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

Lecture Eighty-third. 
Micah 1:15 
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he 
shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel. 
    The Prophet here threatens his own birth place, as he had done 
other cities; for, as we have stated, he sprung from this city. He 
does not now spare his own kindred: for as God is no respecter of 
persons, so also God's servants ought, as with closed eyes, to deal 
impartially with all, so as not to be turned here and there either 
by favor or by hatred, but to follows without any change, whatever 
the Lord commands them. We see that Micah was endued with this 
spirit, for he reproved his own kindred, as he had hitherto reproved 
    There is a peculiar meaning in the word, Mareshah, for it is 
derived from "yarash", and it means possession. The Prophet now 
says, I will send to thee "hayoresh", a possessor; the word is from 
the same root. But he means that the Morasthites would come into the 
power of their enemies no less than their neighbours, of whom he had 
spoken before. He says, to Adullam. This was also a city in the 
tribe of Judah, as it is well known. But some would have "enemy" to 
be here understood and they put "kevod" in the genitive case: "The 
enemy of the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam;" but this is 
strained. Others understand the passage thus that the glory of 
Israel would come to disgrace; for Adullam, we know, was a cave. 
Since then it an obscure place, the Prophet here, as they think, 
declares that the whole glory of Israel would be covered with 
dishonor, because the dignity and wealth, in which they gloried 
would lose their pristine fixate, so that they would differ nothing 
from an ignoble cave. If any approve of this meaning, I will not 
oppose them. Yet others think that the Prophet speaks ironically and 
that the Assyrian is thus called because the whole glory and dignity 
of Israel would by him be taken away. But there is no need of 
confining this to enemies; we may then take a simpler view, and yet 
regard the expression as ironical, - that the glory, that is, the 
disgrace or the devastation of Israel, would come to Adullam. But 
what if we read it, in apposition, "He shall come to Adullam, the 
glory of Israel?" For Adullam was not obscure, as those interpreters 
imagine, whom I have mentioned, but it is named among the most 
celebrated cities after the return and restoration of the people. 
When, therefore, the whole country was laid waste, this city, with a 
few others, remained, as we read in the eleventh chapter of 
Nehemiah. It might then be, that the Prophet called Adullam the 
glory of Israel; for it was situated in a safe place, and the 
inhabitants thought that they were fortified by a strong defense, 
and thus were not open to the violence of enemies. This meaning also 
may be probable; but still, as the glory of Israel may be taken 
ironically for calamity or reproach if any one approves more of this 
interpretation, it may be followed. I am, however, inclined to 
another, - that the Prophet say, that the enemy would come to 
Adullam, which was the glory of Israel, because that city was as it 
were in the recesses of Judea, so that an access to it by enemies 
was difficult. It may be also that some may think, that the 
recollection of its ancient history is here revived; for David 
concealed himself in its cave, and had it as his fortress. The place 
no doubt had, from that time, attained some fame; then this 
celebrity, as I have said, may be alluded to, when Adullam is said 
to be the glory of Israel. It follows - 
Micah 1:16 
Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy 
baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee. 
    The Prophet at length concludes that nothing remained for the 
people but lamentation; for the Lord had resolved to desolate and 
destroy the whole country. Now they were wont in mourning, as we 
have seen in other places, to shave and even tear off their hair: 
and some think that the verb "korchi" implies as much as though the 
Prophet said "Pluck, tear, pull off your hair." When afterwards he 
adds "wagozi", they refer it to shavings which is done by a razor. 
However this may be, the Prophet here means that the condition of 
the people would be so calamitous that nothing would be seen 
anywhere but mourning. 
    "Make bald, he says, for the children of thy delicacies." The 
Prophet here indirectly upbraids those perverse men, who after so 
many warnings had not repented, with the neglect of God's 
forbearance: for whence did those delicacies proceed, except from 
the extreme kindness of God in long sparing the Israelites, 
notwithstanding their disobedience? The Prophet then shows here that 
they had very long abused the patience of God, while they each 
immersed themselves in their delicacies. Now, he says, "Enlarge thy 
baldness as the eagle". Eagles are wont to cast off their feathers; 
and hence he compares here bald men to eagles, as though he called 
them, Hairless. As then the eagles are for a certain time without 
feathers until they recover them; so also you shall be hairless, 
even on account of your mourning. He says, "For they have migrated 
from thee". He intimates that the Israelites would become exiles, 
that the land might remain desolate. Now follows - 
Chapter 2. 
