Micah 1:5
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?
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(5) The transgression of Jacob . . . the sins of the house of Israel.—The corruption of the country came from the capital cities. Samaria, on her hill, set an example of idolatry, drunkenness, and all the evils of a most profligate society; and even Jerusalem, the city “set on an hill,” gave a home in the Temple of Jehovah to heathen deities.

Micah 1:5. For the transgression of Jacob — That is, of the sons of Jacob; for the many transgressions committed among them; is all this — All these many, great, and irresistible judgments of God foretold and executed. What is the transgression of Jacob — Where is the chief cause of Israel’s sin and apostacy? Is it not Samaria — Is it not in that city, the chief seat of the kingdom, the residence of the king and his princes, who have set up the idolatry of the golden calves, and made it the established religion of the kingdom? What are the high places of Judah, &c. — Doth not the idolatrous worship, practised in the high places of Judah, receive its chief encouragement from the city of Jerusalem, even from Ahaz, and the great men who there join with him in that idolatry?1:1-7 The earth is called upon, with all that are therein, to hear the prophet. God's holy temple will not protect false professors. Neither men of high degree, as the mountains, nor men of low degree, as the valleys, can secure themselves or the land from the judgments of God. If sin be found in God's people he will not spare them; and their sins are most provoking to him, for they are most reproaching. When we feel the smart of sin, it behoves us to seek what is the sin we smart for. Persons and places most exalted, are most exposed to spiritual diseases. The vices of leaders and rulers shall be surely and sorely punished. The punishment answers the sin. What they gave to idols, never shall prosper, nor do them any good. What is got by one lust, is wasted on another.For the transgression of Jacob is all this - Not for any change of purpose in God; nor, again, as the effect of man's lust of conquest. None could have any power against God's people, unless it had been given him by God. Those mighty monarchies of old existed but as God's instruments, especially toward His own people. God said at this time of Assyria Isaiah 10:5, Asshur rod of Mine anger, and the staff in his hand is Mine indignation; and Isaiah 37:26, Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps. Each scourge of God chastised just those nations, which God willed him to chasten; but the especial object for which each was raised up was his mission against that people, in whom God most showed His mercies and His judgments Isaiah 10:6. I will send him against an ungodly nation and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge.

Jacob and Israel, in this place, comprise alike the ten tribes and the two. They still bare the name of their father, who, wrestling with the Angel, became a prince with God, whom they forgat. The name of Jacob then, as of Christian now, stamped as deserters, those who did not the deeds of their father. "What, (rather who) is the transgression of Jacob?" Who is its cause? In whom does it lie? Is it not Samaria? The metropolis must, in its own nature, be the source of good or evil to the land. It is the heart whose pulses beat throughout the whole system. As the seat of power, the residence of justice or injustice, the place of counsel, the concentration of wealth, which all the most influential of the land visit for their several occasions, its manners penetrate in a degree the utmost corners of the land. Corrupted, it becomes a focus of corruption. The blood passes through it, not to be purified, but to be diseased. Samaria, being founded on apostasy, owing its being to rebellion against God, the home of that policy which set up a rival system of worship to His forbidden by Him, became a fountain of evil, whence the stream of ungodliness overflowed the land. It became the impersonation of the people's sin, "the heart and the head of the body of sin."

And what - Literally, who (מי) always relates to a personal object, and apparent exceptions may be reduced to this. So Ae. Kim. Tanch. Pococke.

Are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem? - Jerusalem God had formed to be a center of unity in holiness; the tribes of the Lord were to go up there to the testimony of Israel; there was the unceasing worship of God, the morning and evening sacrifice; the Feasts, the memorials of past miraculous mercies, the foreshadowings of redemption. But there too Satan placed his throne. Ahaz brought thither that most hateful idolatry, the burning children to Moloch in the valley of the son of Hinnom 2 Chronicles 28:3. There 2 Chronicles 28:24, he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. Thence, he extended the idolatry to all Judah 2 Chronicles 28:25. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers. Hezekiah, in his reformation, with all Israel 2 Chronicles 31:1, went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces and bowed down the statues of Asherah, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, as much as out of Ephraim and Manasseh. Nay, by a perverse interchange, Ahaz took the Brazen Altar, consecrated to God, for his own divinations, and assigned to the worship of God the altar copied from the idol-altar at Damascus, whose fashion pleased his taste 2 Kings 16:10-16.

Since God and mammon cannot be served together, Jerusalem was become one great idol-temple, in which Judah brought its sin into the very face of God and of His worship. The Holy City had itself become sin, and the fountain of unholiness. The one temple of God was the single protest against the idolatries which encompased and besieged it; the incense went up to God, morning and evening, from it; from every head of every street of the city Ezekiel 16:31; 2 Chronicles 28:24, and (since Ahaz had brought in the worship of Baalim 2 Chronicles 28:2, and the rites of idolatry continued the same,) from the roofs of all their houses Jeremiah 32:29, went up the incense to Baal; a worship which, denying the Unity, denied the Being of God.

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)?

