Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Person of the Prophet. - Micah, מיכה, an abbreviated form of מיכיה (Micaiah), as he is called in Jeremiah 26:18, which is also a contraction of מיכיהוּ, "who is as Jehovah?" - i.e., one dedicated to Jehovah the incomparable God (Greek, Μιχαίας; Vulg. Michaeas or Micha, Nehemiah 11:17) - is called hammorashtı̄, the Morashitite, i.e., sprung from Moresheth-gath in the plain of Judah (see at Micah 1:14), to distinguish him from the elder prophet Micah the son of Imlah (1 Kings 22:8.), as well as from other persons of the same name, of whom ten are met with in the Old Testament, apart from Maacah the wife of Rehoboam, a grand-daughter of Absalom (1 Kings 15:2, 1 Kings 15:10, 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 11:20.), who is also called מכיהוּ in 2 Chronicles 13:2 (see Caspari on Micha, p. 3ff.). Our Micah was therefore a Judaean, and prophesied, according to the heading to his book, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; so that he was contemporaneous with Isaiah. He prophesied "concerning Samaria and Jerusalem," the capitals of the two kingdoms, that is to say, concerning all Israel, the fate of which was determined by the circumstances and fates of the two capitals. The correctness of this statement, and at the same time the genuineness of the heading, are confirmed by the contents of the book. Micah not only predicts, in Micah 1:6-7, the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah; but he also mentions Asshur, the great enemy of Israel at that time, as the representative of the power of the world in its hostility to the kingdom of God (Micah 5:4); and he agrees so thoroughly with Isaiah in his description of the prevailing moral corruption, as well as in his Messianic prophecies, that we are warranted in inferring the contemporaneous labours of the two prophets (compare Mich. Isaiah 2:11 with Isaiah 28:7; Mich. Micah 3:5-7 with Isaiah 29:9-12; Mich. Micah 3:12 with Isaiah 32:13-14; and Mich. Micah 4:1-5 with Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 5:2-4 with Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:5). To this we may add the account in Jeremiah 26:18-19, that certain men of the elders of Judah, when seeking to vindicate Jeremiah, who was condemned to death on account of his prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, quoted word for word Micah 3:12, to show that in the days of Hezekiah Micah had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, without having been put to death by king Hezekiah and all Judah. It is true that Hitzig, Ewald, and others, have founded an argument upon this against the correctness of the heading to our book, according to which Micah prophesied not only under Hezekiah, but also under Jotham and Ahaz, interpreting it as meaning that the elders of Judah knew from good historical tradition the time when the particular words in Micah 3-5 had first been uttered. But they are wrong in this. For even if Micah had uttered this prophecy for the first time in the reign of Hezekiah, it would by no means follow that he had not also prophesied before that, namely, in the reign of Hezekiah. The relation in which Micah 4:1-5 stands to Isaiah 2:2-5 is sufficient of itself to point to the times of Jotham (see at Micah 4:1). Again, Micah 6:16 does not suit the times of Hezekiah, but only those of Ahaz, who walked to such an extent in the ways of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:2), that Judah could be charged with holding by the statutes of Omri and all the deeds of the house of Ahab. Moreover, the assumption that the elders of Judah in the time of Jehoiakim knew from good traditional authority the precise time in which Micah uttered that threat, is quite an unfounded one. They simply knew that Micah's prophetic writings sprang from the time of Hezekiah; and of the kings under whom Micah prophesied according to the statement of the writings themselves (Micah 1:1), they mention only Hezekiah, because he was the only one who "constituted a spiritual authority" (Hengstenberg). But the fact that Micah's prophecies were committed to writing in the time of Hezekiah by no means precludes the supposition that either the prophecies themselves, or certain portions of them, were uttered orally to the people before that time. Hitzig's attempt to prove that all the three addresses in our book were composed in the time of Hezekiah, is founded upon a false historical interpretation, and upon unscriptural ideas of the nature of prophecy.
We know nothing more about the circumstances of Micah's life, than what may be gathered from his writings. According to these, he no doubt prophesied in Jerusalem, the capital of his native land. This is evident from the fact that he chiefly condemns the moral corruption of the great and mighty men of the kingdom, and makes Zion and Jerusalem for the most part the centre of his prophecies. There is not sufficient ground for Ewald's assertion, that there are many signs which indicate an inhabitant of the plain. The introduction of the names of particular places in Judah in Micah 1:10-15 furnishes no proof of any "peculiar interest in the Jewish country, more especially the Jewish lowland, as being his home." Only a portion of the places mentioned in this passage were situated in the lowland. Moreover, Isaiah also enumerates a whole list of places in Judah (Isaiah 10:28-32), and is minutely acquainted with the circumstances of Zebulun and Naphtali, and the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1), although he was settled in Jerusalem, and had probably been born there. Still more precarious is the inference that has been drawn from Micah's somewhat rough and rugged style. For all that can be adduced in support of this is confined to the rapid and abrupt transitions from threatening to promise, in which he resembles Hosea (vid., Micah 2:1-13; Micah 3:9-12; Micah 4:1.), and generally from one subject to another (e.g., Micah 7:1-7, Micah 7:11-13), but more especially from one person to another, or from one number and gender to another (Micah 1:10; Micah 6:16; Micah 7:15-19). This may be all explained from the vivacity of his won individuality, and the excited state of his mind; and simply indicaters the boldness of his words, but not any want of culture in his style. His words are never deficient in clearness or evenness; whilst in abundance of figures, similes (Micah 1:8, Micah 1:16; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 4:9, etc.), and rhetorical tropes, as well as in speciality, paronomasia, in play upon words (Micah 1:10-15), and dialogue (Micah 2:7-11; Micah 6:1-8; Micah 7:7-20, his style resembles that of his highly cultivated contemporary Isaiah. The traditional accounts respecting his descent from the tribe of Ephraim, his death, and his grave, contained in Ps. Dorotheus and Ps. Epiphanius (collected in Carpzovii, Introd. iii. pp. 373-4), have partly originated in the confounding of our Micah with the elder Micah the son of Imlah, who lived in the reign of Ahab, and are partly inferences from the heading to our book.
