Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Glorification of the House of the Lord, and Restoration of the Dominion of Zion - Mic 4:1-13
Zion will eventually be exalted from the deepest degradation to the highest glory. This fundamental thought of the announcement of salvation contained in Mic 4:1-13 and Mic 5:1-15 is carried out thus far in Mic 4:1-13 : the first section (Mic 4:1-7) depicts the glorification of the temple mountain by the streaming of the heathen nations to it to hear the law of the Lord, and the blessing which Israel and the nations will derive therefrom; and the second section (Mic 4:8-13) describes the restoration of the dominion of Zion from its fallen condition through the redemption of the nation out of Babel, and its victorious conflict with the nations of the world.
The promise of salvation opens, in closest connection with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, with a picture of the glory awaiting in the remotest future the temple mountain, which has now become a wild forest-height. Mic 4:1. "And it comes to pass at the end of the days, that the mountain of Jehovah's house will be established on the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and nations stream to it. Mic 4:2. And many nations go, and say, Up, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us of His ways, and we may walk in His paths: for from Zion will law go forth, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. Mic 4:3. And He will judge between many nations, and pronounce sentence on strong nations afar off; and they forge their swords into coulters, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more. Mic 4:4. And they will sit, every one under his vine, and under his fig-tree, and no one will make them afraid: for the mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it."
(Note: This promise is placed by Isaiah (Isa 2:2-4) at the head of his prophecy of Zion's way through judgment from the false glory to the true. The originality of the passage in Micah is open to no question. Delitzsch acknowledges this, and has given the principal arguments in its favour in the Commentary on Isaiah. For still more elaborate proofs, see Caspari's Micha, pp. 444-5.)
By the phrase "at the end of the days," which always denotes the Messianic era when used by the prophets (see at Hos 3:5), the predicted exaltation of the temple mountain is assigned to the period of the completion of the kingdom of God. The mountain of the house of Jehovah is the temple mountain, strictly speaking, Moriah, as the distinction made between the mountain of the house and Zion in Mic 3:12 clearly shows; but as a subordinate peak of Zion, it is embraced along with Zion in what follows (compare Mic 4:2 with Mic 4:7) as the seat of Jehovah's rule, from which the law proceeds. נכון does not mean placed or set up, but established, founded. By connecting the participle with יהיה, the founding is designated as a permanent one. בּראשׁ ההרים, upon (not at) the top of the mountains, as in Jdg 9:7; Sa1 26:13; Psa 72:16; whereas such passages as Mic 2:13; Amo 6:7, and Kg1 21:9 are of a different character, and have no bearing upon the point. The temple mountain, or Zion, will be so exalted above all the mountains and hills, that it will appear to be founded upon the top of the mountains. This exaltation is of course not a physical one, as Hofmann, Drechsler, and several of the Rabbins suppose, but a spiritual (ethical) elevation above all the mountains. This is obvious from Mic 4:2, according to which Zion will tower above all the mountains, because the law of the Lord issues from it. The assumption of a physical elevation cannot be established from Eze 40:2 and Rev 21:10, for in the visions described in both these passages the earthly elevation is a symbol of a spiritual one. "Through a new revelation of the Lord, which is made upon it, and which leaves the older revelations far behind, whether made upon Sinai or upon itself, Zion becomes the greatest and loftiest mountain in the world" (Caspari), and the mountain seen from afar, to which "nations" stream, and not merely the one nation of Israel.
עמּים is more precisely defined in Mic 4:2 as גּוים רבּים. The attractive power which this mountain exerts upon the nations, so that they call upon one another to go up to it (Mic 4:2), does not reside in its height, which towers above that of all other mountains, but in the fact that the house of the God of Jacob stands upon it, i.e., that Jehovah is enthroned there, and teacher how to walk in His ways. הורה מן, to teach out of the ways, so that the ways of God form the material from which they derive continual instruction. The desire for salvation, therefore, is the motive which prompts them to this pilgrimage; for they desire instruction in the ways of the Lord, that they may walk in them. The ways of Jehovah are the ways which God takes in His dealing with men, and by which men are led by Him; in reality, therefore, the ordinances of salvation which He has revealed in His word, the knowledge and observance of which secure life and blessedness. The words "for the law goes forth from Zion," etc., are words spoken not by the nations, but by the prophet, and assign the reason why the heathen go with such zeal to the mountain of Jehovah. The accent is laid upon מצּיון (from Zion), which stands at the head, and מירוּשׁלם (from Jerusalem), which is parallel to it. Thence does tōrâh, i.e., instruction in the ways of God, proceed, - in other words, the law as the rule of a godly life, and debhar Yehōvâh (the word of Jehovah), or the word of revelation as the source of salvation. It is evident from this that the mountain of the house of God is not thought of here as the place of worship, but as the scene of divine revelation, the centre of the kingdom of God. Zion is the source of the law and word of the Lord, from which the nations draw instruction how to walk in the ways of God, to make it their own, take it to their homes, and walk according to it. The fruit of this adoption of the word of the Lord will be, that they will not longer fight out their disputes with weapons of war, but let Jehovah judge and settle them, and thus acknowledge Him as their King and Judge. שׁפם signifies to act as judge; הוכיה (lit., to set right), to settle and put a stop to a dispute. "Many nations," in contrast with the one nation, which formerly was alone in acknowledge Jehovah as its King and Judge. This is strengthened still further by the parallel "strong, mighty nations afar off." In consequence of this they will turn their weapons into instruments of peaceful agriculture, and wage no more war; in fact, they will learn war no more, no longer exercise themselves in the use of arms. For the words וכתּתוּ וגו compare Joe 3:10, where the summons to the nations to a decisive conflict with the kingdom of God is described as turning the instruments of agriculture into weapons of war. With the cessation of war, universal peace will ensue, and Israel will have no further enemies to fear, so that every one will have undisturbed enjoyment of the blessings of peace, of which Israel had had a foretaste during the peaceful reign of Solomon. The words "sit under his vine" are taken from Kg1 5:5 (cf. Zac 3:10), and אין מחריד from the promise in Lev 26:6. All this, however incredible it might appear, not only for the Israel of that time, but even now under the Christian dispensation, will assuredly take place, for the mouth of Jehovah the true God has spoken it.
