Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Micah 3:9-11. Hear this, ye heads of the house of Jacob, &c. — This address to the great men, shows the prophet’s courage and impartiality. That abhor judgment, &c. — Who do not love to pass a right judgment in matters that come before you, because you make no advantage to yourselves by so doing; but covet to have large bribes given you, to pervert equity, and make wrong decisions. They build up Zion with blood, &c. — Who build houses with the riches gotten by violence, and by the condemnation of the innocent. The heads thereof judge for reward — The judges pass sentence, not according to the right of the case, but according as they have been bribed. The priests thereof teach for hire — The priests for the sake of lucre teach those things which are agreeable to the kings and people, and not what God hath commanded to be taught. It was the duty of the priests to instruct the people, as well as to attend upon the service of the temple; for which cause they had cities allotted to them in all parts of the land: but, not being content with that plentiful revenue which the law allowed them, they made a corrupt gain of their office. And the prophets divine for money — This is to be understood of the false prophets. Yet will they lean upon the Lord — Pretend to trust in him, and expect his favour, protection, and blessing. And say, Is not the Lord among us — As our God and our shield? None evil — Such as war, famine, and captivity, can come upon us — While we have him with us to defend and help us.Micah 3:1, yet still more sternly. They abhorred judgment, he says, as a thing loathsome and abominable, such as men cannot bear even to look upon; they not only dealt wrongly, but they "perverted, distorted, all equity:" "that so there should not remain even some slight justice in the city" . "All equity;" all of every sort, right, rectitude, uprightness, straight-forwardness, whatever was right by natural conscience or by God's law, they distorted, like the sophists making the worse appear the better cause. Naked violence crushes the individual; perversion of equity destroys the fountain-head of justice. The prophet turns from them in these words, as one who could not bear to look upon their misdeeds, and who would not speak to them; "they pervert;" building; "her heads, her priests, her prophets;" as Elisha, but for the presence of Jehoshaphat, would not look on Jehoram, nor see him 2 Kings 3:14. He first turns and speaks of them, as one man, as if they were all one in evil; Micah 3:8, he here gives us one more proof of it, dealing roundly with the magistrates in both kingdoms, Israel and Judah.
That abhor judgment; whereas judgment should be their great delight, as it is of every good magistrate, these had hearts that detested it, were weary of the directions of God’s law in their polity, and hated to be controlled by it.
And pervert all equity; where you can, you wrest the law to countenance your unequal proceedings, and wrong those you should right, and acquit those you should condemn. And there is many a woe denounced against such. Micah 3:1;
that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity; a sad character of princes, rulers, and judges, who not only ought to know but to love judgment, justice, and equity, and do them; even take delight and pleasure in the distribution of them to everyone, and in every cause that came before them; but, instead of this, hated to do that which was right and just; and perverted all the rules and laws of justice and equity, clearing the guilty, and condemning the innocent.Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9–12. A recapitulation of the national sins, with a more distinct declaration of the bitter end
10. build up Zion with blood] Probably this alludes to the building of palaces and fortifications, always a fruitful source of oppression in the East. ‘Blood’ is used by synecdoche for ‘violent conduct leading to the ruin of others;’ so Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:3, Proverbs 1:11, and other passages. Unless we admit this, we shall have to take an incredibly dark view of the state of public morals in the Jewish state.Verses 9-12. - § 3. Recapitulation of the sins of the three classes - rulers, priests, and prophets, with an announcement of the destruction of Zion and the temple. Verse 9. - The prophet exemplifies his courage by delivering in full the denunciation with which he commenced (ver. 1: see note there). Hear this. What follows. Pervert all equity. Ye, who by your position ought to be models and guardians of justice and equity, violate all laws, human and Divine, make the straight crooked, distort every notion of right (comp. Isaiah 59:8). 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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