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

Lecture Ninety-first. 
    We began yesterday to explain the promise by which our Prophet 
designed to sustain the minds of the faithful, lest they should 
despair in their heavy trial. He reminds them, as it has been 
stated, of the commencement of the kingdom: as David had been raised 
as it were from nothing, and God has given in him an example of his 
wonderful grace, the Prophet reminds the godly, that the same is now 
to be expected, that God will again raise up the fallen kingdom. "Go 
forth then from Bethlehem, he says, shall one who is to be a Ruler 
in Israel", though it was but a mean town. He calls him a Ruler in 
Israel; for he had before declared that there would be such a 
dreadful judgment, that the enemy would strike with the hand the 
face of the judge; and this was the same as though the Prophet had 
said, that no honour would be shown to the people, for the chief 
himself would be beaten. He therefore now promises a new Ruler, he 
promises that there would be again some civil order to be found 
among the people; for a governor could not have been struck on the 
check, except all authority and honor had departed. We then see what 
the Prophet intended by mentioning the word, Ruler; it was to show, 
that God would again cause that a new Prince would arise to govern 
the people. It was therefore a remedy to their devastation. 
    But the Prophet subjoins, "His going forth is from the 
beginning", or from far antiquity "and from the days of ages", that 
is from the days of eternity. He intimates here that it would not be 
a sudden thing, that a prince should arise to govern the people; for 
it had been already long ago determined by God. This is the plain 
meaning. Some, I know, pertinaciously maintain, that the Prophet 
speaks here of the eternal existence of Christ; and as for myself I 
willingly own that the divinity of Christ is here proved to us; but 
as this will never be allowed by the Jews, I prefer taking the words 
simply as they are, - that Christ will not come forth unexpectedly 
from Bethlehem, as though God had previously determined nothing 
respecting him. "His goings forth, then, are from the beginning". 
But others bring a new refinement, - that the Prophet uses the 
plural number, his goings forth, to designate the twofold nature of 
Christ: but there is in this an absurdity; for the Prophet could not 
properly nor wisely mention the human nature of Christ with the 
divine, with reference to eternity. The Word of God, we know, was 
eternal; and we know, that when the fulness of time came, as Paul 
says, Christ put on our nature, (Gal. 4: 4.) Hence the beginning of 
Christ as to the flesh was not so old, if his existence be spoken 
of: to set them together then would have been absurd. It is a common 
thing in Hebrew to use the plural for the singular number. He says 
then, that the going forth of Christ is from eternity; for he will 
not go forth suddenly from Bethlehem, as one who rises unexpectedly 
to bring help, when things are in a hopeless state, and so rises, 
when nothing had been foreseen. But the Prophet declares that the 
going forth of Christ would be different, - that God had from the 
beginning determined to give his people an eternal king. 
    At the same time, we must repudiate that gloss with which the 
Rabbis are pleased; for they say that the Messiah was created before 
the creation of the world, and also the throne of eternity, and the 
Law, and other things; but these are insipid fables. The Prophet 
shows simply, that even before the world was made Christ was chief, 
no he is also called the Firstborn of every creature, for by him all 
things were created, (Col. 1: 15:) and the same Word of God, by whom 
the world was created, is to be the Head of the Church and by him 
what has been lost is to be recovered. We now then comprehend what 
the Prophet meant by saying, the goings forth of Christ are from 
eternity. But I would not concede to the Jews, that only by the 
perpetual appointment of God the going forth of Christ has been from 
the beginning, or from all ages: but two things must be noticed by 
us, - that Christ, who was manifested in the flesh that he might 
redeem the Church of God, was the eternal Word, by whom the world 
was created, - and then, that he ass destined by the eternal counsel 
of God to be the first-born of every creature, and especially to be 
the Head of the Church, that he might restore a fallen world by his 
grace and power. 
