Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The prophet had declared that evil should come down on Samaria and Jerusalem for their sins. He had pronounced them sinners against God; he now speaks of their hard unlovingness toward man, as our Blessed Lord in the Gospel speaks of sins against Himself in His members, as the ground of the condemnation of the wicked. The time of warning is past. He speaks as in the person of the Judge, declaring the righteous judgments of God, pronouncing sentence on the hardened, but blessing on those who follow Christ. The sins thus visited were done with a high hand; first, with forethought:
Woe - All woe, woe from God ; "the woe of temporal captivity; and, unless ye repent, the woe of eternal damnation, hangeth over you." Woe to them that devise iniquity. They devise it , "they are not led into it by others, but invent it out of their own hearts." They plot and forecast and fulfill it even in thought, before it comes to act. And work evil upon their beds. Thoughts and imaginations of evil are works of the soul Psa 58:2. "Upon their beds" (see Psa 36:4), which ought to be the place of holy thought, and of communing with their own hearts and with God Psa 4:4. Stillness must be filled with thought, good or bad; if not with good, then with bad. The chamber, if not the sanctuary of holy thoughts, is filled with unholy purposes and imaginations. Man's last and first thoughts, if not of good, are especially of vanity and evil. The Psalmist says, "Lord, have I not remembered Thee in my bed, and thought upon Thee when I was waking?" Psa 63:6. These men thought of sin on their bed, and did it on waking. When the morning is light, literally in the light of the morning, that is, instantly, shamelessly, not shrinking from the light of day, not ignorantly, but knowingly, deliberately, in full light. Nor again through infirmity, but in the wantonness of might, because it is in the power of their hand , as, of old, God said, "This they begin to do, and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do" Gen 11:6. Rup.: "Impiously mighty, and mighty in impiety."
Lap.: See the need of the daily prayer, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin;" and "Almighty God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, defend us in the same by Thy mighty power, that we may fall into no sin, etc." The illusions of the night, if such be permitted, have no power against the prayer of the morning.
And they covet fields and take them by violence - (rend them away) and houses, and take them away Still, first they sin in heart, then in act. And yet, with them, to covet and to rob, to desire and to take, are the same. They were prompt, instantaneous, without a scruple, in violence. So soon as they coveted, they took. Desired, acquired! Coveted, robbed! "They saw, they coveted, they took," had been their past history. They did violence, not to one only, but, touched with no mercy, to whole families, their little ones also; they oppressed a man and his house. They spoiled pot goods only, but life, a man and his inheritance; destroying him by false accusations or violence and seizing upon his inheritance . Thus, Ahab first coveted Naboth's vineyard, then, through Jezebel, slew him; and , "they who devoured widow's houses, did at the last plot by night against Him of whom they said, Come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be our's; and in the morning, they practiced it, leading Him away to Pilate." : "Who of us desires not the villas of this world, forgetful of the possessions of Paradise? You see men join field to field, and fence to fence. Whole places suffice not to the tiny frame of one man." : "Such is the fire of concupiscence, raging within, that, as those seized by burning fevers cannot rest, no bed suffices them, so no houses or fields content these. Yet no more than seven feet of earth will suffice them soon . Death only owns, how small the frame of man."
Such had been their habitual doings. They had done all this, he says, as one continuous act, up to that time. They were habitually devisers of iniquity, doers of evil. It was ever-renewed. By night they sinned in heart and thought; by day, in act. And so he speaks of it in the present. They do it. But, although renewed in fresh acts, it was one unbroken course of acting. And so he also uses the form, in which the Hebrews spoke of uninterrupted habits, They have coveted, they have robbed, they have taken. Now came God's part.
Therefore, thus saith the Lord - Since they oppress whole families, behold I will set Myself against this whole family ; since they devise iniquity, behold I too, Myself, by Myself, in My own Person, am devising. Very awful is it, that Almighty God sets His own Infinite Wisdom against the devices of man and employs it fittingly to punish. "I am devising no common punishment, but one to bow them down without escape; "an evil from which" - He turns suddenly to them, "ye shall not remove your necks, neither shall ye go haughtily." Ribera: "Pride then was the source of that boundless covetousness," since it was pride which was to be bowed down in punishment. The punishment is proportioned to the sin. They had done all this in pride; they should have the liberty and self-will wherein they had wantoned, tamed or taken from them. Like animals with a heavy yoke upon them, they should live in disgraced slavery.
