Part I. THREATENINGS AND JUDGMENTS ON ISRAEL AND JUDAH, WITH PREDICTION OF EVENTUAL DELIVERANCE.
The inscription, or heading of the book, conveying the prophet's authority. The word of the Lord. The expression applies to the whole contents of the book, as in Hosea 1:1 and Zephaniah 1:1. It is often used for some particular message to a prophet, as Jeremiah 1:4, Jeremiah 1:11; Jeremiah 2:1; Ezekiel 3:16. Micah the Morasthite; i.e. Micah of Moresheth-Gath (verse 14), a village in the lowland of Judaea, near Eleutheropolis, some twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem (see Introduction, § II.). In the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Thus Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, though his ministry did not begin as soon or last as long as that prophet's (see Isaiah 1:1); he was a little later than Hosea and Amos, who prophesied under Uzziah, the father of Jotham. Kings of Judah are mentioned because the prophet's mission was to Judah, as the line of election; but, like Amos, he prophesied against Samaria also. However divided, the two nations are regarded as one people. Which he saw. What he saw in vision or by inward illumination he here relates in words. Thus the prophecies of Isaiah, Obadiah, Nahum, etc; are called "visions." Concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Samaria comes first, as being ripe for punishment, and the first to feel the avenger. The capitals of the two kingdoms Israel and Judah stand for the people themselves.
§ 1. Introduction to the prophet's address. The nations and earth itself are summoned to attend the solemn announcement.
Hear, all ye people; rather, all ye peoples; Septuagint, λαοί. All nations are summoned to come and witness the judgment, and to profit by the warning. So Micaiah, son of Imlah, the bold denouncer of false prophets in the age of Ahah, had cried, "Hear, ye peoples, all of you" (1 Kings 22:28). So Moses, in his song (Deuteronomy 32:1), calls on heaven and earth to listen to his words (comp. Isaiah 1:2). These expressions are not mere rhetorical figures; they have a special application. Whatever happens to Israel has a bearing on the development of the kingdom of God; the judgments on the chosen people are not only a warning to the heathen, but bring on the great consummation. All that therein is; literally, the fulness thereof; Vulgate, plentitudo ejus; Septuagint, πάντες οἱ ἐν αὐτῇ, "all ye that are therein" (Psalms 24:1). Let the Lord God (the Lord Jehovah) be witness against you. Let God by his judgments against you, viz. Israel and Judah, confirm my denunciation (comp. Deuteronomy 29:24). From his holy temple; i.e. from heaven, as Micah 1:3 shows (1 Kings 8:30; Psalms 11:4; Habakkuk 2:20).
Here follows a grand description, in figurative language, of the course of Divine judgment, and of God's awful majesty and resistless power. Out of his place. It is as though the sins of Israel had roused him to action. God is hidden except when he displays his power in judgment and mercy (see note on Zechariah 14:3). Will come down. An anthropomorphic expression, as Genesis 18:21. The high places. As though descending from heaven, God first came upon the tops of the mountains (see note on Amos 4:13; comp. Deuteronomy 32:13). The phrase would imply God's absolute sovereignty over the universe.
The description of God's advent to judgment is founded on the idea of a terrible storm and earthquake, perhaps accompanied with volcanic eruption, though evidence of such eruptions in the historical period is not forthcoming. The description recalls the awful revelation at Sinai (Exodus 19:1-25.). Shall be molten; either by the lightning or the showers of rain that descend from heaven. The mountains, the type of stability and strength, fall away at the presence of the Judge. Septuagint, σαλευθήσεται, "shall be shaken;" Vulgate, consumentur ( 5:4, 5:5; Psalms 18:7, etc.; Psalms 68:8; Psalms 97:4, Psalms 97:5; Amos 9:5). Be cleft; Septuagint, τακήσονται, "shall melt." The valleys shall be hollowed out into channels by the force of the water, which falls in torrents. As wax (Psalms 68:2; Psalms 97:5). This belongs to the first clause, "the mountains," etc. As waters. This belongs to the second clause. The cloven plains shall melt away as waters disappear down a precipice. The idea that underlies this description is that the inanimate creation shares in the effects of the judgment on man, and is used as an instrument in his punishment.
§ 2. Judgment is denounced on Israel for its sin.
