Click here to get started today!
Here Micah begins his address to the faithful, who were a remnant among that people; for though the infection had nearly extended over the whole body, there were yet a few, we know, who sincerely worshipped God. Hence Micah, that he might not dishearten God’s children by extreme terror, reasonably adds what we have now heard, — that though for a time the temple would be demolished and laid waste, it would yet be only for a season, for the Lord would be again mindful of his covenant. When, therefore, the Prophet had hitherto spoken of God’s dreadful vengeance, he directed his discourse to the whole people and to the princess; but now, especially, and as it were apart, addresses the pious and sincere servants of God; as though he said, “There is now a reason why I should speak to the few: I have hitherto spoken of the near judgment of God on the king’s counselors, the priests and the prophets; in short, on the whole community, because they are all become wicked and ungodly; a contempt of God and an irreclaimable obstinacy have pervaded the whole body. Let them therefore have what they have deserved. But now I address the children of God by themselves, for I have something to say to them.”
For though the Prophet publicly proclaimed this promise, there is yet no doubt but that he had regard only to the children of God, for others were not capable of receiving this consolation; nay, he had shortly before condemned the extreme security of hypocrites, inasmuch as they leaned upon God; that is, relied on a false pretense of religion, in thinking that they were redeemed by a lawful price when they had offered their sacrifices. And we know that we meet with the same thing in the writings of the Prophets, and that it is a practice common among them to add consolations to threatening, not for the sake of the whole people, but to sustain the faithful in their hope, who would have despaired, had not a helping hand been stretched forth to them: for the faithful, we know, tremble, as soon as God manifests any token of wrath; for the more any one is touched with the fear of God, the more he dreads his judgment, and fears on account of his threatening. We hence see how necessary it is to moderate threatenings and terrors, when prophets and teachers have a regard to the children of God; for, as I have said, they are without these fearful enough. Let us then know that Micah has hitherto directed his discourse to the wicked despisers of God, who yet put on the cloak of religion; but now he turns his address to the true and pious worshipers of God. And he further so addresses the faithful of his age, that his doctrine especially belongs to us now; for how has it been, that the kingdom of God has been propagated through all parts of the earth? How has it been, that the truth of the gospel has come to us, and that we are made partakers with the ancient people of the same adoption, except that this prophecy has been fulfilled? Then the calling of the Gentiles, and consequently our salvation, is included in this prophecy.
But the Prophet says, And it shall be in the extremity of days, (114) that the mount of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order (115) on the top of mountains The extremity of days the Prophet no doubt calls the coming of Christ, for then it was that the Church of God was built anew; in short, since it was Christ that introduced the renovation of the world, his advent is rightly called a new age; and hence it is also said to be the extremity of days: and this mode of expression very frequently occurs in Scripture; and we know that the time of the gospel is expressly called the last days and the last time by John, (John 2:18,) as well as by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 1:2,) and also by Paul, (2 Timothy 3:1;) and this way of speaking they borrowed from the prophets. On this subject some remarks were made on Joel 2:0. Paul gives us the reason for this mode of speaking in 1 Corinthians 10:11 : “Upon whom,” he says, “the ends of the world are come.” As Christ then brought in the completion of all things at his coming, the Prophet rightly says that it would be the last days when God would restore his Church by the hand of the Redeemer. At the same time, Micah no doubt intended to intimate that the time of God’s wrath would not be short, but designed to show that its course would be for a long time.
It shall then be in the last of days; that is, when the Lord shall have executed his vengeance by demolishing the temple, by destroying the city, and by reducing the holy place into a solitude, this dreadful devastation shall continue, not for one year, nor for two; in a word, it will not remain only for forty or fifty years, but the Lord will let loose the reins of his wrath, that their minds may long languish, and that no restoration may be evident. We now then understand the Prophet’s design as to the last days.
He calls the mount, the mount of the house of Jehovah, (116) in a sense different from what he did before; for then it was, as we have stated by way of concession; and now he sets forth the reason why God did not wish wholly to cast aside that mount; for he commanded his temple to be built there. It is the same, then, as though he said, — “This ought not to be ascribed to the holiness of the mountain, as if it excelled other mountains in dignity; but because there the temple was founded, not by the authority of men, but by a celestial oracle, as it is sufficiently known.”
The mount then of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order on the top of the mountains, that is it shall surpass in height all other mountains; and it shall be raised, he says, above the highest summits, and assemble (117) there shall all nations. It is certain, that by these words of the Prophet is to be understood no visible eminence of situation: for that mount was not increased at the coming of Christ; and they who lived in the time of the Prophet entertained no gross idea of this kind. But he speaks here of the eminence of dignity, — that God would give to mount Zion a distinction so eminent, that all other mountains would yield to its honor. And how was this done? The explanation follows in the next verse. Lest, then, any one thought that there would be some visible change in mount Zion, that it would increase in size, the Prophet immediately explains what he meant and says, at the end of the verse, Come shall nations to God. It is now easy to see what its elevation was to be, — that God designed this mount to be, as it were, a royal seat. As under the monarchy of the king of Persia, the whole of the east, we know, was subject to one tower of the Persian; so also, when mount Zion became the seat of sovereign power, God designed to reign there, and there he designed that the whole world should be subject to him; and this is the reason and the Prophet said that it would be higher than all other mountains. Hence his meaning, in this expression, is sufficiently evident.
(114) In extremitate dierum, באחרית הימים, in the posteriority or postremity of the days; επ εσχατων των ημερων, in the last days.— Sept. “In the latter days,” or, “in the end of days.”— Newcome. “In the last of the days.”— Henderson. See Jeremiah 23:20; Ezekiel 38:8; Daniel 10:14; Hosea 3:5 Kimchi, as quoted by Lowth, says, “Whenever the latter days are mentioned in Scripture, the days of the Messiah are always meant.” — Ed.
(115) Dispositus , נכזן — constitus , constituted — praeparatus , prepared— firmatus , made firm — are the words by which the term is commonly expressed. It comes from כון, which Leigh justly says, means “aptly and timely to frame, and likewise to make firm and sure;” and he adds, “The word noteth the ordering, perfecting, and fast establishing of anything.” How suitably then it is here used: it is a mountain (which means evidently the Church) that is fitly framed, ordered, and firmly established. — Ed.
(116) Marckius adduces the opinions of the ancients as to the signification of this “mount.” Some, such as Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine, interpret it of Christ; while others, namely, Origen, the two Cyrils, and Chrysostom, regard it as signifying the Church; and with the latter most modern commentators agree. Here the consent of moderns exceeds that of the ancients; and it is no doubt sounder and wiser. — Ed.
(117) Convenient, ונהרו, literally, “and flow;” σπευσουσι — hasten, Sept. It is flowing like that of a river, or of a strong current, and implies copiousness and spontaneity. “There shall be,” says Henry, “a constant stream of believers flowing in from all parts into the Church, as the people of the Jews flowed into the temple, while it was standing, to worship there.”
Kimchi says, that this word means to “run to what is pleasing or delightful,” —” currere ad beneplacitum, hoc est, ad id quod cupias An old author, quoted by Leigh, says, that it implies abundance and celerity — affluentiam cum celeritate It is rendered “flow together” in Jeremiah 51:44.
Instead of “peoples,” עמים, Isaiah has כל חגוים, “all the nations.” One MS. Has the same here, and three have כל before עמים, and this seems to be the correct reading. עם, in the plural number, is synonymous with גוים, meaning nations. The rest of this verse is exactly the same in the two Prophets, except that נכון, “prepared,” is differently placed, and הוא, “it,” is added by Micah after נשא, “exalted.”
In the second verse, which is the third in Isaiah, there is a complete verbal identity, except that גוים and עמים are reversed, and that ו before אל is wanting in Isaiah; but it is supplied in several MSS.
In the third, the fourth in Isaiah, there are verbal varieties in the two first lines, the four remaining are exactly the same with the exception of a paragogic ן, nun, added to a verb by Micah, and the verb ישאו is singular in Isaiah. In the two lines referred to, there is also an addition of עד רחוק, “afar of,” in Micah.
Isaiah. ושפט בין הגוים 4. והוכיחלעמים רבים And he shall judge among the nation, And shall convince many peoples.
