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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Micah 4

 

 

Verses 1-5

Zion the center of the universal religion of the future, Micah 4:1-5.

These five verses furnish the first sublime picture of the glory of the Messianic era. 1.

In the last days — Better, R.V., “latter days”; literally, sequel of days. “Last” days is ambiguous; the prophet does not mean to point to the end of the world, or to the end of the Jewish dispensation, but to some indefinite future. The phrase is used by the prophets only in referring to the Messianic age.

The mountain of the house of Jehovah — The temple mount.

In the top — Better, at the head. The meaning is not, “Zion will be so exalted above all the mountains and hills that it will appear to be founded upon the top of the mountains,” but rather that it will be at the head of the procession, towering above all others. By some this phrase has been taken literally, as if the prophet expected that, at some future time, the temple mount would in reality become the highest mountain, and Ezekiel 40:2, and Zechariah 14:10, have been quoted in favor of this interpretation. On the other hand, Psalms 68:15-16, shows that to the Hebrew the physical elevation of the temple site was not a necessary element of its pre-eminence as a sanctuary, and it is better to interpret the words figuratively as meaning that the fame of Jehovah will become so great that it will eclipse that of all other deities. The metaphor may be based upon an ancient belief that there was a mountain reaching from earth to heaven, on whose summit the gods dwelt.

People shall flow unto it — Even outside nations will come to recognize Jehovah as the true God and Jerusalem as his earthly dwelling place; hence they will flock to Jerusalem in great numbers and will exhort others to come, that they may receive instruction in the principles of true religion. 2.

Law — Parallel with “word.” Not “law” in the technical sense, but in the general sense of instruction (so R.V. margin). This instruction Jehovah gives through his servants, the prophets and priests (see on Hosea 4:6).

Zion — As the holy city was the religious center of Israel, so the prophet expects it to be the center of the universal religion during the Messianic era, the city in which Jehovah will dwell and from which all his activities will proceed.

Of his ways — The “ways” of Jehovah denote the principles of ethics and religion laid down by Jehovah; of these he will teach the nations as the needs or circumstances of each may demand.


Verse 3

3. When Jehovah will be thus recognized as the Lord of all, an era of permanent world peace will set in.

Judge — Better, arbitrate.

Rebuke — Better, R.V., “decide concerning.” Difficult international disputes, which at other times would have caused war will be decided by Jehovah. With such an arbiter war will disappear; then the implements of warfare will be needed no longer, and they will be turned into implements of agriculture, and in time the art of warfare will be entirely forgotten (compare Joel 3:10). 4 In that blessed era the people of Jehovah will be allowed to enjoy undisturbed the blessings of peace; no enemies will be there to make them afraid. For the expression “they shall sit… ,” describing a condition of peaceful felicity, compare 1 Kings 4:25; 2 Kings 18:31. In the course of time the words may have become a proverbial saying (see on Joel 1:12). To dispel any doubt that might arise concerning the fulfillment of the glorious promise the prophet seals it by adding the solemn formula, “The mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:20).

The exact meaning of Micah 4:5 and its connection with the preceding verses is somewhat uncertain. Perhaps it is best, following Isaiah 2:5, to interpret it as containing an exhortation to the listeners to do their share toward a realization of the promised felicity. The enjoyment of the glory described in Micah 4:1-4 is still a matter of expectation; the other nations are joined to their idols, and there is no move on their part to turn to Jehovah; even Israel is hopelessly corrupt (Micah 3:1 ff.). Hence, the prophet continues, if the ideal is to be realized it is high time to make a beginning, and this beginning must be made by the chosen people; Israel must turn to its God and live in harmony with his will.

Walk in the name — “The name of God is that side of his nature which can be revealed to man; and to walk in his name means to live in mystic union with God as he has revealed himself, and under his protection” (see on Amos 2:7). To walk in the names of false deities must be understood similarly.

Forever and ever — The union is not to be broken again (see on Hosea 2:19-20). If the above interpretation of Micah 4:5 is correct a better rendering would be, “Since (at present) all the peoples walk every one in the name of his god, therefore we will (or, let us) walk (the more resolutely) in the name of Jehovah our God forever and ever.”

To sum up, the chief features of the Messianic age emphasized in this passage are: 1. Zion will be recognized as the seat of Jehovah’s universal dominion. 2. The spread of the true religion will be accomplished not by the force of arms but through the moral influence going out from Zion. 3. There is to be no external world power; the nations will retain political independence; Jehovah, not Israel, will rule the world. 4. War will come to an end; international disputes will be settled by arbitration, Jehovah himself being the arbiter.