The ten tribes were never able to withdraw their necks from the yoke. From the two tribes God removed it after the 70 years. But the same sins against the love of God and man brought on the same punishment. Our Lord again spake the woe against their covetousness Luk 16:13-14; Luk 11:39; Mat 23:14, Mat 23:23, Mat 23:25; Mar 12:40. It still shut them out from the service of God, or from receiving Him, their Redeemer. They still spoiled the goods Heb 10:34 of their brethren. In the last dreadful siege , "there were insatiable longings for plunder, searching-out of the houses of the rich; murder of men and insults of women were enacted as sports; they drank down what they had spoiled, with blood." And so the prophecy was for the third time fulfilled. They who withdraw from Christ's easy yoke of obedience shall not remove from the yoke of punishment; they who, through pride, will not bow down their necks, but make them stiff, shall be bent low, that they go not upright or haughtily anymore Isa 2:11. The Lord alone shall be exalted in that Day. For it is an evil time. Perhaps he gives a more special meaning to the words of Amos Amo 5:13, that a time of moral evil will be, or will end in, a time, full of evil, that is, of sorest calamity.
In that day shall one take up a parable against you - The mashal or likeness may, in itself, be any speech in which one thing is likened to another:
1) "figured speech,"
2) "proverb," and, since such proverbs were often sharp sayings against others,
3) "taunting figurative speech."
But of the person himself it is always said, he "is made, becomes a proverb" Deu 28:37; Kg1 9:7; Ch2 7:20; Psa 44:15; Psa 69:12; Jer 24:9; Eze 14:8. To take up or utter such a speech against one, is, elsewhere, followed by the speech itself; "Thou shalt take up this parable against the king of Babylon, and say, ..." Isa 14:4. "Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and say, ..." Hab 2:6. Although then the name of the Jews has passed into a proverb of reproach (Jerome, loc. cit.), this is not contained here. The parable here must be the same as the doleful lamentation, or dirge, which follows. No mockery is more cutting or fiendish, than to repeat in jest words by which one bemoans himself. The dirge which Israel should use of themselves in sorrow, the enemy shall take up in derision, as Satan does doubtless the self-condemnation of the damned. Ribera: "Men do any evil, undergo any peril, to avoid shame. God brings before us that deepest and eternal shame," the shame and everlasting contempt, in presence of Himself and angels and devils and the good Psa 52:6-7; Isa 66:24, that we may avoid shame by avoiding evil.
And lament with a doleful lamentation - The words in Hebrew are varied inflections of a word imitating the sounds of woe. It is the voice of woe in all languages, because the voice of nature. Shall wail a wail of woe, It is the funeral dirge over the dead Jer 31:15, or of the living doomed to die Eze 32:18; it is sometimes the measured mourning of those employed to call forth sorrow Amo 5:16; Jer 9:17, Jer 9:19, or mourning generally Sa1 7:2; Jer 9:18. Among such elegies, are still Zion-songs, (elegies over the ruin of Zion,) and mournings for the dead. The word woe is thrice repeated in Hebrew, in different forms, according to that solemn way, in which the extremest good or evil is spoken of; the threefold blessing, morning and evening, with the thrice-repeated name of God Num 6:24-26, impressing upon them the mystery which developed itself, as the divinity of the Messiah and the personal agency of the Holy Spirit were unfolded to them. The dirge which follows is purposely in abrupt brief words, as those in trouble speak, with scarce breath for utterance. First, in two words, with perhaps a softened inflection, they express the utterness of their desolation. Then, in a threefold sentence, each clause consisting of three short words, they say what God had done, but name Him not, because they are angry with Him. God's chastisements irritate those whom they do not subdue .
The portion of my people He changeth;
How removeth He (it) as to me!
To a rebel our fields He divideth.
They act the patriot. They, the rich, mourn over "the portion of my people" (they say) which they had themselves despoiled: they speak, (as men do,) as if things were what they ought to be: they hold to the theory and ignore the facts. As if, because God had divided it to His people, therefore it so remained! as if, because the poor were in theory and by God's law provided for, they were so in fact! Then they are enraged at God's dealings. He removeth the portion as to me; and to whom giveth He our fields?
"To a rebel!" the Assyrian, or the Chaldee. They had deprived the poor of their portion of "the Lord's land" . And now they marvel that God resumes the possession of His own, and requires from them, not the fourfold Exo 22:1; Sa2 12:6; Luk 19:8 only of their spoil, but His whole heritage. Well might Assyrian or Chaldee, as they did, jeer at the word, renegade. They had not forsaken their gods; - but Israel, what was its whole history but a turning back? "Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit" Jer 2:11.
