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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Micah 3

 

 

Verse 1

And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?

The Second Division (Micah 3:1-12; Micah 4:1-13; Micah 5:1-15) begins with the same summons as the first, "Hear ye." Abruptly, the prophet passes from the glorious promises at the close of the first division, Micah 2:12-13, in order to imply that they must not hope to have an interest in these promises unless they forsake their sins, which he proceeds to denounce, and become true children "of Jacob."

And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes - magistrates or judges.

Is it not for you? Is it not for your special function (Jeremiah 5:4-5, "I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; because they have known the way of the Lord: but these have altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds").

To know judgment - justice. Ye sit in judgment on others; surely, then, ye ought to know the judgment for injustice which awaits yourselves (Romans 2:1 ).


Verse 2

Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;

Who pluck off them skin from off them, and their flesh - rob their fellow-countrymen of all their substance Who pluck off them skin from off them, and their flesh - rob their fellow-countrymen of all their substance (Psalms 14:4, "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread;" Proverbs 30:14, "There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw-teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men").


Verse 3

Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

And they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron - manifold species of cruel oppressions. Compare Ezekiel 24:3 ("Set on a pot; set it on, and also pour water into it: gather the pieces thereof into it, with every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder, fill it with the choice bones"), containing, as to the coming punishment, the same figure as is here used of the sin: implying that the sin and punishment exactly correspond.


Verse 4

Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.

Then - at the time of judgment, which Micah takes for granted, so certain is it (cf. Micah 2:3, "Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks").

Shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear - just as those oppressed by them had formerly cried, and they would not hear. Their prayer shall be rejected, because it is the mere cry of nature for deliverance from pain, not that of repentance for deliverance from sin.

He will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings - men cannot expect to do ill and fare well.


Verse 5

Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets. Here he attacks the false prophets as before he had attacked the "princes."

That make my people err - knowingly mislead my people by not denouncing their sins as incurring judgment.

That bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace - i:e., who, so long as they are supplied with food, promise peace and prosperity in their prophecies.

And he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him - whenever they are not supplied with food, they foretell war and calamity.

Prepare war - literally sanctify

War - i:e., proclaim it as a holy judgment of God because they are not fed (note, Jeremiah 6:4 : cf. Isaiah 13:3; Joel 1:14).


Verse 6

Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.

Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark - calamities shall press on you so overwhelming as to compel you to cease pretending to divine (Zechariah 13:4). Darkness is often the image of calamity (Isaiah 8:22; Amos 5:18; Amos 8:9).


Verse 7

Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded; yea, they shall all cover their lips. The Orientals prided themselves on the moustache and beard (margin, 'upper lip'). To cover it, therefore, was a token of shame, mourning, and sorrow (Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17, "Cover not thy lips" - i:e., assume not the usual token of one mourning; Ezekiel 24:22). 'They shall be so ashamed of themselves as not to dare to open their mouths, or boast of the name of prophet' (Calvin).

For there is no answer of God - they shall no more profess to have responses from God, being struck dumb with calamities (Micah 3:6).


Verse 8

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.

But truly I - in contrast to the false prophets (Micah 3:5; Micah 3:7).

Am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord - that which "the Spirit of Yahweh" imparts for the discharge of the prophetic function (Luke 1:17; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8, "Ye shall receive power afar that the Holy Spirit is come upon you").

And of judgment - a sense of justice (Maurer); as opposed to the false prophets' speaking to please men, not from a regard to truth. Or, judgment to discern between graver and lighter offences, and to denounce punishments accordingly (Grotius).

And of might - moral intrepidity in speaking the truth at all costs (2 Timothy 1:7).

To declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin - (Isaiah 58:1). Not to flatter the sinner, as the false prophets do, with promises of peace.


Verse 9

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob - resumed from Micah 3:1. Here begins the leading subject of the prophecy: a demonstration of his assertion that he is "full of power by the Spirit of Yahweh," (Micah 3:8).


Verse 10

They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. They - change of person from "ye" (Micah 3:9); the third person puts them to a greater distance, as estranged from him. It is literally 'Whosoever builds,' sing.

Build up Zion with blood - build on it stately mansions with wealth obtained by the condemnation and murder of the innocent (Jeremiah 22:13; Ezekiel 22:27; Habakkuk 2:12).


