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

Lecture Eighty-seventh. 
Micah 3:11,12 
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach 
for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they 
lean upon the LORD, and say, [Is] not the LORD among us? none evil 
can come upon us. 
Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed [as] a field, and 
Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the 
high places of the forest. 
    The Prophet shows here first, how gross and supine was the 
hypocrisy of princes as well as of the priests and prophets: and 
then he declares that they were greatly deceived in thus soothing 
themselves with vain flatteries; for the Lord would punish them for 
their sins since he had in his forbearance spared them, and found 
that they did not repent. But he does not address here the common 
people or the multitude, but he attacks the chief men: for he has 
previously told us, that he was endued with the spirit of courage. 
It was indeed necessary for the Prophet to be prepared with 
invincible firmness that he might freely and boldly declare the 
judgment of God, especially as he had to do with the great and the 
powerful, who, as it is well known, will not easily, or with 
unruffled minds, bear their crimes to be exposed; for they wish to 
be privileged above the ordinary class of men. But the Prophet not 
only does not spare them, but he even arraigns them alone, as though 
the blame of all evils lodged only with them, as indeed the 
contagion had proceeded from them; for though all orders were then 
corrupt, yet the cause and the beginning of all the evils could not 
have been ascribed to any but to the chief men themselves. 
    And he says, "Princes for reward judge, priests teach for 
reward, the prophets divine for money": as though he had said, that 
the ecclesiastical as well as the civil government was subject to 
all kinds of corruptions, for all things were made matters of sale. 
We know that what the Holy Spirit declares elsewhere is ever true, - 
that by gifts or rewards the eyes of the wise are blinded and the 
hearts of the just are corrupted, (Eccles. 20: 29,) for as soon erg 
judges open a way for rewards, they cannot preserve integrity, 
however much they may wish to do so. And the same is the case with 
the priests: for if any one is given to avarice, he will adulterate 
the pure truth: it cannot be, that a complete liberty in teaching 
should exist, except when the pastor is exempt from all desire of 
gain. It is not therefore without reason that Micah complains here, 
that the princes as well as the priests were hirelings in his day; 
and by this he means, that no integrity remained among them, for the 
one, as I have said, follows from the other. He does not say, that 
the princes were either cruel or perfidious, though he had before 
mentioned these crimes; but in this place he simply calls them 
mercenaries. But, as I have just said, the one vice cannot be 
separated from the other; for every one who is hired will pervert 
judgment, whether he be a teacher or a judge. Nothing then remains 
pure where avarice bears rule. It was therefore quite sufficient for 
the Prophet to condemn the judges and the prophets and the priests 
for avarice; for it is easy hence to conclude, that teaching was 
exposed to sale, and that judgments were bought, so that he who 
offered most money easily gained his cause. Princes then judge for 
reward, and priests also teach for reward. 
    We can learn from this place the difference between prophets 
and priests. Micah ascribes here the office or the duty of teaching 
to the priests and leaves divination alone to the prophets. We have 
said elsewhere, that it happened through the idleness of the 
priests, that prophets were added to them; for prophesying belonged 
to them, until being content with the altar, they neglected the 
office of teaching: and the same thing, as we find, has taken place 
under the Papacy. For though it be quite evident for what reason 
pastors were appointed to preside over the Church, we yet see that 
all, who proudly call themselves pastors, are dumb dogs. Whence is 
this? Because they think that they discharge their duties, by being 
only attentive to ceremonies; and they have more than enough to 
occupy them: for the priestly office under the Papacy is laborious 
enough as to trifles and scenic performances: but at the same time 
they neglect the principal thing - to feed the Lord's flock with the 
doctrine of salvation. Thus degenerated had the priests become under 
the Law. What is said by Malachi ought to have been perpetuated, - 
that the law should be in the mouth of the priest, that he should be 
the messenger and interpreter of the God of hosts, (Mal. 2: 7;) but 
the priests cast from them this office: it became therefore 
necessary that prophets should be raised up, and as it were beyond 
the usual course of things while yet the regular course formally 
remained. But the priests taught in a cold manner; and the prophets 
divined, that is professed that oracles respecting future things 
were revealed to them. 
