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

Lecture Eighty-second. 
Micah 1:6 
Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, [and] as 
plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof 
into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof. 
    Though Micah intended especially to devote his services to the 
Jews, as we have said yesterday, he yet, in the first place, passes 
judgment on Samaria; for it was his purpose afterwards to speak more 
fully against Jerusalem and the whole of Judea. And this state of 
the case ought to be borne in mind; for the Prophet does not begin 
with the Israelites, because he directs his discourse peculiarly to 
them; but his purpose was briefly to reprove them, and then to 
address more especially his own people, for it was for this purpose 
that he was called. Now, as he threatens destruction to Samaria and 
the whole kingdom of Israel on account of their corrupted forms of 
worship, we may hence learn how displeasing to God is superstition, 
and that he regards nothing so much as the true worship of his name. 
There is no reason here for men to advance this position - that they 
do not designedly sin; for God shows how he is to be worshipped by 
us. Whenever, then, we deviate in any thing from the rule which he 
has prescribed, we manifest, in that particular, our rebellion and 
obstinacy. Hence the superstitious ever act like fools with regard 
to God, for they will not submit to his word, so as to be thereby 
alone made wise. 
    And he says, "I will set Samaria as an heap of the field", that 
is, such shall be the ruins that they shall differ nothing from the 
heaps of the fields: for husband men, we know, when they find stones 
in their fields, throw them into some corner, that they may not be 
in the way of the slough. Like such heaps then, as are seen in the 
fields, Samaria would be, according to what God declared. He then 
says, that the place would be empty, so that vines would be planted 
there; and, in the third place, that its stones would be scattered 
through the valley; as when one casts stones where there is a wide 
plain, they run and roll far and wide; so would be the scattering of 
Samaria according to what the Prophet says, it was to be like the 
rolling of stones in a wide field. He adds, in the fourth place, "I 
will uncover her foundations", that is, I will entirely demolish it, 
so that a stone, as Christ says, may not remain on a stone, (Matth. 
24: 2.) We now perceive the import of the words; and we also 
perceive that the reason why the Prophet denounces on Samaria so 
severe a judgment was, because it had corrupted the legitimate 
worship of God with its own inventions; for it had devised, as we 
well know, many idols, so that the whole authority of the law had 
been abolished among the Israelites. It now follows - 
Micah 1:7 
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all 
the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols 
thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered [it] of the hire of an 
harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot. 
    The Prophet goes on with the same subject, and says, that the 
ruin of Samaria was at hand, so that its idols would be broken, and 
also, that its wealth would be destroyed which she had gathered by 
illegitimate means, and which she thought to be the reward of her 
idolatry. But God mentions idols here expressly by his Prophet, in 
order to confirm what we noticed yesterday - that the cause of 
vengeance was, because Samaria had abandoned itself to ungodly forms 
of worship, and had departed from the Law. That the Israelites might 
then understand the cause for which God would so severely punish 
them, the Prophet here makes express mention of their graven images 
and idols. God is not indeed angry with stones and wood; but he 
observes the abuse and the perversion of them, when men pollute 
themselves by wickedly worshipping such things. This is the reason 
why God says here that the graven images of Samaria would be broken 
in pieces, and that its idols would be destroyed. 
    With regard to the wages, the Prophet no doubt designed to 
stamp with disgrace all the wealth of Samaria. "'Etnan" is properly 
a gift or a present. But as he twice repeats it, and says, that what 
Samaria possessed was the "reward of an harlot", and then, that it 
would "return to the reward of an harlot", he, in the first place, I 
have no doubt, upbraids the Israelites, because they, after the 
manner of harlots and strumpets, had heaped together their great 
riches: and this was done by Jeroboam, who constructed a new form of 
worship, in order to secure his own kingdom. The Israelites then 
began to flourish; and we also know how wealthy that kingdom became, 
and how proud they were on account of their riches. As, then, the 
Israelites despised the kingdom of Judah, and thought themselves in 
every way happy, and as they ascribed all this, as we have seen in 
Hosea, to their superstitions, Micah speaks here according to their 
view of things, when he says, "Idolatry has been gainful to you, 
this splendor dazzles your eyes; but your rewards I have already 
doomed to the burning: they shall then be burnt, and thus perish." 
