Expositor's Bible Commentary

THE Prophets, to whom this and a following Part are dedicated, have, to our loss, been haunted for centuries by a peddling and ambiguous title. Their Twelve Books are in size smaller than those of the great Three which precede them, and doubtless none of their chapters soar so high as the brilliant summits to which we are swept by Isaiah and the Prophet of the Exile. But in every other respect they are undeserving of the niggardly name of "Minor." Two of them, Amos and Hosea, were the first of all prophecy-rising cliff-like, with a sheer and magnificent originality, to a height and a mass sufficient to set after them the trend and slope of the whole prophetic range. The Twelve together cover the extent of that range, and illustrate the development of prophecy at almost every stage from the eighth century to the fourth. Yet even more than in the case of Isaiah or Jeremiah, the Church has been content to use a passage here and a passage there, leaving the rest of the books to absolute neglect or the almost equal oblivion of routine-reading. Among the causes of this disuse have been the more than usually corrupt state of the text; the consequent disorder and in parts unintelligibleness of all the versions; the ignorance of the various historical circumstances out of which the books arose; the absence of successful efforts to determine the periods and strophes, the dramatic dialogues (with the names of the speakers), the lyric effusions and the passages of argument, of all of which the books are composed.

The following exposition is an attempt to assist the bettering of all this. As the Twelve Prophets illustrate among them the whole history of written prophecy, I have thought it useful to prefix a historical sketch of the Prophet in early Israel, or as far as the appearance of Amos. The Twelve are then taken in chronological order. Under each of them a chapter is given of historical and critical introduction to his book; then some account of the prophet himself as a man and a seer; then a complete translation of the various prophecies handed down under his name, with textual footnotes, and an exposition and application to the present day in harmony with the aim of the series to which these volumes belong: finally, a discussion of the main doctrines the prophet has taught, if it has not been found possible to deal with these in the course of the exposition.

An exact critical study of the Twelve Prophets is rendered necessary by the state of the entire text. The present work is based on a thorough examination of this in the light of the ancient versions and of modern criticism. The emendations which I have proposed are few and insignificant, but I have examined and discussed in footnotes all that have been suggested, and in many cases my translation will be found to differ widely from that of the Revised Version. To questions of integrity and authenticity more space is devoted than may seem to many to be necessary. But it is certain that the criticism of the prophetic books has now entered on a period of the same analysis and discrimination which is almost exhausted in the case of the Pentateuch. Some hints were given of this in a previous book on Isaiah, chapters 40-66, which are evidently a composite work. Among the books now before us, the same fact has long been clear in the case of Obadiah and Zechariah, and also since Ewald’s time with regard to Micah. But Duhm’s "Theology of the Prophets," which appeared in 1875, suggested interpolations in Amos. Wellhausen (in 1873) and Stade (from 1883 onwards) carried the discussion further both on those, and others, of the Twelve; while a recent work by Andree on Haggai proves that many similar questions may still be raised and have to be debated. The general fact must be admitted that hardly one book has escaped later additions-additions of an entirely justifiable nature, which supplement the point of view of a single prophet with the richer experience or the riper hopes of a later day, and thus afford to ourselves a more catholic presentment of the doctrines of prophecy and the Divine purposes for mankind. This general fact, I say, must be admitted. But the questions of detail are still in process of solution. It is obvious that settled results can be reached (as to some extent they have been already reached in the criticism of the Pentateuch) only after years of research and debate by all schools of critics. Meantime it is the duty of each of us to offer his own conclusions, with regard to every separate passage, on the understanding that, however final they may at present seem to him, the end is not yet. In previous criticism the defects, of which work in the same field has made me aware, are four:

1. A too rigid belief in the exact parallelism and symmetry of the prophetic style, which I feel has led, for instance, Wellhausen, to whom we otherwise owe so much on the Twelve Prophets, into many unnecessary emendations of the text, or, where some amendment is necessary, to absolutely unprovable changes.

2. In passages between which no connection exists, the forgetfulness of the principle that this fact may often be explained as justly by the hypothesis of the omission of some words, as by the favorite theory of the later intrusion of portions of the extant text.

3. Forgetfulness of the possibility, which in some cases amounts almost to certainty, of the incorporation, among the authentic words of a prophet, of passages of earlier as well as of later date. And,

4. depreciation of the spiritual insight and foresight of pre-exilic writers. These, I am persuaded, are defects in previous criticism of the prophets. Probably my own criticism will reveal many more. In the beginnings of such analysis as we are engaged on, we must be prepared for not a little arbitrariness and want of proportion; these are often necessary for insight and fresh points of view, but they are as easily eliminated by the progress of discussion.

All criticism, however, is preliminary to the real work which the immortal prophets demand from scholars and preachers in our age. In a review of a previous volume, I was blamed for applying a prophecy of Isaiah to a problem of our own day. This was called "prostituting prophecy." The prostitution of the prophets is their confinement to academic uses. One cannot conceive an ending, at once more pathetic and more ridiculous, to those great streams of living water, than to allow them to run out in the sands of criticism and exegesis, however golden these sands may be. The prophets spoke for a practical purpose; they aimed at the hearts of men; and everything that scholarship can do for their writings has surely for its final aim the illustration of their witness to the ways of God with men, and its application to living questions and duties and hopes. Besides, therefore, seeking to tell the story of that wonderful stage in the history of the human spirit-surely next in wonder to the story of Christ Himself-I have not feared at every suitable point to apply its truths to our lives today. The civilization in which prophecy flourished was in its essentials marvelously like our own. To mark only one point, the rise of prophecy in Israel came fast upon the passage of the nation from an agricultural to a commercial basis of society, and upon the appearance of the very thing which gives its name to civilization -city-life, with its unchanging sins, problems, and ideals.

A recent Dutch critic, whose exact scholarship is known to all readers of Stade’s "Journal of Old Testament Science," has said of Amos and Hosea:

"These prophecies have a word of God, as for all times, so also especially for our own. Before all it is relevant to ‘the social question’ of our day, to the relation of religion and morality. Often it has been hard for me to refrain from expressly pointing out the agreement between Then and Today."

This feeling will be shared by all students of prophecy whose minds and consciences are quick; and I welcome the liberal plata of the series in which this book appears, because, while giving room for the adequate discussion of critical and historical questions, its chief design is to show the eternal validity of the Books of the Bible as the Word of God, and their meaning for ourselves today.

Previous works on the Minor Prophets are almost innumerable. Those to which I owe most will be found indicated in the footnotes. The translation has been executed upon the purpose, not to sacrifice the literal meaning or exact emphasis of the original to the frequent possibility of greater elegance. It reproduces every word, with the occasional exception of a copula. With some hesitation I have retained the traditional spelling of the Divine Name, Jehovah, instead of the more correct Jahve or Yahweh; but where the rhythm of certain familiar passages was disturbed by it, I have followed the English versions and written LORD. The reader will keep in mind that a line may be destroyed by substituting our pronunciation of proper names for the more musical accents of the original. Thus, for instance, we obliterate the music of "Israel" by making it two syllables and putting the accent on the first: it has three syllables with the accent on the last. We crush Yerushalayîm into Jerusalem; we shred off Asshûr into Assyria, and dub Misraîm Egypt. Hebrew has too few of the combinations which sound most musical to our ears to afford the suppression of any one of them.



IN the order of our English Bible the Minor Prophets, as they are usually called, form the last twelve books of the Old Testament. They are immediately preceded by Daniel, and before him by the three Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah (with Lamentations), and Ezekiel. Why all sixteen were thus gathered at the end of the other sacred books we do not know. Perhaps, because it was held fitting that prophecy should occupy the last outposts of the Old Testament towards the New.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, the order differs, and is much more significant. The Prophets form the second division of the threefold Canon: Law, Prophets, and Writings; and Daniel is not among them. The Minor follow immediately after Ezekiel. Moreover, they are not twelve books, but one. They are gathered under the common title "Book of the Twelve"; and although each of them has the usual colophon detailing the number of its own verses, there is also one colophon for all the twelve, placed at the end of Malachi and reckoning the sum of their verses from the first of Hosea onwards. This unity, which there is reason to suppose was given to them before their reception into the Canon, they have never since lost. However much their place has changed in the order of the books of the Old Testament, however much their own internal arrangement has differed, the Twelve have always stood together. There has been every temptation to scatter them because of their various dates. Yet they never have been scattered; and in spite of the fact that they have not preserved their common title in any Bible outside the Hebrew, that title has lived on in literature and common talk. Thus the Greek Canon omits it; but Greek Jews and Christians always counted the books as one volume, calling, them "The Twelve Prophets," or "The Twelve-Prophet Book." It was the Latins who designated them "The Minor Prophets": "on account of their brevity as compared with those who are called the Major because of their ampler volumes." And this name has passed into most modern languages, including our own. But surely it is better to revert to the original, canonical and unambiguous title of "The Twelve."

The collection and arrangement of "The Twelve" are matters of obscurity, from which, however, three or four facts emerge that are tolerably certain. The inseparableness of the books is a proof of the ancient date of their union. They must have been put together before they were received into the Canon. The Canon of the Prophets-Joshua to Second Kings and Isaiah to Malachi-was closed by 200 B.C. at the latest, and perhaps as early as 250; but if we have (as seems probable) portions of "The Twelve," which must be assigned to a little later than 300, this may be held to prove that the whole collection cannot have long preceded the fixing of the Canon of the Prophets. On the other hand, the fact that these latest pieces have not been placed under a title of their own, but are attached to the Book of Zechariah, is pretty sufficient evidence that they were added after the collection and fixture of twelve books-a round number which there would be every disposition not to disturb. That would give us for the date of the first edition (so to speak) of our Twelve some year before 300; and for the date of the second edition some year towards 250. This is a question, however, which may be reserved for final decision after we have examined the date of the separate books, and especially of Joel and the second half of Zechariah. That there was a previous collection, as early as the Exile, of the books written before then, may be regarded as more than probable. But we have no means of fixing its exact limits. Why the Twelve were all ultimately, put together is reasonably suggested by Jewish writers. They are small, and, as separate rolls, might have been lost. It is possible that the desire of the round number twelve is responsible for the admission of Jonah, a book very different in form from all the others; just as we have hinted that the fact of there being already twelve may account for the attachment of the late fragments to the Book of Zechariah. But all this is only to guess, where we have no means of certain knowledge.

"The Book of the Twelve" has not always held the place which it now occupies in the Hebrew Canon, at the end of the Prophets. The rabbis taught that Hosea, but for the comparative smallness of his prophecy, should have stood first of all the writing prophets, of whom they regarded him as the oldest. And doubtless it was for the same chronological reasons’ that early Christian catalogues of the Scriptures and various editions of the Septuagint placed the whole of "The Twelve" in front of Isaiah.

The internal arrangement of "The Twelve" in our English Bible is the same as that of the Hebrew Canon, and was probably determined by what the compilers thought to be the respective ages of the books. Thus, first we have six, all supposed to be of the earlier Assyrian period, before 700-Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah; then three from the late Assyrian and the Babylonian periods-Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; and then three from the Persian period after the Exile-Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Septuagint have altered the order of the first six, arranging Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, and Obadiah according to their size, and setting Jonah after them, probably because of his different form. The remaining six are left as in the Hebrew.

Recent criticism, however, has made it clear that the Biblical order of "The Twelve Prophets" is no more than a very rough approximation to the order of their real dates; and, as it is obviously best for us to follow in their historical succession prophecies which illustrate the whole history of prophecy from its rise with Amos to its fall with Malachi and his successors, I propose to do this. Detailed proofs of the separate dates must be left to each book. All that is needful here is a general statement of the order.

