the gods would be propitious to sinners, if they humbly sought pardon; yet they prayed, we know, with no sure confidence, for they had no certain promise. We hence see that what the Prophet means is this, — that the God of Israel could be proved to be the true God from this circumstance — that having once received into favor the children of Abraham, he continued to show the same favor, and kept his covenant inviolably, though their sins had been a thousand times a hindrance in the way. That God then in his goodness surmounted all the wickedness of the people, and stood firm in his covenant, which had been so often violated by vices of the people — this fact may be brought as an evidence, that he is the true God: for what can be found of this kind among idols? Let us suppose that there is in them something divine, that they were gods, and endued with some power; yet with regard to the gods of the Gentiles, it could not be known that any one of them was propitious to his own people. Since then this can apply only to the God of Israel, it follows that in this instance his divinity shines conspicuously, and that his sovereignty is hence sufficiently proved. We also learn, that all the gods of heathens are vain; yea, that in the religion of heathens there is nothing but delusions: for no nation can with confidence flee to its god to obtain pardon, when it has sinned. This is the sum of the whole. I shall now come to the words of the Prophet.
Who is a God like thee, taking away iniquity, and passing by wickedness? By these two forms of expression, he sets forth the singular favor of God in freely reconciling himself to sinners. To take away sins is to blot them out; though the verb נשא, nusha,often means to raise on high; yet it means also to take, or, to take away. To pass by wickedness, is to connive at it, as though he said, “God overlooks the wickedness of his people, as if it escaped his view:” for when God requires an account of our life, our sins immediately appear, and appear before his eyes; but when God does not call our sins before his judgment, but overlooks them, he is then said to pass by them.
This passage teaches us, as I have already reminded you, that the glory of God principally shines in this, — that he is reconcilable, and that he forgives our sins. God indeed manifests his glory both by his power and his wisdom, and by all the judgments which he daily executes; his glory, at the same time, shines forth chiefly in this, — that he is propitious to sinners, and suffers himself to be pacified; yea, that he not only allows miserable sinners to be reconciled to him, but that he also of his own will invites and anticipates them. Hence then it is evident, that he is the true God. That religion then may have firm roots in our hearts, this must be the first thing in our faith, — that God will ever be reconciled to us; for except we be fully persuaded as to his mercy, no true religion will ever flourish in us, whatever pretensions we may make; for what is said in Psa_130:0 is ever true, ‘With thee is propitiation, that thou mayest be feared.’ Hence the fear of God, and the true worship of him, depend on a perception of his goodness and favor; for we cannot from the heart worship God, and there will be, as I have already said, no genuine religion in us, except this persuasion be really and deeply seated in our hearts, — that he is ever ready to forgive, whenever we flee to him.
It hence also appears what sort of religion is that of the Papacy: for under the Papacy, being perplexed and doubtful, they ever hesitate, and never dare to believe that God will be propitious to them. Though they have some ideas, I know not what, of his grace; yet it is a vain presumption and rashness, as they think, when any one is fully persuaded of God’s mercy. They therefore keep consciences in suspense; nay, they leave them doubtful and trembling, when there is no certainty respecting God’s favor. It hence follows, that their whole worship is fictitious; in a word, the whole of religion is entirely subverted, when a firm and unhesitating confidence, as to his goodness, is taken away, yea, that confidence by which men are enabled to come to him without doubting, and to receive, whenever they sin and confess their guilt and transgressions, the mercy that is offered to them.
But this confidence is not what rises spontaneously in us; nay, even when we entertain a notion that God is merciful, it is only a mere delusion: for we cannot be fully convinced respecting God’s favor, except he anticipates us by his word, and testifies that he will be propitious to us whenever we flee to him. Hence I said at the beginning, that the Prophet here exhibits the difference between the God of Israel and all the idols of the Gentiles, and that is, because he had promised to be propitious to his people. It was not in vain that sacrifices were offered by the chosen people, for there was a promise added, which could not disappoint them: but the Gentiles ever remained doubtful with regard to their sacrifices; though they performed all their expiations, there was yet no certainty; but the case was different with the chosen people. What then the Prophet says here respecting the remission of sins, depends on the testimony which God himself has given.