2. The Book of Micah. - The contents of the book consist of three prophetic addresses, which are clearly distinguished from one another in form by similarity of introduction (all three commencing with שׁמעוּ, Micah 1:2; Micah 3:1; Micah 6:1), and substantially by their contents, which pass through the various stages of reproof, threat, and promise, and are thereby rounded off; so that all attempts at any other division, such as that of Ewald to connect Micah 3:1-12 with the first address, or to arrange the book in two parts (ch. 1-5 and Micah 6:1, Micah 7:1), are obviously arbitrary. Micah 3:1-12 can only be connected with ch. 1 and Micah 2:1-13 so as to form one address, on the groundless assumption that Micah 2:12-13 are a later gloss that has crept into the text; and though the ואמר before שׁמעוּ־נא in Micah 3:1 does indeed connect the second address more closely with the first than with the third, it by no means warrants our dividing the whole book into two parts. In the three addresses, ch. 1, Micah 2:1-13, 3-5, and Micah 6:1, Micah 7:1, we have not "three prophecies of Micah, delivered to the people at three different times," as Hitzig and Maurer still suppose, but merely a condensation rhetorically arranged of the essential contents of his verbal utterances, as committed to writings by Micah himself at the end of his prophetic course in the time of Hezekiah. For these addresses are proved to be merely portions or sections of a single whole, by the absence of all reference to the concrete circumstances of any particular portion of time, and still more by their organic combination, as seen in the clearly marked and carefully planned progressive movement apparent in their contents. In the first address, after a general announcement of judgment on account of the sins of Israel (Micah 1:2-5), Micah predicts the destruction of Samaria (Micah 1:6, Micah 1:7), and the devastation of Judah with the deportation of its inhabitants (Micah 1:8-16), and justifies this threat by an earnest and brief reproof of the existing acts of injustice and violence on the part of the great men (Micah 2:1-5), and a sharp correction of their abettors the false prophets. (Micah 2:6-11); after which this address closes with a brief promise of the eventual restoration of the remnant of Israel to favour (Micah 2:12, Micah 2:13). The second address closes with a brief promise of the eventual restoration of the remnant of Israel to favour (Micah 2:12, Micah 2:13). The second address spreads itself out still more elaborately in the first half (Micah 3:1-12) over the sins and crimes of the heads of the nation, viz., the princes, the false prophets, the unjust judges and bad priests; and because of these sins threatens the destruction and utter devastation of Zion, and the temple hill. As an antithesis to this threat, the second half (Micah 4:1-13 and Micah 5:1-15) contains a promise, commencing with the opening of a prospect of the glorification of Zion and Israel at the end of the days (Micah 4:1-7), advancing to an assurance of the restoration of the former dominion of the daughter of Zion, after the people have first been carried away to Babel, and rescued again out of the hand of their enemies, and of her triumph in the last conflict with the nations of the world (Micah 4:8 -14), and culminating in the announcement of the birth of the great Ruler in Israel, who will arise out of Bethlehem, and feed His people in the majesty of Jehovah (Micah 5:1-5), and not only protect the rescued remnant of Jacob against the attacks of the imperial kingdom, but exalt it into a beneficent, and at the same time fearful, power to the heathen nations (Micah 5:6-8), and establish a kingdom of blessed peace (Micah 5:9-14). The third address sets forth the way to salvation in the dramatic dress of a law-suit between Jehovah and His people, by exhibiting the divine benefits for which Israel had repaid its God with ingratitude, and by a repeated allusion to the prevailing sins and unrighteousness which God must punish (ch. 6), and also by showing how the consciousness of misery will lead to the penitential confession of guilt and to conversion, and by encouraging to believing trust in the compassion upon His people, rebuild Zion, and humble the foe, and by renewing the miracles of the olden time fill all nations with fear of His omnipotence (Micah 7:1-17); after which the prophet closes his book with praise for the sin-forgiving grace of the Lord (Micah 7:18-20).
From this general survey of the contents of the three addresses, their internal connection may be at once perceived. In the first the threatening of judgment predominates; in the second the announcement of the Messianic salvation; in the third there follows the paraenesis or admonition to repentance and humiliation under the chastising hand of the Lord, in order to participate in the promised salvation. As this admonition rests upon the threat of judgment and promise of salvation in the two previous addresses, so does the allusion to the judgment contained in the words, "Then will they cry to Jehovah, and He will not answer them" (Micah 3:4), presuppose the announcement in ch. 1 of the judgment about to burst upon the land, without which it would be perfectly unintelligible. Consequently there can be no doubt whatever that Micah has simply concentrated the quintessence of his oral discourses into the addresses contained in his book. This quintessence, moreover, shows clearly enough that our prophet was not at all behind his contemporary Isaiah, either in the clearness and distinctness of his Messianic announcements, or in the power and energy with which he combated the sins and vices of the nation. There is simply this essential difference, so far as the latter point is concerned, that he merely combats the religious and moral corruptness of the rulers of the nation, and does not touch upon their conduct on its political side. (For the exegetical literature, see my Lehrbuch der Einleitung, p. 296.)
