Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 1
(... continued from part: introductory)

Commentaries on the Prophet Micah 
Lecture Eighty-first. 
Chapter 1. 
Micah 1:1 
The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days 
of Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw 
concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. 
    This inscription, in the first place, shows the time in which 
Micah lived, and during which God employed his labors. And this 
deserves to be noticed: for at this day his sermons would be 
useless, or at least frigid, except his time were known to us, and 
we be thereby enabled to compare what is alike and what is different 
in the men of his age, and in those of our own: for when we 
understand that Micah condemned this or that vice, as we may also 
learn from the other Prophets and from sacred history, we are able 
to apply more easily to ourselves what he then said, inasmuch as we 
can view our own life as it were in a mirror. This is the reason why 
the Prophets are wont to mention the time in which they executed 
their office. 
    But how long Micah followed the course of his vocation we 
cannot with certainty determine. It is, however, probable that he 
discharged his office as a Prophet for thirty years: it may be that 
he exceeded forty years; for he names here three kings, the first of 
whom, that is Jotham, reigned sixteen years; and he was followed by 
Ahab, who also reigned as many years. If then Micah was called at 
the beginning of the first reign, he must have prophesied for 
thirty-two years, the time of the two kings. Then the reign of 
Hezekiah followed, which continued to the twenty-ninth year: and it 
may be, that the Prophet served God to the death, or even beyond the 
death, of Hezekiah. We hence see that the number of his years cannot 
with certainty be known; though it be sufficiently evident that he 
taught not for a few years, but that he so discharged his office, 
that for thirty years he was not wearied, but constantly persevered 
in executing the command of God. 
    I have said that he was contemporary with Isaiah: but as Isaiah 
began his office under Uzziah, we conclude that he was older. Why 
then was Micah joined to him? that the Lord might thus break down 
the stubbornness of the people. It was indeed enough that one man 
was sent by God to bear witness to the truth; but it pleased God 
that a testimony should be borne by the mouth of two, and that holy 
Isaiah should be assisted by this friend and, as it were, his 
colleague. And we shall hereafter find that they adopted the very 
same words; but there was no emulation between them, so that one 
accused the other of theft, when he repeated what had been said. 
Nothing was more gratifying to each of them than to receive a 
testimony from his colleague; and what was committed to them by God 
they declared not only in the same sense and meaning, but also in 
the same words, and, as it were, with one mouth. 
    Of the expression, that the "word was sent to him", we have 
elsewhere reminded you, that it ought not to be understood of 
private teaching, as when the word of God is addressed to 
individuals; but the word was given to Micah, that he might be God's 
ambassador to us. It means then that he came furnished with 
commands, as one sustaining the person of God himself; for he 
brought nothing of his own, but what the Lord commanded him to 
proclaim. But as I have elsewhere enlarged on this subject, I now 
only touch on it briefly. 
    This vision, he says, was given him against two cities Samaria 
and Jerusalem. It is certain that the Prophet was specifically sent 
to the Jews; and Maresah, from which he arose, as it appears from 
the inscription, was in the tribe of Judah: for Morasthite was an 
appellative, derived from the place Maresah. But it may be asked, 
why does he say that visions had been given him against Samaria? We 
have said elsewhere, that though Hosea was specifically and in a 
peculiar manner destined for the kingdom of Israel, he yet by the 
way mingled sometimes those things which referred to the tribe or 
kingdom of Judah: and such was also the case with our Prophet; he 
had a regard chiefly to his own kindred, for he knew that he was 
appointed for them; but, at the same time, he overlooked not wholly 
the other part of the people; for the kingdom of Israel was not so 
divided from the tribe of Judah that no connection remained: for God 
was unwilling that his covenant should be abolished by their 
defection from the kingdom of David. We hence see, that though Micah 
spent chiefly his labors in behalf of the Jews, he yet did not 
overlook or entirely neglect the Israelites. 