Hosea also, as we have seen, made use of the same comparison, - that 
the children of Israel felicitated themselves in their impiety, like 
a harlot, who, while she gains many presents from those who admire 
her beauty, seems not conscious of her turpitude and baseness: such 
were the Israelites. The Prophets therefore does not say, without 
reason, Behold, your rewards, by burning, shall perish, or, be 
consumed with fire. Why so? Because ye have gathered them, he says, 
from the reward of an harlot, and all this shall return to the 
reward of an harlot. 
    This last clause ought to be restricted to the gifts or wealth 
of Samaria; for it cannot properly be applied to idols or graven 
images. The import of the whole then is that God would be the 
avenger of idolatry with regard to the city of Samaria and the whole 
kingdom of Israel. Besides, as the Israelites boasted that their 
ungodly forms of worship turned out to their happiness and 
prosperity, God declares that the whole of this success would be 
evanescent, like that of the harlot, who amasses great wealth, which 
soon vanishes away: and we see that thus it commonly happens. 
    Some explain the passage thus, - that the gifts, with which the 
Israelites adorned their temples, would return to be the reward of 
an harlot, that is, would he transferred to Chaldea, and that the 
Babylonians would, in their turn, adorn with them their idols. But 
this view is not suitable to the place; for the Prophet does not say 
that what Samaria had gathered would be a prey or a spoil to enemies 
but that it would perish by fire. He speaks therefore, proverbially 
when he says that the produce, from the reward of an harlot, would 
return to be the reward of an harlot, that is, that it would become 
nothing; for the Lord sets a curse on such riches as strumpets gain 
by their baseness, while they prostitute themselves. Since, then, 
the whole of such wealth is under the curse of God, it must 
necessarily soon pass away like smoke: and this, in my view, is the 
real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows - 
Micah 1:8,9 
Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will 
make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls. 
For her wound [is] incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come 
unto the gate of my people, [even] to Jerusalem. 
    The Prophet here assumes the character of a mourner, that he 
might more deeply impress the Israelites; for we have seen that they 
were almost insensible in their torpidity. It was therefore 
necessary that they should be brought to view the scene itself, 
that, seeing their destruction before their eyes they might be 
touched both with grief and fear. Lamentations of this kind are 
everywhere to be met with in the Prophets, and they ought to be 
carefully noticed; for we hence gather how great was the torpor of 
men, inasmuch as it was necessary to awaken them, by this form of 
speech, in order to convince them that they had to do with God: they 
would have otherwise continued to flatter themselves with delusions. 
Though indeed the Prophet here addresses the Israelites, we ought 
yet to apply this to ourselves; for we are not much unlike the 
ancient people: for however God may terrify us with dreadful 
threatening, we still remain quiet in our filth. It is therefore 
needful that we should be severely treated, for we are almost void 
of feeling. 
    But the Prophets sometimes assumed mourning, and sometimes they 
were touched with real grief: for when they spoke of aliens and also 
of the enemies of the Church, they introduce these lamentations. 
