John Calvin, Commentary on Micah



Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Third. Jonah, Micah, Nahum

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America


Contents

Calvin's Preface to Micah
Commentaries on the Prophet Micah






The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Micah



Calvin's Preface to Micah

    Among the Minor Prophets, Micah comes next, who is commonly
called Micaiah. But he was the second, as they say, of this name;
for the first was the Micaiah who had a contest with the wicked king
Ahab; and he then exercised his Prophetic office. But the second was
in the same age with Isaiah, perhaps a little later: at least Isaiah
had been performing his office some years before Micah had been
called. It appears then that he was added to Isaiah, that he might
confirm his doctrine; for that holy man had to do with ungodly men,
with men of a hardened neck, yea, and so wicked, that they were
wholly irreclaimable. That their doctrine therefore might be more
entitled to credit, it pleased God that Isaiah and Micah should
deliver their message at the same time, as it were, with one mouth,
and avow their consent, that all the disobedient might be proved
guilty.
    But I will now come to his words: for the contents of this Book
suggest what is useful for our instruction.
    
    

Commentaries on the Prophet Micah


Lecture Eighty-first.

Chapter 1.

Micah 1:1
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.
    
    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. 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. 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. 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 -

Micah 1:2
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.
    
    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? 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
fulness. We may take the earth, by metonymy, for its inhabitants;
but as it is added, "and its fulness", 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 -

Micah 1:3,4
For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come
down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
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.
    
    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, chap. 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." 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 -

Micah 1:5
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?
    
    The Prophet teaches, in this verse, that God is not angry for
nothing; though when he appears rigid, men expostulate with him, and
clamour 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,
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 labour," 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.
    
Prayer.
    
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.


Lecture Eighty-second.

Micah 1:6
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.

    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, (Matth.
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 -

Micah 1:7
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.
    
    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. "'Etnan" 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. 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 -

Micah 1:8,9
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.
For her wound [is] incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come
unto the gate of my people, [even] to 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 "sholal"
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 "'anushah" 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, 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 -

Micah 1:10
Declare ye [it] not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of
Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.

    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
"'afrah" means dusty, and "'afar" 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.

Micah 1:11
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.
    
    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 "shafir" 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
"tsa'ah" means to transfer, as "tsa'an" 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 "'amad" 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
"lakach" 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
neighbouring 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
neighbours 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. It afterwards follows -

Micah 1:12
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil
came down from the LORD unto the gate of 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 "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, 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 -

Micah 1:13
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.
    
    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 "rechesh",
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 neighbouring 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 -

Micah 1:14
Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of
Achzib [shall be] a lie to the kings of 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. "'Achziv" 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 "'Achziv", for a lie, "le'achziv";
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. I cannot
finish the chapter to-day.
    
Prayer.

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.


Lecture Eighty-third.

Micah 1:15
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he
shall come unto Adullam the glory of 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 "yarash", and it means possession. The Prophet now
says, I will send to thee "hayoresh", a possessor; the word is from
the same root. But he means that the Morasthites would come into the
power of their enemies no less than their neighbours, 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 "kevod" 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 eleventh chapter of
Nehemiah. 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, 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 -

Micah 1:16
Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy
baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.
    
    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 "korchi" implies as much as though the
Prophet said "Pluck, tear, pull off your hair." When afterwards he
adds "wagozi", 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." 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 -



Chapter 2.

Micah 2:1
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds!
when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the
power of their hand.
    
    The Prophet does not here speak only against the Israelites, as
some think, who have incorrectly confined this part of his teaching
to the ten tribes; but he, on the contrary, (in discharging his
office, addresses also the Jews. He refers not here to idolatry, as
in the last chapter; but inveighs against sins condemned in the
second table. As then the Jews had not only polluted the worship of
God, but also gave loose reins to many iniquities, so that they
dealt wrongfully with their neighbors, and there was among them no
attention to justice and equity, so the prophet inveighs here as we
shall see, against avarice, robberies, and cruelty: and his
discourse is full of vehemence; for there was no doubt such
licentiousness then prevailing among the people, that there was need
of severe and sharp reproofs. It is at the same time easy to
perceive that his discourse is mainly directed against the chief
men, who exercised authority, and turned it to wrong purposes.
    "Woe, he says, to those who meditate on iniquity, and devise
evil on their beds, that, when the morning shines, they may execute
it". Here the Prophet describes to the life the character and
manners of those who were given to gain, and were intent only on
raising themselves. He says, that in their beds they were meditating
on iniquity, and devising wickedness. Doubtless the time of night
has been given to men entirely for rest; but they ought also to use
this kindness of God for the purpose of restraining themselves from
what is wicked: for he who refreshes his strength by nightly rest,
ought to think within himself, that it is an unbecoming thing and
even monstrous, that he should in the meantime devise frauds, and
guiles, and iniquities. For why does the Lord intend that we should
rest, except that all evil things should rest also? Hence the
Prophet shows here, by implication, that those who are intent on
devising frauds, while they ought to rest, subvert as it were the
course of nature; for they have no regard for that rest, which has
been granted to men for this end, - that they may not trouble and
annoy one another.
    He afterwards shows how great was their desire to do mischief,
"When it shines in the morning, he says, they execute it". He might
have said only, "They do in the daytime what they contrive in the
night:" but he says, In the morning; as though he had said, that
they were so heated by avarice, that they rested not a moment; as
soon as it shone, they were immediately ready to perpetrate the
frauds they had thought of in the night. We now then apprehend the
import of the Prophet's meaning.
    He now subjoins, "For according to their power is their hand".
As "'el" means God, an old interpreter has given this rendering,
"Against God is their hand:" but this does not suit the passage.
Others have explained it thus, "For strength is in their hand:" and
almost all those well-skilled in Hebrew agree in this explanation.
Those who had power, they think, are here pointed out by the
Prophet, - that as they had strength, they dared to do whatever they
pleased. But the Hebrew phrase is not translated by them; and I
greatly wonder that they have mistaken in a thing so clear: for it
is not, "There is power in their hand;" but "their hand is to
power." The same mode of speaking is found in the third chapter of
Proverbs, and there also many interpreters are wrong; for Solomon
there forbids us to withhold from our neighbor his right, "When
thine hand," he says, "is for power;" some say, "When there is power
to help the miserable." But Solomon means no such thing; for he on
the contrary means this, "When thine hand is ready to execute any
evil, abstain." So also the Lord says in Deut. 28, "When the enemy
shall take away thy spoils, thy hand will not be for power;" that
is, "Thou wilt not dare to move a finger to restrain thy enemies;
when they will plunder thee and rob thee of thy substance, thou wilt
stand in dread, for thy hand will be as though it were dead." I come
now to the present passage, "Their hand is for power:" the Prophet
means, that they dared to try what they could, and that therefore
their hand was always ready; whenever there was hope of lucre or
gains the hand was immediately prepared. How so? Because they were
restrained neither by the fear of God nor by any regard for justice;
but their hand was for power, that is, what they could, they dared
to do. We now then see what the Prophet means as far as I can judge.
He afterwards adds -

Micah 2:2
And they covet fields, and take [them] by violence; and houses, and
take [them] away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man
and his heritage.
    
    Micah confirms here what is contained in the former verse; for
he sets forth the alacrity with which the avaricious were led to
commit plunder; nay, how unbridled was their cupidity to do evil. As
soon as they have coveted any thing, he says, they take it by force.
And hence we gather, that the Prophet, in the last verse, connected
wicked counsels with the attempt of effecting them; as though he had
said, that they indeed carefully contrived their frauds, but that as
they were skillful in their contrivances, so they were not less bold
and daring in executing then.
    The same thing he now repeats in other words for a further
confirmation, "As soon as they have coveted fields, they seize them
by force; as soon as they have coveted houses they take them away";
they oppress a man and his house together; that is, nothing escaped
them: for as their wickedness in frauds was great, so their
disposition to attempt whatever they wished was furious. And well
would it be were there no such cruel avarice at this day; but it
exists every where, so that we may see, as in a mirror, an example
of what is here said. But it behaves us carefully to consider how
greatly displeasing to God are frauds and plunders, so that each of
us may keep himself from doing any wrong, and be so ruled by a
desire of what is right, that every one of us may act in good faith
towards his neighbors, seek nothing that is unjust, and bridle his
own desires: and whenever Satan attempts to allure us, let what is
here taught be to us as a bridle to restrain us. It follows -

Micah 2:3
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I
devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither
shall ye go haughtily: for this time [is] evil.
    
    The Prophet shows now that the avaricious were in vain elevated
by their frauds and rapacity, because their hope would be
disappointed; for God in heaven was waiting his time to appear
against them. Though they had anxiously heaped together much wealth,
yet God would justly dissipate it altogether. This is what he now
declares.
    "Behold, he says, thus saith Jehovah, I am meditating evil
against this family." There is here a striking contrast between God
and the Jews, between their wicked intentions and the intentions of
God, which in themselves were not evil, and yet would bring evil on
them. God, he says, thus speaks, Behold, I am purposing; as though
he said, "While ye are thus busying yourselves on your beds, while
ye are revolving many designs while ye are contriving many
artifices, ye think me to be asleep, ye think that I am all the
while meditating nothing; nay, I have my thoughts too, and those
different from yours; for while ye are awake to devise wickedness I
am awake to contrive judgment." We now then perceive the import of
these words: it is God that declares that he meditates evil, and it
is not the Prophet that speaks to these avaricious and rapacious
men; and the evil is that of punishment, inasmuch as it is the
peculiar office of God to repay to all what they deserve, and to
render to each the measure of evil they have brought on others.
    "Ye shall not, he says, remove your necks from under it". Since
hypocrites always promise to themselves impunity, and lay hold on
subterfuges, whenever God threatens them, the Prophet here affirms,
that though they sought every escape, they would yet be held bound
by God's hand, so that they could not by any means shake off the
burden designed for them. And this was a reward most fully deserved
by those who had withdrawn their necks when God called them to
obedience. They then who refuse to obey God, when he requires from
them a voluntary service, will at length be drawn by force, not to
undergo the yoke, but the burden which will altogether overwhelm
them. Whosoever then will not willingly submit to God's yoke, must
at length undergo the great and dreadful burden prepared for the
unnamable.
    Ye will not then be able to withdraw your necks, and "ye shall
not walk in your height". He expresses still more clearly what I
have referred to, - that they were so elated with pride, that they
despised all threatening and all instruction: and this presumption
became the cause of perverseness; for were it not that a notion of
security deceived men, they would presently bend, when God threatens
them. This then is the reason why the Prophet joins this sentence,
ye shall no more walk in your height; that is, your haughtiness
shall then surely be made to succumb; for it will be a time of evil.
He means, as I have said, that those who retain a stir and unbending
neck towards God, when he would lay on them his yoke, shall at
length be made by force to yield, however rebellious they may be.
How so? For they shall be broken down, inasmuch as they will not be
corrected. The Prophet then adds -

Micah 2:4
In that day shall [one] take up a parable against you, and lament
with a doleful lamentation, [and] say, We be utterly spoiled: he
hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed [it] from
me! turning away he hath divided our fields.
    
    The verse is in broken sentences; and hence interpreters vary.
But the meaning of the Prophet appears to me to be simply this, "In
that day they shall take up a proverb against you"; that is, it will
not be an ordinary calamity, but the report concerning it will go
forth every where so that the Jews will become to all a common
proverb. This is one thing. As to the word "mashal", it is taken, we
know, for a weighty saying, and in the plural, weighty sayings,
called by the Latins, sentences or sayings, and by the Greeks,
apophthegmata. But these sayings were thus called weighty by the
Hebrews, because he who elevated his style, made use especially of
figurative expressions, to render his discourse nobler and more
splendid. Hence many render this word, enigmas. It accords well with
the Prophet's meaning, to suppose, that proverbial sayings would
spread every where respecting the Jews, especially as calamities
were usually described in a plaintive song. "They shall then mourn
over you with lamentable mourning". But this ought to be referred to
the fact, - that the calamity would be every where known. It yet
seems that this sentence is applied afterwards to the Jews
themselves, and not unsuitably. But it is an indefinite mode of
speaking, since the Prophet speaks not of one or two men, but of the
whole people.
    They shall then mourn in this manner, "Wasted, we have been
wasted: the portion of my people has he changed" - (it is the future
instead of the past) - He has then changed the portion of my people.
This may be applied to God as well as to the Assyrians; for God was
the principal author of this calamity; he it was who changed the
portion of the people: for as by his blessing he had long cherished
that people, so afterwards he changed their lot. But as the
Assyrians were the ministers of God's vengeance, the expression
cannot be unsuitably applied to them. The Assyrian then has taken
away the portion of my people. And then he says, "How has he made to
depart", or has taken away, or removed from me, (literally, to me,)
to restore, - though "shavav" may be from the root "shuv", it yet
means the same, - "How then has he taken away from us to restore our
fields he divides", that is, which he has divided; for the relative
"asher" is understood and there is also a change of time. Now as the
discourse, as I have said, is in broken sentences, there are various
interpretations. I however think that the Prophet simply means this
- How as to restoring has he taken away our fields, which he hath
divided? that is, How far off are we from restitution? for every
hope is far removed, since the Lord himself has divided among
strangers our land and possession; or since the enemies have divided
it among themselves; for it is usual after victory, for every one to
seize on his own portion. Whether then this be understood of the
Assyrians, or rather be referred to God, the meaning of the Prophet
seems clearly to be this, - that the Jews were not only expelled
from their country but that every hope of return was also taken
away, since the enemies had parted among themselves their
inheritance, so that they who had been driven out, now in vain
thought of a restitution. But I read this in the present time; for
the Prophet introduces here the Jews as uttering this lamentation, -
"It is now all over with us, and there is no remedy for this evil;
for not only are we stripped of all our property and ejected from
our country, but what has been taken away by our enemies cannot be
restored to us, inasmuch as they have already parted our possessions
among themselves, and every one occupies his own portion and his own
place, as though it were his own inheritance. We have therefore to
do, not only with the Assyrians in general, but also with every
individual; for what every one now occupies and possesses he will
defend, as his rightful and hereditary possession."
    Some conjecture from this verse, that the discourse belongs
rather to the Israelites, who were banished without any hope of
return; but no necessity constrains us to explain this of the
Israelites; for the Prophet does not declare here what God would do,
but what would be the calamity when considered in itself. We have
indeed said already in many places, that the Prophets, while
threatening, speak only of calamities, desolations, deaths, and
destructions, but that they afterwards add promises for consolation.
But their teaching is discriminative: when the Prophets intend to
terrify hypocrites and perverse men, they set forth the wrath of God
only, and leave no hope; but when they would inspire with hope those
who are by this means humbled, they draw forth comfort to them even
from the goodness of God. What is here said then may fitly and
really be applied to the Jews. It follows -

Micah 2:5
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the
congregation of the LORD.
    
    Here the Prophet concludes his discourse respecting God's
design to cleanse Judea from its perverse and wicked inhabitants,
that it might no longer be the inheritance of one people. For the
land, we know, had been given to the posterity of Abraham, on the
condition, that it was to be held by them as an heritage: and we
also know, that a line was determined by lot whenever the year of
Jubilee returned, that every one might regain his own possession.
The Prophet now testifies that this advantage would be taken away
from the Jews, and that they would hereafter possess the land by no
hereditary right; for God, who had given it, would now take it away.
    There shall not then be one to cast a line by lot in the
assembly of Jehovah. And he seems here to touch the Jews, by calling
them the assembly of Jehovah. He indeed adopted them, they were the
people of God: but he intimates that they were repudiated, because
they had rendered themselves unworthy of his favor. He therefore, by
calling them ironically the assembly of Jehovah, denies that they
rightly retained this name, inasmuch as they had deprived themselves
of this honour and dignity. It now follows -

Micah 2:6
Prophesy ye not, [say they to them that] prophesy: they shall not
prophesy to them, [that] they shall not take shame.
    
    1Here the conciseness of the expressions has made interpreters
to differ in their views. Some read thus, "Distill ye not, - they
will distill"; that is, the Jews speak against the prophets, and
with threats forbid them, as with authority, to address them. The
Hebrew word, distill, means the same as to speak; though at the same
time it is applied more commonly to weighty addresses than to such
as are common and ordinary. If any understands, they will distill,
or speak, of the Jews, then the Prophet points out their arrogance
in daring to contend with God's prophets, and in trying to silence
and force them to submission. We indeed find that ungodly men act
thus, when they wish to take away the liberty of teaching from God's
prophets; for they resist as though they themselves were doubly and
treble prophets. So also in this place, Distill ye not, that is, the
Jews say, "Let not the servants of God prophesy." But some think
that a relative is understood, "Distill ye not for them who
distill"; as though he had said, that ungodly men would not bear
God's prophets and thus would prevent and restrain them, as much as
they could, from speaking. Others make this distinction, Distill ye
not, - they shall distill; as though the Jews said the first, and
God the second. Distill ye not, - this was the voice of the ungodly
and rebellious people, who would cast away from them and reject
every instruction: but God on the other side opposed them and said,
Nay, they shall distill; ye forbid, but it is not in your power; I
have sent them: though ye may rage and glamour a hundred times, it
is my will that they should proceed in their course.
    We hence see how various are the explanations: and even in the
other part of the verse there is no more agreement between
interpreters: They shall not distill; respecting this clause, it is
sufficiently evident, that God here intimates that there would be
now an end to all prophecies. How so? Because he would not render
his servants a sport, and subject them to reproach. This is the true
meaning: and yet some take another view, as though the Prophet
continued his sentence, They shall not distill, lest the people
should receive reproaches; for the ungodly think, that if they close
the mouths of the prophets, all things would be lawful to them, and
that their crimes would be hid, in short, that their vices would not
be called to an account; as though their wickedness was not in
itself sufficiently reproachful, were God to send no prophets, and
no reproof given. No doubt, profane men are so stupid as to think
themselves free from every reproach, when God is silent, and when
they put away from themselves every instruction. Hence some think,
that this passage is to be understood in this sense. But I consider
the meaning to be that which I have stated; for he had before said,
Distill ye not who distill; that is, "Ye prophets, be no longer
troublesome to us; why do you stem our ears? We can no longer bear
your boldness; be then silent." Thus he expressly introduced the
Jews as speaking with authority, as though it was in their power to
restrain the prophets from doing their duty. Now follows, as I
think, the answer of God, "They shall not distill," that he may not
get reproaches: "Since I see that my doctrine is intolerable to you,
since I find a loathing so great and so shameful, I will take away
my prophets from you: I will therefore rest, and be hereafter
silent." - Why? "Because I effect nothing; nay, I subject my
prophets to reproaches; for they lose their labour in speaking, they
pour forth words which produce no fruit; for ye are altogether
irreclaimable. Nay, as they are reproachfully treated by you, their
condition is worse than if they were covered with all the disgrace
of having been criminal. Since then I subject my prophets to
reproach I will not allow them to be thus mocked by you. They shall
therefore give over, they shall prophesy no longer."
    But the Lord could not have threatened the Jews with any thing
worse or more dreadful than with this immunity, - that they should
no more hear anything which might disturb them: for it is an extreme
curse, when God gives us loose reins, and suffers us, with unbridled
liberty, to rush as it were headlong into evils, as though he had
delivered us up to Satan to be his slaves. Since it is so, let us be
assured that it is an awful threatening, when he says, They shall
not distill, lest they should hereafter become objects of reproach.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art pleased to try our patience by
requiring mutual justice and the offices of love and benevolence, -
O grant, that we may not be wolves one to another, but show
ourselves to be really thy children, by observing all those duties
of justice and kindness which thou commandest, and thus follow what
is right and just through the whole course of our life, that we may
at length enjoy that blessedness which is laid up for us in heaven,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-fourth.

Micah 2:7
O [thou that art] named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the
LORD straitened? [are] these his doings? do not my words do good to
him that walketh uprightly?
    
    The Prophet now reproves the Israelites with greater severity,
because they attempted to impose a law on God and on his prophets
and would not endure the free course of instruction. He told us in
the last verse, that the Israelites were inflated with so much
presumption, that they wished to make terms with God: "Let him not
prophesy" they said, as though it were in the power of man to rule
God: and the Prophet now repeats, "Is the Spirit of Jehovah
straitened?" as though he said, "Ye see the intent of your
presumption, and how far it proceeds; for ye wish to subject God's
Spirit to yourselves and to your own pleasure." The prophets
doubtless did not speak of themselves, but by the bidding and
command of God. Since then the prophets were the organs of the Holy
Spirit, whosoever attempted to silence them, usurped to himself an
authority over God himself, and in a manner tried to make captive
his Spirit: for what power can belong to the Spirit, except he be at
liberty to reprove the vices of men, and condemn whatever is opposed
to God's justice? When this is taken away, there is no more any
jurisdiction left to the Holy Spirit. We now then see what the
Prophet means in this place: he shows how mad a presumption it was
in the Israelites to attempt to impose silence on the prophets, as
though they had a right to rule the Spirit of God, and to force him
to submission.
    "Is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened?" And this mode of
speaking ought to be noticed, for it possesses no ordinary emphasis;
inasmuch as the Prophets by this reproof; recalls the attention of
these perverse men to the author of his teaching; as though he had
said, that the wrong was not done to men, that war was not carried
on with them, when instruction is prohibited, but that God is robbed
of his own rights and that his liberty is taken away, so that he is
not allowed to execute his judgment in the world by the power of his
Spirit.
    And farther, the Prophet here ironically reproves the
Israelites, when he says, "O thou who art called the house of Jacob,
is the Spirit of Jehovah reduced to straits?" For if heathens, who
have never known the teaching of religion, and to whom no heavenly
mysteries have been revealed, had said, that they would have nothing
to do with the prophets, it would have been much more endurable; for
what wonder would it be for ignorant men to repudiate all
instruction? But it was monstrous for the Israelites, who gloried in
the name of God, to dare to rise up so rebelliously against the
prophets: they always boasted of their own race, as though they
surpassed all the rest of the world, and were a holy nations
separated from all others. Hence the Prophet says, "Ye wish to be
called the house of Jacob; what is your excellency and dignity,
except that you have been chosen by God to be his peculiar people?
If then you have been habituated to the teaching of God, what fury
and madness it is, that you cannot bear his prophets, but wish to
close their mouths?" We now then see the point of this irony, when
the Prophet says that they were called the house of Jacob. He seems
at the same time to intimate, in an indirect way, that they were a
spurious race. As they were called by other prophets, Amorites and
Sodomites: even so in this place the Prophet says, "Ye are indeed
the house of Jacob, but it is only as to the name." They were in
reality so degenerated, that they falsely pretended the name of the
holy patriarch; yea, they falsely and mendaciously boasted of their
descent from holy men, though they were nothing else but as it were
rotten members. Inasmuch then as they had so departed from the
religion of Abraham and of other fathers, the Prophet says, "Thou
art indeed called what thou art not."
    He afterwards adds, "Are these his works?" Here he brings the
Israelites to the proof, as though he said, "How comes it, that the
prophets are so troublesome and grievous to you, except that they
sharply reprove you, and denounce on you the judgment of God? But
God is in a manner forced, except he was to change his nature, to
treat you thus sharply and severely. Ye boast that you are his
people, but how do you live? Are these his works? that is, do you
lead a life, and form your conduct according to the law laid down by
him? But as your life does not in any degree correspond with what
God requires, it is no wonder that the prophets handle you so
roughly. For God remains the same, ever like himself; but ye are
perfidious, and have wholly repudiated the covenant he has made with
you. Then this asperity, of which ye are wont to complain, ought not
to be deemed unjust to you."
    He then subjoins, "Are not my words good to him who walks
uprightly?" Here the Prophet more distinctly shows, why he had
before asked, Whether their works were those of the Lord; for he
compares their life with the doctrine, which on account of its
severity displeased them; they said that the words of the prophets
were too rigid. God here answers, that his words were gentle and
kind, and therefore pleasant, that is, to the pious and good; and
that hence the fault was in them, when he treated them less kindly
than they wished. The import of the whole then is, that the word of
God, as it brings life and salvation to man, is in its own nature
gracious, and cannot be either bitter, or hard, or grievous to the
pious and the good, for God unfolds in it the riches of his
goodness.
    We hence see that God here repudiates the impious calumny that
was cast on his word; as though he had said, that the complaints
which prevailed among the people were false; for they transferred
the blame of their own wickedness to the word of God. They said that
God was too severe: but God here declares that he was gentle and
kind, and that the character of his word was the same, provided men
were tractable, and did not, through their perverseness, extort from
him anything else than what he of himself wished. And the same thing
David means in Psalm 18, when he says that God is perverse with the
perverse: for in that passage he intimates, that he had experienced
the greatest goodness from God, inasmuch as he had rendered himself
docile and obedient to him. On the contrary, he says, God is
perverse with the perverse; that is, when he sees men obstinately
resisting and hardening their necks, he then puts on as it were a
new character, and deals perversely with them, that is, severely, as
their stubbornness deserves; as for a hard knot, according to a
common proverb, a hard wedge is necessary. We now then perceive the
meaning of this passage, that God's words are good to those who walk
uprightly; that is they breathe the sweetest odour, and bring
nothing else but true and real joy: for when can there be complete
happiness, except when God embraces us in the bosom of his love? But
the testimony respecting this love is brought to us by his word. The
fault then is in us, and ought to be imputed to us, if the word of
God is not delightful to us.
    Some expound this whole passage differently, as though the
Prophet relates here what was usually at that time the boast of the
Israelites. They hence think that it is a narrative in which he
represents their sentiments; as though the Prophet introduced here
the ungodly and the rebellious animating one another in their
contempt of God's word, "O thou who art called the house of Jacob,
is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened?" Hypocrites, we know, are so
blind and intoxicated by a false confidence, that they hesitate not
heedlessly to abuse all the favors of God. As then God had conferred
a great excellency on his people, they thus emboldened one another,
- "Are we not the children and posterity of Abraham? What will it
avail us to be a holy and chosen race, and the peculiar people of
God, and a royal priesthood, if we are to be thus unkindly treated?
We find that these prophets shamefully reprove us: where is our
dignity, except we show that we have more privileges than other
nations?" These interpreters therefore think the meaning to be this,
- that they make a show of their own privileges, that they might
with more liberty reject every instruction, and shake off every
yoke. And when it is said, Is the Spirit of God diminished? these
interpreters regard this as meaning, that they were satisfied with
the solemn promise of God, and that as they were a holy race, they
now superciliously despised all the prophets, - "Is the Spirit of
God dead, who was formerly the interpreter of the everlasting
covenant, which God made with us? Has he not testified that we
should be to him a holy and elect people? Why then do ye now attempt
to reduce to nothing this sacred declaration of the Holy Spirit,
which is inviolable?" It is then added, Are these his works? "Ye
talk of nothing but of threats and destruction; ye denounce on us
numberless calamities: but God is beneficent and kind in his nature,
patient and merciful; and ye represent him to us as a tyrant; but
this view is wholly inconsistent with the nature of God." And, in
the last place, God subjoins, as these interpreters think, an
exception, - "All these are indeed true, if faithfulness exists
among you, and the authority of my word continues; for my words are
good, but not to all without any difference: be upright and sincere,
and ye shall find me dealing kindly, gently, tenderly, and
pleasantly with you: then my rigor will cease, which now through my
word so much offends and exasperates you."
    This meaning may in some measure be admitted; but as it is hard
to be understood, we ought to retain the former, it being more easy
and flowing. There is nothing strained in the view, that the Prophet
derides the foolish arrogance of the people, who thought that they
were sheltered by this privilege, that they were the holy seed of
Abraham. The Prophet answers that this titular superiority did not
deprive God of his right, and prevent him to exercise his power by
the Spirit. "O thou then who art called the house of Jacob; but only
as far as the title goes: the Spirit of God is not reduced to
straits. But if thou boastest thyself to be the peculiar people of
God, are these thy works the works of God? Does thy life correspond
with what he requires? There is no wonder then that God chastises
you so severely by his word, for there is not in you the spirit of
docility, which allows the exercise of his kindness."
    But though the Prophet here upbraids the ancient people with
ingratitude, yet this truth is especially useful to us, which God
declares, when he says that his word is good and sweet to all the
godly. Let us then learn to become submissive to God, and then he
will convey to us by his word nothing but sweetness, nothing but
delights; we shall then find nothing more desirable than to be fed
by this spiritual food; and it will ever be a real joy to us,
whenever the Lord will open his mouth to teach us. But when at any
time the word of the Lord goads and wounds, and thus exasperates us,
let us know that it is through our own fault. It follows -

Micah 2:8
Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe
with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from
war.
    
    As the words of the Prophet are concise, they contain some
obscurity. Hence interpreters differ. First, as to the word
"'etmul", some think it to be one word, others divide it into "'et"
and "mul", which means, over against, opposite; and they regard it
of the same import with "mimul", which immediately follows. But as
the repetition would be frigid, the Prophet no doubt intended that
it should be taken here in its proper sense, and its meaning is
yesterday. But this time is not strictly taken by the Hebrews, for
they take yesterday as meaning the past time, even when many years
have elapsed. I have therefore rendered it "formerly", which suits
this place. There is also another difference as to the sense of the
text, for some think that this "'etmul", is to be joined to the verb
"komem"; but it is rather to be connected with the word "'ami", "My
people formerly". There is another diversity, that is, as to the
term "'oyev", for some apply it to God, and others to the people;
that they rose up or stood one against another. For this verb is
explained in two ways: some view it as a verb neuter, "They stand
against the enemy;" and others render it, "They rise up against the
enemy;" and this second meaning is most approved, and harmonizes
best with the context.
    I will now refer to what I consider to be the real meaning. The
Prophet, in the first place, says, that the people were formerly
under the power and government of God, but that now they were become
wholly alienated from him. "Formerly, then, it was my people", as
though God now renounced all friendship with them. "I have hitherto
owned you as my people, but hereafter I shall have nothing to do
with you, for the whole authority of my word is by you entirely
abolished; ye have violated your faith: in short, as you have
destroyed my covenant, ye have ceased to be my people; for whatever
favor I have conferred on you, you have deprived yourselves of it by
your wickedness; and though I have adopted you, yet your wickedness
now strips you of this privilege." This is one thing.
    It then follows, "They have risen up as against an enemy." I
consider a note of likeness to be here understood. The Prophet says
simply, Against an enemy have they risen up; but I regard the
meaning to be, that they had risen up as against an enemy; that is
that they had made God, their best father, their enemy, inasmuch as
they had by their crimes provoked his displeasure. He then confirms
this truth by saying, that they practiced robberies among
themselves. We indeed know that hypocrites ever hide themselves
under their religious rites, and spread them forth as their shield
whenever they are reproved. Hence the Prophet says, that they were
not to be deemed the people of God for spending their labors on
sacrifices, for they were at the same time robbers, and plundered
innocent men.
    "The garment of comeliness", he says, or, the garment and the
cloak, (about such words I do not labour much,) "they take away from
those who pass by securely;" that is from all who are peaceable. For
when there is a suspicion of war, or when a traveler does any
mischief, he rightly deserves to be punished. But the Prophet says
here, that they were robbed, who passed by securely as though they
were in a safe country. "When travelers fear nothing, ye strip them
of their garments, as though they were returning from war: as they
are wont, when war is over, to seize on spoils wherever found, and
no one can keep his own; so now, during peace, ye take to yourselves
the same liberty, as though all things were exposed to plunder, and
ye were in a hostile country, lately the scene of warfare."
    We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He first
intimates that the people were now rejected by God, for they had
rendered themselves, by their most abandoned life, wholly unworthy
of his benefits; and at the same time he reproves their ingratitude
that having been the people of God, they choose to make war with him
rather than to observe the covenant which he had made for their
safety; for it was a most shameful wickedness in them, since they
had been chosen from the whole world to be a peculiar people, to
prefer going to war with God rather than to live quietly under his
protection. And that they did rise up against God he proves, for
they gave themselves up to robberies; they plundered, even during
times of peace, which circumstance greatly aggravated their
wickedness. It now follows -

Micah 2:9
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses;
from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.
    
    He proceeds with the same subject, that they refrained from no
acts of injustice. It was indeed a proof of extreme barbarity not to
spare women and children, for they are both weak and helpless. Their
sex exempts women from violence, and their age, children. Even in
wars, women, and also children, escape in safety. We hence see that
the Prophet, by stating a part for the whole, proves here that the
people had addicted themselves to cruelty really barbarous; they
were not restrained from exercising it, no, not even on women and
children. Since it was so, it follows, that their boast of being the
chosen people was vain and fallacious.
    House of delights he ascribes to the women who, being the
weaker sex, prefer being at home and in the shade, rather than going
abroad. The more necessary it was that their recesses should remain
safe to them. Now, what was taken away from the children, God calls
it his ornament; for his blessing, poured forth on children, is the
mirror of his glory: he therefore condemns this plunder as a
sacrilege. The word "le'olam" designates the continuance of their
crimes, as though he had said, that they were cruel without ever
showing any repentance. Now it follows -

Micah 2:10
Arise ye, and depart; for this [is] not [your] rest: because it is
polluted, it shall destroy [you], even with a sore destruction.
    
    Here again the Prophet checks the foolish confidence of the
people. The land of Canaan, we know, had been honored by God with
the distinction of being a rest; yea God called it, not only the
rest of the people, but also his own rest, 'I have sworn in my
wrath, if they shall enter into my rest,' (Ps. 95: 12.) The land of
Canaan then was a sort of rest, hidden under the wings of God; for
the Lord had assigned it as an inheritance to his chosen people. As
God then dwelt in that land, and had also given it to the children
of Abraham, that they might rest there in safety, and as this was
also one of the blessings contained in the Law, hypocrites said,
pursuing their usual course of falsely and groundlessly claiming to
themselves the favors of God, that they could not be thence
expelled, and that those Prophets were falsifiers who dared to
change any thing in God's covenant. This is the reason why the
Prophet now says,
    "Arise, depart; this is not your rest". "False confidence," he
says, "deceives you, as ye think that ye are inseparably fixed in
your habitation. God indeed has made such a promise, but this
condition was added, - If ye will stand faithful to his covenant.
Now ye are become covenant-breakers: ye think that he is fast bound
to you; all the cords are loosened; for as ye have perfidiously
departed from the Law of God, there is now no reason for you to
think that he is under any obligation to you. There is then no
ground for you to boast of being a holy people; you have indeed the
name, but the reality has ceased to be: therefore arise and depart:
but to sit still securely and proudly will avail you nothing, for
God will now drive you afar off: and I now declare to you that you
must arise and depart, for ye cannot rest in this land against the
will of God: and God will now thrust you out of it." We now perceive
the real meaning of the Prophet.
    He afterwards adds, "For it is polluted; he will scatter you
with violent scattering." Here again he vindicates God from their
calumny and ungodly murmurings. We indeed know how difficult it was
to bring down that people, who were steeped in so great a
perverseness. And we find that the Prophet had a hard contest with
the hypocrites, for the multitude had ever this language in their
mouths, - "What! is it of no moment that God has favored us with so
many and so remarkable promises? Is our adoption nothing but a
mockery? Has he in vain given us this land by an hereditary right?
"Since then hypocrites thus brought forward their privileges in
opposition to God, and yet abused them, it was necessary to convince
them to the contrary, and this is what the Prophet does here, - "Ye
call," he says, "this land your rest, but how do you rest in it? God
has commanded you to observe the Sabbath, for he dwells among you to
sanctify you: but ye live disorderly, and carry on war with God
himself: have not your pollutions obliterated that holy rest, which
has been enjoined on you by God? Ye then see that this change has
happened through your fault, that is, that God has ceased to call
this land, as he was wont formerly to do, your and his own rest. It
is not then your rest; he will therefore scatter you with violent or
strong scattering: Ye in vain promise to yourselves rest in this
land, since ye carry on war with God, and cease not to provoke his
wrath against you." It follows -

Micah 2:11
If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, [saying], I
will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even
be the prophet of this people.
    
    The Prophet points out here another vice by which the people
were infected - that they wished to be soothed with flatteries: for
all the ungodly think that they are in a manner exempt from God's
judgment, when they hear no reproof; yea they think themselves
happy, when they get flatterers, who are indulgent to their vices.
This is now the disease which the Prophet discovers as prevailing
among the people. Jerome sought out a meaning quite different here,
as in the former verses; but I will not stop to refute him, for it
is enough to give the real meaning of the Prophet. But as before he
rendered women, princes, and thus perverted entirely the meaning, so
he says here, "I would I were a vain Prophet, that is, walking in
vanity, and mendacious;" as though Micah said "I wish I were false
in denouncing on you the calamities of which I speak; for I would
rather announce to you something joyful and favorable: but I cannot
do this, for the Lord commands what is different." But there is
nothing of this kind in the words of the Prophet. Let us then return
to the text.
    "If a man walks in the spirit, and deceitfully lies," &c.
Almost all interpreters agree in this, - that to walk in the spirit,
is to announce any thing proudly and presumptuously; and they take
spirit for wind or for deceits. But I doubt not, but that to walk in
the spirit was then a common mode of speaking, to set forth the
exercise of the prophetic office. When therefore any one was a
Prophet, or one who discharged that office, or sustained the
character of a teacher, he professed himself to have been sent from
above. The Prophets were indeed formerly called the men of the
spirit, and for this reason, because they adduced nothing from
themselves or from their own heads; but only delivered faithfully,
as from hand to hand, what they had received from God. To walk in
the spirit then means, in my view, the same thing as to profess the
office of a teacher. When therefore any one professed the office of
a teacher, what was he to do? "If I," says Micah, "being endued with
the Spirit, and called to teach, wished to ingratiate myself with
you, and preached that there would be an abundant increase of wine
and strong drink, all would applaud me; for if any one promises
these things, he becomes the prophet of this people."
    In short, Micah intimates that the Israelites rejected all
sound doctrine, for they sought nothing but flatteries, and wished
to be cherished in their vices; yea, they desired to be deceived by
false adulation to their own ruin. It hence appears that they were
not the people they wished to be deemed, that is, the people of God:
for the first condition in God's covenant was, - that he should rule
among his people. Inasmuch then as these men would not endure to be
governed by Divine power, and wished to have full and unbridled
liberty, it was the same as though they had banished God far from
them. Hence, by this proof, the Prophet shows that they had wholly
departed from God, and had no intercourse with him. If there be then
any man walking in the spirit, let him, he says, keep far from the
truth; for he will not otherwise be borne by this people. - How so?
Because they will not have honest and faithful teachers. What is
then to be done? Let flatterers come, and promise them plenty of
wine and strong drink, and they will be their best teachers, and be
received with great applause: in short, the suitable teachers of
that people were the ungodly; the people could no longer bear the
true Prophets; their desire was to have flatterers who were
indulgent to all their corruptions.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since we cannot otherwise really profit by
thy word, than by having all our thoughts and affections subjected
to thee, and offered to thee as a sacrifice, - O grant, that we may
suffer thee, by the sound of thy word, so to pierce through every
thing within us, that being dead in ourselves, we may live to thee,
and never suffer flatteries to become our ruin but that we may, on
the contrary, patiently endure reproofs, however bitter they may be,
only let them serve to us as medicine, by which our inward vices may
be cleansed, until at length being thoroughly cleansed and formed
into new creatures, we may, by a pious and holy life, really glorify
thy name, and be received into that celestial glory, which has been
purchased for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-fifth.

Micah 2:12,13
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather
the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of
Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make
great noise by reason of [the multitude of] men.
The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have
passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king
shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.
    