Of the first six prophets the dates of Amos, Hosea, and Micah (but of the latter’s book in part only) are certain. The Jews have been able to defend Hosea’s priority only on fanciful grounds. Whether or not he quotes from Amos, his historical allusions are more recent. With the exception of a few fragments incorporated by later authors, the Book of Amos is thus the earliest example of prophetic literature, and we take it first. The date we shall see is about 755. Hosea begins five or ten years later, and Micah just before 722. The three are in every respect-originality, comprehensiveness, influence upon other prophets-the greatest of our Twelve, and will therefore be treated with most detail, occupying the whole of the first volume.

The rest of the first six are Obadiah, Joel, and Jonah. But the Book of Obadiah, although it opens with an early oracle against Edom, is in its present form from after the Exile. The Book of Joel is of uncertain date, but, as we shall see, the great probability is that it is late; and the Book of Jonah belongs to a form of literature so different from the others that we may, most conveniently, treat of it last.

This leaves us to follow Micah, at the end of the eighth century, with the group Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk from the second half of the seventh century; and finally to take in their order the post-exilic Haggai, Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14; Zechariah 5:1-11; Zechariah 6:1-15; Zechariah 7:1-14; Zechariah 8:1-23; Zechariah 9:1-17., Malachi, and the other writings which we feel obliged to place about or even after that date.

One other word is needful. This assignment of the various books to different dates is not to be held as implying that the whole of a book belongs to such a date or to the author whose name it bears. We shall find that hands have been busy with the texts of the books long after the authors of these must have passed away; that besides early fragments incorporated by later writers, prophets of Israel’s new dawn mitigated the judgments and enlightened the gloom of the watchmen of her night; that here and there are passages which are evidently intrusions, both because they interrupt the argument and because they reflect a much later historical environment than their context. This, of course, will require discussion in each case, and such discussion will be given. The text will be subjected to an independent examination. Some passages hitherto questioned we may find to be unjustly so; others not hitherto questioned we may see reason to suspect. But in any case we shall keep in mind that the results of an independent inquiry are uncertain; and that in this new criticism of the prophets, which is comparatively recent, we cannot hope to arrive for some time at so general a consensus as is being rapidly reached in the far older and more elaborated criticism of the Pentateuch.

Such is the extent and order of the journey which lies before us. If it is not to the very summits of Israel’s outlook that we climb-Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the great Prophet of the Exile-we are yet to traverse the range of prophecy from beginning to end. We start with its first abrupt elevations in Amos. We are carried by the side of Isaiah and Jeremiah, yet at a lower altitude, on to the Exile. With the returned Israel we pursue an almost immediate rise to vision, and then by Malachi and others are conveyed down dwindling slopes to the very end. Beyond the land is flat. Though Psalms are sung and brave deeds done, and faith is strong and bright, there is no height of outlook; "there is no more any prophet" {Psalm 74:9} in Israel.

But our "Twelve" do more than thus carry us from beginning to end of the Prophetic Period. Of second rank as are most of the heights of this mountain range, they yet bring forth and speed on their way not a few of the streams of living water which have nourished later ages and are flowing today. Impetuous cataracts of righteousness-"let it roll on like water, and justice as an everlasting stream"; the irrepressible love of God to sinful men; the perseverance and pursuits of His grace; His mercies that follow the exile and the outcast His truth that goes forth richly upon the heathen; the ‘hope of the Savior of mankind the outpouring of the Spirit; counsels of patience; impulses of tenderness and of healing melodies innumerable, -all sprang from these lower hills of prophecy, and sprang so strongly that the world hears and feels them still,

And from the heights of our present pilgrimage there are also clear those great visions of the Stars and the Dawn, of the Sea and the Storm, concerning which it is true that as long as men live they shall seek out the places whence they can be seen, and thank God for His prophets.


Our "Twelve Prophets" will carry us, as we have seen, across the whole extent of the Prophetical period-the period when prophecy became literature, assuming the form and rising to the ‘intensity of an imperishable influence on the world. The earliest of the Twelve, Amos and Hosea, were the inaugurators of this period. They were not only the first (so far as we know) to commit prophecy to writing, but we find in them the germs of all its subsequent development. Yet Amos and Hosea were not unfathered. Behind them lay an older dispensation, and their own was partly a product of this, and partly a revolt against it. Amos says of himself: "The Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy?"-but again: "No prophet I, nor prophet’s son!" Who were those earlier prophets whose office Amos assumed while repudiating their spirit-whose name he abjured, yet could not escape from it? And, while we are about the matter, what do we mean by "prophet" in general? In vulgar use the name "prophet" has degenerated to the meaning of "one who foretells the future." Of this meaning it is, perhaps, the first duty of every student of prophecy earnestly and stubbornly to rid himself. In its native Greek tongue "prophet" meant not "one who speaks before," but "one who speaks for, or on behalf of, another." At the Delphic oracle "The Prophet’s" was the title of the official who received the utterances of the frenzied Pythoness and expounded them to the people; but Plato says that this is a misuse of the word, and that the true prophet is the inspired person himself, he who is in communication with the Deity and who speaks directly for the Deity. So Tiresias, the seer, is called by Pindar the "prophet" or "interpreter of Zeus," and Plato even styles poets "the prophets of the Muses." It is in this sense that we must think of the "Prophet" of the Old Testament. He is a speaker for God. The sharer of God’s counsels, as Amos calls him, he becomes the bearer and preacher of God’s Word. Prediction of the future is only a part, and often a subordinate and accidental part, of an office whose full function is to declare the character and the will of God. But the prophet does this in no systematic or abstract form. He brings his revelation point by point, and in connection with some occasion in the history of his people, or some phase of their character. He is not a philosopher nor a theologian with a system of doctrine (at least before Ezekiel), but the messenger and herald of God at some crisis in the life or conduct of His people. His message is never out of touch with events. These form either the subject matter or the proof or the execution of every oracle he utters. It is, therefore, God not merely as Truth, but far more as Providence, whom the prophet reveals. And although that Providence includes the full destiny of Israel and mankind, the prophet brings the news of it, for the most part, piece by piece, with reference to some present sin or duty, or some impending crisis or calamity. Yet he does all this, not merely because the word needed for the day has been committed to him by itself, and as if he were only its mechanical vehicle; but because he has come under the overwhelming conviction of God’s presence and of His character, a conviction often so strong that God’s word breaks through him and God speaks in the first person to the people.


There was no ancient people but believed in the power of certain personages to consult the Deity and to reveal His will. Every man could sacrifice; but not every man could render in return the oracle of God. This pertained to select individuals or orders. So the prophet seems to have been an older specialist than the priest, though in every tribe he frequently combined the latter’s functions with his own.

The matters on which ancient man consulted God were as wide as life. But naturally at first, in a rude state of society and at a low stage of mental development, it was in regard to the material defense and necessities of life, the bare law and order, that men almost exclusively sought the Divine will. And the whole history of prophecy is just the effort to substitute for these elementary provisions a more personal standard of the moral law, and more spiritual ideals of the Divine grace.

By the Semitic race-to which we may now confine ourselves, since Israel belonged to it-Deity was worshipped, in the main, as the god of a tribe. Every Semitic tribe had its own god; it would appear that there was no god without a tribe: the traces of belief in a supreme and abstract Deity are few and ineffectual. The tribe was the medium by which the god made himself known, and became an effective power on earth: the god was the patron of the tribe, the supreme magistrate and the leader in war. The piety he demanded was little more than loyalty to ritual; the morality he enforced was only a matter of police. He took no cognizance of the character or inner thoughts of the individual. But the tribe believed him to stand in very close connection with all the practical interests of their common life. They asked of him the detection of criminals, the discovery of lost property, the settlement of civil suits, sometimes when the crops should be sown, and always when war should be waged and by what tactics.

The means by which the prophet consulted the Deity on these subjects were for the most part primitive and rude. They may be summed up under two kinds: Visions either through falling into ecstasy or by dreaming in sleep, and Signs or Omens. Both kinds are instanced in Balaam. Of the signs some were natural, like the whisper of trees, the flight of birds, the passage of clouds, the movement of stars. Others were artificial, like the casting or drawing of lots. Others were between these, like the shape assumed by the entrails of the sacrificed animals when thrown on the ground. Again, the prophet was often obliged to do something wonderful in the people’s sight in order to convince-them of his authority. In Biblical language he had to work a miracle or give a sign. One instance throws a flood of light on this habitual expectancy of the Semitic mind. There was once an Arab chief who wished to consult a distant soothsayer as to the guilt of a daughter. But before he would trust the seer to give him the right answer to such a question he made him discover a grain of corn which he had concealed about his horse. He required the physical sign before he would accept the moral judgment.

Now, to us, the crudeness of the means employed, the opportunities of fraud, the inadequacy of the tests for spiritual ends, are very obvious. But do not let us, therefore, miss the numerous moral opportunities which lay before the prophet even at that early stage of his evolution. He was trusted to speak in the name of Deity. Through him men believed in God and in the possibility of a revelation. They sought from him the discrimination of evil from good. The highest possibilities of social ministry lay open to him: the tribal existence often hung on his word for peace or war; he was the mouth of justice, the rebuke of evil, the champion of the wronged. Where such opportunities were present, can we imagine the Spirit of God to have been absent-the Spirit Who seeks men more than they seek Him, and, as He condescends to use their poor language for religion, must also have stooped to the picture language, to the rude instruments, symbols and sacraments, of their early faith?

In an office of such mingled possibilities everything depended-as we shall find it depend to the very end of prophecy-on the moral insight and character of the prophet himself, on his conception of God and whether he was so true to this as to overcome his professional temptations to fraud and avarice, malice, towards individuals, subservience to the powerful, or, worst snares of all, the slothfulness and insincerity of routine. We see this moral issue put very clearly in such a story as that of Balaam, or in such a career as that of Mohammed.

So much for the Semitic soothsayer in general. Now let us turn to Israel.

Among the Hebrews the "man of God," to use his widest designation, is at first called "Seer," or "Gazer," the word which Balaam uses of himself. In consulting the Divine will he employs the same external means, he offers the people for their evidence the same signs, as do the seers or soothsayers of other Semitic tribes. He gains influence by the miracles, "the wonderful things," which he does. Moses himself is represented after this fashion. He meets the magicians of Egypt on their own level. His use of "rods"; the holding up of his hands that Israel may prevail against Amaleq: Joshua’s casting of tots to discover a criminal; Samuel’s dream in the sanctuary; his discovery for a fee of the lost asses of Saul; David and the images in his house, the ephod he consulted; the sign to go to battle "what time thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees"; Solomon’s inducement of dreams by sleeping in the sanctuary at Gibeah, -these are a few of the many proofs that early prophecy in Israel employed not only the methods but even much of the furniture of the kindred Semitic religions. But then those tools and methods were at the same time accompanied by the noble opportunities of the prophetic office to which I have just alluded-opportunities of religious and social ministry-and still more, these opportunities were at the disposal of moral influences which, it is a matter of history, were not found in any other Semitic religion than Israel’s; However you will explain it, that Divine Spirit, which’ we have felt unable to conceive as absent from any Semitic prophet who truly sought after God, that Light which light, eth every man who cometh into the world, was present to an unparalleled degree with the early prophets of Israel. He came to individuals, and. to the nation as a whole, in events and in influences which may be summed up as the impression of the character of their national God, Jehovah: to use Biblical language, as "Jehovah’s spirit" and "power." It is true that in many ways the Jehovah of early Israel reminds us of other Semitic deities. Like some of them He appears with thunder and lightning; like all of them He is the God of one tribe who are His peculiar people. He bears the same titles!-Melek, Adon, Baal ("King," "Lord," "Possessor"). He is propitiated by the same offerings. To choose one striking instance, captives and spoil of war are sacrificed to Him with the same relentlessness, and by a process which has even the same names given to it, as in the votive inscriptions of Israel’s heathen neighbors. Yet, notwithstanding all these elements, the religion of Jehovah from the very first evinced, by the confession of all critics, an ethical force shared by no other Semitic creed. From the first there was in it the promise and the potency of that sublime monotheism, which in the period of our "Twelve" it afterwards reached. Its earliest effects of course were chiefly political: it welded the twelve tribes into the unity of a nation; it preserved them as one amid the many temptations to scatter along those divergent lines of culture and of faith, which the geography of their country placed so attractively before them. It taught them to prefer religious loyalty to material advantage, and so inspired them with high motives for self-sacrifice and every other duty of patriotism. But it did even better than thus teach them to bear one another’s burdens. It inspired them to care for one another’s sins. The last chapters of the Book of Judges prove how strong a national conscience there was in early Israel. Even then Israel was a moral, as well as a political, unity. Gradually there grew up, but still unwritten, a body of Torah, or revealed law, which, though its framework was the common custom of the Semitic race, was inspired by ideals of humanity and justice not elsewhere in that race discernible by us.

