Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.
Mic 6:1-16. Appeal before All Creation to the Israelites to Testify, if They Can, if Jehovah Ever Did Aught but Acts of Kindness to Them from the Earliest Period: God Requires of Them Not So Much Sacrifices, as Real Piety and Justice: Their Impieties and Coming Punishment.
1. contend thou—Israel is called by Jehovah to plead with Him in controversy. Mic 5:11-13 suggested the transition from those happy times described in the fourth and fifth chapters, to the prophet's own degenerate times and people.
before the mountains—in their presence; personified as if witnesses (compare Mic 1:2; De 32:1; Isa 1:2). Not as the Margin, "with"; as God's controversy is with Israel, not with them.
Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD'S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.
2. Lord's controversy—How great is Jehovah's condescension, who, though the supreme Lord of all, yet wishes to prove to worms of the earth the equity of His dealings (Isa 5:3; 43:26).
O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
3. my people—the greatest aggravation of their sin, that God always treated them, and still treats them, as His people.
what have I done unto thee?—save kindness, that thou revoltest from Me (Jer 2:5, 31).
wherein have I wearied thee?—What commandments have I enjoined that should have wearied thee as irksome (1Jo 5:3)?
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
4. For—On the contrary, so far from doing anything harsh, I did thee every kindness from the earliest years of thy nationality.
Miriam—mentioned, as being the prophetess who led the female chorus who sang the song of Moses (Ex 15:20). God sent Moses to give the best laws; Aaron to pray for the people; Miriam as an example to the women of Israel.
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
5. what Balak … consulted—how Balak plotted to destroy thee by getting Balaam to curse thee (Nu 22:5).
what Balaam … answered—how the avaricious prophet was constrained against his own will, to bless Israel whom he had desired to curse for the sake of Balak's reward (Nu 24:9-11) [Maurer]. Grotius explains it, "how Balaam answered, that the only way to injure thee was by tempting thee to idolatry and whoredom" (Nu 31:16). The mention of "Shittim" agrees with this: as it was the scene of Israel's sin (Nu 25:1-5; 2Pe 2:15; Re 2:14).
from Shittim unto Gilgal—not that Balaam accompanied Israel from Shittim to Gilgal: for he was slain in Midian (Nu 31:8). But the clause, "from Shittim," alone applies to Balaam. "Remember" God's kindnesses "from Shittim," the scene of Balaam's wicked counsel taking effect in Israel's sin, whereby Israel merited utter destruction but for God's sparing mercy, "to Gilgal," the place of Israel's first encampment in the promised land between Jericho and Jordan, where God renewed the covenant with Israel by circumcision (Jos 5:2-11).
know the righteousness—Recognize that, so far from God having treated thee harshly (Mic 6:3), His dealings have been kindness itself (so "righteous acts" for gracious, Jud 5:11; Ps 24:5, 112:9).
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
6. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?—The people, convicted by the previous appeal of Jehovah to them, ask as if they knew not (compare Mic 6:8) what Jehovah requires of them to appease Him, adding that they are ready to offer an immense heap of sacrifices, and those the most costly, even to the fruit of their own body.
burnt offerings—(Le 1:1-17).
calves of a year old—which used to be offered for a priest (Le 9:2, 3).
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
7. rivers of oil—used in sacrifices (Le 2:1, 15). Will God be appeased by my offering so much oil that it shall flow in myriads of torrents?
my first-born—(2Ki 3:27). As the king of Moab did.
fruit of my body—my children, as an atonement (Ps 132:11). The Jews offered human sacrifices in the valley of Hinnom (Jer 19:5; 32:35; Eze 23:27).
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
hath showed thee—long ago, so that thou needest not ask the question as if thou hadst never heard (Mic 6:6; compare De 10:12; 30:11-14).
what is good—"the good things to come" under Messiah, of which "the law had the shadow." The Mosaic sacrifices were but suggestive foreshadowings of His better sacrifice (Heb 9:23; 10:1). To have this "good" first "showed," or revealed by the Spirit, is the only basis for the superstructure of the moral requirements which follow. Thus the way was prepared for the Gospel. The banishment of the Jews from Palestine is designed to preclude the possibility of their looking to the Mosaic rites for redemption, and shuts them up to Messiah.
justly … mercy—preferred by God to sacrifices. For the latter being positive ordinances, are only means designed with a view to the former, which being moral duties are the ends, and of everlasting obligation (1Sa 15:22; Ho 6:6; 12:6; Am 5:22, 24). Two duties towards man are specified—justice, or strict equity; and mercy, or a kindly abatement of what we might justly demand, and a hearty desire to do good to others.
to walk humbly with thy God—passive and active obedience towards God. The three moral duties here are summed up by our Lord (Mt 23:23), "judgment, mercy, and faith" (in Lu 11:42, "the love of God"). Compare Jas 1:27. To walk with God implies constant prayer and watchfulness, familiar yet "humble" converse with God (Ge 5:24; 17:1).