Verse 11

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

The heads thereof - the princes of Jerusalem.

Judge for reward - take bribes as judges (Micah 7:3 ).

And the priests thereof teach for hire. It was their duty to teach the law and decide controversies gratuitously (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:11; Malachi 2:7, "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts;" cf. Jeremiah 6:13; Jude 1:11).

The prophets thereof divine for money - i:e., false prophets.

Yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? - namely, in the temple, (Isaiah 48:2; Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 7:8-11, "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these ... Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal ... And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name?") This was characteristic of Ahaz's reign. Not until toward the close of his reign was he so embittered by the chastisements of God that he "shut up the doors of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 28:24). Previously, even after he had copied the brasen altar at Damascus, he still kept up a divided allegiance to God. Urijah the high priest, at the kings command, offered the regular sacrifices for the king and the people, while Ahaz used the brasen altar to inquire by, seeking by lying idolatrous divinations to gain that knowledge of the future which God withholds (2 Kings 16:15). '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' (Pusey).


Verse 12

Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest. Jeremiah 26:18 quotes this verse. Jeremiah describes the powerful effect of Micah's prophecy on Hezekiah (Jeremiah 26:19), "Did he not tear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against him?" See my Introduction to Micah, on this verse. Its effect on Hezekiah was such that a thorough reformation of his kingdom ensued, which caused the averting of the execution of God's judgments on Jerusalem for more than 100 years. The Talmud and Maimonides record that, at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus, Terentius Rufus, who was left in command of the army, with a plowshare tore up the foundations of the temple: so that this prophecy included in its fulfillment not only the destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, but that also under the Roman Titus.

Mountain of the house - the height on which the temple stands.

As the high places of the forest - shall become as heights in a forest overrun with wild shrubs and brushwood.

Remarks:

(1) The princes and rulers, who are the ministers of justice to others, ought best to know what is likely to be their own doom if they be guilty of injustice (Micah 3:1).} The Lord will pay the violent in kind. Even as they would not hear the cry of those who complained because of oppression, so in the oppressors' day of distress, when they cry to the Lord, He will not hear them (Micah 3:4 ). Men must not hope that, after behaving ill, they shall fare well.

(2) Not only the princes, but the prophets also in Israel, were guilty of rapacity and covetousness. They flattered these who ministered to their greediness with promises of "peace;" while against those who would "not put into their mouth they threatened "war," as a holy judgment from God (Micah 3:5). Love of filthy lucre is especially unseemly in him who exercises the sacred ministry. They who so dishonour God shall soon be forever silenced by God (Micah 3:7 ).

(3) In contrast to such stands the true minister of God. Though not possessing the miraculous inspiration of the prophet, every minister taught by the Holy Spirit, in his ordinary operations, can say, "Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord" (Micah 3:8). The true minister, "strengthened with might by Christ's Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16), is not afraid "to declare" unto sinners their "transgression" and "sin." He does not, like the false prophets, flatter those who will give him presents with promises of peace where there is no repentance, which is the only solid ground of peace. Nor does he make the heart of the humble righteous sad whom God hath not made sad; but with spiritual "judgment" discriminates the right message from God to give to the penitent and to the impenitent respectively.

(4) Judgment and equity are the true basis of a kingdom or nation. The polity that is, like Jerusalem, "built up with blood and with iniquity," shall fall (Micah 3:9-10).

(5) Names of religion will save no one, if the reality is lacking. People may go to the house of God, and profess to worship God as they will, but if their heart goeth after covetousness God rejects them. Faith rests upon the Lord, and honours Him by obedience. Presumption leans upon forms of worship, while dishonouring Him whom it professes to honour. All who love 'money' as their chief good, and yet lean upon the Lord, saying, "Is not the Lord among us" (Micah 3:11), utterly deceive themselves. Evil shall some upon them, to their everlasting destruction. As Zion, for the sake of such mammon-worshippers, was "plowed as a field," and its "house" of God laid waste, so shall every sanctuary which the worshippers desecrate by hypocrisy be destroyed by the judgment of God: so far shall it be from screening them from punishment. Let us see that our service of God is sincere, humble, and consistent.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Micah 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/micah-3.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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