Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The word of the Lord that came to Micah ... which he saw - No two of the prophets authenticate their prophecy in exactly the same way. They, one and all, have the same simple statement to make, that this which they say is from God, and through them. A later hand, had it added the titles, would have formed all upon one model. The title was an essential part of the prophetic book, as indicating to the people afterward, that it was not written after the event. It was a witness, not to the prophet whose name it bears, but to God. The prophet bare witness to God, that what he delivered came from Him. The event bare witness to the prophet, that he said this truly, in that he knew what God alone could know - futurity. Micah blends in one the facts, that he related in words given him by God, what he had seen spread before him in prophetic vision. His prophecy was, in one, "the word of the Lord which came to him," and "a sight which he saw."
Micah omits all mention of his father. His great predecessor was known as Micaiah son of Imlah. Micah, a villager, would be known only by the name of his native village. So Nahum names himself "the Elkoshite;" Jonah is related to be a native "of Gath-hepher;" Elijah, the Tishbite, a sojourner in the despised Gilead Kg1 17:1; Elisha, of Abelmeholah; Jeremiah, of Anathoth; forerunners of Him, and taught by His Spirit who willed to be born at Bethlehem, and, since this, although too little to be counted "among the thousands of Judah," was yet a royal city and was to be the birthplace of the Christ, was known only as Jesus of Nazareth, "the Nazarene." No prophet speaks of himself, or is spoken of, as born at Jerusalem, "the holy city." They speak of themselves with titles of lowliness, not of greatness.
Micah dates his prophetic office from kings of Judah only, as the only kings of the line appointed by God. Kings of Israel are mentioned in addition, only by prophets of Israel. He names Samaria first, because, its iniquity being most nearly full, its punishment was the nearest.
Hear, all ye people - Literally, "hear, ye peoples, all of them." Some 140, or 150 years had flowed by, since Micaiah, son of Imlah, had closed his prophecy in these words. And now they burst out anew. From age to age the word of God holds its course, ever receiving new fulfillments, never dying out, until the end shall come. The signal fulfillment of the prophecy, to which the former Micalah had called attention in these words, was an earnest of the fulfillment of this present message of God.
Hearken, O earth, and all that therein is - The "peoples" or "nations" are never Judah and Israel only: the earth and the fullness thereof is the well-known title of the whole earth and all its inhabitants. Moses Deu 32:1, Asaph Psa 50:7, Isaiah Isa 1:2, call heaven and earth as witnesses against God's people. Jeremiah, Jer 6:19 as Micah here, summons the nations and the earth. The contest between good and evil, sin and holiness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, everwhere, but most chiefly where God's Presence is nearest, is "a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men" Co1 4:9. The nations are witnesses of God against His own people, so that these should not say, that it was for want of faithfulness or justice or power Exo 32:12; Num 14:16; Jos 7:8-9, but in His righteous judgment, that He cast off whom He had chosen. So shall the Day of Judgment "reveal His righteousness" Rom 2:5. "Hearken, O earth." The lifeless earth Psa 114:7; Psa 97:5 trembles "at the Presence of God," and so reproaches the dullness of man. By it he summons man to listen with great reverence to the Voice of God.
And let the Lord God be witness against you - Not in words, but in deeds ye shall know, that I speak not of myself but God in me, when, what I declare, He shall by His Presence fulfill. But the nations are appealed to, not merely because the judgments of God on Israel should be made known to them by the prophets. He had not yet spoken of Israel or Judah, whereas he had spoken to the nations; "hear, ye peoples." It seems then most likely that here too he is speaking to them. Every judgment is an earnest, a forerunner, a part, of the final judgment and an example of its principles. It is but "the last great link in the chain," which unites God's dealings in time with eternity. God's judgments on one imply a judgment on all. His judgments in time imply a Judgment beyond time. Each sinner feels in his own heart response to God's visible judgments on another. Each sinful nation may read its own doom in the sentence on each other nation.
God judges each according to his own measure of light and grace, accepted or refused. The pagan shall be judged by "the law written in their heart" Rom 2:12-15; the Jew, by the law of Moses and the light of the prophets; Christians, by the law of Christ. "The word," Christ saith, "that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last Day" Joh 12:48. God Himself foretold, that the pagan should know the ground of His judgments against His people. "All nations shall say, wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers which He made with them, when He brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, ..." Deu 29:24-25. But in that the pagan knew why God so punished His people, they came so far to know the mind of God; and God, who at no time "left Himself without witness" Act 14:17, bore fresh "witness" to them, and, so far us they neglected it, against them. A Jew, wherever he is seen throughout the world, is a witness to the world of God's judgments against sin.
Dionysius: "Christ, the faithful Witness, shall witness against those who do ill, for those who do well."
The Lord from His holy temple - Either that at Jerusalem, where God shewed and revealed Himself, or Heaven of which it was the image. As David says, "The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven" Psa 11:4; and contrasts His dwelling in heaven and His coming down upon earth. "He bowed the heavens also and came down" Psa 18:9; and Isaiah, in like words, "Behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity" Isa 26:21.