Such was the meaning in their lips. The word "divideth" had the more bitterness, because it was the reversal of that first "division" at the entrance into Canaan. Then, with the use of this same word Num 26:53, Num 26:55-56; Jos 13:7; Jos 14:5; Jos 18:2, Jos 18:5, Jos 18:10; Jos 19:51, the division of the land of the pagan was appointed to them. Ezekiel, in his great symbolic vision, afterward prophesied the restoration of Israel, with the use of this same term Eze 47:21. Joel spoke of the parting of their land, under this same term, as a sin of the pagan (Joel 4:2, (Joe 3:3 in English)). Now, they say, God "divideth our fields," not to us, but to the pagan, whose lands He gave us. It was a change of act: in impenitence, they think it a change of purpose or will. But what lies in that, we be "utterly despoiled?" Despoiled of everything; of what they felt, temporal things; and of what they did not feel, spiritual things.
Despoiled of the land of promise, the good things of this life, but also of the Presence of God in His Temple, the grace of the Lord, the image of God and everlasting glory. "Their portion" was changed, as to themselves and with others. As to themselvcs, riches, honor, pleasure, their own land, were changed into want, disgrace, suffering, captivity; and yet more bitter was it to see others gain what they by their own fault had forfeited. As time went on, and their transgression deepened, the exchange of the portion of that former people of God became more complete. The casting-off of the Jews was the grafting-in of the Gentiles Act 13:46. Seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles. And so they who were "no people" Rom 10:19, became the people of God, and they who were His people, became, for the time, "not My people" Hos 1:9 : and "the adoption of sons, and the glory, and the covenants, and the lawgiving, and the service of God, and the promises" Rom 9:4-5, came to us Gentiles, since to us Christ Himself our God blessed forever came, and made us His.
How hath He removed - The words do not say what He removed. They thought of His gifts, the words include Himself. They say "How?" in amazement. The change is so great and bitter, it cannot be said. Time, yea eternity cannot utter it. "He hath divided our fields." The land was but the outward symbol of the inward heritage. Unjust gain, kept back, is restored with usury Pro 1:19; it taketh away the life of the owners thereof. The vineyard whereof the Jews said, the inheritance shall be ours, was taken from them and given to others, even to Christians. So now is that awful change begun, when Christians, leaving God, their only unchanging Good, turn to earthly vanities, and, for the grace of God which He withdraws, have these only for their fleeting portion, until it shall be finally exchanged in the Day of Judgment Luk 16:25. Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.
Israel defended himself in impenitence and self-righteousness. He was already the Pharisee. The doom of such was hopeless. The prophet breaks in with a renewed, "Therefore." He had already prophesied that they should lose the lands which they had unjustly gotten, the land which they had profaned. He had described it in their own impenitent words. Now on the impenitence he pronounces the judgment which impenitence entails, that they should not be restored
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall east a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord - Thou, in the first instance, is the impenitent Jew of that day. God had promised by Hosea to restore Judah; shortly after, the prophet himself foretells it Mic 2:12. Now he forewarns these and such as these, that they would have no portion in it. They had "neither part nor lot in this matter" Act 8:21. They, the not-Israel then, were the images and ensamples of the not-Israel afterward, those who seem to be God's people and are not; members of the body, not of the soul of the Church; who have a sort of faith, but have not love. Such was afterward the Israel after the flesh, which was broken off, while the true Israel was restored, passing out of themselves into Christ. Such, at the end, shall be those, who, being admitted by Christ into "their portion," renounce the world in word not in deed. Such shall have "no portion forever "in the congregation of the Lord." For "nothing defiled shall enter there, nor whatsoever worketh abomination or a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" Rev 21:27.
The ground of their condemnation is their resistance to light and known truth. These not only "entered not in" Luk 11:52, themselves, but, being hinderers of God's word, them that were entering in, they hindered.
Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy; they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame - The words are very emphatic in Hebrew, from their briefness, "Prophesy not; they shall indeed prophesy; they shall not prophesy to these; shame shall not depart." The people, the false prophets, the politicians, forbade God and Micah to prophesy; "Prophesy not." God, by Micah recites their prohibition to themselves, and forewarns them of the consequences.