The prophet shows the cause of this punishment. Transgression; better, apostasy, which the people's trangression really was. Jacob. Here the ten tribes and Judah—the whole of the covenant people. In the latter part of the verse the term includes only the ten tribes, called often Israel or Ephraim. All this. The manifestation of God's power and wrath described in Micah 1:3 and Micah 1:4. The house of Israel. The ten tribes. Is it not Samaria? She is naught but sin. He names the capitals of the two kingdoms as the source and centre of the idolatry and wickedness which pervaded the whole country. Samaria was built by Omri, a king who "wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him;" and in it his son Ahab erected a temple to Baal (1 Kings 16:32), and it became the chief seat of idolatry in the land. What are the high places? The prophet seems to say that Jerusalem is no longer the Lord's sanctuary, but a collection of unauthorized or idolatrous shrines. These were buildings or altars erected in conspicuous spots, contrary to the enactments of the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 12:11-14), and used more or less for idolatrous worship. With a strange perversity, the Jews mixed the pure service of Jehovah with the rites of heathen deities. Even the best kings of Judah were unable wholly to suppress these local sanctuaries (see 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4, etc.). They were found even in Jerusalem itself (Jeremiah 32:35), especially in the time of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:4). The parallelism of this clause with the preceding being thought defective ("high places" being not parallel with "apostasy"), the Septuagint reads, ἡ ἁμαρτία, "the sin," followed by the Syriac and the Targum. One Hebrew manuscript confirms the reading; but it is probably unauthorized, and has been ignorantly introduced The prophet defines the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem. The sin of the former is apostasy; that of the latter, unauthorized worship. Instead of "what" in both places the Hebrew gives "who," implying that there is a personal cause, the two capitals being personified. Hezekiah's partial reformation had not taken place when this was uttered.
I will make. This prophecy, therefore, was delivered before the destruction of Samaria in the fourth year of Hezekiah. As an heap of the field; or, into a heap of the field, like a heap of stones gathered off a cultivated field (comp. Isaiah 5:2.) Septuagint, ἰσὀπωροφυλάκιον ἀγροῦ, "the hut of a fruit watcher." As plantings of a vineyard; into the plantings, etc.; i.e. into mere terraces for vines. Such shall be the utter ruin of the city, that on its site vines shall be planted. The prophet here uses a description of complete destruction which is a regular formula in Assyrian inscriptions, where we read of cities being made into "a rubbish heap and a field." The expression occurs, e.g; in a monument of Tiglath-Pileser. I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley. Samaria stood on a hilly platform (1 Kings 16:24), with a sheer descent on every side, and when it was overthrown its stones were hurled into the valley surrounding it, as may be seen to this day. "When we looked down," says Tristram, "at the gaunt columns rising out of the little terraced fields, and the vines clambering up the sides of the hill once covered by the palaces of proud Samaria, who could help recalling the prophecy of Micah? Not more literally have the denunciations on Tyre or on Babylon been accomplished. What though Sebaste rose, under Herod, to a pitch of greater splendour than even old Samaria, the effort was in vain, and the curse has been fully accomplished. In the whole range of prophetic history, I know of no fulfilment more startling to the eyewitness in its accuracy than this." Will discover; will lay bare (Psalms 137:7; Ezekiel 13:14).
Graven images. The stone idols (Isaiah 10:10). Septuagint, τὰ γλυπτά. The hires thereof. The word properly means, "the wages of prostitution." Idolatry is viewed as spiritual fornication, and the offerings made to the idol temples are reckoned to be harlot gifts. Hosea speaks in the same way (Hosea 2:5, Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:12; Hosea 9:1; comp. Isaiah 23:17; Ezekiel 16:31). There may be allusion to the shameful practices consecrated with the name of religion, the proceeds of which went to the support of idolatry (see Baruch 6:43; Herod; 1:199; Strabo, 16:1). Idols; more costly images, made probably of or plated with precious metals. For she gathered it; rather, them, the images and idols, from the offerings made by idolaters, spiritual fornicators, hence called the hire of an harlot. They shall return to the hire of an harlot. The treasures obtained by idolatry shall go to another idolatrous people, viz. the Assyrians; the dedicated offerings in the temples at Samaria shall be carried off to Nineveh to adorn the temples there (comp. Daniel 1:2; Daniel 5:3; Ezra 1:7). The sentence seems to be a kind of proverbial saying, like the Latin, Male parta, male dilabuntur. Sehegg compares the German, Wie gewonnen, so zerronnen, and Unrect Gut that sein Gut. The judgment on Samaria was executed by the Assyrians. Three times in his short reign of less than six years did Shalmaneser IV. invade Israel. Shortly after his accession, having reason to suspect the fidelity of Hoshea, he "came up against him" (2 Kings 17:3), and so overawed him by the exhibition of his superior power that the King of Israel submitted without a struggle, "became his servants and gave him presents," or rendered him tribute. But Hoshea's allegiance was not yet secured. Encouraged by the enterprise and success of the Ethiopian monarch So, or Shebek, who had defeated and slain the Egyptian king, and established himself firmly on the throne of Upper Egypt, Hoshea, in reliance on Egyptian aid, again threw off the yoke of Assyria, and refused the customary tribute. His punishment was speedy and sharp. Shalmaneser had no difficulty in making himself master of his person, "shut him up and bound him in prison." On a fresh act of rebellion, of what nature we are not informed, Shalmaneser made his third attack. This time he was everywhere resisted, and ended by laying siege to Samaria itself. Before this city his forces were detained for more than two years; nor was it till B.C. 722, when apparently his own reign had come to an end, that Samaria was taken, his successor Sargon claiming the conquest as appertaining to his first year (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2. Hosea 9:1-17.).
