Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.
Hear ye now what the Lord saith - If ye will not hear the rebuke of man, hear now at last the word of God. "Arise thou, Micah." The prophet was not willing to be the herald of woe to his people; but had to arise at the bidding of God, that he might not "be rebellious like that rebellious house" Ezekiel 2:8. Stand up; as one having all authority to rebuke, and daunted by none. He muses the hearer, as shewing it to be a very grave urgent matter, to be done promptly, urgently, without delay. "Contend thou before (better, as in the English margin with) the mountains." Since man, who had reason, would not use his reason, God calls the mountains and hills, who Romans 8:20 unwillingly, as it were, had been the scenes of their idolatry, as if he would say (Lap.), "Insensate though ye be, ye are more sensible than Israel, whom I endowed with sense; for ye feel the voice and command of God your Creator and obey Him; they do not. I cite you, to represent your guilty inhabitants, that, through you, they may hear My complaint to be just, and own themselves guilty, repent, and ask forgiveness." "The altars and idols, the blood of the sacrifices, the bones and ashes upon them, with unuttered yet clear voice, spoke of the idolatry and guilt of the Jews, and so pronounced God's charge and expostulation to be just. Ezekiel is bidden, in like way, to prophesy against "the mountains of Israel Ezekiel 6:2-5, "I will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places, and your altars shall be desolate." : "Lifeless nature without voice tells the glory of God; without ears it hears what the Lord speaks." Psalm 19:3; Luke 19:40.
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.
Hear, ye strong (or, it may be, ye enduring,) foundations of the earth - Mountains and rocks carry the soul to times far away, before and after. They change net, like the habitable, cultivated, surface of the earth. There they were, before the existence of our short-lived generations; there they will be, until time shall cease to be. They have witnessed so many vicissitudes of human things, themselves unchanging. The prophet is directed to seize this feeling of simple nature. "They have seen so much before me," Yes! "then they have seen all which befell my forefathers; all God's benefits, all along, to them and to us, all their and our unthankfulness."
He will plead with Israel - God hath a strict severe judgment with His people, and yet vouchsafes to clear Himself before His creatures, to come down from His throne of glory and place Himself on equal terms with them. He does not plead only, but mutually (such is the force of the word) impleads with His people, hears if they would say aught against Himself, and then gives His own judgment . But this willingness to hear, only makes us condemn ourselves, so that we should be without excuse before Him. We do owe ourselves wholly to Him who made us and hath given us all things richly to enjoy.
If we have withdrawn ourselves from His Service, unless He dealt hardly with us, we dealt rebelliously and ungratefully with Him. God brings all pleas into a narrow space. The fault is with Him or with us. He offers to clear Himself. He sets before us His good deeds, His Loving kindness, Providence, Grace, Long-suffering, Bounty, Truth, and contrasts with them our evil deeds, our unthankfulness, despitefulness, our breach of His laws, and disorderings of His creation. And then, in the face of His Goodness, He asks, "What evil have I done, what good have I left undone?" so that our evil and negligences should be but a requital of His. For if it is evil to return evil for evil, or not to return good for good, what evil is it to return evil for His exceeding good! As He says by Isaiah, "What could have been done more to My vineyard and I have not done in it. Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" Isaiah 5:4.
And our Blessed Lord asks; "Many good works have I shewed you from My Father. For which of those works do ye stone Me?" John 10:32. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" John 8:46. Away from the light of God, we may plead excuses, and cast the blame of our sins upon our temptations, or passions, or nature, that is, on Almighty God Himself, who made us. When His light streams in upon our conscience, we are silent. Blessed if we be silenced and confess to Him then, that we be not first silenced in the Day of Judgment Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Ezekiel 14:20. Righteous Job said, "I desire to reason with God" Job 13:3; but when his eye saw Him, he said, "wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" Job 42:5-6.
O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
O My people - This one tender word, twice repeated , contains in one a whole volume of reproof. It sets before the eyes God's choice of them of His free grace, and the whole history of His loving-kindness, if so they could be ashamed of their thanklessness and turn to Him. "Mine," He says, "ye are by creation, by Providence, by great deliverances and by hourly love and guardianship, by gifts of nature, the world, and grace; such things have I done for thee; what against thee? 'what evil have I done unto thee?'" "Thy foot did not swell these forty years" Deuteronomy 8:4, for He upbears in all ways where He leads. Wherein have I wearied thee? for "His commandments are not grievious" 1 John 5:3. Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel, God says by Isaiah, "I have not wearied thee with incense; thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities" Isaiah 43:22-24.
