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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Micah 3

 

 

Verses 1-4

CRITICAL NOTES.] Punishment is threatened against the heads and leaders of Israel.

Mic . Princes] Administrators of justice. You] Above every one. To know] To regard justice (Isa 42:25).

Mic . Pluck] Proverbial for the greatest injustice and inhumanity (Eze 22:27; Zep 3:3).

Mic . Flay] Sets forth still more their barbarity and cruelty.

Mic . Then] Time of punishment certain, seen and expressed. Ill] Lit. have made their deeds evil, reversing the call of the prophets (Jer 35:15).

HOMILETICS

THE PUNISHMENT OF UNGODLY MAGISTRATES.—Mic

The prophet had denounced the sins of the people, now he threatens the civil rulers and religious teachers of the nation. The Judges of the law should have been exemplary in knowledge and virtue, but they were corrupt in thought, and ungodly in conduct.

I. The sins of which they were guilty. They are specially challenged by the prophet, and accused of no ordinary guilt. "Hear, I pray you."

1. Sins against superior light. They were expected to know and love the right. From the law of God, and the customs of the country, they knew the rules of equity. They had means of ascertaining the right, to administer impartial justice, and could not plead excuses for ignorance (Jer ). Affected ignorance and wilful neglect only aggravate God. Civil rulers sin against superior privileges, public sentiment, and moral law, when they pervert justice. "Is it not for you to know judgment?"

2. Sins against responsible office. They were the heads, the rulers of the people, but abused their authority and dishonoured their position. Instead of doing good, they loved evil. When teachers corrupt doctrine, and preachers withhold the gospel; when rulers and princes pervert equity, and neglect special duties for the defence of which they are put in office; they poison the stream of life and turn it into deadly fountains.

3. Sins against the claims of humanity. They robbed the innocent, and devoured the helpless. Their furious rapacity surmounted every tie of humanity. Instead of feeding they fleeced the sheep, and sucked out the very blood of the people. The words indicate (a) Their intense greed; and (b) Their inhuman cruelty in satisfying it. But great men who oppress the poor, and hold themselves above law, will be accountable for their deeds and condemned for their cruelty. "Woe to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves; should not the shepherd feed the flock," &c. (Eze ).

II. The punishment with which they are threatened. Men cannot fare well if they do ill. A just God rules over all things, whom they wickedly forget.

1. Punishment is certain. "Then," predicts the prophet, with solemn certainty. A day of retribution was before his mind. He warns them of it. Though unseen, it is fixed in the purpose of God, and will surely come upon them.

2. Punishment is proportioned to their guilt. "As they behaved themselves ill in their doings." God's law is unchangeable; those who show no mercy shall have judgment without mercy. (a) They will cry and not be heard in their distress. If the cries of the poor are disregarded by us, they will be heard against us (Exo ). Men should have a feeling heart and a helping hand; should count it not charity, but a duty and a privilege, to defend the poor. But covetousness hardens the heart and makes the ear deaf. A time is coming when the scorner and the oppressor will cry to God in vain. "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard" (Pro 21:13; Pro 21:18; Pro 21:31). (b) They will be forsaken of God in their distress. "He will even hide his face from them at that time." They cared not for others; God will, therefore, withhold his kindness and presence from them. Forsaken in heart and office, bereft of power and protection, they will be undone for ever. Before God, kings and paupers, priests and people, are treated according to their character and deserts. He is above all principalities and powers, and impartial in his rule. Usurped power shall be dethroned, and with the froward God will show himself froward. "Lo, this is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors which they shall receive of the Almighty."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Mic . Hate God and love evil. This is an awful transformation of moral character. Man at first loves good, though he pursues evil. There is constant strife in the soul, to end which many quieten conscience and blind judgment. "Then they hate the truth or good with a bitter hatred, because it disturbs the darkness of the false peace with which they would envelop themselves." "Love of evil is always connected with hatred toward the good, although men commonly in practising evil keep up a semblance of love for the good" [Lange].

