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 others. 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 declares. "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 unnamable. 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. Prayer. 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...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-03.txt .