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.
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the hoarse of servants - What wert thou? What art thou? Who made thee what thou art? God reminds them. They were slaves; they are His people in the heritage of the pagan, and that by His outstretched arm. God mentions some heads of the mercies which tie had shown them, when He had made them His people, His redemption of them from Egypt, His guidance through the wilderness, His leading them over the last difficulty to the proraised land. The use of the familiar language of the Pentateuch is like the touching of so many key-notes, recalling the whole harmony of His love. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam together, are Lawgiver, to deliver and instruct; Priest, to atone; and prophetess Exodus 15:20 to praise God; and the name of Miriam at once recalled the mighty works at the Red Sea and how they then thanked God.
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.
Remember now - The word translated now is a very tender one, like our "do now remember" or "do remember," beseeching instead of commanding. Dionysius: "I might command, but I speak tenderly, that I may lead thee to own the truth." "What Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him." God did not only raise up Moses, Aaron, Miriam, out of their brethren, but He turned the curse of the alien Balaam into a blessing; and that, not for their righteousness, (for even then they were rebellious,) but against their deserts, out of His own truth and righteousness. Not that the curse of Balaam could in itself have hurt them; but, in proportion to his reputation, it would have infused great energy into their enemies: and its reversal must have struck a great panic into them and into others. Human might having failed in Sihon and Og, Balak sought superhuman. God showed them by their own diviner, that it was against them. Even after they had seduced Israel, through Balaam's devilish counsel, Midian seems to have been stricken by God with panic, and not to have struck a blow Numbers 31:49.
From Shittim unto Gilgal - The words are separated by the Hebrew accent from what went before. It is then probably said in concise energy for, "Remember too front Shittim to Gilgal," that is, all the great works of God "from Shittim" , the last encampment of Israel out of the promised land, where they so sinned in Baal-peor, "unto Gilgal," the first in the promised land, which they entered by miracle, where the Ark rested amid the victories given them, where the Covenant was renewed, and "the reproach of Egypt was rolled away" Joshua 5:9. Remember all, from your own deep sin and rebellion to the deep mercy of God.
That ye may know the righteousness - (righteousnesses) of the Lord His Faithfulness in performing His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God speaketh of His promises, not as what they were in themselves, mere mercy, but as what they became, through that gracious and free promise, righteousness, in that He had bound Himself to fulfill what He had, out of mere grace, promised. So in the New Testament He saith, "God is not unrighteous that He should forget your works and labor which proeeedeth of love" Hebrews 6:10; and, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" 1 John 1:9. Micah speaks, by a rare idiom, of the righteousnesses of the Lord, each act of mercy being a separate effluence of His Righteousness. The very names of the places suggest the righteous acts of God, the unrighteous of Israel. : "But we too, who desire with unveiled face to behold the glory of the Lord, and have Abraham really for our father, let us, when we have sinned, hear God pleading against us, and reproving us for the multitude of His benefits. For we too once served Pharaoh and the people of Egypt, laboring in works of mire and clay; and He redeemed us who gave Himself a Redemption for all; that we, the redeemed of the Lord, "whom He redeemed out of the hand of the enemy and gathered from the lands, might say, His mercy endureth forever" Psalm 107:1-3. He sent also before our face Moses, the spiritual Law, and Aaron the High Priest, not bearing the typical Ephod and Urim, but having in His Forehead the seal of holiness which God the Father sealed; and Miriam, the foreshewing of prophets. Recollect we too what he thought against us who willed to devour us, the true Balak, Satan, who laid snares for us through Balaam, the destroyer of the people, fearing lest we should cover his land and occupy it, withdrawing the earthly-minded from his empire."
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?