We must now notice the clause which immediately follows, as to the remnant of his heritage Here again he drives away the hypocrites from their vain confidence: for he says that God will be merciful only to a remnant of his people; and, at the same time, he takes away an offense, which might have grievously disquieted the weak, on seeing the wrath of God raging among the whole people, — that God would spare neither the common nor the chief men. When therefore the fire of God’s vengeance flamed terribly, above and below, this objection might have greatly disturbed weak minds, — “How is this? God does indeed declare that he is propitious to sinners, and yet his severity prevails among us. — How can this be?” The Prophet meets this objection and says, God is propitious to the remnant of his heritage; which means, that though God would execute terrible vengeance on the greater part, there would yet ever remain some seed, on whom his mercy would shine; and he calls them the remnant of his heritage, because there was no reason, as it was stated yesterday, why God forgave the few, except that he had chosen the posterity of Abraham.
He also adds, He will not retain his wrath perpetually. By this second consolation he wished to relieve the faithful: for though God chastises them for a time, he yet forgets not his mercy. We may say, that the Prophet mentions here two exceptions. He had spoken of God’s mercy; but as this mercy is not indiscriminate or common to all, he restricts what he teaches to the remnant. Now follows another exception, — that how much soever apparently the wrath of God would rage against his elect people themselves, there would yet be some moderation, so that they would remain safe, and that their calamities would not be to them fatal. Hence he says, God retains not wrath; for though, for a moment, he may be angry with his people, he will yet soon, as it were, repent, and show himself gracious to them, and testify that he is already reconciled to them; — not that God changes, but that the faithful are made for a short time to feel his wrath; afterwards a taste of his mercy exhilarates them, and thus they feel in their souls that God has in a manner changed. For when dread possesses their minds, they imagine God to be terrible, but when they embrace the promises of his grace, they call on him, and begin to entertain hope of pardon; then God appears to them kind, gentle, and reconcilable; yea, and altogether ready to show mercy. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that God retains not his wrath
Then follows the cause, for he loveth mercy Here the Prophet more clearly shows, that the remission of sins is gratuitous, and that it has no foundation but in the nature of God himself. There is then no reason, since Scripture declares God to be reconcilable, why any one should seek the cause in himself, or even the means by which God reconciles himself to us: for He himself is the cause. As God then by nature loves mercy, hence it is, that he is so ready to forgive sinners. Whosoever then imagines that God is to be propitiated by expiations or any satisfactions, subverts the doctrine of the Prophet; and it is the same thing as to build without a foundation: for the only prop or support that can raise us up to God, when we desire to be reconciled to him, is this, — that he loves mercy. And this is the reason why God so much commends his mercy, why he says that he is merciful to thousand generations, slow to wrath, and ready to pardon. For though the unbelieving harden themselves against God, yet when they feel his wrath, there is nothing so difficult for them as to believe that God can be pacified. Hence this reason, which is not in vain added by the Prophet, ought to be especially noticed.
