The cruelty of the princes, and the falsehood of the prophets. (1-8) Their false security. (9-12)
Verses 1-8 Men cannot expect to do ill, and fare well; but to find that done to them which they did to others. How seldom do wholesome truths reach the ears of those in high stations or in authority! Those who deceive others are preparing confusion for their own faces. The prophet had ardent love to God and to the souls of men; deep concern for his glory and their salvation, and zeal against sin. The difficulties he met with did not drive him from his work. He had this strength; not from and of himself, but he was full of power by the Spirit of the Lord. Those who act honestly, may act boldly. And those who come to hear the word of God, must be willing to be told of their faults, must take it kindly, and be thankful.
Verses 9-12 Zion's walls owe no thanks to those that build them up with blood and iniquity. The sin of man works not the righteousness of God. Even when men do that which in itself is good, but do it for filthy lucre, it becomes abomination both to God and man. Faith rests in the Lord as the soul's foundation: presumption only leans upon the Lord as a prop, and would use him to serve a turn. If men's having the Lord among them will not keep them from doing evil, it never can secure them from suffering evil for so doing. See the doom of wicked Jacob; Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field. This was exactly fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and is so at this day. If sacred places are polluted by sin, they will be wasted and ruined by the judgments of God.
Micah 3:1-12 . THE SINS OF THE PRINCES, PROPHETS, AND PRIESTS: THE CONSEQUENT DESOLATION OF ZION.
1. princes--magistrates or judges.
Is it not for you?--Is it not your special function ( Jeremiah 5:4 Jeremiah 5:5 )?
judgment--justice. Ye sit in judgment on others; surely then ye ought to know the judgment for injustice which awaits yourselves ( Romans 2:1 ).
2. pluck off their skin . . . flesh--rob their fellow countrymen of all their substance ( Psalms 14:4 , Proverbs 30:14 ).
3. pot . . . flesh within . . . caldron--manifold species of cruel oppressions. Compare Ezekiel 24:3 , &c., containing, as to the coming punishment, the same figure as is here used of the sin: implying that the sin and punishment exactly correspond.
4. Then--at the time of judgment, which Micah takes for granted, so certain is it (compare Micah 2:3 ).
they cry . . . but he will not hear--just as those oppressed by them had formerly cried, and they would not hear. Their prayer shall be rejected, because it is the mere cry of nature for deliverance from pain, not that of repentance for deliverance from sin.
ill in their doings--Men cannot expect to do ill and fare well.
5. Here he attacks the false prophets, as before he had attacked the "princes."
make my people err--knowingly mislead My people by not denouncing their sins as incurring judgment.
bite with . . . teeth, and cry, Peace--that is, who, so long as they are supplied with food, promise peace and prosperity in their prophecies.
he that putteth not into their mouths, they . . . prepare war against him--Whenever they are not supplied with food, they foretell war and calamity.
prepare war--literally, "sanctify war," that is, proclaim it as a holy judgment of God because they are not fed Isaiah 13:3 , Joel 1:14 ).
6. night . . . dark--Calamities shall press on you so overwhelming as to compel you to cease pretending to divine ( Zechariah 13:4 ). Darkness is often the image of calamity ( Isaiah 8:22 , Amos 5:18 , 8:9 ).
7. cover their lips--The Orientals prided themselves on the moustache and beard ("upper lip," Margin). To cover it, therefore, was a token of shame and sorrow ( Leviticus 13:45 , Ezekiel 24:17 Ezekiel 24:22 ). "They shall be so ashamed of themselves as not to dare to open their mouths or boast of the name of prophet" [CALVIN].
there is no answer of God--They shall no more profess to have responses from God, being struck dumb with calamities ( Micah 3:6 ).
8. I--in contrast to the false prophets ( Micah 3:5 Micah 3:7 ).
full of power--that which "the Spirit of Jehovah" imparts for the discharge of the prophetical function ( Luke 1:17 , 24:49 , Acts 1:8 ).
judgment--a sense of justice [MAURER]; as opposed to the false prophets' speaking to please men, not from a regard to truth. Or, "judgment" to discern between graver and lighter offenses, and to denounce punishments accordingly [GROTIUS].
might--moral intrepidity in speaking the truth at all costs ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ).
to declare unto Jacob his . . . sin--( Isaiah 58:1 ). Not to flatter the sinner as the false prophets do with promises of peace.
9. Hear--resumed from Micah 3:1 . Here begins the leading subject of the prophecy: a demonstration of his assertion that he is "full of power by the Spirit of Jehovah" ( Micah 3:8 ).
10. They--change of person from "ye" ( Micah 3:9 ); the third person puts them to a greater distance as estranged from Him. It is, literally, "Whosoever builds," singular.
build up Zion with blood--build on it stately mansions with wealth obtained by the condemnation and murder of the innocent ( Jeremiah 22:13 , Ezekiel 22:27 , Habakkuk 2:12 ).
11. heads thereof--the princes of Jerusalem.
judge for reward--take bribes as judges ( Micah 7:3 ).
priests teach for hire--It was their duty to teach the law and to decide controversies gratuitously ( Leviticus 10:11 , Deuteronomy 17:11 , Malachi 2:7 ; compare Jeremiah 6:13 , Jude 1:11 ).
prophets . . . divine--that is, false prophets.
Is not the Lord among us?--namely in the temple ( Isaiah 48:2 , Jeremiah 7:4 Jeremiah 7:8-11 ).
12. Jeremiah 26:18 quotes this verse. The Talmud and MAIMONIDES record that at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus, Terentius Rufus, who was left in command of the army, with a ploughshare tore up the foundations of the temple.
mountain of the house--the height on which the temple stands.
as the high places of the forest--shall become as heights in a forest overrun with wild shrubs and brushwood.