For, behold, the Lord comth forth - that is, (as we now say,) "is coming forth." Each day of judgment, and the last also, are ever drawing nigh, noiselessly as the nightfall, but unceasingly. "Out of His Place." Dionysius: "God is hidden from us, except when He sheweth Himself by His Wisdom or Power of Justice or Grace, as Isaiah saith, 'Verily, Thou art a God who hidest Thyself' Isa 45:15." He seemeth to be absent, when He doth not visibly work either in the heart within, or in judgments without; to the ungodly and unbelieving He is absent, "far above out of their sight" Psa 10:5, when He does not avenge their scoffs, their sins, their irreverence. Again He seemeth to go forth, when His Power is felt. Dionysius: "Whence it is said, 'Bow Thy heavens, O Lord, and come down' Psa 144:5; Isa 64:1; and the Lord saith of Sodom, 'I will go down now and see, whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me' Gen 18:21. Or, the Place of the Infinite God is God Himself. For the Infinite sustaineth Itself, nor doth anything out of Itself contain It. God dwelleth also in light unapproachable Ti1 6:16. When then Almighty God doth not manifest Himself, He abideth, as it were, in 'His own Place.' When He manifests His Power or Wisdom or Justice by their effects, He is said 'to go forth out of His Place,' that is, out of His hiddenness. Again, since the Nature of God is Goodness, it is proper and co-natural to Him, to be propitious, have mercy and spare. In this way, the Place of God is His mercy. When then He passeth from the sweetness of pity to the rigor of equity, and, on account of our sins, sheweth Himself severe (which is, as it were, alien from Him) He goeth forth out of His Place." Jerome: "For He who is gentle and gracious, and whose Nature it is to have mercy, is constrained, on your account, to take the seeming of hardness, which is not His."
He comes invisibly now, in that it is He who punisheth, through whatever power or will of man He useth; He shews forth His Holiness through the punishment of unholiness. But the words, which are image-language now, shall be most exactly fulfilled in the end, when, in the Person of our Lord, He shall come visibly to judge the world. Jerome, Theoph.: "In the Day of Judgment, Christ 'shall come down,' according to that Nature which He took, 'from His Place,' the highest heavens, and shall cast down the proud things of this world."
And will come down - Not by change of place, or in Himself, but as felt in the punishment of sin; and tread upon the high places of the earth; to bring down the pride of those (see Amo 4:13; Job 9:8) who "being lifted up in their own conceit and lofty, sinning through pride and proud through sin, were yet created out of earth. For why is earth and ashes proud?" (Ecclesiasticus 10:9). What seems mightiest and most firm, is unto God less than is to man the dust under his feet. The high places were also the special scenes of an unceasing idolatry. "God treadeth in the good and humble, in that He dwelleth, walketh, feasteth in their hearts Co2 6:16; Rev 3:20. But He treadeth upon the proud and the evil, in that He casteth them down, despiseth, condemneth them."
And the mountains shall be molten under Him - It has been thought that this is imagery, taken from volcanic eruptions ; but, although there is a very remarkable volcanic district just outside of Gilead, it is not thought to have been active at times so late as these; nor were the people to whom the words were said, familiar with it. Fire, the real agent at the end of the world, is, meanwhile, the symbol of God's anger, as being the most terrible of His instruments of destruction: whence God revealed Himself as a consuming fire Deu 4:24, and at this same time said by Isaiah; "For behold, the Lord will come with fire ... to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire" Isa 66:15.
And the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire - It seems natural that the mountains should be cleft; but the valleys , so low already! This speaks of a yet deeper dissolution; of lower depths beyond our sight or knowledge, into the very heart of the earth. Sanch.: "This should they fear, who will to be so low; who, so far from lifting themselves to heavenly things, pour out their affections on things of earth, meditate on and love earthly things, and forgetful of the heavenly, choose to fix their eyes on earth. These the wide gaping of the earth which they loved, shall swallow: to them the cleft valleys shall open an everlasting sepulchre, and, having received them, shall never part with them."
Highest and lowest, first and last, shall perish before Him. The pride of the highest, kings and princes, priests and judges, shall sink and melt away beneath the weight and Majesty of His glory; the hardness of the lowest, which would not open itself to Him, shall be cleft in twain before Him.
As wax before the fire - (See Psa 97:5), melting away before Him by whom they were not softened, vanishing into nothingness. Metals melt, changing their form only; wax, so as to cease to be.
As the waters poured down - (As a stream or cataract, so the word means .)
A steep place - Down to the very edge, it is borne along, one strong, smooth, unbroken current; then, at once, it seems to gather its strength, for one great effort. But to what end? To fall, with the greater force, headlong, scattered in spray, foam and froth; dissipated, at times, into vapor, or reeling in giddy eddies, never to return. In Judea, where the autumn rains set in with great vehemence, the waters must have been often seen pouring in their little tumultuous brooklets down the mountain side , hastening to disappear, and disappearing the faster, the more vehemently they rolled along . Both images exhibit the inward emptiness of sinners, man's utter helplessness before God. They need no outward impulse to their destruction. Jerome: "Wax endureth not the nearness of the fire, and the waters are carried headlong. So all of the ungodly, when the Lord cometh, shall be dissolved and disappear." At the end of the world, they shall be gathered into bundles, and cast away.
For the transgression of Jacob is all this - Not for any change of purpose in God; nor, again, as the effect of man's lust of conquest. None could have any power against God's people, unless it had been given him by God. Those mighty monarchies of old existed but as God's instruments, especially toward His own people. God said at this time of Assyria Isa 10:5, Asshur rod of Mine anger, and the staff in his hand is Mine indignation; and Isa 37:26, Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps. Each scourge of God chastised just those nations, which God willed him to chasten; but the especial object for which each was raised up was his mission against that people, in whom God most showed His mercies and His judgments Isa 10:6. I will send him against an ungodly nation and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge.