Prophesy ye not - , literally drop not. Amaziah and the God-opposing party had already given an ungodly meaning to the word . "Drop not," "distill not," thus unceasingly, these same words, ever warning, ever telling of "lamentation and mourning and woe Eze 2:10; prophesying not good concerning us, but evil" Kg1 22:18. So their descendants commanded the Apostles Act 4:18; Act 5:40 not to speak at all or to teach in the Name of Jesus Act 5:28. Did we not straitly command you, that ye should not teach in this Name? Act 6:13. This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. God answers; They shall certainly prophesy. The Hebrew word is emphatic. The prophets had their commission from God, and Him they must obey, whether Israel Eze 2:5, Eze 2:7 would hear or whether they would forbear. So must Micah and Isaiah Isa 28:9-14, Isa 28:22 now, or Jeremiah Jer 1:7, Jer 1:17; Jer 26:10-15, Ezekiel, and the rest afterward. "They shall not prophesy to these."
He does not say only, "They shall not prophesy to them," but, to these; that is, they shall prophesy to others who would receive their words: God's word would not be stayed; they who would hearken shall never be deprived of their portion; but to these who despise, "they shall not prophesy." It shall be all one, as though they did not prophesy; the soft rain shall not bedew them. The barn-floor shall be dry, while the fleece is moist Jdg 6:37. So God says by Isaiah; "I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it" Isa 5:6. The dew of God's word shall be transferred to others. But so shame (literally shames manifold shame,) shall not depart, but shall rest upon them forever. God would have turned away the shame from them; but they, despising His warnings, drew it to themselves. It was the natural fruit of their doings; it was in its natural home with them. God spoke to them, that they might be freed from it. They silenced His prophets; deafened themselves to His words; so it departed not. So our Lord says Joh 9:41, Now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth; and John the Immerser Joh 3:36, The wrath of God abideth on him. It hath not now first to come. It is not some new thing to be avoided, turned aside. The sinner has but to remain as he is; the shame encompasseth him already; and only departeth not. The wrath of God is already upon him, and abideth on him.
O thou that art named the house of Jacob - As Isaiah says, "Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel - which make mention of the God of Israel, not in truth, nor in righteousness. For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel" Isa 48:1. They boasted of what convicted them of faithlessness. They relied on being what in spirit they had ceased to be, what in deeds they denied, children of a believing forefather. It is the same temper which we see more at large in their descendants; "We be Abraham's seed and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest Thou, ye shall be made free?" Joh 8:33 "Abraham is our Father" Joh 8:39. It is the same which John the Immerser and our Lord and Paul reproved. "Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father" Mat 3:9. "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham" Joh 8:39-40. "Now ye seek to kill Me, a Man that hath told you the truth - This did not Abraham" Rom 2:17-28.
He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. - Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His Will and approvest the things that are more excellent" - etc. The prophet answers the unexpressed objections of those who forbade to prophesy evil. "Such could not be of God," these said; "for God was pledged by His promises to the house of Jacob. It would imply change in God, if He were to cast off those whom He had chosen." Micah answers; "not God is changed, but you." God's promise was to Jacob, not to those who were but named Jacob, who called themselves after the name of their father, but did not his deeds. "The Spirit of the Lord was not straitened", so that He was less longsuffering than heretofore. These, which He threatened and of which they complained, were not His doings, not what He of His own Nature did, not what He loved to do, not His, as the Author or Cause of them, but theirs.
God is Good, but to those who can receive good, "the upright in heart" Psa 73:1. God is only Loving unto Israel. He is all Love; nothing but Love: all His ways are Love; but it follows, unto what Israel, the true Israel, the pure of heart Psa 25:10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth; but to whom? unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies Psa 103:17; Luk 1:50. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting; but hate them that fear Him. they becoming evil, His good became to them evil. Light, wholesome and gladdening to the healthful, hurts weak eyes. That which is straight cannot suit or fit with the crooked. Amend your crookedness, and God's ways will be straight to you. Do not My words do good? He doth speak good words and comfortable words Zac 1:13. They are not only good, but do good Luk 4:32. His Word is with power. Still it is with those who "walk uprightly;" whether those who forsake not, or those who return the way of righteousness. God flattereth deceiveth not, promiseth not what He not do. He cannot "speak peace where there is no peace" Jer 6:14. As He saith, "Behold the and severity of God; on them which but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness" Rom 11:22. God Himself could not make a heaven for the proud or envious. Heaven would be to them a hell.
Even of late - (Literally, yesterday.) Jerome: "He imputeth not past sins, but those recent and, as it were, of yesterday." "My people is risen up vehemently". God upbraideth them tenderly by the title, "Mine own people," as John complaineth, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" Joh 1:11. God became not their enemy, but they arose as one man, - "is risen up," the whole of it, as His. In Him they might have had peace and joy and assured gladness, but they arose in rebellion against Him, requiting Him evil for good, (as bad Christians do to Christ,) and brought war upon their own heads. This they did by their sins against their brethren. Casting off the love of man, they alienated themselves from the love of God.
