Micah 6:6
With which 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). Election, therefore, will not save sinful Israel from destruction. After Amos has thus cut off all hope of deliverance from the ungodly, he repeats, in his own words in Amos 9:8., the threat already exhibited symbolically in Amos 9:1. Amos 9:8. "Behold, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are against the sinful kingdom, and I destroy it from off the face of the earth; except that I shall not utterly destroy the house of Jacob: is the saying of Jehovah. Amos 9:9. For, behold, I command, and shake the house of Israel among all nations, as (corn) is shaken in a sieve, and not even a little grain falls to the ground. Amos 9:10. All the sinners of my people will die by the sword, who say, The evil will not overtake or come to us." The sinful kingdom is Israel; not merely the kingdom of the ten tribes however, but all Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes along with Judah, the house of Jacob or Israel, which is identical with the sons of Israel, who had become like the Cushites, although Amos had chiefly the people and kingdom of the ten tribes in his mind. Bammamlâkhâh, not upon the kingdom, but against the kingdom. The directing of the eye upon an object is expressed by על (Amos 9:4) or אל (cf. Psalm 34:16); whereas ב is used in relation to the object upon which anger rests (Psalm 34:17). Because the Lord had turned His eye towards the sinful kingdom, He must exterminate it, - a fate with which Moses had already threatened the nation in Deuteronomy 6:15. Nevertheless (אפס כּי, "only that," introducing the limitation, as in Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 15:4) the house of Jacob, the covenant nation, shall not be utterly destroyed. The "house of Jacob" is opposed to the "sinful nation;" not, however, so that the antithesis simply lies in the kingdom and people (regnum delebo, non populum), or that the "house of Jacob" signifies the kingdom of Judah as distinguished from the kingdom of the ten tribes, for the "house of Jacob" is perfectly equivalent to the "house of Israel" (Amos 9:9). The house of Jacob is not to be utterly destroyed, but simply to be shaken, as it were, in a sieve. The antithesis lies in the predicate החטּא, the sinful kingdom. So far as Israel, as a kingdom and people, is sinful, it is to be destroyed from off the face of the earth. But there is always a divine kernel in the nation, by virtue of its divine election, a holy seed out of which the Lord will form a new and holy people and kingdom of God. Consequently the destruction will not be a total one, a השׁמיד אשׁמיד. The reason for this is introduced by kı̄ (for) in Amos 9:9. The Lord will shake Israel among the nations, as corn is shaken in a sieve; so that the chaff flies away, and the dust and dirt fall to the ground, and only the good grains are left in the sieve. Such a sieve are the nations of the world, through which Israel is purified from its chaff, i.e., from its ungodly members. Tserōr, generally a bundle; here, according to its etymology, that which is compact or firm, i.e., solid grain as distinguished from loose chaff. In 2 Samuel 17:13 it is used in a similar sense to denote a hard piece of clay or a stone in a building. Not a single grain fill fall to the ground, that is to say, not a good man will be lost (cf. 1 Samuel 26:20). The self-secure sinners, however, who rely upon their outward connection with the nation of God (compare Amos 9:7 and Amos 3:2), or upon their zeal in the outward forms of worship (Amos 5:21.), and fancy that the judgment cannot touch them (הקדּים בּעד, to come to meet a person round about him, i.e., to come upon him from every side), will all perish by the sword. This threat is repeated at the close, without any formal link of connection with Amos 9:9, not only to prevent any abuse of the foregoing modification of the judgment, but also to remove this apparent discrepancy, that whereas in Amos 9:1-4 it is stated that not one will escape the judgment, according to Amos 9:8, the nation of Israel is not to be utterly destroyed. In order to anticipate the frivolity of the ungodly, who always flatter themselves with the hope of escaping when there is a threatening of any general calamity, the prophet first of all cuts off all possibilities whatever in Amos 9:1-4, without mentioning the exceptions; and it is not till afterwards that the promise is introduced that the house of Israel shall not be utterly annihilated, whereby the general threat is limited to sinners, and the prospect of deliverance and preservation through the mercy of God is opened to the righteous. The historical realization or fulfilment of this threat took place, so far as Israel of the ten tribes was concerned, when their kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, and in the case of Judah, at the overthrow of the kingdom and temple by the Chaldeans; and the shaking of Israel in the sieve is still being fulfilled upon the Jews who are dispersed among all nations.
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