Micah 3:5
Thus said the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that puts not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
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(5) That bite with their teeth.—The concluding statement that the false prophets declare war against those who do not put into their mouth indicates the meaning of the former expression, namely, “they say peace to those who feed and bribe them.” The Hebrew word, nashak, which is rendered “bite,” is strictly applied to serpents, to “an adder in the path,” and is therefore especially appropriate to the false and lying nature of the prophets.

Micah 3:5. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets — As the prophets prophesied falsely, and it was chiefly through their means that the princes bore rule, the prophet next addresses them, and lets them hear their doom; that make my people err — That lead them into mistakes, both concerning what they should do, and what God would do with them: that tell them they do well, and all shall be well with them, whereas they are in the paths of sin, and within a step of ruin. It is ill indeed with a people when their leaders cause them to err, and those draw them out of the way that should guide them and go before them in it. That bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace — Who speak smooth things, and promise peace and prosperity to the people, while they are bringing destruction upon them; or, who compliment and flatter those that will furnish them with gifts, and feed them well. And he that putteth not into their mouths — That will not entertain them at his table, and treat them with wine and strong drink; they even prepare war against him — They raise false accusations against him, as if he were an enemy to the government, and thereby bring him into trouble; or in some other way do him all the mischief they can.3:1-8 Men cannot expect to do ill, and fare well; but to find that done to them which they did to others. How seldom do wholesome truths reach the ears of those in high stations or in authority! Those who deceive others are preparing confusion for their own faces. The prophet had ardent love to God and to the souls of men; deep concern for his glory and their salvation, and zeal against sin. The difficulties he met with did not drive him from his work. He had this strength; not from and of himself, but he was full of power by the Spirit of the Lord. Those who act honestly, may act boldly. And those who come to hear the word of God, must be willing to be told of their faults, must take it kindly, and be thankful.The prophets that make My people err - Flattering them in their sins and rebellions, promising that they shall go unpunished, that God is not so strict, will not put in force the judgments tie threatens. So Isaiah saith Isaiah 3:12; O my? people, they which lead thee, mislead thee; and (Isaiah 9:16, (Isaiah 9:15 in Hebrew)), the leaders of this people are its misleaders, and they that are led of them are destroyed. And Jeremiah, "The prophets have seen for thee vanity and folly; and they have not discovered thine iniquity to turn away thy captivity, and have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment" Lamentations 2:14. No error is hopeless, save what is taught in the Name of God.

That bite with their mouths - The word is used of no other biting than the biting of serpents. They were doing real, secret evil "while they cry, that is, proclaim peace;" they bit, as serpents, treacherously, deadlily. They fed, not so much on the gifts, for which they hired themselves to Ezekiel 13:10 speak peace when there was no peace, as on the souls of the givers. So God says by Ezekiel, "Will ye pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls live that should not live, by your lying to My people that hear your lies? Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life - therefore ye shall see no more vanity nor divine divinations" Ezekiel 19:1-14, 22-23. It was with a show of peace that Joab slew Abner and Amasa, and with a kiss of peace Judas betrayed our Lord.

And he that putteth not into their mouths, they prepare war against him - Literally, and (that is, immediately; it was all one; bribes refused, war proclaimed,) "they sanctify war against him." Like those of whom Joel prophesied , they proclaim war against him in the Name of God, by the authority of God which they had taken to themselves, speaking in His Name who had not sent them. So when our Lord fed the multitude, they would take Him by force and make Him a king; when their hopes were gone and they saw that His Kingdom was not of this world, they said, Crucify him, crucify Him. Much more the Pharisees, who, because He rebuked their covetousness, their devouring widows' houses, their extortion and excess, their making their proselytes more children of hell than themselves, said, Thou blasphemest. So, when the masters of the possessed damsel whom Paul freed Acts 16:19-21, saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they accused him, that he exceedingly troubled their city, teaching customs not lawful to be received.

So Christians were persecuted by the pagan as "hating the human race," because they would not partake of their sins; as "atheists," because they worshiped not their gods; as "disloyal" and "public enemies," because they joined not in unholy festivals; as "unprofitable," because they neglected things not profitable but harmful. So men are now called "illiberal," who will not make free with the truth of God; "intolerant," who will not allow that all faith is matter of opinion, and that there is no certain truth; "precise," "censorious," who will not connive at sin, or allow the levity which plays, mothlike, around it and jests at it. The Church and the Gospel are against the world, and so the world which they condemn must be against them; and such is the force of truth and holiness, that it must carry on the war against them in their own name.

