Micah 7:17
They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) They shall lick the dust like a serpent.—The doom of the determined enemies of the Lord and His people recalls that of Satan, the great enemy, as personified by the serpent. “Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:14).

Micah 7:17. They shall lick the dust like a serpent — They shall fall to the earth through fear, and carry themselves very humbly and submissively toward God’s people. They shall move out of their holes like worms — They shall be afraid to stir out of their lurking-holes; and if they creep out like worms, they shall presently hide their heads again. They shall be afraid of the Lord our God — Overthrowing the Babylonish empire by Cyrus. This is expressed Isaiah 45:1, by loosing the loins of kings. And fear because of thee — When they shall see Almighty God appear so conspicuously in thy favour. The text is parallel to that of Jeremiah 33:9, They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and the prosperity that I procure unto it; that is, unto Jerusalem. Or, if the prophet be considered as addressing God, the meaning is, When they understand that it was long before denounced by the prophets that destruction should come upon them, and thy people be delivered, and they see all things tending to bring this to pass, then shall they begin to be afraid of thy power.

7:14-20 When God is about to deliver his people, he stirs up their friends to pray for them. Apply spiritually the prophet's prayer to Christ, to take care of his church, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to go before them, while they are here in this world as in a wood, in this world but not of it. God promises in answer to this prayer, he will do that for them which shall be repeating the miracles of former ages. As their sin brought them into bondage, so God's pardoning their sin brought them out. All who find pardoning mercy, cannot but wonder at that mercy; we have reason to stand amazed, if we know what it is. When the Lord takes away the guilt of sin, that it may not condemn us, he will break the power of sin, that it may not have dominion over us. If left to ourselves, our sins will be too hard for us; but God's grace shall be sufficient to subdue them, so that they shall not rule us, and then they shall not ruin us. When God forgives sin, he takes care that it never shall be remembered any more against the sinner. He casts their sins into the sea; not near the shore-side, where they may appear again, but into the depth of the sea, never to rise again. All their sins shall be cast there, for when God forgives sin, he forgives all. He will perfect that which concerns us, and with this good work will do all for us which our case requires, and which he has promised. These engagements relate to Christ, and the success of the gospel to the end of time, the future restoration of Israel, and the final prevailing of true religion in all lands. The Lord will perform his truth and mercy, not one jot or tittle of it shall fall to the ground: faithful is He that has promised, who also will do it. Let us remember that the Lord has given the security of his covenant, for strong consolation to all who flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in Christ Jesus.They shall lick the dust like a (the) serpent - To lick the dust, by itself, pictures the extreme humility of persons who east themselves down to the very earth (as in Psalm 72:9; Isaiah 49:23). To lick it "like the serpent" seems rather to represent the condition of those who share the serpent's doom Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25, whose lot, viz. earth and things of earth, they had chosen (Rup.): "They shall move out of their holes", or, better, shall tremble, (that is, "come tremblingly,") out of their close places , whether these be strong places or prisons, as the word, varied in one vowel means. If it be strong places, it means, that "the enemies of God's people should, in confusion and tumltuously with fear, leave their strongholds, wherein they thought to be secure, not able to lift themselves up against God and those by Him sent against them." "Like worms of the earth", literally, creeping things, or, as we say, reptiles, contemptuously. "They shall be afraid of", or rather come trembling to, the Lord our God; it is uot said their, but our God, who hath done so great things for us. And shall fear because of (literally, from) Thee, O Lord, of whom they had before said, Where is the Lord thy God?

It is doubtful, whether these last words express a "servile tear," whereby a man turns away and flees from the person or thing which he fears, or whether they simply describe fear of God, the first step toward repentance. In Hosea's words, "they shall fear toward the Lord and His goodness" Hosea 3:5, the addition, and His goodness, determines the character of the fear. In Micah, it is not said that the fear brings them into any relation to God. lie is not spoken of; as becoming, any how, their God, and Micah closes by a thanksgiving, for God's pardoning mercy, not to them but to His people.

