Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops - The "daughter of troops" is still the same who was before addressed, Judah. The word is almost always . used of "bands of men employed in irregular, marauding, in-roads." Judah is entitled "daughter of troops," on account of her violence, the robbery and bloodshed within her (Mic 2:8; Mic 3:2; etc. Hos 5:10), as Jeremiah says, "Is this house which is called by My Name become a den of robbers in your eyes?" (Jer 7:11, compare Mat 21:13). She then who had spoiled Isa 33:1 should now be spoiled; she who had formed herself in bands to lay waste, shall now be gathered thick together, in small bands, unable to resist in the open field; yet in vain should she so gather herself; for the enemy was upon her, in her last retreat.
This description has obviously no fulfillment, except in the infliction by the Romans. For there was no event, before the invasion by Sennacherib and accordingly in the prophet's own time, in which there is any seeming fulfillment of it. But then, the second deliverance must be that by the Maccabees; and this siege, which lies, in order of time, beyond it, must be a siege by the Romans. With this it agrees, that whereas, in the two former visitations, God promised, in the first, deliverance, in the second, victory, here the prophet dwells on the Person of the Redeemer, and foretells that the strength of the Church should not lie in any human means Mic 5:8-15. Here too Israel had no king, but a judge only. Then the "gathering in robber-bands" strikingly describes their internal state in the siege of Jerusalem; and although this was subsequent to and consequent upon the rejection of our Lord, yet there is no reason why the end should be separated from the beginning since the capture by Titus was but the sequel of the capture by Pompey, the result of that same temper, in which they crucified Jesus, because He would not be their earthly king. It was the close of the organic existence of the former people; after which the remnant from among them with the Gentiles, not Israel after the flesh, were the true people of God.
He hath laid siege against us - The prophet, being born of them, and for the great love he bore them, counts himself among them, as Paul mourns over his brethren after the flesh. "They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." So Paul said to him who had made himself high priest, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall; for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law" Act 23:3. It is no longer "the king" (for they had said, "We have no King but Caesar Joh 19:15) but the "judge of Israel," they who against Christ and His Apostles gave wrong judgment. As they had smitten contrary to the law, so were the chief men smitten by Titus, when the city was taken. As they had done it, was done unto them. To be smitten on the thee, betokens shame; to smite with the red, betokens destruction. Now both shall meet in one; as, in the Great Day, the wicked "shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, and shall perish forever" Dan 12:2.
But - (And) thou, Bethlehem Ephratah With us, the chequered events of time stand in strong contrast, painful or gladdening. Good seems to efface evil, or evil blots out the memory of the good. God orders all in the continuous course of His Wisdom. All lies in perfect harmony in the Divine Mind. Each event is the sequel of what went before. So here the prophet joins on, what to us stands in such contrast, with that simple, And. Yet he describes the two conditions bearing on one another. He had just spoken of the "judge of Israel" smitten on the cheek, and, before Mic 4:9, that Israel had neither king nor "counsellor;" he now speaks of the Ruler in Israel, the Everlasting. He had said, how Judah was to become mere bands of men; he now says, how the "little Bethlehem" was to be exalted. He had said before, that the rule of old was to come to "the tower of the flock, the daughter of Jerusalem;" now, retaining the word, he speaks of the Ruler, in whom it was to be established.
Before he had addressed "the tower of the flock;" now, Bethlehem. But he has greater things to say now, so he pauses , And thou! People have admired the brief appeal of the murdered Caesar, "Thou too, Brutus." The like energetic conciseness lies in the words, "And thou! Bethlehem Ephratah." The name Ephratah is not seemingly added, in order to distinguish Bethlehem from the Bethlehem of Zabulon, since that is only named once Jos 19:15, and Bethlehem here is marked to be "the Bethlehem Judah" , by the addition, "too little to be among the thousands of Judah." He joins apparently the usual name, "Bethlehem," with the old Patriarchal, and perhaps poetic Psa 132:6 name "Ephratah," either in reference and contrast to that former birth of sorrow near Ephratah Gen 35:19; Gen 48:7, or, (as is Micah's custom) regarding the meaning of both names.
Both its names were derived from "fruitfulness;" "House of Bread" and "fruitfulness;" and, despite of centuries of Mohammedan oppression, it is fertile still. .
It had been rich in the fruitfulness of this world; rich, thrice rich, should it be in spiritual fruitfulness. : "Truly is Bethlehem, 'house of bread,' where was born "the Bread of life, which came down from heaven" Joh 6:48, Joh 6:51. : "who with inward sweetness refreshes the minds of the elect," "Angel's Bread" Psa 78:25, and "Ephratah, fruitfulness, whose fruitfulness is God," the Seed-corn, stored wherein, died and brought forth much fruit, all which ever was brought forth to God in the whole world.
Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah - Literally, "small to be," that is, "too small to be among" etc. Each tribe was divided into its thousands, probably of fighting men, each thousand having its own separate head Num 1:16; Num 10:4. But the thousand continued to be a division of the tribe, after Israel was settled in Canaan Jos 22:21, Jos 22:30; Sa1 10:19; Sa1 23:23. The "thousand" of Gideon was the meanest in Manasseh. Jdg 6:15. Places too small to form a thousand by themselves were united with others, to make up the number . So lowly was Bethlehem that it was not counted among the possessions of Judah. In the division under Joshua, it was wholly omitted . From its situation, Bethlehem can never have been a considerable place.
It lay and lies, East of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron, at six miles from the capital. "6 miles," Arculf, (Early Travels in Palestine, p. 6) Bernard (Ibid. 29) Sae, wulf, (Ibid. 44) "2 hours." Maundrell, (Ibid. 455) Robinson (i. 470)). It was "seated on the summit-level of the hill country of Judaea with deep gorges descending East to the Dead Sea and West to the plains of Philistia," "2704 feet above the sea" . It lay "on a narrow ridge" , whose whole length was not above a mile , swelling at each extremity into a somewhat higher eminence, with a slight depression between . : "The ridge projects Eastward from the central mountain range, and breaks down in abrupt terraced slopes to deep valleys on the N. E. and S." The West end too "shelves gradually down to the valley" . It was then rather calculated to be an outlying fortress, guarding the approach to Jerusalem, than for a considerable city.
As a garrison, it was fortified and held by the Philistines Sa2 23:14 in the time of Saul, recovered from them by David, and was one of the 15 cities fortified by Rehoboam. Yet it remained an unimportant place. Its inhabitants are counted with those of the neighboring Netophah, both before Ch1 2:54 and after Neh 7:26 the captivity, but both together amounted after the captivity to 179 Ezr 2:21, Ezr 2:2, or 188 Neh 7:26 only. It still does not appear among the possessions of Judah Neh 11:25-30. It was called a city (Rut 1:19; Ezr 2:1, with 21; Neh 7:6, with 26), but the name included even places which had only 100 fighting men Amo 5:3. In our Lord's time it is called a village Joh 7:42, a city, Luk 2:4, or a strong . The royal city would become a den of thieves. Christ should be born in a lowly village. : "He who had taken the form of a servant, chose Bethlehem for His Birth, Jerusalem for His Passion."
Matthew relates how the Chief Priest and Scribes in their answer to Herod's enquiries, where Christ should be born, Mat 2:4-6, alleged this prophecy. They gave the substance rather than the exact words, and with one remarkable variation, art not the least among the princes of Judah. Matthew did not correct their paraphrase, because it does not affect the object for which they alleged the prophecy, the birth of the Redeemer in Bethlehem. The sacred writers often do not correct the translations, existing in their time, when the variations do not affect the truth .
Both words are true here. Micah speaks of Bethlehem, as it was in the sight of men; the chief priests, whose words Matthew approves, speak of it as it was in the sight of God, and as, by the Birth of Christ, it should become. : "Nothing hindered that Bethlehem should be at once a small village and the Mother-city of the whole earth, as being the mother and nurse of Christ who made the world and conquered it." : "That is not the least, which is the house of blessing, and the receptacle of divine grace." : "He saith that the spot, although mean and small, shall be glorious. And in truth," adds Chrysostom, "the whole world came together to see Bethlehem, where, being born, He was laid, on no other ground than this only." : "O Bethlehem, little, but now made great by the Lord, He hath made thee great, who, being great, was in thee made little. What city, if it heard thereof, would not envy thee that most precious Stable and the glory of that Crib? Thy name is great in all the earth, and all generations call thee blessed. "Glorious things are everywhere spoken of thee, thou city of God" Psa 87:3. Everywhere it is sung, that this Man is born in her, and the Most High Himself shall establish her.
Out of thee shall He come forth to Me that is to be Ruler in Israel - (Literally, shall (one) come forth to Me "to be Ruler.") Bethlehem was too small to be any part of the polity of Judah; out of her was to come forth One, who, in God's Will, was to be its Ruler. The words to Me include both of Me and to Me. Of Me, that is, , by My Power and Spirit," as Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God" Luk 1:35. To Me, as God said to Samuel, "I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided Me a king among his sons" Sa1 16:1. So now, "one shall go forth thence to Me," to do My Will, to My praise and glory, to reconcile the world unto Me, to rule and be Head over the true Israel, the Church. He was to "go forth out of Bethlehem," as his native-place; as Jeremiah says, "His noble shall be from him, and his ruler shall go forth out of the midst of him" Jer 30:21; and Zechariah, "Out of him shall come forth the cornerstone; out of him the nail, out of him the battle-bow, out of him every ruler together" Zac 10:4. Before, Micah had said "to the tower of Edar, Ophel of the daughter of Zion, the first rule shall come to thee;" now, retaining the word, he says to Bethlehem, "out of thee shall come one to be a ruler." "The judge of Israel had been smitten;" now there should "go forth out of" the little Bethlehem, One, not to be a judge only, but a Ruler.
Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting - Literally, "from the days of eternity." "Going forth" is opposed to "going forth;" a "going forth" out of Bethlehem, to a "going forth from eternity;" a "going forth," which then was still to come, (the prophet says, "shall go forth,") to a "going forth" which had been long ago (Rup.), "not from the world but from the beginning, not in the days of time, but "from the days of eternity." For "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God." Joh 1:1-2. In the end of the days, He was to go forth from Bethlehem; but, lest he should be thought then to have had His Being, the prophet adds, His 'goings forth are from everlasting.'" Here words, denoting eternity and used of the eternity of God, are united together to impress the belief of the Eternity of God the Son. We have neither thought nor words to conceive eternity; we can only conceive of time lengthened out without end. : "True eternity is boundless life, all existing at once," or , "to duration without beginning and without end and without change."
The Hebrew names, here used, express as much as our thoughts can conceive or our words utter. They mean literally, from afore, (that is, look back as far as we can, that from which we begin is still "before,") "from the days of that which is hidden." True, that in eternity there are no divisions, no succession, but one everlasting "now;" one, as God, in whom it is, is One. But man can only conceive of Infinity of space as space without bounds, although God contains space, and is not contained by it; nor can we conceive of Eternity, save as filled out by time. And so God speaks after the manner of men, and calls Himself "the Ancient of Days" Dan 7:9, , "being Himself the age and time of all things; before days and age and time," "the Beginning and measure of ages and of time." The word, translated "from of old," is used elsewhere of the eternity of God Hab 1:12. "The God of before" is a title chosen to express, that He is before all things which He made. "Dweller of afore" Psa 55:20 is a title, formed to shadow out His ever-present existence.
Conceive any existence afore all which else you can conceive, go back afore and afore that; stretch out backward yet before and before all which you have conceived, ages afore ages, and yet afore, without end, - then and there God was. That afore was the property of God. Eternity belongs to God, not God to eternity. Any words must be inadequate to convey the idea of the Infinite to our finite minds. Probably the sight of God, as He is, will give us the only possible conception of eternity. Still the idea of time prolonged infinitely, although we cannot follow it to infinity, shadows our eternal being. And as we look along that long vista, our sight is prolonged and stretched out by those millions upon millions of years, along which we can look, although even if each grain of sand or dust on this earth, which are countless, represented countless millions, we should be, at the end, as far from reaching to eternity as at the beginning. "The days of eternity" are only an inadequate expression, because every conception of the human mind must be so.
Equally so is every other, "From everlasting to everlasting" Psa 90:2; Psa 103:17; "from everlasting" (Psa 93:2, and of Divine Wisdom, or God the Son, Pro 8:23); "to everlasting" Psa 9:8; Psa 29:10; "from the day" Isa 43:13, that is, since the day was. For the word, from, to our minds implies time, and time is no measure of eternity. Only it expresses pre-existence, an eternal Existence backward as well as forward, the incommunicable attribute of God. But words of Holy Scripture have their full meaning, unless it appear from the passage itself that they have not. In the passages where the words, forever, from afore, do not mean eternity, the subject itself restrains them. Thus forever, looking onward, is used of time, equal in duration with the being of whom it is written, as, "he shall be thy servant forever" Exo 21:6, that is, so long as he lives in the body. So when it is said to the Son, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" Psa 45:6, it speaks of a kingdom which shall have no end. In like way, looking backward, "I will remember Thy wonders from old" Psa 77:12, must needs relate to time, because they are marvelous dealings of God in time. So again, "the heavens of old, stand simply contrasted with the changes of man" Psa 68:34. But "God of old is the Eternal God" Deu 33:27. "He that abideth of old" Psa 55:20 is God enthroned from everlasting In like manner the "goings forth" here, opposed to a "going forth" in time, (emphatic words being moreover united together,) are a going forth in eternity.
The word, "from of old," as used of being, is only used as to the Being of God. Here too then there is no ground to stop short of that meaning; and so it declares the eternal "going-forth," or Generation of the Son. The plural, "goings forth," may here be used, either as words of great majesty, "God," "Lord," "Wisdom," (that is, divine Pro 1:20; Pro 9:1) are plural; or because the Generation of the Son from the Father is an Eternal Generation, before all time, and now, though not in time, yet in eternity still. As then the prophet saith, "from the days of eternity," although eternity has no parts, nor beginning, nor "from," so he may say "goings forth," to convey, as we can receive it, a continual going-forth. We think of Eternity as unending, continual, time; and so he may have set forth to us the Eternal Act of the "Going Forth" of the Son, as continual acts.
The Jews understood, as we do now, that Micah foretold that the Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, until they rejected Him, and were pressed by the argument. Not only did the chief priests formally give the answer, but, supposing our Lord to be of Nazareth, some who rejected Him, employed the argument against Him. "Some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" Joh 7:41-42. They knew of two distinct things: that Christ was:
(1) to be of the seed of David; and
(2) out of the town of Bethlehem.
