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

Lecture Eighty-fourth. 
Micah 2:7 
O [thou that art] named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the 
LORD straitened? [are] these his doings? do not my words do good to 
him that walketh uprightly? 
    The Prophet now reproves the Israelites with greater severity, 
because they attempted to impose a law on God and on his prophets 
and would not endure the free course of instruction. He told us in 
the last verse, that the Israelites were inflated with so much 
presumption, that they wished to make terms with God: "Let him not 
prophesy" they said, as though it were in the power of man to rule 
God: and the Prophet now repeats, "Is the Spirit of Jehovah 
straitened?" as though he said, "Ye see the intent of your 
presumption, and how far it proceeds; for ye wish to subject God's 
Spirit to yourselves and to your own pleasure." The prophets 
doubtless did not speak of themselves, but by the bidding and 
command of God. Since then the prophets were the organs of the Holy 
Spirit, whosoever attempted to silence them, usurped to himself an 
authority over God himself, and in a manner tried to make captive 
his Spirit: for what power can belong to the Spirit, except he be at 
liberty to reprove the vices of men, and condemn whatever is opposed 
to God's justice? When this is taken away, there is no more any 
jurisdiction left to the Holy Spirit. We now then see what the 
Prophet means in this place: he shows how mad a presumption it was 
in the Israelites to attempt to impose silence on the prophets, as 
though they had a right to rule the Spirit of God, and to force him 
to submission. 
    "Is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened?" And this mode of 
speaking ought to be noticed, for it possesses no ordinary emphasis; 
inasmuch as the Prophets by this reproof; recalls the attention of 
these perverse men to the author of his teaching; as though he had 
said, that the wrong was not done to men, that war was not carried 
on with them, when instruction is prohibited, but that God is robbed 
of his own rights and that his liberty is taken away, so that he is 
not allowed to execute his judgment in the world by the power of his 
    And farther, the Prophet here ironically reproves the 
Israelites, when he says, "O thou who art called the house of Jacob, 
is the Spirit of Jehovah reduced to straits?" For if heathens, who 
have never known the teaching of religion, and to whom no heavenly 
mysteries have been revealed, had said, that they would have nothing 
to do with the prophets, it would have been much more endurable; for 
what wonder would it be for ignorant men to repudiate all 
instruction? But it was monstrous for the Israelites, who gloried in 
the name of God, to dare to rise up so rebelliously against the 
prophets: they always boasted of their own race, as though they 
surpassed all the rest of the world, and were a holy nations 
separated from all others. Hence the Prophet says, "Ye wish to be 
called the house of Jacob; what is your excellency and dignity, 
except that you have been chosen by God to be his peculiar people? 
If then you have been habituated to the teaching of God, what fury 
and madness it is, that you cannot bear his prophets, but wish to 
close their mouths?" We now then see the point of this irony, when 
the Prophet says that they were called the house of Jacob. He seems 
at the same time to intimate, in an indirect way, that they were a 
spurious race. As they were called by other prophets, Amorites and 
Sodomites: even so in this place the Prophet says, "Ye are indeed 
the house of Jacob, but it is only as to the name." They were in 
reality so degenerated, that they falsely pretended the name of the 
holy patriarch; yea, they falsely and mendaciously boasted of their 
descent from holy men, though they were nothing else but as it were 
rotten members. Inasmuch then as they had so departed from the 
religion of Abraham and of other fathers, the Prophet says, "Thou 
art indeed called what thou art not." 
    He afterwards adds, "Are these his works?" Here he brings the 
Israelites to the proof, as though he said, "How comes it, that the 
prophets are so troublesome and grievous to you, except that they 
sharply reprove you, and denounce on you the judgment of God? But 
God is in a manner forced, except he was to change his nature, to 
treat you thus sharply and severely. Ye boast that you are his 
people, but how do you live? Are these his works? that is, do you 
lead a life, and form your conduct according to the law laid down by 
him? But as your life does not in any degree correspond with what 
God requires, it is no wonder that the prophets handle you so 
roughly. For God remains the same, ever like himself; but ye are 
perfidious, and have wholly repudiated the covenant he has made with 
you. Then this asperity, of which ye are wont to complain, ought not 
to be deemed unjust to you." 
