This majestic exordium has been misunderstood in various ways: First, by those who, like Hitzig, would understand by the people, [Hebrew: emiM] in ver.2, the tribes of Israel. We shall show, when commenting on Zech. xi.10, that this is altogether inadmissible. But in the present case especially, this interpretation must be rejected; partly on account of the reference to the words of the elder Micah, and partly on account of the parallel terms, "O earth and the fulness thereof," which, according to the constant usus loquendi, lead us far beyond the narrow limits of Palestine. On the other hand, they who by the [Hebrew: emiM] rightly understand the nations of the whole earth, are mistaken in this, that they consider them as mere witnesses, whom the Lord calls [Pg 425] up against His unthankful people, instead of considering them as the very same against whom the Lord bears witness; and that they come into consideration from this point of view, clearly appears from the words, "The Lord be witness against you." As regards [Hebrew: ed] with [Hebrew: b] following, compare, e.g., Mal. iii.5. -- Another mistake is committed in the definition of the way and manner of the divine witness. The greater number of interpreters suppose it to be the subsequent admonitory, reproving, and threatening discourse of the prophet. Thus, e.g., Michaelis, who explains: "Do not despise and lightly esteem such a witness, who by me earnestly and publicly testifies to you His will." But in opposition to this view, it appears from ver.3, that here, as well as in Mal. iii.5, "And I will come near to you in judgment, and I am a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those that swear to a lie," the witness is a real one, -- that it consists in the actual attestation of the guilt by the punishment, viz., by the divine judgment described in vers.3, 4. The words, "The Lord cometh forth out of His place, and cometh down," there correspond to, "From His holy temple," -- from which it is evident, at the same time, that by the temple, the heavenly temple must be understood.
We have thus, in vers.2-4, before us the description of a sublime theophany, not for a partial judgment upon Judah, but for a judgment upon the whole world, the people of which are called upon to gather around their judge -- whom the prophet beholds as already approaching, descending from His glorious habitation in heaven, accompanied by the insignia of His power, the precursors of the judgment -- and silently to wait for His judicial and penal sentence.
But how is it to be explained that with the words, "For the transgression of Jacob is all this," etc., there is a sudden transition to the judgments upon Israel, yea, that the prophet [Pg 426] goes on as if Israel alone had been spoken of? Only from the relation in which these two judgments stand to one another. For they are perfectly one in substance. They are separated only by space, time, and unessential circumstances; so that we may say that the general judgment appears in every partial judgment upon Israel. In order to give expression to the thought, that it is the judge of the world who is to judge Israel, the prophets not unfrequently represent the Lord appearing to judge the whole world; and in Israel, the Microcosmos, it was indeed judged. We have a perfectly analogous case, e.g., in Is. chap. ii.-iv. It is only by means of a very forced explanation, that it can be denied that after the prophet has, by a few bold touches, from ii.6-9, described the moral debasement of the Covenant-people, and marked out pride as its last source, the last judgment upon the whole earth forms the subject of discourse. In that judgment there will be a most clear revelation of the vanity of all which is created -- a vanity which, in the present course of the world, is so frequently concealed -- and that the Lord alone is exalted, and that those who now shut their eyes will then be compelled to acknowledge these truths. That Isaiah has this general judgment in view, is too clearly proved by the sublimity of the whole description, by the express mention of the whole earth, e.g., ii.19, and by not limiting, in the individualized description in ver.12 sqq., the high and lofty which is to be brought low to Judah alone, but by extending it to the whole world. But in iii.1 ff. the prophet suddenly passes over to the typical, penal judgment upon Judah; and the [Hebrew: ki], at the commencement, shows that he does not consider this subject as one altogether new, but as being substantially identical with the preceding subject. This reminds us forcibly of the mode in which, in the prophecies of our Lord, the references to the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the last judgment, are connected with one another. In the "burden of Babylon" in chap. xiii. likewise, the judgment of the Lord upon the whole earth is first described. Nor is it only on the territory of prophecy that this close connection of the general judgment with the inferior judgments upon the Covenant-people appears. In Ps. lxxxii.8, e.g., after the unrighteousness prevailing among the Covenant-people has been described, the Lord is called upon to come to judge, not them [Pg 427] alone, but the whole earth; compare my Commentary on Ps. vii.8, lvi.8, lix.6.
The prophet thus passes over, in ver.5, from the general manifestation of divine justice to its special manifestation among the Covenant-people, and mentions here, as the most prominent points upon which it will be inflicted, Samaria and Jerusalem, the two capitals, from which the apostasy from the Lord spread over the rest of the country. He mentions Samaria first, and then, in vers.6, 7, he describes its destruction which was brought about by the Assyrians, before he makes mention of that of Jerusalem, because the apostasy took place first in Samaria, and hence the punishment also was hastened on. The latter circumstance, which is merely a consequence of the former, is in an one-sided manner made prominent by the greater number of interpreters, who therein follow the example of Jerome. It was at the same time, however, probably the intention of the prophet to be done with Samaria, in order that he might be at liberty to take up exclusively the case of Judah and Jerusalem -- the main objects of his prophetic ministry.
He makes the transition to this in ver.8, by means of the words: "On that account I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals, and a mourning like the ostriches." "On that account" -- i.e., on account of the judgment upon Judah, to be announced in the subsequent verses. It is commonly supposed that the prophet here speaks in his own person; thus, e.g., Rosenmueller: "The prophet mourns in a bitter lamentation for the number and magnitude of the calamities impending over the Israelitish people." But the correct view rather is, that the prophet, when, in his inward vision, he sees the divine judgments not remaining and stopping at Samaria, but poured out like a desolating torrent over Judah and Jerusalem, suddenly sinks his own consciousness in that of his suffering people. We have thus here before us an imperfect symbolical action, similar to that more finished one which occurs in Is. xx.3, 4, and which can be explained only by a deeper insight into the nature of prophecy, according to which the dramatic character is inseparable from it. The transition from the mere description of what is present in the inward vision only, to the prophet's own action, is, according to this view, very easy. If we confine ourselves to the passage before us, the following [Pg 428] arguments are in favour of our view.1. The predicates [Hebrew: will] and [Hebrew: ervM] cannot be explained upon the supposition that the prophet describes only his own painful feelings on account of the condition of his people. Even if [Hebrew: ervM] stood alone, the explanation by "naked," in the sense of "deprived of the usual and decent dress, and, on the contrary, clothed in dirt and rags," would be destitute of all proof and authority. No instance whatsoever is found of the outward habit of a mourner being designated as nakedness. But it is still more arbitrary thus to deal with [Hebrew: will], whether it be explained by "deprived of his mental faculties on account of the unbounded grief of his soul," -- as is done by several Jewish expositors (who, in the explanation of this passage, would have done much better, had they followed the Chaldee, in whom the correct view is found; only that he, giving up the figurative representation, substitutes the third person for the first, paraphrasing it thus: "On that account they shall wail and howl, they shall go stripped and naked," etc.), -- or by "badly clothed," as is done by the greater number of Christian expositors. The signification "robbed," "plundered," is the only established one; compare [Hebrew: wvll] in Job xii.17-19. The parallel passages, in which nakedness appears as the characteristic feature of the captives taken in war, show how little we are entitled to depart from the most obvious signification, in these two words. Thus we find immediately afterwards, in ver.11: "Pass ye away, ye inhabitants of Saphir, having your shame naked;" on which Michaelis remarks: "With naked bodies, as is the case with those who are led into captivity after having been stripped of their clothes." Thus Is. xx.3, 4: "And the Lord said. Like as My servant Isaiah walketh naked and barefoot three years, for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the prisoners of Egypt, and the prisoners of Ethiopia, young men and old men, naked and barefoot;" compare Is. xlvii.3. -- 2. The term [Hebrew: htplwti], in ver.10, is in favour of the supposition, that the prophet here appears as the representative of the future condition of his people. The Imperat. fem. [Hebrew: htplwi] of the marginal reading is evidently, as is commonly the case, only the result of the embarrassment of the Mazorets. The reading of the text can be pointed as the first person of the Preterite only; for the view of Rosenmueller, who takes it as the [Pg 429] second person of the Preterite, which here is to have an optative signification, is, grammatically, inadmissible. Rueckert's explanation, "In the house of dust (zu Staubheim), I have strewed dust upon me," is quite correct. But if here we must suppose that the prophet suddenly passes over from the address to his unfortunate people, to himself as their representative, why should not this supposition be the natural one in ver.8 also?
The correctness of the view which we have given is further strengthened, if we compare the similar lamentations of the prophets in other passages, in all of which the same results will be found. In Jer. xlviii.31, e.g., "Therefore will I howl over Moab, and cry out over all Moab, over the men of Kir-heres shall he groan," the "he" in the last clause sufficiently shows how the "I" in the two preceding clauses, is to be understood, -- especially if Is. xvi.7, "Therefore Moab howleth over Moab," be compared. But if this interpretation be correct in Jeremiah, it must certainly be correct in Is. xv.5 also: "My heart crieth out over Moab," -- a passage which Jeremiah had in view; and this so much the more, that in Is. xvi.9-11 -- where a similar lamentation for Moab occurs: "Therefore do I bewail as for Jazer for the vine of Sibmah; I water thee with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh.... Therefore my bowels sound like a harp for Moab, mine inward parts for Kirhareseth" -- it is quite unsuitable to think of a lamentation of the prophet, which is expressive of his own grief. This was seen by the Chaldee, who renders "my bowels" by "bowels of the Moabites," -- a view the correctness of which has been strikingly demonstrated by Vitringa: "Although," he says, "the emotion of compassion be by no means unsuitable in the prophet, yet no one will be readily convinced that the prophet was so much concerned for the vines of Sibmah and Jazer, and for the crops of the summer-fruits of a nation hostile and opposed to the people of God, that it should have been for him a cause for lamentation and wailing." In Is. xxi., in the prophecy against Babylon, and in the lamentation in vers.3, 4, "Therefore are my loins filled with pain, pangs take hold upon me as the pangs of a woman that travaileth, etc., the night of my pleasure has been turned into terror," it is clearly shown in what sense such lamentations are to be understood. By "the night of pleasure," we can, especially by a comparison of Jeremiah, understand only the night of the capture of Babylon, [Pg 430] in which the whole city was given up to drunkenness and riot. But it is impossible that the prophet should say that this night -- the precursor of the long-desired day for Israel -- had been turned for him into terror. Either the whole lamentation is without any meaning, or the prophet speaks in the name of Babylon, and that, not of the Babylon of the present, but of the Babylon of the future. This must be granted, even by those who assert that this portion was composed at a later period; so that, even from this quarter, the soundness of our view cannot be assailed.
In ver.9, the prophet returns to quiet description, from the symbolical action to which he had been carried away by his emotions. The subject of this description he states in the words: "It cometh unto Judah; it cometh unto the gate of my people, unto Jerusalem." By individualizing, he endeavours to give a lively view of the thought, and to impress it. He begins with an allusion to the lamentation of David over Saul and Jonathan in 2 Sam. i.17 ff., which is so much the more significant, that in this impending catastrophe, Israel also was to lose his king (compare iv.9), and that in it David was to experience the fate of Saul. He then indicates the stations by which the hostile army advances towards Jerusalem, and describes how, from thence, it spreads over the whole country, even to its southern boundary, and carries away the inhabitants into exile. But, in doing so, he always chooses places, whose names might, in some way, be brought into connection with what they were now suffering; so that the whole passage forms a chain of paronomasias. These, however, are not by any means idle plays. They have, throughout, a practical design. The threatening is thereby to be, as it were, localized. The thought of a divine judgment could not but be called forth in every one who should think of one of the places mentioned. Jerusalem is first spoken of in ver.9 as the centre of the life of Judah: "The gate of my people," etc., being tantamount to "the city or metropolis of it." Then, it appears a second time in ver.12, in the middle between five Judean places preceding and five following it, -- the number ten, which is the symbolical signification of completeness, indicating that the judgment is to be altogether comprehensive. The five places mentioned after Jerusalem are all of them situated to the south of it. That the [Pg 431] five places, the mention of which precedes that of Jerusalem, are all to be sought to the north of it, and that, hence, the judgment advances from the north in geographical order, as is the case in Is. x.28 ff. also, is evident from the fact that Beth-Leaphrah, which is identical with Ophrah, is situated in the territory of Benjamin, and that Beth-Haezel, which is identical with Azal in Zech. xiv.5, was situated in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Hence, we cannot suppose that Zaanan here is identical with Zenan, which is situated in the south of Jerusalem, Josh. xv.37, nor Saphir with Samir.
The question still arises, In what event did the threatening of punishment, contained in chap. i., find its fulfilment? Theodoret, Cyril, Tarnovius, Marckius, Jahn, and others, refer it to the Assyrian invasion. Jerome referred it to the Babylonish captivity: "The same sin," he says, "yea, the same punishment of sin which shall overturn Samaria, is to extend to Judah, yea, even unto the gates of my city of Jerusalem. For, as Samaria was overturned by the Assyrians, so Judah and Jerusalem shall be overturned by the Chaldeans." This opinion was adopted by Michaelis and others.
