Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 28: Jonah, Micah, Nahum, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
1. Sermo Jehovae qui factus est (vel, directus) ad Michah Morasthitem, diebus Jotham, Achaz, Jehizkiae, regum Judae, quem vidit super Samariam et Jerusalem.
This inscription, in the first place, shows the time in which Micah lived, and during which God employed his labors. And this deserves to be noticed: for at this day his sermons would be useless, or at least frigid, except his time were known to us, and we be thereby enabled to compare what is alike and what is different in the men of his age, and in those of our own: for when we understand that Micah condemned this or that vice, as we may also learn from the other Prophets and from sacred history, we are able to apply more easily to ourselves what he then said, inasmuch as we can view our own life as it were in a mirror. This is the reason why the Prophets are wont to mention the time in which they executed their office.
But how long Micah followed the course of his vocation we cannot with certainty determine. It is, however, probable that he discharged his office as a Prophet for thirty years: it may be that he exceeded forty years; for he names here three kings, the first of whom, that is Jotham, reigned sixteen years; and he was followed by Ahab, who also reigned as many years. If then Micah was called at the beginning of the first reign, he must have prophesied for thirty-two years, the time of the two kings. Then the reign of Hezekiah followed, which continued to the twenty-ninth year: and it may be, that the Prophet served God to the death, or even beyond the death, of Hezekiah. 59 We hence see that the number of his years cannot with certainty be known; though it be sufficiently evident that he taught not for a few years, but that he so discharged his office, that for thirty years he was not wearied, but constantly persevered in executing the command of God.
I have said that he was contemporary with Isaiah: but as Isaiah began his office under Uzziah, we conclude that he was older. Why then was Micah joined to him? That the Lord might thus break down the stubbornness of the people. It was indeed enough that one man was sent by God to bear witness to the truth; but it pleased God that a testimony should be borne by the mouth of two, and that holy Isaiah should be assisted by this friend and, as it were, his colleague. And we shall hereafter find that they adopted the very same words; but there was no emulation between them, so that one accused the other of theft, when he repeated what had been said. Nothing was more gratifying to each of them than to receive a testimony from his colleague; and what was committed to them by God they declared not only in the same sense and meaning, but also in the same words, and, as it were, with one mouth.
Of the expression, that the word was sent to him, we have elsewhere reminded you, that it ought not to be understood of private teaching, as when the word of God is addressed to individuals; but the word was given to Micah, that he might be God’s ambassador to us. It means then that he came furnished with commands, as one sustaining the person of God himself; for he brought nothing of his own, but what the Lord commanded him to proclaim. But as I have elsewhere enlarged on this subject, I now only touch on it briefly.
This vision, he says, was given him against two cities Samaria and Jerusalem 60 It is certain that the Prophet was specifically sent to the Jews; and Maresah, from which he arose, as it appears from the inscription, was in the tribe of Judah: for Morasthite was an appellative, derived from the place Maresah. 61 But it may be asked, why does he say that visions had been given him against Samaria? We have said elsewhere, that though Hosea was specifically and in a peculiar manner destined for the kingdom of Israel, he yet by the way mingled sometimes those things which referred to the tribe or kingdom of Judah: and such was also the case with our Prophet; he had a regard chiefly to his own kindred, for he knew that he was appointed for them; but, at the same time, he overlooked not wholly the other part of the people; for the kingdom of Israel was not so divided from the tribe of Judah that no connection remained: for God was unwilling that his covenant should be abolished by their defection from the kingdom of David. We hence see, that though Micah spent chiefly his labors in behalf of the Jews, he yet did not overlook or entirely neglect the Israelites.
But the title must be restricted to one part of the book; for threatenings only form the discourse here. But we shall find that promises, full of joy, are also introduced. The inscription then does not include all the contents of the book; but as his purpose was to begin with threatenings, and to terrify the Jews by setting before them the punishment that was at hand, this inscription was designedly given. There is, at the same time, no doubt but that the Prophet was ill received by the Jews on this account; for they deemed it a great indignity, and by no means to be endured, to be tied up in the same bundle with the Israelites; for Samaria was an abomination to the kingdom of Judah; and yet the Prophet here makes no difference between Samaria and Jerusalem. This was then an exasperating sentence: but we see how boldly the Prophet performs the office committed to him; for he regarded not what would be agreeable to men, nor endeavored to draw them by smooth things: though his message was disliked, he yet proclaimed it, for he was so commanded, nor could he shake off the yoke of his vocation. Let us now proceed —
2. Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
2. Audite populi omnes, ausculta terra et plenitudo ejus, et sit Dominus Jehova vobis (vel, inter vos, vel, contra vos, potius) in testem, et Dominus e palatio (vel, templo) sanctitatis suae.
The Prophet here rises into an elevated style, being not content with a simple and calm manner of speaking. We hence may learn, that having previously tried the disposition of the people, he knew the stubbornness of almost all classes: for except he was persuaded that the people would be rebellious and obstinate, he would certainly have used some mildness, or have at least endeavored to lead them of their own accord rather than to drive them thus violently. There is then no doubt but that the obstinacy of the people and their wickedness were already fully known to him, even before he began to address one word to them. But this difficulty did not prevent him from obeying God’s command. He found it necessary in the meantime to add vehemence to his teaching; for he saw that he addressed the deaf, yea, stupid men, who were destitute of every sense of religion, and who had hardened themselves against God, and had not only fallen away through want of thought, but had also become immersed in their sins, and were wickedly and abominably obstinate in them. Since then the Prophet saw this, he makes here a bold beginning, and addresses not only his own nation, for whom he was appointed a Teacher; but he speaks to the whole world.
For what purpose does he say, Hear, all ye people? 62 It was not certainly his object to proclaim indiscriminately to all the truth of God for the same end: but he summons here all nations as witnesses or judges, that the Jews might understand that their impiety would be made evident to all, except they repented, and that there was no reason for them to hope that they could conceal their baseness, for God would expose their hidden crimes as it were on an open stage. We hence see how emphatical are the words, when the Prophet calls on all nations and would have them to be witnesses of the judgment which God had resolved to bring on his people.
He afterwards adds, Let also the earth give ear and its fullness We may take the earth, by metonymy, for its inhabitants; but as it is added, and its fullness, the Prophet, I doubt not, meant here to address the very earth itself, though it be without reason. He means that so dreadful would be the judgment of God, as to shake created things which are void of sense; and thus he more severely upbraids the Jews with their stupor, that they heedlessly neglected the word of God, which yet would shake all the elements by its power.
He then immediately turns his discourse to the Jews: after having erected God’s tribunal and summoned all the nations, that they might form as it were a circle of a solemn company, he says, There will be for me the Lord Jehovah against you for a witness — the Lord from the temple of his holiness. By saying that God would be as a witness for him, he not only affirms that he was sent by God, but being as it were inflamed with zeal, he appeals here to God, and desires him to be present, that the wickedness and obstinacy of the people might not be unpunished; as though he said, “Let God, whose minister I am, be with me, and punish your impiety; let him prove that he is the author of this doctrine, which I declare from his mouth and by his command; let him not suffer you to escape unpunished, if ye do not repent.”
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says that God would be for him a witness; as though he had said, that there was no room here to trifle; for if the Jews thought to elude God’s judgment they greatly deceived themselves; inasmuch as when he has given a command to his servants to treat with his people, he is at the same time present as a judge, and will not suffer his word to be rejected without immediately undertaking his own cause.