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? - The people, thus arraigned, bursts in, as men do, with professions that they would be no more ungrateful; that they will do anything, everything - but what they ought. With them it shall be but "Ask and have." They wish only to know, with what they shall come? They would be beforehand with Him, anticipating His wishes; they would, with all the submission of a creature, bow, prostrate themselves before God; they acknowledge His High Majesty, who dwelleth on high, the most High God, and would abase themselves before His lofty greatness, if they but knew, "how" or "wherewith."
They would give of their best; sacrifices the choicest of their kind, which should be wholly His, whole-burnt-offerings, offered exactly according to the law, "bullocks of a year old" Leviticus 9:2-3; then too, the next choice offering, the rams; and these, as they were offered for the whole people on very solemn occasions, in vast multitudes, thousands or ten thousands ; the oil which accompanied the burnt sacrifice, should flow in rivers ; nay, more still; they would not withhold their sons, their first born sons, from God, part, as they were, of themselves, or any fruit of their own body.
They enhance the offering by naming the tender relation to themselves Deuteronomy 28:53. They would offer everything, (even what God forbade) excepting only what alone He asked for, their heart, its love and its obedience . The form of their offer contains this; they ask zealously, "with what shall I come." It is an outward offering only, a thing which they would bring. Hypocritical eagerness! a sin against light. For to enquire further, when God has already revealed anything, is to deny that He has revealed it. It comes from the wish that He had not revealed what lie has revealed. : "whose, after he hath found the truth, discusseth anything further, seeketh a lie." God had told them, long before, from the time that He made them His people, what he desired of them; So Micah answers,
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?
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?
He hath shewed thee - Micah does not tell them now, as for the first time; which would have excused them. He says, "He hath shewed thee;" He, about whose mind and will and pleasure they were pretending to enquire, the Lord their God. He had shewn it to them. The law was full of it. He shewed it to them, when He said, "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him and to serve the Lord, thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command thee this day for thy good?" Deuteronomy 10:12-13. They had asked, "with what outward thing shall I come before the Lord;" the prophet tells them, "what thing is good," the inward man of the heart, righteousness, love, humility.
And what doth the Lord require (search, seek) of thee? - The very word implies an earnest search within. He would say (Rup.), "Trouble not thyself as to any of these things, burnt-offerings, rams, calves, without thee. For God seeketh not thine, but thee; not thy substance, but thy spirit; not ram or goat, but thy heart." : "Thou askest, what thou shouldest offer for thee? Other thyself. For what else doth the Lord seek of thee, but thee? Because, of all earthly creatures, He hath made nothing better than thee, He seeketh thyself from thyself, because thou hadst lost thyself."
To do judgment - are chiefly all acts of equity; "to love mercy," all deeds of love. Judgment, is what right requires; mercy, what love. Yet, secondarily, "to do judgment" is to pass righteous judgments in all cases; and so, as to others, "judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" John 7:24; and as to one's self also. Judge equitably and kindly of others, humbly of thyself. : "Judge of thyself in thyself without acceptance of thine own person, so as not to spare thy sins, nor take pleasure in them, because thou hast done them. Neither praise thyself in what is good in thee, nor accuse God in what is evil in thee. For this is wrong judgment, and so, not judgment at all. This thou didst, being evil; reverse it, and it will be right. Praise God in what is good in thee; accuse thyself in what is evil. So shalt thou anticipate the judgment of God, as He saith, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord" 1 Corinthians 11:31. He addeth, love mercy; being merciful, out of love, "not of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver" 2 Corinthians 9:7. These acts together contain the whole duty to man, corresponding with and formed upon the mercy and justice of God Psalm 101:1; Psalm 61:7. All which is due, anyhow or in any way, is of judgment; all which is free toward man, although not free toward God, is of mercy. There remains, walk humbly with thy God; not, bow thyself only before Him, as they had offered Micah 6:6, nor again walk with Him only, as did Enoch, Noah Abraham, Job; but walk humbly (literally, bow down the going) yet still with thy God; never lifting up thyself, never sleeping, never standing still, but ever walking on, yet ever casting thyself down; and the more thou goest on in grace, the more cast thyself down; as our Lord saith, "When ye have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do" Luke 17:10.
