Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 6
(... continued from part 5)

Lecture Eighty-sixth. 
    Let us proceed to explain that sentence of the Prophet, in 
which he shows the cause why the teachers deceived the people and 
turned the truth of God to a lie; and this was, because they were 
greedy of gains and were wholly given to avarice. We hence see, 
according to the testimony of Paul, that avarice affords a cause to 
all evils, (1 Tim. 6: 10;) and that wherever this contagion comes, 
all things necessarily fall into decay: for when avarice reigns in 
the hearts of men, the truth of God especially is ever adulterated. 
    But Micah adduces two evidences of avarice, - that they cried, 
"Peace", when well fed and filled, - and that they proclaimed war, 
when they were hungry. Then as to the first points he says, 
"hannoshchim beshinneihem wekar'u shalom", that is, "who bite with 
their teeth, and cry, Peace." But the sentence is to be so 
understood, that when they did bite well, they announced peace with 
full confidence: for by the word, bite, the Prophet means their 
gormandizing; for they who, under the guise of God's name, sought 
only their own advantage, were not satisfied with a moderate 
support, inasmuch as they were like hungry dogs. They therefore 
devoured, and gorged themselves, without any limits or moderation. 
This is the reason why he says that they did bite: for he compares 
them either to lions or to bears; and we know that wild beasts are 
not satiated with a small quantity of food, but that they gnash as 
it were their teeth except they are always pampered. So also Micah 
says, that the false teachers of his age were voracious men, who 
demanded a large proportion of food. We see the same thing in our 
day as to the monks under the Papacy, especially those who, under 
the name of mendacity, devour the substance of all people. Except 
they are pampered, they always murmur; nay, they are not content 
with murmurs, they proclaim war, as the Prophet says here. We indeed 
see at the same time, that they are insatiable; for when they come 
to tables well furnished, no one would say that they are men, but 
beasts, for they devour every thing. We now then understand the 
Prophet's meaning. 
    But it is not voracity alone that is reprehended: he says, that 
they sold their blessings. when they were well filled and had their 
stomach well supplied. In the same manner the monks also are wont to 
pronounce peace when they are well fed, - "O! ye do good, when ye 
take care of the brethren; for they are careful of you: when ye 
sleep in your beds, they watch, and their prayers make you rich; for 
how could the world stand, were it not that the brethren make amends 
for it? As then ye are so kind to our community, all things shall 
turn out well and prosperously to you, and God also will bless you." 
This then is the practice of those who for reward sell their 
blessings; they cry, Peace, that is, they confidently declare that 
all things shall be well, they make God propitious, provided such 
liberality towards their order be ever continued. 
    But, on the other hand, he also says, "If any one gives not to 
their mouth, they instantly sanctify war against you:" but I give a 
different rendering, as the passage requires, - that they reclaim 
war; though the word is literally to sanctify. But we have seen in 
Joel chap. 2, that the word is used to designate any solemn 
proclamation, - "Sanctify a fast," that is, Proclaim a fast. So also 
in this place, They sanctify war, that is, they proclaim war, when 
any one does not feed them, nor satisfy their gormandizing; for they 
could not bear want. In short, the Prophet shows, that these false 
teachers were so blinded by avarice, that they discerned not the 
difference between right and wrong; but only praised those who fed 
them: and, on the other hand, when they found that they and their 
stomach were not cared for nor satisfied, they cursed, fulminated, 
and uttered nothing but anathemas; as we see to be done at this day 
by the monks under the Papacy. The Prophet now says - 
Micah 3:6,7 
Therefore night [shall be] unto you, that ye shall not have a 
vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and 
the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark 
over them. 
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, 
they shall all cover their lips; for [there is] no answer of God. 
    God declares here to the false teachers by the mouth of Micah, 
that he would inflict punishment on them, so that they should be 
exposed to the reproach of all. Hence the kind of punishment of 
which the Prophet speaks is - that he would strip the false teachers 
of all their dignity, so that they should hereafter in vain put on 
an appearance, and claim the honorable name which they had so long 
abused. We indeed know, when ungodly and profane men clothe 
themselves with the dignified titles of being the princes, or 
bishops, or prelates of the Church, how audaciously they pervert 
every thing, and do so with impunity. There is then no other remedy, 
except God pulls off the mask from them, and openly discovers to all 
their baseness. Of this punishment Micah now speaks. 