    This distinction is now observed by the Prophet, when he says, 
"The priests teach for reward", that is, they were mercenaries, and 
hirelings in their office: and the prophets divined for money". It 
then follows, that they yet "leaned on Jehovah", and said, "Is not 
Jehovah in the midst of us? Come then shall not evil upon us". The 
Prophet shows here, as I have said at the beginning, that these 
profane men trifled with God: for though they knew that they were 
extremely wicked, nay, their crimes were openly known to all; yet 
they were not ashamed to lay claim to the authority of God. And it 
has, we know, been a common wickedness almost in all ages, and it 
greatly prevails at this day, - that men are satisfied with having 
only the outward evidences of being the people of God. There was 
then indeed an altar erected by the command of God; there were 
sacrifices made according to the rule of the Law; and there were 
also great and illustrious promises respecting that kingdom. Since 
then the sacrifices were daily performed, and since the kingdom 
still retained its outward form, they thought that God was, in a 
manner, bound to them. The same is the case at this day with the 
great part of men; they presumptuously and absurdly boast of the 
external forms of religion. The Papists possess the name of a 
Church, with which they are extremely inflated; and then there is a 
great show and pomp in their ceremonies. The hypocrites also among 
us boast of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and the name of 
Reformation; while, at the same time, these are nothing but 
mockeries, by which the name of God and the whole of religion are 
profaned, when no real piety flourishes in the heart. This was the 
reason why Micah now expostulated with the prophets and the priests, 
and the king's counselors; it was, because they falsely pretended 
that they were the people of God. 
    But by saying; that "they relied on Jehovah, he did not condemn 
that confidence which really reposes on God; for, in this respect, 
we cannot exceed the bounds: as God's goodness is infinite, so we 
cannot trust in his word too much, if we embrace it in true faith. 
But the Prophet says, that hypocrites leaned on Jehovah, because 
they flattered themselves with that naked and empty distinction, 
that God had adopted them as his people. Hence the word, leaning or 
recumbing, is not to be applied to the real trust of the heart, but, 
on the contrary, to the presumption of men, who pretend the name of 
God, and so give way to their own will, that they shake off not only 
all fear of God, but also thought and reason. When, therefore, so 
great and so supine thoughtlessness occupies the minds of men, 
stupidity presently follows: and yet it is not without reason that 
Micah employs this expression, for hypocrites persuade themselves 
that all things will be well with them, as they think that they have 
God propitious to them. As then they feel no anxiety while they have 
the idea that God is altogether at peace with them, the Prophet 
declares, by way of irony, that they relied on Jehovah; as though he 
had said, that they made the name of God their support: but yet the 
Prophet speaks in words contrary to their obvious meaning, 
("katachrestikios" loquitur - speaks catachrestically;) for it is 
certain that no one relies on Jehovah except he is humbled in 
himself. It is penitence that leads us to God; for it is when we are 
cast down that we recumb on him; but he who is inflated with 
self-confidence flies in the air, and has nothing solid in him. And 
our Prophet, as I have said, intended indirectly to condemn the 
false security in which hypocrites sleep, while they think it enough 
that the Lord had once testified that they would be his people; but 
the condition is by them disregarded. 
    He now recites their words, "Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? 
Come will not evil upon us." This question is a proof of a haughty 
self-confidence; for they ask as of a thing indubitable, and it is 
an emphatic mode of speaking, by which they meant to say, that 
Jehovah was among them. He who simply affirms a thing, does not show 
so much pride as these hypocrites when they set forth this question, 
"Who shall deny that Jehovah dwells in the midst of us?" God had 
indeed chosen an habitation among them for himself; but a condition 
was interposed, and yet they wished that he should be, as it were, 
tied to the temple, though they considered not what God required 
from them. They hence declared that Jehovah was in the midst of 
them; nay, they treated with disdain any one who dared to say a word 
to the contrary: nor is there a doubt but that they poured forth 
blasts of contempt on the Prophets. For whenever any one threatened 
what our Prophet immediately subjoins, such an answer as this was 
ever ready on their lips, - "What! will God then desert us and deny 
himself? Has he in vain commanded the temple to be built among us? 