Nor is this addition superfluous, The Lord from the temple of his holiness: for we know how thoughtlessly the Jews were wont to boast that God dwelt in the midst of them. And this presumption so blinded them that they despised all the Prophets; for they thought it unlawful that any thing should be said to their disgrace, because they were the holy people of God, his holy heritage and chosen nation. Inasmuch then as the Lord had adopted them, they falsely boasted of his favors. Since then the Prophet knew that the people insolently gloried in those privileges, with which they had been honored by God, he now declares that God would be the avenger of impiety from his temple; as though he said, Ye boast that God is bound to you, and that he has so bound up his faith to you as to render his name to you a sport: he indeed dwells in his temple; but from thence he will manifest himself as an avenger, as he sees that you are perverse in your wickedness. We hence see that the Prophet beats down that foolish arrogance, by which the Jews were inflated; yea, he turns back on their own heads what they were wont boastingly to bring forward. After having made this introduction, to awaken slumbering men with as much vehemence as he could, he subjoins —
3. For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
3. Quia ecce Jehova egreditur e loco suo, et descendet, et calcabit super excelsa terrae:
4. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
4. Et liquefient montes sub eo, et solventur (vel, dehiscent) valles; sicut cera a conspectu ignis, sicut aquae in locum inferiorem actae.
The Prophet pursues the same subject; and he dwells especially on this — that God would be a witness against his people from his sanctuary. He therefore confirms this, when he says that God would come from his place Some interpreters do at the same time take this view — that the temple would hereafter be deprived of God’s presence, and would hence become profane, according to what Ezekiel declares. For as the Jews imagined that God was connected with them as long as the temple stood, and this false imagination proved to them an allurement, as it were, to sin, as on this account they took to themselves greater liberty, — this was the reason why the Prophet Ezekiel declares that God was no longer in the temple; and the Lord had shown to him by a vision that he had left his temple, so that he would no longer dwell there. Some, as I have said, give a similar explanation of this passage; but this sense does not seem to suit the context. I therefore take another view of this sentence — that God would go forth from his place. But yet it is doubted what place the Prophet refers to: for many take it to be heaven, and this seems probable, for immediately after he adds, Descend shall God, and he will tread on the high places of the earth This descent seems indeed to point out a higher place: but as the temple, we know, was situated on a high and elevated spot, on mount Zion, there is nothing inconsistent in saying that God descended from his temple to chastise the whole of Judea as it deserved. Then the going forth of God is by no means ambiguous in its meaning, for he means that God would at length go forth, as it were, in a visible form. With regard then to the place, I am inclined to refer it to the temple; and this clause, I have no doubt, has proceeded from the last verse.
But why is going forth here ascribed to God? Because the Jews had abused the forbearance of God in worshipping him with vain ceremonies in the temple; and at the same time they thought that they had escaped from his hand. As long then as God spared them, they thought that he was, as it were, bound to them, because he dwelt among them. Besides, as the legal and shadowy worship prevailed among them, they imagined that God rested in their temple. But now the Prophet says, “He will go forth: ye have wished hitherto to confine God to the tabernacle, and ye have attempted to pacify him with your frivolous puerilities: but ye shall know that his hand and his power extend much farther: he shall therefore come and show what that majesty is which has been hitherto a derision to you.” For when hypocrites set to sale their ceremonies to God, do they not openly trifle with him, as though he were a child? and do they not thus rob him of his power and authority? Such was the senselessness of that people. The Prophet therefore does not say without reason that God would go forth, that he might prove to the Jews that they were deluded by their own vain imaginations, when they thus took away from God what necessarily belonged to him, and confined him to a corner in Judea and fixed him there, as though he rested and dwelt there like a dead idol.
The particle, Behold, is emphatical: for the Prophet intended here to shake off from the Jews their torpidity, inasmuch as nothing was more difficult to them than to be persuaded and to believe that punishment was nigh at hand, when they flattered themselves that God was propitious to them. Hence that they might no longer cherish this willfulness, he says, Behold, come shall the Lord, forth shall he go from his place Isaiah has a passage like this in an address to the people, Isa 26; but the object of it is different; for Isaiah intended to threaten the enemies of the Church and heathen nations: but here Micah denounces war on the chosen people, and shows that God thus dwelt in his temple, that the Jews might perceive that his hand was opposed to them, as they had so shamefully despised him, and, by their false imaginations reduced, as it were, to nothing his power.
He shall tread, he says, on the high places of the earth. By the high places of the earth I do not understand superstitious places, but those well fortified. We know that fortresses were then fixed, for the most part, on elevated situations. The Prophet then intimates, that there would be no place into which God’s vengeance would not penetrate, however well fortified it might be: “No enclosures,” he says, “shall hinder God from penetrating into the inmost parts of your fortresses; he shall tread on the high places of the earth.” At the same time, I doubt not but that he alludes, by this kind of metaphor, to the chief men, who thought themselves exempted from the common lot of mankind; for they excelled so much in power, riches, and authority, that they would not be classed with the common people. The Prophet then intimates, that those, who were become proud through a notion of their own superiority would not be exempt from punishment.
And he afterwards adds, that this going forth of God would be terrible, Melt, he says, shall the mountains under him It hence appears, that the Prophet did not speak in the last verse of the departure of God, as though he was going to forsake his own temple, but that he, on the contrary, described his going forth from the temple, that he might ascend his tribunal and execute punishment on the whole people, and thus, in reality, prove that he would be a judge, because he had been very daringly despised. Hence he says, Melt shall the mountains under him, the valleys shall be rent, or cleave, as wax before the fire, as waters rolling into a lower place 63 The Prophets do not often describe God in a manner so awful; but this representation is to be referred to the circumstance of this passage, for he sets forth God here as the judge of the people: it was therefore necessary that he should be exhibited as furnished and armed with powers that he might stake such vengeance on the Jews as they deserved. And other similar passages we shall hereafter meet with, and like to those which we found in Hosea. God then is said to melt the mountains, and he is said to strike the valleys with such terror that they cleave under him; in short, he is said so to terrify all elements, that the very mountains, however stony they may be, melt like wax or like waters which flow, — because he could not otherwise produce a real impression on a people so obstinate, and who, as it has been said, so flattered themselves even in their vices.
We may further easily learn what application to make of this truth in our day. We find the Papists boasting of the title Church, and, in a manner, with vain confidence, binding God to themselves, because they have baptism, though they have adulterated it with their superstitions; and then, they think that they have Christ, because they still retain the name of a Church. Had the Lord promised that his dwelling would be at Rome, we yet see how foolish and frivolous would be such boasting: for though the temple was at Jerusalem, yet the Lord went forth thence to punish the sins of the people, yea, even of the chosen people. We further know, that it is folly to bind God now to one place, for it is his will that his name should be celebrated without any difference through the whole world. Wheresoever, then, the voice of the Gospel sounds, God would have us to know that he is present there. What the Papists then proudly boast of — that Christ is joined to them — will turn out to their own condemnation; — why so? Because the Lord will prove that he is the avenger of so impious and shameful a profanation, as they not only presumptuously lay claim to his name, but also tear it in pieces, and contaminate it with their sacrilegious abominations.
Again, since God is said to melt the mountains with his presence, let us hence learn to rouse up all our feelings whenever God comes forth not that we may flee to a distance from him, but that we may reverently receive his word, so that he may afterwards appear to us a kind and reconciled Father. For when we become humble, and the pride and height of our flesh is subdued, he then immediately receives us, as it were, into his gentle bosom, and gives us an easy access to him, yea, he invites us to himself with all possible kindness. That the Lord then may thus kindly receive us, let us learn to fear as soon as he utters his voice: but let not this fear make us to flee away but only humble us, so that we may render true obedience to the word of the Lord. It follows —
5. For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
5. Propter scelus 64 Jacob totum hoc, et propter transgressiones domus Israel: quod scelus Jacob? Annon Samaria? Et quae excelsa Jehudah? Annon Jerusalem?
