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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Micah 3

 

 

Verse 1

Micah 3:1 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?

Ver. 1. And I said] viz. At another time, and in a new discourse; the heads whereof we have here recorded. A stinging sermon it is, preached to the princes and prophets, those great heteroclites (a) in the house of Israel. For as in a fish, so in a Church and state, corruption begins at the head; and as rheum (b) falling from the head upon the lights, breeds a consumption of the whole body, so is it here. To the chieftains therefore, and capitanei, capital, our prophet applieth himself. And as it is said of Suetonius, that ea libertate, scripsit Imperatorum vitas qua ipsi vixerunt, that he wrote the emperors’ lives with as much liberty as they lived them; so did Micah as boldly reprove the princes’ sins as they committed them. Such another preacher among us was Latimer, and after him Deering; who in his sermon before Queen Elizabeth, speaking of the disorders of the times; These things are so, saith he, and you sit still and do nothing. And again, May we not well say with the prophet, saith he, It is the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, seeing there is so much disobedience both in subjects and prince. Once it was Tanquam ovis, as a sheep, before the shearer: but now it is Tanquam iuvenca petulca, as an untamed heifer. In our days Reverend Mr Stock had this commendation given him by a faithful witness; that he could speak his mind fitly, and that he dared speak it freely. I will go to the Bishop (Stephen Gardiner, then lord chancellor), and tell him to his beard that he doth naught, said Dr Taylor, martyr; and he did so, though his friends dissuaded him. Truth must be spoken, however it be taken. And if God’s messengers must be mannerly in the form, yet in the matter of their message they must be resolute and plain dealing. It is probable that Joseph used some kind of preface to Pharaoh’s baker in reading him that hard destiny, Genesis 40:19, such haply as was that of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:19, or as Philo brings him in with a Utinam tale somnium non vidisses. But for the matter he gives him a sound, though a sharp, interpretation. So dealeth Micah by these corrupt princes, to whom nevertheless he giveth their due titles; and of whom he fairly begs audience. "Hear, I pray you, ye heads of Jacob," &c. Or, hear ye now, who formerly have refused to hearken. It was in Hezekiah’s days that this sermon was preached, as appeareth Jeremiah 26:18, not long before Sennacherib invaded the land, Micah 5:5. And although the king himself were religious and righteous, yet many of his princes and courtiers, who in the reign of his father Ahaz had been habituated in rapine and wrong-dealing, still played their pranks, and are here as barely told their own.

Is it not for you to know judgment?] To know it and do it? as it is said of our Saviour, that he knew no sin, that is, he did none. And have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? "they eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon God," Psalms 14:4. Of all men magistrates should be knowing men, fearing God, hating covetousness and cruelty, Exodus 18:21. They are the eyes of their country, and if they be dark, how great is that darkness! They are the common lookingglasses by which other men use to dress themselves. Judges they are, to discern and decide controversies; fit it is, therefore, and necessary that they know judgment, how else shall they execute it? Cicero complaineth of the Roman priests in his days, that there were many things in their own laws that themselves understood not. "I will get me to the great men," saith Jeremiah (when he found things far amiss among the Vulgate), "and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds," Jeremiah 5:5.


Verse 2

Micah 3:2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;

Ver. 2. Who hate the good, and love the evil] q.d. That you know not judgment, but are men ignorant of the truth which is according to godliness, appeareth by your wicked practices. For you stand across to what God requireth, hating what you should love, and loving where you should hate, Homo est inversus decalogus. Goodness is in itself amiable and attractive but you are perfect strangers to it, and therefore hate it and those that profess it. Evil is of the devil, and must therefore needs be loathsome; and yet you love it, allow it, and wallow in it; whereas you should "abhor that which is evil," hate it as hell, αποστυγουντες, "and cleave," or be fast glued, κολλωμενοι, "to that which is good," Romans 12:9. You are direct antipodes to the godly, Psalms 15:4, and have nothing in you of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, or of the spot of God’s children, but are a "perverse and crooked generation," Deuteronomy 32:3.