    "There shall be to you a night from vision"; so is the phrase 
literally, but the particle "mem" means often, for, or, on account 
of; and we can easily see that the Prophet represents night as the 
reward for visions and darkness for divination. "As then my people 
have been deceived by your fallacies, for your visions and 
divinations have been nothing but lies and deceits, I will repay you 
with the reward which you have deserved: for instead of a vision you 
shall have night, and instead of divination you shall have thick 
darkness." It is indeed certain, that the false teachers, even when 
they were, as they say, in great reputation, that is, when they 
retained the honor and the title of their office, were blind and 
wholly destitute of all light: but the Prophet here declares, that 
as their baseness did not appear to the common people, God would 
cause it to be made at length fully evident. As for instance, there 
is nothing at this day more stupid and senseless than the bishops of 
the Papacy: for when any one draws from them any expression about 
religion, they instantly betray not only their ignorance, but also 
their shameful stupidity. With regard to the monks, though they be 
the most audacious kind of animals, yet we know how unlearned and 
ignorant they are. Therefore at this time the night has not yet 
passed away, nor the darkness, of which Micah speaks here. 
    We now then understand what the Holy Spirit teaches here, and 
that is, - that God would at length strip those false teachers of 
that imaginary dignity, on account of which no one dared to speak 
against them, but received as an oracle whatever they uttered. 
Night, then, shall be to you instead of a vision; that is, "The 
whole world shall understand that you are not what you boast 
yourselves to be: for I will show that there is not in you, no, not 
a particle of the prophetic spirit, but that ye are men as dark as 
night, and darkness shall be to you instead of divination. Ye boast 
of great acuteness and great perspicuity of mind; but I will 
discover your baseness, so that the very children may know that you 
are not endued with the spirit." 
    To the same purpose is what he adds, "Go down shall the sun 
upon you, and darkened over you shall be the day"; that is, such 
will be that darkness, that even at noon they will see nothing; the 
sun will shine on all, but they shall grope as in the dark; so that 
Gods vengeance would be made so manifest, that it might be noticed 
by all, from the least to the greatest. 
    He confirms the same thing in the next verse, "And ashamed 
shall be the seers and confounded the diviners, and they shall cover 
their lip"; that is they will put veils on their mouths. In short, 
he means, that they would become a reproach to all, so that they 
would be ashamed of themselves, and no more dare to boast with so 
much confidence of their name and of the prophetic office. 
    As to this form of expression, "we'atu 'al-safam", some think 
that the practice of mourners is referred to; but this 
interpretation is frigid. I have therefore no doubt but that Micah 
intimates that the mouths of the false teachers would be closed. 
There is nearly the same denunciation mentioned by Zechariah; for 
speaking of the restoration of the Church, he says, - They who 
before went about boasting greatly, and gloried in the name of 
Prophets, shall cast away their mantle, and will no longer dare to 
show themselves; yea, when they shall come abroad, they shall be as 
it were herdsman or private persons, and shall say, "I am not a 
prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I am chastised by my father;" 
that is, they shall profess themselves unworthy of being called 
prophets; but that they are scholars under discipline, (Zech. 13: 
5.) So also in this place, "They deceive at this day my people," 
saith the Lord; "I will reward them as they deserve; I will fill 
them with disgrace and contempt. They shall not then dare hereafter 
to show themselves as they have been wont to do; they shall not 
presume boastingly to profess themselves to be the pillars of the 
Church, that the whole world may be made subject to them; they shall 
not dare with tyrannical force to oppress the common and ignorant 
portions of society." Veil, then, shall they their mouth; that is, 
"I will cause their mouth to be closed, so that they shall not dare 
hereafter to utter even a word." 
    It follows, "For there will be no answer from God". Some so 
explain this sentence, as though the Prophet upbraided them with 
their old deceits, which they boasted were the words of God: as then 
they were not faithful to God, but lied to miserable men, when they 
said, that they were sent from above, and brought messages from 
heaven, while they only uttered their own inventions or fables, they 
should on these accounts be constrained to cover their mouth. But 
different is the meaning of the Prophet, and it is this, - that they 
were to be deprived of any answer, so that their want of knowledge 
might be easily perceived even by the most ignorant: for false 
teachers, though they possess nothing certain, yet deceive the 
simple with disguises, and render plausible their absurdities, that 
they may seem to be the interpreters of God; and they further add 
great confidence: and then the stupidity of the people concedes to 
them such great power, according to what is said by Jeremiah in 
chapter 5, where he says that the priests received gifts and that 
for gifts the Prophets divined, and that the people loved such 
deprivations. But Micah declares here that such delusions would no 
longer be allowed, for God would dissipate them. It will then be 
made evident, that you have no answer from God; that is, "All will 
perceive that you are void and destitute of every celestial truth, 
and that you were formerly but gross cheats, when ye passed 
yourselves as God's servants, though you had no ground for doing 
    We now perceive what the Prophet means. But this punishment 
might have then contributed to the benefit of the people: for as it 
is a cause of ruin to the world, when there is no difference made 
between light and darkness; so when the baseness of those is 
discovered, who abuse God's name and adulterate his pure truth, 
there is then a door open to repentance. Rightly then is this 
combination addressed to false prophets. It now follows - 
Micah 3:8 
But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of 
judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and 
to Israel his sin. 
