Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Guilt and Punishment of Israel. Its Future Restoration - Mic 2:1-13
After having prophesied generally in ch. 1 of the judgment that would fall upon both kingdoms on account of their apostasy from the living God, Micah proceeds in Mic 2:1-13 to condemn, as the principal sins, the injustice and oppressions on the part of the great (Mic 2:1, Mic 2:2), for which the nation was to be driven away from its inheritance (Mic 2:3-5). He then vindicates this threat, as opposed to the prophecies of the false prophets, who confirmed the nation in its ungodliness by the lies that they told (Mic 2:6-11); and then closes with the brief but definite promise, that the Lord would one day gather together the remnant of His people, and would multiply it greatly, and make it His kingdom (Mic 2:12, Mic 2:13). As this promise applies to all Israel of the twelve tribes, the reproof and threat of punishment are also addressed to the house of Jacob as such (Mic 2:7), and apply to both kingdoms. There are no valid grounds for restricting them to Judah, even though Micah may have had the citizens of that kingdom more particularly in his mind.
The violent acts of the great men would be punished by God with the withdrawal of the inheritance of His people, or the loss of Canaan. Mic 2:1. "Woe to those who devise mischief, and prepare evil upon their beds! In the light of the morning they carry it out, for their hand is their God. Mic 2:2. They covet fields and plunder; them, and houses and take them; and oppress the man and his house, the man and his inheritance." The woe applies to the great and mighty of the nation, who by acts of injustice deprive the common people of the inheritance conferred upon them by the Lord (cf. Isa 5:8). The prophet describes them as those who devise plans by night upon their beds for robbing the poor, and carry them out as soon as the day dawns. חשׁב און denotes the sketching out of plans (see Psa 36:5); and פּעל רע, to work evil, the preparation of the ways and means for carrying out their wicked plans. פּעל, the preparation, is distinguished from עשׁה, the execution, as in Isa 41:4, for which יצר and עשׂה are also used (e.g., Isa 43:7). "Upon their beds," i.e., by night, the time of quiet reflection (Psa 4:5; cf. Job 4:13). "By the light of the morning," i.e., at daybreak, without delay. כּי ישׁ וגו, lit., "for their hand is for a god," i.e., their power passes as a god to them; they know of no higher power than their own arm; whatever they wish it is in their power to do (cf. Gen 31:29; Pro 3:27; Hab 1:11; Job 12:6). Ewald and Rckert weaken the thought by adopting the rendering, "because it stands free in their hand;" and Hitzig's rendering, "if it stands in their hand," is decidedly false. Kı̄ cannot be a conditional particle here, because the thought would thereby be weakened in a manner quite irreconcilable with the context. In Mic 2:2 the evil which they plan by night, and carry out by day, is still more precisely defined. By force and injustice they seize upon the property (fields, houses) of the poor, the possessions which the Lord has given to His people for their inheritance. Châmad points to the command against coveting (Exo 20:14-17; cf. Deu 5:18). The second half of the verse (Mic 2:2) contains a conclusion drawn from the first: "and so they practise violence upon the man and his property." Bēth answers to bottı̄m, and nachălâh to the Sâdōth, as their hereditary portion in the land - the portion of land which each family received when Canaan was divided.
"Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I devise evil concerning this family, from which ye shall not withdraw your necks, and not walk loftily, for it is an evil time. Mic 2:4. In that day will men raise against you a proverb, and lament a lamentation. It has come to pass, they say; we are waste, laid waste; the inheritance of my people he exchanges: how does he withdraw it from me! To the rebellious one he divides our field." The punishment introduced with lâkhēn (therefore) will correspond to the sin. Because they reflect upon evil, to deprive their fellow-men of their possessions, Jehovah will bring evil upon this generation, lay a heavy yoke upon their neck, out of which they will not be able to necks, and under which they will not be able to walk loftily, or with extended neck. המּשׁפּחה הזּאת is not this godless family, but the whole of the existing nation, whose corrupt members are to be exterminated by the judgment (see Isa 29:20.). The yoke which the Lord will bring upon them is subjugation to the hostile conqueror of the land and the oppression of exile (see Jer 27:12). Hâlakh rōmâh, to walk on high, i.e., with the head lifted up, which is a sign of pride and haughtiness. Rōmâh is different from קוממיּוּת, an upright attitude, in Lev 27:13. כּי עת רעה, as in Amo 5:13, but in a different sense, is not used of moral depravity, but of the distress which will come upon Israel through the laying on of the yoke. Then will the opponents raise derisive songs concerning Israel, and Israel itself will bewail its misery. The verbs yissâ', nâhâh, and 'âmar are used impersonally. Mâshâl is not synonymous with nehı̄, a mournful song (Ros.), but signifies a figurative saying, a proverb-song, as in Isa 14:4; Hab 2:6. The subject to ישּׂא is the opponents of Israel, hence עליכם; on the other hand, the subject to nâhâh and 'âmar is the Israelites themselves, as נשׁדּנוּ teaches. נהיה is not a feminine formation from נהי, a mournful song, lamentum lamenti, i.e., a mournfully mournful song, as Rosenmller, Umbreit, and the earlier commentators suppose; but the niphal of היה (cf. Dan 8:27): actum est! it is all over! - an exclamation of despair (Le de Dieu, Ewald, etc.); and it is written after 'âmar, because נהיה as an exclamation is equivalent in meaning to an object. The omission of the copula Vav precludes our taking 'âmar in connection with what follows (Maurer). The following clauses are a still further explanation of נהיה: we are quite laid waste. The form נשׁדּנוּ for נשׁדּונוּ is probably chosen simply to imitate the tone of lamentation better (Hitzig). The inheritance of my people, i.e., the land of Canaan, He (Jehovah) changes, i.e., causes it to pass over to another possessor, namely, to the heathen. The words receive their explanation from the clauses which follow: How does He cause (sc., the inheritance) to depart from me! Not how does He cause me to depart. לשׁובב is not an infinitive, ad reddendum, or restituendum, which is altogether unsuitable, but nomen verbale, the fallen or rebellious one, like שׁובבה in Jer 31:22; Jer 49:4. This is the term applied by mourning Israel to the heathenish foe, to whom Jehovah apportions the fields of His people. The withdrawal of the land is the just punishment for the way in which the wicked great men have robbed the people of their inheritance.
"Therefore wilt thou have none to cast a measure for the lot in the congregation of Jehovah." With lâkhēn (therefore) the threat, commenced with lâkhēn in Mic 2:3, is resumed and applied to individual sinners. The whole nation is not addressed in לך, still less the prophet, as Hitzig supposes, but every individual among the tyrannical great men (Mic 2:1, Mic 2:2). The singular is used instead of the plural, to make the address more impressive, that no one may imagine that he is excepted from the threatened judgment. For a similar transition from the plural to the singular, see Mic 3:10. The expression, to cast the measure begōrâl, i.e., in the nature of a lot (equivalent to for a lot, or as a lot), may be explained on the ground that the land was divided to the Israelites by lot, and then the portion that fell to each tribe was divided among the different families by measure. The words are not to be taken, however, as referring purely to the future, as Caspari supposes, i.e., to the time when the promised land would be divided afresh among the people on their return. For even if the prophet does proclaim in Mic 2:12, Mic 2:13 the reassembling of Israel and its restoration to its hereditary land, this thought cannot be arbitrarily taken for granted here. We therefore regard the words as containing a general threat, that the ungodly will henceforth receive no further part in the inheritance of the Lord, but that they are to be separated from the congregation of Jehovah.
As such a prophecy as this met with violent contradiction, not only from the corrupt great men, but also from the false prophets who flattered the people, Micah indicates it by showing that the people are abusing the long-suffering and mercy of the Lord; and that, by robbing the peaceable poor, the widows, and the orphans, they are bringing about the punishment of banishment out of the land. Mic 2:6. "Drip not (prophesy not), they drip: if they drip not this, the shame will not depart. Mic 2:7. Thou, called house of Jacob, is the patience of Jehovah short, then? or is this His doing? Are not my words good to him that walketh uprightly?" הטּיף, to drip, to cause words to flow, used of prophesying, as in Amo 7:16. The speakers in Mic 2:6 are not the Jews generally, or the rich oppressors who have just been punished and threatened. The word yattı̄phū does not agree with this, since it does not mean to chatter, but to prophesy, as Mic 2:11 and also the primary passage Deu 32:2 show. But Micah could not call the rich men's speaking prophesying. It is rather false prophets who are speaking, - namely, those who in the word 'al-tattı̄phū (prophesy not) would prohibit the true prophets from predicting the judgments of the Lord. The second hemistich is rendered by most of the modern commentators, "they are not to chatter (preach) of such things; the reproaches cease not," or "there is no end to reproaching" (Ewald, Hitzig, Maurer, and Caspari). But this is open to the