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 impending. 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 place. 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 deliverance. 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. Prayer. 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 .