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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to Micah
"Micah," or "Micaiah," this Morasthite, was so called, probably, in order to distinguish him from his great predecessor, Micaiah, son of Imlah, in the reign of Ahab. His name was spoken in its fuller form, by the elders of the land whose words Jeremiah has preserved. And in that fuller form his name is known, where the Greek and Latin translations of the Scriptures are used. By the Syrians, and by the Jews he is still called "Micah," as by us. The fullest and original form is "Micaiahu," "who is like the Lord?" In this fullest form, it is the name of one of the Levites sent by Jehoshaphat to teach the people 2 Chronicles 17:7, as also of the mother of King Asa 2 Chronicles 13:2 (the same name serving sometimes both for men and women). Then, according to the habit of abridging names, in all countries, and especially those of which the proper name of the Lord is a part, it is diversely abridged into "Micaihu," "Micahu" , whence Micah is readily formed, on the same rule as "Micaiah" itself from "Micaiahu." The forms are all found indifferently. The idolatrous Levite in the time of the Judges , are both called in the same chapter "Micaihu" and "Micah"; the father of one of Josiah's officers is called "Micaiah" in the Book of Kings 2 Kings 22:12, and "Micah" in the Book of Chronicles 2 Chronicles 34:20.
The prophet's name, like those of Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, was significant. We know that Joshua's name was changed for a set purpose Numbers 13:16. The rest seem to have been given in God's Providence, or taken by the prophets, in order to enunciate truths concerning God, opposed to the idolatries or self-dependence of the people. But the name of "Micah" or "Micaiah," (as "the elders of the land" Jeremiah 26:17-18 called him on a solemn occasion, some 120 years afterward) contained more than teaching. It was cast into the form of a challenge. "Who is like the Lord?" The form of words had been impressed upon Israel by the song of Moses after the deliverance at the Red Sea Exodus 15:11. In the days of Elijah and that first Micaiah, the strife between God and man, the true prophet and the false prophet, had been ended at the battle of Ramoth-Gilead; it ceased for a time, in the reigns of Jehu and his successors, because, in consequence of his partial obedience, God, by Elisha and Jonah, promised them good: it was again resumed, as the promise to Jehu was expiring, and God's prophets had anew to proclaim a message of woe. "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" 1 Kings 21:20, and "I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" 1 Kings 22:8, 1 Kings 22:18, Ahab's words as to Elijah and Micaiah, were the types of the subsequent contradiction of the false prophets to Hosea and Amos, which closed only with the destruction of Samaria. Now, in the time of the later Micaiah, were the first dawnings of the same strife in Judah, which hastened and brought about the destruction of Jerusalem under Zedekiah, which re-appeared after the Captivity Nehemiah 6:14, and was the immediate cause of the second destruction under the Romans. Micah, as he dwells on the meaning of names generally, so, doubtless, it is in allusion to his own name, that, at the close of his prophecy, he ushers in his announcement of God's incomparable mercy with the words Micah 7:18, "Who is a God like unto Thee?" Before him, whatever disobedience there was to God's law in Judah, there was no systematic, organized, opposition to His prophets.
There is no token of it in Joel. From the times of Micah it is never missing. We find it in each prophet (however brief the remains of some are), who prophesied directly to Judah, not in Isaiah only, but in Habakkuk Hab 1:5; Habakkuk 2:1 and Zephaniah ZEphesians 1:12. It deepened, as it hastened toward its decision. The nearer God's judgments were at hand, the more obstinately the false prophets denied that they would come. The system of false prophecy, which rose to its height in the time of Jeremiah, which met and thwarted him at every step (see Jeremiah 5:13, Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 6:13-17; Jeremiah 8:10-12; Jeremiah 14:13-16; Jeremiah 20:1-6; Jeremiah 23:9 ff; Jeremiah 26:7-8, Jeremiah 26:11; Jeremiah 27:14-18; 28; Jeremiah 29:8-9, Jeremiah 29:21-32), and deceived those who wished to be deceived, was dawning in the time of Micah. False prophecy arose in Judah from the selfsame cause whence it had arisen in Israel, because Judah's deepening corruption drew down the prophecies of God's displeasure, which it was popular to disbelieve. False prophecy was a gainful occupation. The false prophets had men's wishes on their side. They had the people with them. "My people love to have it so" Jeremiah 5:31, said God. They forbade Micah to prophesy Micah 2:6; prophesied peace Micah 3:5, when God foretold evil; prophesied for gain Micah 3:11, and proclaimed war in the Name of God (see the note at Micah 3:5) against those who fed them not.
Micah was called at such a time. His name which he himself explains, was no chance name. To the Hebrews, to whom names were so much more significant, parts of the living language, it recalled the name of his great predecessor - his standing alone against all the prophets of Ahab, his prophecy, his suffering, his evidenced truth. The truth of prophecy was set upon the issue of the battle before Ramoth-Gilead. In the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, as well as of Ahab, the 400 prophets of Ashtaroth had promised to Ahab the prize he longed for. One solitary, discriminating voice was heard amid that clamorous multitude, forewarning Ahab that he would perish, his people would be scattered. On the one side, was that loud triumphant chorus of "all the prophets, Go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand" 1 Kings 22:12. On the other, one solemn voice, exhibiting before them that sad spectacle which the morrow's sun should witness, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, these have no master, let them return every man to his house in peace" 1 Kings 22:17.
Micaiah was struck, imprisoned, and, apparently, ended his ministry, appealing from that small audience of the armies of Israel and Judah to the whole world, which has ever since looked back upon that strife with interest and awe; "Hear ye peoples, each one of them 1 Kings 22:28. God, who guided the archer shooting at a venture 1 Kings 22:34, fulfilled the words which He had put into the prophet's mouth. God's words had found Ahab, although disguised. Jehoshaphat, the imperiled 1 Kings 22:30-33, returned home, to relate the issue. The conflict between God's truth and idol falsehood was doubtless long remembered in Judah. And now when the strife had penetrated into Judah, to be ended some 170 years afterward in the destruction of Jerusalem, another Micaiah arose, his name the old watchword, "Who is like the Lord?" He prefixed to his prophecy that same summons to the whole world to behold the issue of the conflict, which God had once accredited and, in that issue, had given an earnest of the victory of His truth, there thenceforth and forever.
The prophet was born a villager, in Moresheth Gath, "a village" , Jerome says; ("a little village" , in Jerome's own days), "East of Eleutheropolis," where what was " formerly his grave," was "now a church." Since it was his birthplace and his burial-place, it was probably his home also. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, "the elders of the land" Jeremiah 26:17-18 speak of him with this same title, "the Morasthite." He lingers, in his prophecy, among the towns of the maritime plain (the Shephelah) where his birthplace lay. Among the ten places in that neighborhood Micah 1:11-15, which he selects for warning and for example of the universal captivity, is his native village, "the home he loved." But the chief scene of his ministry was Jerusalem. He names it in the beginning of his prophecy, as the place where the idolatries, and, with the idolatries, all the other sins of Judah were concentrated.
The two capitals, Samaria and Jerusalem, were the chief objects of the word of God to him, because the corruption of each kingdom streamed forth from them. The sins which he rebukes are chiefly those of the capital. Extreme oppression Micah 3:2-3; Micah 2:2, violence among the rich Micah 6:12, bribing among judges, priests, prophets (Micah 3:11; judges and priests, Micah 7:3); building up the capital even by cost of life, or actual bloodshed (Micah 3:10; bloodshed also, Micah 7:2); spoilation Micah 2:8; expulsion of the powerless, women and children from their homes Micah 2:9; covetousness Micah 2:2; cheating in dealings Micah 6:10-11; pride Micah 2:3. These, of course, may be manifoldly repeated in lesser places of resort and of judgment. But it is "Zion and Jerusalem" which are so built up with blood (Micah 3:10; bloodshed also, Micah 7:2); Zion and Jerusalem, which are, on that ground, to be "plowed as a field" Micah 3:12; it is "the city" to which "the Lord's voice crieth" Micah 6:9; whose "rich men are full of violence" Micah 6:12; it is the "daughter of Zion" Micah 4:10, which is to "go forth out of the city and go to Babylon." Especially, they are the heads and princes of the people Micah 3:1, Micah 3:9, Micah 3:11; Micah 6:12; Micah 7:3, whom he upbraids for perversion of justice and for oppression. Even the good kings of Judah seem to have been powerless to restrain the general corruption.
Micah, according to the title which he prefixed to his prophecy, was called to his prophetic function somewhat later than Isaiah. His ministry began later, and ended earlier. For Uzziah, in whose reign Isaiah began to prophesy, was dead before Micah was called to his office; and Micah probably was called away early in the reign of Hezekiah, whereas some of the chief public acts of Isaiah's ministry fell in the 17th and 18th years of the reign of Hezekiah. Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, had doubtless been withdrawn to their rest. Hosea alone, in "grey-haired might," was still protesting in vain against the deepening corruptions of Israel (to the north).
The contents of Micah's prophecy and his relation to Isaiah agree with the inscription. His prophecy has indications of the times of Jotham, perhaps also of those of Ahaz. We know historically that one signal prophecy, was uttered in the reign of Hezekiah.
It is now accepted by almost everyone that the great prophecy (three verses of which Isaiah prefixed to Isaiah 2) was originally delivered by Micah. But it appears from the context in Isaiah, that Isaiah delivered the prophecy in his second chapter, in the reign of Jotham. Other language of Micah also belongs to that same reign. No one now thinks that Micah adopted that great prophecy from Isaiah. The prophecy, as it stands in Micah, is in close connection with what precedes it. He had said, "the mountain of the house shall be as the high places of the forest" Micah 3:12; he subjoins instantly God's reversal of that sentence, "in the latter days." "And in the last days it shall be that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established on the top of the mountains, and peoples shall flow unto it" Micah 4:1. He had said, "Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps;" he adds immediately, in reversal of this, "the law shall go forth frown Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" Micah 4:2. The two sentences are joined as closely as they can be; "Zion, shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house shall become high places of a forest; and it shall be, in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be (abidingly) established on the top of the mountains." Every reader would understand, that the elevation intended, was spiritual, not physical. They could not fail to understand the metaphor; or imagine that the Mount Zion, on part of which, (Mount Moriah,) "the house of the Lord" stood, should be physically placed on other hills. But the contrast is marked. The premise is the sequel of the woe; the abiding condition is the reversal of the sentence of its desolation. Even the words allude, the one to the other.