The prophet's first address is throughout of a threatening and punitive character; it is not till quite the close, that the sun of divine grace breaks brightly shining through the thunder clouds of judgment. The announcement of the judgment upon Samaria as well as upon the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem forms the first part (Micah 1:2-16); the reproof of the sins, especially of the unrighteousness of the great and mighty of the nation, the second part (Micah 2:1-11); and a brief but very comprehensive announcement of the salvation that will dawn upon the remnant of all Israel after the judgment, the conclusion of the address (Micah 2:12-13).
The Judgment upon Samaria and Judah - Micah 1
Micah, commencing with the appeal to all nations to observe the coming of the Lord for judgment upon the earth (Micah 1:2-4), announces to the people of Israel, on account of its sins and its apostasy from the Lord, the destruction of Samaria (Micah 1:5-7) and the spreading of the judgment over Judah; and shows how, passing from place to place, and proceeding to Jerusalem, and even farther, it will throw the kingdom into deep lamentation on account of the carrying away of its inhabitants.
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.The heading in Micah 1:1 has been explained in the introduction. Micah 1:2-4 form the introduction to the prophet's address. Micah 1:2. "Hear, all ye nations: observe, O earth, and that which fills it: and let the Lord Jehovah be a witness against you, the Lord out of His holy palace. Micah 1:3. For, behold, Jehovah cometh forth from His place, and cometh down, and marcheth over the high places of the earth. Micah 1:4. And the mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys split, like wax before the fire, like water poured out upon a slope." The introductory words, "Hear, ye nations all," are taken by Micah from his earlier namesake the son of Imlah (1 Kings 22:28). As the latter, in his attack upon the false prophets, called all nations as witnesses to confirm the truth of his prophecy, so does Micah the Morashite commence his prophetic testimony with the same appeal, so as to announce his labours at the very outset as a continuation of the activity of his predecessor who had been so zealous for the Lord. As the son of Imlah had to contend against the false prophets as seducers of the nation, so has also the Morashtite (compare Micah 2:6, Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5, Micah 3:11); and as the former had to announce to both kingdoms the judgment that would come upon them on account of their sins, so has also the latter; and he does it by frequently referring to the prophecy of the elder Micah, not only by designating the false prophets as those who walk after the rūăch and lie, sheqer (Micah 2:11), which recals to mind the rūăch sheqer of the prophets of Ahab (1 Kings 22:22-23), but also in his use of the figures of the horn of iron in Micah 4:13 (compare the horns of iron of the false prophet Zedekiah in 1 Kings 22:11), and of the smiting upon the cheek in Micah 5:1 (compare 1 Kings 22:14). ‛Ammı̄m kullâm does not mean all the tribes of Israel; still less does it mean warlike nations. ‛Ammı̄m never has the second meaning, and the first it has only in the primitive language of the Pentateuch. But here both these meanings are precluded by the parallel ארץ וּמלאהּ; for this expression invariably signifies the whole earth, with that which fills it, except in such a case as Jeremiah 8:16, where 'erets is restricted to the land of Israel by the preceding hâ'ârets, or Ezekiel 12:19, where it is so restricted by the suffix 'artsâh. The appeal to the earth and its fulness is similar to the appeals to the heaven and the earth in Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1. All nations, yea the whole earth, and all creatures upon it, are to hear, because the judgment which the prophet has to announce to Israel affects the whole earth (Micah 1:3, Micah 1:4), the judgment upon Israel being connected with the judgment upon all nations, or forming a portion of that judgment. In the second clause of the verse, "the Lord Jehovah be witness against you," it is doubtful who is addressed in the expression "against you." The words cannot well be addressed to all nations and to the earth, because the Lord only rises up as a witness against the man who has despised His word and transgressed His commandments. For being a witness is not equivalent to witnessing or giving testimony by words, - say, for example, by the admonitory and corrective address of the prophet which follows, as C. B. Michaelis supposes, - but refers to the practical testimony given by the Lord in the judgment (Micah 1:3 ff), as in Malachi 3:5 and Jeremiah 42:5. Now, although the Lord is described as the Judge of the world in Micah 1:3 and Micah 1:4, yet, according to Micah 1:5., He only comes to execute judgment upon Israel. Consequently we must refer the words "to you" to Israel, or rather to the capitals Samaria and Jerusalem mentioned in Micah 1:1, just as in Nahum 1:8 the suffix simply refers to the Nineveh mentioned in the heading, to which there has been no further allusion in Nahum 1:2-7. This view is also favoured by the fact that Micah summons all nations to hear his word, in the same sense as his earlier namesake in 1 Kings 22:28. What the prophet announces in word, the Lord will confirm by deed, - namely, by executing the predicted judgment, - and indeed "the Lord out of His holy temple," i.e., the heaven where He is enthroned (Psalm 11:4); for (1 Kings 22:3) the Lord will rise up from thence, and striding over the high places of the earth, i.e., as unbounded Ruler of the world (cf. Amos 4:13 and Deuteronomy 32:13), will come down in fire, so that the mountains melt before Him, that is to say, as Judge of the world. The description of this theophany is founded upon the idea of a terrible storm and earthquake, as in Psalm 18:8. The mountains melt (Judges 5:4 and Psalm 68:9) with the streams of water, which discharge themselves from heaven (Judges 5:4), and the valleys split with the deep channels cut out by the torrents of water. The similes, "like wax," etc. (as in Psalm 68:3), and "like water," etc., are intended to express the complete dissolution of mountains and valleys. The actual facts answering to this description are the destructive influences exerted upon nature by great national judgments.