When we analyze this ethical distinction of early Israel, this indubitable progress which the nation were making while the rest of their world was morally stagnant, we find it to be due to their impressions of the character of their God. This character did not affect them as Righteousness only. At first it was even a more wonderful Grace. Jehovah had chosen them when they were no people, had redeemed them from servitude, had brought them to their land; had borne with their stubbornness, and had forgiven their infidelities. Such a Character was partly manifest in the great events of their history, and partly communicated itself to their finest personalities-as the Spirit of God does communicate with the spirit of man made in His image. Those personalities were the early prophets from Moses to Samuel. They inspired the nation to believe in God’s purposes for itself; they rallied it to war for the common faith, and war was then the pitch of self-sacrifice; they gave justice to it in God’s name, and rebuked its sinfulness without sparing. Criticism has proved that we do not know nearly so much about those first prophets as perhaps we thought we did. But under their God they made Israel. Out of their work grew the monotheism of their successors, whom we are now to study, and later the Christianity of the New Testament. For myself I cannot but believe that in the influence of Jehovah which Israel owned in those early times there was the authentic revelation of a real Being.


Of the oldest order of Hebrew prophecy, Samuel was the last representative. Till his time, we are told, the prophet in Israel was known as the Seer, {1 Samuel 9:9} but now, with other tempers and other habits, a new order appears whose name-and that means to a certain extent their spirit-is to displace the older name and the older spirit.

When Samuel anointed Saul he bade him, for a sign that he was chosen of the Lord, go forth to meet "a company of prophets"-Nebi’im, the singular is Nabi’-coming down from the high place or sanctuary with viols, drums and pipes, and prophesying. "There," he added, "the spirit of Jehovah shall come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man." So it happened; and the people "said one to another, What is this that is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" Another story, probably from another source, tells us that later, when Saul sent troops of messengers to the sanctuary at Ramah to take David, they saw the company of prophets prophesying and Samuel standing appointed over them, and the spirit of God fell upon one after another of the troops; as upon Saul himself when he followed them up. "And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?" {1 Samuel 19:20-24}

All this is very different from the habits of the Seer, who had hitherto represented prophecy. He was solitary, but these went about in bands. They were filled with an infectious enthusiasm, by which they excited each other and all sensitive persons whom they touched. They stirred up this enthusiasm by singing, playing upon instruments, and dancing: its results were frenzy, the tearing of their clothes, and prostration. The same phenomena have appeared in every religion-in Paganism often, and several times within Christianity. They may be watched today among the dervishes of Islam, who by singing (as one has seen them in Cairo), by swaying of their bodies, by repeating the Divine Name, and dwelling on the love and. ineffable power of God, work themselves into an excitement which ends in prostration and often in insensibility. The whole process is due to an overpowering sense of the Deity-crude and unintelligent if you will, but sincere and authentic-which seems to haunt the early stages of all religions, and to linger to the end with the stagnant and unprogressive. The appearance of this prophecy in Israel has given rise to a controversy as to whether it was purely a native product, or was induced by infection from the Canaanite tribes around. Such questions are of little interest in face of these facts: that the ecstasy sprang up in Israel at a time when the spirit of the people was stirred against the Philistines, and patriotism and religion were equally excited; that it is represented as due to the Spirit of Jehovah; and that the last of the old order of Jehovah’s prophets recognized its harmony with his own dispensation, presided over it, and gave Israel’s first king as one of his signs, that he should come under its power. These things being so, it is surprising that a recent critic should have seen in the dancing prophets nothing but eccentrics into whose company it was shame for so good a man as Saul to fall. He reaches this conclusion only by supposing that the reflexive verb used for their "prophesying"-hithnabbe- had at this time that equivalence to mere madness to which it was reduced by the excesses of later generations of prophets. With Samuel we feel that the word had no reproach: the Nebi’im were recognized by him as standing in the prophetical succession. They sprang up in sympathy with a national movement. The king who joined himself to them was the same who sternly banished from Israel all the baser forms of soothsaying and traffic with the dead. But, indeed, we need no other proof than this: the name Nebi’im so establishes itself in the popular regard that it displaces the older names of Seer and Gazer, and becomes the classical term for the whole body of prophets from Moses to Malachi.

There was one very remarkable change effected by this new order of prophets, probably the very greatest relief which prophecy experienced in the course of its evolution. This was separation from the ritual and from the implements of soothsaying. Samuel had been both priest and prophet. But after him the names and the duties were specialized, though the specializing was incomplete. While the new Nebi’im remained in connection with the ancient centers of religion, they do not appear to have exercised any part of the ritual. The priests, on the other hand, did not confine themselves to sacrifice, and other forms of public worship, but exercised many of the so-called prophetic functions. They also, as Hosea tells us, were expected to give Toroth-revelations of the Divine will on points of conduct and order. There remained with them the ancient forms of oracle-the Ephod, or plated image, the Teraphim, the lot, and the Orim and Thummim, all of these apparently still regarded as indispensable elements of religion. From such rude forms of ascertaining the Divine Will, prophecy in its new order was absolutely free. And it was free of the ritual of the sanctuaries. As has been justly remarked, the ritual of Israel always remained a peril to the people, the peril of relapsing into Paganism. Not only did it materialize faith and engross affections in the worshipper which were meant for moral objects, but very many of its forms were actually the same as those of the other Semitic religions, and it tempted its devotees to the confusion of their God with the gods of the heathen. Prophecy was now wholly independent of it, and we may see in such independence the possibility of all the subsequent career of prophecy along moral and spiritual lines. Amos absolutely condemns the ritual, and Hosea brings the message from God, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." This is the distinctive glory of prophecy in that era in which we are to study it. But do not let us forget that it became possible through the ecstatic Nebi’im of Samuel’s time, and through their separation from the national ritual and the material forms of soothsaying. It is the way of Providence to prepare for the revelation of great moral truths, by the enfranchisement, sometimes centuries before, of an order or a nation of men from political or professional interests which would have rendered it impossible for their descendants to appreciate those truths without prejudice or compromise.

We may conceive then of these Nebi’im, these prophets, as enthusiasts for Jehovah and for Israel. For Jehovah-if today we see men cast by the adoration of the despot-deity of Islam into transports so excessive that they lose all consciousness of earthly things and fall into a trance, can we not imagine a like effect produced on the same sensitive natures of the East by the contemplation of such a God as Jehovah, so mighty in earth and heaven, so faithful to His people, so full of grace? Was not such an ecstasy of worship most likely to be born of the individual’s ardent devotion in the hour of the nation’s despair? {Cf. Deuteronomy 28:34} Of course there would be swept up by such. a movement all the more volatile and unbalanced minds of the day-as these always have been swept up by any powerful religious excitement-but that is not to discredit the sincerity of the main volume of the feeling nor its authenticity as a work of the Spirit of God, as the impression of the character and power of Jehovah.

But these ecstatics were also enthusiasts for Israel; and this saved the movement from morbidness. They worshipped God neither out of sheer physical sympathy with nature, like the Phoenician devotees of Adonis or the Greek Bacchantes; nor out of terror at the approaching end of, all things, like some of the ecstatic sects of the Middle Ages; nor out of a selfish passion for their own salvation, like so many a modern Christian fanatic; but in sympathy with their nation’s aspirations for freedom and her whole political life. They were enthusiasts for their people. The ecstatic prophet was not confined to his body nor to nature for the impulses of Deity. Israel was, his body, his atmosphere, his universe. Through it all he felt the thrill of Deity. Confine religion to the personal, it grows rancid, morbid. Wed it to patriotism, it lives in the open air and its blood is pure. So in days of national danger the Nebi’im would be inspired like Saul to battle for their country’s freedom; in more settled times they would be lifted to the responsibilities of educating the people, counseling the governors, and preserving the national traditions. This is what actually took place. After the critical period of Saul’s time has passed, the prophets still remain enthusiasts; but they are enthusiasts for affairs. They counsel and they rebuke David. {2 Samuel 12:1 ff.} They warn Rehoboam, and they excite Northern Israel to revolt. {1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 12:22} They overthrow and they set up dynasties. {1 Kings 14:2; 1 Kings 7:11; 1 Kings 19:15 ff} They offer the king advice on campaigns. {1 Kings 22:5 2 Kings 2:11 ff} Like Elijah, they take up against the throne the cause of the oppressed; {1 Kings 21:1 ff} like Elisha, they stand by the throne its most trusted counselors in peace and war. {2 Kings 6:1-8, etc.} That all this is no new order of prophecy in Israel, but the developed form of the ecstasy of Samuel’s day, is plain from the continuance of the name Nebi’im and from these two facts besides: that the ecstasy survives and that the prophets still live in communities. The greatest figures of the period, Elijah and Elisha, have upon them "the hand of the Lord," as the influence is now called: Elijah when he runs before Ahab’s chariot across Esdraelon, Elisha when by music he induces upon himself the prophetic mood. {2 Kings 3:15} Another ecstatic figure is the prophet who was sent to anoint Jehu; he swept in and he swept out again, and the soldiers called him "that mad fellow."

But the roving bands had settled down into more or less stationary communities, who partly lived by agriculture and partly by the alms of the people or the endowments of the crown (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 4:38-44; 2 Kings 5:20 ff.; 2 Kings 6:1 ff.; 2 Kings 8:8 f., etc.). Their centers were either the centers of national worship, like Bethel and Gilgal, or the centers of government, like Samaria, where the dynasty of Omri supported prophets both of Baal and of Jehovah. {2 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 22:6} They were called prophets, but also "sons of the prophets," the latter name not because their office was hereditary, but by the Oriental fashion of designating every member of a guild as the son of the guild. In many, cases the son may have succeeded his father; but the ranks could be recruited from outside, as we see in the case of-the young farmer Elisha, whom Elijah anointed at the plough. They probably all wore the mantle which is distinctive of some of them, the mantle of hair, or skin of a beast.

The risks of degeneration, to which this order of prophecy was liable, arose both from its ecstatic temper and from its connection with public affairs.