The Prophet teaches, in this verse, that God is not angry for nothing; though when he appears rigid, men expostulate with him, and clamor as though he were cruel. That men may, therefore, acknowledge that God is a just judge, and that he never exceeds moderation in punishments, the Prophet here distinctly states that there was a just cause, why God denounced so dreadful a judgment on his chosen people, — even because not only a part of the people, but the whole body had, through their impiety, fallen away; for by the house of Jacob, and by the house of Israel, he means that impiety had everywhere prevailed, so that no part was untainted. The meaning then is, — that the contagion of sin had spread through all Israel, that no portion of the country was free from iniquity, that no corner of the land could bring an excuse for its defection; the Lord therefore shows that he would be the judge of them all, and would spare neither small nor great.
We now then understand the Prophet’s object in this verse: As he had before taught how dreadful would be God’s vengeance against all the ungodly, so now he mentions their crimes, that they might not complain that they were unjustly treated, or that God employed too much severity. The Prophet then testifies that the punishment, then near at hand, would be just.
He now adds, What is the wickedness of Jacob? The Prophet, no doubt, indirectly reproves here the hypocrisy which ruled dominant among the people. For he asks not for his own satisfaction or in his own person; but, on the contrary, he relates, by way of imitation, (μιμητικῶς, — imitatively) what he knew to be ever on their lips, “Oh! what sort of thing is this sin? Why! thou assumest here a false principle, — that we are wicked men, ungodly and perfidious: thou does us a grievous wrong.” Inasmuch, then, as hypocrites thought themselves pure, having wiped, as it were, their mouths, whenever they eluded reproofs by their sophistries, the Prophet borrows a question, as it were, from their own lips, “Of what kind is this wickedness? Of what sort is that transgression?” As though he said, “I know what ye are wont to do, when any one of the Prophets severely reproves you; ye instantly contend with him, and are ready with your objections: but what do you gain? If you wish to know what your wickedness is, it is Samaria; and where your high places are, they are at Jerusalem.” It is the same as if he had said, “I do not here contend with the common people, but I attack the first men: my contest then is with the princes themselves, who surpass others in dignity, and are, therefore, unwilling to be touched.”
But it sometimes happens that the common people become degenerated, while some integrity remains among the higher orders: but the Prophet shows that the diseases among the people belonged to the principal men; and hence he names the two chief cities, Jerusalem and Samaria, as he had said before, in the first verse, that he proclaimed predictions against these: and yet it is certain, that the punishment was to be in common to the whole people. But as they thought that Jerusalem and Samaria would be safe, though the whole country were destroyed, the Prophet threatens them by name: for, relying first on their strength, they thought themselves unassailable; and then, the eyes of nearly all, we know, were dazzled with empty splendor, powers and dignity: thus the ungodly wholly forget that they are men, and what they owe to God, when elevated in the world. So great an arrogance could not be subdued, except by sharp and severe words, such as the Prophet, as we see, here employs. He then says, that the wickedness of Israel was Samaria; the fountain of all iniquities was the royal city, which yet ought to have ruled the whole land with wisdom and justice: but what any more remains, when kings and their counselors tread under foot all regard for what is just and right, and having cast away every shame, rise up in rebellion against God and men? When therefore kings thus fall from their dignity, an awful ruin must follow.
This is the reason why the Prophet says that the wickedness of Israel was Samaria, that thence arose all iniquities. But we must at the same time bear in mind, that the Prophet speaks not here of gross crimes; but, on the contrary, he directs his reproof against ungodly and perverted forms of worship; and this appears more evident from the second clause, in which he mentions transgressions in connection with the high places. We hence see, that all sins in general are not here reproved, but their vicious modes of worship, by which religion had been polluted among the Jews as well as the Israelites. But it might seem very unjust, that the Prophet should charge with sin those forms of worship in which the Jews laboriously exercised themselves with the object of pacifying God. But we see how God regards as nothing whatever men blend with his worship out of their own heads. And this is our principal contest at this day with the Papists; we call their perverted and spurious modes of worship abominations: they think that what is heavenly is to be blended with what is earthly. We diligently labor, they say, for this end — that God may be worshipped. True; but, at the same time, ye profane his worship by your inventions; and it is therefore an abomination. We now then see how foolish and frivolous are those delusions, when men follow their own wisdom in the duty of worshipping God: for the Prophet here, in the name of God, fulminates, as it were, from heaven against all superstitions, and shows that no sin is more detestable, than that preposterous caprice with which idolaters are inflamed, when they observe such forms of worship as they have themselves invented.
Now with regard to the high places, we must notice, that there was a great difference between the Jews and the Israelites at that time as to idolatry. The Israelites had so fallen, that they were altogether degenerated; nothing could be seen among them that had an affinity to the true and legitimate worship of God: but the Jews had retained some form of religion, they had not thus abandoned themselves; but yet they had a mixture of superstitions; such as one would find, were he to compare the gross Popery of this day with that middle course which those men invent, who seem to themselves to be very wise, fearing, forsooth, as they do, the offenses of the world; and hence they form for us a mixture, I know not what, from the superstitions of the Papacy and from the Reformation, as they call it. Something like this was the mixture at Jerusalem. We however see, that the Prophet pronounces the same sentence against the Jews and the Israelites and that is, that God will allow nothing that proceeds from the inventions of men to be joined to his word. Since then God allows no such mixtures, the Prophet here says that there was no less sin on the high places of Judea, than there was in those filthy abominations which were then dominant among the people of Israel. But the remainder we must defer until to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that, since to a perverse, and in every way a rebellious people, thou didst formerly show so much grace, as to exhort them continually to repentance, and to stretch forth thy hand to them by thy Prophets, — O grant, that the same word may sound in our ears; and when we do not immediately profit by thy teaching, O cast us not away, but, by thy Spirit, so subdue all our thoughts and affections, that we, being humbled, may give glory to thy majesty, such as is due to thee, and that, being allured by thy paternal favor, we may submit ourselves to thee, and, at the same time, embrace that mercy which thou offerest and presentest to us in Christ, that we may not doubt but thou wilt be a Father to us, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the, blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.
6. Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
6. Et ponam Samariam (hoc est, ideo; enim hic sumitur pro illativa particula; ponam igitur Samariam) in acervum agri, in plantationes vinae; et devolvam in vallem lapides ejus, et fundamenta ejus retegam.
Though Micah intended especially to devote his services to the Jews, as we have said yesterday, he yet, in the first place, passes judgment on Samaria; for it was his purpose afterwards to speak more fully against Jerusalem and the whole of Judea. And this state of the case ought to be borne in mind; for the Prophet does not begin with the Israelites, because he directs his discourse peculiarly to them; but his purpose was briefly to reprove them, and then to address more especially his own people, for it was for this purpose that he was called. Now, as he threatens destruction to Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel on account of their corrupted forms of worship, we may hence learn how displeasing to God is superstition, and that he regards nothing so much as the true worship of his name. There is no reason here for men to advance this position — that they do not designedly sin; for God shows how he is to be worshipped by us. Whenever, then, we deviate in any thing from the rule which he has prescribed, we manifest, in that particular, our rebellion and obstinacy. Hence the superstitious ever act like fools with regard to God, for they will not submit to his word, so as to be thereby alone made wise.