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.
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.
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?This judicial interposition on the part of God is occasioned by the sin of Israel. Micah 1:5. "For the apostasy of Jacob (is) all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. Who is Jacob's apostasy? is it not Samaria? And who Judah's high places? is it not Jerusalem? Micah 1:6. Therefore I make Samaria into a stone-heap of the field, into plantations of vines; and I pour her stones into the valley, and I will lay bare her foundations. Micah 1:7. And all her stone images will be beaten to pieces, and all her lovers' gifts be burned with fire, and all her idols will I make into a waste: for she has gathered them of prostitute's hire, and to prostitute's hire shall they return." "All this" refers to the coming of Jehovah to judgment announced in Micah 1:3, Micah 1:4. This takes place on account of the apostasy and the sins of Israel. ב (for) used to denote reward or wages, as in 2 Samuel 3:27 compared with 2 Samuel 3:30. Jacob and Israel in Micah 1:5 are synonymous, signifying the whole of the covenant nation, as we may see from the fact that in Micah 1:5 Jacob and not Israel is the epithet applied to the ten tribes in distinction from Judah. מי, who? - referring to the author. The apostasy of Israel originates with Samaria; the worship on the high places with Jerusalem. The capitals of the two kingdoms are the authors of the apostasy, as the centres and sources of the corruption which has spread from them over the kingdoms. The allusion to the bâmōth of the illegal worship of the high places, which even the most godly kings were unable to abolish (see at 1 Kings 15:14), shows, moreover, that פּשׁע denotes that religious apostasy from Jehovah which was formally sanctioned in the kingdom of the ten tribes by the introduction of the calf-worship. But because this apostasy commenced in the kingdom of the ten tribes, the punishment would fall upon this kingdom first, and Samaria would be utterly destroyed. Stone-heaps of the field and vineyard plantations harmonize badly, in Hitzig's view: he therefore proposes to alter the text. But there is no necessity for this. The point of comparison is simply that Samaria will be so destroyed, that not a single trace of a city will be left, and the site thereof will become like a ploughed field or plain. השּׂדה is added to עי, a heap of ruins or stones, to strengthen it. Samaria shall become like a heap, not of ruins of building stones, but of stones collected from the field. למטּעי כרם, i.e., into arable land upon which you can plant vineyards. The figure answers to the situation of Samaria upon a hill in a very fruitful region, which was well adapted for planting vineyards (see at Amos 3:9). The situation of the city helps to explain the casting of its stones into the valley. Laying bare the foundations denotes destruction to the very foundation (cf. Psalm 137:7). On the destruction of the city all its idols will be annihilated. Pesı̄lı̄m, idols, as in Isaiah 10:10; not wooden idols, however, to which the expression yukkattū, smitten to pieces, would not apply, but stone idols, from pâsal (Exodus 34:1). By the lovers' gifts ('ethnân, see at Hosea 9:1) we are to understand, not "the riches of the city or their possessions, inasmuch as the idolaters regarded their wealth and prosperity as a reward from their gods, according to Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:14" (Rashi, Hitzig, and others), but the temple gifts, "gifts suspended in the temples and sacred places in honour of the gods" (Rosenmller), by which the temple worship with its apparatus were maintained; so that by 'ethnân we may understand the entire apparatus of religious worship. For the parallelism of the clauses requires that the word should be restricted to this. עצבּים are also idolatrous images. "To make them into a waste," i.e., not only to divest them of their ornament, but so utterly to destroy them that the place where they once stood becomes waste. The next clause, containing the reason, must not be restricted to the ‛ătsabbı̄m, as Hitzig supposes, but refers to the two clauses of the first hemistich, so that pesı̄lı̄m and ‛ătsabbı̄m are to be supplied as objects to qibbâtsâh (she gathered), and to be regarded as the subject to yâshūbhū (shall return). Samaria gathered together the entire apparatus of her idolatrous worship from prostitute's gifts (the wages of prostitution), namely, through gifts presented by the idolaters. The acquisition of all this is described as the gain of prostitute's wages, according to the scriptural view that idolatry was spiritual whoredom. There is no ground for thinking of literal wages of prostitution, or money which flowed into the temples from the voluptuous worship of Aphrodite, because Micah had in his mind not literal (heathenish) idolatry, but simply the transformation of the Jehovah-worship into idolatry by the worship of Jehovah under the symbols of the golden calves. These things return back to the wagers of prostitution, i.e., they become this once more (cf. Genesis 3:19) by being carried away by the enemies, who conquer the city and destroy it, and being applied to their idolatrous worship. On the capture of cities, the idols and temple treasures were carried away (cf. Isaiah 46:1-2; Daniel 1:3).
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.
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.