Who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones] Like so many carnivorous cannibals or truculent wild beasts. As the ossifrage, or breakbone, pursueth the prey, tears off the flesh, breaks the bones, and sucks out the marrow: such were these griping tyrants, their furious rapacity surmounted all bounds of humanity. Such a one was Verres among the Romans, as Cicero describeth him; that tiger, Tiberius, those Romish usurers in King John’s time here, called Caursini, quasi capientes ursi (quoth Paris), devouring bears, who left not so much money in the whole kingdom as they either carried with them or sent to Rome before them. Money and lands are here called men’s skin, flesh, and bones; and a poor man’s substance is his life. See Mark 12:44, Luke 8:48. Hence oppression is called a bony sin, Amos 5:12; Amos 5:18, and oppressors, men eaters, Psalms 14:4, and murderers, Habakkuk 2:12. Cyprian cries out, Ferae parcunt Danieli, Ayes pascunt Eliam, homines saeviunt; Lions spare Daniel, ravens feed Elias, but men rage and are worse than both. Melancthon makes mention of a certain prince, some few years before his time, who, to get money out of his subjects, would send for them, and by knocking out first one tooth, and then another (threatening to leave them toothless else), would extort from them what sums soever he pleased. Our King John’s exactors received from his subjects no less sums of curses than of coin, saith the chronicler; and so did Cardinal Woisey, under Henry VIII, by his importable subsidies, which caused Suffolk to rise up in arms, making poverty their captain.


Verse 3

Micah 3:3 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.

Ver. 3. Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skins, &c.] He still proceeds in the allegory, the better to argue and aggravate their extreme cruelty. Money, saith the heathen, is a man’s flesh, blood, life, all. Of this, when the people were pilled and polled by their cruel princes, who are here compared to butchers and cooks, they are looked upon as not only excoriated, but excarnified, and even exossated, and laid for dead; for mortis habet vices quae trahitur vita genitibus. It is a lifeless life that many poor people live for want of necessaries. Such savage shepherds Ezekiel inveighs against, that not only shear their sheep, but hold them and suck their blood, Ezekiel 34:1-10. Atqui pastoris est pecus tondere, non deglubere, non carnem et ossa concidere. (Tiber. ap. Sueton.).

Chop them in pieces, as for the pot, &c.] Making no more bones of undoing them and their families than to eat a meal’s meat when hungry; yea, nourishing their hearts therewith, "as in a day of slaughter," or good cheer, James 5:5.


Verse 4

Micah 3:4 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.

Ver. 4. Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them] Then, sc. when God shall have changed their cheer, pulled the fat morsel from between their teeth, and fed them with the bread of affliction and water of affliction, 1 Kings 22:27, with prisoners’ pittance, as they call it, which will neither keep them alive nor suffer them to die; then shall they cry and whine as hogs when hungry, as dogs when tied up from their meat; but God will not hear them. He will even cast out their prayers with contempt, as being the prayers of the flesh for ease, and not of the spirit for grace. They cry unto the Lord aloud, but it is only to be rid of his rod; they roar when upon the rack, but it is only to get off; they look ruefully, as the fox doth when taken in a gin, but it is only to be set at liberty; they chatter out a charm when God’s chastening is upon them, yea, they may be with child (as it were) of a prayer, and yet bring forth nothing but wind, Isaiah 26:16-18. For either God answereth them not at all, which was Saul’s case and curse, 1 Samuel 28:15, and Moab’s, Isaiah 16:12, and David’s enemies’, Psalms 18:41; or else he give them bitter answers, Ezekiel 14:4, 10:13-14. Or if better; it is but for a further mischief, that he may curse their blessings, and consume them after that he had done them good, Joshua 24:20. Their preservation from one evil is but a reservation to seven worse; as we see in Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Ahab, and others. "Lo, this is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors which they shall receive of the Almighty," Job 27:13-15, &c. See the place. Remediless misery shall befall them, calamities that shall wring from them clamours, but to no purpose or profit. See Proverbs 1:28.

He will even hide his face from them] That is, withdraw his favour, care, providence, help, presence, and benefits, of all which the face is the symbol: that like as they have turned upon God the back and not the face, and have been merciless to men, hiding their eyes from their own flesh, Isaiah 58:7; so shall it be done to them in the day of their distress. God will award them judgment without mercy who showed no mercy, James 2:18. He will set off all hearts from them, as he did from wicked Haman, when the king frowned upon him. Lastly, he will turn their own consciences loose upon them (as once he did upon Joseph’s brethren, Genesis 42:21), to ring that doleful knell in their ears, Isaiah 33:1, "Woe to thee that spoileth," &c. "when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled," &c. Talionis lege mulctabere, as Adonibezek, Phocas, Charles IX. See Proverbs 21:18. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 21:18"}


Verse 5

Micah 3:5 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.