It will not be through any general humanitarian ideas and efforts, however, that the human race will reach this goal, but solely through the omnipotence and faithfulness of the Lord. The reason assigned for the promise points to this. Mic 4:5. "For all nations walk every man in the name of his God, but we walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever." This verse does not contain an exhortation, or a resolution to walk in the name of God, which involves an exhortation, in the sense of "if all nations walk, etc., then we will," etc.; for an admonition or a resolution neither suits the connection, in the midst of simple promises, nor the words themselves, since we should at any rate expect נלכה instead of נלך. The sameness in the form of the verbs ילכוּ and נלך requires that they should be understood in the same way. Walking in the name of God does not mean regulating the conduct according to the name of a God, i.e., according to the nature which expresses itself in the name, or worshipping him in a manner corresponding to his nature (Caspari), but walking in the strength of God, in which the nature of this God is displayed. This is the meaning of the phrase in Sa1 17:45 and Zac 10:12, where "I strengthen them in Jehovah" forms the basis of "and in His name will they walk" (compare Pro 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower"). But the gods of all the nations, i.e., of all the heathen, are worthless beings, without life, without strength. Jehovah, on the contrary, is the only true God, the almighty Creator and Governor of the world. And the heathen, with their worthless gods, can do nothing to Him and the nation which walks in His name, his strength. If, therefore, Israel rejoices for ever and ever in the strength of its God, the heathen nations cannot disturb the peace which He will create for Israel and all who accept His word. In this way is the promise in Mic 4:3 and Mic 4:4 explained in Mic 4:5. But this explanation assumes that, even at the time when many nations stream to the mountain of the Lord, there will still be nations that do not seek Jehovah and His word, - a thought which is still further expanded in v. Mic 5:4., and involves this consolation, that such opponents of the people of God as shall be still in existence will not be able to interfere with the salvation which has been prepared for it by its God.
From this salvation even the Israel that may be in misery or scattered abroad will not be excluded. Mic 4:6. "In that day, is the saying of Jehovah, will I assemble that which limps, and gather together that which has been thrust out, and which I have afflicted. Mic 4:7. And I will make that which limps into a remnant, and that which is far removed into a strong nation; and Jehovah will rule over them from henceforth, even for ever." "In that day" points back to the end of the days in Mic 4:1. At the time when many nations shall go on pilgrimage to the highly exalted mountain of the Lord, and therefore Zion-Jerusalem will not only be restored, but greatly glorified, the Lord will assemble that which limps and is scattered abroad. The feminines הצּלעה and הנּדּחה are neuters, and to be understood collectively. Limping denotes the miserable condition into which the dispersed have been brought (cf. Psa 35:15; Psa 38:18). And this misery is inflicted by God. The limping and dispersed are those whom Jehovah has afflicted, whom He has punished for their sins. The gathering together of the nation has already been promised in Mic 2:12; but there the assembling of all Israel was foretold, whereas here it is merely the assembling of the miserable, and of those who are scattered far and wide. There is no discrepancy in these two promises. The difference may easily be explained from the different tendencies of the two addressed. "All Jacob" referred to the two separate kingdoms into which the nation was divided in the time of the prophet, viz., Israel and Judah, and it was distinctly mentioned there, because the banishment of both had been foretold. This antithesis falls into the background here; and, on the other hand, prominence is given, in connection with what precedes, to the idea of happiness in the enjoyment of the blessings of the holy land. The gathering together involves reinstatement in the possession and enjoyment of these blessings. Hence only the miserable and dispersed are mentioned, to express the thought that no one is to be excluded from the salvation which the Lord will bestow upon His people in the future, though now he may be pining in the misery of the exile inflicted upon them. But just as the whole of the nation of Israel to be gathered together, according to Mic 2:12, consists of the remnant of the nation only, so does the gathering together referred to here point only to the restoration of the remnant, which is to become a strong nation, over which Jehovah reigns as King in Zion. מלך is emphatic, expressing the setting up of the perfected monarchy, as it has never yet existed, either in the present or the past.
