Micah 4:9
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counseller perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.
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(9) Now why dost thou cry out aloud?—The prophet places again, side by side with his vision of returned glory, the circumstances of misery which will intervene. The king and the counsellors of Jerusalem will be powerless to help in the moment of emergency.

Micah 4:9-10. Now — Now I have promised such great things to you, why dost thou cry out aloud — As a woman in the anguish of her travail? Here the Jewish people are addressed, as bewailing themselves under the miseries of their captivity. Is there no king in thee? — Thou hast lost the king Zedekiah, but thy God, thy king, is with thee. Is thy counsellor perished? — Hast thou none among thy wise counsellors left? Yet the Wonderful Counsellor is with thee. Messiah, the wisdom of the Father, hath the conduct of thy sufferings, deliverance, and re-establishment. For pangs hath taken thee as a woman in travail — This may be understood of the time when Zedekiah and his counsellors were seized by the Chaldeans. Be in pain, and labour to bring forth — Be like a woman in her pangs; bow thyself down, and show all the signs of excessive pain, for there is a sufficient cause. For now shalt thou go forth out of the city, &c. — Thou shalt not only have troubles, sorrows, and dangers, in the wars against the Babylonians; but shortly thou shalt be driven out from thy city and country, and have no habitation of thy own, but be forced to dwell in a foreign land. The Jews’ captivity is expressed thus, because their city and temple being destroyed, they should live in an obscure state. The same condition is elsewhere expressed by their living in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20:35. And thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered — Thou shalt be carried away, even as far as Babylon; but there, where, according to all human probability, and the expectations of thine enemies, thou mayest seem to be cut off from all relief, even there shalt thou be delivered: — such is the power, and lovingkindness, and faithfulness of Jehovah thy God.

4:9-13 Many nations would assemble against Zion to rejoice in her calamities. They would not understand that the Lord had collected them as sheaves are gathered to be threshed; and that Zion would be strengthened to beat them to pieces. Nothing has yet taken place in the history of the Jewish church agreeing with this prediction. When God has conquering work for his people to do, he will furnish them with strength and ability for it. Believers should cry aloud under distresses, with the prayer of faith, not with despondency.Now - The prophet places himself in the midst of their deepest sorrows, and out of them he promises comfort. "Why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no King in thee? is thy Counsellor perished?" . Is then all lost, because thou hast no visible king, none to counsel thee or consult for thee? . Very remarkably he speaks of their "King and Counsellor" as one, as if to say, "When all beside is gone, there is One who abides. Though thou be a captive, God will not forsake thee. When thou hadst no earthly king, "the Lord thy God was thy King" 1 Samuel 12:12. He is the First, and He is the Last. When thou shalt have no other, He, thy King, ceaseth not to be." Montanus: "Thou shouldest not fear, so long as He, who counselleth for thee, liveth; but He liveth forever." Thy "Counsellor," He, who is called "Counsellor" Isaiah 9:6, who counselleth for thee, who counselleth thee, will, if thou obey His counsel, make birth-pangs to end in joy.

For pangs have taken thee, as a woman in travail - Resistless, remediless, doubling the whole frame, redoubled until the end, for which God sends them, is accomplished, and then ceasing in joy. The truest comfort, amid all sorrow, is in owning that the travail-pains must be, but that the reward shall be afterward. Montanus: "It is meet to look for deliverance from God's mercy, as certainly as for punishment from our guilt; and that the more, since He who foretold both, willingly saves, punishes unwillingly." So the prophets adds.

9. Addressed to the daughter of Zion, in her consternation at the approach of the Chaldeans.

is there no king in thee?—asked tauntingly. There is a king in her; but it is the same as if there were none, so helpless to devise means of escape are he and his counsellors [Maurer]. Or, Zion's pains are because her king is taken away from her (Jer 52:9; La 4:20; Eze 12:13) [Calvin]. The former is perhaps the preferable view (compare Jer 49:7). The latter, however, describes better Zion's kingless state during her present long dispersion (Ho 3:4, 5).

Now; now that I have from the Lord promised such great good things to you, after the seventy years’ captivity, and in the days of the Messiah,

why dost thou cry out aloud? as if this case were desperate, or as if it would be ever night with thee, or as if thy hopes would not outweigh thy fears, or thy future joy would not counterbalance thy present griefs.

Is there no king in thee? thou hast lost thy king Zedekiah, and now art become tributary, but thy God, thy King, is with thee. and will be with thee to preserve, restore, establish, enlarge, enrich, and beautify thee with salvation, and to reign over thee in Mount Zion for ever, Micah 4:7. Thy loss at present is great, but thy future advantage may well stop these outcries.