It is not a "crouching before God" displeased, (such as they had thought of,) but the humble love of the forgiven; "walk humbly," as the creature with the Creator, but in love, with thine own God. Humble thyself with God, who humbled himself in the flesh: walk on with Him, who is thy Way. Neither humility nor obedience alone would be true graces; but to cleave fast to God, because He is thine All, and to bow thyself down, because thou art nothing, and thine All is He and of Him. It is altogether a Gospel-precept; bidding us, "Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" Matthew 5:48; "Be merciful, as your Father also is merciful;" Luke 6:36; and yet, in the end, have "that same mind which was also in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation" Philippians 2:5, Philippians 2:7, Philippians 2:9.
The offers of the people, stated in the bare nakedness in which Micah exhibits them, have a character of irony. But it is the irony of the truth and of the fact itself. The creature has nothing of its own to offer; "the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin" Hebrews 10:4; and the offerings, as they rise in value, become, not useless only but, sinful. Such offerings would bring down anger, not mercy. Micah's words then are, for their vividness, an almost proverbial expression of the nothingness of all which we sinners could offer to God. : "We, who are of the people of God, knowing that "in His sight shall no man living be justified" Psalm 143:2, and saying, "I am a beast with Thee" Psalm 73:22, trust in no pleas before His judgment-seat, but pray; yet we put no trust in our very prayers. For there is nothing worthy to be offered to God for sin, and no humility can wash away the stains of offences.
In penitence for our sins, we hesitate and say, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? how shall I come, so as to be admitted into familiar intercourse with my God? One and the same spirit revolveth these things in each of us or of those before us, who have been pricked to repentance, 'what worthy offering can I make to the Lord?' This and the like we revolve, as the Apostle saith; "We know not what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" Romans 8:20. "Should I offer myself wholly as a burnt-offering to Him?' If, understanding spiritually all the Levitical sacrifices, I should present them in myself, and offer my first-born, that is, what is chief in me, my soul, I should find nothing worthy of His greatness. Neither in ourselves, nor in ought earthtly, can we find anything worthy to be offered to reconcile us with God. For the sin of the soul, blood alone is worthy to be offered; not the blood of calves, or rams, or goats, but our own; yet our own too is not offered, but given back, being due already Psalm 116:8. The Blood of Christ alone sufficeth to do away all sin." Dionysius: "The whole is said, in order to instruct us, that, without the shedding of the Blood of Christ and its Virtue and Merits, we cannot please God, though we offered ourselves and all that we have, within and without; and also, that so great are the benefits bestowed upon us by the love of Christ, that we can repay nothing of them."
But then it is clear that there is no teaching in this passage in Micah which there is not in the law . The developments in the prophets relate to the Person and character of the Redeemer. The law too contained both elements:
(1) the ritual of sacrifice, impressing on the Jew the need of an Atoner;
(2) the moral law, and the graces inculcated in it, obedience, love of God and man, justice, mercy, humility, and the rest.
There was no hint in the law, that half was acceptable to God instead of the whole; that sacrifice of animals would supersede self-sacrifice or obedience. There was nothing on which the Pharisee could base his heresy. What Micah said, Moses had said. The corrupt of the people offered a half-service, what cost them least, as faith without love always does. Micah, in this, reveals to them nothing new; but tells them that this half-service is contrary to the first principles of their law. "He bath shewed thee, O man, what is good." Sacrifice, without love of God and man, was not even so much as the body without the soul. It was an abortion, a monster. For one end of sacrifice was to inculcate the insufficiency of all our good, apart from the Blood of Christ; that, do what we would, "all came short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. But to substitute sacrifice, which was a confession that at best we were miserable sinners, unable, of ourselves, to please God, for any efforts to please Him or to avoid displeasing Him, would be a direct contradiction of the law, antinomianism under the dispensation of the law itself.
Micah changes the words of Moses, in order to adapt them to the crying sins of Israel at that time. He then upbraids them in detail, and that, with those sins which were patent, which, when brought home to them, they could not deny, the sins against their neighbor.