The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.
9. unto the city—Jerusalem.
the man of wisdom—As in Pr 13:6, Hebrew, "sin" is used for "a man of sin," and in Ps 109:4, "prayer" for "a man of prayer"; so here "wisdom" for "the man of wisdom."
shall see thy name—shall regard Thee, in Thy revelations of Thyself. Compare the end of Mic 2:7. God's "name" expresses the sum-total of His revealed attributes. Contrast with this Isa 26:10, "will not behold the majesty of the Lord." Another reading is adopted by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, "there is deliverance for those who fear Thy name." English Version is better suited to the connection; and the rarity of the Hebrew expression, as compared with the frequency of that in the other reading, makes it less likely to be an interpolation.
hear … the rod, &c.—Hear what punishment (compare Mic 6:13, &c.; Isa 9:3; 10:5, 24) awaits you, and from whom. I am but a man, and so ye may disregard me; but remember my message is not mine, but God's. Hear the rod when it is come, and you feel its smart. Hear what counsels, what cautions it speaks.
appointed it—(Jer 47:7).
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?
10. Are there yet—notwithstanding all My warnings. Is there to be no end of acquiring treasures by wickedness? Jehovah is speaking (Mic 6:9).
scant measure … abominable—(Pr 11:1; Am 8:5).
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?
11. Shall I count them pure—literally, "Shall I be pure with?" &c. With the pure God shows Himself pure; but with the froward God shows Himself froward (Ps 18:26). Men often are changeable in their judgments. But God, in the case of the impure who use "wicked balances," cannot be pure, that is, cannot deal with them as He would with the pure. Vatablus and Henderson make the "I" to be "any one"; "Can I (that is, one) be innocent with wicked balances?" But as "I," in Mic 6:13, refers to Jehovah, it must refer to Him also here.
the bag—in which weights used to be carried, as well as money (De 25:13; Pr 16:11).
For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
12. For—rather, "Inasmuch as"; the conclusion "therefore," &c. following in Mic 6:13.
Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.
13. make thee sick in smiting—(Le 26:16, to which perhaps the allusion here is, as in Mic 6:14; Ps 107:17, 18; Jer 13:13).
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.
14. eat … not be satisfied—fulfiling the threat, Le 26:26.
thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee—Thou shalt be cast down, not merely on My borders, but in the midst of thee, thy metropolis and temple being overthrown [Tirinus]. Even though there should be no enemy, yet thou shalt be consumed with intestine evils [Calvin]. Maurer translates as from an Arabic root, "there shall be emptiness in thy belly." Similarly Grotius, "there shall be a sinking of thy belly (once filled with food), through hunger." This suits the parallelism to the first clause. But English Version maintains the parallelism sufficiently. The casting down in the midst of the land, including the failure of food, through the invasion thus answering to, "Thou shalt eat, and not be satisfied."
thou shalt take hold, but … not deliver—Thou shalt take hold (with thine arms), in order to save [Calvin] thy wives, children and goods. Maurer, from a different root, translates, "thou shalt remove them," in order to save them from the foe. But thou shalt fail in the attempt to deliver them (Jer 50:37).
that which thou deliverest—If haply thou dost rescue aught, it will be for a time: I will give it up to the foe's sword.
Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.
15. sow … not reap—fulfilling the threat (Le 26:16; De 28:38-40; Am 5:11).
For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.
16. statutes of Omri—the founder of Samaria and of Ahab's wicked house; and a supporter of Jeroboam's superstitions (1Ki 16:16-28). This verse is a recapitulation of what was more fully stated before, Judah's sin and consequent punishment. Judah, though at variance with Israel on all things else, imitated her impiety.
works of … Ahab—(1Ki 21:25, 26).
ye walk in their counsels—Though these superstitions were the fruit of their king's "counsels" as a master stroke of state policy, yet these pretexts were no excuse for setting at naught the counsels and will of God.
that I should make thee a desolation—Thy conduct is framed so, as if it was thy set purpose "that I should make thee a desolation."
inhabitants thereof—namely, of Jerusalem.
the reproach of my people—The very thing ye boast of, namely, that ye are "My people," will only increase the severity of your punishment. The greater My grace to you, the greater shall be your punishment for having despised it, Your being God's people in name, while walking in His love, was an honor; but now the name, without the reality, is only a "reproach" to you.