Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 18
(... continued from part 16)

Lecture Ninety-seventh. 
    In the last lecture I repeated the tenth verse of the last 
chapter, in which the prophet adds, as a cause of the greatest joy, 
that the enemies of the Church shall see granted, to their great 
mortification, the wonderful favor of which the Prophet had been 
speaking. But he describes these enemies, under the character of an 
envious woman, as the Church of God is also compared to a woman: and 
this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. He then calls 
Jerusalem his rival, or Babylon, or some city of his enemies. 
    And he says, "Covered shall she be with shame". We know that 
the ungodly grow insolent when fortune smiles on them: hence in 
prosperity they keep within no bounds, for they think that God is 
under their feet. If prosperity most commonly has the effect of 
making the godly to forget God and even themselves, it is no wonder 
that the unbelieving become more and more hardened, when God is 
indulgent to them. With regard then to such a pride, the Prophet now 
says, "When my enemy shall see, shame shall cover her"; that is, she 
will not continue in her usual manner, to elate herself with her own 
boastings: nay, she will be compelled for shame to hide herself; for 
she will see that she had been greatly deceived, in thinking that I 
should be wholly ruined. 
    He afterwards adds, "Who said to me, Where is Jehovah thy God?" 
The Church of God in her turn triumphs here over the unbelieving, 
having been delivered by divine power; nor does she do this for her 
own sake, but because the ungodly expose the holy name of God to 
reproach, which is very common: for whenever God afflicts his 
people, the unbelieving immediately raise their crests, and pour 
forth their blasphemies against God, when yet they ought, on the 
contrary, to humble themselves under his hand. But since God 
executes his judgments on the faithful, what can be expected by his 
ungodly despisers? If God's vengeance be manifested in a dreadful 
manner with regard to the green tree, what will become of the dry 
wood? And the ungodly are like the dry wood. But as they are blind 
as to God's judgments, they petulantly deride his name, whenever 
they see the Church afflicted, as though adversities were not the 
evidences of God's displeasure: for he chastises his own children, 
to show that he is the judge of the world. But, as I have already 
said, the ungodly so harden themselves in their stupor, that they 
are wholly thoughtless. The faithful, therefore, after having found 
God to be their deliverer, do here undertake his cause; they do not 
regard themselves nor their own character, but defend the 
righteousness of God. Such is this triumphant language, "Who said, 
Where is now Jehovah thy God?" "I can really show that I worship the 
true God, who deserts not his people in extreme necessity: after he 
has assisted me, my enemy, who dared to rise up against God, now 
seeks hiding-places." 
    "She shall now, he says, be trodden under foot as the mire of 
the streets; and my eyes shall see her". What the Prophet declares 
in the name of the Church, that the unbelieving shall be like mire, 
is connected with the promise, which we already noticed; for God so 
appears as the deliverer of his Church, as not to leave its enemies 
unpunished. God then, while he aids his own people, leads the 
ungodly to punishment. Hence the Church, while embracing the 
deliverance offered to her, at the same time sees the near ruin, 
which impends on all the despisers of God. But what is stated, "See 
shall my eyes", ought not to be so taken, as though the faithful 
exult with carnal joy, when they see the ungodly suffering the 
punishment which they have deserved; for the word to see is to be 
taken metaphorically, as signifying a pleasant and joyful sight, 
according to what it means in many other places; and as it is a 
phrase which often occurs, its meaning must be well known. See then 
shall my eyes, that is, "I shall enjoy to look on that calamity, 
which now impends over all the ungodly." But, as I have already 
said, carnal joy is not what is here intended, which intemperately 
exults, but that pure joy which the faithful experience on seeing 
the grace of God displayed and also his judgment. But this joy 
cannot enter into our hearts until they be cleansed from unruly 
passions; for we are ever excessive in fear and sorrow, as well as 
in hope and joy, except the Lord holds us in, as it were, with a 
bridle. We shall therefore be only then capable of this spiritual 
joy, of which the Prophet speaks, when we shall put off all 
disordered feelings, and God shall subdue us by his Spirit: then 
only shall we be able to retain moderation in our joy. The Prophet 
proceeds - 
Micah 7:11,12 
[In] the day that thy walls are to be built, [in] that day shall the 
decree be far removed. 
[In] that day [also] he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and 
[from] the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the 
river, and from sea to sea, and [from] mountain to mountain. 