    The exposition of this passage is twofold. The greater part of
interpreters incline to this view, - that God here promises some
alleviation to the Israelites, after having sharply reproved them,
and threatened them with utter ruin. They therefore apply this
passage to the kingdom of Christ, as though God gave hope of a
future restoration. But when I narrowly weigh every thing, I am, on
the contrary, forced to regard these two verses as a commination,
that is, that the Prophet here denounces God's future vengeance on
the people. As, however, the former opinion is almost universally
received, I will briefly mention what has been adduced in its favor,
and then I shall return to state the other meaning, which I prefer.
    It is suitable to the kingdom of Christ to say, that a people
who had been dispersed should be gathered under one head. We indeed
know how miserable a dispersion there is in the world without him,
and that whenever the Prophets speak of the renovation of the
Church, they commonly make use of this form of expression, that is,
that the Lord will gather the dispersed and unite them together
under one head. If then the passage be referred to the kingdom of
Christ, it is altogether proper to say, that God by gathering will
gather the whole of Jacob. But a restriction is afterwards added,
that no one may extend this restoration to the whole race of
Abraham, or to all those who, according to the flesh, derived their
descent from Abraham as their father: hence the word "sh'erit" is
laid down. Then the whole of Jacob is not that multitude, which,
according to the flesh, traced their origin from the holy
Patriarchs, but only their residue. It then follows, "I will set
them together as the sheep of Bozrah", that is, I will make them to
increase into a large, yea, into an immense number; for they shall
make a tumult, that is, a great noise will be made by them, as
though the place could not contain so large a number. And they
explain the next verse thus, - "A breaker shall go before them",
that is, there shall be those who, with a hand, strong and armed,
will make a way open for them; inasmuch as Christ says that the
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, (Matth. 11: 12:) they then
mean that the people will have courageous leaders, whom nothing will
stop from breaking through, and that they will also lead the whole
people with them. They shall therefore go forth through the gate,
and their king shall pass through. This also well agrees with the
kingdom of Christ. For whenever God declares that he will be
propitious to his Church, he at the same time adds, that he will
give a king to his people; for their safety had been placed in that
kingdom, which had been erected by the authority and command of God
himself. It is therefore a common thing, and what occurs everywhere
in the Prophets, that God would give a king from the seed of David
to his people, when it would be his will to favor them with complete
happiness. Thus they understand that a king shall pass on before
them, which is the office of a leader, to show them the way. "And
Jehovah shall be at their head"; that is, God himself will show
himself to be the chief king of his people, and will ever defend by
his help and grace those whom he adopts as his people.
    But I have already said that I more approve of another.
exposition: for I see not how the Prophet could pass so suddenly
into a different strain. He had said in the last verse that the
people could endure no admonitions, for they only desired flatteries
and adulation. He now joins what I have lately referred to
respecting the near judgment of God, and proceeds, as we shall see,
in the same strain to the end of the third chapter: but we know that
the chapters were not divided by the Prophets themselves. We have
therefore a discourse continued by the Prophet to the third chapter;
not that he spoke all these things in one day; but he wished to
collect together what he had said of the vices of the people; and
this will be more evident as we proceed. I will now come to the
words.
    "Gathering, I will gather thee, the whole of Jacob; collecting,
I will collect the remnant of Israel". God has two modes of
gathering; for he sometimes gathers his people from dispersion,
which is a singular proof of his favor and love. But he is said also
to gather, when he assembles them together to devote and give them
up to destruction, as we say in French, Trousser; and this verb is
taken elsewhere in the same sense, and we have already met with an
instance in Hosea. So, in the present passage, God declares that
there would be a gathering of the people, - for what purpose? Not
that being united together they might enjoy the blessings of God,
but that they might be destroyed. As then the people had united
together in all kinds of wickedness, so God now declares, that they
should be gathered together, that the one and the same destruction
might be to them all. And he adds, the remnant of Israel; as though
he said, "Whatever shall remain from slaughters in wars and from all
other calamities, such as famine and pestilence, this I will
collect, that it may be wholly destroyed." He mentions the remnant,
because the Israelites had been worn out by many evils, before the
Lord stretched forth his hand at last to destroy them.
    He afterwards subjoins, "I will set them together as the sheep
of Bozrah"; that is, I will cast them into one heap. Bozrah was a
city or a country of Idumea; and it was a very fruitful place, and
had the richest pastures: hence Isaiah, chap. 34, in denouncing
vengeance on the Idumeans, alludes at the same time to their
pastures, and says, "God will choose for himself fat lambs and
whatever is well fed, and will also collect fatness, for the Lord
has a sacrifice in Bozrah." So also, in this place, the Prophet
says, that the Jews, when collected together as it were into a
bundle, shall be like the sheep of Bozrah. And he further adds, "as
the sheep in the middle of the sheepfolds", though some render it,
leading: "davar" sometimes means to lead; but I see no reason why it
should be drawn so far from its meaning in this connection. I take
it as signifying a sheepfold, because sheep are there collected
together. Some interpreters consider that a siege is referred to
here, that is, that God would confine the whole people within
cities, that they might not be open to the incursions of enemies;
but I extend the meaning much wider, namely, that God would gather
the people, in order at last to disperse them. I will then gather
them, as I have already said, Je vous trousserai; as the sheep of
Bozrah in the middle of the sheep fold; and there shall be a noise
on account of their number; that is, "Though ye now glory in your
number, this will avail you nothing; for I shall be able to reduce
you all to strait, so that you may, as ye deserve, perish together."
    It follows, "Ascend shall a breaker before them"; that is, they
shall be led in confusion; and the gate shall also be broken, that
they may go forth together; for the passage would not be large
enough, were they, as is usually done, to go forth in regular order;
but the gates of cities shall be broken, that they may pass through
in great numbers and in confusion. By these words the Prophet
intimates, that all would be quickly taken away into exile. "And
they shall go forth, he says through the gate, and their king shall
pass on before if them". The Prophet means here, that the king would
be made captive; and this was the saddest spectacle: for some hope
remained, when the dregs of the people had been led into Chaldea;
but when the king himself was led away a captive, and cast into
prison, and his eyes pulled out, and his children slain, it was the
greatest of misery. They were wont to take pride in their king, for
they thought that their kingdom could not but continue perpetually,
since God had so promised. But God might for a time overturn that
kingdom, that he might afterwards raise it anew, according to what
has been done by Christ, and according to what had been also
predicted by the Prophets. "Crosswise, crosswise, crosswise, let the
crown be, until its lawful possessor comes." We then see that this,
which the Prophet mentions respecting their king, has been added for
the sake of amplifying.
    He afterwards adds, "Jehovah shall be at the head of them";
that is, He will be nigh them, to oppress and wholly to overwhelm
them. Some consider something to be understood, and of this kind,
that Jehovah was wont formerly to rule over them, but that now he
would cease to do so: but this is too strained; and the meaning
which I have stated seems sufficiently clear, and that is, - that
God himself would be the doer, when they should be driven into
exile, and that he would add courage to tyrants and their
attendants, in pursuing the accursed people, in order to urge on
more and more and aggravate their calamities and thus to show that
their destruction vault happen through his righteous judgment. We
now then understand the real meaning of the Prophet. Now follows -



Chapter 3.

Micah 3:1-3
1 And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of
the house of Israel; [Is it] not for you to know judgment?
2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin
from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off
them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for
the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.
    
    The Prophet in this chapter assails and severely reproves the
chief men as well as the teachers; for both were given to avarice
and cruelty, to plunder, and, in short, to all other vices. And he
begins with the magistrates, who exercised authority among the
people; and briefly relates the words in which he inveighed against
them. We have said elsewhere, that the Prophets did not record all
that they had spoken, but only touched shortly on the heads or chief
points: and this was done by Micah, that we might know what he did
for forty or more years, in which he executed his office. He could
have related, no doubt, in half-an-hour, all that exists of his
writings: but from this small book, however small it is, we may
learn what was the Prophet's manner of teaching, and on what things
he chiefly dwelt. I will now return to his words.
    He says that the chief men of the kingdom had been reproved by
him. It is probable, that these words were addressed to the Jews;
for though at the beginning he includes the Israelites, we yet know
that he was given as a teacher to the Jews, and not to the kingdom
of Israel. It was as it were accidental, that he sometimes
introduces the ten tribes together with the Jews. This address then
was made, as I think, to the king as well as to his counselors and
other judges, who then ruled over the people of Judah.
    "Hear this, I pray", he says. Such a preface betokens
carelessness in the judges; for why does he demand a hearing from
them, except that they had become so torpid in their vices, that
they would attend to nothing? Inasmuch then as so brutal a stupor
had seized on them, he says, "Hear now ye chiefs, or heads, of
Jacob, and ye rulers of the house of Israel". But why does he still
speak of the house of Israel? Because that name was especially known
and celebrated, whenever a mention was made of the posterity of
Abraham: and the other Prophets, even while speaking of the kingdom
of Judah, often make use of this title, "ye who are called by the
name of Israel;" and they did this, on account of the dignity of the
holy Patriarch; and the meaning of the word itself was no ordinary
testimonial of excellency as to his whole race. And this is what is
frequently done by Isaiah. But the name of Israel is not put here,
as elsewhere, as a title of distinction: on the contrary, the
Prophet here amplifies their sin, because they were so corrupt,
though they were the chief men among the chosen race, being those
whom God had honored with so much dignity, as to set them over his
Church and elect people. It was then an ingratitude, not to be
endured to abuse that high and sacred authority, which had been
conferred on them by God.
    "Does it not belong to you, he says, to know judgment?" Here he
intimates that rectitude ought to have a place among the chief men,
in a manner more especial than among the common people; for it
behaves them to excel others in the knowledge of what is just and
right: for though the difference between good and evil be engraven
on the hearts of all, yet they, who hold supremacy among the people,
and excel in power, are as it were the eyes of the community; as the
eyes direct the whole body, so also they, who are placed in any
situation of honor, are thus made eminent, that they may show the
right way to others. Hence by the word, to "know", the Prophet
intimates that they wickedly subverted the whole order of nature,
for they were blind, while they ought to have been the luminaries of
the whole people. Is "it not for you, he says, to know judgment" and
equity? But why was this said, especially to the chief men? Because
they, though they of themselves knew what was right, having the law
engraven within ought yet as leaders to have possessed superior
knowledge, so as to outshine others. It is therefore your duty to
know judgment. We hence learn that it is not enough for princes and
magistrates to be well disposed and upright; but it is required of
them to know judgment and wisdom that they may discern matters above
the common people. But if they are not thus endued with the gift of
understanding and wisdom let them ask of the Lord. We indeed know,
that without the Spirit of God, the acutest men are wholly unfit to
rule; nor is it in vain, that the free Spirit of God is set forth,
as holding the supreme power in the world; for we are thus reminded,
that even they who are endued with the chief gifts are wholly
incapable of governing except the Spirit of God be with them. This
passage then shows that an upright mind is not a sufficient
qualification in princes; they must also excel in wisdom, that they
may be, as we have already said, as the eyes are to the body. In
this sense it is that Micah now says that it belonged to the leaders
of the people to know judgment and justice.
    He afterwards subjoins, "But they hate good, and love evil, and
pull off the skin from my people, the flesh from their bones"; that
is, they leave nothing, he says, sound and safe, their rapacity
being so furious. The Prophet conveys first a general reproof, -
that they not only perverted justice, but were also given to
wickedness and hated good. He means then that they were openly
wicked and ungodly, and also that they with a fixed purpose carried
on war against every thing just and right. We hence learn how great
and how abominable was the corruption of the people, when they were
still the peculiar possession and heritage of God. Inasmuch then as
the state of this ancient people had become so degenerated, let us
learn to walk in solicitude and fear, while the Lord governs us by
pious magistrates and faithful pastors: for what happened to the
Jews might soon happen to us, so that wolves might bear rule over
us, as indeed experience has proved even in this our city. The
Prophet afterwards adds the kinds of cruelty which prevailed; of
which he speaks in hyperbolical terms, though no doubt he sets
before our eyes the state of things as it was. He compares the
judges to wolves or to lions, or to other savage beasts. He says not
that they sought the property of the people, or pillaged their
houses; but he says that they devoured their flesh even to the very
bones; he says that they pulled off their skin: and this he confirms
in the next verse.
    "They devour, he says, the flesh of my people, and their skin
they strip off from them, and their bones they break in pieces and
make small, as that which into the pot is thrown, and which is in
the midst of the caldron". For when any one throws meat into the
pot, he does not take the whole ox, but cuts it into pieces, and
having broken it, he then fills with these pieces his pot or his
caldron. The Prophet then enhances the cruelty of the princes; they
were not content with one kind of oppression, but exercised every
species of barbarous cruelty towards the people, and were in every
respect like bears, or wolves, or lions, or some other savage
beasts, and that they were also like gluttons. We now then perceive
the Prophet's meaning.
    Now this passage teaches us what God requires mainly from those
in power, - that they abstain from doing injustice: for as they are
armed with power, so they ought to be a law to themselves. They
assume authority over others; let them then begin with themselves,
and restrain themselves from doing evil. For when a private man is
disposed to do harm, he is restrained at least by fear of the laws,
and dares not to do any thing at his pleasure; but in princes there
is a greater boldness; and they are able to do greater injustice:
and this is the reason why they ought to observe more forbearance
and humanity. Hence levity and paternal kindness especially become
princes and those in power. But the Prophet here condemns the
princes of his age for what deserved the highest reprehension; and
their chief crime was cruelty or inhumanity, inasmuch as they spared
not their own subjects.
    We now see that the Prophet in no degree flattered the great,
though they took great pride in their own dignity. But when he saw
that they wickedly and basely abused the power committed to them, he
boldly resisted them, and exercised the full boldness of the Spirit.
He therefore not only calls them robbers or plunderers of the
people; but he says, that they were cruel wild beasts; he says, that
they devoured the flesh, tore and pulled it in pieces, and made it
small; and he says all this, that he might convey an idea of the
various kinds of cruelty which they practiced. Now follow
threatenings -

Micah 3:4
Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he
will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved
themselves ill in their doings.

    Micah now denounces judgment on the chief men, such as they
deserved. He says, "They shall cry then to Jehovah". The adverb
"'az" is often put indefinitely in Hebrew, and has the force of a
demonstrative, and may be taken as pointing out a thing,
("deiktomos" - demonstratively,) then, or there, as though the
Prophet pointed out by his finger things which could be seen, though
they were far away from the sight of men. But in this place, the
Prophet seems rather to pursue the subject to which I have already
referred: for he had before stated that God would take vengeance on
that people. This adverb of time then is connected with the other
combinations, which have been already explained. If, however, any
one prefer a different meaning, namely that the Prophet meant here
to hold them in suspense, as to the nearness of God's vengeance, I
do not oppose him, for this sense is not unsuitable. However this
may be, the Prophet here testifies that the crimes of the chief men
would not go unpunished, though they did not think themselves to be
subject either to laws or to punishment. As then the princes and
magistrates regarded themselves as exempt, by some imaginary
privilege, from the lot of other people, the Prophet declares here
expressly, that a distress was nigh at hand, which would extort a
cry from them: for by the word, cry, he means the miseries which
were nigh at hand. They shall then cry in their distress. I have now
explained the design of the Prophet.
    We indeed see how at this day those who are in high stations
swell with arrogance; for as they abound in wealth, and as honor is
as it were an elevated degree, so that being propped up by the
shoulders of others they seem eminent, and as they are also feared
by the rest of the people, they are on these accounts led to think
that no adversity can happen to them. But the Prophet says, that
such would be their distress, that it would draw a cry from them.
    They shall then cry, but Jehovah will not hear; that is, they
shall be miserable and without any remedy. Jehovah will not answer
them, but will hide from them his face, as they have done
perversely; that is, God will not hear their complaints; for he will
return on their own heads all the injuries with which he now sees
his own people to be afflicted. And thus God will show that he was
not asleep, while they were with so much effrontery practicing all
kinds of wrong.
    It may however be asked here, how it is that God rejects the
prayers and entreaties of those who cry to him? It must first be
observed, that the reprobate, though they rend the air with their
cries, do not yet direct their prayers to God; but if they address
God himself, they do this clamorously; for they expostulate with
him, and contend with him, yea, they vomit out their blasphemies, or
at least they murmur and complain of their evils. The ungodly then
cry, but not to the Lord; or if they address their cries to God,
they are, as it has been said, full of glamour. Hence, except one is
guided by the Spirit of God, he cannot pray from the heart. And we
know that it is the peculiar office of the Spirit to raise up our
hearts to heaven: for in vain we pray, except we bring faith and
repentance: and who is the author of these but the Holy Spirit? It
appears then that the ungodly so cry, that they only violently
contend with God: but this is not the right way of praying. It is
therefore no wonder that God rejects their clamors. The ungodly do
indeed at times pour forth a flood of prayers and call on God's name
with the mouth; but at the same time they are, as we have said, full
of perverseness, and they never really humble themselves before God.
Since then they pour forth their prayers from a bitter and a proud
heart, this is the reason why the Prophet says now, that the Lord
would not then hear, but hide his face from them at that time,
inasmuch as they acted perversely.
    He shows here that God would not be reconciled to men wholly
irreclaimable, who could not be restored by any means to the right
way. But when any one falls [and repents] he will ever find God
propitious to him, as soon as he cries to him; but when with
obstinate minds we pursue our own course, and give no place to
repentance, we close up the door of mercy against ourselves; and so
what the Prophet teaches here necessarily takes place, - the Lord
hides his face in the day of distress. And we also hear what the
Scripture says, - that judgment will be without mercy to those who
are not merciful, (James 2: 11.) Hence if any one be inexorable to
his brethren, (as we see at this day many tyrants to be, and we also
see many in the middle class to be of the same tyrannical and wholly
sanguinary disposition,) he will at length ,whoever he may be, meet
with that judgment which Micah here denounces. The sentence then is
not to be taken in a general sense, as though he had said, that the
Lord would not be reconciled to the wicked; but he points out
especially those irreclaimable men, who had wholly hardened
themselves, so that they had become, as we have already seen,
altogether inflexible. The Prophet now comes to his second reproof.

Micah 3:5
Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err,
that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not
into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.

    Micah accuses here the Prophets, in the first place, of avarice
and of a desire for filthy lucre. But he begins by saying that he
spoke by God's command, and as it were from his mouth, in order that
his combination might have more weight and power. "Thus then saith
Jehovah against the Prophets": and he calls them the deceivers of
the people: but at the same time he points out the source of the
evil, that is, why or by what passion they were instigated to
deceive, and that was, because the desire of gain had wholly
possessed them, so that they made no difference between what was
true and what was false, but only sought to please for the sake of
gain. And he shows also, on the other hand, that they were so
covetous of gain, that they declared war, if any one did not feed
them. And God repeats again the name of his people: this had escaped
my notice lately in observing on the words of Micah, that the
princes devoured the flesh of God's people; for the indignity was
increased when this wrong, was done to the people of God. Had the
Assyrians, or the Ethiopians, or the Egyptians, been pillaged by
their princes, it would have been more tolerable; but when the very
people of God were thus devoured, it was, as I have said, less to be
borne. So when the people of God were deceived, and the truth was
turned to a lie, it was a sacrilege the more hateful.
    This then was the reason why he said, "Who deceive my people".
"This people is sacred to me, for I have chosen them for myself; as
then they are destroyed by frauds and deceptions, is not my majesty
in a manner dishonored - is not my authority lessened?" We now then
see the reason why the Prophet says, They deceive my people. It is
indeed certain, that the Jews were worthy of such deceptions; and
God elsewhere declares, that whenever he permitted false prophets to
come among them, it was to try them to see what sort of people they
were, (Deut. 13.) It was then their just reward, when liberty was
given to Satan to prevent sound doctrine among the people. And no
one is ever deceived, except through his own will. Though their own
simplicity seems to draw many to destruction, yet there is ever in
them some hypocrisy. But it does not extenuate the sin of false
teachers, that the people deserve such a punishment: and hence the
Prophet still goes on with his reproof and says, that they were the
people of God, - in what respect? By adoption. Though then the Jews
had rendered themselves unworthy of such an honor, yet God counts
them his people, that he might punish the wickedness of the false
teachers, of which he now accuses them. It now follows, that they
did bite with their teeth. But I cannot finish today.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have the image of thy
justice to shine in princes, and whom thou arrest with the sword,
that they might rule in thy name, and be really thy ministers, - O
grant, that this thy blessing may openly appear among us, and that
by this evidence thou mayest testify that thou art not only
propitious to us, but hadst also a care for our safety, and watches
over our welfare and well-being: and do thou so shine by thy word,
that it may never be obscured or clouded among us through any
depraved cupidity, but ever retain its own clear purity, so that we
may proceed in the right path of salvation, which thou hast
discovered and prescribed, until we be at length gathered into thy
celestial kingdom, to enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been
procured for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-sixth.

    Let us proceed to explain that sentence of the Prophet, in
which he shows the cause why the teachers deceived the people and
turned the truth of God to a lie; and this was, because they were
greedy of gains and were wholly given to avarice. We hence see,
according to the testimony of Paul, that avarice affords a cause to
all evils, (1 Tim. 6: 10;) and that wherever this contagion comes,
all things necessarily fall into decay: for when avarice reigns in
the hearts of men, the truth of God especially is ever adulterated.
    But Micah adduces two evidences of avarice, - that they cried,
"Peace", when well fed and filled, - and that they proclaimed war,
when they were hungry. Then as to the first points he says,
"hannoshchim beshinneihem wekar'u shalom", that is, "who bite with
their teeth, and cry, Peace." But the sentence is to be so
understood, that when they did bite well, they announced peace with
full confidence: for by the word, bite, the Prophet means their
gormandizing; for they who, under the guise of God's name, sought
only their own advantage, were not satisfied with a moderate
support, inasmuch as they were like hungry dogs. They therefore
devoured, and gorged themselves, without any limits or moderation.
This is the reason why he says that they did bite: for he compares
them either to lions or to bears; and we know that wild beasts are
not satiated with a small quantity of food, but that they gnash as
it were their teeth except they are always pampered. So also Micah
says, that the false teachers of his age were voracious men, who
demanded a large proportion of food. We see the same thing in our
day as to the monks under the Papacy, especially those who, under
the name of mendacity, devour the substance of all people. Except
they are pampered, they always murmur; nay, they are not content
with murmurs, they proclaim war, as the Prophet says here. We indeed
see at the same time, that they are insatiable; for when they come
to tables well furnished, no one would say that they are men, but
beasts, for they devour every thing. We now then understand the
Prophet's meaning.
    But it is not voracity alone that is reprehended: he says, that
they sold their blessings. when they were well filled and had their
stomach well supplied. In the same manner the monks also are wont to
pronounce peace when they are well fed, - "O! ye do good, when ye
take care of the brethren; for they are careful of you: when ye
sleep in your beds, they watch, and their prayers make you rich; for
how could the world stand, were it not that the brethren make amends
for it? As then ye are so kind to our community, all things shall
turn out well and prosperously to you, and God also will bless you."
This then is the practice of those who for reward sell their
blessings; they cry, Peace, that is, they confidently declare that
all things shall be well, they make God propitious, provided such
liberality towards their order be ever continued.
    But, on the other hand, he also says, "If any one gives not to
their mouth, they instantly sanctify war against you:" but I give a
different rendering, as the passage requires, - that they reclaim
war; though the word is literally to sanctify. But we have seen in
Joel chap. 2, that the word is used to designate any solemn
proclamation, - "Sanctify a fast," that is, Proclaim a fast. So also
in this place, They sanctify war, that is, they proclaim war, when
any one does not feed them, nor satisfy their gormandizing; for they
could not bear want. In short, the Prophet shows, that these false
teachers were so blinded by avarice, that they discerned not the
difference between right and wrong; but only praised those who fed
them: and, on the other hand, when they found that they and their
stomach were not cared for nor satisfied, they cursed, fulminated,
and uttered nothing but anathemas; as we see to be done at this day
by the monks under the Papacy. The Prophet now says -

Micah 3:6,7
Therefore night [shall be] unto you, that ye shall not have a
vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and
the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark
over them.
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea,
they shall all cover their lips; for [there is] no answer of God.
    
    God declares here to the false teachers by the mouth of Micah,
that he would inflict punishment on them, so that they should be
exposed to the reproach of all. Hence the kind of punishment of
which the Prophet speaks is - that he would strip the false teachers
of all their dignity, so that they should hereafter in vain put on
an appearance, and claim the honorable name which they had so long
abused. We indeed know, when ungodly and profane men clothe
themselves with the dignified titles of being the princes, or
bishops, or prelates of the Church, how audaciously they pervert
every thing, and do so with impunity. There is then no other remedy,
except God pulls off the mask from them, and openly discovers to all
their baseness. Of this punishment Micah now speaks.
    "There shall be to you a night from vision"; so is the phrase
literally, but the particle "mem" means often, for, or, on account
of; and we can easily see that the Prophet represents night as the
reward for visions and darkness for divination. "As then my people
have been deceived by your fallacies, for your visions and
divinations have been nothing but lies and deceits, I will repay you
with the reward which you have deserved: for instead of a vision you
shall have night, and instead of divination you shall have thick
darkness." It is indeed certain, that the false teachers, even when
they were, as they say, in great reputation, that is, when they
retained the honor and the title of their office, were blind and
wholly destitute of all light: but the Prophet here declares, that
as their baseness did not appear to the common people, God would
cause it to be made at length fully evident. As for instance, there
is nothing at this day more stupid and senseless than the bishops of
the Papacy: for when any one draws from them any expression about
religion, they instantly betray not only their ignorance, but also
their shameful stupidity. With regard to the monks, though they be
the most audacious kind of animals, yet we know how unlearned and
ignorant they are. Therefore at this time the night has not yet
passed away, nor the darkness, of which Micah speaks here.
    We now then understand what the Holy Spirit teaches here, and
that is, - that God would at length strip those false teachers of
that imaginary dignity, on account of which no one dared to speak
against them, but received as an oracle whatever they uttered.
Night, then, shall be to you instead of a vision; that is, "The
whole world shall understand that you are not what you boast
yourselves to be: for I will show that there is not in you, no, not
a particle of the prophetic spirit, but that ye are men as dark as
night, and darkness shall be to you instead of divination. Ye boast
of great acuteness and great perspicuity of mind; but I will
discover your baseness, so that the very children may know that you
are not endued with the spirit."
    To the same purpose is what he adds, "Go down shall the sun
upon you, and darkened over you shall be the day"; that is, such
will be that darkness, that even at noon they will see nothing; the
sun will shine on all, but they shall grope as in the dark; so that
Gods vengeance would be made so manifest, that it might be noticed
by all, from the least to the greatest.
    He confirms the same thing in the next verse, "And ashamed
shall be the seers and confounded the diviners, and they shall cover
their lip"; that is they will put veils on their mouths. In short,
he means, that they would become a reproach to all, so that they
would be ashamed of themselves, and no more dare to boast with so
much confidence of their name and of the prophetic office.
    As to this form of expression, "we'atu 'al-safam", some think
that the practice of mourners is referred to; but this
interpretation is frigid. I have therefore no doubt but that Micah
intimates that the mouths of the false teachers would be closed.
There is nearly the same denunciation mentioned by Zechariah; for
speaking of the restoration of the Church, he says, - They who
before went about boasting greatly, and gloried in the name of
Prophets, shall cast away their mantle, and will no longer dare to
show themselves; yea, when they shall come abroad, they shall be as
it were herdsman or private persons, and shall say, "I am not a
prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I am chastised by my father;"
that is, they shall profess themselves unworthy of being called
prophets; but that they are scholars under discipline, (Zech. 13:
5.) So also in this place, "They deceive at this day my people,"
saith the Lord; "I will reward them as they deserve; I will fill
them with disgrace and contempt. They shall not then dare hereafter
to show themselves as they have been wont to do; they shall not
presume boastingly to profess themselves to be the pillars of the
Church, that the whole world may be made subject to them; they shall
not dare with tyrannical force to oppress the common and ignorant
portions of society." Veil, then, shall they their mouth; that is,
"I will cause their mouth to be closed, so that they shall not dare
hereafter to utter even a word."
    It follows, "For there will be no answer from God". Some so
explain this sentence, as though the Prophet upbraided them with
their old deceits, which they boasted were the words of God: as then
they were not faithful to God, but lied to miserable men, when they
said, that they were sent from above, and brought messages from
heaven, while they only uttered their own inventions or fables, they
should on these accounts be constrained to cover their mouth. But
different is the meaning of the Prophet, and it is this, - that they
were to be deprived of any answer, so that their want of knowledge
might be easily perceived even by the most ignorant: for false
teachers, though they possess nothing certain, yet deceive the
simple with disguises, and render plausible their absurdities, that
they may seem to be the interpreters of God; and they further add
great confidence: and then the stupidity of the people concedes to
them such great power, according to what is said by Jeremiah in
chapter 5, where he says that the priests received gifts and that
for gifts the Prophets divined, and that the people loved such
deprivations. But Micah declares here that such delusions would no
longer be allowed, for God would dissipate them. It will then be
made evident, that you have no answer from God; that is, "All will
perceive that you are void and destitute of every celestial truth,
and that you were formerly but gross cheats, when ye passed
yourselves as God's servants, though you had no ground for doing
so."
    We now perceive what the Prophet means. But this punishment
might have then contributed to the benefit of the people: for as it
is a cause of ruin to the world, when there is no difference made
between light and darkness; so when the baseness of those is
discovered, who abuse God's name and adulterate his pure truth,
there is then a door open to repentance. Rightly then is this
combination addressed to false prophets. It now follows -

Micah 3:8
But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of
judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and
to Israel his sin.
    
    Here Micah, in a courageous spirit, stands up alone against all
the false teachers even when he saw that they were a large number,
and that they appealed to their number, according to their usual
practice, as their shield. Hence he says, "I am filled with power by
the Spirit of Jehovah." This confidence is what all God's servants
should possess, that they may not succumb to the empty and vain
boastings of those who subvert the whole order of the Church.
Whenever then, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false
teachers, and them to be popular among those high in honour, as well
as the multitude, let this striking example be remembered by us,
lest we be discouraged, lest the firmness and invincible power of
the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts, but that we may proceed
in the course of our calling, and learn to oppose the name of God to
all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our
service is approved by him, as being faithful. Since, then, Micah
says, that he was filled with power, he no doubt stood, as it were,
in the presence of the whole people, and alone pitched his camp
against the whole multitude; for there were then false teachers
going about every where, as the devil sows always seed enough,
whenever God lets loose the reins. Though then their number was not
small, yet Micah hesitated not to go forth among them: "I", he says;
there is stress to be laid on the pronoun "'anochi",- "Ye despise
me, being one man, and ye despise a few men; ye may think that I
alone serve the Lord; but I am a match for a thousand, yea, for an
innumerable multitude; for God is on my side, and he approves of my
ministry as it is. from him, nor do I bring any thing to you but
what he has commanded: It is then "I"
    He further expresses a fuller confidence by using the word
"'ulam"; "Verily, he says, I am filled with power". This "verily" or
truly is opposed to those lofty boastings by which the false
prophets were ever wont to attain a name and honour among the
people. But Micah intimates that all that they uttered was only
evanescent: "Ye are," he says, "wonderful prophets; nay, ye are
superior to the angels, if you are to be believed; but show that you
are so in reality; let there be some proof by which your calling can
be confirmed. There is no proof. It then follows, that ye are only
men of wind, and not really spiritual: but there is really in me
what ye boast of with your mouths." And he says, that he was filled,
that he might not be thought one of the common sort: and Micah no
doubt shows here, on account of the necessity of the occasion, that
he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power; for, according as
God employs the labors of his servants, so is he present with them,
and furnishes them with suitable protection. When any one is not
exercised with great difficulties in discharging his office of
teaching, a common measure of the Spirit is only necessary for the
performance of his duties; but when any one is drawn into arduous
and difficult struggles, he is at the same time especially
strengthened by the Lord: and we see daily examples of this; for
many simple men, who have never been trained up in learning, have
yet been so endued by the celestial Spirit, when they came to great
trials, that they have closed the mouths of great doctors, who
seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God openly
proves at this day, that he is the same now as when he formerly
endued his servant Micah with a power so rare and so extraordinary.
This then is the reason why he says, that he was filled with power.
    He afterwards adds, "By the Spirit of Jehovah". Here the
Prophet casts aside every suspicious token of arrogance; lest he
should seem to claim anything as his own, he says, that this power
was conferred on him from above: and this circumstance ought to be
particularly noticed. Though Micah rightly and justly claimed to
himself the name of a teacher, he yet had nothing different from
others before the world; for all his opponents discharged the same
office, and obtained the same honor: the office was common to both
parties. Micah was either alone, or connected with Isaiah and a few
others. Since then he here dares to set up himself, we see that his
call alone must be regarded; for we know how great is the propensity
of Satan to oppose the kingdom of Christ, and also how proud and
fierce are false teachers. Since then the rage of Satan is well
known and the presumption of false teachers, there is no reason why
the faithful should make much of mere naked titles: and when they,
who lived at that time, declared, as Papists do at this day, that
they had no discrimination nor judgment to know, whether of them
ought to have been deemed impostors or the ministers of God,
inasmuch as Micah was alone and they were many, and also that the
others were prophets that at least they had the name and repute of
being so, - what was to be done? This was the reason why I have said
that this circumstance was worthy of special notice, - that though
their vocation was common, yet as they had acted perfidiously, and
Micah alone, or with few others, had faithfully performed what the
Lord had commanded, he alone is to be deemed a Prophet and a
teacher: in short, there is no reason for false prophets to set up
against us a mere coveting, when they cannot prove that they are
endued with the Spirit of God. Whosoever then desires to be deemed a
servant of God, and a teacher in his Church, must have this seal
which Micah here adduces; he must be endued with the Spirit of God;
honor then will be given to God. But if any one brings nothing but
the name, we see how vain before God it is.
    He afterwards subjoins "With judgment and courage". By
judgment, I have no doubt, he understands discernment, as this is
also the common meaning of the word. He then adds courage. These two
things are especially necessary for all ministers of the word, -
that is, to excel in wisdom, to understand what is true and right,
and to be also endued with inflexible firmness, by which they may
overcome both Satan and the whole world, and never turn aside from
their course, though the devil may in all ways assail them. We hence
see what these two words import. He had put "koach", first, power;
but now he mentions "gevurah", courage or magnanimity. By the term,
power, he meant generally all the endowments, with which all who
take upon them the office of teaching ought to be adorned. This
qualification is then first required, and it is a general one: but
Micah divides this power of the prophets into two kinds, even into
wisdom or judgment, and into courage; and he did this, that they
might understand what God intended: Let them excel in doctrine; and
then that they may be confirmed, let them not yield to any gales
that may blow, nor be overcome by threats and terrors; let them not
bend here and there to please the world; in a word, let them not
succumb to any corruptions: it is therefore necessary to add courage
to judgment.
    He then adds, "To declare to Jacob his wickedness, and to
Israel his sin". We here see that the Prophet did not hunt for the
favor of the people. Had he courted their approbation, he must have
soothed with flatteries those who sought flatteries; and were
already seized with such hatred and malignant feelings, that they
had rejected Micah. He must then have spoken softly to them, to
please them; but this he did not do. "On the one hand," he says,
"these men sell to you their blessings and deceive you with the hope
of peace; and, on the other, they denounce war, except their
voracity is satisfied; and thus it is that they please you; for so
ye wish, and ye seek such teachers as will promise you wine and
strong drink: but I am sent to you for another purpose; for the Lord
has not deposited flatteries with me, such as may be pleasant to
you; but he has deposited reproofs and threatenings. I shall
therefore uncover your crimes, and will not hesitate to condemn you
before the whole world, for ye deserve to be thus treated." We now
perceive why the Prophet says, that he was endued with power to
declare his wickedness to Jacob, &c.
    But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported
by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked
men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God's
servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry
on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what
God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may
violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as
it is said in Ezek. 3: 8, 9; nor must we yield to their fury, but
preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the
devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may
faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this
courage of which Micah speaks.
    As I have already shown that God's servants ought courageously
to break through all those obstacles by which Satan may attempt
either to delay or to force them backward; so also the doctrine
taught here ought to be applied to all the godly: they ought wisely
to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors
who falsely pretend his name. Then no one, who desires truly and
from the heart to obey God, will be deceived; for the Lord will ever
give the spirit of judgment and discrimination. And the reason why
at this day many miserable souls are led to endless ruin is, because
they either shut their eyes, or willfully dissemble, or designedly
involve themselves in such subterfuges as these, - "I cannot form
any judgment; I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, at
least those who are in some repute and esteem: some call me to the
right hand, and others to the left, where am I to retake myself? I
therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears." Thus many, seeking
a cloak for their sloth, often manifest their ignorance: for we see
that the eyes must be opened when the Lord exercises and tries our
faith: and he suffers discords and contentions to arise in the
Church that some may choose this, and others that. Though God then
relaxes the reins of Satan, that contests and turmoils of this kind
may be excited in the Church, there is yet no excuse for us, if we
follow not what the Lord prescribes; for he will ever guide us by
his Spirit, provided we foster not our own slothfulness. It follows
-

Micah 3:9,10
Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes
of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.
    
    The Prophet begins really to prove what he had stated, - that
he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: and it was, as they
say, an actual proof, when the Prophet dreaded no worldly power, but
boldly addressed the princes and provoked their rage against him,
"Hear", he says, "ye heads, ye rulers of the house of Jacob", ye men
who are cruel, bloody, and iniquitous. We then see that the Prophet
had not boasted of what he did not without delay really confirm. But
he began with saying, that he was filled with the Spirit of God,
that he might more freely address them, and that he might check
their insolence. We indeed know that the ungodly are so led on
headlong by Satan, that they hesitate not to resist God himself: but
yet the name of God is often to them a sort of a hidden chain.
However much then the wicked may rage, they yet become less
ferocious when the name of God is introduced. This is the reason why
the Prophet had mentioned the Spirit of God; it was, that there
might be a freer course to his doctrine.
    When he now says, Ye heads of the house of Jacob, ye rulers of
the house of Israel, it is by way of concession, as though he had
said, that these were indeed splendid titles, and that he was not so
absurd as not to acknowledge what had been given them by God, even
that they were eminent, a chosen race, being the children of
Abraham. The Prophet then concedes to the princes what belonged to
them, as though he had said, that he was not a seditious man, who
had no care nor consideration for civil order. And this defense was
very necessary, for nothing is more common than for the ungodly to
charge God's servants with sedition, whenever they use a freedom of
speech as it becomes them. Hence all who govern the state, when they
hear their corruptions reproved, or their avarice, or their cruelty,
or any of their other crimes, immediately cry out, - "What! if we
suffer these things, every thing will be upset: for when all respect
is gone, what will follow but brutal outrage? for every one of the
common people will rise up against the magistrates and the judges."
Thus then the wicked ever say, that God's servants are seditious
whenever they boldly reprove them. This is the reason why the
Prophet concedes to the princes and judges of the people their
honor; but a qualifying clause immediately follows, - "Ye are indeed
the heads, ye are rulers; but 'yet they hate judgment:'" he does not
think them worthy of being any longer addressed. He had indeed
bidden them to hear as with authority; but having ordered them to
hear, he now uncovers their wickedness, "They hate, he says,
judgments and all rectitude pervert:" each of them builds Zion by
blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity; that is, they turn their pillages
into buildings: "This, forsooth, is the splendor of my holy city
even of Zion! where I designed the ark of my covenant to be placed,
as in my only habitation, even there buildings are seen constructed
by blood and by plunder! See, he says, how wickedly these princes
conduct themselves under the cover of their dignity!"
    We now see that the word of God is not bound, but that it puts
forth its power against the highest as well as the lowest; for it is
the Spirit's office to arraign the whole world, and not a part only.
'When the Spirit shall come,' says Christ, 'it will convince the
world,' (John 16: 8.) He speaks not there of the common people only,
but of the whole world, of which princes and magistrates form a
prominent part. Let us then know, that though we ought to show
respect to judges, (as the Lord has honored them with dignified
titles, calling them his vicegerents and also gods,) yet the mouths
of Prophets ought not to be closed; but they ought, without making
any difference, to correct whatever is deserving of reproof, and not
to spare even the chief men themselves. This is what ought in the
first place to be observed.
    Then when he says, that Zion was built by blood, and Jerusalem
by iniquity, it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that
whatever the great men expended on their palaces had been procured,
and, as it were, scraped together from blood and plunder. The judges
could not have possibly seized on spoils on every side, without
being bloody, that is, without pillaging the poor: for the judges
were for the most part corrupted by the rich and the great; and then
they destroyed the miserable and the innocent. He then who is
corrupted by money will become at the same time a thief; and he will
not only extort money, but will also shed blood. There is then no
wonder that Micah says, that Zion was built by blood. He afterwards
extends wider his meaning and mentions iniquity, as he wished to
cast off every excuse from hypocrites. The expression is indeed
somewhat strong, when he says, that Zion was built by blood. They
might have objected and said, that they were not so cruel, though
they could not wholly clear themselves from the charge of avarice.
"When I speak of blood," says the Prophet, "there is no reason that
we should contend about a name; for all iniquity is blood before
God: if then your houses have been built by plunder, your cruelty is
sufficiently proved; it is as though miserable and innocent men had
been slain by your own hands." The words, Zion and Jerusalem,
enhance their sin; for they polluted the holy city and the mount on
which the temple was built by the order and command of God.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have us to be ruled by
the preaching of thy word, - O grant, that those who have to
discharge this office may be really endued with thy celestial power,
that they may not attempt any thing of themselves, but with all
devotedness spend all their labors for thee and for our benefit,
that through them we may be thus edified, so that thou mayest ever
dwell among us, and that we through our whole life may become the
habitation of thy Majesty, and that finally we may come to thy
heavenly sanctuary, where thou daily invites us, as an entrance
there has been once for all opened to us by the blood of thy
only-begotten Son. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-seventh.

Micah 3:11,12
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach
for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they
lean upon the LORD, and say, [Is] not the LORD among us? none evil
can come upon us.
Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed [as] a field, and
Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the
high places of the forest.
    