And so the prophet ends, as he began, with the judgments of God; to those who would repent, chastisement, to the impenitent, punishment: "sentencing Samaria, guilty and not repenting" (Rup.), to perpetual captivity; to Jerusalem, guilty but repenting, promising restoration. So from the beginning of the world did God; so doth He; so shall He unto the end. So did He show Himself to Cain and Abel, who both, as we all, sinned in Adam. Cain, being impenitent, lie wholly cast away; Abel, being penitent," and through faith offering a better sacrifice than Cain, and "bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance, He accepted." So He hath foreshown as to the end Matthew 25. Rup.: "And that we may know how uniformly our Judge so distinguisheth, at the very moment of His own death while hanging between the two thieves, the one, impenitent and blaspheming, He left; to the other, penitent and confessing, He opened the gate of paradise; and, soon after, leaving the Jewish people unrepentant, He received the repentance of the Gentiles." Thus the prophet parts with both out of sight; the people of God, feeding on the rich. bounty and abundance of God, and His marvelous gifts of grace above and beyond nature, multiplied to them above all the wonders of old time; the enemies of God's people looking on, not to, admire, but to be ashamed, not to be healthfully ashamed, but to be willfully deaf to the voice of God. For, however to lay the hand on the mouth might be a token of reverent silence, the deafness of the ears can hardly be other than the emblem of hardened obstinacy.

What follows, then, seems more like the unwilling creeping-forth into the Presence of God, when they cannot keep away, than conversion. It seems to picture the reprobate, who would not "hear the Voice of the Son of God and live" John 5:25, but who, in the end, shall be forced to hear it out of their close places or prisons, that is, the grave, and come forth in fear, when they shall "say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us" Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16. Thus the prophet brings us to the close of all things, the gladness and joy of God's people, the terror of His enemies, and adds only the song of thanksgiving of all the redeemed.

17. lick the dust—in abject prostration as suppliants (Ps 72:9; compare Isa 49:23; 65:25).

move out of their holes—As reptiles from their holes, they shall come forth from their hiding-places, or fortresses (Ps 18:45), to give themselves up to the conquerors. More literally, "they shall tremble from," that is, tremblingly come forth from their coverts.

like worms—reptiles or crawlers (De 32:24).

they shall be afraid of the Lord—or, they shall in fear turn with haste to the Lord. Thus the antithesis is brought out. They shall tremble forth from their holes: they shall in trepidation turn to the Lord for salvation (compare Note, see on [1156]Ho 3:5, and Jer 33:9).

fear because of thee—shall fear Thee, Jehovah (and so fear Israel as under Thy guardianship). There is a change here from speaking of God to speaking to God [Maurer]. Or rather, "shall fear thee, Israel" [Henderson].

They, the proud and cruel enemies of Israel, the Babylonians, shall lick the dust; in the most submissive, servile manner testify their subjection, promise to serve and honour the Jews released out of captivity: it is an expression which alludes to the servile manner of those Eastern complimenters, Psalm 72:9 Isaiah 49:23, and was fulfilled in the days after the return. when the kings of Persia favoured the Jews, and (as the manner of courtiers is) in compliance with their kings the grandees forwarded the prosperity of the Jews, as may easily be conjectured from the 6th and 7th chapters of Ezra.

Like a serpent; condemned to eat the dust and perpetually to crawl on the dust; it seems to intimate. the perpetuity of slavery and subjection that the enemy should fall under, and that it should be on them as a curse like that on the serpent.

They shall move out of their holes, so the strong holds and fastnesses of the Babylonians, who kept Israel in captivity, are called, like worms of the earth; which do with trembling and haste wriggle themselves out of their holes when the earth is shaken about them, or as when ants tumultuously in their fright run about from the ant-hill scattered with the foot; so should these enemies of Israel flee out of their holds, and leave them to conquering Persians, as Isaiah foretold, Isaiah 45:1-4.

They shall be afraid; a panic fear, expressed by the loosening of the loins of kings, Isaiah 45:1; so did the conquering Cyrus proceed in the course of his victories, as Isaiah 41:2,3, God strengthened his arm, and left the heart of Babylonians sinking within them.

Of the Lord our God; who did powerfully work for Cyrus in order to the delivering us out of captivity. It was our God, (saith the prophet in the person of Israel,) for his promise’ sake made to us, who did those great things by Cyrus and for us.

And shall fear because of thee; so that the name of Jews, their power and greatness shall be terrible to their enemies.