Jacob and Israel, in this place, comprise alike the ten tribes and the two. They still bare the name of their father, who, wrestling with the Angel, became a prince with God, whom they forgat. The name of Jacob then, as of Christian now, stamped as deserters, those who did not the deeds of their father. "What, (rather who) is the transgression of Jacob?" Who is its cause? In whom does it lie? Is it not Samaria? The metropolis must, in its own nature, be the source of good or evil to the land. It is the heart whose pulses beat throughout the whole system. As the seat of power, the residence of justice or injustice, the place of counsel, the concentration of wealth, which all the most influential of the land visit for their several occasions, its manners penetrate in a degree the utmost corners of the land. Corrupted, it becomes a focus of corruption. The blood passes through it, not to be purified, but to be diseased. Samaria, being founded on apostasy, owing its being to rebellion against God, the home of that policy which set up a rival system of worship to His forbidden by Him, became a fountain of evil, whence the stream of ungodliness overflowed the land. It became the impersonation of the people's sin, "the heart and the head of the body of sin."
And what - Literally, who (מי) always relates to a personal object, and apparent exceptions may be reduced to this. So Ae. Kim. Tanch. Pococke.
Are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem? - Jerusalem God had formed to be a center of unity in holiness; the tribes of the Lord were to go up there to the testimony of Israel; there was the unceasing worship of God, the morning and evening sacrifice; the Feasts, the memorials of past miraculous mercies, the foreshadowings of redemption. But there too Satan placed his throne. Ahaz brought thither that most hateful idolatry, the burning children to Moloch in the valley of the son of Hinnom Ch2 28:3. There Ch2 28:24, he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. Thence, he extended the idolatry to all Judah Ch2 28:25. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers. Hezekiah, in his reformation, with all Israel Ch2 31:1, went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces and bowed down the statues of Asherah, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, as much as out of Ephraim and Manasseh. Nay, by a perverse interchange, Ahaz took the Brazen Altar, consecrated to God, for his own divinations, and assigned to the worship of God the altar copied from the idol-altar at Damascus, whose fashion pleased his taste Kg2 16:10-16.
Since God and mammon cannot be served together, Jerusalem was become one great idol-temple, in which Judah brought its sin into the very face of God and of His worship. The Holy City had itself become sin, and the fountain of unholiness. The one temple of God was the single protest against the idolatries which encompased and besieged it; the incense went up to God, morning and evening, from it; from every head of every street of the city Eze 16:31; Ch2 28:24, and (since Ahaz had brought in the worship of Baalim Ch2 28:2, and the rites of idolatry continued the same,) from the roofs of all their houses Jer 32:29, went up the incense to Baal; a worship which, denying the Unity, denied the Being of God.
Therefore - (literally, "And") I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard Jerome: "The order of the sin was the order or the punishment." Samaria's sins were the earliest, the most obstinate, the most unbroken, bound up with its being as a state. On it then God's judgments should first fall. It was a crown of pride Isa 28:1, resting on the head of the rich valleys, out of which it rose. Its soil is still rich . "The whole is now cultivated in terraces" , "to the summits" . Probably, since the sides of hills, open to the sun, were chosen for vineyards, it had been a vineyard, before Shemer sold it to Omri Kg1 16:24. What it had been, that it was again to be. Its inhabitants cast forth, its houses and gorgeous palaces were to become heaps of stones, gathered out Isa 5:2 to make way for cultivation, or to become the fences of the vegetation, which should succeed to man.
There is scarce a sadder natural sight than the fragments of human habitation, tokens of man's labor or his luxury, amid the rich beauty of nature when man himself is gone. For they are tracks of sin and punishment, man's rebellion and God's judgment, man's unworthiness of the good natural gifts of God. A century or two ago, travelers "speak of the ground (the site of Samaria) as strewed with masses of ruins." Now these too are gone. : "The stones of the temples and palaces of Samaria have been carefully removed from the rich soil, thrown together in heaps, built up in the rude walls of terraces, and rolled down into the valley below." : "About midway of the ascent, the hill is surrounded by a narrow terrace of woodland like a belt. Higher up too are the marks of slighter terraces, once occupied perhaps by the streets of the ancient city." Terrace-cultivation has succeeded to the terraced streets once thronged by the busy, luxurious, sinful, population.
And I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley - Of which it was the crest, and which it now proudly surveyed. God Himself would cause it to be poured down (he uses the word which he had just used of the vehemence of the cataract Mic 1:4). : "The whole face of this part of the hill suggests the idea that the, buildings of the ancient city had been thrown down from the brow of the hill. Ascending to the top, we went round the whole summit, and found marks of the same process everywhere."
And I will discover the foundations thereof - The desolation is entire; not one stone left upon another. Yet the very words of threatening contain hope. It was to be not a heap only, but the plantings of a vineyard. The heaps betoken ruin; the vineyard, fruitfulness cared for by God. Destroyed, as what it was, and turned upside down, as a vineyard by the share, it should become again what God made it and willed it to be. It should again become a rich valley, but in outward desolation. Its splendid palaces, its idol temples, its houses of joy, should be but heaps and ruins, which are cleared away out of a vineyard, as only choking it. It was built in rebellion and schism, loose and not held together, like a heap of stones, having no cement of love, rent and torn in itself, having been torn both from God and His worship. It could be remade only by being wholly unmade. Then should they who believed be branches grafted in Him who said, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches" Joh 15:5.