    Micah pursues the subject on which he had previously spoken, - 
that though the Church thought itself for a time to be wholly lost, 
yet God would become its deliverer. He says first, that the day was 
near, in which they were to build the wall. The word "gader" means 
either a mound or a wall; so it ought to be distinguished from a 
wall, that is, a strong fortress. He then intimates that the time 
would come, when God would gather his Church, and preserve it, as 
though it were defended on every side by walls. For we know that the 
scattering of the Church is compared to the pulling down of walls or 
fences: as when a person pulls down the fence of a field or a 
vineyard, or breaks down all enclosures; so when the Church is 
exposed as a prey to all, she is said to be like an open field or a 
vineyard, which is without any fence. Now, on the other hand, the 
Prophet says here, that the time would come, when the faithful shall 
again build walls, by which they may be protected from the assaults 
and plunder of enemies, A day then to build thy walls. 
    Then he adds, "This day shall drive afar off the edict"; some 
render it tribute; but the word properly means an edict, and this 
best suits the passage; for the Prophet's meaning is, that the 
people would not, as before, be subject to the tyranny of Babylon. 
For after the subversion of Jerusalem, the Babylonians, no doubt, 
triumphed very unfeelingly over the miserable people, and uttered 
dreadful threatening. The Prophet, therefore, under the name of 
edict, includes that cruel and tyrannical dominion which the 
Babylonians for a time exercised. We know what God denounces on the 
Jews by Ezekiel, 'Ye would not keep my good laws; I will therefore 
give you laws which are not good, which ye shall be constrained to 
keep; and yet ye shall not live in them,' (Ezek. 20: 25.) Those laws 
which were not good were the edicts of which the Prophet now speaks. 
That day then shall drive far away the edict, that the Jews might 
not dread the laws of their enemies. For the Babylonians no doubt 
forbade, under the severest punishment, any one from building even a 
single house in the place where Jerusalem formerly was; for they 
wished that place to remain desolate, that the people might know 
that they had no hope of restoration. "That day then shall put afar 
off", or drive to a distance, "the edict"; for liberty shall be 
given to the Jews to build their city; and then they shall not 
tremblingly expect every hour, until new edicts come forth, 
denouncing grievous punishments on whomsoever that would dare to 
encourage his brethren to build the temple of God. 
    Some draw the Prophet's words to another meaning: they first 
think that he speaks only of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and 
then they take "rachak" in the sense of extending or propagating, 
and consider this to be the Gospel which Christ, by the command of 
the Father, promulgated through the whole world. It is indeed true 
that David uses the word decree in Ps. 2, while speaking of the 
preaching of the Gospel; and it is also true, that the promulgation 
of that decree is promised in Ps. 110, 'The rod of his power will 
Jehovah send forth from Zion.' But this passage ought not to be thus 
violently perverted; for the Prophet no doubt means, that the Jews 
would be freed from all dread of tyranny when God restored them to 
liberty; and "rachak" does not mean to extend or propagate, but to 
drive far away. That day then shall drive away the decree, so that 
the faithful shall be no more subject to tyrannical commands. We now 
perceive the true meaning of the Prophet. 
    The faithful doubtless prayed in their adversities, and 
depended on such prophecies as we find in Ps. 102, 'The day is now 
come to show mercy to Zion, and to build its walls; for thy servants 
pity her stones.' Nor did the faithful pray thus presumptuously, but 
taking confidence, as though God had dictated a form of prayer by 
his own mouth, they dealt with God according to his promise, "O 
Lord, thou hast promised the rebuilding of the city, and the time 
has been prefixed by Jeremiah and by other Prophets: since then the 
time is now completed, grant that the temple and the holy city may 
again be built." 
    Some render the words, "In the day in which thou shalt build 
(or God shall build) thy walls - in that day shall be removed afar 
off the decree." But I doubt not but that the Prophet promises here 
distinctly to the faithful both the restoration of the city and a 
civil freedom; for the sentence is in two parts: the Prophet 
intimates first, that the time was now near when the faithful would 
build their own walls, that they might not be exposed to the will of 
their enemies, - and then he adds, that they would be freed from the 
dread of tyranny; for God, as it is said by Isaiah, would break the 
yoke of the burden, and the sceptre of the oppressor, (Isa. 9: 4;) 
and it is altogether the same kind of sentence. 