When a mention is made of Babylon or of Egypt, they sometimes say, 
"Behold, I will mourn, and my bowels shall be as a timbrel." The 
Prophets did not then really grieve; but, as I have said, they 
transferred to themselves the sorrows of others, and ever with this 
object, that they might persuade men that God's threatenings were 
not vain, and that God did not trifle with men when he declared that 
he was angry with them. But when the discourse was respecting the 
Church and the faithful, then the Prophets did not put on grief. The 
representation here is then to be taken in such a way as that we may 
understand that the Prophet was in real mourning, when he saw that a 
dreadful ruin was impending over the whole kingdom of Israel. For 
though they had perfidiously departed from the Law, they were yet a 
part of the holy race, they were the children of Abraham, whom God 
had received into favor. The Prophet, therefore, could not refrain 
from mourning unfeignedly for them. And the Prophet does here these 
two things, - he shows the fraternal love which he entertained for 
the children of Israel, as they were his kindred, and a part of the 
chosen people, - and he also discharges his own duty; for this 
lamentation was, as it were, the mirror in which he sets before them 
the vengeance of God towards men so extremely torpid. He therefore 
exhibits to them this representation, that they might perceive that 
God was by no means trifling with men, when he thus denounced 
punishment on the wicked and such as were apostates. 
    Moreover, he speaks not of a common lamentation, but says, I 
will wail and howl, and then, I will go spoiled. The word "sholal" 
some take as meaning one out of his mind or insane, as though he 
said, "I shall be now as one not possessed of a sound mind." But as 
this metaphor is rather unnatural, I prefer the sense of being 
spoiled; for it was the custom with mourners, as it is well known, 
to tear and to throw away their garments from them. I will then go 
spoiled and naked; and also, I will make wailing, not like that of 
men, but like the wailing of dragons: I will mourn, he says, as the 
ostriches are wont to do. In short, the Prophet by these forms of 
speech intimates, that the coming evil would by no means be of an 
ordinary kind: for if he adopted the usual manner of men, he could 
not have set forth the dreadfulness of God's vengeance that was 
    He afterwards subjoins, that the wounds vault be grievous; but 
he speaks as of what was present, "Grievous", he says, "are the 
wounds". Grievous means properly full of grief; others render it 
desperate or incurable, but it is a meaning which suits not this 
place; for "'anushah" means what we express in French by 
douloureuse. The wounds, then, are full of grief: for it came, 
(something is understood; it may suitably be referred to the enemy, 
or, what is more approved, to the slaughter) - It came then, that 
is, the slaughter, to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my 
people, even to Jerusalem itself. He says first, to Judah, speaking 
of the land; and then he confines it to the cities; for when the 
gates are closed up against enemies, they are forced to stop. But 
the Prophet says, that the cities would be no hindrance to the 
enemies to approach the very gates and even the chief city of Judah, 
that is, Jerusalem; and this, we know, was fulfilled. It is the same 
then as though he said that the whole kingdom of Israel would be so 
laid waste, that their enemies would not he content with victory, 
but would proceed farther and besiege the holy city: and this 
Sennacherib did. For after having subverted the kingdom of Israel, 
as though it was not enough to draw the ten tribes into exile, he 
resolved to take possession of the kingdom of Judah; and Jerusalem, 
as Isaiah says, was left as a tent. We hence see that the 
threatening of the Prophet Micah were not in vain. It now follows - 
Micah 1:10 
Declare ye [it] not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of 
Aphrah roll thyself in the dust. 
    The Prophet seems here to be inconsistent with himself: for he 
first describes the calamity that was to be evident to all; but now 
he commands silence, lest the report should reach the enemies. But 
there is here nothing contradictory; for the evil itself could not 
be hid, since the whole kingdom of Israel would be desolated, the 
cities demolished or burnt, the whole country spoiled and laid 
waste, and then the enemies would enter the borders of Judah: and 
when Jerusalem should have been nearly taken how could it have been 
concealed? No, this could not have been. There is no wonder then 
that the Prophet had referred here to a solemn mourning. But he now 
speaks of the feeling of those who were desirous of hiding their own 
disgrace, especially from their enemies and aliens: for it is an 
indignity which greatly vexes us, when enemies taunt us, and upbraid 
us in our misfortunes; when no hope remains, we at least wish to 
perish in secret, so that no reproach and disgrace should accompany 
our death; for dishonor is often harder to be borne, and wounds us 
more grievously, than any other evil. The Prophet then means that 
the Israelites would not only be miserable, but would also be 
subject to the reproaches and taunts of their enemies. We indeed 
know that the Philistine were inveterate in their hatred to the 
people of God; and we know that they ever took occasion to upbraid 
them with their evils and calamities. 