Christians urged them with the fact, that the prophecy could be fulfilled in no other than in Christ. : "If He is not yet born, who is to go forth as a Ruler out of the tribe of Judah, from Bethlehem, (for He must needs come forth out of the tribe of Judah, and from Bethlehem, but we see that now no one of the race of Israel has remained in the city of of Bethlehem, and thenceforth it has been interdicted that any Jew should remain in the confines of that country) - how then shall a Ruler be born from Judaea, and how shall he come forth out of Bethlehem, as the divine volumes of the prophets announce, when to this day there is no one whatever left there of Israel, from whose race Christ could be born?"
The Jews at first met the argument, by affirming that the Messiah was born at Bethlehem on the day of the destruction of the temple ; but was hidden for the sins of the people. This being a transparent fable, the Jews had either to receive Christ, or to give up the belief that He was to be born at Bethlehem. So they explained it, "The Messiah shall go forth thence, because he shall be of the seed of David who was out of Bethlehem." But this would have been misleading language. Never did man so speak, that one should be born in a place, when only a remote ancestor had been born there. Micah does not say merely, that His family came out of Bethlehem, but that He Himself should thereafter come forth thence. No one could have said of Solomon or of any of the subsequent kings of Judah, that they should thereafter come forth from Bethlehem, any more than they could now say, 'one shall come forth from Corsic,' of any future sovereign of the line of Napoleon III., because the first Napoleon was a Corsican; or to us, 'one shall come out of Hanover,' of a successor to the present dynasty, born in England, because George I. came from Hanover in 1714.
Therefore - Since God has so appointed both to punish and to redeem, He, God, or the Ruler "whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting," who is God with God, "shall give them up, that is, withdraw His protection and the nearness of His Presence, "giving them up:"
(1) into the hands of their enemies. And indeed the far greater part never returned from the captivity, but remained, although willingly, in the enemy's land, outwardly shut out from the land of the promise and the hope of their fathers (as in Ch2 36:17).
(2) But also, all were, more than before, "given up" Act 7:42; Rom 1:24, Rom 1:26, Rom 1:28, to follow their own ways.
God was less visibly present among them. Prophecy ceased soon after the return from the captivity, and many tokens of the nearness of God and means of His communications with them, the Ark and the Urim and Thummim were gone. It was a time of pause and waiting, wherein the fullness of God's gifts was withdrawn, that they might look on to Him who was to come. "Until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth," that is, until the Virgin who should conceive and bear a Son and call His Name Emmanuel, God with us, shall give birth to Him who shall save them. And then shall be redemption and joy and assured peace. God provides against the fainting of hearts in the long time before our Lord should come.
Then - (And). There is no precise mark of time such as our word then expresses. He speaks generally of what should be after the Birth of the Redeemer. "The remnant of His brethren shall return unto the children of Israel." "The children of Israel" are the true Israel, "Israelites indeed" Joh 1:47; they who are such, not in name (Rom 9:6, etc.) only, but indeed and in truth. His brethren are plainly the brethren of the Christ; either because Jesus vouchsafed to be born "of the seed of David according to the flesh" Rom 1:3, and of them "as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever" Rom 9:5; or as such as He makes and accounts and "is not ashamed to call, brethren" Heb 2:11, being sons of God by grace, as He is the Son of God by nature. As He says, "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother" Mat 12:50; and, "My brethren are these who hear the word of God and do it" Luk 8:21.
The residue of these, the prophet says, shall return to, so as to be joined with , the children of Israel; as Malachi prophesies, "He shall bring back the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers" (Mal. 3:24, Hebrew). In the first sense, Micah foretells the continual inflow of the Jews to that true Israel who should first be called. All in each generation, who are the true Israel, shall be converted, made one in Christ, saved. So, whereas, since Solomon, all had been discord, and, at last, the Jews were scattered abroad everywhere, all, in the true Prince of Peace, shall be one (see Hos 1:11; Isa 11:10, etc.). This has been fulfilled in each generation since our Lord came, and shall be yet further in the end, when they shall haste and pour into the Church, and so "all Israel shall be saved" Rom 11:26.
But "the promise of God was not only to Israel after the flesh, but to all" also that were afar off, even as many as the Lord our God should call Act 2:39. All these may be called the remnant of His brethren, even those that were, before, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and afar off Eph 2:12-14, but now, in Christ Jesus, made one with them; all, brethren among themselves and to Christ their ruler. : "Having taken on Him their nature in the flesh, He is not ashamed to call them so, as the Apostle speaketh, confirming it out of the Psalm, where in the Person of Christ he saith, "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren" Psa 22:22. There is no reason to take the name, brethren, here in a narrower sense than so to comprehend all "the remnant whom the Lord shall call" Joe 2:32, whether Jews or Gentiles. The word "brethren" in its literal sense includes both, and, as to both, the words were fulfilled.