In Isaiah, there is no such connection. After the first chapter and its summary of rebuke, warning, threatening, and final weal or woe resting on each class, Isaiah begins his prophecy anew with a fresh title; "The word that Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem" Isaiah 2:1; and to this he prefixes three verses from Micah's prophecy. He separates it in a marked way from the preceding summary, and yet connects it with some other prophecy by the word, "And" Isaiah 2:2. He himself marks that it is not in its original place here. So then, in the prophet Micah, the close connection with the foregoing marks that it is in its original place; Isaiah marked purposely that in his prophecy it is not.
But Isaiah's prophecy belongs to a time of prosperity; such as Judah had not, after the reign of Jotham. It was a time of great war-like strength, diffused through the whole land. The land was full Isaiah 2:7, Isaiah 2:11, without end, of gold, silver, chariots, horses, of lofty looks and haughtiness. The images which follow Isaiah 2:12-21 are shadows of the Day of Judgment, and extend beyond Judah; but the sins rebuked are the sins of strength and might, self-confidence, oppression, manifold female luxury and bravery Isaiah 3:16, Isaiah 3:23. Isaiah prophesies that God would take away their strength Isaiah 3:1-3. They still had it then. At that time, Judah did not trust in God or in foreign alliances, but only in themselves. Yet, from the time of Ahaz, trust in foreign help infected them to the end. Even Hezekiah, when he received the messengers of Merodach-baladan Isaiah 39:1-8, fell into the snare; and Josiah probably lost his life as a vassal of Assyria 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:20-22. This union of inherent strength and unconcernedness about foreign aid is an adequate test of days prior to Ahaz.
But since Isaiah prefixed to a prophecy in the days of Jotham this great prophecy of Micah, then Micah's prophecy must have been already current. To those same days of strength it belongs, that Micah could prophesy as a gift, the cutting off Micah 5:10-11, Micah 5:14 of "horses and chariots," the destruction "of cities" and "strong towers," all, in which Judah trusted instead of God. The prophecy is a counterpart of Isaiah's. Isaiah prophesied a day of Judgment, in which all these things would be removed; Micah foretold that their removal would be a mercy to those who trust in Christ.
On the other hand, the utter dislocation of society, the bursting of all the most sacred bands which bind man to man together, described in his last chapter Isaiah 7:5-6, perhaps belong most to the miserable decay in the reign of Ahaz. The idolatry spoken of also belongs probably to the time of Ahaz. In Jotham's time 2 Kings 15:35, "the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places;" yet, under a king so highly praised 2 Kings 15:34; 2 Chronicles 27:2, 2 Chronicles 27:6, these are not likely to have been in Jerusalem. But Micah, in the very head of his prophecy, speaks of Jerusalem Micah 1:5 as the center of the idolatries of Judah. The allusion also to child-sacrifices belongs to the time of Ahaz, who sacrificed sons of his own 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3, and whose sacrifice others probably imitated. The mention of the special idolatry of the time, "the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab" Micah 6:16, belong to the same reign, it being recorded of Ahaz especially, "he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and made also molten images for Baalim" 2 Chronicles 28:2; the special sin of the house of Ahab. That charactor too which he describes, that, amid all that idolatry, practical irreligion, and wickedness, they "leant upon the Lord, and said, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us" Micah 3:11; Micah 6:6; was just the character of Ahaz. Not until the end of his reign was he so embittered by God's chastisements, that he closed His temple 2 Chronicles 28:22-24.
Up to that time, even after he had copied the Brazen Altar at Damascus, he still kept up a divided allegiance to God. Urijah, the high Priest, at the king's command, offered the sacrifices for the king and the people, while Ahaz used "the brazen altar, to enquire by" 2 Kings 16:15. This was just the half-service which God by Micah rejects. It is the old history of man's half-service, faith without love, which provides that what it believes but loves not should be done for it, and itself enacts what it prefers. Urijah was to offer the lawful sacrifices for the king and the people; Ahaz was to obtain knowledge of the future, such as he wished in his own way, a lying future, by lying acts.
Micah renewed under Hezekiah the prophecy of the utter destruction of Jerusalem, which he had pronounced under Jotham. The prophets did not heed repeating themselves. Eloquent as they were, they are the more eloquent because eloquence was not their object. Even our Lord Jesus, with divine wisdom, and the more, probably, because He had divine wisdom, repeated in His teaching the same words. Those words sank the deeper, because they were repeated so often. So Micah repeated doubtless oftentimes those words, which he first uttered in the days of Jotham; "Zion shall be plowed like a field and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest." Often, perhaps during those 30 years or so, he repeated them in vain. At the last, they brought about a great repentance, and delayed, it may be for 136 years, the destruction which he was constrained to foretell. Early in the days of Jehoiakim, about 120 years afterward, in the public assembly when Jeremiah was on trial for his life, "the elder's of the land said explicitly, that the great conversion at the beginning of the reign of Hezekiah, nay, of that king himself, was wrought by the teaching of Micah." "Then rose up, says Jeremiah, certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house, as the high places of the forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah, and all Judah, put him at all to death? Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them?" Jeremiah 26:17-19.
It may have been that single prophecy which Micah so delivered; some have thought that it was his whole book. Jeremiah, at God's command, at one time uttered single prophecies; at another, the summary of all his prophecies. This only is certain, that the prophecy, whether these words alone or the book containing them, was delivered to all Judah, and that God moved the people through them to repentance.
The words, as they occur in Jeremiah, are the same, and in the same order, as they stand in Micah. Only in Jeremiah the common plural termination is substituted for the rarer and poetic form used by Micah. The elders, then, who quoted them, probably knew them, not from tradition, but from the written book of the prophet Micah. But those elders speak of Micah, as exercising his prophetic function in the days of Hezekiah. They do not say, "he prophesied," which might have been a single act; but "he was prophesying,"נבא היה hâyâh nâbâ', a form of speaking which is only used of an abiding, habitual, action. They say also, "he was habitually prophesying, and he said," i. e., as we should say, "in the course of his prophesying in the days of Hezekiah, he said." Still it was "to all the people of Judah" that he said it. The elders say so, and lay stress upon it by repeating it. "Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death?" It must have been then on some of the great festivals, when "all Judah" was gathered together, that Micah so spoke to them.
Probably, shortly afterward, in those first years of Hezekiah, Micah's function on earth closed. For, at the outset and in the summary of his prophecy, not incidentally, he speaks of the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the 4th year of Hezekiah, as still to come; and however practical or partial idolatry continued, such idolatry as he throughout describes, did not exist after the reformation by Hezekiah. This conversion, then, of the king and of some considerable part of Judah was probably the closing harvest of his life, after a long seed-time of tears. So God allowed His servant Micah to "depart in peace." The reformation itself, at least in its fullness, took place after the kingdom of Samaria had come to an end, since Hezekiah's messengers could, unhindered, invite all Israel to join in his great Passover. Probably, then, Micah 54ed to see the first dawnings only of the first reformation which God wrought by his words.
At the commencement, then, of Hezekiah's reign he collected the substance of what God had taught by him, re-casting it, so to speak, and retaining of his spoken prophecy so much as God willed to remain for us. As it stands, it belongs to that early time of Hezekiah's reign, in which the sins of Ahaz still lived on. Corruption of manners had been hereditary. In Jotham's reign too, it is said expressly, in contrast with himself, "the people were still doing corruptly" 2 Chronicles 27:2. Idolatry had, under Ahaz, received a fanatic impulse from the king, who, at last, set himself to close the worship of God 2 Chronicles 28:22-25; 2 Chronicles 29:7. The strength of Jotham's reign was gone; the yearning for its restoration led to the wrong and destructive policy, against which Isaiah had to contend. Of this Micah says, such should not be the strength of the future kingdom of God. Idolatry and oppression lived on; against these, the inheritance of those former reigns, the sole remainder of Jotham's might or Ahaz' policy, the breach of the law of love of God and man, Micah concentrated his written prophecy.
This book also has remarkable symmetry. Each of its three divisions is a whole, beginning with upbraiding for sin, threatening God's judgments, and ending with promises of future mercy Christ. The two later divisions begin again with that same characteristic, "Hear ye" Micah 3-7, with which Micah had opened the whole. The three divisions are also connected, as well by lesser references of the later to the former, as also by the advance of the prophecy. Judah could not be trusted now with any simple declaration of God's future mercy. They supposed themselves, impenitent as they were and with no purpose of repentance, to be the objects of God's care, and secure from evil. Unmixed promise of good would but foment this irreligious apathy. Hence, on the promises at the end of the first portion, "and their king shall pass before them and the Lord at the head of them" Micah 2:12, he turns abruptly, "And I said, Hear, I pray you, Is it not for you to know judgement?" Micah 3:1. The promise had been to "Jacob and the remnant of Israel" Micah 2:12. He renews his summons to the "heads of Jacob" Micah 3:1 and the "princes of the house of Israel." In like way, the last section, opening with that wonderful pleading of God with His people, follows upon that unbroken declaration of God's mercies, which itself issues out of the promised Birth at Bethlehem.
There is also a sort of progress in the promises of the three parts . In the first, it is of deliverance generally, in language taken from that first deliverance from Egypt. The second is objective, the Birth of the Redeemer, the conversion of the Gentiles, the restoration of the Jews, the establishment and nature of His kingdom. The third is mainly subjective man's repentance, waiting upon God, and God's forgiveness of his sins.
Throughout, the metropolis is chiefly addressed, as the main seat of present evil and as the center of the future blessings; where the reign of the long-promised Ruler should be Micah 4:2, Micah 4:7-8; whence the revelation of God should go forth to the heathen Micah 4:1-2; whither the scattered and dispersed people should be gathered Micah 4:6-7; Micah 7:11-12.
