Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit.
Verses 1-6. § 5. Israel's penitential acknowledgment of the general corruption. Verse 1. - Woe is me! (Job 10:15). Micah threatens no more; he represents repentant Israel confessing its corruption and lamenting the necessity of punishment. I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits; literally, I am as the gatherings of the fruit harvest. The point of comparison is only to be inferred from the context. At the fruit. harvest no early figs are to be found, and (in the next clause) after the vintage no more grapes; so in Israel there is none righteous left. The Septuagint gives a plainer exposition, Ἐγενήθην ὡς συνάγων καλάμην ἐν ἀμητῷ, "I became as one that gathereth straw in harvest;" so the Vulgate, Factus sum sicut qui collegit in autumno racemos vindimiae, joining the two clauses together. My soul desired the first ripe fruit; better, nor early fig which my soul desired. The holiness and grace of more primitive times are wholly absent from this later period (see Hosea 9:10, where a similar figure is used; compare also Christ's dealing with the barren fig tree, Matthew 21:18, etc.). The first ripe figs were proverbially sweet and good (see Isaiah 28:4; Jeremiah 24:2; and Hosea, loc cit.).
The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.
Verse 2. - This verse explains the preceding comparison; the grape and the early fig represent the righteous man. The good man; LXX., εὐσεβής, the godly, pious man. The Hebrew word (khasidh) implies one who exercises love to others, who is merciful, loving, and righteous. Is perished out of the earth; has disappeared from the world (comp. Psalm 14:2, 3; and especially Isaiah 57:1). They all lie in wait for blood. They all practise violence and rapine, and meditate how they may pursue their evil designs, even to the shedding of blood. LXX., πάντες εἰς αϊματα δικάζονται, which narrows the charge to one special kind of iniquity, vie. committing judicial murders. They hunt every man his brother with a net. They ought to love their brethren, their fellow countrymen, partakers of the same hope and privileges (Leviticus 19:18). Instead of this, they pursue them as the fowler traps birds, or the hunter beasts. The word rendered "net" (cherem) is in most versions translated "destruction." Thus, Septuagint, ἐκθλίβουσιν ἐκθλιβῇ: Vulgate, ad mortem venatur; so the Syriac and Chaldee. In the present connection it is best taken as "net" (Habakkuk 1:15).
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.
Verse 3. - That they may do evil, etc. rather, both hands are upon (equivalent to "busy with") evil to do it thoroughly. This clause and the rest of the verse are very obscure Cheyne supposes the text to be corrupt. Henderson renders, "For evil their hands are well prepared;" so virtually Hitzig, Pusey, and the Septuagint. Caspari agrees rather with the Vulgate (Malum manuum suarum dicunt bonum)," Hands are (busy) upon evil to make (it seem) good," which looks to that extremity of iniquity when men "call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). The general meaning is that they are ready enough to do evil, and, as the next clause says, can be bribed to do anything. The prince asketh; makes some nefarious demand of the judge, some perversion of justice at his hands, as in the case of Naboth (1 Kings 21.). The judge asketh (is ready) for a reward. The judge is willing to do what the prince wishes, if he is bribed for it. LXX., Ὁ κριτής εἰρηνικοὺς λόγους ἐλάλησε, "The judge speaks words of peace" (comp. Micah 3:11; Isaiah 1:23; Zephaniah 3:8). He uttereth his mischievous desire; or, the mischief of his soul. The rich man speaks out unblushingly the evil that he has conceived in his heart, the wicked design which he meditates. So they wrap it up; better, and they weave it together. The prince, the judge, and the rich man weave their evil plan together, to make it strong and right in others' eyes. The passage is altered in meaning by a different grouping of the Hebrew letters, thus: "The prince demandeth (a reward) to do good; and the judge, for the recompense of a great man, uttereth what he himself desireth. And they entangle the good more than briars, and the righteous more than a thorn hedge." The LXX. carries on the sense to the next verse, Καὶ ἐξελοῦμαι τὰ ἀγαθὰ αὐτῶν ὠς σὴς ἐκτρώγων, "And I will destroy their goods as a consuming moth."