    The Prophet shows here first, how gross and supine was the
hypocrisy of princes as well as of the priests and prophets: and
then he declares that they were greatly deceived in thus soothing
themselves with vain flatteries; for the Lord would punish them for
their sins since he had in his forbearance spared them, and found
that they did not repent. But he does not address here the common
people or the multitude, but he attacks the chief men: for he has
previously told us, that he was endued with the spirit of courage.
It was indeed necessary for the Prophet to be prepared with
invincible firmness that he might freely and boldly declare the
judgment of God, especially as he had to do with the great and the
powerful, who, as it is well known, will not easily, or with
unruffled minds, bear their crimes to be exposed; for they wish to
be privileged above the ordinary class of men. But the Prophet not
only does not spare them, but he even arraigns them alone, as though
the blame of all evils lodged only with them, as indeed the
contagion had proceeded from them; for though all orders were then
corrupt, yet the cause and the beginning of all the evils could not
have been ascribed to any but to the chief men themselves.
    And he says, "Princes for reward judge, priests teach for
reward, the prophets divine for money": as though he had said, that
the ecclesiastical as well as the civil government was subject to
all kinds of corruptions, for all things were made matters of sale.
We know that what the Holy Spirit declares elsewhere is ever true, -
that by gifts or rewards the eyes of the wise are blinded and the
hearts of the just are corrupted, (Eccles. 20: 29,) for as soon erg
judges open a way for rewards, they cannot preserve integrity,
however much they may wish to do so. And the same is the case with
the priests: for if any one is given to avarice, he will adulterate
the pure truth: it cannot be, that a complete liberty in teaching
should exist, except when the pastor is exempt from all desire of
gain. It is not therefore without reason that Micah complains here,
that the princes as well as the priests were hirelings in his day;
and by this he means, that no integrity remained among them, for the
one, as I have said, follows from the other. He does not say, that
the princes were either cruel or perfidious, though he had before
mentioned these crimes; but in this place he simply calls them
mercenaries. But, as I have just said, the one vice cannot be
separated from the other; for every one who is hired will pervert
judgment, whether he be a teacher or a judge. Nothing then remains
pure where avarice bears rule. It was therefore quite sufficient for
the Prophet to condemn the judges and the prophets and the priests
for avarice; for it is easy hence to conclude, that teaching was
exposed to sale, and that judgments were bought, so that he who
offered most money easily gained his cause. Princes then judge for
reward, and priests also teach for reward.
    We can learn from this place the difference between prophets
and priests. Micah ascribes here the office or the duty of teaching
to the priests and leaves divination alone to the prophets. We have
said elsewhere, that it happened through the idleness of the
priests, that prophets were added to them; for prophesying belonged
to them, until being content with the altar, they neglected the
office of teaching: and the same thing, as we find, has taken place
under the Papacy. For though it be quite evident for what reason
pastors were appointed to preside over the Church, we yet see that
all, who proudly call themselves pastors, are dumb dogs. Whence is
this? Because they think that they discharge their duties, by being
only attentive to ceremonies; and they have more than enough to
occupy them: for the priestly office under the Papacy is laborious
enough as to trifles and scenic performances: but at the same time
they neglect the principal thing - to feed the Lord's flock with the
doctrine of salvation. Thus degenerated had the priests become under
the Law. What is said by Malachi ought to have been perpetuated, -
that the law should be in the mouth of the priest, that he should be
the messenger and interpreter of the God of hosts, (Mal. 2: 7;) but
the priests cast from them this office: it became therefore
necessary that prophets should be raised up, and as it were beyond
the usual course of things while yet the regular course formally
remained. But the priests taught in a cold manner; and the prophets
divined, that is professed that oracles respecting future things
were revealed to them.
    This distinction is now observed by the Prophet, when he says,
"The priests teach for reward", that is, they were mercenaries, and
hirelings in their office: and the prophets divined for money". It
then follows, that they yet "leaned on Jehovah", and said, "Is not
Jehovah in the midst of us? Come then shall not evil upon us". The
Prophet shows here, as I have said at the beginning, that these
profane men trifled with God: for though they knew that they were
extremely wicked, nay, their crimes were openly known to all; yet
they were not ashamed to lay claim to the authority of God. And it
has, we know, been a common wickedness almost in all ages, and it
greatly prevails at this day, - that men are satisfied with having
only the outward evidences of being the people of God. There was
then indeed an altar erected by the command of God; there were
sacrifices made according to the rule of the Law; and there were
also great and illustrious promises respecting that kingdom. Since
then the sacrifices were daily performed, and since the kingdom
still retained its outward form, they thought that God was, in a
manner, bound to them. The same is the case at this day with the
great part of men; they presumptuously and absurdly boast of the
external forms of religion. The Papists possess the name of a
Church, with which they are extremely inflated; and then there is a
great show and pomp in their ceremonies. The hypocrites also among
us boast of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and the name of
Reformation; while, at the same time, these are nothing but
mockeries, by which the name of God and the whole of religion are
profaned, when no real piety flourishes in the heart. This was the
reason why Micah now expostulated with the prophets and the priests,
and the king's counselors; it was, because they falsely pretended
that they were the people of God.
    But by saying; that "they relied on Jehovah, he did not condemn
that confidence which really reposes on God; for, in this respect,
we cannot exceed the bounds: as God's goodness is infinite, so we
cannot trust in his word too much, if we embrace it in true faith.
But the Prophet says, that hypocrites leaned on Jehovah, because
they flattered themselves with that naked and empty distinction,
that God had adopted them as his people. Hence the word, leaning or
recumbing, is not to be applied to the real trust of the heart, but,
on the contrary, to the presumption of men, who pretend the name of
God, and so give way to their own will, that they shake off not only
all fear of God, but also thought and reason. When, therefore, so
great and so supine thoughtlessness occupies the minds of men,
stupidity presently follows: and yet it is not without reason that
Micah employs this expression, for hypocrites persuade themselves
that all things will be well with them, as they think that they have
God propitious to them. As then they feel no anxiety while they have
the idea that God is altogether at peace with them, the Prophet
declares, by way of irony, that they relied on Jehovah; as though he
had said, that they made the name of God their support: but yet the
Prophet speaks in words contrary to their obvious meaning,
("katachrestikios" loquitur - speaks catachrestically;) for it is
certain that no one relies on Jehovah except he is humbled in
himself. It is penitence that leads us to God; for it is when we are
cast down that we recumb on him; but he who is inflated with
self-confidence flies in the air, and has nothing solid in him. And
our Prophet, as I have said, intended indirectly to condemn the
false security in which hypocrites sleep, while they think it enough
that the Lord had once testified that they would be his people; but
the condition is by them disregarded.
    He now recites their words, "Is not Jehovah in the midst of us?
Come will not evil upon us." This question is a proof of a haughty
self-confidence; for they ask as of a thing indubitable, and it is
an emphatic mode of speaking, by which they meant to say, that
Jehovah was among them. He who simply affirms a thing, does not show
so much pride as these hypocrites when they set forth this question,
"Who shall deny that Jehovah dwells in the midst of us?" God had
indeed chosen an habitation among them for himself; but a condition
was interposed, and yet they wished that he should be, as it were,
tied to the temple, though they considered not what God required
from them. They hence declared that Jehovah was in the midst of
them; nay, they treated with disdain any one who dared to say a word
to the contrary: nor is there a doubt but that they poured forth
blasts of contempt on the Prophets. For whenever any one threatened
what our Prophet immediately subjoins, such an answer as this was
ever ready on their lips, - "What! will God then desert us and deny
himself? Has he in vain commanded the temple to be built among us?
Has he falsely promised that we should be a priestly kingdom? Dost
thou not make God a covenant-breaker, by representing him as
approving of the terrors of thy discourse? But he cannot deny
himself:" We hence see why the Prophet had thus spoken; it was to
show that hypocrites boasted so to speaks of their proud confidence,
because they thought that God could not be separated from them.
    Now this passage teaches us how preposterous it is thus to
abuse the name of God. There is indeed a reason why the Lord calls
us to himself, for without him we are miserable; he also promises to
be propitious to us, though, in many respects, we are guilty before
him: he yet, at the same time, calls us to repentance. Whosoever,
then, indulges himself and continues sunk in his vices, he is
greatly deceived, if he applies to himself the promises of God; for,
as it has been said, the one cannot be separated from the other. But
when God is propitious to them, they rightly conclude, that all
things will be well with them, for we know that the paternal favor
of God is a fountain of all felicity. But in this there was a
vicious reasoning, - that they promised to themselves the favor of
God through a false imagination of the flesh, and not through his
word. Thus we see that there is ever in hypocrisy some imitation of
piety: but there is a sophistry either in the principle itself or in
the argument.
    Now follows a threatening, "Therefore, on your account, Zion as
a field shall be plowed, and Jerusalem a heap shall be, and the
mount of the house as the high places of a forest". We here see how
intolerable to God hypocrites are; for it was no ordinary proof of a
dreadful vengeance, that the Lord should expose to reproach the holy
city, and mount Zion, and his own temple. This revenge, then, being
so severe, shows that to God there is nothing less tolerable than
that false confidence with which hypocrites swell, for it brings
dishonor on God himself; for they could not boast that they were
God's people without aspersing him with many reproaches. What then
is the meaning of this, "God is in the midst of us," except that
they thereby declared that they were the representatives of God,
that the kingdom was sacred and also the priesthood? Since then they
boasted that they did not presumptuously claim either the priesthood
or the regal power, but that they were divinely appointed, we hence
see that their profanation of God's name was most shameful. It is
then no wonder that God was so exceedingly displeased with them: and
hence the Prophet says, "For you shall Zion as a field be plowed";
as though he said, "This is like something monstrous, that the
temple should be subverted, that the holy mount and the whole city
should be entirely demolished, and that nothing should remain but a
horrible desolation, - who can believe all this? It shall however,
take place, and it shall take place on your account; you will have
to bear the blame of this so monstrous a change." For it was as
though God had thrown heaven and earth into confusion; inasmuch as
he himself was the founder of the temple; and we know with what high
encomiums the place was honored. Since then the temple was built, as
it were, by the hand of God, how could it be otherwise, but that,
when destroyed, the waste and desolate place should be regarded as a
memorable proof of vengeance? There is therefore no doubt but that
Micah intended to mark out the atrocity of their guilt, when he
says, "For you shall Zion as a field be plowed, Jerusalem shall
become a heap of stones"; that is, it shall be so desolated, that no
vestige of a city, well formed and regularly built, shall remain.
    "And the mount of the house", &c. He again mentions Zion, and
not without reason: for the Jews thought that they were protected by
the city Jerusalem; the whole country rested under its shadow,
because it was the holy habitation of God. And again, the city
itself depended on the temple, and it was supposed, that it was safe
under this protection, and that it could hardly be demolished
without overthrowing the throne of God himself: for as God dwelt
between the cherubim, it was regarded by the people as a fortress
incapable of being assailed. As then the holiness of the mount
deceived them, it was necessary to repeat what was then almost
incredible, at least difficult of being believed. He therefore adds,
"The mount of the house shall be as the high places of a forest";
that is, trees shall grow there.
    Why does he again declare what had been before expressed with
sufficient clearness? Because it was not only a thing difficult to
be believed, but also wholly inconsistent with reason, when what the
Lord had said was considered, and that overlooked which hypocrites
ever forget. God had indeed made a covenant with the people; but
hypocrites wished to have God, as it were, bound to them, and, at
the same time, to remain themselves free, yea, to have a full
liberty to lead a wicked life. Since then the Jews were fixed in
this false opinion, - that God could not be disunited from his
people, the Prophet confirms the same truth, that the mount of the
house would be as the high places of a forest. And, by way of
concession, he calls it the mount of the house, that is, of the
temple; as though he said, "Though God had chosen to himself a
habitation, in which to dwell, yet this favor shall not keep the
temple from being deserted and laid waste; for it has been profaned
by your wickedness."
    Let us now see at what time Micah delivered this prophecy. This
we learn from the twenty-sixth chapter of Jeremiah; for when
Jeremiah prophesied against the temple, he was immediately seized
and cast into prison; a tumultuous council was held, and he was well
nigh being brought forth unto execution. All the princes condemned
him; and when now he had no hope of deliverance, he wished, not so
much to plead his own cause, as to denounce a threatening on them,
that they might know that they could effect no good by condemning an
innocent man. "Micah, the Morasthite," he said, "prophesied in the
days of Hezekiah, and said thus, 'Zion as a field shall be plowed,
Jerusalem shall be a heap, and the mount of the house as the high
placers of a forest.'" Did the king and the people, he said, consult
together to kill him? Nay, but the king turned, and so God repented;
that is, the Lord deferred his vengeance; for king Hezekiah humbly
deprecated the punishment which had been denounced. We now then know
with certainty the time.
    But it was strange that under such a holy king so many and so
shameful corruptions prevailed, for he no doubt tried all he could
to exercise authority over the people, and by his own example taught
the judges faithfully and uprightly to discharge their office; but
he was not able, with all his efforts, to prevent the Priests, and
the Judges, and the Prophets, from being mercenaries. We hence learn
how sedulously pious magistrates ought to labour, lest the state of
the Church should degenerate; for however vigilant they may be, they
can yet hardly, even with the greatest care, keep things (as mankind
are so full of vices) from becoming very soon worse. This is one
thing. And now the circumstance of the time ought to be noticed for
another purpose: Micah hesitated not to threaten with such a
judgment the temple and the city, though he saw that the king was
endued with singular virtues. He might have thought thus with
himself, "King Hezekiah labored strenuously in the execution of his
high office: now if a reproof so sharp and so severe will reach his
ears, he will either despond, or think me to be a man extremely
rigid, or, it may be, he will become exasperated against sound
doctrine." The Prophet might have weighed these things in his mind;
but, nevertheless, he followed his true course in teaching, and
there is no doubt but that his severity pleased the king, for we
know that he was oppressed with great cares and anxieties, because
he could not, by all his striving, keep within proper bounds his
counselors, the priests and the prophets. He therefore wished to
have God's servants as his helpers. And this is what pious
magistrates always desire, that their toils may in some measure be
alleviated by the aid of the ministers of the word; for when the
ministers of the word only teach in a cold manner, and are not
intent on reproving vices, the severity of the magistrates will be
hated by the people. "Why, see, the ministers say nothing, and we
hence conclude that they do not perceive so great evils; and yet the
magistrates with the drawn sword inflict new punishments daily."
When, therefore, teachers are thus silent, a greater odium no doubt
is incurred by the magistrates: it is hence, as I have said, a
desirable thing for them, that the free reproofs of teachers should
be added to the punishments and judgments of the law.
    We further see how calm and meek was the spirit of the king,
that he could bear the great severity of the Prophet: Behold, he
said, on your accounts &c.: "Thou oughtest at least to have excepted
me." For the king was not himself guilty. Why then did he connect
him with the rest? Because the whole body was infected with
contagion, and he spoke generally; and the good king did not retort
nor even murmur, but, as we have recited from Jeremiah, he humbly
deprecated the wrath of God, as though a part of the guilt belonged
to him. Now follows -


Chapter IV.

Micah 4:1,2
But in the last days it shall come to pass, [that] the mountain of
the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the
mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall
flow unto it.
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the
mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he
will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the
law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    
    Here Micah begins his address to the faithful, who were a
remnant among that people; for though the infection had nearly
extended over the whole body, there were yet a few, we know, who
sincerely worshipped God. Hence Micah, that he might not dishearten
God's children by extreme terror, reasonably adds what we have now
heard, - that though for a time the temple would be demolished and
laid waste, it would yet be only for a season, for the Lord would be
again mindful of his covenant. When, therefore, the Prophet had
hitherto spoken of God's dreadful vengeance, he directed his
discourse to the whole people and to the princess; but now,
especially, and as it were apart, addresses the pious and sincere
servants of God; as though he said, "There is now a reason why I
should speak to the few: I have hitherto spoken of the near judgment
of God on the king's counselors, the priests and the prophets; in
short, on the whole community, because they are all become wicked
and ungodly; a contempt of God and an irreclaimable obstinacy have
pervaded the whole body. Let them therefore have what they have
deserved. But now I address the children of God by themselves, for I
have something to say to them."
    For though the Prophet publicly proclaimed this promise, there
is yet no doubt but that he had regard only to the children of God,
for others were not capable of receiving this consolation; nay, he
had shortly before condemned the extreme security of hypocrites,
inasmuch as they leaned upon God; that is, relied on a false
pretence of religion, in thinking that they were redeemed by a
lawful price when they had offered their sacrifices. And we know
that we meet with the same thing in the writings of the Prophets,
and that it is a practice common among them to add consolations to
threatening, not for the sake of the whole people, but to sustain
the faithful in their hope, who would have despaired, had not a
helping hand been stretched forth to them: for the faithful, we
know, tremble, as soon as God manifests any token of wrath; for the
more any one is touched with the fear of God, the more he dreads his
judgment, and fears on account of his threatening. We hence see how
necessary it is to moderate threatenings and terrors, when prophets
and teachers have a regard to the children of God; for, as I have
said, they are without these fearful enough. Let us then know that
Micah has hitherto directed his discourse to the wicked despisers of
God, who yet put on the cloak of religion; but now he turns his
address to the true and pious worshipers of God. And he further so
addresses the faithful of his age, that his doctrine especially
belongs to us now; for how has it been, that the kingdom of God has
been propagated through all parts of the earth? How has it been,
that the truth of the gospel has come to us, and that we are made
partakers with the ancient people of the same adoption, except that
this prophecy has been fulfilled? Then the calling of the Gentiles,
and consequently our salvation, is included in this prophecy.
    But the Prophet says, "And it shall be in the extremity of
days, that the mount of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order
on the top of mountains". The extremity of days the Prophet no doubt
calls the coming of Christ, for then it was that the Church of God
was built anew; in short, since it was Christ that introduced the
renovation of the world, his advent is rightly called a new age; and
hence it is also said to be the extremity of days: and this mode of
expression very frequently occurs in Scripture; and we know that the
time of the gospel is expressly called the last days and the last
time by John, (1 John 2: 18,) as well as by the author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews, (Heb. 1: 2,) and also by Paul, (2 Tim. 3:
1;) and this way of speaking they borrowed from the prophets. On
this subject some remarks were made on the second chapter of Joel.
Paul gives us the reason for this mode of speaking in 1 Cor. 10: l1:
"Upon whom", he says, "the ends of the world are come." As Christ
then brought in the completion of all things at his coming, the
Prophet rightly says that it would be the last days when God would
restore his Church by the hand of the Redeemer. At the same time,
Micah no doubt intended to intimate that the time of God's wrath
would not be short, but designed to show that its course would be
for a long time.
    "It shall then be in the last of days"; that is, when the Lord
shall have executed his vengeance by demolishing the temple, by
destroying the city, and by reducing the holy place into a solitude,
this dreadful devastation shall continue, not for one year, nor for
two; in a word, it will not remain only for forty or fifty years,
but the Lord will let loose the reins of his wrath, that their minds
may long languish, and that no restoration may be evident. We now
then understand the Prophet's design as to the last days.
    He calls the mount, "the mount of the house of Jehovah", in a
sense different from what he did before; for then it was, as we have
stated by way of concession; and now he sets forth the reason why
God did not wish wholly to cast aside that mount; for he commanded
his temple to be built there. It is the same, then, as though he
said, - "This ought not to be ascribed to the holiness of the
mountain, as if it excelled other mountains in dignity; but because
there the temple was founded, not by the authority of men, but by a
celestial oracle, as it is sufficiently known."
    "The mount then of the house of Jehovah shall be set in order
on the top of the mountains", that is it shall surpass in height all
other mountains; "and it shall be raised, he says, above the highest
summits, and assemble there shall all nations". It is certain, that
by these words of the Prophet is to be understood no visible
eminence of situation: for that mount was not increased at the
coming of Christ; and they who lived in the time of the Prophet
entertained no gross idea of this kind. But he speaks here of the
eminence of dignity, - that God would give to mount Zion a
distinction so eminent, that all other mountains would yield to its
honor. And how was this done? The explanation follows in the next
verse. Lest, then, any one thought that there would be some visible
change in mount Zion, that it would increase in size, the Prophet
immediately explains what he meant and says, at the end of the
verse, "Come shall nations to God". It is now easy to see what its
elevation was to be, - that God designed this mount to be, as it
were, a royal seat. As under the monarchy of the king of Persia, the
whole of the east, we know, was subject to one tower of the Persian;
so also, when mount Zion became the seat of sovereign power, God
designed to reign there, and there he designed that the whole world
should be subject to him; and this is the reason and the Prophet
said that it would be higher than all other mountains. Hence his
meaning, in this expression, is sufficiently evident.
    There follows, however, a fuller explanation, when he says,
that many "nations would come". He said only before that nations
would come: but as David, even in his age, made some nations
tributary to himself, the Prophet here expresses something more, -
that many nations would come; as if he had said, "Though David
subjugated some people to himself, yet the borders of his kingdom
were narrow and confined, compared with the largeness of that
kingdom which the Lord will establish at the coming of his Messiah:
for not a few nations but many shall assemble to serve him, and
shall say," &c. The Prophet now shows that it would be a spiritual
kingdom. When David subdued the Moabites and the Amorites, and
others, he imposed a certain tribute to be paid annually but he was
not able to establish among them the pure and legitimate worship of
God, nor was he able to unite them in one faith. Then the Moabites
and other nations, though they paid a tribute to David, did not yet
worship the true God, but continued ever alienated from the Church.
But our Prophet shows that the kingdom, which God would set up at
the coming of the Messiah, would be spiritual.
    For they shall say, "Let us you and ascend to the mount of
Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us
of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for, go forth shall a
law from Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem". Throughout
this passage the Prophet teaches us, that people are not to be
constrained by an armed force, or by the power of the sword, to
submit to David's posterity, but that they are to be really and
thoroughly reformed, so that they submit themselves to God, unite
with the body of the Church, and become one people with the children
of Abraham; for they will yield a voluntary service, and embracing
the teaching of the Law, they will renounce their own superstitions.
This then is the Prophet's meaning. But the remainder we shall defer
till to-morrow.
    
Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God that as thou hast been pleased to erect the
throne of thy Son among us, we may rely on his protection and learn
to resign ourselves wholly to thee, and never turn aside here and
there, but with tulle obedience so submit ourselves to the King who
has been appointed by thee, that he may own us as his legitimate
people, and so glorify thy name, that we may not at the same time
profane it by an ungodly and wicked life, but testify by our works
that we are really thy subjects. and that thou attains full
authority over us, so that thy name may be sanctified and thy Spirit
may really guide us, until at length thy Son, who has gathered us
when we were awfully gone astray, gather us again to that kingdom,
which he as purchased for us by his own blood. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-eighth.
    
    We began yesterday to explain the prophecy, in which Micah
promises the restoration of the Church. We have said that this
promise cannot be understood except of Christ's kingdom, for it
refers to the last days. And it was also added, that the superiority
and eminence of mount Zion, of which he speaks, cannot be otherwise
understood than of God's spiritual kingdom; for the explanation
follows, when he says, that many nations would come to be taught in
the ways of the Lord. We hence see that an earthly empire is not
what is here predicted, but what exists through the word and
celestial doctrine. But each particular ought to be considered by
us. We yesterday said, that in the distinct mention made of many
nations, there is to be understood a contrast; for till that time
God was only known by one people. Since God then had chosen the race
of Abraham alone, there is here pointed out a future change, when he
shall gather his Church from various nations, so as to do away with
the difference between the Gentiles and the Jews.
    It now follows, "They shall say, Come, and let us ascend to the
mount of Jehovah". The Prophet shows in these words that not only
each one would be obedient to God, when called, but that they would
also encourage one another: and this ardor is what is justly
required in the faithful; they ought to animate and stir on one
another; for it is not enough for each of us himself to obey God,
but this zeal ought to be added, by which we may strive to produce a
mutual benefit. This concern then is what the Prophet now refers to,
when he says, "Come, that we may ascend to the mountain of the
Lord." He might have said, that people would come, and there close
his sentence; but he wished to join the two clauses, - that they,
who had before despised the God of Israel, would come from all
parts, - and also that they would become exhorters to one another.
Come then that we may ascend. But the manner of the exhortation
deserves to be noticed; for each one offers himself as a companion
in the journey. We indeed see that many are prompt enough, when
others are to be stimulated in their duty; but they at the same time
lie still; their whole fervor is consumed in sending others, and
they themselves move not, no, not a finger; so far are they from
running with alacrity in company with others. The Prophet shows
here, that the faithful will be so solicitous about the salvation of
their brethren that they will strenuously run themselves, and that
they will prescribe nothing to others but what they themselves
perform. "Come then that we may ascend;" they say not, "Go, ascend
to the mount of Jehovah;" but, "Let us go together." It is then the
right way of encouraging, when we really show that we require
nothing from our brethren but what we desire to do ourselves.
    The circumstance of time must now be noticed; for what the
Prophet says respecting the nations coming into mount Zion, as it
was to be reduced to a waste, might have appeared a fable; for what
had he shortly before predicted? That Zion would be plowed as a
field, and that trees would grow there, that it would become a wild
forest. How then could it be, that many nations would flow to it as
to a most renowned place, as it was to be reduced to a dreadful
desolation? But the Prophet here extols the wonderful power of God,
- that in this wild and desert place there would at length be raised
a noble and a celebrated temple, where God would show mercy to his
own people. Hence he promises what this mount of Jehovah would be,
which was for a time to be forsaken; and that there would be, as
formerly, a noble temple in the place, where desolation had for a
season existed.
    It afterwards follows, "And he will teach us of his way." Here
the Prophet in a few words defines the legitimate worship of God:
for it would not be sufficient for the nations to come together into
one place to profess the one true God, unless true obedience
followed, which rests on faith, as faith does on the word. It ought
then to be especially noticed, that the Prophet sets here the word
of God before us, in order to show that true religion is founded on
the obedience of faith, and that God cannot be truly worshipped,
except when he himself teaches his people, and prescribes to them
what is necessary to be done. Hence when the will of God is revealed
to us, we then can truly worship him. When the word is again taken
away, there will indeed be some form of divine worship; but there
will be no genuine religion, such as is pleasing to God. And hence
we also learn, that there is no other way of raising up the Church
of God than by the light of the word, in which God himself, by his
own voice, points out the way of salvation. Until then the truth
shines, men cannot be united together, so as to form a true Church.
    Since it is so, it follows, that where the truth is either
corrupted or despised, there is no religion, at least such as is
approved by God. Men may indeed boast of the name with their lips:
but there is no true religion before God, except it be formed
according to the rule of his word. It hence also follows, that there
is no Church, except it be obedient to the word of God, and be
guided by it: for the prophet defines here what true religion is,
and also how God collects a Church for himself. He will then teach
us of his ways. And a third particular may be added, - that God is
robbed of his right and of his honor, when mortals assume to
themselves the authority to teach; for it is to God alone that this
office of teaching his people can strictly be ascribed. There were
then priests and prophets, yet Micah here brings them down to their
proper state, and shows that the right and the office of teaching
would be in the power of the only true God. We hence see that God
claims this office for himself, that we may not be tossed to and
fro, and led astray by various teachers, but continue in simple
obedience to his word, so that he alone may be the Supreme. In
short, God is not the God and Head of the Church, except he be the
chief and the only Teacher.
    Wheat he now says, "He will teach us of his ways," ought to be
thus understood. He will teach us what his ways are; as though the
Prophet had said, that the perfect wisdom of men is to understand
what pleases God, and what is his will: for there is nothing farther
to be learnt.
    It follows, "And we will walk in his paths". By this clause we
are reminded, that the truth of God is not, as they say,
speculative, but full of energizing power. God then not only speaks
to the end that every one may acknowledge that to be true which
proceeds from him, but at the same time he demands obedience. Hence
we shall then only be the disciples of God, when we walk in his
ways: for if we only nod with our ears, as asses are wont to do, and
assent to what God says with our mouth and lips, it is extremely
vain and absurd. It is therefore then only that men really profit
under the teaching of God, when they form their life according to
his doctrine, and be prepared with their feet to walk, and to follow
whithersoever be may call them. We will then walk in his paths.
    Micah had hitherto related only what the faithful would do; he
now himself confirms the same truth, "For from Zion shall go forth a
law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." Here is a reason given
why many nations would come to the temple of the Lord; and that is,
because a doctrine would be then promulgated, which had been before
heard only in one place. We indeed know that the Jews came to the
temple, not only to worship, but also to be instructed in the Law of
God. The Law then had at that time, as it were, its habitation in
Zion: there was the sanctuary of celestial wisdom. But what does our
Prophet say? "A law shall go forth from Zion", that is, it shall be
proclaimed far and wide: the Lord will show, not only in one corner,
what true religion is, and how he seeks to be worshipped, but he
will send forth his voice to the extreme limits of the earth. "A law
then shall go forth from Zion", according to what is said in Ps.
110, 'the sceptre of thy power the Lord will send forth from Zion.'
In that passage the doctrine of Christ is metaphorically called a
sceptre, or is compared to a royal sceptre; for Christ does not
otherwise rule among us, than by the doctrine of his Gospel: and
there David declares, that this sceptre would be sent far abroad by
God the Father, that Christ might have under his rule all those
nations which had been previously aliens. Such is the meaning in
this place, A law from Zion shall go forth. Then it follows, "The
word of Jehovah from Jerusalem". This is a repetition of the same
sentiment, which is often the case. Then by "torah", the Prophet
means no other thing than doctrine: but, by another term, he
confirms the same thing, that is that God would be heard not only at
Jerusalem and in Judea, but that he would make his word to be
proclaimed everywhere. It now follows -

Micah 4:3
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar
off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their
spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against
nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

    The Prophet here describes the fruit of Divine truth, - that
God would restore all nations to such gentleness, that they would
study to cultivate fraternal peace among themselves, and that all
would consult the good of others, having laid aside every desire for
doing harm. As then he has lately showed, that the Church of God
could not be otherwise formed than by the Word, and that the
legitimate worship of God cannot be set up and continued, except
where God is honoured with the obedience of faith; so now he shows
that Divine truth produces this effect, - that they, who before
lived in enmity towards one another and burned with the lust of
doing harm, being full of cruelty and avarice, will now, having
their disposition changed, devote themselves wholly to acts of
kindness. But, before the Prophet comes to this subject, he says, -
    "He will judge among many people, and will reprove strong
nations". The word judge, in Hebrew, means the same as to rule or
govern. It is certain that God is spoken of here: it is then the
same as though the Prophet had said that though the nations had not
hitherto obeyed God, they would now own him as king and submit to
his government. God has indeed ever governed the world by his hidden
providence, as he does still govern it: for how much soever the
devil and the ungodly may rage; nay, how ever much they may boil
with unbridled fury, there is no doubt but that God restrains and
checks their madness by his hidden bridle. But the Scripture speaks
of God's kingdom in two respects. God does indeed govern the devil
and all the wicked, but not by his word, nor by the sanctifying
power of his Spirit: it is so done, that they obey God, not
willingly, but against their will. The peculiar government of God is
that of his Church only, where, by his word and Spirit, He bends the
hearts of men to obedience, so that they follow him voluntarily and
willingly, being taught inwardly and outwardly, - inwardly by the
influence of the Spirit, - outwardly by the preaching of the word.
Hence it is said in Ps. 110, 'Thy willing people shall then
assemble.' This is the government that is here described by the
Prophet; God then shall judge; not as he judges the world, but he
will, in a peculiar manner, make them obedient to himself so that
they will look for nothing else than to be wholly devoted to him.
    But as men must first be subdued before they render to God such
obedience, the Prophet expressly adds, "And he will reprove" or
convince "many people". And this sentence ought to be carefully
noticed; for we hence learn, that such is our innate pride, that not
one of us can become a fit disciple to God, except we be by force
subdued. Truth then would of itself freeze amidst such corruption as
we have, except the Lord proved us guilty, except he prepared us
beforehand, as it were, by violent measures. We now then perceive
the design of the Prophet in connecting reproof with the government
of God: for the verb "yachach" signifies sometimes to expostulate,
to convince, and sometimes to correct or reprove. In short, the
wickedness and perversity of our flesh are here implied; for even
the best of us would never offer themselves to God, without being
first subdued, and that by God's powerful correction. This, then, is
the beginning of the kingdom of Christ.
    But when he says, that strong nations would be reproved, he
hereby eulogizes and sets forth the character of the kingdom of
which he speaks: and we hence learn the power of truth, - that
strong men, when thus reproved, shall offer themselves, without any
resistance, to be ruled by God. Correction is indeed necessary, but
God employs no external force, nor any armed power, when he makes
the Church subject to himself: and yet he collects strong nations.
Hence then is seen the power of truth: for where there is strength,
there is confidence and arrogance, and also rebellious opposition.
Since then the Lord, without any other helps, thus corrects the
perverseness of men, we hence see with what inconceivable power God
works, when he gathers his own Church. It is to be added, that there
is not the least doubt, but that this is to be applied to the person
of Christ. Micah speaks of God, without mentioning Christ by name;
for he was not yet manifested in the flesh: but we know that in his
person has this been fulfilled, - that God has governed the
universe, and subjected to himself the people of the whole world. We
hence conclude that Christ is true God; for he is not only a
minister to the Father, as Moses, or any one of the Prophets; but he
is the supreme King of his Church.
    Before I proceed to notice the fruit, the expression, "'ad-
rachok", "afar off" must be observed. It may intimate a length of
time as well as distance of place. Jonathan applies it to a long
continuance of time, - that God would convince men to the end of the
world. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intended to include the most
distant countries; as though he had said, that God would not be the
king of one people only, or of Judea alone, but that his kingdom
would be propagated to the extremities of the earth. He will then
convince people afar off.
    He afterward adds, with respect to the fruit, "They shall beat
their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks". I
have already briefly explained the meaning of the Prophet: he in
fact shows that when the nations should be taught by the word of
God, there would be such a change, that every one would study to do
good, and to perform the duties of love towards his neighbors. But
by speaking of swords and spears he briefly intimates, what men,
until they are made gentle by the word of the Lord, are ever intent
on iniquitous tyranny and oppression; nor can it be otherwise, while
every one follows his own nature; for there are none who are not
wedded to their own advantages, and the cupidity of men is
insatiable. As then all are thus intent on gain, while every one is
blinded by self-love, what but cruelty must ever break forth from
this wicked principle? Hence then it is, that men cannot cultivate
peace with one another; for every one seeks to be the first, and
draws every thing to himself; no one will willingly give way: then
dissensions arise, and from dissensions, fightings. This is what the
Prophet intimates. And then he adds, that the fruit of the doctrine
of Christ would however be such, that men, who were before like
cruel wild beasts, would become gentle and meek. "Forge then shall
they their swords into plowshares, and their spears into
pruninghooks".
    "Raise, he says, shall not a nation a sword against a nation,
and accustom themselves they shall no more to war". He explains here
more fully what I have before said, - that the Gospel of Christ
would be to the nations, as it were, a standard of peace: as when a
banner is raised up, soldiers engage in battle, and their fury is
kindled; so Micah ascribes a directly opposite office to the Gospel
of Christ, - that it will restore those to the cultivation of peace
and concord, who before were given to acts of hostility. For when he
says, 'Raise a sword shall not a nation against nation,' he
intimates, as I have already stated, that wherever Christ does not
reign, men are wolves to men, for every one is disposed to devour
all others. Hence as men are naturally impelled by so blind an
impulse, the Prophet declares, that this madness cannot be
corrected, that men will not cease from wars, that they will not
abstain from hostilities, until Christ becomes their teacher: for by
the word "lamad" he implies, that it is a practice which ever
prevails among mankind, that they contend with one another, that
they are ever prepared to do injuries and wrongs, except when they
put off their natural disposition. But gentleness, whence does it
proceed? Even from the teaching of the Gospel.
    This passage ought to be remembered; for we here learn, that
there is not growing among us the real fruit of the Gospel, unless
we exercise mutual love and benevolence, and exert ourselves in
doing good. Though the Gospel is at this day purely preached among
us, when yet we consider how little progress we make in brotherly
love, we ought justly to be ashamed of our indolence. God proclaims
daily that he is reconciled to us in his Son; Christ testifies, that
he is our peace with God, that he renders him propitious to us, for
this end, that we may live as brethren together. We indeed wish to
be deemed the children of God, and we wish to enjoy the
reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ; but in the
meantime we tear one another, we sharpen our teeth, our dispositions
are cruel. If then we desire really to prove ourselves to be the
disciples of Christ, we must attend to this part of divine truth,
each of us must strive to do good to his neighbors. But this cannot
be done without being opposed by our flesh; for we have a strong
propensity to self-love, and are inclined to seek too much our own
advantages. We must therefore put off these inordinate and sinful
affections, that brotherly kindness may succeed in their place.
    We are also reminded that it is not enough for any one to
refrain from doing harm, unless he be also occupied in doing good to
his brethren. The Prophet might indeed have said only "They shall
break their swords and their spears;" so that they shall hereafter
abstain from doing any hurt to others: this only is not what he
says; but, "They shall forge," or beat, "their swords into
plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;" that is, when they
shall abstain from all injuries they will seek to exercise
themselves in the duties of love, consistently with what Paul says,
when he exhorts those who had stolen to steal no more, but to work
with their own hands, that they might relieve others (Eph. 4: 28.)
Except then we endeavor to relieve the necessities of our brethren,
and to offer them assistance, there will not be in us but one part
of true conversion, as the case is with many, who are not indeed
inhuman, who commit no plunder, who give no occasion for complaint,
but they live to themselves, and enjoy unprofitable leisure. This
indolence the Prophet here indirectly condemns, when he speaks of
the plowshares and the pruning hooks.
    Again, a question may be here asked, - Was this fulfilled at
the coming of Christ? It seems that the Prophet does not describe
here the state of the Church for a time, but shows what would be the
kingdom of Christ to the end. But we see, that when the Gospel was
at first preached, the whole world boiled with wars more than ever;
and now, though the Gospel in many parts is clearly preached, yet
discords and contentions do not cease; we also see that rapacity,
ambition, and insatiable avarice, greatly prevail; and hence arise
contentions and bloody wars. And at the same time it would have been
inconsistent in the Prophet to have thus spoken of the kingdom of
Christ, had not God really designed to perform what is here
predicted. My answer to this is, - that as the kingdom of Christ was
only begun in the world, when God commanded the Gospel to be
everywhere proclaimed, and as at this day its course is not as yet
completed; so that which the Prophet says here has not hitherto
taken place; but inasmuch as the number of the faithful is small,
and the greater part despise and reject the Gospel, so it happens,
that plunders and hostilities continue in the world. How so? Because
the Prophet speaks here only of the disciples of Christ. He shows
the fruit of his doctrine, that wherever it strikes a living root,
it brings forth fruit: but the doctrine of the Gospel strikes roots
hardly in one out of a hundred. The measure also of its progress
must be taken to the account; for so far as any one embraces the
doctrine of the Gospel, so far he becomes gentle and seeks to do
good to his neighbours. But as we as yet carry about us the relics
of sin in our flesh, and as our knowledge of the Gospel is not yet
perfect, it is no wonder, that not one of us has hitherto wholly
laid aside the depraved and sinful affections of his flesh.
    It is also easy hence to see, how foolish is the conceit of
those, who seek to take away the use of the sword, on account of the
Gospel. The Anabaptists, we know, have been turbulent, as though all
civil order were inconsistent with the kingdom of Christ, as though
the kingdom of Christ was made up of doctrine only, and that
doctrine without any influence. We might indeed do without the
sword, were we angels in this world; but the number of the godly, as
I have already said, is small; it is therefore necessary that the
rest of the people should be restrained by a strong bridle; for the
children of God are found mixed together, either with cruel monsters
or with wolves and rapacious men. Some are indeed openly rebellious,
others are hypocrites. The use of the sword will therefore continue
to the end of the world.
    We must now understand that at the time our Prophet delivered
this discourse, Isaiah had used the very same words, (Isa. 2: 4:)
and it is probable that Micah was a disciple of Isaiah. They,
however, exercised at the same time the Prophetic office, though
Isaiah was the oldest. But Micah was not ashamed to follow Isaiah
and to borrow his words; for he was not given to self ostentation,
as though he would not adduce any thing but what was his own; but he
designedly adopted the expressions of Isaiah, and related verbally
what he had said, to show that there was a perfect agreement between
him and that illustrious minister of God, that his doctrine might
obtain more credit. We hence see how great was the simplicity of our
Prophet, and that he did not regard what malevolent and perverse men
might say: "What! he only repeats the words of another." Such a
calumny he wholly disregarded; and he thought it enough to show that
he faithfully declared what God had commanded. Though we have not
the "'ad-rachok" in Isaiah, yet the meaning is the same: in all
other things they agree. It now follows-

Micah 4:4
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree;
and none shall make [them] afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of
hosts hath spoken [it].

    Micah goes on here with the same subject, - that when the minds
of men shall be disposed to acts of kindness, every one shall enjoy
God's blessing without being disturbed. There seems indeed to be two
things here included, - that acts of hostility shall cease, - and
that real happiness cannot exist among men, except Christ rules
among them by the doctrine of his Gospel. And the same thing the
prophets teach elsewhere, that is, that every one shall live without
fear; and this they do, in order to show that men ever live in a
miserable dread, except when they are safe under the protection of
God. It is the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that the
life of men is most miserable, where the doctrine of the Gospel is
not had, inasmuch as when they are disturbed by continual
disquietude, every one fears for himself, every one suffers constant
terrors. There is nothing more miserable than such a state of
things, for peace is the chief good.
    We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, - that
under the reign of Christ the faithful shall enjoy true and full
happiness, as they shall be exempt from trembling and fear; hence he
names the vine and the fig-tree. He might have said, "Every one
shall live securely at home;" but he says, "Every one shall rest
under his own fig-tree and under his own vine"; that is, though
exposed to thieves, he shall yet fear no violence, no injury; for
those who were thieves shall observe what is just and right; those
who were bloody shall study to do good. Hence when no one closes the
door of his house, yea, when he goes out into the fields and sleeps
in the open air; he will still be safe and secure. We now then see
why the Prophet mentions here the fig-tree and the vine, rather than
the dwelling-house.
    "And there will be no one to terrify them". What the Prophet
designed to express is here more clearly specified, - that there
would be no danger, and that there would therefore be no need of
hiding-places or of any defenses. Why? Because the very fields, he
says, will be free from every thing that may hurt, as there will be
none to cause fear. And the Prophet seems to allude to the blessing
promised in the Law, for Moses used nearly the very same words: and
the Prophets, we know, drew many things from the Law; for their
design was to retain the people in its doctrine, and to render it as
familiar as possible to them. As then Moses promised, among other
things, this security, 'Ye shall sleep, and none shall terrify you,'
(Lev. 26: 6;) so the Prophet also, in speaking here of the kingdom
of Christ, shows that this blessing would be then fully
accomplished.
    He now at last subjoins, "The mouth of Jehovah hath thus
spoken, that he might confirm what seemed incredible: for, as I have
already said, since he had shortly before predicted the devastation
of mount Zion and the ruin of the temple, it seemed very improbable
that the nations would come there to worship God. But he declares
that the mouth of God had thus spoken, that the faithful might
overcome all obstacles and struggle against despair; though they saw
the temple destroyed, the mount Zion desolated, though they saw a
horrible waste and wild beasts occupying the place of men; they were
yet to continue to entertain firm hope. - How so? Because Jehovah
has made a promise and he will fulfill it: for when mention is made
of God's mouth, his omnipotence is to be understood by which will be
executed whatever he has promised.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since, at the coming of Christ thy Son,
thou didst really perform what thy servants, the Prophets, had
previously so much foretold, and since thou daily invites us to the
unity of faith, that with united efforts we may truly serve thee, -
O grant, that we may not continue torn asunder, every one pursuing
his own perverse inclinations, at a time when Christ is gathering us
to thee; nor let us only profess with the mouth and in words, that
we are under thy government, but prove that we thus feel in real
sincerity and may we then add to the true and lawful worship of thy
name brotherly love towards one another, that with united efforts we
may promote each other's good, and that our adoption may thus be
proved and be more and more confirmed, that we may ever be able with
full confidence to call on thee as our Father through Christ our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Eighty-ninth.