following objections: (1) That הטּיף ל in Mic 2:11 means to prophesy to a person (not concerning or of anything); (2) that sūg or nâsag means to depart, not to cease; (3) that even the thought, "the reproaches to not cease," is apparently unsuitable, since Micah could not well call a prohibition against prophesying an incessant reproach; and to this we may add, (4) the grammatical harshness of taking לא יטּיפוּ as an imperative, and the following לא יסּג as an indicative (a simple declaration). Still less can the rendering, "they (the true prophets) will not chatter about this, yet the reproach will not depart" (Ros., Rckert), be vindicated, as such an antithesis as this would necessarily be indicated by a particle. The only course that remains, therefore, is that adopted by C. B. Michaelis and Hengstenberg, viz., to take the words as conditional: if they (the true prophets) do not prophesy to these (the unrighteous rich in Mic 2:1, Mic 2:2 : Hengstenberg), or on account of these things (Michaelis), the shame will not depart, i.e., shameful destruction will burst incessantly upon them. On the absence of the conditional אם, see Ewald, p. 357, b. Such addresses as these do not please the corrupt great men; but they imagine that such threats are irreconcilable with the goodness of Jehovah. This is the connection of Mic 2:7, in which the prophet meets the reproach cast upon his threatening words with the remark, that God is not wrathful, and has no love for punishing, but that He is stirred up to wrath by the sins of the nation, and obliged to punish. האמוּר is not an exclamation, "O, what is said! = O for such talk as this!" (Ewald, Umbreit, Caspari); for it cannot be shown that the participle is ever used in this way, and it cannot be supported from הפכּכם in Isa 29:16, especially as here a second vocative would follow. Nor is it a question: Num dicendum? Dare one say this?" (Hitzig). For although he might be an interrogative particle (cf. Eze 28:9), the passive participle cannot express the idea of daring, in support of which Hitzig is quite wrong in appealing to Lev 11:47 and Psalm 22:32. האמוּר is not doubt a vocative, but it is to be taken in connection with bēth-Ya‛aqōb: thou who art called house of Jacob. There is very little force in the objection, that this would have required האמוּר לך ב י, since אמר, when used in the sense of being called or being named, is always construed with ל of the person bearing the name. The part. pal of 'âmar only occurs here; and although the niphal, when used in this sense, is generally construed with ל, the same rule may apply to אמר as to קרא in the sense of naming, - namely, that in the passive construction the ל may either be inserted or omitted (cf. Isa 56:7; Isa 54:5; Deu 3:13), and האמוּר may just as well be used in the sense of dicta (domus) as הנּקראים in Isa 48:1 in the sense of vocati = qui appellantur. The whole nation is addressed, although the address points especially to the unrighteous great men. Is Jehovah indeed wrathful? i.e., has He not patience, does He not exercise long-suffering? Qātsar rūăch must not be explained according to Exo 6:9, but according to Pro 14:27. Or are these ('ēlleh, the punishments threatened) His deeds? i.e., is He accustomed, or does He only like to punish? The answer to these questions, or speaking more correctly, their refutation, follows in the next question, which is introduced with the assuring הלוא, and in which Jehovah speaks: My words deal kindly with him that walks uprightly. The Lord not only makes promises to the upright, but He also grants His blessing. The words of the Lord contain their fulfilment within themselves. In היּשׁר הולך, it is for the sake of emphasis that yâshâr stands first, and the article properly belongs to hōlēkh; but it is placed before yshr to bind together the two words into one idea. The reason why the Lord threatens by His prophets is therefore to be found in the unrighteousness of the people.
"But yesterday my people rises up as en enemy: off from the garment ye draw the cloak from those who pass by carelessly, averted from war. Mic 2:9. The women of my people ye drive away out of the house of their delights; from their children ye take my ornament for ever." 'Ethmūl, yesterday, lately, not = long ago, but, as yeqōmēm shows, denoting an action that is repeated, equivalent to "again, recently." קומם is not used here in a causative sense, "to set up," but as an intensified kal, to take a standing = to stand up or rise up. The causative view, They set up my people as an enemy (Ewald), yields no fitting sense; and if the meaning were, "My people causes me to rise up as its enemy" (Caspari), the suffixes could not be omitted. If this were the thought, it would be expressed as clearly as in Isa 63:10. There is no valid ground for altering the text, as Hitzig proposes. It is not stated against whom the people rise up as an enemy, but according to the context it can only be against Jehovah. This is done by robbing the peaceable travellers, as well as the widows and orphans, whereby they act with hostility towards Jehovah and excite His wrath (Exo 22:21.; Deu 27:19). ממּוּל שׂלמה, from before, i.e., right away from, the garment. Salmâh is the upper garment; אדר = אדּרת the broad dress-cloak. They take this away from those who pass carelessly by. שׁוּבי is an intransitive participle: averted from the war, averse to conflict, i.e., peaceably disposed (see Psa 120:7). We have not only to think of open highway robbery, but also of their taking away the cloak in the public street from their own poor debtors, when they are walking peaceably along, suspecting nothing, for the purpose of repaying themselves. The "wives of my people" are widows, whom they deprive of house and home, and indeed widows of the people of Jehovah, in whose person Jehovah is injured. These children are fatherless orphans (עלליה with a singular suffix: the children of the widow). Hădârı̄, my ornament, i.e., the ornament which I have given them. The reference, as מעל shows, is to the garment or upper coat. The expression "for ever" may be explained from the evident allusion to the Mosaic law in Exo 22:25, according to which the coat taken from the poor as a pledge was to be returned before sunset, whereas ungodly creditors retained it for ever.
