Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
And I said - God's love for us is the great incitement, constrainer, vivifier of His creature's love. Micah had just spoken of God's love of Israel; how He would gather them into one fold under One Shepherd, guard them, lead them, remove all difficulties before them, be Himself their Head and enable them to follow Him. He turns then to them. These are God's doings; this, God has in store for you hereafter. Even when mercy itself shall require chastisement, He doth not cast off forever. The desolation is but the forerunner of future mercy. What then do ye? The prophet appeals to them, class by class. There was one general corruption of every order of men, through whom Judah could be preserved, princes Mic 3:1-4, prophets Mic 3:5-7, priests Mic 3:11. The salt had lost its savor; wherewith could it be seasoned? whereby could the decaying mass of the people be kept from entire corruption?
Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel - He arraigns them by the same name, under which He had first promised mercy. He had first promised mercy to all Jacob and the remnant of Israel. So now he upraids the "heads of Jacob, and the princes of the house of Israel," lest they should deceive themselves. At the same time he recalls them to the deeds of their father. Judah had succeeded to the birthright, forfeited by Reuben, Simeon and Levi; and in Judah all the promises of the Messiah were laid up. But he was not like the three great patriarchs, the father of the faithful (Abraham), or the meek Isaac, or the much-tried Jacob. The name then had not the reminiscences, or force of appeal, contained in the titles, seed of Abraham, or Isaac, or Israel.
Is it not for you to know judgment? - It is a great increase of guilt, when persons neglect or pervert what it is their special duty and office to guard; as when teachers corrupt doctrine, or preachers give in to a low standard of morals, or judges pervert judgment. The "princes" here spoken or are so named from judging, "deciding" causes. They are the same its the "rulers," whom Isaiah at the same time upbraids, as being, from their sins, rulers of Sodom , whose hands were full of blood Isa 1:15. They who do not right, in time cease, in great measure, to know it. As God withdraws His grace, the mind is darkened and can no longer see it. So it is said of Eli's sons, they were sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord Sa1 2:12; and, Into a malicious soul Wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in a body that is subject unto sin (Wisd. 1:4). Such , "attain not to know the judgments of God which are a great deep: and the depth of His justice the evil mind findeth not." But if men will not "know judgment" by doing it, they shall by suffering it.
Who hate the good and love the evil - that is, they hate, for its own sake, that which is good, and love that which is evil. The prophet is not here speaking of their "hating good" men, or "loving evil" men, but of their hating goodness and loving wickedness . : "It is sin not to love good; what guilt to hate it! it is faulty, not to flee from evil, what ungodliness to love it!" Man, at first, loves and admires the good, even while he cloth it not; he hates the evil, even while he does it, or as soon as he has done it. But man cannot bear to he at strife with his conscience, and so he ends it, by excusing himself and telling lies to himself. And then, he hates the truth or good with a bitter hatred, because it disturbs the darkness of the false peace with which he would envelop himself. At first, men love only the pleasure connected with the evil; then they make whom they can, evil, because goodness is a reproach to them: in the end, they love evil for its own sake Rom 1:32. pagan morality too distinguished between the incontinent and the unprincipled , the man who sinned under force of temptation, and the man who had lost the sense of right and wrong Joh 3:20. "Everyone that doeth evil, hateth the light. Whoso longeth for things unlawful, hateth the righteousness which rebuketh and punisheth" .
Who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones - He had described the Good Shepherd; now, in contrast, he describes those who ought to be "shepherds of the people," to feed, guard, direct them, but who were their butchers; who did not shear them, but flayed them; who fed on them, not fed them. He heaps up their guilt, act by act. First they flay, that is, take away their outer goods; then they break their bones in pieces, the most solid parts, on which the whole frame of their body depends, to get at the very marrow of their life, and so feed themselves upon them. And not unlike, though still more fearfully, do they sin, who first remove the skin, as it were, or outward tender fences of God's graces; (such as is modesty, in regard to inward purity; outward demeanor, of inward virtue; outward forms, of inward devotion;) and so break the strong bones of the sterner virtues, which hold the whole soul together; and with them the whole flesh, or softer graces, becomes one shapeless mass, shred to pieces and consumed. So Ezekiel says; "Woe to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves; should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ye eat the fat and ye clothe you, with the wool, ye kill them that are fed, ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened ..." (Eze 34:2-4, add Eze 34:5-10).
Then shall they cry unto the Lord - "Then." The prophet looks on to the Day of the Lord, which is always before his mind. So the Psalmist, speaking of a time or place not expressed, says, "There were they in great fear" Psa 53:5. He sees it, points to it, as seeing what those to whom he spoke, saw not, and the more awfully, because he saw, with superhuman (certain) vision, what was "hidden from their eyes." The then was not then, "in the time of grace," but when the Day of grace should be over, and the Day of Judgment should be come. So of that day, when judgment should set in, God says in Jeremiah, "Behold I will bring evil upon them which they shall not be able to go forth of, and they will cry unto Me, and I will not hearken unto them" Jer 11:11. And David, "They cried and there was none to save; unto the Lord, and He answered them not" Psa 18:41. And Solomon; "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself and shall not be heard" Pro 21:13. And James, "He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy" Jam 2:13. The prayer is never too late, until judgment comes ; the day of grace is over, when the time of judgment has arrived. "They shall cry unto the Lord, and shall not be heard, because they too did not hear those who asked them, and the Lord shall turn His Face from them, because they too turned their face from those who prayed them."