Micah 4:5
For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we
will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

    Micah, after having spoken of the restoration of the Church,
now confirms the same truth, and shows that the faithful would have
reason enough to cleave constantly to their God, and to despise all
the superstitions of the world, and that though they may be tossed
here and there by contrary opinions, they will yet continue in true
religion. This verse then is connected with the kingdom of Christ;
for until we are gathered, and Christ shines among us and rules us
by his word, there can be in us no constancy, no firmness. But when
under the auspices of Christ, we join together in one body the
Church, such then becomes the constancy of our faith, that nothing
can turn us from the right course, though new storms were at any
time to arise, by which the whole world might be shaken, and though
it were to happen that the universe should be agitated or pass away.
We now understand what the Prophet means.
    He therefore says, "All nations shall walk every one in the
name of his god". This sentence must be thus explained, - "Though
nations be divided into various sects, and each be addicted to their
own superstitions, yet we shall continue firm in the pure worship of
God and in unity of faith." But this question occurs, how could the
Prophet say that there would be such discords in the world, when he
had shortly before spoken of the Church being gathered and united
together? for he had said, "Come shall all nations, and each will
say, Come, let us ascend into the mount of Jehovah." There seems to
be here some sort of inconsistency, - that all nations would come to
mount Zion, and yet that every people would have their own gods. But
the solution is not difficult: the Prophet in this verse strengthens
the faithful, until Christ should be revealed to the world: nor is
there any doubt but the Prophet intended to sustain the confidence
of the godly, who might have otherwise been overwhelmed a hundred
times with despair. When the children of Israel were driven into
exile, when their inheritance was taken away from them, when the
temple had been demolished, when, in a word, no visible religion
existed, they might, as I have said, have desponded, had not this
promise come to their minds, - that God would restore mount Zion,
and gather a Church from the whole world. But there was also need of
some confirmation, and this is what the Prophet now subjoins. Hence
he says, "Since the Lord gives you hope of so glorious a
restoration, you ought to feel confidence. and, in reliance on his
promise, to continue in his true worship, how much soever the
Gentiles may serve their own idols, and boast that they have the
true God. However, then, every one of the nations may take pride in
their superstitions, you ought not to fluctuate, nor turn here and
there, like reeds, which are tossed to and fro, as the wind changes;
but ye shall continue firm and steady in your course; for ye know
that God is true, who has once for all adopted you, and has promised
that your salvation will be the object of his care, even when the
world shall think you to be ruined and lost."
    We hence see that what the Prophet had in view was to raise up
into confidence the minds of the godly in the midst not only of
troubles, but of utter confusion. All nations then shall walk, that
is, when the temple and the city shall be demolished, and the people
be led into distant exile, the ungodly will, at the same time,
triumph, every one will extol his own gods: though our God should
not then appear, there will yet be no reason why we should be
discouraged; but we ought to recomb on his word. "We shall then walk
in the name of our God, and that for ever and ever"; that is, though
it should happen that the world should a hundred times be turned and
turned over again, there shall yet be no change in our minds: for as
the truth of God is eternal, so also our faith ought to be constant
and never to vary. Now the difficulty is removed, and we see how
these two things agree, - that all nations shall come and with one
consent worship God, and yet that to each of them there would be
their own gods: for the diversity of time must be here regarded,
when all nations would walk every one in the name of his god.
    By saying, "'ish beshem 'elohaw", he touches, in an indirect
way, on that variety which exists among men. Though all of them
pertinaciously follow and defend their own superstitions yet each
one fabricates a goal for himself. Thus it happens, that nothing is
certain, for they follow only their own inventions. But this the
Prophet meant only to touch by the way. His main object was that
which I have stated, - that though the Church of God would be small,
and should find a great multitude opposed to it, it ought not yet to
succumb. We know how violent a thing is public consent; for when the
majority conspire together, the small number, who entertain a
different opinion, are, as it were instantly swallowed up. It is not
then without reason that the Prophet exhorts the faithful here to an
invincible firmness of mind, that they might triumph over all the
nations. However small, then, might be the faithful in number, the
Prophet wished them to look down, as it were from a higher place,
not only on a large multitudes but on all mankind. Though then all
nations walk, &c.: nor is the word "kol", all, superfluous, - though
all nations shall walk, &c. There was then but one nation, the
offspring of Abraham, among whom true religion existed; and it was a
dreadful devastation, when God suffered the royal city and the
temple to be pulled down, and the whole body of the people to be
torn asunder, to be driven away here and there, so that no kingdom
and no kind of civil community remained. Hence the Prophet intimates
here, that though the faithful should find that in number and
dignity they were far surpassed by their enemies, they yet should
not despair. "Though then all the nations walked, every one in the
name of their god, - though every people set up their superstitions
against you, and all conspired against you together, yet stand ye
firm and proceed in your course, and this not for a short time, but
for ever and ever." Now this passage shows that faith depends not on
the suffrages of men, and that we ought not to regard what any one
may think, or what may be the consent of all; for the truth of God
alone ought to be deemed sufficient by us. How much soever, then,
the whole world may oppose God, our faith ought not to be
changeable, but remain firm on this strong foundation, - that God,
who cannot deceive, has spoken. This is one thing. Then, in the
second place, it must be added, that this firmness ought to be
perpetual. Though then Satan may excite against us new troubles,
since we have hitherto stood firm as to our faith in God's word, let
us proceed in the same course to the end. And the Prophet designedly
added this verse; because he saw that the people would be subject to
various and long-continued temptations. It was a long captivity:
hence languor might have, as it were, wasted away all the confidence
which the people then had. And further, after they returned from
exile, we know how often and how grievously their faith was tried,
when all their neighbors inimically assailed them, and when they
were afterwards oppressed by cruel tyranny. This was the reason why
the Prophet said that the children of God are to walk perpetually
and to the end in his name.
    Though he gives the name of gods to the idols of the nations he
yet shows that there is a great and striking difference; for the
nations worship their own gods, which they had invented: or how did
they derive their majesty and their power, except from the false
imagination of men? But the Prophet says, "Ye will walk in the name
of Jehovah our God". He hence shows that the power and authority of
God is not founded on any vain device of men, for he of himself
exists, and will exist, though he were denied by the whole world.
And this also confirms what I have already stated, - that the
faithful ought thus to embrace the word of God, as they know that
they have not to do with men, the credit of whom is doubtful and
inconstant, but with him who is the true God, who cannot lie, and
whose truth is immutable. Let us proceed -

Micah 4:6,7
In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I
will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;
And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far
off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount
Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
    
    The Prophet pursues the same subject. But we must ever remember
what I have previously reminded you of, - that the trials would be
so grievous and violent that there would be need of strong and
uncommon remedies; for the faithful might have been a hundred times
sunk, as it were, in the deepest gulfs, except they had been
supported by various means. This then is the reason why the Prophet
confirms so fully the truth which we have noticed respecting the
restoration of the Church.
    "In that day, he says, I will gather the halting". This
metaphor is not only found here; for David sage that his own
affliction was like that of halting. The word "tsole'ah" means the
side: hence they metaphorically call those halters who walk only on
one side: it is the same as though he had said, that they were
maimed or weak. He then adds, "I will assemble the ejected, whom I
have afflicted". In the next verse he repeats the same, I will make
the halting, he says, a remnant; that is, I will make her who is now
halting to remain alive, and her who is cast afar off, "a strong
nation". Some explain "hannahala'ah" in a more refined manner, and
say that it means, "She who is gone before;" as though the Prophet
said, "God will sustain the halting, and to those who are lively he
will add strength." But this exposition is too strained. We see that
the context will not admit it; for the Prophet brings forward the
Church here as afflicted by the hand of God, and nigh utter ruin:
and then, on the other hand, he intimates, that it was to be
restored by God's power, and that it would thereby gather new
strength, and flourish as before: he therefore calls the Church as
one cast far away, as in the previous verse; and the other verse
clearly shows, that the Prophet's design was no other but to point
out the twofold state of the Church.
    Now, in the first place, we must observe, that the Prophet
meets the trial then present, which must have otherwise depressed
the hearts of the godly. He saw that they were in a manner broken
down; and then their dispersion was as it were a symbol of final
ruin. If then the faithful had their minds continually fixed on that
spectacle, they might have a hundred times despaired. The Prophet
therefore comes here seasonably to their help, and reminds them,
that though they were now halting, there was yet in God new vigor;
that though they were scattered, it was yet in God's power to gather
those who had been driven afar off. The meaning briefly is, that
though the Church differed nothing for a time from a dead man, or at
least from one that is maimed, no despair ought to be entertained;
for the Lord sometimes raises up his people, as though he raised the
dead from the grave: and this fact ought to be carefully noticed,
for as soon as the Church of God does not shine forth, we think that
it is wholly extinct and destroyed. But the Church is so preserved
in the world, that it sometimes rises again from death: in short,
the preservation of the Church, almost every day, is accompanied
with many miracles.
    But we ought to bear in mind, that the life of the Church is
not without a resurrection, nay, it is not without many
resurrections, if the expression be allowed. This we learn from the
words of the Prophet, when he says, 'I will then gather the halting,
and assemble the driven away;' and then he adds, 'and her whom I
have with evils afflicted.' And this has been expressly said, that
the faithful may know, that God can bring out of the grave those
whom he has delivered to death. For if the Jews had been destroyed
at the pleasure of their enemies, they could not have hoped for so
certain a remedy from God: but when they acknowledged that nothing
happened to them except through the just judgment of God, they could
entertain hope of restoration. How so? Because it is what is
peculiar to God to bring forth the dead, as I have already said,
from the grave; as it is also his work to kill. We then see that
what the Prophet promised, respecting the restoration of the Church,
is confirmed by this verse: "I am he," says God, "who has afflicted;
cannot I again restore you to life? For as your death is in my hand,
so also is your salvation. If the Assyrians or the Chaldeans had
gained the victory over you against my will, there would be some
difficulty in my purpose of gathering you; but as nothing has
happened but by my command, and as I have proved that your salvation
and your destruction is in my power, there is no reason for you to
think that it is difficult for me to gather you, who have through my
judgment been dispersed."
    He then adds, "I will make the halting a remnant". By remnant
he understands the surviving Church. Hence the metaphor, halting, is
extended even to destruction; as though he said, "Though the Jews
for a time may differ nothing from dead men, I will yet cause them
to rise again, that they may become again a new people." It was
difficult to believe this at the time of exile: no wonder, then,
that the Prophet here promises that a posterity would be born from a
people that were dead. For though Babylon was to them like the
grave, yet God was able to do such a thing as to bring them forth as
new men, as it really happened.
    He afterwards subjoins "And the driven afar off, a strong
nation". When the Jews were scattered here and there, how was it
possible that God should from this miserable devastation form for
himself a new people, and also a strong people? But the Prophet has
put the contrary clauses in opposition to one another, that the
Jews, amazed at their own evils, and astonished, might not cast away
every consolation. As then he had dispersed them, he would again
gather them, and would not only do this, but also make them a strong
nation.
    He then adds, "Reign shall Jehovah over them on mount Zion,
henceforth and for ever". The Prophet no doubt promises here the new
restoration of that kingdom which God himself had erected; for the
salvation of the people was grounded on this - that the posterity of
David should reign, as we shall hereafter see. And it is a common
and usual thing with the prophets to set forth the kingdom of David,
whenever they speak of the salvation of the Church. It was necessary
then that the kingdom of David should be again established, in order
that the Church might flourish and be secure. But Micah does not
here name the posterity of David, but mentions Jehovah himself, not
to exclude the kingdom of David, but to show that God would become
openly the founder of that kingdom, yea, that he himself possessed
the whole power. For though God governed the ancient people by the
hand of David, by the hand of Josiah and of Hezekiah, there was yet,
as it were, a shade intervening, so that God reigned not then
visibly. The Prophet then mentions here some difference between that
shadowy kingdom and the latter new kingdom, which, at the coming of
the Messiah, God would openly set up. Jehovah himself shall then
reign over them; as though he said, "Hitherto indeed, when the
posterity of David held the government, as God himself created both
David and his sons, and as they were anointed by his authority and
command, it could not have been thought but that the kingdom was
his, though he governed his people by the ministry and agency of
men: but now God himself will ascend the throne in a conspicuous
manner, so that no one may doubt but that he is the king of his
people." And this was really and actually fulfilled in the person of
Christ. Though Christ was indeed the true seed of David, he was yet
at the same time Jehovah, even God manifested in the flesh. We hence
see, that the Prophet here in lofty terms extols the glory of
Christ's kingdom; as though he had said that it would not be a
shadowy kingdom as it was under the Law. Jehovah then shall reign
over you.
    He then subjoins, "on mount Zion". We know that the seat of the
kingdom of Christ has not been continued on mount Zion; but this
verse must be connected with the beginning of this chapter. The
Prophet has previously said, "From Zion shall go forth a law, and
the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." If then the interpretation of
this place be asked, that is, how Jehovah showed himself the king of
his people, and erected his throne on mount Zion, the answer is,
that from thence the law went forth from that place, as from a
fountain flowed the doctrine of salvation, to replenish the whole
world. As then the Gospel, which God caused to be promulgated
through the whole world, had its beginning on mount Zion, so the
Prophet says that God would reign there. But we must at the same
time observe, that through the defection and perfidy of the people
it has happened that mount Zion is now only an insignificant corner
of the earth, and not the most eminent in the world, as also the
city Jerusalem, according to the prediction of Zechariah. Mount Zion
then is now different from what it was formerly; for wherever the
doctrine of the Gospel is preached, there is God really worshipped,
there sacrifices are offered; in a word, there the spiritual temple
exists. But yet the commencement of the Gospel must be taken to the
account, if we would understand the real meaning of the Prophet,
that is, that Christ, or God in the person of Christ, began to reign
on mount Zion, when the doctrine of the Gospel from thence went
forth to the extremities of the world. It now follows -

Micah 4:8
And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of
Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom
shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
    
    Micah still continues the same subject, - that the miserable
calamities of the people, or even their ruin, will not prevent God
to restore again his Church. "Thou tower of the flock", he says,
"the fortress of the daughter of Zion", doubt not but that God will
again restore to thee thy ancient kingdom and dignity from which
thou seemest now to have entirely fallen. But interpreters take "the
tower of the flock" in various senses. Some think that the
devastation of the city Jerusalem is pointed out, because it became
like a cottage, as it is said in Isaiah; and "'ofel" they render
"obscure," for its root is to cover. But another explanation is
simpler, - that the holy city is called "the tower of the flock,"
because God had chosen it for himself, to gather his people thence;
for we know that they had there their holy assemblies. "Thou, then,
the tower of the flock", and then, "the fortress of the daughter of
Zion, to thee shall come the former kingdom". If, however, the
former sense be more approved, I will not contend; that is, that
Jerusalem is here called the tower of the flock on account of its
devastation, as it was reduced as it were into a cottage. As to the
main import of the passage, there is no ambiguity; for the Prophet
here strengthens the minds of the godly: they were not to regard the
length of time, nor to allow their thoughts, to be occupied with
their present calamity, but to feel assured, that what God had
promised was in his power, that he could, as it were, raise the
dead, and thus restore the kingdom of David, which had been
destroyed.
    Do then, he says, firmly hope. - Why? because "come to thee,
come to thee shall the former kingdom". Here the breaking off of the
sentence is to be noticed, when the Prophet speaks of the ancient
kingdom and dignity. It is not indeed to be doubted, but that the
people of God had become objects of mockery, and that hypocrites and
heathens thought that what David had testified respecting the
perpetuity of his kingdom was a mere delusion. 'Behold thy kingdom,'
he said, 'shall continue as long as the sun and the moon,' (Ps. 72)
but soon after the death of Solomon, a small portion only was
reserved for his posterity, and at length the kingdom itself and its
dignity disappeared. This is the reason that the Prophet now says,
that the former kingdom would come. "Come, he says, to thee,
daughter of Zion, come shall the former kingdom". There is indeed no
doubt, but that by the former kingdom he understands its most
flourishing condition, recorded in Scripture, under David and
Solomon.
    The kingdom, he says, to the daughter of Jerusalem shall come.
He expressly mentions the daughter of Jerusalem, because the kingdom
of Israel had obscured the glory of the true kingdom. Hence the
Prophet testifies here that God was not unmindful of his promise,
and that he would restore to Jerusalem the dignity which it had
lost, and unite the whole people into one body, that they might be
no more divided, but that one king would rule over the whole race of
Abraham. But this was not fulfilled, we are certain, at the coming
of Christ, in a manner visible to men: we must therefore bear in
mind what Micah has previously taught, - that this kingdom is
spiritual; for he did not ascribe to Christ a golden sceptre, but a
doctrine, "Come, and let us ascend unto the mount of Jehovah, and he
will teach us of his ways;" and then he added, "From Zion shall go
forth a law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." This, then,
ought ever to be remembered, - that God has not rendered Jerusalem
glorious in the sight of men, as it was formerly, nor has he
enriched it with influence and wealth and earthly power; but he has
yet restored the sovereign authority; for he has not only subjected
to himself the ten tribes which had formerly revolted, but also the
whole world. Let us go on -

Micah 4:9,10
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? [is there] no king in thee? is thy
counselor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.
Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a
woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and
thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go [even] to Babylon;
there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from
the hand of thine enemies.
    
    The Prophet blends here things in their nature wholly contrary,
- that the Jews were for a time to be cut off, - and that afterwards
they were to recover their former state. Why, he says, "dost thou
cry out with crying?" We must notice the Prophet's design. He did
not intend to overturn what he had before stated; but as the minds
of the godly might have fainted amidst so many changes, the Prophet
here gives them support, that they might continue firm in their
faith; and hence he says, Why dost thou cry aloud with loud crying?
That is, "I see that grievous troubles will arise capable of shaking
even the stoutest hearts: time will be changeable; it will often be,
that the faithful will be disturbed and degraded; but though various
tumults may arise, and tempests throw all things into confusion, yet
God will redeem his people." We now then see what the Prophet means
by saying, Why dost thou now cry? Why dost thou make an uproar? for
the verb here properly means, not only to cry out, but also to sound
the trumpet; as though he said, Why do the Jews so much torment
themselves? There is he says, no doubt, a good reason.
    And he adds, "Is there no king among thee?" This was doubtless
the reason why the Jews so much harassed themselves; it was, because
God had deprived them of their kingdom and of counsel: and we know
what Jeremiah has said, 'Christ,' that is, the anointed of the Lord,
'by whose life we breathe, is slain,' (Lam. 4: 20.) Since, then, the
whole Church derived as it were its life from the safety of its
king, the faithful could not be otherwise than filled with amazement
when the kingdom was upset and abolished; for the hope of salvation
was taken away. "Is there, then, not a king among thee? and have thy
counselors perished?" Some think that the unfaithfulness of the
people is here indirectly reproved, because they thought themselves
to be destitute of the help of God and of his Christ, as though he
said, - "Have ye forgotten what God has promised to you, that he
would be your king for ever, and would send the Messiah to rule over
you? nay, has he not promised that the kingdom of David would be
perpetual? Whence then, is this fear and trembling, as though God no
longer reigned in the midst of you, and the throne of David were
hopelessly overturned?" These interpreters, in confirmation of this
opinion, say, that Christ is here distinguished by the same title as
in Isa. 9; where he is called "yo'ets", a counselor. But as in this
verse, it is the Prophet's design to terrify, and to reprove rather
than to alleviate the grievousness of evils by consolation; it is
more probable, that their own destitution is set before the people;
as though Micah said, "What cause have you for trembling? Is it
because your king and nil his counselors have been taken away?" But
what immediately follows proves that this sorrow arose from a just
cause; it was because they were stripped of all those things which
had been till that time the evidences of God's favor.
    Why then "has pain laid hold on thee as on one in travail? Be
in pain, he says, and groan"; that is, I will not prevent thee to
grieve and to mourn; as though he said, "Certainly even the
strongest cannot look on calamities so dreadful, without suffering
the heaviest sorrow; but though God may for a time subject his
children to the greatest tortures, and expose them to the most
grievous evils, he will yet restore them at length from their
exile." Thou shalt depart, he says, from the city, and dwell in the
field: thou shalt come even to Babylon; but there thou shalt be
delivered; there shall Jehovah redeem thee from the hand of thy
enemies. The import of the whole is, that though God would have a
care for his people, as he had promised, there was yet no cause for
the faithful to flatter themselves, as though they were to be exempt
from troubles; but the Prophet, on the contrary, exhorts them to
prepare themselves to undergo calamities, as they were not only to
be ejected from their country, and to wander in strange lands like
vagrants, but were to be led away into Babylon as to their grave.
    But to strengthen the minds of the faithful to bear the cross,
he gives them a hope of deliverance, and says, that God would there
deliver them, and there redeem them from the hand of their enemies.
He repeats the adverb, "sham", there, twice, and not without cause:
for the faithful might have excluded every hope of deliverance, as
though the gate of God's power had been closed. And this is the
reason why the Prophet repeats twice, there, there; even from the
grave he will deliver and redeem thee: "Extend then your hope, not
only to a small measure of favor, as though God could deliver you
only from a state of some small danger, but even to death itself.
Though then ye lay, as it were, in your graves, yet doubt not but
that God will stretch forth his hand to you, for he will be your
deliverer. God then in whose power is victory, can overcome many and
innumerable deaths."
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since under the guidance of thy Son we
have been united together in the body of thy Church, which has been
so often scattered and torn asunder, - O grant, that we may continue
in the unity of faith, and perseveringly fight against all the
temptations of this world, and never deviate from the right course,
whatever new troubles may daily arise: and though we are exposed to
many deaths, let us not yet be seized with fear, such as may
extinguish in our hearts every hope; but may we, on the contrary,
learn to raise up our eyes and minds, and all our thoughts, to thy
great power, by which thou quickenest the dead, and raises from
nothing things which are not, so that though we may be daily exposed
to ruin, our souls may ever aspire to eternal salvation, until thou
at length really slowest thyself to be the fountain of life, when we
shall enjoy that endless felicity, which has beon obtained for us by
the blood of thy only-begotten Son our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Ninetieth.

Micah 4:11-13
11 Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let
her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.
12 But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand
they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the
floor.
13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn
iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces
many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and
their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.
    
    The Prophet's object here is to give some alleviation to the
faithful lest they should succumb under their calamities; for, as we
have stated, there were most grievous evils approaching, sufficient
to overwhelm the minds of the godly. The Prophet then raises up
here, with the moat suitable comfort, those who would have otherwise
fainted under their calamities; and the sum of the whole is this, -
that the faithful were not to be confounded on finding the ungodly
proudly triumphing, as they are wont to do, when they seem to have
gained their wishes. Since, then, the wicked show a petulant spirit
beyond all bounds, the Prophet exhorts the faithful to sustain
themselves by God's promises, and not to care for such insolence. He
then subjoins a promise, - that God would assemble all the forces of
their enemies, as when one gathers many ears of corn into a bundle,
that he may thrash them on the floor. I will come now to the words
of the Prophet.
    "Assemble, he says, against thee do nations", or strong
nations: for, by saying, "goyim rabim", he intimates one of two
things, either that they were strong, or that they were large in
number: as to the subject there is no great difference. The Prophet
had this in view, - that though the Church of God may be pressed by
a great multitude of enemies, it yet ought not to be broken down in
mind: for the ungodly, while they cruelly domineer, do not
understand the design of God. Assemble, then, against thee do many
nations. He sets the thing before them, to heal them of terror: for
when we are beyond the reach of harm, we, for the most part, too
heedlessly despise all dangers; and then, when we come to a real
struggle, we tremble, or even fall and become wholly weak. This is
the reason why the Prophet sets before the Jews their prospects, and
shows that the time was near when they were to endure a siege, as
enemies would, on all sides, surround them. Assemble then do
nations, and strong or many nations: he shows here that the Jews had
no reason to despond, though their enemies would far exceed them in
number, and in forces, and in courage, for it was enough for them to
be under the protection of God.
    "Who say, condemned now shall be Zion." The verb "chanaf" means
to act wickedly and perversely. It may then be literally rendered,
'profane shall be Zion; and on it shall our eye look:' but this word
is often taken metaphorically for condemnation. The meaning then is,
'Zion is now condemned:' and the Prophet, no doubt, intended to
intimate here, that the enemies would so triumph, as though Zion
were not under the guardianship of God; as when any one, who has
rendered himself hateful by his vices, is left and forsaken by his
patrons. So, then, the Prophet here arms the faithful against the
arrogance of their enemies, that they might not despair, when they
found that they were condemned by the consent of all men, and that
this was the opinion of all, - that they were forsaken by God.
    Consolation follows, "But they know not the thoughts of
Jehovah, nor understand his counsel": for verbs in the past tense
have the meaning of the present. Here the Prophet recalls the
attention of the godly to a subject the most suitable to them: for
when the wicked rise up so cruelly against us, we are apt to think
that all things are allowed to them, and then their reproaches and
slanders immediately take possession of our minds and thoughts, so
that we in a manner measure God's judgment by their words. Hence
when the ungodly deride our faith, and boast that we are forsaken by
God, we succumb, being as it were filled with amazement: and nothing
is easier than to shake off from us faith and the memory of God's
promises, whenever the ungodly are thus insolent. The Prophet then
does not without cause apply a remedy which ought to be carefully
observed by us. "Who say, condemned is Zion"; but they are like the
blind when judging of colours, "for they understand not the counsel
of Jehovah and his thoughts they know not". We now then see what the
Prophet had in view, which was to show, - that the faithful would be
unwise and foolish, if they formed an opinion of God's judgment
according to the boasting of the ungodly: for Satan carries them
away in a furious manner; and when the Lord gives them liberty to do
evil, they think that they shall be conquerors to the end. As then
the ungodly are thus inebriated with foolish confidence, and despise
not only men, but God himself, the Prophet here holds up and
supports the minds of the godly that they might ascend higher, and
thus understand that the design of God was not the same as what the
wicked thought, who neither belonged to nor approached God.
    It is especially needful to know this truth. Some at the first
sight may think it frigid, "O! than, what does the Prophet mean? he
says that what these declare is not the design of Jehovah; and this
we know." But were all to examine the subject, they would then
confess with one mouth, that nothing could have been more seasonable
than this consolation. Now we are wounded by reproaches, and this
very often happens to ingenuous men; and then, while the ungodly
vomit forth their slanders, we think that God rests indifferently in
heaven; and one of their words, like a cloud, obscures the judgment
of God. As soon as any one of the wicked derides us, and laughs at
our simplicity, threatens ferociously, and spreads forth his
terrors, his words, as I have said, are like a cloud intervening
between us and God. This is the reason why the Prophet says here,
that the thoughts of Jehovah are different, and that his counsel is
different: in short, the Prophet's object is to show, that whenever
the ungodly thus proudly despise us, and also reproachfully threaten
and terrify us, we ought to raise our thoughts to heaven. - Why so?
Because the design of God is another. Their boastings then will
vanish, for they arise from nothing, and they shall come to nothing,
but the purpose of God shall stand.
    But let us now see why the Prophet spoke here of the design and
thoughts of God: for if only these two words are brought before us,
there is certainly but little solid comfort, and nothing that has
much force or power. There is then another principle to be
understood, - that the thoughts of God are known to us, who are
taught in his school. The counsel of God then is not hidden, for it
is revealed to us in his Word. Consolation therefore depends on a
higher and a more recondite doctrine; that is, that the faithful, in
their miseries, ought to contemplate the counsel of God as in a
mirror. And what is this? that when he afflicts us, he holds a
remedy in his hand, and that when he throws us into the grave, he
can restore us to life and safety. When, therefore, we understand
this design of God, - that he chastens his Church with temporal
evils, and that the issue will ever be most salutary, - when this is
known by us, there is then no reason why the slanders of the ungodly
should deject our minds; and when they vomit forth all their
reproaches, we ought to adhere firmly to this counsel of God. But
that the ungodly are thus proud is no matter of wonder; for if they
raise their horns against God, why should they not despise us also,
who are so few in number, and of hardly any influence, at least not
equal to what they possess? The Church is indeed contemptible in the
eyes of the world; and it is no wonder if our enemies thus deride
us, and load us with ridicule and contempt, when they dare to act so
frowardly towards God. But it is enough for us to know, that they do
not understand the counsel of God. We now then see the Prophet's
meaning, and an explanation follows, -
    "For thou shalt assemble them", he says, "as a sheaf to the
floor". The Prophet adds this clause as an explanation, that we may
know what the counsel of God is, which he has mentioned, and that
is, that God will collect the enemies as a sheaf. What is a sheaf?
It is a small quantity of corn, it may be three hundred or a
thousand ears of corn: they are ears of corn, and carried in a man's
hand. And then, what is to be done with the sheaf? It is to be
thrashed on the floor. It was indeed difficult to believe, that
enemies, when thus collected together on every side, would be like a
sheaf. If an army assembled against us, not only ten or twenty
thousand, but a much larger number, who would think, according to
the judgment of the flesh, that they would be like a sheaf? They
shall be as so many deaths and graves: even the thought of God ought
to be to us of more account than the formidable power of men.
Whenever, therefore, our enemies exceed us in strength and number,
let us learn to arise to that secret counsel of God, of which our
Prophet now speaks; and then it will be easy for us to regard a vast
multitude to be no more than a handful. And he says, that our
enemies are to be gathered to a floor, that they may be thrashed
there. They assemble themselves for another purpose; for they think
that we shall be presently in their power, that they may swallow us
up; but when they thus collect themselves and their forces, the Lord
will frustrate their purpose and cause them to be thrashed by us. It
follows, -
    "Arise and thrash, daughter of Zion; for I have made thy horn
iron, and thy hoofs brass". The Prophet here confirms what he had
previously said: and he exhorts the daughter of Zion to arise; for
it was necessary for her to have been cast down, so as to lie
prostrate on the ground. God did not indeed restore at once his
Church, but afflicted her for a time, so that she differed nothing
from a dead man. As then a dead body lies on the ground without any
feeling, so also did the Church of God lie prostrate. This is the
reason why the Prophet now says, Arise, daughter of Zion; as though
God, by his voice, roused the dead. We hence see, that the word
"kumi" is emphatical; for the Prophet reminds us, that there is no
reason for the faithful wholly to despair, when they find themselves
thus cast down, for their restoration is in the hand and power of
God, as it is the peculiar office of God to raise the dead. And this
same truth ought to be applied for our us, whenever we are so cast
down, that no strength, no vigor, remains in us. How then can we
rise again? By the power of God, who by his voice alone can restore
us to life, which seemed to be wholly extinct.
    He afterwards subjoins, "Thrash, for I have made thy horn iron,
and thy hoofs brass. A mode of thrashing, we know, was in use among
the Jews the same with that in Italy and at this day in French
Provence. We here thrash the corn with flails; but there by
treading. The Prophet speaks here of this custom, and compares the
Church of God to oxen; as though he said "The Jews shall be like
oxen with iron horns and brazen hoofs that they may lay prostrate
under them the whole strength of the nations. However much then the
nations may now excel, I will subject them under the feet of my
people, as if sheaves were thrashed by them."
    He then adds, "And thou shalt separate or consecrate their
wealth to Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole
earth." Here the Prophet specifies the end for which God had
purposed to subject the heathen nations to his chosen people, - that
he might be glorified. This is the meaning. But they have refined
too much in allegories, who have thought that this prophecy ought to
be confined to the time of Christ: for the Prophet no doubt meant to
extend consolation to the whole kingdom of Christ, from the
beginning to the end. Others, not more correctly, say, that this is
to be referred to the Babylonian captivity because then Daniel and
some others thrashed the people, when heathen kings were induced
through their teaching to restore the temple, and also to offer some
worship to the God of Israel. But on this point they are both
mistaken, because they take the word thrashing in a different sense
from the Prophet; for it commonly means that heathen nations are to
be subjected to the Church of God: and this takes place, whenever
God stretches forth his hand to the faithful, and suffers not the
ungodly to exercise their cruelty as they wish; yea, when he makes
them humbly to supplicate the faithful. This often happens in the
world, as it is written of Christ, 'thy enemies shall lick the
earth,' (Ps. 72: 9.) But this prophecy shall not be fulfilled until
the last coming of Christ. We indeed begin to tread on our enemies
whenever God by his power destroys them, or at least causes them to
tremble and to be cast down, as we find that they dread whenever any
change takes place; and then they blandly profess that they desire
to serve God. So at this day it has happened both in France and in
Italy. How many hypocrites, for the sake of an earthly advantage,
have submitted themselves to God? and how many such England produced
when the Gospel flourished there? All the courtiers, and others who
were unwilling to incur the displeasure of the king, professed
themselves to be the very best lovers of religion. But yet this is
ever the case, 'Aliens have been false to thee,' (Ps. 18: 44.)
    We hence see what the prophet means when he speaks of
thrashing: he intimates, that the Lord would often cause that the
enemies of the Church should be bruised, though no one crushed them:
but, as I have said, we must look forward to the last day, if we
wish to see the complete fulfillment of this prophecy.
    He afterwards adds, "Thou shalt consecrate their wealth to
Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth". The
Prophet shows here, that the dominion is not to be hoped for by the
children of God, that they may abound in worldly pleasures, and
appropriate every thing to themselves and also abuse their power, as
ungodly men are wont to do; but that all is to be applied to the
worship and the glory of God. For what purpose, then does God design
his Church to become eminent? That he himself may alone shine forth,
and that the faithful may rightly enjoy their honor, and not become
thereby proud. There is, therefore nothing more alien to the power
of the Church than pride, or cruelty, or avarice. This, then that is
said ought to be carefully observed, their wealth thou shalt
consecrate to Jehovah. He had spoken before of power, "Thou shalt
bind strong people, thou shalt thrash them, and thou shalt tread
them under thy feet;" but lest the faithful should turn all this to
a purpose the Lord had not designed, a most suitable correction is
immediately added, and that is, that this power shall not be
exercised according to the will of men, but according to the will of
God: Thou shalt then consecrate, &c.; and he uses the word "charam",
which means to make a thing an anathema or an offering; as though he
said "God will raise his Church that it may rule over its enemies;
but let the faithful at the same time take heed, that they rule not
tyrannically; for God designs ever to reign alone: therefore the
whole excellency, the whole dignity, the whole power of the Church
ought to be applied for this end, - that all things may become
subject to God, and every thing among the nations may be altogether
sacred to him so that the worship of God may flourish among the
conquerors, as well as among the conquered." We now perceive the
Prophet's object in speaking of consecrating the wealth of the
nations. Now follows -


Chapter 5.

Micah 5:1,2
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid
siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod
upon the cheek.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the
thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me
[that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from
of old, from everlasting.
    
    To encourage the faithful to patience, the Prophet again
reminds them that hard and severe time was nigh; for it was needful
to put them in mind often of the approaching calamity, lest terror
should wholly discourage them. As then there was danger from
despair, the Prophet often repeats what he has already said of God's
judgment, which was then suspending over the people of Israel. And
this mode and order of teaching ought to be observed. When the
Prophets threaten us, or denounce the punishment we have deserved,
we either become torpid, or grow angry with God, and murmur: but
when they set forth any thing of comfort, we then indulge ourselves
and become too secure. It is therefore necessary to connect
threatening with promises, so that we may be always ready to endure
temporal evils, and that our minds, sustained by hope, may, at the
same time, depend on the Lord, and recomb on him. It was for this
reason that the Prophet again mentions what he had already several
times stated, - that the Jews would be surrounded by a siege. How do
these two things agree, - that the enemies, assembled together,
would be like sheaves which are taken to the floor to be trodden by
the feet of animals, - and that the Jews would be besieged? I
answer, that these things harmonize, because the temporary
punishment, which God would inflict on his Church, would not prevent
him to restore it again whenever it pleased him. Lest, therefore,
security should creep over the minds of the godly, the Prophet
designed often to remind them of that dreadful calamity which might
have entirely upset them, had no support been afforded them, that
is, had not God sustained them by his word.
    "Now then thou shalt assemble thyself", he says, "O daughter of
a troop". The verb "titgoddi", and the noun "gedud", sound alike; as
though he said, "Thou shalt he collected, O daughter of collection."
The Prophet addresses Jerusalem: but we must see why he calls her
the daughter of collection. Some think that by this word is
designated the splendid and wealthy state of Jerusalem; as though
the Prophet said, - "This city has been hitherto populous, but now
it shall be reduced to such straits that none shall dare to go forth
beyond its gates, for they shall on every side be surrounded." But
the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop in another
sense, - because they were wont to occasion great troubles: as
thieves agree together, and meet in troops for the purpose of
committing plunder; so also the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter
of a troop, for its citizens were wont willfully to do great evils,
and like robbers to use violence. Thou then, he says, shalt now be
collected; that is, thou shalt not send forth thy troops, but
enemies shall assemble thee together by a severe siege, so that thou
shalt contract thyself like a bundle.
    There are, then, two clauses in this verse, - that though the
Lord resolved to help his Church, he would yet straiten her for a
time, - and then the Prophet shows the reason, lest they complained
that they were too severely treated: "You have been hitherto," he
says, "without a cause oppressive to others: the time then is come
when the Lord will return to you your recompense." As Isaiah says
'Woe to thee, plunderer! Shalt thou not also be exposed to plunder?'
Isa. 33: 1; so also in this place, - "Ye have assembled in troops,
that ye might pillage innocent men; therefore other troops shall now
encircle you; nay, ye shall be beset by your own fear." The verb is
in Hithpael: he says not, "Thou daughter of a troop shalt be now
encircled;" but he says "Thou shalt gather thyself."
    He then adds, "A siege has he set against thee". This may refer
to God; but it must be understood only of enemies: for the Prophet
immediately adds, "They shall strive with the rod", &c. in the
pleural number, - "They shall then strike with the rod the cheek of
the judge of Israel". He means that the Jews would be subdued by
their enemies that their judges and governors would be exposed to
every kind of contumely and dishonor, for to strike on the cheek is
to offer the greatest indignity; as indeed it is the greatest
contempt, as Demosthenes says, and is so mentioned by the lawyers.
We now then perceive, that the Prophet's object was to show, - that
the Jews in vain boasted of their kingdom and civil constitution,
for the Lord would expose the governors of that kingdom to extreme
contempt. The enemies then shall strike their judges even on the
cheek".
    But there follows immediately a consolation: we hence see that
the Prophet, at one time, humbles the children of God: and prepares
them for enduring the cross; and then he mitigates all sorrow; yea,
and makes them to rejoice in the midst of their evils. For this
purpose he adds what follows -
    "Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, art small, that thou shouldest be
among the thousands of Judah". As Matthew quotes this passage
differently, some think that it ought to be read as a question, "And
thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art thou the least among the provinces of
Judah?" Matthew says "Thou art by no means the least, thou
excellest. But what need there is of distorting the words of the
Prophet, as it was not the design of the Evangelist to relate the
expressions of the Prophet, but only to point out the passage. As to
the words, Matthew had regards to the condition of the town
Bethlehem, such as it was at the coming of Christ. It then indeed
began to be eminent: but the Prophet represents here how ignoble and
mean a place Bethlehem then was, "Thou, he says, art the least among
the thousands of Judah". Some, not very wisely, give this
explanation, "Thou art the least among the thousands of Judah"; that
is, "Though there might be a thousand towns in the tribe of Judah,
yet thou couldest hardly have a place among so great a number." But
this has been said through ignorance of a prevailing custom: for the
Jews, we know, were wont to divide their districts into thousands or
chiliads. As in the army there are centurions, so also in the
divisions of every nation there are hundreds; there are also in an
army tribunes, who preside over a thousand men. Thus the Prophet
calls them thousands, that is, tribunes; for the districts are so
arranged, that the town, which, with its villages, could bring forth
three thousand men, had three prefectures; and it had three
tribunes, or four or five, if it was larger. The Prophet then, in
order to show that this town was small and hardly of any account,
says, "Thou, Bethlehem, art hardly sufficient to be one province."
And it was a proof of its smallness that hardly a thousand men could
be made up from Bethlehem and its neighbouring villages. There were
not, we know, many towns in the tribe of Judah; and yet a large army
could be there collected. Since then the town of Bethlehem was so
small, that it could hardly attain the rank of a province, it is
hence no doubt evident that it was but a mean town. We now perceive
what the Prophet had in view.
    Thou, Bethlehem, he says, art small among the cities of Judah;
yet arise, or go forth, for me shall one from thee, who is to be a
Ruler in Israel. He calls it Bethlehem Ephratah; for they say that
there was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulon, and we know
that Ephratah in meaning is nearly the same with Bethlehem; for both
designate an abundance of fruit or provisions: and there David was
born.
    I will now proceed to the second clause, "From thee shall go
forth for me one who is to be a Ruler". Here the Prophet introduces
God as the speaker, go forth, he says, shall one for me. God
declares in this passage that it was not his purpose so to destroy
his people, but that he intended, after a season, to restore them
again. He therefore recalls the attention of the faithful to himself
and to his eternal counsel; as though he said, - "I have thus for a
time cast you away, that I may yet manifest my care for you." For me
then shall go forth one who is to be a Ruler in Israel. Now there is
no doubt but that the Prophet at the sable time recalls the
attention of the faithful to the promise which had been given to
David. For whence arises the hope of salvation to the chosen people,
except from the perpetuity of that kingdom? The Prophet now says, -
"There is indeed a reason, according to the perception of the flesh,
why the faithful should despond; for whence does their confidence
arise, except from the kingdom of David? and from what place is
David to arise? Even from Bethlehem; for Bethlehem has been called
the city of David; and yet it is an obscure and a small town, and
can hardly be considered a common province. Since it is so, the
minds of the faithful may be depressed; but this smallness shall be
no hindrance to the Lord, that he should not bring forth from thence
a new king."
    Even before the time of David Bethlehem was a small town, and
one of the most common provinces. Who could have expected that a
king would have been chosen from such a hamlet, and then, that he
should come from a hut? for David belonged to a pastoral family; his
father was a shepherd, and he was the least among his brethren. Who
then could have thought that light would have arisen from such a
corner, yea, from so mean a cottage? This was done contrary to the
expectations of men. Hence the Prophet sets here before the faithful
a similar expectation for their comfort; as though he said, - "Has
not God once formed a most perfect state of things by making David a
king, so that the people became in every respect happy and blessed?
And whence did David come? It was from Bethlehem. There is then no
reason why your present miseries should over-much distress you; for
God can again from the same place bring forth a king to you, and he
will do so."
    "Thou then Bethlehem, small art thou", &c. The prophet
doubtless intended here that the faithful should consider of what
kind was the beginning of that most perfect state, when David was
chosen king. David was a shepherd, a man in humble life, without
reputation, without influence, and even the humblest among his
brethren. Since then God had drawn light out of darkness there was
no cause for the faithful to despair of a future restoration,
considering what had been the beginning of the previous happy
condition of the people. We now understand the Prophet's meaning.
But the rest I cannot finish to-day; I must therefore defer it till
to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Greet, Almighty God, that as we cease not to provoke thy wrath
against us, and as it is needful for us to be often chastised by thy
hand, that we may be humbled and learn to submit ourselves to thee
in true and willing obedience, - O grant, that we faint not under
thy scourges, but ever raise up our minds to the hope of
deliverance, which thou givest to us through our Mediator; whom thou
hast once for all sent into the world, that thou mightest through
him reconcile us to thyself, and through whom also thou bringest
help whenever we need it and may we at the same time learn to rely
on thy only-begotten Son, so that with courageous minds we may pass
through all the miseries of this world, and never at any time grow
weary, until having at length obtained the victory, we come to that
blessed rest and enjoy the fruit of our victory, through the same
Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-first.