Ye pull off (strip off violently) the robe with the garment - Literally, "over against the cloak." The שׂלמה s'almâh is the large enveloping cloak, which was worn loosely over the other dress, and served by night for a covering Deu 22:17. Eder, translated "robe," is probably not any one garment, but the remaining dress, the comely, becoming , array of the person. These they stripped violently off from persons, peaceable, unoffending, off their guard, "passing by securely, men averse from war" and strife. These they stripped of their raiment by day, leaving them half-naked, and of their covering for the night. So making war against God's peaceful people, they, as it were, made war against God.
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses - (literally, from her pleasant house,) each from her home. These were probably the widows of those whom they had stripped. Since the houses were their's, they were widows; and so their spoilers were at war with those whom God had committed to their special love, whom He had declared the objects of His own tender care, "the widows and the fatherless." The widows they "drove vehemently forth", as having no portion in the inheritance which God had given them, as God had driven out their enemies before them, each "from her pleasant house," the home where she had lived with her husband and children in delight and joy.
From (off) their (young) children have ye taken away My glory - Primarily, the glory, comeliness, was the fitting apparel which God had given them (as Hos 2:11), and laid upon them , and which these oppressors stripped off from them. But it includes all the gifts of God, wherewith God would array them. Instead of the holy home of parental care, the children grew up in want and neglect, away from all the ordinances of God, it may be, in a strange land. "For ever." They never repented, never made restitution; but so they incurred the special woe of those who ill-used the unprotected, the widow, and the fatherless. The words "forever" anticipate the punishment. The punishment is according to the sin. They never ceased their oppression. They, with the generation who should come after them, should be deprived of God's "glory," and cast out of His land forever.
Arise ye and depart - Go your way, as being cast out of God's care and land. It matters not where they went. "For this is not your rest." As ye have done, so shall it be done unto you. As ye cast out the widow and the fatherless, so shall ye be cast out; as ye gave no rest to those "averse from war," so shall ye have none Rev 13:10. "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword." The land was given to them as a temporary rest, a symbol and earnest of the everlasting rest to the obedient. So Moses spake, "ye are not as yet come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when He giveth you rest from your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety ..." (Deu 12:9-10, add Kg1 8:56). And Joshua, "Remember the word which Moses commanded you, saying, The Lord your God giveth you rest" Jos 1:13. But the Psalmist had warned them, that, if they hardened their hearts like their forefathers, they too would "not enter into His rest" Psa 95:11.
Because it is polluted - (Literally, because of its pollution ) by idolatry, by violence, by uncleanness. So Moses (using the same word) says, "the land is defiled" by the abominations of the pagan; and warns them, "that the land spue you not out, when you defile it, as it spued out the nations which were before you." Ezekiel speaks of that "defilement" Eze 36:17, as the ground why God expelled Israel. "It shall destroy you, even with a sore (literally sharp) destruction" (Eze 36:18, add Jer 2:7). . It is a sore thing to abuse the creatures of God to sin, and it is unfit that we should use what we have abused. Hence, Holy Scripture speaks, as though even the inanimate creation took part with God, "made subject to vanity, not willingly," and could not endure those who employed it against His Will.
The words, "Arise, depart, ye, for this is not your rest," became a sort of sacred proverb, spoken anew to the soul, whenever it would find rest out of God. : "We are bidden to think of no rest for ourselves in any things of the world; but, as it were, arising from the dead, to stretch upwards, and walk after the Lord our God, and say, 'My soul cleaveth hard after Thee.' This if we neglect, and will not hear Him who saith, 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,' we shall indeed slumber, but shall be deceived and shall not find rest; for where Christ enlighteneth not the risen soul, what seemeth to be rest, is trouble." All rest is wearisome which is not in Thee, O our God.
If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood - Literally, "in spirit" (not My Spirit) "and falsehood," that is, in a lying spirit; such as they, whose woe Ezekiel pronounces Eze 13:3, "Woe unto the foolish prophets who walk after their own spirit and what they have not seen Eze 13:2, Eze 13:17; prophets out of their own hearts, who prophesied a vision of falsehood, and a destruction and nothingness; prophesied falsehood; yea, prophets of the deceit of their hearts." These, like the true prophets, "walked in spirit;" as Isaiah speaks of "walking in righteousness" Isa 33:15. Their habitual converse was m a spirit, but of falsehood. If such an one do lie, saying, "I will prophesy unto thee of wine and strong drink." Man's conscience must needs have some plea in speaking falsely of God. The false prophets had to please the rich men, to embolden them in their self-indulgence, to tell them that God would not punish. They doubtless spoke of God's temporal promises to His people, the land "flowing with milk and honey." His promises of abundant harvest and vintage, and assured them, that God would not withdraw these, that He was not so precise about His law. Micah tells them in plain words, what it all came to; it was a prophesying of "wine and strong drink."