The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.
Verse 4. - The best of them is as a briar; hard and piercing, catching and holding all that passes by. The plant intended by the word chedek is a thorny one used for hedges (Proverbs 15:19). Under another aspect thorns are a symbol of what is noxious and worthless (2 Samuel 23:6), or of sin and temptation. The most upright is sharper (worse) than a thorn hedge. Those who seem comparatively upright are more injurious, tangled, and inaccessible than a hedge of thorns. In punishment of all this corruption, the prophet points to the day of judgment. The day of thy watchmen. The day of retribution foretold by the prophets (Isaiah 21:6; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17). And (even) thy visitation; in apposition with the day, the time, and explanatory of punishment. Cometh; is come - the perfect tense denoting the certainty of the future event. Septuagint, Οὐαὶ αἱ ἐκδικήσεις σου ἥκασι, "Woe! thy vengeance is come." Now shall be their perplexity. When this day of the Lord comes, there shall be confusion (Isaiah 22:5); it shall bring chastise ment before deliverance. The prophet here, as elsewhere, changes from the second to the third person, speaking of the people gene rally. Septuagint, Νῦν ἔσονται κλαυθμοὶ αὐτῶν "Now shall be their weeping;" so the Syriac. Pusey notes the paronomasia here. They were as bad as a thorn hedge (merucah); they shall fall into perplexity (mebucah).
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.
Verse 5. - Such is the moral corruption that the nearest relations cannot be trusted: selfishness reigns everywhere The prophet emphasizes this universal evil by warning the better portion of the people. Friend... guide. There is a gradation here, beginning with "neighbour," or "common acquaintance," and ending with "wife." The word rendered "guide" means "closest, most familiar friend, as in Psalm 55:13 (14, Hebrew). Our version is sanctioned by the Septuagint, ἡγουμένοις, "leaders;" and the Vulgate, duce; but the context confirms the other translation (comp. Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 17:9). Our Lord has used some of the expressions in the next verso in describing the miseries of the latter day (Matthew 10:21, 35, 36; Matthew 24:12; comp. Luke 12:53; Luke 21:16; 2 Timothy 3:2). Keep the doors of thy mouth. Guard thy secrets. (For the phrase, comp. Psalm 141:3.) Her that lieth in thy bosom. Thy wife (Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 28:54).
For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.
Verse 6. - For the son dishonoureth; Septuagint, ἀτιμάζει: Vulgate, contumeliam facit; literally, treats as a fool, despises (Deuteronomy 32:6, 15). (For the rest of the verse, see Matthew 10:21, 35, etc.) Men of his own house. His domestic servants (Genesis 17:27). Henderson, referring to this dissolution of every natural tie, compares Ovid, 'Metamorph.,' 1:144, etc. -
"Vivitur ex rapto; non hospes ab hespite tutus,
Non socer a genero; fratrum quoque gratia rara est;
Imminet exitio vir conjugis, illa mariti;
Lurida terribiles miscent aconita novercae;
Filius ante diem patrios iuquirit in annos;
Victa jacet pietas."
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
Verses 7-13. - § 6. Israel expresses her faith in God, though she suffers grievous tribulation, and is confident in the fulfilment of the promised restoration. Verse 7. - Therefore I; rather, but as for me, I, etc. The prophet speaks in the name of the ideal Israel. Though love and confidence have disappeared, and the day of visitation has come, and human help fails, yet Israel loses not her trust in the Lord. Will look; gaze intently, as if posted on a watch tower to look out for help. Will wait with longing trust, unbroken by delay. The God of my salvation. The God from whom my salvation comes (Psalm 18:46; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:9; Habakkuk 3:18) My God will hear me. My prayer is sure to be answered (Isaiah 30:19).
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.