Has he falsely promised that we should be a priestly kingdom? Dost 
thou not make God a covenant-breaker, by representing him as 
approving of the terrors of thy discourse? But he cannot deny 
himself:" We hence see why the Prophet had thus spoken; it was to 
show that hypocrites boasted so to speaks of their proud confidence, 
because they thought that God could not be separated from them. 
    Now this passage teaches us how preposterous it is thus to 
abuse the name of God. There is indeed a reason why the Lord calls 
us to himself, for without him we are miserable; he also promises to 
be propitious to us, though, in many respects, we are guilty before 
him: he yet, at the same time, calls us to repentance. Whosoever, 
then, indulges himself and continues sunk in his vices, he is 
greatly deceived, if he applies to himself the promises of God; for, 
as it has been said, the one cannot be separated from the other. But 
when God is propitious to them, they rightly conclude, that all 
things will be well with them, for we know that the paternal favor 
of God is a fountain of all felicity. But in this there was a 
vicious reasoning, - that they promised to themselves the favor of 
God through a false imagination of the flesh, and not through his 
word. Thus we see that there is ever in hypocrisy some imitation of 
piety: but there is a sophistry either in the principle itself or in 
the argument. 
    Now follows a threatening, "Therefore, on your account, Zion as 
a field shall be plowed, and Jerusalem a heap shall be, and the 
mount of the house as the high places of a forest". We here see how 
intolerable to God hypocrites are; for it was no ordinary proof of a 
dreadful vengeance, that the Lord should expose to reproach the holy 
city, and mount Zion, and his own temple. This revenge, then, being 
so severe, shows that to God there is nothing less tolerable than 
that false confidence with which hypocrites swell, for it brings 
dishonor on God himself; for they could not boast that they were 
God's people without aspersing him with many reproaches. What then 
is the meaning of this, "God is in the midst of us," except that 
they thereby declared that they were the representatives of God, 
that the kingdom was sacred and also the priesthood? Since then they 
boasted that they did not presumptuously claim either the priesthood 
or the regal power, but that they were divinely appointed, we hence 
see that their profanation of God's name was most shameful. It is 
then no wonder that God was so exceedingly displeased with them: and 
hence the Prophet says, "For you shall Zion as a field be plowed"; 
as though he said, "This is like something monstrous, that the 
temple should be subverted, that the holy mount and the whole city 
should be entirely demolished, and that nothing should remain but a 
horrible desolation, - who can believe all this? It shall however, 
take place, and it shall take place on your account; you will have 
to bear the blame of this so monstrous a change." For it was as 
though God had thrown heaven and earth into confusion; inasmuch as 
he himself was the founder of the temple; and we know with what high 
encomiums the place was honored. Since then the temple was built, as 
it were, by the hand of God, how could it be otherwise, but that, 
when destroyed, the waste and desolate place should be regarded as a 
memorable proof of vengeance? There is therefore no doubt but that 
Micah intended to mark out the atrocity of their guilt, when he 
says, "For you shall Zion as a field be plowed, Jerusalem shall 
become a heap of stones"; that is, it shall be so desolated, that no 
vestige of a city, well formed and regularly built, shall remain. 
    "And the mount of the house", &c. He again mentions Zion, and 
not without reason: for the Jews thought that they were protected by 
the city Jerusalem; the whole country rested under its shadow, 
because it was the holy habitation of God. And again, the city 
itself depended on the temple, and it was supposed, that it was safe 
under this protection, and that it could hardly be demolished 
without overthrowing the throne of God himself: for as God dwelt 
between the cherubim, it was regarded by the people as a fortress 
incapable of being assailed. As then the holiness of the mount 
deceived them, it was necessary to repeat what was then almost 
incredible, at least difficult of being believed. He therefore adds, 
"The mount of the house shall be as the high places of a forest"; 
that is, trees shall grow there. 
