Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 14 (... continued from part 13) Lecture Ninety-fourth. We have seen in the last lecture that hypocrites inquire how God is to be pacified, as though they were very solicitous about the performance of their duty; and that in the meantime these are mere disguises; for by circuitous windings they turn here and there, and never wish to come directly to God. The way might have been easily known by them; but they closed their eyes, and at the same time pretended that they had some concern for religion. And this is also very commonly the case in our day; and common experience, if any one opens his eyes, clearly proves this, - that the ungodly, who deal not sincerely with God, profess a very great concern, as though they were wholly intent on serving God, and yet turn aside here and there, and seek many by-paths, that they may not be constrained to present themselves before God. We have already seen, that this false pretence is fully exposed, inasmuch as God has enough, and more than enough, demonstrated in his Law, what he approves and what he requires from men. Why then do hypocrites, as still uncertain, make the inquiry? It is because they are willfully blind at mid-day; for the doctrine of the Law ought to have been to them as a lamp to direct their steps; but they smother this light, yea, they do what they can wholly to extinguish it: they ask, as though perplexed, how can we pacify God? But it ought also to be observed, (for the Prophet says, "Shall I give my first-born, and the fruit of my loins, as an expiation for my soul?") that hypocrites will withhold nothing, provided they are not to devote themselves to God. We see the same thing under the Papacy at this day; they spare no expense, nor even the greatest toils: provided the ungodly have always a freedom to live in sin, they will easily grant to God all other things. For through a false conceit they make a sort of agreement with God: if they mortify themselves, and toil in ceremonies, and if they pour forth some portion of their money, if they sometimes deprive nature of its support, if with fastings and by other things, they afflict themselves, they think that by these means they have fully performed their duties. But these are frivolous trifles; for in the meantime they consider themselves exempt from the duty of obeying God. Being yet unwilling to be regarded as alienated from God, they, at the same time, obtrude on him their meritorious works, to prevent his judgment, and to exempt themselves from the necessity of doing the principal thing, that which he especially requires - to bring a sincere heart. Thus then hypocrites wish to divide things with God, that they may remain within such as they are; and they spread forth outwardly many frivolous things for the purpose of pacifying him. And this is the reason why the Prophet says now, "Shall I give my first-born?" for hypocrites wish to appear as though they were burning with the greatest zeal, - "Rather than that God should remain angry with me, I would not spare the life of my first-born; I would rather be the executioner of my own son: in short, nothing is so valuable to me, which I would not be really to part with, that God may be propitious to me." This indeed is what they boast with their mouth; but at the same time they will not offer their heart as a sacrifice to God: and as they deal dishonestly with God, we see that all is nothing but dissimulation. If any one objects, and says, - that the other rites, of which the Prophet speaks here, had been enjoined by God's Law, the answer is easy; but I shall not now but briefly touch on what I have elsewhere more largely handled: The Prophet denies, that sacrifices avail any thing for the purpose of propitiating God. This may seem inconsistent with the teaching of the Law, but in fact it altogether agrees with it. God indeed wished sacrifices to be offered to him; and then this promise was always added, "Iniquity shall be atoned." But the object must be noticed; for God did not command sacrifices, as though they were of themselves of any worth; but he intended to lead the ancient people by such exercises to repentance and faith. It was therefore his design to remind the Jews that they did no good, except they themselves became sacrifices; and it was also his will that they should look to the only true sacrifice, by which all sins are expiated. But hypocrites, like falsifiers of documents, abused the command of God, and adulterated the sacrifices themselves. It was then a profane sacrilege for them to think that God would be propitious to them, if they offered many oxen and calves and lambs. It was the same thing as if one asked the way, and after having known it, rested quietly and never moved a foot. God had shown the way, by which the Jews might come to repentance and faith: and they ought to have walked in it; but they wickedly trifled with God; for they thought that it would be a satisfaction to his justice, if they only performed outward rites. Whenever then the Prophets in God's name repudiate sacrifices, the abuse, by which God's Law was corrupted, is ever to be considered, that is, when the Jews brought sacrifices, only, and had no respect to the end in view, and did not exercise themselves in repentance and faith. It is for this reason that our Prophet declares, that all sacrifices were of no account before God, but were vain things: they were so, when they were separated from their right end. He then says that God had shown by his Law what is good; and then he adds what it is, to