At first sight, it would appear as if the circumstance, that the judgment upon Judah is brought into immediate connection with that upon Israel, favoured the first view. But this argument loses its weight when we remark, that the events appear to the prophet in inward vision, and, therefore, quite irrespective of their relation in time; that the continuity of the punitive judgment upon Israel and Judah only, points out distinctly the truth, that both proceed from the same cause, viz., the relation of divine justice to the sin of the Covenant-people. It is this truth alone which forms the essence and soul of the prophetic threatenings; and with reference to that, the difference in point of time, which is merely accidental, is altogether kept out of view. Another argument in favour of the Assyrian invasion might be derived from the expression, "to Jerusalem," in ver.9, inasmuch as the Chaldean invasion visited Jerusalem itself. But, because the calamity was not by any means to stop at Judah, but to overflow even it, it is shown by the preceding expression, "unto Judah," that [Hebrew: ed] (compare on this word, Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel, p.55 seq.) must, in both cases, be explained from a tacit antithesis with the expectation, [Pg 432] that the judgment would either stop at the boundary of Judah, or, although this should not be the case, would at least spare the metropolis. The prophet contents himself with representing that this opinion was erroneous. Although this passage itself asserts nothing upon the point as to whether Jerusalem itself is to be thought of as the object of the divine punishment, or whether it will be spared, the following reasons show that the former will be the case. Even ver.5 does not admit of our expecting anything else. Jerusalem is there marked out as the chief seat and source of corruption in the kingdom of Judah, just as is Samaria in the kingdom of Israel. The declaration which is there made forms the foundation of the subsequent threatening. How is it possible, then, that, while in the kingdom of Israel it is concentrated upon Samaria, in the kingdom of Judah the seducer should be altogether passed over, and punishment announced to the seduced only? That such is not the intention of the prophet, is clearly seen from ver.12: "For evil cometh down from the Lord upon the gate of Jerusalem." The [Hebrew: ki] alone is sufficient to prevent our limiting the sense of these words, so that they mean only that evil will come no farther than to the gate of Jerusalem, and will stop there. The Particula causalis proves that they are the ground of the declaration in ver.11, and that the mourning will not cease at Beth-Haezel, "the house of stopping;" compare the remarks on Zech. xiv.5. But, altogether apart from this connection, the words themselves furnish a proof. They contain a verbal reference to the description of the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrha, Gen. xix.24. Jerusalem is marked out by them as a second Sodom (compare Is. i.10), upon which the divine judgments would discharge themselves. As a second mark of this extension to Jerusalem, the carrying away of the people into captivity is added (compare vers.11, 15, 16), which, in the promise in chap. ii.12, 13, is supposed to have taken place. It is not Israel alone, but the whole Covenant-people, who are in a state of dispersion, and are gathered from it by the Lord.
Now, both of these marks are not applicable to the Assyrian invasion; and if once we suppose the divine illumination of the prophet, it cannot be regarded as the real object of his threatenings. This, too, is equally inadmissible, if we consider the matter from a merely human point of view. The predictions [Pg 433] of the prophets with regard to Assyria are, from the very outset, rather encouraging. It is true that they are to be, in the hand of the Lord, a rod of chastisement for His people, but these are never to be altogether given up to them for destruction. By an immediate divine interference, their plan of capturing Jerusalem is frustrated. Thus the matter is constantly represented in Isaiah; thus also in Hosea i.7. We can, moreover, adduce proofs from Micah himself, that his spiritual eye was not pre-eminently, or exclusively, directed to the Assyrians. In the prophecy from chap. iii. to v., where he describes the judgment upon Judah in a manner altogether similar to that in which he mentions it here, he passes over the Assyrians altogether in silence. Babylon is, in iv.10, mentioned as the place to which Judah is to be led into captivity.
Yet here, as well as everywhere else in the threatenings and promises of the prophets, we must beware, lest, in referring them to some particular historical event, we lose sight of the animating idea. If this, on the other hand, be rightly understood, it will be seen that a particular historical event may indeed be pre-eminently referred to, but that it can never exhaust the prophecy. Although, therefore, the main reference here be to the destruction by the Chaldeans, we must not on that account exclude anything in which the same law of retaliation was manifested, either before, as in the invasion of the Syrians and Assyrians; or afterwards, as in the destruction by the Romans. The prophet himself points, in iv.11-14 (iv.11-v.1), to two other phases of the divine judgment which are to follow upon that by the Chaldeans.
After the prophet has thus hitherto described the impending divine judgment in great general outlines, he passes on, in chap. ii., to chastise particular vices, which, however, must always be at the same time, yea, prominently, considered as indications of the wholly depraved condition of the nation, and of the punishments to follow upon it. One feature upon which he here chiefly dwells, and which must, therefore, have been a peculiarly prominent manifestation of the sinful corruption, consists in the acts of injustice and oppression committed by the great, the description of which presents striking resemblances to that in Is. v.8 ff. The prophet interrupts this description only in order [Pg 434] to rebuke the false prophets, who reproved him for the severity of his discourses, and asserted that they were unworthy of the merciful God. Such severity, answered the prophet, was true mildness, because it alone could be the means of warding off the approaching punitive judgment; that his God did not punish from want of forbearance -- from want of mercy; but that the fault was altogether that of the transgressors, who drew down upon themselves, by force. His judgments.
The prophecy closes with the promise in vers.12, 13. It is introduced quite abruptly, in order to place it in more striking contrast with the threatening; just as, in iv.1, there is a similar abrupt and unconnected contrast between the promise and the threatening. It is only brief; far more so than in the subsequent discourses, and far less detailed than it is in them. The prophet desires first of all to terrify sinners from their security; and for this reason, he causes only a very feeble glimmering of hope to fall upon the dark future.
Ver.12. "I will assemble, surely I will assemble, O Jacob, thee wholly: I will gather the remnant of Israel. I will bring [Pg 435] them together as the sheep of Bozrah; as a flock on their pasture, they shall make a noise by reason of men. Ver.13. The breaker goeth up before them; they break through, pass through the gate and go out, and their King marches before them, and the Lord is on the head of them."
The remark, that almost all the features of this description are borrowed from the deliverance out of Egypt, will throw much light upon the whole description. In the midst of oppression and misery, Israel, while there, increased by means of the blessing of the Lord, hidden under the cross, to greater and greater numbers; compare Exod. i.12. When the time of deliverance had arrived, the Lord, who had for a long time concealed Himself, manifested Himself again as their God. First, the people were gathered together, and then, the Lord went before them, -- in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night: Exod. xiii.21. He led them out of Egypt, the house of bondage: Exod. xx.2. So it is here also. Ver.12 describes the increase and gathering, and ver.13 the deliverance. In both passages, Israel's misery is represented under the figure of an abode in the house of bondage, or in prison, the gates of which the Lord opens -- the walls of which He breaks down. In this allusion to, and connection with, the former deliverance, Micah agrees with his contemporaries, Hosea and Isaiah. The deeper reason of this lies in the typical import of the former deliverance, which forms a prophecy by deeds of all future deliverances, and contains within itself completely their germ and pledge; compare Hosea ii.1, 2 (i.10, 11); Is. xi.11 ff.: "And the Lord shall stretch forth His hand a second time to redeem the remnant of His people.... And He sets up an ensign for the nations, and gathers together the dispersed of Israel, and assembles the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.... And the Lord smites with a curse the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and shakes His hand over the river, in the violence of His wind, and smites it to seven rivers, so that one may wade through in shoes. And there shall be a highway to the remnant of His people, ... like as it was to Israel in the day when he came up out of the land of Egypt." This reference to the typical deliverance clearly shows, that in the description we have carefully to separate between the thought and the language in which it is clothed.
Ver.12. The Infin. absol., which in both the clauses precedes the tempus finitum, expresses the emphasis which is to be placed on the gathering, as opposed to the carrying away, and the scattering formerly announced; for the latter, according to the view of man, and apart from God's mercy and omnipotence, did not seem to admit of any favourable turn. By "Jacob" and "Israel," several interpreters understand Judah alone; others, the ten tribes alone; others, both together. The last view is alone the correct one. This appears from i.5, where, by Jacob and Israel, the whole nation is designated. The promise in the passage before us stands closely related to the threatening uttered there. All Israel shall be given up to destruction on account of their sins; all Israel shall be saved by the grace of God. This assumption is confirmed by a comparison of the parallel passages in Hosea and Isaiah, where the whole is designated by the two parts, Judah and Israel. Micah does not notice this division, because that visible separation, which even in the present was overbalanced by an invisible unity, shall disappear altogether in that future, when there shall be only one flock, as there is only one Shepherd. The expression, "remnant of Israel," in the second clause, which corresponds to, "O Jacob, thee wholly," in the first, indicates, that the fulfilment of the promise, so far from doing away with the threatening, rather rests on its preceding realization. The Congregation of God, purified by the divine judgments, shall be wholly gathered. Divine mercy has in itself no limits; and those which in the present are assigned to it by the objects of mercy, shall then be removed. -- The words, "I will bring them together," etc., indicate equally the faithfulness of the great Shepherd, who gathers His dispersed flock from all parts of the world, and the unexpected and wonderful increase of the flock; compare Jer. xxiii.3: "And I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and lead them back to their pasture-ground, and they are fruitful and increase;" and xxxi.10: "He that scattereth Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd does his flock." -- Bozrah we consider to be the name of a capital of the Idumeans in Auranitis, four days' journey from Damascus. The great wealth of this town in flocks appears from Is. xxxiv.6 (although a slaughter of men is spoken of in that passage, yet evidently the wealth of Bozrah in natural [Pg 437] flocks is there supposed), and can with perfect ease be accounted for from its situation. For, in its neighbourhood, there begins the immeasurable plain of Arabia, which, on one side, continues without interruption as far as Dshof, into the heart of Arabia, while, towards the North, it extends to Bagdad, under the name of El Hamad. Its length and breadth are calculated to amount to eight days' journey. It contains many shrubs and blooming plants; compare Burkhardt and Ritter. Several interpreters consider [Hebrew: bcrh] to be an appellative, and assign to it the signification "sheepfold," "cote." But there is no reason whatsoever in favour of such a meaning of Bozrah, while there is this argument against it, that the probable signification of [Hebrew: berh] as the name of a town is "locus munitus" = [Hebrew: mbcr] or [Hebrew: bcrvN]. It can hardly be supposed that the word should at the same time have had the significations of "fortress" and "fold." It is, moreover, more in harmony with the prophetical character to particularize, than to use a general term. As is shown, however, by the last member (with which, according to the accents, the words, "As [Pg 438] a flock on their pasture," must be connected), the point of comparison is not the assembling and gathering, but the multitude, the crowd, -- "As the sheep of Bozrah" being thus tantamount to, "So that in multitude they are like the sheep of Bozrah." [Hebrew: hdbrv], from [Hebrew: dbr], is, contrary to the general rule, doubly qualified, both by the article and by the suffix. This has been accounted for on the ground that the little suffix had gradually lost its power. But it is perhaps more natural to suppose that the article sometimes lost its power, and coalesced with the noun. The frequent use of the Status emphaticus in undefined nouns, in the Syriac language (compare Hofmann, Gram. Syr., p.290), presents an analogy in favour of this opinion. -- The last words graphically describe the noise produced by a numerous, closely compacted flock. The plur. of the Fem. refers to the sheep. -- [Hebrew: MN] denotes the causa efficiens. They make a noise; and this noise proceeds from the numerous assembled people. The same connection of figure and thing occurs in Ezek. xxxiv.31: "And ye ([Hebrew: vatN]) are My flock, the flock of My pasture are ye men;" compare Ezek. xxxvi.38.
Ver.13. The whole verse must be explained by the figure of a prison, which lies at the foundation. The people of God are shut up in it, but are now delivered by God's powerful hand. By the "breaker," many interpreters understand the Lord Himself. But if we consider, that in a double clause, at the end of the verse, the Lord is mentioned as the leader of the expedition if we look to the type of the deliverance from Egypt, where Moses, as the breaker, marches in front of Israel; and if, further, we look to the parallel passage in Hosea, where, with an evident allusion to that type, the children of Israel and of Judah appoint themselves one head; we shall rather be disposed to understand by the "breaker" the dux et antesignanus raised up by God. With the raising up and equipping of such a leader every divine deliverance commences; and that which, in the inferior deliverance, the typical leaders, Moses and Zerubbabel, were, Christ was in the highest and last deliverance. To Him the "breaker" has been referred by several Jewish interpreters (compare Schoettgen, Horae ii. p.212); and if we compare chap. v., where that which is here indicated by general outlines only is further expanded and detailed, we shall have to urge against this interpretation this objection only, viz., that it excludes the [Pg 439] typical breakers, -- that, in the place of the ideal person of the breaker, which presents itself to the internal vision of the prophet, it puts the individual in whom this idea is most fully realized. -- The words [Hebrew: viebrv wer] are, by several interpreters, referred to the forcing and entering of hostile gates. Thus Michaelis, whom Rosenmueller follows: "No gate shall be so fortified as to prevent them from forcing it." But this interpretation destroys the whole figure, and violates the type of the deliverance from Egypt which lies at the foundation. For the gate through which they break is certainly the gate of the prison. -- The three verbs -- "They break through, they pass through, they go out" -- graphically describe their progress, which is not to be stopped by any human power. -- The last words open up the view to the highest leader of the expedition; compare besides, Exod. xiii.21; Is. lii.12: "For ye shall not go out in trembling, nor shall ye go out by flight. For the Lord goeth before you, and the God of Israel closeth your rear;" Is. xl.11; Ps. lxxx.3. In the exodus from Egypt, a visible symbol of the presence of God marched before the host, besides Moses, the breaker. On the return from Babylon, the Angel of the Lord was visible to the eye of faith only, as formerly when Abraham's servant journeyed to Mesopotamia, Gen. xxiv.7. At the last and highest deliverance, the breaker was at once the King and God of the people.