    He then subjoins, "Are not my words good to him who walks 
uprightly?" Here the Prophet more distinctly shows, why he had 
before asked, Whether their works were those of the Lord; for he 
compares their life with the doctrine, which on account of its 
severity displeased them; they said that the words of the prophets 
were too rigid. God here answers, that his words were gentle and 
kind, and therefore pleasant, that is, to the pious and good; and 
that hence the fault was in them, when he treated them less kindly 
than they wished. The import of the whole then is, that the word of 
God, as it brings life and salvation to man, is in its own nature 
gracious, and cannot be either bitter, or hard, or grievous to the 
pious and the good, for God unfolds in it the riches of his 
    We hence see that God here repudiates the impious calumny that 
was cast on his word; as though he had said, that the complaints 
which prevailed among the people were false; for they transferred 
the blame of their own wickedness to the word of God. They said that 
God was too severe: but God here declares that he was gentle and 
kind, and that the character of his word was the same, provided men 
were tractable, and did not, through their perverseness, extort from 
him anything else than what he of himself wished. And the same thing 
David means in Psalm 18, when he says that God is perverse with the 
perverse: for in that passage he intimates, that he had experienced 
the greatest goodness from God, inasmuch as he had rendered himself 
docile and obedient to him. On the contrary, he says, God is 
perverse with the perverse; that is, when he sees men obstinately 
resisting and hardening their necks, he then puts on as it were a 
new character, and deals perversely with them, that is, severely, as 
their stubbornness deserves; as for a hard knot, according to a 
common proverb, a hard wedge is necessary. We now then perceive the 
meaning of this passage, that God's words are good to those who walk 
uprightly; that is they breathe the sweetest odour, and bring 
nothing else but true and real joy: for when can there be complete 
happiness, except when God embraces us in the bosom of his love? But 
the testimony respecting this love is brought to us by his word. The 
fault then is in us, and ought to be imputed to us, if the word of 
God is not delightful to us. 
    Some expound this whole passage differently, as though the 
Prophet relates here what was usually at that time the boast of the 
Israelites. They hence think that it is a narrative in which he 
represents their sentiments; as though the Prophet introduced here 
the ungodly and the rebellious animating one another in their 
contempt of God's word, "O thou who art called the house of Jacob, 
is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened?" Hypocrites, we know, are so 
blind and intoxicated by a false confidence, that they hesitate not 
heedlessly to abuse all the favors of God. As then God had conferred 
a great excellency on his people, they thus emboldened one another, 
- "Are we not the children and posterity of Abraham? What will it 
avail us to be a holy and chosen race, and the peculiar people of 
God, and a royal priesthood, if we are to be thus unkindly treated? 
We find that these prophets shamefully reprove us: where is our 
dignity, except we show that we have more privileges than other 
nations?" These interpreters therefore think the meaning to be this, 
- that they make a show of their own privileges, that they might 
with more liberty reject every instruction, and shake off every 
yoke. And when it is said, Is the Spirit of God diminished? these 
interpreters regard this as meaning, that they were satisfied with 
the solemn promise of God, and that as they were a holy race, they 
now superciliously despised all the prophets, - "Is the Spirit of 
God dead, who was formerly the interpreter of the everlasting 
covenant, which God made with us? Has he not testified that we 
should be to him a holy and elect people? Why then do ye now attempt 
to reduce to nothing this sacred declaration of the Holy Spirit, 
which is inviolable?" It is then added, Are these his works? "Ye 
talk of nothing but of threats and destruction; ye denounce on us 
numberless calamities: but God is beneficent and kind in his nature, 
patient and merciful; and ye represent him to us as a tyrant; but 
this view is wholly inconsistent with the nature of God." And, in 
the last place, God subjoins, as these interpreters think, an 
exception, - "All these are indeed true, if faithfulness exists 
among you, and the authority of my word continues; for my words are 
good, but not to all without any difference: be upright and sincere, 
and ye shall find me dealing kindly, gently, tenderly, and 
pleasantly with you: then my rigor will cease, which now through my 
word so much offends and exasperates you." 