Religious ecstasy is always dangerous to the moral and intellectual interests of religion. The largest prophetic figures of the period, though they feel the ecstasy, attain their greatness by rising superior to it. Elijah’s raptures are impressive; but nobler are his defense of Naboth and his denunciation of Ahab. And so Elisha’s inducement of the prophetic mood by music is the least attractive element in his career: his greatness lies in his combination of the care of souls with political insight and vigilance for the national interests. Doubtless there were many of the sons of the prophets who with smaller abilities cultivated a religion as rational and moral. But for the herd ecstasy would be everything. It was so easily induced or imitated that much of it cannot have been genuine. Even where the feeling was at first sincere we can understand how readily it became morbid; how fatally it might fall into sympathy with that drunkenness from wine and that sexual passion which Israel saw already cultivated as worship by the surrounding Canaanites. We must feel these dangers of ecstasy if we would understand why Amos cut himself off from the Nebi’im, and why Hosea laid such emphasis on the moral and intellectual sides of religion: "My people perish for lack of knowledge." Hosea indeed considered the degeneracy of ecstasy as a judgment:

"the prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad - for the multitude of thine iniquity." {Hosea 9:7} A later age derided the ecstatics, and took one of the forms of the verb "to prophesy" as equivalent to the verb "to be mad."

But temptations as gross beset the prophet from that which should have been the discipline of his ecstasy-his connection with public affairs. Only some prophets were brave rebukers of the king and the people. The herd which fed at the royal table-four hundred under Ahab-were flatterers, who could not tell the truth, who said Peace, peace, when there was no peace. These were false prophets. Yet it is curious that the very early narrative which describes them {1 Kings 22:1-53} does not impute their falsehood to any base motives of their own, but to the direct inspiration of God, who sent forth a lying spirit upon them. So great was the reverence still for the "man of the spirit"! Rather than doubt his inspiration, they held his very lies to be inspired. One does not of course mean that these consenting prophets were conscious liars; but that their dependence on the king, their servile habits of speech, disabled them from seeing the truth. Subserviency to the powerful was their great temptation. In the story of Balaam we see confessed the base instinct that he who paid the prophet should have the word of the prophet in his favor. In Israel prophecy went through exactly the same struggle between the claims of its God and the claims of its patrons. Nor were those patrons always the rich. The bulk of the prophets were dependent on the charitable gifts of the common people, and in this we may find reason for that subjection of so many of them to the vulgar ideals of the national destiny, to signs of which we are pointed by Amos. The priest at Bethel only reflects public opinion when he takes for granted that the prophet is a thoroughly mercenary character: "Seer, get thee gone to the land of Judah: eat there thy bread, and play the prophet there!" {Amos 7:12} No wonder Amos separates himself from such hireling craftsmen!

Such was the course of prophecy up to Elisha, and the borders of the eighth century. We have seen how even for the ancient prophet, mere soothsayer though we might regard him in respect of the rude instruments of his office, there were present moral opportunities of the highest kind, from which, if he only proved true to them, we cannot conceive the Spirit of God to have been absent. In early Israel we are sure that the Spirit did meet such strong and pure characters, from Moses to Samuel, creating by their means the nation of Israel, welding it to, a unity, which was not only political but moral-and moral to a degree not elsewhere realized in the Semitic world. We saw how a new race of prophets arose under Samuel, separate from the older forms of prophecy by lot and oracle, separate, too, from the ritual as a whole; and therefore free for a moral and spiritual advance of which the priesthood, still bound to images and the ancient rites, proved themselves incapable. But this new order of prophecy, besides its moral opportunities, had also its moral perils: its ecstasy was dangerous, its connection with public affairs was dangerous too. Again, the test was the personal character of the prophet himself. And so once more we see raised above the herd great personalities, who carry forward the work of their predecessors. The results are, besides the discipline of the monarchy and the defense of justice and the poor, the firm establishment of Jehovah as the one and only God of Israel, and the impression on Israel both of His omnipotent guidance of them in the past and of a worldwide destiny, still vague but brilliant, which He had prepared for them in the future.

This brings us to Elisha, and from Elisha there are but forty years to Amos. During those forty years, however, there arose within Israel a new civilization; beyond her there opened up a new world; and with Assyria there entered the resources of Providence, a new power. It was these three facts-the New Civilization, the New World, and the New Power-which made the difference between Elisha and Amos, and raised prophecy from a national to a universal religion.


THE long life of Elisha fell to its rest on the margin of the eighth century. He had seen much evil upon Israel. The people were smitten in all their coasts. None of their territory across Jordan was left to them; and not only Hazael and his Syrians, but bands of their own former subjects, the Moabites, periodically raided Western Palestine, up to the very gates of Samaria. {2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:20; 2 Kings 13:22} Such a state of affairs determined the activity of the last of the older prophets. Elisha spent his life in the duties of the national defense, and in keeping alive the spirit of Israel against her foes. When he died they called him "Israel’s chariot and the horsemen thereof," {2 Kings 13:14} so incessant had been both his military vigilance (2 Kings 6:12 ff., etc.), and his political insight (2 Kings 8:1-29, etc.). But Elisha was able to leave behind him the promise of a new day of victory (2 Kings 13:17 ff.). It was in the peace and liberty of this day that Israel rose a step in civilization; that prophecy, released from the defense, became the criticism, of the national life; and that the people, no longer absorbed in their own borders, looked out, and for the first time realized the great world, of which they were only a part.

King Joash, whose arms the dying Elisha had blessed, won back in the sixteen years of his reign (798-783) the cities which the Syrians had taken from his father. {2 Kings 13:23-25} His successor, Jeroboam II, came in, therefore, with a flowing tide. He was a strong man, and he took advantage of it. During his long reign of about forty years (783-743) he restored the border of Israel from the Pass of Hamath between the Lebanons to the Dead Sea, and occupied at least part of the territory of Damascus. This means that the constant raids to which Israel had been subjected now ceased, and that by the time of Amos, about 755, a generation was grown up who had not known defeat, and the most of whom had perhaps no experience even of war.

Along the same length of years Uzziah (circa 778-740) had dealt similarly with Judah. {2 Kings 15:1-38; cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-23} He had pushed south to the Red Sea, while Jeroboam pushed north to Hamath: and while Jeroboam had taken the Syrian towns he had crushed the Philistine. He had reorganized the army, and invented new engines of siege for casting stones.

On such of his frontiers as were opposed to the desert he had built towers: there is no better means of keeping the nomads in subjection.

All this meant such security across broad Israel as had not been known since the glorious days of Solomon. Agriculture must everywhere have revived: Uzziah, the Chronicler tells us, "loved husbandry." But we hear most of Trade and Building. With quarters in Damascus and a port on the Red Sea, with allies in the Phoenician towns and tributaries in the Philistine, with command of all the main routes between Egypt and the North as between the Desert and the Levant, Israel, during those forty years of Jeroboam and Uzziah, must have become a busy and a wealthy commercial power. Hosea calls the Northern Kingdom a very Canaan-Canaanite being the Hebrew term for trader-as we should say a very Jew; and Amos exposes all the restlessness, the greed, and the indifference to the poor of a community making haste to be rich. The first effect of this was a large increase of the towns and of town-life. Every document of the time-up to 720-speaks to us of its buildings. In ordinary building houses of ashlar seem to be novel enough to be mentioned. Vast palaces- the name of them first heard of in Israel under Omri and his Phoenician alliance, and then only as that of the king’s citadel-are now built by wealthy grandees out of money extorted from the poor; they can have risen only since the Syrian wars. There are summer houses in addition to winter houses; and it is not only the king, as in the days of Ahab, who furnishes his buildings with ivory. When an earthquake comes and whole cities are overthrown, the vigor and wealth of the people are such that they build more strongly and lavishly than before. {Isaiah 9:10} With all this we have the characteristic tempers and moods of city-life: the fickleness and liability to panic which are possible only where men are gathered in crowds; the luxury and false art which are engendered only by artificial conditions of life; the deep poverty which in all cities, from the beginning to the end of time, lurks by the side of the most brilliant wealth, its dark and inevitable shadow.

In short, in the half-century between Elisha and Amos, Israel rose from one to another of the great stages of culture. Till the eighth century they had been but a kingdom of fighting husbandmen. Under Jeroboam and Uzziah city-life was developed, and civilization, in the proper sense of the word, appeared. Only once before had Israel taken so large a step: when they crossed Jordan, leaving the nomadic life for the agricultural; and that had been momentous for their religion. They came among new temptations: the use of wine, and the shrines of local gods who were believed to have more influence on the fertility of the land than Jehovah who had conquered it for His people. But now this further step, from the agricultural stage to the mercantile and civil, was equally fraught with danger. There was the closer intercourse with foreign nations and their cults. There were all the temptations of rapid wealth, all the dangers of an equally increasing poverty. The growth of comfort among the rulers meant the growth of thoughtlessness. Cruelty multiplied with refinement. The upper classes were lifted away from feeling the real woes of the people. There was a well-fed and sanguine patriotism, but at the expense of indifference to. social sin and want. Religious zeal and liberality increased, but they were coupled with all the proud’s misunderstanding of God: an optimist faith without moral insight or sympathy.

It is all this which makes the prophets of the eighth century so modern, while Elisha’s life is still so ancient. With him we are back in the times of our own border wars-of Wallace and Bruce, with their struggles for the freedom of the soil. With Amos we stand among the conditions of our own day. The City has arisen. For the development of the highest form of prophecy, the universal and permanent form, there was needed that marvelously unchanging mold of human life, whose needs and sorrows, whose sins and problems, are today the same as they were all those thousands of years ago.

With Civilization came Literature. The long peace gave leisure for writing; and the just pride of the people in boundaries broad as Solomon’s own, determined that this writing should take the form of heroic history. In the parallel reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah many critics have placed the great epics of Israel: the earlier documents of our Pentateuch which trace God’s purposes to mankind by Israel, from the creation of the world to the settlement of the Promised Land; the histories which make up our Books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings. But whether all these were composed now or at an earlier date, it is certain that the nation lived in the spirit of them, proud of its past, aware of its vocation, and confident that its God, who had created the world and so mightily led itself, would bring it from victory by victory to a complete triumph over the heathen. Israel of the eighth century were devoted to Jehovah: and although passion or self-interest might lead individuals or even communities to worship other gods, He had no possible rival upon the throne of the nation.

As they delighted to recount His deeds by their fathers, so they thronged the scenes of these with sacrifice and festival. Bethel and Beersheba, Dan and Gilgal, were the principal; but Mizpeh, the top of Tabor, {Hosea 5:1} and Carmel, {1 Kings 18:30} perhaps Penuel, {1 Kings 12:25} were also conspicuous among the countless "high places" of the land. Of those in Northern Israel Bethel was the chief. It enjoyed the proper site for an ancient shrine, which was nearly always a market as well-near a frontier and where many roads converged; where traders from the East could meet halfway with traders from the West, the wool-growers of Moab and the Judaean desert with the merchants of Phoenicia and the Philistine coast. Here, on the spot on which the father of the nation had seen heaven open, a great temple was now built, with a priesthood endowed and directed by the crown, {1 Kings 12:25; Amos 7:1-17} but lavishly supported also by the tithes and free-will offerings of the people. {Amos 4:4} "It is a sanctuary of the king and a house of the kingdom." {Amos 7:13} Jeroboam had ordained Dan, at the other end of the kingdom, to be the fellow of Bethel; {1 Kings 12:25} but Dan was far away from the bulk of the people, and in the eighth century Bethel’s real rival was Gilgal. Whether this was the Gilgal by Jericho, or the other Gilgal on the Samarian hills near Shiloh, is uncertain. The latter had been a sanctuary in Elijah’s day, with a settlement of the prophets; but the former must have proved the greater attraction to a people so devoted to the sacred events of their past. Was it not the first resting-place of the Ark after the passage of Jordan, the scene of the reinstitution of circumcision, of the anointing of the first king, of Judah’s second submission to David? As there were many Gilgals in the land-literally "crom-lechs," ancient "stone-circles" sacred to the Canaanites as well as to Israel-so there were many Mizpehs, "Watch-towers," "Seers’ stations": the one mentioned by Hosea was probably in Gilead. To the southern Beersheba, to which Elijah had fled from Jezebel, pilgrimages were made by northern Israelites traversing Judah. The sanctuary on Carmel was the ancient altar of Jehovah which Elijah had rebuilt; but Carmel seems at this time to have lain, as it did so often, in the power of the Phoenicians, for it is imagined by the prophets only as a hiding-place from the face of Jehovah. {Amos 9:13}

At all these sanctuaries it was Jehovah and no other who was sought: "thy God, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." {1 Kings 12:28} At Bethel and at Dan He was adored in the form of a calf; probably at Gilgal also, for there is a strong tradition to that effect; and elsewhere men still consulted the other images which had been used by Saul and by David, the Ephod and the Teraphim. With these there was the old Semitic symbol of the Maccebah, or upright stone on which oil was poured. All of them had been used in the worship of Jehovah by the great examples and leaders of the past; all of them had been spared by Elijah and Etisha: it was no wonder that the common people of the eighth century felt them to be indispensable elements of religion, the removal of which, like the removal of the monarchy or of sacrifice itself, would mean utter divorce from the nation’s God.