As this prophecy has no limitation at all in itself, we are fully entitled to refer it to the whole sum of the deliverances and salvation which are destined for the Covenant-people; and to seek for its fulfilment in every event, either past or future, in the same degree as the fundamental idea -- God's mercy upon His people -- is manifested in it. Every limitation to any particular event is evidently inadmissible; but, most of all, a limitation to the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, which, especially with regard to Israel, can be considered as only a faint prelude of the fulfilment. They, however, have come nearest to the truth who assume an exclusive reference to Christ, -- provided they acknowledge, that the conversion of the first fruits of Israel, at the time when Christ appeared in His humiliation, is not the end of His dealings with this people.
Footnote 1: The reference to the general judgment would indeed disappear, if we suppose [Hebrew: bkM] in ver.2 to be addressed to Israel. It seems, indeed, to be in favour of this supposition, that, in 1 Kings xxii.28, the people alone are called upon as witnesses, and that in Deut. xxxi.28, xxxii.1, and Is. i.2, heaven and earth, and in Hos. vi.1, the mountains also, are called upon only in order to make the scene more solemn. But the reference of [Hebrew: bkM] to the nations mentioned immediately before, is too evident.
Footnote 2: Ver.6 must be translated thus: Not shall ye drop (prophesy), -- they (the false prophets) drop; if they (the individuals addressed, the true prophets) do not drop to these (the rapacious great), the ignominy will not cease, i.e., the ignominious destruction breaks in irresistibly. The fundamental passage in Deut. xxxii.2, and ver.11 of the chapter before us, show that [Hebrew: hTiP] has not the signification, "to talk," which is assigned to it by Caspari. The false prophets must be considered as the accomplices of the corrupted great, especially as to the bulwark which they opposed to the true prophets, and their influence on the nation, and on their own consciences, -- as indeed material power everywhere seeks for such a spiritual ally. If this be kept in view, the censure and threatening acquire a still greater unity.
Footnote 3: To a certain extent, however, verse 11 forms the transition: "If one were to come, a wind, and lie falsely: I will prophesy to thee of wine and of strong drink, -- he would be the prophet of this people." Such a prophet Micah, indeed, is not; but although he neither can nor dare announce salvation without judgment, he has, in the name of the Lord, to announce salvation after the judgment. The very singular opinion, that in vers.12, 13, the false prophets are introduced as speaking, is refuted by the single circumstance that, in ver.12, the gathering of the remnant of Israel only is promised, and hence the judgment is supposed to have preceded. It is no less erroneous if, instead of considering ver.11 as introductory to vers.12, 13, the latter be made to depend upon ver.11, and be therefore considered as, to a certain extent, accidental.
Footnote 4: After the example of v. Raumer, Robinson, Ritter (Erdk. 14, 101), it has now become customary to distinguish between two Bozrahs, -- one in Auranitis, and the other in Edom. But the arguments adduced for this distinction are not of very great weight. Nowhere is a "high situation" in reality ascribed to the Bozrah in Edom. The assertion, that Edom was always limited to the territory between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, is opposed to Gen. xxxvi.35, according to which passage, even in the time before Moses, the Edomitic king, Hadad, smote Midian in the field of Moab; and further, to Lam. iv.21, according to which Edom dwells in the land of Uz, which can be sought for only in Arabia Deserta. We need to think only of that branch of the Midianites who had gone over to Arabia Deserta, whilst their chief settlement continued in Arabia Petraea. But the following arguments may be adduced against the distinction.1. Bozrah is constantly and simply spoken of, without any further distinctive designation.2. The Edomitic Bozrah must have been a great and powerful city, which agrees well with the "mighty ruins" in Hauran, but not with the much more insignificant ruins near Busseireh in Dshebal.3. It is improbable that so important a city as that of Bozrah in Auranitis should never have been mentioned in Scripture. -- But not satisfied with a double Bozrah, even a third, in Moab, has been assumed on the ground of Jer. xlviii.24. But it is certainly strange that Bozrah, in that passage, is mentioned as the last of all the Moabitish towns, and that, immediately after its mention, there follow the words, "Upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near." It may be that Bozrah was conquered by the Edomites and Moabites in common, or that, in later times, the latter obtained a kind of possession of the town in common with the former.
The discourse opens with new reproofs and threatenings. It is first, in vers.1-4, directed against the rapacious great, who in ver.2 are described as murderers of men (compare Sirach xxxi.21: "He who taketh from his neighbour his livelihood, killeth him"), and in ver.3, as eaters of men, because they turn to their own advantage the necessaries of life of which they have robbed the poor. The discourse then passes over to the false prophets, vers.5-7. Their character is described as hypocritical, weak, and selfish, and is incidentally contrasted with the character of the true prophet, as represented by himself, whose strength is always renewed by the Spirit of the Lord, and who, in this strength, serves only truth and righteousness, and holds up their sins to the people deluded by the false prophets, ver.8. This the prophet continues to do in vers.9-12. The three orders of divinely called rulers, upon whom the life or death of the Congregation was depending, -- the princes, the priests, and the prophets (compare remarks on Zech. x.1), -- have become so degenerate, that they are not at all concerned for the glory of God, but only for their own interest. And while they have thus inwardly apostatized from Jehovah, they are strengthened in their false security by the promises which God has given to His people, and which they, altogether overlooking the fact that these are conditional, referred, in hypocritical blindness, to themselves. But God will, in a fearful manner, punish them for this apostasy, and frighten them from their security. The Congregation of the Lord, which has been desecrated inwardly, shall be so outwardly also. Zion shall become a corn-field; Jerusalem, the city of God, shall sink into rubbish and ruins; the Temple-hill shall again become what it was previous to its being the residence of God, viz., a thickly wooded hill, which shall then appear in all its natural lowness, and be considered as insignificant when compared with the neighbouring mountains. -- In the whole section, the twelve verses of which are equally divided into three portions of four verses each, the prophet views chiefly the great, and the civil rulers. The false prophets, whom he takes up in the second of these subdivisions (vers.5-8), come under consideration as their helpers only. In the third subdivision, [Pg 441] the discourse is again directed to the great alone, in vers.9, 10. The two other orders are added to them in vers.11, 12 only; and the charges raised against them refer to their relation to the great. The priests are not by any means reproved because they made teaching a profession, from which they derived their livelihood, but because, for bribes, they interpreted the law in a manner favourable to the rapacious lusts of the great, and thereby, no less than the false prophets, assisted them in their wickedness. -- The charge raised in ver.10 against the great, -- "Building up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity," -- has been frequently misunderstood. The words must not be explained from Hab. ii.12, but from Ps. li.20, where David prays to the Lord, "Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem," which he had destroyed by his blood, ver.16. The word "building" is used ironically by Micah, and is tantamount to: "Ye who are destroying Jerusalem by blood and iniquity (compare ver.12: 'For your sakes Zion shall be ploughed as a field'), instead of building it up by righteousness." Righteousness builds up, because it draws down God's blessing and protection; but unrighteousness destroys, because it calls down the curse of God.
The unfaithfulness of the Covenant-people can nevertheless not make void the faithfulness of God. The prophet, therefore, passes suddenly from threatening to promise. Calvin thus expresses the relation of these two: "But I must now come to the little remnant. Hitherto I have spoken about the judgment of God, which is near at hand, upon the king's councillors, upon the priests and prophets, upon the whole people in short, because they are all wicked and ungodly, because the whole body is pervaded by contempt of God, and by desperate obstinacy. Let them receive, then, that which they all have deserved. But I now gather the children of God apart, for to them too I have a message to deliver."
The intimate relation of the first part of the promise to the preceding threatening has been already demonstrated, p.420. The Mount of Zion, which forms the subject of vers.1-7, shall, in future, not only be restored to its former dignity, but it shall be exalted above all the mountains of the earth. The kingdom of God, which is represented by it, shall, by the glory imparted to it by a new revelation of the Lord (compare ver.7: "And [Pg 442] the Lord shall be King over them on Mount Zion"), outshine all the kingdoms of the world, and exercise an attractive power upon their citizens; so that they flow to Zion, there to receive the commands of the Lord, vers.1, 2. By the sway which the Lord exercises from Zion, peace shall have its dwelling in the heathen world, ver.3, and, consequently, the Congregation of the Lord ceases to be a prey to injury from the world's power, ver.4^a. How incredible soever it may appear, this promise shall surely be fulfilled; for omnipotent faithfulness has given it, ver.4^b, and has given it indeed for this very purpose; for it is altogether natural, and to be expected, that the glory of the Lord should in all eternity display itself in His dealings with His people, ver.5. In vers.6, 7, the promise receives a new impetus, by which it connects itself with ver.4^a. In that time of mercy, the Lord will put an end to all the misery of His people.
Ver.1. "And it shall come to pass at the end of the days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be firmly established on the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, and people flow unto it."
The words, "And it shall come to pass," excite the attention to the great and unexpected turn which things are to take. The expression, [Hebrew: baHrit himiM], is explained by many as meaning: "In times to come," "in future." But we have already proved, in our work on Balaam, p.465 seq., that the right explanation is: "At the end of the days." This is the explanation given by the LXX. also, who commonly render it by [Greek: en tais eschatais hemerais]; and by the Chaldee Paraphrast, who translates it by [Hebrew: bsvP ivmia]. The reasons which seem, at first sight, to favour the signification "in future," are invalidated by these two considerations: -- first, that it is not at all necessary that the end be just absolutely the last, but only the end of those events which the speaker is reviewing; and, second, that it altogether depends upon the will of the speaker, what extent he is to assign to the beginning and to the end. The expression is used by the prophets in a manner different from that of the Pentateuch. The prophets use it almost exclusively with a reference to the Messianic times, -- an usus loquendi which originated in Deut. iv.30. They divide the whole duration of the kingdom of God into two parts, the beginning and the end, -- the state of humiliation, and [Pg 443] the state of glorification. The line of demarcation is formed by the birth of the Messiah, according to v.2 (3): "He will give them up until she who is bearing brings forth." -- "The mountain of the house of the Lord" is, according to the common usus loquendi, not Moriah, but the whole mountain of Zion, of which Moriah was considered as a part; compare Ps. lxxvi.3, lxxviii.68. In ver.8, the prophet speaks of two parts only, Zion and Jerusalem. In iii.12, Zion only, as the better part, is first spoken of; and then, in the second clause, Jerusalem and the mountain of the house, the latter corresponding to Zion, are contrasted with each other, or Jerusalem and Mount Zion considered in its highest quality as the temple-mountain. -- [Hebrew: nkvN], "fixed," "firmly established," implies more than, simply, "placed." It shows that the change is not merely momentary, but that the temple-mountain shall be exalted for ever, and that no earthly power shall be able to abase it. It thus goes hand in hand with the declaration in ver.7: "The Lord shall be king over them from now until eternity." The same word [Hebrew: nkvN] is used in 1 Kings ii.45 of the immutable firmness of the throne of David: "The throne of David shall be firmly established before the Lord for ever;" compare 2 Sam. vii.12, 13. The commentary on [Hebrew: nkvN] is given by Dan. ii.44: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed in all eternity ... it shall break in pieces and destroy all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." That [Hebrew: braw hhriM] does not mean, "at the head of the mountains," i.e., standing at the head, as the first among them (as Hitzig and others think), but "on the summit of the mountains" (the [Hebrew: b] is used in a similar manner in Judg. ix.7, compared with 1 Sam. xxvi, 13), is evident from the fact that [Hebrew: braw], in connection with [Hebrew: hr], is constantly used of the summit of the mountains, and, hence, cannot be used in a figurative sense, in this connection. The sense can therefore be this only: "Zion, in future, so pre-eminently stands out from among the other mountains, that these serve, as it were, only for its foundation." Now, the elevation of the temple-mountain is considered, by several interpreters, as a physical one. Passages from Jewish commentaries, in which the expectation is expressed that, in the days of the Messiah, Jehovah would bring near Mount Carmel and Tabor, and place Jerusalem on [Pg 444] the summit of them, will be found in Galatinus, de Arcanis Catholicae Veritatis, L. v. c.3. The literal explanation has, in recent times, been defended by Hofmann and Drechsler. But Caspari, by pointing out the exact correspondence between the words, "The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be firmly established on the top of the mountains," and the words in ver.2, "The law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," has proved in a very striking manner that the elevation is a moral one. "As 1^b corresponds to 2^a, so does 1^a to 2^b; ver.1^a is the ground of ver.1^b; ver.2^a, by which ver.1^b is further expanded, is the consequence of 2^b. Hence 2^b must be substantially identical with ver.1^a; but 2^b speaks of something that points to the moral height of Mount Zion, and states something upon which it is based." To this it may be added, that height, in a moral sense, is often ascribed to the temple-mountain, even with reference to the ante-Messianic time, and that the passage under consideration could be disjoined from these by force only. It is upon such a view of it, indeed, that the use of [Hebrew: elh] in reference to the journeys to Jerusalem rests, just as it is here used in ver.2. We may, moreover, compare Ps. xlviii.3; Ezek. xvii.22, 33: "And I plant upon a mountain high and elevated. On the high mountains of Israel I will plant it;" but especially Ps. lxviii.16: "Mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan, the top of mountains is the mountain of Bashan." Ver.17. "Why do ye tops of mountains insidiously observe the mountain which God desireth for His residence? Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever." The mountain of God is, in these verses, an emblem of the kingdoms of the world, which are powerful through God's grace. In ver.16, the Psalmist declares what the mountain of Bashan is. In ver.17, he rejects the unfounded claims which it raises on account of its real advantages. Although it be great, yet Mount Zion is infinitely greater, and vain are all its efforts to overturn this relation. This passage, then, leads to another argument against the literal interpretation. We find in it the kingdoms represented under the figure of mountains, -- a mode of representation which is of very frequent occurrence in Scripture; compare my Commentary on [Pg 445] Ps. lxv.7, lxxvi.5; Rev. viii.8, xvii.9. The more difficult it was to separate, according to the Israelitish conception, mountain and kingdom, the more natural it was to find, in the passage before us, expression given to the thought, that the kingdom of God would, in future, be exalted above all the kingdoms of the world. If we take into account the common practice of employing "mountain" in a figurative sense, it is natural to suppose that not the exaltation alone is to be understood figuratively, but that the mountain itself also is to be regarded chiefly in its symbolical signification, -- as the symbol of the kingdom of God in Israel; although, in this aspect, we should expect, at least in the beginning of the relation, that the thing itself should still be connected with the symbol; afterwards they may be disjoined without any hesitation. The deep grief which must, of necessity, have been called forth by the announcement in iii.12, did not regard the mountain as such. It had, for its real object, the condition of the kingdom of God which was prefigured by the condition of the mountain; and it is just this to which the consolation has respect. -- But by what means is the exaltation of the temple-mountain to be effected? Cocceius has already directed attention to the circumstance, that it must not be supposed to consist in the flowing of the people unto it; for that is not the cause, but the effect. We find the correct answer in ver.2: "The law goeth forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem;" and in ver.7: "And the Lord will be king over them on Mount Zion." The exaltation will, accordingly, be effected by a glorious manifestation of the Lord within His congregation; in consequence of which, Zion becomes the centre of the whole earth. That this manifestation is to take place in Christ, is brought out only subsequently; compare especially, v.1, 3 (2-4). A parallel passage is also Ezek. xl.2, where Mount Zion is likewise seen exalted in the Messianic time.
