Pulpit Commentary - Micah 2:1 - 2:13

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Pulpit Commentary - Micah 2:1 - 2:13

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§ 6. The prophet justifies his threat by recounting the sins of which the grandees and guilty.


The prophet, himself one of the people, first inveighs against the sins of injustice and oppression of the poor. Devise … work … practise. A gradation. They are not led into these sins by others; they themselves conceive the evil purpose in their own heart; then they prepare and mature their scheme by reflection; then they proceed to execute it. Work evil; i.e. prepare the means for carrying out their conception (comp Isa_41:4). Upon their beds. At night, the natural time for reflection (comp. Job_4:13; Psa_4:4; Psa_36:4). Is light. Far from shrinking from the light of day in putting into effect their evil projects, they set about their accomplishment as soon as ever the morning allows them. Because it is in the power of their hand. Their might makes their right. (For the phrase, comp. Gen_31:29; Pro_3:27.) As the word el may be taken to mean "God" as well as "power," some render here, "For their hand is their god," comparing the boast of Mezentius in Virgil, 'AEneid,' 10:773—

"Dextra mihi Deus et telum quod missile libro."

The Vulgate has, Quoniam contra Deum est manus eorum; LXX; Διότιοὐκ ἦραν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν χεῖρας αὐτῶν , Because they lifted not up their hands unto God." So the Syriac, with the omission of the negative.


They carry out by open violence the fraud which they have devised and planned (comp. Isa_5:8; Amo_4:1). Covet fields. Compare the ease of Ahab and Naboth (1Ki_21:1-29.). The commandment against coveting (Exo_20:17) taught the Jews that God regarded sins of thought as well as of action. The Law forbade the alienation of landed property and the transfer of estates from tribe to tribe (Le 25:23-28; Num_36:7). A rich man might buy a poor man's estate subject to the law of jubilee; but these grandees seem to have forced the sale of property, or else seized it by force or fraud. Oppress; Vulgate, calumniabantur. The Hebrew word involves the idea of violence.


The sin shall be followed by its appropriate punishment. As they devised evil, God will devise a penalty. This family. The whole people (Amo_3:1). An evil. A chastisement, a judgment (Amo_3:6). Ye. The prophet suddenly addresses them, the "family." Your necks. He speaks of the calamity as a heavy, galling yoke, from which they should be unable to free themselves (comp. Hos_10:11). This yoke is their conquest and exile at the hands of foreigners (comp. Jer_27:12). Haughtily. With head erect. Septuagint, ὀρθοί . Their pride shall be brought low. This time is evil; full of calamity, which is announced in the following verses. The words occur in Amo_5:13, but the evil there spoken of is moral (comp. Eph_5:16).


In that day. The evil time mentioned in Mic_2:3. A parable (mashal); probably here "a taunting song." The enemy shall use the words in which Israel laments her calamity as a taunt against her (Hab_2:6). And lament with a doleful lamentation. The Hebrew gives a remarkable alliteration, Nahah nehi niheyah; Septuagint, Θρηνηθήσεται θρῆνος ἐν μέλει , "Lament a lamentation with melody;" Vulgate, Cantabitur canticum cum suavitate; "Wail a wail of woe." (Pusey). The Syriac coincides with the LXX. By taking the three words as cognates, we get a very forcible sentence; but most modern commentators consider niheyah not a feminine formation, butniph. of the substantive verb hayah; hence the words would mean, "Lament with the lamentation;" "It is done," they shall say; "we are utterly spoiled." Thus Cheyne. The lamentation begins with "It is done," and continues to the end of the verse. The verbs are used impersonally—"one shall take up," "one shall lament," "one shall say;" but it is plain that the last two refer to the Jews who shall utter the given dirge, which in turn shall be repeated as a taunt by the enemy. We are utterly spoiled. According to the second of the explanations of the preceding clause, these words expand and define the despairing cry, "It is done!" In the other case, they are the commencement of the lamentation. Septuagint, Ταλαιπωρίᾳ ἐταλαιπωρήσαμεν , "We are miserably miserable." The complaint is twofold. First, the once flourishing condition of Israel is changed to ruin and desolation. Secondly, He hath changed (changeth) the portion of my people. This is the second calamity: he, Jehovah, passes our inheritance over to the hands of others; the land of Canaan, pledged to us, is transferred to our enemies. Septuagint κτεμετρήθη ἐν σχοινίῳ , "hath been measured with a line." How hath he removed it [the portion] from me! This is better than the alternative rendering, "How doth he depart from me?" Turning away he hath divided our fields; rather, to an apostate he divideth our fields. The apostate is the King of Assyria or Chaldea; and he is so named as being a rebel against Jehovah, whom he might have known by the light of natural religion (comp. Mic_5:15; Rom_1:20). This was fulfilled later by the colonization of Samaria by a mixed population.


Therefore thou. Because thou, the tyrannical, oppressive grandee (Mic_2:1, Mic_2:2), hast dealt with thy neighbour's land unjustly, therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord (the line) by lot (for a lot); i.e. thou shalt have no more inheritance in Israel. The "line" is the measuring line used in dividing land, as Amo_7:17. The reference is to the original distribution of the land by lot in Joshua's time (see Jos_14:2, etc.). In the congregation of the Lord. The Lord's own people, whose polity was now about to be dissolved. Hitzig, Reuss, and Orelli suppose that this verse contains a threat against Micah himself on the part of the ungodly Jews, intimating that they will punish him for presuming to prophesy against them, and that he shall die without leaving children. But this seems far fetched and inadmissible.


§ 7. The threat announced in Mic_2:3 is further vindicated and applied to individual sinners, with a glance at the false prophets who taught the people to love lies.