    But the title must be restricted to one part of the book; for 
threatenings only form the discourse here. But we shall find that 
promises, full of joy, are also introduced. The inscription then 
does not include all the contents of the book; but as his purpose 
was to begin with threatenings, and to terrify the Jews by setting 
before them the punishment that was at hand, this inscription was 
designedly given. There is, at the same time, no doubt but that the 
Prophet was ill received by the Jews on this account; for they 
deemed it a great indignity, and by no means to be endured, to be 
tied up in the same bundle with the Israelites; for Samaria was an 
abomination to the kingdom of Judah; and yet the Prophet here makes 
no difference between Samaria and Jerusalem. This was then an 
exasperating sentence: but we see how boldly the Prophet performs 
the office committed to him; for he regarded not what would be 
agreeable to men, nor endeavored to draw them by smooth things: 
though his message was disliked, he yet proclaimed it, for he was so 
commanded, nor could he shake off the yoke of his vocation. Let us 
now proceed - 
Micah 1:2 
Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and 
let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy 
    The Prophet here rises into an elevated style, being not 
content with a simple and calm manner of speaking. We hence may 
learn, that having previously tried the disposition of the people, 
he knew the stubbornness of almost all classes: for except he was 
persuaded that the people would be rebellious and obstinate, he 
would certainly have used some mildness, or have at least endeavored 
to lead them of their own accord rather than to drive them thus 
violently. There is then no doubt but that the obstinacy of the 
people and their wickedness were already fully known to him, even 
before he began to address one word to them. But this difficulty did 
not prevent him from obeying God's command. He found it necessary in 
the meantime to add vehemence to his teaching; for he saw that he 
addressed the deaf, yea, stupid men, who were destitute of every 
sense of religion, and who had hardened themselves against God, and 
had not only fallen away through want of thought, but had also 
become immersed in their sins, and were wickedly and abominably 
obstinate in them. Since then the Prophet saw this, he makes here a 
bold beginning, and addresses not only his own nation, for whom he 
was appointed a Teacher; but he speaks to the whole world. 
    For what purpose does he say, Hear, all ye people? It was not 
certainly his object to proclaim indiscriminately to all the truth 
of God for the same end: but he summons here all nations as 
witnesses or judges, that the Jews might understand that their 
impiety would be made evident to all, except they repented, and that 
there was no reason for them to hope that they could conceal their 
baseness, for God would expose their hidden crimes as it were on an 
open stage. We hence see how emphatical are the words, when the 
Prophet calls on all nations and would have them to be witnesses of 
the judgment which God had resolved to bring on his people. 
    He afterwards adds, Let also the earth give ear and its 
fulness. We may take the earth, by metonymy, for its inhabitants; 
but as it is added, "and its fulness", the Prophet, I doubt not, 
meant here to address the very earth itself, though it be without 
reason. He means that so dreadful would be the judgment of God, as 
to shake created things which are void of sense; and thus he more 
severely upbraids the Jews with their stupor, that they heedlessly 
neglected the word of God, which yet would shake all the elements by 
its power. 
    He then immediately turns his discourse to the Jews: after 
having erected God's tribunal and summoned all the nations, that 
they might form as it were a circle of a solemn company, he says, 
"There will be for me the Lord Jehovah against you for a witness - 
the Lord from the temple of his holiness". By saying that God would 
be as a witness for him, he not only affirms that he was sent by 
God, but being as it were inflamed with zeal, he appeals here to 
God, and desires him to be present, that the wickedness and 
obstinacy of the people might not be unpunished; as though he said, 
"Let God, whose minister I am, be with me, and punish your impiety; 
let him prove that he is the author of this doctrine, which I 
declare from his mouth and by his command; let him not suffer you to 
escape unpunished, if ye do not repent." 
    We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says 
that God would be for him a witness; as though he had said, that 
there was no room here to trifle; for if the Jews thought to elude 
God's judgment they greatly deceived themselves; inasmuch as when he 
has given a command to his servants to treat with his people, he is 
at the same time present as a judge, and will not suffer his word to 
be rejected without immediately undertaking his own cause. 