    This meaning may in some measure be admitted; but as it is hard 
to be understood, we ought to retain the former, it being more easy 
and flowing. There is nothing strained in the view, that the Prophet 
derides the foolish arrogance of the people, who thought that they 
were sheltered by this privilege, that they were the holy seed of 
Abraham. The Prophet answers that this titular superiority did not 
deprive God of his right, and prevent him to exercise his power by 
the Spirit. "O thou then who art called the house of Jacob; but only 
as far as the title goes: the Spirit of God is not reduced to 
straits. But if thou boastest thyself to be the peculiar people of 
God, are these thy works the works of God? Does thy life correspond 
with what he requires? There is no wonder then that God chastises 
you so severely by his word, for there is not in you the spirit of 
docility, which allows the exercise of his kindness." 
    But though the Prophet here upbraids the ancient people with 
ingratitude, yet this truth is especially useful to us, which God 
declares, when he says that his word is good and sweet to all the 
godly. Let us then learn to become submissive to God, and then he 
will convey to us by his word nothing but sweetness, nothing but 
delights; we shall then find nothing more desirable than to be fed 
by this spiritual food; and it will ever be a real joy to us, 
whenever the Lord will open his mouth to teach us. But when at any 
time the word of the Lord goads and wounds, and thus exasperates us, 
let us know that it is through our own fault. It follows - 
Micah 2:8 
Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe 
with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from 
    As the words of the Prophet are concise, they contain some 
obscurity. Hence interpreters differ. First, as to the word 
"'etmul", some think it to be one word, others divide it into "'et" 
and "mul", which means, over against, opposite; and they regard it 
of the same import with "mimul", which immediately follows. But as 
the repetition would be frigid, the Prophet no doubt intended that 
it should be taken here in its proper sense, and its meaning is 
yesterday. But this time is not strictly taken by the Hebrews, for 
they take yesterday as meaning the past time, even when many years 
have elapsed. I have therefore rendered it "formerly", which suits 
this place. There is also another difference as to the sense of the 
text, for some think that this "'etmul", is to be joined to the verb 
"komem"; but it is rather to be connected with the word "'ami", "My 
people formerly". There is another diversity, that is, as to the 
term "'oyev", for some apply it to God, and others to the people; 
that they rose up or stood one against another. For this verb is 
explained in two ways: some view it as a verb neuter, "They stand 
against the enemy;" and others render it, "They rise up against the 
enemy;" and this second meaning is most approved, and harmonizes 
best with the context. 
    I will now refer to what I consider to be the real meaning. The 
Prophet, in the first place, says, that the people were formerly 
under the power and government of God, but that now they were become 
wholly alienated from him. "Formerly, then, it was my people", as 
though God now renounced all friendship with them. "I have hitherto 
owned you as my people, but hereafter I shall have nothing to do 
with you, for the whole authority of my word is by you entirely 
abolished; ye have violated your faith: in short, as you have 
destroyed my covenant, ye have ceased to be my people; for whatever 
favor I have conferred on you, you have deprived yourselves of it by 
your wickedness; and though I have adopted you, yet your wickedness 
now strips you of this privilege." This is one thing. 
    It then follows, "They have risen up as against an enemy." I 
consider a note of likeness to be here understood. The Prophet says 
simply, Against an enemy have they risen up; but I regard the 
meaning to be, that they had risen up as against an enemy; that is 
that they had made God, their best father, their enemy, inasmuch as 
they had by their crimes provoked his displeasure. He then confirms 
this truth by saying, that they practiced robberies among 
themselves. We indeed know that hypocrites ever hide themselves 
under their religious rites, and spread them forth as their shield 
whenever they are reproved. Hence the Prophet says, that they were 
not to be deemed the people of God for spending their labors on 
sacrifices, for they were at the same time robbers, and plundered 
innocent men. 
    "The garment of comeliness", he says, or, the garment and the 
cloak, (about such words I do not labour much,) "they take away from 
those who pass by securely;" that is from all who are peaceable. For 
when there is a suspicion of war, or when a traveler does any 
mischief, he rightly deserves to be punished. But the Prophet says 
here, that they were robbed, who passed by securely as though they 
were in a safe country. "When travelers fear nothing, ye strip them 
of their garments, as though they were returning from war: as they 
are wont, when war is over, to seize on spoils wherever found, and 
no one can keep his own; so now, during peace, ye take to yourselves 
the same liberty, as though all things were exposed to plunder, and 
ye were in a hostile country, lately the scene of warfare." 
