The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean on the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come on us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)For reward.—Every function is carried out by judges, priests, and prophets through bribery, and yet they claim and count upon the protection of Jehovah. They rely for safety upon the presence of the sacred buildings; they cry, “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are these!” “Is not the Lord among us?” Isaiah contrasts in scathing terms the profession of holiness with the vicious life as seen in Jerusalem, and likens the city, with its rulers, to Sodom (Micah 1:10-15).1 Timothy 6:10, covetousness, entered into all they did. It, not God, was their one end, and so their God. Her heads, the secular authority who Acts 23:3 sat to judge according to the law, judged, contrary to the law, "for rewards." They sat as the representatives of the Majesty of God, in whose Name they judged, whose righteous Judgment and correcting Providence law exhibits and executes, and they profaned it. "To judge for rewards" was in itself sin, forbidden by the law Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19. To refuse justice, unless paid for it, was unjust, degrading to justice. The second sin followed hard upon it, to judge unjustly, absolving the guilty, condemning the innocent, justifying the oppressor, legalizing wrong.
And her priests teach for hire - The Lord was the portion and inheritance Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 18:2 of the priest. He had his sustenance assigned him by God, and, therewith, the duty to (Leviticus 10:10-11, add Deuteronomy 17:10-11; Deuteronomy 33:10; Haggai 2:11 ff) put difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean, and to teach all the statutes, which God had commanded. Their lips were to keep knowledge Malachi 2:7. This then, which they were bound to give, they sold. But "whereas it is said to the holy, "Freely ye have received, freely give" Matthew 10:8, these, producing the answer of God upon the receipt of money, sold the grace of the Lord for a covetous price." Probably too, their sin co-operated with and strengthened the sin of the judges. Authorized interpreters of the law, they, to please the wealthy, probably misinterpreted the law. For wicked judges would not have given a price for a righteous interpretation of the law.
The civil authorities were entrusted by God with power to execute the law; the priests were entrusted by Him with the knowledge to expound it. Both employed in its perversion that which God gave them for its maintenance. The princes obtained by bribery the misjudgment of the priests and enforced it; the priests justified the injustice of the Princes. So Arian Bishops, themselves hirelings , by false expositions of Scripture, countenanced Arian Emperors in the oppression of the faithful . "They propped up the heresy by human patronage;" the Emperors "bestowed on" them their "reign of irreligion." The Arian Emperors tried to efface the Council of Nice by councils of Arian Bishops . Emperors perverted their power, the Bishops their knowledge.
Not publicly only but privately doubtless also, these priests taught falsely for hire, lulling the consciences of those who wished to deceive themselves as to what God forbade, and to obtain from His priests answers in His Name, which might explain away His law in favor of laxity or sin. So people now try to get ill-advised to do against God's will what they are bent on doing; only they get ill-advised for nothing. One who receives money for giving an irresponsible opinion, places himself in proximate peril of giving the answer which will please those who pay him . "It is Simony to teach and preach the doctrine of Christ and His Gospel, or to give answers to quiet the conscience, for money. For the immediate object of these two acts, is the calling forth of faith, hope, charity, penitence, and other supernatural acts, and the reception of the consolation of the Holy Spirit; and this is, among Christians, their only value. Whence they are accounted things sacred and supernatural; for their immediate end is to things supernatural; and they are done by man, as he is an instrument of the Holy Spirit."
Jerome: "Thou art permitted, O Priest, to live 1 Corinthians 9:13, not to luxuriate, from the altar 1 Corinthians 9:9. The mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn is not muzzled. Yet the Apostle 1 Corinthians 9:18 abused not the liberty, but 1 Timothy 6:8 having food and raiment, was therewith content 1 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; laboring night and clay, that he might not be chargeable to anybody. And in his Epistles he calls God to witness that he 1 Thessalonians 2:10 lived holily and without avarice in the Gospel of Christ. He asserts this too, not of himself alone but of his disciples, that he had sent no one who would either ask or receive anything from the Churches 2 Corinthians 12:17-18. But if in the gifts of those who sent, the grace 2 Corinthians 8:6-7 of God, he gathers not for himself but for the Romans 15:26 poor saints at Jerusalem. But these poor saints were they who of the Jews first believed in Christ, and, being cast out by parents, kinsmen, connections, had lost their possessions and all their goods, the priests of the temple and the people destroying them.