Ver. 5. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets] False prophets, who pretended Divine authority, when as God never sent them, but expressly declareth here against them, and threateneth them. Those profane princes had their fleshflies, those court parasites, to soothe and smooth them up in their sins; to promise them peace, albeit they walked in the imagination of their own hearts, "to add drunkenness to thirst," and to live as they wanted, Deuteronomy 29:19. Mirifica est sympathia inter Magnates et parasites, saith Bucholcer. There is a strange sympathy between great men and clawbacks: nothing so troublesome to such as truth, nothing so toothsome as flattery: this is the fruit of sinful selflove; and the end thereof are the ways of death Proverbs 16:25.

That make my people to err] That seduce them and carry them out of the right way into bypaths and blind thickets of error, where they are lost for ever, Deuteronomy 13:18. Seducers are said to draw men violently, αποσταν, Acts 20:30, or to thrust them onward. Jeroboam is said to have "driven Israel from following the Lord"; and the false apostles to drag disciples after them, Acts 20:29-30, compelling them, by their persuasions, to embrace those distorted doctrines that cause convulsions of conscience.

That bite with their teeth] The dogs of Congo bite though they bark not, saith Mr Purchas (Pilgr. of Religion): there are a sort of cur dogs, saith another, that suck a man’s blood only with licking (Christ’s Politician, by The. Scot). Seducers are such: "Beware of false prophets for they come to you in sheep’s clothing; but inwardly they are ravening wolves." And in this sense Jerome and Theodoret take this text: they devour those they make prize of, as the apostle’s word signifieth, συλαγωγειν, Colossians 2:8. Others think their covetousness and gormandise is noted.

O Monachi, vestri stomachi sunt amphora Bacchi:

Vos estis, Deus est testis, certissima pestis. ”

As hungry dogs they snap at a crust, and make clean work, such is their voracity and unsatisfiableness.

“ Ingluvies, et tempestas, barathrumque macelli.

And cry, Peace] Pαντα καλως εσται. All shall be as well as heart can wish or need require. Let these Cerberuses (a) but be morselled and you shall hear no worse of them. Like they are to the ravens of Arabia, that, full gorged, have a tuneably sweet record, but empty, screech horribly. Si veatri bene si lateri, as Epicurus saith in Horace; Let their bellies be filled and their backs fitted, and they will prophesy all good to you: as those false prophets, nourished by Jezebel, did to Ahab; as the Pharisees cried up to the centurion, who had built them a synagogue, Luke 7:5; as the Popish clergy canonize their benefactors, and extol them to the skies. Wulfin, Bishop of Sherborn, displaced secular priests and put in monks. Hence the monkish writers make him a very holy man, and report of him, that when he lay dying he cried out suddenly, "I see the heavens open and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God," and so died. Yea, they had a trick to make their images speak their minds this way. As the cross of grace here in England had a man within it enclosed with a hundred wires to make the image goggle with the eyes, nod with the head, hang the lip, move and shake his jaws, according as the value was of the gift that was offered. If it were a small piece of silver, he would hang a frowning lip; if a piece of gold, then should his jaws go merrily. This idolatrous forgery was at last, by Cromwell’s means, disclosed, and the image, with all his engines, showed openly at Paul’s Cross, and there torn in pieces by the people who had been so seduced (Acts and Mon. fol. 1084).

And he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him] Heb. sanctify a war, id est, excommunicatis aqua et igni interdicunt, crucem adversus eos praedicant, they thunder against them, and throw them out of the Church: publish their crusades, as they did against the Waldenses in France, the Hussites in Bohemia, and Luther in Germany, whom the Pope excommunicated, the emperor proscribed, various divines wrote against: the reason whereof, when Erasmus was asked by the Elector of Saxony, he rightly answered, Because he meddleth with the Pope’s triple crown and with the friar’s fat paunches.


Verse 6

Micah 3:6 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.