Ver.2. "And many nations go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways, and that we may walk in His path; for from Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
From the words, "And many nations go," to "paths," we have an expansion of -- "People flow unto it." Zech. viii.20-23 are founded upon, and serve as a commentary on the passage before [Pg 446] us. The people go to one another, and send messengers to one another; a powerful commotion pervades the heathen world, which causes them to seek Zion, that had formerly been despised by them. It makes no substantial difference whether the going is to be understood physically or spiritually, -- whether the people flow to the literal Mount Zion, or to the Church, which is thereby prefigured. All that is requisite is, that the commencement of their going and flowing must belong to a time in which the symbol and the thing symbolized were still connected, -- when the literal Zion was still the seat of the Church. The plurality of nations forms a contrast with the unity, but not with the universality, as is shown by a comparison of the parallel passage in Isaiah, where the "many people" are preceded by the mention of "all the heathens ([Hebrew: kl-hgviM], i.e., the whole heathen world) flow unto it," instead of -- "People flow unto it," as in Micah. Formerly, one people only went to Zion, in order there to offer to the Lord their worship, and to be taught His ways, Exod. xxiii.17, xxxiv.23; Deut. xxxi.10 sqq.; now, many people flow thither. In the anticipation of this future glory of Mount Zion, which will infinitely outshine that of the present, the sad interval described in iii.12, during which the mountain of the house is altogether forsaken, may be more easily borne. The connection of [Hebrew: hvrh] with [Hebrew: mN], which is rather uncommon, may be most simply explained by viewing the instruction as proceeding from its object. "The ways of the Lord" are the ways in which He would have men to walk, -- that mode of life which is well-pleasing to Him. The contrast of it is walking in one's own ways. Is. liii.6, -- regulating of one's life according to the desires of one's own corrupt heart. -- The last words, "For from Zion, etc.," are not to be conceived of as spoken by the people, stirring up and encouraging one another, but by the prophet. They state the reason why the people are so anxious to go to Zion; and this accounts also for the circumstance that Zion is so emphatically placed at the beginning. Zion shall, at that time, be the residence of the true God, and proved to be such by glorious revelations; and from it His commands go forth over the whole earth. [Hebrew: ica], "to go out," stands here, as in ver.1, in the sense of "to go forth." As the sphere for the going forth of the law from Zion is not limited, it must be considered in as wide an extent as possible; in harmony with the preceding words, [Pg 447] according to which we must think of "people," "many nations," as being comprehended within this sphere. -- We must not overlook the fact that the article is awanting before [Hebrew: tvrh], and that the law is not more strictly defined as the law of God. It is intended, in the first place, only to indicate that despised and desolate Zion is to be the seat of legislation for the whole earth. The law itself is then more strictly defined as the word of God. Many interpreters understand [Hebrew: tvrh] here as meaning religion in general; the going forth is explained by them of its spreading itself. From Zion, true religion is to extend over all the nations; and hence it is that to Zion the eyes of all of them are directed. Thus, e.g., Theodoret, who remarks: "This is the preaching of the Gospel, which began at Jerusalem, and from thence, as from its source, flowed over all the earth, offering drink to those who came to it in faith." But [Hebrew: tvr] never signifies "doctrine," "religion," any more than does [Hebrew: mwpT]: it is always used as meaning "law;" and this sense of it can with the less propriety be departed from here, as the people, according to what precedes, flow to Zion not in order to seek religion in general, but laws for their conduct in life. But even if we were to follow Caspari, and to modify the explanation thus, "The law, which was formerly confined to Zion, and hence to a narrow circle, shall go forth from thence into the wide world," -- weighty objections to it would still remain. If "to go forth" were to be understood as meaning "to spread," the sphere of the going forth would have been more closely determined; as, e.g., in Is. xlii.1: "He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." In Is. li.4, "Law shall go out from Me, and My judgment I will make for a light of the people," to go out is tantamount to, to go forth. "Mine arms shall judge the people," in li.5, is parallel to it. [Hebrew: ica] in itself does not mean "to go forth." Further -- The circumstance that the law spreads from Zion, does not account sufficiently for the zeal with which the nations flow to Zion. If it goes out, there is then no need for their seeking for it at its home. In Zech. viii.20-23, also, the thronging of the people to Zion, in order to enter there into a closer relation to the Lord, forms the subject of discourse. Zion, as the place where the Lord of [Pg 448] the whole earth issues His orders, as if from His residence (Is. xi.10), forms an appropriate contrast to "Zion shall be ploughed as a field," -- a suitable parallel to the exaltation of the temple-mountain above all the mountains of the earth, to which the prophet here returns, after having, in the first part of the verse, expanded the thought: "People flow unto it;" and to vers.7, 8 also, where Zion appears likewise as the seat of dominion.
Ver.3. "And He judges among many people, and rebukes strong nations, even unto a distance. And they heat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives; nation shall not lift up a sword, against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
It appears strange to us that here we see ourselves transferred all at once to the sphere of the general description of the Messianic time; for, according to the whole context, and to the contrast with chap. iii., we expect such predictions as will serve especially for the consolation of the daughter of Zion, whose heart had been pierced by the announcement that the mountain of the house should become a wooded hill, and that she herself should be given into the power of the Gentiles. But this difficulty is removed by remarking that this verse only prepares the way for ver.4, where there is a representation of the advantage which accrues to the daughter of Zion from the spirit of peace, which, through the powerful influence of Zion's God, has become prevalent in the heathen world. It is from failing to perceive the connection of the two verses, that the remark of Hitzig has arisen: "It is very probable that Micah, if he had been the (original) author, would rather have mentioned the change and restoration of Jerusalem, than the change of the arms." -- The subject is the Lord. That it was through Christ, who as early as in the Song of Solomon appears as the true Solomon, that the Lord would carry out what is here announced, the prophet could, according to his plan, detail only afterwards. In chap. iv.1-7, he describes how Zion is glorified by what the Lord does from thence; in ver.8, by the restoration of the dominion of the Davidic race; and in v.1 ff., by the appearance of the Messiah. It is especially from v.3 (4), according to which the Messiah stands and feeds in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God, -- and from v.4 (5), according [Pg 449] to which He is the Peace, that we infer with certainty that the judging also shall be done by His mediation. In Isaiah we meet the person of the Messiah in the prophecy of chap. iv., which, along with that in chap. ii., belongs to one discourse, and supplements it. The judging and rebuking ([Hebrew: hvkiH] with [Hebrew: l], "to rebuke," "to reprove") refer to the strifes among the nations which hitherto could not be allayed, because there was wanting the counterpoise to selfishness which was productive of wrong. But such a counterpoise is now given in the word of God, which, carried home by His Spirit, penetrates deeply into the heart. -- "Strong nations," who were hitherto most ready to seize the sword. The words, "And they beat," etc., refer to Joel iv. (iii.) 10, where the heathen beat their ploughshares into swords, their pruning-knives into spears; and they do so to the prejudice of the people of God, which the prophet, although apparently he speaks in general terms, has specially in view. By this allusion Micah indicates that, with reference to the disposition of the heathen world, Joel has spoken a word, true, indeed, but giving only a partial view. The words of Justinus in the Dialogus cum Tryphone -- "For, having learned the fear and worship of God from the Law and Gospel which came to us through the Apostles from Jerusalem, we have fled for refuge to the God of Jacob, and the God of Israel; and we, who formerly were filled with war and murder, and every wickedness, have put away the instruments of war from the whole earth, and have, every one of us, changed the swords into ploughshares, and the spears into agricultural implements, and cultivate the fear of God, justice, brotherly love, faith, hope," etc., -- show that, even soon after the appearance of Christ, it was held that the fulfilment of this prophecy had commenced. But it was acknowledged by the prophet also, that even after the appearance of the salvation, this description would, in the meantime, give only a partial exhibition of the truth; inasmuch as not every one will submit to the judging activity of the Lord, how powerful soever may be the effect of the new principle which entered into the life of the nations; for in v.4, 5 (5, 6) he speaks of the nations which, in the Messianic time, attack the people of God; in ver.8 (9), of their adversaries and enemies; and in ver.14 (15), of such as do not hear. But the [Pg 450] imperfect fulfilment is a pledge and guarantee for that which is perfect, as it will take place when, by the last judgment, they have been removed who have obstinately preserved within themselves the spirit of strife and hatred. According to the predictions of the prophets -- compare especially Is. xi.6, 7 -- peace shall, at some future period, be extended even to the irrational creation, and the strife which has come upon earth by the fall, shall entirely cease from it.
Ver.4. "And they sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree, and none maketh them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it."
This verse contains a description of the happy consequences which the peaceful influence which goes forth from the Lord to the heathen world, shall have upon Israel. For Israel is the subject in [Hebrew: iwbv], and the verse does not at all pretend to give a description of "a Solomonic time for all the nations." This is shown by what is stated, in the following verse, as to the ground of this happy change, as well as by a comparison of the fundamental passages. Lev. xxvi.6: "And I give peace in the land, and ye lie down, and none maketh you afraid;" and 1 Kings v.5 (iv.25): "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely every man under his vine and fig-tree, from Dan to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon;" and of the parallel passages, Micah v.4 (5); Zech. iii.10. It is further shown by the connection with what precedes, where great calamity, and the devastation of their whole country had been predicted to Israel, -- and by the mention of the vine and fig-tree, which are characteristic of the land of Israel. The words, "For the mouth of the Lord," etc., point out the pledge, which the person of Him who promises affords for the fulfilment of the promise, which appears incredible.
Ver.5. "For all the nations shall walk, every one in the name of their God; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever."
The causal particle [Hebrew: ki] states the ground of the fact that the Lord of hosts has spoken this, and given the promise of the final safety of Israel, and of his enjoying peace after the strife, in consequence of God's exercising dominion from Zion over the whole heathen world; while this peace after the strife is then more fully described in vers.6, 7. The lot of every people corresponds to the nature of their God. And now, how [Pg 451] could it be otherwise, than that all other nations should be humbled, because their gods are idols, while Israel, on the other hand, is exalted and endowed with everlasting salvation and prosperity, because his God is the only true God? Is. xlv.16, 17 is parallel: "They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them; they shall go to confusion, the makers of idols. Israel is saved by the Lord, with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded in all eternity." -- "The name of the Lord" is the complex whole of His excellency which is revealed, and proved by deeds; compare Prov. xviii.10: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is exalted." Inasmuch as the name of the Lord is to manifest itself in His dealings with His people, it represents itself as the way in which they are to walk: the prayer of the Psalmist in Ps. xxv.5, that the Lord would lead him in His truth, forms a parallel to this; and so does also what he says in ver.9 of the same Psalm, that "He guides the meek in judgment." But exactly corresponding is Zech. x.12: "And I strengthen them in the Lord, and in His name shall they walk" = in the path of His name, so that the latter manifests itself in His dealings with them; compare the remarks on that passage. In favour of our exposition, moreover, is the comparison of the passage Is. ii.5, the evidently requisite harmony of which with the passage under consideration is obtained, only if the latter be understood as we have explained it. The light, i.e., the salvation of the Lord spoken of there, corresponds with the name of the Lord in the passage under review. Several interpreters explain: "They may walk, they may worship their gods. Although all nations should be idolaters, yet we, inhabitants of Judah, shall faithfully worship Jehovah." Against this explanation Caspari remarks, "An exhortation, or a resolution which implies an exhortation, is here not easily justified, because it would stand in the midst of promises." Moreover, the [Hebrew: ki] cannot be explained according to this interpretation, as appears with sufficient clearness from the remark of Justi: "This verse does not seem to be so closely connected with the preceding one." The connection is more firmly established by the explanation of Tarnovius, Michaelis, and others: "Surely so brilliant a lot must fall to us; for we are faithful worshippers of the true God, while all other nations walk after their idols." [Pg 452] But the objections to tins explanation are: (1) the circumstance that it is rather unusual to found the salvation of the people upon their covenant-faithfulness (of which, from the preceding reproof, we cannot entertain very high notions), instead of founding it upon God's grace and faithfulness, compare vii.18-20; (2) the repeated use of the Future, while, according to it, we should have expected the Preterite, at least in the first member; and (3), and most decisive of all, the expression, "For ever and ever;" compare the expression, "From henceforth, even for ever," in ver.7.