5. Here he attacks the false prophets, as before he had attacked the "princes."

make my people err—knowingly mislead My people by not denouncing their sins as incurring judgment.

bite with … teeth, and cry, Peace—that is, who, so long as they are supplied with food, promise peace and prosperity in their prophecies.

he that putteth not into their mouths, they … prepare war against him—Whenever they are not supplied with food, they foretell war and calamity.

prepare war—literally, "sanctify war," that is, proclaim it as a holy judgment of God because they are not fed (see on [1153]Jer 6:4; compare Isa 13:3; Joe 1:14).

Thus saith the Lord: now Micah in the name of the Lord foretells what shall become of false prophets, he had frankly dealt with the seculars, now he deals as plainly with the ecclesiastics.

Concerning the prophets that make my people err: though he give them the title they assume to themselves, yet he doth very fully describe them, and shows they are false prophets; they err, and make others to err with them. Israel is too apt to mistake his God, and his ways; these false prophets make them err more, both concerning their former ways of religion and civil policy, and concerning their present danger and duty, and concerning future judgments and punishments.

That bite with their teeth, when they are furnished with gifts, and well fed.

And cry, Peace; they promise great prosperity, they pretend to give assurance from God that all shall go well with Israel, and none of the dismal woes threatened by Micah and such-like prophets should ever be verified on them.

And he that putteth not into their mouths; but those who will not feed these false prophets, that bid them not welcome to their tables, nor make good cheer for them,

They even prepare war against him; they do threaten with war, and all calamities that attend it; or else, as enemies prepared, they work them all the mischief they can, and show what god they serve, even the god of this world, and their own bellies. Thus saith the Lord, concerning the prophets that make my people err,.... The false prophets, as the Targum; and as the description given of them shows; who, instead of directing the people in the right way, as by their office and characters as prophets they should have done, they led them into mistakes about matters of religion and civil government, and out of the way of their duty to God and men, and exposed them to great danger and distress; and this was the more aggravating, as they were the Lord's people by name and profession, whom they caused to err from his ways and worship, which brought his displeasure upon them:

that bite with their teeth, and cry, peace; prophesy smooth things, promise all kind of prosperity and plenty, and bite their lips, and keep in those distresses and calamities which they could not but see coming upon the people; or, while they are prophesying good things, they gnash their teeth against the prophets of the Lord, and bitterly inveigh against them for threatening with war, destruction, and captivity; or, by flattering the people with their lips, they bite them, devour their substance, and are the cause of their hurt and ruin; or rather, so long as the people fed them well, and they had a sufficiency to bite and live upon, they foretold happy days unto them, So the Targum,

"he that feeds them with a feast of flesh, they prophesy peace to him;''

which sense is confirmed by what follows,

and he that putteth not into their mouth, they even declare war against him; who do not give them what they ask, or do not feed them according to their desire, do not keep a good table for them, and cram and pamper them, but neglect them, and do not provide well for them; these they threaten with one calamity or another that shall befall them; and endeavour to set their neighbours against them, and even the government itself, and do them all the mischief they can by defamation and slander.

Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that {d} bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.

(d) They devour all their substance, and then flatter them, promising that all will go well. But if someone does not feed them, then they invent all ways to do evil.

5–8. The fate of the false prophets, whose unauthorized smooth-speaking Micah contrasts with his own divinely inspired courage

5. that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace] i.e. who, when they are given something to eat, cry, Peace. To ‘bite with the teeth’ is a quaint, rough expression in harmony with the foregoing image from cannibalism. Choice language would have been thrown away on such seared consciences. Comp. the description of the priests, 1 Samuel 2:13-16.

