Micah 6:6
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
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(6) Wherewith shall I come . . .?This has been taken by some commentators as Balak’s question to Balaam, who gives his reply in Micah 6:8. Dean Stanley writes, after his picturesque manner, of “the short dialogue preserved, not by the Mosaic historian, but by the Prophet Micah, which at once exhibits the agony of the king and the lofty conceptions of the great Seer” (Jewish Church, Lect. 8). But it is rather in harmony with the context to understand it as the alarmed and conscience-stricken reply of the Jewish people impersonated in some earnest speaker to the pleading brought before them by the prophet in the Lord’s name.

Micah 6:6-7. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord — After the preceding reproof of the people’s ingratitude, they are here introduced as anxiously inquiring how they may propitiate God’s displeasure, and avert his judgments. They intimate that they are ready to offer any expiatory sacrifices, though never so costly, for that purpose. Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, &c. — Will God accept of the ordinary sacrifices, such as we have offered on other occasions, as an atonement for sin? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, &c. — With a prodigious number; or ten thousands of rivers of oil — Were it possible to give them? Doth he expect more costly sacrifices than ordinary? We are ready, if that will appease him, to offer up to him multitudes of rams, and to add meat-offerings, prepared with oil, in proportion, though it should cost us an immeasurable quantity of that article. Shall I give my firstborn, &c. — The dearest of my offspring, or any other of my children, to Jehovah, by way of atonement for my transgression? It is well known that the Phenicians, and their descendants the Carthaginians, sacrificed their children to Saturn or Molech, and in their great dangers they were wont to offer the dearest of them. And some of the idolatrous Jews and Israelites imitated this horrid practice: see note on Leviticus 18:21, where God in a solemn manner prohibits it, as he frequently does elsewhere. These two verses give us an exact description of the character of hypocrites and habitual sinners, who hope to obtain God’s favour by performing certain external ceremonies; and are willing to purchase their own pardon upon any terms, except that of reforming their lives.

6:6-8 These verses seem to contain the substance of Balak's consultation with Balaam how to obtain the favour of Israel's God. Deep conviction of guilt and wrath will put men upon careful inquiries after peace and pardon, and then there begins to be some ground for hope of them. In order to God's being pleased with us, our care must be for an interest in the atonement of Christ, and that the sin by which we displease him may be taken away. What will be a satisfaction to God's justice? In whose name must we come, as we have nothing to plead as our own? In what righteousness shall we appear before him? The proposals betray ignorance, though they show zeal. They offer that which is very rich and costly. Those who are fully convinced of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, would give all the world, if they had it, for peace and pardon. Yet they do not offer aright. The sacrifices had value from their reference to Christ; it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. And all proposals of peace, except those according to the gospel, are absurd. They could not answer the demands of Divine justice, nor satisfy the wrong done to the honour of God by sin, nor would they serve at all in place of holiness of the heart and reformation of the life. Men will part with any thing rather than their sins; but they part with nothing so as to be accepted of God, unless they do part with their sins. Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God's commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but love to himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard, in this? Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on the Redeemer and his atonement. Blessed be the Lord that he is ever ready to give his grace to the humble, waiting penitent.Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? - The people, thus arraigned, bursts in, as men do, with professions that they would be no more ungrateful; that they will do anything, everything - but what they ought. With them it shall be but "Ask and have." They wish only to know, with what they shall come? They would be beforehand with Him, anticipating His wishes; they would, with all the submission of a creature, bow, prostrate themselves before God; they acknowledge His High Majesty, who dwelleth on high, the most High God, and would abase themselves before His lofty greatness, if they but knew, "how" or "wherewith."

They would give of their best; sacrifices the choicest of their kind, which should be wholly His, whole-burnt-offerings, offered exactly according to the law, "bullocks of a year old" Leviticus 9:2-3; then too, the next choice offering, the rams; and these, as they were offered for the whole people on very solemn occasions, in vast multitudes, thousands or ten thousands ; the oil which accompanied the burnt sacrifice, should flow in rivers ; nay, more still; they would not withhold their sons, their first born sons, from God, part, as they were, of themselves, or any fruit of their own body.