Is thy counsellor perished? hast thou none among thy wise counsellors left in thee? Hath Nebuchadnezzar cruelly slain all he took of them, and are the rest fled? Yet the wonderful Counsellor is with thee, doth consult and resolve that thou shalt not be undone, and perish for ever. Messiah, the wisdom of his Father, hath the conduct of thy sufferings, deliverance, and re-establishment, in which thou mayst at last glory.

For pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail: this great distress of spirit appears by thy outcries, like those of a woman in travail; of which no great reason can be given, all things considered, no more than of those of a woman at her full time, and bringing forth the fruit of her womb, to the present increase and future honour of the family; whose pains end in joy, John 16:21.

Now why dost thou cry out aloud?.... Or "cry a cry" (w); a vehement one, or set up a most lamentable cry, as if no help or hope were to be had, but as in the most desperate condition: here the prophet represents the Jews as if they were already in captivity, and in the utmost distress, and as they certainly would be; and yet had no reason to despair of deliverance and salvation, since the Messiah would certainly come to them, and his kingdom would be set up among them, The word used has sometimes the notion of friendship and association; hence the Targum renders it,

"now why art thou joined to the people?''

and so Jarchi,

"thou hast no need to seek friends and lovers, the kings of Egypt and Assyria, for help.''

And which sense of the word as approved by Gussetius (x).

Is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? he it so that they were; as was the case when Zedekiah was taken and carried captive, and his princes, nobles, and counsellors killed; yet God, their King and Counsellor, was with them, to keep and preserve them, counsel, instruct, and comfort them, and at last to deliver and save them; and the King Messiah would be raised up, and sent unto them in due time, who is the Wonderful Counsellor Isaiah had prophesied of:

for pangs have taken thee as a worn an in travail; which is often expressive of great sufferings and sorrows; and yet, as the pangs of a woman in travail do not continue always, but have an end, so would theirs, and therefore there was no reason for despair; and as, when she brings forth her issue, her sorrow is turned into joy, this would be their case.

(w) "quid vociferabis vociferationem", Pagninus, Montanus. So Vatablus, Drusius. (x) Ebr. Comment. p. 789.

Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is {l} there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.

(l) In the meantime he shows that they would endure great troubles and temptations, when they saw themselves neither to have king nor counsel.

9. Now why dost thou cry out aloud?] The prophet from his watch-tower beholds the capture of Jerusalem, and hears the lamentation of its inhabitants (comp. Isaiah 10:30). Absorbed in high visions of the future, he deprecates this unmanly despair. True, all is lost, for the present; but they may carry with them into exile a consoling promise of deliverance.

Is there no king in thee?] Is it because thy king has been carried captive? Comp. Hosea 13:10, ‘Where then is thy king that he may save thee?’

thy counseller] A synonym for ‘thy king.’ The root of mélech (king) in Aramaic means ‘to counsel.’ The Messiah is called ‘Wonderful counsellor’ in Isaiah 9:6.