Such conduct as this must be followed by banishment from the land. Mic 2:10. "Rise up, and go; for this is not the place of rest: because of the defilement which brings destruction, and mighty destruction. Mic 2:11. If there were a man, walking after wind, who would lie deceit, 'I will prophesy to thee of wine and strong drink,' he would be a prophet of this people." The prophet having overthrown in Mic 2:7-9 the objection to his threatening prophecies, by pointing to the sins of the people, now repeats the announcement of punishment, and that in the form of a summons to go out of the land into captivity, because the land cannot bear the defilement consequent upon such abominations. The passage is based upon the idea contained in Lev 18:25, Lev 18:28, that the land is defiled by the sins of its inhabitants, and will vomit them out because of this defilement, in connection with such passages as Deu 12:9-10, where coming to Canaan is described as coming to rest. זאת (this) refers to the land. This (the land in which ye dwell) is not the place of rest (hammenūchâh, as in Zac 9:1 and Psa 132:14). If "this" were to be taken as referring to their sinful conduct, in the sense of "this does not bring or cause rest," it would be difficult to connect it with what follows, viz., "because of the defilement;" whereas no difficulty arises if we take "this" as referring to the land, which the expression "rise up and go" naturally suggests. טמאה = טמאה, defilement; תּחבּל is to be taken in a relative sense, "which brings destruction," and is strengthened by לחבל, with an explanatory ו: and indeed terrible destruction. חבל, perditio; and נמרץ as in Kg1 2:8. The destruction consists in the fact that the land vomits out its inhabitants (Lev 18:25). Such prophecies are very unwelcome to the corrupt great men, because they do not want to hear the truth, but simply what flatters their wicked heart. They would like to have only prophets who prophesy lies to them. הולך רוּח, walking after the wind; the construction is the same as הולך צדקות in Isa 33:15, and rūăch is a figure signifying what is vain or worthless, as in Isa 26:18; Isa 41:29, etc. The words אטּיף לך וגו are the words of a false prophet: I prophesy to thee with regard to wine. The meaning is not "that there will be an abundant supply of wine," or "that the wine will turn out well" (Rosenmller and others); but wine and strong drink (for shēkhâr, see Delitzsch on Isa 5:11) are figures used to denote earthly blessings and sensual enjoyments, and the words refer to such promises as Lev 26:4-5, Lev 26:10, Deu 28:4, Deu 28:11, Joe 2:24; Joe 3:18., which false prophets held out to the people without any regard to their attitude towards God. "This people," because the great men represent the nation. With this explanation pointing back to Mic 2:6, the threatening is brought to a close.