And He shall stand - The prophet continues to speak of personal acts of this Ruler who was to be born. He was not to pass away, not to rule only by others, but by Himself. To stand is the attitude of a servant, as Jesus, although God and Lord of all, said of Himself, "He shall come forth and serve them" Luk 12:37; "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" Mat 20:28. "He shall stand" as a Shepherd Isa 61:5, to watch, feed, guard them, day and night; "He shall stand," as Stephen saw Christ "standing on the Right Hand of God" Act 7:55, "to succor all those who suffer for Him." : "For to sit belongs to one judging; to stand, to one fighting or helping." "He shall stand," as abiding, not to pass from them, as Himself saith, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" Mat 28:20 : and He shall feed His flock by His Spirit, His Word, His Wisdom and doctrine, His example and life; yea, by His own Body and Blood John 6. They whom He feedeth "lack nothing" Psa 23:1.
In the strength of the Lord - He, who feedeth them with divine tenderness, shall also have divine might, His Father's and His own, to protect them; as He saith, "My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them and they follow Me, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. My Father Which gave them Me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's Hand. I and My Father are One" Joh 10:27-30. With authority, it is said, "He commandeth even the unclean spirits and they come out" Luk 4:36. His feeding or teaching also was "with authority, and not as the scribes" Mat 7:29.
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God - As John says, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of His Father" Joh 1:14; and He saith, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" Mat 28:18; so that the divine glory should shine through the majesty of His teaching, the power of His Grace, upholding His own, and the splendor of the miracles wrought by Him and in His Name. "Of the Name of the Lord;" as He saith again, "Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name" Joh 17:11-12. : "Whoever then is sent to feed His flock must stand, that is, be firm and unshaken; feed, not sell, nor slay; and feed in might, that is, in Christ." His God, as our Lord Himself, as Man, saith, "Unto My Father, and your Father, and to My God and your God" .
But that Majesty He Himself wields, as no mere man can; He Himself is invested with it. : "To ordinary kings God is strength Psa 28:7; Psa 140:7, or gives strength Sa1 2:10; men have strength in God; this Ruler is clad in the strength of the Lord, that same strength, which the Lord hath, whose is strength. Of Him, as Israel's King, the same is said as of the Lord, as King of the whole earth Psa 93:1; only that the strength of the Messiah is not His own, but the Lord's. He is invested with the strength of the Lord, because He is Man; as Man, He can be invested with the whole strength of the Lord, only because He is also God."
And they shall abide - (Literally, sit, dwell) in rest and security and unbroken peace under Christ their Shepherd and their King; they shall not wander to and fro as heretofore "He, their Shepherd, shall stand; they shall sit." "The word is the more emphatic, because it stands so absolutely. This will be a sitting or dwelling, which will indeed deserve the name. The original promise, so often forfeited by their disobedience should be perfectly fulfilled; "and ye shall dwell in your land safely, and I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid" . So Amos and Micah had before promised . And this is the result of the greatness of the promised Ruler, as the like promise of the Psalm is rested on the immutability of God; "Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall dwell, and their seed shall be established before Thee." Psa 102:27-28. For it follows,"
For now - (In the time which Micah saw as did Abraham with the eye of faith,) "now," in contrast to that former time of lowliness. His life shall be divided between a life of obscurity, and a life of never-ending greatness.
Shall He be great unto the (very) ends of the earth - embracing them in His rule, (as David and Solomon had foretold ,) and so none shall harm those whom He, the King of all the earth, shall protect. The universality of protection is derived from an universality of power. To David God says, "I have made thee a great name, like the name of the great that are in the earth" Sa2 7:9. Of Uzziah it is said, "His name went forth far; for he was marvelously helped, until he was strong" (Ch2 26:15, add Ch2 26:8); but of the Messiah alone it is said, that His power should reach to the ends of the earth; as God prophesies of Himself, that His "Name should be great among the pagan" Mal 1:11, Mal 1:14. So Gabriel said to His Mother, "This," whom she should bear, "shall be great" .
And this Man shall be the Peace - This, emphatically, that is, "This Same," as is said of Noah, "This same shall comfort us" Gen 5:29, or, in the song of Moses, of the Lord, "This Same is my God" Exo 15:2. Of Him he saith, not only that He brings peace, but that He Himself is that Peace; as Paul saith, "He is our Peace" Eph 2:14, and Isaiah calls Him "the Prince of peace" Isa 9:6, and at His Birth the heavenly host proclaimed "peace on earth" Luk 2:14; and He "preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh" Eph 2:17; and on leaving the world He saith, "Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you" Joh 14:27. "He shall be our Peace," within by His Grace, without by His Protection. Lap.: "Wouldest thou have peace with God, thine own soul, thy neighbor? Go to Christ who is our Peace," and follow the footsteps of Christ. "Ask peace of Him who is Peace. Place Christ in thy heart and thou hast placed Peace there."