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.The judgment will not stop at Samaria, however, but spread over Judah. The prophet depicts this by saying that he will go about mourning as a prisoner, to set forth the misery that will come upon Judah (Micah 1:8, Micah 1:9); and then, to confirm this, he announces to a series of cities the fate awaiting them, or rather awaiting the kingdom, by a continued play upon words founded upon their names (Micah 1:10-15); and finally he summons Zion to deep mourning (Micah 1:16). Micah 1:8. "Therefore will I lament and howl, I will go spoiled and naked: I will keep lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches. Micah 1:9. For her stripes are malignant; for it comes to Judah, reaches to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem." על־זאת points back to what precedes, and is then explained in Micah 1:9. The prophet will lament over the destruction of Samaria, because the judgment which has befallen this city will come upon Judah also. Micah does not speak in his own name here as a patriot (Hitzig), but in the name of his nation, with which he identifies himself as being a member thereof. This is indisputably evident from the expression אילכה שׁילל וערום, which describes the costume of a prisoner, not that of a mourner. The form אילכה with י appears to have been simply suggested by אילילה. שׁילל is formed like הידד in Isaiah 16:9-10, and other similar words (see Olshausen, Gramm. p. 342). The Masoretes have substituted שׁלל, after Job 12:17, but without the slightest reason. It does not mean "barefooted," ἀνυπόδετος (lxx), for which there was already יחף in the language (2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 20:2-3; Jeremiah 2:25), but plundered, spoiled. ערום, naked, i.e., without upper garment (see my comm. on 1 Samuel 19:24), not merely vestitu solido et decente privatus. Mourners do indeed go barefooted (yâchēph, see 2 Samuel 15:30), and in deep mourning in a hairy garment (saq, 2 Samuel 3:31; Genesis 37:34, etc.), but not plundered and naked. The assertion, however, that a man was called ̀ârōm when he had put on a mourning garment (saq, sackcloth) in the place of his upper garment, derives no support from Isaiah 20:2, but rather a refutation. For there the prophet does not go about ‛ârōm veyâchēph, i.e., in the dress of a prisoner, to symbolize the captivity of Egypt, till after he has loosened the hairy garment (saq) from his loins, i.e., taken it off. And here also the plundering of the prophet and his walking naked are to be understood in the same way. Micah's intention is not only to exhibit publicly his mourning fore the approaching calamity of Judah, but also to set forth in a symbolical form the fate that awaits the Judaeans. And he can only do this by including himself in the nation, and exhibiting the fate of the nation in his own person. Wailing like jackals and ostriches is a loud, strong, mournful cry, those animals being distinguished by a mournful wail; see the comm. on Job 30:29, which passage may possibly have floated before the prophet's mind. Thus shall Judah wail, because the stroke which falls upon Samaria is a malignant, i.e., incurable (the suffix attached to מכּותיה refers to Shōmerōn, Samaria, in Micah 1:6 and Micah 1:7. For the singular of the predicate before a subject in the plural, see Ewald, 295, a, and 317, a). It reaches to Judah, yea, to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, as the capital, is called the "gate of my people," because in it par excellence the people went out and in. That עד is not exclusive here, but inclusive, embracing the terminus ad quem, is evident from the parallel "even to Judah;" for if it only reached to the border of Judah, it would not have been able to come to Jerusalem; and still more clearly so from the description in Micah 1:10. The fact that Jerusalem is not mentioned till after Judah is to be interpreted rhetorically, and not geographically. Even the capital, where the temple of Jehovah stood, would not be spared.
For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.
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 penetration of the judgment into Judah is now clearly depicted by an individualizing enumeration of a number of cities which will be smitten by it. Micah 1:10. "Go not to Gath to declare it; weeping, weep not. At Beth-Leafra (dust-home) I have strewed dust upon myself. Micah 1:11. Pass thou away, O inhabitress of Shafir (beautiful city), stripped in shame. The inhabitress of Zaanan (departure) has not departed; the lamentation of Beth-Hazel (near-house) takes from you the standing near it. Micah 1:12. For the inhabitress of Maroth (bitterness) writhes for good; for evil has come down from Jehovah to the gate of Jerusalem." The description commences with words borrowed from David's elegy on the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:20), "Publish it not in Gath," in which there is a play upon the words in begath and taggı̄dū. The Philistines are not to hear of the distress of Judah, lest they should rejoice over it. There is also a play upon words in בּכו אל־תּבכּוּ. The sentence belongs to what precedes, and supplies the fuller definition, that they are not to proclaim the calamity in Gath with weeping, i.e., not to weep over it there.