    He afterwards adds, "In that day also to thee shall they come 
from Asshur". There is some obscurity in the words; hence 
interpreters have regarded different words as being understood: but 
to me the meaning of the Prophet appears not doubtful. "In that day, 
he says, to thee shall they come from Asshur, and cities of the 
fortress and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to 
sea, and from mountain to mountain"; but some think "har" to be a 
proper name, and render the last clause, "And from mount Hor:" and 
we know that Aaron was buried on this mount. But the Prophet, no 
doubt, alludes here to some other place; and to render it mount Hor 
is a strained version. I doubt not, therefore, but that the Prophet 
repeats a common name, as though he said, "From mountains to 
    Let us now see what the Prophet means. With regard to the 
passage, as I have said, there is no ambiguity, provided we bear in 
mind the main subject. Now the Prophet had this in view, - That 
Jerusalem, when restored by God, would be in such honor along all 
nations that there would be flowing to her from all parts. He then 
says, that the state of the city would be very splendid, so that 
people from all quarters would come to it: and therefore the 
copulative vau is to be taken twice for "even" for the sake of 
emphasis, "In that day, even to thee", and then, "even to the 
river"; for it was not believed that Jerusalem would have any 
dignity, after it had been entirely destroyed, together with the 
temple. It is no wonder then that the Prophet so distinctly confirms 
here what was by no means probable, at least according to the common 
sentiments of men, - that Jerusalem would attract to itself all 
nations, even those far away. Come, then, shall they, (for the verb 
"yavo'" in the singular number must be taken indefinitely as having 
a plural meaning,) Come, then, shall they from Asshur even to thee. 
But the Assyrians had previously destroyed every land, overturned 
the kingdom of Israel, and almost blotted out its name; and they had 
also laid waste the kingdom of Judah; a small portion only remained. 
They came afterwards, we know, with the Chaldeans, after the seat of 
empire was translated to Babylon, and destroyed Nineveh. Therefore, 
by naming the Assyrians, he no doubt, taking a part for the whole, 
included the Babylonians. Come, then, shall they from Asshur, and 
then, from the cities of the fortress, that is, from every fortress. 
For they who take "tzor" for Tyre are mistaken; for "matzor" is 
mentioned twice, and it means citadels and strongholds. And then, 
even to the river, that is, to utmost borders of Euphrates; for many 
take Euphrates, by way of excellence, to be meant by the word river; 
as it is often the case in Scripture; though it might be not less 
fitly interpreted of any or every river, as though the Prophet had 
said, that there would be no obstacle to stop their course who would 
hasten to Jerusalem. Even to the river then, and from sea to sea, 
that is, they shall come in troops from remote countries, being led 
by the celebrity of the holy city; for when it shall be rebuilt by 
God's command, it shall acquire new and unusual honour, so that all 
people from every part shall assemble there. And then, from mountain 
to mountain, that is, from regions far asunder. This is the sum of 
the whole. 
    The Prophet then promises what all men deemed as fabulous, - 
that the dignity of the city Jerusalem should be so great after the 
return of the Jews from exile, that it would become, as it were, the 
metropolis of the world. One thing must be added: They who confine 
this passage to Christ seem not indeed to be without a plausible 
reason; for there follows immediately a threatening as to the 
desolation of the land; and there seems to be some inconsistency, 
except we consider the Prophet here as comparing the Church 
collected from all nations with the ancient people. But these things 
will harmonize well together if we consider, that the Prophet 
denounces vengeance on the unbelieving who then lived, and that he 
yet declares that God will be merciful to his chosen people. But the 
restriction which they maintain is too rigid; for we know that it 
was usual with the Prophets to extend the favor of God from the 
return of the ancient people to the coming of Christ. Whenever, 
then, the Prophets make known God's favor in the deliverance of his 
people, they make a transition to Christ, but included also the 
whole intermediate time. And this mode the Prophet now pursues, and 
it ought to be borne in mind by us. Let us go on - 
Micah 7:13 
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that 
dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. 
    The Prophet, as I have already said, seems to be inconsistent 
with himself: for after having spoken of the restoration of the 
land, he now abruptly says, that it would be deserted, because God 
had been extremely provoked by the wickedness of the people. But, as 
I have stated before, it was almost an ordinary practice with the 
Prophets, to denounce at one time God's vengeance on all the Jews, 
and then immediately to turn to the faithful, who were small in 
number, and to raise up their minds with the hope of deliverance. We 
indeed know that the Prophets had to do with the profane despisers 
of God; it was therefore necessary for them to fulminate, when they 
addressed the whole body of the people: the contagion had pervaded 
all orders, so that they were all become apostates, from the highest 
to the lowest, with very few exceptions, and those hidden amidst the 
great mass, like a few grains in a vast heap of chaff. Then the 
Prophets did not without reason mingle consolations with 
threatening; and their threatening they addressed to the whole body 
of the people; and then they whispered, as it were, in the ear, some 
consolation to the elect of God, the few remnants, - "Yet the Lord 
will show mercy to you; though he has resolved to destroy his 
people, ye shall yet remain safe, but this will be through some 
hidden means." Our Prophet then does, on the one hand, as here, 
denounce God's vengeance on a people past remedy; and, on the others 
he speaks of the redemption of the Church, that by this support the 
faithful might be sustained in their adversities. 
