Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 28: Jonah, Micah, Nahum, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?
1. Et dixi, Audite quaeso principes Jacob et gubernatores domus Israel; annon vestrum est (vel, ad vos spectat) scire judicium?
2. Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
2. Atqui oderunt bonum et dilligunt malum, rapiunt pellem ab ipsis, et carnem ab ossibus eorum;
3. Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.
3. Et tunc vorant carnem populi mei, et pellem ipsorum ab ipsis excoriant; et ossa eorum frangunt, et comminuunt; sicuti ad ollam (vel, ac si destinata essent ollae,) et carnem eorum in medio aheni.
The Prophet in this chapter assails and severely reproves the chief men as well as the teachers; for both were given to avarice and cruelty, to plunder, and, in short, to all other vices. And he begins with the magistrates, who exercised authority among the people; and briefly relates the words in which he inveighed against them. We have said elsewhere, that the Prophets did not record all that they had spoken, but only touched shortly on the heads or chief points: and this was done by Micah, that we might know what he did for forty or more years, in which he executed his office. He could have related, no doubt, in half-an-hour, all that exists of his writings: but from this small book, however small it is, we may learn what was the Prophet’s manner of teaching, and on what things he chiefly dwelt. I will now return to his words.
He says that the chief men of the kingdom had been reproved by him. It is probable, that these words were addressed to the Jews; for though at the beginning he includes the Israelites, we yet know that he was given as a teacher to the Jews, and not to the kingdom of Israel. It was as it were accidental, that he sometimes introduces the ten tribes together with the Jews. This address then was made, as I think, to the king as well as to his counselors and other judges, who then ruled over the people of Judah.
Hear this, I pray, he says. Such a preface betokens carelessness in the judges; for why does he demand a hearing from them, except that they had become so torpid in their vices, that they would attend to nothing? Inasmuch then as so brutal a stupor had seized on them, he says, Hear now ye chiefs, or heads, of Jacob, and ye rulers 92 of the house of Israel But why does he still speak of the house of Israel? Because that name was especially known and celebrated, whenever a mention was made of the posterity of Abraham: and the other Prophets, even while speaking of the kingdom of Judah, often make use of this title, “ye who are called by the name of Israel;” and they did this, on account of the dignity of the holy Patriarch; and the meaning of the word itself was no ordinary testimonial of excellency as to his whole race. And this is what is frequently done by Isaiah. But the name of Israel is not put here, as elsewhere, as a title of distinction: on the contrary, the Prophet here amplifies their sin, because they were so corrupt, though they were the chief men among the chosen race, being those whom God had honored with so much dignity, as to set them over his Church and elect people. It was then an ingratitude, not to be endured to abuse that high and sacred authority, which had been conferred on them by God.
Does it not belong to you, he says, to know judgment? Here he intimates that rectitude ought to have a place among the chief men, in a manner more especial than among the common people; for it behaves them to excel others in the knowledge of what is just and right: for though the difference between good and evil be engraven on the hearts of all, yet they, who hold supremacy among the people, and excel in power, are as it were the eyes of the community; as the eyes direct the whole body, so also they, who are placed in any situation of honor, are thus made eminent, that they may show the right way to others. Hence by the word, to know, the Prophet intimates that they wickedly subverted the whole order of nature, for they were blind, while they ought to have been the luminaries of the whole people. Is it not for you, he says, to know judgment and equity? But why was this said, especially to the chief men? Because they, though they of themselves knew what was right, having the law engraven within ought yet as leaders to have possessed superior knowledge, so as to outshine others. It is therefore your duty to know judgment. We hence learn that it is not enough for princes and magistrates to be well disposed and upright; but it is required of them to know judgment and wisdom that they may discern matters above the common people. But if they are not thus endued with the gift of understanding and wisdom let them ask of the Lord. We indeed know, that without the Spirit of God, the acutest men are wholly unfit to rule; nor is it in vain, that the free Spirit of God is set forth, as holding the supreme power in the world; for we are thus reminded, that even they who are endued with the chief gifts are wholly incapable of governing except the Spirit of God be with them. This passage then shows that an upright mind is not a sufficient qualification in princes; they must also excel in wisdom, that they may be, as we have already said, as the eyes are to the body. In this sense it is that Micah now says that it belonged to the leaders of the people to know judgment and justice. 93
He afterwards subjoins, But they hate good, and love evil, and pull off the skin 94 from my people, the flesh from their bones; that is, they leave nothing, he says, sound and safe, their rapacity being so furious. The Prophet conveys first a general reproof, — that they not only perverted justice, but were also given to wickedness and hated good. He means then that they were openly wicked and ungodly, and also that they with a fixed purpose carried on war against every thing just and right. We hence learn how great and how abominable was the corruption of the people, when they were still the peculiar possession and heritage of God. Inasmuch then as the state of this ancient people had become so degenerated, let us learn to walk in solicitude and fear, while the Lord governs us by pious magistrates and faithful pastors: for what happened to the Jews might soon happen to us, so that wolves might bear rule over us, as indeed experience has proved even in this our city. The Prophet afterwards adds the kinds of cruelty which prevailed; of which he speaks in hyperbolical terms, though no doubt he sets before our eyes the state of things as it was. He compares the judges to wolves or to lions, or to other savage beasts. He says not that they sought the property of the people, or pillaged their houses; but he says that they devoured their flesh even to the very bones; he says that they pulled off their skin: and this he confirms in the next verse.
They devour, he says, the flesh of my people, and their skin they strip off from them, and their bones they break in pieces and make small, as that which into the pot is thrown, and which is in the midst of the caldron 95 For when any one throws meat into the pot, he does not take the whole ox, but cuts it into pieces, and having broken it, he then fills with these pieces his pot or his caldron. The Prophet then enhances the cruelty of the princes; they were not content with one kind of oppression, but exercised every species of barbarous cruelty towards the people, and were in every respect like bears, or wolves, or lions, or some other savage beasts, and that they were also like gluttons. We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning.
Now this passage teaches us what God requires mainly from those in power, — that they abstain from doing injustice: for as they are armed with power, so they ought to be a law to themselves. They assume authority over others; let them then begin with themselves, and restrain themselves from doing evil. For when a private man is disposed to do harm, he is restrained at least by fear of the laws, and dares not to do any thing at his pleasure; but in princes there is a greater boldness; and they are able to do greater injustice: and this is the reason why they ought to observe more forbearance and humanity. Hence levity and paternal kindness especially become princes and those in power. But the Prophet here condemns the princes of his age for what deserved the highest reprehension; and their chief crime was cruelty or inhumanity, inasmuch as they spared not their own subjects.
We now see that the Prophet in no degree flattered the great, though they took great pride in their own dignity. But when he saw that they wickedly and basely abused the power committed to them, he boldly resisted them, and exercised the full boldness of the Spirit. He therefore not only calls them robbers or plunderers of the people; but he says, that they were cruel wild beasts; he says, that they devoured the flesh, tore and pulled it in pieces, and made it small; and he says all this, that he might convey an idea of the various kinds of cruelty which they practiced. Now follow threatenings —
4. Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.
4. Tunc clamabunt ad Jehovam, et non respondebit illis; sed abscondet faciem suam ab ipsis tempore illo, quemadmodum perverse egerunt in factis suis.