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 voice of the Lord crieth unto the city - that is, Jerusalem, as the metropolis of their wealth and their sin, the head and heart of their offending. "Crieth," aloud, earnestly, intently, so that all might hear. So God says, "Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding pat forth her voice? She crieth at the gates, - unto you, O men, I cry, and my voice is to the sons of men" Proverbs 8:1, Proverbs 8:3-4; and Isaiah prophesied of John the Immerser, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; and our Lord saith, "He that heareth you, heareth Me. And the man of wisdom shall see Thy Name" Luke 10:16. The voice of God is in the hearing of all, but the wise only seeth the Name of God. The word rendered "wisdom" means, "that which is," "See ye the word of the Lord.") They shall see His power and majesty and all which His Name expresses, as they are displayed severally in each work of His: He shall speak to them by all things wherein He is; and so seeing Him now in a glass darkly, they shall hereafter see all, His Glory, His Goodness, His Love, Himself, "face to face."
Hear ye the rod - that is, the scourge of the wrath of God. The name and the image recall the like propecies of Isaiah, so that Micah in one word epitomises the prophecies of Isaiah, or Isaiah expands the word of Micah. "The rod in thine hand is My indignation" Isaiah 10:5; "As if the rod lifted up Him, who is not wood" Isaiah 10:15; "He lifteth up his rod against thee" Isaiah 10:24; "Thou hast broken the rod (which is) on his shoulder" (Isaiah 9:3, Hebrew); "The Lord hath broken the rod of the wicked" Isaiah 14:5; "wheron the grounded (that is, fixed by the decree of God) staff shall pass" Isaiah 30:32.
And who hath appointed it - that is, beforehand, fixing the time and place, when and where it should come. So Jeremiah says, "How canst thou (sword of the Lord) be quiet, and the Lord hath given it a charge to Ashkelon and to the seashore? there hath He appointed it" Jeremiah 47:7. He who has "appointed it," changeth not His decree, unless man changeth; nor is He lacking in power to fulfill it. He will surely bring it to pass. All which can be thought of, of fear, terror, motives to repentance, awe, hope, trust, is in that word "who." It is God; hopes and fears may be infinite.
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?
Are there yet - Still after all the warnings and long-suffering of God, "the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked?" "Treasures of wickedness" are treasures gotten by wickedness; yet it means too that he wicked shall have no treasure, no fruit, but his wickedness. He treasureth up treasures, but of wickedness; as James saith, "Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days" James 5:3, that is, of the miseries that shall come upon them James 1. The words stand over against one another; "house of the wicked, treasures of wickedness;" as though the whole house of the wicked was but a "treasure-house of wickedness." Therein it began; therein and in its rewards it shall end. "Are there yet?" the prophet asks. There shall soon cease to be. The treasure shall be spoiled; the iniquity alone shall remain.
And the scant ephah - (Literally, "ephah of leanness" the English margin) which is abominable? Scant itself, and, by the just judgment of God, producing scantness, emaciated and emaciating (See Micah 6:14); as He says, "He gave them their desire, and sent leanness withal into their soul" Psalm 106:15; and James, "it shall eat your flesh as it were fire" James 5:3. Even a pagan said, , "Gain gotten by wickedness is loss;" and that, as being "abominable" or "accursed" or, one might say, "bewrathed," lying under the wrath and curse of God. Rib.: "What they minish from the measure, that they add to the wrath of God and the vengeance which shall come upon them; what is lacking to the measure shall be supplied out of the wrath of God." The Ephah was a corn-measure Amos 8:5, containing about six bushels; the rich, in whose house it was, were the sellers; they were the necessaries of life then, which the rich retailers of corn were selling dishonestly, at the price of the lives of the poor . Our subtler ways of sin cheat ourselves, not God. In what ways do not competitive employers use the scant measure which is accursed? What else is all our competitive trade, our cheapness, our wealth, but scant measure to the poor, making their wages lean, full and overflowing with the wrath of God?
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?
Shall I count them pure? - Rather, (as the English margin) "Shall I be pure?" The prophet takes for the time their person and bids them judge themselves in him. If it would defile me, how are ye, with all your other sins, not defiled? All these things were expressly forbidden in the law. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in mete-yard, in weight or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah and a just him, shall ye have" Leviticus 19:35-36; and, "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteousness are an abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 25:13, Deuteronomy 25:15-16, add Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10). Yet are not these things common even now?
