Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 10
(... continued from part 9)

Lecture Ninetieth. 
Micah 4:11-13 
11 Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let 
her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. 
12 But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand 
they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the 
13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn 
iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces 
many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and 
their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. 
    The Prophet's object here is to give some alleviation to the 
faithful lest they should succumb under their calamities; for, as we 
have stated, there were most grievous evils approaching, sufficient 
to overwhelm the minds of the godly. The Prophet then raises up 
here, with the moat suitable comfort, those who would have otherwise 
fainted under their calamities; and the sum of the whole is this, - 
that the faithful were not to be confounded on finding the ungodly 
proudly triumphing, as they are wont to do, when they seem to have 
gained their wishes. Since, then, the wicked show a petulant spirit 
beyond all bounds, the Prophet exhorts the faithful to sustain 
themselves by God's promises, and not to care for such insolence. He 
then subjoins a promise, - that God would assemble all the forces of 
their enemies, as when one gathers many ears of corn into a bundle, 
that he may thrash them on the floor. I will come now to the words 
of the Prophet. 
    "Assemble, he says, against thee do nations", or strong 
nations: for, by saying, "goyim rabim", he intimates one of two 
things, either that they were strong, or that they were large in 
number: as to the subject there is no great difference. The Prophet 
had this in view, - that though the Church of God may be pressed by 
a great multitude of enemies, it yet ought not to be broken down in 
mind: for the ungodly, while they cruelly domineer, do not 
understand the design of God. Assemble, then, against thee do many 
nations. He sets the thing before them, to heal them of terror: for 
when we are beyond the reach of harm, we, for the most part, too 
heedlessly despise all dangers; and then, when we come to a real 
struggle, we tremble, or even fall and become wholly weak. This is 
the reason why the Prophet sets before the Jews their prospects, and 
shows that the time was near when they were to endure a siege, as 
enemies would, on all sides, surround them. Assemble then do 
nations, and strong or many nations: he shows here that the Jews had 
no reason to despond, though their enemies would far exceed them in 
number, and in forces, and in courage, for it was enough for them to 
be under the protection of God. 
    "Who say, condemned now shall be Zion." The verb "chanaf" means 
to act wickedly and perversely. It may then be literally rendered, 
'profane shall be Zion; and on it shall our eye look:' but this word 
is often taken metaphorically for condemnation. The meaning then is, 
'Zion is now condemned:' and the Prophet, no doubt, intended to 
intimate here, that the enemies would so triumph, as though Zion 
were not under the guardianship of God; as when any one, who has 
rendered himself hateful by his vices, is left and forsaken by his 
patrons. So, then, the Prophet here arms the faithful against the 
arrogance of their enemies, that they might not despair, when they 
found that they were condemned by the consent of all men, and that 
this was the opinion of all, - that they were forsaken by God. 
    Consolation follows, "But they know not the thoughts of 
Jehovah, nor understand his counsel": for verbs in the past tense 
have the meaning of the present. Here the Prophet recalls the 
attention of the godly to a subject the most suitable to them: for 
when the wicked rise up so cruelly against us, we are apt to think 
that all things are allowed to them, and then their reproaches and 
slanders immediately take possession of our minds and thoughts, so 
that we in a manner measure God's judgment by their words. Hence 
when the ungodly deride our faith, and boast that we are forsaken by 
God, we succumb, being as it were filled with amazement: and nothing 
is easier than to shake off from us faith and the memory of God's 
promises, whenever the ungodly are thus insolent. The Prophet then 
does not without cause apply a remedy which ought to be carefully 
observed by us. "Who say, condemned is Zion"; but they are like the 
blind when judging of colours, "for they understand not the counsel 
of Jehovah and his thoughts they know not". We now then see what the 
Prophet had in view, which was to show, - that the faithful would be 
unwise and foolish, if they formed an opinion of God's judgment 
according to the boasting of the ungodly: for Satan carries them 
away in a furious manner; and when the Lord gives them liberty to do 
evil, they think that they shall be conquerors to the end. As then 
the ungodly are thus inebriated with foolish confidence, and despise 
not only men, but God himself, the Prophet here holds up and 
supports the minds of the godly that they might ascend higher, and 
thus understand that the design of God was not the same as what the 
wicked thought, who neither belonged to nor approached God. 