    Here Micah, in a courageous spirit, stands up alone against all 
the false teachers even when he saw that they were a large number, 
and that they appealed to their number, according to their usual 
practice, as their shield. Hence he says, "I am filled with power by 
the Spirit of Jehovah." This confidence is what all God's servants 
should possess, that they may not succumb to the empty and vain 
boastings of those who subvert the whole order of the Church. 
Whenever then, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false 
teachers, and them to be popular among those high in honour, as well 
as the multitude, let this striking example be remembered by us, 
lest we be discouraged, lest the firmness and invincible power of 
the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts, but that we may proceed 
in the course of our calling, and learn to oppose the name of God to 
all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our 
service is approved by him, as being faithful. Since, then, Micah 
says, that he was filled with power, he no doubt stood, as it were, 
in the presence of the whole people, and alone pitched his camp 
against the whole multitude; for there were then false teachers 
going about every where, as the devil sows always seed enough, 
whenever God lets loose the reins. Though then their number was not 
small, yet Micah hesitated not to go forth among them: "I", he says; 
there is stress to be laid on the pronoun "'anochi",- "Ye despise 
me, being one man, and ye despise a few men; ye may think that I 
alone serve the Lord; but I am a match for a thousand, yea, for an 
innumerable multitude; for God is on my side, and he approves of my 
ministry as it is. from him, nor do I bring any thing to you but 
what he has commanded: It is then "I" 
    He further expresses a fuller confidence by using the word 
"'ulam"; "Verily, he says, I am filled with power". This "verily" or 
truly is opposed to those lofty boastings by which the false 
prophets were ever wont to attain a name and honour among the 
people. But Micah intimates that all that they uttered was only 
evanescent: "Ye are," he says, "wonderful prophets; nay, ye are 
superior to the angels, if you are to be believed; but show that you 
are so in reality; let there be some proof by which your calling can 
be confirmed. There is no proof. It then follows, that ye are only 
men of wind, and not really spiritual: but there is really in me 
what ye boast of with your mouths." And he says, that he was filled, 
that he might not be thought one of the common sort: and Micah no 
doubt shows here, on account of the necessity of the occasion, that 
he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power; for, according as 
God employs the labors of his servants, so is he present with them, 
and furnishes them with suitable protection. When any one is not 
exercised with great difficulties in discharging his office of 
teaching, a common measure of the Spirit is only necessary for the 
performance of his duties; but when any one is drawn into arduous 
and difficult struggles, he is at the same time especially 
strengthened by the Lord: and we see daily examples of this; for 
many simple men, who have never been trained up in learning, have 
yet been so endued by the celestial Spirit, when they came to great 
trials, that they have closed the mouths of great doctors, who 
seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God openly 
proves at this day, that he is the same now as when he formerly 
endued his servant Micah with a power so rare and so extraordinary. 
This then is the reason why he says, that he was filled with power. 
    He afterwards adds, "By the Spirit of Jehovah". Here the 
Prophet casts aside every suspicious token of arrogance; lest he 
should seem to claim anything as his own, he says, that this power 
was conferred on him from above: and this circumstance ought to be 
particularly noticed. Though Micah rightly and justly claimed to 
himself the name of a teacher, he yet had nothing different from 
others before the world; for all his opponents discharged the same 
office, and obtained the same honor: the office was common to both 
parties. Micah was either alone, or connected with Isaiah and a few 
others. Since then he here dares to set up himself, we see that his 
call alone must be regarded; for we know how great is the propensity 
of Satan to oppose the kingdom of Christ, and also how proud and 
fierce are false teachers. Since then the rage of Satan is well 
known and the presumption of false teachers, there is no reason why 
the faithful should make much of mere naked titles: and when they, 
who lived at that time, declared, as Papists do at this day, that 
they had no discrimination nor judgment to know, whether of them 
ought to have been deemed impostors or the ministers of God, 
inasmuch as Micah was alone and they were many, and also that the 
others were prophets that at least they had the name and repute of 
being so, - what was to be done? This was the reason why I have said 
that this circumstance was worthy of special notice, - that though 
their vocation was common, yet as they had acted perfidiously, and 
Micah alone, or with few others, had faithfully performed what the 
Lord had commanded, he alone is to be deemed a Prophet and a 
teacher: in short, there is no reason for false prophets to set up 
against us a mere coveting, when they cannot prove that they are 
endued with the Spirit of God. Whosoever then desires to be deemed a 
servant of God, and a teacher in his Church, must have this seal 
which Micah here adduces; he must be endued with the Spirit of God; 
honor then will be given to God. But if any one brings nothing but 
the name, we see how vain before God it is. 