    We began yesterday to explain the promise by which our Prophet
designed to sustain the minds of the faithful, lest they should
despair in their heavy trial. He reminds them, as it has been
stated, of the commencement of the kingdom: as David had been raised
as it were from nothing, and God has given in him an example of his
wonderful grace, the Prophet reminds the godly, that the same is now
to be expected, that God will again raise up the fallen kingdom. "Go
forth then from Bethlehem, he says, shall one who is to be a Ruler
in Israel", though it was but a mean town. He calls him a Ruler in
Israel; for he had before declared that there would be such a
dreadful judgment, that the enemy would strike with the hand the
face of the judge; and this was the same as though the Prophet had
said, that no honour would be shown to the people, for the chief
himself would be beaten. He therefore now promises a new Ruler, he
promises that there would be again some civil order to be found
among the people; for a governor could not have been struck on the
check, except all authority and honor had departed. We then see what
the Prophet intended by mentioning the word, Ruler; it was to show,
that God would again cause that a new Prince would arise to govern
the people. It was therefore a remedy to their devastation.
    But the Prophet subjoins, "His going forth is from the
beginning", or from far antiquity "and from the days of ages", that
is from the days of eternity. He intimates here that it would not be
a sudden thing, that a prince should arise to govern the people; for
it had been already long ago determined by God. This is the plain
meaning. Some, I know, pertinaciously maintain, that the Prophet
speaks here of the eternal existence of Christ; and as for myself I
willingly own that the divinity of Christ is here proved to us; but
as this will never be allowed by the Jews, I prefer taking the words
simply as they are, - that Christ will not come forth unexpectedly
from Bethlehem, as though God had previously determined nothing
respecting him. "His goings forth, then, are from the beginning".
But others bring a new refinement, - that the Prophet uses the
plural number, his goings forth, to designate the twofold nature of
Christ: but there is in this an absurdity; for the Prophet could not
properly nor wisely mention the human nature of Christ with the
divine, with reference to eternity. The Word of God, we know, was
eternal; and we know, that when the fulness of time came, as Paul
says, Christ put on our nature, (Gal. 4: 4.) Hence the beginning of
Christ as to the flesh was not so old, if his existence be spoken
of: to set them together then would have been absurd. It is a common
thing in Hebrew to use the plural for the singular number. He says
then, that the going forth of Christ is from eternity; for he will
not go forth suddenly from Bethlehem, as one who rises unexpectedly
to bring help, when things are in a hopeless state, and so rises,
when nothing had been foreseen. But the Prophet declares that the
going forth of Christ would be different, - that God had from the
beginning determined to give his people an eternal king.
    At the same time, we must repudiate that gloss with which the
Rabbis are pleased; for they say that the Messiah was created before
the creation of the world, and also the throne of eternity, and the
Law, and other things; but these are insipid fables. The Prophet
shows simply, that even before the world was made Christ was chief,
no he is also called the Firstborn of every creature, for by him all
things were created, (Col. 1: 15:) and the same Word of God, by whom
the world was created, is to be the Head of the Church and by him
what has been lost is to be recovered. We now then comprehend what
the Prophet meant by saying, the goings forth of Christ are from
eternity. But I would not concede to the Jews, that only by the
perpetual appointment of God the going forth of Christ has been from
the beginning, or from all ages: but two things must be noticed by
us, - that Christ, who was manifested in the flesh that he might
redeem the Church of God, was the eternal Word, by whom the world
was created, - and then, that he ass destined by the eternal counsel
of God to be the first-born of every creature, and especially to be
the Head of the Church, that he might restore a fallen world by his
grace and power.
    We now then see the reason why the Prophet connects together
these two things, - that there would go forth one from Bethlehem who
would rule among Israel, - and yet that his goings forth have been
from eternity: for if he had only said what I explained yesterday,
an objection might easily have been made, and this might have come
into the mind of some, - "Why dost thou say that one will come from
Bethlehem who will govern the chosen people, as though God were to
contrive a new remedy on seeing that it is all over with respect to
the deliverance of his Church?" The Prophet here anticipates this
objection, and reminds us, that his goings forth have been from
eternity, that they have been already decreed, even from the
beginning; for with God there is nothing new, so that he should
stand in need of holding any unlooked for consultation; as is the
case with us when any thing happens which we in no degree
apprehended; we then find it necessary to devise some new measures.
The Prophet shows that nothing of this kind can happen to God: but
all this, - that people are reduced to nothing, - and that they are
again restored by Christ, - all this is overruled by his secret and
incomprehensible providence. His goings forth then are from the
beginning, and from the days of eternity. Let us proceed -

Micah 5:3
Therefore will he give them up, until the time [that] she which
travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren
shall return unto the children of Israel.
    
    The Prophet here again so moderates his words, that the Jews
might understand, that they were to endure many evils before God
relieved their miseries. He wished then here to prepare the minds of
the godly to bear evils, that they might not despair in great
troubles, nor be depressed by extreme fear. He then states these two
things, - that the people, as they deserved, would be heavily
afflicted, - and then that God, notwithstanding such severe
punishment, would be mindful of his covenant, so as to gather at
length some remnants and not to suffer his people to be wholly
destroyed. He therefore promises a middle course between a
prosperous state and destruction. The people, says the Prophet,
shall not continue entire. - How so? For God will cut off the
kingdom and the city; and yet he will afford relief to the
miserable: When they shall think that they are given up to entire
ruin, he will stretch forth his hand to them. This is the sum of the
whole.
    He then says that they shall be delivered up, that is, forsaken
by God, until she who is in travail bringeth forth. There are those
who apply this to the blessed virgin; as though Micah had said that
the Jews were to look forward to the time when the Virgin would
bring forth Christ: but all may easily see that this is a forced
interpretation. The Prophet, I have no doubt, in using this
similitude, compares the body of the people to a woman with child.
The similitude of a woman in travail is variously applied. The
wicked, when they promise to themselves impunity, are suddenly and
violently laid hold on: thus their destruction is like the travail
of a woman with child. But the meaning of this passage is different;
for the Prophet says that the Jews would be like pregnant women, for
this reason, - that though they would have to endure the greatest
sorrows, there yet would follow a joyful and happy issue. And Christ
himself employs this example for the same purpose, 'A woman,' he
says, 'has sorrow when she brings forth, but immediately rejoices
when she sees a man born into the world,' (John 16: 21.) So Micah
says in this place, that the chosen people would have a happy
deliverance from their miseries, for they would bring forth. There
shall indeed be the most grievous sorrows, but their issue will be
joy, that is, when they shall know that they and their salvation had
been the objects of God's care, when they shall understand that
their chastisements had been useful to them. "Until then she who is
in travail bringeth forth, God, he says, will forsake them".
    There are then two clauses in this verse; - the first is, that
the Jews were for a time to be forsaken, as though they were no
longer under the power and protection of God; - the other is that
God would be always their guardian, for a bringing forth would
follow their sorrows. The following passage in Isaiah is of an
opposite character; 'We have been in sorrow, we have been in
travail, and we brought forth wind,' (Isa. 26: 18.) The faithful
complain there that they had been oppressed with the severest
troubles, and had come to the birth, but that they brought forth
nothing but wind, that is, that they had been deceived by vain
expectation, for the issue did not prove to be what they had hoped.
But the Lord promises here by Micah something better, and that is,
that the end of all their evils would be the happy restoration of
the people, as when a woman receives a compensation for all her
sorrows when she sees that a child is born.
    And he confirms this sentence by another, when he says, "To the
children of Israel shall return, or be converted, the residue of his
brethren". The Prophet then intimates that it could not be otherwise
but that God would not only scatter, but tread under foot his
people, so that their calamity would threaten an unavoidable
destruction. This is one thing; but in the meantime he promises that
there would be some saved. But he speaks of a remnant, as we have
observed elsewhere, lest hypocrites should think that they could
escape unpunished, while they trifled with God. The Prophet then
shows that there would come such a calamity as would nearly
extinguish the people, but that some would be preserved through
God's mercy and that beyond ordinary expectation. We now perceive
the intention of the Prophet. It now follows -

Micah 5:4
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the
majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for
now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

    There is no doubt but that the Prophet continues here to speak
of Christ; and though the Jews shamelessly pervert the whole
Scripture, they yet cannot deny that Micah calls here the attention
of all the godly to the coming of Christ, yea, of all who hope or
desire to obtain salvation. This is certain. Let us now see what the
Prophet ascribes to Christ.
    "He shall stand, he says, and feed in the power of Jehovah".
The word, stand, designates perseverance, as though he had said,
that it would not be for a short time that God would gather by
Christ the remnant of the people; that it would not be, as it often
happens, when some rays of joy shine, and then immediately vanish.
The Prophet shows here that the kingdom of Christ would be durable
and permanent. It will then proceed; for Christ will not only rule
his Church for a few days, but his kingdom will continue to stand
through unbroken series of years and of ages. We nor then understand
the Prophet's object.
    He adds in the second place, "He shall feed in the strength of
Jehovah, in the greatness of the name of Jehovah his God"; by which
words he means, that there would be sufficient power in Christ to
defend his Church. The Church, we know, is in this world subject to
various troubles, for it is never without enemies; for Satan always
finds those whom he induces, and whose fury he employs to harass the
children of God. As then the Church of God is tossed by many
tempests, it has need of a strong and invincible defender. Hence
this distinction is now ascribed by our Prophet to Christ, - that he
shall feed in the strength of Jehovah, and in the majesty of his
God. As to the word feed, it no doubt expresses what Christ is to
his people, to the flock committed to him and to his care. Christ
then rules not in his Church as a dreaded tyrant, who distresses his
subjects with fear; but he is a Shepherd who gently deals with his
flock. Nothing therefore can exceed the kindness and gentleness of
Christ towards the faithful, as he performs the office of a
Shepherd: and he prefers to be adorned with this, title, rather than
to be called and deemed a kings, or to assume authority to himself.
But the Prophet, on the other hand, shows, that the power of Christ
would be dreadful to the ungodly and wicked. He shall feed, he says,
- with regard to his flock, Christ will put on a character full of
gentleness; for nothing, as I have said can imply more kindness than
the word shepherd: but as we are on every side surrounded by
enemies, the Prophet adds, -
    "He shall feed in the power of Jehovah and in the majesty of
the name of Jehovah"; that is as much power as there is in God, so
much protection will there be in Christ, whenever it will be
necessary to defend and protect the Church against her enemies. Let
us hence learn that no less safety is to be expected from Christ,
than there is of power in God. Now, since the power of God, as we
confess, is immeasurable, and since his omnipotence far surpasses
and swallows up all our conceptions, let us hence learn to extend
both high and low all our hopes. - Why so? Because we have a King
sufficiently powerful, who has undertaken to defend us, and to whose
protection the Father has committed us. Since then we have been
delivered up to Christ's care and defense, there is no cause why we
should doubt respecting our safety. He is indeed a Shepherd, and for
our sake he thus condescended and refused not so mean a name; for in
a shepherd there is no pomp nor grandeur. But though Christ, for our
sake, put on the character of a Shepherd, and disowns not the
office, he is yet endued with infinite power. - How so? Because he
governs not the Church after a human manner, "but in the majesty of
the name of his God."
    Now, that he subjects Christ to God, he refers to his human
nature. Though Christ is God manifested in the flesh, he is yet made
subject to God the Father, as our Mediator and the Head of the
Church in human nature: he is indeed the middle Person between God
and us. This then is the reason why the Prophet now says, that
Christ has power, as it were, at the will of another; not that
Christ is only man, but as he appears to us in the person of man, he
is said to receive power from his Father; and this, as it has been
said, with respect to his human nature. There is yet another reason
why the Prophet has expressly added this, - that we may know that
Christ, as the protector of the Church, cannot be separated from his
Father: as then God is God, so Christ is his minister to preserve
the Church. In a word, the Prophet means that God is not to be
viewed by the faithful, except through the intervening Mediator; and
he means also that the Mediator is not to be viewed, except as one
who receives supreme power from God himself and who is armed with
omnipotence to preserve his people.
    He afterwards adds, "They shall dwell; for he shall now be
magnified to the extremities of the earth". He promises a secure
habitation to the faithful; for Christ shall be extolled to the
utmost regions of the world. We here see that he is promised to
foreign nations: for it would have been enough for Christ to
exercise his supreme power within the borders of Judea, had only one
nation been committed to his safe keeping. But as God the Father
intended that he should be the author of salvation to all nations,
we hence learn that it was necessary that he should be extolled to
the utmost borders of the earth. But with regard to the word dwell,
it is explained more fully in the next verse, when the Prophet says
-

Micah 5:5
And this [man] shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into
our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we
raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.
    
    Micah, as I have said, confirms his former statement. By the
word dwell, he no doubt meant a quiet and peaceable inhabitation; as
though he had said, that the children of God would, under Christ, be
safe and secure. Now he adds, "And he shall be our peace". It might
have been asked, "Whence will come this secure dwelling? For the
land has been very often wasted, and the people have been at length
driven to exile. How then can we now venture to hope for what thou
promises, that we shall be quiet and secure?" Because, he says, "He
shall be our peace"; and we ought to be satisfied with the
protection of the King whom God the Father has given us. Let his
shadow, then, suffice us, and we shall be safe enough from all
troubles. We now see in what sense the Prophet calls Christ the
Peace of his people or of his Church; he so calls him because he
will drive far away all hurtful things, and will be armed with
strength and invincible power to check all the ungodly, that they
may not make war on the children of God, or to prevent them in their
course, should they excite any disturbances.
    We further know, that Christ is in another way our peace; for
he has reconciled us to the Father. And what would it avail us to be
safe from earthly annoyances, if we were not certain that God is
reconciled to us? Except then our minds acquiesce in the paternal
benevolence of God, we must necessarily tremble at all times, though
no one were to cause us any trouble: nay, were all men our friends,
and were all to applaud us, miserable still would be our condition,
and we should toil with disquietude, except our consciences were
pacified with the sure confidence that God is our Father. Christ
then can be our peace in no other way than by reconciling God to us.
But at the same time the Prophet speaks generally, - that we shall
lie safely under the shadow of Christ, and that no evil ought to be
feared, - that though Satan should furiously assail us, and the
whole worth become mad against us, we ought yet to fear nothing, if
Christ keeps and protects us under his wings. This then is the
meaning, when it is said here that Christ is our peace.
    He afterwards subjoins, "When the Assyrian shall come into our
land, and when he shall tread in our palaces then we shall raise up
against him or on him, seven shepherds and eighty princes of the
people." The Prophet intimates that the Church of God would not be
free from troubles, even after the coming of Christ: for I am
disposed to refer this to the intervening time, though interpreters
put another construction on the words of the Prophet. But this
meaning, is far more suitable, - that while the help which God
promised was expected and yet suspended, the Assyrians would come,
who would pass far and wide through the land of Israel. Hence he
says, that though Assur should come to our land, and break through,
with such force and violence that we could not drive him out, we
shall yet set up for ourselves shepherds and princes against him. It
must at the same time be observed, that this prophecy is not to be
confined to that short time; for the Prophet speaks generally of the
preservation of the Church before as well as after the coming of
Christ; as though he said, - "I have said that the king, who shall
be born to you, and shall go forth from Bethlehem, shall be your
peace; but before he shall be revealed to the world, God will gather
his Church, and there shall emerge as from a dead body Princes as
well as Shepherds, who will repel unjust violence, nay, who will
subdue the Assyrians."
    We now see what the prophet had in view: After having honored
Christ with this remarkable commendation - that he alone is
sufficient to give us a quiet life, he adds that God would be the
preserver of his Church, so as to deliver it from its enemies. But
there is a circumstance here expressed which ought to be noticed:
Micah says, that when the Assyrians shall pass through the land and
tread down all the palaces, God would then become the deliverer of
his people. It might have been objected, and said, "Why not sooner?
Would it have been better to prevent this? Why! God now looks as it
were indifferently on the force of the enemies, and loosens the
reins to them, that they plunder the whole land, and break through
to the very middle of it. Why then does not God give earlier
relief?" But we see the manner in which God intends to preserve his
Church: for as the faithful often need some chastisement, God
humbles them when it is expedient, and then delivers them. This is
the reason why God allowed such liberty to the Assyrians before he
supplied assistance. And we also see that this discourse is so
moderated by the Prophet, that he shows, on the one hand, that the
Church would not always be free from evils, - the Assyrians shall
come, they shall tread down our palaces, - this must be endured by
God's children, and ought in time to prepare their minds to bear
troubles; but, on the other hand, a consolation follows; for when
the Assyrians shall thus penetrate into our land, and nothing shall
be concealed or hidden from them, then the Lord will cause new
shepherds to arise.
    The Prophet means that the body of the people would be for some
time mutilated and, as it were, mangled; and so it was, until they
returned from Exile. For he would have said this to no purpose, "We
shall set up for ourselves", if there had been an unbroken
succession of regular government; he could not have said in that
case, After Assur shall come into our land, we shall set up princes;
but, There shall be princes when Assur shall come. The word "set up"
denotes then what I have stated, - that the Church would be for a
time without any visible head. Christ indeed has always been the
Head of the Church; but as he designed himself to be then seen in
the family of David as in an image or picture, so the Prophet shows
here, that though the faithful would have to see the head cut off
and the Church dead, and like a dead body cast aside, when torn from
its head; yea, that though the Church would be in this state
dreadfully desolated, there is yet a promise of a new resurrection.
We shall then set up, or choose for ourselves shepherds.
    If any one raises an objection and says that it was God's
office to make shepherds for his people, - this indeed I allow to be
true: but this point has not been unwisely mentioned by the Prophet;
for he extols here the favor of God, in granting again their liberty
to his people. In this especially consists the best condition of the
people, when they can choose, by common consent, their own
shepherds: for when any one by force usurps the supreme power, it is
tyranny; and when men become kings by hereditary right, it seems not
consistent with liberty. We shall then set up for ourselves princes,
says the Prophet; that is, the Lord will not only give breathing
time to his Church, and will also cause that she may set up a fixed
and a well-ordered government, and that by the common consent of
all.
    By "seven" and "eight", the Prophet no doubt meant a great
number. When he speaks of the calamities of the Church, it is aid,
'There shall not be found any to govern, but children shall rule
over you.' But the Prophet says here that there would be many
leaders to undertake the care of ruling and defending the people.
The governors of the people shall therefore be seven shepherds and
eight princes; that is, the Lord will endure many by his Spirit,
that they shall be suddenly wise men: though before they were in no
repute, though they possessed nothing worthy of great men, yet the
Lord will enrich them with the spirit of power, that they shall
become fit to rule. The Prophet now adds -

Micah 5:6
And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the
land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver [us]
from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he
treadeth within our borders.
    
    In this verse the Prophet says, that the shepherds, chosen by
the Church, after it had been miserably oppressed by the tyranny of
its enemies, would have a twofold office. They shall first feed;
that is, nourish the Church of God; - and, secondly, they shall
feed; that is, destroy the land of Asshur, so that nothing may
remain there whole and entire. God will then arm these shepherds
with warlike courage; for they must fight boldly and courageously
against their enemies: he says, "They shall feed on the land of
Nimrod with their swords". Nimrod, we know, reigned in Chaldea; and
we know also that the ten tribes were led away by Shalmanezer, and
that the kingdom of Israel was thus demolished: when the Chaldeans
obtained the empire, the kingdom of Judah was also laid waste by
them. Now the import of the words is, that these shepherds would be
sufficiently strong to oppose all the enemies of the Church, whether
they were the Babylonians or the Assyrians. And he names the
Assyrians and Babylonians, because they had then a contest with the
people of God; and this continued to the coming of Christ, though it
is certain that they suffered more troubles from Antiochus than from
others: but as he was one of the successors of Alexander, the
Prophet here, taking a part for the whole, means, by the Assyrians
and Chaldeans, all the enemies of the Church, whoever they might be.
"Waste, he says, shall these shepherds the land of Asshur by the
sword, and the land of Nimrod, and that by their swords.
    But this shall not be until the Chaldeans and the Assyrians
"shall penetrate into our land, and tread in our borders". The
Prophet again reminds the faithful, that they stood in need of
patience, and that they were to know that God had not made a vain
promise. The import of the whole is, that no deliverance was to be
expected from God's hand until the faithful yielded their necks to
his yoke, and patiently sustained the evils which were then
approaching. The Prophet then mentions the intervening time between
that state in which the Jews gloried and their deliverance. Why so?
Because they were soon after to be smitten heavily by God's hand;
but this, as we have seen, they did not think would take place.
Hence he says, - "Since you cannot yet be made to believe that
merited punishment is nigh you, experience shall be your teacher. In
the meantime, let the faithful provide themselves with courage and,
with a meek heart, patiently to submit to God, the righteous Judge:
but, at the same time, let them expect a sure deliverance, when they
shall have gone through all their evils; for when the ripened time
shall come, the Lord will look on his Church; but she must be first
afflicted."
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast from the beginning so
defended thy Church, that thou hast never wholly forsaken her, and
though it had nearly rejected thee by its defections, yet it has
been thy pleasure to stand firm to thy covenant, and to show to it
thy favour through all ages, until at length the everlasting
Redeemer of the whole world appeared, - O grant, that we may
experience the same favor at this day, and though we have in various
ways provoked thy wrath against us, yet do thou so humble us, that
thou mayest sustain us by thy hand; and may we so recumb on those
promises which we find in Scripture, that we may at length by our
patience overcome our enemies, and in patience possess our souls,
until thou raisest up thine hand, and slowest that invincible power
which thou hast given to thy only-begotten Son, that he might
repress the devil and all the wicked, and preserve us safe and
secure from all injuries. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-second.

Micah 5:7,8
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a
dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not
for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of
many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young
lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth
down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

    Mica promises here two things as to the future state of the
Church, - that God shall defend it without the help and aid of men,
- and that he will supply it with strength, so that it will become
superior to all enemies. In the first place, to show that the
preservation of the Church depends on the mere favor of God, and
that there is no need of any earthly aids, he makes use of a most
suitable similitude; he says, that the people of God are like a dewy
meadow. The Prophet speaks not what is strictly correct; for what he
says of the rain and dew is to be applied to the grass or the
meadow. "The residue of Jacob, he says, shall be as dew from
Jehovah, and drops of rain on the grass". This cannot be applied
according to the design of the Prophet, except you take the dew, as
I have already said, for the dewy meadows or for the grass, which
draws moisture and vigor from the rains. The sense indeed is by no
means obscure, which is, - that God will make his people to grow
like the grass, which is fed only by celestial dew, without any
culture or labour on the part of men: and this is also what the
Prophet expressly mentions; for he says, that the grass of which he
speaks waits not for men, nor grows through men's care, but grows
through the dew of heaven.
    But that we may better understand the Prophet's intention, I
shall briefly notice the words. "There shall be, he says, the
residue of Jacob". He shows here that the whole people would not he
preserved; for he had before spoken of their destruction. We hence
see that this promise is to be confined to the seed, which God had
wonderfully preserved in the calamitous state of the Church, yea,
even in its almost total destruction. Then this promise belongs not
to the whole body of the people, but to a small number; and hence he
uses as before, the word "she'erit", a remnant or residue. There
shall then be the residue of Jacob; that is, though the people shall
nearly all perish, yet there shall be some residue.
    He then adds, "Among great or many nations". There is here a
contrast between the remnants and great nations: and the Prophet has
not unnecessarily added the expression "bekerev", in the midst.
There are then three things to be observed here, - that God does not
promise deliverance to the whole people, but to a residue only, -
and then, that he promises this deliverance among powerful or many
nations, as though he said, - "Though the Church of God shall not
excel in number, nay, so great may be the number of its enemies, as
to be sufficient to overwhelm it, yet God will cause it to grow and
to propagate: in a word, its enemies, though many in number, and
strong in force and power, shall not yet hinder the Lord, that he
should not increase his Church more and more;" - and the third
particular is what the expression, "in the midst", intimates, and
that is, that the people of God shall be besieged on every side.
When enemies come upon us only from one part, it is not so very
distressing, but when they surround us, being in front, and behind,
and on both sides, then our condition seems miserable indeed; for
when they thus press on us on all sides, they hardly allow us time
to draw our breath. But the Prophet declares, that though surrounded
on all sides by enemies, yet the Church would be safe.
    He now adds, "ketal m'et Jehovah", As a dew from Jehovah; that
is, it shall be, as I have said, as the grass, which is nourished
and grows by means of dew from heaven, and as grass, which
flourishes, not through the culture or labour of men, but which God
himself makes to grow. He might have merely said, as the dew, but he
adds, from Jehovah, that he might make a distinction between God and
man, and show that the power of God is alone sufficient to support
and sustain the Church, though men brought no assistance. And this
is expressed more clearly in the next clause, when he says, "As
drops of rain on the grass, which waits not for man, nor tarries for
the sons of men". We now then see that the faithful have their
attention called to God alone, that they may understand that they
are to be safe through his favour, that if all helps on earth
failed, they ought not to fear, since they can be effectually
sustained by the power of God alone: for God makes grass to grow on
mountains and in meadows without the help and labour of man; and
thus he can defend his Church without any foreign aid, but by his
own hidden, and, so to speak, his own intrinsic power.
    Then follows this promise, - that God will arm his people with
invincible and irresistible power, that they may be superior to all
their enemies. Hence he says, that "the residue of Israel shall be
like a lion among the beasts of the forests and like a young lion
among a flock of sheep. As a strong lion then is superior to other
beasts, and as a young lion dares ferociously to attack a flock of
sheep; so he says, the people of Israel shall be; they shall be like
lions, filling their enemies with terror, yea, and plundering and
scattering them, so that no one will dare to resist them. The
Prophet, by speaking thus, does not mean, that the people of God
would be cruel and sanguinary: for we know that when the Prophets
use similes of this kind, they express something not strictly
suitable; for who would be so foolish as to select every thing that
belongs to a lion, and apply it to the Church of God. Then the
reason for this similitude must be observed; it was to show, that
the faithful shall be endued with a power so superior to that of
their enemies, that they shall be a terror to them. It does not
hence follow that they shall be cruel.
    But we must, at the same time, see what the Lord promises to
his Church. Though God then recommends to his children the spirit of
meekness, yet the faithful may still be a thread to their enemies;
they ought, however, to observe what is just towards them, and to
keep themselves within proper bounds. And yet Micah says, that they
shall be endued with such power that they shall drive their enemies
afar off; yea, that they shall plunder and tear them in pieces,
while no one will be able to resist them. But these two things are
necessary as to the preservation of the Church, that God may make it
grow; for except it be miraculously increased, it can never grow;
and then it has need of a strong and powerful defense against her
enemies; for we know that there are always wicked men who oppose the
Church, yea, who apply all their powers to destroy it: it is
therefore necessary that it should be supplied by the Lord with
invincible strength, as our Prophet declares here. Let us proceed -

Micah 5:9
Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine
enemies shall be cut off.
    
    He confirms what is said in the last verse, and expresses in
other words what he meant, and what we have explained, - that though
the Church must contend with many strong and violent enemies, it
will not yet fail, for the Lord will supply it with strength from
heaven. "Exalted, he says, shall be thy hand, that all thine enemies
may be cut off". He promises not that the Church shall be in a quiet
state, but victorious, and declares also that there will never be
wanting enemies. This promise, then, ought to arm us for enduring
patiently, as we cannot conquer except by fighting. As then there
will be always enemies to oppose the Church of God; yea, to attempt
its ruin, the Prophet says here, Exalted shall be thy hand above
thine enemies.
    But it may be asked, When has this promise been fulfilled? For
we know that since the people had been led away into the Babylonian
exile, they had always been either tributaries, or kept under cruel
tyranny, or at least had been unequal to their enemies. But this
principle ought ever to be remembered, - that the faithful ought to
be satisfied with victory, - that however hard they may be pressed,
and however constant may be the contests which they have to carry
on, and however wearisome, this one thing ought still to be
sufficient for them - that they shall not wholly perish. And it
appears evident, that God's people have always been preserved by his
invincible hand, however numerous have been their opposing enemies.
We must also keep in mind what we have just heard, - that the
promise here is not made to the whole people, but to a residue only.
And it surpasses the expectation of the whole world, that even a
small member could have survived so many slaughters, by which they
might have been swallowed up a hundred times. Now then we see that
it had not been without reason promised to the faithful, that they
should be made conquerors over all their enemies. But this has not
been really fulfilled, except under the conflict of the cross. It
now follows -

Micah 5:10-15
10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I
will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy
thy chariots:
11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy
strong holds:
12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt
have no [more] soothsayers:
13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images
out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of
thine hands.
14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will
I destroy thy cities.
15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen,
such as they have not heard.
    
    There is introduced here a most necessary admonition, in order
that the faithful may know, how they are to be preserved by the hand
and favor of God, even when they shall be stripped of all their
helps, yea, even when God shall take away all those impediments,
which would otherwise close up the way against his favor. The sum of
the whole then is, - that the Church shall not otherwise be saved by
God's kindness than by being deprived of all her strength and
defenses, and also by having her obstacles removed by God, even
those which in a manner prevented his hand from being put forth to
save his people. For the Prophet mentions here cities, then
fortified places, he mentions horses and chariots. These, we know,
are not in themselves to be condemned: but he means, that as the
people foolishly placed confidence in earthly things, the salvation
of God could not otherwise come to them than by stripping them of
all vain and false confidence. This is one thing. Then, on the other
hand, he mentions groves, he mentions carved images and statues, he
mentions augurs and diviners: these were corruptions, which closed
the door against the favor of God; for a people, given to idolatry,
could not call upon God nor hope in him as the author of salvation.
We now then perceive the Prophet's design. It now remains for me to
run over the words.
    He says first, "It shall be in that day, saith Jehovah, that I
will cut off thine horses." Here the Prophet enumerates those things
which could not in themselves be ascribed to any thing wrong: for as
God has created horses for the use of men, so also he allows them to
be for our service. Why then does the Prophet say, that the Church
could not be delivered, except horses were taken away? It was owing
to an accidental fault; for when men abound in forces, they
instantly fix their hope on them. As then such an abuse of God's
gifts had prevailed among the people of Israel, it was necessary
that horses should be taken away. God indeed could have humbled
their minds or withdrawn their confidence from their horses and
chariots: but it hence appears how deep are the roots of presumption
in the hearts of men, that they cannot be otherwise torn up, than by
having the things themselves cut off. To have horses and to have
chariots is the bounty of God: for how can we have chariots and
horses and other things, except through God's kindness? And yet God
cannot find a way by which he can do us good, except by taking away
his former gifts. Here then Micah touches the hearts of the people
much more sharply than before, when he says, that salvation cannot
proceed from the Lord, except their horses were destroyed; as though
he said, - "Ye see how great is your wickedness; God has hitherto
dealt bountifully with you, since he has enriched yon, and has also
given you horses. Now as he sees that you abuse these gifts, he
complains that all ways of access to you are closed up, as ye do not
receive his kindness. Inasmuch as your horses and your chariots
engross your attention, ye in a manner drive God far away from you.
That he may therefore come to you, he will open a way for himself by
removing all the obstacles and hindrances."
    We hence learn, that though all God's benefits ought to raise
us up to heaven, serving as kinds of vehicles, they are yet turned,
through our wickedness, to another purpose, and are made intervening
obstacles between us and God. Hereby then is our ingratitude proved;
and hence it comes, that God, when he intends to make his salvation
known to us is in a manner constrained to take away and remove from
us his benefits. We now then understand what the Prophet had in view
when he mentioned horses and chariots. For he does not threaten
here, as some think, that the people would be merely deprived of all
God's gifts that they might see in their destitution and want only
signs of a curse; by no means, but it is rather a promise, that is,
that God will turn aside all impediments by which he was for a time
prevented from bringing help to his people. This doctrine ought at
the same time to avail for bringing no ordinary comfort. It is hard
and bitter to the flesh to be brought down. Hence the people of
Israel were little able at first to bear their lot with submission,
when they saw themselves stripped of God's benefits: but the Prophet
sets before them a compensations which was capable of soothing all
their grief, - "This," he says, "shall be for your chief good - that
God will deprive you of horses and chariots; for the way which your
horses and chariots now occupy shall be cleared. While ye are
replenished with abundant forces, ye drive away God far from you,
and there is no way open for him. He will therefore prepare a way
for himself; and this will be the case when your land shall be made
naked, when nothing will intervene to prevent him from coming to
you."
    He afterwards subjoins, I will cut off the cities of thy land,
and I will destroy all thy fortresses. This verse is to be taken in
the same sense. That the people dwelt in fortified cities, and had
defenses and fortified places, was not of itself displeasing to God.
But as the people habituated themselves to a false confidence, and
as it were hardened themselves in it, so that this evil could not be
remedied without taking away those things to which it is attached,
the Prophet says here, "I will cut off the cities of your land," and
then, "I will cut off your defenses and fortified places". Is it
that they may be plundered with impunity by their enemies? By no
means, but that the favor of God may be made glorious in their
deliverance. For they could not ascribe it to their cities that they
kept off enemies, but were constrained to acknowledge the hand of
God, and to confess him to have been their only deliverer; for they
were exposed to enemies, and there was no aid for them in the land.
God then will thus render more evident his favor, when their cities
and fortified places shall be cut off. We hence learn that the
faithful at this day have no cause to murmur if they are without
great riches, and if they are not formidable for the multitude of
their horses, nor for the number and strength of their men. Why so?
Because it is the Lord's will that we should be like sheep, that we
might depend wholly on his power, and know that we cannot be
otherwise safe than under his protection. This reason then ought to
comfort us, that it may not be grievous to us, when we find that we
are in the midst of wolves, and that we have no equal strength to
contend with them; for even this destitution hardly extorts from us
a real confession that our safety is in the hand of God. We are
always proud. How would it be, were the Church at this day in a
flourishing state and all enemies subdued, were there no danger, no
fear? Surely earth and heaven could not bear the foolish
self-confidence of men. There is therefore no wonder that God thus
holds us in, and that while he supports us by his grace, he deprives
us of all earthly helps and aids, that we may learn that he alone is
the author of our salvation.
    This truth ought to be carefully contemplated by us. Whenever
we see that the Church of God, though not possessing any great
power, is yet diminished daily, yea, and becomes, so to speak, like
a naked land, without any defenses, it so happens, in order that the
protection of God may be alone sufficient for us, and that he may
wholly tear away from our hearts all haughtiness and pride, and
dissipate all those vain confidences by which we not only obscure
the glory of God, but, as far as we can, entirely cover it over. In
short, as there is nothing better for us than to be preserved by the
hand of God, we ought to bear patiently the removal of all those
impediments which close up the way against God, and, in a manner,
keep off his hand from us, when he is ready to extend it for the
purpose of delivering us. For when our minds are inflated with
foolish self-confidence, we neglect God; and thus a wall intervenes,
which prevents him to help us. Who would not wish, seeing himself in
extreme danger and help not far distant, that an intercepting wall
should immediately fall down? Thus God is near at hand, as he has
promised; but there are many walls and many obstacles, from the ruin
of which, if we would be safe, we must desire and seek, that God may
find an open and free way, in order that he may be able to afford us
aid.
    The Prophet comes now to the second kind of impediments. We
have already said that some things become impediments, as it were,
accidentally, when, through our wickedness and misapplication, we
turn God's benefits to an end contrary to what he has designed. If,
for instance, horses and chariots are given us, to possess them is
not in itself an evil, but becomes so through our blindness, that
is, when we, blinded by earthly possessions, think ourselves safe,
and thus neglect God. But there are other impediments, which are, in
their nature, and in themselves, vicious. To these the Prophet now
leads us.
    "I will cut off, he says, the sorcerers, "keshafim". Some
render the word jugglers, and others, augurs or diviners. We cannot
know of a certainty what kind of superstition it was, nor the other
which immediately follows: for the Prophet mentions here two words
which mean nearly the same thing. There is no doubt but that some,
in that age, were called augurs or diviners, and others called
jugglers or astrologers who are now called fortune-tellers. But on
this subject there is no necessity of much labour; for the Prophet
simply shows here that the people could not be preserved by Gods
unless they were cleansed from these defilements. These
superstitions, we know, were forbidden and condemned by God's Law:
but the Law was not able to restrain the wickedness of that people;
for they continually turned aside to these evils. God then here
shows, that until they had purged the Church, it could not continue
safe. Now, in these words, the Prophet reminds the Jews, and also
the Israelites, for their benefit, that it was, and had been,
through their own fault, that they labored under constant miseries
and were not helped by the hand of God. - How so? Because there was
no room, as God shows here, for the exercise of his favour; for they
were full of auguries and divinations, and of other diabolical arts.
"How," he says, "can I help you, for I have no agreement with Satan?
As you are wholly given to wicked superstitions, my favor is
rejected by you."
    One thing is, that the Prophet intended to humble the people,
so that every one might know that it had been through their fault,
that God had not brought them help as they wished: but there is
another thing, - God promises a cleansing, which would open a way
for his favor, - I will take away, he says, all the diviners. Let us
then know, that it ought to be deemed the greatest benefit when God
takes away from us our superstitions and other vices. For since a
diminution, however hard and grievous it may be at first, is useful
to us, as we see, when we willfully and openly drive away God from
us; is it not a singular favor in God when he suffers us not to be
thus separated from him, but prepares a way for himself to be
connected with us, and has ever his hand extended to bring us help?
Thus much as to these two kinds of impediments.
    He now adds, "I will cut off thy graven images and thy statues
from the midst of thee; and thou shalt not hereafter bend down
before the works of thine hands". This verse is plain and contains
nothing new: for the Prophet teaches that God cannot become
propitious to his Church, to keep and make her safe, until he purges
her from her filth, even from idolatry and other vices, by which the
worship of God was corrupted, or even entirely subverted. I will,
therefore, cut off thy graven images and statues from the midst of
thee. We see that God anticipates us by his gratuitous goodness, not
only by forgiving us, but also by calling us back, when wandering,
into the right way. Since then we have deviated from the right way,
and God thus withdraws his hand that it might appear that he has
cast us away it is certain that we ought not only to pray him to
have mercy on us, but also to ascribe to him a higher favor,
inasmuch as he takes away the very impediments which separate us
from him, and suffer him not to come nigh us. We hence see that God
is not only inclined to pardon when men repent, but that it is his
peculiar office to remove the obstacles.
    This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may know that our
salvation, from the first beginning, proceeds from the mere favor of
God, - and that we may also learn, that all those things, of which
the Papists vainly talk respecting preparations, are mere figments.
    He then adds, "thou shalt not bend hereafter before the work of
thine hands". God expresses here the cause why he so much abominates
idols, even because he sees that his honor is transferred to them:
this is one thing. He further arraigns the Jews as guilty, while he
makes evident their defection: for surely nothing could have been
more shameful, than to take away from God his honor and worship, and
to transfer them to dead things; and he says here by way of
reproach, that they were the work of their hands. What can be more
insane, than for men to ascribe divinity to their own inventions, or
to believe that it is in the power of men to make a god from wood or
stone? This is surely monstrous in the extreme. Then the Prophet by
this form of speaking aggravates the sin of the people of Israel,
that is, when he says that they bowed the head before the work of
their oven hands.
    He afterwards subjoins, "I will take away thy groves". The
groves, we know, formed a part of their idolatry: they are therefore
mentioned here as an addition by the Prophet. For he speaks not
simply of trees, but refers to the wicked practices of the people:
for wherever there were high and lofty trees, they thought that
something divine was hid under their shade; hence their
superstition. When therefore the Prophet mentions groves, it must be
understood of vicious and false modes of worship; for they thought
that those places acquired a sort of sanctity from the trees; as
they also thought that they were nearer to God when they were on a
hill. We hence see that this verse is to be connected with the last;
as though the Prophet had said, that the Church could not be in
safety and recover her pristine vigor, without being well cleansed
from all the filth of idolatry. For we indeed know that some pious
kings when they took away idols did not cut down the groves; and
this exception to their praise is added, that they worshipped God,
but that the high places were suffered to stand. We see that the
Holy Spirit does not fully commend those kings who did not destroy
the groves. - Why? Because they were the materials of corruption.
And further, had the Jews been really penitent, they would have
exterminated those groves by which they had so shamefully abused and
profaned the worship of God. The sum of the whole then is, that when
God shall have well cleansed his Church and wiped away all its
stains, he will then become the unfailing preserver of its safety.
    He afterwards subjoins, And "I will destroy thy enemies".
"'Areycha" may be rendered, enemies, and many so render it: but
others translate it, cities; and the word, cities, would be the most
suitable, were it not that the Prophet had previously mentioned
cities. I do not therefore see that it would be proper to render it
here by this term. The word "'areycha" then, ought doubtless to be
rendered, thy enemies. Let us inquire why the prophet says, that the
enemies of the Church were to be destroyed. This sentence ought to
be thus explained, (I leave the former ones, and take only this the
last,) "And I will demolish thy groves from the midst of thee, that
I may destroy thine enemies": the copulative is then to be
considered as a final particle; and this meaning is the most
suitable; as though the Prophet had said, as I have already often
stated, that the door was closed against God, so that he could bring
no aid to his Church, and deliver it from enemies, as long as it
held to false confidence, and was attached to the filth of idolatry,
which was still worse. "That I may then destroy thine enemies, it is
necessary first that every thing in thee that prevents or hinders my
favor should be taken away and removed."
    At last he adds, "And I will execute vengeance in wrath and in
fury". He goes on with what I have just said of enemies; "I will
then execute vengeance in wrath and in fury on the nations". Here
God mentions his wrath and his fury, that the faithful might feel
greater confidence, that though now their enemies poured forth
grievous threatening, yet this could not prevent God from aiding his
people. - How so? Because if we compare the wrath and fury of God
with all the terrors of men, doubtless the threats of men would
appear as nothing but smoke. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning
in these words. And he says in the last place, I will execute
vengeance on the nations who have not heard. Almost all interpreters
join the relative, "'asher" with the preceding word, "goyim", - I
will then take vengeance on the nations who have not heard, that is,
who have been rebellious against God: not to hear, as they explain,
is obstinately to despise the power of God, and not to be moved by
his promises or by his threatenings. But a fitter sense may perhaps
be elicited, if we refer "'asher" to vengeance, - I will then
execute vengeance on the nations which they have not heard, that is,
I will take vengeance on all the nations in a manner unheard of and
incredible: and by nations, he understands indiscriminately all the
enemies of the Church, as we have elsewhere seen.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou so kindly invites us to thy
self, and promises that thy aid should never be wanting to us,
provided we do not close the door against thee, - O grant, that
though many earthly benefits may be granted to us, we may not yet
trust in them and depart from thee, but, on the contrary, recomb on
thy grace only: and then should it happen to us to be deprived of
all helps, that our minds may be awakened, and that we may thus
learn to hasten to thee, may nothing impede our course, that we may
not, with the greatest haste and ardent desire, long to deliver up
and devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may be made safe under
the care and protection of thy only-begotten Son, whom thou hast
appointed to be the guardian of our safety. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-third


Chapter 6

Micah 6:1,2
Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the
mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.
Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD's controversy, and ye strong
foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his
people, and he will plead with Israel.
    