For the transgression; the singular for the plural, the many transgressions committed amongst them; but especially that flood of iniquity which, springing up in Samaria, did overflow the whole kingdom, idolatry, pride, luxury, cruelty, and oppression.

Of Jacob; the sons of Jacob: the ten tribes most likely are here meant by Jacob.

Is all this; all these, many and great, inevitable and irresistible, judgments of God foretold. and which will overtake and utterly ruin these sinners.

The house of Israel; the people of the kingdom of Judah, called here by the name of Israel. Or else this and the former phrase may comprehend the twelve tribes, which were fallen from God’s law and worship, and be an elegant ingemination to confirm the thing spoken.

What is the transgression? or, who is, i.e. the spring and cause of that overflowing transgression? who brought in the abominable idolatry?

Of Jacob: here is meant the kingdom of the ten tribes, (he head of which was Samaria, where the kings of that kingdom had their royal residence, where they worshipped idols, whence they issued out their edicts, and which became example to the rest of the Israelitish kingdom.

What are the high places? or, who is, i.e. cause of the high places, and the idolatry there practised?

Jerusalem; which was chief city of that kingdom, and place where their kings dwelt; had the same influence on that kingdom as Samaria had on the ten tribes; there was the example they imitated, thence the laws they obeyed contrary to God’s law. For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel,.... All this evil, all these calamities and judgments, signified by the above metaphorical phrases, these did not come by chance, nor without, reason; but were or would be inflicted, according to the righteous judgment of God, upon the people of Israel and Judah, for their manifold sins and transgressions, especially their idolatry: and should it be asked,

what is the transgression of Jacob? what notorious crime has he been guilty of? or what is the iniquity the two tribes are charged with, that is the cause of so much severity? the answer is,

is it not Samaria? the wickedness of Samaria, the calf of Samaria? as in Hosea 7:1; that is, the worship of the calf of Samaria; is not that idolatry the transgression of Jacob, or which the ten tribes have given into? it is; and a just reason for all this wrath to come upon them: or, "who is the transgression of Jacob?" (r) who is the spring and source of it; the cause, author, and encourager of it? are they not the kings that have reigned in Samaria from the times of Omri, with their nobles, princes, and great men, who, by their edicts, influence, and example, have encouraged the worship of the golden calves? they are the original root and motive of it, and to them it must be ascribed; they caused the people to sin: or, as the Targum,

"where have they of the house of Jacob sinned? is it not in Samaria?''

verily it is, and from thence, the metropolis of the nation, the sin has spread itself all over it:

and what are the high places of Judah? or, "who are they?" (s) who have been the makers of them? who have set them up, and encouraged idolatrous worship at them?

are they not Jerusalem? are they not the king, the princes, and priests, that dwell at Jerusalem? certainly they are; such as Ahaz, and others, in whose times this prophet lived; see 2 Kings 16:4; or, as the Targum,

"where did they of the house of Judah commit sin? was it not in Jerusalem?''

truly it was, and even in the temple; here Ahaz built an altar like that at Damascus, and sacrificed on it, and spoiled the temple, and several of the vessels in it, 2 Kings 16:10.

(r) "quis est praevaricatio Jacobi?" De Dieu; so Pagninus, Burkius; "quis defectio Jacobi?" Cocceius; "quis scelus Jacobi?" Drusius. (s) "quis est excelsa Judae?" Montanus, Drusius, De Dieu; "quis cesla Judae?" Cocceius; "quis fuit causa excelsorum Jehudae?" Burkius; so Kimchi.

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 {d} Samaria? and what are the high {e} places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?

(d) Samaria, which should have been an example to all Israel of true religion and justice, was the dirty pool and the tank that all idolatry and corruption was kept alive in, and who prided themselves in their father Jacob, and boasted of him.

(e) That is, the idolatry and infection.

5. The cause of this awful manifestation—the sin of Samaria and Jerusalem.

Jacob] A poetic synonym for Israel. The term has a slightly different meaning in the two halves of the verse. In the first, it clearly means the whole of the chosen people, including Judah; but in the second, only the Ten Tribes, sometimes called ‘Ephraim’ (e.g. Isaiah 7:5), but oftener (in the historical books) ‘Israel.’

What is the transgression] From what does it proceed? In what is it summed up? ‘Transgression’ is a weak rendering; apostasy would be nearer the Hebrew.