Prophesy ye not; literally, drop ye not, as Amo_7:16 (where see note). The speakers are generally supposed to be the false prophets who wish to stop the mouths of Micah and those who are like minded with him. This is probably correct; but these are not the only speakers; the people themselves, the oppressing grandees, who side with the popularity hunting seers, are also included (see note on verse 12). Say they to them that prophesy; rather, thus they prophesy (drop). Micah uses their own word sarcastically, "Do not be always rebuking; Thus they rebuke." The rest of the verse belongs to the same speakers, and should be rendered, "They shall not prophesy of these things; reproaches never cease." The great men and the false prophets complain of the true prophets that they are always proclaiming misfortune and rebuking the people, and they bid them leave such denunciations alone for the future. The passage is very difficult, and its interpretation has greatly exercised commentators; the above is virtually the explanation of Ewald, Hitzig, Caspari, and Cheyne. Orelli makes the two last clauses Micah's answer to the interdict of the adversaries, "Should one not prophesy of these things? Should reproaches (against the true prophets) never cease?" We prefer the interpretations given above, and consider the prophet's reply to be given in the next verse.


The prophet answers the interdict of the speakers in the preceding verse by showing that God's attributes are unchanged, but that the sins of the people constrain him to punish. O thou that art named the house of Jacob. Other renderings of these words are given, viz. "Ah! what a saying!" or, "Is this a thing to be said, O house of Jacob?" The versions of the LXX; Ὀ λέγων οἶκος Ἰακὼβ κ . τ . λ ; and of the Vulgate, Dicit domus Jacob, do not suit the Hebrew. If we adopt the rendering of the Authorized Version, we must consider that Micah addresses those who gloried in their privilege as the family of Jacob, though they had ceased to be what he was, believing and obedient. "O ye who are only in name and title the chosen nation" (comp. Isa_48:1; Joh_8:33, Joh_8:39). Professor Driver obtains the very suitable meaning, Num dicendum, "Shall it be said, O house of Jacob, Is the ear of the Lord shortened?" etc; by the change of a vowel point. Somewhat similarly Orelli, "Is this the speech of the house of Jacob?" viz.—Should Jehovah be impatient? or were these his doings? The following clause is Jehovah's answer to the objection. Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? or, shortened. Is he less long suffering than Jehovah of heretofore? Will you accuse Jehovah of impatience? "Shortness" of spirit is opposed to longanimity (see Pro_14:29). Are these his doings? Are these judgments and chastisements his usual doings that which he delights in? Is the cause of them in him? Is it not in you (Lam_3:33; Eze_33:11; Mic_7:18)? Do not my words do good, etc.? This may be Jehovah's answer to the previous questions, or Micah's refutation of the complaint. The Lord's word is good, his action is a blessing, but only to him who does his commandments (Psa_18:25, Psa_18:26; Psa_25:10; Psa_103:17, etc.; Luk_1:50).


Even of late; but of late; literally, yesterday, implying an action recent and repeated. Septuagint, ἔμπροσθεν , "before;" Vulgate, e contrario. The prophet exemplifies the iniquity which has led God to punish. They are not old offences which the Lord is visiting, but sins of recent and daily occurrence. My people is risen up as an enemy. A reading, varying by a letter or two, is rendered, "But against my people one setteth himself." But them is no valid reason for altering the received text; especially as, according to Ewald, the present reading may be taken in a causative sense "They set up my people as an enemy," i.e. the grandees treat the Lord's people as enemies, robbing and plundering them. This translation obviates the difficulty of referring the words, "my people," in this verse to the oppressor, and in Mic_2:7 to the oppressed. According to the usual view, and retaining the authorized rendering, the meaning is that the princes exhibit themselves as enemies of the Lord by their acts of violence and oppression, which the prophet proceeds to particularize. Septuagint, Ὀ λαός μου εἰς ἔχθραν ἀντέστη , "My people withstood as an enemy." Ye pull off the robe with the garment; ye violently strip off the robe away from the garment. The "robe" (eder) is the wide cloak, the mantle sufficient to wrap the whole person, and which was often of very costly material. The "garment" (salmah) is the principal inner garment, or tunic. There may be an allusion to the enactment which forbade a creditor retaining the pledged garment during the night (Exo_22:26, etc.). Septuagint, Κατέναντι τῆς εἰρήνης αὐτοῦ τὴν δορὰν αὐτοῦ ἐξέδειραν , "Against his peace they stripped off his skin." From them that pass by securely as men averse from war. This is probably the correct translation. The grandees rob those who are peaceably disposed, perhaps strip their debtors of their cloaks as they pass quietly along the road. The versions vary considerably from the received Hebrew text. The LXX. (with which the Syriac partially agrees) has, Τοῦ ἀφελέσθαι ἐλπίδας συντριμμομου , "To remove hope in the destruction of war;" Vulgate, Eos qui transibant simpliciter convertistis in bellum. From this rendering Trochon derives the paraphrase—Ye treat them as if they were prisoners of war. Hitzig considers that the reference is to fugitives from the northern kingdom who passed through Judaea in their endeavour to escape the evils of the war, leaving wives and children in the hands of the Judaeans. But these treated the refugees harshly.


The women of my people. The prophet refers to the widows, who ought to have been protected and cared for (comp. Isa_10:2). The LXX; with which the Arabic agrees, renders, ἡγούμενοι λαοῦ μου , "the leaders of my people." Have ye cast out. The word expresses a violent expulsion, as Gen_3:24. Their pleasant houses; literally, the house of their delights (Mic_1:16). The house which was very dear to them, the scene of all their joys. My glory. All the privileges which they enjoyed as God's people and his peculiar care are called "the ornament" of the Lord (comp. Eze_16:14). The "glory" is by some commentators, but not so appositely, referred to vesture exclusively. These fatherless children had been ruthlessly stripped of their blessings either by being forced to grow up in want and ignorance, or by being sold into slavery and carried away from their old religious associations. Forever. The oppressors never repented or tried to make restitution; and so they incurred the special woe of those who injure the poor, the fatherless, and the widow (Pusey). The Septuagint has no connection with the present Hebrew text of this verse, reading, Ἐγγίσατε ὄρεσιν αἰωνίοις , "Draw ye near to the everlasting hills," and previously introducing a gloss, Διὰ τὰ πονηρὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα αὐτῶν ἐξώσθησαν , "They were rejected because of their evil practices." Jerome explains the Greek mystically, despairing of the literal interpretation in its present connection.