And he says, I will set Samaria as an heap of the field, that is, such shall be the ruins that they shall differ nothing from the heaps of the fields: for husband men, we know, when they find stones in their fields, throw them into some corner, that they may not be in the way of the slough. Like such heaps then, as are seen in the fields, Samaria would be, according to what God declared. He then says, that the place would be empty, so that vines would be planted there; and, in the third place, that its stones would be scattered through the valley; as when one casts stones where there is a wide plain, they run and roll far and wide; so would be the scattering of Samaria according to what the Prophet says, it was to be like the rolling of stones in a wide field. He adds, in the fourth place, I will uncover her foundations, that is, I will entirely demolish it, so that a stone, as Christ says, may not remain on a stone, (Mt 24:2.) We now perceive the import of the words; and we also perceive that the reason why the Prophet denounces on Samaria so severe a judgment was, because it had corrupted the legitimate worship of God with its own inventions; for it had devised, as we well know, many idols, so that the whole authority of the law had been abolished among the Israelites. It now follows —
7. And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
7. Et omnia sculptilia 65 ejus diruentur, et omnes mercedes ejus exurentur igne (alii transferunt, donaria,) et omnia idola ejus ponam in vastitatem; quia e mercede meretricis congregavit, et ad mercedem meretricis revertentur.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, and says, that the ruin of Samaria was at hand, so that its idols would be broken, and also, that its wealth would be destroyed which she had gathered by illegitimate means, and which she thought to be the reward of her idolatry. But God mentions idols here expressly by his Prophet, in order to confirm what we noticed yesterday — that the cause of vengeance was, because Samaria had abandoned itself to ungodly forms of worship, and had departed from the Law. That the Israelites might then understand the cause for which God would so severely punish them, the Prophet here makes express mention of their graven images and idols. God is not indeed angry with stones and wood; but he observes the abuse and the perversion of them, when men pollute themselves by wickedly worshipping such things. This is the reason why God says here that the graven images of Samaria would be broken in pieces, and that its idols would be destroyed.
With regard to the wages, the Prophet no doubt designed to stamp with disgrace all the wealth of Samaria. אתנן, atanen, is properly a gift or a present. But as he twice repeats it, and says, that what Samaria possessed was the reward of an harlot, and then, that it would return to the reward of an harlot, he, in the first place, I have no doubt, upbraids the Israelites, because they, after the manner of harlots and strumpets, had heaped together their great riches: and this was done by Jeroboam, who constructed a new form of worship, in order to secure his own kingdom. The Israelites then began to flourish; and we also know how wealthy that kingdom became, and how proud they were on account of their riches. As, then, the Israelites despised the kingdom of Judah, and thought themselves in every way happy, and as they ascribed all this, as we have seen in Hosea, to their superstitions, Micah speaks here according to their view of things, when he says, Idolatry has been gainful to you, this splendor dazzles your eyes; but your rewards I have already doomed to the burning: they shall then be burnt, and thus perish. Hosea also, as we have seen, made use of the same comparison, — that the children of Israel felicitated themselves in their impiety, like a harlot, who, while she gains many presents from those who admire her beauty, seems not conscious of her turpitude and baseness: such were the Israelites. The Prophets therefore does not say, without reason, Behold, your rewards, by burning, shall perish, or, be consumed with fire. Why so? Because ye have gathered them, he says, from the reward of an harlot, and all this shall return to the reward of an harlot.
This last clause ought to be restricted to the gifts or wealth of Samaria; for it cannot properly be applied to idols or graven images. The import of the whole then is that God would be the avenger of idolatry with regard to the city of Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel. Besides, as the Israelites boasted that their ungodly forms of worship turned out to their happiness and prosperity, God declares that the whole of this success would be evanescent, like that of the harlot, who amasses great wealth, which soon vanishes away: and we see that thus it commonly happens.
Some explain the passage thus, — that the gifts, with which the Israelites adorned their temples, would return to be the reward of an harlot, that is, would he transferred to Chaldea, and that the Babylonians would, in their turn, adorn with them their idols. But this view is not suitable to the place; for the Prophet does not say that what Samaria had gathered would be a prey or a spoil to enemies but that it would perish by fire. 66 He speaks therefore, proverbially when he says that the produce, from the reward of an harlot, would return to be the reward of an harlot, that is, that it would become nothing; for the Lord sets a curse on such riches as strumpets gain by their baseness, while they prostitute themselves. Since, then, the whole of such wealth is under the curse of God, it must necessarily soon pass away like smoke: and this, in my view, is the real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows —
8. Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
8. Super hoc plangam et ululabo; incedam spoliatus et nudus; faciam planctum tanquam draconum, et luctum tanquam filiarum struthionis: 67
9. For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
9. Quia acerbae sunt plagae ejus (est mutatio numeri;) quia venit usque ad Jehudam; accessit ad portam populi mei, ad Jerusalem.
The Prophet here assumes the character of a mourner, that he might more deeply impress the Israelites; for we have seen that they were almost insensible in their torpidity. It was therefore necessary that they should be brought to view the scene itself, that, seeing their destruction before their eyes they might be touched both with grief and fear. Lamentations of this kind are everywhere to be met with in the Prophets, and they ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence gather how great was the torpor of men, inasmuch as it was necessary to awaken them, by this form of speech, in order to convince them that they had to do with God: they would have otherwise continued to flatter themselves with delusions. Though indeed the Prophet here addresses the Israelites, we ought yet to apply this to ourselves; for we are not much unlike the ancient people: for however God may terrify us with dreadful threatening, we still remain quiet in our filth. It is therefore needful that we should be severely treated, for we are almost void of feeling.
But the Prophets sometimes assumed mourning, and sometimes they were touched with real grief: for when they spoke of aliens and also of the enemies of the Church, they introduce these lamentations. When a mention is made of Babylon or of Egypt, they sometimes say, Behold, I will mourn, and my bowels shall be as a timbrel. The Prophets did not then really grieve; but, as I have said, they transferred to themselves the sorrows of others, and ever with this object, that they might persuade men that God’s threatenings were not vain, and that God did not trifle with men when he declared that he was angry with them. But when the discourse was respecting the Church and the faithful, then the Prophets did not put on grief. The representation here is then to be taken in such a way as that we may understand that the Prophet was in real mourning, when he saw that a dreadful ruin was impending over the whole kingdom of Israel. For though they had perfidiously departed from the Law, they were yet a part of the holy race, they were the children of Abraham, whom God had received into favor. The Prophet, therefore, could not refrain from mourning unfeignedly for them. And the Prophet does here these two things, — he shows the fraternal love which he entertained for the children of Israel, as they were his kindred, and a part of the chosen people, — and he also discharges his own duty; for this lamentation was, as it were, the mirror in which he sets before them the vengeance of God towards men so extremely torpid. He therefore exhibits to them this representation, that they might perceive that God was by no means trifling with men, when he thus denounced punishment on the wicked and such as were apostates.
Moreover, he speaks not of a common lamentation, but says, I will wail and howl, and then, I will go spoiled The word אנושה, shulal, some take as meaning one out of his mind or insane, as though he said, “I shall be now as one not possessed of a sound mind.” But as this metaphor is rather unnatural, I prefer the sense of being spoiled; for it was the custom with mourners, as it is well known, to tear and to throw away their garments from them. I will then go spoiled and naked; and also, I will make wailing, not like that of men, but like the wailing of dragons: I will mourn, he says, as the ostriches are wont to do. In short, the Prophet by these forms of speech intimates, that the coming evil would by no means be of an ordinary kind: for if he adopted the usual manner of men, he could not have set forth the dreadfulness of God’s vengeance that was impending.