Throughout the prophecy also, Micah upbraids the same class of sins, wrong dealing of man to man, oppression of the poor by the rich. Throughout, their future captivity and dispersion are either predicted , or assumed as the basis of the prediction of good Micah 2:12-13; Micah 4:6-7, Micah 4:10; Micah 7:11-12, Micah 7:15. Throughout, we see the contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. Beside that great prediction, which Isaiah inserted verbally from Micah, we see them, as it were, side by side, in that city of God's visitation and of His mercy, prophesying the same respite, the same place of captivity and deliverance from it, the same ulterior mercies in Christ. : "The more to establish the faith, God willed that Isaiah and Micah should speak together, as with one mouth, and use such agreement as might the more convict all rebels."
Assyria was then the monarchy of the world; yet both prophets promise deliverance from it Isaiah 10:24-34; Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 30:31; Isaiah 31:8-9; Isaiah 37:6-7, Isaiah 37:21-35; Micah 5:5-6; both foretell the captivity in the then subordinate Babylon Isaiah 39:6; Micah 4:10; both, the deliverance from it Isaiah 48:20; Micah 4:10. Both speak in the like way of the gathering together of God's people from lands (Isaiah 11:11 following; Micah 7:12), to some of which they were not yet dispersed. Isaiah prophesied the Virgin-Birth of Immanuel Isaiah 7:14; Micah, the Birth at Bethlehem of Him "Whose goings fourth have been of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2 English (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew)). Both speak in the like way of the reverence for the Gentiles thereafter for her , by reason of the presence of her God. Even, in outward manner, Micah, representing himself, as one who "went mourning and wailing, stripped and naked" (Micah 1:8, see note), is a sort of forerunner of the symbolic acts of Isaiah (Isaiah 20:2-3).
Micah had this also common with Isaiah, that he has a predominance of comfort. He is brief in upbraiding Micah 1:5; Micah 2:1-2, Micah 2:9-11, indignant in casting back the pleas of the false prophets Micah 2:7, Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5-7, concise in his threatenings of woe Micah 2:3, Micah 2:10; Micah 3:4, Micah 3:12; Micah 6:13-16; Micah 7:4, Micah 7:13, save where he lingers mournfully over the desolation Micah 1:10-16; Micah 2:4-5, large and flowing in his descriptions of mercy to come Micah 4:1-13; Micah 5:1-15; Micah 7:7-20. He sees and pronounces the coming punishment, as absolutely certain; he does not call to repentance to avert it; he knows that ultimately it will not be averted; he sees it irrespectively of time, and says that it will be. Time is an accident to the link of cause and effect. Sin consummated would be the cause; punishment, the effect. He spoke to those who knew that God pardoned on repentance, who had lately had before them that marvelous instance in Nineveh. He dashes to the ground their false security, by reason of their descent from Jacob Micah 2:7, of God's Presence among them in the Temple Micah 3:11; the multitude of their offerings amid the multitude of their sins Micah 6:6-7.
He rejects in God's name, their false, outward, impenitent, penitence; and thereby the more implies that He would accept a true repentance. They knew this, and were, for a time, scared into penitence. But in his book, as God willed it to remain, he is rather the prophet of God's dealings, than the direct preacher of repentance to individuals. Yet he is the more an evangelic preacher, in that he speaks of repentance, only as the gift of God. He does not ignore that man must accept the grace of God; but, as Isaiah foretells of the days of the Gospel, "the idols He shall utterly abolish" Isaiah 2:18, so Micah first foretells that God would abolish all wherein man relied out of God, all wherein he prided himself Micah 5:9-10, every form of idolatry Micah 5:11-13, and subsequently describes the future evangelic repentance, submission to, and waiting upon God and His righteousness Micah 7:8-9; and God's free plenary forgiveness Micah 7:18-19.
Micah's rapid unprepared transitions from each of his main themes to another, from upbraiding to threatening, from threatening to mercy and then back again to upbraiding, is probably a part of that same vivid perception of the connection of sin, chastisement, forgiveness, in the will and mind of God. He sees them and speaks of them in the natural sequence in which they were exhibited to him. He connects most commonly the sin with the punishment by the one word, therefore (not Micah 1:6; Micah 6:13; but Micah 1:14; Micah 2:3, Micah 2:5; Micah 3:6, Micah 3:12), because it was an object with him to shew the connection. The mercies to come he subjoins either suddenly without any conjunction Micah 2:12; Micah 4:13, or with the simple and. An English reader loses some of the force of this simplicity by the paraphrase, which, for the simple copula, substitutes the inference or contrast, "therefore, then, but, notwithstanding" , which lie in the subjects themselves.
An English reader might have been puzzled, at first sight, by the monotonous simplicity of the, and, and, joining together the mention of events, which stand, either as the contrast or the consequence of those which precede them. The English version accordingly has consulted for the reader or hearer, by drawing out for him the contrast or consequence which lay beneath the surface. But this gain of clearness involved giving up so far the majestic simplicity of the Prophet, who at times speaks of things as they lay in the Divine Mind, and as, one by one, they would be unfolded to man, without explaining the relation in which they stood to one another. Micah knew that surfferings were, in God's purpose, travail-pains. And so, immediately after the denunciation of punishment, he adds so calmly, "And in the last days it shall be;" "And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah" (Micah 4:1; Micah 5:2 (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew); add Micah 7:7). Or in the midst of his descriptions of mercies, he speaks of the intervening troubles, as the way to them. "Now why dost thou cry aloud? - pangs have taken thee, as a woman in travail - be in pain - thou shalt go even unto Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered" Micah 4:9 : or, "Therefore will He give thee up until the time, ..." (Micah 5:3 (Micah 5:2 in Hebrew)), i. e., because He has these good things in store for thee, "He will give thee up, until the time" comes.
With this great simplicity Micah unites great vividness and energy. Thus in predicting punishment, he uses the form of command, bidding them, as it were, execute it on themselves; "Arise, depart" (Micah 2:10; add Micah 1:11, Micah 1:13; Micah 4:10): as, in the Great Day, our Lord shall say, "Depart, ye cursed." And since God does in us or by us what He commands to be done, he uses the imperative to Zion, alike as to her victories over God's enemies Micah 4:13, or her state of anxious fear (Micah 5:1 (Micah 4:14 in Hebrew)).
To that same vividness belong his rapid changes of person or gender; his sudden questions Micah 1:5; Micah 2:7; Micah 3:1; Micah 4:9; Micah 6:3, Micah 6:6, Micah 6:10-11; Micah 7:18; his unmarked dialogues. The changes of person and gender occur in all Hebrew poetry; all have their emphasis. He addresses the people or place as a whole (feminine), then all the individuals in her (Micah 1:11, twice); or turns away and speaks of it ; or contrariwise, having spoken of the whole in the third person, he turns round and drives the warning home to individuals Micah 2:3. The variations in the last verse of Micah 6 are unexampled for rapidity even in Hebrew.
And yet the flow of his words is smooth and measured. Without departing from the conciseness of Hebrew poetry, his cadence, for the most part, is of the more prolonged sort, as far as any can be called prolonged, when all is so concise. In some 8 verses, out of 104, he is markedly brief, where conciseness corresponds with his subject, as in an abrupt appeal as to their sins (Micah 3:10 ((5 words); Micah 6:11 (6 words)), or an energetic announcement of judgment (Micah 5:8; and Micah 7:13 (7 words)) or of mercy (Micah 7:11 (7 words); Micah 7:15 (5 words)), or in that remarkable prophecy of both (Micah 5:13 Hebrew (5 Words); Micah 5:10 (6 words); Micah 5:11 (7 words)), how God would, in mercy, cut off all grounds of human trust. Else, whereas in Nahum and Habakkuk, not quite 13, and in the eleven last Chapters of Hosea much less than 13, of the verses contain more than 13 words , in Micah above 37 (as, in Joel, nearly 37) exceed that number .
His description of the destruction of the cities or villages of Judah corresponds in vividness to Isaiah's ideal march of Sennacherib Isaiah 10:28-32. The flame of war spreads from place to place; but Micah relieves the sameness of the description of misery by every variety which language allows. He speaks of them in his own person (see Micah 1:8, note; Micah 1:10, note), or to them; he describes the calamity in past Micah 1:9-12 or in future Micah 1:8, or by use of the imperative Micah 1:11, Micah 1:13, Micah 1:16. The verbal allusions are crowded together in a way unexampled elsewhere. Moderns have spoken of them, as not after their taste, or have apologized for them. The mighty prophet, who wrought a repentance greater than his great contemporary Isaiah, knew well what would impress the people to whom he spoke. The Hebrew names had definite meanings. We can well imagine how, as name after name passed from the prophet's mouth, connected with some note of woe, all around awaited anxiously, to know upon what place the fire of the Prophet's word would next fall; and as at last it had fallen upon little and mighty round about Jerusalem, the names of the places would ring in their ears as heralds of the coming woe; they would be like so many monuments, inscribed beforehand with the titles of departed greatness, reminding Jerusalem itself of its portion of the prophecy, that "evil should come from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem" Isaiah 1:12.
Wonderful must have been his lightning-flash of indignation, as, when the false prophet or the people had forbidden God's word to be spoken, he burst upon them, "Thou, called house of Jacob, shortened is God's Spirit?" Micah 2:7. "Or these His doings?" And then follow the plaintive descriptions of the wrongs done to the poor, the peaceful Micah 2:8-9, the mothers of his people and their little ones. And then again the instantaneous dismissal, "Arise and depart." Micah 2:10. But, therewith, wonderful also is his tenderness. Burning as are his denunciations against the oppressions of the rich Micah 2:1-2; Micah 3:1-3, Micah 3:9-11; Micah 6:10-12; Micah 7:2-3, (words less vehement will not pierce hearts of stone) there is an under-current of tenderness. His rebukes evince not indignation only against sin, but a tender sympathy with the sufferers Micah 1:8-9; Micah 2:1-2; Micah 7:5-6. He is afflicted in the afflictions which he has to denounce. He yearns for his people Micah 1:8-10, Micah 1:16; Micah 4:9-10; nay, until our Lord's coming, there is scarcely an expression of such yearning longing: he hungers and thirsts for their good Micah 7:1.
