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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Micah 6

 

 

Verses 1-16

SECOND DIVISION

FOURTH DISCOURSE

Micah 6-7

Micah 6:1 Hear ye, I pray, what Jehovah saith :

Rise thou, wage a controversy before the mountains,

And let the hills hear thy voice !

2Hear, ye mountains, Jehovah’s controversy,

And ye immovable foundations of the earth !

For Jehovah hath a controversy with his people,

And with Israel will he dispute.

3My people, what have I done unto thee ?

And wherein have I wearied thee ?

Testify against me.

4For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,

And out of the house of bondage I redeemed thee;

And sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

5 My people, remember now

What Balak consulted,

The king of Moab,

And what answer was given him,

By Balaam, son of Beor;

From Shittim to Gilgal;

That thou mayest know the righteousness of Jehovah.

6 With what shall I come into the presence of Jehovah,

Bow down unto God on high ?

Shall I come into his presence with burnt offerings,

With calves of a year old ?

7 Doth Jehovah delight in thousands of rams,

In ten thousand streams of oil ?

Shall I give my first born for my transgression,[FN1]

The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?

8 He hath told thee, O Prayer of Manasseh, what is good;

And what[FN2] doth Jehovah require of thee,

But to do justly,

And love mercy,

And walk humbly with thy God ?

9 Jehovah’s voice calls to the city,

And wisdom will see thy name.[FN3]

Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it!

10 Are there yet in the house of the wicked

Treasures of wickedness,

And the lean Ephah, accursed ?

11Can I be pure with the wicked balances,

And with the bag of deceitful weights ?

12Her rich men are full of violence,

And her inhabitants speak lies,

And their tongue is deception in their mouth.

13And I also will smite thee with deadly wounds,

Laying thee waste on account of thy sins.

14Thou shalt eat and not be satisfied,

And thy emptiness [shall remain] in thee;

And thou shalt remove, and shalt not rescue,

And what thou dost rescue I will give to the sword.

15 Thou shalt sow, and not reap;

Thou shalt tread olives, and not anoint thee with oil,

And must, and not drink wine.

16 And they diligently keep the statutes of Omri,

And all the works of the house of Ahab;

And ye walk in their counsels,

That I may make thee an astonishment,

And her inhabitants a hissing :

And the reproach of my people ye shall bear.

Micah 7:1 Woe is me ! for I am become

As the gatherings of the harvest,

As the gleanings of the vintage:

There is no cluster to eat;

For a first-ripe fig my soul longs.

2Perished is the godly man out of the earth;

And upright among men there is none:

They all lie in wait for blood,

Each his brother they hunt with a net.

3For evil both hands are active;

The prince asketh, and the judge [judgeth] for reward,

And the great man—he speaketh the desire of his soul,

And they wrest it.

4The best of them is as a prickly bush,

And the most upright worse than a thorn hedge :

The day[FN4] of thy watchmen and of thy visitation cometh;

Then shall be their perplexity.

5 Trust ye not in a friend,

Confide not in an associate;

From her that lieth in thy bosom

Keep the doors of thy mouth.

6 For son despiseth father,

Daughter riseth up against her mother,

Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

A man’s enemies are the people of his house.

7 And I, to Jehovah will I look,

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

My God will hear me.

8 Rejoice not, O mine enemy, over[FN5] me;

When I have fallen, I arise;

When I sit in darkness,

Jehovah is a light to me.

9 The indignation of Jehovah I will bear,

For I have sinned against him,

Until he plead my cause, and maintain my right:

He will bring me forth to the light;

I shall see his righteousness.

10 And my enemy shall see,

And shame shall cover her,

Her who saith to me :

Where is Jehovah thy God ?

My eyes will look upon her,

Now she shall be trodden down

As the mire in the streets.

11 A day for building thy fence walls :

That day shall the statute be far removed.

12That day, unto thee shall they come

Even from Assyria, and the cities of Egypt;[FN6]

And from Egypt even unto the river;

And [to] sea from sea,

And [from] mountain to mountain.