One great exception must be made. Compared with the sanctuaries we have mentioned, Zion itself was very modern. But it contained the main repository of Israel’s religion, the Ark, and in connection with the Ark the worship of Jehovah was not a worship of images. It is significant that from this, the original sanctuary of Israel, with the pure worship, the new prophecy derived its first inspiration. But to that we shall return later with Amos. Apart from the Ark, Jerusalem was not free from images, nor even from the altars of foreign deities.

Where the externals of the ritual were thus so much the same as those of the Canaanite cults, which were still practiced in and around the land, it is not surprising that the worship of Jehovah should be further invaded by many pagan practices, nor that Jehovah Himself should be regarded with imaginations steeped in pagan ideas of the Godhead. That even the foulest tempers of the Canaanite ritual, those inspired by wine and the sexual passion, were licensed in the sanctuaries of Israel, both Amos and Hoses testify. But the worst of the evil was wrought in the popular conception of God. Let us remember again that Jehovah had no real rival at this time in the devotion of His people, and that their faith was expressed both by the legal forms of His religion and by a liberality which exceeded these. The tithes were paid to Him, and paid, it would appear, with more than legal frequency. {Amos 4:4 ff.} Sabbath and New Moon, as days of worship and rest from business, were observed with a Pharisaic scrupulousness for the letter if not for the spirit. {Amos 7:4; cf. 2 Kings 5:23} The prescribed festivals were held, and thronged by zealous devotees who rivaled each other in the amount of their free-will offerings. {Amos 4:4 f.} Pilgrimages were made to Bethel, to Gilgal, to far Beersheba, and the very way to the latter appeared as sacred to the Israelite as the way to Mecca does to a pious Moslem of today. If Yet, in spite of all this devotion to their God, Israel had no true ideas of Him. To quote Amos, they sought His sanctuaries, but Him they did not seek; in the words of Hosea’s frequent plaint, they "did not know Him." To the mass of the people, to their governors, their priests, and the most of their prophets, Jehovah was but the characteristic Semitic deity-patron of His people, and caring for them alone-who had helped them in the past, and was bound to help them still-very jealous as to the correctness of His ritual and the amount of His sacrifices, but indifferent about real morality. Nay, there were still darker streaks in their views of Him. A god, figured as an ox, could not be adored by a cattle-breeding people without starting in their minds thoughts too much akin to the foul tempers of the Canaanite faiths. These things it is almost a shame to mention; but without knowing that they fermented in the life of that generation, we shall not appreciate the vehemence of Amos or of Moses.

Such a religion had no discipline for the busy, mercenary life of the day. Injustice and fraud were rife in the very precincts of the sanctuary. Magistrates and priests alike were smitten with their generation’s love of money, and did everything for reward. Again and again do the prophets speak of bribery. Judges took gifts and perverted the cause of the poor; priests drank the mulcted wine, and slept on the pledged garments of religious offenders. There was no disinterested service of God or of the common weal. Mammon was supreme. The influence of the commercial character of the age appears in another very remarkable result. An agricultural community is always sensitive to the religion of nature. They are awed by its chastisements- droughts, famines, and earthquakes. They feel its majestic order in the course of the seasons, the procession of day and night, the march of the great stars, all the host of the Lord of hosts. But Amos seems to have had to break into passionate reminders of Him that maketh Orion and the Pleiades, and turneth the murk into morning. Several physical calamities visited the land. The locusts are bad in Palestine every sixth or seventh year: one year before Amos began they had been very bad. There was a monstrous drought, followed by a famine. There was a long-remembered earthquake-"the earthquake in the days of Uzziah." With Egypt so near, the home of the plague, and with so much war afoot in Northern Syria, there were probably more pestilences in Western Asia than those recorded in 803, 765, and 759. There was a total eclipse of the sun in 763. But of all these, except perhaps the pestilence, a commercial people are independent as an agricultural are not. Israel speedily recovered from them, without any moral improvement. Even when the earthquake came "they said in pride and stout ness of heart, the bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change to cedars." {Isaiah 9:10} It was a marvelous generation-so Joyous, so energetic, so patriotic, so devout. But its strength was the strength of cruel wealth, its peace the peace of an immoral religion.

I have said that the age is very modern, and we shall indeed go to its prophets feeling that they speak to conditions of life extremely like our own. But if we wish a still closer analogy from our history, we must travel back to the fourteenth century in England-Langland’s and Wyclif’s century, which, like this one in Israel, saw both the first real attempts to yards a national literature, and the first real attempts towards a moral and religious reform. Then as in Israel a long and victorious reign was drawing to a close, under the threat of disaster when it should have passed. Then as in Israel there had been droughts, earthquakes, and pestilences with no moral results upon the nation. Then also there was a city life developing at the expense of country life. Then also the wealthy began to draw aloof from the people. Then also there was a national religion, zealously cultivated and endowed by the liberality of the people, but superstitious, mercenary, and corrupted by sexual disorder. Then too there were many pilgrimages to popular shrines, and the land was strewn with mendicant priests and hireling preachers. And then too prophecy raised its voice, for the first time fearless in England. As we study the verses of Amos we shall find again and again the most exact parallels to them in the verses of Langland’s "Vision of Piers the Plowman," which denounce the same vices in Church and State, and enforce the same principles of religion and morality.

It was when the reign of Jeroboam was at its height of assured victory, when the nation’s prosperity seemed impregnable after the survival of those physical calamities, when the worship and the commerce were in full course throughout the land, that the first of the new prophets broke out against Israel in the name of Jehovah, threatening judgment alike upon the new civilization of which they were so proud and the old religion in which they were so confident. These prophets were inspired by feelings of the purest morality, by the passionate conviction that God could no longer bear such impurity and disorder. But, as we have seen, no prophet in Israel ever worked on the basis of principles only. He came always in alliance with events. These first appeared in the shape of the great physical disasters. But a more powerful instrument of Providence, in the service of judgment, was appearing on the horizon. This was the Assyrian Empire. So vast was its influence on prophecy that we must devote to it a separate chapter.


BY far the greatest event in the eighth century before Christ was the appearance of Assyria in Palestine. To Israel since the Exodus and Conquest, nothing had happened capable of so enormous an influence at once upon their national fortunes and their religious development. But while the Exodus and Conquest had advanced the political and spiritual progress of Israel in equal proportion, the effect of the Assyrian invasion was to divorce these two interests, and destroy the state while it refined and confirmed the religion. After permitting the Northern Kingdom to reach an extent and splendor unrivalled since the days of Solomon, Assyria overthrew it in 721, and left all Israel scarcely a third of their former magnitude. But while Assyria proved so disastrous to the state, her influence upon the prophecy of the period was little short of creative. Humanly speaking, this highest stage of Israel’s religion could not have been achieved by the prophets except in alliance with the armies of that heathen empire. Before then we turn to their pages it may be well for us to make clear in what directions Assyria performed this spiritual service for Israel. While pursuing this inquiry we may be able to find answers to the scarcely less important questions: why the prophets were at first doubtful of the part Assyria was destined to play in the providence of the Almighty; and why, when the prophets were at last convinced of the certainty of Israel’s overthrow, the statesmen of Israel and the bulk of the people still remained so unconcerned about her coming, or so sanguine of their power to resist her. This requires, to begin with, a summary of the details of the Assyrian advance upon Palestine.

In the far past Palestine had often been the hunting-ground of the Assyrian kings. But after 1100 B.C., and for nearly two centuries and a half, her states were left to themselves. Then Assyria resumed the task of breaking down that disbelief in her power with which her long withdrawal seems to have inspired their polities. In 870 Assurnasirpal reached the Levant, and took tribute from Tyre and Sidon. Omri was reigning in Samaria, and must have come into close relations with the Assyrians, for during more than a century and a half after his death they still called the land of Israel by his name. In 854 Salmanassar II defeated at Karkar the combined forces of Ahab and Benhadad. In 850, 849, and 846 he conducted campaigns against Damascus. In 842 he received tribute from Jehu, and in 839 again fought Damascus under Hazael. After this there passed a whole generation during which Assyria came no farther south than Arpad, some sixty miles north of Damascus; and Hazael employed the respite in those campaigns which proved so disastrous for Israel, by robbing her of the provinces across Jordan, and ravaging the country about Samaria. {2 Kings 10:32 f.; 2 Kings 13:3} In 803 Assyria returned, and accomplished the siege and capture of Damascus. The first consequence to Israel was that restoration of her hopes under Joash, at which the aged Elisha was still spared to assist, {2 Kings 13:14 ff.} and which reached its fulfillment in the recovery of all Eastern Palestine by Jeroboam II Jeroboam’s own relations to Assyria have not been recorded either by the Bible or by the Assyrian monuments. It is hard to think that he paid no tribute to the "king of kings." At all events it is certain that, while Assyria again overthrew the Arameans of Damascus in 773 and their neighbors of Hadrach in 772 and 765, Jeroboam was himself invading Aramean land, and the Book of Kings even attributes to him an extension of territory, or at least of political influence, up to the northern mouth of the great pass between the Lebanons. For the next twenty years Assyria only once came as far as Lebanon-to Hadrach in 759-and it may have been this long quiescence which enabled the rulers and people of Israel to forget, if indeed their religion and sanguine patriotism had ever allowed them to realize, how much the conquests and splendor of Jeroboam’s reign were due, not to themselves, but to the heathen power which had maimed their oppressors. Their dreams were brief. Before Jeroboam himself was dead, a new king had usurped the Assyrian throne (745 B.C.) and inaugurated a more vigorous policy. Borrowing the name of the ancient Tiglath-Pileser, he followed that conqueror’s path across the Euphrates. At first it seemed as if he was to suffer check. His forces were engrossed by the siege of Arpad for three years (c. 743), and this delay, along with that of two years more, during which he had to return to the conquest of Babylon, may well have given cause to the courts of Damascus and Samaria to believe that the Assyrian power had not really revived. Combining, they attacked Judah under Ahaz. But Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-Pileser, who within a year (734-733) had overthrown Damascus and carried captive the populations of Gilead and Galilee. There could now be no doubt as to what the Assyrian power meant for the political fortunes of Israel. Before this resistless and inexorable empire the people of Jehovah were as the most frail of their neighbors-sure of defeat, and sure, too, of that terrible captivity in exile which formed the novel policy of the invaders against the tribes who withstood them. Israel dared to withstand. The vassal Hoshea, whom the Assyrians had placed on the throne of Samaria in 730, kept back his tribute. The people rallied to him; and for more than three years this little tribe of highlanders resisted in their capital the Assyrian siege. Then came the end. Samaria fell in 721, and Israel went into captivity beyond the Euphrates.