God's individual care of His people, and of each soul in it, had, since David's time Psalm 23:1-6 and even since Jacob Genesis 49:24, been likened to the care of the shepherd for each single sheep. The Psalm of Asaph Psalm 74:1; Psalm 78:52; Psalm 79:13; Psalm 80:1 must have familiarized the people to the image, as relating to themselves as a whole, and David's deep Psalm had united it with God's tender care of His own in, and over, death. Yet the predominance of this image in Micah is a part of the tenderness of the prophet. He adopts it, as expressing, more than any other natural image, the helplessness of the creature, the tender individual care of the Creator. He forestalls our Lord's words, "I am the good shepherd," in his description of the Messiah, gathering "the remnant of Israel together, as the sheep of Bozrah" Micah 2:12; His people are as a flock, "lame and despised" Micah 4:6, whom God would assemble; His royal seat, "the tower of the flock" Micah 4:8; the Ruler of Israel should "stand" unresting, "and feed them" (Micah 5:4. (English 3 Hebrew)); those whom He should employ against the enemies of His people, are shepherds" (Micah 5:5, (Micah 5:4 in Hebrew)), under Him, the true shepherd. He sums up his prayer for his people to God as their Shepherd; "Feed Thy people with Thy rod, the flock of Thine heritage" Micah 7:14.
Directly, he was a Prophet for Judah only. At the beginning of his book, he condemns the idolatries of both capitals, as the central sin of the two kingdoms. The destruction of Samaria he pronounces at once, as future, absolutely certain, abiding Micah 1:6-7. There he leaves her, declares her "wound incurable," and passes immediately to Judah, to whom, he says, that wound should pass, whom that same enemy should reach. Micah 1:9. Thereafter, he mentions incidentally the infection of Israel's sin spreading to Judah Micah 1:13. Elsewhere, after that first sentence on Samaria, the names of Jacob (which he had given to the ten tribes Micah 1:5) and Israel are appropriated to the kingdom of Judah : Judah is mentioned no more, only her capital; even her kings are called "the kings of Israel" Micah 1:14. The ten tribes are only included in the general restoration of the whole . The future remnant of the two tribes, to be restored after the captivity of Babylon, are called by themselves "the remnant of Jacob" (Micah 5:7-8, (Micah 5:8-9 in Hebrew)): the Messiah to be born at Bethlehem is foretold as "the ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:2 (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew)): the ten tribes are called "the remnant of His brethren," who were to "return to the children of Israel" (Micah 5:3 (Micah 5:2 in Hebrew)), i. e., Judah.
This the more illustrates the genuineness of the inscription. A later hand would have been unlikely to have mentioned either Samaria or those earlier kings of Judah. Each part of the title corresponds to something in the prophecy; the name "Micah" is alluded to at its close; his birthplace, "the Morasthite," at its beginning; the indications of those earlier reigns lie there, although not on its surface. The mention of the two capitals, followed by the immediate sentence on Samaria, and then by the fuller expansion of the sins and punishment of Jerusalem, culminating in its sentence Micah 3:12, in Micah, corresponds to the brief mention of the punishment of Judah in Amos the prophet of Israel, and then the fuller expansion of the sins and punishments of Israel. Further, the capitals, as the fountains of idolatry, are the primary object of God's displeasure. They are both specially denounced in the course of the prophecy; their special overthrow is foretold Micah 1:6, Micah 1:9, Micah 1:12; Micah 3:10-12; Micah 4:10. The title corresponds with the contents of the prophecy, yet the objections of modern critics shew that the correspondence does not lie on the surface.
The taunt of the false priest Amaziah to Amos may in itself suggest that; prophets at Jerusalem did prophesy against Samaria. Amaziah, anyhow, thought it natural that they should. Both Isaiah and Micah, while exercising their office at Jerusalem, had regard also to Samaria. Divided as Israel and Judah were, Israel was not yet cut off. Israel and Judah were still, together, the one people of God. The prophets in each had a care for the other.
Micah joins himself on to the men of God before him, as Isaiah at the time, and Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, subsequently, employed words or thoughts of Micah . Micah alludes to the history, the laws, the promises, the threatenings of the Pentateuch; and that in such wise, that it is plain that he had, not traditional laws or traditional history, but the Pentateuch itself before him . Nor were those books before himself only. His book implies not an acquaintance only, but a familiar acquaintance with it on the part of the people. The title, "the land of Nimrod" (Micah 5:6, (Micah 5:5 in Hebrew) from Genesis 10:8-12), "the house of bondage" , for Egypt, the allusions to the miraculous deliverance from Egypt (see the note at Micah 2:13; Micah 6:4; Micah 7:15), the history of Balaam; the whole summary of the mercies of God from the Exodus to Gilgal (see the note at Micah 6:4-5) the faithfulness pledged to Abraham and Jacob (see the note at Micah 7:20), would be unintelligible without the knowledge of the Pentateuch. Even single expressions are taken from the Pentateuch.
Especially, the whole sixth chapter is grounded upon it. Thence is the appeal to inanimate nature to hear the controversy; thence the mercies alleged on God's part; the offerings on man's part to atone to God (except the one dreadful superstition of Ahaz) are from the law; the answer on God's part is almost verbally from the law; the sins upbraided are sins forbidden in the law; the penalties pronounced are also those of the law. There are two allusions also to the history of Joshua (see the note at Micah 2:4; Micah 6:5), to David's elegy over Saul and Jonathan Micah 1:10, and, as before said, to the history of Micaiah son of Imlah in the Book of Kings. Single expressions are also taken from the Psalms , and the Proverbs . In the descriptions of the peace of the kingdom of Christ Micah 4:3; Joel 3:10, he appears purposely to have reversed God's description of the animosity of the nations against God's people. He has also two characteristic expressions of Amos. Perhaps, in the image of the darkness which should come on the false prophets Micah 3:6; Amos 8:9, he applied anew the image of Amos, adding the ideas of spiritual darkness and perplexity to that of calamity.
The light and shadows of the prophetic life fell deeply on the soul of Micah. The captivity of Judah too had been foretold before him. Moses had foretold the end from the beginning, had set before them the captivity and the dispersion, as a punishment which the sins of the people would certainly bring upon them. Hosea presupposed it ; Amos foretold that Jerusalem, like the cities of its heathen enemies, should be burned with fire Micah 2:5. Micah had to declare its lasting desolation Micah 3:12. Even when God wrought repentance through him, he knew that it was but for a time; for he foresaw and foretold that the deliverance would be, not in Jerusalem, but at Babylon Micah 4:10, in captivity. His prophecy sank so deep, that, above a century afterward, just when it was about to have its fulfillment, it was the prophecy which was remembered. But the sufferings of time disappeared in the light of eternal truth. Above seven centuries rolled by, and Micah re-appears as the herald, not now of sorrow but of salvation. Wise men from afar, in the nobility of their simple belief, asked, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" A king, jealous for his temporal empire, gathered all those learned in Holy Scripture, and echoed the question. The answer was given, unhesitatingly, as a well-known truth of God, in the words of Micah. "For thus it is written in the Prophet." Glorious peerage of the two contemporary prophets of Judah. Ere Jesus was born, the Angel announced the birth of the Virgin's Son, "God with us," in the words of Isaiah. When He was born, He was pointed out as the Object of worship to the first converts from the heathen, on the authority of God, through Micah.
1The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
The word of the Lord that came to Micah ... which he saw - No two of the prophets authenticate their prophecy in exactly the same way. They, one and all, have the same simple statement to make, that this which they say is from God, and through them. A later hand, had it added the titles, would have formed all upon one model. The title was an essential part of the prophetic book, as indicating to the people afterward, that it was not written after the event. It was a witness, not to the prophet whose name it bears, but to God. The prophet bare witness to God, that what he delivered came from Him. The event bare witness to the prophet, that he said this truly, in that he knew what God alone could know - futurity. Micah blends in one the facts, that he related in words given him by God, what he had seen spread before him in prophetic vision. His prophecy was, in one, "the word of the Lord which came to him," and "a sight which he saw."
Micah omits all mention of his father. His great predecessor was known as Micaiah son of Imlah. Micah, a villager, would be known only by the name of his native village. So Nahum names himself "the Elkoshite;" Jonah is related to be a native "of Gath-hepher;" Elijah, the Tishbite, a sojourner in the despised Gilead 1 Kings 17:1; Elisha, of Abelmeholah; Jeremiah, of Anathoth; forerunners of Him, and taught by His Spirit who willed to be born at Bethlehem, and, since this, although too little to be counted "among the thousands of Judah," was yet a royal city and was to be the birthplace of the Christ, was known only as Jesus of Nazareth, "the Nazarene." No prophet speaks of himself, or is spoken of, as born at Jerusalem, "the holy city." They speak of themselves with titles of lowliness, not of greatness.
Micah dates his prophetic office from kings of Judah only, as the only kings of the line appointed by God. Kings of Israel are mentioned in addition, only by prophets of Israel. He names Samaria first, because, its iniquity being most nearly full, its punishment was the nearest.
2Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
Hear, all ye people - Literally, "hear, ye peoples, all of them." Some 140, or 150 years had flowed by, since Micaiah, son of Imlah, had closed his prophecy in these words. And now they burst out anew. From age to age the word of God holds its course, ever receiving new fulfillments, never dying out, until the end shall come. The signal fulfillment of the prophecy, to which the former Micalah had called attention in these words, was an earnest of the fulfillment of this present message of God.
Hearken, O earth, and all that therein is - The "peoples" or "nations" are never Judah and Israel only: the earth and the fullness thereof is the well-known title of the whole earth and all its inhabitants. Moses Deuteronomy 32:1, Asaph Psalm 50:7, Isaiah Isa 1:2, call heaven and earth as witnesses against God's people. Jeremiah, Jeremiah 6:19 as Micah here, summons the nations and the earth. The contest between good and evil, sin and holiness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, everwhere, but most chiefly where God's Presence is nearest, is "a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men" 1 Corinthians 4:9. The nations are witnesses of God against His own people, so that these should not say, that it was for want of faithfulness or justice or power Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:16; Joshua 7:8-9, but in His righteous judgment, that He cast off whom He had chosen. So shall the Day of Judgment "reveal His righteousness" Romans 2:5. "Hearken, O earth." The lifeless earth Psalm 114:7; Psalm 97:5 trembles "at the Presence of God," and so reproaches the dullness of man. By it he summons man to listen with great reverence to the Voice of God.