Let such poor receive. But if on plea of the poor, a few houses are enriched, and we eat in gold, glass and china, let us either with our wealth change our habit, or let not the habit of poverty seek the riches of Senators. What avails the habit of poverty, while a whole crowd of poor longs for the contents of our purse? Wherefore, for our sake who are such, "who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem by iniquity, who judge for gifts, give answers for rewards, divine for money," and thereon, claiming to ourselves a fictitious sanctity, say, Evil will not come upon us, hear we the sentence of the Lord which follows. Sion and Jerusalem and the mountain of the temple, that is, the temple of Christ, shall, in the consummation and the end, when "love shall wax cold" Matthew 24:12 and the faith shall be rare, "be plowed as a field and became heaps as the high places of a forest" Luke 18:8; so that, where once were ample houses and countless heaps of corn, there should only be a poor cottage, keeping up the show of fruit which has no refreshment for the soul."
The three places, Zion, Jerusalem, the Temple, describe the whole city in its political and religious aspects. Locally, Mount Zion, which occupies the southwest, "had upon it the Upper city," and "was by much the loftier, and length-ways the straighter." Jerusalem, as contrasted with Zion, represented the lower city , "supported" on the East by Mount Acra, and including the valley of Tyropoeon. South of Mount Acra and lower than it, at the South Eastern corner of the city, lay Mount Moriah or the Mount of the Lord's House, separated at this time from Mount Acra by a deep ravine, which was filled up by the Asmonaean princes, who lowered Mount Acra. It was joined to the northeast corner of Mount Zion by the causeway of Solomon across the Tyropoeon. The whole city then in all its parts was to be desolated.
And her prophets divine for money - The word rendered , "divine," is always used in a bad sense. These prophets then were false prophets, "her prophets" and not God's, which "divined," in reality or appearance, giving the answer which their employers, the rich men, wanted, as if it were an answer from God . Yet they also "judge for rewards," who look rather to the earthly than to the spiritual good; "they teach for hire," who seek in the first place the things of this world, instead of teaching for the glory of God and the good of souls, and regarding earthly things in the second place only, as the support of life.
And say, Is not the Lord among us? - And after all this, not understanding their sin, as though by their guilt they purchased the love of God, they said in their impenitence, that they were judges, prophets, priests, of God. They do all this, and yet "lean on the Lord;" they stay and trust, not in themselves, but in God; good in itself, had not they been evil! "And say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can (shall) come upon us." So Jeremiah says, "Trust ye not in lying words saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these" Jeremiah 7:4. Sanch.: "He called them lying words, as being ofttimes repeated by the false prophets, to entice the credulous people to a false security" against the threatenings of God. As though God could not forsake His own people, nor cast away Zion which He had chosen for an habitation for Himself, nor profane His own holy place! Yet it was true that God "was among them," in the midst of them, as our Lord was among the Jews, though they knew Him not.
Yet if not in the midst of His people so as to hallow, God is in the midst of them to punish. But what else do we than these Jews did, if we lean on the Apostolic line, the possession of Holy Scripture, Sacraments, pure doctrine, without setting ourselves to gain to God the souls of our pagan population? or what else is it for a soul to trust in having been made a member of Christ, or in any gifts of God, unless it be bringing forth fruit with patience? : "Learn we too hence, that all trust in the Merits of Christ is vain, so long as any willfully persist in sin." John H. Mich: "Know we, that God will be in us also, if we have not faith alone, nor on this account rest, as it were, on Him, but if to faith there be added also the excelling in good works. For faith without works is dead. But when with the riches of faith works concur, then will God indeed be with us, and will strengthen us mightily, and account us friends, and gladden us as His true sons, and free us from all evil."
judge for reward—take bribes as judges (Mic 7:3).
priests teach for hire—It was their duty to teach the law and to decide controversies gratuitously (Le 10:11; De 17:11; Mal 2:7; compare Jer 6:13; Jude 11).
prophets … divine—that is, false prophets.