13And the land will be desolate

On account of its inhabitants,

Because of the fruit of their doings.

14Feed thy people with thy rod,

The flock of thy possession,

Dwelling alone,[FN7]

In the forest, in the midst of Carmel;

They shall feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

15 As in the days of thy coming from the land of Egypt,

Will I show to them marvellous things.

16 The nations shall see and be ashamed,

Of all their might;

They shall place their hand on their mouth, Their ears will be deaf.

17 They shall lick dust like the serpent,

As creeping on the earth;

They shall tremble forth out of their hiding-places,

Unto Jehovah our God they shall come with dread,

And shall fear because of thee.

18 Who is a God like thee,

That forgiveth iniquity,

And passeth over transgression

For the remnant of his possession ?

He holdeth not his anger forever,

For he delighteth in mercy.

19 He will again have compassion on us,

He will trample on our iniquities,

And cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.

20 Thou wilt give truth to Jacob,

Mercy to Abraham,

Which thou hast sworn to our fathers,

From the days of ancient time.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Leaving the concrete sketches of history, the public reproofs, and the historical prediction, the prophet rises to the height of the idea woven through the whole course of history, and represents the relation between the God of Israel and his people, the past condition the present complications and the future solution, under the figure of a suit-at-law.

In accordance with this fundamental character, the discourse has no special historical reference, but takes, as we may say, a universal position, We must, to be sure, perceive, with Caspari, that Israel, charged by the prophet with backsliding, freely grants its guilt and is ready to atone for it ( Micah 6:6 a); that it is disposed to clear itself by numerous sacrifices ( Micah 6:6 b), not however through hearty relinquishment of its pride, unrighteousness and oppression ( Micah 6:8-10 ff.). But that we should by these traits (in contrast with the preceding discourses, as having fallen within the time of Hezekiah’s predecessors), be here necessarily brought down to the first years of Hezekiah, when a general sense of sin and the favorable disposition for the orderly restoration of Jehovah’s worship may have existed in the higher strata of the people, while the mags still strove against the ethical portion of the law, is disproved by the contents of the section, Micah 7:1 ff. (cf. Micah 6:16). There we find no word of any difference between the good disposition of the great and the stupidity of the iBBltitr. Deuteronomy, but, rather, the description runs completely parallel to that in Micah 3. Nor is there otherwise any soiid support for maintaining the date of the whole to be either earlier or later than for chaps, 1–5, and we mast he content with saying, that in a completely similar situation, this concluding discourse distinguishes itself only by its peculiar rhetorical character from the former portion of the book. This is true in respect to matter, inasmuch as the subject is not particular manifestations of present sin, but the sins of the whole people, and not particular moments of the future, but judgment and salvation in their spiritual nature; and in respect to form, inasmuch as it is not directly parænetic or eschatological, hut, lyrical and of the nature of a psalm. It closes the book of Micah very much as Habakkuk 3. and Isaiah 60-66. close those books, and as Romans 11:33-36 the Jewish historical exposition of the Epistle to the Romans.

In its plan also this peculiarity of the closing address appears. It falls into three parts, and the fundamental number which prevails is (apart from the introitus and the transitus) 13. The scheme is as follows:—