Arise ye, and depart. The prophet pronounces the oppressors' punishment—they shall be banished from their land, even as they have torn others from their home. This is not your rest. Canaan had been given as a resting place to Israel (Deu_12:9, Deu_12:10; Jos_1:13; Psa_95:11), but it should be so no longer. Because it is polluted. The land is regarded as polluted by the sins of its inhabitants. The idea is often found; e.g. Le 18:25, 28; Num_35:33; Jer_2:7. It shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. The land is said to destroy when it ejects its inhabitants, as though the inanimate creation rose in judgment against the sinners. The Revised Version, with Keil and others, translates, Because of uncleanness that destroyeth, even with a grievous destruction; Septuagint, Διεφθάρητε φθορᾷ , "Ye were utterly destroyed;" Vulgate, Propter immunditiam ejus corrumpetur putredine pessima. The Authorized Version is correct.


Such prophets as speak unwelcome truths are not popular with the grandees; they like only these who pander to their vices and prophesy lies. This was their crowning sin. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie. "The spirit and falsehood" may be a hendiadys for "a spirit of falsehood," or "a lying spirit," as 1Ki_22:22 (comp. Eze_13:2, Eze_13:3, Eze_13:17). But it is better to render, If a man walking after (conversant with) the wind and falsehood do lie. Wind is symbolical of all that is vain and worthless, as Isa_26:18; Isa_41:29. The Septuagint introduces a gloss from Le Isa_26:17, Κατεδιώχθητε οὐδενὸς διώκοντος , "Ye fled, no one pursuing you," and translates the above clause, πνεῦμα ἔστησε ψεῦδος : "spiritus statuit mendacium, i.e. finem posuit mendacii" (St. Jerome); Vulgate, Utinam non essem vir habens spiritum et mendacium potius loquerer. I will prophesy unto thee, etc. These are the words of a false prophet, "Prophesy," "drop," as Isa_26:6. Of vine and of strong drink. Concerning temporal blessings, dwelling on God's promises of material prosperity (Le Isa_26:4, etc.; Deu_28:4, Deu_28:11) in order to encourage the grandees in self-indulgence. He shall even be the prophet of this people. Such a one is the only prophet to whom the great men, the representatives of "this people," will listen.

Mic_2:12, Mic_2:13

§ 8. Promise of restorations and deliverance.


The prophet, without any preface, introduces abruptly a promise of restoration after exile, a type of the triumph of Messiah. Some commentators, indeed, regard this and the following verso as the language of the false prophets; others, as a denunciation of punishment, not a promise of deliverance; others, as a late interpolation. But the style is entirely Micah's (comp. Mic_4:6, Mic_4:7), the promise is a true one, and such like sudden transitions are common in the prophetical books (comp. e.g. Isa_4:2-6; Hos_1:10; Hos_11:9; Amo_9:11); so that we need not resort to the hypothesis that some connecting link has dropped out of the text, or that the clause is misplaced; and we are fully justified in considering the paragraph as inserted here in its right position, and as predictive of the restoration of the Jews after captivity. Micah would seem to imply—I am not, indeed, as one of the false prophets who promise you earthly good without regard to your moral fitness for receiving God's bounty; neither am I one who has no message but of woe and calamity; I, too, predict salvation and happiness for a remnant of you after you have been tried by defeat and exile. I will surely assemble. This presupposes dispersion among the heathen, such as is foretold in Mic_1:8, etc.; Mic_2:4, etc. O Jacob, all of thee. The promise extends to the whole nation, whether called Jacob or Israel, as Mic_1:5; but still only a remnant, i.e. that portion of the nation which should make a good use of adversity, and turn to the Lord with sincere repentance (comp. Isa_10:20, etc.; Jer_31:8; Eze_34:11, etc.; Zep_3:12,. etc.). Some see in the term "remnant" an allusion to the people that were left in the northern kingdom after the fall of Samaria. As the sheep of Bozrah. There were two or more towns so named—one in Sidon, for which see note on Amo_1:12; and another, hod. Buzrah, on the south border of the Hauran. This is mentioned in Jer_48:24, as one of the cities of Moab, a district celebrated for its flocks (2Ki_3:4); hence "sheep of Bozrah" may have become a proverbial saying. Many commentators take Botsrah as an appellative, meaning "fold," in agreement with the Vulgate, quasi gregem in ovili, and Chaldee, as well as Aquila and Symmachus. The parallelism in the following words seems to favour this view. The LXX. reads differently, rendering, ἐν θλίψει , "in trouble." Thus, too, the Syriac. As the flock in the midst of their fold; rather, as a flock in the midst of its pasture. They shall make great noise, etc. Like a numerous flock bleating in its fold, so shall the returned Israelites be, prosperous and happy, celebrating their salvation with praise and exultation (comp. Eze_34:31). Septuagint, Ἐξαλοῦνται ἐξ ἀνθρώπων , "They shall leap forth from among men," which St. Jerome explains as meaning that the repentant Israelites shall rise above worldly things and aspire to heaven.