(Note: "Micah does not mention the descendants of David here, but Jehovah Himself, not to exclude the kingdom of David, but to show that God will prove that He was the author of that kingdom, and that all the power is His. For although God governed the ancient people by the hand of David, and by the hand of Josiah and Hezekiah, yet there was as it were a cloud interposed, so that God then reigned obscurely. The prophet therefore indicates a certain difference here between that shadowy kingdom and the new kingdom which God will openly manifest at the advent of the Messiah." - Calvin.)
This dominion will never be interrupted again, as it formerly was, by the banishment of the nation into exile on account of its sins, but will endure מעתּה (henceforth), i.e., from the future, which is regarded as present, even for ever.
So far as the realization of this exceedingly glorious promise is concerned, the expression standing at the head, be'achărı̄th hayyâmı̄m (at the end of the days), already points to the Messianic times: and the substance of the promise itself points to the times of the completion of the Messianic kingdom, i.e., to the establishment of the kingdom of glory (Mat 19:28). The temple mountain is a type of the kingdom of God in its New Testament form, which is described by all the prophets after the forms of the Old Testament kingdom of God. Accordingly, the going of the nations to the mountain of the house of Jehovah is, as a matter of fact, the entrance of the heathen who have been brought to the faith into the kingdom of Christ. This commenced with the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles, and has been continued through all the ages of the Christian church. But however many nations have hitherto entered into the Christian church, the time has not yet come for them to be so entirely pervaded with the spirit of Christ, as to allow their disputes to be settled by the Lord as their King, or to renounce war, and live in everlasting peace. Even for Israel the time has not yet come for the limping and exiled to be gathered together and made into a strong nation, however many individual Jews have already found salvation and peace within the bosom of the Christian church. The cessation of war and establishment of eternal peace can only take place after the destruction of all the ungodly powers on earth, at the return of Christ to judgment and for the perfecting of His kingdom. But even then, when, according to Rom 11:25., the pleroma of the Gentiles shall have entered into the kingdom of God, and Israel as a nation (πᾶς Ἰσραήλ = יעקב כּלּו in Mic 2:12) shall have turned to its Redeemer, and shall be assembled or saved, no physical elevation of the mountain of Zion will ensue, nor any restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, or return of the dispersed of Israel to Palestine. The kingdom of glory will be set up on the new earth, in the Jerusalem which was shown to the holy seer on Patmos in the Spirit, on a great and lofty mountain (Rev 21:10). In this holy city of God there will be no temple, "for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof" (Rev 21:22). The word of the Lord to the Samaritan woman concerning the time when men would neither worship God on this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, but worship Him in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:21, Joh 4:23), applies not only to the kingdom of God in its temporal development into the Christian church, but also to the time of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory.
The prophecy turns from the highest glorification of Zion to the throne of Zion, which had been founded by David, and swept away with the destruction of Jerusalem (Mic 3:12), and predicts its restoration in the future. Consequently the reign of Jehovah upon Mount Zion, promised in Mic 4:7, is still further defined as effected through the medium of the Davidico-Messianic dominion. Mic 4:8. "And thou flock-tower, hill of the daughter Zion, to thee will the former dominion reach and come, the reign over the daughter Jerusalem." This announcement is attached primarily to Mic 4:6 and Mic 4:7. As the remnant of Israel gathered together out of the dispersion will become a strong nation, so shall the reign of the daughter Zion be also restored. The address to the flock-tower, the hill of the daughter Zion, shows that these two notions express the same thing, looked at from two sides, or with two different bearings, so that the flock-tower is more precisely defined as the "hill of the daughter Zion." Now, as the daughter Zion is the city of Zion personified as a virgin, the hill of the daughter Zion might be understood as denoting the hill upon which the city stood, i.e., Mount Zion. But this is precluded by Isa 32:14, where hill and watch-tower (‛ōphel vâbhachan) are mentioned in parallelism with the palace ('armōn), as places or buildings which are to serve as dens for ever. From this it is obvious that ‛ōphel was a place either at the side or at the top of Zion. If we compare with this Ch2 27:3 and Ch2 33:14, according to which Jotham built much against the wall of the Ophel (hâ‛ōphel), and Manasseh encircled the Ophel with a wall, and made it very high, Ophel must have been a hill, possibly a bastion, on the south-eastern border of Zion, the fortification of which was of great importance as a defence to the city of Zion against hostile attacks.
(Note: The opinion that Ophel is the whole of the southern steep rocky promontory of Moriah, from the southern end of the temple ground to its extreme point (Robinson, Schultz, Williams), viz., the Ophla or Ophlas of Josephus, as Arnold (Herzog's Cycl.) and Winer (Bibl. R.W.) suppose, would be in perfect harmony with this. At the same time, all that can be inferred with any certainty from the passages from Josephus which as cited in support of it (viz., Wars of the Jews, v. 6, 1; cf. vi. 6, 3 and v. 4, 2) is, that the place called Ophla was in the neighbourhood of the valley of Kidron and of the temple mountain. The question then arises, whether the Ophla of Josephus is identical with the Ophel of the Old Testament, since Josephus does not mention the Ophel in his list of the hills of Jerusalem, but simply mentions Ophla as a special locality (see Reland, Pal. p. 855). And lastly, the situation of the Ophel, upon which the Nethinim dwelt (Neh 3:26), is still a matter of dispute, Bertheau supposing it to be the habitable space to the east of the eastern side of the temple area.)