Mic . He heaps up their guilt act by act. First they flay, i.e. take away their outer goods; then they break their bones in pieces, the most solid parts, on which the whole frame of their body depends, to get at the very marrow of their life, and so feed themselves upon them [Pusey]. Alas that kings and ecclesiastics should do the same things now! Men are robbed of the means of subsistence, cut to pieces, and treated like cattle—

"And he that stands upon a slippery place,

Makes nice of no vile hold to stay him up." [Shakespeare.]

Mic . As they behaved. "Measure for measure" will ever be meted out to the evil-doer. "As I have done, so God hath requited me" (Jud 1:7).

Mic . A warning to Judges 1. Their responsibility as possessors of knowledge.

2. Their sin: violation of duty and self-seeking.

3. Their punishment [Lange].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3

Mic . Judgment. It is neither the great man's power, nor the poor man's meanness, that a judge is to mind in judgment. A judge, a justice, must never cry out, "Oh, he is a poor man!" nor yet out of base fear cry out, "Oh, he is a great man!" The judges in Egypt were portrayed without hands and without eyes, to signify that they were not to take bribes, nor to accept men's persons [Brooks].

Mic . Eat flesh.

"Diseased nature oftentimes breaks forth

In strange eruptions" [Shakespeare].


Verses 5-8

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Mic . Prophets] False prophets flatter and promise security from judgment. Bite] Like serpents; cry, Peace] When they are doing mischief. Prepare] Lit. "sanctify war against him (cf. Joe 3:9); as if the cause of their own appetite were the cause of Heaven!" [Words].

Mic . Night] Calamities like a dark night would come upon them (Isa 8:22; Amo 5:18; Amo 8:9).

Mic . Ashamed] Because their predictions proved lies. Confounded] False prophets had no visions from God. "Their lying being punished in its results, they become, since God by no word of revelation helps them out of their necessity, entirely disgraced" [Hitzig]. Cover] i.e. to cover the face up to the nose, a sign of sorrow (Lev 13:45); here of shame (Eze 24:17). With their lips they had lied, now they are dumb and covered with shame. "They shall be so ashamed of themselves as not to dare to open their mouths, or boast of the name of prophet" [Calvin].

Mic . I] In contrast to false prophets, am filled with power. Judgment] A sense of justice (Act 1:8). Might] "Moral intrepidity in speaking the truth at all costs" (2Ti 1:7). Sin] Not to flatter with false promises of peace.

HOMILETICS

THE DESCRIPTION OF FALSE TEACHERS.—Mic

From unjust judges Micah turns to false prophets, who are accused of flattering in sin and seducing by error. Corruption and crime in the nation will always endanger the Church. It is bad enough to be under ungodly rulers, but worse to be guided by false teachers.

I. They are mercenary in their purpose. Their chief end and only desire is gain. Rents and tithes, preferment and honour, govern their lives. Their god is their belly, filthy lucre their aim, and their "gospel is their maw"—supplied with food, they are satisfied and promise peace; but when no one puts anything into their mouths they are offended and intolerant. "They are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his gain."

II. They are deceptive in their teaching. They flatter and mislead the people. "They make my people err." An unfaithful ministry carries the people from God and leaves them to perish in sin. "For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed."

1. They deceive by predicting prosperity when there is danger. They cry peace when God threatens judgment. They bite with treachery and deadly poison in their mouths.

2. They deceive by flattering rebellion when they should urge to repentance. They rebuked no extortion and excess. They soothed and smoothed the people, and fawned like greedy dogs to those who fed them. "Will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?"

III. They are hypocritical in their spirit. "They even sanctify war against him" that withholds their due. Acting professedly on the authority of God, they abuse the word of God. Men now are denounced as "atheists" and "infidels," condemned as "disloyal" and "traitors," if they obey not the behests of the priest. Ecclesiastics threaten and discountenance, bless or curse, to get what they require. They rebuke only when their gains are disturbed, and comfort others to promote their own ends.

IV. They are judged in their ministry. They promise what never comes to pass. Instead of peace they have calamity.

1. They are darkened in their minds. "Therefore, night shall be unto you." Moral obliquity shuts out the light, darkens the understanding, and brings judicial blindness. When teachers are dark, how can light be expected? "If the blind lead the blind," &c.