He shall even be the prophet of this people - Literally "and shall be bedewing this people." He uses the same words, which scorners of Israel and Judah employed in forbidding to prophesy. They said, "drop not;" forbidding God's word as a wearisome dropping. It wore away their patience, not their hearts of stone. He tells them, who might speak to them without wearying, of whose words they would never tire, who might do habitually what they forbade to God, - one who, in the Name of God, set them at ease in their sensual indulgences. This is the secret of the success of everything opposed to God and Christ. Man wants a God. God has made it a necessity of our nature to crave after Him. Spiritual, like natural, hunger, debarred from or loathing wholesome food, must be stilled, stifled, with what will appease its gnawings. Our natural intellect longs for Him; for it cannot understand itself without Him. Our restlessness longs for Him; to rest upon.
Our helplessness longs for Him, to escape from the unbearable pressure of our unknown futurity. Our imagination craves for Him; for, being made for the Infinite, it cannot be content with the finite. Aching affections long for Him; for no creature can soothe them. Our dissatisfied conscience longs for Him, to teach it and make it one with itself. But man does not want to be responsible, nor to owe duty; still less to be liable to penalties for disobeying. The Christian, not the natural man, longs that his whole being should tend to God. The natural man wishes to be well-rid of what sets him ill at ease, not to belong to God. And the horrible subtlety of false teaching, in each age or country, is to meet its own favorite requirements, without calling for self-sacrifice or self-oblation, to give it a god such as it would have, such as might content it. : "The people willeth to be deceived, be it deceived," is a true proverb. "Men turn away their ears from the truth" Ti2 4:4 which they dislike; and so are turned unto fables which they like. They who "receive not the love of the truth, - believe a lie" Th2 2:11-12. If men "will not retain God in their knowledge, God giveth them over to an undistinguishing mind" Rom 1:28. They who would not receive our Lord, coming in His Father's Name, have ever since, as He said, "received them who came in their own" Joh 5:43. Men teach their teachers how they wish to be mistaught, and receive the echo of their wishes as the Voice of God.
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel - God's mercy on the penitent and believing being the end of all His threatenings, the mention of it often bursts in abruptly. Christ is ever the Hope as the End of prophecy, ever before the prophets' mind. The earthquake and fire precede the still small voice of peace in Him. What seems then sudden to us, is connected in truth. The prophet had said Mic 2:10, where was not their rest and how they should be cast forth; he saith at once how they should be gathered to their everlasting rest. He had said, what promises of the false prophets would not be fulfille Mic 2:11. But, despair being the most deadly enemy of the soul, he does not take away their false hopes, without shewing them the true mercies in store for them. Jerome: "Think not," he would say, "that I am only a prophet of ill. The captivity foretold will indeed now come, and God's mercies will also come, although not in the way, which these speak of."
The false prophets spoke of worldly abundance ministering to sensuality, and of unbroken security. He tells of God's mercies, but after chastisement, to "the remnant of Israel." But the restoration is complete, far beyond their then condition. He had foretold the desolation of Samaria Mic 1:6, the captivity of Judah Mic 1:16; Mic 2:4; he foretells the restoration of all Jacob, as one. The images are partly taken (as is the prophet's custom) from that first deliverance from Egypt . Then, as the image of the future growth under persecution, God multiplied His people exceedingly Exo 1:12; then "the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way" Exo 13:21; then God "brought them up" "out of the house of bondage" (see below, Mic 6:4).
But their future prison-house was to be no land of Goshen. It was to be a captivity and a dispersion at once, as Hosea had already foretold . So he speaks of them emphatically, as a great throng, "assembling I will assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; gathering I will gather the remnant of Israel." The word, which is used of the gathering of a flock or its lambs Isa 40:11; Isa 13:14, became, from Moses' prophecy (Deu 30:3-4, see Neh 1:9), a received word of the gathering of Israel from the dispersion of the captivity (see below, Mic 4:6; Psa 106:47; Psa 107:3; Isa 11:12; Isa 43:5; Isa 54:7; Isa 56:8; Zep 3:19-20; Jer 23:3; Jer 29:14; Jer 31:8, Jer 31:10; Jer 32:37; Eze 11:17; Eze 20:34, Eze 20:41; Eze 28:25; Eze 34:13; Eze 37:21; Eze 38:8; Eze 39:27; Zac 10:10). The return of the Jews from Babylon was but a faint shadow of the fulfillment. For, ample as were the terms of the decrees of Cyrus Ezr 1:2-4 and Artaxerxes Ezr 7:13, and widely as that of Cyrus was diffused Ezr 1:1, the restoration was essentially that of Judah, that is, Judah, Benjamin and Levi : the towns, whose inhabitants returned, were those of Judah and Benjamin Ezra 2; Neh. 7; the towns, to which they returned, were of the two tribes.
