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 
    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." 
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