Let us now see to whom God is merciful. For as Satan could not have obliterated from the hearts of men a conviction of God’s mercy, he has yet confined mercy to the unbelieving, as though God should forgive sinners only once, when they are admitted into the Church. Thus the Pelagians formerly thought, that God grants reconciliation to none but to aliens; for whosoever has been once received into the Church cannot, as they imagined, stand otherwise before God than by being perfect. And this figment led Novatus and his disciples to create disturbances in the Church. And there are at this day not only deluded men, but devils, who, by the same figment, or rather delirious notions, fascinate themselves and others, and hold, that the highest perfection ought to exist in the faithful; and they also slander our doctrine, as though we were still continuing in the Alphabet or in the first rudiments, because we daily preach free remission of sins. But the Prophet declares expressly that God not only forgives the unbelieving when they sin, but also his heritage and his elect. Let us then know, that as long as we are in the world, pardon is prepared for us, as we could not otherwise but fall every moment from the hope of salvation, were not this remedy provided for us: for those men must be more than mad who arrogate to themselves perfection, or who think that they have arrived at that high degree of attainment, that they can satisfy God by their works. It now follows —
Who is a God like unto thee, etc – Here is a challenge to all idol worshippers, and to all those who take false views of the true God, to show his like. See his characters; they are immediately subjoined.
1. He pardoneth iniquity. This is the prerogative of God alone; of that Being who alone has power to save or to destroy.
2. He passeth by transgression. He can heal backsliding, and restore them that are fallen.
3. He retaineth not his anger forever. Though, justly displeased because of sin, he pours out his judgments upon the wicked; yet when they return to him, he shows “that he retaineth not his anger forever,” but is indescribably ready to save them.
4. He delighteth in mercy. Judgment is his strange work: he is ever more ready to save than to destroy. Nothing can please him better than having the opportunity, from the return and repentance of the sinner, to show him that mercy without which he must perish everlastingly.
5. Because he is such a God –
1. “He will turn again.” His face has been long turned from us, because of our sins.
2. “He will have compassion upon us” pity our state, and feel for our sorrows.
3. “He will subdue our iniquities.” Though they have been mighty, he will bring them down, and bruise them under our feet.
4. “He will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Will fully pardon them, and never more remember them against us. Instead of חטאתם chattotham, Their sins, five MSS. of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic read חטאתינו chattotheynu, Our sins. He will plunge them into eternal oblivion, never more to come into sight or remembrance; like a stone dropped into the “depths of the sea.”
Who is a God – (and, as the word means, A Mighty God,) like unto Thee? He saith not, “Who hast made heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is” Exo_20:11; nor, “Who telleth the number of the stars; and calleth them all by their names” Psa_147:4; nor, “Who by His strength setteth fast the mountains and is girded about with power” Psa_65:6; but who forgivest! For greater is the work of Redemption than the work of Creation. “That pardoneth”, and beareth and taketh away also, “and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage”, that is, His heritage, which is a remnant still when “the rest are blinded” Rom_11:7; and this, not of its merits but of His mercy; since it is not His nature to “retain His anger forever”; not for anything in them, but “because He delighteth in mercy”, as He saith, “I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever” Jer_3:12. “I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine oum sake, and will not remember thy sins” Isa_43:25. : “For although God for a time is angry with His elect, chastening them mercifully in this life, yet in the end He hath compassion on them, giving them everlasting consolations.”
Moses, after the completion of his people’s deliverance at the Red Sea, used the like appeal to God, in unmingled joy. Then the thanksgiving ran, “glorious in holiness, awful in praises, doing wonders” Exo_15:11. Now, it ran in a more subdued, yet even deeper, tone, taken from God’s revelation of Himself after that great transgression on Mount Sinai “forgiving iniquity and trasgression and sin”. With this, Micah identified his own name . This was the one message which he loved above all to proclaim; of this, his own name was the herald to his people in his day. who is like the Lord, the Pardoner of sin, the Redeemer from its guilt, the Subduer of its power? For no false god was ever such a claim made. The pagan gods were symbols of God’s workings in nature; they were, at best, representatives of His government and of His displeasure at sin. But, being the creatures of man’s mind, they could hot freely pardon, for man dared not ascribe to them the attribute of a freely-pardoning mercy, for which be dared not hope. Who is a God like to Thee, mighty, not only to destroy but to pardon? is the wondering thanksgiving of time, the yet greater amazement of eternity, as eternity shall unveil the deep blackness of sin over-against the light of God, and we, seeing God, as He Is, shall see what that Holiness is, against Which we sinners sinned, The soul, which is truly penitent, never wearies of the wondering love, who is a God like unto Thee?