Micah 1:8, Micah 1:9
3. Micah mourns because the punishment extends to Judah also.
I will wail. The prophet marks the destruction of Samaria with these outward signs of mourning, in order that he might affect the minds of his own countrymen, and show how he grieved over their sins which should bring like punishment. The word rendered "wail" means "to beat" the breast. Septuagint, κόψεται: Vulgate, plangam. Stripped and naked. The former epithet the LXX. translate ἀνυπόδετος, as if it meant "barefoot;" and they refer the verse to Samaria, not to Micah. The two epithets contain one notion; the prophet assumes the character, not merely of a mourner, who put off his usual garments, but that of a captive who was stripped to the skin and carried away naked and despoiled (comp. Isaiah 20:2-4; Isaiah 47:2, Isaiah 47:8). Dragons; Septuagint, δρακόντων: Hebrew, tannim, "jackals" (Job 30:29; Malachi 1:3), whose mournful howling is well known to all travellers in the East. Owls; Septuagint, θυγατέρων σειρήνων, "daughters of sirens;" Vulgate, struthionum. The bird is called in Hebrew bath yaanah, which some explain "daughter of the desert," or else refer to roots meaning either "to cry out" or "to be freed." Doubtless the ostrich is meant. Concerning the fearful screech of this bird, Pusey quotes Shaw, 'Travels,' 2:349, "During the lonesome part of the night they often make a doleful and piteous noise. I have often heard them groan as if they were in the greatest agonies."
Her wound; her stripes, the punishment inflicted on Samaria. Incurable (comp. Jeremiah 15:18) The day of grace is past, and Israel has not repented. It is come. The stripe, the punishment, reaches Judah. To the prophetic eye the Assyrians' invasion of Judaea seems close at hand, and even the final attack of the Chaldeans comes within his view. The same sins in the northern and southern capitals lead to the same fate. He is come. He, the enemy, the agent of the "stripe." The gate of my people. The gate, the place of meeting, the well guarded post, is put for the city itself (comp. Genesis 22:17; Deuteronomy 28:52; Obadiah 1:11). Pusey thinks that Micah refers to something short of total excision, and therefore that the invasion of Sennacherib alone is meant (2 Kings 18:13). But the fore shortened view of the prophet may well include the final ruin.
4. The judgment on Judah is exemplified by the fate of certain of its cities, whose names the prophet connects with their punishment in a series of paronomasias.
Declare ye it not at Gath. This phrase from David's elegy over Saul (2 Samuel 1:20) had become a proverbial saying, deprecating the malicious joy of their hostile neighbours over the misfortunes that befell them. Gath is mentioned as the seat of the Philistines, the constant and powerful enemy of Judah. (For its situation, see note on Amos 6:2.) The paronomasias in this passage, which seem to modern ears artificial and puerile, are paralleled in many writings both Hebrew and classic, and were natural to a people who looked for mystical meaning in words and names. Thus Gath is taken to signify "Tell town," and the clause is, "In Tell town tell it not." Weep ye not at all; Vulgate, lacrymis ne ploretis; i.e. "weep in silence," or "hide your tears," that the enemy may not know your grief. As in cash of the other clauses a town is mentioned, some editors would here read, "In Acco ('Weep town') weep not!"—Acco being the later Ptolemais, the modern St. Jean d'Acre, and taken here to represent another foreign city which would rejoice at Judah's misfortunes (see, 1:31). The Septuagint alone of all the versions seems to countenance this reading, by translating, οἱ ἐνακεὶμ μὴ ἀνοικοδομεῖτε, "Ye Enakim, do not rebuild," which has been resolved into οἱ ἐν ἀκεὶμ, supposed to be an error for οἱ ἐν ἀχί The objections against this reading may be seen in Keil and Pusey. There is a play on the words in both these clauses (as in the following five verses), which is not seen in the English Version, begath al taggidu, and bako al tibeku. Knabenbauer imitates the paronomasia in Latin, "Cannis ne canite; Anconae ne angamini;" Ewald and Schegg in German, "In Molln meldet nicht; in Weinsberg. weinet nicht;" Reuss in French, "N'allez pas le dire a Dijon! N'allez pas pleurer a Ploermel!" In these puns, as we should call them, the prophet is far, indeed, from jesting. "He sees," says Dr. Cheyne, "like Isaiah, in Isaiah 10:30, a preordained correspondence between names and fortunes;" and he wishes to impress this on his countrymen, that the judgment may not come upon them unwarned. In the house of Aphrah; better, at Beth-le-Aphrah, i.e. "House of dust;" Vulgate, in domo pulveris. The site of Aphrah is unknown. Some identify it with Ophrah in Benjamin (Joshua 18:23), four miles northeast of Bethel; others, with Ophrah in Philistia (1 Chronicles 4:14). Host of the towns named below lie in the Shephelah. Keil notes that the word is pointed with pathach here for the sake of the paronomasia. Roll thyself in the dust; sprinkle dust upon thyself. This was a common sign of mourning. The Hebrew text gives, "I roll myself," or "I have besprinkled myself," the prophet identifying himself with the people. But as in all the subsequent passages, not what the prophet does, but what the inhabitants do, is the point impressed, the reading of the Keri is hem to be preferred. Vulgate, pulvere vos conspergite. The Septuagint has an inexplicable rendering, κατὰ γέλωτα γῆν καταπάσασθε, "against laughter sprinkle earth," which Brenton translates, "sprinkle dust in the place of your laughter." With this section (Isaiah 10:10-15) should be compared Isaiah 10:28-32, which describes the alarm occasioned by Sennacherib's invasion of Judah from the northeast, as Micah represents his progress to the southwest.