Ver.6. "In that day, saith the Lord, I will assemble that which halteth, and that which hath been driven out I will gather, and that which I have afflicted. Ver.7. And I make that which is halting a remnant, and that which is far off a strong nation, and the Lord reigneth over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever."
The expression "in that day" does not refer to "at the end of the days," in ver.1, but is connected with, and resumes ver.4^a That the verb [Hebrew: asP] has here the signification "to assemble," and not that "to receive," is shown by ii.12, and especially by Ezek. xi.17. The word refers to the announcement of Israel's being carried away, which was formerly made, and with which the scattering is connected. They are assembled for their return to the Holy Land. Such an assembling, however, is meant, as is connected with the full enjoyment of salvation, and in which the Congregation truly manifests itself in a close unity, as a kingdom of priests. In the passage, Zeph. iii.19, which is founded upon the one under review, we find "I save" instead of "I assemble." Of such a description, the assembling under Zerubbabel was not; compare Nehem. ix.36, 37. It can therefore come into notice only as a prelude to the true assembling. -- "The Fem. sing, of the Partic.," says Hitzig, "must be understood collectively; and it is not several subjects, but predicates of the same subject, viz., of the whole of Israel, [Pg 453] which are thereby designated." The "halting," which is a condition of bodily helplessness and weakness, occurs also in Ps. xxxv.15, and xxxviii.18, as a designation of adversity and misery. -- The expression, "to make a remnant," forms the contrast to total annihilation. While these words show that a limit will be put to the diminution, the following words predict a vast increase. In the words, "In Mount Zion," the contrast with iii.12 appears once more at the close of the section. As regards [Hebrew: mlK ihvh], compare Ps. xciii.1. It does not refer to the constant government of the Lord, but to a new and glorious manifestation of it -- as it were to a new ascension to the throne. The expression, "From henceforth," refers to the ideal present. In spirit, the prophet is in that time when the Lord is just entering upon His government. The words, "The Lord reigneth ... for ever," are thus beautifully illustrated by Calvin: "Micah does not here mention the descendants of David, but Jehovah Himself; not as if he wished thereby to exclude that dominion of David, but in order to show that God would make it manifest that He was the author of that dominion, yea, that He Himself held all the power. For, although God governed the ancient people by the hand of David, and by the hand of Josiah and Hezekiah, yet there was, as it were, a shadow placed between, so that God's government was then perceived darkly only. The prophet, therefore, here expresses, that there would be some difference betwixt that shadowy government, and the future new dominion which He was openly to set up by the advent of the Messiah. And this was truly and solidly fulfilled in Christ's person. For although Christ was the true seed of David, yet He was also, at the same time, Jehovah, viz., God made manifest in the flesh." With respect to this promise, however, it must also be kept in mind that it will be finally fulfilled only in the future, when the kingdom and throne of glory (compare Matt. xix.28) shall be set up.
The prophet had hitherto described the kingdom which was to be established anew, as a kingdom of God, without mentioning the channel through which His mercy was to be poured out upon the Congregation -- the mediator who was to represent Him among them. His representation, therefore, was still defective; it still wanted the connection with the promise given to David, and so frequently celebrated by him, and by other [Pg 454] holy Psalmists and Prophets -- the promise of the eternal dominion of David's house. According to this promise, every new, great manifestation of grace, must be through some descendant of this family as a mediator. This house must ever form the substratum on which the divine power and the divine nature, in its most complete manifestation, showed themselves. This blank is supplied in ver.8.
"And thou tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee it will come; and to thee cometh the former dominion, the kingdom of the daughter of Zion."
In the words immediately preceding it is said: "And the Lord reigneth over them from henceforth, even for ever." We have here, then, a prediction of the dominion of the house of David, by whose mediation the Lord is to reign; compare v.3 (4), where it is said of Him in whom the Davidic race is to centre, "And He stands, and feeds in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God." All interpreters agree that the Davidic race is designated by the "Tower of the flock," and by "the hill of the daughter of Zion;" but, with respect to the ground of this designation, they are very much at variance. A great number of them (Grotius, and among the recent interpreters, Rosenmueller, Winer, Gesenius, De Wette) think of that Tower of the flock, in the neighbourhood of which Jacob, according to Gen. xxxv.21, took up his abode for a time. They say that, according to Jerome, this Tower of the flock was situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Bethlehem; that it is used here only by way of a metalepsis for Bethlehem, and that Bethlehem again designates the Davidic race; so that the passage agrees altogether with v.1 (2). But, upon a closer examination, this interpretation appears to be objectionable, for the following reasons.1. It is anything but fixed that that Tower of the flock was situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Bethlehem. It cannot be inferred from the passage in Genesis, and as little can it be proved from Jerome. In the Quest. ad Genes. Opp. iii. p.145, Frcf., he first mentions the opinion of the Jews, according to which, by the "Tower of the flock" is to be understood the place on which the temple was afterwards built, and then says: "But if we follow the direction of the road, we find, by Bethlehem, a 'place of the shepherds,' which was so called, either because it was there [Pg 455] that, at the birth of the Lord, the angels sang their hymn of praise; or because Jacob fed his flock there, and gave this name to the place; or, which is more likely, because even then the future mystery was, by a revelation, shown to him." According to this, Jerome does not know anything of a "Tower of the flock" near Bethlehem. From the direction of the road which Jacob took, he only surmises that it was situated thereabouts; and since there was, in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, a place called "the place of the shepherds," he, from a mere combination, declares this to be identical with the Tower of the flock; while, after all, he is so cautious as not at once to reject the only true derivation of this name from the shepherds at the birth of Christ. By this, the other passage in the book de locis Hebr. must be judged, where Jerome expressly delivers his supposition as if it were historical truth: "Bethlehem, the city of David ... and about a thousand paces (passus) distant is the tower Ader, which is called 'the Tower of the flock,' indicating that, by some vision, the shepherds had, beforehand, been made conscious of the birth of the Lord." That tradition knew but little of any "Tower of the flock" in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, appears also from Eusebius Onom. s. v. Gader. p.79, ed. Cleric: "The tower Gader ... While Jacob dwelt there, Reuben went in to Bilhah." Eusebius evidently knew nothing more regarding the "Tower of the flock" than what we also may learn from the passage in Genesis. He does not venture to offer even a conjecture as to its position. The same ignorance is shown by the Jews, mentioned by Jerome, who certainly would not have thought of a reference to the temple, if a place called "Tower of the flock" had existed in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem.2. But even assuming the existence of the Tower of the flock in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, is it anything else than the assumption of a pure quid pro quo, to assert, without assigning any reason, that the "Tower of the flock" stands for Bethlehem? Rosenmueller, at least, has felt this. He makes the attempt to assign a reason: "In substituting, however, an unknown hamlet in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, for Bethlehem itself, he intended to indicate that the dominion of David would be altogether weakened and brought low." But this reason is certainly not by any means sufficient; Bethlehem was, in itself, so small, that no further [Pg 456] diminution was required; compare v.1 (2). It had, moreover, been always small, and had not by any means sunk down in the course of time from former greatness. Hence, such a designation, in contrast with its former glory, would be entirely out of place; and even supposing that it were not, the mode of this designation would always be inexplicable, unless we could assume a closer reference of the "Tower of the flock" to the Davidic family. It is only by establishing such a reference, that the whole explanation can be saved and confirmed. For this purpose, it would be necessary to suppose that Bethlehem, and the district belonging to it, were the general designation of the native place of the Davidic family, while the "Tower of the flock" was the special one. But there is not the slightest ground on which to support this hypothesis. Everywhere, Bethlehem itself appears as the residence of Jesse, the father of David (compare 1 Sam. xvi.1, 18, 19, xvii.12), and likewise of Boaz, Ruth ii.4.
The incorrectness of another explanation is still more evident. According to it, we are, by the "Tower of the flock," to understand a tower which is alleged to have stood at Jerusalem, near to the Sheep-gate. But the existence of such a tower is supported by no evidence whatsoever, and does not become even probable by the existence of a sheep-gate; for a Tower of the flock is not a tower which stands near the Sheep-gate, but a tower which is erected for the protection of the flock, as is clearly seen from Migdal Eder in Genesis. But, even supposing that such a tower existed, is there anything which could somehow make it a suitable designation of the Davidic family?
Let us now proceed to the establishment of our own opinion, by which the arguments advanced against the other explanations will be considerably strengthened. Concerning the situation of Jerusalem, Josephus, de B. J. i.6, c.13, remarks as follows: "It was built on two hills fronting each other, separated by a chasm running between, down to which the houses were situated. One of the hills, on which the upper part of the city lay, was much higher and longer than the other. And, because it was fortified, it was called the Citadel of King David," etc. These two hills are Akra and Zion. The city situated upon the latter, is, in other passages also, described by Josephus to be very high and steep; e.g., vi.40: [Greek: ten ano polin perikremnon] [Pg 457] [Greek: ousan]. The sight afforded by the towers in this steep height is, by him, compared with that of the beacon at Alexandria from the sea (B. J. vi. c.6: "It resembled in shape the lighthouse as seen by people sailing up to Alexandria"). Compare the similar representation of Tacitus, Lib. 5. Histor. c.11 (Reland ii. p.848 sqq.).
On the summit of this high and steep hill, in the upper town, was situated the royal castle, called the "upper house of the king," Neh. iii.25. Its situation could not fail to afford to it extraordinary security. This is sufficiently shown by the ridicule of the Jebusites, when David, who did not build, but only enlarged it, was about to besiege it. They were of opinion that the lame and the blind would be sufficient for its defence, 2 Sam. v.7-9; compare Faber's Archaeol. p.191.
Far above this royal castle, which David first selected for his residence (compare 2 Sam. v.9: "And David dwelt in the castle and called it the City of David, and built it round about"), a tower jutted prominently out, and afforded a majestic sight. It is frequently mentioned in Scripture. The principal passage is Neh. iii.25: "Opposite the tower which standeth out from the upper house of the king (appositely the Vulgate: quae eminet de domo regis excelsa) in the court of the prison;" compare ver.26, where the tower standing out, and elevated far above the king's castle, is likewise spoken of. Concerning the words, "In the court of the prison," we obtain some information from Jer. xxxii.2: "Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, [Hebrew: bHcr hmTrh], which is in the house of the king of Judah;" compare Jer. xxxviii.6, according to which the pit into which the prophet was let down, was in the court of the prison. According to these passages, the court of the prison formed, agreeably to the customs of the East, part of the royal castle on Zion; and it was in this court that the tower rose. The other principal passage is in the Song of Solomon iv.4: "Thy neck is like the tower of David built for arms; a thousand bucklers are hanging on it, all arms of heroes." According to this passage, the majestic appearance which the tower afforded was still further increased by the glittering arms which covered it. Doepke and others think of the armour of conquered heroes; but that we must rather think of the armour of David's own heroes, appears from Ezek. xxvii.10, 11, where it is said of [Pg 458] the hired troops of the Tyrians, "Shield and helmet they hanged up in thee," and is confirmed by the constant designation of David's faithful ones, as his heroes; compare Song of Sol. iii.7: "Threescore heroes stand around the bed of the king, of the heroes of Israel;" and 1 Chron. xii.1: "These were among the heroes, helpers in the war." The expression in the Song of Solomon iv.4, "All shields of the heroes," indicates that the armour of all those who were received into the number of the heroes, was hung up on that tower, as an outward sign of this reception, as a kind of diploma of it. The circumstance that this tower, which is certainly quite identical with the tower mentioned by Nehemiah, is called the tower of David, refutes the supposition of Clericus, on Nehemiah, l.c., according to which, it is not the castle of David or Zion which is spoken of in that passage, but another castle and its tower in the lower town, supposed to have been built by Solomon. This hypothesis is refuted, moreover, by that passage itself, inasmuch as the castle is there designated as the upper, or high one.
Now, it is this tower which Micah considers as the symbol of the Davidic house; and in so doing, he follows the example of the Song of Solomon, where it is the symbol of the lofty elevation of Israel, the centre and life-blood of which was the Davidic family. It scarcely needs any lengthened demonstration to show how well suited it was for this signification, how very naturally it represented the thing signified. It was indeed the most elevated part of the castle, the main-mast, as it were, of the ship, which, since the elevation of the Davidic family to the royal dignity, had been for centuries, and was still to be, the seat of the Davidic race. Its height was a symbol of the royal dignity and authority. Its relation to the whole of the rest of the city, which it overlooked and commanded, and which looked up to it with astonishment, symbolized the relation of the subjects to their king.