The Prophet now prescribes to the faithful a form of glorying, that they may boldly declare that God will be pacified towards them. Since then God loves mercy, he will return, he will have mercy on us The context here ought to be observed by us; for it would avail us but little to understand, I know not what, concerning God’s mercy, and to preach in general the free remission of sins, except we come to the application, that is, except each of the faithful believed that God, for his own sake, is merciful, as soon as he is called upon. This conclusion, then, is to be borne in mind, — “God forgives the remnant of his heritage, because he is by nature inclined to show mercy: he will therefore be merciful to us, for we are of the number of his people.” Except we lay hold on this conclusion, “He will therefore show mercy to us,” whatever we have heard or said respecting God’s goodness will vanish away.
This then is the true logic of religion, that is, when we are persuaded that God is reconcilable and easily pacified, because he is by nature inclined to mercy, and also, when we thus apply this doctrine to ourselves, or to our own peculiar benefit, — As God is by nature merciful, I shall therefore know and find him to be so. Until then we be thus persuaded, let us know that we have made but little progress in the school of God. And hence it appears very clear from this passage, that the Papacy is a horrible abyss; for no one under that system can have a firm footing, so as to be fully persuaded that God will be merciful to him; for all that they have are mere conjectures. But we see that the Prophet reasons very differently, God loves mercy; he will therefore have mercy on us: and then he adds, He will return; and this is said lest the temporary wrath or severity of God should disquiet us. Though God then may not immediately shine on us with his favor, but, on the contrary, treat us sharply and roughly, yet the Prophet teaches us that we are to entertain good hope. — How so? He will return,or, as he said shortly before, He will not retain perpetually his wrath: for it is for a moment that he is angry with his Church; and he soon remembers mercy.
The Prophet now specifies what sort of mercy God shows to the faithful, For he will tread down our iniquities;he had said before that he passes by the wickedness of his elect people. He will then tread down our iniquities; and he will cast into the depth of the sea all their sins;that is our sins shall not come in remembrance before him. We hence learn what I have said before — that God cannot be worshipped sincerely and from the heart until this conviction be fixed and deeply rooted in our hearts, that God is merciful, not in general, but toward us, because we have been once adopted by him and are his heritage. And then were the greater part to fall away, we should not fail in our faith; for God preserves the remnant in a wonderful manner. And lastly, let us know, that whenever we flee to God for mercy, pardon is ever ready for us, not that we may indulge in sin, or take liberty to commit it, but that we may confess our faults and that our guilt may appear before our eyes: let us know, that the door is open to us; for God of his own good will presents himself to us as one ready to be reconciled.
It is also said, He will cast our sins into the depth of the sea.We hence learn that there is a full remission of sins, not half as the Papists imagine, for God, they say, remits the sin, but retains the punishment. How frivolous this is, the thing itself clearly proves. The language of the Prophet does however import this, that our sins are then remitted when the records of them are blotted out before God. It follows — for I will run over this verse, that I may today finish this Prophet —
He will turn again – who seemed to be turned away from us when we were turned away from Him. “He will subdue, or trample under foot” Joe_2:14, our worst enemy, “our iniquities”, as He saith, “He shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” Rom_16:20. Hitherto, sinful passions had not rebelled only, but had had the mastery over us. Sin subdued man; it was his lord, a fierce tyrant over him; he could not subdue it. Holy Scripture says emphatically of man under the law, that he was sold under sin Rom_7:14, a slave under a hard master, oppressed, weighed down, and unable to throw off the bondage. “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” Rom_3:9; “the Scripture hath concluded all under sin” Gal_3:22. Under the Gospel, God, he says, would subdue sin “under us,” and make it, as it were, our “footstool .” It is a Gospel before the Gospel. God would pardon; and He, not we, would subdue sin to us. He would bestow, “of sin the double cure, Save us from its guilt and power” . “Not I, but the grace of God, which was with me” 1Co_15:10.