And let the Lord God be witness against you - Not in words, but in deeds ye shall know, that I speak not of myself but God in me, when, what I declare, He shall by His Presence fulfill. But the nations are appealed to, not merely because the judgments of God on Israel should be made known to them by the prophets. He had not yet spoken of Israel or Judah, whereas he had spoken to the nations; "hear, ye peoples." It seems then most likely that here too he is speaking to them. Every judgment is an earnest, a forerunner, a part, of the final judgment and an example of its principles. It is but "the last great link in the chain," which unites God's dealings in time with eternity. God's judgments on one imply a judgment on all. His judgments in time imply a Judgment beyond time. Each sinner feels in his own heart response to God's visible judgments on another. Each sinful nation may read its own doom in the sentence on each other nation.
God judges each according to his own measure of light and grace, accepted or refused. The pagan shall be judged by "the law written in their heart" Romans 2:12-15; the Jew, by the law of Moses and the light of the prophets; Christians, by the law of Christ. "The word," Christ saith, "that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last Day" John 12:48. God Himself foretold, that the pagan should know the ground of His judgments against His people. "All nations shall say, wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers which He made with them, when He brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, ..." Deuteronomy 29:24-25. But in that the pagan knew why God so punished His people, they came so far to know the mind of God; and God, who at no time "left Himself without witness" Acts 14:17, bore fresh "witness" to them, and, so far us they neglected it, against them. A Jew, wherever he is seen throughout the world, is a witness to the world of God's judgments against sin.
Dionysius: "Christ, the faithful Witness, shall witness against those who do ill, for those who do well."
The Lord from His holy temple - Either that at Jerusalem, where God shewed and revealed Himself, or Heaven of which it was the image. As David says, "The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven" Psalm 11:4; and contrasts His dwelling in heaven and His coming down upon earth. "He bowed the heavens also and came down" Psalm 18:9; and Isaiah, in like words, "Behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity" Isaiah 26:21.
3For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
For, behold, the Lord comth forth - that is, (as we now say,) "is coming forth." Each day of judgment, and the last also, are ever drawing nigh, noiselessly as the nightfall, but unceasingly. "Out of His Place." Dionysius: "God is hidden from us, except when He sheweth Himself by His Wisdom or Power of Justice or Grace, as Isaiah saith, 'Verily, Thou art a God who hidest Thyself' Isaiah 45:15." He seemeth to be absent, when He doth not visibly work either in the heart within, or in judgments without; to the ungodly and unbelieving He is absent, "far above out of their sight" Psalm 10:5, when He does not avenge their scoffs, their sins, their irreverence. Again He seemeth to go forth, when His Power is felt. Dionysius: "Whence it is said, 'Bow Thy heavens, O Lord, and come down' Psalm 144:5; Isaiah 64:1; and the Lord saith of Sodom, 'I will go down now and see, whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me' Genesis 18:21. Or, the Place of the Infinite God is God Himself. For the Infinite sustaineth Itself, nor doth anything out of Itself contain It. God dwelleth also in light unapproachable 1 Timothy 6:16. When then Almighty God doth not manifest Himself, He abideth, as it were, in 'His own Place.' When He manifests His Power or Wisdom or Justice by their effects, He is said 'to go forth out of His Place,' that is, out of His hiddenness. Again, since the Nature of God is Goodness, it is proper and co-natural to Him, to be propitious, have mercy and spare. In this way, the Place of God is His mercy. When then He passeth from the sweetness of pity to the rigor of equity, and, on account of our sins, sheweth Himself severe (which is, as it were, alien from Him) He goeth forth out of His Place." Jerome: "For He who is gentle and gracious, and whose Nature it is to have mercy, is constrained, on your account, to take the seeming of hardness, which is not His."
He comes invisibly now, in that it is He who punisheth, through whatever power or will of man He useth; He shews forth His Holiness through the punishment of unholiness. But the words, which are image-language now, shall be most exactly fulfilled in the end, when, in the Person of our Lord, He shall come visibly to judge the world. Jerome, Theoph.: "In the Day of Judgment, Christ 'shall come down,' according to that Nature which He took, 'from His Place,' the highest heavens, and shall cast down the proud things of this world."
And will come down - Not by change of place, or in Himself, but as felt in the punishment of sin; and tread upon the high places of the earth; to bring down the pride of those (see Amos 4:13; Job 9:8) who "being lifted up in their own conceit and lofty, sinning through pride and proud through sin, were yet created out of earth. For why is earth and ashes proud?" (Ecclesiasticus 10:9). What seems mightiest and most firm, is unto God less than is to man the dust under his feet. The high places were also the special scenes of an unceasing idolatry. "God treadeth in the good and humble, in that He dwelleth, walketh, feasteth in their hearts 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 3:20. But He treadeth upon the proud and the evil, in that He casteth them down, despiseth, condemneth them."
4And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
And the mountains shall be molten under Him - It has been thought that this is imagery, taken from volcanic eruptions ; but, although there is a very remarkable volcanic district just outside of Gilead, it is not thought to have been active at times so late as these; nor were the people to whom the words were said, familiar with it. Fire, the real agent at the end of the world, is, meanwhile, the symbol of God's anger, as being the most terrible of His instruments of destruction: whence God revealed Himself as a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24, and at this same time said by Isaiah; "For behold, the Lord will come with fire ... to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire" Isaiah 66:15.
And the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire - It seems natural that the mountains should be cleft; but the valleys , so low already! This speaks of a yet deeper dissolution; of lower depths beyond our sight or knowledge, into the very heart of the earth. Sanch.: "This should they fear, who will to be so low; who, so far from lifting themselves to heavenly things, pour out their affections on things of earth, meditate on and love earthly things, and forgetful of the heavenly, choose to fix their eyes on earth. These the wide gaping of the earth which they loved, shall swallow: to them the cleft valleys shall open an everlasting sepulchre, and, having received them, shall never part with them."
Highest and lowest, first and last, shall perish before Him. The pride of the highest, kings and princes, priests and judges, shall sink and melt away beneath the weight and Majesty of His glory; the hardness of the lowest, which would not open itself to Him, shall be cleft in twain before Him.
As wax before the fire - (See Psalm 97:5), melting away before Him by whom they were not softened, vanishing into nothingness. Metals melt, changing their form only; wax, so as to cease to be.
As the waters poured down - (As a stream or cataract, so the word means .)
A steep place - Down to the very edge, it is borne along, one strong, smooth, unbroken current; then, at once, it seems to gather its strength, for one great effort. But to what end? To fall, with the greater force, headlong, scattered in spray, foam and froth; dissipated, at times, into vapor, or reeling in giddy eddies, never to return. In Judea, where the autumn rains set in with great vehemence, the waters must have been often seen pouring in their little tumultuous brooklets down the mountain side , hastening to disappear, and disappearing the faster, the more vehemently they rolled along . Both images exhibit the inward emptiness of sinners, man's utter helplessness before God. They need no outward impulse to their destruction. Jerome: "Wax endureth not the nearness of the fire, and the waters are carried headlong. So all of the ungodly, when the Lord cometh, shall be dissolved and disappear." At the end of the world, they shall be gathered into bundles, and cast away.
5For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
For the transgression of Jacob is all this - Not for any change of purpose in God; nor, again, as the effect of man's lust of conquest. None could have any power against God's people, unless it had been given him by God. Those mighty monarchies of old existed but as God's instruments, especially toward His own people. God said at this time of Assyria Isaiah 10:5, Asshur rod of Mine anger, and the staff in his hand is Mine indignation; and Isaiah 37:26, Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps. Each scourge of God chastised just those nations, which God willed him to chasten; but the especial object for which each was raised up was his mission against that people, in whom God most showed His mercies and His judgments Isaiah 10:6. I will send him against an ungodly nation and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge.
Jacob and Israel, in this place, comprise alike the ten tribes and the two. They still bare the name of their father, who, wrestling with the Angel, became a prince with God, whom they forgat. The name of Jacob then, as of Christian now, stamped as deserters, those who did not the deeds of their father. "What, (rather who) is the transgression of Jacob?" Who is its cause? In whom does it lie? Is it not Samaria? The metropolis must, in its own nature, be the source of good or evil to the land. It is the heart whose pulses beat throughout the whole system. As the seat of power, the residence of justice or injustice, the place of counsel, the concentration of wealth, which all the most influential of the land visit for their several occasions, its manners penetrate in a degree the utmost corners of the land. Corrupted, it becomes a focus of corruption. The blood passes through it, not to be purified, but to be diseased. Samaria, being founded on apostasy, owing its being to rebellion against God, the home of that policy which set up a rival system of worship to His forbidden by Him, became a fountain of evil, whence the stream of ungodliness overflowed the land. It became the impersonation of the people's sin, "the heart and the head of the body of sin."
And what - Literally, who (מי) always relates to a personal object, and apparent exceptions may be reduced to this. So Ae. Kim. Tanch. Pococke.
Are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem? - Jerusalem God had formed to be a center of unity in holiness; the tribes of the Lord were to go up there to the testimony of Israel; there was the unceasing worship of God, the morning and evening sacrifice; the Feasts, the memorials of past miraculous mercies, the foreshadowings of redemption. But there too Satan placed his throne. Ahaz brought thither that most hateful idolatry, the burning children to Moloch in the valley of the son of Hinnom 2 Chronicles 28:3. There 2 Chronicles 28:24, he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. Thence, he extended the idolatry to all Judah 2 Chronicles 28:25. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers. Hezekiah, in his reformation, with all Israel 2 Chronicles 31:1, went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces and bowed down the statues of Asherah, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, as much as out of Ephraim and Manasseh. Nay, by a perverse interchange, Ahaz took the Brazen Altar, consecrated to God, for his own divinations, and assigned to the worship of God the altar copied from the idol-altar at Damascus, whose fashion pleased his taste 2 Kings 16:10-16.