Is not the Lord among us?—namely in the temple (Isa 48:2; Jer 7:4, 8-11).The heads thereof judge for reward; whereas the judges were God’s deputies, to hear and determine causes, as the merit of the causes were found, without respect of persons, they should have been careful to give such judgment as God would give; for the judgment is the Lord’s, and he sits in the midst of the judges. These corrupt judges attended little to the cause, but much to rewards, and with them the greatest bribe made the justest cause, and he was most guilty who was poor and could not, or honest and would not, give the expected reward. This was most directly against the law of God, Exodus 23:8 Deu 16:19, and expressly cursed, yet it was the common course and practice with them.
The priests thereof teach for hire: these men should have impartially declared the law of God to all, told them what was clean or unclean, what was prohibited, what permitted, what commanded; what was safe to them, being pleasing to God, and what dangerous to them, being offensive to their God: but these for hire would direct them how to please themselves, and though they broke the law, not be guilty; to extort, yet not be guilty of usury; to kill an enemy, yet not be guilty of murder, nor break the sixth commandment; to be unnatural to parents, yet not sin. Who paid them well, should find them most excellently skilled in the casuistical divinity the Jesuits at this day are masters of.
The prophets thereof divine for money; which being extraordinary persons raised of God, and sent by him to deliver his message impartially to all his people, to all ranks of men among them, without fear, flattery, prejudice, or any by respects; there were in this people at this day a sort of men called prophets, but were indeed mere fortune-tellers, as we call a vagabond sort of persons among us, and these made a trade of divining, and as if it were in their power to frame future things to the mind and humour of men, for a good round sum of money they would sell prosperity to them; for they never told great good to come to any but such as gave a great reward, and little money with them never purchased the news of a great advantage; and whoso had first the misery to be poor, that they could not buy, or else were wiser than to believe these impostors, these were sure to be told a sad story of troubles and afflictions. There were many disciples of Balaam, 2 Peter 2:15, they loved the wages of unrighteousness.
Yet will they lean upon the Lord; whilst magistrates, priests, and prophets are thus abominably corrupt, yet they will presumptuously lean upon the Lord, and flatter themselves that he is present with them, that he owneth them as his peculiar people. And say; yea, they boast so.
Is not the Lord among us, as our God, our Shield? whereas he was among them, but provoked to be their enemy, though they will not believe it.
None evil can come upon us; so they do falsely conclude, against all the word of God, and against all his true prophets’ admonitions, no evil of affliction, such as war, famine, and captivity, can come upon them. Thus far these corrupt Jews. Jeremiah 26:18, be who was so good a king must be excepted from this charge; perhaps it was delivered in the beginning of his reign, before a reformation was made, and might be the occasion of it: the former reign was a very wicked one; and very likely the public officers, judges, and civil magistrates, were as yet continued, and who went on in the same course of injustice, giving the cause not on the right side, but to them that gave them most money, or bribed highest, contrary to the law of God, Deuteronomy 16:19;
and the priests thereof teach for hire; for though they had a sufficient and honourable maintenance provided by the law of God for them, yet, not content with this, they took a price of the people for teaching them; and that not such things as were agreeable to the will of God declared in his word, which they ought to have done freely; but such doctrines as were most pleasing to carnal men, and indulged them in their lusts, presumption, and vain confidence:
and the prophets thereof divine for money; tell men what should befall them; what good things they should be possessed of; what plenty and prosperity they should enjoy; and this they did according to the sum of money given them, more or less. This must be understood of the false prophets:
yet will they lean upon the Lord; on his are, providence, and protection, as if they were filled to these things, and might securely rely and depend upon them; though by their sins and transgressions they had forfeited all the bent fits and privileges thereof. To lean by faith upon the Lord; or in his Word, as the Targum; and to trust in his promises, in his power, and faithfulness, and goodness; when this springs from an honest and upright heart, and is attended with the fruits of righteousness and holiness, it is well pleasing to God, and highly regarded by him, and such may, depend upon his blessing and protection; but to talk of faith in him, and reliance upon him, when the whole course of the conversation is wicked, this is abominable in the sight of God, and displeasing to him:
and say, is not the Lord among us? trusting to this, that the temple of the Lord was among them, and that the temple of God were they; that the most holy place was there, where were the symbols of the divine Presence, the ark, cherubim, and mercy seat; and so concluding from hence their safety and security; putting their confidence in outward places and things, in external worship, sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies, when they neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, truth, and mercy: and soThe heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11. the priests thereof teach for hire] ‘The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law (rather, ‘law,’ lit. ‘teaching’) at his mouth,’ Malachi 2:7. The nature of the teaching appears from Deuteronomy 17:9-13; comp. Haggai 2:11-13, Jeremiah 2:8. It was explanatory of the Law, and based upon ancient tradition (comp. Deuteronomy 24:8, ‘as I commanded them’). See note on Micah 4:2.