For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
For the rich men thereof - that is, "of the city, Micah 6:9 are full of violence." It bad been little, had thieves and robbers lived by violence, but now, (as Isaiah at the same time upbraids them,) "her princes were become companions of thieves" Isaiah 1:23. Not the poor out of distress, but the rich, out of wantonness and exceeding covetousness and love of luxury, not only did wrong but were filled, not so much with riches, as with violence. Violence is the very meat and drink wherewith they are filled, yea, and wherewith they shall be filled, when it is returned upon their heads.
And the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies - Fraud is itself lying, and lying is its inseparable companion. Jerome: "Lying followeth the gathering together of riches, and the hard custom to lay up riches hath a deceitful tongue." The sin, he saith, is spread throughout all her inhabitants; that is, all of them, as their custom, have spoken lies, and, even when they speak not, the lie is ready; "their tongue is deceitful (literally, deceit) in their mouth." It is deceit, nothing but deceit, and that, deceit which should "overthrow" and ruin others. One intent on gain has the lie ever ready to be uttered, even when he speaks not. It lurks concealed, until it is needed.
Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.
Therefore also will I-- (Literally, And I too,) that is, this dost thou, and thus will I too do. Pococke: "As thou madest sick the heart of the poor oppressed, so will I, by My grievous and severe punishments, make thee sick," or make thy wound incurable, as in Nahum, "thy wound is grievous," (Nahum 3:19 literally, made sick. In making thee desolate because of thy sins. The heaping up riches shall itself be the cause of thy being waste, deserted, desolate.
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.
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied - The correspondence of the punishment with the sin shall shew that it is not by chance, but from the just judgment of God. The curse of God shall go with what they eat, and it shall not nourish them. The word, thou, is thrice repeated . As God had just said, I too, so here, Thou. Thou, the same who hast plundered others, shalt thyself eat, and not be satisfied; "thou shalt sow, and not reap; thou shalt tread the olive, and thou shalt not anoint thee with oil." "Upon extreme but ill-gotten abundance, there followeth extreme want. And whose," adds one, , "seeth not this in our ways and our times is absolutely blind. For in no period have we ever read that there was so much gold and silver, or so much discomfort and indigence, so that those most true words of Christ Jesus seem to have been especially spoken of us, "Take heed, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" Luke 12:15. And is not this true of us now?
Thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee - Where thou hast laid up thy treasures, or rather thy wickedness, there thou shalt sink down, or give way, from inward decay, in the very center of thy wealth and thy sin. They had said, "Is not the Lord in the midst of us? None evil can come upon us" Micah 3:11. Micah tells them of a different indweller. God had departed from them, and left them to their inherent nothingness. God had been their stay; without God, human strength collapses. Scarcely any destruction is altogether hopeless save that which cometh from within. Most storms pass over, tear off boughs and leaves, but the stem remains. inward decay or excision alone are humanly irrecoverable. The political death of the people was, in God's hands, to be the instrument of their regeneration.
Morally too, and at all times, inward emptiness is the fruit of unrighteous fullness. It is disease, not strength; as even pagan proverbs said; "the love of money is a dropsy; to drink increaseth the thirst," and "amid mighty wealth, poor;" and Holy Scripture, "The rich He sendeth empty away" (Luke 1:53, compare 1 Samuel 2:5). "And truly they must be empty. For what can fill the soul, save God?" Rib.: "This is true too of such as, like the Bishop of Sardis, 'have a name that they live and are dead' Revelation 3:1," Dionysius, "such as do some things good, feed on the word of God, but attain to no fruit of righteousness;" "who corrupt natural and seeming good by inward decay; who appear righteous before men, are active and zealous for good ends, but spoil all by some secret sin or wrong end, as vain-glory or praise of men, whereby they lose the praise of God. Their casting down shall be in the midst of them. The meaning of the whole is the same, whether the word be rendered casting down, that is, downfall (literally, sinking down) or emptiness, especially of the stomach, perhaps from the feeling of "sinking."
Thou shalt take hold - To rescue or remove to a safe place from the enemy, those whom he would take from thee, "but shalt not" wholly deliver; "and that which thou deliverest for a time, will I give up to the sword," that is, the children for whose sake they pleaded that they got together this wealth; as, now too, the idols, for whose sake men toil wrongly all their life, are often suddenly taken away. Their goods too may be said to be given to the sword, that is, to the enemy.