    He afterwards subjoins "With judgment and courage". By 
judgment, I have no doubt, he understands discernment, as this is 
also the common meaning of the word. He then adds courage. These two 
things are especially necessary for all ministers of the word, - 
that is, to excel in wisdom, to understand what is true and right, 
and to be also endued with inflexible firmness, by which they may 
overcome both Satan and the whole world, and never turn aside from 
their course, though the devil may in all ways assail them. We hence 
see what these two words import. He had put "koach", first, power; 
but now he mentions "gevurah", courage or magnanimity. By the term, 
power, he meant generally all the endowments, with which all who 
take upon them the office of teaching ought to be adorned. This 
qualification is then first required, and it is a general one: but 
Micah divides this power of the prophets into two kinds, even into 
wisdom or judgment, and into courage; and he did this, that they 
might understand what God intended: Let them excel in doctrine; and 
then that they may be confirmed, let them not yield to any gales 
that may blow, nor be overcome by threats and terrors; let them not 
bend here and there to please the world; in a word, let them not 
succumb to any corruptions: it is therefore necessary to add courage 
to judgment. 
    He then adds, "To declare to Jacob his wickedness, and to 
Israel his sin". We here see that the Prophet did not hunt for the 
favor of the people. Had he courted their approbation, he must have 
soothed with flatteries those who sought flatteries; and were 
already seized with such hatred and malignant feelings, that they 
had rejected Micah. He must then have spoken softly to them, to 
please them; but this he did not do. "On the one hand," he says, 
"these men sell to you their blessings and deceive you with the hope 
of peace; and, on the other, they denounce war, except their 
voracity is satisfied; and thus it is that they please you; for so 
ye wish, and ye seek such teachers as will promise you wine and 
strong drink: but I am sent to you for another purpose; for the Lord 
has not deposited flatteries with me, such as may be pleasant to 
you; but he has deposited reproofs and threatenings. I shall 
therefore uncover your crimes, and will not hesitate to condemn you 
before the whole world, for ye deserve to be thus treated." We now 
perceive why the Prophet says, that he was endued with power to 
declare his wickedness to Jacob, &c. 
    But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported 
by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked 
men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God's 
servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry 
on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what 
God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may 
violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as 
it is said in Ezek. 3: 8, 9; nor must we yield to their fury, but 
preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the 
devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may 
faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this 
courage of which Micah speaks. 
    As I have already shown that God's servants ought courageously 
to break through all those obstacles by which Satan may attempt 
either to delay or to force them backward; so also the doctrine 
taught here ought to be applied to all the godly: they ought wisely 
to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors 
who falsely pretend his name. Then no one, who desires truly and 
from the heart to obey God, will be deceived; for the Lord will ever 
give the spirit of judgment and discrimination. And the reason why 
at this day many miserable souls are led to endless ruin is, because 
they either shut their eyes, or willfully dissemble, or designedly 
involve themselves in such subterfuges as these, - "I cannot form 
any judgment; I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, at 
least those who are in some repute and esteem: some call me to the 
right hand, and others to the left, where am I to retake myself? I 
therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears." Thus many, seeking 
a cloak for their sloth, often manifest their ignorance: for we see 
that the eyes must be opened when the Lord exercises and tries our 
faith: and he suffers discords and contentions to arise in the 
Church that some may choose this, and others that. Though God then 
relaxes the reins of Satan, that contests and turmoils of this kind 
may be excited in the Church, there is yet no excuse for us, if we 
follow not what the Lord prescribes; for he will ever guide us by 
his Spirit, provided we foster not our own slothfulness. It follows 
Micah 3:9,10 
Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes 
of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. 
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 
    The Prophet begins really to prove what he had stated, - that 
he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: and it was, as they 
say, an actual proof, when the Prophet dreaded no worldly power, but 
boldly addressed the princes and provoked their rage against him, 
"Hear", he says, "ye heads, ye rulers of the house of Jacob", ye men 
who are cruel, bloody, and iniquitous. We then see that the Prophet 
had not boasted of what he did not without delay really confirm. But 
he began with saying, that he was filled with the Spirit of God, 
that he might more freely address them, and that he might check 
their insolence. We indeed know that the ungodly are so led on 
headlong by Satan, that they hesitate not to resist God himself: but 
yet the name of God is often to them a sort of a hidden chain. 