    We now then see the reason why the Prophet connects together 
these two things, - that there would go forth one from Bethlehem who 
would rule among Israel, - and yet that his goings forth have been 
from eternity: for if he had only said what I explained yesterday, 
an objection might easily have been made, and this might have come 
into the mind of some, - "Why dost thou say that one will come from 
Bethlehem who will govern the chosen people, as though God were to 
contrive a new remedy on seeing that it is all over with respect to 
the deliverance of his Church?" The Prophet here anticipates this 
objection, and reminds us, that his goings forth have been from 
eternity, that they have been already decreed, even from the 
beginning; for with God there is nothing new, so that he should 
stand in need of holding any unlooked for consultation; as is the 
case with us when any thing happens which we in no degree 
apprehended; we then find it necessary to devise some new measures. 
The Prophet shows that nothing of this kind can happen to God: but 
all this, - that people are reduced to nothing, - and that they are 
again restored by Christ, - all this is overruled by his secret and 
incomprehensible providence. His goings forth then are from the 
beginning, and from the days of eternity. Let us proceed - 
Micah 5:3 
Therefore will he give them up, until the time [that] she which 
travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren 
shall return unto the children of Israel. 
    The Prophet here again so moderates his words, that the Jews 
might understand, that they were to endure many evils before God 
relieved their miseries. He wished then here to prepare the minds of 
the godly to bear evils, that they might not despair in great 
troubles, nor be depressed by extreme fear. He then states these two 
things, - that the people, as they deserved, would be heavily 
afflicted, - and then that God, notwithstanding such severe 
punishment, would be mindful of his covenant, so as to gather at 
length some remnants and not to suffer his people to be wholly 
destroyed. He therefore promises a middle course between a 
prosperous state and destruction. The people, says the Prophet, 
shall not continue entire. - How so? For God will cut off the 
kingdom and the city; and yet he will afford relief to the 
miserable: When they shall think that they are given up to entire 
ruin, he will stretch forth his hand to them. This is the sum of the 
    He then says that they shall be delivered up, that is, forsaken 
by God, until she who is in travail bringeth forth. There are those 
who apply this to the blessed virgin; as though Micah had said that 
the Jews were to look forward to the time when the Virgin would 
bring forth Christ: but all may easily see that this is a forced 
interpretation. The Prophet, I have no doubt, in using this 
similitude, compares the body of the people to a woman with child. 
The similitude of a woman in travail is variously applied. The 
wicked, when they promise to themselves impunity, are suddenly and 
violently laid hold on: thus their destruction is like the travail 
of a woman with child. But the meaning of this passage is different; 
for the Prophet says that the Jews would be like pregnant women, for 
this reason, - that though they would have to endure the greatest 
sorrows, there yet would follow a joyful and happy issue. And Christ 
himself employs this example for the same purpose, 'A woman,' he 
says, 'has sorrow when she brings forth, but immediately rejoices 
when she sees a man born into the world,' (John 16: 21.) So Micah 
says in this place, that the chosen people would have a happy 
deliverance from their miseries, for they would bring forth. There 
shall indeed be the most grievous sorrows, but their issue will be 
joy, that is, when they shall know that they and their salvation had 
been the objects of God's care, when they shall understand that 
their chastisements had been useful to them. "Until then she who is 
in travail bringeth forth, God, he says, will forsake them". 
    There are then two clauses in this verse; - the first is, that 
the Jews were for a time to be forsaken, as though they were no 
longer under the power and protection of God; - the other is that 
God would be always their guardian, for a bringing forth would 
follow their sorrows. The following passage in Isaiah is of an 
opposite character; 'We have been in sorrow, we have been in 
travail, and we brought forth wind,' (Isa. 26: 18.) The faithful 
complain there that they had been oppressed with the severest 
troubles, and had come to the birth, but that they brought forth 
nothing but wind, that is, that they had been deceived by vain 
expectation, for the issue did not prove to be what they had hoped. 