(Note: On the ground of the Septuagint rendering, καὶ οἱ Ἐνακεὶμ μὴ ἀνοικοδομεῖτε, most of the modern expositors follow Reland (Palaest. ill. p. 534ff.) in the opinion that בּכו is the name of a city, a contraction of בּעכּו, "and weep not at Acco." There is no force in the objection brought against this by Caspari (Mich. p. 110), namely, that in that case the inhabitants of both kingdoms must have stood out before the prophet's mind in hemistich a, which, though not rendered actually impossible by Micah 1:9, and the expression על־זאת in Micah 1:8, is hardly reconcilable with the fact that from Micah 1:11 onwards Judah only stands out before his mind, and that in Micah 1:8-10 the distress of his people, in the stricter sense (i.e., of Judah), is obviously the pre-eminent object of his mourning. For Acco would not be taken into consideration as a city of the kingdom of Israel, but as a city inhabited by heathen, since, according to Judges 1:31, the Canaanites were not driven out of Acco, and it cannot be shown from any passage of the Old Testament that this city ever came into the actual possession of the Israelites. It is evidently a more important objection to the supposed contraction, that not a single analogous case can be pointed out. The forms נשׁקה for נשׁקעה (Amos 8:8) and בּלה for בּעלה (Joshua 19:3 and Joshua 15:29) are of a different kind; and the blending of the preposition ב with the noun עכּו, by dropping the ע, so as to form one word, is altogether unparalleled. The Septuagint translation furnishes no sufficient authority for such an assumption. All that we can infer from the fact that Eusebius has adopted the reading Ἐναχείμ in his Onom. (ed. Lars. p. 188), observing at the same time that this name occurs in Micah, whilst Aq. and Symm. have ἐν κλαυθμῶ (in fletu) instead, is that these Greek fathers regarded the Ἐναχείμ of the lxx as the name of a place; but this does not in the smallest degree prove the correctness of the lxx rendering. Nor does the position of בּכו before אל furnish any tenable ground for maintaining that this word cannot be the inf. abs. of בּכה, but must contain the name of a place. The assertion of Hitzig, that "if the word were regarded as an inf. abs., neither the inf. itself nor אל for לא would be admissible in a negative sentence (Jeremiah 22:10)," has no grammatical foundation. It is by no means a necessary consequence, that because אל cannot be connected with the inf. abs. (Ewald, 350, a), therefore the inf. abs. could not be written before a finite verb with אל for the sake of emphasis.)
After this reminiscence of the mourning of David for Saul, which expresses the greatness of the grief, and is all the more significant, because in the approaching catastrophe Judah is also to lose its king (cf. Micah 4:9), so that David is to experience the fate of Saul (Hengstenberg), Micah mentions places in which Judah will mourn, or, at any rate, experience something very painful. From Micah 1:10 to Micah 1:15 he mentions ten places, whose names, with a very slight alteration, were adapted for jeux de mots, with which to depict what would happen to them or take place within them. The number ten (the stamp of completeness, pointing to the fact that the judgment would be a complete one, spreading over the whole kingdom) is divided into twice five by the statement, which is repeated in Micah 1:12, that the calamity would come to the fate of Jerusalem; five places being mentioned before Jerusalem (Micah 1:10-12), and five after (Micah 1:13-15). This division makes Hengstenberg's conjecture a very natural one, viz., that the five places mentioned before Jerusalem are to be sought for to the north of Jerusalem, and the others to the south or south-west, and that in this way Micah indicates that the judgment will proceed from the north to the south. On the other hand, Caspari's opinion, that the prophet simply enumerates certain places in the neighbourhood of Moresheth, his own home, rests upon no firm foundation.
בּית לעפרה is probably the Ophrah of Benjamin (עפרה, Joshua 18:23), which was situated, according to Eusebius, not far from Bethel (see comm. on Josh. l.c.). It is pointed with pathach here for the sake of the paronomasia with עפר. The chethib התפּלּשׁתּי is the correct reading, the keri התפּלּשׁי being merely an emendation springing out of a misunderstanding of the true meaning. התפּלּשׁ does not mean to revolve, but to bestrew one's self. Bestrewing with dust or ashes was a sign of deep mourning (Jeremiah 6:26; 2 Samuel 13:19). The prophet speaks in the name of the people of what the people will do. The inhabitants of Shafir are to go stripped into captivity. עבר, to pass by, here in the sense of moving forwards. The plural לכם is to be accounted for from the fact that yōshebheth is the population. Shâphı̄r, i.e., beautiful city, is not the same as the Shâmı̄r in Joshua 15:48, for this was situated in the south-west of the mountains of Judah; nor the same as the Shâmı̄r in the mountains of Ephraim (Judges 10:1), which did not belong to the kingdom of Judah; but is a place to the north of Jerusalem, of which nothing further is known. The statement in the Onomast. s.v. Σαφείρ ἐν γῆ ὀρεινῆ between Eleutheropolis and Askalon - is probably intended to apply to the Shâmı̄r of Joshua; but this is evidently erroneous, as the country between Eleutheropolis and Askalon did not belong to the mountains of Judah, but to the Shephelah. עריה־בשׁת, a combination like ענוה־צדק in Psalm 45:5, equivalent to stripping which is shame, shame-nakedness equals ignominious stripping. עריה is an accusative defining the manner in which they would go out. The next two clauses are difficult to explain. צאנן, a play upon words with יצאה, is traceable to this verb, so far as its meaning is concerned. The primary meaning of the name is uncertain; the more modern commentators combine it with צאן, in the sense of rich in flocks. The situation of Zaanan is quite unknown. The supposed identity with Zenân see at Joshua 15:37) must be given up, as Zenân was in the plain, and Zaanan was most probably to the north of Jerusalem. The meaning of the clause can hardly be any other than this, that the population of Zaanan had not gone out of their city to this war from fear of the enemy, but, on the contrary, had fallen back behind their walls (Ros., Casp., Hitzig). בּית האצל is most likely the same as אצל in Zechariah 14:5, a place in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, to the east of the Mount of Olives, as Beth is frequently omitted in the names of places (see Ges. Thes. p. 193). Etsel signifies side, and as an adverb or preposition, "by the side of." This meaning comes into consideration there. The thought of the words mispad bēth, etc., might be: "The lamentation of Beth-Haezel will take away its standing (the standing by the side of it, 'etslō) from you (Judaeans), i.e., will not allow you to tarry