He will even hide His Face - He will not look in mercy on those who would not receive His look of grace. Your sins, He says by Isaiah, "have hid His face from you, that He heareth not." O what will that turning away of the Face be, on which hangs eternity!
As - There is a proportion between the sin and the punishment . As I have done, so God hath requited me. "They have behaved themselves ill in their doings. literally have made their deeds evil." The word rendered doings is almost always used in a bad sense, mighty deeds, and so deeds with a high hand. Not ignorantly or negligently, nor through human frailty, but with set purpose they applied themselves, not to amend but to corrupt their doings, and make them worse. God called to them by all His prophets, make good your doings Jer 35:15; and they, reversing it, used diligence to make their doings evil. Jerome: "All this they shall suffer, because they were not rulers, but tyrants; not Prefects, but lions; not masters of disciples, but wolves of sheep; and they sated themselves with flesh and were fattened, and, as sacrifices for the slaughter, were made ready for the punishment of the Lord. Thus far against evil rulers; then he turns to the false prophets and evil teachers, who by flatteries subvert the people of God, promising them the knowledge of His word."
The prophets that make My people err - Flattering them in their sins and rebellions, promising that they shall go unpunished, that God is not so strict, will not put in force the judgments tie threatens. So Isaiah saith Isa 3:12; O my? people, they which lead thee, mislead thee; and (Isa 9:16, (Isa 9:15 in Hebrew)), the leaders of this people are its misleaders, and they that are led of them are destroyed. And Jeremiah, "The prophets have seen for thee vanity and folly; and they have not discovered thine iniquity to turn away thy captivity, and have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment" Lam 2:14. No error is hopeless, save what is taught in the Name of God.
That bite with their mouths - The word is used of no other biting than the biting of serpents. They were doing real, secret evil "while they cry, that is, proclaim peace;" they bit, as serpents, treacherously, deadlily. They fed, not so much on the gifts, for which they hired themselves to Eze 13:10 speak peace when there was no peace, as on the souls of the givers. So God says by Ezekiel, "Will ye pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls live that should not live, by your lying to My people that hear your lies? Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life - therefore ye shall see no more vanity nor divine divinations" Eze 19:1-14, 22-23. It was with a show of peace that Joab slew Abner and Amasa, and with a kiss of peace Judas betrayed our Lord.
And he that putteth not into their mouths, they prepare war against him - Literally, and (that is, immediately; it was all one; bribes refused, war proclaimed,) "they sanctify war against him." Like those of whom Joel prophesied , they proclaim war against him in the Name of God, by the authority of God which they had taken to themselves, speaking in His Name who had not sent them. So when our Lord fed the multitude, they would take Him by force and make Him a king; when their hopes were gone and they saw that His Kingdom was not of this world, they said, Crucify him, crucify Him. Much more the Pharisees, who, because He rebuked their covetousness, their devouring widows' houses, their extortion and excess, their making their proselytes more children of hell than themselves, said, Thou blasphemest. So, when the masters of the possessed damsel whom Paul freed Act 16:19-21, saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they accused him, that he exceedingly troubled their city, teaching customs not lawful to be received.
So Christians were persecuted by the pagan as "hating the human race," because they would not partake of their sins; as "atheists," because they worshiped not their gods; as "disloyal" and "public enemies," because they joined not in unholy festivals; as "unprofitable," because they neglected things not profitable but harmful. So men are now called "illiberal," who will not make free with the truth of God; "intolerant," who will not allow that all faith is matter of opinion, and that there is no certain truth; "precise," "censorious," who will not connive at sin, or allow the levity which plays, mothlike, around it and jests at it. The Church and the Gospel are against the world, and so the world which they condemn must be against them; and such is the force of truth and holiness, that it must carry on the war against them in their own name.
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision - In the presence of God's extreme judgments, even deceivers are at length still; silenced at last by the common misery, if not by awe. The false prophets had promised peace, light, brightness, prosperity; the night of trouble, anguish, darkness, fear, shall Come upon them. So shall they no more dare to speak in the Name of God, while He was by His judgments speaking the contrary in a way which all must hear. They abused God's gifts and long-suffering against Himself: they could misinterpret His long-suffering into favor, and they did it: their visions of the future were but the reflections of the present and its continuance; they thought that because God was enduring, He was indifferent, and they took His government out of His Hands, and said, that what He appeared to be now, He would ever be. They had no other light, no other foresight. When then the darkness of temporal calamity enveloped them, it shrouded in one common darkness of night all present brightness and all sight of the future.