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces - Its idols in whom she trusts, so far from protecting her, shall themselves go into captivity, broken up for the gold and silver whereof they were made. The wars of the Assyrians being religious wars , the idolatry of Assyria destroyed the idolatry and idols of Israel.
And all the hires thereof shall be burned with fire - All forsaking of God being spiritual fornication from Him who made His creatures for Himself, the hires are all which man would gain by that desertion of his God, employed in man's contact with his idols, whether as bribing his idols to give him what are the gifts of God, or as himself bribed by them. For there is no pure service, save that of the love of God. God alone can be loved purely, for Himself; offerings to Him alone are the creature's pure homage to the Creator, going out of itself, not looking back to itself, not seeking itself, but stretching forth to Him and seeking Him for Himself. Whatever man gives to or hopes from his idols, man himself is alike his object in both. The hire then is, alike what he gives to his idols, the gold whereof he makes his Baal , the offerings which the pagan used to lay up in their temples, and what, as he thought, he himself received back. For he gave only earthly things, in order to receive back things of earth. He hired their service to him, and his earthly gains were his hire. It is a strong mockery in the mouth of God, that they had these things from their idols. He speaks to them after their thoughts. Yet it is true that, although God overrules all, man does receive from Satan Mat 4:9, the god of this world Co2 4:4, all which he gains amiss. It is the price for which he sells his soul and profanes himself. Yet herein were the pagan more religious than the Christian worldling. The pagan did offer an ignorant service to they knew not what. Our idolatry of mammon, as being less abstract, is more evident self-worship, a more visible ignoring and so a more open dethroning of God, a worship of a material prosperity, of which we seem ourselves to be the authors, and to which we habitually immolate the souls of men, so habitually that we have ceased to be conscious of it.
And all the idols thereof will I lay desolate - Literally, "make a desolation." They, now thronged by their worshipers, should be deserted; their place and temple, a waste. He thrice repeats all; all her graven images, all her hires, all her idols; all should be destroyed. He subjoins a threefold destruction which should overtake them; so that, while the Assyrian broke and carried off the more precious, or burned what could be burned, and, what could not be burned, nor was worth transporting, should be left desolate, all should come to an end. He sets the whole the more vividly before the mind; exhibiting to us so many separate pictures of the mode of destruction.
For from the hire of a harlot she gathered them, and to the hire of a harlot they shall return - Jerome: "The wealth and manifold provision which (as she thought) were gained by fornication with her idols, shall go to another harlot, Nineveh; so that, as they went a whoring in their own land, they should go to another land of idols and fornication, the Assyrians." They Rom 1:23 turned their glory into shame, changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man; and so it should turn to them into shame. It sprung out of their shame, and should turn to it again. "Ill got, ill spent." Evil gain, cursed in its origin, has the curse of God upon it, and makes its gainer a curse, and ends accursedly. "Make not ill gains," says even a pagan. (H. 354. L), "ill gains are equal to losses;" and another , "Unlawful sweetness a most bitter end awaiteth."
Probably, the most literal sense is not to be excluded. The degrading idolatrous custom, related of Babylon and Cyprus , still continued among the Babylonians at the date of the book of Baruch (Baruch 6:43), and to the Christian era . Augustine speaks of it as having existed among the Phoenicians, and Theodoret says that it was still practiced by some in Syria. The existence of the idolatrous custom is presupposed by the prohibition by Moses Deu 23:18; and, in the time of Hosea self-desecration was an idolatrous rite in Israel . In the day of Judgment, when the foundation of those who build their house upon the sand, shall be laid bare, the riches which they gained unlawfully shall be burned up; all the idols, which they set up instead of God , "the vain thoughts, and useless fancies, and hurtful forms and images which they picture in their mind, defiling it, and hindering it from the steadfast contemplation of divine things, will be punished. They were the hire of the soul which went astray from God, and they who conceived them will, with them, become the prey again of that infernal host which is unceasingly turned from God."
Therefore I will - Therefore I would
Wail - (properly, beat, that is, on the breast).
And howl - "Let me alone," he would say, "that I may vent my sorrow in all ways of expressing sorrow, beating on the breast and wailing, using all acts and sounds of grief." It is as we would say, "Let me mourn on," a mourning inexhaustible, because the woe too and the cause of grief was unceasing. The prophet becomes in words, probably in acts too, an image of his people, doing as they should do hereafter. He mourns, because and as they would have to mourn, bearing chastisement, bereft of all outward comeliness, an example also of repentance, since what he did were the chief outward tokens of mourning.
I will (would) go stripped - despoiled .
And naked - He explains the acts, that they represented no mere voluntary mourning. Not only would he, representing them, go bared of all garments of beauty, as we say "half-naked" but despoiled also, the proper term of those plundered and stripped by an enemy. He speaks of his doing, what we know that Isaiah did, by God's command, representing in act what his people should thereafter do. : "Wouldest thou that I should weep, thou must thyself grieve the first." Micah doubtless went about, not speaking only of grief, but grieving, in the habit of one mourning and bereft of all. He prolongs in these words the voice of wailing, choosing unaccustomed forms of words, to carry on the sound of grief.
I will make a wailing like the dragons - (jackals).