a. The introitus, Micah 6:1-2 (seven lines). Then

I. The first stage of the suit ( Micah 6:3-8); and

1. Micah 6:3-5. God’s complaint (thirteen lines).

2. Micah 6:6-8. Israel’s anxious reply (thirteen lines).

II. Second stage of the suit ( Micah 6:9 to Micah 7:8); and

1. Micah 6:9-16. God’s reproof (twenty-six lines).

2. Micah 7:1-6. Israel’s complaint (twenty-six lines).

b. The transitus, Micah 7:7-8 (seven lines); and following upon this,—

III. The closing psalm : humiliation, confidence, and praise, Micah 7:9-12 (13+26+13lines).

Introitus, chap, 6, Micah 6:1-2. Hear ye now; thus begins, like the opening discourse, 1, 2, the closing address also; hear ye what Jehovah saith, dicturus est, namely, to me, the prophet. Arise, bring a suit toward the mountains! In the name of Jehovah, and as his advocate, should the prophet enter into the controversy with the people, and utter the complaint so loud that the mountains, which, as appears from the following clause, and the hills shall hear thy voice, and from Micah 6:2, are present as witnesses of the trial (cf. Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2), may murmur with the echo. The explanation, bring a suit against the mountains, accuse the mountains, is senseless in itself, and therefore את must be taken as a sign of direction, as Judges 19:18; Isaiah 66:14.

Micah 6:2. The prophet, following the command, calls out to the mountains : hear, ye mountains, Jehovah’s cause, and ye unchangeable—from their unchangeableness Israel might have taken an example; Balaam had long before called the rocks of Canaan changeless ( Numbers 24:21)—ye foundations of the earth, that cannot be shaken, but that should now tremble before the solemn message, and weighty judgment of Jehovah ( Isaiah 24:18). For Jehovah hath a suit against his people (cf. Hosea 4:1), and with Israel will he have a settlement.

First Stage, Micah 6:3-8.

Micah 6:3-5. The Comalaint. Jehovah speaks not with the thunder of the law, but with the much sharper cordiality of wounded love. My people, thou that belongest to me alone, brought up by me, what have I done to thee, and wherein have I wearied thee? The Hithpael, “to have a settlement,” was not without significance. He is in earnest, if Israel has aught against Him, to hear it. Jehovah might have wearied Israel by over rigorous requirements ( Isaiah 43:23), or by unfulfilled promises ( Jeremiah 2:31). But much more should the expression recall how Israel has wearied the Lord ( Isaiah 43:24). Answer me! properly, as the בּ instead of the customary ace. shows : defend thyself against Me, make reply to my charge ( Job 31:35).

Micah 6:4. God’s language continues in a tone of the deepest irony : Is it in that I led thee up out of the land of Egypt ( Amos 2:10), and redeemed thee out of the house of bondage? (cf. Exodus 20:2)—plur. cone, for abstr, Ewald, § 179; and that I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam? With special fondness the sacred writers bring forward, when they would impress upon the people the goodness of the Lord, his earliest deeds, and, above all, those connected with their deliverance from Egypt, because through that Israel became his peculiar possession ( Psalm 114.), and also in it, as the actus primus of his gracious choice of the people, there lay enfolded, so far as regards its direction and shape, all the subsequent development; all the following acts of grace are only confirmations of the first purpose of grace.

Micah 6:5 glances at these tokens of love in the history of the planting of Israel until their arrival in the Holy Land : My people, remember now, what counsel Balak took, the king of Moab, and what answer was given him by Balaam, Beor’s son; cf. Numbers 22:24. “It was no light thing that Israel, ready to enter into the Holy Land, is sent forward, not cursed by him, but rather blest by God through him, to his great and arduous task. The curse would, through the superstition of many of the Israelites, have discouraged them, and inspired their superstitious foes with confidence. So much the more must the blessing have raised the spirits of the people, as it indicated that the Lord had so completely blessed them in the eyes of all nations, that even enemies who would curse were obliged to bless them.” Caspari. The little clause : from Shittim to Gilgal, is a new object to זכר: Remember what occurred from Shittim to Gilgal, i. e., between the first station after Balaam’s ( Numbers 25:1) blessing and the first station on the soil of the Holy Land ( Joshua 4:19). Remember this, that thou mayest know the covenant grace (properly: the righteousnesses) of Jehovah. Jehovah’s deeds of mercy are called exhibitions of righteousness, inasmuch as after the original establishment of the covenant with Abraham, or (as the case may be) of the covenant of the law on Sinai, all following grace was only fulfillment of what had been before promised, i. e., צְדָקָה.—למעזcum inf. as Amos 2:7.