Micah. whwkyx lgwyM eumyM ed rxwq wspj byN emyM rbyM And he shall judge among many peoples, And shall convince strong nations afar off.
With this verse the passage ends in Isaiah; Micah adds another: and this, with the two other circumstances — that the passage is fuller and more connected with the context here than in Isaiah, may seem to favor the opinion that Isaiah, and not Micah, was the copyist; but the words, with which the passage is introduced in Isaiah, forbid such a supposition.“
Bishop Lowth, on Isaiah 2:2, thinks that Micah took this passage from Isaiah. It is true that he has improved it after the manner of imitators. Or, the Spirit may have inspired both with this prediction: or both may have copied some common original, the words of a Prophet well known at the time. — Newcome.
There follows, however, a fuller explanation, when he says, that many nations would come He said only before that nations would come: but as David, even in his age, made some nations tributary to himself, the Prophet here expresses something more, — that many nations would come; as if he had said, “Though David subjugated some people to himself, yet the borders of his kingdom were narrow and confined, compared with the largeness of that kingdom which the Lord will establish at the coming of his Messiah: for not a few nations but many shall assemble to serve him, and shall say,” etc. The Prophet now shows that it would be a spiritual kingdom. When David subdued the Moabites and the Amorites, and others, he imposed a certain tribute to be paid annually but he was not able to establish among them the pure and legitimate worship of God, nor was he able to unite them in one faith. Then the Moabites and other nations, though they paid a tribute to David, did not yet worship the true God, but continued ever alienated from the Church. But our Prophet shows that the kingdom, which God would set up at the coming of the Messiah, would be spiritual.
For they shall say, (118) Let us you and ascend to the mount of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for, go (119) forth shall a law from Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem Throughout this passage the Prophet teaches us, that people are not to be constrained by an armed force, or by the power of the sword, to submit to David’s posterity, but that they are to be really and thoroughly reformed, so that they submit themselves to God, unite with the body of the Church, and become one people with the children of Abraham; for they will yield a voluntary service, and embracing the teaching of the Law, they will renounce their own superstitions. This then is the Prophet’s meaning. But the remainder we shall defer till to-morrow.
(118) Marckius says, “ corde, ore, et opere — with the heart, mouth, and in deed.”
(119) כי, ki, for, or because: what follows contains the reason for the preceding promise. How could it be, that the mount of the house of Jehovah should be firmly fixed on the top of mountains, etc.? The answer is here given, “for go forth shall a law from Zion,” etc. And this was literally fulfilled at the commencement of the Gospel; it was first preached at Jerusalem: in consequence of this, the mount of Jehovah’s house, or the Church, was formed; and what is here predicted was in part fulfilled, and will no doubt be hereafter more completely fulfilled.
It is said, “on top of the mountains,” not of a mountain. The Church was not to be confined to one place, but was to be preeminent throughout the earth. It was to be coextensive with the word that was to go forth from Zion. — Ed.
The Prophet here describes the fruit of Divine truth, — that God would restore all nations to such gentleness, that they would study to cultivate fraternal peace among themselves, and that all would consult the good of others, having laid aside every desire for doing harm. As then he has lately showed, that the Church of God could not be otherwise formed than by the Word, and that the legitimate worship of God cannot be set up and continued, except where God is honored with the obedience of faith; so now he shows that Divine truth produces this effect, — that they, who before lived in enmity towards one another and burned with the lust of doing harm, being full of cruelty and avarice, will now, having their disposition changed, devote themselves wholly to acts of kindness. But, before the Prophet comes to this subject, he says, —
He will judge (122) among many people, and will reprove strong nations. The word judge, in Hebrew, means the same as to rule or govern. It is certain that God is spoken of here: it is then the same as though the Prophet had said that though the nations had not hitherto obeyed God, they would now own him as king and submit to his government. God has indeed ever governed the world by his hidden providence, as he does still govern it: for how much soever the devil and the ungodly may rage; nay, how ever much they may boil with unbridled fury, there is no doubt but that God restrains and checks their madness by his hidden bridle. But the Scripture speaks of God’s kingdom in two respects. God does indeed govern the devil and all the wicked, but not by his word, nor by the sanctifying power of his Spirit: it is so done, that they obey God, not willingly, but against their will. The peculiar government of God is that of his Church only, where, by his word and Spirit, He bends the hearts of men to obedience, so that they follow him voluntarily and willingly, being taught inwardly and outwardly, — inwardly by the influence of the Spirit, — outwardly by the preaching of the word. Hence it is said in Psalms 110:0, ‘Thy willing people shall then assemble.’ This is the government that is here described by the Prophet; God then shall judge; not as he judges the world, but he will, in a peculiar manner, make them obedient to himself so that they will look for nothing else than to be wholly devoted to him.
But as men must first be subdued before they render to God such obedience, the Prophet expressly adds, And he will reprove (corripiet) or convince (arguet) many people. And this sentence ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence learn, that such is our innate pride, that not one of us can become a fit disciple to God, except we be by force subdued. Truth then would of itself freeze amidst such corruption as we have, except the Lord proved us guilty, except he prepared us beforehand, as it were, by violent measures. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in connecting reproof with the government of God: for the verb יכח, ikech, signifies sometimes to expostulate, to convince, and sometimes to correct or reprove. (123) In short, the wickedness and perversity of our flesh are here implied; for even the best of us would never offer themselves to God, without being first subdued, and that by God’s powerful correction. This, then, is the beginning of the kingdom of Christ.
But when he says, that strong nations would be reproved, he hereby eulogizes and sets forth the character of the kingdom of which he speaks: and we hence learn the power of truth, — that strong men, when thus reproved, shall offer themselves, without any resistance, to be ruled by God. Correction is indeed necessary, but God employs no external force, nor any armed power, when he makes the Church subject to himself: and yet he collects strong nations. Hence then is seen the power of truth: for where there is strength, there is confidence and arrogance, and also rebellious opposition. Since then the Lord, without any other helps, thus corrects the perverseness of men, we hence see with what inconceivable power God works, when he gathers his own Church. It is to be added, that there is not the least doubt, but that this is to be applied to the person of Christ. Micah speaks of God, without mentioning Christ by name; for he was not yet manifested in the flesh: but we know that in his person has this been fulfilled, — that God has governed the universe, and subjected to himself the people of the whole world. We hence conclude that Christ is true God; for he is not only a minister to the Father, as Moses, or any one of the Prophets; but he is the supreme King of his Church.
Before I proceed to notice the fruit, the expression, רחוק עד, od rechuk, “afar off” must be observed. It may intimate a length of time as well as distance of place. Jonathan applies it to a long continuance of time, — that God would convince men to the end of the world. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intended to include the most distant countries; as though he had said, that God would not be the king of one people only, or of Judea alone, but that his kingdom would be propagated to the extremities of the earth. He will then convince people afar off
He afterward adds, with respect to the fruit, They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks I have already briefly explained the meaning of the Prophet: he in fact shows that when the nations should be taught by the word of God, there would be such a change, that every one would study to do good, and to perform the duties of love towards his neighbors. But by speaking of swords and spears he briefly intimates, what men, until they are made gentle by the word of the Lord, are ever intent on iniquitous tyranny and oppression; nor can it be otherwise, while every one follows his own nature; for there are none who are not wedded to their own advantages, and the cupidity of men is insatiable. As then all are thus intent on gain, while every one is blinded by self-love, what but cruelty must ever break forth from this wicked principle? Hence then it is, that men cannot cultivate peace with one another; for every one seeks to be the first, and draws every thing to himself; no one will willingly give way: then dissensions arise, and from dissensions, fightings. This is what the Prophet intimates. And then he adds, that the fruit of the doctrine of Christ would however be such, that men, who were before like cruel wild beasts, would become gentle and meek. Forge then shall they their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.