Consequently migdal-‛ēder cannot be the flock-tower in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, which is mentioned in Gen 35:21, but can only be a (or rather the) tower of the Davidic palace, or royal castle upon Zion, namely the town mentioned in Neh 3:25, which stood out against the upper king's house, by the court of the prison (cf. Neh 3:26). For the prison, which also belonged to the king's house, according to Jer 32:2, formed a portion of the royal castle, according to the custom of the East. And that it had a lofty tower, is evident from Sol 4:4 : "Thy neck is like David's tower, built for an armoury: a thousand shields hang thereon, all heroes' weapons;" according to which the tower of the royal castle was ornamented with the weapons or shields of David's heroes (Ch1 12:1). And the tower of the king's castle was so far specially adapted to represent the sovereignty of David, "that by its exaltation above Zion and Jerusalem, by the fact that it ruled the whole city, it symbolized the Davidic family, and its rule over the city and all Israel" (Caspari). This tower, which is most likely the one called bachan (the watch-tower) in Isaiah (l.c.), is called by Micah the flock-tower, probably as a play upon the flock-tower by which the patriarch Jacob once pitched his tent, because David, the ancestor of the divinely-chosen royal house, had been called from being the shepherd of a flock to be the shepherd of the nation of Israel, the flock of Jehovah (Jer 13:17; cf. Sa2 7:8; Psa 78:70). This epithet was a very natural one for the prophet to employ, as he not only describes the Messiah as a shepherd in Mic 5:3, but also represents Israel as the sheep of Jehovah's inheritance in Mic 7:14, and the flock-tower is the place where the shepherd takes up his position to see whether any danger threatens his flock (cf. Ch2 26:10; Ch2 27:4). עדיך תאהת, "unto thee shall it come."
(Note: Luther's rendering, "thy golden rose will come," arose from his confounding עדיך (from עד, unto) with עדיך, thine ornament.)
עדיך affirms more than אליך, to thee: expressing the conquest of every obstacle that blocks up the way to the goal. תּאהת is separated from what follows, and exhibited as independent not only by the athnach, but also by the change of tense occurring in בּאה: "to thee will it come," sc. what the prophet has in his mind and mentions in the next clause, but brings into special prominence in וּבאה. הם הראשׁנה, the former (first) reign, is the splendid rule of David and Solomon. This predicate presupposes that the sovereignty has departed from Zion, i.e., has been withdrawn from the Davidic family, and points back to the destruction of Jerusalem predicted in Mic 3:12. This sovereignty is still more precisely defined as kingship over the daughter of Jerusalem (ל before בת is a periphrasis of the gen. obj.). Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, represents as the object sovereignty over the whole kingdom. This is to be restored to the hill of Zion, i.e., to the royal castle upon the top of it.
But before this takes place, the daughter Zion will lose her king, and wander into captivity to Babylon; but there she will be redeemed by the Lord out of the power of her enemies. Mic 4:9. "Now why dost thou cry a cry? Is there no king in thee, or is thy counsellor perished, that pangs have seized thee like the woman in labour? Mic 4:10. Writhe and break forth, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labour! For how wilt thou go out of the city and dwell in the field, and come to Babel? there wilt thou be rescued; there will Jehovah redeem thee out of the hand of thine enemies." From this glorious future the prophet now turns his eye to the immediate future, to proclaim to the people what will precede this glorification, viz., first of all, the loss of the royal government, and the deportation of the people to Babylon. If Micah, after announcing the devastation of Zion in Mic 3:12, has offered to the faithful a firm ground of hope in the approaching calamities, by pointing to the highest glory as awaiting it in the future, he now guards against the abuse which might be made of this view by the careless body of the people, who might either fancy that the threat of punishment was not meant so seriously after all, or that the time of adversity would very speedily give place to a much more glorious state of prosperity, by depicting the grievous times that are still before them. Beholding in spirit the approaching time of distress as already present, he hears a loud cry, like that of a woman in labour, and inquires the cause of this lamentation, and whether it refers to the loss of her king. The words are addressed to the daughter Zion, and the meaning of the rhetorical question is simply this: Zion will lose her king, and be thrown into the deepest mourning in consequence. The loss of the king was a much more painful thing for Israel than for any other nation, because such glorious promises were attached to the throne, the king being the visible representative of the grace of God, and his removal a sign of the wrath of God and of the abolition of all the blessings of salvation which were promised to the nation in his person. Compare Lam 4:20, where Israel calls the king its vital breath (Hengstenberg). יועץ (counsellor) is also the king; and this epithet simply gives prominence to that which the Davidic king had been to Zion (cf. Isa 9:5, where the Messiah is designated as "Counsellor" par excellence). But Zion must experience this pain: writhe and break forth. Gōchı̄ is strengthened by chūlı̄, and is used intransitively, to break forth, describing the pain connected with the birth as being as it were a bursting of the whole nature (cf. Jer 4:31). It is not used transitively in the sense of "drive forth," as Hitzig and others suppose; for the determination that Jerusalem would submit, and the people be carried away, could not properly be represented as a birth or as a reorganization of things. With the words כּי עתּה וגו the prophet leaves the figure, and predicts in literal terms the catastrophe awaiting the nation. עתּה (now), repeated from Lam 4:9, is the ideal present, which the prophet sees in spirit, but which is in reality the near or more remote future. קריה, without an article, is a kind of proper name, like urbs for Rome (Caspari). In order to set forth the certainty of the threatened judgment, and at the same time the greatness of the calamity in the most impressive manner, Micah fills up the details of the drama: viz., going out of the city, dwelling in the field, without shelter, delivered up to all the chances of weather, and coming to Babel, carried thither without delay. Going out of the city presupposes the conquest of the city by the enemy; since going out to surrender themselves to the enemy (Kg2 24:12; Sa1 11:3) does not fit in with the prophetic description, which is not a historical description in detail. Nevertheless Israel shall not perish. There (shâm, i.e., even in Babel) will the Lord its God deliver it out of the hand of its foes.