The breaker is come (gone) up before them. Micah depicts Israel's redemption under the figure of release from captivity. The passage is clearly Messianic, and can neither be considered an interpolation nor tortured into a declaration of the siege and ruin of Samaria or Jerusalem. "One that breaketh" is a liberator, a leader that overcomes all obstacles which oppose Israel's return. There may be an allusion in the first instance to a human leader, such as Zerubbabel, in analogy with Moses and Joshua in old time, but the real conqueror intended is generally regarded as Messiah. The Breaker up is supposed to be a title of the Messiah well known to the Jews (see Pusey; and Pearson, 'Exposition of the Creed,' art. 7; note y). This interpretation is rejected by Professor Driver, who considers the "breaker up" to be "either a leader or a detachment of men, whose duty it was to break up walls or other obstacles opposing the progress of an army." But is not this to introduce an agency unknown to these times? Was there any special body of men trained and maintained for this particular duty? This "breaker up," according to Dr. Driver's conception, "advances before them, breaking through the gates of the prison in which the people are confined; they follow, marching forth triumphantly through this open way; their king, with Jehovah at his side (Psa_110:5), heads the victorious procession (Exo_13:21; Isa_52:12)? They have broken up; broken forth, or through. The captives cooperate with their leader. Have passed through the gate, etc. The prophet speaks of a solemn, regular removal, like the Exodus from Egypt, which no human power can oppose. Their king. The same as Jehovah in the next clause (Isa_33:22). He shall lead the host, as he headed the Israelites when they left the house of bondage (Exo_13:21). The prediction may look forward to the final gathering of Israel, which St. Paul seems to contemplate when he writes, "And so all Israel shall be saved" (Rom_11:26).



Delineations of deep transgression, righteous retribution, and Divine equity.

We have in these verses three pictures, drawn by a master hand, and very suggestive of practical teaching.

I. A PICTURE OF DEEP TRANSGRESSION. (Mic_2:1, Mic_2:2, Mic_2:8, Mic_2:9.) Observe delineated in it:

1. The abuse of privilege. (Mic_2:1.) What a boon is night! "The season of repose; the blessed barrier betwixt day and day," when the hum and bustle, the anxiety and fatigue, of business is suspended, when the tired artisan rests from his toil; when the voyager on the wide sea forgets awhile the perils of the main; when the warrior ceases for a time to hear the roar of the cannon and to face the foe; and when all nature is hushed to slumber, save the weary watchers by the bed of suffering, and wakeful, loving mothers tending their dear ones in their quiet nests. We bless God for the day with its early sunrise, its noontide glory, its evening shades; but we bless him also for the night, with her sable mantle, her vague solitude, her quiet rest. And this high privilege was grossly abused. "Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds!" (Mic_2:1). It was not that evil thoughts unwillingly invaded their minds, but that they deliberately planned evil—they devised it. It is one thing for evil thoughts to enter the mind in its quiet hours unbidden; it is quite another to entertain these; and worst of all is it to "devise" these, and in the very seasons given to man for rest, to be found plotting and contriving harm. So has it ever been with the ungodly, that they have abused God's best gifts (Psa_36:4; Pro_4:16).

2. The non-improvement of opportunity. (Mic_2:1.) Each morning comes bearing to us a new gift of time from our God. With our waking hours comes the Divine call to fresh service. Strength has been gathered up, now to be expended in the improvement of the opportunities of holy service which will assuredly arise. Happy they who begin the day with God, and then go forth to hallow every engagement of life, and to use for him every opportunity which may be given—

"True hearts spread and heave

Unto their God, as flowers do to the sun:

Give him thy first thoughts, so shalt thou keep

Him company all day."

The grave charge here urged was that with the breaking of the day they went forth to renew their evil deeds; that the fresh strength imparted to them by God became employed by them against him; the evil plotted by them in the night they went forth with the morning's dawn to commit; the energies which ought to have been consecrated to God they devoted to dark and daring deeds of impiety. "When the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand" (Mic_2:1).

3. The perversion of power. (Mic_2:2, Mic_2:8, Mic_2:9.) Both Micah and Isaiah laid stress upon the prevailing sin of covetousness, leading the mighty and influential to pervert the power and influence they possessed, to the injury of the feeble and obscure, oppressing and tyrannizing over them. Thus they are charged here with

(1) unscrupulously depriving them of their inheritance (verse 2);

(2) stripping of their raiment peaceful, unoffending persons (verse 8);

(3) driving widows from their houses, and causing fatherless children to suffer from want and neglect (verse 9).

In this way the sad picture of shameless sin here presented to us is rendered increasingly dark through the prevailing sin of covetousness, leading to harsh oppression and grievous wrong.

4. The wilful rejection of light and preference of darkness. (Verses 6, 11.) To the true prophets of the Lord, who sought to bring home to them a sense of their guilt, and to lead them to return unto the Lord, they said, "Prophesy ye not" (verse 6), whereas to lying spirits they would readily give heed (Joh_3:19, Joh_3:20).

II. A PICTURE OF MERITED CHASTISEMENT. (Verses 3, 4, 5, 10.) The main feature in this picture is the illustration it affords of the retributive character of the Divine chastisement for sin. Observe:

1. They had "devised" evil against others; now God would "devise" evil against them (verse 3).

2. They had oppressed others; now they should be oppressed (verse 3), and even their own sad elegies, wrung from them through their sorrow, should be taken up and repeated against them in sheer mockery by their oppressors (verses 4, 5).

3. They had voluntarily chosen their false prophets and had welcomed their lying words, and they should now get no comfort from the words of hope which, in the dark days, should be spoken by the true prophets, and which should prove consolatory to the remnant of God's people who had remained faithful (verse 6).

4. They had cast out the widows and the fatherless, and they should be themselves cast out (verse 10). We look on this picture of coming chastisement, and we learn from it that retribution follows sin; we see in it an Old Testament illustration of the New Testament assurance that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal_6:7, Gal_6:8).