what are the high places of Judah?] In order to make sense, it is necessary to assume that the term ‘high places’ is here synonymous with ‘apostasy’ in the parallel line. But have we a right to make this assumption, for which there is no analogy in Hebrew? Our present text rests on such imperfect authority, that it is more reasonable to suppose here a corruption in the reading, and to follow the three most ancient versions (the Septuagint, the Peshito, and the Targum), which presuppose the reading ‘What is the sin of Judah?’ This is also more in harmony with what we know of the prophets of this period, who do not elsewhere so emphatically denounce the ‘high places,’ or shrines scattered up and down the country (comp. on Micah 5:14). They were more concerned with principles than with the detailed application of them. Some abominations were too obvious to be passed over; other evils, less distinctly seen as evils, were tolerated, or only gently protested against. Perhaps ‘high places’ in this passage was originally a marginal note in an early manuscript, intended to explain in what the sin of Judah consisted.Verses 5-7. - § 2. Judgment is denounced on Israel for its sin. Verse 5. - The prophet shows the cause of this punishment. Transgression; better, apostasy, which the people's trangression really was. Jacob. Here the ten tribes and Judah - the whole of the covenant people. In the latter part of the verse the term includes only the ten tribes, called often Israel or Ephraim. All this. The manifestation of God's power and wrath described in vers. 3 and 4. The house of Israel. The ten tribes. Is it not Samaria? She is naught but sin. He names the capitals of the two kingdoms as the source and centre of the idolatry and wickedness which pervaded the whole country. Samaria was built by Omri, a king who "wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him;" and in it his son Ahab erected a temple to Baal (1 Kings 16:32), and it became the chief seat of idolatry in the land. What are the high places? The prophet seems to say that Jerusalem is no longer the Lord's sanctuary, but a collection of unauthorized or idolatrous shrines. These were buildings or altars erected in conspicuous spots, contrary to the enactments of the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 12:11-14), and used more or less for idolatrous worship. With a strange perversity, the Jews mixed the pure service of Jehovah with the rites of heathen deities. Even the best kings of Judah were unable wholly to suppress these local sanctuaries (see 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4, etc.). They were found even in Jerusalem itself (Jeremiah 32:35), especially in the time of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:4). The parallelism of this clause with the preceding being thought defective ("high places" being not parallel with "apostasy"), the Septuagint reads, ἡ ἁμαρτία, "the sin," followed by the Syriac and the Targum. One Hebrew manuscript confirms the reading; but it is probably unauthorized, and has been ignorantly introduced The prophet defines the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem. The sin of the former is apostasy; that of the latter, unauthorized worship. Instead of "what" in both places the Hebrew gives "who," implying that there is a personal cause, the two capitals being personified. Hezekiah's partial reformation had not taken place when this was uttered. "They hate the monitor in the gate, and abhor him that speaketh uprightly. Amos 5:11. Therefore, because ye tread upon the poor, and take the distribution of corn from him, ye have built houses of square stones, and will not dwell therein; planted pleasant vineyards, and will not drink their wine. Amos 5:12. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great your sins; oppressing the righteous, taking atonement money; and ye bow down the poor in the gate." However natural it may seem to take מוכיח and דּבר תּמים in Amos 5:10 as referring to prophets, who charge the ungodly with their acts of unrighteousness, as Jerome does, this explanation is precluded not only by bassha‛ar (in the gate), since the gate was not the meeting-place of the people where the prophets were accustomed to stand, but the place where courts of judgment were held, and all the public affairs of the community discussed (see at Deuteronomy 21:19); but also by the first half of Amos 5:11, which presupposes judicial proceedings. Mōkhı̄ăch is not merely the judge who puts down unjust accusers, but any one who lifts up his voice in a court of justice against acts of injustice (as in Isaiah 29:21). דּבר תּמים, he who says what is blameless, i.e., what is right and true: this is to be taken generally, and not to be restricted to the accused who seeks to defend his innocence. תּעב is a stronger expression than שׂנא. The punishment for this unjust oppression of the poor will be the withdrawal of their possessions. The ἁπ. λεγ. bōshēs is a dialectically different form for בוסס, from בוּס, to trample down (Rashi, Kimchi), analogous to the interchange of שׁריון and סריון, a coat of mail, although as a rule שׁ passes into ס, and not ס into שׁ. For the derivation from בושׁ, according to which בושׁס would stand for בושׁשׁ (Hitzig and Tuch on Genesis p. 85), is opposed both to the construction with על, and also to the circumstance that בּושׁשׁ means to delay (Exodus 32:1; Judges 5:28); and the derivation suggested by Hitzig from an Arabic verb, signifying to carry one's self haughtily towards others, is a mere loophole. Taking a gift of corn from the poor refers to unjust extortion on the part of the judge, who will only do justice to a poor man when he is paid for it. The main clause, which was introduced with lâkhēn, is continued with בּתּי גזית: "thus have ye built houses of square stones, and shall not dwell therein;" for "ye shall not dwell in the houses of square stones which ye have built." The threat is taken from Deuteronomy 28:30, Deuteronomy 28:39, and sets before them the plundering of the land and the banishment of the people. Houses built of square stones are splendid buildings (see Isaiah 9:9). The reason for this threat is given in Amos 5:12, where reference is made to the multitude and magnitude of the sins, of which injustice in the administration of justice is again held up as the chief sin. The participles צררי and לקחי are attached to the suffixes of פּשׁעיכם and חטּאתיכם: your sins, who oppress the righteous, attack him, and take atonement money, contrary to the express command of the law in Numbers 35:31, to take no kōpher for the soul of a murderer. The judges allowed the rich murderer to purchase exemption from capital punishment by the payment of atonement money, whilst they bowed down the right of the poor. Observe the transition from the participle to the third person fem., by which the prophet turns away with disgust from these ungodly judges. Bowing down the poor is a concise expression for bowing down the right of the poor: compare Amos 2:7 and the warnings against this sin (Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:19).
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