Since God and mammon cannot be served together, Jerusalem was become one great idol-temple, in which Judah brought its sin into the very face of God and of His worship. The Holy City had itself become sin, and the fountain of unholiness. The one temple of God was the single protest against the idolatries which encompased and besieged it; the incense went up to God, morning and evening, from it; from every head of every street of the city Ezekiel 16:31; 2 Chronicles 28:24, and (since Ahaz had brought in the worship of Baalim 2 Chronicles 28:2, and the rites of idolatry continued the same,) from the roofs of all their houses Jeremiah 32:29, went up the incense to Baal; a worship which, denying the Unity, denied the Being of God.
6Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
Therefore - (literally, "And") I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard Jerome: "The order of the sin was the order or the punishment." Samaria's sins were the earliest, the most obstinate, the most unbroken, bound up with its being as a state. On it then God's judgments should first fall. It was a crown of pride Isaiah 28:1, resting on the head of the rich valleys, out of which it rose. Its soil is still rich . "The whole is now cultivated in terraces" , "to the summits" . Probably, since the sides of hills, open to the sun, were chosen for vineyards, it had been a vineyard, before Shemer sold it to Omri 1 Kings 16:24. What it had been, that it was again to be. Its inhabitants cast forth, its houses and gorgeous palaces were to become heaps of stones, gathered out Isaiah 5:2 to make way for cultivation, or to become the fences of the vegetation, which should succeed to man.
There is scarce a sadder natural sight than the fragments of human habitation, tokens of man's labor or his luxury, amid the rich beauty of nature when man himself is gone. For they are tracks of sin and punishment, man's rebellion and God's judgment, man's unworthiness of the good natural gifts of God. A century or two ago, travelers "speak of the ground (the site of Samaria) as strewed with masses of ruins." Now these too are gone. : "The stones of the temples and palaces of Samaria have been carefully removed from the rich soil, thrown together in heaps, built up in the rude walls of terraces, and rolled down into the valley below." : "About midway of the ascent, the hill is surrounded by a narrow terrace of woodland like a belt. Higher up too are the marks of slighter terraces, once occupied perhaps by the streets of the ancient city." Terrace-cultivation has succeeded to the terraced streets once thronged by the busy, luxurious, sinful, population.
And I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley - Of which it was the crest, and which it now proudly surveyed. God Himself would cause it to be poured down (he uses the word which he had just used of the vehemence of the cataract Micah 1:4). : "The whole face of this part of the hill suggests the idea that the, buildings of the ancient city had been thrown down from the brow of the hill. Ascending to the top, we went round the whole summit, and found marks of the same process everywhere."
And I will discover the foundations thereof - The desolation is entire; not one stone left upon another. Yet the very words of threatening contain hope. It was to be not a heap only, but the plantings of a vineyard. The heaps betoken ruin; the vineyard, fruitfulness cared for by God. Destroyed, as what it was, and turned upside down, as a vineyard by the share, it should become again what God made it and willed it to be. It should again become a rich valley, but in outward desolation. Its splendid palaces, its idol temples, its houses of joy, should be but heaps and ruins, which are cleared away out of a vineyard, as only choking it. It was built in rebellion and schism, loose and not held together, like a heap of stones, having no cement of love, rent and torn in itself, having been torn both from God and His worship. It could be remade only by being wholly unmade. Then should they who believed be branches grafted in Him who said, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches" John 15:5.
7And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces - Its idols in whom she trusts, so far from protecting her, shall themselves go into captivity, broken up for the gold and silver whereof they were made. The wars of the Assyrians being religious wars , the idolatry of Assyria destroyed the idolatry and idols of Israel.
And all the hires thereof shall be burned with fire - All forsaking of God being spiritual fornication from Him who made His creatures for Himself, the hires are all which man would gain by that desertion of his God, employed in man's contact with his idols, whether as bribing his idols to give him what are the gifts of God, or as himself bribed by them. For there is no pure service, save that of the love of God. God alone can be loved purely, for Himself; offerings to Him alone are the creature's pure homage to the Creator, going out of itself, not looking back to itself, not seeking itself, but stretching forth to Him and seeking Him for Himself. Whatever man gives to or hopes from his idols, man himself is alike his object in both. The hire then is, alike what he gives to his idols, the gold whereof he makes his Baal , the offerings which the pagan used to lay up in their temples, and what, as he thought, he himself received back. For he gave only earthly things, in order to receive back things of earth. He hired their service to him, and his earthly gains were his hire. It is a strong mockery in the mouth of God, that they had these things from their idols. He speaks to them after their thoughts. Yet it is true that, although God overrules all, man does receive from Satan Matthew 4:9, the god of this world 2 Corinthians 4:4, all which he gains amiss. It is the price for which he sells his soul and profanes himself. Yet herein were the pagan more religious than the Christian worldling. The pagan did offer an ignorant service to they knew not what. Our idolatry of mammon, as being less abstract, is more evident self-worship, a more visible ignoring and so a more open dethroning of God, a worship of a material prosperity, of which we seem ourselves to be the authors, and to which we habitually immolate the souls of men, so habitually that we have ceased to be conscious of it.
And all the idols thereof will I lay desolate - Literally, "make a desolation." They, now thronged by their worshipers, should be deserted; their place and temple, a waste. He thrice repeats all; all her graven images, all her hires, all her idols; all should be destroyed. He subjoins a threefold destruction which should overtake them; so that, while the Assyrian broke and carried off the more precious, or burned what could be burned, and, what could not be burned, nor was worth transporting, should be left desolate, all should come to an end. He sets the whole the more vividly before the mind; exhibiting to us so many separate pictures of the mode of destruction.
For from the hire of a harlot she gathered them, and to the hire of a harlot they shall return - Jerome: "The wealth and manifold provision which (as she thought) were gained by fornication with her idols, shall go to another harlot, Nineveh; so that, as they went a whoring in their own land, they should go to another land of idols and fornication, the Assyrians." They Romans 1:23 turned their glory into shame, changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man; and so it should turn to them into shame. It sprung out of their shame, and should turn to it again. "Ill got, ill spent." Evil gain, cursed in its origin, has the curse of God upon it, and makes its gainer a curse, and ends accursedly. "Make not ill gains," says even a pagan. (H. 354. L), "ill gains are equal to losses;" and another , "Unlawful sweetness a most bitter end awaiteth."
Probably, the most literal sense is not to be excluded. The degrading idolatrous custom, related of Babylon and Cyprus , still continued among the Babylonians at the date of the book of Baruch (Baruch 6:43), and to the Christian era . Augustine speaks of it as having existed among the Phoenicians, and Theodoret says that it was still practiced by some in Syria. The existence of the idolatrous custom is presupposed by the prohibition by Moses Deuteronomy 23:18; and, in the time of Hosea self-desecration was an idolatrous rite in Israel . In the day of Judgment, when the foundation of those who build their house upon the sand, shall be laid bare, the riches which they gained unlawfully shall be burned up; all the idols, which they set up instead of God , "the vain thoughts, and useless fancies, and hurtful forms and images which they picture in their mind, defiling it, and hindering it from the steadfast contemplation of divine things, will be punished. They were the hire of the soul which went astray from God, and they who conceived them will, with them, become the prey again of that infernal host which is unceasingly turned from God."
8Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
Therefore I will - Therefore Iwould
Wail - (properly, beat, that is, on the breast).
And howl - "Let me alone," he would say, "that I may vent my sorrow in all ways of expressing sorrow, beating on the breast and wailing, using all acts and sounds of grief." It is as we would say, "Let me mourn on," a mourning inexhaustible, because the woe too and the cause of grief was unceasing. The prophet becomes in words, probably in acts too, an image of his people, doing as they should do hereafter. He mourns, because and as they would have to mourn, bearing chastisement, bereft of all outward comeliness, an example also of repentance, since what he did were the chief outward tokens of mourning.
I will (would) go stripped - despoiled .
And naked - He explains the acts, that they represented no mere voluntary mourning. Not only would he, representing them, go bared of all garments of beauty, as we say "half-naked" but despoiled also, the proper term of those plundered and stripped by an enemy. He speaks of his doing, what we know that Isaiah did, by God's command, representing in act what his people should thereafter do. : "Wouldest thou that I should weep, thou must thyself grieve the first." Micah doubtless went about, not speaking only of grief, but grieving, in the habit of one mourning and bereft of all. He prolongs in these words the voice of wailing, choosing unaccustomed forms of words, to carry on the sound of grief.
I will make a wailing like the dragons - (jackals).
And mourning as the owls - (ostriches). The cry of both, as heard at night, is very piteous. Both are doleful creatures, dwelling in desert and lonely places. "The jackals make a lamentable howling noise, so that travelers unacquainted with them would think that a company of people, women or children, were howling, one to another."
"Its howl," says an Arabic natural historian , "is like the crying of an infant." "We heard them," says another , "through the night, wandering around the villages, with a continual, prolonged, mournful cry." The ostrich, forsaking its young Job 39:16, is an image of bereavement. Jerome: "As the ostrich forgets her eggs and leaves them as though they were not her's, to be trampled by the feet of wild beasts, so too shall I go childless, spoiled and naked." Its screech is spoken of by travelers as "fearful, aftrighting." : "During the lonesome part of the night they often make a doleful and piteous noise. I have often heard them groan, as if they were in the greatest agonies."
Dionysius: "I will grieve from the heart over those who perish, mourning for the hardness of the ungodly, as the Apostle had Romans 9:1 great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his brethren, the impenitent and unbelieving Jews. Again he saith, "who is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?" 2 Corinthians 11:29. For by how much the soul is nobler than the body, and by how much eternal damnation is heavier than any temporal punishment, so much more vehemently should we grieve and weep for the peril and perpetual damnation of souls, than for bodily sickness or any temporal evil."