    Nor is this addition superfluous, "The Lord from the temple of 
his holiness": for we know how thoughtlessly the Jews were wont to 
boast that God dwelt in the midst of them. And this presumption so 
blinded them that they despised all the Prophets; for they thought 
it unlawful that any thing should be said to their disgrace, because 
they were the holy people of God, his holy heritage and chosen 
nation. Inasmuch then as the Lord had adopted them, they falsely 
boasted of his favors. Since then the Prophet knew that the people 
insolently gloried in those privileges, with which they had been 
honored by God, he now declares that God would be the avenger of 
impiety from his temple; as though he said, "Ye boast that God is 
bound to you, and that he has so bound up his faith to you as to 
render his name to you a sport: he indeed dwells in his temple; but 
from thence he will manifest himself as an avenger, as he sees that 
you are perverse in your wickedness." We hence see that the Prophet 
beats down that foolish arrogance, by which the Jews were inflated; 
yea, he turns back on their own heads what they were wont boastingly 
to bring forward. After having made this introduction, to awaken 
slumbering men with as much vehemence as he could, he subjoins - 
Micah 1:3,4 
For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come 
down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. 
And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall 
be cleft, as wax before the fire, [and] as the waters [that are] 
poured down a steep place. 
    The Prophet pursues the same subject; and he dwells especially 
on this - that God would be a witness against his people from his 
sanctuary. He therefore confirms this, when he says that God would 
come from his place. Some interpreters do at the same time take this 
view - that the temple would hereafter be deprived of God's 
presence, and would hence become profane, according to what Ezekiel 
declares. For as the Jews imagined that God was connected with them 
as long as the temple stood, and this false imagination proved to 
them an allurement, as it were, to sin, as on this account they took 
to themselves greater liberty, - this was the reason why the Prophet 
Ezekiel declares that God was no longer in the temple; and the Lord 
had shown to him by a vision that he had left his temple, so that he 
would no longer dwell there. Some, as I have said, give a similar 
explanation of this passage; but this sense does not seem to suit 
the context. I therefore take another view of this sentence - that 
God would go forth from his place. But yet it is doubted what place 
the Prophet refers to: for many take it to be heaven, and this seems 
probable, for immediately after he adds, "Descend shall God, and he 
will tread on the high places of the earth". This descent seems 
indeed to point out a higher place: but as the temple, we know, was 
situated on a high and elevated spot, on mount Zion, there is 
nothing inconsistent in saying that God descended from his temple to 
chastise the whole of Judea as it deserved. Then the going forth of 
God is by no means ambiguous in its meaning, for he means that God 
would at length go forth, as it were, in a visible form. With regard 
then to the place, I am inclined to refer it to the temple; and this 
clause, I have no doubt, has proceeded from the last verse. 
    But why is going forth here ascribed to God? Because the Jews 
had abused the forbearance of God in worshipping him with vain 
ceremonies in the temple; and at the same time they thought that 
they had escaped from his hand. As long then as God spared them, 
they thought that he was, as it were, bound to them, because he 
dwelt among them. Besides, as the legal and shadowy worship 
prevailed among them, they imagined that God rested in their temple. 
But now the Prophet says, "He will go forth: ye have wished hitherto 
to confine God to the tabernacle, and ye have attempted to pacify 
him with your frivolous puerilities: but ye shall know that his hand 
and his power extend much farther: he shall therefore come and show 
what that majesty is which has been hitherto a derision to you." For 
when hypocrites set to sale their ceremonies to God, do they not 
openly trifle with him, as though he were a child? and do they not 
thus rob him of his power and authority? Such was the senselessness 
of that people. The Prophet therefore does not say without reason 
that God would go forth, that he might prove to the Jews that they 
were deluded by their own vain imaginations, when they thus took 
away from God what necessarily belonged to him, and confined him to 
a corner in Judea and fixed him there, as though he rested and dwelt 
there like a dead idol. 