It was not a gathering of "all Jacob;" and of the three tribes who returned, there were but few gathered, and they had not even an earthly king, nor any visible Presence of God. The words began to he fulfilled in the "many Act 21:20 tens of thousands" who believed at our Lord's first Coming; and "all Jacob," that is, all who were Israelites indeed, "the remnant" according to the election of grace Rom 11:5, were gathered within the one fold of the Church, under One Shepherd. It shall be fully fulfilled, when, in the end, "the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in and all Israel shall be saved" Rom 11:25-26. "All Jacob" is the same as "the remnant of Israel," the true Israel which remains when the false severed itself off; all the seed-corn, when the chaff was winnowed away. So then, whereas they were now scattered, then, God saith, "I will put them together (in one fold) as the sheep of Bozrah," which abounded in sheep Isa 34:6, and was also a strong city of Edom ; denoting how believers should be fenced within the Church, as by a strong wall, against which the powers of darkness should not prevail, and the wolf should howl around the fold, yet be unable to enter it, and Edom and the pagan should become part of the inheritance of Christ . "As a flock in the midst of their fold," at rest , "like sheep, still and subject to their shepherd's voice. So shall these, having one faith and One Spirit, in meekness and simplicity, obey the one rule of truth. Nor shall it be a small number;" for the place where they shall be gathered shall be too narrow to contain them, as is said in Isaiah; "Give place to me, that I may dwell" Isa 49:20.
They shall make great noise - (it is the same word as our hum, "the hum of men,") by reason of the multitude of men He explains his image, as does Ezekiel Eze 34:31, "And ye are My flock, the flock of My pasture; men are ye; I, your God, saith the Lord God: and Eze 36:38, As a flock of holy things, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be full of a flock of men and they shall know that I am the Lord." So many shall they be, that throughout the whole world they shall make a great and public sound in praising God, filling Heaven and the green pastures of Paradise with a mighty hum of praise;" as John saw "a great multitude which no man could number" Rev 7:9, "with one united voice praising the Good Shepherd, who smoothed for them all rugged places, and evened them by His Own Steps, Himself the Guide of their way and the Gate of Paradise, as He saith, 'I am the Door;' through whom bursting through and going before, being also the Door of the way, the flock of believers shall break through It. But this Shepherd is their Lord and King" . Not their King only, but the Lord God; so that this, too, bears witness that Christ is God.
The Breaker is come up - (gone up) before them; they have broken up (Broken through) and have passed the gate, and have gone forth The image is not of conquest, but of deliverance. They "break through," not to enter in but to "pass through the gate and go forth." The wall of the city is ordinarily broken through, in order to make an entrance Psa 80:13; Psa 89:41; Isa 5:5; Neh 2:13, or to secure to a conqueror the power of entering in Pro 25:28; Kg2 14:13; Ch2 25:23; Ch2 26:6 at any time, or by age and decay Ch2 32:5. But here the object is expressed, to go forth. Plainly then, they were confined before, as in a prison; and the gate of the prison was burst open, to set them free. It is then the same image as when God says by Isaiah; "I will say to the North, give up; and to the South, Hold not back" Isa 43:6, or, "Go ye forth of Babylon, Say ye, the Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob" Isa 48:20; or, with the same reminiscence of God's visible leading of His people out of Egypt "Depart ye, depart ye; for ye shall not go out with haste, nor yet by flight, for the Lord God shall go before you, and the God of Israel will be your reward;" or as Hosea describes their restoration (Hos 1:11, (Hos 2:2, Hebrew)); "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together and appoint themselves one Head, and they shall go up out of the land". Elsewhere, in Isaiah, the spiritual meaning of the deliverance from the prison is more distinctly brought out, as the work of our Redeemer. "I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house" Isa 42:6-7; and, "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord hath anointed Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" Isa 61:1.