Rup.: "After Caiaphas had in heart spoken falsehood and a prophecy of blood, although God overruled it to truth which he meant not, all grace of prophecy departed Mat 11:13. The law and the prophets prophesied until John. "The Sun of Righteousness went down over them," inwardly and outwardly, withdrawing the brightness of His Providence and the inward light of grace." So Christ Himself forewarned; "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you" Joh 12:35. And so it has remained ever since Co2 3:15. The veil has been on their hearts. The light is in all the world, but they see it not; it arose to lighten the Gentiles, but they walk on still in darkness. As opposed to holiness, truth, knowledge, divine enlightening of the mind, bright gladness, contrariwise darkness is falsehood, sin, error, blindness of soul, ignorance of divine things, and sorrow. In all these ways, did the Sun go down "over them," so that the darkness weighed heavily upon them. So too the inventors of heresies pretend to see and to enter into the mysteries of Christ, yet find darkness instead of light, lose even what they think they see, fail even of what truth they seem most to hold; and they shall be in night and darkness, being cast into outer darkness Co1 8:12; sinning against the brethren, and wounding the weak conscience of those for whom Christ died.
They shall cover their lips - Literally, the hair of the upper lip . This was an action enjoined on lepers Lev 13:45, and a token of mourning Eze 24:17, Eze 24:22; a token then of sorrow and uncleanness. With their lips they had lied, and now they should cover their lips, as men dumb and ashamed. "For there is no answer of God," as these deceivers had pretended to have. When all things shall come contrary to what they had promised, it shall be clear that God did not send them. And having plainly no answer of God, they shall not dare to feign one then. Jerome: "Then not even the devils shall receive power to deceive them by their craft. The oracles shall be dumb; the unclean spirit shall not dare to delude." Dionysius: "All this is spoken against those who, in the Church of Christ, flatter the rich, or speak as menpleasers, out of avarice, ambition, or any like longing for temporal good, to whom that of Isaiah Isa 3:12 fitteth; the leaders of this people (they who profess to lead them aright) mislead them, and they that are led of them are destroyed."
And truly I - (Literally, contrariwise I,) that is, whereas they shall be void and no word in them, "I am full of (or filled with) power by the Spirit of the Lord and of judgment and might." The false prophets, walked after their own spirit, Eze 13:3. Their only power or influence was from without, from favoring circumstances, from adapting themselves to the great or to the people, going along with the tide, and impelling persons whither they wished to go. The power of the true prophet was inherent, and that by gift of "the Spirit of the Lord". And so, while adverse circumstances silenced the false prophets, they called forth the more the energy of the true, whose power was from Him in whose Hands the world is. The adverse circumstances to the false prophets were God's judgments; to the true, they were man's refractoriness, rebellion, oppressiveness. Now was the time of the false prophets; now, at a distance, they could foretell hardily, because they could not yet be convicted of untruth. When trouble came, they went into the inner chamber to hide Kg1 22:25 themselves. Micah, amid the wild tumult of the people Psa 65:7, was fearless, upborne by Him who controls, stills, or looses it, to do His Sovereign Will.
I am filled with power - So our Lord bade His Apostles, "Tarry ye, until ye be endued with power from on high" Luk 24:49 : "ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" Act 1:8; and "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" Act 2:4. The three gifts, "power, judgment, might," are the fruits of the One Spirit of God, through whom the prophet was filled with them. Of these, "power" is always strength residing in the person, whether it be the "power" (Exo 15:6; Exo 32:11; Num 14:17, etc.) or "might of wisdom" Job 36:5 of Almighty God Himself, or "power" which He imparts Deu 8:18; Jdg 16:5, Jdg 16:9, Jdg 16:19 or implants . But it is always power lodged in the person, to be put forth by him. Here, as in John the Immerser Luk 1:17 or the Apostles Luk 24:49, it is divine power, given through God the Holy Spirit, to accomplish that for which he was sent, as Paul was endued with might Co2 10:5, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. It is just that, which is so wanting to human words, which is so characteristic of the word of God, "power."
"Judgment" is, from its form, not so much discernment in the human being, as "the thing judged," pronounced by God, the righteous judgment of God, and righteous judgment in man conformably therewith (as in Pro 1:3; Isa 1:21; Isa 5:7). It was what, he goes on to say, the great men of his people abhorred Mic 3:9, equity. With this he was filled. This was the substance of his message, right judgment to be enacted by them, to which he was to exhort them, or which, on their refusal, was to be pronounced upon them in the Name of God the Judge of all, and to be executed upon them. "Might" is courage or boldness to deliver the message of God, not awed or hindered by any adversaries. It is that holy courage, of which Paul speaks, "that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds, that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" Eph 6:19-20. So too, after the Apostles had been "straitly threatened that they should speak no more in the Name of Jesus, all, having prayed, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spake the word of God with boldness" Act 4:18, Act 4:31. Dionysius: "Whoso is so strengthened and arrayed, uttereth fiery words, Whereby hearers' hearts are moved and changed. But whoso speaketh of his own mind, doth good neither to himself nor others."