The prediction that the daughter Zion, i.e., the nation of Israel which was governed from Zion, and had its centre in Zion - the covenant nation which, since the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, existed in Judah only - should be carried away to Babylon, and that at a time when Assyria was in the field as the chief enemy of Israel and the representative of the imperial power, goes so far beyond the bounds of the political horizon of Micah's time, that it cannot be accounted for from any natural presentiment. It is true that it has an analogon in Isa 34:6-7, where Isaiah predicts to king Hezekiah in the most literal terms the carrying away of all his treasures, and of his sons (descendants), to Babylon. At the same time, this analogy is not sufficient to explain the prediction before us; for Isaiah's prophecy was uttered during the period immediately following the destruction of the Assyrian forces in front of Jerusalem and the arrival of Babylonian ambassadors in Jerusalem, and had a point of connection in these events, which indicated the destruction of the Assyrian empire and the rise of Babylon in its stead, at all events in the germ; whereas no such connecting link exists in the case of Micah's prophecy, which was unquestionably uttered before these events. It has therefore been thought, that in Mic 3:12 Micah predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and here in Mic 4:10 the carrying away of Judah to Babylon by the Assyrians; and this opinion, that Micah expected the judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah to be executed by the Assyrians, and not by the Babylonians, has been supported partly by such passages as Mic 5:4-5, and Jer 26:18-19, and partly by the circumstance that Micah threatens his own corrupt contemporaries with the judgment which he predicts on account of their sins; whereas in his time the Assyrians were the only possible executors of a judgment upon Israel who were then standing on the stage of history (Caspari). But these arguments are not decisive. All that can be inferred from Mic 5:4-5, where Asshur is mentioned as the representative of all the enemies of Israel, and of the power of the world in its hostility to the people of God in the Messianic times, is that at the time of Micah the imperial power in its hostility to the kingdom of God was represented by Assyria; but it by no means follows that Assyria would always remain the imperial power, so that it could only be from her that Micah could expect the destruction of Jerusalem, and the carrying away of Judah to Babylon. Again, Jer 26:18, Jer 26:19 - where the chief men of Judah, in order to defend the prophet Jeremiah, quote Micah's prophecy, with the remark that king Hezekiah did not put him to death in consequence, but feared the Lord and besought His face, so that the Lord repented of the evil which He had spoken concerning Jerusalem - simply proves that these chief men referred Micah's words to the Assyrians, and attributed the non-fulfilment of the threatened judgment by the Assyrians to Hezekiah's penitence and prayer, and that this was favoured by the circumstance that the Lord answered the prayer of the king, by assuring him that the Assyrian army should be destroyed (Isa 37:21.). But whether the opinion of these chief men as to the meaning and fulfilment of Micah's prophecy (Mic 3:12) was the correct one or not, cannot be decided from the passage quoted. Its correctness is apparently favoured, indeed, by the circumstance that Micah threatened the people of his own time with the judgment (for your sakes shall Zion be ploughed into a field, etc.). Now, if he had been speaking of a judgment upon Judah through the medium of the Babylonians, "he would (so Caspari thinks) not only have threatened his contemporaries with a judgment which could not fall upon them, since it was not possible till after their time, inasmuch as the Assyrians were on the stage in his day; but he would also have been most incomprehensibly silent as to the approaching Assyrian judgment, of which Isaiah spoke again and again." This argument falls to the ground with the untenable assumptions upon which it is founded. Micah neither mentions the Assyrians nor the Babylonians as executing the judgment, nor does he say a word concerning the time when the predicted devastation or destruction of Jerusalem will occur. In the expression בּגללכם, for your sakes (Mic 3:12), it is by no means affirmed that it will take place in his time through the medium of the Assyrians. The persons addressed are the scandalous leaders of the house of Israel, i.e., of the covenant nation, and primarily those living in his own time, though by no means those only, but all who share their character and ungodliness, so that the words apply to succeeding generations quite as much as to his contemporaries. The only thing that would warrant our restricting the prophecy to Micah's own times, would be a precise definition by Micah himself of the period when Jerusalem would be destroyed, or his expressly distinguishing his own contemporaries from their sons and descendants. But as he has done neither the one nor the other, it cannot be said that, inasmuch as the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the people was not effected by the Assyrians, but by the Babylonians (Chaldaeans), he would have been altogether silent as to the approaching Assyrian judgment, and only threatened them with the Chaldaean catastrophe, which did not take place till a long time afterwards. His words refer to all the judgments, which took place from his own time onwards till the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the people to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The one-sided reference of the prophecy to the Assyrians is simply based upon an incorrect idea of the nature of prophecy, and its relation to the fulfilment, and involves the prophet Micah in an irreconcilable discrepancy between himself and his contemporary the prophet Isaiah, who does indeed predict the severe oppression of Judah by the Assyrians, but at the same time foretels the failure of the plans of these foes to the people of Jehovah, and the total destruction of their army.