    The particle, "Behold", is emphatical: for the Prophet intended 
here to shake off from the Jews their torpidity, inasmuch as nothing 
was more difficult to them than to be persuaded and to believe that 
punishment was nigh at hand, when they flattered themselves that God 
was propitious to them. Hence that they might no longer cherish this 
willfulness, he says, "Behold, come shall the Lord, forth shall he 
go from his place". Isaiah has a passage like this in an address to 
the people, chap. 26; but the object of it is different; for Isaiah 
intended to threaten the enemies of the Church and heathen nations: 
but here Micah denounces war on the chosen people, and shows that 
God thus dwelt in his temple, that the Jews might perceive that his 
hand was opposed to them, as they had so shamefully despised him, 
and, by their false imaginations reduced, as it were, to nothing his 
    "He shall tread, he says, on the high places of the earth". By 
the high places of the earth I do not understand superstitious 
places, but those well fortified. We know that fortresses were then 
fixed, for the most part, on elevated situations. The Prophet then 
intimates, that there would be no place into which God's vengeance 
would not penetrate, however well fortified it might be: "No 
enclosures," he says, "shall hinder God from penetrating into the 
inmost parts of your fortresses; he shall tread on the high places 
of the earth." At the same time, I doubt not but that he alludes, by 
this kind of metaphor, to the chief men, who thought themselves 
exempted from the common lot of mankind; for they excelled so much 
in power, riches, and authority, that they would not be classed with 
the common people. The Prophet then intimates, that those, who were 
become proud through a notion of their own superiority would not be 
exempt from punishment. 
    And he afterwards adds, that this going forth of God would be 
terrible, "Melt", he says, "shall the mountains under him". It hence 
appears, that the Prophet did not speak in the last verse of the 
departure of God, as though he was going to forsake his own temple, 
but that he, on the contrary, described his going forth from the 
temple, that he might ascend his tribunal and execute punishment on 
the whole people, and thus, in reality, prove that he would be a 
judge, because he had been very daringly despised. Hence he says, 
"Melt shall the mountains under him, the valleys shall be rent, or 
cleave, as wax before the fire, as waters rolling into a lower 
place." The Prophets do not often describe God in a manner so awful; 
but this representation is to be referred to the circumstance of 
this passage, for he sets forth God here as the judge of the people: 
it was therefore necessary that he should be exhibited as furnished 
and armed with powers that he might stake such vengeance on the Jews 
as they deserved. And other similar passages we shall hereafter meet 
with, and like to those which we found in Hosea. God then is said to 
melt the mountains, and he is said to strike the valleys with such 
terror that they cleave under him; in short, he is said so to 
terrify all elements, that the very mountains, however stony they 
may be, melt like wax or like waters which flow, - because he could 
not otherwise produce a real impression on a people so obstinate, 
and who, as it has been said, so flattered themselves even in their 
    We may further easily learn what application to make of this 
truth in our day. We find the Papists boasting of the title Church, 
and, in a manner, with vain confidence, binding God to themselves, 
because they have baptism, though they have adulterated it with 
their superstitions; and then, they think that they have Christ, 
because they still retain the name of a Church. Had the Lord 
promised that his dwelling would be at Rome, we yet see how foolish 
and frivolous would be such boasting: for though the temple was at 
Jerusalem, yet the Lord went forth thence to punish the sins of the 
people, yea, even of the chosen people. We further know, that it is 
folly to bind God now to one place, for it is his will that his name 
should be celebrated without any difference through the whole world. 
Wheresoever, then, the voice of the Gospel sounds, God would have us 
to know that he is present there. What the Papists then proudly 
boast of - that Christ is joined to them - will turn out to their 
own condemnation; - why so? Because the Lord will prove that he is 
the avenger of so impious and shameful a profanation, as they not 
only presumptuously lay claim to his name, but also tear it in 
pieces, and contaminate it with their sacrilegious abominations. 