2. They are silenced in their pretensions. They pretended to do good, but sinned against light and were condemned by their own consciences. Deprived of power to divine, and robbed of an answer of God; they had neither vision nor courage to speak. They were seen in their true colours, and deciphered before the world.

3. They were confounded in their ways. Events put them to shame, reputation waned, and confidence failed them. They kept others in the dark; God kept them in the dark, and perplexed them with their own devices. When God's providence contradicts the religious teacher, he is seen to be opposed to God's will, and proved not to be sent of God.

4. They were overwhelmed in their circumstances. They preached falsehood, walked in darkness, and stumbled in distress. There was darkness without and darkness within, a night of sorrow and calamity. Their sun went down, and dark cold night settled upon them. They had to cover their lips and hold their tongue.

THE TRUE MINISTER.—Mic

Micah now contrasts himself with the false prophets, sets forth the nature of the true ministry, which is one of Divine power, earnest appeal, and pure aim.

I. It is a ministry of power. "I am filled with power."

1. Personal power. Power lodged in him, controlling heart and life.

2. Power exerted upon others. Power must be in the soul, before it can be expressed in the doctrine. This will prove the Divine calling and vindicate the real character of a minister.

3. Power of the highest nature. "By the Spirit of the Lord." Not the power of intellect and gifts, but "power from on high." "The power of God unto salvation."

4. Power in the greatest degree. "Filled with power." Here is no stint nor measure, except moral capacity. This is most needful, and the best furniture to the minister. Mr. Gladstone recently said that we had nothing to depend upon but moral power. "Tarry ye, until ye be endued with power from on high." Power in yourselves, power in your words, and power in the hearts of men. "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."

II. It is a ministry of light. "And of judgment."

1. The minister himself is enlightened. He is endowed with "a spirit of wisdom and knowledge." He has judgment to discern things that differ, to speak a word in season, from a sense of justice, a regard to truth, and not to please men.

2. The doctrine which he preaches enlightens others. It is judgment; an impartial view of God's word, righteous indignation against sin, and mercy to the penitent. He has an ardent love for souls, and great zeal for the glory of God. Under such a ministry, sinners are convinced, inquirers enlightened, and saints edified.

III. It is a ministry of courage. "And of might." He feared not the wrath, nor flattered the sins of man. He had courage to brave danger, adhere to truth, and reprove the mighty. He was manly in his utterances, endued with spiritual boldness, and steeled against all opposition in declaring "unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin."

"Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful" [Shakespeare].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Mic . Here we have a pattern ministry by which to test all others. Israel's prophets were demoralized, and had sadly declined from the dignity of the days of Samuel. The entrance of the earthly-minded and unspiritual into the sacred calling will be a curse to the nation. Here we perceive the distinction between a false and a true prophet, between a converted and an unconverted teacher, and the different ground, nature, and object of their office. There is with the true man, spirit, power, light, self-denial, wise temperance, pure, uncorrupted delivery of God's plan of salvation; and with the false, envy, imagination, self-love, which puffs up, personal gain, respect of persons, deception, &c. [Lange].

The Three Gifts of a true ministry.

1. Their Divine source.

2. Their human necessity.

3. Their practical design. All the fruits of one Spirit, all to qualify for the discharge of one duty, "to declare unto Jacob," &c. "So, then, of these three gifts power expresses the Divine might lodged in him; judgment, the substance of what he had to deliver; might or courage, the strength to deliver it in face of human power, persecution, ridicule, death" [Pusey].

Mic . Warning to the Heralds of God's Word.

1. Their ideal character (Mic ).

2. Their danger of darkening God's Word through self-seeking, in that either they for personal advantage preach what the ears of people lust after, or brand their personal enemies as God's enemies.

3. The aggravation of their sin; desecration of the Word; confusion of God's congregation.

4. Their punishment; they lose the capacity to discern God's Word, and speak to the disgust of others and of themselves [Lange].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3

Mic . It shall be dark. Misery assails riches as lightning does the highest towers; or as a tree that is heavy laden with fruit breaks its own boughs, so do riches destroy the virtue of their possessor [Burton].