Raise, he says, shall not a nation a sword against a nation, and accustom themselves they shall no more to war He explains here more fully what I have before said, — that the Gospel of Christ would be to the nations, as it were, a standard of peace: as when a banner is raised up, soldiers engage in battle, and their fury is kindled; so Micah ascribes a directly opposite office to the Gospel of Christ, — that it will restore those to the cultivation of peace and concord, who before were given to acts of hostility. For when he says, ‘Raise a sword shall not a nation against nation,’ he intimates, as I have already stated, that wherever Christ does not reign, men are wolves to men, for every one is disposed to devour all others. Hence as men are naturally impelled by so blind an impulse, the Prophet declares, that this madness cannot be corrected, that men will not cease from wars, that they will not abstain from hostilities, until Christ becomes their teacher: for by the word למד, lamed, he implies, that it is a practice which ever prevails among mankind, that they contend with one another, that they are ever prepared to do injuries and wrongs, except when they put off their natural disposition. But gentleness, whence does it proceed? Even from the teaching of the Gospel.
This passage ought to be remembered; for we here learn, that there is not growing among us the real fruit of the Gospel, unless we exercise mutual love and benevolence, and exert ourselves in doing good. Though the Gospel is at this day purely preached among us, when yet we consider how little progress we make in brotherly love, we ought justly to be ashamed of our indolence. God proclaims daily that he is reconciled to us in his Son; Christ testifies, that he is our peace with God, that he renders him propitious to us, for this end, that we may live as brethren together. We indeed wish to be deemed the children of God, and we wish to enjoy the reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ; but in the meantime we tear one another, we sharpen our teeth, our dispositions are cruel. If then we desire really to prove ourselves to be the disciples of Christ, we must attend to this part of divine truth, each of us must strive to do good to his neighbors. But this cannot be done without being opposed by our flesh; for we have a strong propensity to self-love, and are inclined to seek too much our own advantages. We must therefore put off these inordinate and sinful affections, that brotherly kindness may succeed in their place.
We are also reminded that it is not enough for any one to refrain from doing harm, unless he be also occupied in doing good to his brethren. The Prophet might indeed have said only They shall break their swords and their spears; so that they shall hereafter abstain from doing any hurt to others: this only is not what he says; but, “They shall forge,” or beat,” their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;” that is, when they shall abstain from all injuries they will seek to exercise themselves in the duties of love, consistently with what Paul says, when he exhorts those who had stolen to steal no more, but to work with their own hands, that they might relieve others (Ephesians 4:28.) Except then we endeavor to relieve the necessities of our brethren, and to offer them assistance, there will not be in us but one part of true conversion, as the case is with many, who are not indeed inhuman, who commit no plunder, who give no occasion for complaint, but they live to themselves, and enjoy unprofitable leisure. This indolence the Prophet here indirectly condemns, when he speaks of the plowshares and the pruning hooks.
Again, a question may be here asked, — Was this fulfilled at the coming of Christ? It seems that the Prophet does not describe here the state of the Church for a time, but shows what would be the kingdom of Christ to the end. But we see, that when the Gospel was at first preached, the whole world boiled with wars more than ever; and now, though the Gospel in many parts is clearly preached, yet discords and contentions do not cease; we also see that rapacity, ambition, and insatiable avarice, greatly prevail; and hence arise contentions and bloody wars. And at the same time it would have been inconsistent in the Prophet to have thus spoken of the kingdom of Christ, had not God really designed to perform what is here predicted. My answer to this is, — that as the kingdom of Christ was only begun in the world, when God commanded the Gospel to be everywhere proclaimed, and as at this day its course is not as yet completed; so that which the Prophet says here has not hitherto taken place; but inasmuch as the number of the faithful is small, and the greater part despise and reject the Gospel, so it happens, that plunders and hostilities continue in the world. How so? Because the Prophet speaks here only of the disciples of Christ. He shows the fruit of his doctrine, that wherever it strikes a living root, it brings forth fruit: but the doctrine of the Gospel strikes roots hardly in one out of a hundred. (124) The measure also of its progress must be taken to the account; for so far as any one embraces the doctrine of the Gospel, so far he becomes gentle and seeks to do good to his neighbors. But as we as yet carry about us the relics of sin in our flesh, and as our knowledge of the Gospel is not yet perfect, it is no wonder, that not one of us has hitherto wholly laid aside the depraved and sinful affections of his flesh.
It is also easy hence to see, how foolish is the conceit of those, who seek to take away the use of the sword, on account of the Gospel. The Anabaptists, we know, have been turbulent, as though all civil order were inconsistent with the kingdom of Christ, as though the kingdom of Christ was made up of doctrine only, and that doctrine without any influence. We might indeed do without the sword, were we angels in this world; but the number of the godly, as I have already said, is small; it is therefore necessary that the rest of the people should be restrained by a strong bridle; for the children of God are found mixed together, either with cruel monsters or with wolves and rapacious men. Some are indeed openly rebellious, others are hypocrites. The use of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world.
We must now understand that at the time our Prophet delivered this discourse, Isaiah had used the very same words, (Isaiah 2:4 :) and it is probable that Micah was a disciple of Isaiah. They, however, exercised at the same time the Prophetic office, though Isaiah was the oldest. But Micah was not ashamed to follow Isaiah and to borrow his words; for he was not given to self ostentation, as though he would not adduce any thing but what was his own; but he designedly adopted the expressions of Isaiah, and related verbally what he had said, to show that there was a perfect agreement between him and that illustrious minister of God, that his doctrine might obtain more credit. We hence see how great was the simplicity of our Prophet, and that he did not regard what malevolent and perverse men might say: “What! he only repeats the words of another.” Such a calumny he wholly disregarded; and he thought it enough to show that he faithfully declared what God had commanded. Though we have not the עד רחיק, od rechuk, in Isaiah, yet the meaning is the same: in all other things they agree. It now follows—
(122) There is a difference of opinion as to the nominative case to the verb “judge;” whether it be Jehovah in the preceding line, or the word of Jehovah. The most natural construction is the last supposition. Jerome and Cyril, as quoted by Marckius, refer it to the word of Jehovah, taking the word for Christ: but this cannot be admitted, as the law and the word seem to mean the same thing, and must be considered as the word of the Gospel; and Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, when referring to this passage regard it as such. And this is the view which Marckius seems to prefer. The rendering then would be, —
And it shall judge among many people, And convince strong nations afar off.
(123) The two verbs here used are שפט, to judge, and הוכיח, in Hiphil, to reprove. The first is to decide what is right and wrong, and also to defend the right and to punish the wrong; hence it means to arbitrate, and also to vindicate as well as to punish. The first sense is most suitable to this place. — The other verb does not occur in Kal, but in Hiphil, it means to make manifest, or show, by facts or by words, or by action; and hence it signifies to demonstrate, to convince, to reprove, to chastise. The Septuagint often renders it by ελεγχειν, which, Parkhurst says, means, in its primary sense, to demonstrate by convincing reasons or arguments. Lowth’s version in Isaiah is, “And shall work conviction,” etc. Newcome renders it “convince.” The rendering of Henderson, “give decision,” is not to be approved. See John 16:8. — Ed.
(124) “All these predictions must be confined to the nations converted by the word of Jehovah, and brought into Zion, that is, such as truly repent and believe, and must not be extended to all nations indiscriminately, or to all who embrace the Christian name, who are often as far as possible from the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as they neither learn nor follow his doctrine. — Marckius.
Micah goes on here with the same subject, — that when the minds of men shall be disposed to acts of kindness, every one shall enjoy God’s blessing without being disturbed. There seems indeed to be two things here included, — that acts of hostility shall cease, — and that real happiness cannot exist among men, except Christ rules among them by the doctrine of his Gospel. And the same thing the prophets teach elsewhere, that is, that every one shall live without fear; and this they do, in order to show that men ever live in a miserable dread, except when they are safe under the protection of God. It is the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that the life of men is most miserable, where the doctrine of the Gospel is not had, inasmuch as when they are disturbed by continual disquietude, every one fears for himself, every one suffers constant terrors. There is nothing more miserable than such a state of things, for peace is the chief good.
We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, — that under the reign of Christ the faithful shall enjoy true and full happiness, as they shall be exempt from trembling and fear; hence he names the vine and the fig-tree. He might have said, “Every one shall live securely at home;” but he says, Every one shall rest under his own fig-tree and under his own vine; that is, though exposed to thieves, he shall yet fear no violence, no injury; for those who were thieves shall observe what is just and right; those who were bloody shall study to do good. Hence when no one closes the door of his house, yea, when he goes out into the fields and sleeps in the open air; he will still be safe and secure. We now then see why the Prophet mentions here the fig-tree and the vine, rather than the dwelling-house.