    Why does he again declare what had been before expressed with 
sufficient clearness? Because it was not only a thing difficult to 
be believed, but also wholly inconsistent with reason, when what the 
Lord had said was considered, and that overlooked which hypocrites 
ever forget. God had indeed made a covenant with the people; but 
hypocrites wished to have God, as it were, bound to them, and, at 
the same time, to remain themselves free, yea, to have a full 
liberty to lead a wicked life. Since then the Jews were fixed in 
this false opinion, - that God could not be disunited from his 
people, the Prophet confirms the same truth, that the mount of the 
house would be as the high places of a forest. And, by way of 
concession, he calls it the mount of the house, that is, of the 
temple; as though he said, "Though God had chosen to himself a 
habitation, in which to dwell, yet this favor shall not keep the 
temple from being deserted and laid waste; for it has been profaned 
by your wickedness." 
    Let us now see at what time Micah delivered this prophecy. This 
we learn from the twenty-sixth chapter of Jeremiah; for when 
Jeremiah prophesied against the temple, he was immediately seized 
and cast into prison; a tumultuous council was held, and he was well 
nigh being brought forth unto execution. All the princes condemned 
him; and when now he had no hope of deliverance, he wished, not so 
much to plead his own cause, as to denounce a threatening on them, 
that they might know that they could effect no good by condemning an 
innocent man. "Micah, the Morasthite," he said, "prophesied in the 
days of Hezekiah, and said thus, 'Zion as a field shall be plowed, 
Jerusalem shall be a heap, and the mount of the house as the high 
placers of a forest.'" Did the king and the people, he said, consult 
together to kill him? Nay, but the king turned, and so God repented; 
that is, the Lord deferred his vengeance; for king Hezekiah humbly 
deprecated the punishment which had been denounced. We now then know 
with certainty the time. 
    But it was strange that under such a holy king so many and so 
shameful corruptions prevailed, for he no doubt tried all he could 
to exercise authority over the people, and by his own example taught 
the judges faithfully and uprightly to discharge their office; but 
he was not able, with all his efforts, to prevent the Priests, and 
the Judges, and the Prophets, from being mercenaries. We hence learn 
how sedulously pious magistrates ought to labour, lest the state of 
the Church should degenerate; for however vigilant they may be, they 
can yet hardly, even with the greatest care, keep things (as mankind 
are so full of vices) from becoming very soon worse. This is one 
thing. And now the circumstance of the time ought to be noticed for 
another purpose: Micah hesitated not to threaten with such a 
judgment the temple and the city, though he saw that the king was 
endued with singular virtues. He might have thought thus with 
himself, "King Hezekiah labored strenuously in the execution of his 
high office: now if a reproof so sharp and so severe will reach his 
ears, he will either despond, or think me to be a man extremely 
rigid, or, it may be, he will become exasperated against sound 
doctrine." The Prophet might have weighed these things in his mind; 
but, nevertheless, he followed his true course in teaching, and 
there is no doubt but that his severity pleased the king, for we 
know that he was oppressed with great cares and anxieties, because 
he could not, by all his striving, keep within proper bounds his 
counselors, the priests and the prophets. He therefore wished to 
have God's servants as his helpers. And this is what pious 
magistrates always desire, that their toils may in some measure be 
alleviated by the aid of the ministers of the word; for when the 
ministers of the word only teach in a cold manner, and are not 
intent on reproving vices, the severity of the magistrates will be 
hated by the people. "Why, see, the ministers say nothing, and we 
hence conclude that they do not perceive so great evils; and yet the 
magistrates with the drawn sword inflict new punishments daily." 
When, therefore, teachers are thus silent, a greater odium no doubt 
is incurred by the magistrates: it is hence, as I have said, a 
desirable thing for them, that the free reproofs of teachers should 
be added to the punishments and judgments of the law. 
    We further see how calm and meek was the spirit of the king, 
that he could bear the great severity of the Prophet: Behold, he 
said, on your accounts &c.: "Thou oughtest at least to have excepted 
me." For the king was not himself guilty. Why then did he connect 
him with the rest? Because the whole body was infected with 
contagion, and he spoke generally; and the good king did not retort 
nor even murmur, but, as we have recited from Jeremiah, he humbly 
deprecated the wrath of God, as though a part of the guilt belonged 
to him. Now follows - 
Chapter IV. 
Micah 4:1,2 
But in the last days it shall come to pass, [that] the mountain of 
the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the 
mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall 
flow unto it. 