And mourning as the owls - (ostriches). The cry of both, as heard at night, is very piteous. Both are doleful creatures, dwelling in desert and lonely places. "The jackals make a lamentable howling noise, so that travelers unacquainted with them would think that a company of people, women or children, were howling, one to another."
"Its howl," says an Arabic natural historian , "is like the crying of an infant." "We heard them," says another , "through the night, wandering around the villages, with a continual, prolonged, mournful cry." The ostrich, forsaking its young Job 39:16, is an image of bereavement. Jerome: "As the ostrich forgets her eggs and leaves them as though they were not her's, to be trampled by the feet of wild beasts, so too shall I go childless, spoiled and naked." Its screech is spoken of by travelers as "fearful, aftrighting." : "During the lonesome part of the night they often make a doleful and piteous noise. I have often heard them groan, as if they were in the greatest agonies."
Dionysius: "I will grieve from the heart over those who perish, mourning for the hardness of the ungodly, as the Apostle had Rom 9:1 great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his brethren, the impenitent and unbelieving Jews. Again he saith, "who is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?" Co2 11:29. For by how much the soul is nobler than the body, and by how much eternal damnation is heavier than any temporal punishment, so much more vehemently should we grieve and weep for the peril and perpetual damnation of souls, than for bodily sickness or any temporal evil."
For her - Samaria's
Wound - o, (literally, her wounds, or strokes, (the word is used especially of those inflicted by God, (Lev 26:21; Num 11:33; Deu 28:59, Deu 28:61, etc.) each, one by one,) is incurable The idiom is used of inflictions on the body politic (Nahum 3 ult.; Jer 30:12, Jer 30:15) or the mind , for which there is no remedy. The wounds were very sick, or incurable, not in themselves or on God's part, but on Israel's. The day of grace passes away at last, when man has so steeled himself against grace, as to be morally dead, having deadened himself to all capacity of repentance.
For it is come unto - (quite up to) Judah; he, (the enemy,) is come (literally, hath reached, touched,) to (quite up to) the gate of my people, even to (quite up to) Jerusalem Jerome: "The same sin, yea, the same punishment for sin, which overthrew Samaria, shall even come unto, quite up to Judah. Then the prophet suddenly changes the gender, and, as Scripture so often does, speaks of the one agent, the center and impersonation of the coming evil, as sweeping on over Judah, quite up to the gate of his people, quite up to Jerusalem. He does not say here, whether Jerusalem would be taken; and so, it seems likely that he speaks of a calamity short of excision. Of Israel's wounds only he here says, that they are incurable; he describes the wasting of even lesser places near or beyond Jerusalem, the flight of their inhabitants. Of the capital itself he is silent, except that the enemy reached, touched, struck against it, quite up to it. Probably, then, he is here describing the first visitation of God, when Kg2 18:13 Sennacherib came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them, but Jerusalem was spared. God's judgments come step by step, leaving time for repentance. The same enemy, although not the same king, came against Jerusalem who had wasted Samaria. Samaria was probably as strong as Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed; God heard, the Assyrian army perished by miracle; Jerusalem was respited for 124 years.
Tell it not in Gath - Gath had probably now ceased to be; at least, to be of any account . It shows how David's elegy lived in the hearts of Judah, that his words are used as a proverb, (just as we do now, in whose ears it is yearly read), when, as with us, its original application was probably lost. True, Gath, reduced itself, might rejoice the more maliciously over the sufferings of Judah. But David mentions it as a chief seat of Philistine strength ; now its strength was gone.
The blaspheming of the enemies of God is the sorest part of His chastisements. Whence David prays "let not mine enemies exult over me" Psa 25:2; and the sons of Korah, "With a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me, while they say daily unto me, where is thy God?" Psa 42:10; and Ethan; "Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice. Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servant" Psa 89:42, Psa 89:50 - wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine anointed. It is hard to part with home, with country, to see all desolate, which one ever loved. But far, far above all, is it, if, in the disgrace and desolation, God's honor seems to be injured. The Jewish people was then God's only home on earth. If it could be extinguished, who remained to honor Him? Victories over them seemed to their pagan neighbors to be victories over Him. He seemed to be dishonored without, because they had first dishonored Him within. Sore is it to the Christian, to see God's cause hindered, His kingdom narrowed, the empire of infidelity advanced. Sorer in one way, because he knows the price of souls, for whom Jesus died. But the world is now the Church's home. "The holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee!" Then, it was girt in within a few miles of territory, and sad indeed it must have been to the prophet, to see this too hemmed in. Tell it not in Gath, to the sons of those who, of old, defied God.
Weep not at all - (Literally, weeping, weep not). Weeping is the stillest expression of grief. We speak of "weeping in silence." Yet this also was too visible a token of grief. Their weeping would be the joy and laughter of God's enemies.
In the house of Aphrah - (probably, In Beth-leaphrah) roll thyself in the dust (Better, as the text, I roll myself in dust). The prophet chose unusual names, such as would associate themselves with the meanings which he wished to convey, so that thence forth the name itself might recall the prophecy. As if we were to say, "In Ashe I roll myself in ashes." - There was an Aphrah near Jerusalem . It is more likely that Micah should refer to this, than to the Ophrah in Benjamin Jos 18:23; Sa1 13:17. He showed them, in his own person, how they should mourn, retired out of sight and hidden, as it were, in the dust. Jer. Rup.: "Whatever grief your heart may have, let your face have no tears; go not forth, but, in the house of dust, sprinkle thyself with the ashes of its ruins."