So then, of the three gifts, "power" expresses the divine might lodged in him; "judgment," the substance of what he had to deliver; "might or courage," the strength to deliver it in face of human power, persecution, ridicule, death.
Lap.: "These gifts the prophets know are not their own, but are from the Spirit of God, and are by Him inspired into them. Such was the spirit of Elijah, unconquered, energetic, fiery, of whom it is said, 'Then stood up Elias as fire, and his word burned like a lamp' (Ecclus. 48:1). Such was Isaiah, 'Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins' Isa 58:1. Such was Jeremiah; 'Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary of holding in. I have set thee for a trier among My people, a strong fort; and thou shalt know and try their ways' Jer 6:11, Jer 6:27. Such was John Baptist, who said, 'O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?' Mat 3:7. Such was Paul, who, when he Act 24:25 reasoned of temperance, righteousness and judgment to come, made Felix tremble, though unbelieving and ungodly. Such were the Apostles, who, when they had received the Holy Spirit Psa 48:8, broke, with a mighty breath, ships and kings of Tarshish. Such will be Elias and Enoch at the end of the world, striving against antichrist, of whom it is said Rev 11:5, if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies."
Hear this, I pray you - The prophet discharges upon them that "judgment" whereof, by the Spirit of God, he was full, and which they "abhorred; judgment" against their perversion of judgment. He rebukes the same classes as before "the heads and judges" Mic 3:1, yet still more sternly. They abhorred judgment, he says, as a thing loathsome and abominable, such as men cannot bear even to look upon; they not only dealt wrongly, but they "perverted, distorted, all equity:" "that so there should not remain even some slight justice in the city" . "All equity;" all of every sort, right, rectitude, uprightness, straight-forwardness, whatever was right by natural conscience or by God's law, they distorted, like the sophists making the worse appear the better cause. Naked violence crushes the individual; perversion of equity destroys the fountain-head of justice. The prophet turns from them in these words, as one who could not bear to look upon their misdeeds, and who would not speak to them; "they pervert;" building; "her heads, her priests, her prophets;" as Elisha, but for the presence of Jehoshaphat, would not look on Jehoram, nor see him Kg2 3:14. He first turns and speaks of them, as one man, as if they were all one in evil;
They build up - (literally, building, sing.) Zion with blood This may be taken literally on both sides, that, the rich built their palaces, "with wealth gotten by bloodshed , by rapine of the poor, by slaughter of the saints," as Ezekiel says, 'her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves, to shed blood, to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain' Eze 22:27. Or by blood he may mean that they indirectly took away life, in that, through wrong judgments, extortion, usury, fraud, oppression, reducing wages or detaining them, they took away what was necessary to support life. So it is said; 'The bread of the needy is their life, he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbor's living slayeth him, and he that defraudeth the laborer of his hire is a bloodshedder' (Ecclus. 34:21, 22). Or it may be, that as David prayed to God, 'Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem, asking Him thereby to maintain or increase its well-being' Psa 51:18, so these men thought to promote the temporal prosperity of Jerusalem by doings which were unjust, oppressive, crushing to their inferiors.
So Solomon, in His degenerate days, made the yoke upon his people and his service grievious Kg1 12:4. So ambitious monarchs by large standing-armies or filling their exchequers drain the life-blood of their people. The physical condition and stature of the poorer population in much of France was lowered permanently by the conscriptions under the first Emperor. In our wealthy nation, the term poverty describes a condition of other days. We have had to coin a new name to designate the misery, offspring of our material prosperity. From our wealthy towns, (as from those of Flanders,) ascends to heaven against us , "the cry of 'pauperism' that is, the cry of distress, arrived at a condition of system and of power, and, by an unexpected curse, issuing from the very development of wealth. The political economy of unbelief has been crushed by facts on all the theaters of human activity and industry."
Truly we "build up Zion with blood," when we cheapen luxuries and comforts at the price of souls, use Christian toil like brute strength, tempt men to dishonesty and women to other sin, to eke out the scanty wages which alone our selfish thirst for cheapness allows, heedless of every thing save of our individual gratification, or the commercial prosperity, which we have made our god. Most awfully was "Zion built with blood," when the Jews shed the innocent Blood, that Joh 11:48 the Romans might not take away their place and nation. But since He has said, "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it not unto Me" Mat 25:45, and, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Act 9:4, when Saul was persecuting Christ's members, then, in this waste of lives and of souls, we are not only wasting the Price of His Blood in ourselves and others, but are slaying Christ anew, and that, from the same motives as those who crucified Him Co1 8:12. When ye sin (against the members, ye sin against Christ. Our commercial greatness is the Price of His Blood Mat 27:6. In the judgments on the Jews, we may read our own national future; in the woe on those through whom the weak brother perishes for whom Christ died Co1 8:11, we, if we partake or connive at it, may read our own.