III. A PICTURE OF THE DIVINE EQUITY. (Verse 7.) God, through his prophet, expostulated with the people who had acted so unworthily, who bore the name of Israel, but who so dishonoured their pious ancestry; and declared to them that his ways were not unequal; that rectitude and mercy characterized all his operations; that through all he had been seeking their good; that it was not his will that the threatened woes should befall them; that this was entirely their own act; and that neither their sins nor their sorrows could truthfully be charged upon him. There are many such passages scattered throughout the prophetical writings, in which God deigned to expostulate with the erring—passages which are inexpressibly tender and touching (Jer_2:5; Isa_5:4; Isa_43:22, Isa_43:25). So Christ to the Jews of his day, when they took up stones to stone him, asked," For which of these works do ye stone me?" (Joh_10:32). And the same Divine voice expostulates with us in our sinfulness; and our response should be, "Unto thee," etc. (Dan_9:6, Dan_9:7). These Divine expostulations are the arrows of conviction coming from God to the hearts of men, and which, unlike the poisoned arrows of the ancients that carded death in their flight, carry mercy and life into the human soul.


God's ways vindicated.

In this verse three important questions are asked, and in the answers to these lies the clear vindication of God's ways in his dealings with transgressors.

I. "IS THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD STRAITENED?" i.e. when his judgments overtake men for their sins, is this to be regarded as a token that God's loving kindness and long suffering have failed? No; his compassions never fail. "His mercy endureth forever." What, then, is the explanation? It is that such Divine judgments are imperatively demanded. They are so:

1. In vindication of the Divine rectitude. If sin went unpunished, the Divine righteousness might, indeed, be questioned. It was this consideration, and not a spirit of vindictiveness which called forth "the imprecatory psalms," in which chastisement was invoked upon the workers of iniquity.

2. In the interest of the wrong doers themselves. It is not for the advantage of transgressors themselves that they should be allowed to go on unblushingly in sin. The Divine long suffering may operate in checking and bringing such to a stand; in chastening them with a view to their reformation.

3. In order to the promotion of the well being of society at large. Jehovah is the sovereign Ruler; the universe is his domain; and it may be essential, in order to the good of the race, that he should at times interpose in judgment. "When his judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants thereof learn righteousness" (Isa_26:9).

II. "ARE THESE HIS DOINGS?" i.e. is God the Author and Cause of the evils men have to experience when they stray from righteousness? No; he cannot be; these are to be traced to the wrong doers themselves, and are the outcome of their misdeeds. The sinner is his own punisher. The woes which befall him he has worked out for himself. "Judas fell from the ministry and apostleship, that he might go to his own place." "Men meet with all sorts of bitter, painful, and had things in their life, just because they are bitter, painful, and bad themselves, and do not see that this is the root of their misery" (Bushnell).

III. "DO NOT MY WORDS DO GOOD TO HIM THAT WALKETH UPRIGHTLY?" Assuredly; and hence, if this good is missed, must it not be because there is a lack of obedience in those who miss it, so that the responsibility is entirely theirs?


The beneficial influence of God's words upon the obedient.

By the "words" of God we understand the utterances of his gracious mind. These were communicated unto the fathers by the prophets; in "the fulness of time" they were made known by his Son; to us they are given in the Scriptures of eternal truth. Their influence upon us depends upon our attitude towards them and upon the spirit we cherish. If our aim is to live a godly life, and to pursue the path of rectitude and obedience, they will prove truly helpful to us.


1. Physically; being preserved by these teachings from those excesses into which the ungodly often fall (Psa_91:16; Psa_119:95).

2. Mentally; their minds being directed to the sublimest themes, by meditating upon which their intellectual faculties become purified and strengthened. Men possessed of the highest intellectual endowments have acknowledged their deep indebtedness to the holy words of God, and have accepted them with the profoundest reverence and the warmest gratitude.

3. In the darkest seasons of their life "God's words" have cheered and comforted them, and through the sanctifying influence of these they have been rendered in times of severest trial so tranquil, and so calm in death that it may be said—

"The night dews fall not gentlier on the ground,

Nor weary, worn out winds expire so soft."


1. Their healthful influence is experienced in the home life of the obedient. In such homes, selfishness, coldness, jealousy, anger, strife, are avoided; and love, sympathy, union, harmony, are continually cherished. God's words are daily recalled to mind, and the voice of praise and prayer continually ascends to their Author. "Good" is thus experienced. There is written on such abodes, in characters legible and golden, the inscription, "Peace." Day by day the members of such households become united in a firmer bond to each other and to God. Yea, it is theirs to enjoy in the home of earth constant foretastes of the home of heaven.

2. And their healthful influence is experienced in the intercourse of man with man. God's words give special enforcement to the principle of mutual regard which should be cherished by the children of men. In proportion as the power of his utterances is realized will the servant be led to promote the best interests of the employer, and the employer to act generously towards even the humblest in his service. The holy teachings of our God impel those who truly accept them to minister to the necessities of the distressed, and to endeavour to alleviate human suffering and woe. Love is indeed the essence of all that he has spoken. And abounding in loving teachings for the guidance of its recipients in their social and everyday life, God's "words" promote the good even of those who unconsciously come within the range of their influence.

III. GOD'S "WORDS" "DO GOOD" TO THE UPRIGHT IN HEART, AS IT RESPECTS THEIR POLITICAL INFLUENCE. The men who are under the sway of these pure words which God hath spoken are the true promoters of the national weal. Nations, in order to their real prosperity, need to hear and heed the voice of God speaking to them as to Israel of old, and saying, "And now what doth the Lord require of thee but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways … for thy good?" (Deu_10:12, Deu_10:13).

Mic_2:12, Mic_2:13

Glorious things spoken of the true Israel.