    Here the Prophet avowedly assumes that the people were
sufficiently proved guilty; and yet they resisted through a
hardiness the most obdurate, and rejected all admonitions without
shame, and without any discretion. He is therefore commanded to
direct his discourse to the mountains and to the hills; for his
labour had now for a long time been useless as to men. The meaning
then is that when the Prophet had spent much labour on the people
and derived no fruit, he is at length bidden to call the mountains
and the hills to bear their testimony to God; and thus before the
elements is made known and proved the ungodliness and the obstinacy
of the people. But before he relates what had been committed to him,
he makes a preface, in order to gain attention.
    "Hear ye what Jehovah says". The Prophets are wont, on very
serious subjects, to make such a preface as is here made by Micah:
and it is indeed sufficiently evident from the passage, that he has
here no ordinary subject for his teaching, but that, on the
contrary, he rebukes their monstrous stupidity; for he had been
addressing the deaf without any advantage. As then the Prophet was
about to declare no common thing, but to be a witness of a new
judgment, - this is the reason why he bids them to be unusually
attentive. Hear, he says, what Jehovah saith. What is it? He might
have added, "Jehovah has very often spoken to you, he has tried all
means to bring you to the right way; but as ye are past recovery,
vengeance alone now remains for you: he will no more spend labour in
vain on you; for he finds in you neither shame, nor meekness, nor
docility." The Prophet might have thus spoken to them; but he says
that another thing was committed to his charge by the Lord, and that
is, to contend or to plead before the mountains. And this reproach
ought to have most acutely touched the hearts of the people: for
there is here an implied comparison between the mountains and the
Jews; as though the Prophet said, - "The mountains are void of
understanding and reason, and yet the Lord prefers to have them as
witness of his cause rather than you, who exceed in stupidity all
the mountains and rocks." We now then perceive the design of God.
    Some take mountains and hills in a metaphorical sense for the
chief men who then ruled: and this manner of speaking very
frequently occurs in Scripture: but as to the present passage, I
have no doubt but that the Prophet mentions mountains and hills
without a figure; for, as I have already said, he sets the hardness
of the people in opposition to rocks, and intimates, that there
would be more attention and docility in the very mountains than what
he had hitherto found in the chosen people. And the particle "'et"
is often taken in the sense of before: it means also with; but in
this place I take it for "lamed" before or near, as many instances
might be cited. But that this is the meaning of the Prophet it is
easy to gather from the next verse, when he says -
    "Hear, ye mountains, the controversy of Jehovah", how? "and ye
strong foundations of the earth", he says. He speaks here no more of
hills, but summons the whole world; as though he said, "There is not
one of the elements which is not to bear witness respecting the
obstinacy of this people; for the voice of God will penetrate to the
farthest roots of the earth, it will reach the lowest depths: these
men will at the same time continue deaf." And he says not, the Lord
threatens you, or denounces judgment on you; but Jehovah has a
contention with his people. We now then see that there is no
metaphor in these words; but that the Prophet merely shows how
monstrous was the stupor of the people, who profited nothing by the
celestial doctrine delivered to them, so that the very mountains and
the whole machinery of earth and heaven, though destitute of reason,
had more understanding than these men. And it is not unusual with
the Prophets, we know, to turn their discourse to mute elements,
when there remains no hope of success from men. But our Prophet does
not abruptly address mountains and hills as Isaiah does, (Isa. 1:
2,) and as also Moses had done, 'Hear, ye heavens, what I shall say,
let the earth hear the words of my mouth,' (Deut. 32: 1,) but he
prefaces his discourse by saying, that it had been specially
commanded to him to summon the mountains and hills to God's
judgment. By saying then, "Hear ye what Jehovah saith," he prepares
as I have said, the Jews to hear, that they might know that
something uncommon and altogether unusual was to be announced, -
that the Lord, in order more fully to convict them of extreme
impiety, intended to plead his cause before the mountains.
    "Arise, then, and plead before the mountains, and let the hills
hear thy voice". What sort of voice was this? They who think that
the judges are here figuratively pointed out may be easily refuted;
for Micah in the next verse mentions the substance of this pleading,
namely that the Lord expostulated with his people. We hence see that
God had no contention with the mountains, but that, on the contrary,
the mountains were summoned, that they might understand God's
pleading, not against them, but against the people. Hear then, ye
mountains, Jehovah's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the
earth, that is, the very rocks. There is nothing so hard in the
world, he says, that shall not be inane to hear; for this pleading
shall reach the lowest depths. Jehovah then has a controversy with
his people, and he will pleads or contend, with Israel. It follows -

Micah 6:3
O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied
thee? testify against me.
    
    Here God, in the first place, offers to give a reason, if he
was accused of any thing. It seems indeed unbecoming the character
of God, that he should be thus ready as one guilty to clear himself:
but this is said by way of concession; for the Prophet could not
otherwise express, that nothing that deserved blame could be found
in God. It is a personification, by which a character; not his own,
is ascribed to God. It ought not therefore to appear inconsistent,
that the Lord stands forth here, and is prepared to hear any
accusation the people might have, that he might give an answer, "My
people! what have I done?" By using this kind expression, my people,
he renders double their wickedness; for God here descends from his
own elevation, and not only addresses his people, in a paternal
manner, but stands as it were on the opposite side, and is prepared,
if the people had anything to say, to give answer to it, so that
they might mutually discuss the question, as it is usually done by
friends. Now the more kindly and indulgently the Lord deals with his
people, the more enhanced, as I have said, is their sin.
    He says first, What have I done to thee? that is, what hast
thou to accuse me with? He adds In what have I caused trouble to
thee? or, In what have I been troublesome to thee? Testify, he says,
against me. This testifying was to be made to the mountains and
hills; as though he said, "I am ready to plead my cause before
heaven and earth; in a word, before all my creatures." Some render
the passage, "Answer me:" and "'anah" is also to answer; but the
context requires the former meaning; for God conceded so much
liberty to the Jews, that they might bring forward against him any
fault they had to allege. Testify, he says, against me; that is,
there are witnesses present; make public now thy case by stating
particulars, I am ready for the defense. We hence see the truth of
what I have before stated, - that a character, not his own is
ascribed to God: but this is done by way of concession. He
afterwards adds -

Micah 6:4
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee
out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron,
and Miriam.
    
    God, having testified that he had in nothing been troublesome
to the people, now states with how great and with how many benefits
he had bound them to himself. But we may prefer taking the words as
explanatory and somewhat ironical that he records his benefits in
the place of trouble or vexation; though, in my judgment, it is
better to read the two clauses apart. "I have brought thee, he says,
from the land of Egypt", from that miserable bondage; and then he
says, "I have redeemed thee." By the word, redeem, he expresses more
clearly and more fully illustrates his kindness. Then he adds, "I
have set over thee as leaders Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam", the
sister of them both. Benefits, we know, are often accompanied with
injuries; and he who obliges another destroys all his favour, when
he turns kindness as it often happens, into reproach. It is hence
frequently the case, that he who has been kind to another brings so
serious an injury, that the memory of his kindness ought not to
continue. God mentions here these two things, - that he had
conferred vast benefits on the people, - and yet that he had in
nothing been burdensome to them; as though he said "Many are those
things which I can, if necessary, on my part bring forward, by which
I have more than a hundred times made thee indebted to me; now thou
canst not in thy turn bring anything against me; thou canst not say
that I have accompanied my benefits with wrongs, or that thou hast
been despised, because thou were under obligations to me, as it is
often the case with men who proudly domineer, when they think that
they have made others bound to them. I have not then thought proper
to accompany my great favors with anything troublesome or grievous
to thee." We now understand why the Prophet expressly mentions these
two things, - that God had in nothing been vexatious to his people,
- and that he had brought them up from the land of Egypt.
    That redemption was so great, that the people ought not to have
complained, had it been the will of God to lay on their shoulders
some very heavy burdens: for this answer might have been ever
readily given, - "Ye have been delivered by me; ye owe to me your
life and your safety. There is therefore no reason why any thing
should be now burdensome to you; for the bondage of Egypt must have
been bitterer to you than hundred deaths; and I redeemed you from
that bondage." But, as the Lord had treated his redeemed people so
kindly and so humanely, yea, with so much indulgence, how great and
how intolerable was their ingratitude in not responding to his great
kindness? We now more fully understand the Prophet's meaning in
these words.
    I have made thee to ascend, he says, from Egypt; and then, I
have redeemed thee. He goes on, as we have said, by degrees. He
afterwards adds, I have sent before thy face Moses, Aaron, and
Miriam. God means here that it had not been a momentary kindness;
for he continued his favor towards the Jews when he set over them
Moses and Aaron, and Miriam, which was an evidence of his constant
care, until he had completed his work of delivering them. For Moses
was a minister of their deliverance in upholding civil order, and
Aaron as to the priesthood and spiritual discipline. With regard to
Miriam, she also performed her part towards the women; and as we
find in the fifteenth chapter of Exodus, she composed a song of
thanksgiving after passing through the Red Sea: and hence arose her
base envy with regard to Moses; for being highly praised, she
thought herself equal to him in dignity. It is at the same time
right to mention, that it was an extraordinary thing, when God gave
authority to a women, as was the case with Deborah that no one may
consider this singular precedent as a common rule. It now follows -

Micah 6:5
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and
what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal;
that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
    
    God briefly records here what happened in the desert, - that
the people had need of some extraordinary help in addition to the
many benefits which he had conferred on them. For though the people
lived safely in the desert as to the Egyptians, though they were fed
by manna and water from the rock flowed for them, though the cloud
by day protected them from the heat of the sun, and the pillar of
fire shone on them during the night, yet the stream of God's mercy
seemed to have been stopped when Balaam came forth, who was a
Prophet, and then, as one armed with celestial weapons, fought
against the people and opposed their deliverance. Now, had God
permitted Balaam to curse the people, what could have taken place,
but that they must have been deprived of all their blessings? This
is the reason why the Prophet specifically refers to this history, -
that the cursing of Balaam was miraculously turned into a blessing,
even through the secret purpose of God. Micah might indeed have
referred to all those particulars by which God could have proved the
ingratitude of the people; but he deemed it sufficient to touch on
the fact of their redemption, and also to mention by the way this
extraordinary instance of God's kindness.
    "Remember, he says, what Balak devised", that is, how crafty
was his counsel: for the verb "ya'atz" is to be taken here in a bad
sense, and is very emphatical; as though the Prophet had said, that
there was more danger in this fraud than in all the violence of
enemies; for Balak could not have done so much harm, had he prepared
a great army against the Israelites, as by hiring a Prophet to curse
the people. For certain it is, that though Balaam was an impostor
and full of deceits, as it is probable that he was a man given to
profane superstitions, he was yet endued with the gift of prophecy.
This was the case no doubt; and we know that God has often so
distributed the gifts of his Spirit, that he has honored with the
prophetic office even the ungodly and unbelieving: for it was a
special gift, distinct from the grace of regeneration. Balaam then
was a Prophet. Now when Balak saw that he was unequal in power to
oppose the people, he thought of this expedient - to get some
Prophet to interpose for the purpose of exciting the wrath of God
against the people. This is the reason why it is here said, Remember
what Balak consulted against thee; that is, "Thou were then in the
greatest danger, when a Prophet came, hired for the purpose, that he
might in God's name pronounce on thee a curse."
    It may be asked, Whether Balaam could really curse the people
of Israel? The answer is easy: the question here is not what might
have been the effect, without God's permission; but Micah here
regards only the office with which Balaam was honored and endued. As
then he was God's Prophet, he could have cursed the people, had not
God prevented him. And no doubt Balak was wise enough to know, that
the Israelites could not be resisted by human power, and that,
therefore, nothing remained for him but the interposition of God;
and as he could not bring down God from heaven, he sent for a
Prophet. God puts his own power in his word, - as God's word resided
in Balaam, and as he was, as it were, its depositary, it was no
wonder that Balak thought that he would become the conqueror of the
people of Israel, provided they were cursed by Balaam's mouth; for
this would have been as it were, the announcement of God's wrath.
    He now subjoins, "And what Balaam, the son of Beor, answered
him". There is here shown, on the one hand, a danger, because Balaam
was craftier than all the other enemies of the people, for he could
have done more by his artifice than if he had armed against them the
whole world: here then was the danger. But, on the other hand, we
know what he answered; and it is certain that the answer of Balaam
did not proceed from himself, but, on the contrary, from the Spirit
of God. As Balaam spoke by the secret influence of the Spirit,
contrary to the wish of his own heart, God thus proved that he was
present at that very time, when the safety of the people was
endangered. Think, then, or remember, what Balaam answered; as
though he said, - "Balaam was very nigh cursing thee, for his mouth
was opened: for he had sold himself to an ungodly king, and nothing
could have pleased him more than to have poured forth many anathemas
and many curses: but he was constrained to bless your fathers. What
did this mean? Did not the wonderful favor of God shine forth in
this instance?" We now perceive the Prophet's design, and what a
large meaning there is in these words.
    He afterwards adds generally, "From Shittim even to Gilgal".
This is not connected with the last clause; for Balaam did not
follow the people from Shittim to Gilgal; but a verb is to be
understood, as though he said, - "Thou knowest what things happened
to thee from Shittim to Gilgal, from the beginning to the end; at
the time when thou didst enter the wilderness, thou hadst begun to
provoke the wrath of God." And we know that even in Shittim the
Israelites fell away into idolatry; and that defection, in a manner,
alienated them from God. Hence God shows here that he, in his
goodness and mercy, had contended with the ungodly ways of the
people even to Gilgal; that is, "Thou hast never ceased to provoke
me." We indeed know that the people continually excited against
themselves the displeasure of God, and that their defections were
many and various. In short, then the Prophet shows that God had so
mercifully dealt with the people, that he had, in a most astonishing
manner, overcome their wickedness by his goodness.
    He at length subjoins, "That thou mayest know the
righteousnesses of Jehovah". By righteousnesses he means acts of
kindness, as the sense of the word is in many other passages: for
the righteousness of God is often taken not only for uprightness,
but also for the faithfulness and truth which he manifests towards
his people. It betokens therefore the relation between God and his
Church, whenever the word, righteousness, is to be understood in
this sense. That thou mayest then know the righteousnesses of
Jehovah; that is, that experience itself may prove to thee how
faithful, how beneficent, how merciful has God ever been towards
your race. Since then the righteousness of God was conspicuous, the
people must surely have been mute, and had nothing for which they
could justly expostulate with God: what remained, but that their
extreme impiety, fully detected before heaven and earth and all the
elements, exposed them to his judgment? It now follows -

Micah 6:6-8
6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, [and] bow myself before
the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with
calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, [or] with ten
thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn [for] my
transgression, the fruit of my body [for] the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD
require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly with thy God?
    
    The Prophet now inquires, as in the name of the people, what
was necessary to be done: and he takes these two principles as
granted, - that the people were without any excuse, and were forced
to confess their sin, - and that God had hitherto contended with
them for no other end and with no other design, but to restore the
people to the right way; for if his purpose had only been to condemn
the people for their wickedness, there would have been no need of
these questions. But the Prophet shows what has been often stated
before, - that whenever God chides his people, he opens to them the
door of hope as to their salvation, provided those who have sinned
repent. As this then must have been well known to all the Jews, the
Prophet here asks, as with their mouth, what was to be done.
    He thus introduces them as inquiring, "With what shall I
approach Jehovah, and bow down before the high God? Shall I approach
him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old?" But at the
same time there is no doubt, but that he indirectly refers to that
foolish notion, by which men for the most part deceive themselves;
for when they are proved guilty, they indeed know that there is no
remedy for them, except they reconcile themselves to God: but yet
they pretend by circuitous courses to approach God, while they
desire to be ever far away from him. This dissimulation has always
prevailed in the world, and it now prevails: they see that they whom
God convicts and their own conscience condemns, cannot rest in
safety. Hence they wish to discharge their duty towards God as a
matter of necessity; but at the same time they seek some fictitious
modes of reconciliation, as though it were enough to flatter God, as
though he could be pacified like a child with some frivolous
trifles. The Prophet therefore detects this wickedness, which had
ever been too prevalent among them; as though he said, - "I see what
ye are about to say; for there is no need of contending longer; as
ye have nothing to object to God, and he has things innumerable to
allege against you: ye are then more than condemned; but yet ye will
perhaps say what has been usually alleged by you and always by
hypocrites, even this, - 'We wish to be reconciled to God, and we
confess our faults and seek pardon; let God in the meantime show
himself ready to be reconciled to us, while we offer to him
sacrifices.'" There is then no doubt, but that the Prophet derided
this folly, which has ever prevailed in the hearts of men: they ever
think that God can be pacified by outward rites and frivolous
performances.
    He afterwards adds, "He has proclaimed to thee what is good".
The Prophet reproves the hypocrisy by which the Jews willfully
deceived themselves, as though he said, - "Ye indeed pretend some
concern for religion when ye approach God in prayer; but this your
religion is nothing; it is nothing else than shamelessly to
dissemble; for ye sin not either through ignorance or misconception,
but ye treat God with mockery." - How so? "Because the Law teaches
you with sufficient clearness what God requires from you; does it
not plainly enough show you what is true reconciliation? But ye
close your eyes to the teaching of the Law, and in the meantime
pretend ignorance. This is extremely childish. God has already
proclaimed what is good, even to do judgment, to love kindness and
to walk humbly with God." We now perceive the design of the Prophet.
    As then he says here, "With what shall I appear before God?" we
must bear in mind, that as soon as God condescends to enter into
trial with men, the cause is decided; for it is no doubtful
contention. When men litigate one with another, there is no cause so
good but what an opposite party can darken by sophistries. But the
Prophet intimates that men lose all their labour by evasions, when
God summons them to a trial. This is one thing. He also shows what
deep roots hypocrisy has in the hearts of all, for they ever deceive
themselves and try to deceive God. How comes it that men, proved
guilty, do not immediately and in the right way retake themselves to
God, but that they ever seek windings? How is this? It is not
because they have any doubt about what is right except they
willfully deceive themselves, but because they dissemble and
willfully seek the subterfuges of error. It hence appears that men
perversely go astray when ever they repent not as they ought, and
bring not to God a real integrity of heart. And hence it also
appears that the whole world which continues in its superstitions is
without excuse. For if we scrutinize the intentions of men, it will
at length come to this, - that men carefully and anxiously seek
various superstitions, because they are unwilling to come before God
and to devote themselves to him, without some dissembling and
hypocrisy. Since it is so, certain it is, that all who desire to
pacify God with their own ceremonies and other trifles cannot by any
pretext escape. What is said here is at the same time strictly
addressed to the Jews, who had been instructed in the teaching of
the Law: and such are the Papists of this day; though they spread
forth specious pretenses to excuse their ignorance, they may yet be
refuted by this one fact, - that God has prescribed clearly and
distinctly enough what he requires: but they wish to be ignorant of
this; hence their error is at all times wilful. We ought especially
to notice this in the words of the Prophet; but I cannot proceed
farther now.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast made known to us thy Law, and
hast also added thy Gospel, in which thou callest us to thy service,
and also invites us with all kindness to partake of thy grace, - O
grant, that we may not be deaf, either to thy command or to the
promises of thy mercy, but render ourselves in both instances
submissive to thee and so learn to devote all our faculties to thee,
that we may in truth avow that a rule of a holy and religious life
has been delivered to us in thy law, and that we may also firmly
adhere to thy promises, lest through any of the allurements of the
world, or through the flatteries and crafts of Satan thou shouldest
suffer our minds to be drawn away from that love which thou hast
once manifested to us in thine only-begotten Son and in which thou
daily confirmest us by the teaching of the Gospel, until we at
length shall come to the full enjoyment of this love in that
celestial inheritance, which has been purchased for us by the blood
of thy only Son. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-fourth.
    
    We have seen in the last lecture that hypocrites inquire how
God is to be pacified, as though they were very solicitous about the
performance of their duty; and that in the meantime these are mere
disguises; for by circuitous windings they turn here and there, and
never wish to come directly to God. The way might have been easily
known by them; but they closed their eyes, and at the same time
pretended that they had some concern for religion. And this is also
very commonly the case in our day; and common experience, if any one
opens his eyes, clearly proves this, - that the ungodly, who deal
not sincerely with God, profess a very great concern, as though they
were wholly intent on serving God, and yet turn aside here and
there, and seek many by-paths, that they may not be constrained to
present themselves before God. We have already seen, that this false
pretence is fully exposed, inasmuch as God has enough, and more than
enough, demonstrated in his Law, what he approves and what he
requires from men. Why then do hypocrites, as still uncertain, make
the inquiry? It is because they are willfully blind at mid-day; for
the doctrine of the Law ought to have been to them as a lamp to
direct their steps; but they smother this light, yea, they do what
they can wholly to extinguish it: they ask, as though perplexed, how
can we pacify God?
    But it ought also to be observed, (for the Prophet says, "Shall
I give my first-born, and the fruit of my loins, as an expiation for
my soul?") that hypocrites will withhold nothing, provided they are
not to devote themselves to God. We see the same thing under the
Papacy at this day; they spare no expense, nor even the greatest
toils: provided the ungodly have always a freedom to live in sin,
they will easily grant to God all other things. For through a false
conceit they make a sort of agreement with God: if they mortify
themselves, and toil in ceremonies, and if they pour forth some
portion of their money, if they sometimes deprive nature of its
support, if with fastings and by other things, they afflict
themselves, they think that by these means they have fully performed
their duties. But these are frivolous trifles; for in the meantime
they consider themselves exempt from the duty of obeying God. Being
yet unwilling to be regarded as alienated from God, they, at the
same time, obtrude on him their meritorious works, to prevent his
judgment, and to exempt themselves from the necessity of doing the
principal thing, that which he especially requires - to bring a
sincere heart. Thus then hypocrites wish to divide things with God,
that they may remain within such as they are; and they spread forth
outwardly many frivolous things for the purpose of pacifying him.
And this is the reason why the Prophet says now, "Shall I give my
first-born?" for hypocrites wish to appear as though they were
burning with the greatest zeal, - "Rather than that God should
remain angry with me, I would not spare the life of my first-born; I
would rather be the executioner of my own son: in short, nothing is
so valuable to me, which I would not be really to part with, that
God may be propitious to me." This indeed is what they boast with
their mouth; but at the same time they will not offer their heart as
a sacrifice to God: and as they deal dishonestly with God, we see
that all is nothing but dissimulation.
    If any one objects, and says, - that the other rites, of which
the Prophet speaks here, had been enjoined by God's Law, the answer
is easy; but I shall not now but briefly touch on what I have
elsewhere more largely handled: The Prophet denies, that sacrifices
avail any thing for the purpose of propitiating God. This may seem
inconsistent with the teaching of the Law, but in fact it altogether
agrees with it. God indeed wished sacrifices to be offered to him;
and then this promise was always added, "Iniquity shall be atoned."
But the object must be noticed; for God did not command sacrifices,
as though they were of themselves of any worth; but he intended to
lead the ancient people by such exercises to repentance and faith.
It was therefore his design to remind the Jews that they did no
good, except they themselves became sacrifices; and it was also his
will that they should look to the only true sacrifice, by which all
sins are expiated. But hypocrites, like falsifiers of documents,
abused the command of God, and adulterated the sacrifices
themselves. It was then a profane sacrilege for them to think that
God would be propitious to them, if they offered many oxen and
calves and lambs. It was the same thing as if one asked the way, and
after having known it, rested quietly and never moved a foot. God
had shown the way, by which the Jews might come to repentance and
faith: and they ought to have walked in it; but they wickedly
trifled with God; for they thought that it would be a satisfaction
to his justice, if they only performed outward rites. Whenever then
the Prophets in God's name repudiate sacrifices, the abuse, by which
God's Law was corrupted, is ever to be considered, that is, when the
Jews brought sacrifices, only, and had no respect to the end in
view, and did not exercise themselves in repentance and faith. It is
for this reason that our Prophet declares, that all sacrifices were
of no account before God, but were vain things: they were so, when
they were separated from their right end.
    He then says that God had shown by his Law what is good; and
then he adds what it is, to do justice, to love mercy, or kindness,
and to be humbled before God. It is evident that, in the two first
particulars, he refers to the second table of the Law; that is to do
justice, and to love mercy. Nor is it a matter of wonder that the
Prophet begins with the duties of love; for though in order the
worship of God precedes these duties, and ought rightly to be so
regarded, yet justice, which is to be exercised towards men, is the
real evidence of true religion. The Prophet, therefore, mentions
justice and mercy, not that God casts aside that which is principal
- the worship of his name; but he shows, by evidences or effects,
what true religion is. Hypocrites place all holiness in external
rites; but God requires what is very different; for his worship is
spiritual. But as hypocrites can make a show of great zeal and of
great solicitude in the outward worship of God, the Prophets try the
conduct of men in another way, by inquiring whether they act justly
and kindly towards one another, whether they are free from all fraud
and violence, whether they observe justice and show mercy. This is
the way our Prophet now follows, when he says, that God's Law
prescribes what is good, and that is, to do justice - to observe
what is equitable towards men, and also to perform the duties of
mercy.
    He afterwards adds what in order is first, and that is, "to
humble thyself to walk with God": it is thus literally, "And to be
humble in walking with thy God." No doubt, as the name of God is
more excellent than any thing in the whole world, so the worship of
him ought to be regarded as of more importance than all those duties
by which we prove our love towards men. But the Prophet, as I have
already said, was not so particular in observing order; his main
object was to show how men were to prove that they seriously feared
God and kept his Law: he afterwards speaks of God's worship. But his
manner of speaking, when he says, that men ought to be humble, that
they may walk with their God, is worthy of special notice.
Condemned, then, is here all pride, and also all the confidence of
the flesh: for whosoever arrogates to himself even the least thing,
does, in a manner, contend with God as with an opposing party. The
true way then of walking with God is, when we thoroughly humble
ourselves, yea, when we bring ourselves down to nothing; for it is
the very beginning of worshipping and glorifying God when men
entertain humble and low opinion of themselves. Let us now proceed -

Micah 6:9
The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and [the man of] wisdom shall
see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.
    
    The Prophet complains here that he and other teachers did but
little, though their cry resounded and was heard by the whole
people. He therefore says, that the voice of God cried; as though he
had said that there was no excuse for ignorance, for God had
indiscriminately exhorted them all to repentance. Now, since what
was taught was common to them all, the Prophet deplores their
perverseness, for very few were attentive; and the fable was sung,
according to the proverb, to the deaf. We must then notice the word
"cry"; the voice of God, he says, crieth. God did not whisper in the
ear of one or two, but he designed his voice to be heard by all from
the least to the greatest. The Prophets then did cry loud enough,
but there were no ears to hear them.
    We may take the word "la'ir" in two ways. "'ir" means a city.
But some derive it from "'ur", and render it as if it were written
"leha'ir". If "he" is put in, it must be rendered, "To rouse;" and
the letter "he" may be concealed under the point chamets; and this
sense would be the most suitable, The voice of Jehovah cries to
arouse or awaken; that is though the people are torpid, and as it
were overpowered with sleep, for they indulged themselves in their
sins; yet the voice of God ought to be sufficient to arouse them
all: however sleepy they might have been, there was yet power enough
in the doctrine of the Law, which the Prophet daily proclaimed. But
still this voice, by which the whole people ought to have been
awakened, was not heard!
    "The man of understanding, he says will see thy name". The word
"tushiyah" means properly understanding, as it is clear from many
other passages; but the Prophet means that there was a very small
number who were teachable; and he calls them men of understanding.
At the same time, he indirectly reproves the sottishness of the
people, though they all boasted that they were wise, and boasted
also that they were the learners of the Law. The Prophet shows here
by implication, that understanding was a rare thing among that
people; for few hearkened to the voice of God. And thus we see what
his object was; for he wished to touch the Jews to the quick, that
they might acknowledge that they were without mind and
understanding, because they had hardened themselves against God, so
that his voice did not reach their hearts. He therefore shows that
they were all besides themselves; for had they any right
understanding, they would have hearkened to God speaking to them, as
they were his disciples. What indeed could have been more strange,
nay more inhuman, than for men to reject the doctrine of their
salvation, and to turn aside from hearing even God himself? Thus the
madness of the people was reproved; for though the voice of God
sounded in the ears of them all, it was not yet listened to.
    If one prefers reading, "In the city", then no doubt the
Prophet means, that the voice of God was proclaimed through all the
cities: for to confine it, as some interpreters do, to Jerusalem, or
to Samaria, appears frigid. We must then understand a change of
number, and take city for any large concourse of people; as though
he had said, that there was no city in which God did not cry and yet
that there were ears no where.
    It afterwards follows, "Shall see thy name". Some render it,
Shall fear, as though it was from "yara'"; but it comes on the
contrary from "ra'ah"; and rules of grammar will not allow it to be
viewed otherwise. And the Prophet speaks in a striking manner, when
he says, that "the intelligent man seeth the name of God". For
whence proceeded the contempt of wicked men, so that they
disregarded the voice of God, except from this - that his majesty
had no effect on them; that is, they did not acknowledge that they
had to do with God? For if they really understood what I have said,
- that God spoke to them, his majesty would have immediately come to
view, it would have arrested all their thoughts. God then would have
constrained even the most heedless to fear him, had it not been,
that they imagined the voice which sounded in their ears was that of
man. Significantly then does the Prophet say, that it was the act of
singular prudence to see the name of God, that is to understand from
whom the doctrine proceeded. For as soon as we hearken to God, his
majesty, as I have said, must so penetrate all our thoughts, as to
humble us before him, and to constrain us to do him homage. The
contempt then of spiritual doctrine, and also the perverseness of
ungodly men, proceed from this, - that they see not the name of God,
that they understand not that it is his name.
    He afterwards adds, "Hear ye the rod, and him who proclaims it
to you". By rod he means threatening; as though he said, - "Your
arrogance in mocking God shall not go unpunished, as though his
voice were an empty sound: there is then no reason for you to
deceive yourselves with the hope of impunity; for God will avenge
the contempt of his word." Now the Prophet's design was, to denounce
an approaching vengeance on those who came not willingly to God, and
received not his word with genuine docility of mind. Whenever, then,
men despise the voice of God, as though it proceeded only from a
mortal being, on such Micah denounces an impending vengeance; for
the contempt of his word is a thing intolerable to God. This is the
reason why he immediately adds, after having complained of the
contempt of his word, that vengeance was not afar off; "Hear ye then
the rod, and who declares or testifies concerning it".
    This last clause ought to be especially noticed; for the
ungodly are not terrified when God declares that he will be an
avenger, because they think not that they must give an account of
their life, or they look only on mortal man, "Ah! who speaks? Is he
indeed our God? Is he armed with celestial power? Do we not see a
mortal man and one like ourselves?" We daily see that the ungodly do
thus cast away every fear, and willfully harden themselves against
God's judgments. It is not then without reason that the Prophet bids
the Jews seriously to consider who testifies of the rod; as though
he said, - "I indeed confess that I am a mortal man, but remember
who has sent me; for I go not forth as a private individual, nor
have I presumptuously intruded into this office; but I am armed with
God's command; nay, God himself speaks through my mouth. If then ye
despise me, the Lord is present, who will vindicate his own commands
for he will not suffer himself to be despised in his servants though
they may be contemptible according to the flesh, he will yet have
the reverence which it deserves to be paid to his word." We now
perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows -

Micah 6:10,11
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the
wicked, and the scant measure [that is] abominable?
Shall I count [them] pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag
of deceitful weights?
    
    Interpreters differ as to the word "ha'ish": some think that it
ought to be read "ha'iysh", with an addition of two letters, and
render it, "Is it yet man?" But this would render the passage
abrupt. Others translate, "Is there yet fire?" As though it was
"'esh"; and they suppose that wealth, wickedly and unjustly got, is
so called, because it consumes itself. But as this is against what
grammar requires, I am more inclined to take their view, who think
that "ha'ish" is to be taken here for "hayish", aleph being put for
jod: and they rightly consider that the sentence is to be read as a
question, Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of
the ungodly? If this view be approved, then we must consider the
Prophet as proposing a question respecting a thing really monstrous,
- "How can it be that treasures, gathered by plunder and wickedness,
still remain with you, since ye have been so often warned, and since
God daily urges you to repentance? How great is your hardness, that
no fear of God lays hold on your minds?" But the meaning would not
be unsuitable were we to regard God as a Judge examining them
concerning a matter unknown, "Are there still the treasures of
impiety in the house of the ungodly?" that is, "I will see whether
the ungodly and wicked hide their treasures:" for God often assumes
the character of earthly judges; not that any thing escapes his
knowledge, but that we may know that he is not precipitant in
deciding a question. This view, then, is by no means inappropriate,
that is, that God here assumes the character of an earthly judge,
and thus speaks, "I will see whether there are still treasures
concealed by the ungodly; I will search their houses; I will know
whether they have as yet repented of their crimes." thus, then, may
be understood the words of the Prophet, Are there yet the treasures
of wickedness in the house of the ungodly? For God, as I have
already said, shows that he would know respecting the plunders and
the various kinds of cruelty which they had exercised.
    He then adds, Is there "the bare measure", that is, a measure
less than it ought to be, "which is detestable?" Then he says,
"Shall I justify?", &c. This verse is connected with the last, and
is added as an explanation. For God having come forth as a Judge,
now shows what sort of Judge he is, even one who is not biased by
favor, who does not change his judgment, who shows no respect of
persons. But men, for the most part, greatly deceive themselves,
when they transform God according to their own will, and promise to
themselves that he will be propitious to them, provided they only
make false pretensions to him. God then here declares, that he
differs widely from earthly judges, who now incline to one side and
then to another, who are changeable, and often deviate from the
right course: but, on the contrary, he says here, Shall I justify
wicked balances? shall I justify weights of fraud, or deceitful?
that is, "Shake off all those delusions by which ye are wont to
deceive yourselves; for I do not change either my nature or my
purpose; but according to the true teaching of my Law, I will punish
all the wicked without any respect of persons: wherever wickedness
and iniquity are found, there punishment will be inflicted."
    We now then understand how these two verses harmonize together.
God shows that he will be a judge, and then, that he differs from
men, who often change, as it has been said, in their decisions.
    I will mention another meaning, which will perhaps be preferred
by some. The question, after the manner of the Hebrews, may be taken
as an affirmation, as though he had said, that within a short time,
(for "'od" means sometimes a short time,) the treasures of iniquity
would not be found, for they would be taken away: then follows a
confirmation, for frauds and robberies by false measures and
deceitful weights could not escape God's judgment. The meaning then
would be, that as God must necessarily, according to his own office,
punish thefts, it cannot be that he will suffer men, who cheat by
false weights to continue always unpunished. It now follows -

Micah 6:12
For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants
thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue [is] deceitful in their
mouth.
    
    The Prophet means that the people were so given to avarice and
plunder, that all the riches they had heaped together had been got
by iniquitous robberies or by wicked gain. He now addresses the
citizens of Jerusalem: for though iniquity then prevailed through
the whole of Judea, there was yet a reason why he should distinctly
accuse the inhabitants of Jerusalem; for they must have led the way
by their example, and they were also worse in wickedness than the
rest of the people: they were at least more obstinate, as they daily
heard God's Prophets.
    Hence he says, "her rich men gather not their wealth" except by
violence. It is indeed certain, that the rich were not then alone
guilty before God; but this evil has too much prevailed, that the
more liberty any one possesses, the more he employs it to do wrong.
Those indeed who have not the power refrain, not because they are
not inclined to do harm, but because they are as it were restrained;
for poverty is often a bridle to men. As then the rich could spread
their snares, as they had power to oppress the poor, the Prophet
addresses his words to them, not that the rest were without fault or
guilt, but because iniquity was more conspicuous in the rich, and
that, because their wealthy as I have already said, gave them more
power.
    He afterwards extends his address to all the inhabitants, "They
all, he says, speak falsehood, that is, they have no sincerity, no
uprightness; they are wholly given to frauds and deceits. And their
tongue is false in their mouth. This mode of speaking seems
apparently absurd; for where can the tongue be except in the mouth?
It appears then a sort of redundancy, when he says that their tongue
was deceitful in their mouth. But it is an emphatical mode of
speaking, by which the Hebrews mean, that men have falsehoods in
readiness as soon as they open their mouth. It is then the same as
though the Prophet had said, that no pure word and free from guile
could come from them, for as soon as they opened their mouth,
falsehoods instantly came forth; their tongue was fraudulent, so
that none could expect from these men any truth or faithfulness. -
How so? Because as soon as they began to speak, they instantly
discovered some guile, there was ever in readiness some falsehood to
circumvent the simple.
    We now then see that not a few men were summoned before God's
tribunal, but that all without exception were condemned; as though
the Prophet had said, that there was no more any integrity in the
city, and that corruptions prevailed everywhere, for all were intent
on deceiving one another. It follows -

Micah 6:13,14
Therefore also will I make [thee] sick in smiting thee, in making
[thee] desolate because of thy sins.
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down [shall
be] in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not
deliver; and [that] which thou deliverest will I give up to the
sword.
    
    God, after having declared that he would be the Judge of the
people, speaks now more clearly of their punishment. He says
therefore that he was armed with vengeance: for it often happens,
when a judge, even one who hates wickedness, is not able to punish,
for he dreads the fierceness of those whom he thinks himself unequal
to restrain. Hence God intimates here, that there will not be
wanting to him a power to punish the people, "I will afflict thee,
he says, by striking or wounding thee"; for so some render the
words. The sum of what is said is, - that nothing would be an
obstacle to prevent God from inflicting punishment on the people,
for there would be no want of power in his case. There is therefore
no reason for men to promise themselves any escape when God ascends
his tribunal; for were they fortified by all possible means they
could not ward off the hand of God.
    And he points out what sort of punishment it would be; and he
mentions even two kinds in this verse. He says first, "Thou shalt
eat, and shalt not be satisfied". One of God's plagues, we know, is
famine: and so the Prophet here declares, that the people would be
famished, but not through the sterility of the fields. God indeed
brings a famine in two ways: now the land yields no fruit; the corn
withers, or, being smitten with hail, gives no fruit; and thus God
by the sterility of the fields often reduces men to want and famine:
then another mode is adopted, by which he can consume men with want,
namely, when he breaks the staff of bread, when he takes away from
bread its nourishing virtues so that it can no more support men,
whatever quantity they may swallow; and this is what experience
proves, if only we have eyes to observe the judgments of God. We now
see the meaning of this clause, when he says, "Thou shalt eat, and
shalt not be satisfied"; as though he said, "I can indeed, whenever
it pleases me, deprive you of all food; the earth itself will become
barren at my command: but that ye may more clearly understand that
your life is in my hand, a good supply of fruit shall be produced,
but it shall not satisfy you. Ye shall then perceive that bread is
not sufficient to support you; for by eating ye shall not be able to
derive from bread any nourishment."
    He then adds, "And thy dejection shall be in the midst of
thee"; that is, though no man from without disturb or afflict thee
yet thou shalt pine away with intestine evils. This is the real
meaning; and interpreters have not sufficiently considered what the
Prophet means, through too much negligence. But the passage ought to
be noticed: for the Prophet, after having threatened a famine, not
from want, but from the secret curse of God, now adds, "Thy
dejection shall be in the midst of thee"; that is "Though I should
rouse against thee no enemies, though evidences of my wrath should
not appear, so as to be seen at a distance, yea, though no one
should disturb thee, yet thy dejection, thy calamity, shall be in
the midst of thee, as though it were cleaving to thy bowels; for
thou shalt pine away through a hidden malady, when God shall
pronounce his curse on thee."
    He now subjoins another kind of punishment, "Thou shalt take
hold, but shalt not deliver, and what thou shalt deliver, I will
give up to the sword". Some read, "A woman shall lay hold," that is,
conceive seed, "and shall not preserve it;" and then, "though she
may bring forth in due time, I will yet give up what may be born to
the sword." But this meaning is too strained. Others apply the words
to fathers, "Thou, father, shalt lay hold;" that is thou shalt
endeavor to preserve thy children, "and thou shalt not preserve"
them. But I wonder that interpreters have thus toiled in vain in a
matter so simple and plain. For he addresses here the land, or he
addresses the city: as though he said, "The city shall take hold,"
or embrace, as every one does who wishes to preserve or keep any
thing; for what we wish to keep safe, we lay hold on it, and keep it
as it were in our arms; "and what thou shalt preserve, I will give
up to the sword: thou wilt try all means to preserve thyself and thy
people, but thou shalt not succeed: thou shalt then lose all thy
labour, for though thou shouldest preserve some, yet the preserved
shall not escape destruction."
    If any one prefers to refer what is said to women, with regard
to conception, as the third person of the feminine gender is used,
let him have his own opinion; for this sense may certainly be
admitted, that is, that the Lord would render the women barren, and
that what they might bring forth would be given up to the slaughter,
inasmuch as the Lord would at length destroy with the sword both the
parents and their children.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou canst find in us cause enough to
execute not only one kind of vengeance, but innumerable kinds of
vengeance, so as to destroy us at length altogether, - O grant, that
we may of our own accord anticipate thy judgment, and with true
humility so abhor ourselves, that there may be kindled in us a
genuine desire to seek what is just and right, and thus endeavor to
devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may find thee to be
propitious to us: and since we in so many ways offend thee, grant,
that in true and sincere faith we may raise up all our thoughts and
affections to thy only-begotten Son, who is our propitiation, that
thou being appeased, we may lay hold on him, and remain united to
him by a sacred bond, until thou at length gatherest us all into
that celestial kingdom, which he has procured for us by his own
blood. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-fifth.