Micah now denounces judgment on the chief men, such as they deserved. He says, They shall cry then to Jehovah The adverb אז, az, is often put indefinitely in Hebrew, and has the force of a demonstrative, and may be taken as pointing out a thing, (δεικτικως — demonstratively,) then, or there, as though the Prophet pointed out by his finger things which could be seen, though they were far away from the sight of men. But in this place, the Prophet seems rather to pursue the subject to which I have already referred: for he had before stated that God would take vengeance on that people. This adverb of time then is connected with the other combinations, which have been already explained. 96 If, however, any one prefer a different meaning, namely that the Prophet meant here to hold them in suspense, as to the nearness of God’s vengeance, I do not oppose him, for this sense is not unsuitable. However this may be, the Prophet here testifies that the crimes of the chief men would not go unpunished, though they did not think themselves to be subject either to laws or to punishment. As then the princes and magistrates regarded themselves as exempt, by some imaginary privilege, from the lot of other people, the Prophet declares here expressly, that a distress was nigh at hand, which would extort a cry from them: for by the word, cry, he means the miseries which were nigh at hand. They shall then cry in their distress. I have now explained the design of the Prophet.
We indeed see how at this day those who are in high stations swell with arrogance; for as they abound in wealth, and as honor is as it were an elevated degree, so that being propped up by the shoulders of others they seem eminent, and as they are also feared by the rest of the people, they are on these accounts led to think that no adversity can happen to them. But the Prophet says, that such would be their distress, that it would draw a cry from them.
They shall then cry, but Jehovah will not hear; that is, they shall be miserable and without any remedy. Jehovah will not answer them, but will hide from them his face, as they have done perversely; that is, God will not hear their complaints; for he will return on their own heads all the injuries with which he now sees his own people to be afflicted. And thus God will show that he was not asleep, while they were with so much effrontery practicing all kinds of wrong.
It may however be asked here, how it is that God rejects the prayers and entreaties of those who cry to him? It must first be observed, that the reprobate, though they rend the air with their cries, do not yet direct their prayers to God; but if they address God himself, they do this clamorously; for they expostulate with him, and contend with him, yea, they vomit out their blasphemies, or at least they murmur and complain of their evils. The ungodly then cry, but not to the Lord; or if they address their cries to God, they are, as it has been said, full of glamour. Hence, except one is guided by the Spirit of God, he cannot pray from the heart. And we know that it is the peculiar office of the Spirit to raise up our hearts to heaven: for in vain we pray, except we bring faith and repentance: and who is the author of these but the Holy Spirit? It appears then that the ungodly so cry, that they only violently contend with God: but this is not the right way of praying. It is therefore no wonder that God rejects their clamors. The ungodly do indeed at times pour forth a flood of prayers and call on God’s name with the mouth; but at the same time they are, as we have said, full of perverseness, and they never really humble themselves before God. Since then they pour forth their prayers from a bitter and a proud heart, this is the reason why the Prophet says now, that the Lord would not then hear, but hide his face from them at that time, inasmuch as they acted perversely 97
He shows here that God would not be reconciled to men wholly irreclaimable, who could not be restored by any means to the right way. But when any one falls [and repents] he will ever find God propitious to him, as soon as he cries to him; but when with obstinate minds we pursue our own course, and give no place to repentance, we close up the door of mercy against ourselves; and so what the Prophet teaches here necessarily takes place, — the Lord hides his face in the day of distress. And we also hear what the Scripture says, — that judgment will be without mercy to those who are not merciful, (Jas 2:11.) Hence if any one be inexorable to his brethren, (as we see at this day many tyrants to be, and we also see many in the middle class to be of the same tyrannical and wholly sanguinary disposition,) he will at length, whoever he may be, meet with that judgment which Micah here denounces. The sentence then is not to be taken in a general sense, as though he had said, that the Lord would not be reconciled to the wicked; but he points out especially those irreclaimable men, who had wholly hardened themselves, so that they had become, as we have already seen, altogether inflexible. The Prophet now comes to his second reproof.
5. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
5. sic dicit Jehova super (vel, ad) prophetas, qui decipiunt populum meum, et mordent dentibus suis, et clamant, Paz; et si quis non dederit in os ipsorum, edicunt contra eum proelium:
Micah accuses here the Prophets, in the first place, of avarice and of a desire for filthy lucre. But he begins by saying that he spoke by God’s command, and as it were from his mouth, in order that his combination might have more weight and power. Thus then saith Jehovah against the Prophets: and he calls them the deceivers of the people: but at the same time he points out the source of the evil, that is, why or by what passion they were instigated to deceive, and that was, because the desire of gain had wholly possessed them, so that they made no difference between what was true and what was false, but only sought to please for the sake of gain. And he shows also, on the other hand, that they were so covetous of gain, that they declared war, if any one did not feed them. And God repeats again the name of his people: this had escaped my notice lately in observing on the words of Micah, that the princes devoured the flesh of God’s people; for the indignity was increased when this wrong, was done to the people of God. Had the Assyrians, or the Ethiopians, or the Egyptians, been pillaged by their princes, it would have been more tolerable; but when the very people of God were thus devoured, it was, as I have said, less to be borne. So when the people of God were deceived, and the truth was turned to a lie, it was a sacrilege the more hateful.
This then was the reason why he said, Who deceive my people 98 “This people is sacred to me, for I have chosen them for myself; as then they are destroyed by frauds and deceptions, is not my majesty in a manner dishonored — is not my authority lessened?” We now then see the reason why the Prophet says, They deceive my people. It is indeed certain, that the Jews were worthy of such deceptions; and God elsewhere declares, that whenever he permitted false prophets to come among them, it was to try them to see what sort of people they were, (De 13.) It was then their just reward, when liberty was given to Satan to prevent sound doctrine among the people. And no one is ever deceived, except through his own will. Though their own simplicity seems to draw many to destruction, yet there is ever in them some hypocrisy. But it does not extenuate the sin of false teachers, that the people deserve such a punishment: and hence the Prophet still goes on with his reproof and says, that they were the people of God, — in what respect? By adoption. Though then the Jews had rendered themselves unworthy of such an honor, yet God counts them his people, that he might punish the wickedness of the false teachers, of which he now accuses them. It now follows, that they did bite with their teeth But I cannot finish today.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have the image of thy justice to shine in princes, and whom thou arrest with the sword, that they might rule in thy name, and be really thy ministers, — O grant, that this thy blessing may openly appear among us, and that by this evidence thou mayest testify that thou art not only propitious to us, but hadst also a care for our safety, and watches over our welfare and well-being: and do thou so shine by thy word, that it may never be obscured or clouded among us through any depraved cupidity, but ever retain its own clear purity, so that we may proceed in the right path of salvation, which thou hast discovered and prescribed, until we be at length gathered into thy celestial kingdom, to enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen.
Let us proceed to explain that sentence of the Prophet, in which he shows the cause why the teachers deceived the people and turned the truth of God to a lie; and this was, because they were greedy of gains and were wholly given to avarice. We hence see, according to the testimony of Paul, that avarice affords a cause to all evils, (1Ti 6:10;) and that wherever this contagion comes, all things necessarily fall into decay: for when avarice reigns in the hearts of men, the truth of God especially is ever adulterated.