No member of "the goodly fellowship of the prophets" had a more vivid sense of the ultimate enfranchisement from all evil, awaiting the race, to be effected by the Messiah in due course, than was possessed by "Micah the Morasthite." Even as in the opening portion of his prophecy, he lingered, in thought and expression, upon the prevailing ungodliness, marking on every hand confusion and strife and wrong, he could yet see coming "the age of gold," when peace and harmony, purity and righteousness should secure the victory; and of that glorious age, lo! he here sings. Just what the oasis is to the surrounding desert, or the silver lining to the dark cloud, or the momentary pause in the storm, when for an instant the noise of the waves is stilled, telling of the coming calm, that these two verses seem to be to the first three chapters of this book of Scripture, add by their bright and hopeful tone the hearts of "the remnant" who deplored the abounding iniquity of the times became, we doubt not, lifted up with devout thankfulness and inspired with renewed strength. Are we to understand these bright passages scattered throughout this prophecy, and alluding to a glory to be realized in the future, as referring simply to happier days to be experienced by the Jewish nation, or are they to be regarded as having a more comprehensive range? Whilst believing firmly that a glorious destiny is before the Hebrew nation, and that the working out of that destiny shall be not only for its own spiritual good, but also for the enrichment of the world (Rom_11:12), yet we should lose much of the force of the prophetic Scriptures in their allusions to "the latter day glory," by limiting their utterances thus. We should not half realize the depth of meaning underlying these verses by simply regarding the passage as setting forth that the Jews, after a period of captivity in Babylon, should return again to their own land. Prophecy was designed to prepare the way of the Lord Christ. And, thus viewed, it was marked by progressive stages. The work began in the revelation made through Moses of the will and Law of God. Then, after a time, followed the era of Samuel, who, with his contemporaries and successors, laboured to maintain true religion in Israel, chosen of God as the nation through whom his purposes of mercy were to be unfolded. And following these, we come to the age of written prophecy, in which the holy seers, whilst not neglecting the claims of their own nation, took a wider range of vision and looked forward to a new covenant affecting all nations, and to the coming of the Messiah as One who should establish a spiritual kingdom, whose claims were to be urged upon all the world, and unto whom men of every nation and kindred and tribe should turn, thus forming the spiritual Israel over whom the Messiah should reign in righteousness (see Dr. Payne Smith's 'Prophecy a Preparation for Christ'). Micah notably belonged to this more advanced period of the prophetic development, and hence his bright anticipations of the glorious future are to be understood as having this wider scope. He was contemporary with Isaiah, who constantly represented the Lord as reigning over the whole earths and even the far distant lands as bringing unto him their tribute. We are led to ask—How did they gain these broad and far reaching conceptions of all the nations as gathering together, and becoming loyal to the God of the Hebrews, and becoming one as being alike citizens of the heavenly King? It was not natural for them to cherish such a notion as this. It involved their breaking away from their national traditions, and it did violence to all their prejudices as Jews. The Hebrews regarded themselves as the elect of God, chosen by him out of every nation to the highest dignity and honour. How, then, did this conviction, of the world embracing character of the blessings of the Messiah's reign become developed in the minds, and expressed in the burning words of enthusiasm, by the tongues of men who shared in the national bias? There is no explanation of this remarkable phenomenon save one, even that they had it wrought in them, and were led to embrace it and proclaim it by the inspiration of God's own Spirit (Gal_1:12). "Glorious things" are here spoken of the true Israel, the spiritual kingdom of the Redeemer, the Church of the living God. Observe—

I. ENLARGEMENT. (Verse 12.) The good in the land were but few. The vast multitudes of the people, of all sorts and conditions, had corrupted their way. They had turned aside to the practice of iniquity in all its forms. It seemed as though true piety would soon be extinguished in the land. The hearts of the few who amidst the prevailing faithlessness were found faithful were naturally despondent and depressed. And the words of hope here spoken by the prophet were specially designed for the comfort and help of such. God, by the mouth of his holy prophet, reminded such that as there would be, in consequence of the nation's guilt, the scattering and the dispersing, so there should come a time of revival and regathering. The true Israel should not perish. As the shepherd gathers together the scattered members of his flock, so "the remnant according to the election of grace," now to be dispersed through sins not their own, should be watched over in their exile, and eventually be gathered as forming part of the Messiah's flock. Nor they alone; but as in the early days of their national history, the more they were persecuted the more they multiplied and grew, so, as the result of the sorrows now in store, there should be secured a great spiritual increase. Yea, further, whilst "all Israel should be saved;" "the fulness of the Gentiles" should also come in. And hence the obedient should be so multiplied in number that they should be as "the sheep of Bozrah," the wealth of which consisted in the abundance of its flocks and herds; indeed, so numerous should they be, that they should make "great noise by reason of the multitude of men" (verse 12). There are times when we get depressed and sad at heart in holy service, and specially when we mark the vast portions of the human race as yet untouched by the sacred and saving influences of God's truth. We cry, "How long, O Lord, how long? Why is his chariot so long in coming?" But, courage! it will not be ever thus. The Divine purpose is to flood the world with the light of truth, and to gather a multitude out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. There shall be enlargement. The Messiah "shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." "Of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end." This is sure; it is certain; it cannot fail. "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

II. SECURITY. "As the flock in the midst of their fold" (verse 12). One of the most impressive and encouraging of the figures of speech employed in Scripture to reveal to us the Divine character is that in which the Lord is referred to as the Shepherd folding the flock in his care. True, the figure is suggestive of much that is calculated to humble us; for if he is our "Shepherd," then are we "the sheep of his pasture," and as such are very helpless ourselves, in the midst of the dangers by which we are surrounded, and very prone by reason of our weakness to wander from the fold; but then the beautiful simile encourages us, assuring us that the Lord will be our Strength in weakness, that he will defend us amidst every peril, and that in all our strayings he will follow us with a view to restoring us by his power and grace. Since he is "the Shepherd of Israel," his people are secure "as sheep in the midst of their fold." And this protection will be afforded to "his own," even amidst the gloomiest experiences of their life. There are times when even the best of men are called upon "to walk in darkness" having "no light." And what is needed in such seasons is the spirit of holy trust, a trust which will repose unswervingly in the good Shepherd's faithfulness and love, and which will take comfort in his rod and staff, in the tokens of his presence, the conviction of his sovereign sway, and the assurances of his Word. So Micah would have the tired, yet true hearted, in his day feel; and so should such in all ages realize, that in the care of God they are as secure from harm as "the flock in the midst of their fold," watched over by the faithful shepherd's continual care.