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the 
mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he 
will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the 
law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 
    Here Micah begins his address to the faithful, who were a 
remnant among that people; for though the infection had nearly 
extended over the whole body, there were yet a few, we know, who 
sincerely worshipped God. Hence Micah, that he might not dishearten 
God's children by extreme terror, reasonably adds what we have now 
heard, - that though for a time the temple would be demolished and 
laid waste, it would yet be only for a season, for the Lord would be 
again mindful of his covenant. When, therefore, the Prophet had 
hitherto spoken of God's dreadful vengeance, he directed his 
discourse to the whole people and to the princess; but now, 
especially, and as it were apart, addresses the pious and sincere 
servants of God; as though he said, "There is now a reason why I 
should speak to the few: I have hitherto spoken of the near judgment 
of God on the king's counselors, the priests and the prophets; in 
short, on the whole community, because they are all become wicked 
and ungodly; a contempt of God and an irreclaimable obstinacy have 
pervaded the whole body. Let them therefore have what they have 
deserved. But now I address the children of God by themselves, for I 
have something to say to them." 
    For though the Prophet publicly proclaimed this promise, there 
is yet no doubt but that he had regard only to the children of God, 
for others were not capable of receiving this consolation; nay, he 
had shortly before condemned the extreme security of hypocrites, 
inasmuch as they leaned upon God; that is, relied on a false 
pretence of religion, in thinking that they were redeemed by a 
lawful price when they had offered their sacrifices. And we know 
that we meet with the same thing in the writings of the Prophets, 
and that it is a practice common among them to add consolations to 
threatening, not for the sake of the whole people, but to sustain 
the faithful in their hope, who would have despaired, had not a 
helping hand been stretched forth to them: for the faithful, we 
know, tremble, as soon as God manifests any token of wrath; for the 
more any one is touched with the fear of God, the more he dreads his 
judgment, and fears on account of his threatening. We hence see how 
necessary it is to moderate threatenings and terrors, when prophets 
and teachers have a regard to the children of God; for, as I have 
said, they are without these fearful enough. Let us then know that 
Micah has hitherto directed his discourse to the wicked despisers of 
God, who yet put on the cloak of religion; but now he turns his 
address to the true and pious worshipers of God. And he further so 
addresses the faithful of his age, that his doctrine especially 
belongs to us now; for how has it been, that the kingdom of God has 
been propagated through all parts of the earth? How has it been, 
that the truth of the gospel has come to us, and that we are made 
partakers with the ancient people of the same adoption, except that 
this prophecy has been fulfilled? Then the calling of the Gentiles, 
and consequently our salvation, is included in this prophecy. 
    But the Prophet says, "And it shall be in the extremity of 
days, that the mount of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order 
on the top of mountains". The extremity of days the Prophet no doubt 
calls the coming of Christ, for then it was that the Church of God 
was built anew; in short, since it was Christ that introduced the 
renovation of the world, his advent is rightly called a new age; and 
hence it is also said to be the extremity of days: and this mode of 
expression very frequently occurs in Scripture; and we know that the 
time of the gospel is expressly called the last days and the last 
time by John, (1 John 2: 18,) as well as by the author of the 
Epistle to the Hebrews, (Heb. 1: 2,) and also by Paul, (2 Tim. 3: 
1;) and this way of speaking they borrowed from the prophets. On 
this subject some remarks were made on the second chapter of Joel. 
Paul gives us the reason for this mode of speaking in 1 Cor. 10: l1: 
"Upon whom", he says, "the ends of the world are come." As Christ 
then brought in the completion of all things at his coming, the 
Prophet rightly says that it would be the last days when God would 
restore his Church by the hand of the Redeemer. At the same time, 
Micah no doubt intended to intimate that the time of God's wrath 
would not be short, but designed to show that its course would be 
for a long time. 
    "It shall then be in the last of days"; that is, when the Lord 
shall have executed his vengeance by demolishing the temple, by 
destroying the city, and by reducing the holy place into a solitude, 
this dreadful devastation shall continue, not for one year, nor for 
two; in a word, it will not remain only for forty or fifty years, 
but the Lord will let loose the reins of his wrath, that their minds 
may long languish, and that no restoration may be evident. We now 
then understand the Prophet's design as to the last days. 