And there will be no one to terrify them. What the Prophet designed to express is here more clearly specified, — that there would be no danger, and that there would therefore be no need of hiding-places or of any defenses. Why? Because the very fields, he says, will be free from every thing that may hurt, as there will be none to cause fear. And the Prophet seems to allude to the blessing promised in the Law, for Moses used nearly the very same words: and the Prophets, we know, drew many things from the Law; for their design was to retain the people in its doctrine, and to render it as familiar as possible to them. As then Moses promised, among other things, this security,‘
Ye shall sleep, and none shall terrify you,’ (Leviticus 26:6;)
so the Prophet also, in speaking here of the kingdom of Christ, shows that this blessing would be then fully accomplished.
He now at last subjoins, The mouth of Jehovah hath thus spoken, that he might confirm what seemed incredible: for, as I have already said, since he had shortly before predicted the devastation of mount Zion and the ruin of the temple, it seemed very improbable that the nations would come there to worship God. But he declares that the mouth of God had thus spoken, that the faithful might overcome all obstacles and struggle against despair; though they saw the temple destroyed, the mount Zion desolated, though they saw a horrible waste and wild beasts occupying the place of men; they were yet to continue to entertain firm hope. — How so? Because Jehovah has made a promise and he will fulfill it: for when mention is made of God’s mouth, his omnipotence is to be understood by which will be executed whatever he has promised.
Micah, after having spoken of the restoration of the Church, now confirms the same truth, and shows that the faithful would have reason enough to cleave constantly to their God, and to despise all the superstitions of the world, and that though they may be tossed here and there by contrary opinions, they will yet continue in true religion. This verse then is connected with the kingdom of Christ; for until we are gathered, and Christ shines among us and rules us by his word, there can be in us no constancy, no firmness. But when under the auspices of Christ, we join together in one body the Church, such then becomes the constancy of our faith, that nothing can turn us from the right course, though new storms were at any time to arise, by which the whole world might be shaken, and though it were to happen that the universe should be agitated or pass away. We now understand what the Prophet means.
He therefore says, All nations shall walk every one in the name of his god. This sentence must be thus explained, — “Though nations be divided into various sects, and each be addicted to their own superstitions, yet we shall continue firm in the pure worship of God and in unity of faith.” But this question occurs, how could the Prophet say that there would be such discords in the world, when he had shortly before spoken of the Church being gathered and united together? for he had said, Come shall all nations, and each will say, Come, let us ascend into the mount of Jehovah. There seems to be here some sort of inconsistency, — that all nations would come to mount Zion, and yet that every people would have their own gods. But the solution is not difficult: the Prophet in this verse strengthens the faithful, until Christ should be revealed to the world: nor is there any doubt but the Prophet intended to sustain the confidence of the godly, who might have otherwise been overwhelmed a hundred times with despair. When the children of Israel were driven into exile, when their inheritance was taken away from them, when the temple had been demolished, when, in a word, no visible religion existed, they might, as I have said, have desponded, had not this promise come to their minds, — that God would restore mount Zion, and gather a Church from the whole world. But there was also need of some confirmation, and this is what the Prophet now subjoins. Hence he says, “Since the Lord gives you hope of so glorious a restoration, you ought to feel confidence. and, in reliance on his promise, to continue in his true worship, how much soever the Gentiles may serve their own idols, and boast that they have the true God. However, then, every one of the nations may take pride in their superstitions, you ought not to fluctuate, nor turn here and there, like reeds, which are tossed to and fro, as the wind changes; but ye shall continue firm and steady in your course; for ye know that God is true, who has once for all adopted you, and has promised that your salvation will be the object of his care, even when the world shall think you to be ruined and lost.”
We hence see that what the Prophet had in view was to raise up into confidence the minds of the godly in the midst not only of troubles, but of utter confusion. All nations then shall walk, that is, when the temple and the city shall be demolished, and the people be led into distant exile, the ungodly will, at the same time, triumph, every one will extol his own gods: though our God should not then appear, there will yet be no reason why we should be discouraged; but we ought to recomb on his word. We shall then walk in the name of our God, and that for ever and ever; that is, though it should happen that the world should a hundred times be turned and turned over again, there shall yet be no change in our minds: for as the truth of God is eternal, so also our faith ought to be constant and never to vary. Now the difficulty is removed, and we see how these two things agree, — that all nations shall come and with one consent worship God, and yet that to each of them there would be their own gods: for the diversity of time must be here regarded, when all nations would walk every one in the name of his god. (125)
By saying, איש בשם אלהיו, aish beshem Aleiu, he touches, in an indirect way, on that variety which exists among men. Though all of them pertinaciously follow and defend their own superstitions yet each one fabricates a goal for himself. Thus it happens, that nothing is certain, for they follow only their own inventions. But this the Prophet meant only to touch by the way. His main object was that which I have stated, — that though the Church of God would be small, and should find a great multitude opposed to it, it ought not yet to succumb. We know how violent a thing is public consent; for when the majority conspire together, the small number, who entertain a different opinion, are, as it were instantly swallowed up. It is not then without reason that the Prophet exhorts the faithful here to an invincible firmness of mind, that they might triumph over all the nations. However small, then, might be the faithful in number, the Prophet wished them to look down, as it were from a higher place, not only on a large multitudes but on all mankind. Though then all nations walk, etc.: nor is the word כל, cal, all, superfluous, — though all nations shall walk, etc. There was then but one nation, the offspring of Abraham, among whom true religion existed; and it was a dreadful devastation, when God suffered the royal city and the temple to be pulled down, and the whole body of the people to be torn asunder, to be driven away here and there, so that no kingdom and no kind of civil community remained. Hence the Prophet intimates here, that though the faithful should find that in number and dignity they were far surpassed by their enemies, they yet should not despair. “Though then all the nations walked, every one in the name of their god, — though every people set up their superstitions against you, and all conspired against you together, yet stand ye firm and proceed in your course, and this not for a short time, but for ever and ever.” (126) Now this passage shows that faith depends not on the suffrages of men, and that we ought not to regard what any one may think, or what may be the consent of all; for the truth of God alone ought to be deemed sufficient by us. How much soever, then, the whole world may oppose God, our faith ought not to be changeable, but remain firm on this strong foundation, — that God, who cannot deceive, has spoken. This is one thing. Then, in the second place, it must be added, that this firmness ought to be perpetual. Though then Satan may excite against us new troubles, since we have hitherto stood firm as to our faith in God’s word, let us proceed in the same course to the end. And the Prophet designedly added this verse; because he saw that the people would be subject to various and long-continued temptations. It was a long captivity: hence languor might have, as it were, wasted away all the confidence which the people then had. And further, after they returned from exile, we know how often and how grievously their faith was tried, when all their neighbors inimically assailed them, and when they were afterwards oppressed by cruel tyranny. This was the reason why the Prophet said that the children of God are to walk perpetually and to the end in his name
Though he gives the name of gods to the idols of the nations he yet shows that there is a great and striking difference; for the nations worship their own gods, which they had invented: or how did they derive their majesty and their power, except from the false imagination of men? But the Prophet says, We will walk in the name of Jehovah our God. He hence shows that the power and authority of God is not founded on any vain device of men, for he of himself exists, and will exist, though he were denied by the whole world. And this also confirms what I have already stated, — that the faithful ought thus to embrace the word of God, as they know that they have not to do with men, the credit of whom is doubtful and inconstant, but with him who is the true God, who cannot lie, and whose truth is immutable. Let us proceed —
(125) Marckius views this passage differently. He considers that the converted Gentiles are meant here, — that when turned from their idols and their superstitions, they shall profess the true God, as revealed in the Gospel, and that each nation will regard him as its own God: however various in outward circumstances, they shall yet acknowledge the God revealed in his Word as their own. This view most certainly harmonizes better with the context than that of Calvin, which is commonly adopted. There is another, which is the same nearly in meaning, but founded on a different rendering of the words. The Jewish commentator Abarbanel, as quoted by Marckius, gives this version: —“
Nam omnes populi, qui ambulabant quisque in nomine dei sui, et now ambulabimus in nomine Jehovae Dei nostri.”