A few remarks concerning the fulfillment of this and similar prophecies may be in order in this connection. The hope expressed in this passage is not yet fulfilled; literally it will probably never be fulfilled; in spirit and essence it will reach its fulfillment, according to the universal Christian belief, when the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Jesus comes to be the dynamic of individual and national life and conduct everywhere. For a clear understanding of the details of the prediction and its fulfillment the following facts should be borne in mind: The prophets had a sublime conception of the character of Jehovah, and it is this conception which enabled them to apprehend, in a measure at least, the ultimate purposes of Jehovah for mankind; they were convinced that the character of the age in which man would permit God to have his own way must correspond to the character of the God whom they knew. But the glimpses and visions of the future did not remove the prophets from their present, and it is but natural that in their thoughts concerning the manner (not the fact) in which God would carry out his purposes they should be influenced by the circumstances of their present. For example, when the words found in Micah 4:1-5, were spoken, Israel was the chosen nation in which “all the nations of the earth should be blessed”; Jerusalem was the earthly dwelling place of Jehovah. The author looked upon Israel as a “servant” with a sublime mission, and he was sure that the nation would have an important part in the working out of the divine plan of redemption. That there ever could come a time when not even a remnant would be ready and qualified to carry out the divine commission, does not seem to have suggested itself to the minds of the prophets; and yet it follows naturally from their teaching, and it is a legitimate inference from the conditional character of all prophecy, that, if at some future time, through its own fault, the nation should prove itself incapable of carrying to completion its mission, some other “servant” must take its place, if God still desires to carry out his original purpose. The later history of Israel shows that through disobedience it cut itself off, as a nation, from God and from its place in his plan of redemption. As a result its place became vacated, and another “servant” had to be found. This other “servant,” Christians believe, was Jesus the Christ. With the cutting off of Israel the promises based upon the assumption that the nation would prove faithful became of no effect. Hence all elements of Messianic prediction connected with the nation Israel, such as the final exaltation of the nation, the permanence and unique place of Zion, and others, should be eliminated from all Christian expectations concerning the nature and character of the true kingdom of God.

The recurrence of these verses (with the exception of Micah 4:4, and with Micah 4:5 in a different form) in Isaiah 2:2-5, raises a literary question concerning the relation of the two passages to one another. If a dependence is recognized at all one of four explanations must be accepted: (1) Isaiah is dependent upon Micah; (2) Micah is dependent upon Isaiah; (3) both are dependent upon an earlier prophet; (4) it is a late passage, inserted in both books at a time subsequent to the eighth century B.C. “The passage was very possibly written and inserted in Micah after the exile, and copied from Micah by one of the editors of Isaiah” (Cheyne). Since only internal evidence is available, absolute certainty cannot be expected.

Against (1) it has been urged that Micah was a younger contemporary of Isaiah, and that the former’s ministry did not begin until some time after the discourses embodied in Isaiah ii-iv had been delivered (that is, the reign of Jotham, see pp. 361ff.). Hence, in order to establish the dependence of the earlier upon the later, it must be assumed that Isaiah 2:2-5, was borrowed from Micah and inserted in its present place some time after the other prophecies in that section (chapters 2-4) had been spoken. In opposition to (2) it has been pointed out that in Micah the passage appears to be imbedded more closely in its context, while in Isaiah the connection is exceedingly loose; and this fact has been thought by some to prove that its original place is in Micah. For a long time (3) was generally regarded as the most satisfactory explanation. According to this view the utterance of an older unknown prophet was adopted by Isaiah as well as by Micah as a “classic” description of the ideal kingdom of God to which the prophets of Jehovah looked forward. The fact that in both books the passage begins with “and” has been thought to favor the idea that the prediction was torn from its original context. Most recent commentators favor (4), that in both books the verses are a later interpolation. This view is closely bound up with the claim that all Messianic hopes have their origin in the exilic or postexilic period (see p. 215). The possibility of such interpolation cannot be denied, but certainly there is nothing in the passage itself to compel one to consider it a late product On the whole, (3) offers the most satisfactory explanation.


Verse 6

Restoration and healing of the dispersed — Revival of the kingdom of David, Micah 4:6-8.