9For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
For her - Samaria's
Wound - o, (literally, her wounds, or strokes, (the word is used especially of those inflicted by God, (Leviticus 26:21; Numbers 11:33; Deuteronomy 28:59, Deuteronomy 28:61, etc.) each, one by one,) is incurable The idiom is used of inflictions on the body politic (Nahum 3 ult.; Jeremiah 30:12, Jeremiah 30:15) or the mind , for which there is no remedy. The wounds were very sick, or incurable, not in themselves or on God's part, but on Israel's. The day of grace passes away at last, when man has so steeled himself against grace, as to be morally dead, having deadened himself to all capacity of repentance.
For it is come unto - (quite up to) Judah; he, (the enemy,) is come (literally, hath reached, touched,) to (quite up to) the gate of my people, even to (quite up to) Jerusalem Jerome: "The same sin, yea, the same punishment for sin, which overthrew Samaria, shall even come unto, quite up to Judah. Then the prophet suddenly changes the gender, and, as Scripture so often does, speaks of the one agent, the center and impersonation of the coming evil, as sweeping on over Judah, quite up to the gate of his people, quite up to Jerusalem. He does not say here, whether Jerusalem would be taken; and so, it seems likely that he speaks of a calamity short of excision. Of Israel's wounds only he here says, that they are incurable; he describes the wasting of even lesser places near or beyond Jerusalem, the flight of their inhabitants. Of the capital itself he is silent, except that the enemy reached, touched, struck against it, quite up to it. Probably, then, he is here describing the first visitation of God, when 2 Kings 18:13 Sennacherib came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them, but Jerusalem was spared. God's judgments come step by step, leaving time for repentance. The same enemy, although not the same king, came against Jerusalem who had wasted Samaria. Samaria was probably as strong as Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed; God heard, the Assyrian army perished by miracle; Jerusalem was respited for 124 years.
10Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.
Tell it not in Gath - Gath had probably now ceased to be; at least, to be of any account . It shows how David's elegy lived in the hearts of Judah, that his words are used as a proverb, (just as we do now, in whose ears it is yearly read), when, as with us, its original application was probably lost. True, Gath, reduced itself, might rejoice the more maliciously over the sufferings of Judah. But David mentions it as a chief seat of Philistine strength ; now its strength was gone.
The blaspheming of the enemies of God is the sorest part of His chastisements. Whence David prays "let not mine enemies exult over me" Psalm 25:2; and the sons of Korah, "With a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me, while they say daily unto me, where is thy God?" Psalm 42:10; and Ethan; "Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice. Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servant" Psalm 89:42, Psalm 89:50 - wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine anointed. It is hard to part with home, with country, to see all desolate, which one ever loved. But far, far above all, is it, if, in the disgrace and desolation, God's honor seems to be injured. The Jewish people was then God's only home on earth. If it could be extinguished, who remained to honor Him? Victories over them seemed to their pagan neighbors to be victories over Him. He seemed to be dishonored without, because they had first dishonored Him within. Sore is it to the Christian, to see God's cause hindered, His kingdom narrowed, the empire of infidelity advanced. Sorer in one way, because he knows the price of souls, for whom Jesus died. But the world is now the Church's home. "The holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee!" Then, it was girt in within a few miles of territory, and sad indeed it must have been to the prophet, to see this too hemmed in. Tell it not in Gath, to the sons of those who, of old, defied God.
Weep not at all - (Literally, weeping, weep not). Weeping is the stillest expression of grief. We speak of "weeping in silence." Yet this also was too visible a token of grief. Their weeping would be the joy and laughter of God's enemies.
In the house of Aphrah - (probably, In Beth-leaphrah) roll thyself in the dust (Better, as the text, I roll myself in dust). The prophet chose unusual names, such as would associate themselves with the meanings which he wished to convey, so that thence forth the name itself might recall the prophecy. As if we were to say, "In Ashe I roll myself in ashes." - There was an Aphrah near Jerusalem . It is more likely that Micah should refer to this, than to the Ophrah in Benjamin Joshua 18:23; 1 Samuel 13:17. He showed them, in his own person, how they should mourn, retired out of sight and hidden, as it were, in the dust. Jer. Rup.: "Whatever grief your heart may have, let your face have no tears; go not forth, but, in the house of dust, sprinkle thyself with the ashes of its ruins."
All the places thenceforth spoken of were in Judah, whose sorrow and desolation are repeated in all. It is one varied history of sorrow: The names of her cities, whether in themselves called from some gifts of God, as Shaphir, (beautiful; we have Fairford, Fairfield, Fairburn, Fairlight,) or contrariwise from some defect, Maroth, Bitterness (probably from brackish water) Achzib, lying, (doubtless from a winter-torrent which in summer failed) suggest, either in contrast or by themselves, some note of evil and woe. It is Judah's history in all, given in different traits; her "beauty" turned into shame; herself free neither to go forth nor to "abide;" looking for good and finding evil; the strong (Lachish) strong only to flee; like a brook that fails and deceives; her inheritance (Mareshah) inherited; herself, taking refuge in dens and caves of the earth, yet even there found, and bereft of her glory. Whence, in the end, without naming Judah, the prophet sums up her sorrows with one call to mourning.
11Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.
Pass ye away - (literally, Pass thou (fem.) away to or for yourselves), disregarded by God and despised by man) pass the bounds of your land into captivity.
Thou inhabitant of Shaphir, having thy shame naked - better, in nakedness, and shame. Shaphir (fair) was a village in Judah, between Eleutheropolis and Ashkelon (Onomasticon). There are still, in the Shephelah, two villages called Sawafir . It, once fair, should now go forth in the disgrace and dishonor with which captives were led away.
The inhabitants of Zaanan came not forth - Zaanan (abounding in flocks) was probably the same as Zenan of Judah, which lay in the Shephelah . It, which formerly went forth in pastoral gladness with the multitude of its flocks, shall now shrink into itself for fear.
The mourning of Beth-Ezel - (literally, house of root, firmly rooted) shall take from you its standings It too cannot help itself, much less be a stay to others. They who have been accustomed to go forth in fullness, shall not go forth then, and they who abide, strong though they be, shall not furnish an abiding place. Neither in going out nor in remaining, shall anything be secure then.
12For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.
For the inhabitant of Maroth - (bitterness) waited carefully for good She waited carefully for the good which God gives, not for the Good which God is. She looked, longed for, good, as men do; but therewith her longing ended. She longed for it, amid her own evil, which brought God's judgments upon her. Maroth is mentioned here only in Holy Scripture, and has not been identified. It too was probably selected for its meaning. The inhabitant of bitternesses, she, to whom bitternesses, or, it may be, rebellions, were as the home in which she dwelt, which ever encircled her, in which she reposed, wherein she spent her life, waited for good! Strange contradiction! yet a contradiction, which the whole un-Christian world is continually en acting; nay, from which Christians have often to be awakened, to look for good to themselves, nay, to pray for temporal good, while living in bitternesses, bitter ways, displeasing to God. The words are calculated to be a religious proverb. "Living in sin," as we say, dwelling in bitternesses, she looked for good! Bitternesses! for it is Jeremiah 2:19 an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that My fear is not in thee.
But evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem - It came, like the sulphur and fire which God rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but as yet to the gate of Jerusalem, not upon itself. : "Evil came down upon them from the Lord, that is, I was grieved, I chastened, I brought the Assyrian upon them, and from My anger came this affliction upon them. But it was removed, My Hand prevailing and marvelously rescuing those who worshiped My Majesty. For the trouble shall come to the gate. But we know that Rabshakeh, with many horsemen, came to Jerusalem and all-but touched the gates. But he took it not. For in one night the Assyrian was consumed." The two for's are seemingly coordinate, and assign the reasons of the foreannounced evils, Micah 1:3-11 on man's part and on God's part. On man's part, in that he looked for what could not so come, good: on God's part, in that evil, which alone could be looked for, which, amid man's evil, could alone be good for man, came from Him. Losing the true Good, man lost all other good, and dwelling in the bitterness of sin and provocation, he dwelt indeed in bitterness of trouble.
13O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.
O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast - (steed.) Lachish was always a strong city, as its name probably denoted, (probably "compact." It was one of the royal cities of the Amorites, and its king one of the five, who went out to battle with Joshua Jos 10:3. It lay in the low country, Shephelah, of Judah Joshua 15:33, Joshua 15:39, between Adoraim and Azekah 2 Chronicles 11:9, 2 Chronicles 11:7 Roman miles south of Eleutheropolis (Onomasticon), and so, probably, close to the hill-country, although on the plain; partaking perhaps of the advantages of both. Rehoboam fortified it. Amaziah fled to it from the conspiracy at Jerusalem 2 Kings 14:19, as a place of strength. It, with Azekah, alone remained, when Nebuchadnezzar had taken the rest, just before the capture of Jerusalem Jeremiah 34:7. When Sennacherib took all the defensed cities of Judah, it seems to have been his last and proudest conquest, for from it he sent his contemptuous message to Hezekiah Isaiah 36:1-2.
The whole power of the great king seems to have been called forth to take this stronghold. The Assyrian bas-reliefs, the record of the conquests of Sennacherib, if (as the accompanying inscription is deciphered), they represent the taking of Lachish, exhibit it as "a city of great extent and importance, defended by double walls with battlements and towers, and by fortified riggings. In no other sculptures were so many armed warriors drawn up in array against a besieged city. Against the fortifications had been thrown up as many as ten banks or mounts compactly built - and seven battering-rams had already been rolled up against the walls." Its situation, on the extremity probably of the plain, fitted it for a depot of cavalry. The swift steeds, to which it was bidden to bind the chariot, are mentioned as part of the magnificence of Solomon, as distinct from his ordinary horses (1 Kings 4:28, English (1 Kings 5:8 in Hebrew)). They were used by the posts of the king of Persia Esther 8:10, Esther 8:14.