    It is especially needful to know this truth. Some at the first 
sight may think it frigid, "O! than, what does the Prophet mean? he 
says that what these declare is not the design of Jehovah; and this 
we know." But were all to examine the subject, they would then 
confess with one mouth, that nothing could have been more seasonable 
than this consolation. Now we are wounded by reproaches, and this 
very often happens to ingenuous men; and then, while the ungodly 
vomit forth their slanders, we think that God rests indifferently in 
heaven; and one of their words, like a cloud, obscures the judgment 
of God. As soon as any one of the wicked derides us, and laughs at 
our simplicity, threatens ferociously, and spreads forth his 
terrors, his words, as I have said, are like a cloud intervening 
between us and God. This is the reason why the Prophet says here, 
that the thoughts of Jehovah are different, and that his counsel is 
different: in short, the Prophet's object is to show, that whenever 
the ungodly thus proudly despise us, and also reproachfully threaten 
and terrify us, we ought to raise our thoughts to heaven. - Why so? 
Because the design of God is another. Their boastings then will 
vanish, for they arise from nothing, and they shall come to nothing, 
but the purpose of God shall stand. 
    But let us now see why the Prophet spoke here of the design and 
thoughts of God: for if only these two words are brought before us, 
there is certainly but little solid comfort, and nothing that has 
much force or power. There is then another principle to be 
understood, - that the thoughts of God are known to us, who are 
taught in his school. The counsel of God then is not hidden, for it 
is revealed to us in his Word. Consolation therefore depends on a 
higher and a more recondite doctrine; that is, that the faithful, in 
their miseries, ought to contemplate the counsel of God as in a 
mirror. And what is this? that when he afflicts us, he holds a 
remedy in his hand, and that when he throws us into the grave, he 
can restore us to life and safety. When, therefore, we understand 
this design of God, - that he chastens his Church with temporal 
evils, and that the issue will ever be most salutary, - when this is 
known by us, there is then no reason why the slanders of the ungodly 
should deject our minds; and when they vomit forth all their 
reproaches, we ought to adhere firmly to this counsel of God. But 
that the ungodly are thus proud is no matter of wonder; for if they 
raise their horns against God, why should they not despise us also, 
who are so few in number, and of hardly any influence, at least not 
equal to what they possess? The Church is indeed contemptible in the 
eyes of the world; and it is no wonder if our enemies thus deride 
us, and load us with ridicule and contempt, when they dare to act so 
frowardly towards God. But it is enough for us to know, that they do 
not understand the counsel of God. We now then see the Prophet's 
meaning, and an explanation follows, - 
    "For thou shalt assemble them", he says, "as a sheaf to the 
floor". The Prophet adds this clause as an explanation, that we may 
know what the counsel of God is, which he has mentioned, and that 
is, that God will collect the enemies as a sheaf. What is a sheaf? 
It is a small quantity of corn, it may be three hundred or a 
thousand ears of corn: they are ears of corn, and carried in a man's 
hand. And then, what is to be done with the sheaf? It is to be 
thrashed on the floor. It was indeed difficult to believe, that 
enemies, when thus collected together on every side, would be like a 
sheaf. If an army assembled against us, not only ten or twenty 
thousand, but a much larger number, who would think, according to 
the judgment of the flesh, that they would be like a sheaf? They 
shall be as so many deaths and graves: even the thought of God ought 
to be to us of more account than the formidable power of men. 