do justice, to love mercy, or kindness, and to be humbled before God. It is evident that, in the two first particulars, he refers to the second table of the Law; that is to do justice, and to love mercy. Nor is it a matter of wonder that the Prophet begins with the duties of love; for though in order the worship of God precedes these duties, and ought rightly to be so regarded, yet justice, which is to be exercised towards men, is the real evidence of true religion. The Prophet, therefore, mentions justice and mercy, not that God casts aside that which is principal - the worship of his name; but he shows, by evidences or effects, what true religion is. Hypocrites place all holiness in external rites; but God requires what is very different; for his worship is spiritual. But as hypocrites can make a show of great zeal and of great solicitude in the outward worship of God, the Prophets try the conduct of men in another way, by inquiring whether they act justly and kindly towards one another, whether they are free from all fraud and violence, whether they observe justice and show mercy. This is the way our Prophet now follows, when he says, that God's Law prescribes what is good, and that is, to do justice - to observe what is equitable towards men, and also to perform the duties of mercy. He afterwards adds what in order is first, and that is, "to humble thyself to walk with God": it is thus literally, "And to be humble in walking with thy God." No doubt, as the name of God is more excellent than any thing in the whole world, so the worship of him ought to be regarded as of more importance than all those duties by which we prove our love towards men. But the Prophet, as I have already said, was not so particular in observing order; his main object was to show how men were to prove that they seriously feared God and kept his Law: he afterwards speaks of God's worship. But his manner of speaking, when he says, that men ought to be humble, that they may walk with their God, is worthy of special notice. Condemned, then, is here all pride, and also all the confidence of the flesh: for whosoever arrogates to himself even the least thing, does, in a manner, contend with God as with an opposing party. The true way then of walking with God is, when we thoroughly humble ourselves, yea, when we bring ourselves down to nothing; for it is the very beginning of worshipping and glorifying God when men entertain humble and low opinion of themselves. Let us now proceed - Micah 6:9 The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and [the man of] wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. The Prophet complains here that he and other teachers did but little, though their cry resounded and was heard by the whole people. He therefore says, that the voice of God cried; as though he had said that there was no excuse for ignorance, for God had indiscriminately exhorted them all to repentance. Now, since what was taught was common to them all, the Prophet deplores their perverseness, for very few were attentive; and the fable was sung, according to the proverb, to the deaf. We must then notice the word "cry"; the voice of God, he says, crieth. God did not whisper in the ear of one or two, but he designed his voice to be heard by all from the least to the greatest. The Prophets then did cry loud enough, but there were no ears to hear them. We may take the word "la'ir" in two ways. "'ir" means a city. But some derive it from "'ur", and render it as if it were written "leha'ir". If "he" is put in, it must be rendered, "To rouse;" and the letter "he" may be concealed under the point chamets; and this sense would be the most suitable, The voice of Jehovah cries to arouse or awaken; that is though the people are torpid, and as it were overpowered with sleep, for they indulged themselves in their sins; yet the voice of God ought to be sufficient to arouse them all: however sleepy they might have been, there was yet power enough in the doctrine of the Law, which the Prophet daily proclaimed. But still this voice, by which the whole people ought to have been awakened, was not heard! "The man of understanding, he says will see thy name". The word "tushiyah" means properly understanding, as it is clear from many other passages; but the Prophet means that there was a very small number who were teachable; and he calls them men of understanding. At the same time, he indirectly reproves the sottishness of the people, though they all boasted that they were wise, and boasted also that they were the learners of the Law. The Prophet shows here by implication, that understanding was a rare thing among that people; for few hearkened to the voice of God. And thus we see what his object was; for he wished to touch the Jews to the quick, that they might acknowledge that they were without mind and understanding, because they had hardened themselves against God, so that his voice did not reach their hearts. He therefore shows that they were all besides themselves; for had they any right understanding, they would have hearkened to God speaking to them, as they were his disciples. What indeed could have been more strange, nay more inhuman, than for men to reject the doctrine of their salvation, and to turn aside from hearing even God himself? Thus the madness of the people was reproved; for though the voice of God sounded in the ears of them all, it was not yet listened to. If one prefers reading, "In the city", then no doubt the Prophet means, that the voice of God was proclaimed through all the cities: for to confine it, as some