Ver. 6. Therefore night shall be unto you] Ye shall be benighted, your gifts blasted, and your persons baffled: your lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness; the sword shall be upon your arms, and upon your right eyes; your arms shall be clean dried up, and your right eyes utterly darkened, Zechariah 11:17. Those illuminations and inspirations that ye seemed to have shall be taken from you, and God shall pass that dreadful sentence, Take the talent from him, even here in this life; let him not have the least dram or drop of a prophetic spirit, of ministerial abilities; and then, in the next world, cast "ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness," &c., Matthew 25:28; Matthew 25:30.

And it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine] Tenebrae vobis a divinatione, vel propter divinationem, so Calvin. All the reward ye shall have for your divination shall be disgrace and confusion: your folly shall be manifest unto all men, as was that of Jannes and Jambres, 2 Timothy 3:9.

And the sun shall go down over the prophets] The same thing is set forth by sundry metaphors, for more assurance: for Hypocritis nihil stupidius, it is hard to persuade a hypocrite that evil is towards him. See Micah 3:11.


Verse 7

Micah 3:7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for [there is] no answer of God.

Ver. 7. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded] They shall be hissed and hooted at for impostors and falsaries; shame shall be the promotion of these fools, as it is at this day of the heathen philosophers, of the Jewish Rabbis, of the Popish doctors and schoolmen, who once carried the hell for most acute and accurate divines, but now appear to be great triflers; a rotten generation of dunghilldivines, as one styleth them: in detestation of whose vain jangling and noting about questions, 1 Timothy 6:4, Luther saith, Prope est ut iurem, &c., I could swear almost that there was not a schoolman that understood one chapter of the Gospel (Luth. tom. 1, oper. lat. eph 47). Latimer professed that by hearing Bilney’s confession he learned more than before in many years. So from that time forward, saith he, I began to smell the word of God, and forsake the school doctors and such fooleries.

Yea, they shall all cover their lips] And stand aloof, as lepers. See Leviticus 13:45, Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22. Or they shall leave off their lying; for I will stop their mouths, that they shall not hereafter so much as mute any more, Ego illis os claudam (Calv.). The Septuagint render it, All men shall abhor them, shall open their lips against them. Montanus, involvent mystacem suam, they shall wrap up their moustaches, which (saith a Lapide) the false prophets wore upon their upper lip, et incedebant comptuli, and went neatly trimmed, as do now the Calvinistic ministers. But if some do so, yet this is better than the Popish priests shaving, which is a ceremony so bald, that some priests in France are ashamed of the mark; and few of them have it that can handsomely avoid it.

For there is no answer of God] He comes not at them, as sometimes he did to Abimelech, Laban, Balaam; neither speak they according to his word, for what reaons? "there is no light in them," Isaiah 8:20. The philosophers "professing themselves to be wise" (but wanting the wisdom from above) "became fools," Romans 1:22. The Pharisees, had they known anything aright and as they ought, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8. Oracles they had, and miracles enough; but they "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized," Luke 7:30; or if they were, yet remained they a viperous brood, Matthew 3:7, and never attained to that answer of a good conscience toward God, 1 Peter 3:21. The schoolmen often cite the philosophers, seldom the apostles; they count the authority of Fathers as good as that of Scriptures: neither doubt they to call the writings of the Fathers by the name of Scripture ( Lombard passim). Was not this to set "men’s threshold by God’s threshold; and their posts by his posts," Ezekiel 43:8. What marvel therefore though they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, while they taught for doctrines men’s traditions? What marvel though Popish fopperies, once so admired, be now so much slighted, since the world seeth further into them than formerly? Notable is that passage in King Henry VIII’s protestation against the Pope: England is no more a babe; there is no man here but now he knows that they do foolishly that part with gold for lead. Surely, except God take away our right wits, not only the Pope’s authority shall be driven out for ever, but his name also shortly shall be forgotten in England. We will from henceforth ask counsel of him and his, when we list to be deceived, when we covet to be in error, when we desire to offend God, truth, and honesty.


Verse 8

Micah 3:8 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.