He afterwards subjoins, that the wounds vault be grievous; but he speaks as of what was present, Grievous, he says, are the wounds Grievous means properly full of grief; others render it desperate or incurable, but it is a meaning which suits not this place; for אנושה, anushe, means what we express in French by douloureuse. The wounds, then, are full of grief: for it came, (something is understood; it may suitably be referred to the enemy, or, what is more approved, to the slaughter) — It came then, that is, the slaughter, 68 to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself. He says first, to Judah, speaking of the land; and then he confines it to the cities; for when the gates are closed up against enemies, they are forced to stop. But the Prophet says, that the cities would be no hindrance to the enemies to approach the very gates and even the chief city of Judah, that is, Jerusalem; and this, we know, was fulfilled. It is the same then as though he said that the whole kingdom of Israel would be so laid waste, that their enemies would not he content with victory, but would proceed farther and besiege the holy city: and this Sennacherib did. For after having subverted the kingdom of Israel, as though it was not enough to draw the ten tribes into exile, he resolved to take possession of the kingdom of Judah; and Jerusalem, as Isaiah says, was left as a tent. We hence see that the threatening of the Prophet Micah were not in vain. It now follows —
10. Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.
10. In Gath ne annuntietis, flendo ne fleatis; 69 propter domum Aphrah pulvere te involve (vel, voluta te in pulvere.)
The Prophet seems here to be inconsistent with himself: for he first describes the calamity that was to be evident to all; but now he commands silence, lest the report should reach the enemies. But there is here nothing contradictory; for the evil itself could not be hid, since the whole kingdom of Israel would be desolated, the cities demolished or burnt, the whole country spoiled and laid waste, and then the enemies would enter the borders of Judah: and when Jerusalem should have been nearly taken how could it have been concealed? No, this could not have been. There is no wonder then that the Prophet had referred here to a solemn mourning. But he now speaks of the feeling of those who were desirous of hiding their own disgrace, especially from their enemies and aliens: for it is an indignity which greatly vexes us, when enemies taunt us, and upbraid us in our misfortunes; when no hope remains, we at least wish to perish in secret, so that no reproach and disgrace should accompany our death; for dishonor is often harder to be borne, and wounds us more grievously, than any other evil. The Prophet then means that the Israelites would not only be miserable, but would also be subject to the reproaches and taunts of their enemies. We indeed know that the Philistine were inveterate in their hatred to the people of God; and we know that they ever took occasion to upbraid them with their evils and calamities.
This then is the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, In Gath declare it not, by weeping weep not; as though he said, “Though extreme evils shall come upon you, yet seek to perish in silence; for you will find that your enemies will gape for the opportunity to cut you with their taunts, when they shall see you thus miserable. He then forbids the people’s calamities to be told in Gath; for the Philistine usually desired nothing more than the opportunity to torment the people of God with reproaches.
It now follows, In the house of Aphrah, in dust roll thyself There is here an alliteration which cannot be conveyed in Latin: for עפרה, ophre, means dusty, and עפר, opher, is dust. That city attained its name from its situation, because the country where it was, was full of dust; as if a city were called Lutosa, muddy or full of clay; and indeed many think that Lutetia (Paris) had hence derived its name. And he says, Roll thyself in dust, in the house full of dust; as though he had said that the name would be now most suitable, for the ruin of the city would constrain all neighboring cities to be in mourning to cast themselves in the dust; So great would be the extremity of their evils.
But we must ever bear in mind the object of the Prophet: for he here rouses the Israelites as it were with the sharpest goads, who entertained no just idea of the dreadfulness of God’s vengeance, but were ever deaf to all threatening. The Prophet then shows that the execution of this vengeance which he denounced was ready at hand; and he himself not only mourned, but called others also to mourning. He speaks of the whole country, as we shall see by what follows. I shall quickly run over the whole of this chapter; for there is no need of long explanation, as you will find.
11. Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.
11. Transi pariter (ad verbum, transi vobis 70 habitatrix Saphir, nuda probrose; non egredietur habitatrix Zaanan in luctu Beth-Aezel, sumet a vobis stationem suam (alii vertunt, substantiam; sed male, meo judicio.)
The Prophet here addresses the cities which were on the borders of the kingdom of Israel, and through which the enemy would pass in entering the kingdom of Judah. He therefore bids the inhabitants of the city Saphir to pass over, and says, that the city would be ashamed or in a shameful manner naked. The word שפיר, shaphir, means splendid. He then says, “Thou art now beautiful, but the Lord will discover thy shame, so that thy nakedness shall be a shame to all, and the greatest disgrace to thyself.” There is a correspondence in the words, though not an alliteration. Hence the Prophet says, that though the city was called splendid, it would yet be deformed, so that no one would deign to look on it, at least without feeling shame. There is the same correspondence in the word Zaanan; for צעה, tsoe, means to transfer, as צען, tson, is to migrate. Hence the Prophet says, Go forth shall not the inhabitant of Zaanan for the mourning of Beth-Aezel; that is, he will remain quiet at home: this he will do contrary to what will be natural; for whence is the name of the city? even from removing, for it was a place of much traffic. But he will remain, he says, at home: though he may see his neighbors dragged into exile, he will not dare to move from his place.
He now adds, Take will the enemy from you his station. The verb עמד, omad, means to stand; nor is there a doubt but that when the Prophet says, He will take from you his standing, he speaks of the standing or station of the enemy: but interpreters however vary here. Some understand, that when the enemy had continued long in the land, they would not depart before they possessed the supreme power; as though he said, “Ye will think that your enemy can be wearied out with delay and tediousness, when not able soon to conquer your cities: this, he says, will not be the case; for he will resolutely persevere, and his expectation will not disappoint him; for he will receive the reward of his station, that is, of his delay.” But some say, He will receive his station from you. They explain the verb לקח, lakech, metaphorically, as meaning to receive instruction from hand to hand; as though the Prophet had said, Some, that is, your neighbors, will learn their own position from you. What does this mean? Zaanan will not go forth on account of the mourning of its neighboring city Aezel: others will afterwards follow this example. How so? For Zaanan will be, as it were, the teacher to other cities; as it will not dare to show any sign of grief for its neighbors, being not able to succor them; so also, when it shall be taken in its turn into exile, that is, its citizens and inhabitants, its neighbors will remain quiet, as though the condition of the miserable city was no object of their care. They shall then learn from you their standing; that is, Ye will remain quiet and still, when your neighbors will be destroyed; the same thing will afterwards happen to you. But as this bears but little on the main subjects we may take either of these views. 71 It afterwards follows —
12. For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.
12. Quia doluit propter bonum (alii, expectavit ad bonum; alii, infirmata est) habitatrix Maroth; quia descendit malum a Jehova ad portam Jerusalem.
The Prophet joins here another city even Maroth, and others also in the following verses. But in this verse he says, that Maroth would be in sorrow for a lost good. The verb חול, chul, means to grieve; and it has this sense here; for the Marothites, that is, the inhabitants of that city, would have to grieve for losing their property and their former happy condition. But as the verb means also to expect, some approve of a different exposition, that is, — that the inhabitants of the city Maroth would in vain depend on an empty and fallacious expectation, for they were doomed to utter destruction. In vain then will the inhabitant of Maroth expect or entertain hope; for an evil descends from Jehovah to the gate of the city. This view is very suitable, that is, that its hope will disappoint Maroth, since even the city of Jerusalem shall not be exempted. For though God had then by a miracle delivered the chief city, and its siege was raised through the intervention of an angel, when a dreadful slaughter, as sacred history records, took place; yet the city Maroth was not then able to escape vengeance. We now see the reason why this circumstance was added. Some give a harsher explanation, — that the citizens of Maroth were to be debilitated, or, as it were, demented. As this metaphor is too strained, I embrace the other, — that the citizens of Maroth would grieve for the loss of good, 72 or that they would vainly expect or hope, since they were already doomed to utter ruin, without any hope of deliverance.