interpreters do, to Jerusalem, or to Samaria, appears frigid. We must then understand a change of number, and take city for any large concourse of people; as though he had said, that there was no city in which God did not cry and yet that there were ears no where. It afterwards follows, "Shall see thy name". Some render it, Shall fear, as though it was from "yara'"; but it comes on the contrary from "ra'ah"; and rules of grammar will not allow it to be viewed otherwise. And the Prophet speaks in a striking manner, when he says, that "the intelligent man seeth the name of God". For whence proceeded the contempt of wicked men, so that they disregarded the voice of God, except from this - that his majesty had no effect on them; that is, they did not acknowledge that they had to do with God? For if they really understood what I have said, - that God spoke to them, his majesty would have immediately come to view, it would have arrested all their thoughts. God then would have constrained even the most heedless to fear him, had it not been, that they imagined the voice which sounded in their ears was that of man. Significantly then does the Prophet say, that it was the act of singular prudence to see the name of God, that is to understand from whom the doctrine proceeded. For as soon as we hearken to God, his majesty, as I have said, must so penetrate all our thoughts, as to humble us before him, and to constrain us to do him homage. The contempt then of spiritual doctrine, and also the perverseness of ungodly men, proceed from this, - that they see not the name of God, that they understand not that it is his name. He afterwards adds, "Hear ye the rod, and him who proclaims it to you". By rod he means threatening; as though he said, - "Your arrogance in mocking God shall not go unpunished, as though his voice were an empty sound: there is then no reason for you to deceive yourselves with the hope of impunity; for God will avenge the contempt of his word." Now the Prophet's design was, to denounce an approaching vengeance on those who came not willingly to God, and received not his word with genuine docility of mind. Whenever, then, men despise the voice of God, as though it proceeded only from a mortal being, on such Micah denounces an impending vengeance; for the contempt of his word is a thing intolerable to God. This is the reason why he immediately adds, after having complained of the contempt of his word, that vengeance was not afar off; "Hear ye then the rod, and who declares or testifies concerning it". This last clause ought to be especially noticed; for the ungodly are not terrified when God declares that he will be an avenger, because they think not that they must give an account of their life, or they look only on mortal man, "Ah! who speaks? Is he indeed our God? Is he armed with celestial power? Do we not see a mortal man and one like ourselves?" We daily see that the ungodly do thus cast away every fear, and willfully harden themselves against God's judgments. It is not then without reason that the Prophet bids the Jews seriously to consider who testifies of the rod; as though he said, - "I indeed confess that I am a mortal man, but remember who has sent me; for I go not forth as a private individual, nor have I presumptuously intruded into this office; but I am armed with God's command; nay, God himself speaks through my mouth. If then ye despise me, the Lord is present, who will vindicate his own commands for he will not suffer himself to be despised in his servants though they may be contemptible according to the flesh, he will yet have the reverence which it deserves to be paid to his word." We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows - Micah 6:10,11 Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure [that is] abominable? Shall I count [them] pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? Interpreters differ as to the word "ha'ish": some think that it ought to be read "ha'iysh", with an addition of two letters, and render it, "Is it yet man?" But this would render the passage abrupt. Others translate, "Is there yet fire?" As though it was "'esh"; and they suppose that wealth, wickedly and unjustly got, is so called, because it consumes itself. But as this is against what grammar requires, I am more inclined to take their view, who think that "ha'ish" is to be taken here for "hayish", aleph being put for jod: and they rightly consider that the sentence is to be read as a question, Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the ungodly? If this view be approved, then we must consider the Prophet as proposing a question respecting a thing really monstrous, - "How can it be that treasures, gathered by plunder and wickedness, still remain with you, since ye have been so often warned, and since God daily urges you to repentance? How great is your hardness, that no fear of God lays hold on your minds?" But the meaning would not be unsuitable were we to regard God as a Judge examining them concerning a matter unknown, "Are there still the treasures of impiety in the house of the ungodly?" that is, "I will see whether the ungodly and wicked hide their treasures:" for God often assumes the character of earthly judges; not that any thing escapes his knowledge, but that we may know that he is not precipitant in deciding a question. This view, then, is by no means inappropriate, that is, that God here assumes the character of an earthly judge, and thus speaks, "I will see whether there are still treasures concealed by the ungodly; I will search their houses; I