They were doubtless part of the strength of the kings of Judah, the cavalry in which their statesmen trusted, instead of God. Now, its swift horses in which it prided itself should avail but to flee. Probably, it is an ideal picture. Lachish is bidden to bind its chariots to horses of the utmost speed, which should carry them far away, if their strength were equal to their swiftness. It had great need; for it was subjected under Sennacherib to the consequences of Assyrian conquest. If the Assyrian accounts relate to its capture, impalement and flaying alive were among the tortures of the captive-people; and awfully did Sennacherib, in his pride, avenge the sins against God whom he disbelieved.
She is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion - Jerome: "She was at the gate through which the transgressions of Israel flooded Judah." How she came first to apostatise and to be the infectress of Judah, Scripture does not tell us . She scarcely bordered on Philistia; Jerusalem lay between her and Israel. But the course of sin follows no geographical lines. It was the greater sin to Lachish that she, locally so far removed from Israel's sin, was the first to import into Judah the idolatries of Israel. Scripture does not say, what seduced Lachish herself, whether the pride of military strength, or her importance, or commercial intercourse, for her swift steeds; with Egypt, the common parent of Israel's and her sin. Scripture does not give the genealogy of her sin, but stamps her as the heresiarch of Judah. We know the fact from this place only, that she, apparently so removed from the occasion of sin, became, like the propagators of heresy, the authoress of evil, the cause of countless loss of souls. Beginning of sin to - , what a world of evil lies in the three words!
14Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.
Therefore shalt thou give - (bridal) presents to Moresheth Gath Therefore! since Judah had so become a partaker of Israel's sins, she had broken the covenant, whereby God had given her the land of the pagan, and she should part with it to aliens. The bridal presents, literally the dismissals, were the dowry 1 Kings 9:16 with which the father sent away Judges 12:9 his daughter, to belong to another, her lord or husband, never more to return. Moresheth, (literally, inheritance,) the inheritance which God gave her, was to be parted with; she was to be laden with gifts to the enemy. Judah should part with her, and her own treasure also.
The houses of Achzib shall be a lie - Achzib, so called probably from a winter brook, achzab, was to become what its name imported, a resource which should fail just in the time of need, as the winter brooks in the drought of summer. "Wilt Thou be unto me as a failing brook, waters which are not sure?" Jeremiah 15:18. This Achzib, which is recounted between Keilah and Mareshah Joshua 15:44, was probably one of, the oldest towns of Palestine being mentioned in the history of the Patriarch Judah. After having survived about 1,000 years, it should, in time of need, fail. The kings of Israel are here the kings of Judah. When this prophecy was to be accomplished, the ten tribes would have ceased to have any political existence, the remnant in their own lanai would have no head to look to, except the line of David, whose good kings had a care for them. Micah then, having prophesied the utter destruction of Samaria, speaks in accordance with the state of things which he foresaw and foretold.
15Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.
Yet will I bring an heir - (the heir, him whom God had appointed to be the heir, Sennacherib) unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah Mareshah, (as the original form of its name denotes, lay on the summit of a hill. "Its ruins only were still seen," in the time of Eusebius and Jerome, "in the second mile from Eleutheropolis" (Onomasticon). : "Foundations still remain on the south-eastern part of the remarkable Tell, south of Beth-Jibrin." Rehoboam fortified it also 2 Chronicles 11:8. Zerah the Aethiopian had come to (2 Chronicles 14:9 ff) it, probably to besiege it, when Asa met him, and God smote the AEthiopians before him, in the valley of Zephathah thereat. In the wars of the Maccabees, it was in the hands of the Edomites . Its capture and that of Adora are mentioned as the last act of the war, before the Edomites submitted to John Hyrcanus, and were incorporated in Israel. It was a powerful city , when the Parthians took it. As Micah writes the name, it looked nearer to the word "inheritance." Mareshah (inheritance) shall yet have the heir of God's appointment, the enemy. It shall not inherit the land, as promised to the faithful, but shall itself be inherited, its people dispossessed. While it, (and so also the soul now) held fast to God, they were the heritage of the Lord, by His gifts and grace; when, of their own free-will, those, once God's heritage, become slaves of sin, they passed and still pass, against their will, into the possession of another master, the Assyrian or Satan.
He (that is, the heir, the enemy) shall come unto Adullam, the glory of Israel - . that is, he who shall dispossess Mareshah, shall come quite unto Adullam, where, as in a place of safety, the glory of Israel, all in which she gloried, should be laid up. Adullum was a very ancient city, being mentioned in the history of the patriarch Judah Genesis 38:1, Genesis 38:12, Genesis 38:20, a royal city Joshua 12:15. It too lay in the Shephelah Joshua 15:35; it was said to be 10 (Eusebius) or 12 (Jerome) miles East of Eleutheropolis; but for this, there seems to be scarcely place in the Shephelah. It was one of the 15 cities fortified by Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 11:7; one of the 16 towns, in which (with their dependent villages) Judah settled after the captivity Nehemiah 11:30. It contained the whole army of Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 12:38).
Like Lachish, it had probably the double advantages of the neighborhood of the hills and of the plain, seated perhaps at the roots of the hills, since near it doubtless was the large cave of Adullam named from it. The line of caves, fit for human habitation, which extended from Eleutheropolis to Petra , began westward of it. : "The valley which runs up from Eleutheropolis Eastward, is full of large caves; some would hold thousands of men. They are very extensive, and some of them had evidently been inhabited." : "The outer chamber of one cavern was 270 feet long by 126 wide; and behind this were recesses and galleries, probably leading to other chambers which we could not explore. The massive roof was supported by misshaped pieces of the native limestone left for that purpose, and at some places was domed quite through to the surface, admitting both light and air by the roof." The name of Adullam suggested the memory of that cave, the refuge of the Patriarch David, the first of their line of kings, in extreme isolation and peril of his life. There, the refuge now of the remaining glory of Israel, its wealth, its trust, its boast - the foe should come. And so there only remained one common dirge for all.
16Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.
Make thee bald, poll - (literally, shear thee for thy delicate children Some special ways of cutting the hair were forbidden to the Israelites, as being idolatrous customs, such as the rounding the hair in front, cutting it away from the temples , or between the eyes Deuteronomy 14:1. All shearing of the hair was not forbidden ; indeed to the Nazarite it was commanded, at the close of his vow. The removal of that chief ornament of the countenance wasa natural expression of grief, which revolts at all personal appearance. It belonged, not to idolatry, but to nature . "Thy delicate children." The change was the more bitter for those tended and brought up delicately. Moses from the first spoke of special miseries which should fall on the tender and very delicate. "Enlarge thy baldness;" outdo in grief what others do; for the cause of thy grief is more than that of others. The point of comparison in the Eagle might either be the actual baldness of the head, or its moulting. If it were the baldness of the head, the word translated eagle Unless nesher be the golden Eagle there is no Hebrew name for it, whereas it is still a bird of Palestine, and smaller eagles are mentioned in the same verse, Leviticus 11:13; namely, the ossifrage, פרס, and the black eagle, עזניה, so called from its strength, like the valeria, of which Pliny says, "the melanaetos or valeria, least in size, remarkable for strength, blackish in color." x. 3. The same lint of unclean birds contains also the vulture, דיה, Deuteronomy 14:13, (as it must be, being a gregarious bird, Isaiah 34:15) in its different species Deuteronomy 14:13 the gier-eagle, (that is, Geyer) (vulture) eagle gypaetos, or vultur percnopterus, (Hasselquist, Forskal, Shaw, Bruce in Savigny p. 77.) partaking of the character of both, (רהם Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17 together with the falcon (דאה Leviticus 11:14 and hawk, with its subordinate species, (למינהו נץ) Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:15.), although mostly used of the Eagle itself, might here comprehend the Vulture . For entire baldness is so marked a feature in the vulture, whereas the "bald-headed Eagle" was probably not a bird of Palestine . On the other hand, David, who lived so long among the rocks of Palestine, and Isaiah seem to have known of effects of moulting upon the Eagle in producing, (although in a less degree than in other birds,) a temporary diminution of strength, which have not in modern times been commonly observed.
For David says, "Thou shalt renew, like the eagle, thy youth, which speaks of fresh strength after temporary weakness" Psalm 103:5; and Isaiah, "They that trust in the Lord shall put forth fresh strength; they shall put forth pinion-feathers like eagles" Isaiah 40:31, comparing the fresh strength which should succeed to that which was gone, to the eagle's recovering its strong pinion-feathers. Bochart however says unhesitatingly , "At the beginning of spring, the rapacious birds are subject to shedding of their feathers which we call moulting." If this be so, the comparison is yet more vivid, For the baldness of the vulture belongs to its matured strength, and could only be an external likeness. The moulting of the eagle involves some degree of weakness, with which he compares Judah's mournful and weak condition amid the loss of their children, gone into captivity .
Thus closes the first general portion of the prophecy. The people had east aside its own Glory, God; now its sons, its pride and its trust, shall go away from it.
Lap.: "The eagle, laying aside its old feathers and taking new, is a symbol of penitence and of the penitents who lay aside their former evil habits, and become other and new men. True, but rare form of penitence!" Gregory the Great thus applies this to the siege of Rome by the Lombards. : "That happened to her which we know to have been foretold of Judea by the prophet, enlarge thy baldness like the eagle. For baldness befalls man in the head only, but the eagle in its whole body; for, when it is very old, its feathers and pinions fall from all its body. She lost her feathers, who lost her people. Her pinions too fell out, with which she was accustomed to fly to the prey; for all her mighty men, through whom she plundered others, perished. But this which we speak of, the breaking to pieces of the city of Rome, we know has been done in all the cities of the world. Some were desolated by pestilence, others devoured by the sword, others racked by famine, others swallowed by earthquakes. Despise we them with our whole heart, at least, when brought to nought; at least with the end of the world, let us end our eagerness after the world. Follow we, wherein we can, the deeds of the good." One whose commentaries Jerome had read, thus applies this verse to the whole human race. "O soul of man! O city, once the mother of saints, which wast formerly in Paradise, and didst enjoy the delights of different trees, and wast adorned most beautifully, now being east down from thy place aloft, and brought down unto Babylon, and come into a place of captivity, and having lost thy glory, make thee bald and take the habit of a penitent; and thou who didst fly aloft like an eagle, mourn thy sons, thy offspring, which from thee is led captive."