    Again, since God is said to melt the mountains with his 
presence, let us hence learn to rouse up all our feelings whenever 
God comes forth not that we may flee to a distance from him, but 
that we may reverently receive his word, so that he may afterwards 
appear to us a kind and reconciled Father. For when we become 
humble, and the pride and height of our flesh is subdued, he then 
immediately receives us, as it were, into his gentle bosom, and 
gives us an easy access to him, yea, he invites us to himself with 
all possible kindness. That the Lord then may thus kindly receive 
us, let us learn to fear as soon as he utters his voice: but let not 
this fear make us to flee away but only humble us, so that we may 
render true obedience to the word of the Lord. It follows - 
Micah 1:5 
For the transgression of Jacob [is] all this, and for the sins of 
the house of Israel. What [is] the transgression of Jacob? [is it] 
not Samaria? and what [are] the high places of Judah? [are they] not 
    The Prophet teaches, in this verse, that God is not angry for 
nothing; though when he appears rigid, men expostulate with him, and 
clamour as though he were cruel. That men may, therefore, 
acknowledge that God is a just judge, and that he never exceeds 
moderation in punishments, the Prophet here distinctly states that 
there was a just cause, why God denounced so dreadful a judgment on 
his chosen people, - even because not only a part of the people, but 
the whole body had, through their impiety, fallen away; for by the 
house of Jacob, and by the house of Israel, he means that impiety 
had everywhere prevailed, so that no part was untainted. The meaning 
then is, - that the contagion of sin had spread through all Israel, 
that no portion of the country was free from iniquity, that no 
corner of the land could bring an excuse for its defection; the Lord 
therefore shows that he would be the judge of them all, and would 
spare neither small nor great. 
    We now then understand the Prophet's object in this verse: As 
he had before taught how dreadful would be God's vengeance against 
all the ungodly, so now he mentions their crimes, that they might 
not complain that they were unjustly treated, or that God employed 
too much severity. The Prophet then testifies that the punishment, 
then near at hand, would be just. 
    He now adds, "What is the wickedness of Jacob?" The Prophet, no 
doubt, indirectly reproves here the hypocrisy which ruled dominant 
among the people. For he asks not for his own satisfaction or in his 
own person; but, on the contrary, he relates, by way of imitation, 
what he knew to be ever on their lips, "Oh! what sort of thing is 
this sin? Why! thou assumest here a false principle, - that we are 
wicked men, ungodly and perfidious: thou does us a grievous wrong." 
Inasmuch, then, as hypocrites thought themselves pure, having wiped, 
as it were, their mouths, whenever they eluded reproofs by their 
sophistries, the Prophet borrows a question, as it were, from their 
own lips, "Of what kind is this wickedness? Of what sort is that 
transgression?" As though he said, "I know what ye are wont to do, 
when any one of the Prophets severely reproves you; ye instantly 
contend with him, and are ready with your objections: but what do 
you gain? If you wish to know what your wickedness is, it is 
Samaria; and where your high places are, they are at Jerusalem." It 
is the same as if he had said, "I do not here contend with the 
common people, but I attack the first men: my contest then is with 
the princes themselves, who surpass others in dignity, and are, 
therefore, unwilling to be touched." 