    We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He first 
intimates that the people were now rejected by God, for they had 
rendered themselves, by their most abandoned life, wholly unworthy 
of his benefits; and at the same time he reproves their ingratitude 
that having been the people of God, they choose to make war with him 
rather than to observe the covenant which he had made for their 
safety; for it was a most shameful wickedness in them, since they 
had been chosen from the whole world to be a peculiar people, to 
prefer going to war with God rather than to live quietly under his 
protection. And that they did rise up against God he proves, for 
they gave themselves up to robberies; they plundered, even during 
times of peace, which circumstance greatly aggravated their 
wickedness. It now follows - 
Micah 2:9 
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; 
from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever. 
    He proceeds with the same subject, that they refrained from no 
acts of injustice. It was indeed a proof of extreme barbarity not to 
spare women and children, for they are both weak and helpless. Their 
sex exempts women from violence, and their age, children. Even in 
wars, women, and also children, escape in safety. We hence see that 
the Prophet, by stating a part for the whole, proves here that the 
people had addicted themselves to cruelty really barbarous; they 
were not restrained from exercising it, no, not even on women and 
children. Since it was so, it follows, that their boast of being the 
chosen people was vain and fallacious. 
    House of delights he ascribes to the women who, being the 
weaker sex, prefer being at home and in the shade, rather than going 
abroad. The more necessary it was that their recesses should remain 
safe to them. Now, what was taken away from the children, God calls 
it his ornament; for his blessing, poured forth on children, is the 
mirror of his glory: he therefore condemns this plunder as a 
sacrilege. The word "le'olam" designates the continuance of their 
crimes, as though he had said, that they were cruel without ever 
showing any repentance. Now it follows - 
Micah 2:10 
Arise ye, and depart; for this [is] not [your] rest: because it is 
polluted, it shall destroy [you], even with a sore destruction. 
    Here again the Prophet checks the foolish confidence of the 
people. The land of Canaan, we know, had been honored by God with 
the distinction of being a rest; yea God called it, not only the 
rest of the people, but also his own rest, 'I have sworn in my 
wrath, if they shall enter into my rest,' (Ps. 95: 12.) The land of 
Canaan then was a sort of rest, hidden under the wings of God; for 
the Lord had assigned it as an inheritance to his chosen people. As 
God then dwelt in that land, and had also given it to the children 
of Abraham, that they might rest there in safety, and as this was 
also one of the blessings contained in the Law, hypocrites said, 
pursuing their usual course of falsely and groundlessly claiming to 
themselves the favors of God, that they could not be thence 
expelled, and that those Prophets were falsifiers who dared to 
change any thing in God's covenant. This is the reason why the 
Prophet now says, 
    "Arise, depart; this is not your rest". "False confidence," he 
says, "deceives you, as ye think that ye are inseparably fixed in 
your habitation. God indeed has made such a promise, but this 
condition was added, - If ye will stand faithful to his covenant. 
Now ye are become covenant-breakers: ye think that he is fast bound 
to you; all the cords are loosened; for as ye have perfidiously 
departed from the Law of God, there is now no reason for you to 
think that he is under any obligation to you. There is then no 
ground for you to boast of being a holy people; you have indeed the 
name, but the reality has ceased to be: therefore arise and depart: 
but to sit still securely and proudly will avail you nothing, for 
God will now drive you afar off: and I now declare to you that you 
must arise and depart, for ye cannot rest in this land against the 
will of God: and God will now thrust you out of it." We now perceive 
the real meaning of the Prophet. 
    He afterwards adds, "For it is polluted; he will scatter you 
with violent scattering." Here again he vindicates God from their 
calumny and ungodly murmurings. We indeed know how difficult it was 
to bring down that people, who were steeped in so great a 
perverseness. And we find that the Prophet had a hard contest with 
the hypocrites, for the multitude had ever this language in their 
mouths, - "What! is it of no moment that God has favored us with so 
many and so remarkable promises? Is our adoption nothing but a 
mockery? Has he in vain given us this land by an hereditary right? 