They shall lick the dust like a serpent,.... Whose food is the dust of the earth, according to the curse pronounced on it, Genesis 3:14; and which is either its, natural food it chooses to live on, as some serpents however are said (o) to do; or, going upon its belly, it cannot but take in a good deal of the dust of the earth along with its food; and hereby is signified the low, mean, abject, and cursed estate and condition of the seed of the serpent, wicked and ungodly men, the enemies of Christ and his people; who wilt be forced to yield subjection to him and his church, and will pretend the most profound respect for them, and the highest veneration of them. The allusion seems to be to the manner of the eastern nations, who, in complimenting their kings and great men, bowed so low to the ground with their faces, as to take up with their mouths the very dust of it. Particularly it is said of the Persians, that they first kiss the pavement on which the king treads, before they speak unto him, as Quistorpius on the place relates; and Valerius Maximus (p) says, that when Darius Hystaspis was declared king by the neighing of his horse, the rest of the six candidates alighted from their horses, and prostrated their bodies to the ground, as is the manner of the Persians, and saluted him king; and Herodotus (q) observes the same, custom among the Persians; and to this custom the poet Martial (r) refers; and Drusius says it is a custom in Asia to this day, that, when any go into the presence of a king, they kiss the ground, which is a token of the great veneration they have for him. The phrase is used of the enemies of the, Messiah, and of the converted Jews and Gentiles at the latter day, and is expressive of their great submission to them; see Psalm 72:9;

they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth; who put out their heads and draw them in again upon the least notice or approach of danger; or like serpents, as Jarchi and Kimchi, which lurk in holes, and creep out of them oft their bellies, or any other creeping things. The word (s) here used signifies a tremulous and tumultuous motion, like the wriggling of a worm out of the earth; or the hurry of ants, when their nests are kicked or thrown up: this is expressive of the confusion and perturbation of the enemies of the Lord and his people; of the Babylonians, who were obliged in a hurry to leave their palaces, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret their holes, and their fortresses and towers, and deliver them to the Medes and Persians; and of Gog and Magog, and the antichristian states, who will be obliged to abandon their places of abode, and creep out of sight, and be reduced to the lowest and meanest condition;

they shall be afraid of the Lord our God: because of the glory of his majesty, the greatness of his power, and for fear of his judgments:

and shall fear because of thee; O God, or Israel, as Kimchi; the church of God, whom they despised and reproached before; but now shall be seized with a panic, and live in the utmost dread of, because of the power and glory of God in the midst of them, and lest they should fall a sacrifice to them.

(o) Vid. Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 1. c. 44. Colossians 27. (p) L. 7. c. 3. sect. 2.((q) Polymnia, sive l. 7. c. 12. (r) "Et turpes humilesque, supplicesque, Pictorum sola basiate regum". Epigram. l. 10. Ephesians 71. (s) "contremiscent", Munster, Tigurine version, Cocceius; "frement, sive tumultuabuntur", Calvin; "trepide prorepent", Burkius.

They shall {r} lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.

(r) They will fall flat on the ground because of fear.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. they shall move out of their holes] Rather, ‘they shall come trembling out of their fastnesses’ (same word as in Psalm 18:46, where A. V. ‘close places’).

like worms] Lit., ‘like creepers’ (or rather, trailers). The same term occurs in Deuteronomy 32:24.

they shall be afraid of] Rather, ‘they shall turn with shuddering towards.’