Micah calls this tower the "Tower of the flock." The main reason for this appellation must be sought in what immediately precedes, in vers.6 and 7. As in chap. ii.12, 13, so here also, Micah represented the Covenant-people under the figure of a flock that was to be gathered from its dispersion and estrangement, and protected against every hostile attack. Could anything then be more natural than that, continuing the image [Pg 459] which he had begun, he should call the tower, which, to him, symbolized the family by whom, under the guidance of the Lord, that gathering should be accomplished, the "Tower of the flock?" It is just this close connection with what precedes which furnishes an important proof for the correctness of our explanation, for which the way was prepared by all those expositors who, like Jerome, Theodoret, Cyril, Cocceius, and Paulus (ueber die Evang. i. p.189), understand [Hebrew: mgdl edr] as an appellative, and regard, as the ground of the appellation, the protection and the refuge. In the East, they look out from the towers of the flock, whether beasts of prey or hostile bands be approaching. It is into these that the flocks are driven, in those regions where there are no towns and villages, as soon as danger appears; compare the proofs in Faber, l.c., p.192 ff. There was so much the stronger reason for Micah's choosing this figurative mode of representation, as he had the type immediately before his eyes. According to 2 Chron. xxvi.10, xxvii.4, Uzziah and Jotham erected, in the woods and pasture grounds, castles and towers for the protection and refuge of the flocks. But, besides this main reason, there seems to have existed a secondary one for choosing this appellation. They who adhere so firmly to the "Tower of the flock," mentioned in Genesis, are not altogether wrong. Except in that passage, [Hebrew: mgdl edr] nowhere occurs in precisely the same manner as it stands here. If, then, we consider that, besides this reference, there occur in Micah other plain references to the Pentateuch (and very numerous they are, compared with the extent of his prophecies; compare, e.g., ii.12, 13. [vide supra], vi.4, 5, vii.14, where the words [Hebrew: wkni lbdd] receive light from Num. xxiii.9 only); and still more, if we consider that, in v.1 (2), the appellation Bethlehem Ephratah is likewise taken from Gen. xxxv.19, and that it is in ver.21 of the same chapter that the "Tower of the flock" is mentioned, -- we shall certainly not be guilty of trifling, if we assert that there is a suspicion of error and unsoundness against all those interpretations which cannot connect the "Tower of the flock" [Pg 460] in Micah with that which is spoken of in Genesis. But the explanation which we have given is not liable to this charge. For why should not Jacob, and the tower which he built for the protection of his literal flocks, serve the prophet as a type and substratum for the relation of a spiritual Shepherd? We must not overlook the truth, that the main and secondary reasons which we have adduced, do not stand beside each other, but run into each other, -- are related to each other as the general and particular. For the reason why the prophet had specially in view the "Tower of the flock" which had been built by Jacob was certainly this only: that it partook of the nature of all such towers of the flocks. The tertium comparationis is not thereby changed; the figure is only more individualized, and, therefore, more striking and impressive. A reference to the pastoral life of the Patriarchs is certainly one of the reasons of the frequent use of images taken from pastoral life. In a different way, Hitzig endeavours to come to the same result. He supposes that the "Tower of the flock" mentioned in Genesis was not situated in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, but is identical with the tower of the castle on Zion, and of the castle of Millo which David already found existing, and which was only more strongly fortified by him and by Solomon, 2 Sam. v.9; 1 Kings ix.15, 24, xi.27. The figure of the "Tower of the flock" was so much the more appropriate in the passage under consideration, as the founder of the royal dynasty had been, for a long time, a shepherd of the lambs, before he was elected to be a shepherd of the people, and had thus himself prefigured his future relation -- a circumstance to which allusion is frequently made in Scripture itself; compare 2 Sam. v.2, vii.8; 1 Chron. xi.2; Ps. lxxviii.70-72.
After having thus ascertained what is to be understood by the "Tower of the flock," there can be no great difficulty in explaining the "hill of the daughter of Zion." The daughter of Zion is Zion itself, personified, and represented as a virgin; and if her hill be spoken of, what else can be meant, than Mount Zion in the more restricted sense -- the Mount [Greek: kat' exochen], before which Akra and Moriah are changed into plains? We have thus a most appropriate relation of the two appellations to each other, -- the tower of the flock being the particular, and the hill of the daughter of Zion, the general. [Pg 461] Further, -- We obtain the most perfect harmony and agreement with the last words of the verse. The hill which, morally and physically, commands the daughter of Zion, is the same which obtains dominion over the daughter of Jerusalem. Finally, -- We see the most striking contrast with iii.12, and the most admirable connection with iv.1-7, in which, everywhere, Mount Zion is spoken of, and the exaltation is described which, after its deep abasement, it shall obtain in the future, by the flowing of the heathens to it, and by the dominion of the Lord to be there exercised.
It is only in appearance that our explanation is contradicted by passages of the Old Testament, and of Josephus, where Ophel is mentioned as a particular place; compare Bachiene 2.1, Sec.76; Hamelsveld 2, S.35 ff. The supposition of several interpreters, that this Ophel is some particular hill (compare, e.g., Vitringa de Templo Ezech. L. i. c. iii. p.159, and his Commentary on Isaiah xxxii.13), has already been invalidated by Reland (p.855), and Faber l.c., p.347, who rightly remark, that Josephus, in enumerating the hills of Jerusalem, makes no mention of Ophel, but speaks always only of the place Ophel. All the difficulties, however, which stand in the way of the other assumptions, are removed by the following view of the matter. Mount Zion was called [Hebrew: hepl], the Hill [Greek: kat' exochen], and this word became, by and by, a nomen proprium, and, in this state, as well as in its transition to the nomen proprium, was used without the Article. From this it followed -- and numerous analogies everywhere occur -- that the foot of the mountain, the place where it was connected with the lower part of the temple-mountain by means of a deep valley, acquired this name in preference, and received it, as it were, as a nomen proprium. At this foot of Zion -- and hence over against the temple, and near it -- dwelt the Nethinim, the temple servants, Neh. iii.26; and Josephus says, that the wall surrounding Mount Zion extended on the east side to the place which was called Ophel, and ended at the eastern porch of the temple (de Bell. Jud. vi.6).
The view which we have taken, not only of Ophel, but of this whole passage, receives an important confirmation by Is. xxxii.13, 14: "Upon the land of My people come up thorns and briars, for they shoot up in all the houses of joy, in the joyous city. For palaces are forsaken, tumult of the city is [Pg 462] forsaken, hill and tower are around caves (i.e., it is only this which they have to protect) for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks." In this threatening of punishment, hill, [Hebrew: epl], and tower, [Hebrew: bHN] (properly "a watch-tower," corresponding to [Hebrew: mgdl]), are joined, just as in Micah's promise; and this is a certain proof of the unsoundness of all those explanations which would sever the two in Micah. Perhaps there is, in that passage of Isaiah, the addition of a third object, standing in the middle between the two, viz., the castle of the king which was situated on Zion, and of which the highest and strongest part was formed by the tower. There seems, at least, to be better ground for understanding this by [Hebrew: armvN] than the temple, as is done by Vitringa. It will, nevertheless, be better to understand the palace collectively, and to view it as being parallel to the houses of joy in ver.13. So much is, at all events, evident, that here also, Ophel cannot be understood of the lowest part of Mount Zion, inasmuch as it had nothing distinguished about it that could account for its being mentioned in this context; and to this, the circumstance of its being connected with the tower, must, moreover, be added. Faber, l.c., has convincingly proved, that Ophel, in the stricter sense, neither had, nor could have, any fortifications.
[Hebrew: ediK], "unto thee," seems here to have that emphasis which originally belongs to [Hebrew: ed]. It indicates that the object in motion really reaches its goal, while [Hebrew: al] originally expresses only its direction towards the goal. It points to all the obstacles which seem to render it impossible for the dominion to reach its goal, and represents them as such as shall be overcome by divine omnipotence. This is quite in accordance with the scope of the whole representation, which Calvin thus appositely points out: "The prophet endeavours to confirm the faith and hope of the godly, that they might look forward to the distant future, and not dwell only upon the present destruction; that they might rather believe that the matter was in the hands of God, who had promised, that He who raised the dead, would also restore the kingdom of David, which had been destroyed."
Several interpreters, e.g., Rosenmueller, connect [Hebrew: tath] immediately with what follows: "The kingdom shall come and attain." But, in opposition to this, there are not only the accents (Michaelis; "The Athnach is intended to keep the mind [Pg 463] of the reader in suspense for some time, and to direct his attention to what follows"), but also the change of the tenses, which is intended just to prevent this connection, and the weak sense which would be the result, inasmuch as one of the verbs would be a pleonasm. It must rather be supposed, therefore, that the subject in [Hebrew: tath] is indefinite. The remark which Haevernick, in his Commentary on Daniel, S.386, makes on the omission of the indefinite subject, is here fully applicable, although he himself makes a wrong application of it to that passage: "The indefinite subject," he says, "has a special emphasis. By the omission of the definite idea, it is, as it were, left to the reader to supply everything possible (in the passage under consideration, the compass of all that is glorious), for which the writer cannot find language."
The "first," i.e., former, or ancient "dominion," refers to the splendid times under David and Solomon; but, at the same time, it supposes a period when the dominion is altogether taken away from the dynasty of David. Such a period had already been announced by the prophet, in his first discourse, inasmuch as it is implied in the carrying away of all Judah into captivity; and still more distinctly in iii.12, according to which, Zion, the seat of the Davidic dominion, is to be ploughed as a field. This announcement, with the express mention of the king, returns in ver.9, and, contrasted with It, the announcement of the restoration of the Davidic dominion in v.1 (2).
The last words of the verse are, by many expositors (Calvin, Michaelis, and Rosenmueller), translated thus: "And the kingdom, I say, shall belong to the daughter of Jerusalem;" so that Jerusalem would here be, not the object, but the subject of dominion. The sense, according to this explanation, is best brought out by Calvin: "The prophet here distinctly mentions the daughter of Jerusalem, because the kingdom of Israel had obscured the glory of the true kingdom. The prophet hence testifies, that God was not unmindful of His promise, and would so arrange it that Jerusalem should recover its lost dignity, and the whole people be gathered unto one body." But this explanation must be rejected on philological grounds. [Hebrew: mmlkt] is status constr.; the [Hebrew: l] serves, therefore, only as a circumlocution of the genitive; and it is not admissible to supply the Verb Substant. To this, moreover, there must be added the reference [Pg 464] to what precedes. The dominion over the daughter of Jerusalem is to come to the tower which commands the daughter of Zion, not, by any means, to the daughter of Zion herself. The prophet makes Jerusalem to represent the kingdom of God; and, in so doing, he probably has regard to the relation of Zion and of the king's castle to the town, by which was symbolized the relation which the Davidic dynasty occupied to the kingdom of God.
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At the close of the last chapter, the prophet had announced severe judgments. In the verses immediately preceding, he had given glorious promises. In that which follows, he now combines these two elements; and it is only in chap. v. that the promise again appears, purely, and by itself. The judgments are thus introduced into the middle of the proclamation of salvation, in order that the faithful might thus be preserved from forming any vain hopes, which, if not confirmed by the result, are apt to be exchanged for much deeper despondency. But this same circumstance contained within it an indirect consolation; for it is certain that He who causes future events to be foretold, overrules them also; and "He who sends them, can also turn them." For the greatest cause of our despondency under the cross is certainly the doubt which we entertain as to whether it really comes from God. The prophet, however, affords direct consolation also. Whensoever he speaks of any calamity, he immediately subjoins the announcement of divine deliverance. The intimation of the sufferings, in this section, differs essentially from the former ones. It is not, like these, in a threatening, but in an affectionate character; indeed, in vers.11-13, the consolation preponderates even outwardly. From this, it is sufficiently evident, that it must have a different destination. Whilst the threatening was intended chiefly for the ungodly, it has, just as much as the preceding pure promise, the truly godly members of the Theocracy also in view, and aims at strengthening them in the manifold temptations into which they must fall, in consequence of the sufferings which [Pg 465] always come upon them also at the same time, on account of their outward, and therefore also their inward, connection with the wicked.
A glance at the great catastrophes, which were to precede the appearance of Christ, was here just in its proper place. In the preceding context, the prophet had mentioned the restoration of the former dominion. Here, he describes how the dominion is lost ("There is no king in thee," ver.9), and what shall happen during the period of this loss. He then further details, in v.1 (2) sq., in what manner the dominion is to be restored.
It is a threefold suffering, joined with deliverance from it, which presents itself to the prophet in his inward vision, and which he describes accordingly. This is evident from the three-fold [Hebrew: eth], compare vers.9, 11, 14, which, each time, indicates when a new scene presents itself to the prophet. This, further, appears from the different character which each one bears. In the case of the announcement in vers.9 and 10, viz., the carrying away to Babylon, it is alone the Lord's hand which delivers His people. In the calamity described in vers.11-13, He grants to Israel courage in war, and victory to his arms. The plans of the enemies to destroy Zion are frustrated, while in the former calamity they succeeded. In ver.14, Zion is anew represented as sorely pressed by enemies, and captured by them. According to v.1, which is closely connected with what precedes, the deliverance is accomplished by the Messiah, in whom the promise of the restoration of the dominion of the house of David over the daughter of Zion is fulfilled.
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Ver.9. "Now why dost thou raise a cry? Is there no king in thee, or is thy councillor gone? For pangs have seized thee as a woman in travail."