And Thou wilt cast – – Not, some ( “for it is impious to look for a half-pardon from God”) but – “all their sins into the depths of the sea”, so that as in the passage of the Red Sea there was not one Egyptian left of those who pursued His people, so neither shall there be one sin, which, through Baptism and on Repentance, shall not through His free mercy be pardoned. As they, which “sank as lead in the mighty waters” Exo_15:10, never again rose, so shall the sins, unless revived by us, not rise against us to condemnation, but shall in the Day of Judgment be sunk in the abyss of hell, as if they had never been.
The faithful confirm here the former truth, that God had deposited his covenant with them, which could not be made void: and hence also shines forth more clearly what I have said before, that the faithful do not learn by their own understanding what sort of Being God is, but embrace the mercy which he offers in his own word. Except God then speaks, we cannot form in our own minds any idea of his grace but what is uncertain and vanishing; but when he declares that he will be merciful to us, then every doubt is removed. This is now the course which the Prophet pursues.
He says, Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn to our fathers;as though he said, “We do not presumptuously invent any thing out of our own minds, but receive what thou hast once testified to us; for thy will has been made known to us in thy word: relying then on thy favor, we are persuaded as to thy gratuitous pardon, though we are in many respects guilty before thee.” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.
As to the words, it is not necessary to dwell on them, for we have elsewhere explained this form of speaking. There are here two expressions by which the Prophet characterizes the covenant of God. Truth is mentioned, and mercy is mentioned. With respect to order, the mercy of God precedes; for he is not induced otherwise to adopt us than through his goodness alone: but as God of his own will has with so great kindness received us, so he is true and faithful in his covenant. If then we desire to know the character of God’s covenant, by which he formerly chose the Jews, and at this day adopts us as his people, these two things must be understood, that God freely offers himself to us, and that he is constant and true, he repents not, as Paul says, as to his covenant: The gifts and calling of God, he says, are without repentance, (Rom_11:29;) and he refers to the covenant, by which God adopted the children of Abraham.
He says now, Thou wilt give,that is, show in reality; for this, to give, is, as it were, to exhibit in effect or really. Thou will then give,that is, openly show, that thou hast not been in vain so kind to us and ours, in receiving them into favor. How so? Because the effect of thy goodness and truth appears to us.
Thou hast then sworn to our fathers from the days of old.The faithful take for granted that God had promised to the fathers that his covenant would be perpetual; for he did not only say to Abraham, I will be thy God, but he also added, and of thy seed for ever. Since, then, the faithful knew that the covenant of God was to be perpetual and inviolable, and also knew that it was to be continued from the fathers to their children, and that it was once promulgated for this end, that the fathers might deliver it as by the hand to their children; they therefore doubted not but that it would be perpetual. How so? for thou hast sworn to our fathers;that is, they knew that God not only promised, but that having interposed an oath, by which God designed to confirm that covenant, he greatly honored it, that it might be unhesitatingly received by the chosen people. As then the faithful knew that God in a manner bound himself to them, they confidently solicited him, really to show himself to be such as he had declared he would be to his own elect.
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob – The promises which he has made to Jacob and his posterity. Not one of them can ever fall to the ground. “And the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn;” viz., that “in his Seed all the families of the earth should be blessed;” that the Messiah should come from Abraham, through his son Isaac, by Jacob and David; be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. And this promise, and this oath, God has most signally fulfilled by the incarnation of Christ, who was sent to bless us by turning away every one of us from his iniquities; and for this purpose he was delivered for our offenses, and rose again for our justification; and repentance and remission of sins are preached in his name to all nations. The proclamation was first made at Jerusalem; and that the prophet refers to this, is evident from the use made of these words by Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when, under the full afflatus of the Spirit of God, he quoted this prophecy of Micah, as fulfilled in the incarnation of Christ, Luk_1:72, Luk_1:73. The Chaldee paraphrases this last verse with spirit and propriety: “Thou wilt give the truth to Jacob his son, as thou hast promised by oath to him in Beth-el. And the mercy to Abraham and to his seed after him, as thou didst swear to him amidst the divisions. Thou wilt be mindful of us on account of the binding of Isaac, who was bound upon the altar before thee.