they even prepare war against him] Lit., they consecrate war, a prophetic formula (Jeremiah 4:4, Joel 3:9, comp. Isaiah 13:3, ‘my consecrated ones’). The meaning is, that if at any time the rulers of the people are behindhand with the accustomed fee to these mercenary prophets, the tone of the latter at once begins to change. Instead of announcing peace, they declare that Jehovah is wroth with his people, and will send war. Strictly speaking, to ‘consecrate war’ is to open a campaign (with sacred rites), but here the antithesis with ‘that cry, Peace’ requires us to take it in a modified sense.Verses 5-8. ? § 2. Sins of the false prophets who led the people astray. Verse 5. - Concerning the prophets (Micah 2:11). These are the lying prophets of whom Jeremiah complains (Lamentations 2:14). That bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace. Very many commentators take the phrase, "bite with the teeth," to mean "eat," so that the clause signifies that the prophets when bribed with food predict peace and happiness to people. The antithesis of the following clause seems to require this explanation, which is further supported by the Chaldee. But it is quite unprecedented to find the word translated "bite" (nashakh) in the sense of "eat," or as it is taken here, "to have something to eat;" wherever it occurs it means "to bite like a serpent," to wound (see Genesis 49:17; Numbers 21:8, 9; Amos 5:19; Amos 9:3). The parallelism of the succeeding member does not compel us to put a forced interpretation upon the word. These venal seers do vital harm, inflict gravest injury, when they proclaim peace where there is no peace; by such false comfort they are really infusing poison and death. He that putteth not into their mouths. If any one does not bribe them, and so stop their evil mouths. They even prepare war against him. The Hebrew expression is, "they consecrate" or "sanctify war." There may be allusion to the religious rites accompanying a declaration of war (Jeremiah 6:4; Joel 3:9); but Micah seems to mean that, if the customary bribes are withheld, these prophets announce war and calamity as inevitable; they proclaim them in God's name, as speaking with his sanction and under his Inspiration (comp. Jeremiah 23:16, etc.; Ezekiel 13:19; see note on Zephaniah 1:7). This judgment also, they, with their perversion of all right, will be unable to avert by their foolish trust in their own power. Amos 6:12. "Do horses indeed run upon the rock, or do men plough (there) with oxen, that ye turn justice into poison, and the fruit of the righteousness into wormwood? Amos 6:13. They who rejoice over what is worthless, who say: with our strength we make ourselves horns! Amos 6:14. For, behold, I raise over you, O house of Israel, is the saying of Jehovah, the God of hosts, a nation; and they will oppress you from the territory of Hamath to the brook of the desert." To explain the threat in Amos 6:11, Amos now calls attention in Amos 6:12, under two different similes, to the perversity with which the haughty magnates of Israel, who turn right into bitter wrong, imagine that they can offer a successful resistance, or bid defiance with their own strength to the enemy, whom the Lord will raise up as the executor of His judgment. The perversion of right into its opposite can no more bring salvation than horses can run upon rocks, or any one plough upon such a soil with oxen. In the second question בּסּלע (on the rock) is to be repeated from the first, as the majority of commentators suppose. But the two questions are not to be taken in connection with the previous verse in the sense of "Ye will no more be able to avert this destruction than horses can run upon rocks," etc. (Chr. B. Mich.). They belong to what follows, and are meant to expose the moral perversity of the unrighteous conduct of the wicked. For הפכתּם וגו, see Amos 5:7; and for ראשׁ, Hosea 10:4. The impartial administration of justice is called the "fruit of righteousness," on account of the figurative use of the terms darnel and wormwood. These great men, however, rejoice thereby in לא דבר, "a nothing," or a thing which has no existence. What the prophet refers to may be seen from the parallel clause, viz., their imaginary strength (chōzeq). They rested this hope upon the might with which Jeroboam had smitten the Syrians, and restored the ancient boundaries of the kingdom. From this might they would take to themselves (lâqach, to take, not now for the first time to create, or ask of God) the horns, to thrust down all their foes. Horns are signs and symbols of power (cf. Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11); here they stand for the military resources, with which they fancied that they could conquer every foe. These delusions of God-forgetting pride the prophet casts down, by saying that Jehovah the God of hosts will raise up a nation against them, which will crush them down in the whole length and breadth of the kingdom. This nation was Assyria. Kı̄ hinnēh (for behold) is repeated from Amos 6:11; and the threat in Amos 6:14 is thereby described as the resumption and confirmation of the threat expressed in Amos 6:11, although the kı̄ is connected with the perversity condemned in Amos 6:12, Amos 6:13, of trusting in their own power. Lâchats, to oppress, to crush down. On the expression לבוא חמת, as a standing epithet for the northern boundary of the kingdom of Israel, see Numbers 34:8. As the southern boundary we have נחל הערבה instead of ים הערבה (2 Kings 14:25). This is not the willow-brook mentioned in Isaiah 15:7, the present Wady Sufsaf, or northern arm of the Wady el-Kerek (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, l.c.), nor the Rhinokorura, the present el-Arish, which formed the southern boundary of Canaan, because this is constantly called "the brook of Egypt" (see at Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4), but the present el-Ahsy (Ahsa), the southern border river which separated Moab from Edom (see at 2 Kings 14:25).
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