This contradiction, with the consequence to which it would inevitably lead, - namely, that if one of the prophets predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, whereas the other prophesied that it would not be destroyed by them, the two contemporary prophets would necessarily lead the people astray, and render both the truth of their contradictory utterances and their own divine mission doubtful, - cannot be removed by the assumption that Isaiah uttered the prophecies in ch. 28-32 at a somewhat later period, after Micah had published his book, and the terribly severe words of Micah in Mic 3:12 had produced repentance. For Isaiah had predicted that the Assyrian would not conquer Jerusalem, but that his army would be destroyed under its walls, not only in Isaiah 28-32, at the time when the Assyrians are approaching with threatening aspect under Shalmaneser or Sennacherib, but much earlier than that, - namely, in the time of Ahaz, in Isaiah 10:5-12:6. Moreover, in Isaiah 28-32 there is not a single trace that Micah's terrible threatening had produced such repentance, that the Lord was able to withdraw His threat in consequence, and predict through Isaiah the rescue of Jerusalem from the Assyrian. On the contrary, Isaiah scourges the evil judges and false prophets quite as severely in Isa 28:7. and Isa 29:9-12 as Micah does in Mic 3:1-3 and Mic 3:5-8. And lastly, although the distinction between conditional prophecies and those uttered unconditionally is, generally speaking, correct enough, and is placed beyond all doubt by Jer 18:7-10; there is nothing in the addresses and threatenings of the two prophets to indicate that Micah uttered his threats conditionally, i.e., in case there should be no repentance, whereas Isaiah uttered his unconditionally. Moreover, such an explanation is proved to be untenable by the fact, that in Micah the threat of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the desolation of the temple mountain (Mic 3:12) stands in the closest connection with the promise, that at the end of the days the mountain of God's house will be exalted above all mountains, and Jehovah reign on Zion as king for ever (Mic 4:1-3 and Mic 7:1). If this threat were only conditional, the promise would also have only a conditional validity; and the final glorification of the kingdom of God would be dependent upon the penitence of the great mass of the people of Israel, - a view which is diametrically opposed to the real nature of the prophecies of both, yea, of all the prophets. The only difference between Isaiah and Micah in this respect consists in the fact that Isaiah, in his elaborate addresses, brings out more distinctly the attitude of the imperial power of Assyria towards the kingdom of God in Israel, and predicts not only that Israel will be hard pressed by the Assyrians, but also that the latter will not overcome the people of God, but will be wrecked upon the foundation-stone laid by Jehovah in Zion; whereas Micah simply threatens the sinners with judgment, and after the judgment predicts the glorification of Zion in grand general terms, without entering more minutely into the attitude of the Assyrians towards Israel.
In the main, however, Micah goes hand in hand with his contemporary Isaiah. In Isa 32:14, Isaiah also foretels the devastation, or rather the destruction, of Jerusalem, notwithstanding the fact that he has more than once announced the deliverance of the city of God from Asshur, and that without getting into contradiction with himself. For this double announcement may be very simply explained from the fact that the judgments which Israel had yet to endure, and the period of glory to follow, lay, like a long, deep diorama, before the prophet's mental eye; and that in his threatenings he plunged sometimes more, sometimes less, deeply into those judgments which lay in perspective before him (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, at Isa 32:20). The same thing applies to Micah, who goes to a great depth both in his threats and promises, not only predicting the judgment in all its extremity, - namely, the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the carrying away of the people to Babel, - but also the salvation in its ultimate perfection, viz., the glorification of Zion. We must therefore not restrict his threats in Mic 3:12 and Mic 4:10 even to the Chaldaean catastrophe, nor the promise of Israel's deliverance in Babel out of the hands of its foes to the liberation of the Jews from Babylon, which was effected by Cyrus, and their return to Palestine under Zerubbabel and Ezra; but must also extend the threat of punishment to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the attendant dispersion of the Jews over all the world, and the redemption out of Babel promised in Mic 4:10 to that deliverance of Israel which, in the main, is in the future still. These two judgments and these two deliverances are comprehended in an undivided unity in the words of the prophet, Babel being regarded not only in its historical character, but also in its typical significance, as the beginning and the hearth of the kingdom of the world. Babel has this double significance in the Scriptures from the very commencement. Even the building of the city with a tower intended to reach to heaven was a work of human pride, and an ungodly display of power (Gen 11:4.); and after its erection Babel was made by Nimrod the beginning of the empire of the world (Gen 10:10). It was from these two facts that Babel became the type of the imperial power, and not because the division of the human race into nations with different languages, and their dispersion over the whole earth, had their origin there (see A. ch. Lmmert, Babel, das Thier und der falsche Prophet. Goth. 1862, p. 36ff.); and it is in this typical significance of Babel that we have to seek not only for the reason for the divine purpose to banish the people of God to Babel, when they were given up to the power of the kingdom of the world, but also for a point of connection for the prophetic announcement when this purpose had been communicated to the prophet's mind. Micah accordingly predicts the carrying away of the daughter Zion to Babel, and her deliverance there out of the power of her enemies, not because Babel along with Nineveh was the metropolis of the world-empire of his time, or a chief city of that empire, but because Babel, from its very origin, was a type and symbol of the imperial power. That the words of Micah, in their deepest sense, should be so interpreted, is not only warranted, but necessitated, by the announcement which follows in Mic 4:11-13 of the victorious conflict of Zion with many nations, which points far beyond the conflicts of the Jews in the times succeeding the captivity.