Zion, mourning at the time of the carrying away into captivity, stands before the prophet's spirit, and is addressed by him. This ought never to have been overlooked. But since, nevertheless, it has been so, we quote from the multitude of analogous instances, at least one which is altogether incontrovertible, and where the writer likewise transfers himself into the time of the [Pg 466] captivity, viz., the passage in Hos. xiii.9-11, which, in other respects also, shows a great resemblance to the one under consideration: "This has destroyed thee, O Israel, that thou wast against Me, against thine help. Where is now thy king? Let him deliver thee in all thy cities. And where are thy judges? Surely thou didst say: Give me kings and princes. And I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath." It is quite impossible to entertain, even for a moment, the thought that, in this passage, Hosea speaks of the real past and present, inasmuch as he prophesied before the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Micah opens his representation just with the moment that Jerusalem is captured by the enemies; and he announces to her that her sufferings are not yet at an end, -- that she must wander into exile. The progress of the thought in the verse under consideration is this: -- The prophet sees Zion dissolved in grief and lamentation. Full of sympathy, he asks of her the cause of this mourning, -- whether, it may be, it was caused by the loss of her king; and he himself answers this question in the affirmative, because such a cause could alone account for such a grief. Now, in order fully to realize the mourning of Zion over her king, we must bear in mind that the visible head was a representative of the invisible one, -- the mediator of His mercies: that hence, his removal was a token of divine anger, and an extinction of every hope of salvation. Every other king is, indeed, likewise an anointed of the Lord; but the king of Israel was so in a totally different sense. How deeply, from this point of view, the loss of the king was felt, at the time when that which is here merely the ideal present became the real present, is seen from Lam. iv.20: "The breath of our life, the anointed of the Lord, is taken a prisoner in their pits, he of whom we said. Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen." In Zech. iv. the civil magistrates, along with the ecclesiastical authorities, appear as the greatest gift of God's grace; henceforth these two shall again be the medium through which the Lord communicates His gracious gifts to the Congregation, just as they had been before the captivity. It must further be borne in mind, that all the promises for the future were bound up with the regal institution. With its extinction, therefore, everything seemed to be lost; every prospect of a better future seemed to have disappeared. The reference in [Pg 467] Jer. viii.19, where the king is the Lord Himself, to the passage before us, is very beautiful, and full of deep meaning. It points out the truth, that the loss of the earthly king is a consequence of their having forced the heavenly King to withdraw from the midst of them. -- The "councillor" is preeminently the king himself; compare Is. ix.5, where Christ, in whom the Davidic dynasty is to attain to the full height of its destination, appears as the councillor in the highest sense. Other councillors, it is true, are not thereby excluded; they form, however, only a group around the king as their centre; compare Is. iii.3.
Ver.10. "Travail and break forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman who bringeth forth; for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou dwellest in the field, and comest till to Babylon: there shalt thou be delivered, there the Lord shall redeem thee out of the hand of thine enemies."
The consolation begins with the words [Hebrew: wM tncli] only; the whole remaining part of the verse is of a mournful character. In the words, "Travail and break forth," one aspect only of the figure of the parturient woman is brought into view, viz., the pain; but not the joy following upon the pain; compare remarks on v.2. The Imperative is thus not, as some interpreters erroneously assume, an Imper. consolationis, but an intimation that the pain would reach its height, put into the form of an exhortation to submit to it. Much more satisfactorily than by many of the later expositors, the sense of this verse has been thus fixed by Calvin: "The sum and substance is, that although God would, according to His promise, take care of the people, the faithful should have no reason from this to indulge in joy, as if they were to be exempt from all troubles; on the contrary, the prophet exhorts them that they should rather prepare themselves to undergo all kinds of misery, so that, when driven out of their own land, they should not only, like straying people, wander about in the fields, but should be driven to Babylon as into a grave. But while he thus prepares the faithful to bear the cross, he subjoins the hope of salvation, viz., that God would deliver them, and redeem them from thence out of the hands of their enemies." -- The [Hebrew: Hvli] resumes the preceding, where the prophet had, at the point of time where he had taken his stand, viz., the capture of the city, represented that calamity of this [Pg 468] people, under the image of the pains of child-bearing. It thus becomes equivalent to -- Thou shalt be obliged to bear, not only the pains which precede the birth, but also the highest of all pains, viz., the pains of the birth itself. What the latter are in relation to the former, that, in the view of the prophet, is the carrying away out of the Holy Land, -- the expulsion from the face of God (an expulsion similar to that of Cain when he was obliged to flee from Eden), when compared to the mere capture. Hence the close connexion with what follows, by means of [Hebrew: ki]. The word [Hebrew: vgHi] (the o is, for the sake of euphony, employed instead of u; just as in ver.13 [Hebrew: dvwi]) is, by most interpreters, translated, "And lead out." But we must object to this, on the ground that [Hebrew: gvH] has always an intransitive signification only, viz., "to break forth;" and this signification is here quite suitable, more so even than the transitive; for it marks more emphatically the pain during the birth, which is here the only point: Jer. iv.31. It is, as it were, a dissolution of the whole nature, a violent breaking of it into pieces. The "now," just as the "now" at the commencement of the description of the scene, belongs to the ideal standing-point, where the carrying away is just at hand; for this is the period of the future into which the prophet has been carried. The "dwelling in the field" is the intervening station between the "going forth" and "the coming to Babylon." In the open air, exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather (compare the expression, "Under the dew of heaven," in Dan. iv.22, 30 [25, 33]), the prisoners were collected for the purpose of being afterwards carried away. The word [Hebrew: ed], as well as the twofold [Hebrew: wM], are emphatic. Irresistibly, the divine judgment advances to its last goal; but as irresistibly does divine mercy wrest from the enemies the prey which seemed to have been given to them even for ever. -- The futility of all attempts to explain away the distinct prophecy of the Babylonish captivity in this passage has been shown in the Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel, p.151 sqq. How even Caspari could join in these attempts, it is difficult to explain. Even he is of opinion that the prophet had expected the catastrophe to come from Asshur. Chap. v.4, 5 (5, 6) cannot be decisive for the reference to Asshur. For the circumstance that Asshur appears there as the type of the future enemies of the kingdom of God, implies, indeed, that he occupied the first place among the enemies [Pg 469] at the time of the prophet; but it by no means Implies that he must occupy a place in the outline of the future catastrophes of the people of God. Such a catastrophe was not to proceed from him, but rather from an enemy who had not yet at that time appeared on the scene, although his power was already germinating, as is shown by Is. xxxix. and other passages. The oppression of Judah by Asshur was indeed a heavy one; but it was transitory, and did not by any means constitute an era. From the relation in which vers.9-14 (iv.9-v.1) stands to ver.8, it sufficiently appears that the oppression by the Chaldeans must here form the commencement, although the Assyrian oppression must be added to it as an introduction and a prelude. According to this relation, the point at issue here can be only the cessation of the dominion of the Davidic family. From. Jer. xxvi.18, 19, Caspari endeavours to prove that Micah had in view, in the first instance, the Assyrians only. But that passage of Jeremiah refers to Mic. iii.12, where the prophecy has a general character, and where the instruments of the divine judgment are not expressly mentioned, as is the case here. On the other hand, the following arguments are opposed to the reference to the Assyrians.1. The prophet does not mention Asshur, but Babylon. Nothing is, certainly, proved by the circumstance that, at the time of the prophet, Babylon was still under the Assyrian dominion; for Babylon comes here into consideration, not so much as a place, but as a hostile power. The place, as such, was of no consequence, and the mention of it was not required by the character of the prophecy.2. If the announcement referred to Asshur, the result would contradict the prophecy. Caspari says, that by the repentance and conversion of the people, the fulfilment had been averted. But with such a view of prophecy, the position of the prophetic institution becomes untenable, and historically incomprehensible. The Mosaic regulation, that whosoever prophesied anything that did not take place should be punished with death, would in that case lose all practical significance; for there would always have been at hand the excuse, that by the repentance the execution of that sentence of punishment had been repealed. From the nature of the case, and from that Mosaic regulation, it follows that special announcements expressed absolutely must be fulfilled absolutely; and not a single fact in the history of prophetism [Pg 470] stands in contradiction to this truth. Jonah's announcement to Nineveh, indeed, has been appealed to; but, in reply, we remark simply, that the words of that announcement have not been communicated to us, while we see from the result that it was conditional only. Such a decided repentance would scarcely have been called forth by it among the inhabitants of Nineveh, had repentance not been expressly declared in it as a means of deliverance.3. Micah everywhere goes hand in hand with his contemporary Isaiah. But the latter always opposes energetically the despondency of Judah in the face of Asshur, and declares that his proud power would be broken at Jerusalem (as had been already prophesied by Hosea in i.4-7), and that, while the kingdom of the ten tribes would be destroyed, Judah would experience the protecting hand of the Lord. Caspari contradicts himself in thus making these two men of God to differ in so essential a point. For a man like Hitzig, it may be quite befitting to say, "Micah did not possess the firm, courageous faith which was displayed by Isaiah." 4. It is quite impossible to get rid of the obvious parallelism of the passage under consideration with Is. xxxix.6, 7, where the rising of the Babylonish empire, the destruction of the Davidic kingdom by it, and the carrying away of Judah to Babylon, are clearly and distinctly predicted. And in a number of other prophecies, Isaiah likewise declares or supposes, that that which the Assyrians threatened in vain, would at some future period, when the iniquity of the people had become full, be carried out by Babylon with her Chaldeans. It is scarcely conceivable how Caspari, acknowledging as he does the genuineness of these prophecies of Isaiah, could think of dissevering from them the prophecy now under consideration. -- Declarations like that before us, where, in clear and distinct outlines, a future event is foretold one hundred and fifty years before it takes place, inflict a death-blow upon the naturalistic view of the prophetic institution, as is sufficiently evident from Hitzig's embarrassment, and from his efforts to free himself from the bands of this troublesome fact.
Ver.11. "And now many nations assemble themselves against thee, that say: Let her be profaned, and let our eyes look upon Zion."
Israel, with its claim of being alone the people of the only true God, was a thorn in the eyes of the nations. These here [Pg 471] burn with eager desire to prove, actually and by deeds, that this presumptuous claim was unfounded, and, by the destruction of the city, to take from it its fancied holiness, and the glory of holiness. Destruction and profanation are, in their view, inseparably connected. The contrast to the verse under review is formed by vii.10: "And mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall come upon her who said. Where is the Lord thy God? Mine eyes shall behold her, now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets." The words, "Where is the Lord thy God?" entirely agree in substance with, "Let her be profaned!" But the desire of profaning Jerusalem must be conceived of as the human motive only. According to the view of Scripture generally, and of Micah particularly, all the distress of the people of God has its foundation in sin; and from the whole context, and especially from v.2 (3), where this event also is comprehended within the time when God's people are given up, it clearly appears that, notwithstanding the happy issue, we have here before us a heavy calamity. By a new phase of sin, a new phase of judgment is brought about; and by a new phase of worldliness, a new phase of aggression by the world's power. -- It is owing to a striving after variety, that the word "and" here stands before "now," while it is omitted in the third scene. It may stand, or it may be omitted, because the various catastrophes are independent of each other, and yet, at the same time, form a connected whole, as is evident from the words, "He will give them up," in v.2 (3), by which they are connected together. The heavy oppression of Judah appears here under the form of a siege of its centre, in accordance with the scope of prophecy, which, everywhere, seeks to impart vividness and animation to the scene, by uniting into one picture that which is separated by time and space. The historical reference of the prophecy is thus very accurately stated by Calvin: "Although the Babylonish captivity has come to an end, and Israel has been restored from it, the promised kingdom shall not immediately come. Before that takes place, the neighbouring nations shall assemble themselves against Jerusalem, with the desire of profaning it, and of enjoying a pleasant spectacle. This took place under Antiochus." That to which the prophet here simply alludes, but yet in such a way that the right reference cannot possibly be mistaken (since a great hostile aggression is here described, which should happen [Pg 472] after the people have returned from Babylon, and which is removed by the piety and courage of the people themselves; and since, after this second oppression, there follows a third, which is described in ver.14, there certainly remains no other alternative: the times of the Maccabees are those which can alone be thought of), is further detailed by Zechariah in ix.11 ff. At his time, the deliverance from the first calamity had already taken place; and he expressly states the names of the enemies; just as, in the prophecy under review, the authors of the first calamity are expressly named. That which is especially characteristic, and which points to the time of the Maccabees, is, moreover, the special mention of many nations, which are united in their decided hatred against Jerusalem as a city, and against Judah as the people of the Lord, taken in connection with the character of the war as a religious war in the strictest sense, -- it being an attempt of heathenism to destroy the Congregation of the Lord as such. These features are found in no other catastrophe during the time between Micah and Christ. And that the aggression belongs to the period before the appearing of the Saviour, is evident from the whole context, as well as from v.2 (3). In the time of the Maccabees, it was not with Syria alone that Judah had to do; but all the heathen nations without exception, with which Judah had any connection at that time, united themselves for a decisive stroke against the kingdom of God. Their purpose was to extirpate the whole race of Jacob, 1 Macc. v.2. Striking remarks upon the real nature of the struggle at that period, as a struggle of faithful Judaism against Heathenism, the latter of which had gained a considerable party among the people themselves, are made by Stark, in "Gaza und die Philistaeische Kueste," Jena, 52, S.481 ff. Among other things, he says: "The national distinctions in the boundaries of Palestine had by no means ceased, but continued under the general cover of the Egyptian and Syrian administration in a varied, unyielding, and hostile manner. There were the Idumeans in the whole of the south of Palestine to near Jerusalem; then, the Philistines, or when called by their cities, the Gazeans and Ashdodians; the Ph[oe]nicians, the Samaritans or Chutteans, the mixed population of Galilee, the Arabs of Perea.... As soon as the Jewish people, who, up to that time, had been altogether insignificant in a political point of view, rose against [Pg 473] the Syrian empire, at first for their religious peculiarities, then, for their political independence, and, finally, even for the recovery of the ideal possession of their country -- an idea which had been kept alive by tradition, -- it could not but be that those who were naturally the supports and centres of the Syrian operations, became the objects of the hostile Jewish operations; and that the whole national portion of the population, although not Greeks, were anew inflamed by their old hatred of, and opposition to, Judaism; so that they considered that Hellenic struggle as also a national one. This period thus produced at the same time a revival of the old national struggle of the inhabitants of Palestine, modified and increased by the struggle of Hellenism with the national reaction which served as a superstructure for it." The objection, raised even by Caspari, that a prophecy of the victorious struggles in the time of the Maccabees must be strange and surprising in a prophet of the Assyrian period, will not startle those who look at the analogies -- such as the prophecy in Is. vi. In the latter prophecy, first the Chaldean, and then the Roman catastrophes, are described in sharp outlines, but without any mention of the names of the instruments of punishment. It is only in reference to the executors of the first of these judgments that more distinct disclosures were given to the prophet himself at a subsequent period. The announcement in Zech. ix., where the Greeks are expressly mentioned, is, in reality, not less miraculous. According to all prophetical analogies, it is a priori probable that this detailed prophecy of the Maccabean period, and the similar one in Daniel, should have been preceded by some older prophecy which refers to the same facts, but only in general outlines, such as we have in the passage under consideration. If any doubt should still remain, it would be removed by a glance at the conflicting interpretations. Ewald and Hitzig think of the Assyrian invasion, to which vers.9, 10, are likewise referred by them, although such a reference is in opposition to the express words of these verses, -- which, for a Naturalistic tendency, are rather inconvenient. The contradiction in these two prophecies Ewald endeavours to reconcile by the evidently erroneous supposition, that the carrying away in ver.10 must be conceived of as only a partial one, -- a supposition which is invalidated by a simple comparison of iii.12. According to Hitzig, the prophet has, in vers.11-13, [Pg 474] overcome the despondency expressed in vers.9, 10, and has raised himself to confidence in God. He thus makes the prophet distinctly contradict himself in one breath, -- a supposition which does not even deserve a refutation. Even if we were entirely to separate this passage from its connection, how ill does the activity here ascribed to Judah agree with the oppression by the Assyrians! This activity of Judah supposes that it has to do with many small nations. Against the great Asiatic empires, a direct and immediate interposition of the Lord is everywhere referred to. The salvation, however, which is here announced to Judah, can be only an imperfect one, and cannot go beyond what they really received at the time of the Maccabees. This is sufficiently evident from the circumstance, that it belongs to a time in which Judah has no king of the Davidic house; for him they have already lost in ver.9, and receive again only in v.1 (2), in Christ; and it is certain that the Davidic house was the channel through which all the true and great mercies of the Lord were bestowed upon His people.