Micah 2:1 
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! 
when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the 
power of their hand. 
    The Prophet does not here speak only against the Israelites, as 
some think, who have incorrectly confined this part of his teaching 
to the ten tribes; but he, on the contrary, (in discharging his 
office, addresses also the Jews. He refers not here to idolatry, as 
in the last chapter; but inveighs against sins condemned in the 
second table. As then the Jews had not only polluted the worship of 
God, but also gave loose reins to many iniquities, so that they 
dealt wrongfully with their neighbors, and there was among them no 
attention to justice and equity, so the prophet inveighs here as we 
shall see, against avarice, robberies, and cruelty: and his 
discourse is full of vehemence; for there was no doubt such 
licentiousness then prevailing among the people, that there was need 
of severe and sharp reproofs. It is at the same time easy to 
perceive that his discourse is mainly directed against the chief 
men, who exercised authority, and turned it to wrong purposes. 
    "Woe, he says, to those who meditate on iniquity, and devise 
evil on their beds, that, when the morning shines, they may execute 
it". Here the Prophet describes to the life the character and 
manners of those who were given to gain, and were intent only on 
raising themselves. He says, that in their beds they were meditating 
on iniquity, and devising wickedness. Doubtless the time of night 
has been given to men entirely for rest; but they ought also to use 
this kindness of God for the purpose of restraining themselves from 
what is wicked: for he who refreshes his strength by nightly rest, 
ought to think within himself, that it is an unbecoming thing and 
even monstrous, that he should in the meantime devise frauds, and 
guiles, and iniquities. For why does the Lord intend that we should 
rest, except that all evil things should rest also? Hence the 
Prophet shows here, by implication, that those who are intent on 
devising frauds, while they ought to rest, subvert as it were the 
course of nature; for they have no regard for that rest, which has 
been granted to men for this end, - that they may not trouble and 
annoy one another. 
    He afterwards shows how great was their desire to do mischief, 
"When it shines in the morning, he says, they execute it". He might 
have said only, "They do in the daytime what they contrive in the 
night:" but he says, In the morning; as though he had said, that 
they were so heated by avarice, that they rested not a moment; as 
soon as it shone, they were immediately ready to perpetrate the 
frauds they had thought of in the night. We now then apprehend the 
import of the Prophet's meaning. 
    He now subjoins, "For according to their power is their hand". 
As "'el" means God, an old interpreter has given this rendering, 
"Against God is their hand:" but this does not suit the passage. 
Others have explained it thus, "For strength is in their hand:" and 
almost all those well-skilled in Hebrew agree in this explanation. 
Those who had power, they think, are here pointed out by the 
Prophet, - that as they had strength, they dared to do whatever they 
pleased. But the Hebrew phrase is not translated by them; and I 
greatly wonder that they have mistaken in a thing so clear: for it 
is not, "There is power in their hand;" but "their hand is to 
power." The same mode of speaking is found in the third chapter of 
Proverbs, and there also many interpreters are wrong; for Solomon 
there forbids us to withhold from our neighbor his right, "When 
thine hand," he says, "is for power;" some say, "When there is power 
to help the miserable." But Solomon means no such thing; for he on 
the contrary means this, "When thine hand is ready to execute any 
evil, abstain." So also the Lord says in Deut. 28, "When the enemy 
shall take away thy spoils, thy hand will not be for power;" that 
is, "Thou wilt not dare to move a finger to restrain thy enemies; 
when they will plunder thee and rob thee of thy substance, thou wilt 
stand in dread, for thy hand will be as though it were dead." I come 
now to the present passage, "Their hand is for power:" the Prophet 
means, that they dared to try what they could, and that therefore 
their hand was always ready; whenever there was hope of lucre or 
gains the hand was immediately prepared. How so? Because they were 
restrained neither by the fear of God nor by any regard for justice; 
but their hand was for power, that is, what they could, they dared 
to do. We now then see what the Prophet means as far as I can judge. 
He afterwards adds - 
Micah 2:2 
And they covet fields, and take [them] by violence; and houses, and 
take [them] away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man 
and his heritage. 
    Micah confirms here what is contained in the former verse; for 
he sets forth the alacrity with which the avaricious were led to 
commit plunder; nay, how unbridled was their cupidity to do evil. As 
soon as they have coveted any thing, he says, they take it by force. 