They enhance the offering by naming the tender relation to themselves Deuteronomy 28:53. They would offer everything, (even what God forbade) excepting only what alone He asked for, their heart, its love and its obedience . The form of their offer contains this; they ask zealously, "with what shall I come." It is an outward offering only, a thing which they would bring. Hypocritical eagerness! a sin against light. For to enquire further, when God has already revealed anything, is to deny that He has revealed it. It comes from the wish that He had not revealed what lie has revealed. : "whose, after he hath found the truth, discusseth anything further, seeketh a lie." God had told them, long before, from the time that He made them His people, what he desired of them; So Micah answers,

6. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?—The people, convicted by the previous appeal of Jehovah to them, ask as if they knew not (compare Mic 6:8) what Jehovah requires of them to appease Him, adding that they are ready to offer an immense heap of sacrifices, and those the most costly, even to the fruit of their own body.

burnt offerings—(Le 1:1-17).

calves of a year old—which used to be offered for a priest (Le 9:2, 3).

In the foregoing part of the chapter you have God’s resolution to have a hearing, Micah 6:1,2, and his plea for himself against an ungrateful people, Micah 6:3-5. Now in this verse you have the result, which is either an unfeigned submission, and justification of God’s just proceedings, made by some of the best of this people, or else an inquiry made by men among them, who did yet retain some opinion of their own integrity; much like those Isaiah 58:3, they were ready to say, We have offered sacrifices as required, &c.; what would God have us do more? Or else it is an inquiry what the prophet would further direct them to do in this case, with an intimation that they were ready to offer any sacrifices God should require of them. Or else this verse is the prophet’s supposition, that some among them would be ready to inquire how they should in this case behave themselves, and so this prosopoeia fairly makes way for further direction to this people.

Wherewith? Heb. With what? what preparation shall I make for a due and right address unto God?

Shall I, in the person of all the people, or else in the person of the most thinking among them: this I is the people of the Jews.

Come before the Lord: it is a temple phrase, and contains the solemn attendance on God in his worship; well paraphrased in the Chaldee paraphrase, With what shall I serve before the Lord?

And bow myself before: this is exegetical to the former phrase, When I come to bow myself and worship the Lord, with what shall I appear?

The high God; such was the God of Israel, heaven his throne, the earth his footstool; idols are dunghill gods, our God alone is the God who dwells on high.

Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings? shall these suffice for testimony that I owe my all to God, or appease his displeasure, which justly might devour me as the fire the sacrifice?

With calves of a year old: it is probable this repeats (as is usual in Scripture, to confirm and affect us the more) the thing before mentioned.

Wherewith shall I come before the Lord,.... These are not the words of the people of Israel God had a controversy with, and now made sensible of their sin, and humbled for it; and willing to appease the Lord, and make it up with him at any rate; for there are such things proposed by them as do by no means suit with persons of such a character, nay, even suppose them to be hypocritical; and much less are they what were put into their mouths by the prophet to say, as some suggest; but they are the words of Balak king of Moab, which, and what follow, are questions he put to Balaam, who had told him that he could do nothing without the Lord, nor anything contrary to his word: now he asks what he must do to get the good will of this Lord; in what manner, and with what he must appear before him, serve and worship him, as the Targum; that so he might have an interest in him, and get him to speak a word to Balaam in his favour, and against Israel; see Numbers 22:8;

and bow myself before the high God? the most high God, the God of gods, whose Shechinah or Majesty is in the high heavens, as the Targum: his meaning is, with what he should come, or bring with him, when he paid his homage and obeisance to him, by bowing his body or his knee before him; being willing to do it in the most acceptable manner he could:

shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? such as he had been used to offer on the high places of Baal to that deity. Sacrifices of this kind prevailed among the Heathens, which they had received by tradition from the times of Adam and Noah; see Numbers 22:41.

Wherewith {e} shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

(e) Thus the people by hypocrisy ask how to please God, and are content to offer sacrifices, but will not change their lives.

6. Wherewith] i.e. with what present?

bow myself] With the obeisance of a subject before his king, or of a poor man before a rich.

with calves of a year old] These were considered the choicest (Leviticus 9:3).

6–8. The people, feeling its need of atonement, anxiously (note the repeated questions) inquires of the prophet how it is to propitiate Jehovah. Bishop Butler, in his Sermon on the Character of Balaam, adopts the view that Micah 6:6-7 represent the question of Balak, and Micah 6:8 the answer of Balaam. This was probably suggested by 2 Kings 3:27, where it is recorded that the king of Moab offered up his eldest son as a burnt-offering. But the inference is hasty; human sacrifices were one of the abominations of Israel (see below), which most excited the reprobation of the prophets. Bishop Butler, too, had probably not realized the amount of personification which exists in the prophetic writings. It is the people personified which speaks in these two verses (6 and 7).