Verse 8. - Israel in her sorrow and captivity asserts her undiminished confidence in the Lord. O mine enemy. The oppressor of the Church, the worldly power, is represented at one time by Asshur, at another by Babylon. God uses these heathen kingdoms as agents of his vengeance. When I fall; have I fallen; if I have fallen; i.e. suppose I have suffered calamity and loss (Amos 5:2). Sit in darkness. Darkness is another metaphor for distress (Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 9:2; Lamentations 3:6; Amos 5:18). The Lord shall be a light unto me, giving me gladness and true discernment (comp. Psalm 27:1; Psalm 97:11). The distinction between darkness and the full light of day is more marked in Eastern countries than in our Northern climes.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.
Verse 9. - I will bear the indignation of the Lord. However long may be the delay before relief comes, Israel will patiently bear the chastisements inflicted upon her, because she knows that they are deserved. This is the language of the penitent people, owning the justice of the sentence, yet trusting to the covenant God, who in wrath remembers mercy. Until he plead my cause. Until God considers that the punishment has done its work, and takes my cause in hand, and judges between me and the instruments of his vengeance. Execute judgment for me. Secure my rights, violated by the heathen, who misuse the power given them by God. The light (see note on ver. 8). His righteousness (Micah 6:5); his faithfulness to his premises exhibited in the destruction of the enemies and the restoration of his people. For this conception of the Divine righteousness, Cheyne compares 1 John 1:9, "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins."
Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
Verse 10. - She that is mine enemy. The worldly power is here personified, as so often "the daughter of Jerusalem." Shall see it. She shall see that Israel was not conquered because God was powerless to save. Where is the Lord thy God? The Assyrians always attributed their success in arms to the assistance, of their gods and the superiority of their deities to those of the conquered nations (comp. Isaiah 10:9-11; Isaiah 37:10-13). Thus the inscription of the palace of Khorsabad begins, "The gods Assur, Nebo, and Merodach have conferred on me the royalty of the nations.... By the grace and power of the great gods, my masters, I have flung my arms, by my force I have defeated my enemies" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9.). (For taunts like that in the text, see Psalm 42:3; Psalm 79:10; Psalm 115:2; Joel 2:17.) Mine eyes shall behold her. Israel shall behold the destruction of the enemy. As the mire of the streets (Isaiah 10:6; Zechariah 10:5).
In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed.
Verse 11. - The prophet here addresses Zion, and announces her restoration. In the day that thy walls are to be built; rather, a day for building thy walls (gader) cometh. Zion is represented as a vineyard whose fence has been destroyed (Isaiah 5:5, 7). The announcement is given abruptly and concisely in three short sentences. In that day shall the decree be far removed. The decree (Zephaniah 2:2) is explained by Hengstenberg and many commentators, ancient and modern, to he that of the enemy by which they held Israel captive. Keil and others suppose the law to be meant which separated Israel from all other nations, the ancient ordinance which confined God's people and the blessings of the theocracy to narrow limits. This is now to be set aside (comp. Ephesians 2:11-16), when heathen nations flock to the city of God. Oaspari, Hitzig, Cheyne, and others translate, "shall the bound be afar off," i.e. the boundaries of the land of Israel shall be widely extended (comp. Isaiah 33:17, which Cheyne explains, "Thine eyes shall behold a widely extended territory"). Wordsworth obtains much the same meaning by taking the verb in the sense of "promulgated," and referring the "decree," as in Psalm 2:7, 8, to God's purpose of giving to Messiah the utmost parts of the earth for a possession. The building, of the walls does not indicate the narowing of the limits of the theocratic kingdom. Whether chok be taken to signify "decree" (lex, Vulgate) or "boundary," the effect of its removal afar is seen by the next verse to be the entrance of foreign nations into the kingdom of God. The LXX. favours the first interpretation, Ἀποτρίψεται [ἀπώσεται, Alex.] νόμιμά σου [σου ομιτ, Alex.] ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη, "That day shall utterly abolish thy ordinances."