But Micah adduces two evidences of avarice, — that they cried, Peace, when well fed and filled, — and that they proclaimed war, when they were hungry. Then as to the first points he says, הנשכים בשניהם וקראו שלום, that is, “who bite with their teeth, 99 and cry, Peace.” But the sentence is to be so understood, that when they did bite well, they announced peace with full confidence: for by the word, bite, the Prophet means their gormandizing; for they who, under the guise of God’s name, sought only their own advantage, were not satisfied with a moderate support, inasmuch as they were like hungry dogs. They therefore devoured, and gorged themselves, without any limits or moderation. This is the reason why he says that they did bite: for he compares them either to lions or to bears; and we know that wild beasts are not satiated with a small quantity of food, but that they gnash as it were their teeth except they are always pampered. So also Micah says, that the false teachers of his age were voracious men, who demanded a large proportion of food. We see the same thing in our day as to the monks under the Papacy, especially those who, under the name of mendacity, devour the substance of all people. Except they are pampered, they always murmur; nay, they are not content with murmurs, they proclaim war, as the Prophet says here. We indeed see at the same time, that they are insatiable; for when they come to tables well furnished, no one would say that they are men, but beasts, for they devour every thing. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning.
But it is not voracity alone that is reprehended: he says, that they sold their blessings. when they were well filled and had their stomach well supplied. In the same manner the monks also are wont to pronounce peace when they are well fed, — “O! ye do good, when ye take care of the brethren; for they are careful of you: when ye sleep in your beds, they watch, and their prayers make you rich; for how could the world stand, were it not that the brethren make amends for it? As then ye are so kind to our community, all things shall turn out well and prosperously to you, and God also will bless you.” This then is the practice of those who for reward sell their blessings; they cry, Peace, that is, they confidently declare that all things shall be well, they make God propitious, provided such liberality towards their order be ever continued.
But, on the other hand, he also says, If any one gives not to their mouth, they instantly sanctify war against you 100 : but I give a different rendering, as the passage requires, — that they reclaim war; though the word is literally to sanctify. But we have seen in Joe 2, that the word is used to designate any solemn proclamation, — “Sanctify a fast”, that is, Proclaim a fast. So also in this place, They sanctify war, that is, they proclaim war, when any one does not feed them, nor satisfy their gormandizing; for they could not bear want. In short, the Prophet shows, that these false teachers were so blinded by avarice, that they discerned not the difference between right and wrong; but only praised those who fed them: and, on the other hand, when they found that they and their stomach were not cared for nor satisfied, they cursed, fulminated, and uttered nothing but anathemas; as we see to be done at this day by the monks under the Papacy. The Prophet now says —
6. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.
6. Propterea nox vobis erit a visione (vel, pro visione, vel propter visionem; dicemus postea de sensu,) et tenebrae vobis a divinatione (vel, propter divinationem,) et occumbet sol super prophetas, et obtenebrabitur super eos dies;
7. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.
7. Et pudefient videntes (hoc est, prophetae,) et erubescent divini, et velabunt (hoc est, velum opponent) super labium suum omnes; quia non erit responsum Dei.
God declares here to the false teachers by the mouth of Micah, that he would inflict punishment on them, so that they should be exposed to the reproach of all. Hence the kind of punishment of which the Prophet speaks is — that he would strip the false teachers of all their dignity, so that they should hereafter in vain put on an appearance, and claim the honorable name which they had so long abused. We indeed know, when ungodly and profane men clothe themselves with the dignified titles of being the princes, or bishops, or prelates of the Church, how audaciously they pervert every thing, and do so with impunity. There is then no other remedy, except God pulls off the mask from them, and openly discovers to all their baseness. Of this punishment Micah now speaks.
There shall be to you a night from vision; so is the phrase literally, but the particle מ, mem, means often, for, or, on account of; and we can easily see that the Prophet represents night as the reward for visions and darkness for divination. “As then my people have been deceived by your fallacies, for your visions and divinations have been nothing but lies and deceits, I will repay you with the reward which you have deserved: for instead of a vision you shall have night, and instead of divination you shall have thick darkness.” 101 It is indeed certain, that the false teachers, even when they were, as they say, in great reputation, that is, when they retained the honor and the title of their office, were blind and wholly destitute of all light: but the Prophet here declares, that as their baseness did not appear to the common people, God would cause it to be made at length fully evident. As for instance, there is nothing at this day more stupid and senseless than the bishops of the Papacy: for when any one draws from them any expression about religion, they instantly betray not only their ignorance, but also their shameful stupidity. With regard to the monks, though they be the most audacious kind of animals, (audacissimum animalium genus,) yet we know how unlearned and ignorant they are. Therefore at this time the night has not yet passed away, nor the darkness, of which Micah speaks here.
We now then understand what the Holy Spirit teaches here, and that is, — that God would at length strip those false teachers of that imaginary dignity, on account of which no one dared to speak against them, but received as an oracle whatever they uttered. Night, then, shall be to you instead of a vision; that is, “The whole world shall understand that you are not what you boast yourselves to be: for I will show that there is not in you, no, not a particle of the prophetic spirit, but that ye are men as dark as night, and darkness shall be to you instead of divination. Ye boast of great acuteness and great perspicuity of mind; but I will discover your baseness, so that the very children may know that you are not endued with the spirit.”
To the same purpose is what he adds, Go down shall the sun upon you, and darkened over you shall be the day; that is, such will be that darkness, that even at noon they will see nothing; the sun will shine on all, but they shall grope as in the dark; so that Gods vengeance would be made so manifest, that it might be noticed by all, from the least to the greatest.
He confirms the same thing in the next verse, And ashamed shall be the seers and confounded the diviners, 102 and they shall cover their lip; that is they will put veils on their mouths. In short, he means, that they would become a reproach to all, so that they would be ashamed of themselves, and no more dare to boast with so much confidence of their name and of the prophetic office.
As to this form of expression, ועטו על-שפם, uothu ol shephim, some think that the practice of mourners is referred to; but this interpretation is frigid. I have therefore no doubt but that Micah intimates that the mouths of the false teachers would be closed. There is nearly the same denunciation mentioned by Zechariah; for speaking of the restoration of the Church, he says, — They who before went about boasting greatly, and gloried in the name of Prophets, shall cast away their mantle, and will no longer dare to show themselves; yea, when they shall come abroad, they shall be as it were herdsman or private persons, and shall say, “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I am chastised by my father;” that is, they shall profess themselves unworthy of being called prophets; but that they are scholars under discipline, (Zec 13:5.) So also in this place, “They deceive at this day my people,” saith the Lord; “I will reward them as they deserve; I will fill them with disgrace and contempt. They shall not then dare hereafter to show themselves as they have been wont to do; they shall not presume boastingly to profess themselves to be the pillars of the Church, that the whole world may be made subject to them; they shall not dare with tyrannical force to oppress the common and ignorant portions of society Veil, then, shall they their mouth; that is, “I will cause their mouth to be closed, so that they shall not dare hereafter to utter even a word.” 103
It follows, For there will be no answer from God. Some so explain this sentence, as though the Prophet upbraided them with their old deceits, which they boasted were the words of God: as then they were not faithful to God, but lied to miserable men, when they said, that they were sent from above, and brought messages from heaven, while they only uttered their own inventions or fables, they should on these accounts be constrained to cover their mouth. But different is the meaning of the Prophet, and it is this, — that they were to be deprived of any answer, so that their want of knowledge might be easily perceived even by the most ignorant: for false teachers, though they possess nothing certain, yet deceive the simple with disguises, and render plausible their absurdities, that they may seem to be the interpreters of God; and they further add great confidence: and then the stupidity of the people concedes to them such great power, according to what is said by Jeremiah 5 where he says that the priests received gifts and that for gifts the Prophets divined, and that the people loved such deprivations. But Micah declares here that such delusions would no longer be allowed, for God would dissipate them. It will then be made evident, that you have no answer from God; that is, “All will perceive that you are void and destitute of every celestial truth, and that you were formerly but gross cheats, when ye passed yourselves as God’s servants, though you had no ground for doing so.”