But the Lord promises here by Micah something better, and that is, 
that the end of all their evils would be the happy restoration of 
the people, as when a woman receives a compensation for all her 
sorrows when she sees that a child is born. 
    And he confirms this sentence by another, when he says, "To the 
children of Israel shall return, or be converted, the residue of his 
brethren". The Prophet then intimates that it could not be otherwise 
but that God would not only scatter, but tread under foot his 
people, so that their calamity would threaten an unavoidable 
destruction. This is one thing; but in the meantime he promises that 
there would be some saved. But he speaks of a remnant, as we have 
observed elsewhere, lest hypocrites should think that they could 
escape unpunished, while they trifled with God. The Prophet then 
shows that there would come such a calamity as would nearly 
extinguish the people, but that some would be preserved through 
God's mercy and that beyond ordinary expectation. We now perceive 
the intention of the Prophet. It now follows - 
Micah 5:4 
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the 
majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for 
now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. 
    There is no doubt but that the Prophet continues here to speak 
of Christ; and though the Jews shamelessly pervert the whole 
Scripture, they yet cannot deny that Micah calls here the attention 
of all the godly to the coming of Christ, yea, of all who hope or 
desire to obtain salvation. This is certain. Let us now see what the 
Prophet ascribes to Christ. 
    "He shall stand, he says, and feed in the power of Jehovah". 
The word, stand, designates perseverance, as though he had said, 
that it would not be for a short time that God would gather by 
Christ the remnant of the people; that it would not be, as it often 
happens, when some rays of joy shine, and then immediately vanish. 
The Prophet shows here that the kingdom of Christ would be durable 
and permanent. It will then proceed; for Christ will not only rule 
his Church for a few days, but his kingdom will continue to stand 
through unbroken series of years and of ages. We nor then understand 
the Prophet's object. 
    He adds in the second place, "He shall feed in the strength of 
Jehovah, in the greatness of the name of Jehovah his God"; by which 
words he means, that there would be sufficient power in Christ to 
defend his Church. The Church, we know, is in this world subject to 
various troubles, for it is never without enemies; for Satan always 
finds those whom he induces, and whose fury he employs to harass the 
children of God. As then the Church of God is tossed by many 
tempests, it has need of a strong and invincible defender. Hence 
this distinction is now ascribed by our Prophet to Christ, - that he 
shall feed in the strength of Jehovah, and in the majesty of his 
God. As to the word feed, it no doubt expresses what Christ is to 
his people, to the flock committed to him and to his care. Christ 
then rules not in his Church as a dreaded tyrant, who distresses his 
subjects with fear; but he is a Shepherd who gently deals with his 
flock. Nothing therefore can exceed the kindness and gentleness of 
Christ towards the faithful, as he performs the office of a 
Shepherd: and he prefers to be adorned with this, title, rather than 
to be called and deemed a kings, or to assume authority to himself. 
But the Prophet, on the other hand, shows, that the power of Christ 
would be dreadful to the ungodly and wicked. He shall feed, he says, 
- with regard to his flock, Christ will put on a character full of 
gentleness; for nothing, as I have said can imply more kindness than 
the word shepherd: but as we are on every side surrounded by 
enemies, the Prophet adds, - 
    "He shall feed in the power of Jehovah and in the majesty of 
the name of Jehovah"; that is as much power as there is in God, so 
much protection will there be in Christ, whenever it will be 
necessary to defend and protect the Church against her enemies. Let 
us hence learn that no less safety is to be expected from Christ, 
than there is of power in God. Now, since the power of God, as we 
confess, is immeasurable, and since his omnipotence far surpasses 
and swallows up all our conceptions, let us hence learn to extend 
both high and low all our hopes. - Why so? Because we have a King 
sufficiently powerful, who has undertaken to defend us, and to whose 
protection the Father has committed us. Since then we have been 
delivered up to Christ's care and defense, there is no cause why we 
should doubt respecting our safety. He is indeed a Shepherd, and for 
our sake he thus condescended and refused not so mean a name; for in 
a shepherd there is no pomp nor grandeur. But though Christ, for our 
sake, put on the character of a Shepherd, and disowns not the 
office, he is yet endued with infinite power. - How so? Because he 
governs not the Church after a human manner, "but in the majesty of 
the name of his God." 