Verse 17. - They shall lick the dust like a serpent (Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25). The enemies of God's people "shall lick the dust" (Psalm 72:9), shall be reduced to the utmost degradation (Isaiah 49:23). They shall move out of their holes, etc.; rather, they come trembling out of their close places (or, fastnesses, Psalm 18:46), like crawling things of the earth. They who prided themselves on their security shall come forth from their strongholds in utter fear, driven out like snakes from their lairs (comp. Psalm 2:11; Hosea 11:10, etc.). They shall be afraid of (whine with fear unto) the Lord our God. They shall be driven by terror to acknowledge the God of Israel. The expression is ambiguous, and may mean servile fear, which makes a man shrink from God. or that fear. which is one step towards repentance; the latter seems intended here, as in Hosea 3:5, where, as Pusey says, the words, "and his goodness," determine the character of the fear. Because of (or, before) thee. It is the heathen who are still the subject, not the Israelites (Jeremiah 10:7). The sudden change of persons is quite in the prophet's style. Micah 7:17The promise of salvation impels the congregation to pray that it may be granted (Micah 7:14); whereupon the Lord assures it that His covenant mercies shall be renewed, and promises the thorough humiliation of the hostile nations of the world (Micah 7:15-17). Micah 7:14. "Feed thy people with thy staff, the sheep of thine inheritance, dwelling apart, in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of the olden time." The question in dispute among commentators, whether this prayer is addressed to the Lord by the prophet on behalf of the nation, or whether the prophet is still speaking in the name of the believing church, is decided in favour of the latter by the answer addressed to the church in Micah 7:15. The Lord is addressed as the shepherd of Israel, the title by which Jacob addressed Him in Genesis 49:24 (cf. Psalm 80:2; Psalm 23:1 ff.). The prayer is related to the promise in Micah 5:3 ff., viz., that the ruler coming forth out of Bethlehem will feed in the strength of Jehovah, and involves the prayer for the sending of this ruler. "With this staff," i.e., the shepherd's staff (cf. Leviticus 27:32; Psalm 23:4), is added pictorially; and as a support to the prayer, it designates the people as the sheep of Jehovah's inheritance. צאן נחלה, instead of עם נחלה, which occurs more frequently, is occasioned by the figure of the shepherd. As the sheep need the protection of the shepherd, lest they should perish, so Israel needs the guidance of its God, that it may not be destroyed by its foes. The following apposition שׁכני לבדד determines the manner of the feeding more precisely; so that we may resolve it into the clause, "so that thy people may dwell apart." The words contain an allusion to Numbers 23:9, where Balaam describes Israel as a people separated from the rest of the nations; and to Deuteronomy 33:28, where Moses congratulates it, because it dwells in safety and alone (bâdâd, separate), under the protection of its God, in a land full of corn, new wine, etc. The church asks for the fulfilment of this blessing from Jehovah its shepherd, that it may dwell separate from the nations of the world, so that they may not be able to do it any harm; and that "in the wood in the midst of Carmel," that promontory abounding in wood and pasture land (laetis pascuis abundat: Jerome on Amos 1:2). The wood is thought of here as shutting off the flock from the world without, withdrawing it from its sight, and affording it security; and the fact that dangerous wild beasts have their home in the forest (Jeremiah 5:6; Psalm 80:14) is overlooked here, because Israel is protected from them by its own shepherd. ירעוּ, which follows, is not future, but optative, corresponding to the imperative רעה. Gilead and Bashan are also named as portions of the land that were rich in pasture (cf. Numbers 32:1 ff.), namely, of the land to the east of the Jordan, Carmel belonging to the western portion of Canaan. These three portions individualize the whole of the territory which Israel received for its inheritance, and not merely the territory of the kingdom of the ten tribes. The simple reason why no districts in the kingdom of Judah are mentioned, is that Judah possessed no woody districts abounding in grass and pasture resembling those named. Moreover, the prayer refers to the whole of Israel, or rather to the remnant of the whole nation that has been rescued from the judgment, and which will form an undivided flock under the Messiah (cf. Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:13; Ezekiel 37:15 ff.). ימי עולם, "the days of old," are the times of Moses and Joshua, when the Lord brought Israel with His mighty arm into the possession of the promised land. The Lord answers this prayer, by promising, according to His abundant goodness, more than the church has asked. Micah 7:15. "As in the days of thy going out of the land of Egypt will I cause it to see wonders. Micah 7:16. Nations will see it, and be ashamed of all their strength: they will lay the hand upon the mouth, their ears will become deaf. Micah 7:17. They will lick dust like the snake, like the reptiles of the earth they come trembling out of their castles: they will go trembling to Jehovah our God, and before thee will they fear." The wonders (niphlâ'ōth; cf. Exodus 3:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 78:11) with which the Lord formerly smote Egypt, to redeem His people out of the bondage of that kingdom of the world, will the Lord renew for His people. In צאתך the nation is addressed, whilst the suffix of the third pers. attached to אראנּוּ points back to עמּך in Micah 7:14. The miraculous deeds will make such an impression, that the heathen nations who see them will stand ashamed, dumb and deaf with alarm and horror. Ashamed of all their strength, i.e., because all their strength becomes impotence before the mighty acts of the Almighty God. Laying the hand upon the mouth is a gesture expressive of reverential silence from astonishment and admiration (cf. Judges 18:19; Job 21:5, etc.). Their ears shall become deaf "from the thunder of His mighty acts, Job 26:14, the qōl hâmōn of Isaiah 33:8" (Hitzig). With this description of the impression made by the wonderful works of God, the words of God pass imperceptibly into words of the prophet, who carries out the divine answer still further in an explanatory form, as we may see from Isaiah 33:17. The heathen will submit themselves to Jehovah in the humblest fear. This is stated in Micah 7:17. Licking the dust like the serpent contains an allusion to Genesis 3:14 (cf. Psalm 72:9 and Isaiah 49:23). זחלי ארץ, earth-creepers, i.e., snakes, recals the זחלי עפר of Deuteronomy 32:24. Like snakes, when they are driven out of their hiding-place, or when charmers make them come out of their holes, so will the nations come trembling out of their castles (misgerōth as in Psalm 18:46), and tremble to Jehovah, i.e., flee to Him with trembling, as alone able to grant help (see Hosea 3:5), and fear before thee. With ממּךּ the prayer passes into an address to Jehovah, to attach to this the praise of God with which he closes his book.
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