    He now says, "The land shall be for desolation." But why does 
he speak in so abrupt a manner? That he might drive hypocrites from 
that false confidence, with which they were swollen though God 
addressed not a word to them: but when God pronounced any thing, as 
they covered themselves with the name of Church, they then 
especially laid hold of any thing that was said to the faithful, as 
though it belonged to them: "Has not God promised that he will be 
the deliverer of his people?" as though indeed he was to be their 
deliverer, who had alienated themselves by their perfidy from him; 
and yet this was a very common thing among them. Hence the Prophet, 
seeing that hypocrites would greedily lay hold on what he had said, 
and by taking this handle would become more audacious, says now, 
"The land shall be for desolation", that is, "Be ye gone; for when 
God testifies that he will be the deliverer of his Church, he does 
not address you; for ye are the rotten members; and the land shall 
be reduced to a waste before God's favor, of which I now speak, 
shall appear." We now then perceive the reason for this passage, why 
the Prophet so suddenly joined threatenings to promises: it was, to 
terrify hypocrites. 
    He says, "On account of its inhabitants, from the fruit", or, 
"on account of the fruit of their works". Here the Prophet closes 
the door against the despisers of God, lest they should break forth, 
according to their custom, and maintain that God was, as it were, 
bound to them: "See," he says, "what ye are; for ye have polluted 
the land with your vices; it must therefore be reduced to 
desolation." And when the land, which is in itself innocent, is 
visited with judgment, what will become of those despisers whose 
wickedness it sustains? We hence see how emphatical was this mode of 
speaking. For the Prophet summons here all the unbelieving to 
examine their life, and then he sets before them the land, which was 
to suffer punishment, though it had committed no sin; and why was it 
to suffer? because it was polluted as I have said by their 
wickedness. Since this was the case, we see, that hypocrites were 
very justly driven away from the false confidence with which they 
were inflated, while they yet proudly despised God and his Word. It 
now follows - 
Micah 7:14 
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which 
dwell solitarily [in] the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them 
feed [in] Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old. 
    Here the Prophet turns to supplications and prayers; by which 
he manifests more vehemence, than if he had repeated again what he 
had previously said of the restoration of the Church; for he shows 
how dreadful that judgment would be, when God would reduce the land 
into solitude. This prayer no doubt contains what was at the same 
time prophetic. The Prophet does not indeed simply promise 
deliverance to the faithful, but at the same time he doubly 
increases that terror; by which he designed to frighten hypocrites; 
as though he said, "Most surely except God will miraculously 
preserve his own people, it is all over with the Church: there is 
then no remedy, except through the ineffable power of God." In 
short, the Prophet shows, that he trembled at that vengeance, which 
he had previously foretold, and which he did foretell, lest 
hypocrites, in their usual manner, should deride him. We now see why 
the Prophet had recourse to this kind of comfort, why he so 
regulates his discourse as not to afford immediate hope to the 
faithful, but addresses God himself. Feed then thy people; as though 
he said, - "Surely that calamity will be fatal, except thou, Lord, 
wilt be mindful of thy covenant, and gather again some remnant from 
the people whom thou hast been pleased to choose: Feed thy people." 
    The reason why he called them the people of God was, because 
they must all have perished, unless it had been that it was 
necessary that what God promised to Abraham should be fulfilled, - 
'In thy seed shall all nations be blessed,' (Gen. 12: 3.) It was 
then the adoption of God alone which prevented the total destruction 
of the Jews. Hence he says emphatically, - "O Lord, these are yet 
thy people;" as though he said, - "By whom wilt thou now form a 
Church for thyself?" God might indeed have collected it from the 
Gentiles, and have made aliens his family; but it was necessary that 
the root of adoption should remain in the race of Abraham, until 
Christ came forth. Nor was there then any dispute about God's power, 
as there is now among fanatics, who ask, Can God do this? But there 
was reliance on the promise, and from this they learnt with 
certainty what God had once decreed, and what he would do. Since 
then this promise, 'By thy seed shall all nations be blessed,' was 
sacred and inviolable, the grace of God must have ever continued in 
the remnant. It is indeed certain, that hypocrites, as it has been 
already stated, without any discrimination, abused the promises of 
God; but this truth must be ever borne in mind, that God punished 
the ungodly, though relying on their great number, they thought that 
they would be always preserved. God then destroyed them, as they 
deserved; and yet it was his purpose, that some remnant should be 
among that people. But it must be observed, that this distinction 
ought not to be extended to all the children of Abraham, who derived 
their origin from him according to the flesh, but to be applied to 
the faithful, that is, to the remnant, who were preserved according 
to the gratuitous adoption of God. 