"Since then hypocrites thus brought forward their privileges in 
opposition to God, and yet abused them, it was necessary to convince 
them to the contrary, and this is what the Prophet does here, - "Ye 
call," he says, "this land your rest, but how do you rest in it? God 
has commanded you to observe the Sabbath, for he dwells among you to 
sanctify you: but ye live disorderly, and carry on war with God 
himself: have not your pollutions obliterated that holy rest, which 
has been enjoined on you by God? Ye then see that this change has 
happened through your fault, that is, that God has ceased to call 
this land, as he was wont formerly to do, your and his own rest. It 
is not then your rest; he will therefore scatter you with violent or 
strong scattering: Ye in vain promise to yourselves rest in this 
land, since ye carry on war with God, and cease not to provoke his 
wrath against you." It follows - 
Micah 2:11 
If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, [saying], I 
will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even 
be the prophet of this people. 
    The Prophet points out here another vice by which the people 
were infected - that they wished to be soothed with flatteries: for 
all the ungodly think that they are in a manner exempt from God's 
judgment, when they hear no reproof; yea they think themselves 
happy, when they get flatterers, who are indulgent to their vices. 
This is now the disease which the Prophet discovers as prevailing 
among the people. Jerome sought out a meaning quite different here, 
as in the former verses; but I will not stop to refute him, for it 
is enough to give the real meaning of the Prophet. But as before he 
rendered women, princes, and thus perverted entirely the meaning, so 
he says here, "I would I were a vain Prophet, that is, walking in 
vanity, and mendacious;" as though Micah said "I wish I were false 
in denouncing on you the calamities of which I speak; for I would 
rather announce to you something joyful and favorable: but I cannot 
do this, for the Lord commands what is different." But there is 
nothing of this kind in the words of the Prophet. Let us then return 
to the text. 
    "If a man walks in the spirit, and deceitfully lies," &c. 
Almost all interpreters agree in this, - that to walk in the spirit, 
is to announce any thing proudly and presumptuously; and they take 
spirit for wind or for deceits. But I doubt not, but that to walk in 
the spirit was then a common mode of speaking, to set forth the 
exercise of the prophetic office. When therefore any one was a 
Prophet, or one who discharged that office, or sustained the 
character of a teacher, he professed himself to have been sent from 
above. The Prophets were indeed formerly called the men of the 
spirit, and for this reason, because they adduced nothing from 
themselves or from their own heads; but only delivered faithfully, 
as from hand to hand, what they had received from God. To walk in 
the spirit then means, in my view, the same thing as to profess the 
office of a teacher. When therefore any one professed the office of 
a teacher, what was he to do? "If I," says Micah, "being endued with 
the Spirit, and called to teach, wished to ingratiate myself with 
you, and preached that there would be an abundant increase of wine 
and strong drink, all would applaud me; for if any one promises 
these things, he becomes the prophet of this people." 
    In short, Micah intimates that the Israelites rejected all 
sound doctrine, for they sought nothing but flatteries, and wished 
to be cherished in their vices; yea, they desired to be deceived by 
false adulation to their own ruin. It hence appears that they were 
not the people they wished to be deemed, that is, the people of God: 
for the first condition in God's covenant was, - that he should rule 
among his people. Inasmuch then as these men would not endure to be 
governed by Divine power, and wished to have full and unbridled 
liberty, it was the same as though they had banished God far from 
them. Hence, by this proof, the Prophet shows that they had wholly 
departed from God, and had no intercourse with him. If there be then 
any man walking in the spirit, let him, he says, keep far from the 
truth; for he will not otherwise be borne by this people. - How so? 
Because they will not have honest and faithful teachers. What is 
then to be done? Let flatterers come, and promise them plenty of 
wine and strong drink, and they will be their best teachers, and be 
received with great applause: in short, the suitable teachers of 
that people were the ungodly; the people could no longer bear the 
true Prophets; their desire was to have flatterers who were 
indulgent to all their corruptions. 
Grant, Almighty God, that since we cannot otherwise really profit by 
thy word, than by having all our thoughts and affections subjected 
to thee, and offered to thee as a sacrifice, - O grant, that we may 
suffer thee, by the sound of thy word, so to pierce through every 
thing within us, that being dead in ourselves, we may live to thee, 
and never suffer flatteries to become our ruin but that we may, on 
the contrary, patiently endure reproofs, however bitter they may be, 
only let them serve to us as medicine, by which our inward vices may 
be cleansed, until at length being thoroughly cleansed and formed 
into new creatures, we may, by a pious and holy life, really glorify 
thy name, and be received into that celestial glory, which has been 
purchased for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son, our Lord 
Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 4
(continued in part 5...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-04.txt