Pass ye away. Leave your house. Thou inhabitant of Saphir. The Hebrew is "inhabitress," the population being personified as a virgin. "Saphir" means "Fair city." It is placed by Eusebius ('Onomast.') between Ascalon and Eleutheropolis: it is now identified with some ruins named Suafir, five miles southeast of Ashdod. Having thy shame naked; "in nakedness and shame" (Pusey); Vulgate, confusa ignominia. The prophet contrasts the shame of their treatment with the meaning of their city's name," Go, Fair town, into foul dishonour." Septuagint, κατοικοῦσα καλῶς τὰς πόλεις αὐτῆς, "fairly inhabiting her cities." St. Jerome, in despair of explaining these Greek renderings, says here, "Multum Hebraicum a LXX. interpretatione discordat, et tantis tam mea quam illorum translatio difficultatibus involuta est, ut si quando indiguimus Spiritus Dei (semper autem in exponendis Scripturis sanctis illius indigemus adventu), nunc vel maxime eum adesse cupiamus." Zaanan is supposed to be the same as Zenan, mentioned in Joshua 15:37. The meaning of the name is doubtful. It is taken to signify "abounding in flocks" or "going out." Came not forth; or, is not come forth. The paronomasia seems to lie rather in sound than sense, and is variously explained, "The inhabitants of Flock town went not forth with their flocks." "The dwellers of Forthcoming came not forth," i.e. to flee, or to fight, or to aid their brethren; or did not escape destruction. Vulgate, Non est egressa quae habitat in exitu; Septuagint, οὐκ ἐξῆλε κατοικοῦσα σενναάρ, "She who dwelt at Sennaar came not forth." In the mourning, etc. These words are best joined with the following clause, thus: The mourning of Beth-ezel taketh from you its standing; i.e. refuge or shelter. Beth-ezel is explained, "House at one's side." "Neighbour town;" so the prophet would say, "Neighbour town is no neighbour to you," affords you no help. But various other explanations are given. e.g. "Lamentation makes its sure abode at Beth-ezel from your calamity." This may, perhaps, be supported by the rendering of the LXX; λήψεται ἐξ ὑμῶν πληγηνης, "She shall receive of you the stroke of anguish." Dr. Cheyne connects the whole verse with one idea, "Zaanan would willingly take to flight, but the sound of the mourning at Beth-ezel (which might mean, "the house, or place, at one's side') fills them with despair." Taking Beth-ezel to mean "House of root," others would interpret, on account of the public sorrow, "The 'house of root' affords no firm home for you." Others, again," The lamentation of 'The near House' will not stop near it, but pass on to other places." Beth-ezel is probably the Azal of Zechariah 14:5, the beth being dropped, as is often the case. It was in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem (see note on Zechariah. l.c.).
Maroth; bitterness. Its site is unknown; but it was in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Ewald suggests that it is the same as Maarath (Joshua 15:59), hod. Beit Ummar, six miles north of Hebron. Waited carefully for good; waited, expecting succour. But the better translation is, writhed in anguish on account of good, which they have lost, whether property or liberty. But evil came; for (or, because) evil is come. Unto the gate of Jerusalem (comp. Micah 1:9). The prophet refers to the invasion of the Assyrian kings, Sargon or Sennacherib, also mentioned by Isaiah (Isaiah 22:7), and the haughty message (Isaiah 36:2).