When the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces - Assur stands for the most powerful and deadliest foe, "ghostly and bodily," as the Assyrian then was of the people of God. For since this plainly relates to the time after Christ's coming, and, (to say the least,) after the captivity in Babylon and deliverance Mic 4:10 from it, which itself followed the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire, the Assyrians cannot be the literal people, who had long since ceased to be In Isaiah too the Assyrian is the type of antichrist and of Satan .
As Christ is our Peace, so one enemy is chosen to represent all enemies who Act 12:1 vex the Church, whether the human agents or Satan who stirs them up and uses them. "By the Assyrian," says Cyril, "he here means no longer a man out of Babylon, but rather marks out the inventor of sin, Satan. Or rather, to speak fully, the implacable multitude of devils, which spiritually ariseth against all which is holy, and fights against the holy city, the spiritual Zion, whereof the divine Psalmist saith, "Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God." For Christ dwelleth in the Church, and maketh it, as it were, His own city, although by His Godhead filling all things. This city of God then is a sort of land and country of the sanctified and of those enriched in spirit, in unity with God. When then the Assyrian shall come against our city, that is, when barbarous and hostile powers fight against the saints, they shall not find it unguarded."
The enemy may tread on the land and on its palaces, that is, lay low outward glory, vex the body which is of earth and the visible temple of the Holy Spirit, as he did Paul by the thorn in the flesh, the minister of Satan to buffet him, or Job in mind body or estate, but Luk 12:4 after that he has no more than he can do; he cannot hurt the soul, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and (Rup.) Christ who is our Peace is in us; and of the saint too it may be said, "The enemy cannot hurt him" Psa 89:22. Rib.: Much as the Church has been vexed at all times by persecutions of devils and of tyrants, Christ has ever consoled her and given her peace in the persecutions themselves: "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" Co2 1:4-5. The Apostles Act 5:41 departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name. And Paul writeth to the Hebrews, "ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that ye have in heaven a better and more enduring substance" Heb 10:34.
Then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men - (Literally, anointed, although elsewhere used of pagan princes.)
The "shepherds" are manifestly inferior, spiritual, shepherds, acting under the One Shepherd, by His authority, and He in them. The princes of men are most naturally a civil power, according to its usage elsewhere Jos 13:21; Psa 83:12; Eze 32:30. The "seven" is throughout the Old Testament a symbol of a sacred whole, probably of the union of God with the world , reconciled with it; eight, when united with it, is something beyond it . Since then "seven" denotes a great, complete, and sacred multitude, by the eight he would designate "an incredible and almost countless multitude." Rib.: "So in defense of the Church, there shall be raised up very many shepherds and teachers (for at no time will it be forsaken by Christ;) yea by more and more, countlessly, so that, however persecutions may increase, there shall never be lacking more to teach, and exhort to, the faith."
And they shall waste - Literally, feed on, and so eat up. They who were shepherds of their own people, should consume their enemies. Jeremiah uses the same image. "The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch tents against her round about; they shall feed, each his space" Jer 6:3. So Joshua and Caleb say, "They, (the inhabitants of Canaan,) are bread for us" Num 14:9. So it was said to Peter, "arise, Peter, kill and eat" Act 10:13; and what once was common, defiled and unclean, shall turn to the nourishment and growth of the Church, and be incorporated into Christ, being made part of His Body.
And the land of Nimrod - Babylon, which should displace Assyria, but should carry on its work of chastising God's people, is joined by Micah, as by Isaiah Isa. 10:5-34; 13-14:27, as an object of His judgment. In Isaiah, they are the actual Assyria Isa 10:12-15 and Babylon Isa 14:13-15 whose destruction is foretold, yet so as to shadow out rebellion against God in its intensest form, making itself independent of, or measuring itself against, God. Hence, probably, here alone in holy Scripture, Babylon is called "the land of Nimrod," as indeed he founded it Gen 10:10, but therewith was the author of the tower of Babel also, which was built in rebellion against God, whence his own name was derived . Assyria then, and the world-empire which should succeed it, stand as representing the God-opposed world.