Ver. 8. But truly I am full of power] But doth it become the prophet thus to praise himself? Laus proprio sordescit in ore: and those who vaunt most have often the least courage; as those creatures who have the greatest hearts of flesh are the most timorous; as the stag, panther, hare. For answer, it must be considered that the prophet speaketh not here of his own good parts, out of a vain glorious humour (it was enough for him that he was "all glorious within," Psalms 45:13, virtusque sue contenta theatre est), but to separate himself from those false prophets aforementioned, and to assert his calling by his qualifications, as doth likewise St Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:1-13, to those who sought a proof of Christ speaking in him. The word rendered But, truly signifies, All which notwithstanding: q.d. Albeit there is such a general defection from God, and such unfaithfulness in the prophets of these times, yet I am full of power, lively and lusty, vigorous and vivacious.

By the spirit of the Lord] That noble spirit, as David calleth him, Psalms 51:12, that spirit "of power, of love, and of a sound mind" (as Paul, 2 Timothy 1:7), that putteth spiritual mettle into the soul, and steeleth it against all opposition. And truly if the Spirit put not vigour into us how dead and fiat are our duties and all ordinances, like liquor that hath lost its spirits! there is as much difference many times as between cold water and aqua vitae, water of life.

And of judgment] To discern things that differ, to time a word, as the prophet Isaiah hath it, Isaiah 50:4, and to teach things profitable and proper to my auditors (not as he in the emblem, that gave straw to the dog and a bone to the ass; or as those false prophets, who spake good of evil and evil of good), and wisely to distinguish between law and gospel in praxi; which whoso can do let him thank God, saith Luther, and let him know that he is a divine indeed; gratias agat Deo, et sciat se esse Theologum (Luth.).

And of might] Or, of manhood, virtue, prevalence against an adversary, patience under whatsoever cross occurrences for the truth’s sake, and for my plain dealing. A minister had need be a man every inch of him; and to play the man ανδριζεσθε, 1 Corinthians 16:13, yea, as the good soldier of Jesus Christ, to suffer hardship; being "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." He must be like the diamond in the high priest’s breastplate for hardness and hardiness, as of Athanasius Nazianzen testifieth that he was Magnes et Adamas, both a lodestone, for his loveliness and humility, and an adamant, for his resolute stoutness and magnanimity against those that were evil.

To declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin] To tell them of their wickedness with the same liberty that they commit it. See here the true picture of a preacher, both how he must be gifted, and how deeded. A thankless office it is with the world to be thus bold and busy; and very many ministers affect to be counted no meddlers: they think it enough to preach toothless truths, and not to incur the displeasure of people by telling them of their transgressions and God’s judgments. But this is not the garb and guise of those that are sent and gifted by God. See Ezekiel 3:1-27, Ezekiel 33:1-33


Verse 9

Micah 3:9 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.

Ver. 9. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads, &c.] He had had a bout with them before; but because little good was thereby done, he is at them again; according to that counsel of the wise man, Ecclesiastes 11:6, "In the morning sow thy seed, in the evening withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not," &c. "Preach the word," saith the apostle, "be instant" (or stand over the work, επιστηθι) "in season, out of season," 2 Timothy 4:2. Chrysostom told his Antiochians, that he would never give over preaching against that sin of swearing till they gave over their swearing; which, because he could not get them to do, he breaks out into these words, It will be a hard speech unto you, but I will speak it: though there be so many thousands of you, yet there cannot be found a hundred that shall be saved; and I tell you true, I doubt of them too.

Ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel] As bad as they were he gives them their titles. The devil also is to have his due; he is called by the Holy Ghost "Prince of the air," and his angels are styled "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world," Ephesians 6:12. {See Trapp on "Micah 3:1"}

That abhor judgment] They were not only ignorant of it, Micah 3:1, but abhorred it; and therefore abhorred it because they knew it not. Plato could say, that if moral virtue could be beheld with mortal eyes it would attract all hearts to itself. "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, spake evil of those things that they understood not," 2 Peter 2:12, and "what they knew naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupted themselves," 1:10; being carried away by their impetuous and imperious lusts, they not only did that which was evil, but also hated the light of the law that reproved and sentenced them; licensing others by their practice, at least, to do the like. Such Centaurs and Cyclopes were these princes of Israel grown; such Heteroclites these heads of the house of Jacob. "The whole head was sick," Isaiah 1:5, the rulers were a scab, Isaiah 5:7. The Lord "looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry." They had made the age not unlike that under Nero, wherein nothing almost was unlawful; but villany was acted by authority (Dio Cassius).

