Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?III.
(1) Hear, I pray you.—In the second division of his prophecy Micah protests against the evil influences exercised upon the people in high places. The princes, the prophets, and the priests, to whom their interests were confided, were guilty of wrong, oppression, and robbery.
Ye princes.—Rather, judges, magistrates; but a different word is used from that which was given to the chiefs in the old days “when the judges ruled.”
Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;(2, 3) Who hate the good.—The judges, instead of fulfilling the obligations of their office, whereby they should be “for the people to God-ward,” perpetrated the most flagrant cruelty upon them. Micah compares it to the process of preparing food, in which every part of the animal, even to the bones, is utilised. So the judges robbed the people until there was nothing left to them.
Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.(4) Then shall they cry.—“Then”—i.e., in the day of retribution—“then shall they call upon me, saith the Lord, but I will not hear; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; and that because they hated knowledge, and received not the fear of the Lord, but abhorred my counsel and despised my correction. Then shall it be too late to knock when the door shall be shut, and too late to cry for mercy when it is the time of justice” (Commination Service). So also Isaiah declared (Isaiah 1:15): “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.(5) That bite with their teeth.—The concluding statement that the false prophets declare war against those who do not put into their mouth indicates the meaning of the former expression, namely, “they say peace to those who feed and bribe them.” The Hebrew word, nashak, which is rendered “bite,” is strictly applied to serpents, to “an adder in the path,” and is therefore especially appropriate to the false and lying nature of the prophets.
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.(7) They shall all cover their lips.—As the lepers, who were cut off from all communication with men, so also these false prophets, being cut off from all communion with God, were to “put a covering upon the upper lip.” It was also a sign of mourning for one dead, and Ezekiel was commanded to awaken the astonishment of the people by omitting to cover his upper lip when his wife died.
But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.(8) I am full of power.—Micah reverts to his denunciation of sin in high places with the fearlessness of his namesake. He contrasts himself with the prophets of the “lying spirit,” and declares his own commission from the Spirit of the Lord, and the ample equipment with which he was endowed.
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.(10) They build up Zion with blood—i.e., they acquire money for the erection of splendid buildings by spoliation and robbery, not stopping short of murder. So also Habakkuk (Micah 2:12) denounces the king of Babylon for the bloody wars with which he obtained wealth for the enlargement of the city.
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.(11) For reward.—Every function is carried out by judges, priests, and prophets through bribery, and yet they claim and count upon the protection of Jehovah. They rely for safety upon the presence of the sacred buildings; they cry, “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are these!” “Is not the Lord among us?” Isaiah contrasts in scathing terms the profession of holiness with the vicious life as seen in Jerusalem, and likens the city, with its rulers, to Sodom (Micah 1:10-15).
Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.(12) Therefore shall Zion . . .—Micah declared this sentence of Divine judgment with an intrepidity that was long remembered by the Jews. More than a century later the elders of the land, speaking in justification of the course taken by Jeremiah, used as a precedent the example of Micah. They spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, “Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.’ Did Hezekiah, king of Judah, and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them?” (Jeremiah 26:17-19).
Shall become heaps.—So also, in after-days, the doom of Jerusalem was pronounced by our Lord: “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.”