Lachish. A very strong and important city of the Canaanites, hod. Um Lakis, about fourteen miles northeast of Gaza, which was captured by Sennacherib after a long siege (2 Kings 18:14; Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 37:8). In the British Museum there is a bas-relief, brought from Assyria, representing Sennacherib seated on his throne while the spoil of the city of Lachish passed before him. Bind the chariot to the swift beast. Harness your horses to your chariots, that ye may flee and escape destruction. The phrase is like the Latin, currum jungere equis. The paronomasia here lies in the sound, "Inhabitant of Lachish, harness your rekkesh" ("runner," "courser"). "Inhabitant of Horse town, harness your horses." Septuagint, ψόφος ἁρμάτων καὶ ἱππευόντων, "a sound of chariots and horsemen;" Vulgate, tumultus quadrigae stuporis—renderings which the present Hebrew text does not support. She was the beginning, etc. How Lachish came to adopt the idolatry of Israel, and how she infected Judah, we know not. A connection between Jerusalem and Lachish is found in the ease of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:19), but nothing bearing on religion is mentioned. The whole clause is translated by Calmer, Keil, etc; thus: "It was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion that the iniquities of Israel were found in thee" (comp. Micah 6:16; Amos 8:14). The particular transgressions meant may be the idolatry of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:6) and Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:3, 2 Chronicles 22:4).
Therefore. Because Judah has adopted the evil practices of Israel. The prophet here addresses Judah, and continues to do so to the end of the chapter. Shalt thou give presents to Moreshsth-Gath. The "presents" intended are parting gifts, farewell presents. The word is used (1 Kings 9:16) for the dowry given to a daughter when she is married. The meaning, therefore, is that Judah must relinquish all claim to Moresheth. The paronomasia is explained in two ways. As Moresheth may mean "possession," the prophet may be understood to say, "Thou shalt give up possession of Gath's possession." Or the play of words may depend upon the similarity of sound between Moresheth and Meorasah, "Betrothed" (Deuteronomy 22:29), "Thou shalt give dismissal (bill of divorcement) to the city once betrothed to thee." Moresheth-Gath, Micah's birthplace, is placed just south of Beit Jibrin, or Eleutheropolis, about twenty-five miles from Gaza (see Introduction, § II.). The addition of Gath to the name of the town is meant to mark its situation in the immediate neighbourhood of that well known city. So we have Bethlehem-Judah ( 17:7), Abel-Maim or Maachah (1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chronicles 16:4). Septuagint, δώσει ἐξαποστελλομένους ἕως κληρονομίας γέο, "He shall cause men to be sent forth even to the inheritance of Geth;" Vulgate, Dabit emissarios super heredidatem Geth. To give shilluchim the sense of "messengers" seems to be unprecedented. The houses of Achzib shall be a lie (achzab), a lying, deceiving brook, which disappoints the hope of the wayfarer, like "fundus mendax" (Horat; 'Carm.,' 3.1. 30). Septuagint, οἴκους ματαίους, "vain houses;" Vulgate, domus mendacii. The city shall be yielded to the enemy and lost to the Judaeans. Achzib (Joshua 15:44), hod. Ain Kezbeh, eight miles north of Adullam, is probably the same as Chezib (Genesis 38:5), where Shelah, Judah's son by Tamar, was born. The kings of Israel. "Israel" is here equivalent to Judah, having, according to the prediction of verses 6, 7, lost its political existence.