Micah 6:15
Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the
olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but
shalt not drink wine.
    
    The Prophet adds another kind of punishment, which was to
follow the calamity threatened in the last verse. He had said, that
those who escaped would at length be destroyed by the sword; he says
now, that the whole land would become a prey to enemies: and he took
his words from Moses; for it was usual with the prophets, when they
wished to secure greater authority to themselves, to quote literally
the curses contained in the Law, as in the present instance: see
Deut. 28 and Lev. 26. Now it is well known, that God denounced this
punishment, with others, on the people, - that when they sowed their
fields, another would reap, - that when they cultivated with great
labour their vineyards, others would become the vintagers. The
meaning is that whatever fruit the land produced, would come into
the hands of enemies, for all things would be exposed to plunder.
Now it is a very grievous thing, when we see not only our provisions
consumed by enemies, but also the fruit of our labour; which is the
same as though they were to drink our blood: for the labour of man
is often compared to blood, for labour occasions perspiration. It
now follows -

Micah 6:16
For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of
Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a
desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye
shall bear the reproach of my people.
    
    Some read the words in the future tense, "And they will observe
the statutes of Omri," &c., and gather this meaning, - that the
Prophet now foresees by the Spirit, that the people would continue
so perverse in their sins, as to exclude every hope that they could
be reformed by any punishments. The meaning then would be, "The Lord
has indeed determined to punish sharply and severely the wickedness
of this people; but they will not repent; they will nevertheless
remain stupid in their obstinacy, and go on in their superstitions,
which they have learned from the kings of Israel." There is however
another view, and one more generally approved and that is, - that
the Jews, having forsaken God, and despised his Law, had turned
aside to the superstitions of the kingdom of Israel. Hence he says,
that "observed were the decrees of Omri, and every work of the house
of Ahab". Omri was the father of Ahab, who was made king by the
election of the soldiers, when Zimri, who had slain the king, was
rejected. When Omri bought Samaria, he built there a city; and to
secure honor to it, he added a temple; and hence idolatry increased.
Afterwards his son Ahab abandoned himself to every kind of
superstition. Thus matters became continually worse. Hence the
Prophet, by mentioning here king Omri and his posterity, (included
in the words, "the house of Ahab") clearly means, that the Jews who
had purely worshipped God, at length degenerated, and were now
wholly unlike Israelites, as they had embraced all those
abominations which Omri and his son Ahab had devised. True religion
as yet prevailed in the tribe of Judah, though the kingdom of Israel
was become corrupt, and filthy superstitions had gained the
ascendancy: but in course of time the Jews became also implicated in
similar superstitions. Of this sin the Prophet now accuses them;
that is, that they made themselves associates with the Israelites:
"Observed then are the edicts of Omri, and the whole work of the
house of Ahab": Ye walk, he says, (the future here means a continued
act, as often elsewhere,) "ye walk in their counsels".
    It must be observed, that the Prophet here uses respectable
terms, when he says that "chukot", statutes or decrees, were
observed; and when he adds, "the counsels" of the kings of Israel:
but yet this is in no way stated as an excuse for them; for though
men may not only be pleased with, but also highly commend, their own
devices, yet the Lord abominates them all. The Prophet no doubt
designedly adopted these words, in order to show that those
pretenses were frivolous and of no account, which superstitious men
adduce, either to commend or to excuse their own inventions. They
ever refer to public authority, - "This has been received by the
consent of all; that has been decreed; it is not the mistake of one
or two men; but the whole Church has so determined: and kings also
thus command; it would be a great sin not to show obedience to
them." Hence the Prophet, in order to show how puerile are such
excuses, says, "I indeed allow that your superstitions are by you
honorably distinguished, for they are approved by the edicts of your
kings, and are received by the consent of the many, and they seem
not to have been inconsiderately and unadvisedly, but prudently
contrived, even by great men, who were become skillful through long
experience." But how much soever they might have boasted of their
statutes and counsels, and however plausibly they might have
referred to prudence and power in order to disguise their
idolatries, yet all those things were of no account before God. By
counsels, the Prophet no doubt meant that false kind of wisdom which
always shines forth in the traditions of men; and by statutes, he
meant the kingly authority.
    We hence see that it is a vain thing to color over what is
idolatrous, by alleging power on the one hand in its favor, and
wisdom on the other. - How so? Because God will not allow dishonor
to be done to him by such absurd things; but he commands us to
worship him according to what is prescribed in his Word.
    And now a denunciation of punishment follows, "That I should
deliver thee to desolation, and its inhabitants", &c. There is a
change of person; the Prophet continually addresses the land, and
under that name, the people, - that I should then deliver thee to
exile, or desolation, and thine inhabitants to hissing. It is a
quotation from Moses: and by hissing he means the reproach and
mockery to which men in a miserable state are exposed.
    At last he adds, "Ye shall bear the reproach of my people".
Some take the word, people, in a good sense, as though the Prophet
had said here, that God would punish the wrongs which the rich had
done to the distressed common people; but this view, in my judgment,
is too confined. Others understand this by the reproach of God's
people, - that nothing would be more reproachful to the Jews, than
that they had been the people of God; for it would redound to their
dishonour and disgrace, that they, who had been honored by such an
honorable name, were afterwards given up to so great miseries. But
the passage may be otherwise explained: we may understand by the
people of God the Israelites; as though the Prophet said, "Do ye not
perceive how the Israelites have been treated? Were they not a part
of my people? They were descendants from the race of Abraham as well
as you; nor can you boast of a higher dignity: They were then equal
to you in the opinion of all; and yet this privilege did not hinder
my judgment, did not prevent me from visiting them as they
deserved." Such a view harmonizes with the passage: but there is, as
I think, something ironical in the expression, "my people;" as
though he said, "The confidence, that ye have been hitherto my
people, hardens you: but this false and wicked boasting shall
increase your punishment; for I will not inflict on you an ordinary
punishment, as on heathens and strangers; but I shall punish your
wickedness much more severely; for it is necessary, that your
punishment should bear proportion to my favor, which has been so
shamefully and basely despised by you." Hence, by the reproach of
God's people, I understand the heavier judgments, which were justly
prepared for all the ungodly, whom God had favored with such special
honor, as to regard them as his people: for the servant, who knew
his master's will, and did it not, was on that account more severely
corrected, Luke 12: 47. Let us now proceed -


Chapter 7.

Micah 7:1,2
Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as
the grapegleanings of the vintage: [there is] no cluster to eat: my
soul desired the firstripe fruit.
The good [man] is perished out of the earth: and [there is] none
upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every
man his brother with a net.
    
    The meaning of the first verse is somewhat doubtful: some refer
what the Prophet says to punishment; and others to the wickedness of
the people. The first think that the calamity, with which the Lord
had visited the sins of the people, is bewailed; as though the
Prophet looked on the disordered state of the whole land. But it may
be easily gathered from the second verse, that the Prophet speaks
here of the wickedness of the people, rather than of the punishment
already inflicted. I have therefore put the two verses together,
that the full meaning may be more evident to us.
    "Woe then to me!" Why? "I am become as gatherings". Too free,
or rather too licentious is this version, - "I am become as one who
seeks to gather summer-fruits, and finds none;" so that being
disappointed of his hope, he burns with desire. This cannot possibly
be considered as the rendering of the Prophet's words. There is
indeed some difficulty in the expressions: their import, however,
seems to be this, - that the land, which the Prophet undertakes here
to represent and personify, was like to a field, or a garden, or a
vineyard, that was empty. He therefore says, that the land was
stripped of all its fruit, as it is after harvest and the vintage.
So by "gatherings" we must understand the collected fruit. Some
understand the gleanings which remain, as when one leaves carelessly
a few clusters on the vines: and thus, they say, a few just men
remained alive on the land. But the former comparison harmonizes
better with the rest of the passage, and that is, that the land was
now stripped of all its fruit, as it is after the harvest and the
vintage. I am become then as the gatherings of summer, that is, as
in the summer, when the fruit has been already gathered; and as the
clusters of the vintage, that is when the vintage is over.
    "There is no cluster, he says to eat". The Prophet refers here
to the scarcity of good men; yea, he says that there were no longer
any righteous men living. For though God had ever preserved some
hidden seed, yet it might have been justly declared with regard to
the whole people, that they were like a field after gathering the
corn, or a vineyard after the vintage. Some residue, indeed, remains
in the field after harvest, but there are no ears of corn; and in
the vineyard some bunches remain, but they are empty; nothing
remains but leaves. Now this personification is very forcible when
the Prophet comes forth as though he represented the land itself;
for he speaks in his own name and person, "Woe is to me, he says,
for I am like summer-gatherings!" It was then the same thing, as
though he deplored his own nakedness and want, inasmuch as there
were not remaining any upright and righteous men.
    In the second verse he expresses more clearly his mind,
"Perished, he says, has the righteous from the land, and there is
none upright among men". Here now he does not personify the land. It
was indeed a forcible and an emphatic language, when he complained
at the beginning, that he groaned as though the land was ashamed of
its dearth: but the Prophet now performs the office of a teacher,
"Perished, he says, has the righteous from the land; there is no one
upright among men; all lay in wait for blood; every one hunts his
brother as with a net". In this verse the Prophet briefly shows,
that all were full both of cruelty and perfidy, that there was no
care for justice; as though he said, "In vain are good men sought
among this people; for they are all bloody, they are all frau
dulent." When he says, that they all did lay in wait for blood, he
no doubt intended to set forth their cruelty, as though he had said,
that they were thirsting for blood. But when he adds, that each did
lay in wait for their brethren, he alludes to their frauds or to
their perfidy.
    We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet: and the manner
he adopts is more emphatical than if God, in his own name, had
pronounced the words: for, as men were fixed, and as though drowned,
in their own carelessness, the Prophet introduces here the land as
speaking, which accuses its own children, and confesses its own
guilt; yea, it anticipates God's judgment, and acknowledges itself
to be contaminated by its own inhabitants, so that nothing pure
remained in it. It follows -

Micah 7:3
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh,
and the judge [asketh] for a reward; and the great [man], he
uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.
    
    This verse is properly addressed to the judges and governors of
the people, and also to the rich, who oppressed the miserable common
people, because they could not redeem themselves by rewards. The
Prophet therefore complains, that corruptions so much prevailed in
judgments, that the judges readily absolved the most wicked,
provided they brought bribes. The sum of what is said then is, that
any thing might be done with impunity, for the judges were venal.
This is the Prophet's meaning.
    But as interpreters differ, something shall be said as to the
import of the words. "'Al hara' kapayim", "For the evil of their
hands" to do good. Some give this explanation, "Though they are
openly wicked, yet they make pretenses, by which they cover their
wickedness:" and the sense would be this,--that though they had cast
aside every care for what was right, they yet had become so hardened
in iniquity, that they wished to be deemed good and holy men; for in
a disordered state of things the wicked always show an iron front,
and would have silence to be observed respecting their shameful
deeds. Some interpreters therefore think that the Prophet here
complains, that there was now no difference between what was
honorable and base, right and wrong; for wicked men dared so to
disguise their iniquities, that they did not appear, or, that no one
ventured to say any thing against them. Do you, however, examine and
consider, whether what the Prophet says may be more fitly connected
together in this way, "That they may do good for the wickedness of
their hands", that is, to excuse themselves for the wickedness of
their hands, they agree together; "for the prince asks, the judge is
ready to receive a bribe." Thus, the rich saw that exemption might
have been got by them, for they had the price of redemption in their
hands: they indeed knew that the judges and princes could be
pacified, when they brought the price of corruption. And this is the
meaning which I approve, for it harmonizes best with the words of
the Prophet. At the same time, some give a different explanation of
the verb "leheitiv", that is that they acted vigorously in their
wickedness: but this exposition is frigid. I therefore embrace the
one I have just stated, which is, - that corruptions so prevailed in
the administration of justice, that coverings were ready for all
crimes; for the governors and judges were lovers of money, and were
always ready to absolve the most guilty, but not without a reward.
For the wickedness then of their works, that they may do good, that
is, that they may obtain acquittance, the prince only asks; he
examines not the case, but only regards the hand; and the judge, he
says, judges for reward: the judges also were mercenary. They did
not sit to determine what was right and just; but as soon as they
were satisfied by bribes, they easily forgave all crimes; and thus
they turned vices into virtues; for they made no difference between
white and black, but according to the bribe received.
    This view is consistent with what the Prophet immediately
subjoins, "The great, he says, speaks of the wickedness of his soul,
even he". By the great, he does not mean the chief men, as some
incorrectly think, but he means the rich, who had money enough to
conciliate the judges. They then who could bring the price of
redemption, dared to boast openly of their wickedness: for so I
render the word "hawat", as it cannot be suitable to translate it
here, corruption. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does the
great; there was then nothing, neither fear nor shame, to restrain
the rich from doing wrong. - How so? For they knew that they had to
do with mercenary judges and could easily corrupt them. They hence
dared to speak of the wickedness of their soul: they did not cloak
their crimes, as it is the case when some fear of the Law prevails,
when justice is exercised: but as no difference was made between
good and evil, the most guilty boasted openly of his wickedness. And
the pronoun "hu'", he himself, is also emphatical; and this has not
been observed by interpreters. He then himself speaks of the
wickedness of his soul; he did not wait until others accuse him of
doing wrong, but he shamelessly dared to glory in his crimes; for
impunity was certain, as he could close the mouth of the judges by
bringing a bribe. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does he
himself.
    And further, they fold zip wickedness; which means, that raging
cruelty prevailed, because the governors, and those who wished to
purchase liberty to sin, conspired together; as though they made
ropes, and thus rendered firm their wickedness. For the great man,
that is, the rich and the monied, agreed with the judge, and the
judge with him; and so there was a collusion between them. It hence
happened, that wickedness possessed, as it were, a tyrannical power;
for there was no remedy. We now apprehend the real design of the
Prophet, at least as far as I am able to discover. It now follows -

Micah 7:4
The best of them [is] as a brier: the most upright [is sharper] than
a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen [and] thy visitation cometh;
now shall be their perplexity.
    
    The Prophet confirms what he had previously said, - that the
land was so full of every kind of wickedness, that they who were
deemed the best were yet thorns and briers, full of bitterness, or
very sharp to prick; as though he said, "The best among them is a
thief; the most upright among them is a robber." We hence see, that
in these words he alludes to their accumulated sins, as though he
said, "The condition of the people cannot be worse; for iniquity has
advanced to its extreme point: when any one seeks for a good or an
upright man, he only finds thorns and briers; that is, he is
instantly pricked." But if the best were then like thorns, what must
have been the remainder? We have already seen that the judges were
so corrupt that they abandoned themselves without feeling any shame
to any thing that was base. What then could have been said of them,
when the Prophet compares here the upright and the just to thorns;
yea, when he says, that they were rougher than briers? Though it is
an improper language to say, that the good and the upright among
them were like briers; for words are used contrary to their meaning,
as it is certain, that those who inhumanely pricked others were
neither good nor just: yet the meaning of the Prophet is in no way
obscure, - that there was then such license taken in wickedness,
that even those who retained in some measure the credit of being
upright were yet nothing better than briers and thorns. There is
then in the words what may be deemed a concession.
    He then adds, "The day of thy watchmen, thy visitation comes".
He here denounces the near judgment of God, generally on the people,
and especially on the rulers. But he begins with the first ranks and
says The day of thy watchmen; as though he said, "Ruin now hangs
over thy governors, though they by no means expect it." Watchmen he
calls the Prophets, who, by their flatteries, deceived the people,
as well as their rulers: and he sets the Prophets in the front,
because they were the cause of the common ruin. He does not yet
exempt the body of the people from punishment; nay, he joins
together these two things, - the visitation of the whole people, and
the day of the watchmen.
    And justly does he direct his discourse to these watchmen, who,
being blind, blinded all the rest; and who, being perverted, led
astray the whole people. This is the reason why the Prophet now, in
an especial manner, threatens them; but, as I have already said, the
people were not on this account to be excused. There may seem indeed
to have been here a fair pretence for extenuating their guilt: the
common people might have said that they had not been warned as they
ought to have been; nay, that they had been destroyed through
delusive falsehoods. And we see at this day that many make such a
pretence as this. But a defense of this kind is of no avail before
God; for though the common people are blinded, yet they go astray
off their own accord, since they lend a willing ear to impostors.
And even the reason why God gave loose reins to Satan as well as to
his ministers, and why he gives, as Paul says, (2 Thess. 2: 11,)
power to delusion, is this, - because the greater part of the world
ever seeks to be deceived. The denunciation of the Prophet then is
this, - that as the judges and the Prophets had badly exercised
their office, they would be led to the punishment which they
deserved, for they had been, as it has been elsewhere observed, the
cause of ruin to others: in the meantime, the common people were not
excusable. The vengeance of God then would overtake them and from
the least to the greatest, without any exemption. Thy visitation
then comes.
    He afterwards speaks in the third person, "Then shall be their
confusion", or perplexity, or they shall be ashamed. The Prophet
here alludes indirectly to the hardness of the people; for though
the Prophets daily threatened them, they yet remained all of them
secure; nay, we know that all God's judgments were held in derision
by them. As then the faithful teachers could not have moved wicked
men either with fear or with shame, the Prophet says, "Then
confusion shall come to them"; as though he said, "Be hardened now
as much as ye wish to be, as I see that you are stupid, yea,
senseless, and attend not to the word of the Lord; but the time of
visitation will come, and then the Lord will constrain you to be
ashamed, for he will really show you to be such as ye are; and he
will not then contend with you in words as he does now; but the
announced punishment will divest you of all your false pretenses;
and he will also remove that waywardness which now hardens you
against wholesome doctrine and all admonitions."
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that seeing that we are born in a most corrupt
age, in which such a license is taken to indulge in wickedness, that
hardly a spark of virtue appears, - O grant, that we may yet
continue upright in the midst of thorns; and do thou so constantly
keep us under the guidance of thy Word, that we may cultivate true
piety, and also what is just towards our neighbours: and as there is
in us no power to preserve ourselves safe, grant that thy Son may so
protect us by the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may continue to
advance towards the end of our course, until we be at length
gathered into that celestial kingdom, which he has procured for us
by his own blood. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-sixth

Micah 7:5,6
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the
doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.
For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against
her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's
enemies [are] the men of his own house.
    
    The Prophet pursues the subject we discussed yesterday, - that
liberty, in iniquity, bad arrived to its highest point, for no
faithfulness remained among men; nay, there was no more any
humanity; for the son performed not his duty towards his father, nor
the daughter-in-law towards her mother-in-law; in short, there was
then no mutual love and concord. He does not here speak of that
false confidence, by which many deceive themselves, who rely on
mortals, and transfer to them the glory which belongs to God. Those
therefore without any reason, philosophize here, who say, that we
ought not to trust in men; for this was not the design of the
Prophet. But our Prophet complains of his times according to the
tenor of Ovid's description of the iron age, who says -
         "---A guest is not safe from his host;
         Nor a brother-in-law from a son-in-law;
         and brotherly love is rare:
         A husband seeks the death of his wife,
         and she, of her husband;
         Cruel stepmothers mingle the lurid poison;
         The son, before the day,
         inquires into the years of his father."
    So also our Prophet says, that there was no regard to humanity
among men; for the wife was ready to betray her husband, the son
treated his father with reproach; in short, they had all forgotten
humanity or natural affection. We now then understand what the
Prophet means by saying, "Trust not a friend;" that is, if any one
hopes for any thing from a friend, he will be deceived; for nothing
can be found among men but perfidy.
    "Put no faith in a counselor". So I render the word "'aluf";
some translate it, an elder brother; but there is no necessity to
constrain us to depart from the proper and true meaning of the word.
As then the Prophet had spoken of an associate or a friend, so he
now adds a counselor. And it proves what he had in view, when he
says in the next clause, that no enemies are worse than domestics.
We hence see that the Prophet simply means, that the men of his age
were not only avaricious and cruel to one another, but that without
any regard to human feelings the son rebelled against his father,
and thus subverted the whole order of nature; So that they had none
of those affections, which seem at the same time to be incapable of
being extinguished in men. Let us now proceed -

Micah 7:7
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my
salvation: my God will hear me.
    
    The Prophet points out here the only remedy, to preserve the
faithful from being led away by bad examples and that is, to fix
their eyes on God, and to believe that he will be their deliverer.
Nothing is more difficult than to refrain from doing wrong, when the
ungodly provoke us; for they seem to afford us a good reason for
retaliation. And when no one injures us, yet custom is deemed almost
a law: thus it happens that we think that to be lawful which is
sanctioned by the manners and customs of the age; and when success
attends the wicked, this becomes a very strong incentive. Thus it
happens, that the faithful can hardly, and with no small difficulty,
keep themselves within proper bounds: when they see that wickedness
reigns everywhere, and that with impunity; and still more, when they
see the abettors of wickedness increasing in esteem and wealth,
immediately the corrupt lust of emulation creeps in. But when the
faithful themselves are provoked by injuries, there seems then to be
a just reason for doing wrong; for they say that they willfully do
harm to no one, but only resist an injury done to them, or retaliate
fraud with fraud: this they think is lawful. The Prophet, in order
to prevent this temptation, bids the faithful to look to God. The
same sentiment we often meet with in Psalm 119: its import is, that
the faithful are not to suffer themselves to be led away by bad
examples, but to continue ever obedient to God's word, however great
and violent the provocations they may receive. Let us now consider
the words of the Prophet.
    "To Jehovah, he says, will I look". The verb "tzafah" properly
means to look on, to behold; it is sometimes taken in the sense of
expecting; but I am inclined to retain its proper meaning, "I will
look, he says, on God"; that is, I will do the same as though the
only true God were before my eyes. How indeed does it happen that
even the good indulge themselves while living among the wicked and
ungodly, except that they are too much occupied with things around
them? If then we desire to maintain integrity, while the world
presents to us nothing but examples of sin, let us learn to pass by
these temptations as with closed eyes. This may be done, if we
direct our eyes to God alone. I will look, he says, to Jehovah.
    He then adds, "I will wait for the God of my salvation". The
Prophet says nothing new here, but only explains more clearly the
last clause, defining the manner of the looking of which he had
spoken; as though he said, - "Patiently will I bear, while God helps
me:" for when the wicked harass us on every side, we shall no doubt
soon turn away our eyes from Gods except we be armed with patience.
And how comes patience, unless we be fully persuaded that God will
be our deliverer, when the suitable time shall come? We now perceive
the intention of the Prophet. He shows that the godly cannot
otherwise continue constant in their integrity, except they turn
their eyes to the only true God. Then he adds, that they cannot be
preserved in this contemplation, unless they wait patiently for God,
that is, for his help.
    And he calls him "the God of his salvation"; by which he
intimates that, relying on his word, he thus perseveres in enduring
injuries: for it cannot be but that every one will submit himself to
God, and surrender himself to be protected by him, if this truth be
first fixed in his mind - that God will never forsake his own
people. This then is the reason why he calls him the God of his
salvation. But this title must be referred to his present
circumstances, as though he said, - "Though God's hand does not now
appear to help or to bring me aid, I yet feel assured of his favor,
and I know that my salvation is secured by it."
    He then adds, "Hear me will my God". He here confirms what we
have already said, - that, being supported by the promises of God,
he thus composes his mind to patience; for patience would often
vanish or would be shaken off by temptations, unless we were surely
persuaded that God provides for our salvation, and that we shall not
hope in him in vain. Nor is it to no purpose that he says, that God
was his God. He was one of his people; and this seems to have been
the common privilege of all the Jews: yet the Prophet no doubt
connects God with himself here in a peculiar manner; for men in
general had fallen away into ungodliness. They all indeed gloried in
the name of God, but absurdly and falsely. Hence the Prophet
intimates, that he was under his protection in a manner different
from the rest: for when any one allows himself the liberty of doing
evil, he, at the same time, renounces God and his protection.
Therefore, the Prophet no doubt alludes indirectly to the irreligion
of the people. For though the vain boasting, that they had been
adopted by God, that they were the holy race of Abraham, was
everywhere in the mouth of all, yet hardly one in a hundred had any
regard for God. But it is also of importance to notice, that the
Prophet, by saying, Hear me will God, gives a testimony, at the same
time, respecting his own faith, - that he would always apply to God
for help, and exercise himself in prayer whenever necessity urged
him; for God hears not except when he is called upon. The Prophet
then recommends here, by his example, an attention to prayer.
    Now this verse shows to us in general that there is no excuse
for us if we suffer ourselves to be led away, as it is daily the
case, by bad examples. And then to look to God is especially
needful, when all excesses of wickedness prevail in the world: when
the lusts of men become the rule and the law, we ought then to
renounce in a manner the society of men, that they may not implicate
us in their wickedness. They, therefore, who allege for themselves
the examples of others, employ a frivolous excuse, as many do in the
present day, who set up the shield of custom: though they are
clearly condemned by the word of God, yet they think it a sufficient
defense, that they follow others. But we see how frivolous is this
confidence; for the Prophet no doubt prescribes here a law for all
the children of God as to what they ought to do, when the devil
tempts them to sin by the bad examples and shameful deeds of the
majority. Let us go on -

Micah 7:8
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise;
when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me.
    
    Here the Prophet assumes the character of the Church and repels
a temptation, which proves very severe to us in adversities; for
there is not so much bitterness in the evil itself, as in the
mockery of the wicked, when they petulantly insult us and deride our
faith. And to noble minds reproach is ever sharper than death
itself: and yet the devil almost always employs this artifice; for
when he sees that we stand firm in temptations, he suborns the
wicked and sharpens their tongues to speak evil of use and to wound
us with slanders. This is the reason why the Prophet directs his
discourse now to the enemies of the Church. But as God calls the
Church his spouse, and as she is described to us under the character
of a woman, so also he compares here the enemies of the holy people
to a petulant woman. As, therefore, when there is emulation between
two women, she, who sees her enemy pressed down by evils and adverse
events, immediately raises up herself and triumphs; so also the
Prophet says respecting the enemies of the Church; they sharpened
their tongues, and vomited forth their bitterness, as soon as they
saw the children of God in trouble or nearly overwhelmed with
adversities. We now then understand the design of the Prophet, -
that he wished to arm us, as I have said, against the taunts of the
ungodly, lest they should prevail against us when God presses us
down with adversities, but that we may stand courageously, and with
composed and tranquil minds, swallow down the indignity.
    "Rejoice not over me, he says, O my enemy". Why not? He adds a
consolation; for it would not be enough for one to repel with
disdain the taunts of his enemy; but the Prophet says here, Rejoice
not, for should I fall, I shall rise; or though I fall, I shall
rise: and the passage seems to harmonize better when there is a
pause after "Rejoice not over me"; and then to add, "Though I fall,
I shall rise, though I sit in darkness, Jehovah shall be a light to
me." The Prophet means, that the state of the Church was not past
hope. There would be ample room for our enemies to taunt us, were it
not that this promise cannot fail us, - seven times in the day the
just falls, and rises again, (Prov. 24: 16.) - How so? For God puts
under him his own hand. We now perceive the meaning of this passage.
For if God deprived us of all hope, enemies might justly deride us,
and we must be silent: but since we are surely persuaded that God is
ready at hand to restore us again, we can boldly answer our enemies
when they annoy with their derisions; though I fall, I shall rise:
"There is now no reason for thee to triumph over me when I fall; for
it is God's will that I should fall, but it is for this end - that I
may soon rise again; and though I now lie in darkness, yet the Lord
will be my light."
    We hence see that our hope triumphs against all temptations:
and this passage shows in a striking manner, how true is that saying
of John, - that our faith gains the victory over the world, (1 John
5: 4.) For when sorrow and trouble take possession of our hearts, we
shall not fail if this comes to our mind - that God will be our aid
in the time of need. And when men vomit forth their poison against
us, we ought to be furnished with the same weapons: then our minds
shall never succumb, but boldly repel all the taunts of Satan and of
wicked men. This we learn from this passage.
    Now, from what the Prophet says, "Though I fall, I shall rise
again", we see what God would have us to expect, even a happy and
joyful exit at all times from our miseries; but on this subject I
shall have to speak more copiously a little farther on. As to the
latter clause, "When I sit in darkness, God will be my light", it
seems to be a confirmation of the preceding sentence, where the
Prophet declares, that the fall of the Church would not be fatal.
But yet some think that more is expressed, namely, that in the very
darkness some spark of light would still shine. They then
distinguish between this clause and the former one, which speaks of
the fall and the rise of the faithful, in this manner, - that while
they lie, as it were, sunk in darkness, they shall not even then be
without consolation, for God's favor would ever shine on them. And
this seems to be a correct view: for it cannot be that any one will
expect the deliverance of which the Prophet speaks, except he sees
some light even in the thickest darkness, and sustains himself by
partaking, in some measure, of God's goodness: and a taste of God's
favor in distresses is suitably compared to light; as when one is
cast into a deep pit, by raising upward his eyes, he sees at a
distance the light of the sun; so also the obscure and thick
darkness of tribulations may not so far prevail as to shut out from
us every spark of light, and to prevent faith from raising our eyes
upwards, that we may have some taste of God's goodness. Let us
proceed -

Micah 7:9
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned
against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me:
he will bring me forth to the light, [and] I shall behold his
righteousness.
    
    Here the Church of God animates and encourages herself to
exercise patience, and does so especially by two arguments. She
first sets before herself her sins, and thus humbles herself before
God, whom she acknowledges to be a just Judge; and, in the second
place, she embraces the hope of the forgiveness of her sins, and
from this arises confidence as to her deliverance. By these two
supports the Church sustains herself, that she fails not in her
troubles, and gathers strength, as I have already said, to endure
patiently.
    First then he says, "The wrath of Jehovah will I bear, for
sinned have I against him". This passage shows, that when any one is
seriously touched with the conviction of God's judgment, he is at
the same time prepared to exercise patience; for it cannot be, but
that a sinner, conscious of evil, and knowing that he suffers justly
will humbly and thankfully submit to the will of God. Hence when men
perversely glamour against God, or murmur, it is certain that they
have not as yet been made sensible of their sins. I allow indeed
that many feel guilty who yet struggle against God, and fiercely
resist his hand as much as they can, and also blaspheme his name
when he chastises them: but they are not touched hitherto with the
true feeling of penitence, so as to abhor themselves. Judas owned
indeed that he had sinned, and freely made such confession, (Matth.
27: 3.) Cain tried to cover his sin, but the Lord drew from him an
unwilling confession, (Gen. 4: 13.) They did not yet repent; nay,
they ceased not to contend with God; for Cain complained that his
punishment was too heavy to be borne; Judas despaired. And the same
thing happens to all the reprobate. They seemed then to have been
sufficiently convinced to acknowledge their guilt, and, as it were,
to assent to the justice of God's judgment; but they did not really
know their sins, so as to abhor themselves, as I have said, on
account of their sins. For true penitence is ever connected with the
submission of which the Prophet now speaks. Whosoever then is really
conscious of his sins, renders himself at the same time obedient to
God, and submits himself altogether to his will. Thus repentance
does ever of itself lead to the bearing of the cross; so that he who
sets himself before God's tribunal allows himself to be at the same
time chastised, and bears punishment with a submissive mind: as the
ox, that is tamed, always takes the yoke without any resistance, so
also is he prepared who is really touched with the sense of his
sins, to bear any punishment which God may be pleased to inflict on
him. This then is the first thing which we ought to learn from these
words of the Prophet, The wrath of Jehovah will I bear, for sinned
have I against him.
    We also learn from this passage, that all who do not patiently
bear his scourges contend with God; for though they do not openly
accuse God, and say that they are just, they do not yet ascribe to
him his legitimate glory, by confessing that he is a righteous
judge. - How so? Because these two things are united together and
joined by an indissoluble knot - to be sensible of sin - and to
submit patiently to the will of the Judge when he inflicts
punishment.
    Now follows the other argument, "Until he decides my cause, and
vindicates my right; he will bring me forth into the light, I shall
see his righteousness". Here the Church leans on another support;
for though the Lord should most heavily afflict her, she would not
yet cast aside the hope of deliverance; for she knew, as we have
already seen, that she was chastised for her good: and indeed no one
could even for a moment continue patient in a state of misery,
except he entertained the hope of being delivered, and promised to
himself a happy escape. These two things then ought not to be
separated, and cannot be, - the acknowledgment of our sins, which
will humble us before God, - and the knowledge of his goodness, and
a firm assurance as to our salvation; for God has testified that he
will be ever propitious to us, how much soever he may punish us for
our sins, and that he will remember mercy, as Habakkuk says, in the
midst of his wrath, (Hab. 3: 2.) It would not then be sufficient for
us to feel our evils, except the consolation, which proceeds from
the promises of grace, be added.
    The Prophet shows further, that the Church was innocent, with
regard to its enemies, though justly suffering punishment. And this
ought to be carefully observed; for whenever we have to do with the
wicked, we think that there is no blame belonging to us. But these
two things ought to be considered, - that the wicked trouble us
without reason, and thus our cause as to them is just, - and yet
that we are justly afflicted by God; for we shall ever find many
reasons why the Lord should chastise us. These two things, then,
ought to be both considered by us, as the Prophet seems to intimate
here: for at the beginning of the verse he says, "The wrath of God
will I bear, for sinned have I against him;" and now he adds, "The
Lord will yet vindicate my right," literally, "will debate my
dispute," that is, plead my cause. Since the Church is guilty before
God, nay, waits not for the sentence of the judge, but anticipates
it, and freely confesses herself to be worthy of such punishment,
what does this mean, - that the Lord will decide her quarrel, that
he will undertake her cause? These two things seem to militate the
one against the other: but they agree well together when viewed in
their different bearings. The Church had confessed that she had
sinned against God; she now turns her eyes to another quarter; for
she knew that she was unjustly oppressed by enemies; she knew that
they were led to do wrong by cruelty alone. This then is the reason
why the Church entertained hope, and expected that God would become
the defender of her innocence, that is, against the wicked: and yet
she humbly acknowledged that she had sinned against God. Whenever,
then, our enemies do us harm, let us lay hold on this truth, - that
God will become our defender; for he is ever the patron of justice
and equity: it cannot then be, that God will abandon us to the
violence of the wicked. He will then at length plead our pleading,
or undertake our cause, and be its advocate. But, in the meantime,
let our sins be remembered by us, that, being truly humbled before
God, we may not hope for the salvation which he promises to us,
except through gratuitous pardon. Why then are the faithful bidden
to be of good comfort in their afflictions? Because God has promised
to be their Father; he has received them under his protection, he
has testified that his help shall never be wanting to them. But
whence is this confidence? Is it because they are worthy? Is it
because they have deserved something of this kind? By no means: but
they acknowledge themselves to be guilty, when they humbly prostrate
themselves before God, and when they willingly condemn themselves
before his tribunal, that they may anticipate his judgment. We now
see how well the Prophet connects together these two things, which
might otherwise seem contradictory.
    Now follow the words, "He will bring me to the light, I shall
see his righteousness!" The Church still confirms herself in the
hope of deliverance: art it is hence also manifest how God is light
to the faithful in obscure darkness, because they see that there is
prepared for them an escape from their evils; but they see it at a
distance, for they extend their hope beyond the boundaries of this
life. As then the truth of God diffuses itself through heaven and
earth, so the faithful extend their hope far and wide. Thus it is,
that they can see light afar off, which seems to be very remote from
them. And having this confidence, the Prophet says, The Lord will
bring me into the light. They have, in the meantime, as I have
already said, some light; they enjoy a taste of God's goodness in
the midst of their evils: but the Prophet now refers to that coming
forth which we ought to look for even in the worst circumstances.
    He then adds, "I shall see his righteousness". By God's
righteousness is to be understood, as it has been elsewhere stated,
his favor towards the faithful; not that God returns for their works
the salvation which he bestows, as ungodly men foolishly imagine;
for they lay hold on the word righteousness, and think that whatever
favors God freely grants us are due to our merits. - How so? For God
in this way shows his own righteousness. But far different is the
reason for this mode of speaking. God, in order to show how dear and
precious to him is our salvation, does indeed say, that he designs
to give an evidence of his justice in delivering us: but there is a
reference in this word righteousness to something else; for God has
promised that our salvation shall be the object of his care, hence
he appears just whenever he delivers us from our troubles. Then the
righteousness of God is not to be referred to the merits of works,
but, on the contrary, to the promise by which he has bound himself
to us; and so also in the same dense God is often said to be
faithful. In a word, the righteousness and faithfulness of God mean
the same thing. When the Prophet says now in the person of the
Church, "I shall see his righteousness", he means, that though God
concealed his favour for a time, and withdrew his hand, so that no
hope of aid remained, it could not yet be, as he is just, but that
he would succor us: I shall see then his righteousness, that is, God
will at length really show that he is righteous. It now follows -

Micah 7:10
Then [she that is] mine enemy shall see [it], and shame shall cover
her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall
behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the
streets.
    
    But I cannot finish the subject now.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that seeing we are at this day surrounded by so
many miseries, yea, wherever we turn our eyes, innumerable evils
meet us everywhere, which are so many evidences of thy displeasure,
- O grant, that we being truly humbled before thee, may be enabled
at the same time to raise up our eyes to the promises of thy free
goodness and paternal favor, which thou hast made to us in thine own
Son, that we may not doubt, but that thou wilt be propitious to us,
inasmuch as thou hast adopted us as thy people: and while our
enemies, fully armed, rage and ferociously rise even daily against
us, may we not doubt, but that thou wilt be our protection, as thou
knowest that we are unjustly troubled by them; and may we thus go
on, trusting in thy goodness, seeing that we ever groan under the,
burden of our sins, and daily confess that we are worthy of thousand
deaths before thee, wert not thou pleased in thine infinite mercy
always to receive and restore us to favor, through thy Son our Lord.
Amen.


Lecture Ninety-seventh.

    In the last lecture I repeated the tenth verse of the last
chapter, in which the prophet adds, as a cause of the greatest joy,
that the enemies of the Church shall see granted, to their great
mortification, the wonderful favor of which the Prophet had been
speaking. But he describes these enemies, under the character of an
envious woman, as the Church of God is also compared to a woman: and
this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. He then calls
Jerusalem his rival, or Babylon, or some city of his enemies.
    And he says, "Covered shall she be with shame". We know that
the ungodly grow insolent when fortune smiles on them: hence in
prosperity they keep within no bounds, for they think that God is
under their feet. If prosperity most commonly has the effect of
making the godly to forget God and even themselves, it is no wonder
that the unbelieving become more and more hardened, when God is
indulgent to them. With regard then to such a pride, the Prophet now
says, "When my enemy shall see, shame shall cover her"; that is, she
will not continue in her usual manner, to elate herself with her own
boastings: nay, she will be compelled for shame to hide herself; for
she will see that she had been greatly deceived, in thinking that I
should be wholly ruined.
    He afterwards adds, "Who said to me, Where is Jehovah thy God?"
The Church of God in her turn triumphs here over the unbelieving,
having been delivered by divine power; nor does she do this for her
own sake, but because the ungodly expose the holy name of God to
reproach, which is very common: for whenever God afflicts his
people, the unbelieving immediately raise their crests, and pour
forth their blasphemies against God, when yet they ought, on the
contrary, to humble themselves under his hand. But since God
executes his judgments on the faithful, what can be expected by his
ungodly despisers? If God's vengeance be manifested in a dreadful
manner with regard to the green tree, what will become of the dry
wood? And the ungodly are like the dry wood. But as they are blind
as to God's judgments, they petulantly deride his name, whenever
they see the Church afflicted, as though adversities were not the
evidences of God's displeasure: for he chastises his own children,
to show that he is the judge of the world. But, as I have already
said, the ungodly so harden themselves in their stupor, that they
are wholly thoughtless. The faithful, therefore, after having found
God to be their deliverer, do here undertake his cause; they do not
regard themselves nor their own character, but defend the
righteousness of God. Such is this triumphant language, "Who said,
Where is now Jehovah thy God?" "I can really show that I worship the
true God, who deserts not his people in extreme necessity: after he
has assisted me, my enemy, who dared to rise up against God, now
seeks hiding-places."
    "She shall now, he says, be trodden under foot as the mire of
the streets; and my eyes shall see her". What the Prophet declares
in the name of the Church, that the unbelieving shall be like mire,
is connected with the promise, which we already noticed; for God so
appears as the deliverer of his Church, as not to leave its enemies
unpunished. God then, while he aids his own people, leads the
ungodly to punishment. Hence the Church, while embracing the
deliverance offered to her, at the same time sees the near ruin,
which impends on all the despisers of God. But what is stated, "See
shall my eyes", ought not to be so taken, as though the faithful
exult with carnal joy, when they see the ungodly suffering the
punishment which they have deserved; for the word to see is to be
taken metaphorically, as signifying a pleasant and joyful sight,
according to what it means in many other places; and as it is a
phrase which often occurs, its meaning must be well known. See then
shall my eyes, that is, "I shall enjoy to look on that calamity,
which now impends over all the ungodly." But, as I have already
said, carnal joy is not what is here intended, which intemperately
exults, but that pure joy which the faithful experience on seeing
the grace of God displayed and also his judgment. But this joy
cannot enter into our hearts until they be cleansed from unruly
passions; for we are ever excessive in fear and sorrow, as well as
in hope and joy, except the Lord holds us in, as it were, with a
bridle. We shall therefore be only then capable of this spiritual
joy, of which the Prophet speaks, when we shall put off all
disordered feelings, and God shall subdue us by his Spirit: then
only shall we be able to retain moderation in our joy. The Prophet
proceeds -

Micah 7:11,12
[In] the day that thy walls are to be built, [in] that day shall the
decree be far removed.
[In] that day [also] he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and
[from] the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the
river, and from sea to sea, and [from] mountain to mountain.
    
