Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 15 (... continued from part 14) Lecture Ninety-fifth. Micah 6:15 Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine. The Prophet adds another kind of punishment, which was to follow the calamity threatened in the last verse. He had said, that those who escaped would at length be destroyed by the sword; he says now, that the whole land would become a prey to enemies: and he took his words from Moses; for it was usual with the prophets, when they wished to secure greater authority to themselves, to quote literally the curses contained in the Law, as in the present instance: see Deut. 28 and Lev. 26. Now it is well known, that God denounced this punishment, with others, on the people, - that when they sowed their fields, another would reap, - that when they cultivated with great labour their vineyards, others would become the vintagers. The meaning is that whatever fruit the land produced, would come into the hands of enemies, for all things would be exposed to plunder. Now it is a very grievous thing, when we see not only our provisions consumed by enemies, but also the fruit of our labour; which is the same as though they were to drink our blood: for the labour of man is often compared to blood, for labour occasions perspiration. It now follows - Micah 6:16 For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people. Some read the words in the future tense, "And they will observe the statutes of Omri," &c., and gather this meaning, - that the Prophet now foresees by the Spirit, that the people would continue so perverse in their sins, as to exclude every hope that they could be reformed by any punishments. The meaning then would be, "The Lord has indeed determined to punish sharply and severely the wickedness of this people; but they will not repent; they will nevertheless remain stupid in their obstinacy, and go on in their superstitions, which they have learned from the kings of Israel." There is however another view, and one more generally approved and that is, - that the Jews, having forsaken God, and despised his Law, had turned aside to the superstitions of the kingdom of Israel. Hence he says, that "observed were the decrees of Omri, and every work of the house of Ahab". Omri was the father of Ahab, who was made king by the election of the soldiers, when Zimri, who had slain the king, was rejected. When Omri bought Samaria, he built there a city; and to secure honor to it, he added a temple; and hence idolatry increased. Afterwards his son Ahab abandoned himself to every kind of superstition. Thus matters became continually worse. Hence the Prophet, by mentioning here king Omri and his posterity, (included in the words, "the house of Ahab") clearly means, that the Jews who had purely worshipped God, at length degenerated, and were now wholly unlike Israelites, as they had embraced all those abominations which Omri and his son Ahab had devised. True religion as yet prevailed in the tribe of Judah, though the kingdom of Israel was become corrupt, and filthy superstitions had gained the ascendancy: but in course of time the Jews became also implicated in similar superstitions. Of this sin the Prophet now accuses them; that is, that they made themselves associates with the Israelites: "Observed then are the edicts of Omri, and the whole work of the house of Ahab": Ye walk, he says, (the future here means a continued act, as often elsewhere,) "ye walk in their counsels". It must be observed, that the Prophet here uses respectable terms, when he says that "chukot", statutes or decrees, were observed; and when he adds, "the counsels" of the kings of Israel: but yet this is in no way stated as an excuse for them; for though men may not only be pleased with, but also highly commend, their own devices, yet the Lord abominates them all. The Prophet no doubt designedly adopted these words, in order to show that those pretenses were frivolous and of no account, which superstitious men adduce, either to commend or to excuse their own inventions. They ever refer to public authority, - "This has been received by the consent of all; that has been decreed; it is not the mistake of one or two men; but the whole Church has so determined: and kings also thus command; it would be a great sin not to show obedience to them." Hence the Prophet, in order to show how puerile are such excuses, says, "I indeed allow that your superstitions are by you honorably distinguished, for they are approved by the edicts of your kings, and are received by the consent of the many, and they seem not to have been inconsiderately and unadvisedly, but prudently contrived, even by great men, who were become skillful through long experience." But how much soever they might have boasted of their statutes and counsels, and however plausibly they might have referred to prudence and power in order to disguise their idolatries, yet all those things were of no account before God. By counsels, the Prophet no doubt meant that false kind of wisdom which always shines forth in the traditions of men; and by statutes, he meant the kingly authority. We hence see that it is a vain thing to color over what is idolatrous, by alleging power on the one hand in its favor, and wisdom on the other. - How so? Because God will not allow dishonor to be done to him by such absurd things; but he commands us to worship him according to what is prescribed in his Word. And now a denunciation of punishment follows, "That I should deliver thee to desolation, and its inhabitants", &c. There is a change of person; the Prophet continually addresses the land, and under that name, the people, - that I should then deliver thee to exile, or desolation, and thine inhabitants to hissing. It is a quotation from Moses: and by hissing he means the reproach