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 mountains." 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. Prayer. 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 .