will know whether they have as yet repented of their crimes." thus, then, may be understood the words of the Prophet, Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the ungodly? For God, as I have already said, shows that he would know respecting the plunders and the various kinds of cruelty which they had exercised. He then adds, Is there "the bare measure", that is, a measure less than it ought to be, "which is detestable?" Then he says, "Shall I justify?", &c. This verse is connected with the last, and is added as an explanation. For God having come forth as a Judge, now shows what sort of Judge he is, even one who is not biased by favor, who does not change his judgment, who shows no respect of persons. But men, for the most part, greatly deceive themselves, when they transform God according to their own will, and promise to themselves that he will be propitious to them, provided they only make false pretensions to him. God then here declares, that he differs widely from earthly judges, who now incline to one side and then to another, who are changeable, and often deviate from the right course: but, on the contrary, he says here, Shall I justify wicked balances? shall I justify weights of fraud, or deceitful? that is, "Shake off all those delusions by which ye are wont to deceive yourselves; for I do not change either my nature or my purpose; but according to the true teaching of my Law, I will punish all the wicked without any respect of persons: wherever wickedness and iniquity are found, there punishment will be inflicted." We now then understand how these two verses harmonize together. God shows that he will be a judge, and then, that he differs from men, who often change, as it has been said, in their decisions. I will mention another meaning, which will perhaps be preferred by some. The question, after the manner of the Hebrews, may be taken as an affirmation, as though he had said, that within a short time, (for "'od" means sometimes a short time,) the treasures of iniquity would not be found, for they would be taken away: then follows a confirmation, for frauds and robberies by false measures and deceitful weights could not escape God's judgment. The meaning then would be, that as God must necessarily, according to his own office, punish thefts, it cannot be that he will suffer men, who cheat by false weights to continue always unpunished. It now follows - Micah 6:12 For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue [is] deceitful in their mouth. The Prophet means that the people were so given to avarice and plunder, that all the riches they had heaped together had been got by iniquitous robberies or by wicked gain. He now addresses the citizens of Jerusalem: for though iniquity then prevailed through the whole of Judea, there was yet a reason why he should distinctly accuse the inhabitants of Jerusalem; for they must have led the way by their example, and they were also worse in wickedness than the rest of the people: they were at least more obstinate, as they daily heard God's Prophets. Hence he says, "her rich men gather not their wealth" except by violence. It is indeed certain, that the rich were not then alone guilty before God; but this evil has too much prevailed, that the more liberty any one possesses, the more he employs it to do wrong. Those indeed who have not the power refrain, not because they are not inclined to do harm, but because they are as it were restrained; for poverty is often a bridle to men. As then the rich could spread their snares, as they had power to oppress the poor, the Prophet addresses his words to them, not that the rest were without fault or guilt, but because iniquity was more conspicuous in the rich, and that, because their wealthy as I have already said, gave them more power. He afterwards extends his address to all the inhabitants, "They all, he says, speak falsehood, that is, they have no sincerity, no uprightness; they are wholly given to frauds and deceits. And their tongue is false in their mouth. This mode of speaking seems apparently absurd; for where can the tongue be except in the mouth? It appears then a sort of redundancy, when he says that their tongue was deceitful in their mouth. But it is an emphatical mode of speaking, by which the Hebrews mean, that men have falsehoods in readiness as soon as they open their mouth. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, that no pure word and free from guile could come from them, for as soon as they opened their mouth, falsehoods instantly came forth; their tongue was fraudulent, so that none could expect from these men any truth or faithfulness. - How so? Because as soon as they began to speak, they instantly discovered some guile, there was ever in readiness some falsehood to circumvent the simple. We now then see that not a few men were summoned before God's tribunal, but that all without exception were condemned; as though the Prophet had said, that there was no more any integrity in the city, and that corruptions prevailed everywhere, for all were intent on deceiving one another. It follows - Micah 6:13,14 Therefore also will I make [thee] sick in smiting thee, in making [thee] desolate because of thy sins. Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down [shall be] in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and [that] which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword. God, after having declared that he would be the Judge of the people, speaks now more clearly of their punishment. He says therefore that he was armed with vengeance: for it often happens, when a judge, even one who hates wickedness, is not able to punish, for he dreads the fierceness of those whom he thinks himself unequal to restrain. Hence God intimates here, that there will not be wanting to him a power to punish the people, "I will afflict thee, he says, by striking or wounding thee"; for so some render the words. The sum of what is said is, - that nothing would be an obstacle to prevent God from inflicting punishment on the people, for there would be no want of power in his case. There is therefore no reason for men to promise themselves any escape when God ascends his tribunal; for were they fortified by all possible means they could not ward off the hand of God. And he points out what sort of punishment it would be; and he mentions even two kinds in this verse. He says first, "Thou shalt eat, and shalt not be satisfied". One of God's plagues, we know, is famine: and so the Prophet here declares, that the people would be famished, but not through the sterility of the fields. God indeed brings a famine in two ways: now the land yields no fruit; the corn withers, or, being smitten with hail, gives no fruit; and thus God by the sterility of the fields often reduces men to want and famine: then another mode is adopted, by which he can consume men with want, namely, when he breaks the staff of bread, when he takes away from bread its nourishing virtues so that it can no more support men, whatever quantity they may swallow; and this is what experience proves, if only we have eyes to observe the judgments of God. We now see the meaning of this clause, when he says, "Thou shalt eat, and shalt not be satisfied"; as though he said, "I can indeed, whenever it pleases me, deprive you of all food; the earth itself will become barren at my command: but that ye may more clearly understand that your life is in my hand, a good supply of fruit shall be produced, but it shall not satisfy you. Ye shall then perceive that bread is not sufficient to support you; for by eating ye shall not be able to derive from bread any nourishment." He then adds, "And thy dejection shall be in the midst of thee"; that is, though no man from without disturb or afflict thee yet thou shalt pine away with intestine evils. This is the real meaning; and interpreters have not sufficiently considered what the Prophet means, through too much negligence. But the passage ought to be noticed: for the Prophet, after having threatened a famine, not from want, but from the secret curse of God, now adds, "Thy dejection shall be in the midst of thee"; that is "Though I should rouse against thee no enemies, though evidences of my wrath should not appear, so as to be seen at a distance, yea, though no one should disturb thee, yet thy dejection, thy calamity, shall be in the midst of thee, as though it were cleaving to thy bowels; for thou shalt pine away through a hidden malady, when God shall pronounce his curse on thee." He now subjoins another kind of punishment, "Thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver, and what thou shalt deliver, I will give up to the sword". Some read, "A woman shall lay hold," that is, conceive seed, "and shall not preserve it;" and then, "though she may bring forth in due time, I will yet give up what may be born to the sword." But this meaning is too strained. Others apply the words to fathers, "Thou, father, shalt lay hold;" that is thou shalt endeavor to preserve thy children, "and thou shalt not preserve" them. But I wonder that interpreters have thus toiled in vain in a matter so simple and plain. For he addresses here the land, or he addresses the city: as though he said, "The city shall take hold," or embrace, as every one does who wishes to preserve or keep any thing; for what we wish to keep safe, we lay hold on it, and keep it as it were in our arms; "and what thou shalt preserve, I will give up to the sword: thou wilt try all means to preserve thyself and thy people, but thou shalt not succeed: thou shalt then lose all thy labour, for though thou shouldest preserve some, yet the preserved shall not escape destruction." If any one prefers to refer what is said to women, with regard to conception, as the third person of the feminine gender is used, let him have his own opinion; for this sense may certainly be admitted, that is, that the Lord would render the women barren, and that what they might bring forth would be given up to the slaughter, inasmuch as the Lord would at length destroy with the sword both the parents and their children. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou canst find in us cause enough to execute not only one kind of vengeance, but innumerable kinds of vengeance, so as to destroy us at length altogether, - O grant, that we may of our own accord anticipate thy judgment, and with true humility so abhor ourselves, that there may be kindled in us a genuine desire to seek what is just and right, and thus endeavor to devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may find thee to be propitious to us: and since we in so many ways offend thee, grant, that in true and sincere faith we may raise up all our thoughts and affections to thy only-begotten Son, who is our propitiation, that thou being appeased, we may lay hold on him, and remain united to him by a sacred bond, until thou at length gatherest us all into that celestial kingdom, which he has procured for us by his own blood. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 14 (continued in part 15...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-14.txt .