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 Spirit. 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 goodness. 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 war. 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. Prayer. 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 .