From this passage, the "Breaker-through" was one of the titles of the Christ, known to the Jews , as One who should be "from below and from above" also; and from it they believed that "captives should come up from Gehenna, and the Sheehinah," or the Presence of God, "at their head." : "He then, who shall break the way, the King and Lord who shall go up before them, shall be the Good Shepherd, who puts them together in the fold. And this He doth when, as He saith, 'He putieth forth His own sheep, and He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His Voice' Joh 10:4. How doth He go befree them but by suffering for them, leaving them an example of suffering, and opening the entrance of Paradise? The Good Shepherd goeth up to time Cross Joh 10:15; Joh 12:32, and is lifted up from the earth, laying down His Life for His sheep, to draw all men unto Him. He goeth up, trampling on death by His resurrection; He goeth up above the heaven of heavens, and sitteth on the Right Hand of the Father, opening the way before them, so that the flock, in their lowliness, may arrive where the Shepherd went before in His Majesty. And when He thus breaketh through and openeth the road, they also 'break through and pass through the gate and go out by it,' by that Gate, namely, whereof the Psalmist saith, 'This is the Gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter into It' Psa 118:20.
What other is this Gate than that same Passion of Christ, beside which there is no gate, no way whereby any can enter into life? Through that open portal, which the lance of the soldier made in His Side when crucified, and 'there came thereout Blood and Water, they shall pass and go through,' even as the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea, which divided before them, when Pharaoh, his chariots and horsemen, were drowned.'" Dionysius: "He will be in their hearts, and will teach and lead them; He will shew them the way of Salvation, 'guiding their feet into the way of peace' Luk 1:79, and they shall pass through the strait and narrow gate which leadeth unto life; of which it is written, 'Enter ye in at the strait gate; because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. And their King shall pass before them' Mat 7:13-14, as He did, of old, in the figure of the cloud, of which Moses said, 'If Thy Presence go not, carry us not up hence; and wherein shall it be known that I have found grace in Thy sight, I and Thy people, is it not in that Thou goest up with us?' Exo 33:15-16, and as He then did when He passed out of this world to the Father." "And the Lord on (that is, at) the head of them," as of His army.
Rup.: "For the Lord is His Name, and He is the Head, they the members; He the King, they the people; He the Shepherd, they the sheep of His pasture. And of this passing through He spake, 'By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture' Joh 10:9. For a man entereth in, when, receiving the faith, he becomes a sheep of this Shepherd, and goeth out, when he closeth this present life, and then findeth the pastures of unfading, everlasting life" ; "passing from this pilgrimage to his home, from faith to sight, from labor to reward." Again, as describing the Christian's life here, it speaks of progress. Jerome: "Whoso shall have entered in, must not remain in the state wherein he entered, but must go forth into the pasture; so that, in entering in should be the beginning, in going forth and finding pasture, the perfecting of graces. He who entereth in, is contained within the bounds of the world; he who goeth forth, goes, as it were, beyond all created things, and, counting as nothing all things seen, shall find pasture above the Heavens, and shall feed upon the Word of God, and say, "The Lord is my Shepherd" Psa 23:1, (and feedeth me,) I can lack nothing.
But this going forth can only be through Christ; as it followeth, 'and the Lord at the head of them.'" Nor, again, is this in itself easy, or done for us without any effort of our own. All is of Christ. The words express the closeness of the relation between the Head and the members; and what He, our King and Lord, doth, they do, because He who did it for them, doth it in them. The same words are used of both, shewing that what they do, they do by virtue of His Might, treading in His steps, walking where He has made the way plain, and by His Spirit. What they do, they do, as belonging to Him. He "breaketh through," or, rather, in all is "the Breaker-through." They, having broken through, pass on, because He "passeth before them." He will Isa 45:2 break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron. He "breaketh through" whatever would hold us back or oppose us, all might of sin and death and Satan, as Moses opened the Red Sea, for "a way for the ransomed to pass over" Isa 51:10; and so He saith, "I will go before thee, I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron, and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places" Isa 45:2-3.
So then Christians, following Him, the Captain of their salvation, strengthened by His grace, must burst the bars of the flesh and of the world, the chains and bonds of evil passions and habits, force themselves through the narrow way and narrow gate, do violence to themselves Ti2 2:3, endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. The title of our Lord, the Breaker-through, and the saying, "they break through," together express the same as the New Testament doth in regard to our being partakers of the sufferings of Christ Rom 8:17. Joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together Ti2 2:11-12. If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him Pe1 4:1. Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh - arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.
The words may include also the removal of the souls of the just, who had believed in Christ before His Coming, into Heaven after His Resurrection, and will be fully completed when, in the end, He shall cause His faithful servants, in body and soul, to enter into the joy of their Lord.