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah. "Mareshah" sounds like Morashah, the Hebrew word for "inheritance;" so the play is, "I will bring an inheritor who shall claim your Heritage town." The "heir" is the Assyrian king, Sargon, into whose possession the city shall pass. Mareshah (Joshua 15:44; 2 Chronicles 14:9) was near Achzib, one mile southcast of Beit Jibrin, and is now called Mer'ash. He shall come, etc.; better, the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam; i.e. the nobility (comp. Isaiah 5:13) of Israel shall fly for refuge to such places as the cave of Adullam, David's asylum (1 Samuel 22:1, 1 Samuel 22:2). So the Vulgate. The LXX. has, κληρονομία ἓως ὀδυλλὰμ ἥξει ἡ δόξα τῆς θυγατρὸς ἰσραήλ "The inheritance shall come to Odullam, even the glory of the daughter of Israel." But Rosenmuller, Henderson, Pusey, and others take the sentence as in the Authorized Version, making "the glory of Israel" in apposition with "Adullam," and understanding by "he" the heir or enemy. One knows no reason why Aduliam should be honoured with the above-named title; so the rendering given above is preferable. There is probably a paronomasia intended, "The glory of the Lord shall set (ad olam) forever." The city of Adullam, hod. Aid-el-Mah, lay in the valley of Elah, ten miles northwest of Hebron, halfway between Sochoh and Keilah. It was of great antiquity, being mentioned as the birthplace of Hirah, the friend of Judah (Genesis 38:12), and one of the cities fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:7). In its neighbourhood is the celebrated cave, Mugha et Khureitun, which is pointed out as the traditional hold of David, and which has been carefully explored by Mr. Tyrwhitt Drake, of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
§ 5. The prophet calls upon Zion to mourn for her captivity. Make thee bald. The Hebrew word implies "to make the back of the head bald." Micah addressee Zion as the mother of the children who are to be led into captivity. Shaving the head in sign of mourning seems to have been retained as a traditionary custom in spite of the prohibition of the Law against certain forms which the practice assumed (see Le 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:1; and for the actual custom, comp. Isaiah 3:24; Jeremiah 7:29; and the note on Amos 8:10). Poll thee. Cut off thy hair, nearly synonymous with the word in the former clause. Thy delicate children; literally, the children of thy delights; i.e. the children who are a joy and comfort to thee, the citizens of thy kingdom (comp. Micah 2:9). As the eagle (nesher). The vulture is meant, either Vultur percnopterus, common in Egypt and Palestine, which is bald on the front of the head and neck, or more probably Vultur fulvus, the griffon vulture, whose whole head and neck are destitute of true feathers (see 'Bible Educator,' 2:247). Into captivity. This cannot refer exclusively to the Assyrian invasion, wherein very few captives were taken, but must look forward to the Babylonian deportation in Micah 4:10. The latter calamity alone is parallel to the destruction of Samaria announced in Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7 of this chapter.
True spiritual teachers.
A preface is often regarded as of comparative unimportance, and many readers ignore it and pass on to the perusal of the work itself. Let not this preface to the Book of Micah be thus summarily dismissed. Every word of God is "profitable." This introductory verse is very suggestive of teachings bearing upon holy service in the cause of God in our own age. The Hebrew prophets were not merely foretellers; they were also the religious educators of the people amongst whom they laboured. We are reminded here that—
I. TRUE SPIRITUAL TEACHERS ARE ENTRUSTED WITH A REVELATION FROM GOD. Note:
1. This revelation is given in the form of words. "The word of the Lord that came to Micah." Thoughts may be communicated by utterance, actions, and in writing. In the olden time God communicated his thoughts to Moses on the mount and to the Israelites by the living voice, and to the seers by dreams and visions. In all times he has unfolded his thoughts in actions (Psalms 19:1, Psalms 19:2). To us he reveals his thoughts in the written Word. And it is just in proportion as, taught by the Divine Spirit, we enter into the meaning of the Word of God, and recognize in its teachings a message committed unto us to deliver, that we are qualified to be teachers of spiritual truth (2 Corinthians 5:18, 2 Corinthians 5:19).
2. This revelation comes to us stamped with Divine authority. "The word of the Lord." There was no tone of uncertainty about the utterances of the Hebrew seers; nothing that was speculative, theoretical, problematical, in what they said; nothing that could be described as the creation of their own fancy and imagination. Whilst each prophet retained his own individual peculiarities and natural gifts, so. that a pleasing variety meets us in their writings, each announcement was accompanied by "Thus saith the Lord." In our own day all the resources of sanctified genius and endowment should be laid upon the altar of service to God; but let all uncertainty be dismissed. The messenger must not betray a hesitating tone, as though doubtful whether he has any message to deliver. He has glorious certainties to announce, an authoritative message to declare; and, with confident and unwavering trust, should go forth and publish the bright realities of our faith.
3. This revelation is made very real to the inner consciousness of the teacher. "The word of the Lord that came to Micah," "which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem." It was an inward experience with the prophet, a deep inwrought conviction. The word of the Lord took possession of his very soul, and became part and parcel of his very being, touching, quickening, inspiring his whole nature. The circumstances of his nation, too, were vividly presented to him, and the events to be fulfilled were as real as though they had already taken place or were transpiring before his eyes. "Which he saw." The same expression is used with reference to Amos (Amos 1:1) and Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1). So still: "That which we have heard," etc. (John 1:1-3). A deeper experimental acquaintance with the truth to be proclaimed would impart to the heralds of it a holier earnestness, and would clothe them with mighty energy and irresistible power. "Let your heart take in by its secret veins that, which comes pure from Heaven in showers of blessing: so shall its issues, so far as your influence extends, contribute to fertilize the wilderness" (Arnot). And the heart must be in sympathy with those to whom the truth is to be communicated. The circumstances of his nation pressed upon the heart of Micah. So Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:15) and Paul (Romans 10:1). George Fox said, "I prayed to God that he would baptize my heart into the sense of all conditions, so that I might be able to enter into the needs and sorrows of all."