Whenever, therefore, our enemies exceed us in strength and number, 
let us learn to arise to that secret counsel of God, of which our 
Prophet now speaks; and then it will be easy for us to regard a vast 
multitude to be no more than a handful. And he says, that our 
enemies are to be gathered to a floor, that they may be thrashed 
there. They assemble themselves for another purpose; for they think 
that we shall be presently in their power, that they may swallow us 
up; but when they thus collect themselves and their forces, the Lord 
will frustrate their purpose and cause them to be thrashed by us. It 
follows, - 
    "Arise and thrash, daughter of Zion; for I have made thy horn 
iron, and thy hoofs brass". The Prophet here confirms what he had 
previously said: and he exhorts the daughter of Zion to arise; for 
it was necessary for her to have been cast down, so as to lie 
prostrate on the ground. God did not indeed restore at once his 
Church, but afflicted her for a time, so that she differed nothing 
from a dead man. As then a dead body lies on the ground without any 
feeling, so also did the Church of God lie prostrate. This is the 
reason why the Prophet now says, Arise, daughter of Zion; as though 
God, by his voice, roused the dead. We hence see, that the word 
"kumi" is emphatical; for the Prophet reminds us, that there is no 
reason for the faithful wholly to despair, when they find themselves 
thus cast down, for their restoration is in the hand and power of 
God, as it is the peculiar office of God to raise the dead. And this 
same truth ought to be applied for our us, whenever we are so cast 
down, that no strength, no vigor, remains in us. How then can we 
rise again? By the power of God, who by his voice alone can restore 
us to life, which seemed to be wholly extinct. 
    He afterwards subjoins, "Thrash, for I have made thy horn iron, 
and thy hoofs brass. A mode of thrashing, we know, was in use among 
the Jews the same with that in Italy and at this day in French 
Provence. We here thrash the corn with flails; but there by 
treading. The Prophet speaks here of this custom, and compares the 
Church of God to oxen; as though he said "The Jews shall be like 
oxen with iron horns and brazen hoofs that they may lay prostrate 
under them the whole strength of the nations. However much then the 
nations may now excel, I will subject them under the feet of my 
people, as if sheaves were thrashed by them." 
    He then adds, "And thou shalt separate or consecrate their 
wealth to Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole 
earth." Here the Prophet specifies the end for which God had 
purposed to subject the heathen nations to his chosen people, - that 
he might be glorified. This is the meaning. But they have refined 
too much in allegories, who have thought that this prophecy ought to 
be confined to the time of Christ: for the Prophet no doubt meant to 
extend consolation to the whole kingdom of Christ, from the 
beginning to the end. Others, not more correctly, say, that this is 
to be referred to the Babylonian captivity because then Daniel and 
some others thrashed the people, when heathen kings were induced 
through their teaching to restore the temple, and also to offer some 
worship to the God of Israel. But on this point they are both 
mistaken, because they take the word thrashing in a different sense 
from the Prophet; for it commonly means that heathen nations are to 
be subjected to the Church of God: and this takes place, whenever 
God stretches forth his hand to the faithful, and suffers not the 
ungodly to exercise their cruelty as they wish; yea, when he makes 
them humbly to supplicate the faithful. This often happens in the 
world, as it is written of Christ, 'thy enemies shall lick the 
earth,' (Ps. 72: 9.) But this prophecy shall not be fulfilled until 
the last coming of Christ. We indeed begin to tread on our enemies 
whenever God by his power destroys them, or at least causes them to 
tremble and to be cast down, as we find that they dread whenever any 
change takes place; and then they blandly profess that they desire 
to serve God. So at this day it has happened both in France and in 
Italy. How many hypocrites, for the sake of an earthly advantage, 
have submitted themselves to God? and how many such England produced 
when the Gospel flourished there? All the courtiers, and others who 
were unwilling to incur the displeasure of the king, professed 
themselves to be the very best lovers of religion. But yet this is 
ever the case, 'Aliens have been false to thee,' (Ps. 18: 44.) 