    This then is the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, "In Gath 
declare it not, by weeping weep not"; as though he said, "Though 
extreme evils shall come upon you, yet seek to perish in silence; 
for you will find that your enemies will gape for the opportunity to 
cut you with their taunts, when they shall see you thus miserable." 
He then forbids the people's calamities to be told in Gath; for the 
Philistine usually desired nothing more than the opportunity to 
torment the people of God with reproaches. 
    It now follows, "In the house of Aphrah, in dust roll thyself". 
There is here an alliteration which cannot be conveyed in Latin: for 
"'afrah" means dusty, and "'afar" is dust. That city attained its 
name from its situation, because the country where it was, was full 
of dust; as if a city were called Lutosa, muddy or full of clay; and 
indeed many think that Lutetia (Paris) had hence derived its name. 
And he says, Roll thyself in dust, in the house full of dust; as 
though he had said that the name would be now most suitable, for the 
ruin of the city would constrain all neighboring cities to be in 
mourning to cast themselves in the dust; So great would be the 
extremity of their evils. 
    But we must ever bear in mind the object of the Prophet: for he 
here rouses the Israelites as it were with the sharpest goads, who 
entertained no just idea of the dreadfulness of God's vengeance, but 
were ever deaf to all threatening. The Prophet then shows that the 
execution of this vengeance which he denounced was ready at hand; 
and he himself not only mourned, but called others also to mourning. 
He speaks of the whole country, as we shall see by what follows. I 
shall quickly run over the whole of this chapter; for there is no 
need of long explanation, as you will find. 
Micah 1:11 
Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the 
inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he 
shall receive of you his standing. 
    The Prophet here addresses the cities which were on the borders 
of the kingdom of Israel, and through which the enemy would pass in 
entering the kingdom of Judah. He therefore bids the inhabitants of 
the city Saphir to pass over, and says, that the city would be 
ashamed or in a shameful manner naked. The word "shafir" means 
splendid. He then says, "Thou art now beautiful, but the Lord will 
discover thy shame, so that thy nakedness shall be a shame to all, 
and the greatest disgrace to thyself." There is a correspondence in 
the words, though not an alliteration. Hence the Prophet says, that 
though the city was called splendid, it would yet be deformed, so 
that no one would deign to look on it, at least without feeling 
shame. There is the same correspondence in the word Zaanan; for 
"tsa'ah" means to transfer, as "tsa'an" is to migrate. Hence the 
Prophet says, Go forth shall not the inhabitant of Zaanan for the 
mourning of Beth-Aezel; that is, he will remain quiet at home: this 
he will do contrary to what will be natural; for whence is the name 
of the city? even from removing, for it was a place of much traffic. 
But he will remain, he says, at home: though he may see his 
neighbors dragged into exile, he will not dare to move from his 
    He now adds, "Take will the enemy from you his station". The 
verb "'amad" means to stand; nor is there a doubt but that when the 
Prophet says, He will take from you his standing, he speaks of the 
standing or station of the enemy: but interpreters however vary 
here. Some understand, that when the enemy had continued long in the 
land, they would not depart before they possessed the supreme power; 
as though he said, "Ye will think that your enemy can be wearied out 
with delay and tediousness, when not able soon to conquer your 
cities: this, he says, will not be the case; for he will resolutely 
persevere, and his expectation will not disappoint him; for he will 
receive the reward of his station, that is, of his delay." But some 
say, "He will receive his station from you." They explain the verb 
"lakach" metaphorically, as meaning to receive instruction from hand 
to hand; as though the Prophet had said, "Some," that is, "your 
neighbors, will learn their own position from you." What does this 
mean? Zaanan will not go forth on account of the mourning of its 
neighbouring city Aezel: others will afterwards follow this example. 
