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 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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. 
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