In following the course of this long tragedy, a man’s heart cannot but feel that all the splendor and the glory did not lie with the prophets, in spite of their being the only actors in the drama who perceived its moral issues and predicted its actual end. For who can withhold admiration from those few tribesmen, who accepted no defeat as final, but so long as they were left to their fatherland rallied their ranks to its liberty and defied the huge empire. Nor was their courage always as blind, as in the time of Isaiah Samaria’s so fatally became. For one cannot have failed to notice, how fitful and irregular was Assyria’s advance, at least up to the reign of Tiglath-Pileser; nor how prolonged and doubtful were her sieges of some of the towns. The Assyrians themselves do not always record spoil or tribute after what they are pleased to call their victories over the cities of Palestine. To the same campaign they had often to return for several years in succession. It took Tiglath-Pileser himself three years to reduce Arpad; Salmanassar IV besieged Samaria for three years, and was slain before it yielded. These facts enable us to understand that, apart from the moral reasons which the prophets urged for the certainty of Israel’s overthrow by Assyria, it was always within the range of political possibility that Assyria would not come back, and that while she was engaged with revolts of other portions of her huge and disorganized empire, a combined revolution on the part of her Syrian vassals would be successful. The prophets themselves felt the influence of these chances. They were not always confident, as we shall see, that Assyria was to be the means of Israel’s over, throw. Amos, and in his earlier years Isaiah, describe her with a caution and a vagueness for which there is no other explanation than the political uncertainty that again and again hung over the future of her advance upon Syria. If, then, even in those high minds, to whom the moral issue was so clear, the political form that issue should assume was yet temporarily uncertain, what good reasons must the mere statesmen of Syria have often felt for the proud security which filled the intervals between the Assyrian invasions, or the sanguine hopes which inspired their resistance to the latter.

We must not cast over the whole Assyrian advance the triumphant air of the annals of such kings as Tiglath-Pileser or Sennacherib. Campaigning in Palestine was a dangerous business even to the Romans; and for the Assyrian armies there was always possible besides some sudden recall by the rumor of a revolt in a distant province. Their own annals supply us with good reasons for the sanguine resistance offered to them by the tribes of Palestine. No defeat, of course, is recorded; but the annals are full of delays and withdrawals. Then the Plague would break out; we know how in the last year of the century it turned Sennacherib, and saved Jerusalem. In short, up almost to the end the Syrian chiefs had some fair political reasons for resistance to a power which had so often defeated them; while at the very end, when no such reason remained and our political sympathy is exhausted, we feel it replaced by an even warmer admiration for their desperate defense. Mere mountain-cats of tribes as some of them were, they held their poorly furnished rocks against one, two, or three years of cruel siege.

In Israel these political reasons for courage against Assyria were enforced by the whole instincts of the popular religion. The century had felt a new outburst of enthusiasm for Jehovah. This was consequent, not only upon the victories He had granted over Aram, but upon the literature of the peace which followed those victories: the collection of the stories of the ancient miracles of Jehovah in the beginning of His people’s history, and of the purpose He had even then announced of bringing Israel to supreme rank in the world. Such a God, so anciently manifested, so recently proved, could never surrender His own nation to a mere Goi-a heathen and a barbarian people. Add this dogma of the popular religion of Israel to those substantial hopes of Assyria’s withdrawal from Palestine, and you see cause, intelligible and adequate, for the complacency of Jeroboam and his people to the fact that Assyria had at last, by the fall of Damascus, reached their own borders, as well as for the courage with which Hoshea in 725 threw off the Assyrian yoke, and, with a willing people, for three years defended Samaria against the great king. Let us not think that the opponents of the prophets were utter fools or mere puppets of fate. They had reasons for their optimism; they fought for their hearths and altars with a valor and a patience which proves that the nation as a whole was not so corrupt as we are sometimes, by the language of the prophets, tempted to suppose.

But all this-the reasonableness of the hope of resisting Assyria, the valor which so stubbornly fought her, the religious faith which sanctioned both valor and hope-only the more vividly illustrates the singular independence of the prophets, who took an opposite view, who so consistently affirmed that Israel must fall, and so early foretold that she should fall to Assyria.

The reason of this conviction of the prophets was, of course, their fundamental faith in the righteousness of Jehovah. That was a belief quite independent of the course of events. As a matter of history the ethical reasons for Israel’s doom were manifest to the prophets within Israel’s own life, before the signs grew clear on the horizon that the doomster was to be Assyria. Nay, we may go further, and say that it could not possibly have been otherwise. For except the prophets had been previously furnished with the ethical reasons for Assyria’s resistless advance on Israel, to their sensitive minds that advance must have been a hopeless and a paralyzing problem. But they nowhere treat it as a problem. By them Assyria is always Either welcomed as a proof or summoned as a means-the proof of their conviction that Israel requires humbling, the means of carrying that humbling into effect. The faith of the prophets is ready for Assyria from the moment that she becomes ominous for Israel, and every footfall of her armies on Jehovah’s soil becomes the corroboration of the purpose He has already declared to His servants in the terms of their moral consciousness. The spiritual service which Assyria rendered to Israel was therefore secondary to the prophets’ native convictions of the righteousness of God, and could not have been performed without these. This will become even more clear if we look for a little at the exact nature of that service.

In its broadest effects, the Assyrian invasion meant for Israel a very considerable change in the intellectual outlook. Hitherto Israel’s world had virtually lain between the borders promised of old to their ambition-"the river of Egypt, and the great river, the River Euphrates." These had marked not merely the sphere of Israel’s politics, but the horizon within which Israel had been accustomed to observe the action of their God and to prove His character, to feel the problems of their religion rise and to grapple with them. But now there burst from the outside of this little world that awful power, sovereign and inexorable, which effaced all distinctions and treated Israel in the same manner as her heathen neighbors. This was more than a widening of the world: it was a change of the very poles. At first sight it appeared merely to have increased the scale on which history was conducted; it was really an alteration of the whole character of history. Religion itself shriveled up, before a force so much vaster than anything it had yet encountered, and so contemptuous of its claims. "What is Jehovah," said the Assyrian in his laughter, "more than the gods of Damascus, or of Hamath, or of the Philistines?" In fact, for the mind of Israel, the crisis, though less in degree, was in quality not unlike that produced in the religion of Europe by the revelation of the Copernican astronomy. As the earth, previously believed to be the center of the universe, the stage on which the Son of God had achieved God’s eternal purposes to mankind, was discovered to be but a satellite of one of innumerable suns, a mere ball swung beside millions of others by a force which betrayed no sign of sympathy with the great transactions which took place on it, and so faith in the Divine worth of these was rudely shaken-so Israel, who had believed themselves to be the peculiar people of the Creator, the solitary agents of the God of Righteousness to all mankind, and who now felt themselves brought to an equality with other tribes by this sheer force, which, brutally indifferent to spiritual distinctions, swayed the fortunes of all alike, must have been tempted to unbelief in the spiritual facts of their history, in the power of their God and the destiny He had promised them. Nothing could have saved Israel, as nothing could have saved Europe, but a conception of God which rose to this new demand upon its powers-a faith which said, "Our God is sufficient for this greater world and its forces that so dwarf our own; the discovery of these only excites in us a more awful wonder of His power." The prophets had such a conception of God. To them He was absolute righteousness-righteousness wide as the widest world, stronger than the strongest force. To the prophets, therefore, the rise of Assyria only increased the possibilities of Providence. But it could not have done this had Providence not already been invested in a God capable by His character of rising to such possibilities.

Assyria, however, was not only Force: she was also the symbol of a great Idea-the Idea of Unity. We have just ventured on one historical analogy. We may try another and a more exact one. The Empire of Rome, grasping the whole world in its power and reducing all races of men to much the same level of political rights, powerfully assisted Christian theology in the task of imposing upon the human mind a clearer imagination of unity in the government of the world and of spiritual equality among men of all nations. A not dissimilar service to the faith of Israel was performed by the Empire of Assyria. History, that hitherto had been but a series of angry pools, became as the ocean swaying in tides to one almighty impulse. It was far easier to imagine a sovereign Providence when Assyria reduced history to a unity by overthrowing all the rulers and all their gods, than when history was broken up into the independent fortunes of many states, each with its own religion divinely valid in its own territory. By shattering the tribes Assyria shattered the tribal theory of religion, which we have seen to be the characteristic Semitic theory-a god for every tribe, a tribe for every god. The field was cleared of the many: there was room for the One. That He appeared, not as the God of the conquering race, but as the Deity of one of their many victims, was due to Jehovah’s righteousness. At this juncture, when the world was suggested to have one throne and that throne was empty, there was a great chance, if we may so put it, for a god with a character. And the only God in all the Semitic world who had a character was Jehovah.

It is true that the Assyrian Empire was not constructive, like the Roman, and, therefore, could not assist the prophets to the idea of a Catholic Church. But there can be no doubt that it did assist them to a feeling of the moral unity of mankind. A great historian has made the just remark that, whatsoever widens the imagination, enabling it to realize the actual experience of other men, is a powerful agent of ethical advance. Now Assyria widened the imagination and the sympathy of Israel in precisely this way. Consider the universal Pity of the Assyrian conquest: how state after state went down before it, how all things mortal yielded and were swept away. The mutual hatreds and ferocities of men could not persist before a common Fate, so sublime, so tragic. And thus we understand how in Israel the old envies and rancors of that border warfare with her foes which had filled the last four centuries of her history is replaced by a new tenderness and compassion towards the national efforts, the achievements, and all the busy life of the Gentile peoples. Isaiah is especially distinguished by this in his treatment of Egypt and of Tyre; and even where he and others do not, as in these cases, appreciate the sadness of the destruction of so much brave beauty and serviceable wealth, their tone in speaking of the fall of the Assyrian on their neighbors is one of compassion and not of exultation. As the rivalries and hatreds of individual lives are stilled in the presence of a common death, so even that factious, ferocious world of the Semites ceased to "fret its anger and watch it forever" (to quote Amos’ phrase) in face of the universal Assyrian Fate. But in that Fate there was more than Pity. On the date of the prophets Assyria was afflicting Israel for moral reasons: it could not be for other reasons that she was afflicting their neighbors. Israel and the heathen were suffering for the same righteousness’ sake. What could have better illustrated the moral equality of all mankind! No doubt the prophets were already theoretically convinced of this-for the righteousness they believed in was nothing if not universal. But it is one thing to hold a belief on principle and another to have practical experience of it in history. To a theory of the moral equality of mankind Assyria enabled the prophets to add sympathy and conscience. We shall see all this illustrated in the opening prophecies of Amos against the foreign nations.

But Assyria did not help to develop monotheism in Israel only by contributing to the doctrines of a moral Providence and of the equality of all men beneath it. The influence must have extended to Israel’s conception of God in Nature. Here, of course, Israel was already possessed of great beliefs. Jehovah had created man; He had divided the Red Sea and Jordan. The desert, the storm, and the seasons were all subject to Him. But at a time when the superstitious mind of the people was still feeling after other Divine powers in the earth, the waters and the air of Canaan, it was a very valuable antidote to such dissipation of their faith to find one God swaying, through Assyria, all families of mankind. The Divine unity to which history was reduced must have reacted on Israel’s views of Nature, and made it easier to feel one God also there. Now, as a matter of fact, the imagination of the unity of Nature, the belief in a reason and method pervading all things, was very powerfully advanced in Israel throughout the Assyrian period.

