Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.IV.
(1) But in the last days.—There is again a sudden transition. As the third chapter commenced with a startling denunciation, following immediately upon the predicted blessings of the restored kingdom, so upon that chapter, closed in deepest gloom, there now rises a vision of glorious light. The first three verses are almost identical with the second chapter of Isaiah, Micah 4:2-4; and it has been almost an open question which of the two prophets is the original author of them, or whether indeed they both adopted the words from an older prophecy current at the time. Dr. Pusey takes very decided ground, saying, “It is now owned, well-nigh on all hands, that the great prophecy, three verses of which Isaiah prefixed to his second chapter, was originally delivered by Micah. . . . No one now thinks Micah adopted that great prophecy from Isaiah” (Minor Prophets, p. 289). This last statement, however, is far too sweeping; all that can be correctly said is that the preponderance of opinion is in favour of Micah being regarded as the original writer.
In the top of the mountains—i.e., the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be spiritually elevated above all else, visible and invisible, and it shall be established for ever.
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.(2) Many nations shall come.—This prepares. the way to the more definitive prophecies, that there shall be a common consent among the nations journeying forth to the house of the Lord: asking the way thither in this world—finding the house itself in the eternal world. Even to this day the hearts of Jews and Christians alike yearn towards Jerusalem—a physical representative of the love which turns spontaneously to the Messiah.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.(3) The name of the Messiah is the Prince of Peace; and we still look into the dim future out of a present life, rife with wars and rumours of wars, for the full realisation of His reign of peace. And we are sure that the time will come, for “the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
They shall beat their swords . . .—See Note on Joel 3:10.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.(4) They shall sit . . .—This was a proverbial expression for the feeling of security brought about by a peace which no foreign power was strong enough to disturb. It describes the state of the Israelites under Solomon—“Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even unto Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.” The vine and the fig-tree are the representative trees of Palestine.
For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.(5) For all people will walk.—The comparatively near future to Micah, and the still distant future to us, are blended in the prophet’s vision: just as in the prophecies of our Lord the destruction of Jerusalem is described in terms which have their final accomplishment in the day of judgment. Micah’s description of the universal rule of Messiah is primarily applicable to the antecedent prosperity, after the return of the Jews from the captivity. The zeal of the Jews for Jehovah was stirred up after witnessing the example of “the children of this world” in Babylon. The devotion of the Babylonian princes to their god is strikingly evident in the diaries of Nebuchadnezzar and other prophets, as lately brought to light in The Records of the Past. That zealous Society for a national return to the strictness of the Law of Moses at first distinguished and honoured by the name of Pharisees took its rise after the return from the captivity.
In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;(6, 7) Her that halted.—Like flocks wearied with heat and journeyings. The promise immediately refers to the return when God would re-establish the Jews, and eventually come Himself to the restored Temple. And, further, His own promise sanctions the words of Micah as to the abiding character of His rule, that legacy which He left to the Church—“Lo, I am with yon alway, even unto the end of the world.”
And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.(8) O tower of the flock.—Israel having been compared to a flock, Jerusalem is called its tower, or protection; and in Messiah the ancient dominion shall return to the Holy City. This is a more satisfactory interpretation than that which makes the tower of the flock Migdol-Edah (Genesis 35:21), a place near Bethlehem.
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counseller perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.(9) Now why dost thou cry out aloud?—The prophet places again, side by side with his vision of returned glory, the circumstances of misery which will intervene. The king and the counsellors of Jerusalem will be powerless to help in the moment of emergency.
Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.(10) Thou shalt go even to Babylon.—This prediction has naturally caused difficulty to those who doubt the power of prophets to prophesy: for Babylon was not at all considered in the days of Micah, when Assyria was in the ascendant. It was a century after Micah’s time before Babylon recovered its ancient dignity. The fact, however, remains that Micah wrote, “Thou shalt go to Babel;” and there is the other fact, that the people of Judah (not Israel) did go. Micah also declared, “THERE shalt thou be delivered:” and in the time of Cyrus the Jews were delivered there. The repetition, “There . . . there,” is emphatic.
Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.(11) Let her be defiled.—The seventy-fourth Psalm records the calamity foreseen by the prophet: “They have cast fire into Thy sanctuary, they have defiled (by casting down) the dwelling-place of Thy Name to the ground.”
Look upon—i.e., contemplate her destruction with pleasure.
But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.(12) They know not the thoughts of the Lord.—As a commentary upon this passage, we may compare the message of God with reference to the haughty thoughts of Sennacherib. Then the Lord declared that the Assyrian king was but His instrument in all he had done; so that when he presumed to arrogate to himself the glory of his victories, the Lord revoked his commission: “I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou carnest.” And so it came to pass.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.(13) Arise and thresh.—Micah, having likened Israel to the sheaves safely gathered, pursues the metaphor by calling upon the daughter of Zion to thresh her enemies after the manner of oxen treading out the corn; and under the symbolism of the horn—the weapon of strength—he promises that God will strengthen her for the work
I will consecrate.—The better reading is that of the LXX., Vulg., and some ancient versions, which give the second person, Thou shalt consecrate their gain unto the Lord. The termination, indicating the first person in our Hebrew Version, may be a form of the old second person feminine, of which there are other examples.