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.
Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap - Micah renews the threatenings of the law Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:30, Deuteronomy 28:38-41, which they had been habitually breaking. Those prophecies had been fulfilled before, throughout their history; they have been fulfilled lately in Israel for the like oppression of the poor Amos 5:11. Their frequent fulfillment spoke as much of a law of God's righteousness, punishing sin, as the yearly supply in the ordinary course of nature spoke of His loving Providence. It is the bitterest punishment to the covetous to have the things which they coveted, taken away before their eyes; it was a token of God's Hand, that He took them away, when just within their grasp. The prophet brings it before their eyes, that they might feel beforehand the bitterness of forgetting them. Montanus: "They should lose, not only what they gained unjustly, but the produce of their labor, care, industry, as, in agriculture, it is said that there is mostly much labor, little fraud, much benefit."
Harvest is a proverb for joy; "they joy before Thee according to the joy in, harvest" Isaiah 9:3; "wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil is to make him a cheerful countenance" Psalm 104:15. But the harvest shall be turned into sorrow, the oil and wine shall be taken away, when all the labor had been employed (Compare Isaiah 16:9-10; Jeremiah 5:17; Jeremiah 48:37). Yet, since all these operations in nature are adapted to be, and are used as, symbols of things spiritual, then the words which describe them are adapted to be spiritual proverbs. Spiritually, , "he soweth and reapeth not, who soweth to the flesh, and of the flesh reapeth corruption" Galatians 6:8, things corruptible, and inward decay and condemnation. He treadeth the olive, who, by shameful deeds contrary to the law, "grieveth the Holy Spirit of God" Ephesians 4:30, and therefore obtaineth not gladness of spirit; "he maketh wine, yet drinketh not wine, who teacheth others, not himself." They too take hold but do not deliver, who for awhile believe and in time of temptation fall away, who repent for a while and then fall back into old sins, or in other ways bring no fruit to perfection; taking up the Cross for awhile and then wearying; using religious practices, as, more frequent prayer or fasting, and then tiring; cultivating some graces and then despairing because they see not the fruits. These tread the olive, but are not anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit of grace, who (Rib.), "end by doing for the sake of man, what they had thought to do out of the love for God, and abandon, for some fear of man, the good which they had begun."
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.
For the statutes of Omri are kept - Rather, (like the English margin he doth much keep,) And he doth keep diligently for himself. Both ways express much diligence in evil . To "keep God's commandments" was the familiar phrase, in which Israel was exhorted, by every motive of hope and fear, to obedience to God. "I know him," God says of Abraham, "that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do judgment and justice" Genesis 18:19. This was the fundamental commandment immediately after the deliverance from Eyypt upon their first murmuring. "The Lord made there" (at Marah) "for them a statute and ordinance, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians" Exodus 15:25-26.
In this character Ha revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, as "shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments" Exodus 20:6. This was their covenant, "Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes and His commandments and His judgments and to hearken unto His voice" Deuteronomy 26:17. This was so often enforced upon them in the law, as the condition upon which they should hold their land, if they kept the covenant (Exodus 19:5; the words of this covenant, Deuteronomy 29:9), the commmandments Leviticus 22:31; Leviticus 26:3; Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 7:11; Deuteronomy 8:6, Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1, Deuteronomy 11:8, Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 30:10, the judgments Leviticus 18:5, Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 20:22; Deuteronomy 7:11; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 11:1, the statutes (Leviticus 18:5, Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 20:8, Leviticus 20:22; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 7:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 30:10), the testimonies Deuteronomy 6:17, the charge Leviticus 18:30; Deuteronomy 11:1 of the Lord. Under this term all the curses of the law were threatened, if they "hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord their God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded them" Deuteronomy 28:15.