In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.
Verse 12. - He shall come; they shall come. Men shall flock to Zion as the metropolis of the new kingdom (Micah 4:2). The countries named are those in which the Jews were dispersed (see Isaiah 11:11). Micah embraces in one view the restoration of Israel and the conversion of the heathen (comp. Isaiah 19:24; Isaiah 27:12, 13). Assyria. The type of the greatest enemy of God. The fortified cities; rather, the cities of Mazor, the strong land, i.e. Egypt. The usual term for Egypt is Mizraim; but Mazor is found in 2 Kings 19:24; Isaiah 19:6; Isaiah 37:25. Cheyne compares the Assyrian name for this country, Mucar. From the fortress; from Mazor; Septuagint, ἀπὸ Τύρου, "from Tyre" or Tsor. Even to the river. From Egypt to the Euphrates, which was the river par excellence. (Genesis 15:18). From sea to sea. Not necessarily from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea or to the Persian Gulf (as Joel 2:20), but generally, from one sea to another, from the earth as bounded by the seas; so, from mountain to mountain; i.e. not from Lebanon to Sinai, or from Hor (Numbers 20:22) to Hor (Numbers 34:7), which is too limited, but from all lands situated between mountain barriers, which are the bounds of the world (comp. Isaiah 60:3, etc.).
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
Verse 13. - Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate. Very many commentators consider the land of Canaan to be here intended, the prophet recurring to threatenings of judgment before the great restoration comes to pass; but it is best to regard the clause as referring to all the world, exclusive of Canaan. While the Messianic kingdom is set up, judgment shall fail upon the sinful world. "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isaiah 60:12; comp. Revelation 12:12). And the material world shall suffer with its inhabitants (Genesis 3:15, 18; Genesis 6:13; Genesis 19:25; Isaiah 34:4, etc.). Their doings. Their evil deeds, especially the rejection of Messiah.
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
Verses 14-17. - § 7. The prophet in the name of the people prays for this promised salvation, and the Lord assures him that his mercies shall not fail, and that the hostile nations shall be humbled. Verse 14. - Feed thy people with thy rod. The prophet prays to the Shepherd of Israel (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 80:1), beseeching him to rule and lead his people, and to find them pasture. The "rod" is the shepherd's staff (Leviticus 27:32; Psalm 23:4). The flock of thine heritage. So Israel is called (Psalm 28:9; Psalm 95:7; comp. Zephaniah 3:13). Which dwell solitarily; or, so that they dwell; separate from all other nations, religiously and physically, by institution and geo graphical position. Compare Balaam's words (Numbers 23:9; also Deuteronomy 33:28). It was Israel's special characteristic to be holy, i.e. set apart, and it was only when she observed her duty in this respect that she prospered (see Exodus 33:16). In the wood (forest) in the midst of Carmel. The forest would isolate the flock, and secure it from interference. The chief pasture lands west and east of Jordan are named, and the whole country is included in the description. (For Carmel, see note on Amos 1:2.) Bashan and Gilead were also celebrated for their rich pasture. "Bulls of Bashan" were a proverb for well fed animals, and a metaphor for bloated, proud aristocrats (Deuteronomy 32:14; Psalm 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 4:1). Gilead was so excellently adapted for cattle that Reuben and Gad were irresistibly drawn to settle there (Numbers 32:1, 5; 1 Chronicles 5:9; see the parallel to this passage in Isaiah 65:9, 10, and Ezekiel 34:13, 14). As in the days of old; usually taken to refer to the time of Moses and Joshua, but also and more probably, to that of David and Solomon, which realized the ideal of peace and prosperity (comp. Micah 4:4).
According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.