But we must notice, that evil was nigh at hand from Jehovah, for he reminds them, that though the whole country would be desolated by the Assyrians, yet God would be the chief leader, since he would employ the work of all those who would afflict the people of Israel. That the Jews then, as well as the Israelites might know, that they had to do, not with men only, but also with God, the celestial Judge, the Prophet distinctly expresses that all this would proceed from Jehovah. He afterwards adds —
13. O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.
13. Alliga currum ad camelum (vel, dromedarium; alii vertunt, equos celeres) habitatrix Lachis: principium sceleris ipsa est filiae Zion; quia in te inventae sunt transgressiones Israel.
By bidding the citizens of Lachish to tie their chariots to dromedaries he intimates that it would not be not safe for them to remain in their city, and that nothing would be better for them than to flee elsewhere and to carry away their substance. “Think,” he says, “of flight, and of the quickest flight.” The word רכש, recash, which I render dromedary or camel, is of an uncertain meaning among the Hebrews; some render it swift horses: but we understand the Prophet’s meaning; for he intimates that there would be no time for flight, except they made great haste, for the enemies would come upon them quickly.
And he then subjoins that that city had been the beginning of sin to the Jews; for though he names here the daughter of Zion, he still includes, by taking a part for it the whole, all the Jews. And why he says that Lachish had been the beginning of sin to the citizens of Jerusalem, we may collect from the next clauses, In thee, he says, were found the transgressions of Israel. The citizens of Lachish were then, no doubt, the first who had embraced the corruptions of Jeroboam, and had thus departed from the pure worship of God. When, therefore, contagion had entered that city, it crept, by degrees, into neighboring places, until at length, as we find, the whole kingdom of Judah had become corrupt: and this is what the Prophet repeats more fully in other places. It was not then without reason that he denounces desolation here on the citizens of Lachish; for they had been the authors of sin to their own kindred. However alienated the ten tribes had become from pure faith and pure worship, the kingdom of Judah remained still upright, until Lachish opened the door to ungodly superstitions; and then its superstitions spread through the whole of Judea. She therefore suffered the punishment which she deserved, when she was drawn away into distant exile, or, at least, when she could not otherwise escape from danger, than by fleeing into some fear country, and that very swiftly. She is the beginning, he says, of sin to the daughter of Zion How so? For in thee — (it is more emphatical when the Prophet turns his discourse to Lachish itself) — in thee, he says, were found the transgressions of Israel. It follows —
14. Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.
14. Propterea mittes dona super Moreseth (vel, propter Moreseth-) Gath, filiis Achzib in mendacium regibus Israel.
Here the Prophet alludes to another thing, — that they would attempt to pacify their enemies with gifts, and would try to redeem themselves and their neighbors. But the Prophet expressly mentions this, that the event might teach them that nothing happens without a design; for it ought to work a greater conviction in blind and obstinate men, when they see that they really find that to be true which had been long before predicted. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet enumerates here various particulars; it was, that the hand of God might be more evident and conspicuous when he would begin, in an especial manner, to fulfill all the things which he now in words foretells, Thou, he says, wilt send a gift for Moreseth-gath; that is, for a neighboring city. And he calls it Moreseth-gath, to distinguish it from another city of the same name. Thou wilt then send gifts for Moreseth-gath, to the sons of Achzib for a lie אכזיב, aczib, is a word derived from one which means a lie. There is, therefore, a striking alliteration, when he says, Thou wilt send gifts to the sons of אכזיב, Aczib, for a lie, לאכזב, laaczeb; that is Thou wilt send gifts to the sons of a lie, for a lie. The city had obtained its name from its fallacies or guiles. And he says, for a lie to the kings of Israel; because it profited the children of Israel nothing to pacify them with gifts or to attempt to draw them to their side, as they hired the services of one another. So then he says, that they would be for a lie to the kings of Israel, for they would gain nothing by having many auxiliaries. Some take the words actively, — that the kings of Israel had first deceived the citizens of Achzib: but this view is less probable; I am therefore disposed to adopt the other, — that though the citizens of Lachish tried to conciliate their neighbors with a great sum of money, especially the people of Achzib, this would be yet to no purpose; for it would be a lie to the people of Israel: or, it may be, that the Prophet’s meaning is this, — that the citizens of Achzib had already wished to bring aid, but in vain to the kings of Israel; for Lachish was one of the first cities which the Assyrians conquered; but it was within the kingdom of Judah, or on its borders. It is then probable that the kings of Israel had recourse to the aid of this people, and were not assisted. Now, as the citizens of Lachish also endeavored to extricate themselves from the hand of their enemies by such aid, the prophet derides such a folly, inasmuch as they did not become wise by experience, having seen with their own eyes, that such an help had been useless and deceptive to the kings of Israel: they ought then to have tried some other means rather than to expose themselves to the same deceptions. 73 I cannot finish the chapter to-day.
Grant, Almighty God, that, being warned by so many examples, the record of which thou hast designed to continue to the end of the world, that we may learn how dreadful a judge thou art to the perverse, — O grant, that we may not, at this day, be deaf to thy teaching, which is conveyed to us by the mouth of thy Prophet, but that we may strive to be so reconciled to thee, that, passing by all men, we may present ourselves unreservedly to thee, so that, relying on thy mercy alone which thou hast promised to us in Christ, we may not doubt but thou wilt be propitious to us, and be so touched with the spirit of true penitence, that, if we have been to others a bad example and an offense, we may lead others to the right way of salvation, and each of us may so endeavor to assist our neighbors in a holy life, that we may together attain that blessed and celestial life, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. Amen.
15. Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.
15. Adhuc possessorem mittam, 74 tibi habitatrix Maresah; usque ad Adullam veniet gloria Israel.
The Prophet here threatens his own birth place, as he had done other cities; for, as we have stated, he sprung from this city. He does not now spare his own kindred: for as God is no respecter of persons, so also God’s servants ought, as with closed eyes, to deal impartially with all, so as not to be turned here and there either by favor or by hatred, but to follows without any change, whatever the Lord commands them. We see that Micah was endued with this spirit, for he reproved his own kindred, as he had hitherto reproved others.
There is a peculiar meaning in the word, Mareshah, for it is derived from ירש, iresh, and it means possession. The Prophet now says, I will send to thee הורש, euresh, a possessor; the word is from the same root. 75 But he means that the Morasthites would come into the power of their enemies no less than their neighbors, of whom he had spoken before. He says, to Adullam This was also a city in the tribe of Judah, as it is well known. But some would have “enemy” to be here understood and they put כבוד, cabud, in the genitive case: The enemy of the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam; but this is strained. Others understand the passage thus that the glory of Israel would come to disgrace; for Adullam, we know, was a cave. Since then it an obscure place, the Prophet here, as they think, declares that the whole glory of Israel would be covered with dishonor, because the dignity and wealth, in which they gloried would lose their pristine fixate, so that they would differ nothing from an ignoble cave. If any approve of this meaning, I will not oppose them. Yet others think that the Prophet speaks ironically and that the Assyrian is thus called because the whole glory and dignity of Israel would by him be taken away. But there is no need of confining this to enemies; we may then take a simpler view, and yet regard the expression as ironical, — that the glory, that is, the disgrace or the devastation of Israel, would come to Adullam. But what if we read it, in apposition, He shall come to Adullam, the glory of Israel? For Adullam was not obscure, as those interpreters imagine, whom I have mentioned, but it is named among the most celebrated cities after the return and restoration of the people. When, therefore, the whole country was laid waste, this city, with a few others, remained, as we read in the Ne 11. It might then be, that the Prophet called Adullam the glory of Israel; for it was situated in a safe place, and the inhabitants thought that they were fortified by a strong defense, and thus were not open to the violence of enemies. This meaning also may be probable; but still, as the glory of Israel may be taken ironically for calamity or reproach if any one approves more of this interpretation, it may be followed. I am, however, inclined to another, — that the Prophet say, that the enemy would come to Adullam, which was the glory of Israel, 76 because that city was as it were in the recesses of Judea, so that an access to it by enemies was difficult. It may be also that some may think, that the recollection of its ancient history is here revived; for David concealed himself in its cave, and had it as his fortress. The place no doubt had, from that time, attained some fame; then this celebrity, as I have said, may be alluded to, when Adullam is said to be the glory of Israel. It follows —
16. Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.
