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 floor. 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 cheek". 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 born. 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 to-morrow. Prayer. 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 .