In the entrances thereof - (Literally, in the gates thereof.) The shepherds of Israel shall not act on the defensive only, but shall have victory over the world and Satan, carrying back the battle into his own dominions, and overthrowing him there. Satan's malice, so far from hurting the Church, shall turn to its good. Wherein he hoped to waste it, he shall be wasted; wherein he seemed to triumph, he shall be foiled. So it has been ever seen, how, under every persecution, the Church grew. : "The more it was pressed down, the more it rose up and flourished;" , "Shivering the assault of the Pagans, and strengthened more and more, not by resisting, but by enduring." Yet all, by whomsoever done, shall be the work of Christ alone, enduring in martyrs, teaching in pastors, converting through the Apostles of pagan nations. Wherefore he adds:
Thus (And) He shall deliver us from the Assyrian - Not they, the subordinate shepherds, but He, the Chief Shepherd until the last enemy shall be destroyed and death shall be swallowed up in victory, shall deliver, whether by them or by Himself as He often so doth, - not us only (the saying is the larger because unlimited) but - He shall deliver, absolutely. Whosoever shall be delivered, He shall be their deliverer; all, whom He alone knoweth, who alone "knoweth them that are His" Ti2 2:19. "Neither is there salvation in any other" Act 4:12. "Whoso glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" Co2 10:17. Every member of Christ has part in this, who, through the grace of God, "has power and strength to have victory and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh" - not he, but the grace of God which is with him; and much more, all, whether Apostles or Apostolic men, or Pastors, or Bishops and Overseers, who, by preaching or teaching or prayer, bring those to the knowledge of the truth, who "sat in darkness and the shadow of death" Psa 107:10, and by whom "God translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son" Col 1:13.
And the remnant of Jacob - Micah (Mic 4:7), as well as Isaiah (Isa 10:21), had prophesied, that a remnant only should return unto the Mighty God. These, though very many in themselves, are yet but a remnant only of the unconverted mass; yet this, "the remnant, who shall be saved" Rom 9:27, who believe in Christ, "the little flock" Luk 12:32, of whom were the Apostles and their disciples, "shall be, in the midst of many people," whom they won to the faith, as John in Asia, Thomas in India, Peter in Babylon and Rome, Paul well-nigh in the whole world, what? something to be readily swallowed up by their multitude? No, but "as a dew from the Lord, as the showers from the grass, which tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men," quickening to life that, which, like soon-withered (see Psa 102:5, Psa 102:12; Kg2 19:26; Isa 37:27) grass, no human cultivation, no human help, could reach.
In the Gospel and the grace of Christ there are both, gentleness and might; softness, as the dew, might as of a lion. For "Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily; and sweetly doth she order all things" . The dew is, in Holy Scripture, a symbol of divine doctrine. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass" Deu 32:2. The dew comes down from heaven, is of heavenly not of earthly birth, transparent, glistening with light, reflecting the hues of heaven, gentle, slight, weak in itself, refreshing, cooling the strong heats of the day (Ecclesiasticus 18:16; 43:22), consumed itself, yet thereby preserving life, falling on the dry and withered grass wherein all nature droops, and recalling it to freshness of life. And still more in those lands, where from the beginning of April to the end of October, the close of the latter and the beginning of the early rain, during all the hot months of summer, the life of all herbage depends upon the dew alone . "Showers" are so called from the "multitude" of drops, slight and of no account in themselves, descending noiselessly yet penetrating the more deeply.
So did the Apostles "bedew the souls of believers with the word of godliness and enrich them abundantly with the words of the Gospel," themselves dying, and the Church living the more through their death Co2 4:12, quenching the fiery heat of passions, and watering the dry and barren soil, that it might bring forth fruits unto Christ. Yet, they say, "the excellency of the power was of God and not of us" Co2 4:7. and "God gave the increase" Co1 3:6-7. For neither was their doctrine "of man nor by man" Gal 1:12; but it came from heaven, the Holy Spirit teaching them invisibly and making unlearned and ignorant men mighty inward and deed. Rup.: "Whence these and these alone the Church of Christ looks up to, as furnishing the rule of truth." Rib.: "The herb, upon which this dew falleth, groweth to God without any aid of man, and flourisheth, and needeth neither doctrines of philosophers, nor the rewards or praises of men."
And the remnant of Jacob shall be as a young lion - o: "What more unlike than the sweetness of the dew and the fierceness of the lion? What so different as the gentle shower distilling on the herb, and the savageness or vehemence of a lion roaring among "the flocks of sheeps?" Yet both are ascribed to "the remnant of Jacob." Why? Because the Apostles of Christ are both tender and severe, tender in teaching and exhorting, severe in rebuking and avenging. How does Paul teach, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation; now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God!" 2 Cor. 5:19-6:11. What sweeter than the dew of love, the shower of true affection? And so, on to that, "our heart is enlarged." They are such drops of dew as no one could doubt came from "the Lord, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" Co2 1:3.
Yet the same Apostle after a little writes, "This is the third time I am coming to you. I told you before and foretell you, and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned and to all others, that if I come again, I will not spare, since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me" Co2 13:1-3. See the severity of a master, like the roaring of "a lion among the beasts of the forest." For such surely are they whom he rebukes for the Co2 12:21 uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they had committed. Was he not to such as a lion? Co1 5:2-5? Was not Peter such, when he rebuked Ananias first and then Sapphira his wife, and they fell down and gave up the ghost? They tread down or "cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" Co2 10:5; as Christ Himself, who spake in them, is both a lamb and the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" Rev 5:5, and nothing is so terrible as "the wrath of the Lamb" Rev 6:16.