The words will no doubt admit of this construction; for it is often the case in Hebrew, that אשר, who, is understood before a verb in the future tense, especially when it has the meaning of the present, as here, for the preceding “ ambulabant,” might be rendered “ ambulant,” without any inconstancy in the meaning. I would therefore render the verse thus, —
For all the nations, Who walk each in the name of its god, And we ourselves, Shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God, For ever and ever.
The nations were then walking in the name of their multiplied gods; but at the time alluded to, both Gentiles and Jews would walk together in the name of Jehovah. There is thus an entire correspondence between all the parts of this remarkable passage, which extends from the first verse to the seventh inclusive; a part of which, extending only to the end of the third verse, is to be found in Isaiah. — Ed.
(126) לעולם ועד, “for ages and perpetually.” עולם means most commonly an indefinite, rather than an infinite time. The verb signifies to be hidden or concealed; and so the noun means an undefined and unknown period. “For ages,” would perhaps be its best version; whether these ages be limited or unlimited must depend on the context. Here עד is added to show that these ages would be endless, or to the end of time: for עד is “still,” unceasing futurity, that which is perpetual, still the same. The Levitical dispensation was לעולם “for ages,” but the new state of things promised here is to be, not only for ages, but also perpetually, that is to the end of time, while the world lasts. — Ed.
The Prophet pursues the same subject. But we must ever remember what I have previously reminded you of, — that the trials would be so grievous and violent that there would be need of strong and uncommon remedies; for the faithful might have been a hundred times sunk, as it were, in the deepest gulfs, except they had been supported by various means. This then is the reason why the Prophet confirms so fully the truth which we have noticed respecting the restoration of the Church.
In that day, he says, I will gather the halting This metaphor is not only found here; for David sage that his own affliction was like that of halting. The word צלעה, tsaloe, means the side: hence they metaphorically call those halters who walk only on one side: it is the same as though he had said, that they were maimed or weak. (127) He then adds, I will assemble the ejected, whom I have afflicted. In the next verse he repeats the same, I will make the halting, he says, a remnant; that is, I will make her who is now halting to remain alive, and her who is cast afar off, a strong nation. Some explain אנאלאה, (128) enelae, in a more refined manner, and say that it means, She who is gone before; as though the Prophet said, God will sustain the halting, and to those who are lively he will add strength. But this exposition is too strained. We see that the context will not admit it; for the Prophet brings forward the Church here as afflicted by the hand of God, and nigh utter ruin: and then, on the other hand, he intimates, that it was to be restored by God’s power, and that it would thereby gather new strength, and flourish as before: he therefore calls the Church as one cast far away, as in the previous verse; and the other verse clearly shows, that the Prophet’s design was no other but to point out the twofold state of the Church.
Now, in the first place, we must observe, that the Prophet meets the trial then present, which must have otherwise depressed the hearts of the godly. He saw that they were in a manner broken down; and then their dispersion was as it were a symbol of final ruin. If then the faithful had their minds continually fixed on that spectacle, they might have a hundred times despaired. The Prophet therefore comes here seasonably to their help, and reminds them, that though they were now halting, there was yet in God new vigor; that though they were scattered, it was yet in God’s power to gather those who had been driven afar off. The meaning briefly is, that though the Church differed nothing for a time from a dead man, or at least from one that is maimed, no despair ought to be entertained; for the Lord sometimes raises up his people, as though he raised the dead from the grave: and this fact ought to be carefully noticed, for as soon as the Church of God does not shine forth, we think that it is wholly extinct and destroyed. But the Church is so preserved in the world, that it sometimes rises again from death: in short, the preservation of the Church, almost every day, is accompanied with many miracles.
But we ought to bear in mind, that the life of the Church is not without a resurrection, nay, it is not without many resurrections, if the expression be allowed. This we learn from the words of the Prophet, when he says, ‘I will then gather the halting, and assemble the driven away;’ and then he adds, ‘and her whom I have with evils afflicted.’ And this has been expressly said, that the faithful may know, that God can bring out of the grave those whom he has delivered to death. For if the Jews had been destroyed at the pleasure of their enemies, they could not have hoped for so certain a remedy from God: but when they acknowledged that nothing happened to them except through the just judgment of God, they could entertain hope of restoration. How so? Because it is what is peculiar to God to bring forth the dead, as I have already said, from the grave; as it is also his work to kill. We then see that what the Prophet promised, respecting the restoration of the Church, is confirmed by this verse: I am he, says God, who has afflicted; cannot I again restore you to life? For as your death is in my hand, so also is your salvation. If the Assyrians or the Chaldeans had gained the victory over you against my will, there would be some difficulty in my purpose of gathering you; but as nothing has happened but by my command, and as I have proved that your salvation and your destruction is in my power, there is no reason for you to think that it is difficult for me to gather you, who have through my judgment been dispersed.
(127) It means, doubtless, no more here; some refer it to halting between two opinions, between idols and God: but such an idea is foreign to the drift of this passage. It is the depressed, weak, or afflicted and miserable state of the Church that is here set forth. — Ed.
(128) It is a Niphal participle from הלא, and corresponds in meaning with הנדחה, “the ejected,” in the last verse; only it is a stronger term, as it means one cast to a distance, while the latter signifies one cast or driven away. The first, as rendered by Junius and Tremelius, is procul disjecta , and the other is depulsa — Ed.
He then adds, I will make the halting a remnant By remnant he understands the surviving Church. Hence the metaphor, halting, is extended even to destruction; as though he said, “Though the Jews for a time may differ nothing from dead men, I will yet cause them to rise again, that they may become again a new people.” It was difficult to believe this at the time of exile: no wonder, then, that the Prophet here promises that a posterity would be born from a people that were dead. For though Babylon was to them like the grave, yet God was able to do such a thing as to bring them forth as new men, as it really happened.
He afterwards subjoins And the driven afar off, a strong nation When the Jews were scattered here and there, how was it possible that God should from this miserable devastation form for himself a new people, and also a strong people? But the Prophet has put the contrary clauses in opposition to one another, that the Jews, amazed at their own evils, and astonished, might not cast away every consolation. As then he had dispersed them, he would again gather them, and would not only do this, but also make them a strong nation.
He then adds, Reign shall Jehovah over them on mount Zion, henceforth and for ever The Prophet no doubt promises here the new restoration of that kingdom which God himself had erected; for the salvation of the people was grounded on this — that the posterity of David should reign, as we shall hereafter see. And it is a common and usual thing with the prophets to set forth the kingdom of David, whenever they speak of the salvation of the Church. It was necessary then that the kingdom of David should be again established, in order that the Church might flourish and be secure. But Micah does not here name the posterity of David, but mentions Jehovah himself, not to exclude the kingdom of David, but to show that God would become openly the founder of that kingdom, yea, that he himself possessed the whole power. For though God governed the ancient people by the hand of David, by the hand of Josiah and of Hezekiah, there was yet, as it were, a shade intervening, so that God reigned not then visibly. The Prophet then mentions here some difference between that shadowy kingdom and the latter new kingdom, which, at the coming of the Messiah, God would openly set up. Jehovah himself shall then reign over them; as though he said, “Hitherto indeed, when the posterity of David held the government, as God himself created both David and his sons, and as they were anointed by his authority and command, it could not have been thought but that the kingdom was his, though he governed his people by the ministry and agency of men: but now God himself will ascend the throne in a conspicuous manner, so that no one may doubt but that he is the king of his people.” And this was really and actually fulfilled in the person of Christ. Though Christ was indeed the true seed of David, he was yet at the same time Jehovah, even God manifested in the flesh. We hence see, that the Prophet here in lofty terms extols the glory of Christ’s kingdom; as though he had said that it would not be a shadowy kingdom as it was under the Law. Jehovah then shall reign over you.