Micah 6:6-8. Reply and Decision. As Jehovah addressed primarily the prophet, so the discourse of the people is directed immediately to him, standing as he does between God and the people. He is the mouth of God toward the people ( Hosea 1:1; Deuteronomy 5:5 ff, cf. Exodus 4:16). Israel, in so far as it is really such, cannot close its ears to the voice of truth (cf. John 18:37), hence owns itself guilty without parley, and asks only after the way of expiation. Wherewith shall I meet Jehovah?קדם, to meet with gifts, in order to gratify any one, and to render to him honor and duty ( Psalm 105:2; Deuteronomy 23:5). Wherewith bow myself?בַּמָּה belongs to both clauses, and “to bow one’s self,” אכף, imperf. Niph, from כּפף, Olsh, § 265, e, Isaiah, like the meeting Him, an expression of respect, which is appropriate before the God on high, who looks down on men, and in whose sight they are as grasshoppers ( Isaiah 40:22). Shall I meet Him with burnt offerings? That is the first thought with men who look at what is external; thither they naturally turn to fill the “aching void” in the soul with outward things, and as naturally also to try to expiate the sins which spring from the heart against God, according to the outwardly written letter: work-righteousness, and the idolatry of the letter. With calves of a year old? Not as if these alone were proper to be offered (Caspari, Hitzig, against Leviticus 22:27.), but because they were accounted as the most important ( Leviticus 9:3).

Micah 6:7. Hath Jehovah pleasure in thousands (hecatombs) of rams ? in myriads of oil-brooks? (cf. Job 20:17). The questions, as the connection shows, are not rhetorical (Luther), but express the good resolution, the spirit of anxious and earnest inquiry : if Song of Solomon, then we would fain offer them to Him. Libations of oil were an essential element of the meat-offering;, and the thank-offering ( Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 2:15; Leviticus 7:12). The climax culminates with the latter half of Micah 6:7 : Shall I give up my first-born, the best and last that I have, as a sin-offering for myself? As elsewhere חטאה and אשׁם, so here פשׁע stands, the sin for the offering which is brought as its equivalent. The fruit, offspring, of my body, as an atonement for my soul ? Cf. Deuteronomy 7:13. The external disposition, as it is of heathen origin and nature, so it proceeds, even to the final consequence, to atone for sin by sin, even by murder. Thus the kings of Moab sacrificed their first-born ( 2 Kings 3:27). According to Israel-itish principles the firstlings belonged naturally to God, so that the offering might not once have been a strange gift for God, but the law directed that the first born of men should be ransomed ( Exodus 13:13); it demands a disposition most completely ready to offer all, but not the external act ( Genesis 22.). And to this direction of the entire life, which alone gives all its moral value and accepta-bleness with God to each particular deed, the prophet also points in what immediately follows.

Micah 6:8. Hebrews, namely, God (Hitzig and Hessel-berg, indefinitely: they), hath made known to thee, O Prayer of Manasseh, what is good. Ye know, why do ye ask? Is it not an idle question, contrived that, instead of the answer, an escape for thy conscience should be offered thee ? And what Jehovah seeketh of thee (cf. Luke 13:7). Since מה, repeated in the two preceding clauses, is used in the sense of “nothing” as in the rhetorical question, Ecclesiastes 1:3, it may be followed by כי אם, nisi: nothing else does Jehovah seek of thee, but to do right, suum cuique, and love mercy, the disposition from which flows the beneficent discharge of the duties of the law ( Proverbs 21:21), a contrast toch. Micah 3:2; and walk humbly (on the const, cf. Ewald. § 280, c. [Text, and Gram, on Obadiah 1:4]) before thy God (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6). Micah’s accurate acquaintance with the whole Pentateuch, which stands out through these chapters especially, appears here also, and here in a way doubly important for historical criticism, since it involves Deuteronomy : the passage referred to as God’s word connects itself exactly, in matter and form, with Deuteronomy 10:12; cf. also Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 8:14).