All the places thenceforth spoken of were in Judah, whose sorrow and desolation are repeated in all. It is one varied history of sorrow: The names of her cities, whether in themselves called from some gifts of God, as Shaphir, (beautiful; we have Fairford, Fairfield, Fairburn, Fairlight,) or contrariwise from some defect, Maroth, Bitterness (probably from brackish water) Achzib, lying, (doubtless from a winter-torrent which in summer failed) suggest, either in contrast or by themselves, some note of evil and woe. It is Judah's history in all, given in different traits; her "beauty" turned into shame; herself free neither to go forth nor to "abide;" looking for good and finding evil; the strong (Lachish) strong only to flee; like a brook that fails and deceives; her inheritance (Mareshah) inherited; herself, taking refuge in dens and caves of the earth, yet even there found, and bereft of her glory. Whence, in the end, without naming Judah, the prophet sums up her sorrows with one call to mourning.
Pass ye away - (literally, Pass thou (fem.) away to or for yourselves), disregarded by God and despised by man) pass the bounds of your land into captivity.
Thou inhabitant of Shaphir, having thy shame naked - better, in nakedness, and shame. Shaphir (fair) was a village in Judah, between Eleutheropolis and Ashkelon (Onomasticon). There are still, in the Shephelah, two villages called Sawafir . It, once fair, should now go forth in the disgrace and dishonor with which captives were led away.
The inhabitants of Zaanan came not forth - Zaanan (abounding in flocks) was probably the same as Zenan of Judah, which lay in the Shephelah . It, which formerly went forth in pastoral gladness with the multitude of its flocks, shall now shrink into itself for fear.
The mourning of Beth-Ezel - (literally, house of root, firmly rooted) shall take from you its standings It too cannot help itself, much less be a stay to others. They who have been accustomed to go forth in fullness, shall not go forth then, and they who abide, strong though they be, shall not furnish an abiding place. Neither in going out nor in remaining, shall anything be secure then.
For the inhabitant of Maroth - (bitterness) waited carefully for good She waited carefully for the good which God gives, not for the Good which God is. She looked, longed for, good, as men do; but therewith her longing ended. She longed for it, amid her own evil, which brought God's judgments upon her. Maroth is mentioned here only in Holy Scripture, and has not been identified. It too was probably selected for its meaning. The inhabitant of bitternesses, she, to whom bitternesses, or, it may be, rebellions, were as the home in which she dwelt, which ever encircled her, in which she reposed, wherein she spent her life, waited for good! Strange contradiction! yet a contradiction, which the whole un-Christian world is continually en acting; nay, from which Christians have often to be awakened, to look for good to themselves, nay, to pray for temporal good, while living in bitternesses, bitter ways, displeasing to God. The words are calculated to be a religious proverb. "Living in sin," as we say, dwelling in bitternesses, she looked for good! Bitternesses! for it is Jer 2:19 an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that My fear is not in thee.
But evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem - It came, like the sulphur and fire which God rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but as yet to the gate of Jerusalem, not upon itself. : "Evil came down upon them from the Lord, that is, I was grieved, I chastened, I brought the Assyrian upon them, and from My anger came this affliction upon them. But it was removed, My Hand prevailing and marvelously rescuing those who worshiped My Majesty. For the trouble shall come to the gate. But we know that Rabshakeh, with many horsemen, came to Jerusalem and all-but touched the gates. But he took it not. For in one night the Assyrian was consumed." The two for's are seemingly coordinate, and assign the reasons of the foreannounced evils, Mic 1:3-11 on man's part and on God's part. On man's part, in that he looked for what could not so come, good: on God's part, in that evil, which alone could be looked for, which, amid man's evil, could alone be good for man, came from Him. Losing the true Good, man lost all other good, and dwelling in the bitterness of sin and provocation, he dwelt indeed in bitterness of trouble.
O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast - (steed.) Lachish was always a strong city, as its name probably denoted, (probably "compact." It was one of the royal cities of the Amorites, and its king one of the five, who went out to battle with Joshua Jos 10:3. It lay in the low country, Shephelah, of Judah Jos 15:33, Jos 15:39, between Adoraim and Azekah Ch2 11:9, Ch2 11:7 Roman miles south of Eleutheropolis (Onomasticon), and so, probably, close to the hill-country, although on the plain; partaking perhaps of the advantages of both. Rehoboam fortified it. Amaziah fled to it from the conspiracy at Jerusalem Kg2 14:19, as a place of strength. It, with Azekah, alone remained, when Nebuchadnezzar had taken the rest, just before the capture of Jerusalem Jer 34:7. When Sennacherib took all the defensed cities of Judah, it seems to have been his last and proudest conquest, for from it he sent his contemptuous message to Hezekiah Isa 36:1-2.
The whole power of the great king seems to have been called forth to take this stronghold. The Assyrian bas-reliefs, the record of the conquests of Sennacherib, if (as the accompanying inscription is deciphered), they represent the taking of Lachish, exhibit it as "a city of great extent and importance, defended by double walls with battlements and towers, and by fortified riggings. In no other sculptures were so many armed warriors drawn up in array against a besieged city. Against the fortifications had been thrown up as many as ten banks or mounts compactly built - and seven battering-rams had already been rolled up against the walls." Its situation, on the extremity probably of the plain, fitted it for a depot of cavalry. The swift steeds, to which it was bidden to bind the chariot, are mentioned as part of the magnificence of Solomon, as distinct from his ordinary horses (Kg1 4:28, English (Kg1 5:8 in Hebrew)). They were used by the posts of the king of Persia Est 8:10, Est 8:14.