The daughter Zion, when rescued from Babel, overcomes all hostile powers in the strength of her God. Mic 4:11. "And now many nations have assembled together against thee, who say, Let her be profaned, and let our eyes look upon Zion. Mic 4:12. But they know not the thoughts of Jehovah, and understand not His counsel; for He has gathered them together like sheaves for the threshing-floor. Mic 4:13. Rise up and thresh, O daughter Zion: for I make thy horn iron, and I make thy hoofs brass; and thou wilt crush many nations: and I ban their gain to Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth." With ועתּה, corresponding to עתּה in Mic 4:9, there commences a new scene, which opens to the prophet's mental eye. Many nations have assembled together against the daughter Zion (עליך pointing back to בּת ציּון in Mic 4:10), with the intention of profaning her, and feasting their eyes upon the profaned one. It is the holiness of Zion, therefore, which drives the nations to attack her. תּחנף, let her be or become profaned: not by the sins or bloodguiltiness of her inhabitants (Jer 3:2; Isa 24:5), for this is not appropriate in the mouths of heathen; but through devastation or destruction let her holiness be taken from her. They want to show that there is nothing in her holiness, and to feast their eyes upon the city thus profaned. חזה with ב, to look upon a thing with interest, here with malicious pleasure. On the singular tachaz, followed by the subject in the plural, see Ewald 317, a. To this design on the part of the heathen, the prophet (Mic 4:12) opposes the counsel of the Lord. Whilst the heathen assemble together against Zion, with the intention of profaning her by devastation, the Lord has resolved to destroy them in front of Zion. The destruction which they would prepare for Zion will fall upon themselves, for the Lord gathers them together like sheaves upon the threshing-floor, to thresh, i.e., destroy, them. כּי does not mean "that," but "for." The sentence explains the assertion that they do not understand the counsel of the Lord. כּעמיר, with the generic article, equivalent to "like sheaves." This judgment Zion is to execute upon the heathen. The figurative expression, "Rise up, and thresh," etc., rests upon the oriental custom of threshing out corn with oxen, i.e., of having it trodden out with their hoofs (see Paulsen, Ackerbau der Morgenlnder, 41). In this, of course, only the strength of the hoofs was considered. But as the horn of the ox is a figure frequently used for destructive power (see Deu 33:17; Kg1 22:11; Amo 6:13, etc.), the prophet combines this figure, to strengthen the idea of crushing power, and express the thought that the Lord will equip Zion perfectly with the strength requisite to destroy the nations. והחרמתּי is the first person, and must not be altered into or regarded as the second, as it has been in the lxx and Syriac, and by Jerome. The prophet does not speak in the name of the theocratic nation, as Jerome supposes, but continues to represent Jehovah as speaking, as in אשׂים, with which, however, instead of לי, the noun ליהוה is used, to give greater clearness to the thought that it is Jehovah, the God and Lord of the whole earth, who will destroy the nations that have rebelled against Him and His kingdom, wresting their possessions from them, and taking them back to Himself. For everything laid under the ban belonged to the Lord, as being most holy (Lev 27:28). חיל, property, wealth, the sum and substance of the possessions. Israel is not to enrich itself by plundering the defeated foe, but Jehovah will sanctify the possessions of the heathen to Himself, to whom they belong as Lord of the whole earth, by laying them under the ban: that is to say, He will apply them to the glorification of His kingdom.