16. Decalvare et tondeas te super filiis delitiarum tuarum; dilata calvitium sicut aquila, quoniam migrarunt abs te.
The Prophet at length concludes that nothing remained for the people but lamentation; for the Lord had resolved to desolate and destroy the whole country. Now they were wont in mourning, as we have seen in other places, to shave and even tear off their hair: and some think that the verb קרחי, korechi, implies as much as though the Prophet said “Pluck, tear, pull off your hair.” When afterwards he adds רגזי, regizi, they refer it to shavings which is done by a razor. However this may be, the Prophet here means that the condition of the people would be so calamitous that nothing would be seen anywhere but mourning.
Make bald, he says, for the children of thy delicacies 77 The Prophet here indirectly upbraids those perverse men, who after so many warnings had not repented, with the neglect of God’s forbearance: for whence did those delicacies proceed, except from the extreme kindness of God in long sparing the Israelites, notwithstanding their disobedience? The Prophet then shows here that they had very long abused the patience of God, while they each immersed themselves in their delicacies. Now, he says, Enlarge thy baldness as the eagle Eagles are wont to cast off their feathers; and hence he compares here bald men to eagles, as though he called them, Hairless. As then the eagles are for a certain time without feathers until they recover them; so also you shall be hairless, even on account of your mourning. He says, For they have migrated from thee He intimates that the Israelites would become exiles, that the land might remain desolate. Now follows —
It is probable that the greater part of his Prophecy was written in the days of this king; for a portion of what is contained in the third chapter is referred to in Jer. 26:18, 19, as having been delivered “in the days of Hezekiah.”—Ed.
“He mentions Samaria first,” says Marckius, “not because it was superior to Jerusalem, or more regarded by the Prophet, but because it would be first in undergoing judgment, as it had been first in transgression.” The preposition על is rendered by some, “against,” and not “concerning.” Calvin renders it in his version super, and in his comment, contra — Ed.
It was a village, according to Eusebius and Jerome, west of Jerusalem, near Eleutheropolis, not far from the borders of the Philistines. See Jos 15:44; 1Ch 4:21; 2 Chr. 9:8, 2 Chr. 14:10. There is another circumstance, besides that of his birth in the land of Judah, which tends to prove his special mission to the Jews, — he mentions in the first verse only the kings of Judah. — Ed.
שמעו עמים כלם, “Hear, ye peoples, all of them.” Were it not for a similar anomaly as to number in the following line, “Give ear, thou earth, and its fullness,” we might think that כלן is here a mistake for כלכם, as it is evidently the case in 1Sa 6:4, and Job 17:10; for in these two places there are several MSS. Which have כלכם, though here there is no variety. Some, to get rid of the difficulty, have suggested that כלם here is to be construed as an adverb, “universally,” regarding it as assuming the same form with חנם, “gratuitously,” and ריקם, “vainly.” But such irregularity is common in Hebrew; there is therefore no need of having recourse to such expedients.
The word עמים, peoples, may be rendered nations: for, notwithstanding the dissent of Drusius, what Horsley says seems to be correct, that עם in the plural number designates the heathen nations, as distinguished from the people of Israel. The verse literally is this, —
Hear, ye nations, — all of them;
Give ear, thou earth, — even its fullness;
And the Lord Jehovah shall be against you a witness
The Lord from the temple of his holiness.
These two similes, as observed by Marckius and others, refer not to the same thing, but to the two things previously mentioned,—the wax, to the mountains,—and the waters, to the valleys. This kind of order, in a sentence, is common in Hebrew. The Septuagint presents an instance, not uncommon, of an attempt to reconcile what, from not apprehending the sense, appeared incongruous; for motion is ascribed to the mountains— σαλευθησεται τα ορη, and melting to the valleys—τακησονται, quite contrary to the meaning of the words in Hebrew. Newcome renders the last line thus, —
“As waters poured down a steep place.”
Henderson renders the last word, “a precipice;” and Marckius, declive—”a declivity.” I would give this version of the whole verse, —
For, behold, Jehovah shall go forth from his place;
Yea, he shall descend and tread on the high places of the land;
And dissolve shall the mountains under him,
And the valleys shall burst forth;
Like the wax before the fire,
Like waters rolling down a declivity.
The verb בקע is applied to express the bursting out of waters from a fountain, of the young when emerging from the egg, and of light dispelling darkness. It is here in Hithpael, and only in one other place, Jos 9:13; where it means the bursting of wine bottles, made of leather. The word מורד is going down, descent, declivity, καταβασις, Sept. See Jos 10:11; Jer 48:5
“Do men trust to the height and strength of mountains, as if they were sufficient to bear up their hopes and bear off their fears? They shall be molten under him. — Do they trust to the fruitfulness of the valleys and their products? They shall be cleft, or rent, — and be wasted away as the ground is by the waters that are poured down a steep place.” — Henry.
פשע, rendered scelus wickedness, by Calvin, means evidently defectio — defection — apostacy, as rendered by Junius and Tremelius. חטאות, transgressiones — transgressions, rather, sins. Several MSS. And the Septuagint have חטאת, sin; but the plural is more suitable to this place, to correspond with the high places at the end of the verse. It is evident, from the context that Jacob means Samaria or the ten tribes, and that the house, or family of Israel, means what is not usual, the tribe of Judah. (See 2Ch 28:19.) Israel seems here to be taken as a special distinction of God’s people. Judah was still in the name of the true Israel, while the ten tribes were apostates from the faith.
It is better to adopt the future tense in this verse, that it may correspond with the preceding. When the auxiliary verb is supplied, it must ever be regulated as to its tense by the context. Then the first line should be, —
For the defection of Jacob shall all this be.
Or it may be rendered, “shall all these things be,” כל-זאת; for זאת is plural as well as singular; and παντα ταυτα is the rendering of the Septuagint.
Grotius and some others give this version of the four last lines,—
What is the origin of the defection of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
What is the origin of the high places of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
Who or what is the defection of Jacob? No doubt means, Who is the author, or what is the cause or origin of his defection? It is the same form of expression, as when it is said, that God is our salvation, that is, the author of it. — Ed.
פסילים, from פסל, to chip or cut with a tool. They were graven or carved images, made of wood, and overlaid with gold or silver.
“The graven image,” says Bishop Horsley, “Was not a thing wrought in metal by the tool of the workman we should now call an engraver; nor was the molten image an image made of metal. In fact, the graven image and the molten image are the same thing under different names. The images of the ancient idolaters were first cut out of wood by the carpenter, as is very evident from the Prophet Isaiah. This figure of wood was overlaid with plates, either of gold or of silver, or, sometimes perhaps, of an inferior metal. And, in this finished state, it was called a graven image, i.e., a carved image, in reference to the inner solid figure of wood, and a molten, i.e., an overlaid or covered image, in reference to the outward metalline case or covering: and sometimes both epithets are applied to it at once, ‘I will cut off the graven and molten image,’ Na 1:14.” See also De 7:25; Isa 30:22. — Ed.