6. When the era of Messianic peace dawns, the dispersed of Israel will share in its glory; Jehovah will bring back all whom in his anger he cast out. A similar promise is found in Micah 2:12-13, only in the present passage is added a new thought, the restoration of health, physical and moral, to the dispersed. R.V. reads instead of “her that halteth… ,” “that which is lame,… that which is driven away,… that which I have afflicted,” which is preferable in English, though the Hebrew has the feminine form. All three expressions are pictures of the judgment suffered in consequence of sin. The affliction has been severe and the outcasts are near unto death, but Jehovah will revive them.


Verse 7-8

7. A remnant — The nucleus of a new kingdom of God (see on Amos 5:15). The Messianic hopes all center around this remnant and the nation growing out of it. The lame and afflicted to whom the prophet promises restoration are such as have remained faithful in the face of affliction; these Jehovah will deliver from their affliction and constitute the “remnant,” and with it he will make a new beginning in his attempt to redeem the world.

A strong nation — In time, under the divine providence, the insignificant remnant will develop into a strong and powerful nation.

Jehovah shall reign — In the past incompetent and faithless rulers were responsible for much of the corruption and distress of the people; the new nation will not suffer from such leaders, for Jehovah himself will be the king, and his dominion will continue forever.

The center of the new kingdom will be Zion (see on Micah 4:1-5). With the promises made in Micah 4:6-7 fulfilled, the former royal splendor and prestige will be restored. The new promise is expressed in Micah 4:8, addressed directly to Jerusalem.

Tower of the flock — This does not allude to a tower (R.V., “of Eder”) near Beth-lehem (compare Genesis 35:21), nor to a tower of the king’s castle (Nehemiah 3:25), but denotes Jerusalem itself. Now it is a flourishing city, but soon it will be destroyed, and upon its ruins will be erected a watchtower, like those built for the better protection of the flocks roaming around the desert (2 Chronicles 26:10). Already the prophet beholds the city in its reduced condition, and he selects the figure of the tower to make his address more forceful (compare Isaiah 29:1; Jeremiah 21:13).

Stronghold [“hill”] of the daughter of Zion — In apposition to the preceding expression, also denoting the city of Jerusalem. Ophel is the name of the southeast spur of the temple mount, bounded on the east by the Kidron, on the west by the Tyropoeon valley, but here, as in other places (for example, 2 Kings 5:24), the word is a common noun, meaning “hill.”

The first [“former”] dominion — The dominion enjoyed during the most flourishing period of Hebrew history, under David and Solomon, will be restored to Jerusalem during the Messianic era. The last clause, which is considered by some a late marginal gloss introduced into the text by accident, expresses the same thought.


Verse 9-10

Distress and subsequent redemption, Micah 4:9-10.

The distant future, the prophet is convinced, will be all brightness and glory, but in the immediate future he can see nothing but gloom and despair. This new section opens with a vision of the agony and despair soon to be felt by the people. The prophet already beholds the destruction and hears the lamentation.

Why dost thou cry out aloud? — Addressed is the “daughter of Zion” (Micah 4:10), that is, Jerusalem and its inhabitants. The capital is filled with lamentation over the present or rapidly approaching judgment.

A woman in travail — This and similar expressions are used not infrequently in the Old Testament, as expressive of extreme pain and anguish. The questions of Micah 4:9 are meant to be more or less ironical. The prophet knows well enough the reason for the lamentation and the helplessness of king and nobles in such a crisis.

King… counselor — There is a king and there are counselors; but in the time of calamity, when they are needed the most, they can do nothing, because one greater than they has caused the distress (see on Hosea 13:10).

Be in pain… — Jerusalem may well continue the lamentation, for there can be no immediate relief; and the wail is justified, because the city is desolate; homeless and without protection the inhabitants will camp in the fields, until finally they are carried away into exile. Only after these calamities have been suffered will Jehovah manifest his redemptive powers. The tertium comparationis in the picture is only the pain and anguish; there is no thought of Zion actually bringing forth a child, that is, the Messianic king.