He then subjoins, on mount Zion. We know that the seat of the kingdom of Christ has not been continued on mount Zion; but this verse must be connected with the beginning of this chapter. The Prophet has previously said, From Zion shall go forth a law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. If then the interpretation of this place be asked, that is, how Jehovah showed himself the king of his people, and erected his throne on mount Zion, the answer is, that from thence the law went forth from that place, as from a fountain flowed the doctrine of salvation, to replenish the whole world. As then the Gospel, which God caused to be promulgated through the whole world, had its beginning on mount Zion, so the Prophet says that God would reign there. But we must at the same time observe, that through the defection and perfidy of the people it has happened that mount Zion is now only an insignificant corner of the earth, and not the most eminent in the world, as also the city Jerusalem, according to the prediction of Zechariah. Mount Zion then is now different from what it was formerly; for wherever the doctrine of the Gospel is preached, there is God really worshipped, there sacrifices are offered; in a word, there the spiritual temple exists. But yet the commencement of the Gospel must be taken to the account, if we would understand the real meaning of the Prophet, that is, that Christ, or God in the person of Christ, began to reign on mount Zion, when the doctrine of the Gospel from thence went forth to the extremities of the world. It now follows —
Micah still continues the same subject, — that the miserable calamities of the people, or even their ruin, will not prevent God to restore again his Church. Thou tower of the flock, he says, the fortress of the daughter of Zion, doubt not but that God will again restore to thee thy ancient kingdom and dignity from which thou seemest now to have entirely fallen. But interpreters take the tower of the flock in various senses. Some think that the devastation of the city Jerusalem is pointed out, because it became like a cottage, as it is said in Isaiah; and עפל, ophil, they render “obscure,” for its root is to cover. But another explanation is simpler, — that the holy city is called the tower of the flock, because God had chosen it for himself, to gather his people thence; for we know that they had there their holy assemblies. Thou, then, the tower of the flock, and then, the fortress of the daughter of Zion, to thee shall come the former kingdom (129) If, however, the former sense be more approved, I will not contend; that is, that Jerusalem is here called the tower of the flock on account of its devastation, as it was reduced as it were into a cottage. As to the main import of the passage, there is no ambiguity; for the Prophet here strengthens the minds of the godly: they were not to regard the length of time, nor to allow their thoughts, to be occupied with their present calamity, but to feel assured, that what God had promised was in his power, that he could, as it were, raise the dead, and thus restore the kingdom of David, which had been destroyed.
Do then, he says, firmly hope. — Why? because come to thee, come to thee shall the former kingdom (130) Here the breaking off of the sentence is to be noticed, when the Prophet speaks of the ancient kingdom and dignity. It is not indeed to be doubted, but that the people of God had become objects of mockery, and that hypocrites and heathens thought that what David had testified respecting the perpetuity of his kingdom was a mere delusion.‘
Behold thy kingdom,’ he said, ‘shall continue as long as the sun and the moon,’ (Psalms 72:0)
but soon after the death of Solomon, a small portion only was reserved for his posterity, and at length the kingdom itself and its dignity disappeared. This is the reason that the Prophet now says, that the former kingdom would come. Come, he says, to thee, daughter of Zion, come shall the former kingdom There is indeed no doubt, but that by the former kingdom he understands its most flourishing condition, recorded in Scripture, under David and Solomon.
The kingdom, he says, to the daughter of Jerusalem shall come He expressly mentions the daughter of Jerusalem, because the kingdom of Israel had obscured the glory of the true kingdom. Hence the Prophet testifies here that God was not unmindful of his promise, and that he would restore to Jerusalem the dignity which it had lost, and unite the whole people into one body, that they might be no more divided, but that one king would rule over the whole race of Abraham. But this was not fulfilled, we are certain, at the coming of Christ, in a manner visible to men: we must therefore bear in mind what Micah has previously taught, — that this kingdom is spiritual; for he did not ascribe to Christ a golden scepter, but a doctrine, “Come, and let us ascend unto the mount of Jehovah, and he will teach us of his ways; and then he added,” From Zion shall go forth a law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. This, then, ought ever to be remembered, — that God has not rendered Jerusalem glorious in the sight of men, as it was formerly, nor has he enriched it with influence and wealth and earthly power; but he has yet restored the sovereign authority; for he has not only subjected to himself the ten tribes which had formerly revolted, but also the whole world. Let us go on —
(129) “I think the temple is meant, or Jerusalem; the place where the flock, the whole congregation of the people assembled to worship God. Newcome retains the Hebrew word עדר, eder, a tower in or near Bethlehem, Genesis 35:21, or as some think, a tower near the sheep gate in Jerusalem. I believe Jerusalem, or the temple, or both, are meant; for these were considered the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, the fortress of the Jewish people.”— Adam Clarke. What especially confirms this view is, that the two clauses are in apposition, the latter is explanatory of the former. — Ed.
(130) Calvin observes the order of the original, which is not done in our version. The whole verse may be thus rendered, —
And thou tower of the flock, The fortress of the daughter of Zion! To thee it shall return; Yea, come shall the former dominion, The kingdom to the daughter of Jerusalem.
The verb אתה, which I render “return,” means mostly, to come, to come near, to approach, to happen. — Ed.
The Prophet blends here things in their nature wholly contrary, — that the Jews were for a time to be cut off, — and that afterwards they were to recover their former state. Why, he says, dost thou cry out with crying? We must notice the Prophet’s design. He did not intend to overturn what he had before stated; but as the minds of the godly might have fainted amidst so many changes, the Prophet here gives them support, that they might continue firm in their faith; and hence he says, Why dost thou cry aloud with loud crying? That is, “I see that grievous troubles will arise capable of shaking even the stoutest hearts: time will be changeable; it will often be, that the faithful will be disturbed and degraded; but though various tumults may arise, and tempests throw all things into confusion, yet God will redeem his people.” We now then see what the Prophet means by saying, Why dost thou now cry? Why dost thou make an uproar? for the verb here properly means, not only to cry out, but also to sound the trumpet; as though he said, Why do the Jews so much torment themselves? There is he says, no doubt, a good reason.
And he adds, Is there no king among thee? This was doubtless the reason why the Jews so much harassed themselves; it was, because God had deprived them of their kingdom and of counsel: and we know what Jeremiah has said, ‘Christ,’ that is, the anointed of the Lord, ‘by whose life we breathe, is slain,’ (Lamentations 4:20.) Since, then, the whole Church derived as it were its life from the safety of its king, the faithful could not be otherwise than filled with amazement when the kingdom was upset and abolished; for the hope of salvation was taken away Is there, then, not a king among thee? and have thy counselors perished? Some think that the unfaithfulness of the people is here indirectly reproved, because they thought themselves to be destitute of the help of God and of his Christ, as though he said, — “Have ye forgotten what God has promised to you, that he would be your king for ever, and would send the Messiah to rule over you? nay, has he not promised that the kingdom of David would be perpetual? Whence then, is this fear and trembling, as though God no longer reigned in the midst of you, and the throne of David were hopelessly overturned?” These interpreters, in confirmation of this opinion, say, that Christ is here distinguished by the same title as in Isaiah 9:7; where he is called יועף, ivots, a counselor. But as in this verse, it is the Prophet’s design to terrify, and to reprove rather than to alleviate the grievousness of evils by consolation; it is more probable, that their own destitution is set before the people; as though Micah said, “What cause have you for trembling? Is it because your king and all his counselors have been taken away?” But what immediately follows proves that this sorrow arose from a just cause; it was because they were stripped of all those things which had been till that time the evidences of God’s favor.
Why then has pain laid hold on thee as on one in travail? Be in pain, he says, and groan; (132) that is, I will not prevent thee to grieve and to mourn; as though he said, “Certainly even the strongest cannot look on calamities so dreadful, without suffering the heaviest sorrow; but though God may for a time subject his children to the greatest tortures, and expose them to the most grievous evils, he will yet restore them at length from their exile.” Thou shalt depart, he says, from the city, and dwell in the field: thou shalt come even to Babylon; but there thou shalt be delivered; there shall Jehovah redeem thee from the hand of thy enemies The import of the whole is, that though God would have a care for his people, as he had promised, there was yet no cause for the faithful to flatter themselves, as though they were to be exempt from troubles; but the Prophet, on the contrary, exhorts them to prepare themselves to undergo calamities, as they were not only to be ejected from their country, and to wander in strange lands like vagrants, but were to be led away into Babylon as to their grave.