Micah 6:9 to Micah 7:6. Second Stage. Micah 6:9-16. The Judgment in the Case. The voice of Jehovah, that judges mightily ( Amos 1:2), calls concerning the city, i. e., Jerusalem, the representative of the sins of the people, Micah 1:5 (לְ as Obadiah 1:1); and after the true, wisdom, which has in itself the pledge of its prosperous issue and result ( Job 5:12; Job 6:13), thy name looks out, the holy manifestation of thyself in the judgment ( Isaiah 30:27 : cf. for the sense of the phrase, Psalm 14:2.—Benary (De Leviratu Hebr., p70), Keil: Wisdom has regard to thy name. Caspari: O, what Wisdom of Solomon, if one sees thy name. In the last-named writer see also many other explanations of the passage. [Cf. Text, and Gram, note.]—The sudden variation of the person is common in all the prophets; and thus the discourse turns back again here in what immediately follows to the people: Perceive the scourge, the judgment appointed by Jehovah, here by metonomy for the discourse which treats of it, as in Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:24, for the Assyrian power which executes it, and who hath appointed it!שׁמע has a double construction, first with the ace. obj, then with an object-clause. מטה is gen. comm, not merely masc, cf. Numbers 17:22. He has appointed the rod whose law is continually broken. The rod itself is not described until Micah 6:13 ff.; the reason for it is first given, Micah 6:10 ff.

Micah 6:10. Are there yet, he asks (אשׁ, more Aram, for יֵשׁ, 2 Samuel 14:19) in the house of the wicked the treasures of wickedness, gained by wickedness, as e.g., by what is immediately indicated; yea, the lean Epha, accursed? The epha of leanness is the false measure of grain, forbidden in the law ( Deuteronomy 25:14 ff.), too small, contrasted with שׁלמה, the right measure, which, as opposed to the crime before us, is called ( Leviticus 19:36) an epha of righteousness (Caspari). This connection shows that in the interrogation in the first member, the point Isaiah, not that former sins have not been expiated by the restoration of ill-gotten treasures, but that still new sins are ever heaping up, and thus God’s requirement in Micah 6:8 is ever broken anew.

Micah 6:11. In the same sense he proceeds, looking back to Deuteronomy 25:19 ff.: Can I—as much as to say : can one now; an exemplification in the first person, common also in English (cf. Glassii, Phil. Sac., p898 f.)—remain pure with the balance of wickedness, and with the bag with weights of deceit? The sinners dream that by their offerings before God they shall stand pure, in spite of their daily repeated sins; that is the faulty moral apprehension which the prophet would destroy. The sins of trade and exchange here named may have been particularly rife with the Jewish national character, but they stand palpably representative of all injustice (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Micah 6:12. Over these instances this verse, by the relative applying to the city, reaches back to Micah 6:9 : Her rich men are full of violence. Such relative connections (אֶשֶׁר עֲשִׁירֶיהָ) have the character of an exclamation, or direct call, cf. Amos 6:3 ff.; Micah 6:3 (quos ego!). And her inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deception in their mouth. As this array of their sins rests on the Psalm, so that of threatened penalties ( Micah 6:13 ff.), rests on the Pentateuch ( Leviticus 16:25 f.; Deuteronomy 28:39 f.). And so also I, as intimated in Micah 6:9, have made sick the blows upon thee, i. e., I smite thee mortally; cf. for the expression, Nahum 3:19; for the matter, Isaiah 1.; Micah 1:9; with devastation (inf. abs, probably gerund, Gesenius, § 131, 2; the form, Gesen-ius, § 67, Rem10) on account of thy sins.

Micah 6:14. Thou shalt eat and not be satisfied; cf. for the fulfillment, Jeremiah 52:6; Haggai 1:6; and thy emptiness shall remain in thy bowels! Thou shalt carry away, flee with thy goods and family, and not save; and what thou shalt save, will I give to the sword. Cf. Jeremiah 50:37; Jeremiah 42:16.