We now perceive what the Prophet means. But this punishment might have then contributed to the benefit of the people: for as it is a cause of ruin to the world, when there is no difference made between light and darkness; so when the baseness of those is discovered, who abuse God’s name and adulterate his pure truth, there is then a door open to repentance. Rightly then is this combination addressed to false prophets. It now follows —
8. But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
8. Atqui vere ego repletus sum virtute a Spiritu Jehovae, et judicio, et fortitudine, ad annuntiandum Jacob scelus suum, et Israeli peccatum suum.
Here Micah, in a courageous spirit, stands up alone against all the false teachers even when he saw that they were a large number, and that they appealed to their number, according to their usual practice, as their shield. Hence he says, I am filled with power by the Spirit of Jehovah 104 This confidence is what all God’s servants should possess, that they may not succumb to the empty and vain boastings of those who subvert the whole order of the Church. Whenever then, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false teachers, and them to be popular among those high in honor, as well as the multitude, let this striking example be remembered by us, lest we be discouraged, lest the firmness and invincible power of the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts, but that we may proceed in the course of our calling, and learn to oppose the name of God to all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our service is approved by him, as being faithful. Since, then, Micah says, that he was filled with power, he no doubt stood, as it were, in the presence of the whole people, and alone pitched his camp against the whole multitude; for there were then false teachers going about every where, as the devil sows always seed enough, whenever God lets loose the reins. Though then their number was not small, yet Micah hesitated not to go forth among them: I, he says; there is stress to be laid on the pronoun אנכי, anki, — Ye despise me, being one man, and ye despise a few men; ye may think that I alone serve the Lord; but I am a match for a thousand, yea, for an innumerable multitude; for God is on my side, and he approves of my ministry as it is. from him, nor do I bring any thing to you but what he has commanded: It is then I.
He further expresses a fuller confidence by using the word אולם, aulam 105 ; Verily, he says, I am filled with power. This “verily” or truly is opposed to those lofty boastings by which the false prophets were ever wont to attain a name and honor among the people. But Micah intimates that all that they uttered was only evanescent: “Ye are,” he says, “wonderful prophets; nay, ye are superior to the angels, if you are to be believed; but show that you are so in reality; let there be some proof by which your calling can be confirmed. There is no proof. It then follows, that ye are only men of wind, and not really spiritual: but there is really in me what ye boast of with your mouths.” And he says, that he was filled, that he might not be thought one of the common sort: and Micah no doubt shows here, on account of the necessity of the occasion, that he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power; for, according as God employs the labors of his servants, so is he present with them, and furnishes them with suitable protection. When any one is not exercised with great difficulties in discharging his office of teaching, a common measure of the Spirit is only necessary for the performance of his duties; but when any one is drawn into arduous and difficult struggles, he is at the same time especially strengthened by the Lord: and we see daily examples of this; for many simple men, who have never been trained up in learning, have yet been so endued by the celestial Spirit, when they came to great trials, that they have closed the mouths of great doctors, who seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God openly proves at this day, that he is the same now as when he formerly endued his servant Micah with a power so rare and so extraordinary. This then is the reason why he says, that he was filled with power.
He afterwards adds, By the Spirit of Jehovah Here the Prophet casts aside every suspicious token of arrogance; lest he should seem to claim anything as his own, he says, that this power was conferred on him from above: and this circumstance ought to be particularly noticed. Though Micah rightly and justly claimed to himself the name of a teacher, he yet had nothing different from others before the world; for all his opponents discharged the same office, and obtained the same honor: the office was common to both parties. Micah was either alone, or connected with Isaiah and a few others. Since then he here dares to set up himself, we see that his call alone must be regarded; for we know how great is the propensity of Satan to oppose the kingdom of Christ, and also how proud and fierce are false teachers. Since then the rage of Satan is well known and the presumption of false teachers, there is no reason why the faithful should make much of mere naked titles: and when they, who lived at that time, declared, as Papists do at this day, that they had no discrimination nor judgment to know, whether of them ought to have been deemed impostors or the ministers of God, inasmuch as Micah was alone and they were many, and also that the others were prophets that at least they had the name and repute of being so, — what was to be done? This was the reason why I have said that this circumstance was worthy of special notice, — that though their vocation was common, yet as they had acted perfidiously, and Micah alone, or with few others, had faithfully performed what the Lord had commanded, he alone is to be deemed a Prophet and a teacher: in short, there is no reason for false prophets to set up against us a mere coveting, when they cannot prove that they are endued with the Spirit of God. Whosoever then desires to be deemed a servant of God, and a teacher in his Church, must have this seal which Micah here adduces; he must be endued with the Spirit of God; honor then will be given to God. But if any one brings nothing but the name, we see how vain before God it is.
He afterwards subjoins With judgment and courage. (fortitudine) By judgment, I have no doubt, he understands discernment, as this is also the common meaning of the word. He then adds courage These two things are especially necessary for all ministers of the word, — that is, to excel in wisdom, to understand what is true and right, and to be also endued with inflexible firmness, by which they may overcome both Satan and the whole world, and never turn aside from their course, though the devil may in all ways assail them. We hence see what these two words import. He had put כח, kech, first, power; but now he mentions גבורה, gebure, courage or magnanimity. By the term, power, he meant generally all the endowments, with which all who take upon them the office of teaching ought to be adorned. This qualification is then first required, and it is a general one: but Micah divides this power of the prophets into two kinds, even into wisdom or judgment, and into courage; and he did this, that they might understand what God intended: Let them excel in doctrine; and then that they may be confirmed, let them not yield to any gales that may blow, nor be overcome by threats and terrors; let them not bend here and there to please the world; in a word, let them not succumb to any corruptions: it is therefore necessary to add courage to judgment.
He then adds, To declare to Jacob his wickedness, 106 and to Israel his sin. We here see that the Prophet did not hunt for the favor of the people. Had he courted their approbation, he must have soothed with flatteries those who sought flatteries; and were already seized with such hatred and malignant feelings, that they had rejected Micah. He must then have spoken softly to them, to please them; but this he did not do. “On the one hand,” he says, “these men sell to you their blessings and deceive you with the hope of peace; and, on the other, they denounce war, except their voracity is satisfied; and thus it is that they please you; for so ye wish, and ye seek such teachers as will promise you wine and strong drink: but I am sent to you for another purpose; for the Lord has not deposited flatteries with me, such as may be pleasant to you; but he has deposited reproofs and threatenings. I shall therefore uncover your crimes, and will not hesitate to condemn you before the whole world, for ye deserve to be thus treated.” We now perceive why the Prophet says, that he was endued with power to declare his wickedness to Jacob, etc.
But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God’s servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as it is said in Ezek. 3:8, 9; nor must we yield to their fury, but preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this courage of which Micah speaks.
As I have already shown that God’s servants ought courageously to break through all those obstacles by which Satan may attempt either to delay or to force them backward; so also the doctrine taught here ought to be applied to all the godly: they ought wisely to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors who falsely pretend his name. Then no one, who desires truly and from the heart to obey God, will be deceived; for the Lord will ever give the spirit of judgment and discrimination. And the reason why at this day many miserable souls are led to endless ruin is, because they either shut their eyes, or willfully dissemble, or designedly involve themselves in such subterfuges as these, — “I cannot form any judgment; I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, at least those who are in some repute and esteem: some call me to the right hand, and others to the left, where am I to retake myself? I therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears.” Thus many, seeking a cloak for their sloth, often manifest their ignorance: for we see that the eyes must be opened when the Lord exercises and tries our faith: and he suffers discords and contentions to arise in the Church that some may choose this, and others that. Though God then relaxes the reins of Satan, that contests and turmoils of this kind may be excited in the Church, there is yet no excuse for us, if we follow not what the Lord prescribes; for he will ever guide us by his Spirit, provided we foster not our own slothfulness. It follows—
9. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
9. Audite hoc, quaeso, principes domus Jacob, et gubernatores domus Israel, qui abominantur (est mutatio personae) judicium, et recitudinem omnem pervertunt;
10. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.