    But it sometimes happens that the common people become 
degenerated, while some integrity remains among the higher orders: 
but the Prophet shows that the diseases among the people belonged to 
the principal men; and hence he names the two chief cities, 
Jerusalem and Samaria, as he had said before, in the first verse, 
that he proclaimed predictions against these: and yet it is certain, 
that the punishment was to be in common to the whole people. But as 
they thought that Jerusalem and Samaria would be safe, though the 
whole country were destroyed, the Prophet threatens them by name: 
for, relying first on their strength, they thought themselves 
unassailable; and then, the eyes of nearly all, we know, were 
dazzled with empty splendor, powers and dignity: thus the ungodly 
wholly forget that they are men, and what they owe to God, when 
elevated in the world. So great an arrogance could not be subdued, 
except by sharp and severe words, such as the Prophet, as we see, 
here employs. He then says, that the wickedness of Israel was 
Samaria; the fountain of all iniquities was the royal city, which 
yet ought to have ruled the whole land with wisdom and justice: but 
what any more remains, when kings and their counselors tread under 
foot all regard for what is just and right, and having cast away 
every shame, rise up in rebellion against God and men? When 
therefore kings thus fall from their dignity, an awful ruin must 
    This is the reason why the Prophet says that the wickedness of 
Israel was Samaria, that thence arose all iniquities. But we must at 
the same time bear in mind, that the Prophet speaks not here of 
gross crimes; but, on the contrary, he directs his reproof against 
ungodly and perverted forms of worship; and this appears more 
evident from the second clause, in which he mentions transgressions 
in connection with the high places. We hence see, that all sins in 
general are not here reproved, but their vicious modes of worship, 
by which religion had been polluted among the Jews as well as the 
Israelites. But it might seem very unjust, that the Prophet should 
charge with sin those forms of worship in which the Jews laboriously 
exercised themselves with the object of pacifying God. But we see 
how God regards as nothing whatever men blend with his worship out 
of their own heads. And this is our principal contest at this day 
with the Papists; we call their perverted and spurious modes of 
worship abominations: they think that what is heavenly is to be 
blended with what is earthly. "We diligently labour," they say, "for 
this end - that God may be worshipped." True; but, at the same time, 
ye profane his worship by your inventions; and it is therefore an 
abomination. We now then see how foolish and frivolous are those 
delusions, when men follow their own wisdom in the duty of 
worshipping God: for the Prophet here, in the name of God, 
fulminates, as it were, from heaven against all superstitions, and 
shows that no sin is more detestable, than that preposterous caprice 
with which idolaters are inflamed, when they observe such forms of 
worship as they have themselves invented. 
    Now with regard to the "high places", we must notice, that 
there was a great difference between the Jews and the Israelites at 
that time as to idolatry. The Israelites had so fallen, that they 
were altogether degenerated; nothing could be seen among them that 
had an affinity to the true and legitimate worship of God: but the 
Jews had retained some form of religion, they had not thus abandoned 
themselves; but yet they had a mixture of superstitions; such as one 
would find, were he to compare the gross Popery of this day with 
that middle course which those men invent, who seem to themselves to 
be very wise, fearing, forsooth, as they do, the offenses of the 
world; and hence they form for us a mixture, I know not what, from 
the superstitions of the Papacy and from the Reformation, as they 
call it. Something like this was the mixture at Jerusalem. We 
however see, that the Prophet pronounces the same sentence against 
the Jews and the Israelites and that is, that God will allow nothing 
that proceeds from the inventions of men to be joined to his word. 
Since then God allows no such mixtures, the Prophet here says that 
there was no less sin on the high places of Judea, than there was in 
those filthy abominations which were then dominant among the people 
of Israel. But the remainder we must defer until to-morrow. 
Grant, Almighty God, that, since to a perverse, and in every way a 
rebellious people, thou didst formerly show so much grace, as to 
exhort them continually to repentance, and to stretch forth thy hand 
to them by thy Prophets, - O grant, that the same word may sound in 
our ears; and when we do not immediately profit by thy teaching, O 
cast us not away, but, by thy Spirit, so subdue all our thoughts and 
affections, that we, being humbled, may give glory to thy majesty, 
such as is due to thee, and that, being allured by thy paternal 
favor, we may submit ourselves to thee, and, at the same time, 
embrace that mercy which thou offerest and presentest to us in 
Christ, that we may not doubt but thou wilt be a Father to us, until 
we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been 
obtained for us by the, blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 1
(continued in part 2...)

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