    Feed then thy people "by thy crook." He compares God to a 
shepherd, and this metaphor often occurs. Though "shevet" indeed 
signifies a sceptre when kings are mentioned, it is yet taken also 
for a pastoral staff, as in Ps. 23 and in many other places. As then 
he represents God here as a Shepherd, so he assigns a crook to him; 
as though he said, "O Lord, thou performest the office of a Shepherd 
in ruling this people." How so? He immediately confirms what I have 
lately said, that there was no hope of a remedy except through the 
mercy of God, by adding, "the flock of thine heritage"; for by 
calling them the flock of his heritage, he does not consider what 
the people deserved, but fixes his eyes on their gratuitous 
adoption. Since, then, it had pleased God to choose that people, the 
Prophet on this account dares to go forth to God's presence, and to 
plead their gratuitous election, - "O Lord, I will not bring before 
thee the nobility of our race, or any sort of dignity, or our piety, 
or any merits." What then? "We are thy people, for thou best 
declared that we are a royal priesthood. We are then thine 
heritage." How so? "Because it has been thy pleasure to have one 
peculiar people sacred to thee." We now more clearly see that the 
Prophet relied on God's favor alone, and opposed the recollection of 
the covenant to the trials which might have otherwise made every 
hope to fail. 
    He afterwards adds, "Who dwell apart", or alone. He no doubt 
refers here to the dispersion of the people, when he says, that they 
dwelt alone. For though the Jews had been scattered in countries 
delightful, fertile and populous, yet they were everywhere as in a 
desert and in solitude, for they were a mutilated body. The whole of 
Chaldea and of Assyria was then really a desert to the faithful; for 
there they dwelt not as one people, but as members torn asunder. 
This is the dispersion intended by the words of the Prophet. He also 
adds, that dwell "in the forest". For they had no secure habitation 
except in their own country; for they lived there under the 
protection of God; and all other countries, as I have already said, 
were to them like the desert. 
    He adds, "In the midst of Carmel". The preposition "caf" is to 
be understood here, As in the midst of Carmel, they shall be fed in 
Bashan and Gilead, as in ancient days; that is, though they are now 
thy solitary sheep, yet thou wilt gather them again that they may 
feed as on Carmel, (which we know was very fruitful,) and then, as 
in Bashan and Gilead. We know that there are in those places the 
richest pastures. Since then the Prophet compares the faithful to 
sheep, he mentions Bashan, he mentions Carmel and Gilead; as though 
he said, "Restore, O Lord, thy people, that they may dwell in the 
heritage once granted them by thee." Why he says that they were 
solitary, I have already explained; and there is a similar passage 
in Psalm 102: 17; though there is there a different word, "yir'u"; 
but the meaning is the same. The faithful are there said to be 
solitary, because they were not collected into one body; for this 
was the true happiness of the people, - that they worshipped God 
together, that they were under one head, and also that they had one 
altar as a sacred bond to cherish unity of faith. When therefore the 
faithful were scattered here and there they were justly said to be 
solitary, wherever they were. 
    He afterwards adds, "according to ancient days". Here he places 
before God the favors which he formerly showed to his people, and 
prays that he would, like himself, go on to the end, that is that he 
would continue to the end his favors to his chosen people. And it 
availed not a little to confirm their faith, when the faithful 
called to mind how liberally had God dealt from the beginning with 
the posterity of Abraham: they were thus made to feel assured, that 
God would be no less kind to his elect, though there might be, so to 
speak, a sad separation: for when God had banished the Jews into 
exile, it was a kind of divorce, as though they were given to utter 
destruction. Yet now when they recollect that they had descended 
from the holy fathers, and that a Redeemer had been promised them, 
they justly entertain a hope of favor in future from the past 
benefits of God, because he had formerly kindly treated his people. 
Grant, Almighty God, that since we have so provoked thy displeasure 
by our sins, that a dreadful waste and solitude appear everywhere - 
O grant, that a proof of that favour, which thou hast so remarkably 
exhibited towards thy ancient people, may shine upon us, so that thy 
Church may be raised up in which true religion may flourish, and thy 
name be glorified: and may we daily solicit thee in our prayers and 
never doubt, but that under the government of thy Christ, thou canst 
again gather together the whole world, though it be miserably 
dispersed, so that we may persevere in this warfare to the end, 
until we shall at length know that we have not in vain hoped in 
thee, and that our prayers have not been in vain, when Christ shall 
exercise the power given to him for our salvation and for that of 
the whole world. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 17
(continued in part 18...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-17.txt