Mic . Power. The crowning power of the messenger of God is power over the moral man; power which, whether it, approaches the soul through the avenue of the intellect or of the affections, does reach into the soul. The sphere of the Christian power is the heart,—the moral man; and the result of its action is not to be surely distinguished from that of mere eloquence by instantaneous emotion, but by subsequent moral fruit. Power which cleanses the heart and produces holy living is the power of the Holy Ghost [Wm. Arthur].


Verses 9-12

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Mic . Hear] Resumed from Mic 3:1. Heads] Whose ungodly conduct is briefly summed up again. Abhor] As a thing loathsome and abominable (Heb.)

Mic . Build] Lit. building with wealth and money obtained by bribes and murder of the innocent (Jer 22:13; Eze 22:27; Hab 2:12). "Or by blood he may mean that they indirectly took away life, in that, through wrong judgments, extortion, usury, fraud, oppression, reducing wages, or detaining them, they took away what was necessary to support life" [Pusey],

Mic . Reward] Take bribes, when they should teach gratuitously (Lev 10:11; Deu 17:11). Prophets] False prophets. Money] "Giving the answer which their employers, the rich men, wanted, as if it were an answer from God" [Pusey.] Among us] Enthroned in the temple to protect us from calamity.

Mic . Therefore] Culminating the threats of Mic 3:8, a great contrast to the conclusion of chapter 2. They thought to build, when by their conduct they destroy Zion; "for your sake be plowed." "The predicates are divided rhetorically, and the thought is this: the royal palace, the city, and the temple shall be so utterly destroyed, that of all the houses and palaces only heaps of rubbish will remain, and the ground upon which the city stood will be partly used as a ploughed field, and partly overgrown with bushes" (cf. Isa 32:13-14) [Keil]. Hezekiah's repentance delayed the execution of the judgment for more than a hundred years; but Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and by Titus.

HOMILETICS

GUILTY LEADERS.—Mic

The prophet gives a proof of his fidelity in reproving the rulers of the nation, civil and religious; briefly sums up the sins of which they were guilty, and which brought their ruin; and shows that all who are confident of God's favour will not escape his judgments.

I. Civil rulers perverted law for selfish aggrandisement. Rulers of the State should have been patterns of justice, but they despised it.

1. They abhorred judgment. Loathed it as abominable. Plato taught that if virtue could be seen by men, it would be attractive; but these judges knew and hated it.

2. They perverted judgment. They twisted and distorted it. Not only crushed individuals, but destroyed the foundation of justice.

3. They perverted all judgment, "all equity." Whatever was right and straight they made crooked. Natural conscience and God's law were both defied. They neither governed themselves by right, nor gave right to others. They encouraged others by their practice, and, as in the age of Nero, made nothing unlawful.

4. Their aim was to build up Zion. The rich built their palaces with wealth gained by fraud and oppression. The city was adorned with streets built by rapine and blood. The Lord looked "for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry."

II. Religious teachers expounded law for gain. All are accused of bribery and mercenary conduct. Princes, priests, and prophets loved the wages of unrighteousness.

1. Priests taught for hire. They had maintenance assigned to them by God, had much by gratuity (1Sa ), and should have made a difference between holy and unholy (Lev 10:10-11; Deu 17:10-11). But they sold what they should have given, and combined with the heads of the nation, with injustice. One class abused their power, another their knowledge; the judge perverted law, the priest misinterpreted it.

2. Prophets divined for money. False prophets gave answers to please those who paid them. As the oracles of Apollo were corrupted by the gold of Philip, so the law of God was sold for money. All sought their own, not the things of Christ, nor the interests of the people. "Thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous."

VAIN CONFIDENCE DESTROYED.—Mic

Notwithstanding their abominable conduct, yet the judges, priests, and prophets presume upon God's favour, and think that no evil will befall them. The prophet seeks to rouse them from their vain confidence.