    Now, that he subjects Christ to God, he refers to his human 
nature. Though Christ is God manifested in the flesh, he is yet made 
subject to God the Father, as our Mediator and the Head of the 
Church in human nature: he is indeed the middle Person between God 
and us. This then is the reason why the Prophet now says, that 
Christ has power, as it were, at the will of another; not that 
Christ is only man, but as he appears to us in the person of man, he 
is said to receive power from his Father; and this, as it has been 
said, with respect to his human nature. There is yet another reason 
why the Prophet has expressly added this, - that we may know that 
Christ, as the protector of the Church, cannot be separated from his 
Father: as then God is God, so Christ is his minister to preserve 
the Church. In a word, the Prophet means that God is not to be 
viewed by the faithful, except through the intervening Mediator; and 
he means also that the Mediator is not to be viewed, except as one 
who receives supreme power from God himself and who is armed with 
omnipotence to preserve his people. 
    He afterwards adds, "They shall dwell; for he shall now be 
magnified to the extremities of the earth". He promises a secure 
habitation to the faithful; for Christ shall be extolled to the 
utmost regions of the world. We here see that he is promised to 
foreign nations: for it would have been enough for Christ to 
exercise his supreme power within the borders of Judea, had only one 
nation been committed to his safe keeping. But as God the Father 
intended that he should be the author of salvation to all nations, 
we hence learn that it was necessary that he should be extolled to 
the utmost borders of the earth. But with regard to the word dwell, 
it is explained more fully in the next verse, when the Prophet says 
Micah 5:5 
And this [man] shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into 
our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we 
raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. 
    Micah, as I have said, confirms his former statement. By the 
word dwell, he no doubt meant a quiet and peaceable inhabitation; as 
though he had said, that the children of God would, under Christ, be 
safe and secure. Now he adds, "And he shall be our peace". It might 
have been asked, "Whence will come this secure dwelling? For the 
land has been very often wasted, and the people have been at length 
driven to exile. How then can we now venture to hope for what thou 
promises, that we shall be quiet and secure?" Because, he says, "He 
shall be our peace"; and we ought to be satisfied with the 
protection of the King whom God the Father has given us. Let his 
shadow, then, suffice us, and we shall be safe enough from all 
troubles. We now see in what sense the Prophet calls Christ the 
Peace of his people or of his Church; he so calls him because he 
will drive far away all hurtful things, and will be armed with 
strength and invincible power to check all the ungodly, that they 
may not make war on the children of God, or to prevent them in their 
course, should they excite any disturbances. 
    We further know, that Christ is in another way our peace; for 
he has reconciled us to the Father. And what would it avail us to be 
safe from earthly annoyances, if we were not certain that God is 
reconciled to us? Except then our minds acquiesce in the paternal 
benevolence of God, we must necessarily tremble at all times, though 
no one were to cause us any trouble: nay, were all men our friends, 
and were all to applaud us, miserable still would be our condition, 
and we should toil with disquietude, except our consciences were 
pacified with the sure confidence that God is our Father. Christ 
then can be our peace in no other way than by reconciling God to us. 
But at the same time the Prophet speaks generally, - that we shall 
lie safely under the shadow of Christ, and that no evil ought to be 
feared, - that though Satan should furiously assail us, and the 
whole worth become mad against us, we ought yet to fear nothing, if 
Christ keeps and protects us under his wings. This then is the 
meaning, when it is said here that Christ is our peace. 