And hence we gather, that the Prophet, in the last verse, connected 
wicked counsels with the attempt of effecting them; as though he had 
said, that they indeed carefully contrived their frauds, but that as 
they were skillful in their contrivances, so they were not less bold 
and daring in executing then. 
    The same thing he now repeats in other words for a further 
confirmation, "As soon as they have coveted fields, they seize them 
by force; as soon as they have coveted houses they take them away"; 
they oppress a man and his house together; that is, nothing escaped 
them: for as their wickedness in frauds was great, so their 
disposition to attempt whatever they wished was furious. And well 
would it be were there no such cruel avarice at this day; but it 
exists every where, so that we may see, as in a mirror, an example 
of what is here said. But it behaves us carefully to consider how 
greatly displeasing to God are frauds and plunders, so that each of 
us may keep himself from doing any wrong, and be so ruled by a 
desire of what is right, that every one of us may act in good faith 
towards his neighbors, seek nothing that is unjust, and bridle his 
own desires: and whenever Satan attempts to allure us, let what is 
here taught be to us as a bridle to restrain us. It follows - 
Micah 2:3 
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I 
devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither 
shall ye go haughtily: for this time [is] evil. 
    The Prophet shows now that the avaricious were in vain elevated 
by their frauds and rapacity, because their hope would be 
disappointed; for God in heaven was waiting his time to appear 
against them. Though they had anxiously heaped together much wealth, 
yet God would justly dissipate it altogether. This is what he now 
    "Behold, he says, thus saith Jehovah, I am meditating evil 
against this family." There is here a striking contrast between God 
and the Jews, between their wicked intentions and the intentions of 
God, which in themselves were not evil, and yet would bring evil on 
them. God, he says, thus speaks, Behold, I am purposing; as though 
he said, "While ye are thus busying yourselves on your beds, while 
ye are revolving many designs while ye are contriving many 
artifices, ye think me to be asleep, ye think that I am all the 
while meditating nothing; nay, I have my thoughts too, and those 
different from yours; for while ye are awake to devise wickedness I 
am awake to contrive judgment." We now then perceive the import of 
these words: it is God that declares that he meditates evil, and it 
is not the Prophet that speaks to these avaricious and rapacious 
men; and the evil is that of punishment, inasmuch as it is the 
peculiar office of God to repay to all what they deserve, and to 
render to each the measure of evil they have brought on others. 
    "Ye shall not, he says, remove your necks from under it". Since 
hypocrites always promise to themselves impunity, and lay hold on 
subterfuges, whenever God threatens them, the Prophet here affirms, 
that though they sought every escape, they would yet be held bound 
by God's hand, so that they could not by any means shake off the 
burden designed for them. And this was a reward most fully deserved 
by those who had withdrawn their necks when God called them to 
obedience. They then who refuse to obey God, when he requires from 
them a voluntary service, will at length be drawn by force, not to 
undergo the yoke, but the burden which will altogether overwhelm 
them. Whosoever then will not willingly submit to God's yoke, must 
at length undergo the great and dreadful burden prepared for the 
    Ye will not then be able to withdraw your necks, and "ye shall 
not walk in your height". He expresses still more clearly what I 
have referred to, - that they were so elated with pride, that they 
despised all threatening and all instruction: and this presumption 
became the cause of perverseness; for were it not that a notion of 
security deceived men, they would presently bend, when God threatens 
them. This then is the reason why the Prophet joins this sentence, 
ye shall no more walk in your height; that is, your haughtiness 
shall then surely be made to succumb; for it will be a time of evil. 
He means, as I have said, that those who retain a stir and unbending 
neck towards God, when he would lay on them his yoke, shall at 
length be made by force to yield, however rebellious they may be. 
How so? For they shall be broken down, inasmuch as they will not be 
corrected. The Prophet then adds - 
Micah 2:4 
In that day shall [one] take up a parable against you, and lament 
with a doleful lamentation, [and] say, We be utterly spoiled: he 
hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed [it] from 
me! turning away he hath divided our fields. 
    The verse is in broken sentences; and hence interpreters vary. 