The heads thereof judge for reward - Every class was corrupted. One sin, the root of all evil Ti1 6:10, covetousness, entered into all they did. It, not God, was their one end, and so their God. Her heads, the secular authority who Act 23:3 sat to judge according to the law, judged, contrary to the law, "for rewards." They sat as the representatives of the Majesty of God, in whose Name they judged, whose righteous Judgment and correcting Providence law exhibits and executes, and they profaned it. "To judge for rewards" was in itself sin, forbidden by the law Exo 23:8; Deu 16:19. To refuse justice, unless paid for it, was unjust, degrading to justice. The second sin followed hard upon it, to judge unjustly, absolving the guilty, condemning the innocent, justifying the oppressor, legalizing wrong.
And her priests teach for hire - The Lord was the portion and inheritance Num 18:20; Deu 18:2 of the priest. He had his sustenance assigned him by God, and, therewith, the duty to (Lev 10:10-11, add Deu 17:10-11; Deu 33:10; Hag 2:11 ff) put difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean, and to teach all the statutes, which God had commanded. Their lips were to keep knowledge Mal 2:7. This then, which they were bound to give, they sold. But "whereas it is said to the holy, "Freely ye have received, freely give" Mat 10:8, these, producing the answer of God upon the receipt of money, sold the grace of the Lord for a covetous price." Probably too, their sin co-operated with and strengthened the sin of the judges. Authorized interpreters of the law, they, to please the wealthy, probably misinterpreted the law. For wicked judges would not have given a price for a righteous interpretation of the law.
The civil authorities were entrusted by God with power to execute the law; the priests were entrusted by Him with the knowledge to expound it. Both employed in its perversion that which God gave them for its maintenance. The princes obtained by bribery the misjudgment of the priests and enforced it; the priests justified the injustice of the Princes. So Arian Bishops, themselves hirelings , by false expositions of Scripture, countenanced Arian Emperors in the oppression of the faithful . "They propped up the heresy by human patronage;" the Emperors "bestowed on" them their "reign of irreligion." The Arian Emperors tried to efface the Council of Nice by councils of Arian Bishops . Emperors perverted their power, the Bishops their knowledge.
Not publicly only but privately doubtless also, these priests taught falsely for hire, lulling the consciences of those who wished to deceive themselves as to what God forbade, and to obtain from His priests answers in His Name, which might explain away His law in favor of laxity or sin. So people now try to get ill-advised to do against God's will what they are bent on doing; only they get ill-advised for nothing. One who receives money for giving an irresponsible opinion, places himself in proximate peril of giving the answer which will please those who pay him . "It is Simony to teach and preach the doctrine of Christ and His Gospel, or to give answers to quiet the conscience, for money. For the immediate object of these two acts, is the calling forth of faith, hope, charity, penitence, and other supernatural acts, and the reception of the consolation of the Holy Spirit; and this is, among Christians, their only value. Whence they are accounted things sacred and supernatural; for their immediate end is to things supernatural; and they are done by man, as he is an instrument of the Holy Spirit."
Jerome: "Thou art permitted, O Priest, to live Co1 9:13, not to luxuriate, from the altar Co1 9:9. The mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn is not muzzled. Yet the Apostle Co1 9:18 abused not the liberty, but Ti1 6:8 having food and raiment, was therewith content Th1 2:6; Th2 3:8; laboring night and clay, that he might not be chargeable to anybody. And in his Epistles he calls God to witness that he Th1 2:10 lived holily and without avarice in the Gospel of Christ. He asserts this too, not of himself alone but of his disciples, that he had sent no one who would either ask or receive anything from the Churches Co2 12:17-18. But if in the gifts of those who sent, the grace Co2 8:6-7 of God, he gathers not for himself but for the Rom 15:26 poor saints at Jerusalem. But these poor saints were they who of the Jews first believed in Christ, and, being cast out by parents, kinsmen, connections, had lost their possessions and all their goods, the priests of the temple and the people destroying them.
Let such poor receive. But if on plea of the poor, a few houses are enriched, and we eat in gold, glass and china, let us either with our wealth change our habit, or let not the habit of poverty seek the riches of Senators. What avails the habit of poverty, while a whole crowd of poor longs for the contents of our purse? Wherefore, for our sake who are such, "who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem by iniquity, who judge for gifts, give answers for rewards, divine for money," and thereon, claiming to ourselves a fictitious sanctity, say, Evil will not come upon us, hear we the sentence of the Lord which follows. Sion and Jerusalem and the mountain of the temple, that is, the temple of Christ, shall, in the consummation and the end, when "love shall wax cold" Mat 24:12 and the faith shall be rare, "be plowed as a field and became heaps as the high places of a forest" Luk 18:8; so that, where once were ample houses and countless heaps of corn, there should only be a poor cottage, keeping up the show of fruit which has no refreshment for the soul."