However much then the wicked may rage, they yet become less 
ferocious when the name of God is introduced. This is the reason why 
the Prophet had mentioned the Spirit of God; it was, that there 
might be a freer course to his doctrine. 
    When he now says, Ye heads of the house of Jacob, ye rulers of 
the house of Israel, it is by way of concession, as though he had 
said, that these were indeed splendid titles, and that he was not so 
absurd as not to acknowledge what had been given them by God, even 
that they were eminent, a chosen race, being the children of 
Abraham. The Prophet then concedes to the princes what belonged to 
them, as though he had said, that he was not a seditious man, who 
had no care nor consideration for civil order. And this defense was 
very necessary, for nothing is more common than for the ungodly to 
charge God's servants with sedition, whenever they use a freedom of 
speech as it becomes them. Hence all who govern the state, when they 
hear their corruptions reproved, or their avarice, or their cruelty, 
or any of their other crimes, immediately cry out, - "What! if we 
suffer these things, every thing will be upset: for when all respect 
is gone, what will follow but brutal outrage? for every one of the 
common people will rise up against the magistrates and the judges." 
Thus then the wicked ever say, that God's servants are seditious 
whenever they boldly reprove them. This is the reason why the 
Prophet concedes to the princes and judges of the people their 
honor; but a qualifying clause immediately follows, - "Ye are indeed 
the heads, ye are rulers; but 'yet they hate judgment:'" he does not 
think them worthy of being any longer addressed. He had indeed 
bidden them to hear as with authority; but having ordered them to 
hear, he now uncovers their wickedness, "They hate, he says, 
judgments and all rectitude pervert:" each of them builds Zion by 
blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity; that is, they turn their pillages 
into buildings: "This, forsooth, is the splendor of my holy city 
even of Zion! where I designed the ark of my covenant to be placed, 
as in my only habitation, even there buildings are seen constructed 
by blood and by plunder! See, he says, how wickedly these princes 
conduct themselves under the cover of their dignity!" 
    We now see that the word of God is not bound, but that it puts 
forth its power against the highest as well as the lowest; for it is 
the Spirit's office to arraign the whole world, and not a part only. 
'When the Spirit shall come,' says Christ, 'it will convince the 
world,' (John 16: 8.) He speaks not there of the common people only, 
but of the whole world, of which princes and magistrates form a 
prominent part. Let us then know, that though we ought to show 
respect to judges, (as the Lord has honored them with dignified 
titles, calling them his vicegerents and also gods,) yet the mouths 
of Prophets ought not to be closed; but they ought, without making 
any difference, to correct whatever is deserving of reproof, and not 
to spare even the chief men themselves. This is what ought in the 
first place to be observed. 
    Then when he says, that Zion was built by blood, and Jerusalem 
by iniquity, it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that 
whatever the great men expended on their palaces had been procured, 
and, as it were, scraped together from blood and plunder. The judges 
could not have possibly seized on spoils on every side, without 
being bloody, that is, without pillaging the poor: for the judges 
were for the most part corrupted by the rich and the great; and then 
they destroyed the miserable and the innocent. He then who is 
corrupted by money will become at the same time a thief; and he will 
not only extort money, but will also shed blood. There is then no 
wonder that Micah says, that Zion was built by blood. He afterwards 
extends wider his meaning and mentions iniquity, as he wished to 
cast off every excuse from hypocrites. The expression is indeed 
somewhat strong, when he says, that Zion was built by blood. They 
might have objected and said, that they were not so cruel, though 
they could not wholly clear themselves from the charge of avarice. 
"When I speak of blood," says the Prophet, "there is no reason that 
we should contend about a name; for all iniquity is blood before 
God: if then your houses have been built by plunder, your cruelty is 
sufficiently proved; it is as though miserable and innocent men had 
been slain by your own hands." The words, Zion and Jerusalem, 
enhance their sin; for they polluted the holy city and the mount on 
which the temple was built by the order and command of God. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have us to be ruled by 
the preaching of thy word, - O grant, that those who have to 
discharge this office may be really endued with thy celestial power, 
that they may not attempt any thing of themselves, but with all 
devotedness spend all their labors for thee and for our benefit, 
that through them we may be thus edified, so that thou mayest ever 
dwell among us, and that we through our whole life may become the 
habitation of thy Majesty, and that finally we may come to thy 
heavenly sanctuary, where thou daily invites us, as an entrance 
there has been once for all opened to us by the blood of thy 
only-begotten Son. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 6
(continued in part 7...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-06.txt