I. They were confident of God's favour. "Is not the Lord among us?" Presumption feeds men with delusion. External privileges, outward reformation, ritual worship, will save no man. Those who lean upon these will dishonour God and destroy themselves. Perversion of truth and abuse of ordinances will drive God from us. "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are we."

II. They were confident of security from evil. "No evil can come upon us." We are perfectly safe whatever others say. Thus men are deluded in sin, and rocked to sleep in fatal security. If men are not restrained from evil by religious privileges, they can never be protected by them. Shake off carnal security, fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

III. They were doomed to destruction in their confidence. "There shall Zion," &c.

1. The city would be destroyed. Its stately buildings were demolished, and its proud palaces reduced to heaps. The ground on which it stood was ploughed as a common field, and the site of the temple became wild as a forest.

2. Their own sins had procured this ruin. "For your sake." Sin will ever draw calamity in Church and State. Corrupt rulers and teachers involve the people in defection, and hasten on the judgment. They may think that they build, when they only destroy; that they secure prosperity, when they ruin it. Every sanctuary desecrated by hypocrisy will be demolished by the wrath of God. Instead of protecting, it will fall upon its worshippers, and great will be the fall of it. "Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood!"

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Mic .

1. Persons in eminency, accustomed to sin, are generally deaf to what the Lord saith.

2. The messengers of the Lord must not give up when their message is not received, but cry till either they get audience or have delivered their souls. Hear, I pray you.

3. It is the duty of faithful ministers, in reproving the faults of rulers, to be courteous, and not contemn authority. Hear, ye heads, &c. [Adapted from Hutcheson].

Mic . Building Zion by wrong means is the way to pull it down. It can never stand erected by sinful materials, and for a selfish end. "Truly we build up Zion with blood when we cheapen luxuries and comforts at the price of souls, use Christian toil like brute strength, tempt men to dishonesty and women to other sin, to eke out the scanty wages which alone our selfish thirst for cheapness allows, heedless of everything save of our individual gratification, or of the commercial prosperity which we have made our god" [Pusey]. Righteousness builds up because it brings God's protection and blessing unrighteousness tears down because it brings God's curse [Hengstenberg].

Mic . Leaning.

1. Holy men sometimes rest on official relationship with God, pollute the holiest things, and become a warning to others.

2. Guilty men will often lean upon the Lord, claim his protection, and flatter themselves into false security. "The sacred office is a grievous snare to unsanctified hearts," says one. "No ungodliness, pride, secularity, and hypocrisy are so great as those which stand before God in association with the teaching of his Word."

Mic . False confidence in God.

1. Its ground, an outward temple—sacraments.

2. Its danger, disregard of the distant future, indifference, indulgence given to the natural man.

3. Its end. Fate of the Jewish state; the holy city becomes as the world, and shares the fate of the world. So likewise we. If we forsake God he will forsake us [Lange].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3

Mic . Build. The crimes of the people of England are not denounced by the pulpit as they should be; the abominations of royalty, the injustices perpetrated in the courts of justice, the cupidity of traders, the swindlings of joint-stock company men, by which they become millionnaires, and win a seat in the parliament of the nation. These things are not held up, as they should be, for public execration, in the broad sunlight of eternal truth [Dr. Thomas].

Mic . Money. The priests of Rome aim but at two things—to get power from the king and money from the subject [Selden]. Gold is the fool's curtain, which hides all his defects from the world [Feltham].

"They all the sacred mysteries of heav'n

To their own vile advantages shall turn

Of lucre and ambition" [Milton].

Mic . Zion ploughed. At the time I visited this sacred ground, one part of it supported a crop of barley, another was undergoing the labour of the plough, and the soil turned up consisted of stone and lime, filled with earth, such as is usually met with in the foundations of ruined cities. It is nearly a mile in circumference [Richardson's Travels]. On the S.E. Zion slopes down, in a series of cultivated terraces, sharply, though not abruptly, to the sites of the king's gardens. Here and round to the S. the whole declivities are sprinkled with olive trees, which grow luxuriantly among the narrow slips of corn [Porter].

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Micah 3:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/micah-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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