there as fugitives (cf. Jeremiah 48:45). The distress into which the enemy staying there has plunged Beth-Haezel, will make it impossible for you to stop there" (Hitzig, Caspari). But the next clause, which is connected by כּי, does not suit this explanation (Micah 1:12). The only way in which this clause can be made to follow suitably as an explanation is by taking the words thus: "The lamentation of Beth-Haezel will take its standing (the stopping of the calamity or judgment) from you, i.e., stop near it, as we should expect from its name; for (Micah 1:12) Maroth, which stands further off, will feel pain," etc. With this view, which Caspari also suggests, Hengstenberg (on Zechariah 14:5) agrees in the main, except that he refers the suffix in עמדּתו to מספּד, and renders the words thus: "The lamentation of Beth-Haezel will take its stopping away from you, i.e., the calamity will not stop at Beth-Haezel (at the near house), i.e., stop near it, as we should expect from its name; for (Micah 1:12) Maroth, which stands further off, will feel pain," etc. With this view, which Caspari also suggests, Hengstenberg (on Zechariah 14:5) agrees in the main, except that he refers the suffix in עמדתו to מספּד, and renders the words thus: "The lamentation of Beth-Haezel will take its stopping away from you, i.e., will not allow you the stopping of the lamentation." Grammatically considered, this connection is the more natural one; but there is this objection, that it cannot be shown that עמד is used in the sense of the stopping or ceasing of a lamentation, whereas the supposition that the suffix refers to the calamity simply by constructio ad sensum has all the less difficulty, inasmuch as the calamity has already been hinted at in the verb נגע in Micah 1:9, and in Micah 1:10 also it forms the object to be supplied in thought. Maroth (lit., something bitter, bitternesses) is quite unknown; it is simply evident, from the explanatory clause כּי ירד וגו, that it was situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Maroth writhe (châlâh, from chūl, to writhe with pain, like a woman in child-birth), because they are also smitten with the calamity, when it comes down to the gate of Jerusalem. לטוב, "on account of the good," which they have lost, or are about to lose.
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.
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.And the judgment will not even stop at Jerusalem, but will spread still further over the land. This spreading is depicted in Micah 1:13-15 in the same manner as before. Micah 1:13. "Harness the horse to the chariot, O inhabitress of Lachish! It was the beginning of sin to the daughter Zion, that the iniquities of Israel were found in her. Micah 1:14. Therefore wilt thou give dismissal-presents to Moresheth-gath (i.e., the betrothed of Gath); the houses of Achzib (lying fountain) become a lying brook for Israel's kings. Micah 1:15. I will still bring thee the heir, O inhabitress of Mareshah (hereditary city); the nobility of Israel will come to Adullam. Micah 1:16. Make thyself bald, and shave thyself upon the sons of thy delights: spread out thy baldness like the eagle; for they have wandered away from thee." The inhabitants of Lachish, a fortified city in the Shephelah, to the west of Eleutheropolis, preserved in the ruins of Um Lakis (see at Joshua 10:3), are to harness the horses to the chariot (rekhesh, a runner; see at 1 Kings 5:8 : the word is used as ringing with lâkhı̄sh), namely, to flee as rapidly as possible before the advancing foe. רתם, ἁπ. λεγ. "to bind ... the horse to the chariot," answering to the Latin currum jungere equis. Upon this city will the judgment fall with especial severity, because it has grievously sinned. It was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion, i.e., to the population of Jerusalem; it was the first to grant admission to the iniquities of Israel, i.e., to the idolatry of the image-worship of the ten tribes (for פּשׁעי ישׂראל, see Micah 1:5 and Amos 3:14), which penetrated even to the capital. Nothing more is known of this, as the historical books contain no account of it. For this reason, namely, because the sin of Israel found admission into Jerusalem, she (the daughter Zion) will be obliged to renounce Moresheth-gath. This is the thought of Micah 1:14, the drapery of which rests upon the resemblance in sound between Moresheth and me'orâsâh, the betrothed (Deuteronomy 22:23). Shillūchı̄m, dismissal, denotes anything belonging to a man, which he dismisses or gives up for a time, or for ever. It is applied in Exodus 18:2 to the sending away of wife and children to the father-in-law for a time; and in 1 Kings 9:16 to a dowry, or the present which a father gives to his daughter when she is married and leaves his house. The meaning "divorce," i.e., sēpher kerı̄thuth (Deuteronomy 24:1, Deuteronomy 24:3), has been arbitrarily forced upon the word. The meaning is not to be determined from shillēăch in Jeremiah 3:8, as Hitzig supposes, but from 1 Kings 9:16, where the same expression occurs, except that it is construed with ל, which makes no material difference. For נתן אל signifies to give to a person, either to lay upon him or to hand to him; נתן ל, to give to him. The object given by Zion to Moresheth as a parting present is not mentioned, but it is really the city itself; for the meaning is simply this: Zion will be obliged to relinquish all further claim to Moresheth, to give it up to the enemy. Mōresheth is not an appellative, as the old translators suppose, but the proper name of Micah's home; and Gath is a more precise definition of its situation - "by Gath," viz., the well-known Philistian capital, analogous to Bethlehem-Judah in Judges 17:7-9; Judges 19:1, or Abel-maim (Abel by the water) in 2 Chronicles 16:4. According to Jerome (comm. in Mich. Prol.), Morasthi, qui usque hodie juxta Eleutheropolin, urbem Palaestinae, haud grandis est viculus (cf. Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 423). The context does not admit of our taking the word in an appellative sense, "possession of Gath," since the prophet does not mean to say that Judah will have to give up to the enemy a place belonging to Gath, but rather that it will have to give up the cities of its own possession. For, as Maurer correctly observes, "when the enemy is at the gate, men think of defending the kingdom, not of enlarging it." But if the addition of the term Gath is not merely intended to define the situation of Moresheth with greater minuteness, or to distinguish it from other places of the same name, and if the play upon words in Moresheth was intended to point to a closer relation to Gath, the thought expressed could only be, that the place situated in the neighbourhood of Gath had frequently been taken by the Philistines, or claimed as their property, and not that they were in actual possession of Gath at this time.