Under this again the future of good and evil was, in Solomon, set before the house of David; of unbroken succession on his throne, if "thou wilt keep My commandments; but contrariwise, if ye or your children will not keep My commandments and My statutes" 1 Kings 9:4-6, banishment, destruction of the temple, and themselves to be "a proverb and a byword among all people" This was the object of their existence, 1 Kings 9:7. "that they might keep His statutes and observe His laws" Psalm 105:45. This was the summary of their disobedience, "they kept not the covenant of God" Psalm 78:11. And now was come the contrary to all this. They had not kept the commandments of God; and those commandments of man which were the most contrary to the commandments of God, they had kept and did keep diligently. Alas! that the Christian world should be so like them! What iron habit or custom of man, what fashion, is not kept, if it is against the law of God? How few are not more afraid of man than God? Had God's command run, Speak evil one of another, brethren, would it not have been the best kept of all His commandments? God says, speak not evil; custom, the conversation around, fear of man, say, speak evil; man's commandment is kept; God's is not kept. And no one repents or makes restitution; few even cease from the sin.
Scripture does not record, what was the special aggravation of the sin of Omri, since the accursed worship of Baal was brought in by Ahab , his son. But, as usual, "like father, like son." The son developed the sins of the father. Some special sinfulness of Omri is implied, in that Athaliah, the murderess of her children, is called after her grandfather, Omri, not after her father, Ahab 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chronicles 22:2. Heresiarchs have a deeper guilt than their followers, although the heresy itself is commonly developed later. Omri settled for a while the kingdom of Israel, after the anarchy which followed on the murder of Elah, and slew Zimri, his murderer.
Yet before God, he did worse than all before him, and be walked in all the way of Jeroboam 1 Kings 16:25-26. Yet this too did not suffice Judah; for it follows, And all the doings of the house of Ahab, who again "did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him and served Baal" 1 Kings 30-33; Ahab, to whom none "was like in sin, who did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord" 1 Kings 21:25. These were they, whose statutes Judah now kept, as diligently and accurately as if it had been a religious act. They kept, not the statutes of the Lord, "but the statutes of Omri;" they kept, as their pattern before their eyes, all the doings of the house of Ahab, his luxury, oppression, the bloodshedding of Naboth; and they walked onward, not, as God bade them, humbly with Him, but in their counsels. And what must be the end of all this? that I should make thee a desolation. They acted, as though the very end and object of all their acts were that, wherein they ended, their own destruction and reproach .
Therefore ye shall bear the reproach of My people - The title of the people of God must be a glory or a reproach. Judah had gloried in being God's people, outwardly, by His covenant and protection; they Were envied for the outward distinction. They refused to be so inwardly, and gave themselves to the hideous, desecrating, worship of Baal. Now then what had been their pride, should be the aggravation of their punishment. Now too we hear of people everywhere zealous for a system, which their deeds belie. Faith, without love, (such as their character had been,) feels any insult to the relation to God, which by its deeds it disgraces. Though they had themselves neglected God, yet it was a heavy burden to them to bear the triumph of the pagan over them, that God was unable to help them, or had cast them off "These are the people of the Lord and are gone forth, out of His land" Ezekiel 36:20. "Wherefore should they say among the pagan, where is their God?" (see the notes at Joel 2:17). "We are confounded, because we have heard reproach, shame hath covered our faces, for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord's house" Jeremiah 51:51. "We are become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us" Psalm 79:4. "Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us. Thou makest us a byword among the pagan, a shaking of the head among the people. My confusion is daily before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, for the voice of him that slandereth and blasphemeth, by reason of the enemy and the avenger" Psalm 44:13-16.
The words, "the reproach of My people," may also include "the reproach wherewith God in the law Deuteronomy 28:36 threatened His people if they should forsake Him," which indeed comes to the same thing, the one being the prophecy, the other the fulfillment. The word hissing in itself recalled the threat to David's house in Solomon; "At this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished and hiss" 1 Kings 9:8. Micah's phrase became a favorite expression of Jeremiah . So only do God's prophets denounce. It is a marvelous glimpse into man's religious history, that faith, although it had been inoperative and was trampled upon without, should still survive; nay, that God, whom in prosperity they had forsaken and forgotten, should be remembered, when He seemed to forget and to forsake them. Had the captive Jews abandoned their faith, the reproach would have ceased. The words, "ye shall bear the reproach" of My people are," at once, a prediction of their deserved suffering for the profanation of God's Name by their misdeeds, and of their persverance in that faith which, up to that Time, they had mostly neglected.