Verses 6-8. - § 2. The people, awakened to its ingratitude and need of atonement, asks how to please God, and is referred for answer to the moral requirements of the Law. Verse 6. - It is greatly doubted who is the speaker here. Bishop Butler, in his sermon "Upon the Character of Balaam," adopts the view that Balak is the speaker of vers. 6 and 7, and Balaam answers in ver. 8. Knabenbauer considers Micah himself as the interlocutor, speaking in the character of the people; which makes the apparent change of persons in ver. 8 very awkward. Most commentators, ancient and modern, take the questions in vers. 6 and 7 to be asked by the people personified, though they are not agreed as to the spirit from which they proceed, some thinking that they are uttered in self-righteousness, as if the speakers had done all that and more than could be required of them; others regarding the inquiries as representing a certain acknowledgment of sin and a desire for means of propitiation, though there is exhibited a want of appreciation of the nature of God and of the service which alone is acceptable to him. The latter view is most reasonable, and in accordance with Micah's manner. Wherewith; i.e. with what offering? The prophet represents the congregation as asking him to tell them how to propitiate the offended Lord, and obtain his favour. Come before; go to meet, appear in the presence of the Lord. Septuagint, καταλάβω, "attain to." Bow myself before the high God; literally, God of the height, who has his throne on high (Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 57:15); Vulgate, curvabo genu Deo excelso; Septuagint, ἀντιλήψομαι Θεοῦ μου ὑψίστου, "shall I lay hold of my God most high." Calves of a year old. Such were deemed the choicest victims (comp. Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 9:2, 3). Micah 6:6Israel cannot deny these gracious acts of its God. The remembrance of them calls to mind the base ingratitude with which it has repaid its God by rebelling against Him; so that it inquires, in Micah 6:6, Micah 6:7, with what it can appease the Lord, i.e., appease His wrath. Micah 6:6. "Wherewith shall I come to meet Jehovah, bow myself before the God of the high place? Shall I come to meet Him with burnt-offerings, with yearling calves? Micah 6:7. Will Jehovah take pleasure in thousands of rams, in ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give up my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" As Micah has spoken in Micah 6:3-5 in the name of Jehovah, he now proceeds, in Micah 6:6, Micah 6:7, to let the congregation speak; not, however, by turning directly to God, since it recognises itself as guilty before Him, but by asking the prophet, as the interpreter of the divine will, what it is to do to repair the bond of fellowship which has been rent in pieces by its guilt. קדּם does not here mean to anticipate, or come before, but to come to meet, as in Deuteronomy 23:5. Coming to meet, however, can only signify humble prostration (kâphaph) before the divine majesty. The God of the high place is the God dwelling in the high place (Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 57:15), or enthroned in heaven (Psalm 115:3). It is only with sacrifices, the means appointed by God Himself for the maintenance of fellowship with Him, that any man can come to meet Him. These the people offer to bring; and, indeed, burnt-offerings. There is no reference here to sin-offerings, through which disturbed or interrupted fellowship could be restored, by means of the expiation of their sins; because the people had as yet no true knowledge of sin, but were still living under the delusion that they were standing firmly in the covenant with the Lord, which they themselves had practically dissolved. As burnt-offerings, they would bring calves and rams, not because they formed the only material, but because they were the material most usually employed; and, indeed, calves of a year old, because they were regarded as the best, not because no others were allowed to be offered, as Hitzig erroneously maintains; for, according to the law, calves and lambs could be offered in sacrifice even when they were eight days old (Leviticus 22:27; Exodus 22:29). In the case of the calves the value is heightened by the quality, in that of the rams by the quantity: thousands of rams; and also myriads of rivers of oil (for this expression, compare Job 20:17). Oil not only formed part of the daily minchah, but of the minchah generally, which could not be omitted from any burnt-offerings (compare Numbers 15:1-16 with ch. 28 and 29), so that it was offered in very large quantities. Nevertheless, in the consciousness that these sacrifices might not be sufficient, the people would offer the dearest thing of all, viz., the first-born son, as an expiation for their sin. This offer is founded, no doubt, upon the true idea that sacrifice shadows forth the self-surrender of man to God, and that an animal is not a sufficient substitute for a man; but this true idea was not realized by literal (bodily) human sacrifices: on the contrary, it was turned into an ungodly abomination, because the surrender which God desires is that of the spirit, not of the flesh. Israel could and should have learned this, not only from the sacrifice of Isaac required by God (Genesis 22), but also from the law concerning the consecration or sanctification of the first-born (Exodus 13:12-13). Hence this offer of the nation shows that it has no true knowledge of the will of its God, that it is still entangled in the heathen delusion, that the wrath of God can be expiated by human sacrifices (cf. 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 16:3).
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