III. DELIVERANCE. (Verse 13.) The passage indicates that not only shall there be protection afforded in the times of peril, but also deliverance out of danger. It is in this connection that Micah here introduces into the words of hope he was uttering an allusion to the Messiah. He referred to him as "the Breaker," going on before his servants, overcoming and breaking through every hindrance to their advancement; they following him and through him becoming themselves triumphant. "The Breaker is come up before them," etc. (verse 13).

IV. HONOUR. "And the Lord at the head of them" (verse 13). Through all it was their privilege and distinction to be associated with the Lord Most High. The true Shechinah glory was theirs. And when at length the conflict should be past, and the time of "storm and scattering" should have ended, the all-presiding Love would still be at their head, their everlasting Light, their eternal Glory. "His name shall be in their foreheads" (Rev_22:4); "They shall be his people, and he will be their God." They shall dwell with him, and he abide with them; and from the constant experience of his love and favour their blessedness shall perpetually flow, and flow on forevermore. Thus this messenger of the Lord appears to have turned away his thoughts for a moment from the burden of woe he was delivering, and to have fixed his mind upon that brighter era which should at length dawn upon the world sin had darkened and defiled. We do well also to keep that era in view, and in anticipation of it "in patience to possess our souls."


The Breaker. In these words the prophet represents the Messiah as going before his people, removing every barrier, overcoming every obstruction, preparing the way for them, and bringing them through every difficulty. This representation was frequently made by the Jewish prophets, and the title, "The Breaker through" was familiar to the Jews as one of the titles of the Messiah.

I. THIS TITLE HAS ITS APPLICATION TO THE MESSIAH IN HIS RELATIONSHIP TO THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH. The ultimate victory and glory of the Church of God is assured. Such is God's eternal purpose, and which by his sovereign power he will eventually accomplish. Obstacles to the fulfilment of this purpose are continually arising. Impediments are placed in the way. Active opposition has been offered to the advancement of the kingdom of truth and righteousness. "The kings of the earth set themselves," etc. (Psa_2:2). Or when not thus actively engaged against the truth they have often taken such measures in the interests of their own worldly policy as have seriously impeded the progress of truth. Hoary systems of idolatry also have long held sway over millions of the human race, and the glory due unto the Lord has been given to "graven images." Yet "the counsel of the Lord standeth sure," and the purpose he has purposed shall be accomplished. And with respect to its accomplishment the Messiah is "the Breaker through." He, "the Leader and Commander of his people," shall go before them, casting down the imaginations and frustrating the designs of the evil, "opening the blind eyes, bringing out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Every mountain shall become a plain before him. He shall go on conquering and to conquer, until at last there shall rise the cry of victory, "The kingdoms of this world," etc. (Rev_11:15).

II. THIS TITLE HAS ITS APPLICATION TO THE MESSIAH ALSO IN THE RELATIONSHIP HE SUSTAINS TO HIS SERVANTS INDVIDUALLY. It is a title which may be accounted precious, not only to the Church of God as a whole, but also to each servant of the Lord. It is interesting to notice how that Christ, in one of his memorable discourses, associated this thought, of his going before his servants with a view to their being brought through every difficulty, with his references to himself as "the good Shepherd;" so that in the recorded words of Jesus (Joh_10:3, Joh_10:4) we find the very same association of figures of speech which were here employed by Micah; for Christ said of himself as the Shepherd, "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out;" "He goeth before them, and they follow him." And may not the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews have had the words Micah here employed, and the words of Christ alluded to, in mind when he wrote of the Saviour as being "the Forerunner" of his people (Heb_6:20)? Christ has gone before his servants, and has gained the victory over their spiritual foes. He has conquered the evil one. In his life he conquered, for not once did the adversary gain the ascendancy over him; and in his death he conquered, for then "he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them," etc. (Col_2:15). He has conquered the world, and could say to his disciples," I have overcome the world." And he has conquered death and the grave, fulfilling the triumphant declaration, "O death! I will be thy plagues! O grave! I will be thy destruction" (Hos_13:14; Isa_25:8). Thus he is, in the interests of each of his servants, "the Breaker." By his victory he has so weakened the strength of our spiritual adversaries as to render the conflict comparatively easy to us. We have to encounter foes already defeated by our Lord. We have to face enemies already dispirited by failure, and who know assuredly that the time of their triumphing is short. Beautiful representation of the Messiah this! "The Breaker," who removes all difficulty out of the way of his servants; who has gone before them to clear the ground, to cast down every obstruction, to make "the crooked things straight, and the rough places plain," that "the glory of the Lord may be revealed." Let us hear his voice saying to us, as he thus leads us on, "Follow me;" and be it ours

(1) cheerfully,

(2) trustingly,

(3) and courageously to obey the great Captain's call, and to enter through him into honour, glory, and immortality!



Deliberate sins bringing predestined punishments.

We see here—

I. THE GENESIS OF CRIME. Three stages are described.

1. Sinful desires are cherished in the heart. These sinners "devise iniquity," think over it (Psa_7:14), imagine it (the same word as in 1Sa_18:25, referring to Saul's thought and plan to secure David's death), dwell on it; for wickedness is "sweet in their mouth" (Job_20:10-12). Illustrate from the licentious thoughts of David (2Sa_11:2, 2Sa_11:3) or Amnon (2Sa_13:1, 2Sa_13:2), the covetous thoughts of Ahab (1Ki_21:1-29), or the envious and revengeful thoughts of Haman (Est_3:5, Est_3:6; see Jas_1:14, Jas_1:15). Here sin is not traced during its growth. From its birth St. James passes on to its maturity: "The sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death." But Micah points out stages in its growth.