II. TRUE SPIRITUAL TEACHERS HAVE OFTEN BEEN RAISED UP AND PREPARED FOR THEIR WORK IN RETIRED AND. OBSCURE PLACES. "The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite." Many of the Hebrew prophets sprang from humble and retired localities. Elkosh, Gathhepher, Tishbe, Abel-Meholah, Anathoth, Moresheth-Gath,—how comparatively insignificant and unknown these places appear! and yet out of them respectively came Nahum, Jonah, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and Micah. Country life has its special advantages by way of preparing the mind and heart for holy service. It affords a better opportunity for getting the spirit affected with the power and goodness of God as expressed in his works; for scenes of natural beauty are continually unfolded to the view, and of which the citizen is deprived. "God made the country, man the town." Quiet retirement, too, is more available, securing thus facilities for meditation, reflection, and heart communion. There is so much less to distract and divert the attention than is presented amidst life in the great centres. Yet he who lives in retirement, if designed for prominent service, will not fail, even in his remoteness from the activities of city life, to inform himself concerning the character of the age in which he lives, and to keep himself abreast with it, but will be observant of "the signs of the times," and will familiarize himself with these, even as Micah, away in Moresheth-Gath, was familiar with the moral and spiritual condition of his people, and with the doings of kings and nobles, prophets and priests. It is often a source of discouragement to some engaged in service to God that they are called upon to work in very retired spheres, and they ardently long for more scope and wider influence. It should be no slight consolation to such that their spheres, though retired, may nevertheless afford them far reaching power for good. Perchance under their care may be those whom God has designed for very influential service, and that through their ministry these are being prepared for their life work; and that in due course, leaving the village and going forth to their mission in city or town, at home or it may be in some far off land, they will carry with them holy influences which have been exerted upon them by one who may never be known to fame, but whose "witness shall be in heaven, and whose record shall be on high."
III. TRUE SPIRITUAL TEACHERS WILL ADAPT THEMSELVES TO THE AGE THEY ARE TO SEEK TO INFLUENCE. "The word … in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." An examination of the period indicates that it was an age:
1. Thoroughly corrupt. Nobles, priests, prophets, had alike corrupted their way. Micah denounced with holy boldness the sins of the times (Micah 2:1, Micah 2:2, Micah 2:7-11; Micah 3:1-4, Micah 3:5, Micah 3:7).
2. Manifestly formal. In sublime diction Micah enforced the spirituality of genuine worship and the practical character of sincere piety (Micah 6:6-8).
3. Utterly unpatriotic. With loyal spirit he recalled the past of their national history, which should have stirred their hearts anew (Micah 2:12; Micah 6:4, Micah 6:5; Micah 7:14, Micah 7:15, Micah 7:20).
4. Setting in darkness. The cup of iniquity was fast filling. The fate of Samaria was sealed. Jerusalem also was reserved for desolation. But whilst declaring the coming judgments, Micah also declared the Divine mercy to the penitent (Micah 7:18), and, whilst announcing the approaching ruin, he looked beyond the gathering darkness and the falling shadows, and saw by faith "the mighty Child" appearing in the obscure village of Bethlehem in an age to come, and who should prove himself "a Shepherd more royal even than David," and who should usher in "a peace even more universal than that of Solomon" (Micah 5:2). And so did this distinguished seer adapt himself to the age he was commissioned to serve. And in like manner, he who would work successfully in the present day must fully consider the nature of the times, and the special needs of men. Failure does not always arise from want of ability, but often from lack of adaptation. The thing done is good enough in itself, but is not suited to the occasion. There is a Hindu proverb, "The chariot is weak at sea, and the ship on land." In no respect did the Divine Master, the great Prophet of the Church, more thoroughly excel all other instructors than in the marvellous suitability of all his methods and utterances to the deepest needs of those amongst whom he laboured.
1. To depend upon God for the teaching of his Spirit, and to receive the truth from him.
2. To gather up strength in retirement for future service.
3. To seek to be inspired with holy courage, so as to declare all the counsel of God.
4. To strengthen your hearts amidst present difficulties and darkness by the prospect of that full and complete salvation which shall be accomplished by Christ.
The Divine judgments against Israel.
Micah was a prophet of Judah, and had special reference in his prophecy to that kingdom. Still, he referred also to the kingdom of Israel. In these verses he directed attention to the tribulations speedily to come upon the kingdom of Israel; and, whilst his words have reference to "the dead past," they suggest lessons for all times. Consider—
I. THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS AGAINST THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL AS HERB PREDICTED. Note:
1. Their occasion. (Verse 5.) The secular historian has his account of the causes of the calamities which overtook the Jewish people. He traces these to lust of power and dominion on the part of the ancient monarchies, Assyrian, Chaldean, Babylonian, by which they were attacked and conquered. But the true spiritual teacher probes deeper, and seeks to get at the root of it all, and finds this to be sin—national transgression (verse 5). There were three stages in the downward progress of the nation.