    He afterwards subjoins, "When the Assyrian shall come into our 
land, and when he shall tread in our palaces then we shall raise up 
against him or on him, seven shepherds and eighty princes of the 
people." The Prophet intimates that the Church of God would not be 
free from troubles, even after the coming of Christ: for I am 
disposed to refer this to the intervening time, though interpreters 
put another construction on the words of the Prophet. But this 
meaning, is far more suitable, - that while the help which God 
promised was expected and yet suspended, the Assyrians would come, 
who would pass far and wide through the land of Israel. Hence he 
says, that though Assur should come to our land, and break through, 
with such force and violence that we could not drive him out, we 
shall yet set up for ourselves shepherds and princes against him. It 
must at the same time be observed, that this prophecy is not to be 
confined to that short time; for the Prophet speaks generally of the 
preservation of the Church before as well as after the coming of 
Christ; as though he said, - "I have said that the king, who shall 
be born to you, and shall go forth from Bethlehem, shall be your 
peace; but before he shall be revealed to the world, God will gather 
his Church, and there shall emerge as from a dead body Princes as 
well as Shepherds, who will repel unjust violence, nay, who will 
subdue the Assyrians." 
    We now see what the prophet had in view: After having honored 
Christ with this remarkable commendation - that he alone is 
sufficient to give us a quiet life, he adds that God would be the 
preserver of his Church, so as to deliver it from its enemies. But 
there is a circumstance here expressed which ought to be noticed: 
Micah says, that when the Assyrians shall pass through the land and 
tread down all the palaces, God would then become the deliverer of 
his people. It might have been objected, and said, "Why not sooner? 
Would it have been better to prevent this? Why! God now looks as it 
were indifferently on the force of the enemies, and loosens the 
reins to them, that they plunder the whole land, and break through 
to the very middle of it. Why then does not God give earlier 
relief?" But we see the manner in which God intends to preserve his 
Church: for as the faithful often need some chastisement, God 
humbles them when it is expedient, and then delivers them. This is 
the reason why God allowed such liberty to the Assyrians before he 
supplied assistance. And we also see that this discourse is so 
moderated by the Prophet, that he shows, on the one hand, that the 
Church would not always be free from evils, - the Assyrians shall 
come, they shall tread down our palaces, - this must be endured by 
God's children, and ought in time to prepare their minds to bear 
troubles; but, on the other hand, a consolation follows; for when 
the Assyrians shall thus penetrate into our land, and nothing shall 
be concealed or hidden from them, then the Lord will cause new 
shepherds to arise. 
    The Prophet means that the body of the people would be for some 
time mutilated and, as it were, mangled; and so it was, until they 
returned from Exile. For he would have said this to no purpose, "We 
shall set up for ourselves", if there had been an unbroken 
succession of regular government; he could not have said in that 
case, After Assur shall come into our land, we shall set up princes; 
but, There shall be princes when Assur shall come. The word "set up" 
denotes then what I have stated, - that the Church would be for a 
time without any visible head. Christ indeed has always been the 
Head of the Church; but as he designed himself to be then seen in 
the family of David as in an image or picture, so the Prophet shows 
here, that though the faithful would have to see the head cut off 
and the Church dead, and like a dead body cast aside, when torn from 
its head; yea, that though the Church would be in this state 
dreadfully desolated, there is yet a promise of a new resurrection. 
We shall then set up, or choose for ourselves shepherds. 
    If any one raises an objection and says that it was God's 
office to make shepherds for his people, - this indeed I allow to be 
true: but this point has not been unwisely mentioned by the Prophet; 
for he extols here the favor of God, in granting again their liberty 
to his people. In this especially consists the best condition of the 
people, when they can choose, by common consent, their own 
shepherds: for when any one by force usurps the supreme power, it is 
tyranny; and when men become kings by hereditary right, it seems not 
consistent with liberty. We shall then set up for ourselves princes, 
says the Prophet; that is, the Lord will not only give breathing 
time to his Church, and will also cause that she may set up a fixed 
and a well-ordered government, and that by the common consent of 
    By "seven" and "eight", the Prophet no doubt meant a great 
number. When he speaks of the calamities of the Church, it is aid, 
'There shall not be found any to govern, but children shall rule 
over you.' But the Prophet says here that there would be many 
leaders to undertake the care of ruling and defending the people. 
