Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
THE BOOK OF MICAH Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Micah was a native of Moresheth, not the same as Mareshah in Mic 1:15, but the town called Moresheth-gath (Mic 1:14), which lay near Eleutheropolis, west of Jerusalem, on the border of the Philistine country; so called to distinguish it from Moresheth of Judah. His full name is Micaiah (not the Micaiah mentioned 1Ki 22:8, the son of Imlah), signifying, Who is like Jehovah? The time of his prophesying is stated in the introduction to be in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, that is, between 757 and 699 B.C. Jeremiah (Jer 26:18) quotes Mic 3:12, as delivered in the reign of Hezekiah. He was thus a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. The idolatries practised in the reign of Ahaz accord with Micah's denunciations of such gross evils, and confirm the truth of the time assigned Mic 1:1. His prophecies are partly against Israel (Samaria), partly against Judah. As Samaria, Israel's metropolis, was taken first, and Jerusalem, the capital of Judah subsequently, in the introductory heading, Mic 1:1, Samaria is put first, then Jerusalem. He prophesies the capture of both; the Jews' captivity and restoration; and the coming and reign of Messiah. His style is full, round, and perspicuous; his diction pure, and his parallelisms regular. His description of Jehovah (Mic 7:18, 19) is not surpassed by any elsewhere in Scripture. The similarity between Isaiah and Micah in some passages (compare Mic 4:1-3, with Isa 2:2-4) is to be accounted for by their being contemporaries, acquainted with each other's inspired writings, and having the same subjects for their theme. Hengstenberg maintains that the passage in Micah is the original. Isaiah was somewhat the older, being a prophet in the reign of Uzziah, Jotham's predecessor, whereas Micah began his prophecies under Jotham.
The book consists of two parts: (1) the first through fifth chapters; (2) the sixth and seventh chapters, a dialogue or contestation between Jehovah and His people, in which He reproaches them with their unnatural and ungrateful conduct, and threatens judgment for their corruptions, but consoles them with the promise of restoration from captivity.
Micah stands sixth of the minor prophets in the Hebrew canon, but third in the Septuagint.
Mic 1:1-16. God's Wrath against Samaria and Judah; the Former Is to Be Overthrown; Such Judgments in Prospect Call for Mourning.
Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
2. all that therein is—Hebrew, "whatever fills it." Micaiah, son of Imlah, our prophet's namesake, begins his prophecy similarly, "Hearken, O people, every one of you." Micah designedly uses the same preface, implying that his ministrations are a continuation of his predecessor's of the same name. Both probably had before their mind Moses' similar attestation of heaven and earth in a like case (De 31:28; 32:1; compare Isa 1:2).
God be witness against you—namely, that none of you can say, when the time of your punishment shall come, that you were not forewarned. The punishment denounced is stated in Mic 1:3, &c.
from his holy temple—that is, heaven (1Ki 8:30; Ps 11:4; Jon 2:7; compare Ro 1:18).
For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
3. tread upon the high places of the earth—He shall destroy the fortified heights (compare De 32:13; 33:29) [Grotius].
And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
4. Imagery from earthquakes and volcanic agency, to describe the terrors which attend Jehovah's coming in judgment (compare Jud 5:5). Neither men of high degree, as the mountains, nor men of low degree, as the valleys, can secure themselves or their land from the judgments of God.
as wax—(Ps 97:5; compare Isa 64:1-3). The third clause, "as wax," &c., answers to the first in the parallelism, "the mountains shall be molten"; the fourth, "as the waters," &c., to the second, "the valleys shall be cleft." As wax melts by fire, so the mountains before God, at His approach; and as waters poured down a steep cannot stand but are diffused abroad, so the valleys shall be cleft before Jehovah.
For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
5. For the transgression of Jacob is all this—All these terrors attending Jehovah's coming are caused by the sins of Jacob or Israel, that is, the whole people.
What is the transgression of Jacob?—Taking up the question often in the mouths of the people when reproved, "What is our transgression?" (compare Mal 1:6, 7), He answers, Is it not Samaria? Is not that city (the seat of the calf-worship) the cause of Jacob's apostasy (1Ki 14:16; 15:26, 34; 16:13, 19, 25, 30)?
and what are the high places of Judah?—What city is the cause of the idolatries on the high places of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem (compare 2Ki 18:4)?
Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
6. Samaria's punishment is mentioned first, as it was to fall before Jerusalem.
as an heap of the field—(Mic 3:12). Such a heap of stones and rubbish as is gathered out of fields, to clear them (Ho 12:11). Palestine is of a soil abounding in stones, which are gathered out before the vines are planted (Isa 5:2).
as plantings of a vineyard—as a place where vines are planted. Vineyards were cultivated on the sides of hills exposed to the sun. The hill on which Samaria was built by Omri, had been, doubtless, planted with vines originally; now it is to be reduced again to its original state (1Ki 16:24).
pour down—dash down the stones of the city into the valley beneath. A graphic picture of the present appearance of the ruins, which is as though "the buildings of the ancient city had been thrown down from the brow of the hill" [Scottish Mission of Inquiry, pp. 293,294].
discover the foundations—destroy it so utterly as to lay bare its foundations (Eze 13:14). Samaria was destroyed by Shalmaneser.
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
7. all the hires—the wealth which Israel boasted of receiving from her idols as the "rewards" or "hire" for worshipping them (Ho 2:5, 12).
idols … will I … desolate—that is, give them up to the foe to strip off the silver and gold with which they are overlaid.
she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot—Israel gathered (made for herself) her idols from the gold and silver received from false gods, as she thought, the "hire" of her worshipping them; and they shall again become what they had been before, the hire of spiritual harlotry, that is, the prosperity of the foe, who also being worshippers of idols will ascribe the acquisition to their idols [Maurer]. Grotius explains it, The offerings sent to Israel's temple by the Assyrians, whose idolatry Israel adopted, shall go back to the Assyrians, her teachers in idolatry, as the hire or fee for having taught it. The image of a harlot's hire for the supposed temporal reward of spiritual fornication, is more common in Scripture (Ho 9:1).
Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
8. Therefore I will wail—The prophet first shows how the coming judgment affects himself, in order that he might affect the minds of his countrymen similarly.
stripped—that is, of shoes, or sandals, as the Septuagint translates. Otherwise "naked" would be a tautology.
naked—"Naked" means divested of the upper garment (Isa 20:2). "Naked and barefoot," the sign of mourning (2Sa 15:30). The prophet's upper garment was usually rough and coarse-haired (2Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4).
like the dragons—so Jerome. Rather, "the wild dogs," jackals or wolves, which wail like an infant when in distress or alone [Maurer]. (See on Job 30:29).
owls—rather, "ostriches," which give a shrill and long-drawn, sigh-like cry, especially at night.
For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
9. wound … incurable—Her case, politically and morally, is desperate (Jer 8:22).
it is come—the wound, or impending calamity (compare Isa 10:28).
he is come … even to Jerusalem—The evil is no longer limited to Israel. The prophet foresees Sennacherib coming even "to the gate" of the principal city. The use of "it" and "he" is appropriately distinct. "It," the calamity, "came unto" Judah, many of the inhabitants of which suffered, but did not reach the citizens of Jerusalem, "the gate" of which the foe ("he") "came unto," but did not enter (Isa 36:1;37:33-37).
Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.
10. Declare ye it not at Gath—on the borders of Judea, one of the five cities of the Philistines, who would exult at the calamity of the Hebrews (2Sa 1:20). Gratify not those who exult over the falls of the Israel of God.
weep ye not at all—Do not betray your inward sorrow by outward weeping, within the cognizance of the enemy, lest they should exult at it. Reland translates, "Weep not in Acco," that is, Ptolemais, now St. Jean d'Acre, near the foot of Mount Carmel; allotted to Asher, but never occupied by that tribe (Jud 1:31); Acco's inhabitants would, therefore, like Gath's, rejoice at Israel's disaster. Thus the parallelism is best carried out in all the three clauses of the verse, and there is a similar play on sounds in each, in the Hebrew Gath, resembling in sound the Hebrew for "declare"; Acco, resembling the Hebrew for "weep"; and Aphrah, meaning "dust." While the Hebrews were not to expose their misery to foreigners, they ought to bewail it in their own cities, for example, Aphrah or Ophrah (Jos 18:23; 1Sa 13:17), in the tribe of Benjamin. To "roll in the dust" marked deep sorrow (Jer 6:26; Eze 27:30).
Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.