    We hence see what the prophet means when he speaks of 
thrashing: he intimates, that the Lord would often cause that the 
enemies of the Church should be bruised, though no one crushed them: 
but, as I have said, we must look forward to the last day, if we 
wish to see the complete fulfillment of this prophecy. 
    He afterwards adds, "Thou shalt consecrate their wealth to 
Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth". The 
Prophet shows here, that the dominion is not to be hoped for by the 
children of God, that they may abound in worldly pleasures, and 
appropriate every thing to themselves and also abuse their power, as 
ungodly men are wont to do; but that all is to be applied to the 
worship and the glory of God. For what purpose, then does God design 
his Church to become eminent? That he himself may alone shine forth, 
and that the faithful may rightly enjoy their honor, and not become 
thereby proud. There is, therefore nothing more alien to the power 
of the Church than pride, or cruelty, or avarice. This, then that is 
said ought to be carefully observed, their wealth thou shalt 
consecrate to Jehovah. He had spoken before of power, "Thou shalt 
bind strong people, thou shalt thrash them, and thou shalt tread 
them under thy feet;" but lest the faithful should turn all this to 
a purpose the Lord had not designed, a most suitable correction is 
immediately added, and that is, that this power shall not be 
exercised according to the will of men, but according to the will of 
God: Thou shalt then consecrate, &c.; and he uses the word "charam", 
which means to make a thing an anathema or an offering; as though he 
said "God will raise his Church that it may rule over its enemies; 
but let the faithful at the same time take heed, that they rule not 
tyrannically; for God designs ever to reign alone: therefore the 
whole excellency, the whole dignity, the whole power of the Church 
ought to be applied for this end, - that all things may become 
subject to God, and every thing among the nations may be altogether 
sacred to him so that the worship of God may flourish among the 
conquerors, as well as among the conquered." We now perceive the 
Prophet's object in speaking of consecrating the wealth of the 
nations. Now follows - 
Chapter 5. 
Micah 5:1,2 
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid 
siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod 
upon the cheek. 
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the 
thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me 
[that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from 
of old, from everlasting. 
    To encourage the faithful to patience, the Prophet again 
reminds them that hard and severe time was nigh; for it was needful 
to put them in mind often of the approaching calamity, lest terror 
should wholly discourage them. As then there was danger from 
despair, the Prophet often repeats what he has already said of God's 
judgment, which was then suspending over the people of Israel. And 
this mode and order of teaching ought to be observed. When the 
Prophets threaten us, or denounce the punishment we have deserved, 
we either become torpid, or grow angry with God, and murmur: but 
when they set forth any thing of comfort, we then indulge ourselves 
and become too secure. It is therefore necessary to connect 
threatening with promises, so that we may be always ready to endure 
temporal evils, and that our minds, sustained by hope, may, at the 
same time, depend on the Lord, and recomb on him. It was for this 
reason that the Prophet again mentions what he had already several 
times stated, - that the Jews would be surrounded by a siege. How do 
these two things agree, - that the enemies, assembled together, 
would be like sheaves which are taken to the floor to be trodden by 
the feet of animals, - and that the Jews would be besieged? I 
answer, that these things harmonize, because the temporary 
punishment, which God would inflict on his Church, would not prevent 
him to restore it again whenever it pleased him. Lest, therefore, 
security should creep over the minds of the godly, the Prophet 
designed often to remind them of that dreadful calamity which might 
have entirely upset them, had no support been afforded them, that 
is, had not God sustained them by his word. 
    "Now then thou shalt assemble thyself", he says, "O daughter of 
a troop". The verb "titgoddi", and the noun "gedud", sound alike; as 
though he said, "Thou shalt he collected, O daughter of collection." 