The three places, Zion, Jerusalem, the Temple, describe the whole city in its political and religious aspects. Locally, Mount Zion, which occupies the southwest, "had upon it the Upper city," and "was by much the loftier, and length-ways the straighter." Jerusalem, as contrasted with Zion, represented the lower city , "supported" on the East by Mount Acra, and including the valley of Tyropoeon. South of Mount Acra and lower than it, at the South Eastern corner of the city, lay Mount Moriah or the Mount of the Lord's House, separated at this time from Mount Acra by a deep ravine, which was filled up by the Asmonaean princes, who lowered Mount Acra. It was joined to the northeast corner of Mount Zion by the causeway of Solomon across the Tyropoeon. The whole city then in all its parts was to be desolated.
And her prophets divine for money - The word rendered , "divine," is always used in a bad sense. These prophets then were false prophets, "her prophets" and not God's, which "divined," in reality or appearance, giving the answer which their employers, the rich men, wanted, as if it were an answer from God . Yet they also "judge for rewards," who look rather to the earthly than to the spiritual good; "they teach for hire," who seek in the first place the things of this world, instead of teaching for the glory of God and the good of souls, and regarding earthly things in the second place only, as the support of life.
And say, Is not the Lord among us? - And after all this, not understanding their sin, as though by their guilt they purchased the love of God, they said in their impenitence, that they were judges, prophets, priests, of God. They do all this, and yet "lean on the Lord;" they stay and trust, not in themselves, but in God; good in itself, had not they been evil! "And say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can (shall) come upon us." So Jeremiah says, "Trust ye not in lying words saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these" Jer 7:4. Sanch.: "He called them lying words, as being ofttimes repeated by the false prophets, to entice the credulous people to a false security" against the threatenings of God. As though God could not forsake His own people, nor cast away Zion which He had chosen for an habitation for Himself, nor profane His own holy place! Yet it was true that God "was among them," in the midst of them, as our Lord was among the Jews, though they knew Him not.
Yet if not in the midst of His people so as to hallow, God is in the midst of them to punish. But what else do we than these Jews did, if we lean on the Apostolic line, the possession of Holy Scripture, Sacraments, pure doctrine, without setting ourselves to gain to God the souls of our pagan population? or what else is it for a soul to trust in having been made a member of Christ, or in any gifts of God, unless it be bringing forth fruit with patience? : "Learn we too hence, that all trust in the Merits of Christ is vain, so long as any willfully persist in sin." John H. Mich: "Know we, that God will be in us also, if we have not faith alone, nor on this account rest, as it were, on Him, but if to faith there be added also the excelling in good works. For faith without works is dead. But when with the riches of faith works concur, then will God indeed be with us, and will strengthen us mightily, and account us friends, and gladden us as His true sons, and free us from all evil."
Therefore shall Zion for your sake - for your sake shall Zion
Be plowed as a field - They thought to be its builders; they were its destroyers. They imagined to advance or secure its temporal prosperity by bloods; they (as men ever do first or last,) ruined it. Zion might have stood, but for these its acute, far-sighted politicians, who scorned the warnings of the prophets, as well-meant ignorance of the world or of the necessities of the state. They taught, perhaps they thought, that "for Zion's sake" they, (act as they might,) were secure. Practical Antinomians! God says, that, "for their sake," Zion, defiled by their deeds, should be destroyed. The fulfillment of the prophecy was delayed by the repentance under Hezekiah. Did he not, the elders ask Jer 26:19, fear the Lord and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them? But the prophecy remained, like that of Jonah against Nineveh, and, when man undid and in act repented of his repentanee, it found its fulfillment.
Jerusalem shall become heaps - (Literally, of ruins) and "the mountain of the house," Mount Moriah, on which the house of God stood, "as the high places of the forest," literally "as high places of a forest." It should return wholly to what it had been, before Abraham offered up the typical sacrifice of his son, a wild and desolate place covered with tangled thickets Gen 22:13.
The prophecy had a first fulfillment at its first capture by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah mourns over it; "Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, foxes walk" Lam 5:18 (habitually upon it. Nehemiah said, "Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste" Neh 2:17; and Sanballat mocked at the attempts to rebuild it, as a thing impossible; "Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of dust, and these too, burned?" (Neh 4:2, (3:34, Hebrew)), and the builders complained; "The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed (literally, sinketh under them), and there is much dust, and we are not able to build the wall" (Neh 4:10, (Neh 4:4, Hebrew)). In the desolation under Antiochus again it is related; "they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts, as in a forest or in one of the mountains" (1 Macc. 4:38). When, by the shedding of the Blood of the Lord, they "filled up the measure of their fathers" Mat 23:32, and called the curse upon themselves, "His Blood be upon us and upon our children" Mat 27:25, destruction came upon them to the uttermost.