Verse 9. - Before this glorious revival the prophet foresees calamity and exile in the nearer future; yet he bids the people not to despair. Why dost thou cry out aloud? The prophet hears the cry of Zion, and asks the cause. Septuagint, Ἱνατί ἔγνως κακά; "Why knowest thou evils?" from a variation in reading. Is there no king in thee? Hast thou lost thy king? Is this the reason of thy sorrow? The allusion is to the captivity of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (2 Kings 24, 25.). The loss of the king, the representative of the help and favour of God, was a token of the withdrawal of the Divine protection (comp. Lamentations 4:20; Hosea 13:10). Thy counsellor. A synonym for "king." Cheyne notes that the root of melech ("king") in Aramaic means "to counsel." In Isaiah 9:6 Messiah is called "Counsellor." The Septuagint, treating the word as a collective, renders, ἡ βουλή σου, "thy counsel." Pangs, etc. The comparison of sorrow of heart to the anguish of labour pains is very common (comp. Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 6:24; 6:43; Hosea 13:13). Micah 4:9But before this takes place, the daughter Zion will lose her king, and wander into captivity to Babylon; but there she will be redeemed by the Lord out of the power of her enemies. Micah 4:9. "Now why dost thou cry a cry? Is there no king in thee, or is thy counsellor perished, that pangs have seized thee like the woman in labour? Micah 4:10. Writhe and break forth, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labour! For how wilt thou go out of the city and dwell in the field, and come to Babel? there wilt thou be rescued; there will Jehovah redeem thee out of the hand of thine enemies." From this glorious future the prophet now turns his eye to the immediate future, to proclaim to the people what will precede this glorification, viz., first of all, the loss of the royal government, and the deportation of the people to Babylon. If Micah, after announcing the devastation of Zion in Micah 3:12, has offered to the faithful a firm ground of hope in the approaching calamities, by pointing to the highest glory as awaiting it in the future, he now guards against the abuse which might be made of this view by the careless body of the people, who might either fancy that the threat of punishment was not meant so seriously after all, or that the time of adversity would very speedily give place to a much more glorious state of prosperity, by depicting the grievous times that are still before them. Beholding in spirit the approaching time of distress as already present, he hears a loud cry, like that of a woman in labour, and inquires the cause of this lamentation, and whether it refers to the loss of her king. The words are addressed to the daughter Zion, and the meaning of the rhetorical question is simply this: Zion will lose her king, and be thrown into the deepest mourning in consequence. The loss of the king was a much more painful thing for Israel than for any other nation, because such glorious promises were attached to the throne, the king being the visible representative of the grace of God, and his removal a sign of the wrath of God and of the abolition of all the blessings of salvation which were promised to the nation in his person. Compare Lamentations 4:20, where Israel calls the king its vital breath (Hengstenberg). יועץ (counsellor) is also the king; and this epithet simply gives prominence to that which the Davidic king had been to Zion (cf. Isaiah 9:5, where the Messiah is designated as "Counsellor" par excellence). But Zion must experience this pain: writhe and break forth. Gōchı̄ is strengthened by chūlı̄, and is used intransitively, to break forth, describing the pain connected with the birth as being as it were a bursting of the whole nature (cf. Jeremiah 4:31). It is not used transitively in the sense of "drive forth," as Hitzig and others suppose; for the determination that Jerusalem would submit, and the people be carried away, could not properly be represented as a birth or as a reorganization of things. With the words כּי עתּה וגו the prophet leaves the figure, and predicts in literal terms the catastrophe awaiting the nation. עתּה (now), repeated from Lamentations 4:9, is the ideal present, which the prophet sees in spirit, but which is in reality the near or more remote future. קריה, without an article, is a kind of proper name, like urbs for Rome (Caspari). In order to set forth the certainty of the threatened judgment, and at the same time the greatness of the calamity in the most impressive manner, Micah fills up the details of the drama: viz., going out of the city, dwelling in the field, without shelter, delivered up to all the chances of weather, and coming to Babel, carried thither without delay. Going out of the city presupposes the conquest of the city by the enemy; since going out to surrender themselves to the enemy (2 Kings 24:12; 1 Samuel 11:3) does not fit in with the prophetic description, which is not a historical description in detail. Nevertheless Israel shall not perish. There (shâm, i.e., even in Babel) will the Lord its God deliver it out of the hand of its foes.