And pervert all equity] Heb. they pervert, &c. It is spoken to others, in token of abomination; see the like, Genesis 49:4, with the note. Now equity or rectitude is perverted, when the guilty are acquitted and the innocent condemned, see Isaiah 5:20; Isaiah 5:23, when there is accepting of persons. and receiving of gifts,


Verse 10

Micah 3:10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.

Ver. 10. They build up Zion with blood] Heb. bloods, that is, with goods gotten by rapine and robbery, to the utter undoing of many poor oppressed, whose livelihood is their life, Mark 12:44, Luke 8:43. How much better Selimus, the Great Turk, who, being upon his death bed moved by Pyrrhus, the basha, to bestow the great wealth taken by him from the Persian merchants upon some notable hospital for relief of the poor, took order that those evil gotten goods should be forthwith restored again to the right owners, to the shame of many Christians who will not be drawn to do so. Our Henry VII, indeed, in his last will and testament, devised and willed restitution should be made of all such moneys as had unjustly been levied by his officers. But how few such princes are to be found! It is held a goodly thing to build Zion, though it be with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. But God, as he will not have ex rapina holocaustum, so he infinitely abhorreth all those who, under pretext of religion in building some poor hospital with the fragments of their accursed wealth, seek to make him a party, a partaker of their cruelty, as those did, Isaiah 66:8; Isaiah 66:4, Mark 7:11, Matthew 23:14. Our Henry III, when he had, after his many great exactions, sent the friar minors a load of frieze (a) to clothe them, had the same sent back again with this message, That he ought not to give alms of what he had rent from the poor, neither would they accept of that abominable gift. Zion is not to be builded or beautified with bloods.


Verse 11

Micah 3:11 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.

Ver. 11. The heads thereof judge for reward] Being so many locusts, et latrones cum privilegio, both robbers with immunity, as one saith. Well might St Paul say that covetousness is the root of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10. It is here assigned as one cause, and carnal security as another, of that regiment without righteousness, here justly complained of. And it was the worse, because it had overrun all sorts of such as were in place of power, whether civil or ecclesiastical. The princes and judges took gifts, which they should not only not have taken, but have hated, Proverbs 15:27, they should have shaken their hands from holding of bribes, Isaiah 33:15, since there is a curse to such magistrates with an Amen to it, Deuteronomy 27:25, Psalms 25:5, exclusion out of heaven: Olim didici quid sint munera, said one once. Rain is good (said another), and ground is good, sed ex eorum coniunctione fit lutum, of the mixture of these two is dirt: so, giving is kind and taking is courteous; yet the mixing of them maketh the smooth paths of justice foul and uneven. Nec prece nec pretio, neither by request or reward, should be the magistrate’s motto. And Justice justice (as Moses phraseth it, Deuteronomy 16:20 margin), that is, clear sheer justice without mud should run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty torrent, Amos 5:24.

And the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money] They were merely mercenary; and as Apollo’s oracles, corrupted by Philip’s gold, were said φιλιππαζειν, to speak as he would have them, so was it here. Both priests and prophets were ignava ventris mancipia Micah 3:5, {See Trapp on "Micah 3:5"} greedy dogs, slow bellies, they all looked to their own way, every one for his gain from his quarter, Isaiah 56:11. Albertus Magnus complained of the covetousness of pastors in his time. Bernard for this cause calleth them impostors and byseers. Hugo Cardinalis said that the devil had two daughters, Avarice and Luxury; the former whereof he had married to the Jews, the latter to the Gentiles; but now, saith he, the priests have taken away both of them from their right husbands, and make use of them for their own. Si posui aurum in coniugium meum, so the Septuagint read that text, Job 31:24, signifying the covetous man’s great love to money; whence St James calleth such adulterers and adulteresses, James 4:4. St Paul saith they mind only earthly things (sc. their purses and paunches), Philippians 3:19, and incessantly woe this Mundus immundus, this vile strumpet, the world; having eyes full of the adulteress, and that cannot cease to sin, 2 Peter 2:14. But their money shall perish with them that teach for hire, that follow the ministry only as a trade to pick a living out of, qui plus fisco quam Christo vacant, plus attonsioni quam attentioni gregis, et ubi non vident quaestum, rident Christum. All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s, Philippians 2:21.