The Prophet addresses Jerusalem: but we must see why he calls her 
the daughter of collection. Some think that by this word is 
designated the splendid and wealthy state of Jerusalem; as though 
the Prophet said, - "This city has been hitherto populous, but now 
it shall be reduced to such straits that none shall dare to go forth 
beyond its gates, for they shall on every side be surrounded." But 
the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop in another 
sense, - because they were wont to occasion great troubles: as 
thieves agree together, and meet in troops for the purpose of 
committing plunder; so also the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter 
of a troop, for its citizens were wont willfully to do great evils, 
and like robbers to use violence. Thou then, he says, shalt now be 
collected; that is, thou shalt not send forth thy troops, but 
enemies shall assemble thee together by a severe siege, so that thou 
shalt contract thyself like a bundle. 
    There are, then, two clauses in this verse, - that though the 
Lord resolved to help his Church, he would yet straiten her for a 
time, - and then the Prophet shows the reason, lest they complained 
that they were too severely treated: "You have been hitherto," he 
says, "without a cause oppressive to others: the time then is come 
when the Lord will return to you your recompense." As Isaiah says 
'Woe to thee, plunderer! Shalt thou not also be exposed to plunder?' 
Isa. 33: 1; so also in this place, - "Ye have assembled in troops, 
that ye might pillage innocent men; therefore other troops shall now 
encircle you; nay, ye shall be beset by your own fear." The verb is 
in Hithpael: he says not, "Thou daughter of a troop shalt be now 
encircled;" but he says "Thou shalt gather thyself." 
    He then adds, "A siege has he set against thee". This may refer 
to God; but it must be understood only of enemies: for the Prophet 
immediately adds, "They shall strive with the rod", &c. in the 
pleural number, - "They shall then strike with the rod the cheek of 
the judge of Israel". He means that the Jews would be subdued by 
their enemies that their judges and governors would be exposed to 
every kind of contumely and dishonor, for to strike on the cheek is 
to offer the greatest indignity; as indeed it is the greatest 
contempt, as Demosthenes says, and is so mentioned by the lawyers. 
We now then perceive, that the Prophet's object was to show, - that 
the Jews in vain boasted of their kingdom and civil constitution, 
for the Lord would expose the governors of that kingdom to extreme 
contempt. The enemies then shall strike their judges even on the 
    But there follows immediately a consolation: we hence see that 
the Prophet, at one time, humbles the children of God: and prepares 
them for enduring the cross; and then he mitigates all sorrow; yea, 
and makes them to rejoice in the midst of their evils. For this 
purpose he adds what follows - 
    "Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, art small, that thou shouldest be 
among the thousands of Judah". As Matthew quotes this passage 
differently, some think that it ought to be read as a question, "And 
thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art thou the least among the provinces of 
Judah?" Matthew says "Thou art by no means the least, thou 
excellest. But what need there is of distorting the words of the 
Prophet, as it was not the design of the Evangelist to relate the 
expressions of the Prophet, but only to point out the passage. As to 
the words, Matthew had regards to the condition of the town 
Bethlehem, such as it was at the coming of Christ. It then indeed 
began to be eminent: but the Prophet represents here how ignoble and 
mean a place Bethlehem then was, "Thou, he says, art the least among 
the thousands of Judah". Some, not very wisely, give this 
explanation, "Thou art the least among the thousands of Judah"; that 
is, "Though there might be a thousand towns in the tribe of Judah, 
yet thou couldest hardly have a place among so great a number." But 
this has been said through ignorance of a prevailing custom: for the 
Jews, we know, were wont to divide their districts into thousands or 
chiliads. As in the army there are centurions, so also in the 
divisions of every nation there are hundreds; there are also in an 
army tribunes, who preside over a thousand men. Thus the Prophet 
calls them thousands, that is, tribunes; for the districts are so 
arranged, that the town, which, with its villages, could bring forth 
three thousand men, had three prefectures; and it had three 
tribunes, or four or five, if it was larger. The Prophet then, in 
order to show that this town was small and hardly of any account, 
says, "Thou, Bethlehem, art hardly sufficient to be one province." 