and mockery to which men in a miserable state are exposed. At last he adds, "Ye shall bear the reproach of my people". Some take the word, people, in a good sense, as though the Prophet had said here, that God would punish the wrongs which the rich had done to the distressed common people; but this view, in my judgment, is too confined. Others understand this by the reproach of God's people, - that nothing would be more reproachful to the Jews, than that they had been the people of God; for it would redound to their dishonour and disgrace, that they, who had been honored by such an honorable name, were afterwards given up to so great miseries. But the passage may be otherwise explained: we may understand by the people of God the Israelites; as though the Prophet said, "Do ye not perceive how the Israelites have been treated? Were they not a part of my people? They were descendants from the race of Abraham as well as you; nor can you boast of a higher dignity: They were then equal to you in the opinion of all; and yet this privilege did not hinder my judgment, did not prevent me from visiting them as they deserved." Such a view harmonizes with the passage: but there is, as I think, something ironical in the expression, "my people;" as though he said, "The confidence, that ye have been hitherto my people, hardens you: but this false and wicked boasting shall increase your punishment; for I will not inflict on you an ordinary punishment, as on heathens and strangers; but I shall punish your wickedness much more severely; for it is necessary, that your punishment should bear proportion to my favor, which has been so shamefully and basely despised by you." Hence, by the reproach of God's people, I understand the heavier judgments, which were justly prepared for all the ungodly, whom God had favored with such special honor, as to regard them as his people: for the servant, who knew his master's will, and did it not, was on that account more severely corrected, Luke 12: 47. Let us now proceed - Chapter 7. Micah 7:1,2 Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: [there is] no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit. The good [man] is perished out of the earth: and [there is] none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. The meaning of the first verse is somewhat doubtful: some refer what the Prophet says to punishment; and others to the wickedness of the people. The first think that the calamity, with which the Lord had visited the sins of the people, is bewailed; as though the Prophet looked on the disordered state of the whole land. But it may be easily gathered from the second verse, that the Prophet speaks here of the wickedness of the people, rather than of the punishment already inflicted. I have therefore put the two verses together, that the full meaning may be more evident to us. "Woe then to me!" Why? "I am become as gatherings". Too free, or rather too licentious is this version, - "I am become as one who seeks to gather summer-fruits, and finds none;" so that being disappointed of his hope, he burns with desire. This cannot possibly be considered as the rendering of the Prophet's words. There is indeed some difficulty in the expressions: their import, however, seems to be this, - that the land, which the Prophet undertakes here to represent and personify, was like to a field, or a garden, or a vineyard, that was empty. He therefore says, that the land was stripped of all its fruit, as it is after harvest and the vintage. So by "gatherings" we must understand the collected fruit. Some understand the gleanings which remain, as when one leaves carelessly a few clusters on the vines: and thus, they say, a few just men remained alive on the land. But the former comparison harmonizes better with the rest of the passage, and that is, that the land was now stripped of all its fruit, as it is after the harvest and the vintage. I am become then as the gatherings of summer, that is, as in the summer, when the fruit has been already gathered; and as the clusters of the vintage, that is when the vintage is over. "There is no cluster, he says to eat". The Prophet refers here to the scarcity of good men; yea, he says that there were no longer any righteous men living. For though God had ever preserved some hidden seed, yet it might have been justly declared with regard to the whole people, that they were like a field after gathering the corn, or a vineyard after the vintage. Some residue, indeed, remains in the field after harvest, but there are no ears of corn; and in the vineyard some bunches remain, but they are empty; nothing remains but leaves. Now this personification is very forcible when the Prophet comes forth as though he represented the land itself; for he speaks in his own name and person, "Woe is to me, he says, for I am like summer-gatherings!" It was then the same thing, as though he deplored his own nakedness and want, inasmuch as there were not remaining any upright and righteous men. In the second verse he expresses more clearly his mind, "Perished, he says, has the righteous from the land, and there is none upright among men". Here now he does not personify the land. It was indeed a forcible and an emphatic language, when he complained at the beginning, that he groaned as though the land was ashamed of its dearth: but the Prophet now performs the office of a teacher, "Perished, he says, has the righteous from the land; there is no one upright among men; all lay in wait for blood; every one hunts his brother as with a net". In this verse the Prophet briefly shows, that all were full both of cruelty and perfidy, that there was no care for justice; as though he said, "In vain are good men sought among this people; for they are all bloody, they are all frau dulent." When he says, that they all did lay in wait for blood, he no doubt intended to set forth their cruelty, as though he had said, that they were thirsting for blood. But when he adds, that each did lay in wait for their brethren, he alludes to their frauds or to their perfidy. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet: and the manner he adopts is more emphatical than if God, in his own name, had pronounced the words: for, as men were fixed, and as though drowned, in their own carelessness, the Prophet introduces here the land as speaking, which accuses its own children, and confesses its own guilt; yea, it anticipates God's judgment, and acknowledges itself to be contaminated by its own inhabitants, so that nothing pure remained in it. It follows - Micah 7:3 That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge [asketh] for a reward; and the great [man], he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. This verse is properly addressed to the judges and governors of the people, and also to the rich, who oppressed the miserable common people, because they could not redeem themselves by rewards. The Prophet therefore complains, that corruptions so much prevailed in judgments, that the judges readily absolved the most wicked, provided they brought bribes. The sum of what is said then is, that any thing might be done with impunity, for the judges were venal. This is the Prophet's meaning. But as interpreters differ, something shall be said as to the import of the words. "'Al hara' kapayim", "For the evil of their hands" to do good. Some give this explanation, "Though they are openly wicked, yet they make pretenses, by which they cover their wickedness:" and the sense would be this,--that though they had cast aside every care for what was right, they yet had become so hardened in iniquity, that they wished to be deemed good and holy men; for in a disordered state of things the wicked always show an iron front, and would have silence to be observed respecting their shameful deeds. Some interpreters therefore think that the Prophet here complains, that there was now no difference between what was honorable and base, right and wrong; for wicked men dared so to disguise their iniquities, that they did not appear, or, that no one ventured to say any thing against them. Do you, however, examine and consider, whether what the Prophet says may be more fitly connected together in this way, "That they may do good for the wickedness of their hands", that is, to excuse themselves for the wickedness of their hands, they agree together; "for the prince asks, the judge is ready to receive a bribe." Thus, the rich saw that exemption might have been got by them, for they had the price of redemption in their hands: they indeed knew that the judges and princes could be pacified, when they brought the price of corruption. And this is the meaning which I approve, for it harmonizes best with the words of the Prophet. At the same time, some give a different explanation of the verb "leheitiv", that is that they acted vigorously in their wickedness: but this exposition is frigid. I therefore embrace the one I have just stated, which is, - that corruptions so prevailed in the administration of justice, that coverings were ready for all crimes; for the governors and judges were lovers of money, and were always ready to absolve the most guilty, but not without a reward. For the wickedness then of their works, that they may do good, that is, that they may obtain acquittance, the prince only asks; he examines not the case, but only regards the hand; and the judge, he says, judges for reward: the judges also were mercenary. They did not sit to determine what was right and just; but as soon as they were satisfied by bribes, they easily forgave all crimes; and thus they turned vices into virtues; for they made no difference between white and black, but according to the bribe received. This view is consistent with what the Prophet immediately subjoins, "The great, he says, speaks of the wickedness of his soul, even he". By the great, he does not mean the chief men, as some incorrectly think, but he means the rich, who had money enough to conciliate the judges. They then who could bring the price of redemption, dared to boast openly of their wickedness: for so I render the word "hawat", as it cannot be suitable to translate it here, corruption. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does the great; there was then nothing, neither fear nor shame, to restrain the rich from doing wrong. - How so? For they knew that they had to do with mercenary judges and could easily corrupt them. They hence dared to speak of the wickedness of their soul: they did not cloak their crimes, as it is the case when some fear of the Law prevails, when justice is exercised: but as no difference was made between good and evil, the most guilty boasted openly of his wickedness. And the pronoun "hu'", he himself, is also emphatical; and this has not been observed by interpreters. He then himself speaks of the wickedness of his soul; he did not wait until others accuse him of doing wrong, but he shamelessly dared to glory in his crimes; for impunity was certain, as he could close the mouth of the judges by bringing a bribe. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does he himself. And further, they fold zip wickedness; which means, that raging cruelty prevailed, because the governors, and those who wished to purchase liberty to sin, conspired together; as though they made ropes, and thus rendered firm their wickedness. For the great man, that is, the rich and the monied, agreed with the judge, and the judge with him; and so there was a collusion between them. It hence happened, that wickedness possessed, as it were, a tyrannical power; for there was no remedy. We now apprehend the real design of the Prophet, at least as far as I am able to discover. It now follows - Micah 7:4 The best of them [is] as a brier: the most upright [is sharper] than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen [and] thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity. The Prophet confirms what he had previously said, - that the land was so full of every kind of wickedness, that they who were deemed the best were yet thorns and briers, full of bitterness, or very sharp to prick; as though he said, "The best among them is a thief; the most upright among them is a robber." We hence see, that in these words he alludes to their accumulated sins, as though he said, "The condition of the people cannot be worse; for iniquity has advanced to its extreme point: when any one seeks for a good or an upright man, he only finds thorns and briers; that is, he is instantly pricked." But if the best were then like thorns, what must have been the remainder? We have already seen that the judges were so corrupt that they abandoned themselves without feeling any shame to any thing that was base. What then could have been said of them, when the Prophet compares here the upright and the just to thorns; yea, when he says, that they were rougher than briers? Though it is an improper language to say, that the good and the upright among them were like briers; for words are used contrary to their meaning, as it is certain, that those who inhumanely pricked others were neither good nor just: yet the meaning of the Prophet is in no way obscure, - that there was then such license taken in wickedness, that even those who retained in some measure the credit of being upright were yet nothing better than briers and thorns. There is then in the words what may be deemed a concession. He then adds, "The day of thy watchmen, thy visitation comes". He here denounces the near judgment of God, generally on the people, and especially on the rulers. But he begins with the first ranks and says The day of thy watchmen; as though he said, "Ruin now hangs over thy governors, though they by no means expect it." Watchmen he calls the Prophets, who, by their flatteries, deceived the people, as well as their rulers: and he sets the Prophets in the front, because they were the cause of the common ruin. He does not yet exempt the body of the people from punishment; nay, he joins together these two things, - the visitation of the whole people, and the day of the watchmen. And justly does he direct his discourse to these watchmen, who, being blind, blinded all the rest; and who, being perverted, led astray the whole people. This is the reason why the Prophet now, in an especial manner, threatens them; but, as I have already said, the people were not on this account to be excused. There may seem indeed to have been here a fair pretence for extenuating their guilt: the common people might have said that they had not been warned as they ought to have been; nay, that they had been destroyed through delusive falsehoods. And we see at this day that many make such a pretence as this. But a defense of this kind is of no avail before God; for though the common people are blinded, yet they go astray off their own accord, since they lend a willing ear to impostors. And even the reason why God gave loose reins to Satan as well as to his ministers, and why he gives, as Paul says, (2 Thess. 2: 11,) power to delusion, is this, - because the greater part of the world ever seeks to be deceived. The denunciation of the Prophet then is this, - that as the judges and the Prophets had badly exercised their office, they would be led to the punishment which they deserved, for they had been, as it has been elsewhere observed, the cause of ruin to others: in the meantime, the common people were not excusable. The vengeance of God then would overtake them and from the least to the greatest, without any exemption. Thy visitation then comes. He afterwards speaks in the third person, "Then shall be their confusion", or perplexity, or they shall be ashamed. The Prophet here alludes indirectly to the hardness of the people; for though the Prophets daily threatened them, they yet remained all of them secure; nay, we know that all God's judgments were held in derision by them. As then the faithful teachers could not have moved wicked men either with fear or with shame, the Prophet says, "Then confusion shall come to them"; as though he said, "Be hardened now as much as ye wish to be, as I see that you are stupid, yea, senseless, and attend not to the word of the Lord; but the time of visitation will come, and then the Lord will constrain you to be ashamed, for he will really show you to be such as ye are; and he will not then contend with you in words as he does now; but the announced punishment will divest you of all your false pretenses; and he will also remove that waywardness which now hardens you against wholesome doctrine and all admonitions." Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that seeing that we are born in a most corrupt age, in which such a license is taken to indulge in wickedness, that hardly a spark of virtue appears, - O grant, that we may yet continue upright in the midst of thorns; and do thou so constantly keep us under the guidance of thy Word, that we may cultivate true piety, and also what is just towards our neighbours: and as there is in us no power to preserve ourselves safe, grant that thy Son may so protect us by the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may continue to advance towards the end of our course, until we be at length gathered into that celestial kingdom, which he has procured for us by his own blood. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 15 (continued in part 16...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-15.txt .