2. Their necessity. (Verse 3.) "For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place"—a striking sentence employed to express the necessity that existed for retribution to be exercised. "God's place" is his mercy. He is love. He is good and gracious. It is his nature to show compassion. Let all prominence be given to this characteristic of our God. We cannot dwell too much upon it, and can never exhaust the rich theme. "God is love," and mercy is "his place." But there are times when there is a stem necessity for him to "come forth out of his place." He is not only loving, he is also righteous, and he is righteous because he is loving. True love excludes partiality, and true justice requires that men be dealt with according to their actions; so that, if God would be true to his character as a God of love, both the recompense of the good and the punishment of the evil is demanded. We are to warn men of the terrible and far reaching consequences of sin, and whilst joyfully proclaiming "the acceptable year of the Lord," we are also to declare with true solemnity the fact of "the day of vengeance of our God." Whilst delighting to speak of mercy as his dwelling place, we must also declare that there is the necessity for him "to come forth out of his place" to vindicate the right and to punish the wrong.
3. Their severity. (Verses 3, 4.) This is set forth here in striking metaphor. God is represented as treading upon the high places, the pride of the haughty being as the dust beneath his feet. His judgments are described as fire, under the influence of which the mountains should be molten and the valleys be cleft; whilst as wax melts before the fire, and as the rushing waters, poured over a steep place, no more return, but are scattered in spray and dissipated in vapours, so should the evil doers at length be brought to nought. Samaria, the centre of the nation, and the source whence proceeded noxious and pestilential influences, should be brought to utter desolation (verses 6, 7). This stern sentence was literally fulfilled.
4. Their equity. The prophet, like other seers, summons the nations and the earth to bear testimony to the rightness which marks all God's judgments (verse 2). The acknowledgment of the universe shall be that the Divine judgments are "true and righteous altogether."
II. THE BEARING OF THE STORY OF ISRAEL'S GUILT AND FALL UPON NATIONAL LIFE IN THE PRESENT DAY.
1. It warns us that if we use the preeminence God has assigned to us as a nation, simply with a view to our own aggrandizement and the furtherance of our own selfish ends, if, instead of worshipping him, and living with a single eye to his glory, we prostrate ourselves before wealth and luxury, ease and sloth, human reason and human applause, God will be against us, and will come forth "out of his place" to judgment, and national decay and death will assuredly follow. A haughty Frenchman once taunted an English captain, saying, "When will you English fetch Calais again?" The captain replied, "When your sins shall weigh down ours!"
2. It reminds us how essential it is, in order to national prosperity, that the sovereign should be a pattern of every virtue; that rulers should not only be men of wisdom and foresight, but also God-fearing; and that religion, spiritual and practical, should characterize all classes of the community.
3. It indicates to us the forbearance of God in sparing our nation, despite all the defections which have marked us as a people, and should lead us to repentance and a new life. And this must be personal and individual. "He who would reform the world must first improve himself." Then let us each "fear God, and keep his commandments," and so prove good citizens of the land we love. And conscious of our weakness, as Nature in all her helplessness offers herself to the kindly influence of the sun and the refreshing effects of the shower, so let us offer our hearts to the quickening and fertilizing influences of God's Spirit, that as Nature becomes clothed with verdure, so we may abound in all holy graces, and in us the Lord and God of all the nations of the earth be abundantly glorified!
Micah 1:5, Micah 1:9, and Micah 1:13 (last clauses)
The contagiousness of sin.
Great prominence should be given in Christian teaching to the sad and solemn fact of sin. Would we lead men to prize the redemption wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to appreciate his unutterable love expressed in his "obedience unto death," we must seek to bring home to them a sense of that sinfulness, from the thraldom and evil consequences of which he came to deliver all who trust in him. The Hebrew prophets present to us in this respect an example well worthy of imitation. We find in their writings bright allusions to the deliverance to be wrought "in the fulness of time" by the Messiah, whose heralds they delighted to be, and whose "day" they "saw afar off;" but accompanying these words of hope were heart searching utterances, now indignant and scathing, and anon tender, pathetic, wailing, all designed to bring home to the conscience and heart a keen sense of evil doing, and to lead men to bow themselves low in penitence for the wrong they had done. We have brought very conspicuously before us in these verses the contagious influence of sin. Observe—
I. THE MISCHIEF IS HERE TRACED, IN THE FIRST INSTANCE, TO LACHISH. (Connect Micah 1:9 and Micah 1:13.) Lachish was one of the most powerful of the cities of Judah. It was strongly fortified, and formed the cavalry depot for the nation. Sennacherib spared no effort to reduce it, and, when he had succeeded, he sent from it his boastful and contemptuous message to Hezekiah. The Assyrian monuments represe