And it was a proof of its smallness that hardly a thousand men could 
be made up from Bethlehem and its neighbouring villages. There were 
not, we know, many towns in the tribe of Judah; and yet a large army 
could be there collected. Since then the town of Bethlehem was so 
small, that it could hardly attain the rank of a province, it is 
hence no doubt evident that it was but a mean town. We now perceive 
what the Prophet had in view. 
    Thou, Bethlehem, he says, art small among the cities of Judah; 
yet arise, or go forth, for me shall one from thee, who is to be a 
Ruler in Israel. He calls it Bethlehem Ephratah; for they say that 
there was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulon, and we know 
that Ephratah in meaning is nearly the same with Bethlehem; for both 
designate an abundance of fruit or provisions: and there David was 
    I will now proceed to the second clause, "From thee shall go 
forth for me one who is to be a Ruler". Here the Prophet introduces 
God as the speaker, go forth, he says, shall one for me. God 
declares in this passage that it was not his purpose so to destroy 
his people, but that he intended, after a season, to restore them 
again. He therefore recalls the attention of the faithful to himself 
and to his eternal counsel; as though he said, - "I have thus for a 
time cast you away, that I may yet manifest my care for you." For me 
then shall go forth one who is to be a Ruler in Israel. Now there is 
no doubt but that the Prophet at the sable time recalls the 
attention of the faithful to the promise which had been given to 
David. For whence arises the hope of salvation to the chosen people, 
except from the perpetuity of that kingdom? The Prophet now says, - 
"There is indeed a reason, according to the perception of the flesh, 
why the faithful should despond; for whence does their confidence 
arise, except from the kingdom of David? and from what place is 
David to arise? Even from Bethlehem; for Bethlehem has been called 
the city of David; and yet it is an obscure and a small town, and 
can hardly be considered a common province. Since it is so, the 
minds of the faithful may be depressed; but this smallness shall be 
no hindrance to the Lord, that he should not bring forth from thence 
a new king." 
    Even before the time of David Bethlehem was a small town, and 
one of the most common provinces. Who could have expected that a 
king would have been chosen from such a hamlet, and then, that he 
should come from a hut? for David belonged to a pastoral family; his 
father was a shepherd, and he was the least among his brethren. Who 
then could have thought that light would have arisen from such a 
corner, yea, from so mean a cottage? This was done contrary to the 
expectations of men. Hence the Prophet sets here before the faithful 
a similar expectation for their comfort; as though he said, - "Has 
not God once formed a most perfect state of things by making David a 
king, so that the people became in every respect happy and blessed? 
And whence did David come? It was from Bethlehem. There is then no 
reason why your present miseries should over-much distress you; for 
God can again from the same place bring forth a king to you, and he 
will do so." 
    "Thou then Bethlehem, small art thou", &c. The prophet 
doubtless intended here that the faithful should consider of what 
kind was the beginning of that most perfect state, when David was 
chosen king. David was a shepherd, a man in humble life, without 
reputation, without influence, and even the humblest among his 
brethren. Since then God had drawn light out of darkness there was 
no cause for the faithful to despair of a future restoration, 
considering what had been the beginning of the previous happy 
condition of the people. We now understand the Prophet's meaning. 
But the rest I cannot finish to-day; I must therefore defer it till 
Greet, Almighty God, that as we cease not to provoke thy wrath 
against us, and as it is needful for us to be often chastised by thy 
hand, that we may be humbled and learn to submit ourselves to thee 
in true and willing obedience, - O grant, that we faint not under 
thy scourges, but ever raise up our minds to the hope of 
deliverance, which thou givest to us through our Mediator; whom thou 
hast once for all sent into the world, that thou mightest through 
him reconcile us to thyself, and through whom also thou bringest 
help whenever we need it and may we at the same time learn to rely 
on thy only-begotten Son, so that with courageous minds we may pass 
through all the miseries of this world, and never at any time grow 
weary, until having at length obtained the victory, we come to that 
blessed rest and enjoy the fruit of our victory, through the same 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 10
(continued in part 11...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-10.txt