The play upon words in the second clause of the verse also points to the loss of places in Judaea: "the houses of Achzib will become Achzab to the kings of Israel." אכזב, a lie, for נחל אכזב, is a stream which dries up in the hot season, and deceives the expectation of the traveller that he shall find water (Jeremiah 15:18; cf. Job 6:15.). Achzib, a city in the plain of Judah, whose name has been preserved in the ruins of Kussabeh, to the south-west of Beit-Jibrin (see at Joshua 15:44). The houses of Achzib are mentioned, because they are, properly speaking, to be compared to the contents of the river's bed, whereas the ground on which they stood, with the wall that surrounded them, answered to the river's bed itself (Hitzig), so that the words do not denote the loss or destruction of the houses so much as the loss of the city itself. The "kings of Israel" are not the kings of Samaria and Judah, for Achzib belonged to the kingdom of Judah alone, but the kings of Judah who followed one another (cf. Jeremiah 19:13); so that the plural is to be understood as relating to the monarchy of Israel (Judah). Mareshah will also pass into other hands. This is affirmed in the words, "I will bring the heir to thee again" (אבי for אביא, as in 1 Kings 21:29). The first heir of Mareshah was the Israelites, who received the city, which had been previously occupied by the Canaanites, for their possession on the conquest of the land. The second heir will be the enemy, into whose possession the land is now to pass. Mareshah, also in the lowland of Judah, has been preserved, so far as the name is concerned, in the ruins of Marash (see at Joshua 15:44, and Tobler, Dritte Wanderung, pp. 129, 142-3). To the north of this was Adullam (see at Joshua 12:15), which has not yet been discovered, but which Tobler (p. 151) erroneously seeks for in Bêt Dûla. Micah mentions it simply on account of the cave there (1 Samuel 22:1), as a place of refuge, to which the great and glorious of Israel would flee ("the glory of Israel," as in Isaiah 5:13). The description is rounded off in Micah 1:16, by returning to the thought that Zion would mourn deeply over the carrying away of the people, with which it had first set out in Micah 1:8. In קרחי וגזּי Zion is addressed as the mother of the people. קרח, to shave smooth, and גּזז, to cut off the hair, are synonyms, which are here combined to strengthen the meaning. The children of thy delights, in whom thou hast thy pleasure, are the members of the nation. Shaving the head bald, or shaving a bald place, was a sing of mourning, which had been handed down as a traditional custom in Israel, in spite of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 14:1 (see at Leviticus 19:28). The bald place is to be made to spread out like that of a nesher, i.e., not the true eagle, but the vulture, which was also commonly classed in the eagle family, - either the bearded vulture, vultur barbatus (see Oedmann, Verm. Samml. i. p. 54ff.), or more probably the carrion vulture, vultur percnopterus L., common in Egypt, and also in Palestine, which has the front part of the head completely bald, and only a few hairs at the back of the head, so that a bald place may very well be attributed to it (see Hasselquist, Reise, p. 286ff.). The words cannot possibly be understood as referring to the yearly moulting of the eagle itself.
If we inquire still further as to the fulfilment of the prophecy concerning Judah (Micah 1:8-16), it cannot be referred, or speaking more correctly, it must not be restricted, to the Assyrian invasion, as Theod., Cyril, Marck, and others suppose. For the carrying away of Judah, which is hinted at in Micah 1:11, and clearly expressed in Micah 1:16, was not effected by the Assyrians, but by the Chaldeans; and that Micah himself did not expect this judgment from the Assyrians, but from Babel, is perfectly obvious from Micah 4:10, where he mentions Babel as the place to which Judah was to be carried into exile. At the same time, we must not exclude the Assyrian oppression altogether; for Sennacherib had not only already conquered the greater part of Judah, and penetrated to the very gates of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13-14, 2 Kings 18:19; Isaiah 36:1-38:22), but would have destroyed the kingdom of Judah, as his predecessor Shalmaneser had destroyed the kingdom of Israel, if the Lord had not heard the prayer of His servant Hezekiah, and miraculously destroyed Sennacherib's army before the walls of Jerusalem. Micah prophesies throughout this chapter, not of certain distinct judgment, but of judgment in general, without any special allusions to the way in which it would be realized; so that the proclamation embraces all the judgments that have fallen upon Judah from the Assyrian invasion down to the Roman catastrophe.
Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.
Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.