Yet will they lean upon the Lord] Or, lay their weight upon him, as upon a staff or crutch, velut sirmissimo seipione. Thus their forefathers, Psalms 78:32; Psalms 78:35, though they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works, yet they would needs believe that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer. So their successors, Jeremiah 3:3-5, when they had spoken and done evil as they could, yet, having a whore’s forehead, they could give goodly words, "Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth? Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end?" Here were good words (for they are good cheap, as we say), but nothing more. The Lord was much in their mouths, but far from their reins, Jeremiah 12:2. Self-deceivers think they lean upon the Lord when it is no such matter; their faith is a mock faith, a strong fancy, a blind presumption, which will prove but a broken reed, and was never true to those that trusted it. Surely, as he that maketh a bridge of his own shadow cannot but fall into the brook, so neither can he escape the burning lake, that had rather be carnally secured than soundly comforted. Good gold is a cordial; so is not alchemy gold; neither will it pass the seventh fire, as the other will. Security is the forerunner of calamity; neither miscarry any so sure or so soon as the overly confident.

And say, Is not the Lord among us?] And hath he not promised so to be for ever? True, but upon condition that you be with him, and no otherwise, 2 Chronicles 15:2. He is not so tied to you, but that he can go away from you. See his many removes Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23, and observe, that still as he goes out, some judgment comes in. They call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel, the Lord of hosts is his name, Jeremiah 48:2, but all this was but court holy water, as they call it, empty words, such as our profligate professors are full of. But wilt thou know, O vain man (or, O empty man, κενε), that words without works are bootless? James 2:20, that external privileges alone profit not, Jeremiah 7:4, Acts 6:14, that formal profession and performances are disaccepted, and those that please themselves therewith are but as women travailing with a false birth, Isaiah 26:18. Men are wont to do with these as those conjurers did with the name of Jesus; they thought if they used that name it was enough. They hear, therefore, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" Acts 19:15. So shall it fare with such as glory in this, that they were born in the bosom of the Church, live under the means of grace. Gehazi took the prophet’s staff; but there was something more, else the child had not been raised. Those tell but an ill tale for themselves that have no more to say but this, "Is not the Lord among us?" Men are the worse for his presence with them if they walk not worthy of the Lord in all well pleasing, Colossians 1:10, if they have not grace to serve him with reverence and godly fear: for even our God is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:28-29.

None evil can come upon us] Let prophets say what they please, we shall have peace, Deuteronomy 29:19, all shall be well with us while God is with us, and for us. But God will not take the wicked by the hand, saith Job, Job 8:20; neither will he at all acquit the guilty, saith Moses, Exodus 34:7. "The foolish shall not stand in his sight," saith David: "for he hateth all the workers of iniquity," Psalms 5:5. "Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions," Exodus 23:21; or if he do, yet it is two to one that he will take vengeance of your inventions, Psalms 99:8. Shake off, therefore, carnal security; fear the Lord, and depart from evil.


Verse 12

Micah 3:12 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.

Ver. 12. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field] Even for your sakes, O wicked princes, priests, and prophets; you are the traitors that have betrayed us all into the hands of Divine justice. To be angry with us for saying so, and telling you what to trust to, is as if some fond people should be angry with the herald, or the trumpet, as the cause of their wars.

Zion shall be plowed as a field] Shall be utterly laid waste and levelled. Conquerors used to plough up those places that they would not have rebuilt; and to sow them with salt, 9:45. It must needs be a dismal destruction that is described in such exquisite terms. Alterius perditio tua sit cautio. This threatening of the prophet took so well that the judgment was respited for over a hundred years, Jeremiah 26:19. But now men’s hearts are more hardened, and therefore their destruction more hastened.

And Jerusalem shall become heaps] Rupes ruderum. This they once thought as possible as to overthrow God’s own throne; the very disciples had a conceit that the world could not outlast the temple, as may be gathered from Matthew 24:3. But they (some of them) lived to see themselves confuted, and our Saviour’s words verified, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down," Matthew 24:2.

And the mountain of the house] That famous house, that was worthily reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world, and stood upon Mount Moriah.

As the high places of the forest] As woody and desert places, fit only for wild beasts. Lege et Luge, Read and weep, saith one, speaking of Jerusalem’s desolation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Micah 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/micah-3.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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