We may find an illustration of this in the greater, deeper meaning in which the prophets use the old national name of Israel’s God-Jehovah Seba’oth, "Jehovah of Hosts." This title, which came into frequent use under the early kings, when Israel’s vocation was to win freedom by war, meant then (as far as we can gather) only "Jehovah of the armies of Israel" - the God of battles, the people’s leader in war, whose home was Jerusalem, the people’s capital, and His sanctuary their battle emblem, the Ark. Now the prophets hear Jehovah go forth (as Amos does) from the same place, but to them the Name has a far deeper significance. They never define it, but they use it in associations where "hosts" must mean something different from the armies of Israel. To Amos the hosts of Jehovah are not the armies of Israel, but those of Assyria: they are also the nations whom He marshals and marches across the earth, Philistines from Caphtor, Aram from Qir, as well as Israel from Egypt. Nay, more; according to those Doxologies which either Amos or a kindred spirit has added to his lofty argument, Jehovah sways and orders the powers of the heavens: Orion and Pleiades, the clouds from the sea to the mountain peaks where they break, day and night in constant procession. It is in associations like these that the Name is used, either in its old form or slightly changed as "Jehovah God of hosts," or "the hosts": and we cannot but feel that the hosts of Jehovah are now looked upon as all the influences of earth and heaven-human armies, stars and powers of nature, which obey His word and work His will.


"But I am full of power by the Spirit of Jehovah to declare to Jacob his transgressions, and to Israel his sin."


THE Book of Micah lies sixth of the Twelve Prophets in the Hebrew Canon, but in the order of the Septuagint third, following Amos and Hosea. The latter arrangement was doubtless directed by the size of the respective books; in the case of Micah it has coincided with the prophet’s proper chronological position. Though his exact date be not certain, he appears to have been a younger, contemporary of Hosea, as Hosea was of Amos.

The book is about two-thirds the size of that of Amos, and about half that of Hosea. It has been arranged in seven chapters, which follow, more or less, a natural method of division. They are usually grouped in three sections, distinguishable from each other by their subject-matter, by their temper and standpoint, and to a less degree by their literary form. They are

A. Chapters 1-3;

B. Chapters 4, 5;

C. Chapters 6, 7.

There is no book of the Bible, as to the date of whose different parts there has been more discussion, especially within recent years. The history of this is shortly as follows:

Tradition and the criticism of the early years of this century accepted the statement of the title, that the book was composed in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah-that is, between 740 and 700 B.C. It was generally agreed that there were in it only traces of the first two reigns, but that the whole was put together before the fall of Samaria in 721. Then Hitzig and Steiner dated chapters 3-6, after 721; and Ewald denied that Micah could have given us chapters 6 and 7, and placed them under King Manasseh, circa 690-640. Next Wellhausen sought to prove that Micah 7:7-20 must be post-exilic. Stade took a further step and, on the ground that Micah himself could not have blunted or annulled his sharp pronouncements of doom, by the promises which chapters 4 and 5 contain, he withdrew these from the prophet and assigned them to the time of the Exile. But the sufficiency of this argument was denied by Vatke. Also in opposition to Stade, Kuenen refused to believe that Micah could have been content with the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem as his last word, that therefore much of chapters 4 and 5 is probably from himself, but since their argument is obviously broken and confused, we must look in them for interpolations, and he decides that such are Micah 4:6-8; Micah 4:11-13, and the working up of Micah 5:9-14. The famous passage in Micah 4:1-4 may have been Micah’s, but was probably added by another. Chapters 6 and 7 were written under Manasseh by some of the persecuted adherents of Jehovah.

We may next notice two critics who adopt an extremely conservative position. Von Ryssel, as the result of a very thorough examination, declared that all the chapters were Micah’s, even the much doubted Micah 2:12-13, which have been placed by an editor of the book in the wrong position, and Micah 7:7-20, which, he agrees with Ewald, can only date from the reign of Manasseh, Micah himself having lived long enough into that reign to write them himself. Another careful analysis by Elhorstt also reached the conclusion that the bulk of the book was authentic, but for his proof of this Elhorst requires a radical rearrangement of the verses, and that on grounds which do not always commend themselves. He holds Micah 4:9; Micah 5:8 for post-exilic insertions. Driver contributes a thorough examination of the book, and reaches the conclusions that Micah 2:12-13, though obviously in their wrong place, need not be denied to Micah; that the difficulties of ascribing chapters 4, 5, to the prophet are not insuperable, nor is it even necessary to suppose in them interpolations. He agrees with Ewald as to the date of 6-7:6, and, while holding that it is quite possible for Micah to have written them, thinks they are more probably due to another, though a confident conclusion is not to be achieved. As to Micah 7:7-20, he judges Wellhausen’s inferences to be unnecessary. A prophet in Micah’s or Manasseh’s time may have thought destruction nearer than it actually proved to be, and, imagining it as already arrived, have put into the mouth of the people a confession suited to its circumstance. Wildeboer goes further than Driver. He replies in detail to the arguments of Stade and Cornill, denies that the reasons for withdrawing so much from Micah are conclusive, and assigns to the prophet the whole book, with the exception of several interpolations.

We see, then, that all critics are practically agreed as to the presence of interpolations in the text, as well as to the occurrence of certain verses of the prophet out of their proper order. This indeed must be obvious to every careful reader as he notes the somewhat frequent breaks in the logical sequence, especially of chapters 4 and 5. All critics, too, admit the authenticity of chapters 1-3, with the possible exception of Micah 2:12-13; while a majority hold that chapters 6 and 7, whether by Micah or not, must be assigned to the reign of Manasseh. On the authenticity of chapters 4 and 5 - minus interpolations-and of chapters 6 and 7, opinion is divided; but we ought not to overlook the remarkable fact that those who have recently written the fullest monographs of Micah incline to believe in the genuineness of the book as a whole. We may now enter for ourselves upon the discussion of the various sections, but before we do so let us note how much of the controversy turns upon the general question, whether after decisively predicting the overthrow of Jerusalem it was possible for Micah to add prophecies of her restoration. It will be remembered that we have had to discuss this same point with regard both to Amos and Hosea. In the case of the former we decided against the authenticity of visions of a blessed future which now close his book; in the case of the latter we. decided for the authenticity. What were our reasons for this difference? They were, that the closing vision of the Book of Amos is not at all in harmony with the exclusively ethical spirit of the authentic prophecies; while the closing vision of the Book of Hosea is not only in language and in ethical temper thoroughly in harmony with the chapters which precede it, but in certain details has been actually anticipated by these. Hosea, therefore, furnishes us with the case of a prophet who, though he predicted the ruin of his impenitent people (and that ruin was verified by events), also spoke of the possibility of their restoration upon conditions in harmony with his reasons for the inevitableness of their fall. And we saw, too, that the hopeful visions of the future, though placed last in the collection of his prophecies, need not necessarily have been spoken last by the prophet, but stand where they do because they have an eternal spiritual validity for the remnant of Israel. What was possible for Hosea is surely possible for Micah. That promises come in his book, and closely after the conclusive threats which he gave of the fall of Jerusalem, does not imply that originally he uttered them all in such close proximity. That indeed would have been impossible. But considering how often the political prospect in Israel changed during Micah’s time, and how far the city was in his day from her actual destruction-more than a century distant-it seems to be improbable that he should not (in whatever order) have uttered both threat and promise. And naturally, when his prophecies were arranged in permanent order, the promises would be placed after the threats.


No critic doubts the authenticity of the bulk of these chapters. The sole question at issue is the date or (possibly) the dates of them. Only chapter Micah 2:12-13, are generally regarded as out of place, where they now stand.

Chapter 1 trembles with the destruction of both Northern Israel and Judah-a destruction either very imminent or actually in the process of happening. The verses which deal with Samaria, Micah 1:6 ff., do not simply announce her inevitable ruin. They throb with the sense either that this is immediate, or that it is going on, or that it has just been accomplished. The verbs suit each of these alternatives: "And I shall set," or "am setting," or "have set Samaria for a ruin of the field," and so on. We may assign them to any time between 725 B.C., the beginning of the siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser, and a year or two after its destruction by Sargon in 721. Their intense feeling seems to preclude the possibility of their having been written in the years to which some assign them, 705-700, or twenty years after Samaria was actually overthrown.

In the next verses the prophet goes on to mourn the fact that the affliction of Samaria reaches even to the gate of Jerusalem, and he especially singles out as partakers in the danger of Jerusalem a number of towns, most of which (so far as we can discern) lie not between Jerusalem and Samaria, but at the other corner of Judah, in the Shephelah or out upon the Philistine plain. This was the region which Senacherib invaded in 701, simultaneously with his detachment of a corps to attack the capital; and accordingly we might be shut up to affirm that this end of chapter 1 dates from that invasion, if no other explanation of the place-names were possible. But another is possible. Micah himself belonged to one of these Shephelah towns, Moresheth-Gath, and it is natural that, anticipating the invasion of all Judah, after the fall of Samaria (as Isaiah 10:18 also did), he should single out for mourning his own district of the country. This appears to be the most probable solution of a very doubtful problem, and accordingly we may date the whole of chapter 1 somewhere between 725 and 720 or 718. Let us remember that in 719 Sargon marched past this very district of the Shephelah in his campaign against Egypt, whom he defeated at Raphia.

Our conclusion is supported by chapter 2. Judah, though Jehovah be planning evil against her, is in the full course of her ordinary social activities. The rich are absorbing the lands of the poor (Micah 2:1 ff.): note the phrase upon their beds; it alone signifies a time of security. The enemies of Israel are internal (Micah 2:8). The public peace is broken by the lords of the land, and men and women, disposed to live quietly, are robbed (Micah 2:8 ff.). The false prophets have sufficient signs of the times in their favor to regard Micah’s threats of destruction as calumnies (Micah 2:6). And although he regards destruction as inevitable, it is not to be today; but in that day (Micah 2:4), viz., some still indefinite date in the future, the blow will fall and the nation’s elegy be sung. On this chapter, then, there is no shadow of a foreign invader. We might assign it to the years of Jotham and Ahaz (under whose reigns the title of the book places part of the prophesying of Micah), but since there is no sense of a double kingdom, no distinction between Judah and Israel, it belongs more probably to the years when all immediate danger from Assyria had passed away, between Sargon’s withdrawal from Raphia in 719 and his invasion of Ashdod in 710, or between the latter date and Sennacherib’s accession in 705.

Chapter 3 contains three separate oracles, which exhibit a similar state of affairs: the abuse of the common people by their chiefs and rulers, who are implied to be in full sense of power and security. They have time to aggravate their doings (Micah 3:4); their doom is still future-them at that time (Micah 3:1 b). The bulk of the prophets determine their oracles by the amount men give them (Micah 3:5), another sign of security. Their doom is also future (Micah 3:6 f.). In the third of the oracles the authorities of the land are in the undisturbed exercise of their judicial offices (Micah 3:9 f.), and the priests and prophets of their oracles (Micah 3:10), though all these professions practice only for bribe and reward. Jerusalem is still being built and embellished (Micah 3:9). But the prophet not because there are political omens pointing to this, but simply in the force of his indignation at the sins of the upper classes, prophesies the destruction of the capital (Micah 3:10). It is possible that these oracles of chapter . may be later than those of the previous chapters.


This section of the book opens with two passages, verses Micah 4:1-5 and Micah 4:6-7, which there are serious objections against assigning to Micah.

1. The first of these, Micah 4:1-5, is the famous prophecy of the Mountain of the Lord’s House, which is repeated in Isaiah 2:2-5. Probably the Book of Micah presents this to us in the more original form. The alternatives therefore are four: Micah was the author, and Isaiah borrowed from him; or both borrowed from an earlier source; or the oracle is authentic in Micah, and has been inserted by a later editor in Isaiah; or it has been inserted by later editors in both Micah and Isaiah.