The prediction that the daughter Zion, i.e., the nation of Israel which was governed from Zion, and had its centre in Zion - the covenant nation which, since the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, existed in Judah only - should be carried away to Babylon, and that at a time when Assyria was in the field as the chief enemy of Israel and the representative of the imperial power, goes so far beyond the bounds of the political horizon of Micah's time, that it cannot be accounted for from any natural presentiment. It is true that it has an analogon in Isaiah 34:6-7, where Isaiah predicts to king Hezekiah in the most literal terms the carrying away of all his treasures, and of his sons (descendants), to Babylon. At the same time, this analogy is not sufficient to explain the prediction before us; for Isaiah's prophecy was uttered during the period immediately following the destruction of the Assyrian forces in front of Jerusalem and the arrival of Babylonian ambassadors in Jerusalem, and had a point of connection in these events, which indicated the destruction of the Assyrian empire and the rise of Babylon in its stead, at all events in the germ; whereas no such connecting link exists in the case of Micah's prophecy, which was unquestionably uttered before these events. It has therefore been thought, that in Micah 3:12 Micah predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and here in Micah 4:10 the carrying away of Judah to Babylon by the Assyrians; and this opinion, that Micah expected the judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah to be executed by the Assyrians, and not by the Babylonians, has been supported partly by such passages as Micah 5:4-5, and Jeremiah 26:18-19, and partly by the circumstance that Micah threatens his own corrupt contemporaries with the judgment which he predicts on account of their sins; whereas in his time the Assyrians were the only possible executors of a judgment upon Israel who were then standing on the stage of history (Caspari). But these arguments are not decisive. All that can be inferred from Micah 5:4-5, where Asshur is mentioned as the representative of all the enemies of Israel, and of the power of the world in its hostility to the people of God in the Messianic times, is that at the time of Micah the imperial power in its hostility to the kingdom of God was represented by Assyria; but it by no means follows that Assyria would always remain the imperial power, so that it could only be from her that Micah could expect the destruction of Jerusalem, and the carrying away of Judah to Babylon. Again, Jeremiah 26:18, Jeremiah 26:19 - where the chief men of Judah, in order to defend the prophet Jeremiah, quote Micah's prophecy, with the remark that king Hezekiah did not put him to death in consequence, but feared the Lord and besought His face, so that the Lord repented of the evil which He had spoken concerning Jerusalem - simply proves that these chief men referred Micah's words to the Assyrians, and attributed the non-fulfilment of the threatened judgment by the Assyrians to Hezekiah's penitence and prayer, and that this was favoured by the circumstance that the Lord answered the prayer of the king, by assuring him that the Assyrian army should be destroyed (Isaiah 37:21.). But whether the opinion of these chief men as to the meaning and fulfilment of Micah's prophecy (Micah 3:12) was the correct one or not, cannot be decided from the passage quoted. Its correctness is apparently favoured, indeed, by the circumstance that Micah threatened the people of his own time with the judgment (for your sakes shall Zion be ploughed into a field, etc.). Now, if he had been speaking of a judgment upon Judah through the medium of the Babylonians, "he would (so Caspari thinks) not only have threatened his contemporaries with a judgment which could not fall upon them, since it was not possible till after their time, inasmuch as the Assyrians were on the stage in his day; but he would also have been most incomprehensibly silent as to the approaching Assyrian judgment, of which Isaiah spoke again and again." This argument falls to the ground with the untenable assumptions upon which it is founded. Micah neither mentions the Assyrians nor the Babylonians as executing the judgment, nor does he say a word concerning the time when the predicted devastation or destruction of Jerusalem will occur. In the expression בּגללכם, for your sakes (Micah 3:12), it is by no means affirmed that it will take place in his time through the medium of the Assyrians. The persons addressed are the scandalous leaders of the house of Israel, i.e., of the covenant nation, and primarily those living in his own time, though by no means those only, but all who share their character and ungodliness, so that the words apply to succeeding generations quite as much as to his contemporaries. The only thing that would warrant our restricting the prophecy to Micah's own times, would be a precise definition by Micah himself of the period when Jerusalem would be destroyed, or his expressly distinguishing his own contemporaries from their sons and descendants. But as he has done neither the one nor the other, it cannot be said that, inasmuch as the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the people was not effected by the Assyrians, but by the Babylonians (Chaldaeans), he would have been altogether silent as to the approaching Assyrian judgment, and only threatened them with the Chaldaean catastrophe, which did not take place till a long time afterwards. His words refer to all the judgments, which took place from his own time onwards till the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the people to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The one-sided reference of the prophecy to the Assyrians is simply based upon an incorrect idea of the nature of prophecy, and its relation to the fulfilment, and involves the prophet Micah in an irreconcilable discrepancy between himself and his contemporary the prophet Isaiah, who does indeed predict the severe oppression of Judah by the Assyrians, but at the same time foretels the failure of the plans of these foes to the people of Jehovah, and the total destruction of their army.