2. Plans of wickedness are deliberately contrived. They "work," prepare or fabricate, "evil upon their beds." In their hours of rest they "cannot cease from sin." On their beds, where they might enjoy the sleep of God's beloved, where in wakeful hours they might commune with God and their own hearts (Psa_4:4; Psa_16:7; Psa_63:6; Psa_104:34), they plot their crimes (Psa_36:4; Pro_4:16). If they want allies they hesitate not to secure the aid of the false witness, the procuress, the dishonest lawyer, the bribed judge. Illust.: Jezebel; the priests (Mat_28:11-14); the assassins (Act_23:12-15).

3. The plot is executed in a crime. They act promptly, early, showing no signs of repentance or reflection (Jer_8:6); in the daylight, without shame (Est_6:4; Mat_27:1, Mat_27:2)—"swift to shed blood," or defraud, or debauch. Might constitutes their right; "impiously mighty and mighty in impiety," "because it is in the power of their hands." "Dextra mihi Deus" (Virgil). They are reckless of the ruin caused to an innocent man or a whole family robbed of their heritage (Neh_5:1-5), or of their head (1Ki_21:13), or of the flower of the flock, some beloved child more precious than any heritage (2Sa_12:1-9).

II. ITS INEVITABLE CONNECTION WITH RETRIBUTION. While sinners are coveting, plotting, plundering, God is watching, devising, and framing punishment. This is:

1. Predestined; on the ground of deliberate sin. God's "therefores" have all the force of demonstrative reasoning (Pro_1:31; Isa_65:12, etc.).

2. Hard to be borne. Compared to a yoke. Contrast the yoke of the Father's discipline (Lam_3:27), and of the Redeemer's service (Mat_11:29, Mat_11:30). If these yokes are contemptuously cast away, the evil yoke of punishment, a "yoke of iron," is prepared (Deu_28:48; Jer_28:14).

3. Inevitable. See the striking figures in Amo_9:1-4 and Zec_14:16-18 (God's manifold instruments of punishment); cf. 1Ti_6:9, 1Ti_6:10.

4. Humiliating. "Neither shall ye go haughtily." How often the retribution on the proud or the extortioner is strikingly appropriate to their sin! Man's skill in successful sinning is outmatched by God's wisdom in punishing (Job_9:4). When God's wisdom and power are both arrayed against us, it is an evil time indeed.

5. Utterly disastrous. A revolution in their entire circumstances (1Ti_6:4). Thus the consequences of sin may be irreparable in this world; but the gospel of the grace of God tells of a forgiveness whereby sin may be righteously forgiven, and the eternal consequences may be cut off (Isa_43:25; Joh_5:24).—E.S.P.


An impious veto; a fatal withdrawal.

We adopt as our rendering of this difficult verse, "Prophesy not; they shall indeed prophesy; they shall not prophesy to these; shame shall not depart." We see hers—

I. AN IMPIOUS VETO. Men may seek to put their veto on a faithful messenger in various ways.

1. By seeking to persuade him to utter smooth words. Thus Micaiah's integrity was first assailed (1Ki_22:13). So, too, in the later days of Amos (Amo_2:12, where the corruption of prophets as well as of Nazarites is suggested) and of Isaiah (Isa_30:9-11).

2. My direct veto, supported by threats, uttered or implied, as in the ease of Amos (Amo_7:10-13).

3. By direct persecution. Micaiah was imprisoned; Jezebel "cut off the prophets of the Lord," and sought to slay Elijah. Conspiracies were formed against the liberty and the life of Jeremiah (Jer_20:1, Jer_20:2; Jer_26:8, Jer_26:9). God's faithful witnesses are always odious to "the beast" and those who bear his mark (Rev_11:7-10). Successive steps in this impious veto are seen in the experience of Christ's apostles (Act_4:1-3, Act_4:18-21; Act_5:17, Act_5:18, Act_5:26 40).

4. By stubborn neglect or haughty contempt. These are virtually a veto on faithful preachers (cf. Isa_28:9-12; Isa_53:1). It is as though their hearers said, "Spare your breath," etc; or in still ruder phrase, "Shut up!" For they actually prefer such teachers as those alluded to in verse 11, who encourage them in sin and delusion (Deu_29:19, Deu_29:20). The contempt with which preachers and their messages are often regarded are a temptation to abandon the work. They say, "Drop not" (Hebrew), which seems almost equivalent to "Drivel not," We hear of "the decay of preaching," and know by how many it is neglected. To say, "We do not care to hear your message," is much the same as to say, "Prophesy not," And the neglect of God's truth by courteous and even complimentary hearers is a sore temptation to an earnest preacher who watches for souls not for smiles (Eze_33:30-32). To this impious veto a reply comes in the form of—

II. A FATAL WITHDRAWAL. We hear three sharp, decisive messages.

1. "They shall prophesy." God's servants shall continue to do so under the constraint of both a Divine command and an irresistible impulse. Both these are illustrated in the history of Jeremiah, who shrank from his mission (Jer_1:5-19; Jer_15:10; Jer_20:7, Jer_20:8), yet undertook it (Jer_2:1), and returned to it again and again (Jer_15:15, Jer_15:16; Jer_20:9). St. Paul is another example (Act_26:16-20; Gal_1:15, Gal_1:16; see too Act_20:24; 1Co_9:16). Men's impiety shall not frustrate God's purposes.

2. "They shall not prophesy to these." The ministry shall be withdrawn (Psa_74:9; Amo_8:11-13; and see 1 Macc. 4:46; 9:27; 14:41); or, if continued, it will be of no avail because of the hardness of heart of the hearers (Eze_3:24, Eze_3:27). Both these threats are illustrated by the treatment of the gospel by the Jews, and of the Jews by the apostles (Act_13:46, Act_13:47; Act_28:23-28). Many now are subject to a similar sentence. They nominally attend some pastor's ministry, but practically are without it, because deaf to the message it brings to them. Then the threat against God's ancient vineyard