    Micah pursues the subject on which he had previously spoken, -
that though the Church thought itself for a time to be wholly lost,
yet God would become its deliverer. He says first, that the day was
near, in which they were to build the wall. The word "gader" means
either a mound or a wall; so it ought to be distinguished from a
wall, that is, a strong fortress. He then intimates that the time
would come, when God would gather his Church, and preserve it, as
though it were defended on every side by walls. For we know that the
scattering of the Church is compared to the pulling down of walls or
fences: as when a person pulls down the fence of a field or a
vineyard, or breaks down all enclosures; so when the Church is
exposed as a prey to all, she is said to be like an open field or a
vineyard, which is without any fence. Now, on the other hand, the
Prophet says here, that the time would come, when the faithful shall
again build walls, by which they may be protected from the assaults
and plunder of enemies, A day then to build thy walls.
    Then he adds, "This day shall drive afar off the edict"; some
render it tribute; but the word properly means an edict, and this
best suits the passage; for the Prophet's meaning is, that the
people would not, as before, be subject to the tyranny of Babylon.
For after the subversion of Jerusalem, the Babylonians, no doubt,
triumphed very unfeelingly over the miserable people, and uttered
dreadful threatening. The Prophet, therefore, under the name of
edict, includes that cruel and tyrannical dominion which the
Babylonians for a time exercised. We know what God denounces on the
Jews by Ezekiel, 'Ye would not keep my good laws; I will therefore
give you laws which are not good, which ye shall be constrained to
keep; and yet ye shall not live in them,' (Ezek. 20: 25.) Those laws
which were not good were the edicts of which the Prophet now speaks.
That day then shall drive far away the edict, that the Jews might
not dread the laws of their enemies. For the Babylonians no doubt
forbade, under the severest punishment, any one from building even a
single house in the place where Jerusalem formerly was; for they
wished that place to remain desolate, that the people might know
that they had no hope of restoration. "That day then shall put afar
off", or drive to a distance, "the edict"; for liberty shall be
given to the Jews to build their city; and then they shall not
tremblingly expect every hour, until new edicts come forth,
denouncing grievous punishments on whomsoever that would dare to
encourage his brethren to build the temple of God.
    Some draw the Prophet's words to another meaning: they first
think that he speaks only of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and
then they take "rachak" in the sense of extending or propagating,
and consider this to be the Gospel which Christ, by the command of
the Father, promulgated through the whole world. It is indeed true
that David uses the word decree in Ps. 2, while speaking of the
preaching of the Gospel; and it is also true, that the promulgation
of that decree is promised in Ps. 110, 'The rod of his power will
Jehovah send forth from Zion.' But this passage ought not to be thus
violently perverted; for the Prophet no doubt means, that the Jews
would be freed from all dread of tyranny when God restored them to
liberty; and "rachak" does not mean to extend or propagate, but to
drive far away. That day then shall drive away the decree, so that
the faithful shall be no more subject to tyrannical commands. We now
perceive the true meaning of the Prophet.
    The faithful doubtless prayed in their adversities, and
depended on such prophecies as we find in Ps. 102, 'The day is now
come to show mercy to Zion, and to build its walls; for thy servants
pity her stones.' Nor did the faithful pray thus presumptuously, but
taking confidence, as though God had dictated a form of prayer by
his own mouth, they dealt with God according to his promise, "O
Lord, thou hast promised the rebuilding of the city, and the time
has been prefixed by Jeremiah and by other Prophets: since then the
time is now completed, grant that the temple and the holy city may
again be built."
    Some render the words, "In the day in which thou shalt build
(or God shall build) thy walls - in that day shall be removed afar
off the decree." But I doubt not but that the Prophet promises here
distinctly to the faithful both the restoration of the city and a
civil freedom; for the sentence is in two parts: the Prophet
intimates first, that the time was now near when the faithful would
build their own walls, that they might not be exposed to the will of
their enemies, - and then he adds, that they would be freed from the
dread of tyranny; for God, as it is said by Isaiah, would break the
yoke of the burden, and the sceptre of the oppressor, (Isa. 9: 4;)
and it is altogether the same kind of sentence.
    He afterwards adds, "In that day also to thee shall they come
from Asshur". There is some obscurity in the words; hence
interpreters have regarded different words as being understood: but
to me the meaning of the Prophet appears not doubtful. "In that day,
he says, to thee shall they come from Asshur, and cities of the
fortress and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to
sea, and from mountain to mountain"; but some think "har" to be a
proper name, and render the last clause, "And from mount Hor:" and
we know that Aaron was buried on this mount. But the Prophet, no
doubt, alludes here to some other place; and to render it mount Hor
is a strained version. I doubt not, therefore, but that the Prophet
repeats a common name, as though he said, "From mountains to
mountains."
    Let us now see what the Prophet means. With regard to the
passage, as I have said, there is no ambiguity, provided we bear in
mind the main subject. Now the Prophet had this in view, - That
Jerusalem, when restored by God, would be in such honor along all
nations that there would be flowing to her from all parts. He then
says, that the state of the city would be very splendid, so that
people from all quarters would come to it: and therefore the
copulative vau is to be taken twice for "even" for the sake of
emphasis, "In that day, even to thee", and then, "even to the
river"; for it was not believed that Jerusalem would have any
dignity, after it had been entirely destroyed, together with the
temple. It is no wonder then that the Prophet so distinctly confirms
here what was by no means probable, at least according to the common
sentiments of men, - that Jerusalem would attract to itself all
nations, even those far away. Come, then, shall they, (for the verb
"yavo'" in the singular number must be taken indefinitely as having
a plural meaning,) Come, then, shall they from Asshur even to thee.
But the Assyrians had previously destroyed every land, overturned
the kingdom of Israel, and almost blotted out its name; and they had
also laid waste the kingdom of Judah; a small portion only remained.
They came afterwards, we know, with the Chaldeans, after the seat of
empire was translated to Babylon, and destroyed Nineveh. Therefore,
by naming the Assyrians, he no doubt, taking a part for the whole,
included the Babylonians. Come, then, shall they from Asshur, and
then, from the cities of the fortress, that is, from every fortress.
For they who take "tzor" for Tyre are mistaken; for "matzor" is
mentioned twice, and it means citadels and strongholds. And then,
even to the river, that is, to utmost borders of Euphrates; for many
take Euphrates, by way of excellence, to be meant by the word river;
as it is often the case in Scripture; though it might be not less
fitly interpreted of any or every river, as though the Prophet had
said, that there would be no obstacle to stop their course who would
hasten to Jerusalem. Even to the river then, and from sea to sea,
that is, they shall come in troops from remote countries, being led
by the celebrity of the holy city; for when it shall be rebuilt by
God's command, it shall acquire new and unusual honour, so that all
people from every part shall assemble there. And then, from mountain
to mountain, that is, from regions far asunder. This is the sum of
the whole.
    The Prophet then promises what all men deemed as fabulous, -
that the dignity of the city Jerusalem should be so great after the
return of the Jews from exile, that it would become, as it were, the
metropolis of the world. One thing must be added: They who confine
this passage to Christ seem not indeed to be without a plausible
reason; for there follows immediately a threatening as to the
desolation of the land; and there seems to be some inconsistency,
except we consider the Prophet here as comparing the Church
collected from all nations with the ancient people. But these things
will harmonize well together if we consider, that the Prophet
denounces vengeance on the unbelieving who then lived, and that he
yet declares that God will be merciful to his chosen people. But the
restriction which they maintain is too rigid; for we know that it
was usual with the Prophets to extend the favor of God from the
return of the ancient people to the coming of Christ. Whenever,
then, the Prophets make known God's favor in the deliverance of his
people, they make a transition to Christ, but included also the
whole intermediate time. And this mode the Prophet now pursues, and
it ought to be borne in mind by us. Let us go on -

Micah 7:13
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that
dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
    
    The Prophet, as I have already said, seems to be inconsistent
with himself: for after having spoken of the restoration of the
land, he now abruptly says, that it would be deserted, because God
had been extremely provoked by the wickedness of the people. But, as
I have stated before, it was almost an ordinary practice with the
Prophets, to denounce at one time God's vengeance on all the Jews,
and then immediately to turn to the faithful, who were small in
number, and to raise up their minds with the hope of deliverance. We
indeed know that the Prophets had to do with the profane despisers
of God; it was therefore necessary for them to fulminate, when they
addressed the whole body of the people: the contagion had pervaded
all orders, so that they were all become apostates, from the highest
to the lowest, with very few exceptions, and those hidden amidst the
great mass, like a few grains in a vast heap of chaff. Then the
Prophets did not without reason mingle consolations with
threatening; and their threatening they addressed to the whole body
of the people; and then they whispered, as it were, in the ear, some
consolation to the elect of God, the few remnants, - "Yet the Lord
will show mercy to you; though he has resolved to destroy his
people, ye shall yet remain safe, but this will be through some
hidden means." Our Prophet then does, on the one hand, as here,
denounce God's vengeance on a people past remedy; and, on the others
he speaks of the redemption of the Church, that by this support the
faithful might be sustained in their adversities.
    He now says, "The land shall be for desolation." But why does
he speak in so abrupt a manner? That he might drive hypocrites from
that false confidence, with which they were swollen though God
addressed not a word to them: but when God pronounced any thing, as
they covered themselves with the name of Church, they then
especially laid hold of any thing that was said to the faithful, as
though it belonged to them: "Has not God promised that he will be
the deliverer of his people?" as though indeed he was to be their
deliverer, who had alienated themselves by their perfidy from him;
and yet this was a very common thing among them. Hence the Prophet,
seeing that hypocrites would greedily lay hold on what he had said,
and by taking this handle would become more audacious, says now,
"The land shall be for desolation", that is, "Be ye gone; for when
God testifies that he will be the deliverer of his Church, he does
not address you; for ye are the rotten members; and the land shall
be reduced to a waste before God's favor, of which I now speak,
shall appear." We now then perceive the reason for this passage, why
the Prophet so suddenly joined threatenings to promises: it was, to
terrify hypocrites.
    He says, "On account of its inhabitants, from the fruit", or,
"on account of the fruit of their works". Here the Prophet closes
the door against the despisers of God, lest they should break forth,
according to their custom, and maintain that God was, as it were,
bound to them: "See," he says, "what ye are; for ye have polluted
the land with your vices; it must therefore be reduced to
desolation." And when the land, which is in itself innocent, is
visited with judgment, what will become of those despisers whose
wickedness it sustains? We hence see how emphatical was this mode of
speaking. For the Prophet summons here all the unbelieving to
examine their life, and then he sets before them the land, which was
to suffer punishment, though it had committed no sin; and why was it
to suffer? because it was polluted as I have said by their
wickedness. Since this was the case, we see, that hypocrites were
very justly driven away from the false confidence with which they
were inflated, while they yet proudly despised God and his Word. It
now follows -

Micah 7:14
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which
dwell solitarily [in] the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them
feed [in] Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
    
    Here the Prophet turns to supplications and prayers; by which
he manifests more vehemence, than if he had repeated again what he
had previously said of the restoration of the Church; for he shows
how dreadful that judgment would be, when God would reduce the land
into solitude. This prayer no doubt contains what was at the same
time prophetic. The Prophet does not indeed simply promise
deliverance to the faithful, but at the same time he doubly
increases that terror; by which he designed to frighten hypocrites;
as though he said, "Most surely except God will miraculously
preserve his own people, it is all over with the Church: there is
then no remedy, except through the ineffable power of God." In
short, the Prophet shows, that he trembled at that vengeance, which
he had previously foretold, and which he did foretell, lest
hypocrites, in their usual manner, should deride him. We now see why
the Prophet had recourse to this kind of comfort, why he so
regulates his discourse as not to afford immediate hope to the
faithful, but addresses God himself. Feed then thy people; as though
he said, - "Surely that calamity will be fatal, except thou, Lord,
wilt be mindful of thy covenant, and gather again some remnant from
the people whom thou hast been pleased to choose: Feed thy people."
    The reason why he called them the people of God was, because
they must all have perished, unless it had been that it was
necessary that what God promised to Abraham should be fulfilled, -
'In thy seed shall all nations be blessed,' (Gen. 12: 3.) It was
then the adoption of God alone which prevented the total destruction
of the Jews. Hence he says emphatically, - "O Lord, these are yet
thy people;" as though he said, - "By whom wilt thou now form a
Church for thyself?" God might indeed have collected it from the
Gentiles, and have made aliens his family; but it was necessary that
the root of adoption should remain in the race of Abraham, until
Christ came forth. Nor was there then any dispute about God's power,
as there is now among fanatics, who ask, Can God do this? But there
was reliance on the promise, and from this they learnt with
certainty what God had once decreed, and what he would do. Since
then this promise, 'By thy seed shall all nations be blessed,' was
sacred and inviolable, the grace of God must have ever continued in
the remnant. It is indeed certain, that hypocrites, as it has been
already stated, without any discrimination, abused the promises of
God; but this truth must be ever borne in mind, that God punished
the ungodly, though relying on their great number, they thought that
they would be always preserved. God then destroyed them, as they
deserved; and yet it was his purpose, that some remnant should be
among that people. But it must be observed, that this distinction
ought not to be extended to all the children of Abraham, who derived
their origin from him according to the flesh, but to be applied to
the faithful, that is, to the remnant, who were preserved according
to the gratuitous adoption of God.
    Feed then thy people "by thy crook." He compares God to a
shepherd, and this metaphor often occurs. Though "shevet" indeed
signifies a sceptre when kings are mentioned, it is yet taken also
for a pastoral staff, as in Ps. 23 and in many other places. As then
he represents God here as a Shepherd, so he assigns a crook to him;
as though he said, "O Lord, thou performest the office of a Shepherd
in ruling this people." How so? He immediately confirms what I have
lately said, that there was no hope of a remedy except through the
mercy of God, by adding, "the flock of thine heritage"; for by
calling them the flock of his heritage, he does not consider what
the people deserved, but fixes his eyes on their gratuitous
adoption. Since, then, it had pleased God to choose that people, the
Prophet on this account dares to go forth to God's presence, and to
plead their gratuitous election, - "O Lord, I will not bring before
thee the nobility of our race, or any sort of dignity, or our piety,
or any merits." What then? "We are thy people, for thou best
declared that we are a royal priesthood. We are then thine
heritage." How so? "Because it has been thy pleasure to have one
peculiar people sacred to thee." We now more clearly see that the
Prophet relied on God's favor alone, and opposed the recollection of
the covenant to the trials which might have otherwise made every
hope to fail.
    He afterwards adds, "Who dwell apart", or alone. He no doubt
refers here to the dispersion of the people, when he says, that they
dwelt alone. For though the Jews had been scattered in countries
delightful, fertile and populous, yet they were everywhere as in a
desert and in solitude, for they were a mutilated body. The whole of
Chaldea and of Assyria was then really a desert to the faithful; for
there they dwelt not as one people, but as members torn asunder.
This is the dispersion intended by the words of the Prophet. He also
adds, that dwell "in the forest". For they had no secure habitation
except in their own country; for they lived there under the
protection of God; and all other countries, as I have already said,
were to them like the desert.
    He adds, "In the midst of Carmel". The preposition "caf" is to
be understood here, As in the midst of Carmel, they shall be fed in
Bashan and Gilead, as in ancient days; that is, though they are now
thy solitary sheep, yet thou wilt gather them again that they may
feed as on Carmel, (which we know was very fruitful,) and then, as
in Bashan and Gilead. We know that there are in those places the
richest pastures. Since then the Prophet compares the faithful to
sheep, he mentions Bashan, he mentions Carmel and Gilead; as though
he said, "Restore, O Lord, thy people, that they may dwell in the
heritage once granted them by thee." Why he says that they were
solitary, I have already explained; and there is a similar passage
in Psalm 102: 17; though there is there a different word, "yir'u";
but the meaning is the same. The faithful are there said to be
solitary, because they were not collected into one body; for this
was the true happiness of the people, - that they worshipped God
together, that they were under one head, and also that they had one
altar as a sacred bond to cherish unity of faith. When therefore the
faithful were scattered here and there they were justly said to be
solitary, wherever they were.
    He afterwards adds, "according to ancient days". Here he places
before God the favors which he formerly showed to his people, and
prays that he would, like himself, go on to the end, that is that he
would continue to the end his favors to his chosen people. And it
availed not a little to confirm their faith, when the faithful
called to mind how liberally had God dealt from the beginning with
the posterity of Abraham: they were thus made to feel assured, that
God would be no less kind to his elect, though there might be, so to
speak, a sad separation: for when God had banished the Jews into
exile, it was a kind of divorce, as though they were given to utter
destruction. Yet now when they recollect that they had descended
from the holy fathers, and that a Redeemer had been promised them,
they justly entertain a hope of favor in future from the past
benefits of God, because he had formerly kindly treated his people.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since we have so provoked thy displeasure
by our sins, that a dreadful waste and solitude appear everywhere -
O grant, that a proof of that favour, which thou hast so remarkably
exhibited towards thy ancient people, may shine upon us, so that thy
Church may be raised up in which true religion may flourish, and thy
name be glorified: and may we daily solicit thee in our prayers and
never doubt, but that under the government of thy Christ, thou canst
again gather together the whole world, though it be miserably
dispersed, so that we may persevere in this warfare to the end,
until we shall at length know that we have not in vain hoped in
thee, and that our prayers have not been in vain, when Christ shall
exercise the power given to him for our salvation and for that of
the whole world. Amen.


Lecture Ninety-eighth.

Micah 7:15
According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I
shew unto him marvellous [things].
    
    The Prophet here introduces God as the speaker; and he so
speaks as to give an answer to his prayer. God then promises that he
will be wonderful in his works, and give such evidences of his
power, as he exhibited when he brought up his people from the land
of Egypt. We now see that there is more force in this passage, than
if the Prophet had at first said, that God would become the
deliverer of his people: for he interposed entreaty and prayer and
God now shows that he will be merciful to his people; and at the
same time the faithful are reminded, that they must be instant in
prayer, if they desire to be preserved by God.
    Now God says that he will show wonderful things as when the
people formerly came out of Egypt. That redemption, we know, was a
perpetual monument of God's power in the preservation of his Church;
so that whenever he designs to give some hope of deliverances he
reminds the faithful of those miracles that they may feel assured
that there will be no obstacles to prevent them from continuing in a
state of safety, provided God will be pleased to help them, for his
power is not diminished.
    And this deserves to be noticed; for though we all allow the
omnipotence of God, yet when we struggle with trials, we tremble, as
though all the avenues to our preservation had been closed up
against God. As soon then as any impediment is thrown in our way, we
think that there is no hope. Whence is this? It is because we make
no account of God's power, which yet we confess to be greater than
that of the whole world.
    This is the reason why God now refers to the miracles which he
wrought at the coming forth of the people. They ought to have known,
that God ever continues like himself, and that his power remains as
perfect as it was formerly; and there is in him sufficient support
to encourage the hope of assistance. We now perceive the object of
the Prophet. He indeed changes the persons; for in the beginning he
addresses the people, according to the days of thy going forth, and
then he adds, "'ar'ennu", 'I will make him to see;' but this change
does not obscure the meaning, for God only means, that his power was
sufficiently known formerly to his people, and that there was a
memorable proof of it in their redemption, so that the people could
not have doubted respecting their safety, without being ungrateful
to God, and without burying in oblivion that so memorable a benefit,
which God once conferred on their fathers. It follows -

Micah 7:16,17
The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they
shall lay [their] hand upon [their] mouth, their ears shall be deaf.
They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of
their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the
LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.
    
    Here again the Prophet shows, that though the Church should be
assailed on every side and surrounded by innumerable enemies, no
doubt ought yet to be entertained respecting the promised aid of
God; for it is in his power to make all nations ashamed, that is, to
cast down all the pride of the world, so as to make the unbelieving
to acknowledge at length that they were elated by an empty
confidence. Hence he says, that "the nations shall see"; as though
he said, "I know what makes you anxious, for many enemies are intent
on your ruin; and when any help appears, they are immediately
prepared fiercely to resist; but their attempts and efforts will not
prevent God from delivering you."
    "They shall then see and be ashamed of all their strength." By
these words the Prophet means, that however strongly armed the
unbelieving may think themselves to be to destroy the Church, and
that how many obstacles soever they may have in their power to
restrain the power of God in its behalf, yet the whole will be in
vain, for God will, in fact, prove that the strength of men is mere
nothing.
    He adds, "They shall lay their hand on their mouth"; that is,
they shall not dare to boast hereafter, as they have hitherto done;
for this phrase in Hebrew means to be silent. Since then the enemies
of the Church made great boastings and exulted with open mouth, as
though the people of God were destroyed, the Prophet says, that when
God would appear as the Redeemer of his people, they should become,
as it were, mute. He subjoins, "their ears shall become deaf"; that
is, they shall stand astounded; nay, they shall hardly dare to open
their ears, lest the rumour, brought to them, should occasion to
them new trembling. Proud men, we know, when matters succeed
according to their wishes, not only boast of their good fortune with
open mouths, but also greedily catch at all rumours; for as they
think they are all so many messages of victories, - "What is from
this place? or what is from that place?" They even expect that the
whole world will come under their power. The Prophet, on the other
hand, says, "They shall lay the hand on the mouth, and their ears
shall become deaf; that is they shall tremblingly shun all rumours,
for they shall continually dread new calamities, when they shall see
that the God of Israel, against who they have hitherto fought, is
armed with so much power.
    Some apply this to the preaching of the Gospel; which I readily
allow, provided the deliverance be made always to begin with the
ancient people: for if any one would have this to be understood
exclusively of Christ, such a strained and remote exposition would
not be suitable. But if any one will consider the favor of God, as
continued from the return of the people to the restoration effected
by Christ, he will rightly comprehend the real design of the
Prophet. Really fulfilled, then, is what the Prophet says here, when
God spreads the doctrine of his Gospel through the whole world: for
those who before boasted of their own inventions, begin then to
close their mouth, that, being thus silent, they may become his
disciples; and they also close their ears, for now they give not up
themselves, as before, to foolish and puerile fables, but consecrate
their whole hearing to the only true God, that they may attend only
to his truth, and no more vacillate between contrary opinions. All
this, I allow, is fulfilled under the preaching of the Gospel; but
the Prophet, no doubt, connected together the whole time, from the
return of the people from the Babylonian exile, to the manifestation
of Christ.
    He afterwards adds, "They shall lick the dust as a serpent". He
intimates, that however the enemies of the Church may have proudly
exalted themselves before, they shall then be cast down, and lie, as
it were, on the ground; for to lick the dust is nothing else but to
lie prostrate on the earth. They shall then be low and creeping like
serpents; and then, "They shall move themselves as worms and
reptiles of the ground". The verb "ragaz", as it has been stated
elsewhere, means to raise an uproar, to tumultuate, and it means
also to move one's self; and this latter meaning is the most
suitable here, namely, that they shall go forth or move themselves
from their enclosures; for the word "sagar" signifies to close up:
and by enclosures he means hiding-places, though in the song of
David, in Psalm 18, the word is applied to citadels and other
fortified places, - 'Men,' he says, 'trembled from their
fortresses;' though they occupied well-fortified citadels, they yet
were afraid, because the very fame of David had broken down their
boldness. But as the Prophet speaks here of worms, I prefer this
rendering, - 'from their lurkingplaces;' as though he said, "Though
they have hitherto thought themselves safe in their enclosures, they
shall yet move and flee away like worms and reptiles; for when the
ground is dug, the worms immediately leap out, for they think that
they are going to be taken; so also, when any one moves the ground,
the reptiles come forth, and tremblingly run away in all
directions." And the Prophet says that, in like manner, the enemies
of the Church, when the Lord shall arise for its help, shall be
smitten with so much fear, that they shall in every direction run
away. And this comparison ought to be carefully noticed, that is,
when the Prophet compares powerful nations well exercised in wars,
who before were audaciously raging, and were swollen with great
pride - when he compares them to worms and reptiles of the ground,
and also to serpents: he did this to show, that there will be
nothing to hinder God from laying prostrate every exalted thing in
the world, as soon as it shall please him to aid his Church.
    And hence the Prophet adds, "On account of Jehovah our God they
shall treed, and they shall fear because of thee. Here the Prophet
shows, that the faithful ought not to distrust on account of their
own weakness, but, on the contrary, to remember the infinite power
of God. It is indeed right that the children of God should begin
with diffidence, - sensible that they are nothing, and that all
their strength is nothing; but they ought not to stop at their own
weakness, but, on the contrary, to rise up to the contemplation of
God's power, that they may not doubt but that, when his power shall
appear, their enemies shall be soon scattered. This is the reason
why the Prophet here mentions the name of God, and then turns to
address God himself. "Tremble then shall they at Jehovah our God",
that is, on account of Jehovah our God; and then "Fear shall they
because of thee." It now follows -

Micah 7:18
Who [is] a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth
by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth
not his anger for ever, because he delighteth [in] mercy.
    
    The Prophet here exclaims that God ought to be glorified
especially for this - that he is merciful to his people. When he
says, "Who is God as thou art?" he does not mean that there are
other gods; for this, strictly speaking, is an improper comparison.
But he shows that the true and only God may be distinguished from
all idols by this circumstance - that he graciously forgives the
sins of his people and bears with their infirmities. It is indeed
certain, that all nations entertained the opinion, that their gods
were ready to pardon; hence their sacrifices and hence also their
various kinds of expiations. Nor has there been any nation so
barbarous as not to own themselves guilty in some measure before
God; hence all the Gentiles were wont to apply to the mercy of their
gods; while yet they had no firm conviction: for though they laid
hold on this first principle, - that the gods would be propitious to
sinners, if they humbly sought pardon; yet they prayed, we know,
with no sure confidence, for they had no certain promise. We hence
see that what the Prophet means is this, - that the God of Israel
could be proved to be the true God from this circumstance - that
having once received into favor the children of Abraham, he
continued to show the same favor, and kept his covenant inviolably,
though their sins had been a thousand times a hindrance in the way.
That God then in his goodness surmounted all the wickedness of the
people, and stood firm in his covenant, which had been so often
violated by vices of the people - this fact may be brought as an
evidence, that he is the true God: for what can be found of this
kind among idols? Let us suppose that there is in them something
divine, that they were gods, and endued with some power; yet with
regard to the gods of the Gentiles, it could not be known that any
one of them was propitious to his own people. Since then this can
apply only to the God of Israel, it follows that in this instance
his divinity shines conspicuously, and that his sovereignty is hence
sufficiently proved. We also learn, that all the gods of heathens
are vain; yea, that in the religion of heathens there is nothing but
delusions: for no nation can with confidence flee to its god to
obtain pardon, when it has sinned. This is the sum of the whole. I
shall now come to the words of the Prophet.
    "Who is a God like thee, taking away iniquity, and passing by
wickedness?" By these two forms of expression, he sets forth the
singular favor of God in freely reconciling himself to sinners. To
take away sins is to blot them out; though the verb "nasa'" often
means to raise on high; yet it means also to take, or, to take away.
To pass by wickedness, is to connive at it, as though he said, "God
overlooks the wickedness of his people, as if it escaped his view:"
for when God requires an account of our life, our sins immediately
appear, and appear before his eyes; but when God does not call our
sins before his judgment, but overlooks them, he is then said to
pass by them.
    This passage teaches us, as I have already reminded you, that
the glory of God principally shines in this, - that he is
reconcilable, and that he forgives our sins. God indeed manifests
his glory both by his power and his wisdom, and by all the judgments
which he daily executes; his glory, at the same time, shines forth
chiefly in this, - that he is propitious to sinners, and suffers
himself to be pacified; yea, that he not only allows miserable
sinners to be reconciled to him, but that he also of his own will
invites and anticipates them. Hence then it is evident, that he is
the true God. That religion then may have firm roots in our hearts,
this must be the first thing in our faith, - that God will ever be
reconciled to us; for except we be fully persuaded as to his mercy,
no true religion will ever flourish in us, whatever pretensions we
may make; for what is said in Ps. 130 is ever true, 'With thee is
propitiation, that thou mayest be feared.' Hence the fear of God,
and the true worship of him, depend on a perception of his goodness
and favor; for we cannot from the heart worship God, and there will
be, as I have already said, no genuine religion in us, except this
persuasion be really and deeply seated in our hearts, - that he is
ever ready to forgive, whenever we flee to him.
    It hence also appears what sort of religion is that of the
Papacy: for under the Papacy, being perplexed and doubtful, they
ever hesitate, and never dare to believe that God will be propitious
to them. Though they have some ideas, I know not what, of his grace;
yet it is a vain presumption and rashness, as they think, when any
one is fully persuaded of God's mercy. They therefore keep
consciences in suspense; nay, they leave them doubtful and
trembling, when there is no certainty respecting God's favor. It
hence follows, that their whole worship is fictitious; in a word,
the whole of religion is entirely subverted, when a firm and
unhesitating confidence, as to his goodness, is taken away, yea,
that confidence by which men are enabled to come to him without
doubting, and to receive, whenever they sin and confess their guilt
and transgressions, the mercy that is offered to them.
    But this confidence is not what rises spontaneously in us; nay,
even when we entertain a notion that God is merciful, it is only a
mere delusion: for we cannot be fully convinced respecting God's
favor, except he anticipates us by his word, and testifies that he
will be propitious to us whenever we flee to him. Hence I said at
the beginning, that the Prophet here exhibits the difference between
the God of Israel and all the idols of the Gentiles, and that is,
because he had promised to be propitious to his people. It was not
in vain that sacrifices were offered by the chosen people, for there
was a promise added, which could not disappoint them: but the
Gentiles ever remained doubtful with regard to their sacrifices;
though they performed all their expiations, there was yet no
certainty; but the case was different with the chosen people. What
then the Prophet says here respecting the remission of sins, depends
on the testimony which God himself has given.
    We must now notice the clause which immediately follows, as to
the remnant of his heritage. Here again he drives away the
hypocrites from their vain confidence: for he says that God will be
merciful only to a remnant of his people; and, at the same time, he
takes away an offense, which might have grievously disquieted the
weak, on seeing the wrath of God raging among the whole people, -
that God would spare neither the common nor the chief men. When
therefore the fire of God's vengeance flamed terribly, above and
below, this objection might have greatly disturbed weak minds, -
"How is this? God does indeed declare that he is propitious to
sinners, and yet his severity prevails among us. - How can this be?
"The Prophet meets this objection and says, "God is propitious to
the remnant of his heritage;" which means, that though God would
execute terrible vengeance on the greater part, there would yet ever
remain some seed, on whom his mercy would shine; and he calls them
the remnant of his heritage, because there was no reason, as it was
stated yesterday, why God forgave the few, except that he had chosen
the posterity of Abraham.
    He also adds, "He will not retain his wrath perpetually". By
this second consolation he wished to relieve the faithful: for
though God chastises them for a time, he yet forgets not his mercy.
We may say, that the Prophet mentions here two exceptions. He had
spoken of God's mercy; but as this mercy is not indiscriminate or
common to all, he restricts what he teaches to the remnant. Now
follows another exception, - that how much soever apparently the
wrath of God would rage against his elect people themselves, there
would yet be some moderation, so that they would remain safe, and
that their calamities would not be to them fatal. Hence he says, God
retains not wrath; for though, for a moment, he may be angry with
his people, he will yet soon, as it were, repent, and show himself
gracious to them, and testify that he is already reconciled to them;
- not that God changes, but that the faithful are made for a short
time to feel his wrath; afterwards a taste of his mercy exhilarates
them, and thus they feel in their souls that God has in a manner
changed. For when dread possesses their minds, they imagine God to
be terrible, but when they embrace the promises of his grace, they
call on him, and begin to entertain hope of pardon; then God appears
to them kind, gentle, and reconcilable; yea, and altogether ready to
show mercy. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that God
retains not his wrath.
    Then follows the cause, for he loveth mercy. Here the Prophet
more clearly shows, that the remission of sins is gratuitous, and
that it has no foundation but in the nature of God himself. There is
then no reason, since Scripture declares God to be reconcilable, why
any one should seek the cause in himself, or even the means by which
God reconciles himself to us: for He himself is the cause. As God
then by nature loves mercy, hence it is, that he is so ready to
forgive sinners. Whosoever then imagines that God is to be
propitiated by expiations or any satisfactions, subverts the
doctrine of the Prophet; and it is the same thing as to build
without a foundation: for the only prop or support that can raise us
up to God, when we desire to be reconciled to him, is this, - that
he loves mercy. And this is the reason why God so much commends his
mercy, why he says that he is merciful to thousand generations, slow
to wrath, and ready to pardon. For though the unbelieving harden
themselves against God, yet when they feel his wrath, there is
nothing so difficult for them as to believe that God can be
pacified. Hence this reason, which is not in vain added by the
Prophet, ought to be especially noticed.
    Let us now see to whom God is merciful. For as Satan could not
have obliterated from the hearts of men a conviction of God's mercy,
he has yet confined mercy to the unbelieving, as though God should
forgive sinners only once, when they are admitted into the Church.
Thus the Pelagians formerly thought, that God grants reconciliation
to none but to aliens; for whosoever has been once received into the
Church cannot, as they imagined, stand otherwise before God than by
being perfect. And this figment led Novatus and his disciples to
create disturbances in the Church. And there are at this day not
only deluded men, but devils, who, by the same figment, or rather
delirious notions, fascinate themselves and others, and hold, that
the highest perfection ought to exist in the faithful; and they also
slander our doctrine, as though we were still continuing in the
Alphabet or in the first rudiments, because we daily preach free
remission of sins. But the Prophet declares expressly that God not
only forgives the unbelieving when they sin, but also his heritage
and his elect. Let us then know, that as long as we are in the
world, pardon is prepared for us, as we could not otherwise but fall
every moment from the hope of salvation, were not this remedy
provided for us: for those men must be more than mad who arrogate to
themselves perfection, or who think that they have arrived at that
high degree of attainment, that they can satisfy God by their works.
It now follows -

Micah 7:19
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue
our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of
the sea.
    
    The Prophet now prescribes to the faithful a form of glorying,
that they may boldly declare that God will be pacified towards them.
Since then God loves mercy, he will return, he will have mercy on
us. The context here ought to be observed by us; for it would avail
us but little to understand, I know not what, concerning God's
mercy, and to preach in general the free remission of sins, except
we come to the application, that is, except each of the faithful
believed that God, for his own sake, is merciful, as soon as he is
called upon. This conclusion, then, is to be borne in mind, - "God
forgives the remnant of his heritage, because he is by nature
inclined to show mercy: he will therefore be merciful to us, for we
are of the number of his people." Except we lay hold on this
conclusion, "He will therefore show mercy to us," whatever we have
heard or said respecting God's goodness will vanish away.
    This then is the true logic of religion, that is, when we are
persuaded that God is reconcilable and easily pacified, because he
is by nature inclined to mercy, and also, when we thus apply this
doctrine to ourselves, or to our own peculiar benefit, - "As God is
by nature merciful, I shall therefore know and find him to be so."
Until then we be thus persuaded, let us know that we have made but
little progress in the school of God. And hence it appears very
clear from this passage, that the Papacy is a horrible abyss; for no
one under that system can have a firm footing, so as to be fully
persuaded that God will be merciful to him; for all that they have
are mere conjectures. But we see that the Prophet reasons very
differently, "God loves mercy; he will therefore have mercy on us:"
and then he adds, "He will return"; and this is said lest the
temporary wrath or severity of God should disquiet us. Though God
then may not immediately shine on us with his favor, but, on the
contrary, treat us sharply and roughly, yet the Prophet teaches us
that we are to entertain good hope. - How so? He will return, or, as
he said shortly before, He will not retain perpetually his wrath:
for it is for a moment that he is angry with his Church; and he soon
remembers mercy.
    The Prophet now specifies what sort of mercy God shows to the
faithful, For he will tread down our iniquities; he had said before
that he passes by the wickedness of his elect people. "He will then
tread down our iniquities; and he will cast into the depth of the
sea all their sins; that is our sins shall not come in remembrance
before him. We hence learn what I have said before - that God cannot
be worshipped sincerely and from the heart until this conviction be
fixed and deeply rooted in our hearts, that God is merciful, not in
general, but toward us, because we have been once adopted by him and
are his heritage. And then were the greater part to fall away, we
should not fail in our faith; for God preserves the remnant in a
wonderful manner. Andy lastly, let us know, that whenever we flee to
God for mercy, pardon is ever ready for us, not that we may indulge
in sin, or take liberty to commit it, but that we may confess our
faults and that our guilt may appear before our eyes: let us know,
that the door is open to us; for God of his own good will presents
himself to us as one ready to be reconciled.
    It is also said, "He will cast our sins into the depth of the
sea." We hence learn that there is a full remission of sins, not
half as the Papists imagine, for God, they say, remits the sin, but
retains the punishment. How frivolous this is, the thing itself
clearly proves. The language of the Prophet does however import
this, that our sins are then remitted when the records of them are
blotted out before God. It follows - for I will run over this verse,
that I may to-day finish this Prophet -

Micah 7:20
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, [and] the mercy to Abraham,
which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
    
    The faithful confirm here the former truth, that God had
deposited his covenant with them, which could not be made void: and
hence also shines forth more clearly what I have said before, that
the faithful do not learn by their own understanding what sort of
Being God is, but embrace the mercy which he offers in his own word.
Except God then speaks, we cannot form in our own minds any idea of
his grace but what is uncertain and vanishing; but when he declares
that he will be merciful to us, then every doubt is removed. This is
now the course which the Prophet pursues.
    He says, "Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham,
which thou hast sworn to our fathers"; as though he said, "We do not
presumptuously invent any thing out of our own minds, but receive
what thou hast once testified to us; for thy will has been made
known to us in thy word: relying then on thy favor, we are persuaded
as to thy gratuitous pardon, though we are in many respects guilty
before thee." We now then understand the design of the Prophet.
    As to the words, it is not necessary to dwell on them, for we
have elsewhere explained this form of speaking. There are here two
expressions by which the Prophet characterizes the covenant of God.
Truth is mentioned, and mercy is mentioned. With respect to order,
the mercy of God precedes; for he is not induced otherwise to adopt
us than through his goodness alone: but as God of his own will has
with so great kindness received us, so he is true and faithful in
his covenant. If then we desire to know the character of God's
covenant, by which he formerly chose the Jews, and at this day
adopts us as his people, these two things must be understood, that
God freely offers himself to us, and that he is constant and true,
he repents not, as Paul says, as to his covenant: "The gifts and
calling of God," he says, "are without repentance," (Rom. 11: 29;)
and he refers to the covenant, by which God adopted the children of
Abraham.
    He says now, "Thou wilt give", that is, show in reality; for
this, to give, is, as it were, to exhibit in effect or really. Thou
shalt then give, that is, openly show, that thou hast not been in
vain so kind to us and ours, in receiving them into favor. How so?
Because the effect of thy goodness and truth appears to us.
    "Thou hast then sworn to our fathers from the days of old". The
faithful take for granted that God had promised to the fathers that
his covenant would be perpetual; for he did not only say to Abraham,
"I will be thy God," but he also added, "and of thy seed for ever."
Since, then, the faithful knew that the covenant of God was to be
perpetual and inviolable, and also knew that it was to be continued
from the fathers to their children, and that it was once promulgated
for this end, that the fathers might deliver it as by the hand to
their children; they therefore doubted not but that it would be
perpetual. How so? for thou hast sworn to our fathers; that is, they
knew that God not only promised, but that having interposed an oath,
by which God designed to confirm that covenant, he greatly honored
it, that it might be unhesitatingly received by the chosen people.
As then the faithful knew that God in a manner bound himself to
them, they confidently solicited him, really to show himself to be
such as he had declared he would be to his own elect.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we abound in so many vices, by which we
daily provoke thy wrath, and as by the testimony of our consciences,
we are justly exposed to everlasting death, yea, and deserve a
hundred and even a thousand deaths, - O grant, that we may strive
against the unbelief of our flesh, and so embrace thine infinite
mercy, that we may not doubt but that thee wilt be propitious to us,
and yet not abuse this privilege by taking liberty to sin, but with
fear, and true humility, and care, so walk according to thy word,
that we may not hesitate daily to flee to thy mercy, that we may
thereby be sustained and kept in safety, until having at length put
off all vices, and being freed from all sin, we come to thy
celestial kingdom, to enjoy the fruit of our faith, even that
eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of
thy only-begotten Son. Amen.





End of the Commentaries on Micah.