In Mic 2:12, Mic 2:13 there follows, altogether without introduction, the promise of the future reassembling of the people from their dispersion. Mic 2:12. "I will assemble, assemble thee all together, O Jacob; gather together, gather together the remnant of Israel; I will bring him together like the sheep of Bozrah, like a flock in the midst of their pasture: they will be noisy with men. Mic 2:13. The breaker through comes up before them; they break through, and pass along through the gate, and go out by it; and their King goes before them, and Jehovah at their head." Micah is indeed not a prophet, prophesying lies of wine and strong drink; nevertheless he also has salvation to proclaim, only not for the morally corrupt people of his own time. They will be banished out of the land; but the captivity and dispersion are not at an end. For the remnant of Israel, for the nation when sifted and refined by the judgments, the time will come when the Lord will assemble them again, miraculously multiply them, and redeem them as their King, and lead them home. The sudden and abrupt transition from threatening to promise, just as in Hos 2:2; Hos 6:1; Hos 11:9, has given rise to this mistaken supposition, that Mic 2:12, Mic 2:13 contain a prophecy uttered by the lying prophets mentioned in Mic 2:10 (Abenezra, Mich., Ewald, etc.). But this supposition founders not only on the שׁארית ישׂראל, inasmuch as the gathering together of the remnant of Israel presupposes the carrying away into exile, but also on the entire contents of these verses. Micah could not possibly introduce a false prophet as speaking in the name of Jehovah, and saying, "I will gather;" such a man would at the most have said, "Jehovah will gather." Nor could he have put a true prophecy like that contained in Mic 2:12, Mic 2:13 into the mouth of such a man. For this reason, not only Hengstenberg, Caspari, and Umbreit, but even Maurer and Hitzig, have rejected this assumption; and the latter observes, among other things, quite correctly, that "the idea expressed here is one common to the true prophets (see Hos 2:2), which Micah himself also utters in Mic 4:6." The emphasis lies upon the assembling, and hence אאסף and אקבּץ are strengthened by infinitive absolutes. But the assembling together presuppose a dispersion among the heathen, such as Micha has threatened in Mic 1:11, Mic 1:16; Mic 2:4. And the Lord will gather together all Jacob, not merely a portion, and yet only the remnant of Israel. This involves the thought, that the whole nation of the twelve tribes, or of the two kingdoms, will be reduced to a remnant by the judgment. Jacob and Israel are identical epithets applied to the whole nation, as in Mic 1:5, and the two clauses of the verse are synonymous, so that יעקב כּלּך coincides in actual fact with שׁאתית ישׂראל. The further description rests upon the fact of the leading of Israel out of Egypt, which is to be renewed in all that is essential at a future time. The following clauses also predict the miraculous multiplication of the remnant of Israel (see Hos 2:1-2; Jer 31:10), as experienced by the people in the olden time under the oppression of Egypt (Exo 1:12). The comparison to the flock of Bozrah presupposes that Bozrah's wealth in flocks was well known. Now, as the wealth of the Moabites in flocks of sheep is very evident from Kg2 3:4, many have understood by בּצרה not the Edomitish Bozrah, but the Moabitish Bostra (e.g., Hengstenberg). Others, again, take botsrâh as an appellative noun in the sense of hurdle or fold (see Hitzig, Caspari, and Dietrich in Ges. Lex. after the Chaldee). But there is not sufficient ground for either. The Bostra situated in the Hauran does not occur at all in the Old Testament, not even in Jer 48:24, and the appellative meaning of the word is simply postulated for this particular passage. That the Edomites were also rich in flocks of sheep is evident from Isa 24:6, where the massacre which Jehovah will inflict upon Edom and Bozrah is described as a sacrificial slaughtering of lambs, he-goats, rams, and oxen; a description which presupposes the wealth of Bozrah in natural flocks. The comparison which follows, "like a flock in the midst of its pasture," belongs to the last verse, and refers to the multiplication, and to the noise made by a densely packed and numerous flock. The same tumult will be made by the assembled Israelites on account of the multitude of men. For the article in הדּברו, which is already determined by the suffix, see at Jos 7:21. In Jos 7:13 the redemption of Israel out of exile is depicted under the figure of liberation from captivity. Was Egypt a slave-house (Mic 6:4; cf. Exo 20:2); so is exile a prison with walls and gates, which must be broken through. הפּריץ, the breaker through, who goes before them, is not Jehovah, but, as the counterpart of Moses the leader of Israel out of Egypt, the captain appointed by God for His people, answering to the head which they are said to choose for themselves in Hos 2:2, a second Moses, viz., Zerubbabel, and in the highest sense Christ, who opens the prison-doors, and redeems the captives of Zion (vid., Isa 42:7). Led by him, they break through the walls, and march through the gate, and go out through it out of the prison. "The three verbs, they break through, they march through, they go out, describe in a pictorial manner progress which cannot be stopped by any human power" (Hengstenberg). Their King Jehovah goes before them at their head (the last two clauses of the verse are synonymous). Just as Jehovah went before Israel as the angel of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire at the exodus from Egypt (Exo 13:21), so at the future redemption of the people of God will Jehovah go before them as King, and lead the procession (see Isa 52:12).
The fulfilment of this prophecy commenced with the gathering together of Israel to its God and King by the preaching of the gospel, and will be completed at some future time when the Lord shall redeem Israel, which is now pining in dispersion, out of the fetters of its unbelief and life of sin. We must not exclude all allusion to the deliverance of the Jewish nation out of the earthly Babylon by Cyrus; at the same time, it is only in its typical significance that this comes into consideration at all, - namely, as a preliminary stage and pledge of the redemption to be effected by Christ out of the spiritual Babylon of this world.