But to strengthen the minds of the faithful to bear the cross, he gives them a hope of deliverance, and says, that God would there deliver them, and there redeem them from the hand of their enemies. He repeats the adverb, שם, shem, there, twice, and not without cause: for the faithful might have excluded every hope of deliverance, as though the gate of God’s power had been closed. And this is the reason why the Prophet repeats twice, there, there; even from the grave he will deliver and redeem thee: “Extend then your hope, not only to a small measure of favor, as though God could deliver you only from a state of some small danger, but even to death itself. Though then ye lay, as it were, in your graves, yet doubt not but that God will stretch forth his hand to you, for he will be your deliverer. God then in whose power is victory, can overcome many and innumerable deaths.”
(132) Ingemisce , groan, mourn, or sigh and sob. גחי, burst forth, or break out; that is, into tears or mourning. “Bring forth,” as it is rendered by Newcome and Henderson, seems not to be the import of the word here. It may be rendered, as Parkhurst proposes, “labor and bring forth.” — Ed.
The Prophet’s object here is to give some alleviation to the faithful lest they should succumb under their calamities; for, as we have stated, there were most grievous evils approaching, sufficient to overwhelm the minds of the godly. The Prophet then raises up here, with the moat suitable comfort, those who would have otherwise fainted under their calamities; and the sum of the whole is this, — that the faithful were not to be confounded on finding the ungodly proudly triumphing, as they are wont to do, when they seem to have gained their wishes. Since, then, the wicked show a petulant spirit beyond all bounds, the Prophet exhorts the faithful to sustain themselves by God’s promises, and not to care for such insolence. He then subjoins a promise, — that God would assemble all the forces of their enemies, as when one gathers many ears of corn into a bundle, that he may thrash them on the floor. I will come now to the words of the Prophet.
Assemble, he says, against thee do nations, or strong nations: for, by saying, גוים רבים, guim rebim, he intimates one of two things, either that they were strong, or that they were large in number: as to the subject there is no great difference. The Prophet had this in view, — that though the Church of God may be pressed by a great multitude of enemies, it yet ought not to be broken down in mind: for the ungodly, while they cruelly domineer, do not understand the design of God. Assemble, then, against thee do many nations He sets the thing before them, to heal them of terror: for when we are beyond the reach of harm, we, for the most part, too heedlessly despise all dangers; and then, when we come to a real struggle, we tremble, or even fall and become wholly weak. This is the reason why the Prophet sets before the Jews their prospects, and shows that the time was near when they were to endure a siege, as enemies would, on all sides, surround them. Assemble then do nations, and strong or many nations: he shows here that the Jews had no reason to despond, though their enemies would far exceed them in number, and in forces, and in courage, for it was enough for them to be under the protection of God.
Who say, condemned now shall be Zion (133) The verb חנף, chenaph, means to act wickedly and perversely. It may then be literally rendered, ‘profane (scelerata) shall be Zion; and on it shall our eye look:’ but this word is often taken metaphorically for condemnation. The meaning then is, ‘Zion is now condemned:’ and the Prophet, no doubt, intended to intimate here, that the enemies would so triumph, as though Zion were not under the guardianship of God; as when any one, who has rendered himself hateful by his vices, is left and forsaken by his patrons. So, then, the Prophet here arms the faithful against the arrogance of their enemies, that they might not despair, when they found that they were condemned by the consent of all men, and that this was the opinion of all, — that they were forsaken by God.
(133) Jam damnata erit . Newcome renders the distich thus, —
Who say, Let her be defiled, And let our eye see its desire on Zion.
Profaned, or defiled, it is no doubt the meaning of the verb. But it is better to retain the future tense here, though it may often, in the third person, be rendered as an imperative. To look on, is a Hebrew idiom, and means often to triumph or exalt over another, or to gain the upper hand. See Psalms 22:17; Psalms 118:7. Several copies have the word for “eyes” in the singular number, as the verb is so: but anomalies of this kind often occur, as it is the case in Greek with respect to plural nouns in the neuter gender, and in Welsh, and when the verb precedes its nominative, almost in all instances. I offer the following version, —
Who say, “Defiled shall she be, And look on Zion shall our eyes.”—
Consolation follows, But they know not the thoughts of Jehovah, nor understand his counsel: for verbs in the past tense have the meaning of the present. Here the Prophet recalls the attention of the godly to a subject the most suitable to them: for when the wicked rise up so cruelly against us, we are apt to think that all things are allowed to them, and then their reproaches and slanders immediately take possession of our minds and thoughts, so that we in a manner measure God’s judgment by their words. Hence when the ungodly deride our faith, and boast that we are forsaken by God, we succumb, being as it were filled with amazement: and nothing is easier than to shake off from us faith and the memory of God’s promises, whenever the ungodly are thus insolent. The Prophet then does not without cause apply a remedy which ought to be carefully observed by us. Who say, condemned is Zion; but they are like the blind when judging of colors, for they understand not the counsel of Jehovah and his thoughts they know not. We now then see what the Prophet had in view, which was to show, — that the faithful would be unwise and foolish, if they formed an opinion of God’s judgment according to the boasting of the ungodly: for Satan carries them away in a furious manner; and when the Lord gives them liberty to do evil, they think that they shall be conquerors to the end. As then the ungodly are thus inebriated with foolish confidence, and despise not only men, but God himself, the Prophet here holds up and supports the minds of the godly that they might ascend higher, and thus understand that the design of God was not the same as what the wicked thought, who neither belonged to nor approached God. (134)
It is especially needful to know this truth. Some at the first sight may think it frigid, “O! than, what does the Prophet mean? he says that what these declare is not the design of Jehovah; and this we know.” But were all to examine the subject, they would then confess with one mouth, that nothing could have been more seasonable than this consolation. Now we are wounded by reproaches, and this very often happens to ingenuous men; and then, while the ungodly vomit forth their slanders, we think that God rests indifferently in heaven; and one of their words, like a cloud, obscures the judgment of God. As soon as any one of the wicked derides us, and laughs at our simplicity, threatens ferociously, and spreads forth his terrors, his words, as I have said, are like a cloud intervening between us and God. This is the reason why the Prophet says here, that the thoughts of Jehovah are different, and that his counsel is different: in short, the Prophet’s object is to show, that whenever the ungodly thus proudly despise us, and also reproachfully threaten and terrify us, we ought to raise our thoughts to heaven. — Why so? Because the design of God is another. Their boastings then will vanish, for they arise from nothing, and they shall come to nothing, but the purpose of God shall stand.
But let us now see why the Prophet spoke here of the design and thoughts of God: for if only these two words are brought before us, there is certainly but little solid comfort, and nothing that has much force or power. There is then another principle to be understood, — that the thoughts of God are known to us, who are taught in his school. The counsel of God then is not hidden, for it is revealed to us in his Word. Consolation therefore depends on a higher and a more recondite doctrine; that is, that the faithful, in their miseries, ought to contemplate the counsel of God as in a mirror. And what is this? that when he afflicts us, he holds a remedy in his hand, and that when he throws us into the grave, he can restore us to life and safety. When, therefore, we understand this design of God, — that he chastens his Church with temporal evils, and that the issue will ever be most salutary, — when this is known by us, there is then no reason why the slanders of the ungodly should deject our minds; and when they vomit forth all their reproaches, we ought to adhere firmly to this counsel of God. But that the ungodly are thus proud is no matter of wonder; for if they raise their horns against God, why should they not despise us also, who are so few in number, and of hardly any influence, at least not equal to what they possess? The Church is indeed contemptible in the eyes of the world; and it is no wonder if our enemies thus deride us, and load us with ridicule and contempt, when they dare to act so frowardly towards God. But it is enough for us to know, that they do not understand the counsel of God. We now then see the Prophet’s meaning, and an explanation follows, —
For thou shalt assemble them, he says, as a sheaf (135) to the floor The Prophet adds this clause as an explanation, that we may know what the counsel of God is, which he has mentioned, and that is, that God will collect the enemies as a sheaf. What is a sheaf? It is a small quantity of corn, it may be three hundred or a thousand ears of corn: they are ears of corn, and carried in a man’s hand. And then, what is to be done with the sheaf? It is to be thrashed on the floor. It was indeed difficult to believe, that enemies, when thus collected together on every side, would be like a sheaf. If an army assembled against us, not only ten or twenty thousand, but a much larger number, who would think, according to the judgment of the flesh, that they would be like a sheaf? They shall be as so many deaths and graves: even the thought of God ought to be to us of more account than the formidable power of men. Whenever, therefore, our enemies exceed us in strength and number, let us learn to arise to that secret counsel of God, of which our Prophet now speaks; and then it will be easy for us to regard a vast multitude to be no more than a handful. And he says, that our enemies are to be gathered to a floor, that they may be thrashed there. They assemble themselves for another purpose; for they think that we shall be presently in their power, that they may swallow us up; but when they thus collect themselves and their forces, the Lord will frustrate their purpose and cause them to be thrashed by us. It follows, —
(134) The beginning of these two lines is very emphatic: I would give this rendering, —
But they — they know not the purposes of Jehovah, And they understand not his counsel.