How so? For Zaanan will be, as it were, the teacher to other cities; 
as it will not dare to show any sign of grief for its neighbors, 
being not able to succor them; so also, when it shall be taken in 
its turn into exile, that is, its citizens and inhabitants, its 
neighbours will remain quiet, as though the condition of the 
miserable city was no object of their care. "They shall then learn 
from you their standing;" that is, "Ye will remain quiet and still, 
when your neighbors will be destroyed; the same thing will 
afterwards happen to you." But as this bears but little on the main 
subjects we may take either of these views. It afterwards follows - 
Micah 1:12 
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil 
came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem. 
    The Prophet joins here another city even Maroth, and others 
also in the following verses. But in this verse he says, that Maroth 
would be in sorrow for a lost good. The verb "chul" means to grieve; 
and it has this sense here; for the Marothites, that is, the 
inhabitants of that city, would have to grieve for losing their 
property and their former happy condition. But as the verb means 
also to expect, some approve of a different exposition, that is, - 
that the inhabitants of the city Maroth would in vain depend on an 
empty and fallacious expectation, for they were doomed to utter 
destruction. In vain then will the inhabitant of Maroth expect or 
entertain hope; for an evil descends from Jehovah to the gate of the 
city. This view is very suitable, that is, that its hope will 
disappoint Maroth, since even the city of Jerusalem shall not be 
exempted. For though God had then by a miracle delivered the chief 
city, and its siege was raised through the intervention of an angel, 
when a dreadful slaughter, as sacred history records, took place; 
yet the city Maroth was not then able to escape vengeance. We now 
see the reason why this circumstance was added. Some give a harsher 
explanation, - that the citizens of Maroth were to be debilitated, 
or, as it were, demented. As this metaphor is too strained, I 
embrace the other, - that the citizens of Maroth would grieve for 
the loss of good, or that they would vainly expect or hope, since 
they were already doomed to utter ruin, without any hope of 
    But we must notice, that evil was nigh at hand from Jehovah, 
for he reminds them, that though the whole country would be 
desolated by the Assyrians, yet God would be the chief leader, since 
he would employ the work of all those who would afflict the people 
of Israel. That the Jews then, as well as the Israelites might know, 
that they had to do, not with men only, but also with God, the 
celestial Judge, the Prophet distinctly expresses that all this 
would proceed from Jehovah. He afterwards adds - 
Micah 1:13 
O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: 
she [is] the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the 
transgressions of Israel were found in thee. 
    By bidding the citizens of Lachish to tie their chariots to 
dromedaries he intimates that it would not be not safe for them to 
remain in their city, and that nothing would be better for them than 
to flee elsewhere and to carry away their substance. "Think," he 
says, "of flight, and of the quickest flight." The word "rechesh", 
which I render dromedary or camel, is of an uncertain meaning among 
the Hebrews; some render it swift horses: but we understand the 
Prophet's meaning; for he intimates that there would be no time for 
flight, except they made great haste, for the enemies would come 
upon them quickly. 
    And he then subjoins that that city had been the beginning of 
sin to the Jews; for though he names here the daughter of Zion, he 
still includes, by taking a part for it the whole, all the Jews. And 
why he says that Lachish had been the beginning of sin to the 
citizens of Jerusalem, we may collect from the next clauses, "In 
thee," he says, "were found the transgressions of Israel". The 
citizens of Lachish were then, no doubt, the first who had embraced 
the corruptions of Jeroboam, and had thus departed from the pure 
worship of God. When, therefore, contagion had entered that city, it 
crept, by degrees, into neighbouring places, until at length, as we 
find, the whole kingdom of Judah had become corrupt: and this is 
what the Prophet repeats more fully in other places. It was not then 
without reason that he denounces desolation here on the citizens of 
Lachish; for they had been the authors of sin to their own kindred. 