Ver.12. "And they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel; for He gathereth them as the sheaf for the threshing-floor."
The particle "and" is here used, where we, for the sake of a closer connection, would employ "but." The thoughts of the Lord are these, -- that the sufferings, after having served their purpose as regards Zion, shall pass over to the enemies, so that they shall themselves be destroyed by Zion, while they so confidently thought to inflict destruction upon Zion. The [Hebrew: ki] introduces the reason of their not knowing the way of the Lord. If they knew it, they would not express such desire and hope; for it is they themselves whom the Lord gives over to destruction.
Ver.13. "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I make thine horn iron, and thy claws brass; and thou crushest in pieces many people, and I consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their strength to the Ruler of the whole earth."
The figure is based upon the Eastern mode of threshing; compare Paulsen vom Ackerbau der Morgenl. Sec.40-42; Niebuhr, Reise i. S.151; and likewise Is. xxi.10, xli.15; Hab. iii.12. Strictly speaking, one characteristic only of the threshing oxen is here considered, viz., the crushing power of their hoofs. The prophet, however, extends the comparison to that also in which [Pg 475] the bullock is formidable, even when it is not engaged in the work of threshing, viz., to its horns. On this point 1 Kings xxii.11 may be compared, where the pseudo-prophet Zedekiah makes to himself iron horns, and thus states the import of this symbolical action: "Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push Aram until it is destroyed." The first person in [Hebrew: hHrmti] has perplexed several ancient translators (Syr., Jerome), as well as many modern interpreters, who, therefore, substitute the second person for it. But it is quite appropriate. As at the beginning, where the Lord gathers the sheaf on the threshing-floor, so at the close also, the prophet declares that the victory is the work of God. It is He Himself, the true God, the Lord of the whole earth, who reminds His rebellious subjects of their true relation to Him, by vindicating to Himself a part of the good things which He bestowed upon them; just as He once did in Egypt. This thought contains the reason why, instead of the pronoun of the first person, the noun is employed; so that it is equivalent to: To Me the only God, the Lord of the whole earth. But it is altogether distorted, if the first person here be changed into the second. With respect to the import of the word, we must by no means think only of the gifts of consecration which were brought to the temple. Such a view would be necessary, only if the goods of the Covenant-people, or the Covenant-people themselves, were introduced as that which is to be consecrated. In that case we could understand, by that which is consecrated, that only which is the exclusive property of the Lord, which has been dedicated to Him exclusively, and for ever withdrawn from the use of His subjects, and which, as far as they are concerned, is as good as annihilated; compare Lev. xxvii.28: "Everything consecrated, which any one consecrates to the Lord, of man and of beast, and of the field of his possession, shall not be sold nor redeemed; every consecrated thing is most holy to the Lord." But here, where He who consecrates is the Lord, while the goods are those of the heathen, the latter only are to be considered as being excluded from the possession, and as those in reference to whom the goods are consecrated goods; while the people of God must, on the other hand, be considered as partaking in what He has acquired. The community of goods between these two is rendered prominent in other passages also where the object required it. Thus, e.g., [Pg 476] Joel iv. (iii.) 5, where the Ph[oe]nicians and Philistines are charged: "My silver and My gold ye have taken, and My precious things, the goodly ones, ye have carried into your palaces." That we cannot here think of the temple-treasure is evident, not only from a comparison of ver.4, where the attempts of these nations to avenge themselves on Israel on account of former injuries, are expressly represented as attempts to take vengeance upon God, but also from history, which knows nothing of the plunder of the temple by Ph[oe]nicians and Philistines. The mention of the gain points to the male parta, -- and this is the more strictly applicable, the nearer the relation is in which he who is robbed stands to the Lord of the earth. With the gain, the substance in general is lost. -- The fundamental thought of the verse, which is here expressed only with an application to a special case, is that of the victory of the Congregation of the Lord over the world. This was perceived by Calvin, who strikingly demonstrates how this declaration is ever anew realized, and how its complete fulfilment is reserved only for the second coming of Christ. He has erred, however, in this, that looking only to the eternal import of the thought, he overlooked the circumstance that it is here expressed with reference to a definite event in which it was to be realized.
Ver.14. "Who thou gatherest thyself in troops, O daughter of troops. They lay siege against us, they smite the judge of Israel with the rod upon the cheek."
A new scene presents itself to the prophet. Zion, victorious on the preceding occasion, appears here as powerless, and locked up within her walls. She is captured; and ignominious abuse is cast upon the leaders of the deeply abased people. -- We need not here dwell for any length of time upon the numerous expositions of [Hebrew: ttgddi]. There is only one, viz., "thou shalt press thyself together," which affords an appropriate contrast; while this contrast is lost when it is translated, as Hofmann does, by: "thou shalt lacerate thyself" (compare what Caspari has advanced against it). "Thou shalt press thyself together" does not, moreover, destroy the import of Hithpael, and has especially the use of the Hithp. of [Hebrew: gdd], in Jer. v.7, in its favour. The Hithpael in this signification is probably a Denominative of [Hebrew: gdvd]. The person addressed, the [Hebrew: bt-gdvd], can be none other than the [Hebrew: bt-civN ] in ver.13. For it is she who is addressed by the prophet [Pg 477] in each of the new scenes announced by [Hebrew: eth], and she is, generally, the only one to whom the discourse is, throughout the whole section, addressed. The intentional paronomasia occasioned by the designation "daughter of troops," i.e., who appeared in warlike array, evidently alludes to [Hebrew: bt-civN ], and refers to the description of Zion as a brave victorious hero, in the preceding verses. The enemy is immediately afterwards spoken of in the third person. The words, "Siege (not by any means 'a wall,' as De Wette maintains) they lay, or direct against us," clearly indicate that the pressing of themselves together, which forms a contrast with the former courageous excursions indicated by [Hebrew: gdvd], is the consequence of fear, weakness, and hostile oppression. The words are therefore strikingly paraphrased by Justi, thus: "But now, why dost thou thus press thyself together, thou who wast accustomed to press others?" This, however, only must be kept in mind, that [Hebrew: bt-gdvd] implies an allusion to the fact that the warlike disposition continues even in the present, notwithstanding the feebleness forced upon her, -- a very characteristic feature. In saying, "They lay siege against us," instead of "against thee," the prophet is carried away by his emotions to show himself as one of the people whom he sees to be oppressed by so heavy sufferings. As indicated by the word "now" also, he is, in spirit, in the midst of them. The ignominious treatment of the judge of Israel supposes that the prophet sees, in his inward vision, the capture of the city as having already taken place; for it is impossible to conceive of the judge, the soul of the city, as being outside of it. This judge of Israel is an ideal person, formed by the prophet in order that he might be able to contrast him with the Ruler of Israel in v.1 (2), who represents all the theocratic authorities; compare, e.g.. Is. iii.12, where the corrupted leaders of the Theocracy present themselves to the prophet in the person of a large child. To speak, in such a case, of a collective noun, as is usually done, is out of place. But it may be observed that it is not a king who is here spoken of, but, very significantly, a judge of Israel only, probably with reference to the times before Saul, when Israel was governed by judges. The royal dominion which, according to the announcement in ver.9, shall be destroyed by Babylon, shall be restored by the Messiah only (compare v.1 , iv.8), who is not [Hebrew: wpT iwral], but, like His great ancestor [Pg 478] David, [Hebrew: mvwl biwral]; compare 2 Sam. xxiii.3. There can be no doubt that, in this connection, the Judge is spoken of as distinguished from, and contrasted with, the King. But even by itself, the mention of the Judge cannot but be startling. It would have been against the object of the prophet to have mentioned any inferior persons, when there existed a superior one; and if the King was thereby denoted, why should he have been designated thus? -- It is on purpose that [Hebrew: iwral], which is the nomen dignitatis of the people, is here chosen. It more emphatically points out the unworthiness of the treatment, as well as the contrast between the reality and the idea in the destinies of the nation, -- a contrast, it is true, which Israel has called forth by the preceding contrast between the reality and the idea with regard to his conduct. Since Israel has inwardly profaned himself by his own guilt, he is now, as a just punishment, profaned outwardly also. -- With respect, now, to the historical reference of this disastrous announcement, its fulfilment cannot be sought for in any other event than the invasion by the Romans. Among the sufferings of the people, which are here described in general outlines, this is the only one recorded in history, with the exception of those already mentioned. Isaiah, the contemporary of Micah, likewise announced, as early as in chap. vi., that upon those who should return from the captivity a second judgment would be inflicted, by which the national independence should be destroyed. This judgment is described with remarkable clearness and distinctness by the post-exilic prophets, inasmuch as, to them, it appeared already more in the foreground; compare the remarks on Zech. v. and xi.; Dan. ix. The only plausible argument against this reference is this, -- that the capture of the city by the Romans was subsequent to the appearance of the Messiah, and that it is, after all, the latter which forms the subject of the announcement of salvation in v.1 (2), which, again, refers to the sufferings described in the verse before us. This argument, however, is set aside by the following considerations.1. The prophet, indeed, designates the misery which was inflicted by those enemies upon the Covenant-people only according to its acme, viz., the siege and capture of the city; but he, nevertheless, views it in, and understands it of, its whole extent, and from its first beginnings. These, then, in so far as the Romans are concerned, fall in the time before Christ, for the Jewish [Pg 479] people were already subjected to the Roman dominion by Pompey.2. This alone, however, is not sufficient. If, with Vershuir (de celebri oraculo Mic. iv.14, in the Dissert. Philol. exeg. Leuw.1775), we confine ourselves to the capture by Pompey, we cannot, by any means, get rid of the feeling that that fulfilment does not exhaust the prophecy. But we are, on the other hand, quite entitled to add that highest point, viz., the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, along with all its still existing consequences, if only we consider, that the announcement of salvation in chap. v. -- as is shown by its contents, and by its accordance with the analogy of all the Messianic prophecies -- is not limited to the short period of the first appearance of Christ. That comes into consideration rather as the grain of seed only from which the tree grew up, under which all the fowls of heaven were to dwell. Hence it is, that the salvation, no less than the punishment, is a continuous one, until, at the end of the days, it appears in its glorious consummation. But if it be established that Christ is presented as the only Saviour from the calamity here described, then that calamity must still continue for those who reject Him, yea, it must still be increased. It is only by giving up their opposition that they can be delivered from the yoke which presses upon them. The election, on the other hand, is, from the very beginning, received into the communion of His kingdom, which extends over the whole world. Here, however, that which has been already remarked in reference to vers.11-13 finds its application. The siege and capture of Zion are pre-eminently the means of representing the idea of the heavy oppression and deep abasement of Israel, and of the cessation of its political independence, although it must not upon any account be overlooked, that the natural form of the representation is, at the same time, the natural form of the realization of the idea that Judah could not be destroyed without the siege and capture of Jerusalem, its centre.
Footnote 1: We must not by any means suppose, as has been done last of all by Caspari, that the mountains are here regarded as places of worship.
Footnote 2: Thus does Calvin, who says: "He speaks after the manner of the prophets, who under the term 'law' used to comprehend the whole doctrine of God."
Footnote 3: Caspari, indeed, is of opinion, that the walking in the name of the Lord is not to be considered as a merit, on account of which the salvation is granted, but as a mercy which has been bestowed upon Israel, and which forms the ground of the salvation. But this feature is not at all intimated; and we are the less at liberty to introduce it, as the walking in the name of the gods is parallel to the walking in the name of the Lord.
Footnote 4: Caspari very properly refers here to v.3 (4), where the Messiah, in whom the former dominion is to come to the Tower of the flock, is represented as a shepherd.
Footnote 5: Micah's references to the Pentateuch are made the subject of a most thorough disquisition by Caspari, S.419 ff.