With the exception of three towers, left to exhibit the greatness of Roman prowess in destroying such and so strong a city, they , "so levelled to the ground the whole circuit of the city, that to a stranger it presented no token of ever having been inhabited." He "effaced the rest of the city," says the Jewish historian, himself an eyewitness . The elder Pliny soon after, 77 a.d., speaks of it, as a city which had been and was not . "Where was Jerusalem, far the most renowned city, not of Judaea only, but of the East" , a funeral pile."
With this corresponds Jerome's statement , "relics of the city remained for fifty years until the Emperor Hadrian." Still it was in utter ruins . The toleration of the Jewish school at Jamnia the more illustrates the desolation of Jerusalem where there was none. The Talmud relates how R. Akiba smiled when others wept at seeing a fox coming out of the Holy of holies. This prophecy of Micah being fulfilled, he looked the more for the prophecy of good things to come, connected therewith. Not Jerusalem only, but well-nigh all Judaea was desolated by that war, in which a million and a half perished , beside all who were sold as slaves. "Their country to which you would expell them, is destroyed, and there is no place to receive them," was Titus' expostulation to the Antiochenes, who desired to be rid of the Jews their fellow-citizens.
A pagan historian relates how, before the destruction by Hadrian , "many wolves and hyenas entered their cities howling." Titus however having left above 6,000 Roman soldiers on the spot, a civil population was required to minister to their needs. The Christians who, following our Lord's warning, had fled to Pella , returned to Jerusalem , and continued there until the second destruction by Hadrian, under fifteen successive Bishops . Some few Jews had been left there ; some very probably returned, since we hear of no prohibition from the Romans, until after the fanatic revolt under Barcocheba. But the fact that when toward the close of Trajan's reign they burst out simultaneously, in one wild frenzy , upon the surrounding pagan, all along the coast of Africa, Libya, Cyrene, Egypt, the Thebais, Mesopotamia, Cyprus , there was no insurrection in Judaea, implies that there were no great numbers of Jews there.
Judaea, aforetime the center of rebellion, contributed nothing to that wide national insurrection, in which the carnage was so terrible, as though it had been one convulsive effort of the Jews to root out their enemies . Even in the subsequent war under Hadrian, Orosius speaks of them, as "laying waste the province of Palestine, once their own," as though they had gained possession of it from without, not by insurrection within it. The Jews assert that in the time of Joshua Ben Chananiah (under Trajan) "the kingdom of wickedness decreed that the temple should be rebuilt" . If this was so, the massacres toward the end of Trajan's reign altered the policy of the Empire. Apparently the Emperors attempted to extinguish the Jewish, as, at other times, the Christian faith. A pagan Author mentions the prohibition of circumcision .
The Jerusalem Talmud speaks of many who for fear became uncircumcised, and renewed the symbol of their faith "when Bar Cozibah got the better, so as to reign 2 12 years among them." The Jews add, that the prohibition extended to the keeping of the sabbath and the reading of the law . Hadrian's city, Aelia, was doubtless intended, not only for a strong position, but also to efface the memory of Jerusalem by the Roman and pagan city which was to replace it. Christians, when persecuted, suffered; Jews rebelled. The recognition of Barcocheba, who gave himself out as the Messiah , by Akibah and "all the wise (Jews) of his generation" , made the war national.
Palestine was the chief seat of the war, but not its source. The Jews throughout the Roman world were in arms against their conquerors ; and the number of fortresses and villages which they got possession of, and which were destroyed by the Romans , shows that their successes were far beyond Judaea. Their measures in Judaea attest the desolate condition of the country. They fortified, not towns, but "the advantageous positions of the country, strengthened them with mines and walls, that, if defeated, they might have places of refuge, and communication among themselves underground unperceived."
For two years, (as appears from the coins struck by Barcocheba They had possession of Jerusalem. It was essential to his claim to be a temporal Messiah. They proposed, at least, to "rebuild their temple" and restore their polity." But they could not fortify Jerusalem. Its siege is just named ; but the one place which obstinately resisted the Romans was a strong city near Jerusalem , known before only as a deeply indented mountain tract, Bether . Probably, it was one of the strong positions, fortified in haste, at the beginning of the war .
The Jews fulfilled our Lord's words, "I am come in My Father's Name and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" Joh 5:43. Their first destruction was the punishment of their Deicide, the crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ; their second they brought upon themselves by accepting a false Christ, a robber and juggler . "580,000 are said to have perished in battle" , besides "an incalculable number by famine and fire, so that all Judaea was made well-nigh a desert." The Jews say that "no olives remained in Palestine." Hadrian "destroyed it," making it "an utter desolation" and "effacing all remains of it." "We read" , says Jerome (in Joe 1:4), "the expedition of Aelius Hadrianus against the Jews, who so destroyed Jerusalem and its walls, as, from the fragments and ashes of the city to build a city, named from himself, Aelia." At this time there appears to have been a formal act, whereby the Romans marked the legal annihilation of cities; an act esteemed, at this time, one of most extreme severity . When a city was to be built, its compass was marked with a plow; the Romans, where they willed to unmake a city, did, on rare occasions, turn up its soil with the plow. Hence, the saying , "A city with a plow is built, with a plow overthrown." The city so plowed forfeited all civil rights ; it was counted to have ceased to be.