However alienated the ten tribes had become from pure faith and pure 
worship, the kingdom of Judah remained still upright, until Lachish 
opened the door to ungodly superstitions; and then its superstitions 
spread through the whole of Judea. She therefore suffered the 
punishment which she deserved, when she was drawn away into distant 
exile, or, at least, when she could not otherwise escape from 
danger, than by fleeing into some fear country, and that very 
swiftly. "She is the beginning", he says, "of sin to the daughter of 
Zion". How so? For in thee - (it is more emphatical when the Prophet 
turns his discourse to Lachish itself) - in thee, he says, were 
found the transgressions of Israel. It follows - 
Micah 1:14 
Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of 
Achzib [shall be] a lie to the kings of Israel. 
    Here the Prophet alludes to another thing, - that they would 
attempt to pacify their enemies with gifts, and would try to redeem 
themselves and their neighbors. But the Prophet expressly mentions 
this, that the event might teach them that nothing happens without a 
design; for it ought to work a greater conviction in blind and 
obstinate men, when they see that they really find that to be true 
which had been long before predicted. This, then, is the reason why 
the Prophet enumerates here various particulars; it was, that the 
hand of God might be more evident and conspicuous when he would 
begin, in an especial manner, to fulfill all the things which he now 
in words foretells, Thou, he says, wilt send a gift for 
Moreseth-gath; that is, for a neighboring city. And he calls it 
Moreseth-gath, to distinguish it from another city of the same name. 
Thou wilt then send gifts for Moreseth-gath, to the sons of Achzib 
for a lie. "'Achziv" is a word derived from one which means a lie. 
There is, therefore, a striking alliteration, when he says, Thou 
wilt send gifts to the sons of "'Achziv", for a lie, "le'achziv"; 
that is Thou wilt send gifts to the sons of a lie, for a lie. The 
city had obtained its name from its fallacies or guiles. And he 
says, for a lie to the kings of Israel; because it profited the 
children of Israel nothing to pacify them with gifts or to attempt 
to draw them to their side, as they hired the services of one 
another. So then he says, that they would be for a lie to the kings 
of Israel, for they would gain nothing by having many auxiliaries. 
Some take the words actively, - that the kings of Israel had first 
deceived the citizens of Achzib: but this view is less probable; I 
am therefore disposed to adopt the other, - that though the citizens 
of Lachish tried to conciliate their neighbors with a great sum of 
money, especially the people of Achzib, this would be yet to no 
purpose; for it would be a lie to the people of Israel: or, it may 
be, that the Prophet's meaning is this, - that the citizens of 
Achzib had already wished to bring aid, but in vain to the kings of 
Israel; for Lachish was one of the first cities which the Assyrians 
conquered; but it was within the kingdom of Judah, or on its 
borders. It is then probable that the kings of Israel had recourse 
to the aid of this people, and were not assisted. Now, as the 
citizens of Lachish also endeavored to extricate themselves from the 
hand of their enemies by such aid, the prophet derides such a folly, 
inasmuch as they did not become wise by experience, having seen with 
their own eyes, that such an help had been useless and deceptive to 
the kings of Israel: they ought then to have tried some other means 
rather than to expose themselves to the same deceptions. I cannot 
finish the chapter to-day. 
Grant, Almighty God, that, being warned by so many examples, the 
record of which thou hast designed to continue to the end of the 
world, that we may learn how dreadful a judge thou art to the 
perverse, - O grant, that we may not, at this day, be deaf to thy 
teaching, which is conveyed to us by the mouth of thy Prophet, but 
that we may strive to be so reconciled to thee, that, passing by all 
men, we may present ourselves unreservedly to thee, so that, relying 
on thy mercy alone which thou hast promised to us in Christ, we may 
not doubt but thou wilt be propitious to us, and be so touched with 
the spirit of true penitence, that, if we have been to others a bad 
example and an offense, we may lead others to the right way of 
salvation, and each of us may so endeavor to assist our neighbors in 
a holy life, that we may together attain that blessed and celestial 
life, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own 
blood. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 2
(continued in part 3...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-02.txt