If Micah 4:9-10 were standing by themselves their interpretation would be a very simple matter; but when they are studied with due regard for their context difficulties seem to arise. Micah 4:11-12 picture the enemy gathered around Jerusalem, determined to defile and to destroy the holy city; but the scheme will not succeed; the enemy will be “beaten to pieces,” and Jerusalem will triumph gloriously; and all this will happen without a capture of the city or an exile. Such outlook seems to be in hopeless contradiction with the statements in Micah 4:10, which imply a conquest and an exile, and promise deliverance only after the people have been deported to Babylon. To remove this difficulty the words “and shall come even unto Babylon” are commonly rejected as a later interpolation. But the omission of these words by no means removes the whole difficulty, for the fate foretold in Micah 4:10 still remains very different from that announced in Micah 4:11; in the former there is an expectation of great affliction and suffering, in the latter all is triumph and glory. A more satisfactory solution of the difficulty, and one that requires no textual changes, is to separate Micah 4:9-10 entirely from Micah 4:11 ff., and to consider the oracles as two distinct utterances coming from entirely different periods of Micah’s ministry. At one time, near the fall of Samaria, he expected that Judah, including Jerusalem, would suffer the same fate as Israel (Micah 1:8 ff.; Micah 3:12), but it is not necessary to suppose that he adhered to this view throughout his entire ministry. It is at least possible that in his later years he was influenced by the conviction of his greater contemporary Isaiah that Jerusalem was inviolable (Isaiah 37:33 ff.). That conviction is reflected in 11ff., verses which fit admirably in the period of Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 B.C. (compare Isaiah 36, 37); Micah 4:9-10 would reflect the earlier conviction, expressed so forcibly in chapter 1. These words, then, may have been spoken either before or, better, soon after the fall of Samaria, while that calamity was still fresh in the memory of the prophet, or, perhaps, as late as 711 B.C. (compare Isaiah 20), when Sargon sent an expedition against Philistia. The mention of Babylon does not militate against the view that Micah is the author of the words, for the reference does not imply that at the time the words were spoken, Babylon had already displaced Assyria as the great Eastern world power. Babylon is mentioned simply as a place to which the people would be deported. According to 2 Kings 17:24, Sargon settled in the territory of Israel men from Babylon, and this statement is corroborated by Sargon’s own inscription (Records of the Past, 7:29). It is only natural to suppose — and this would be in perfect accord with Assyrian practice — that the depleted territory in the east was filled with exiles from the land of Israel. If this was done we can readily understand how Micah, who expected the people of the south to suffer a fate similar to that of the north, might represent the people of Jerusalem as following their brethren from Samaria to the same place of exile.


Verses 11-13

Deliverance of Jerusalem; destruction of the enemy, 11-13.

This picture, like the preceding, starts from the present calamity and ends with a promise of complete victory. For the differences between the two pictures see comments on Micah 4:10.

Now — Calls attention to the present condition in contrast with the future glory.

Many nations — If, as suggested above (on Micah 4:10), this oracle comes from the period of Sennacherib’s invasion, this expression must refer to the Assyrians, whose armies might be called “many nations,” since they were made up of soldiers from many vassal states (compare Isaiah 10:8, “Are not my princes all of them kings?”).

Thee — Jerusalem.

Defiled — The hostile armies were determined to enter and destroy the holy city, but their very presence there would be, from the standpoint of the devout Jew, a defilement of the city (see on Joel 3:17). All their attempts will be futile, for the thoughts of the enemy are not the thoughts of Jehovah (compare Isaiah 7:5-7).

Gather them as the sheaves — The cruel treatment of a conquered foe is often likened to the threshing of sheaves (Amos 1:3; 2 Samuel 12:31). The enemies have come for conquest, but the prophet declares that they have been permitted to gather around the holy city only to make possible a glorious triumph of the chosen people.

Floor — See on Joel 2:24.

Micah 4:13 is an exhortation to the inhabitants of Zion to execute judgment upon the arrogant enemies.

Thresh — The picture of Micah 4:12 is continued; the inhabitants of Zion are likened to the animals whose duty it is to tread out the grain with their hoofs (see on Amos 1:3; Hosea 10:11; Deuteronomy 25:4).

Hoofs brass — The harder the hoofs the more effective the treading.

Make thine horns iron — This introduces a new figure. With the powerful horns it will pierce and cast down the foe (Deuteronomy 33:17). Thus equipped, Jerusalem will have no difficulty in overthrowing the “many nations,” before the latter can do any harm (compare Isaiah 10:33-34).

I will consecrate — The Hebrew verb form should be understood as an unusual form of the second person, and should be rendered “and thou shalt consecrate.” This reading is supported by nearly all the ancient versions. Israel is not to enrich itself by plundering the defeated foe; all the possessions taken from him are to be consecrated to Jehovah’s use (Leviticus 27:28; 1 Samuel 15:21; 1 Kings 20:42).

Gain… substance — The two nouns are synonyms and are equivalent to “the sum and substance of their possessions.”

The Lord of the whole earth — As such he is able to help Judah to victory; and as such he has a claim upon the spoil.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Micah 4:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/micah-4.html. 1874-1909.

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