The last of these conclusions is required by the arguments first stated by Stade and Hackmann, and then elaborated, in a very strong piece of reasoning, by Cheyne. Hackmann, alter marking the want of connection with the previous chapter, alleges the keynotes of the passage to be three: that it is not the arbitration of Jehovah, but His sovereignty over foreign nations, and their adoption of His law, which the passage predicts; that it is the Temple at Jerusalem whose future supremacy is affirmed; and that there is a strong feeling against war. These, Cheyne contends, are the doctrines of a much later age than that of Micah; he holds the passage to be the work of a post-exilic imitator of the prophets, which was first intruded into the Book of Micah and afterwards borrowed from this by an editor of Isaiah’s prophecies. It is just here, however, that the theory of these critics loses its strength. Agreeing heartily as I do with recent critics that the genuine writings of the early prophets have received some, and perhaps considerable, additions from the Exile and later periods, it seems to me extremely improbable that the same post-exilic insertion should find its way into two separate books. And I think that the undoubted bias towards the post-exilic period of all Canon Cheyne’s recent criticism, has in this case hurried him past due consideration of the possibility of a pre-exilic date. In fact, the gentle temper shown by the passage towards foreign nations, the absence of hatred or of any ambition to subject the Gentiles to servitude to Israel, contrasts strongly with the temper of many exilic and post-exilic prophecies; while the position which it demands for Jehovah and His religion is quite consistent with the fundamental principles of earlier prophecy. The passage really claims no more than a suzerainty of Jehovah over the heathen tribes, with the result only that their war with Israel and with one another shall cease, not that they shall become, as the great prophecy of the Exile demands, tributaries and servitors. Such a claim was no more than the natural deduction from the early prophet’s belief of Jehovah’s supremacy in righteousness. And although Amos had not driven the principle so far as to promise the absolute cessation of war, he also had recognized in the most unmistakable fashion the responsibility of the Gentiles to Jehovah, and His supreme arbitrament upon them.

And Isaiah himself, in his prophecy on Tyre, promised a still more complete subjection of the life of the heathen to the service of Jehovah. {Isaiah 23:17} Moreover the fifth verse of the passage in Micah (though it is true its connection with the previous four is not apparent) is much more in harmony with pre-exilic than with post-exilic prophecy (Micah 4:5): "All the nations shall walk each in the name of his god, and we shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God forever and aye." This is consistent with more than one prophetic utterance before the Exile, {Jeremiah 17:1-27} but it is not consistent with the beliefs of Judaism after the Exile. Finally, the great triumph achieved for Jerusalem in 701 is quite sufficient to have prompted the feelings expressed by this strange passage for the "mountain of the house of the Lord"; though if we are to bring it down to a date subsequent to 701, we must rearrange our views with regard to the date and meaning of the second chapter of Isaiah. In Micah the passage is obviously devoid of all connection, not only with the previous chapter, but with the subsequent verses of chapter 4. The possibility of a date in the eighth or beginning of the seventh century is all that we can determine with regard to it: the other questions must remain in obscurity.

2Micah 4:6-7 may refer to the Captivity of Northern Israel, the prophet adding that when it shall be restored the united kingdom shall be governed from Mount Zion; but a date during the Exile is, of course, equally probable.

3Micah 4:8-13 contain a series of small pictures of Jerusalem in siege, from which, however, she issues triumphant. It is impossible to say whether such a siege is actually in course while the prophet writes, or is pictured by him as inevitable in the near future. The words "thou shalt go to Babylon" may be, but are not necessarily, a gloss.

4Micah 5:1-8 again pictures such a siege of Jerusalem, but promises a deliverer out of Bethlehem, the city of David. Sufficient heroes will be raised up along with ‘him to drive the Assyrians from the land, and what is left of Israel after all these disasters shall prove a powerful and sovereign influence upon the peoples. These verses were probably not all uttered at the same time.

5Micah 5:9-14.-In prospect of such a deliverance the prophet returns to what chapter 1. has already described and Isaiah frequently emphasizes as the sin of Judah-her armaments and fortresses, her magic and idolatries, the things she trusted in instead of Jehovah. They will no more be necessary, and will disappear. The nations that serve not Jehovah will feel His wrath.

In all these oracles there is nothing inconsistent with the authorship in the eighth century: there is much that witnesses to this date. Everything that they threaten or promise is threatened or promised by Hosea and by Isaiah, with the exception of the destruction (in Micah 5:13) of the Macceboth, or sacred pillars, against which we find no sentence going forth from Jehovah before the Book of Deuteronomy, while Isaiah distinctly promises the erection of a Maccebah to Jehovah in the land of Egypt. But {Isaiah 19:19} waiving for the present the possibility of a date for Deuteronomy, or for part of it, in the reign of Hezekiah, we must remember the destruction, which took place under this king, of idolatrous sanctuaries in Judah, and feel also that, in spite of such a reform, it was quite possible for Isaiah to introduce a Maccebah into his poetic vision of the worship of Jehovah in Egypt. For has he not also dared to say that the "harlot’s hire" of the Phoenician commerce shall one day be consecrated to Jehovah?


The style now changes. We have had hitherto a series of short oracles, as if delivered orally. These are succeeded by a series of conferences or arguments, by several speakers. Ewald accounts for the change by supposing that the latter date from a time of persecution, when the prophet, unable to speak in public, uttered himself in literature. But chapter 1 is also dramatic.

1Micah 6:1-8 -An argument in which the prophet as herald calls on the hills to listen to Jehovah’s case against the people (Micah 6:1-2). Jehovah Himself appeals to the latter, and in a style similar to Hosea’s cites His deeds in their history, as evidence of what he seeks from them (Micah 6:3-5). The people, presumably penitent, ask how they shall come before Jehovah (Micah 6:6-7). And the prophet tells them what Jehovah has declared in the matter (Micah 6:8). Opening very much like Micah’s first oracle, {Micah 1:1} this argument contains nothing strange either to Micah or the eighth century. Exception has been taken to the reference in Micah 6:7 to the sacrifice of the firstborn, which appears to have been more common from the gloomy age of Manasseh onwards, and which, therefore, led Ewald to date all chapters 6 and 7 from that king’s reign. But child-sacrifice is stated simply as a possibility, and-occurring as it does at the climax of the sentence as an extreme possibility. I see no necessity, therefore, to deny the piece to Micah or the reign of Hezekiah. Of those who place it under Manasseh, some, like Driver, still reserve it to Micah himself, whom they supposed to have survived Hezekiah and seen the evil days which followed.

2Micah 6:9-16 -Most expositors take these verses along with the previous eight, as well as with the six which follow in chapter 7. But there is no connection between Micah 6:8 and Micah 6:9; and Micah 6:9-16 are better taken by themselves. The prophet heralds, as before, the speech of Jehovah to tribe and city (Micah 6:9). Addressing Jerusalem, Jehovah asks how He can forgive such fraud and violence as those by which her wealth has been gathered (Micah 6:10-12). Then addressing the people (note the change from feminine to masculine in the second personal pronouns) He tells them He must smite: they shall not enjoy the fruit of their labors (Micah 6:14-15). They have sinned the sins of Omri and the house of Ahab (query-should it not be of Ahab and the house of Omri?), so that they must be put to shame before the Gentiles (Micah 6:16). In this section three or four words have been marked as of late Hebrew. But this is uncertain, and the inference made from it precarious. The deeds of Omri and Ahab’s house have been understood as the persecution of the adherents of Jehovah, and the passage has, therefore, been assigned by Ewald and others to the reign of the tyrant Manasseh. But such habits of persecution could hardly be imputed to the City or People as a whole; and we may conclude that the passage means some other of that notorious dynasty’s sins. Among these, as is well known, it is possible to make a large selection-the favoring of idolatry, or the tyrannous absorption by the rich of the land of the poor (as in Naboth’s case), a sin which Micah has already marked as that of his age. The whole treatment of the subject, too, whether under the head of the sin or its punishment, strongly resembles the style and temper of Amos. It is, therefore, by no means impossible for this passage also to have been Micah’s, and we must accordingly leave the question of its date undecided. Certainly we are not shut up, as the majority of modern critics suppose, to a date under Manasseh or Amon.

3Micah 7:1-6 -These verses are spoken by the prophet in his own name or that of the people’s. The land is devastated; the righteous have disappeared; everybody is in ambush to commit deeds of violence and take his neighbor unawares. There is no justice: the great ones of the land are free to do what they like; they have intrigued with and bribed the authorities. Informers have crept in everywhere. Men must be silent, for the members of their own families are their foes. Some of these sins have already been marked by Micah as those of his age (chapter 2), but the others point rather to a time of persecution, such as that under Manasseh. Wellhausen remarks the similarity of the state of affairs described in Malachi 3:1-18 and in some Psalms. We cannot fix the date.

4Micah 7:7-20 -This passage starts from a totally different temper of prophecy, and presumably, therefore, from very different circumstances. Israel, as a whole, speaks in penitence. She has sinned, and bows herself to the consequences, but in hope. A day shall come when her exiles shall return and the heathen acknowledge her God. The passage, and with it the Book of Micah, concludes by apostrophizing Jehovah as the God of forgiveness and grace to His people. Ewald, and following him Driver, assign the passage, with those which precede it, to the times of Manasseh, in which of course it is possible that Micah was still active, though Ewald supposes a younger and anonymous prophet as the author. Wellhausen goes further, and, while recognizing that the situation and temper of the passage resemble those of Isaiah 40:1-31 is inclined to bring it even further down to post-exilic times, because of the universal character of the Diaspora. Driver objects to these inferences, and maintains that a prophet in the time of Manasseh, thinking the destruction of Jerusalem to be nearer than it actually was, may easily have pictured it as having taken place, and put an ideal confession in the mouth of the people. It seems to me that all these critics have failed to appreciate a piece of evidence even more remarkable than any they have insisted on in their argument for a late date. This is that the passage speaks of a restoration of the people only to Bashan and Gilead, the provinces over run by Tiglath-Pileser III in 734. It is not possible to explain such a limitation either by the circumstances of Manasseh’s time or by those of the Exile. In the former surely Samaria would have been included; in the latter Zion and Judah would have been emphasized before any other region. It would be easy for the defenders of a post-exilic date, and especially of a date much subsequent to the Exile, to account for a longing after Bashan and Gilead, though they also would have to meet the objection that Samaria or Ephraim is not mentioned. But how natural it would be for a prophet writing soon after the captivity of Tiglath-Pileser III to make this precise selection! And although there remain difficulties (arising from the temper and language of the passage) in the way of assigning all of it to Micah or his contemporaries, I feel that on the geographical allusions much can be said for the origin of this part of the passage in their age. or even in an age still earlier: that of the Syrian wars in the end of the ninth century, with which there is nothing inconsistent either in the spirit or the language of Micah 7:14-17. And I am sure that if the defenders of a late date had found a selection of districts as suitable to the post-exilic circumstances of Israel as the selection of Bashan and Gilead is to the circumstances of the eighth century, they would, instead of ignoring it, have emphasized it as a conclusive confirmation of their theory. On the other hand, Micah 7:11 can date only from the Exile, or the following years, before Jerusalem was rebuilt. Again, Micah 7:18-20 appear to stand by themselves. It seems likely, therefore, that Micah 7:7-20 is a Psalm composed of little pieces from various dates, which, combined, give us a picture of the secular sorrows of Israel, and of the conscience she ultimately felt in them, and conclude by a doxology to the everlasting mercies of her God.

The Expositor's Bible

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