10. Qui aedificat 107 (nunc est mutatio numeri) Sionem in sanguinibus, et Jerusalem in iniquitate.
The Prophet begins really to prove what he had stated, — that he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: and it was, as they say, an actual proof, when the Prophet dreaded no worldly power, but boldly addressed the princes and provoked their rage against him, Hear, he says, ye heads, ye rulers of the house of Jacob, ye men who are cruel, bloody, and iniquitous. We then see that the Prophet had not boasted of what he did not without delay really confirm. But he began with saying, that he was filled with the Spirit of God, that he might more freely address them, and that he might check their insolence. We indeed know that the ungodly are so led on headlong by Satan, that they hesitate not to resist God himself: but yet the name of God is often to them a sort of a hidden chain. However much then the wicked may rage, they yet become less ferocious when the name of God is introduced. This is the reason why the Prophet had mentioned the Spirit of God; it was, that there might be a freer course to his doctrine.
When he now says, Ye heads of the house of Jacob, ye rulers of the house of Israel, it is by way of concession, as though he had said, that these were indeed splendid titles, and that he was not so absurd as not to acknowledge what had been given them by God, even that they were eminent, a chosen race, being the children of Abraham. The Prophet then concedes to the princes what belonged to them, as though he had said, that he was not a seditious man, who had no care nor consideration for civil order. And this defense was very necessary, for nothing is more common than for the ungodly to charge God’s servants with sedition, whenever they use a freedom of speech as it becomes them. Hence all who govern the state, when they hear their corruptions reproved, or their avarice, or their cruelty, or any of their other crimes, immediately cry out, — “What! if we suffer these things, every thing will be upset: for when all respect is gone, what will follow but brutal outrage? for every one of the common people will rise up against the magistrates and the judges.” Thus then the wicked ever say, that God’s servants are seditious whenever they boldly reprove them. This is the reason why the Prophet concedes to the princes and judges of the people their honor; but a qualifying clause immediately follows, — Ye are indeed the heads, ye are rulers; but yet they hate judgment:” he does not think them worthy of being any longer addressed. He had indeed bidden them to hear as with authority; but having ordered them to hear, he now uncovers their wickedness, They hate, he says, judgments and all rectitude pervert: 108 each of them builds Zion by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity; that is, they turn their pillages into buildings: “This, forsooth, is the splendor of my holy city even of Zion! where I designed the ark of my covenant to be placed, as in my only habitation, even there buildings are seen constructed by blood and by plunder! See, he says, how wickedly these princes conduct themselves under the cover of their dignity!” 109
We now see that the word of God is not bound, but that it puts forth its power against the highest as well as the lowest; for it is the Spirit’s office to arraign the whole world, and not a part only.
‘When the Spirit shall come,’ says Christ,
‘it will convince the world,’ (Joh 16:8.)
He speaks not there of the common people only, but of the whole world, of which princes and magistrates form a prominent part. Let us then know, that though we ought to show respect to judges, (as the Lord has honored them with dignified titles, calling them his vicegerents and also gods,) yet the mouths of Prophets ought not to be closed; but they ought, without making any difference, to correct whatever is deserving of reproof, and not to spare even the chief men themselves. This is what ought in the first place to be observed.
Then when he says, that Zion was built by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity, it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that whatever the great men expended on their palaces had been procured, and, as it were, scraped together from blood and plunder. The judges could not have possibly seized on spoils on every side, without being bloody, that is, without pillaging the poor: for the judges were for the most part corrupted by the rich and the great; and then they destroyed the miserable and the innocent. He then who is corrupted by money will become at the same time a thief; and he will not only extort money, but will also shed blood. There is then no wonder that Micah says, that Zion was built by blood He afterwards extends wider his meaning and mentions iniquity, as he wished to cast off every excuse from hypocrites. The expression is indeed somewhat strong, when he says, that Zion was built by blood. They might have objected and said, that they were not so cruel, though they could not wholly clear themselves from the charge of avarice. “When I speak of blood,” says the Prophet, “there is no reason that we should contend about a name; for all iniquity is blood before God: if then your houses have been built by plunder, your cruelty is sufficiently proved; it is as though miserable and innocent men had been slain by your own hands.” The words, Zion and Jerusalem, enhance their sin; for they polluted the holy city and the mount on which the temple was built by the order and command of God.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have us to be ruled by the preaching of thy word, — O grant, that those who have to discharge this office may be really endued with thy celestial power, that they may not attempt any thing of themselves, but with all devotedness spend all their labors for thee and for our benefit, that through them we may be thus edified, so that thou mayest ever dwell among us, and that we through our whole life may become the habitation of thy Majesty, and that finally we may come to thy heavenly sanctuary, where thou daily invites us, as an entrance there has been once for all opened to us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen.
11. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.
11. Principes ejus pro munere judicant, et sacerdotes ejus mercede docent, et prophetae ejus pecunia divinant, et super Jehova nituntur, dicendo, Annon Jehova in medio nostri? Non veniet super nos malum.
12. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
12. Itaque propter vos Sion ut ager arabitur, et Jerusalem acervus erit, et mons domus in excelsa sylvae. 110
The Prophet shows here first, how gross and supine was the hypocrisy of princes as well as of the priests and prophets: and then he declares that they were greatly deceived in thus soothing themselves with vain flatteries; for the Lord would punish them for their sins since he had in his forbearance spared them, and found that they did not repent. But he does not address here the common people or the multitude, but he attacks the chief men: for he has previously told us, that he was endued with the spirit of courage. It was indeed necessary for the Prophet to be prepared with invincible firmness that he might freely and boldly declare the judgment of God, especially as he had to do with the great and the powerful, who, as it is well known, will not easily, or with unruffled minds, bear their crimes to be exposed; for they wish to be privileged above the ordinary class of men. But the Prophet not only does not spare them, but he even arraigns them alone, as though the blame of all evils lodged only with them, as indeed the contagion had proceeded from them; for though all orders were then corrupt, yet the cause and the beginning of all the evils could not have been ascribed to any but to the chief men themselves.