The view given above is the one embraced by Henderson; but the reason given here is improbable. Newcome mentions the above, and also the following, “She imputed her wealth to her spiritual idolatry, and her conquerors shall distribute it as the reward of harlots in the literal sense.” But inasmuch as it is said, that her rewards would be burnt, it is more consistent to take the last clause as a proverbial expression, signifying the destruction of all the wealth that was ascribed to idolatry as its source.
“It is common,” says Henry, “that what is squeezed out by one lust, is squandered away by another.” — Ed.
All the verbs in this verse are in the Septuagint in the third person, κοψεται—”she will mourn,” etc. The whole is applied to Samaria. The Hebrew will admit of this sense, if the verbs be considered to be, as they may be, in Hiphil, the omission of the ו is not uncommon. Then the rendering of the two verses will be the following:—
8. I will therefore make her to moan and howl,
I will cause her to go stripped and naked;
I will make her to moan like the whales,
And to wail like the ostriches:
9. For grievous will be her stroke;
Yea it will come even to Judah,
Reaching to the gate of my people—to Jerusalem.
תגים, rendered “dragons” in our common version, and by Calvin, and by many others, is rendered “foxes” by Newcome, “wolves” by Henderson, but by Bochart, “whales,” or those species called “dolphins;” and Professor Lee, in his Notes on Job 41:1, seems to be of the same opinion. The mournful groans of the dolphins, when taken, are said to be extremely distressing; their doleful moanings, too, in the night, when at liberty, have been testified by historians. — בכית יענה, “owls” in our version, is rendered both by Calvin and Newcome, “daughters of the ostrich,” and by Henderson, “ostriches.” The Septuagint has θυγατερων σειρηνων — “the daughters of sea-monsters:” στρουθοκαμηλων — “camel-sparrows — ostriches,” is the rendering of Aquila and Symmachus. The literal expression is, “the daughters of the ostrich,” meaning evidently the females. Dr. Shaw, as quoted by Newcome, says, “During the lonesome part of the night, they often make a very doleful and hideous noise. I have often heard them groan, as if they were in the greatest of agonies; an action beautifully alluded to by the Prophet Micah.” — Ed.
Or rather the stroke before mentioned; for the true reading is no doubt מכתה, her wound or her stroke, in the singular. Though there are but two MSS. which have this reading, yet the previous participle noun, אנושה, being singular, and the following verbs or participles being in the same number, favor this supposition. The corresponding word in the Septuagint is also in the singular number — ἡ πληγη ἀυτης, her stroke, stripe or scourge. — Ed.
Henderson renders this clause, “weep not in Acco,” and mentions Gesenius and others, who consider that בכי is put here for בעכו, and Ocu or Acco was a town in the tribe of Asher; see Jud 1:31. The Septuagint favors this rendering, at least in one copy, for it has εν ακείμ, though in Judges the name is Ακχω. — Ed.
עברי לכם, pass over or migrate, as to you. One MS. Has לך, as to thee; but the anomaly of number is common through all the Prophets. “The inhabitant” here is a poetical noun of number, including the whole people. What usage has thus sanctioned in one language, cannot at all times be retained in another. We must in the present instance make “Inhabitant” in our language plural, or לכם, “as to you, or yea, you,” singular. The latter is the best mode. Then as to the peculiar form of לכס or לך after an imperative, we have similar instances; see Ge 12:1; Jer 5:5; Ho 7:12. It is an emphatic mode of speaking. The sentence here may be thus expressed, “Pass thou over, yea, thou, O inhabitant of Saphir.” Amaziah said to Amos, ברח לך, “Flee, yea, thou,” etc. Or to give to ל its most usual meaning, we may suppose “I say” to be understood; then it would be, “Flee, I say, to thee.” — Ed.
This verse is variously rendered; by Newcome thus,—
Pass on, thou inhabitress of Saphir, naked and in confusion.
The inhabitants of Zanan went not forth to wailing.
O Beth-Ezel, he shall receive of you the reward of his station against you.
By Henderson thus,—
Pass on, thou inhabitant of Shaphir, naked and ashamed;
The inhabitant of Zanan goeth not forth;
The wailing of Beth-Ezel will take away continuance from you.
It seems more consistent to take all the verbs in this and the preceding verse as imperatives, though they be not in the same person. Those in the second are evidently so; and I would render such as are in the third person as imperatives too. That Saphir, Zaanan, etc, as well as those which follow, are not appellatives, but proper names of places within or on the borders of Judah, is what is allowed by most, though not by all, especially by some of the ancient commentators, at least with regard to some of the names. I offer the following version of the tenth and eleventh verses, —
10. In Gath declare ye it not, in Acco weep not;
In Beth-Ophrah, roll thyself in dust:
11. Pass thou over, yea, thou, O inhabitant of Saphir,
Naked and in shame;
Let not the inhabitant of Zaanan go forth wailing;
Let Beth-Azel take from you its position;
that is, follow your example.
The last word, עמדתו, presents the greatest difficulty. It is found here alone in this form. It occurs as עמד, a pillar, a station, עמוד, a stand, stage, and as מעמד, a standing, and also a state, Isa 22:19 Buxtorf gives the same meaning to the last with the one in the text, constitutio, constitution, a fixed order of things. The verb עמד signifies to stand, to stand erect, to remain the same, either in motion or at rest, to continue. Hence it may rightly signify a position, a standing, that is taken and maintained.
Grieving is the idea commonly given to the verb here used. “Dolebit, will grieve,” Grotius, — “Parturit, travails,” Marckius,—”Pineth,” Henderson. Newcome, following the mere conjecture of Houbigant changes the original, and substitutes למות for לטוב, and gives this version, — “is sick unto death.” Not only is this wholly unwarranted, but it destroys the evident contrast there is in the verse — the good and the evil. — Ed.
The two lines of this verse are improperly connected, and the word “sons” is substituted for “houses,” בתי, and there are no various readings, and the Septuagint has “houses.” The literal rendering is this, —
Therefore thou wilt send presents to Moresheth-gath:
The houses of Achzib will be a lie (i.e., false) to the kings of Israel.
Henderson, after Cocceius, gives a different meaning to “presents,” שלוחים; and he renders it “divorce,” and says that it signifies letters of repudiation, and that it is to be taken here metaphorically for the breaking up of connection. The word only occurs in two other places, that is, in Ex 18:2, and in 1Ki 9:16; and in neither does it mean what is alleged. — Ed.
אבי, there is א left out, which is supplied in several MSS. It ought to be אביא which means, I will bring, rather than, I will send.
The instances of paranomasia or alliteration in this passage, including this line and the five preceding verses, are unparalleled in any other parts of the Prophets; and when there is no coincidence of sound in the words, there is sometimes a direct contrast in the ideas, as good and evil in verse12. — Ed.
Of all the various renderings of this clause, this is the most satisfactory, which is that of our own version. The substitution of “honor” for “glory,” on the mere authority of the Targum, as is done by Newcome, is wholly indefensible.
Εως Οδαλαμ ἤξει την δοξην Ισραηλ, Symmachus. At the same time, the most obvious and natural construction of the clause is the following, though its meaning is obscure; To Adullam shall come the glory of Israel. — Ed.
Or, “children of thy indulgences or luxuries,” i.e., luxurious children, rather than “darling children,” as rendered by Henderson. The Septuagint has τα τεκνα τα τρυφερα σου —”thy voluptuous children.” The version of Newcome is, “thy delicate children.” What seems to be intended is, their indulgence in pleasures and luxuries. — Ed.