Verse 15. - According to (as in) the days. The Lord answers the prophet's prayer, taking up his last word, and promising even more than he asks, engaging to equal the wonders which marked the exodus from Egypt. That great deliverance was a type and foreshadowing of Messianic salvation (comp. Isaiah 43:15, etc.; Isaiah 51:10; 1 Corinthians 10:1, etc.). Unto him; unto the people of Israel (ver. 14). Marvellous things; Septuagint, Οψεσθε θαυμαστά, "Ye shall see marvellous things." Supernatural occurrences are meant, as Exodus 3:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 77:14. We do not read of any special miracles at the return from captivity, so the people were led to look onward to the advent of Messiah for these wonders.
The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf.
Verse 16. - Shall see. The heathen shall see these marvellous things. Be confounded at (ashamed of) all their might. Hostile nations shall be ashamed when they find the impotence of their boasted power. Compare the effect of the Exodus on contiguous nations (Exodus 15:14, etc.; Joshua 2:9, 10). They shall lay their hand upon their mouth. They shall be silent from awe and astonishment (Judges 18:19; Job 21:5; Isaiah 52:15). Their ears shall be deaf. Their senses shall be stupefied by the wonders which they see - that which Job (Job 26:14) calls "the thunder of his mighty deeds." There may also be an allusion to their wilful obstinacy, and unbelief.
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.
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.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Verses 18-20. - § 8. The book ends with a lyric ode in praise of God's mercy and faithfulness. Verse 18. - In view of the many provocations and backslidings of the people, Micah is filled with wonder at the goodness and long suffering of God. Who is a God like unto thee? The question seems to recall the prophet's own name, which means, "Who is like Jehovah?" and the clause in Moses' song (Exodus 15:11), "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" Such comparisons are made from the standpoint of the nations who believe in the real existence of their false gods. That pardoneth iniquty (comp. Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18). Passeth by the transgression; Septuagint, ὑπερβαίνων ἀσεβείας, "passing over iniquities;" Vulgate, transis peccatum. To pass by, or pass over, is to forgive, as Amos 7:8. There is probably an allusion, as Jerome says, to the night of the Exodus. As the destroying angel passed over the Israelites and destroyed them not, so God spares his people, imputing not their iniquities unto them. The remnant (Micah 2:12; Micah 4:6, 7). The true Israel, which is only s remnant (Isaiah 10:21; Romans 9:27). He retaineth not his anger forever (Psalm 103:9). The word rendered "forever" is translated by Jerome ultra, and by the Septuagint εἰς μαρτύριον, i.e. to testify the justice of his punishment. He delighteth in mercy. As the Collect says, "O God, whose nature and property is always to have mercy and to forgive" (comp. Wisd. 11:24).
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Verse 19. - He will turn again, and have compassion upon us. The verb "turn again," joined with another verb, often denotes the repetition of an action, as in Job 7:7; Hosea 14:8, etc.; so here we may translate simply, "He will again have compassion." He will subdue; literally, tread underfoot. Sin is regarded as a personal enemy, which by God's sovereign grace will be entirely subdued. So, according to one interpretation, sin is personified (Genesis 4:7; comp. Psalm 65:8). Cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt blot out and bury completely and forever, as once thou didst overwhelm the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1, 4, 10, 21). The miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Exodus is a type of the greater deliverance of the true Israelites in Christ (Psalm 103:12; 1 John 1:7; comp. Isaiah 43:25).
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
Verse 20. - Thou wilt perform (literally, give) the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham. Jacob and Abraham are mentioned as the chiefs and representatives of the chosen family; and "the truth" (i.e. God's faithfulness to his promises) and "mercy" are equally given to both, separately assigned only for the sake of the parallelism. Knabenbaner compares such passages as Psalm 114:1, "When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language" (Psalm or. 6; Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 63:16, etc.). The general meaning, therefore, is that God will perform the promises made to the forefathers, as Luke 1:72, etc. Hast sworn, as in Genesis 22:16. etc.; Genesis 28:13, etc.; Deuteronomy 7:12. With the close of the ode Hengstenberg compares Romans 11:33-36. Thus the checkered prophecy ends with the glow of faith and happy hope.