And he says, Princes for reward judge, priests teach for reward, 111 the prophets divine for money: as though he had said, that the ecclesiastical as well as the civil government was subject to all kinds of corruptions, for all things were made matters of sale. We know that what the Holy Spirit declares elsewhere is ever true, — that by gifts or rewards the eyes of the wise are blinded and the hearts of the just are corrupted, (Ecclus. 20:29,) for as soon erg judges open a way for rewards, they cannot preserve integrity, however much they may wish to do so. And the same is the case with the priests: for if any one is given to avarice, he will adulterate the pure truth: it cannot be, that a complete liberty in teaching should exist, except when the pastor is exempt from all desire of gain. It is not therefore without reason that Micah complains here, that the princes as well as the priests were hirelings in his day; and by this he means, that no integrity remained among them, for the one, as I have said, follows from the other. He does not say, that the princes were either cruel or perfidious, though he had before mentioned these crimes; but in this place he simply calls them mercenaries. But, as I have just said, the one vice cannot be separated from the other; for every one who is hired will pervert judgment, whether he be a teacher or a judge. Nothing then remains pure where avarice bears rule. It was therefore quite sufficient for the Prophet to condemn the judges and the prophets and the priests for avarice; for it is easy hence to conclude, that teaching was exposed to sale, and that judgments were bought, so that he who offered most money easily gained his cause. Princes then judge for reward, and priests also teach for reward
We can learn from this place the difference between prophets and priests. Micah ascribes here the office or the duty of teaching to the priests and leaves divination alone to the prophets. We have said elsewhere, that it happened through the idleness of the priests, that prophets were added to them; for prophesying belonged to them, until being content with the altar, they neglected the office of teaching: and the same thing, as we find, has taken place under the Papacy. For though it be quite evident for what reason pastors were appointed to preside over the Church, we yet see that all, who proudly call themselves pastors, are dumb dogs. Whence is this? Because they think that they discharge their duties, by being only attentive to ceremonies; and they have more than enough to occupy them: for the priestly office under the Papacy is laborious enough as to trifles and scenic performances: (ritus histrionicos — stage-playing rites) but at the same time they neglect the principal thing — to feed the Lord’s flock with the doctrine of salvation. Thus degenerated had the priests become under the Law. What is said by Malachi ought to have been perpetuated, — that the law should be in the mouth of the priest, that he should be the messenger and interpreter of the God of hosts, (Mal 2:7;) but the priests cast from them this office: it became therefore necessary that prophets should be raised up, and as it were beyond the usual course of things while yet the regular course formally remained. But the priests taught in a cold manner; and the prophets divined, that is professed that oracles respecting future things were revealed to them.
This distinction is now observed by the Prophet, when he says, The priests teach for reward, that is, they were mercenaries, and hirelings in their office: and the prophets divined for money It then follows, that they yet leaned on Jehovah, and said, Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? Come then shall not evil upon us. The Prophet shows here, as I have said at the beginning, that these profane men trifled with God: for though they knew that they were extremely wicked, nay, their crimes were openly known to all; yet they were not ashamed to lay claim to the authority of God. And it has, we know, been a common wickedness almost in all ages, and it greatly prevails at this day, — that men are satisfied with having only the outward evidences of being the people of God. There was then indeed an altar erected by the command of God; there were sacrifices made according to the rule of the Law; and there were also great and illustrious promises respecting that kingdom. Since then the sacrifices were daily performed, and since the kingdom still retained its outward form, they thought that God was, in a manner, bound to them. The same is the case at this day with the great part of men; they presumptuously and absurdly boast of the external forms of religion. The Papists possess the name of a Church, with which they are extremely inflated; and then there is a great show and pomp in their ceremonies. The hypocrites also among us boast of Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and the name of Reformation; while, at the same time, these are nothing but mockeries, by which the name of God and the whole of religion are profaned, when no real piety flourishes in the heart. This was the reason why Micah now expostulated with the prophets and the priests, and the king’s counselors; it was, because they falsely pretended that they were the people of God. 112
But by saying; that they relied on Jehovah, he did not condemn that confidence which really reposes on God; for, in this respect, we cannot exceed the bounds: as God’s goodness is infinite, so we cannot trust in his word too much, if we embrace it in true faith. But the Prophet says, that hypocrites leaned on Jehovah, because they flattered themselves with that naked and empty distinction, that God had adopted them as his people. Hence the word, leaning or recumbing, is not to be applied to the real trust of the heart, but, on the contrary, to the presumption of men, who pretend the name of God, and so give way to their own will, that they shake off not only all fear of God, but also thought and reason. When, therefore, so great and so supine thoughtlessness occupies the minds of men, stupidity presently follows: and yet it is not without reason that Micah employs this expression, for hypocrites persuade themselves that all things will be well with them, as they think that they have God propitious to them. As then they feel no anxiety while they have the idea that God is altogether at peace with them, the Prophet declares, by way of irony, that they relied on Jehovah; as though he had said, that they made the name of God their support: but yet the Prophet speaks in words contrary to their obvious meaning, (καταχρηστικῶς loquitur — speaks catachrestically;) for it is certain that no one relies on Jehovah except he is humbled in himself. It is penitence that leads us to God; for it is when we are cast down that we recumb on him; but he who is inflated with self-confidence flies in the air, and has nothing solid in him. And our Prophet, as I have said, intended indirectly to condemn the false security in which hypocrites sleep, while they think it enough that the Lord had once testified that they would be his people; but the condition is by them disregarded.
He now recites their words, Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? Come will not evil upon us This question is a proof of a haughty self-confidence; for they ask as of a thing indubitable, and it is an emphatic mode of speaking, by which they meant to say, that Jehovah was among them. He who simply affirms a thing, does not show so much pride as these hypocrites when they set forth this question, “Who shall deny that Jehovah dwells in the midst of us?” God had indeed chosen an habitation among them for himself; but a condition was interposed, and yet they wished that he should be, as it were, tied to the temple, though they considered not what God required from them. They hence declared that Jehovah was in the midst of them; nay, they treated with disdain any one who dared to say a word to the contrary: nor is there a doubt but that they poured forth blasts of contempt on the Prophets. For whenever any one threatened what our Prophet immediately subjoins, such an answer as this was ever ready on their lips, — “What! will God then desert us and deny himself? Has he in vain commanded the temple to be built among us? Has he falsely promised that we should be a priestly kingdom? Dost thou not make God a covenant-breaker, by representing him as approving of the terrors of thy discourse? But he cannot deny himself:” We hence see why the Prophet had thus spoken; it was to show that hypocrites boasted so to speaks of their proud confidence, because they thought that God could not be separated from them.
Now this passage teaches us how preposterous it is thus to abuse the name of God. There is indeed a reason why the Lord calls us to himself, for without him we are miserable; he also promises to be propitious to us, though, in many respects, we are guilty before him: he yet, at the same time, calls us to repentance. Whosoever, then, indulges himself and continues sunk in his vices, he is greatly deceived, if he applies to himself the promises of God; for, as it has been said, the one cannot be separated from the other. 113 But when God is propitious to them, they rightly conclude, that all things will be well with them, for we know that the paternal favor of God is a fountain of all felicity. But in this there was a vicious reasoning, — that they promised to themselves the favor of God through a false imagination of the flesh, and not through his word. Thus we see that there is ever in hypocrisy some imitation of piety: but there is a sophistry (paralogismus) either in the principle itself or in the argument.
Now follows a threatening, Therefore, on your account, Zion as a field shall be plowed, and Jerusalem a heap shall be, and the mount of the house as the high places of a forest We here see how intolerable to God hypocrites are; for it was no ordinary proof of a dreadful vengeance, that the Lord should expose to reproach the holy city, and mount Zion, and his own temple. This revenge, then, being so severe, shows that to God there is nothing less tolerable than that false confidence with which hypocrites swell, for it brings dishonor on God himself; for they could not boast that they were God’s people without aspersing him with many reproaches. What then is the meaning of this, “God is in the midst of us,” except that they thereby declared that they were the representatives (vicarios) of God, that the kingdom was sacred and also the priesthood? Since then they boasted that they did not presumptuously claim either the priesthood or the regal power, but that they were divinely appointed, we hence see that their profanation of God’s name was most shameful. It is then no wonder that God was so exceedingly displeased with them: and hence the Prophet says, For you shall Zion as a field be plowed; as though he said, “This is like something monstrous, that the temple should be subverted, that the holy mount and the whole city should be entirely demolished, and that nothing should remain but a horrible desolation, — who can believe all this? It shall however, take place, and it shall take place on your account; you will have to bear the blame of this so monstrous a change.” For it was as though God had thrown heaven and earth into confusion; inasmuch as he himself was the founder of the temple; and we know with what high encomiums the place was honored. Since then the temple was built, as it were, by the hand of God, how could it be otherwise, but that, when destroyed, the waste and desolate place should be regarded as a memorable proof of vengeance? There is therefore no doubt but that Micah intended to mark out the atrocity of their guilt, when he says, For you shall Zion as a field be plowed, Jerusalem shall become a heap of stones; that is, it shall be so desolated, that no vestige of a city, well formed and regularly built, shall remain.