It has been rendered, “But, as for them;” but this is flat, and too prosaic. — Ed.
(135) Manipulum , a handful, a bundle of fruit; מיר, a sheaf,—a poetical singular for the plural — sheaves. — Ed.
Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion; for I have made thy horn (136) iron, and thy hoofs brass. The Prophet here confirms what he had previously said: and he exhorts the daughter of Zion to arise; for it was necessary for her to have been cast down, so as to lie prostrate on the ground. God did not indeed restore at once his Church, but afflicted her for a time, so that she differed nothing from a dead man. As then a dead body lies on the ground without any feeling, so also did the Church of God lie prostrate. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Arise, daughter of Zion; as though God, by his voice, roused the dead. We hence see, that the word קומי, kumi, is emphatical; for the Prophet reminds us, that there is no reason for the faithful wholly to despair, when they find themselves thus cast down, for their restoration is in the hand and power of God, as it is the peculiar office of God to raise the dead. And this same truth ought to be applied for our us, whenever we are so cast down, that no strength, no vigor, remains in us. How then can we rise again? By the power of God, who by his voice alone can restore us to life, which seemed to be wholly extinct.
He afterwards subjoins, Thresh, for I have made thy horn iron, and thy hoofs brass. A mode of thrashing, we know, was in use among the Jews the same with that in Italy and at this day in French Provence. We here thrash the corn with flails; but there by treading. The Prophet speaks here of this custom, and compares the Church of God to oxen; as though he said “The Jews shall be like oxen with iron horns and brazen hoofs that they may lay prostrate under them the whole strength of the nations. However much then the nations may now excel, I will subject them under the feet of my people, as if sheaves were thrashed by them.”
He then adds, (137) And thou shalt separate or consecrate their wealth to Jehovah, and their substance (138) to the Lord of the whole earth Here the Prophet specifies the end for which God had purposed to subject the heathen nations to his chosen people, — that he might be glorified. This is the meaning. But they have refined too much in allegories, who have thought that this prophecy ought to be confined to the time of Christ: for the Prophet no doubt meant to extend consolation to the whole kingdom of Christ, from the beginning to the end. Others, not more correctly, say, that this is to be referred to the Babylonian captivity because then Daniel and some others thrashed the people, when heathen kings were induced through their teaching to restore the temple, and also to offer some worship to the God of Israel. But on this point they are both mistaken, because they take the word thrashing in a different sense from the Prophet; for it commonly means that heathen nations are to be subjected to the Church of God: and this takes place, whenever God stretches forth his hand to the faithful, and suffers not the ungodly to exercise their cruelty as they wish; yea, when he makes them humbly to supplicate the faithful. This often happens in the world, as it is written of Christ, ‘thy enemies shall lick the earth,’ (Psalms 72:9.) But this prophecy shall not be fulfilled until the last coming of Christ. We indeed begin to tread on our enemies whenever God by his power destroys them, or at least causes them to tremble and to be cast down, as we find that they dread whenever any change takes place; and then they blandly profess that they desire to serve God. So at this day it has happened both in France and in Italy. How many hypocrites, for the sake of an earthly advantage, have submitted themselves to God? and how many such England produced when the Gospel flourished there? All the courtiers, and others who were unwilling to incur the displeasure of the king, professed themselves to be the very best lovers of religion. ( optimos pietatis cultores, — the best observers of piety) But yet this is ever the case,‘
Aliens have been false to thee,’ (Psalms 18:44.)
We hence see what the prophet means when he speaks of thrashing: he intimates, that the Lord would often cause that the enemies of the Church should be bruised, though no one crushed them: but, as I have said, we must look forward to the last day, if we wish to see the complete fulfillment of this prophecy.
He afterwards adds, Thou shalt consecrate their wealth to Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth The Prophet shows here, that the dominion is not to be hoped for by the children of God, that they may abound in worldly pleasures, and appropriate every thing to themselves and also abuse their power, as ungodly men are wont to do; but that all is to be applied to the worship and the glory of God. For what purpose, then does God design his Church to become eminent? That he himself may alone shine forth, and that the faithful may rightly enjoy their honor, and not become thereby proud. There is, therefore nothing more alien to the power of the Church than pride, or cruelty, or avarice. This, then that is said ought to be carefully observed, their wealth thou shalt consecrate to Jehovah He had spoken before of power, “Thou shalt bind strong people, thou shalt thrash them, and thou shalt tread them under thy feet;” but lest the faithful should turn all this to a purpose the Lord had not designed, a most suitable correction is immediately added, and that is, that this power shall not be exercised according to the will of men, but according to the will of God: Thou shalt then consecrate, etc.; and he uses the word חרם, cherem, which means to make a thing an anathema or an offering; (139) as though he said “God will raise his Church that it may rule over its enemies; but let the faithful at the same time take heed, that they rule not tyrannically; for God designs ever to reign alone: therefore the whole excellency, the whole dignity, the whole power of the Church ought to be applied for this end, — that all things may become subject to God, and every thing among the nations may be altogether sacred to him so that the worship of God may flourish among the conquerors, as well as among the conquered.” We now perceive the Prophet’s object in speaking of consecrating the wealth of the nations. Now follows —
(136) Horn, in Scripture, means often elevation, dignity, power, strength. It means evidently in the last here. Zion was made strong to thrash the nations, and supplied with strong hoofs to tread on them. The Paraphrase of Rabbi Jonathan is to the purpose, Fortes sicut ferrum, et robusti sicut aes — “Strong as iron, and robust as brass.” And that this is the meaning is proved by what follows, Thou shalt beat in pieces, or beat small, or thrash out, strong nations. — Ed.
(137) It is not often that Calvin passes over a sentence without noticing it, but he does so here; and it is this, and thou shalt tear in pieces strong nations. The verb is הדקות, thou shalt beat small, or thrash out; see Isaiah 28:28; perhaps the latter sense is most suitable to the passage. The meaning is, that a complete subjugation will take place. To thrash and to thrash out, is to conquer and to bring thoroughly under subjection. — Ed.
(138) The Hebrew word for this is חיל, and for “wealth” בצע. The latter means gain, spoil, or what is often unjustly got, or what is scraped together and constitutes the wealth of the covetous; חיל is properly substance, including possessions of all kinds, land, cattle, etc. בצע serves to include money, silver and gold; and חיל, everything else which makes up wealth.
The verb, “consecrate,” is in Hebrew in the first person, as it is in our version. There is no different reading; but the Septuagint and the earlier versions put it in the second person, to correspond with the previous verb, “Thou shalt beat in pieces.” There will be no difference in the sense, if we render it according to the Hiphil form, in which it is found, — “I will cause thee to consecrate.” Jerome, Theodoret, Marckius, Dathius, Newcome, and Henderson, adopt the second person. — This construction renders the passage no doubt more uniform. — Ed.
(139) The word is very emphatic; it means to devote a thing to a purpose forever, so as to be unchangeably settled. חרם, says Parkhurst, “is anything separated absolutely from its common condition and devoted to Jehovah, so as to be incapable of redemption. See Leviticus 27:21. As a verb in Hiph. To separate or devote thus to Jehovah. Leviticus 27:28; Micah 4:12.” It is therefore a sacrilege to take merely to our own use what ought to be, or what we have, thus consecrated to the Lord. — Ed.
These files are public domain.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Micah 4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16