Micah 6:15. Thou shalt sow … not drink wine. The enemy shall reap thy harvests and plunder thy stores ( Amos 5:11, cf. the reference in Isaiah 62:8 ff.).

In Micah 6:16, finally, sin and punishment are oncemore briefly grouped together : Yea, they observe—instead of the customary Kal, he designedly chooses the strongest form, Hithpael, the reflexive of Piel ( Jonah 2:9), to express the carefulness of the observance (Hitzig)—the statutes of Omri and all the doings of the house of Ahab, the Baal worship ( 1 Kings 16:31 f.) and all the other abominations (e. g., 1 Kings 22:27), by which this abandoned dynasty had from the beginning disgraced the ungodly throne ( Psalm 94:20) of the kingdom of Israel; human statutes instead of God’s Word ( Leviticus 20:23), such as indeed had under Ahaz broken into Judah also ( 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:2). And so ye walk in their counsels, that (ironically; the actual results of the corruption represented instead of the desired fruits of their luxurious prosperity, as Hosea 8:4) I may make theeלמען, c. inf. as Micah 6:5) a ruin ( Micah 3:12), and her (Jerusalem’s) inhabitants a hissing; and the disgrace of my peopleye shall bear it; the present generation is ripe for the curse, which the Lord had cast forth in the law for the future of his people ( Isaiah 65:7).

See Mic 7:1 for DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL and HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Micah 6:7.— פֶּשַׁע and הַטָּאת are regarded by many as used by metonomy for “sin-offering,” “expiation.” Perhaps however they are quite as well taken to be adverb, ace. (Gesen. § 118, 3); and at all events, the rendering of the Eug. Vers, gives the sense : and so Zunz. — Tr.]

FN#2 - Micah 6:8. — Our author with Hitzig, disregarding the accentuation, makes וּמָּה also dependent on הִגִּיד: “and what Jehovah seeks of thee;” and then translates כִּי אִם : “nothing but.” Maurer’s refutation of Hitzig at this point is harsh and petulant, but effectual. — Tr.]

FN#3 - Micah 6:9. — Kleinert, with Maurer and many others, inverts the order of these words, with the advantage of thus securing an obvious agreement in gender between יִרְאֶה and its subj, and a thought at least equally appropriate. But as there is some doubt about the meaning, — “look out for,” circumsprctare, chcumspicere — thus ascribed to רָאָה, And as “wisdom” may very well stand for “the wise Prayer of Manasseh,” it seems preferable to adopt the simplest translation, following the very order of the Hebrew words. The Exegetical note will give several of the many renderings which have been proposed. — Tr.]

FN#4 - Micah 7:4. — Kleinert treats יוֹם as an ace. of time, translating :

In the day of thy seers,

When thy visitation cometh,

and in the next member would have תִּהְיֶה in the second pers. maso.: Thou shalt be ensnared by them. — Tr.]

FN#5 - Micah 7:8. — I do not think the לִי “pleonastic” here, but rather as giving the ground of the hostile “joy.” — Tr.]

FN#6 - Micah 7:12. — מָצוֹר, properly signifying, “bulwark,” or “fortification,” “strength,” is here almost certainly used of Egypt, probably with a play on the name of the latter. Pusey : “The name Matsor, which he gives to Egypt, modifying its ordinary dual name Mitzraim, is meant at once to signify “Egypt” [ Isaiah 19:6; Isaiah 37:25], and to mark the strength of the country.” — Tr.]

FN#7 - Micah 7:14. — Kleinert changes the punctuation, putting a period after c, and then reads : —

In the forest in the midst of Oarniel may they feed,

In Bashan, etc.

“Dwelling alone” is in either case parenthetic, but it seems just as well to connect what immediately follows with the “feed,” etc, in the first member, as is done above — Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Micah 6:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/micah-6.html. 1857-84.

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