There has been a diversity of opinion as to the historical allusion, or the fulfilment of these verses. So much, however, is obvious at the very outset, namely, that they cannot be made to refer to the same event as Mic 4:9, that is to say, to the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, without bringing the prophet into the most striking contradiction to himself. For, since Mic 4:10 predicts not a partial deportation, but the complete carrying away of Israel to Babel, and Mic 4:13 the perfect deliverance of Jerusalem, the people wandering out of Jerusalem into captivity (Mic 4:10) cannot possibly be the enemies who lead it away, beating it utterly before Jerusalem, and banning their possessions to the Lord. There is more to favour the allusion to the victorious conflicts of the Maccabees with the Syrians, for which Theodoret, Calvin, Hengstenberg, and others decide, since these conflicts occurred in the period intervening between the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity (Mic 4:10) and the coming of the Messiah (Mic 5:12). But even this allusion corresponds far too little to the words of the promise for us to be able to regard it as correct. Although, for example, the war of the Maccabees was a religious war in the strict sense of the word, since the Syrians, and with them the small neighbouring nations of the Jews, set themselves to attack Judah as the nation of God, and to exterminate Judaism, the gōyı̄m rabbı̄m who have assembled against Zion, and whom the Lord gathers together thither (Mic 4:11, Mic 4:12), point to a much greater even than the attacks made by the Syrians and the surrounding tribes upon Jerusalem in the time of the Maccabees. Gōyı̄, rabbı̄m (many nations) points back to gōyı̄m rabbı̄m and ‛ammı̄m rabbı̄m in Mic 4:2 and Mic 4:3, so that, both here and there, all the nations of the world that are hostile to God are included. Again, the defeat which they suffer before Jerusalem is much greater than the victory which the Maccabees achieved over their enemies. On the other hand, the circumstance that the Babylonian captivity is predicted in Mic 4:10, and the birth of the Messiah in Mic 5:1-2, and that the victorious conflicts of the Maccabees with the Syrians and the heathen neighbours of the Jews lie in the interim between these events, furnishes no sufficient proof that these conflicts must be referred to in Mic 4:11-13, simply because the assumption that, in Mic 4:9 -14, the attacks of the Chaldaeans, the Graeco-Syrians, and the Romans upon Zion are foretold in the order in which they followed one another in history, has no firm basis in the threefold recurrence of ‛attâh (now) in Mic 4:9, Mic 4:11, and Mic 5:1. As an event is introduced with ‛attâh in Mic 5:9, which does not follow the one predicted in Mic 5:8 in chronological sequence, but, on the contrary, the prophet comes back in ve‛attâh from the more remote to the more immediate future, it cannot be inferred from the ‛attâh in Mic 5:1 that the oppression mentioned there must follow the victory over many nations predicted in Mic 4:11-13 in chronological order, or that the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans are referred to in Rom 5:1. Moreover, the proclamation in Rom 5:10 already goes beyond the Chaldaean catastrophe, and the liberation of the Jews from the Chaldaean exile, so that if the ve‛attâh in Rom 5:12 announces a conflict with Zion which will follow the events predicted in Rom 5:9 and Rom 5:10, we must not restrict the conflict to the wars of the Maccabees. We must therefore understand these verses as referring to the events already predicted by Joel (ch. 3), and afterwards by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38, 39) and Zechariah (Zac 12:1-14), and in Rev 20:8.: i.e., to the last great attack which the nations of the world will make upon the church of the Lord, that has been redeemed from Babel and sanctified, with the design of exterminating the holy city of God from the face of the earth, and to which the attacks of the Syrians, and the rest of the nations surrounding Judah, upon the covenant nation in the times of the Maccabees, furnished but a feeble prelude. This view is favoured by the unmistakeable similarity between our verses and both Joel and Ezekiel.
The נאספוּ עליך גּויים רבּים in Mic 4:11, compared with קבּצם in Mic 4:12, points clearly back to וקבּצתּי את־הגּוים in Joe 3:2, compared with ונקבּצוּ in Mic 4:11; and the figure in Mic 4:12, of the gathering together of the nations like sheaves for the threshing-floor, to the similar figures of the ripening of the harvest and the treading of the full wine-press in Joe 3:13. And the use of gōyı̄m rabbı̄m in Micah is no reason for supposing that it differs in meaning from the kol-haggōyı̄m of Joel, since Micah uses gōyı̄m rabbı̄m in Mic 4:2 and Mic 4:3 for the totality of the nations of the world. Ezekiel, also, simply speaks of gōyı̄m rabbı̄m as assembling together with Gog to attack the mountains of Israel (Eze 38:6, Eze 38:9, Eze 38:15); and in his case also, this attack of the nations upon Jerusalem is appended to the redemption of Israel effected at Babel. Again, the issue of this attack is the same in Micah as in Joel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, - namely, the complete overthrow of the hostile nations by the people of Israel, who fight in the strength of the Lord, by which Jehovah manifests Himself to all nations as Lord of the whole earth, and proves Himself to be the Holy One (compare Mic 4:13 with Joe 3:12-13, and Eze 38:16; Eze 39:3.). Lastly, a decisive proof of the correctness of this allusion is to be found in the circumstance, that the attack of the nations is directed against Zion, which has now become holy, that it proceeds from hatred and enmity to His holiness, and has for its object the desecration of the city of God. This feature is by no means applicable to Jerusalem and Judah in the time of the Maccabees, but can only apply to the time when Israel, redeemed from Babel, forms a holy church of God, i.e., to the last period of the development of the kingdom of God, which began with Christ, but has not yet reached its fullest manifestation. "From the fact, however, that Zion, when sanctified, is to be delivered out of much greater danger than that from which it will not be delivered in the immediate future, and also that the refined and sanctified Zion will conquer and destroy an incomparably greater hostile force than that to which it will now soon succumb, it follows, in the clearest and most conclusive way, that in the nearest future it must be given up to the power of the world, because it is now unholy" (Caspari). This thought prepares the way for the transition to Mic 5:1, where the prophecy returns to the oppression foretold in Mic 4:9 and Mic 4:10.