The governors of the people shall therefore be seven shepherds and 
eight princes; that is, the Lord will endure many by his Spirit, 
that they shall be suddenly wise men: though before they were in no 
repute, though they possessed nothing worthy of great men, yet the 
Lord will enrich them with the spirit of power, that they shall 
become fit to rule. The Prophet now adds - 
Micah 5:6 
And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the 
land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver [us] 
from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he 
treadeth within our borders. 
    In this verse the Prophet says, that the shepherds, chosen by 
the Church, after it had been miserably oppressed by the tyranny of 
its enemies, would have a twofold office. They shall first feed; 
that is, nourish the Church of God; - and, secondly, they shall 
feed; that is, destroy the land of Asshur, so that nothing may 
remain there whole and entire. God will then arm these shepherds 
with warlike courage; for they must fight boldly and courageously 
against their enemies: he says, "They shall feed on the land of 
Nimrod with their swords". Nimrod, we know, reigned in Chaldea; and 
we know also that the ten tribes were led away by Shalmanezer, and 
that the kingdom of Israel was thus demolished: when the Chaldeans 
obtained the empire, the kingdom of Judah was also laid waste by 
them. Now the import of the words is, that these shepherds would be 
sufficiently strong to oppose all the enemies of the Church, whether 
they were the Babylonians or the Assyrians. And he names the 
Assyrians and Babylonians, because they had then a contest with the 
people of God; and this continued to the coming of Christ, though it 
is certain that they suffered more troubles from Antiochus than from 
others: but as he was one of the successors of Alexander, the 
Prophet here, taking a part for the whole, means, by the Assyrians 
and Chaldeans, all the enemies of the Church, whoever they might be. 
"Waste, he says, shall these shepherds the land of Asshur by the 
sword, and the land of Nimrod, and that by their swords. 
    But this shall not be until the Chaldeans and the Assyrians 
"shall penetrate into our land, and tread in our borders". The 
Prophet again reminds the faithful, that they stood in need of 
patience, and that they were to know that God had not made a vain 
promise. The import of the whole is, that no deliverance was to be 
expected from God's hand until the faithful yielded their necks to 
his yoke, and patiently sustained the evils which were then 
approaching. The Prophet then mentions the intervening time between 
that state in which the Jews gloried and their deliverance. Why so? 
Because they were soon after to be smitten heavily by God's hand; 
but this, as we have seen, they did not think would take place. 
Hence he says, - "Since you cannot yet be made to believe that 
merited punishment is nigh you, experience shall be your teacher. In 
the meantime, let the faithful provide themselves with courage and, 
with a meek heart, patiently to submit to God, the righteous Judge: 
but, at the same time, let them expect a sure deliverance, when they 
shall have gone through all their evils; for when the ripened time 
shall come, the Lord will look on his Church; but she must be first 
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast from the beginning so 
defended thy Church, that thou hast never wholly forsaken her, and 
though it had nearly rejected thee by its defections, yet it has 
been thy pleasure to stand firm to thy covenant, and to show to it 
thy favour through all ages, until at length the everlasting 
Redeemer of the whole world appeared, - O grant, that we may 
experience the same favor at this day, and though we have in various 
ways provoked thy wrath against us, yet do thou so humble us, that 
thou mayest sustain us by thy hand; and may we so recumb on those 
promises which we find in Scripture, that we may at length by our 
patience overcome our enemies, and in patience possess our souls, 
until thou raisest up thine hand, and slowest that invincible power 
which thou hast given to thy only-begotten Son, that he might 
repress the devil and all the wicked, and preserve us safe and 
secure from all injuries. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 11
(continued in part 12...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-11.txt