They were doubtless part of the strength of the kings of Judah, the cavalry in which their statesmen trusted, instead of God. Now, its swift horses in which it prided itself should avail but to flee. Probably, it is an ideal picture. Lachish is bidden to bind its chariots to horses of the utmost speed, which should carry them far away, if their strength were equal to their swiftness. It had great need; for it was subjected under Sennacherib to the consequences of Assyrian conquest. If the Assyrian accounts relate to its capture, impalement and flaying alive were among the tortures of the captive-people; and awfully did Sennacherib, in his pride, avenge the sins against God whom he disbelieved.
She is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion - Jerome: "She was at the gate through which the transgressions of Israel flooded Judah." How she came first to apostatise and to be the infectress of Judah, Scripture does not tell us . She scarcely bordered on Philistia; Jerusalem lay between her and Israel. But the course of sin follows no geographical lines. It was the greater sin to Lachish that she, locally so far removed from Israel's sin, was the first to import into Judah the idolatries of Israel. Scripture does not say, what seduced Lachish herself, whether the pride of military strength, or her importance, or commercial intercourse, for her swift steeds; with Egypt, the common parent of Israel's and her sin. Scripture does not give the genealogy of her sin, but stamps her as the heresiarch of Judah. We know the fact from this place only, that she, apparently so removed from the occasion of sin, became, like the propagators of heresy, the authoress of evil, the cause of countless loss of souls. Beginning of sin to - , what a world of evil lies in the three words!
Therefore shalt thou give - (bridal) presents to Moresheth Gath Therefore! since Judah had so become a partaker of Israel's sins, she had broken the covenant, whereby God had given her the land of the pagan, and she should part with it to aliens. The bridal presents, literally the dismissals, were the dowry Kg1 9:16 with which the father sent away Jdg 12:9 his daughter, to belong to another, her lord or husband, never more to return. Moresheth, (literally, inheritance,) the inheritance which God gave her, was to be parted with; she was to be laden with gifts to the enemy. Judah should part with her, and her own treasure also.
The houses of Achzib shall be a lie - Achzib, so called probably from a winter brook, achzab, was to become what its name imported, a resource which should fail just in the time of need, as the winter brooks in the drought of summer. "Wilt Thou be unto me as a failing brook, waters which are not sure?" Jer 15:18. This Achzib, which is recounted between Keilah and Mareshah Jos 15:44, was probably one of, the oldest towns of Palestine being mentioned in the history of the Patriarch Judah. After having survived about 1,000 years, it should, in time of need, fail. The kings of Israel are here the kings of Judah. When this prophecy was to be accomplished, the ten tribes would have ceased to have any political existence, the remnant in their own lanai would have no head to look to, except the line of David, whose good kings had a care for them. Micah then, having prophesied the utter destruction of Samaria, speaks in accordance with the state of things which he foresaw and foretold.
Yet will I bring an heir - (the heir, him whom God had appointed to be the heir, Sennacherib) unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah Mareshah, (as the original form of its name denotes, lay on the summit of a hill. "Its ruins only were still seen," in the time of Eusebius and Jerome, "in the second mile from Eleutheropolis" (Onomasticon). : "Foundations still remain on the south-eastern part of the remarkable Tell, south of Beth-Jibrin." Rehoboam fortified it also Ch2 11:8. Zerah the Aethiopian had come to (Ch2 14:9 ff) it, probably to besiege it, when Asa met him, and God smote the AEthiopians before him, in the valley of Zephathah thereat. In the wars of the Maccabees, it was in the hands of the Edomites . Its capture and that of Adora are mentioned as the last act of the war, before the Edomites submitted to John Hyrcanus, and were incorporated in Israel. It was a powerful city , when the Parthians took it. As Micah writes the name, it looked nearer to the word "inheritance." Mareshah (inheritance) shall yet have the heir of God's appointment, the enemy. It shall not inherit the land, as promised to the faithful, but shall itself be inherited, its people dispossessed. While it, (and so also the soul now) held fast to God, they were the heritage of the Lord, by His gifts and grace; when, of their own free-will, those, once God's heritage, become slaves of sin, they passed and still pass, against their will, into the possession of another master, the Assyrian or Satan.
He (that is, the heir, the enemy) shall come unto Adullam, the glory of Israel - . that is, he who shall dispossess Mareshah, shall come quite unto Adullam, where, as in a place of safety, the glory of Israel, all in which she gloried, should be laid up. Adullum was a very ancient city, being mentioned in the history of the patriarch Judah Gen 38:1, Gen 38:12, Gen 38:20, a royal city Jos 12:15. It too lay in the Shephelah Jos 15:35; it was said to be 10 (Eusebius) or 12 (Jerome) miles East of Eleutheropolis; but for this, there seems to be scarcely place in the Shephelah. It was one of the 15 cities fortified by Rehoboam Ch2 11:7; one of the 16 towns, in which (with their dependent villages) Judah settled after the captivity Neh 11:30. It contained the whole army of Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 12:38).