divine for money] This was the custom of the ‘seers’ in former times; even Samuel appears to have received fees (1 Samuel 9:7-8). But it had been given up by the later prophets, when they devoted themselves more entirely to moral and spiritual functions.
lean upon the Lord] The priests and prophets, then, whom Micah so severely chastises, were like himself worshippers of Jehovah. But their worship was formal, and their faith mechanical. They said, Is not Jehovah among us? i.e. is not Jehovah’s favour assured by his presence within the temple (comp. Jeremiah 7:4), forgetting that, as Milton puts it, in the spirit of Isaiah 1:11-13, he doth ‘prefer Before all temples the upright heart and pure.’ For the phrase, comp. Exodus 17:7, ‘they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?’Verse 11. - Judge for reward. The very judges take bribes (Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:12), which the Law so stringently forbade (see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19, etc.). The priests thereof teach for hire. The priests were bound to teach and explain the Law, and decide questions of religion and ritual (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 33:10; comp. Haggai 2:11, etc.). This they ought to have done gratuitously, but they corruptly made it a source of gain. Divine for money. The accusation in ver. 5 is repeated. These false prophets sold their oracles, pretending to have a suitable revelation when paid for it (Ezekiel 22:28; Zephaniah 3:3, 4). Yet will they lean upon the Lord. These priests and prophets were worshippers of Jehovah and trusted in him, as though he could not fosake his people. They had faith without love, divorced religion from morality, made a certain outward conformity serve for righteousness and truth. Is not the Lord among us? (Exodus 17:7). As though the very fact that they had in their midst the temple, wherein Jehovah's presence was assured, would protect them from all harm, whatever their conduct might he. Such presumptuous confidence is reproved by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:4, 8, etc.; comp. Amos 5:14, and note there). Amos 7:4. "Thus the Lord Jehovah showed me: and, behold, the Lord Jehovah called to punish with fire; and it devoured the great flood, and devoured the portion. Amos 7:5. And I said, Lord Jehovah, leave off, I:pray: how can Jacob stand? for it is small. Amos 7:6. Jehovah repented of this; this also shall not take place, said the Lord Jehovah." That the all-devouring fire represents a much severer judgment than that depicted under the figure of the locusts, is generally acknowledged, and needs no proof. But the more precise meaning of this judgment is open to dispute, and depends upon the explanation of the fourth verse. The object to קרא is לריב בּאשׁ, and ריב is to be taken as an infinitive, as in Isaiah 3:13 : He called to strive (i.e., to judge or punish) with fire. There is no necessity to supply ministros suos here. The expression is a concise one, for "He called to the fire to punish with fire" (for the expression and the fact, compare Isaiah 66:16). This fire devoured the great flood. Tehōm rabbâh is used in Genesis 7:11 and Isaiah 51:10, etc., to denote the unfathomable ocean; and in Genesis 1:2 tehōm is the term applied to the immense flood which surrounded and covered the globe at the beginning of the creation. ואכלה, as distinguished from ותּאכל, signifies an action in progress, or still incomplete (Hitzig). The meaning therefore is, "it also devoured (began to devour) 'eth-hachēleq;" i.e., not the field, for a field does not form at all a fitting antithesis to the ocean; and still less "the land," for chēleq never bears this meaning; but the inheritance or portion, namely, that of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 32:9), i.e., Israel. Consequently tehōm rabbâh cannot, of course, signify the ocean as such. For the idea of the fire falling upon the ocean, and consuming it, and then beginning to consume the land of Israel, by which the ocean was bounded (Hitzig), would be too monstrous; nor is it justified by the simple remark, that "it was as if the last great conflagration (2 Peter 