    He calls the mount, "the mount of the house of Jehovah", in a 
sense different from what he did before; for then it was, as we have 
stated by way of concession; and now he sets forth the reason why 
God did not wish wholly to cast aside that mount; for he commanded 
his temple to be built there. It is the same, then, as though he 
said, - "This ought not to be ascribed to the holiness of the 
mountain, as if it excelled other mountains in dignity; but because 
there the temple was founded, not by the authority of men, but by a 
celestial oracle, as it is sufficiently known." 
    "The mount then of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order 
on the top of the mountains", that is it shall surpass in height all 
other mountains; "and it shall be raised, he says, above the highest 
summits, and assemble there shall all nations". It is certain, that 
by these words of the Prophet is to be understood no visible 
eminence of situation: for that mount was not increased at the 
coming of Christ; and they who lived in the time of the Prophet 
entertained no gross idea of this kind. But he speaks here of the 
eminence of dignity, - that God would give to mount Zion a 
distinction so eminent, that all other mountains would yield to its 
honor. And how was this done? The explanation follows in the next 
verse. Lest, then, any one thought that there would be some visible 
change in mount Zion, that it would increase in size, the Prophet 
immediately explains what he meant and says, at the end of the 
verse, "Come shall nations to God". It is now easy to see what its 
elevation was to be, - that God designed this mount to be, as it 
were, a royal seat. As under the monarchy of the king of Persia, the 
whole of the east, we know, was subject to one tower of the Persian; 
so also, when mount Zion became the seat of sovereign power, God 
designed to reign there, and there he designed that the whole world 
should be subject to him; and this is the reason and the Prophet 
said that it would be higher than all other mountains. Hence his 
meaning, in this expression, is sufficiently evident. 
    There follows, however, a fuller explanation, when he says, 
that many "nations would come". He said only before that nations 
would come: but as David, even in his age, made some nations 
tributary to himself, the Prophet here expresses something more, - 
that many nations would come; as if he had said, "Though David 
subjugated some people to himself, yet the borders of his kingdom 
were narrow and confined, compared with the largeness of that 
kingdom which the Lord will establish at the coming of his Messiah: 
for not a few nations but many shall assemble to serve him, and 
shall say," &c. The Prophet now shows that it would be a spiritual 
kingdom. When David subdued the Moabites and the Amorites, and 
others, he imposed a certain tribute to be paid annually but he was 
not able to establish among them the pure and legitimate worship of 
God, nor was he able to unite them in one faith. Then the Moabites 
and other nations, though they paid a tribute to David, did not yet 
worship the true God, but continued ever alienated from the Church. 
But our Prophet shows that the kingdom, which God would set up at 
the coming of the Messiah, would be spiritual. 
    For they shall say, "Let us you and ascend to the mount of 
Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us 
of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for, go forth shall a 
law from Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem". Throughout 
this passage the Prophet teaches us, that people are not to be 
constrained by an armed force, or by the power of the sword, to 
submit to David's posterity, but that they are to be really and 
thoroughly reformed, so that they submit themselves to God, unite 
with the body of the Church, and become one people with the children 
of Abraham; for they will yield a voluntary service, and embracing 
the teaching of the Law, they will renounce their own superstitions. 
This then is the Prophet's meaning. But the remainder we shall defer 
till to-morrow. 
Grant, Almighty God that as thou hast been pleased to erect the 
throne of thy Son among us, we may rely on his protection and learn 
to resign ourselves wholly to thee, and never turn aside here and 
there, but with tulle obedience so submit ourselves to the King who 
has been appointed by thee, that he may own us as his legitimate 
people, and so glorify thy name, that we may not at the same time 
profane it by an ungodly and wicked life, but testify by our works 
that we are really thy subjects. and that thou attains full 
authority over us, so that thy name may be sanctified and thy Spirit 
may really guide us, until at length thy Son, who has gathered us 
when we were awfully gone astray, gather us again to that kingdom, 
which he as purchased for us by his own blood. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 7
(continued in part 8...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-07.txt