Like Lachish, it had probably the double advantages of the neighborhood of the hills and of the plain, seated perhaps at the roots of the hills, since near it doubtless was the large cave of Adullam named from it. The line of caves, fit for human habitation, which extended from Eleutheropolis to Petra , began westward of it. : "The valley which runs up from Eleutheropolis Eastward, is full of large caves; some would hold thousands of men. They are very extensive, and some of them had evidently been inhabited." : "The outer chamber of one cavern was 270 feet long by 126 wide; and behind this were recesses and galleries, probably leading to other chambers which we could not explore. The massive roof was supported by misshaped pieces of the native limestone left for that purpose, and at some places was domed quite through to the surface, admitting both light and air by the roof." The name of Adullam suggested the memory of that cave, the refuge of the Patriarch David, the first of their line of kings, in extreme isolation and peril of his life. There, the refuge now of the remaining glory of Israel, its wealth, its trust, its boast - the foe should come. And so there only remained one common dirge for all.
Make thee bald, poll - (literally, shear thee for thy delicate children Some special ways of cutting the hair were forbidden to the Israelites, as being idolatrous customs, such as the rounding the hair in front, cutting it away from the temples , or between the eyes Deu 14:1. All shearing of the hair was not forbidden ; indeed to the Nazarite it was commanded, at the close of his vow. The removal of that chief ornament of the countenance wasa natural expression of grief, which revolts at all personal appearance. It belonged, not to idolatry, but to nature . "Thy delicate children." The change was the more bitter for those tended and brought up delicately. Moses from the first spoke of special miseries which should fall on the tender and very delicate. "Enlarge thy baldness;" outdo in grief what others do; for the cause of thy grief is more than that of others. The point of comparison in the Eagle might either be the actual baldness of the head, or its moulting. If it were the baldness of the head, the word translated eagle Unless nesher be the golden Eagle there is no Hebrew name for it, whereas it is still a bird of Palestine, and smaller eagles are mentioned in the same verse, Lev 11:13; namely, the ossifrage, פרס, and the black eagle, עזניה, so called from its strength, like the valeria, of which Pliny says, "the melanaetos or valeria, least in size, remarkable for strength, blackish in color." x. 3. The same lint of unclean birds contains also the vulture, דיה, Deu 14:13, (as it must be, being a gregarious bird, Isa 34:15) in its different species Deu 14:13 the gier-eagle, (that is, Geyer) (vulture) eagle gypaetos, or vultur percnopterus, (Hasselquist, Forskal, Shaw, Bruce in Savigny p. 77.) partaking of the character of both, (רהם Lev 11:18; Deu 14:17 together with the falcon (דאה Lev 11:14 and hawk, with its subordinate species, (למינהו נץ) Lev 11:18; Deu 14:15.), although mostly used of the Eagle itself, might here comprehend the Vulture . For entire baldness is so marked a feature in the vulture, whereas the "bald-headed Eagle" was probably not a bird of Palestine . On the other hand, David, who lived so long among the rocks of Palestine, and Isaiah seem to have known of effects of moulting upon the Eagle in producing, (although in a less degree than in other birds,) a temporary diminution of strength, which have not in modern times been commonly observed.
For David says, "Thou shalt renew, like the eagle, thy youth, which speaks of fresh strength after temporary weakness" Psa 103:5; and Isaiah, "They that trust in the Lord shall put forth fresh strength; they shall put forth pinion-feathers like eagles" Isa 40:31, comparing the fresh strength which should succeed to that which was gone, to the eagle's recovering its strong pinion-feathers. Bochart however says unhesitatingly , "At the beginning of spring, the rapacious birds are subject to shedding of their feathers which we call moulting." If this be so, the comparison is yet more vivid, For the baldness of the vulture belongs to its matured strength, and could only be an external likeness. The moulting of the eagle involves some degree of weakness, with which he compares Judah's mournful and weak condition amid the loss of their children, gone into captivity .
Thus closes the first general portion of the prophecy. The people had east aside its own Glory, God; now its sons, its pride and its trust, shall go away from it.
Lap.: "The eagle, laying aside its old feathers and taking new, is a symbol of penitence and of the penitents who lay aside their former evil habits, and become other and new men. True, but rare form of penitence!" Gregory the Great thus applies this to the siege of Rome by the Lombards. : "That happened to her which we know to have been foretold of Judea by the prophet, enlarge thy baldness like the eagle. For baldness befalls man in the head only, but the eagle in its whole body; for, when it is very old, its feathers and pinions fall from all its body. She lost her feathers, who lost her people. Her pinions too fell out, with which she was accustomed to fly to the prey; for all her mighty men, through whom she plundered others, perished. But this which we speak of, the breaking to pieces of the city of Rome, we know has been done in all the cities of the world. Some were desolated by pestilence, others devoured by the sword, others racked by famine, others swallowed by earthquakes. Despise we them with our whole heart, at least, when brought to nought; at least with the end of the world, let us end our eagerness after the world. Follow we, wherein we can, the deeds of the good." One whose commentaries Jerome had read, thus applies this verse to the whole human race. "O soul of man! O city, once the mother of saints, which wast formerly in Paradise, and didst enjoy the delights of different trees, and wast adorned most beautifully, now being east down from thy place aloft, and brought down unto Babylon, and come into a place of captivity, and having lost thy glory, make thee bald and take the habit of a penitent; and thou who didst fly aloft like an eagle, mourn thy sons, thy offspring, which from thee is led captive."