But the meaning of the Prophet appears to me to be simply this, "In 
that day they shall take up a proverb against you"; that is, it will 
not be an ordinary calamity, but the report concerning it will go 
forth every where so that the Jews will become to all a common 
proverb. This is one thing. As to the word "mashal", it is taken, we 
know, for a weighty saying, and in the plural, weighty sayings, 
called by the Latins, sentences or sayings, and by the Greeks, 
apophthegmata. But these sayings were thus called weighty by the 
Hebrews, because he who elevated his style, made use especially of 
figurative expressions, to render his discourse nobler and more 
splendid. Hence many render this word, enigmas. It accords well with 
the Prophet's meaning, to suppose, that proverbial sayings would 
spread every where respecting the Jews, especially as calamities 
were usually described in a plaintive song. "They shall then mourn 
over you with lamentable mourning". But this ought to be referred to 
the fact, - that the calamity would be every where known. It yet 
seems that this sentence is applied afterwards to the Jews 
themselves, and not unsuitably. But it is an indefinite mode of 
speaking, since the Prophet speaks not of one or two men, but of the 
whole people. 
    They shall then mourn in this manner, "Wasted, we have been 
wasted: the portion of my people has he changed" - (it is the future 
instead of the past) - He has then changed the portion of my people. 
This may be applied to God as well as to the Assyrians; for God was 
the principal author of this calamity; he it was who changed the 
portion of the people: for as by his blessing he had long cherished 
that people, so afterwards he changed their lot. But as the 
Assyrians were the ministers of God's vengeance, the expression 
cannot be unsuitably applied to them. The Assyrian then has taken 
away the portion of my people. And then he says, "How has he made to 
depart", or has taken away, or removed from me, (literally, to me,) 
to restore, - though "shavav" may be from the root "shuv", it yet 
means the same, - "How then has he taken away from us to restore our 
fields he divides", that is, which he has divided; for the relative 
"asher" is understood and there is also a change of time. Now as the 
discourse, as I have said, is in broken sentences, there are various 
interpretations. I however think that the Prophet simply means this 
- How as to restoring has he taken away our fields, which he hath 
divided? that is, How far off are we from restitution? for every 
hope is far removed, since the Lord himself has divided among 
strangers our land and possession; or since the enemies have divided 
it among themselves; for it is usual after victory, for every one to 
seize on his own portion. Whether then this be understood of the 
Assyrians, or rather be referred to God, the meaning of the Prophet 
seems clearly to be this, - that the Jews were not only expelled 
from their country but that every hope of return was also taken 
away, since the enemies had parted among themselves their 
inheritance, so that they who had been driven out, now in vain 
thought of a restitution. But I read this in the present time; for 
the Prophet introduces here the Jews as uttering this lamentation, - 
"It is now all over with us, and there is no remedy for this evil; 
for not only are we stripped of all our property and ejected from 
our country, but what has been taken away by our enemies cannot be 
restored to us, inasmuch as they have already parted our possessions 
among themselves, and every one occupies his own portion and his own 
place, as though it were his own inheritance. We have therefore to 
do, not only with the Assyrians in general, but also with every 
individual; for what every one now occupies and possesses he will 
defend, as his rightful and hereditary possession." 
    Some conjecture from this verse, that the discourse belongs 
rather to the Israelites, who were banished without any hope of 
return; but no necessity constrains us to explain this of the 
Israelites; for the Prophet does not declare here what God would do, 
but what would be the calamity when considered in itself. We have 
indeed said already in many places, that the Prophets, while 
threatening, speak only of calamities, desolations, deaths, and 
destructions, but that they afterwards add promises for consolation. 
But their teaching is discriminative: when the Prophets intend to 
terrify hypocrites and perverse men, they set forth the wrath of God 
only, and leave no hope; but when they would inspire with hope those 
who are by this means humbled, they draw forth comfort to them even 
from the goodness of God. What is here said then may fitly and 
really be applied to the Jews. It follows - 
Micah 2:5 
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the 
congregation of the LORD. 
    Here the Prophet concludes his discourse respecting God's 
design to cleanse Judea from its perverse and wicked inhabitants, 
that it might no longer be the inheritance of one people. For the 
land, we know, had been given to the posterity of Abraham, on the 
condition, that it was to be held by them as an heritage: and we 
also know, that a line was determined by lot whenever the year of 
Jubilee returned, that every one might regain his own possession. 
The Prophet now testifies that this advantage would be taken away 
from the Jews, and that they would hereafter possess the land by no 
hereditary right; for God, who had given it, would now take it away. 
    There shall not then be one to cast a line by lot in the 
assembly of Jehovah. And he seems here to touch the Jews, by calling 
them the assembly of Jehovah. He indeed adopted them, they were the 
people of God: but he intimates that they were repudiated, because 
they had rendered themselves unworthy of his favor. He therefore, by 
calling them ironically the assembly of Jehovah, denies that they 
rightly retained this name, inasmuch as they had deprived themselves 
of this honour and dignity. It now follows - 
Micah 2:6 
Prophesy ye not, [say they to them that] prophesy: they shall not 
prophesy to them, [that] they shall not take shame. 