And the mount of the house, etc. He again mentions Zion, and not without reason: for the Jews thought that they were protected by the city Jerusalem; the whole country rested under its shadow, because it was the holy habitation of God. And again, the city itself depended on the temple, and it was supposed, that it was safe under this protection, and that it could hardly be demolished without overthrowing the throne of God himself: for as God dwelt between the cherubim, it was regarded by the people as a fortress incapable of being assailed. As then the holiness of the mount deceived them, it was necessary to repeat what was then almost incredible, at least difficult of being believed. He therefore adds, The mount of the house shall be as the high places of a forest; that is, trees shall grow there.
Why does he again declare what had been before expressed with sufficient clearness? Because it was not only a thing difficult to be believed, but also wholly inconsistent with reason, when what the Lord had said was considered, and that overlooked which hypocrites ever forget. God had indeed made a covenant with the people; but hypocrites wished to have God, as it were, bound to them, and, at the same time, to remain themselves free, yea, to have a full liberty to lead a wicked life. Since then the Jews were fixed in this false opinion, — that God could not be disunited from his people, the Prophet confirms the same truth, that the mount of the house would be as the high places of a forest. And, by way of concession, he calls it the mount of the house, that is, of the temple; as though he said, “Though God had chosen to himself a habitation, in which to dwell, yet this favor shall not keep the temple from being deserted and laid waste; for it has been profaned by your wickedness.”
Let us now see at what time Micah delivered this prophecy. This we learn from Jer 26; for when Jeremiah prophesied against the temple, he was immediately seized and cast into prison; a tumultuous council was held, and he was well nigh being brought forth unto execution. All the princes condemned him; and when now he had no hope of deliverance, he wished, not so much to plead his own cause, as to denounce a threatening on them, that they might know that they could effect no good by condemning an innocent man. “Micah, the Morasthite,” he said, “prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, and said thus, ‘Zion as a field shall be plowed, Jerusalem shall be a heap, and the mount of the house as the high placers of a forest.’” Did the king and the people, he said, consult together to kill him? Nay, but the king turned, and so God repented; that is, the Lord deferred his vengeance; for king Hezekiah humbly deprecated the punishment which had been denounced. We now then know with certainty the time.
But it was strange that under such a holy king so many and so shameful corruptions prevailed, for he no doubt tried all he could to exercise authority over the people, and by his own example taught the judges faithfully and uprightly to discharge their office; but he was not able, with all his efforts, to prevent the Priests, and the Judges, and the Prophets, from being mercenaries. We hence learn how sedulously pious magistrates ought to labor, lest the state of the Church should degenerate; for however vigilant they may be, they can yet hardly, even with the greatest care, keep things (as mankind are so full of vices) from becoming very soon worse. This is one thing. And now the circumstance of the time ought to be noticed for another purpose: Micah hesitated not to threaten with such a judgment the temple and the city, though he saw that the king was endued with singular virtues. He might have thought thus with himself, “King Hezekiah labored strenuously in the execution of his high office: now if a reproof so sharp and so severe will reach his ears, he will either despond, or think me to be a man extremely rigid, or, it may be, he will become exasperated against sound doctrine.” The Prophet might have weighed these things in his mind; but, nevertheless, he followed his true course in teaching, and there is no doubt but that his severity pleased the king, for we know that he was oppressed with great cares and anxieties, because he could not, by all his striving, keep within proper bounds his counselors, the priests and the prophets. He therefore wished to have God’s servants as his helpers. And this is what pious magistrates always desire, that their toils may in some measure be alleviated by the aid of the ministers of the word; for when the ministers of the word only teach in a cold manner, and are not intent on reproving vices, the severity of the magistrates will be hated by the people. “Why, see, the ministers say nothing, and we hence conclude that they do not perceive so great evils; and yet the magistrates with the drawn sword inflict new punishments daily.” When, therefore, teachers are thus silent, a greater odium no doubt is incurred by the magistrates: it is hence, as I have said, a desirable thing for them, that the free reproofs of teachers should be added to the punishments and judgments of the law.
We further see how calm and meek was the spirit of the king, that he could bear the great severity of the Prophet: Behold, he said, on your accounts etc.: “Thou oughtest at least to have excepted” me.” For the king was not himself guilty. Why then did he connect him with the rest? Because the whole body was infected with contagion, and he spoke generally; and the good king did not retort nor even murmur, but, as we have recited from Jeremiah, he humbly deprecated the wrath of God, as though a part of the guilt belonged to him. Now follows —
קצינים, from קצה, to cut off to sever, to separate: they were those who were separated from others, as leaders of an army, rendered in our version, captains, rulers, Jos 10:24; Isa 22:3. — Ed.
Some, such as Marckius, and also Grotius, take another view of this sentence: Is it not for you, who judge and punish others, to know the judgment of God, which awaits you? But most agree in the view given here. — Ed.
Their skin, literally. The antecedent (which is not unusual in Hebrew) is mentioned afterwards: it is the word, people, which follows.
The idea of sheep or flock, to which the people are compared in the last chapter, is still retained here. Adam Clarke quotes from Suetonius a striking answer of Tiberius, the Emperor, to some governors, who solicited him to increase the taxes, — “It is the property of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them” — Boni pastoris esse tondere pectus, non deglubere
To “hate good, and to love evil,” in the former sentence, betokens a character dreadful in the extreme; for good here, טוב means kindness, benevolence, the doing of good to others; this they hated: and evil, רעה, means wrong, mischief, injury, the doing of harm, of wrong, and of injustice to others; and this they loved. How transmuted they were in their spirit into that of very fiends! “They hate to do good, hate to have any good done, and hate those that are good; and they love the evil, delight in mischief, and in those that do mischief.” These words of Henry, no doubt, convey a correct view of the sentence. It might therefore be rendered, “Haters of benevolence, and lovers of mischief.” — Ed.
“Under the similitude of butchers the Prophet sets forth their savage cruelty: 1. They take off the skin; 2. They eat the flesh; 3. They break the bones, to pick out the marrow. The insatiable avarice of the princes is described.” — Cocceius.
There is nothing in the context to which אז, then, or at that time, can be referred, except to the two concluding verses of the last chapter, which ought not to have been separated from this. And this connection confirms the view, that these two verses contain not a promise but a threatening. The same time is meant by אז as by בעת ההיא in the following part of the verse; for it is usual with the Prophets to express generally or indefinitely at first what they afterwards more distinctly specify. — Ed.
Literally, “As they have rendered evil their deeds,” or, to coin a corresponding word, As they have evilized their deeds. To render their deeds evil was to render them afflictive, injurious, and oppressive to others, according to what has been previously described. Hence the following version of Henderson is incorrect, —
Because they have corrupted their doings.