This contradiction, with the consequence to which it would inevitably lead, - namely, that if one of the prophets predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, whereas the other prophesied that it would not be destroyed by them, the two contemporary prophets would necessarily lead the people astray, and render both the truth of their contradictory utterances and their own divine mission doubtful, - cannot be removed by the assumption that Isaiah uttered the prophecies in ch. 28-32 at a somewhat later period, after Micah had published his book, and the terribly severe words of Micah in Micah 3:12 had produced repentance. For Isaiah had predicted that the Assyrian would not conquer Jerusalem, but that his army would be destroyed under its walls, not only in Isaiah 28-32, at the time when the Assyrians are approaching with threatening aspect under Shalmaneser or Sennacherib, but much earlier than that, - namely, in the time of Ahaz, in Isaiah 10:5-12:6. Moreover, in Isaiah 28-32 there is not a single trace that Micah's terrible threatening had produced such repentance, that the Lord was able to withdraw His threat in consequence, and predict through Isaiah the rescue of Jerusalem from the Assyrian. On the contrary, Isaiah scourges the evil judges and false prophets quite as severely in Isaiah 28:7. and Isaiah 29:9-12 as Micah does in Micah 3:1-3 and Micah 3:5-8. And lastly, although the distinction between conditional prophecies and those uttered unconditionally is, generally speaking, correct enough, and is placed beyond all doubt by Jeremiah 18:7-10; there is nothing in the addresses and threatenings of the two prophets to indicate that Micah uttered his threats conditionally, i.e., in case there should be no repentance, whereas Isaiah uttered his unconditionally. Moreover, such an explanation is proved to be untenable by the fact, that in Micah the threat of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the desolation of the temple mountain (Micah 3:12) stands in the closest connection with the promise, that at the end of the days the mountain of God's house will be exalted above all mountains, and Jehovah reign on Zion as king for ever (Micah 4:1-3 and Micah 7:1). If this threat were only conditional, the promise would also have only a conditional validity; and the final glorification of the kingdom of God would be dependent upon the penitence of the great mass of the people of Israel, - a view which is diametrically opposed to the real nature of the prophecies of both, yea, of all the prophets. The only difference between Isaiah and Micah in this respect consists in the fact that Isaiah, in his elaborate addresses, brings out more distinctly the attitude of the imperial power of Assyria towards the kingdom of God in Israel, and predicts not only that Israel will be hard pressed by the Assyrians, but also that the latter will not overcome the people of God, but will be wrecked upon the foundation-stone laid by Jehovah in Zion; whereas Micah simply threatens the sinners with judgment, and after the judgment predicts the glorification of Zion in grand general terms, without entering more minutely into the attitude of the Assyrians towards Israel.

In the main, however, Micah goes hand in hand with his contemporary Isaiah. In Isaiah 32:14, Isaiah also foretels the devastation, or rather the destruction, of Jerusalem, notwithstanding the fact that he has more than once announced the deliverance of the city of God from Asshur, and that without getting into contradiction with himself. For this double announcement may be very simply explained from the fact that the judgments which Israel had yet to endure, and the period of glory to follow, lay, like a long, deep diorama, before the prophet's mental eye; and that in his threatenings he plunged sometimes more, sometimes less, deeply into those judgments which lay in perspective before him (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, at Isaiah 32:20). The same thing applies to Micah, who goes to a great depth both in his threats and promises, not only predicting the judgment in all its extremity, - namely, the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the carrying away of the people to Babel, - but also the salvation in its ultimate perfection, viz., the glorification of Zion. We must therefore not restrict his threats in Micah 3:12 and Micah 4:10 even to the Chaldaean catastrophe, nor the promise of Israel's deliverance in Babel out of the hands of its foes to the liberation of the Jews from Babylon, which was effected by Cyrus, and their return to Palestine under Zerubbabel and Ezra; but must also extend the threat of punishment to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the attendant dispersion of the Jews over all the world, and the redemption out of Babel promised in Micah 4:10 to that deliverance of Israel which, in the main, is in the future still. These two judgments and these two deliverances are comprehended in an undivided unity in the words of the prophet, Babel being regarded not only in its historical character, but also in its typical significance, as the beginning and the hearth of the kingdom of the world. Babel has this double significance in the Scriptures from the very commencement. Even the building of the city with a tower intended to reach to heaven was a work of human pride, and an ungodly display of power (Genesis 11:4.); and after its erection Babel was made by Nimrod the beginning of the empire of the world (Genesis 10:10). It was from these two facts that Babel became the type of the imperial power, and not because the division of the human race into nations with different languages, and their dispersion over the whole earth, had their origin there (see A. ch. Lmmert, Babel, das Thier und der falsche Prophet. Goth. 1862, p. 36ff.); and it is in this typical significance of Babel that we have to seek not only for the reason for the divine purpose to banish the people of God to Babel, when they were given up to the power of the kingdom of the world, but also for a point of connection for the prophetic announcement when this purpose had been communicated to the prophet's mind. Micah accordingly predicts the carrying away of the daughter Zion to Babel, and her deliverance there out of the power of her enemies, not because Babel along with Nineveh was the metropolis of the world-empire of his time, or a chief city of that empire, but because Babel, from its very origin, was a type and symbol of the imperial power. That the words of Micah, in their deepest sense, should be so interpreted, is not only warranted, but necessitated, by the announcement which follows in Micah 4:11-13 of the victorious conflict of Zion with many nations, which points far beyond the conflicts of the Jews in the times succeeding the captivity.

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