And thou wilt do us that good, which, from the most ancient days, thou hast promised to our fathers by an oath.” Between the divisions, refers to the covenant made between God and Abraham, Gen_15:9-11, Gen_15:17, Gen_15:18. Well might the prophet exult in his challenge to earth and hell. Who Is a God Like unto Thee! Hell is speechless, earth is dumb. Infidels dare not open their mouths!!! Hallelujah! מי אל כמוך mi El camocha! Jesus is the mighty God and Savior, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, and saving to the uttermost all that come unto God through him. Blessed be God! Reader, lay this to heart.
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the mercy to Abraham – What was free mercy to Abraham, became, when God had once promised it, His truth. Abraham also stands for all those, who in him and his Seed should be blessed, those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” Eph_2:12, in no covenant or relation with God, as well as those who were the children of the faith; pagan, as well as Jews. Jacob represents these who were immediately his children, such of the children of Israel, as were also the true Israel and children of faithful Abraham. In both ways the gift to Abraham was mercy, to Jacob, truth. So also Paul saith, “Jesus Christ was a Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.” Rom_15:8-9 yet mercy and truth Psa_25:10, together, are all the paths of the Lord; they “met together” Psa_85:10 in Christ; yea Christ Himself is full of Mercy as well as “Truth” Joh_1:14 : and woe were it to that soul to whom He were Truth without mercy. Rup.: “For to be saved, we look not so much to the truth of the Judge as to the mercy of the Redeemer.” And mercy, in the counsel of God, reacheth wider than truth; for truth is given to Jacob, the father of one nation, Israel; but mercy to Abraham, “the father of many nations” Gen_17:5; Rom_4:17. Isaac, it may be, is not here mentioned, because all to whom the blessing should come are already spoken of in Jacob and Abraham; in Jacob, all to whom the promise was first made; in Abraham, all nations of the world who should be blessed in his Seed, through the mercy of God overflowing the bounds of that covenant. Isaac is, in his sacrifice, chiefly a type of our Lord Himself.
Which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers – “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation” Heb_6:18.
From the days of old – Alb.: From eternity, in the counsel of God; in promise, from the foundation of the world, as is said in the hymn of Zacharias, “As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began” Luk_1:70. Pococke: The inspired hymns of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Zachariah take up the words of the prophet, and shew that they are already fulfilled in Christ, although they shall be more and more fulfilled unto the world’s end, as Jew and Gentile are brought into His fold; “He remembering His mercy, as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever” Luk_1:54-55. “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remnember His holy covenant, the oath which He sware to our father Abraham that He would grant unto us” Luk_1:72-74.
“I too,” Jerome subjoins, “sealing the labor of my little work by calling upon the Lord, will say at the close of this tract, O God, who is like unto Thee? Take away the iniquity of Thy servant, pass by the sin of my decayed soul, and send not Thine anger upon me, nor rebuke me in Thy indignation; for Thou art full of pity and great are Thy mercies. Rcturn and have mercy upon me; drown mine iniquities, and cast them into the depth of the sea, that the bitterness of sin may perish in the bitter waters. Grant the truth which Thou didst promise to Thy servant Jacob, and the mercy which Thou didst pledge to Abraham Thy friend, and free my soul, as Thou didst sware to my fathers in the days of old; “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Then shall mine enemy see and be crowned with confusion, who now saith unto me, where is now thy God?” Eze_33:11. Amen, Amen, O Good Lord Jesus.