“Who deceive my people,” is better than, “Who cause my people to err,” according to Newcome and Henderson; for what is referred to is the “peace,” promised by the false prophets. Marckius’ version is, “Who seduce my people,” and he makes this remark, —that the people had three seducers, — the devil, their own deceitful hearts, and the false prophets. — Ed.
The expression, “to bite with the teeth,” is singular, when understood to signify voraciousness, as evidently it does here; for the corresponding words in the next distich, “who put not into their mouth,” seem to require this meaning. Almost all critics, except some of the Greek Fathers, who followed the Septuagint, agree in attaching to this import to the sentence. The paraphrase of Rabbi Jonathan is, “To him who offers to them a feast of meat, they prophesy peace.” Jerome’s view is the same. Dathias gives this paraphrase, dum illis datur quod edunt — “While is given them something to eat.”
Henry’s comment is much to the purpose, — “They will flatter and compliment those who will feed them with good bits, will give them something to eat; but as for those who put not into their mouths, who are not continually cramming them, they look upon them as their enemies; to them they do not cry, Peace, but even prepare war against them; against them they denounce the judgments of God: they preach either comfort or terror to men, not according as they are to God, but as they are to them; as the crafty priests of the Church of Rome, in some places, make their image either to smile or to frown upon the offerer, according as his offering is.” — Ed.
The original may be thus rendered,—
But whosoever will not put into their mouth,
Even against him they will proclaim war.
That this is the meaning is evident from the two last lines of the verse. It is a kind of parallelism, in which the four lines contain the same idea or ideas, announced in the two first lines in one form, and in the two last another, with more clearness, and sometimes with something additional. The preposition מ has sometimes the meaning of rather than, but here, instead of. I would render the verse thus, —
Therefore night shall be to you instead of vision,
And darkness shall be to you instead of divination:
Yea, set shall the sun upon the Prophets,
And darken upon them shall the day.
Piscator gives the sense when he says, Visio vestra mutabitur in noctem — “Your vision shall be changed into night.” — Ed.
רסמים, μαντεις, Sept. fatidici, sootsayers, diviners. It is used generally in a bad sense, while חזים, seers is commonly used in a good sense; but here both words denote pretenders, the false prophets. — Ed.
The version of Newcome is, “They shall cover the mouth;” that is, as he adds in a note, “with part of the long eastern vesture. This action was a sign of being put to silence, of disgrace and dejection, Le 13:45; Ezek. 24:17, 22.” There is no reason to render mouth, beard, as some have done. — Ed.
Jerome renders “the Spirit of Jehovah” in the genitive case, which in meaning amounts to the same thing; but Newcome puts the words in apposition with “power.” The את before Spirit seems to betoken a difference in its connection with “filled.” It appears to be here a preposition, ab, by. The “power,” כח, is the δυναμις of the New Testament; and “judgment,” משפט, is discernment or discrimination; and “might” or courage, גבורה, is “an intrepid firmness of mind,” as Marckius observes, “against all opposing evils and hindrances.” — Ed.
Marckius renders it the same, verè, and says, that it is of the same import with Amen, Amen, so often used by our Savior. Truly is adopted by Newcome and Henderson. — Ed.
Scelus, פשע; it means defection, apostacy, rebellion, a willful transgression, and a proud contempt of divine law and institutions; it is ανομια — lawlessness, as it is sometimes rendered by the Septuagint. But “sin,” חטאה, is a deviation from what is right through delusion, mistaken views, error, ignorance, or infirmity. The first included idolatry and gross acts of imposture and oppression; the second, the superstition of the people, and their common vices. Muis, as quoted by Leigh, says that פשע is “defection from God or rebellion, and prevarication towards God,” — defectio à Deo seu rebellio, ac praevaricatio in Deum And he quotes also Mollerius as describing חטאה as including not only sins of error, ignorance, and infirmity, but also those of omission, — Ea potissimum peccata significat, quae vel errore, vel per ignorantiam, vel per infirmitatem carnis, committuntur; item peccata omissionis — Ed.
It is בנה, in the singular number, with no variation as to number in the MSS. The Septuagint gives it a plural participle, οἱοικοδομουντες. It may be rendered as a participial noun, “The building of Zion is by blood,” etc., for ה, when radical, does not always turn into ת, when in regimine. — Ed.
It often happens, as in the present case, that the relative ה, in Hebrew, prefixed to a participle, has after it a verb in the future connected by ו, and in person different from that to which the relative refers. The relative here refers to a noun in the second, and the verb connected with the participle is in the third person. It is an idiom, of which there are frequent instances. We find the same to be the case with the relative אשר, in the third verse. It refers to the chiefs, who are addressed, and must therefore be viewed as in the second person, and all the verbs which follow it are in the third. Some render the participle, “who hate,” which is in Hiphil, in a causative sense. See Amos 5:7, Amos 6:12. The distich may then be rendered thus, —
Who render judgment hateful, (or, abominable,)
And distort everything that is right, or more literally,
And make crooked everything that is straight.
“They pretend,” says Henry, “in justification of their extortion and oppressions, that they build up Zion and Jerusalem; they add new streets and squares to the holy cities and adorn them; they establish and advance the public interests both in church and state, and think therein they do God and Israel good service; but it is with blood and with iniquity, and therefore it cannot prosper; nor will their intentions of good to the city of God justify their contradictions to the law of God.” A flaming zeal for a good cause can never consecrate extortion, injustice, and murder.
It may be asked, What is the difference between Zion and Jerusalem? Zion was the church, Jerusalem was the state; or it may be, that, according to the usual style of the Prophets, the more limited idea is given first, and the more extensive one is added to it. — Ed.
“As the Masoretes, in their division of the Bible, reckon the Twelve Minor Prophets but as one Book, they mark this verse (twelfth of chapter 3) the middle verse of these Prophets.” — Adam Clarke.
Calvin has mercede in both instances. The first in Hebrew is שחד, a gift, a bribe; this was given to the princes: and the second is מחיר, a commutation, barter, price, something in exchange; this was given to the priests: and then what was given to the prophets is literally silver, כסף; but it often means money in general. The Septuagint renders the first, μετα δωρων — for gifts; the second, μετα μισθου — for reward; and the last, μετα αργυριου — for money. The princes decided matters according to the bribes given them, the priests, not satisfied with the regular allowance given them according to the law, did not teach except they were paid, had something in exchange, a reward for their trouble. And while the true prophets, who were extraordinary teachers sent by God, delivered their messages freely, without any pay, as they received them; the false prophets, who pretended that they came from God, required money for performing their office; see Jer 6:13. And notwithstanding all their gains, all things were done badly. Money was extracted for doing wrong. The princes determined cases unjustly, the priests taught erroneous doctrine, and the prophets prophesied falsely: and yet for all these evils, money was required! How ignorant and infatuated the people must have been!
Cocceius enumerated six things as chargeable on the persons mentioned in this verse: 1. Avarice—the seeking of wealth instead of doing God’s will; 2. A mercenary disposition, influenced by gain and not by sense of duty; 3. The exacting of unlawful reward; 4. The doing, even for reward, of what was evil and wicked; 5. A false pretense of trust in God; and, 6. The tying of God’s favor to external privileges. — Ed.
In unison with the foregoing are these striking remarks of Henry,—”Many are rocked sleep in a fatal security by their church privileges, as if these would protect them in sin and shelter them from punishment, which are really, and will be, the greatest aggravations both of their sin and of their punishment. If men’s having the Lord among them will not restrain them from doing evil, it can never secure them from suffering evil for so doing; and it is very absurd for sinners to think that their impudence will be their impunity.” — Ed.
That is, the promise from repentance. — Ed.