The symbolical act under Hadrian appears to have been directed against both the civil and religious existence of their city, since the revolts of the Jews were mixed up with their religious hopes. The Jews relate that both the city generally, and the Temple, were plowed. The plowing of the city was the last of those mournful memories, which made the month Ab a time of sorrow. But the plowing of the temple is also especially recorded. Jerome says , "In this (the 5th Month) was the Temple at Jerusalem burnt and destroyed, both by Nebuchadnezzar, and many years afterward by Titus and Vespasian; the city Bether, whither thousands of Jews had fled, was taken; the Temple was plowed, as an insult to the conquered race, by Titus Annius Rufus." The Gemara says , "When Turnus, (or it may be "when Tyrant) Rutus plowed the porch," (of the temple) Perhaps Hadrian meant thus to declare the desecration of the site of the Temple, and so to make way for the further desecration by his temple of Jupiter. He would declare the worship of God at an end.
The horrible desecration of placing the temple of Ashtaroth over the Holy Sepulchre was probably a part of the same policy, to make the Holy City utterly pagan. The "Capitoline" was part of its new name in honor of the Jupiter of the Roman Capitol. Hadrian intended, not to rebuild Jerusalem, but to build a new city under his own name . "The city being thus bared of the Jewish nation, and its old inhabitants having been utterly destroyed, and an alien race settled there, the Roman city which afterward arose, having changed its name, is called Aelia in honor of the Emperor Aelius Hadrianus." It was a Roman colony , with Roman temples, Roman amphitheaters.
Idolatry was stamped on its coins . Hadrian excluded from it, on the North, almost the whole of Bezetha or the new city, which Agrippa had enclosed by his wall, and, on the South, more than half of Mount Zion , which was left, as Micah foretold, to be plowed as a field. The Jews themselves were prohibited from entering the Holy Land , so that the pagan Celsus says , "they have neither a clod nor a hearth left." Aelia, then, being a new city, Jerusalem was spoken of, as having ceased to be. The Roman magistrates, even in Palestine, did not know the name . Christians too used the name Aelia and that, in solemn documents, as the Dr. of Nice .
In the 4th century the city was still called Aelia by the Christians , and, on the first Mohammedan coin in the 7th century, it still bore that name. A series of writers speak of the desolation of Jerusalem. In the next century Origen addresses a Jew , "If going to the earthly city, Jerusalem, thou shalt find it overthrown, reduced to dust and ashes, weep not, as ye now do." : "From that (Hadrian's) time until now, the extremest desolation having taken possession of the place, their once renowned hill of Zion - now no wise differing from the rest of the country, is cultivated by Romans, so that we ourselves have with our own eyes observed the place plowed by oxen and sown all over. And Jerusalem, being inhabited by aliens, has to this day the stones gathered out of it, all the inhabitants, in our own times too, gathering up the stones out of its ruins for their private or public and common buildings. You may observe with your own eyes the mournful sight, how the stones from the Temple itself and from the Holy of holies have been taken for the idol-temples and to build amphitheaters." : "Their once holy place has now come to such a state, as in no way to fall short of the overthrow of Sodom." Hilary, who had been banished into the East, says , "The Royal city of David, taken by the Babylonians and overthrown, held not its queenly dignity under the rule of its lords; but, taken afterward and burnt by the Romans, it now is not."
Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop of the new town, and delivering his catechetical lectures in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pointed out to his hearers the fulfillment of prophecy ; "The place (Zion) is now filled with gardens of cucumbers." "If they (the Jews) plead the captivity," says Athanasius , "and say that on that ground Jerusalem is not." "The whole world, over which they are scattered," says Gregory of Nazianzum , "is one monument of their calamity, their worship closed, and the soil of Jerusalem itself scarcely known."
It is apparently part of the gradual and increasing fulfillment of God's word, that the plowing of the city and of the site of the Temple, and the continued cultivation of so large a portion of Zion, are recorded in the last visitation when its iniquity was full. It still remains plowed as a field. : "At the time I visited this sacred ground, one part of it supported a crop of barley, another was undergoing the labor of the plow, and the soil, turned up, consisted of stone and lime filled with earth, such as is usually met with in the foundations of ruined cities. It is nearly a mile in circumference." : "On the southeast Zion slopes down, in a series of cultivated terraces, sharply though not abruptly, to the sites of the Kings' gardens. Here and around to the south the whole declivities are sprinkled with olive trees, which grow luxuriantly among the narrow slips of corn." Not Christians only, but Jews also have seen herein the fulfillment upon themselves of Micah's words, spoken now "26 centuries ago."