    Here the conciseness of the expressions has made interpreters 
to differ in their views. Some read thus, "Distill ye not, - they 
will distill"; that is, the Jews speak against the prophets, and 
with threats forbid them, as with authority, to address them. The 
Hebrew word, distill, means the same as to speak; though at the same 
time it is applied more commonly to weighty addresses than to such 
as are common and ordinary. If any understands, they will distill, 
or speak, of the Jews, then the Prophet points out their arrogance 
in daring to contend with God's prophets, and in trying to silence 
and force them to submission. We indeed find that ungodly men act 
thus, when they wish to take away the liberty of teaching from God's 
prophets; for they resist as though they themselves were doubly and 
treble prophets. So also in this place, Distill ye not, that is, the 
Jews say, "Let not the servants of God prophesy." But some think 
that a relative is understood, "Distill ye not for them who 
distill"; as though he had said, that ungodly men would not bear 
God's prophets and thus would prevent and restrain them, as much as 
they could, from speaking. Others make this distinction, Distill ye 
not, - they shall distill; as though the Jews said the first, and 
God the second. Distill ye not, - this was the voice of the ungodly 
and rebellious people, who would cast away from them and reject 
every instruction: but God on the other side opposed them and said, 
Nay, they shall distill; ye forbid, but it is not in your power; I 
have sent them: though ye may rage and glamour a hundred times, it 
is my will that they should proceed in their course. 
    We hence see how various are the explanations: and even in the 
other part of the verse there is no more agreement between 
interpreters: They shall not distill; respecting this clause, it is 
sufficiently evident, that God here intimates that there would be 
now an end to all prophecies. How so? Because he would not render 
his servants a sport, and subject them to reproach. This is the true 
meaning: and yet some take another view, as though the Prophet 
continued his sentence, They shall not distill, lest the people 
should receive reproaches; for the ungodly think, that if they close 
the mouths of the prophets, all things would be lawful to them, and 
that their crimes would be hid, in short, that their vices would not 
be called to an account; as though their wickedness was not in 
itself sufficiently reproachful, were God to send no prophets, and 
no reproof given. No doubt, profane men are so stupid as to think 
themselves free from every reproach, when God is silent, and when 
they put away from themselves every instruction. Hence some think, 
that this passage is to be understood in this sense. But I consider 
the meaning to be that which I have stated; for he had before said, 
Distill ye not who distill; that is, "Ye prophets, be no longer 
troublesome to us; why do you stem our ears? We can no longer bear 
your boldness; be then silent." Thus he expressly introduced the 
Jews as speaking with authority, as though it was in their power to 
restrain the prophets from doing their duty. Now follows, as I 
think, the answer of God, "They shall not distill," that he may not 
get reproaches: "Since I see that my doctrine is intolerable to you, 
since I find a loathing so great and so shameful, I will take away 
my prophets from you: I will therefore rest, and be hereafter 
silent." - Why? "Because I effect nothing; nay, I subject my 
prophets to reproaches; for they lose their labour in speaking, they 
pour forth words which produce no fruit; for ye are altogether 
irreclaimable. Nay, as they are reproachfully treated by you, their 
condition is worse than if they were covered with all the disgrace 
of having been criminal. Since then I subject my prophets to 
reproach I will not allow them to be thus mocked by you. They shall 
therefore give over, they shall prophesy no longer." 
    But the Lord could not have threatened the Jews with any thing 
worse or more dreadful than with this immunity, - that they should 
no more hear anything which might disturb them: for it is an extreme 
curse, when God gives us loose reins, and suffers us, with unbridled 
liberty, to rush as it were headlong into evils, as though he had 
delivered us up to Satan to be his slaves. Since it is so, let us be 
assured that it is an awful threatening, when he says, They shall 
not distill, lest they should hereafter become objects of reproach. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art pleased to try our patience by 
requiring mutual justice and the offices of love and benevolence, - 
O grant, that we may not be wolves one to another, but show 
ourselves to be really thy children, by observing all those duties 
of justice and kindness which thou commandest, and thus follow what 
is right and just through the whole course of our life, that we may 
at length enjoy that blessedness which is laid up for us in heaven, 
through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 3
(continued in 4...)

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