11. Pass ye away—that is, Thou shall go into captivity.
inhabitant of Saphir—a village amidst the hills of Judah, between Eleutheropolis and Ascalon, called so, from the Hebrew word for "beauty." Though thy name be "beauty," which heretofore was thy characteristic, thou shalt have thy "shame" made "naked." This city shall be dismantled of its walls, which are the garments, as it were, of cities; its citizens also shall be hurried into captivity, with persons exposed (Isa 47:3; Eze 16:37; Ho 2:10).
the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth—Its inhabitants did not come forth to console the people of Beth-ezel in their mourning, because the calamity was universal; none was exempt from it (compare Jer 6:25). "Zaanan" is the same as Zenan, in Judah (Jos 15:37), meaning the "place of flocks." The form of the name used is made like the Hebrew for "came forth." Though in name seeming to imply that thou dost come forth, thou "camest not forth."
Beth-ezel—perhaps Azal (Zec 14:5), near Jerusalem. It means a "house on the side," or "near." Though so near, as its name implies, to Zaanan, Beth-ezel received no succor or sympathy from Zaanan.
he shall receive of you his standing—"he," that is, the foe; "his standing," that is, his sustenance [Piscator]. Or, "he shall be caused a delay by you, Zaanan." He shall be brought to a stand for a time in besieging you; hence it is said just before, "Zaanan came not forth," that is, shut herself up within her walls to withstand a siege. But it was only for a time. She, too, fell like Beth-ezel before her [Vatablus]. Maurer construes thus: "The inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth; the mourning of Beth-ezel takes away from you her shelter." Though Beth-ezel be at your side (that is, near), according to her name, yet as she also mourns under the oppression of the foe, she cannot give you shelter, or be at your side as a helper (as her name might lead you to expect), if you come forth and be intercepted by him from returning to Zaanan.
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.
12. Maroth—possibly the same as Maarath (Jos 15:59). Perhaps a different town, lying between the previously mentioned towns and the capital, and one of those plundered by Rab-shakeh on his way to it.
waited carefully for good—that is, for better fortune, but in vain [Calvin]. Gesenius translates, "is grieved for her goods," "taken away" from her. This accords with the meaning of Maroth, "bitterness," to which allusion is made in "is grieved." But the antithesis favors English Version, "waited carefully (that is, anxiously) for good, but evil came down."
from the Lord—not from chance.
unto the gate of Jerusalem—after the other cities of Judah have been taken.
O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.
13. "Bind the chariot to the swift steed," in order by a hasty flight to escape the invading foe. Compare Note, see on Isa 36:2, on "Lachish," at which Sennacherib fixed his headquarters (2Ki 18:14, 17; Jer 34:7).
she is the beginning of the sin to … Zion—Lachish was the first of the cities of Judah, according to this passage, to introduce the worship of false gods, imitating what Jeroboam had introduced in Israel. As lying near the border of the north kingdom, Lachish was first to be infected by its idolatry, which thence spread to Jerusalem.
Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.
14. shalt thou give presents to Moresheth-gath—that its inhabitants may send thee help. Maurer explains it, "thou shalt give a writing of renunciation to Moresheth-gath," that is, thou shalt renounce all claim to it, being compelled to yield it up to the foe. "Thou," that is, Judah. "Israel" in this verse is used for the kingdom of Judah, which was the chief representative of the whole nation of Israel. Moresheth-gath is so called because it had fallen for a time under the power of the neighboring Philistines of Gath. It was the native town of Micah (Mic 1:1).
Achzib—meaning "lying." Achzib, as its name implies, shall prove a "lie to … Israel," that is, shall disappoint Israel's hopes of succor from her (compare Job 6:15-20; Jer 15:18). Achzib was in Judah between Keilah and Mareshah (Jos 15:44). Perhaps the same as Chezib (Ge 38:5).
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.
15. Yet will I bring an heir unto thee—rather, "the heir." As thou art now occupied by possessors who expelled the former inhabitants, so will I bring "yet" again the new possessor, namely, the Assyrian foe. Other heirs will supplant us in every inheritance but that of heaven. There is a play upon the meaning of Mareshah, "an inheritance": there shall come the new heir of the inheritance.
Adullam the glory of Israel—so called as being superior in situation; when it and the neighboring cities fell, Israel's glory was gone. Maurer, as the Margin, translates, "the glory of Israel" (her chief citizens: answering to "thy delicate children," Mic 1:16) "shall come in flight to Adullam." English Version better preserves the parallelism, "the heir" in the first clause answering to "he" in the second.
Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.
16. Make thee bald, &c.—a token of deep mourning (Ezr 9:3; Job 1:20). Mourn, O land, for thy darling children.
poll—shave off thy hair.
enlarge thy baldness—Mourn grievously. The land is compared to a mother weeping for her children.
as the eagle—the bald eagle, or the dark-winged vulture. In the moulting season all eagles are comparatively bald (compare Ps 103:5).