3:10) had begun" (Schmieder). As the fire is to earthly fire, but the fire of the wrath of God, and therefore a figurative representation of the judgment of destruction; and as hachēleq (the portion) is not the land of Israel, but according to Deuteronomy (l.c.) Israel, or the people of Jehovah; so tehōm rabbâh is not the ocean, but the heathen world, the great sea of nations, in their rebellion against the kingdom of God. The world of nature in a state of agitation is a frequent symbol in the Scriptures for the agitated heathen world (e.g., Psalm 46:3; Psalm 93:3-4). On the latter passage, Delitzsch has the following apt remark: "The stormy sea is a figurative representation of the whole heathen world, in its estrangement from God, and enmity against Him, or the human race outside the true church of God; and the rivers are figurative representations of the kingdoms of the world, e.g., the Nile of the Egyptian (Jeremiah 46:7-8), the Euphrates of the Assyrian (Isaiah 8:7-8), or more precisely still, the arrow-swift Tigris of the Assyrian, and the winding Euphrates of the Babylonian (Isaiah 27:1)." This symbolism lies at the foundation of the vision seen by the prophet. The world of nations, in its rebellion against Jehovah, the Lord and King of the world, appears as a great flood, like the chaos at the beginning of the creation, or the flood which poured out its waves upon the globe in the time of Noah. Upon this flood of nations does fire from the Lord fall down and consume them; and after consuming them, it begins to devour the inheritance of Jehovah, the nation of Israel also. The prophet then prays to the Lord to spare it, because Jacob would inevitably perish in this conflagration; and the Lord gives the promise that "this shall not take place," so that Israel is plucked like a firebrand out of the fire (Amos 4:11).
If we inquire now into the historical bearing of these two visions, so much is priori clear, - namely, that both of them not only indicate judgments already past, but also refer to the future, since no fire had hitherto burned upon the surface of the globe, which had consumed the world of nations and threatened to annihilate Israel. If therefore there is an element of truth in the explanation given by Grotius to the first vision, "After the fields had been shorn by Benhadad (2 Kings 13:3), and after the damage which was then sustained, the condition of Israel began to flourish once more during the reign of Jeroboam the son of Joash, as we see from 2 Kings 14:15," according to which the locusts would refer to the invasion on the part of the Assyrians in the time of Pul; this application is much too limited, neither exhausting the contents of the first vision, nor suiting in the smallest degree the figure of the fire. The "mowing of the king" (Amos 7:1) denotes rather all the judgments which the Lord had hitherto poured out upon Israel, embracing everything that the prophet mentions in Amos 4:6-10. The locusts are a figurative representation of the judgments that still await the covenant nation, and will destroy it even to a small remnant, which will be saved through the prayers of the righteous. The vision of the fire has a similar scope, embracing all the past and all the future; but this also indicates the judgments that fall upon the heathen world, and will only receive its ultimate fulfilment in the destruction of everything that is ungodly upon the face of the earth, when the Lord comes in fire to strive with all flesh (Isaiah 66:15-16), and to burn up the earth and all that is therein, on the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 3:10-13). The removal of the two judgments, however, by Jehovah in consequence of the intercession of the prophet, shows that these judgments are not intended to effect the utter annihilation of the nation of God, but simply its refinement and the rooting out of the sinners from the midst of it, and that, in consequence of the sparing mercy of God, a holy remnant of the nation of God will be left. The next two visions refer simply to the judgment which awaits the kingdom of the ten tribes in the immediate future.
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