And none can deliver - Dionysius: "For as the Apostles past from nation to nation, and trod down paganism, subduing it to Christ, and taking within their net the many converted nations, none could withdraw from the Apostles' doctrine those whom they had converted." The pagan world "cried out that the state is beset, that the Christians are in their fields, their forts, their islands." : "We are a people of yesterday, and yet we have filled every place belonging to you, cities, islands, castles, towns, assemblies, your very camp, your tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum! We leave you your temples only. We can count your armies, our numbers in a single province will be greater."
Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries - The might of the Church is the Might of Christ in her, and the glory of the Church is His from whom it comes and to whom it returns. It is all one, whether this be said to Christ or to the "remnant of Jacob, that is, His Church. Her "enemies" are His, and her's only because they are His, and hate her as belonging to Him. They "shall be cut off," either ceasing to be His enemies, or ceasing to be, as Julian or Arius or antichrist, "whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His Mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His Coming" Th2 2:8. And in the end, Satan also, over whom Christ gave the Apostles "power to tread on all the power of the Enemy" Luk 10:19, shall be "bruised under our feet" Rom 16:20.
And it shall come to pass in that day - Of grace in the kingdom of Christ and of His Presence in the Apostles and with the Church; "I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee." The greater the glory and purity of the church, the less it needs or hangs upon human aid. The more it is reft of human aid, the more it hangs upon God. So God promises, as a blessing, that He will remove from her all mere human resources, both what was in itself evil, and what, although good, had been abused. Most of these things, whose removal is here promised, are spoken of at the same time by Isaiah, as sin, or the occasion of sin, and of God's judgments to Judah. "Soothsayers," (the same word) "horses, chariots, idols the work of their hands; high towers, fenced walls" Isa 2:6-8, Isa 2:15. Rib. Lap.: "I will take, from thee all arms wherewith, while unconverted, thou opposedst the faith," all which thou settest up as idols in place of God. (Such are witchcrafts, soothsayers, graven images, images of Ashtaroth.) "I will take from thee all outward means and instruments of defense which aforetime were turned into pride and sin;" as horses and chariots. Not such shall be the arms of the Church, not such her strongholds. A horse is a vain thing to save a man. Her arms shall be the despised Cross of shame; her warriors, they who bear it; their courage, to endure in holy patience and meekness; their might, the Holy Spirit within them; their victories, through death, not of others, but their Master's and, in His, their own. They shall overcome the world, as He overcame it, and through Him alone and His Merits who overcame it by suffering.
I will cut off the cities of thy land - So God promised by Zechariah, "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls; for I will be unto her a wall of fire round about" Zac 2:4-5. The Church shall not need the temptation of human defense; for God shall fence her in on every side. Great cities too, as the abode of luxury and sin, of power and pride, and, mostly, of cruelty, are chiefly denounced as the objects of God's anger. Babylon stands as the emblem of the whole city of the world or of the devil, as opposed to God. Rup.: "The first city was built by Cain; Abel and the other saints heed no continuing city" Heb 13:14 here. Cities then will include (Rup.) "all the tumults and evil passions and ambition and strife and bloodshed, which Cain brought in among men. Cities are collectively called and are Babylon, with whom, (as in the Revelations we hear a voice from heaven saying), "the kings of the earth committed fornication and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies" Rev 18:3; and of which it is written, "And a mighty Angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city, Babylon, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." Rev 18:21. "Great rest then is promised to holy Zion that is, the Church, when the cities or strongholds of the land (strongholds, as they are, of earthliness) shall be destroyed. For together with them are included all objects of desire in them, with the sight whereof the citizens of the kingdom of God, while pilgrims here, are tempted; whereof the wise man saith, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
The fulfillment reaches on to the Day of Judgment, when the Church shall finally receive glory from the Lord, and be "without spot and wrinkle" Eph 5:27. All looks on to that Day. The very largeness of the promise, which speaks, in its fullest sense, of the destruction of things, without which we can hardly do in this life, (as cities or things very useful to the needs of man, (as horses,) carries us on yet more to that Day when there will be no more need of any outward things; Rup.: "when the heavy body shall be changed, and shall have the swiftness of angels, and shall be transported whither it willeth, without chariots and horses; and all things which tempt the eye shall cease; and no evil shall enter; and there shall be no need of divining, amid the presence and full knowledge of God, and where the ever-present Face of God, who is Truth, shall shine on all, and nothing be uncertain or unknown; nor shall they need to form in their souls images of Him whom His own shall see as He Is; nor shall they esteem anything of self, or the work of their own hands; but God shall be All in all." In like way, the woe on those who obey not the truth, also looks on to the end. It too is final. There is nothing to soften it. Punishments in the course of life are medicinal. Here no mention is made of Mercy, but only of executing vengeance; and that, with wrath and fury; and that, such as they have not heard. For as eye hath not seen, nor heart conceived the good things laid up in store for those who love God, so neither the evil things prepared for those who, in act, shew that they hate Him.