God's controversy with Israel. (1-5) The duties God requires. (6-8) The wickedness of Israel. (9-16)
Verses 1-5 The people are called upon to declare why they were weary of God's worship, and prone to idolatry. Sin causes the controversy between God and man. God reasons with us, to teach us to reason with ourselves. Let them remember God's many favours to them and their fathers, and compare with them their unworthy, ungrateful conduct toward him.
Verses 6-8 These verses seem to contain the substance of Balak's consultation with Balaam how to obtain the favour of Israel's God. Deep conviction of guilt and wrath will put men upon careful inquiries after peace and pardon, and then there begins to be some ground for hope of them. In order to God's being pleased with us, our care must be for an interest in the atonement of Christ, and that the sin by which we displease him may be taken away. What will be a satisfaction to God's justice? In whose name must we come, as we have nothing to plead as our own? In what righteousness shall we appear before him? The proposals betray ignorance, though they show zeal. They offer that which is very rich and costly. Those who are fully convinced of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, would give all the world, if they had it, for peace and pardon. Yet they do not offer aright. The sacrifices had value from their reference to Christ; it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. And all proposals of peace, except those according to the gospel, are absurd. They could not answer the demands of Divine justice, nor satisfy the wrong done to the honour of God by sin, nor would they serve at all in place of holiness of the heart and reformation of the life. Men will part with any thing rather than their sins; but they part with nothing so as to be accepted of God, unless they do part with their sins. Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God's commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but love to himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard, in this? Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on the Redeemer and his atonement. Blessed be the Lord that he is ever ready to give his grace to the humble, waiting penitent.
Verses 9-16 God, having showed how necessary it was that they should do justly, here shows how plain it was that they had done unjustly. This voice of the Lord says to all, Hear the rod when it is coming, before you see it, and feel it. Hear the rod when it is come, and you are sensible of the smart; hear what counsels, what cautions it speaks. The voice of God is to be heard in the rod of God. Those who are dishonest in their dealings shall never be reckoned pure, whatever shows of devotion they may make. What is got by fraud and oppression, cannot be kept or enjoyed with satisfaction. What we hold closest we commonly lose soonest. Sin is a root of bitterness, soon planted, but not soon plucked up again. Their being the people of God in name and profession, while they kept themselves in his love, was an honour to them; but now, being backsliders, their having been once the people of God turns to their reproach.
Micah 6:1-16 . APPEAL BEFORE ALL CREATION TO THE ISRAELITES TO TESTIFY, IF THEY CAN, IF JEHOVAH EVER DID AUGHT BUT ACTS OF KINDNESS TO THEM FROM THE EARLIEST PERIOD: GOD REQUIRES OF THEM NOT SO MUCH SACRIFICES, AS REAL PIETY AND JUSTICE: THEIR IMPIETIES AND COMING PUNISHMENT.
1. contend thou--Israel is called by Jehovah to pie ad with Him in controversy. Micah 5:11-13 suggested the transition from those happy times described in the fourth and fifth chapters, to the prophet's own degenerate times and people.
before the mountains--in their presence; personified as if witnesses (compare Micah 1:2 , Deuteronomy 32:1 , Isaiah 1:2 ). Not as the Margin, "with"; as God's controversy is with Israel, not with them.
2. Lord's controversy--How great is Jehovah's condescension, who, though the supreme Lord of all, yet wishes to prove to worms of the earth the equity of His dealings ( Isaiah 5:3 , 43:26 ).
3. my people--the greatest aggravation of their sin, that God always treated them, and still treats them, as His people.
what have I done unto thee?--save kindness, that thou revoltest from Me ( Jeremiah 2:5 Jeremiah 2:31 ).
wherein have I wearied thee?--What commandments have I enjoined that should have wearied thee as irksome ( 1 John 5:3 )?
4. For--On the contrary, so far from doing anything harsh, I did thee every kindness from the earliest years of thy nationality.
Miriam--mentioned, as being the prophetess who led the female chorus who sang the song of Moses ( Exodus 15:20 ). God sent Moses to give the best laws; Aaron to pray for the people; Miriam as an example to the women of Israel.
5. what Balak . . . consulted--how Balak plotted to destroy thee by getting Balaam to curse thee ( Numbers 22:5 ).
what Balaam . . . answered--how the avaricious prophet was constrained against his own will, to bless Israel whom he had desired to curse for the sake of Balak's reward ( Numbers 24:9-11 ) [MAURER]. GROTIUS explains it, "how Balaam answered, that the only way to injure thee was by tempting thee to idolatry and whoredom" ( Numbers 31:16 ). The mention of "Shittim" agrees with this: as it was the scene of Israel's sin ( Numbers 25:1-5 2 Peter 2:15 Revelation 2:14 ).
from Shittim unto Gilgal--not that Balaam accompanied Israel from Shittim to Gilgal: for he was slain in Midian ( Numbers 31:8 ). But the clause, "from Shittim," alone applies to Balaam. "Remember" God's kindnesses "from Shittim," the scene of Balaam's wicked counsel taking effect in Israel's sin, whereby Israel merited utter destruction but for God's sparing mercy, "to Gilgal," the place of Israel's first encampment in the promised land between Jericho and Jordan, where God renewed the covenant with Israel by circumcision ( Joshua 5:2-11 ).
know the righteousness--Recognize that, so far from God having treated thee harshly ( Micah 6:3 ), His dealings have been kindness itself (so "righteous acts" for gracious, Judges 5:11 , Psalms 24:5 , 112:9 ).
6. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?--The people, convicted by the previous appeal of Jehovah to them, ask as if they knew not (compare Micah 6:8 ) what Jehovah requires of them to appease Him, adding that they are ready to offer an immense heap of sacrifices, and those the most costly, even to the fruit of their own body.
burnt offerings--( Leviticus 1:1-17 ).
calves of a year old--which used to be offered for a priest ( Leviticus 9:2 Leviticus 9:3 ).
7. rivers of oil--used in sacrifices ( Leviticus 2:1 Leviticus 2:15 ). Will God be appeased by my offering so much oil that it shall flow in myriads of torrents?
my first-born--( 2 Kings 3:27 ). As the king of Moab did.
fruit of my body--my children, as an atonement ( Psalms 132:11 ). The Jews offered human sacrifices in the valley of Hinnom ( Jeremiah 19:5 , 32:35 , Ezekiel 23:27 ).
hath showed thee--long ago, so that thou needest not ask the question as if thou hadst never heard ( Micah 6:6 ; compare Deuteronomy 10:12 , 30:11-14 ).
what is good--"the good things to come" under Messiah, of which "the law had the shadow." The Mosaic sacrifices were but suggestive foreshadowings of His better sacrifice ( Hebrews 9:23 , 10:1 ). To have this "good" first "showed," or revealed by the Spirit, is the only basis for the superstructure of the moral requirements which follow. Thus the way was prepared for the Gospel. The banishment of the Jews from Palestine is designed to preclude the possibility of their looking to the Mosaic rites for redemption, and shuts them up to Messiah.
justly . . . mercy--preferred by God to sacrifices. For the latter being positive ordinances, are only means designed with a view to the former, which being moral duties are the ends, and of everlasting obligation ( 1 Samuel 15:22 , Hosea 6:6 , 12:6 , Amos 5:22 Amos 5:24 ). Two duties towards man are specified--justice, or strict equity; and mercy, or a kindly abatement of what we might justly demand, and a hearty desire to do good to others.
to walk humbly with thy God--passive and active obedience towards God. The three moral duties here are summed up by our Lord ( Matthew 23:23 ), "judgment, mercy, and faith" (in Luke 11:42 , "the love of God). Compare James 1:27 . To walk with God implies constant prayer and watchfulness, familiar yet "humble" converse with God ( Genesis 5:24 , 17:1 ).
9. unto the city--Jerusalem.
the man of wisdom--As in Proverbs 13:6 , Hebrew, "sin" is used for "a man of sin," and in Psalms 109:4 , "prayer" for "a man of prayer"; so here "wisdom" for "the man of wisdom."
shall see thy name--shall regard Thee, in Thy revelations of Thyself. Compare the end of Micah 2:7 . God's "name" expresses the sum-total of His revealed attributes. Contrast with this Isaiah 26:10 , "will not behold the majesty of the Lord." Another reading is adopted by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, "there is deliverance for those who fear Thy name." English Version is better suited to the connection; and the rarity of the Hebrew expression, as compared with the frequency of that in the other reading, makes it less likely to be an interpolation.
hear . . . the rod, &c.--Hear what punishment (compare Micah 6:13 , &c. Isaiah 9:3 , Isaiah 10:5 Isaiah 10:24 ) awaits you, and from whom. I am but a man, and so ye may disregard me; but remember my message is not mine, but God's. Hear the rod when it is come, and you feel its smart. Hear what counsels, what cautions it speaks.
appointed it--( Jeremiah 47:7 ).
10. Are there yet--notwithstanding all My warnings. Is there to be no end of acquiring treasures by wickedness? Jehovah is speaking ( Micah 6:9 ).
scant measure . . . abominable--( Proverbs 11:1 , Amos 8:5 ).
11. Shall I count them pure--literally, "Shall I be pure with?" &c. With the pure God shows Himself pure; but with the froward God shows Himself froward ( Psalms 18:26 ). Men often are changeable in their judgments. But God, in the case of the impure who use "wicked balances," cannot be pure, that is, cannot deal with them as He would with the pure. VATABLUS and HENDERSON make the "I" to be "any one"; "Can I (that is, one) be innocent with wicked balances?" But as "I," in Micah 6:13 , refers to Jehovah, it must refer to Him also here.
the bag--in which weights used to be carried, as well as money ( Deuteronomy 25:13 , Proverbs 16:11 ).
12. For--rather, "Inasmuch as"; the conclusion "therefore," &c. following in Micah 6:13 .
13. make thee sick in smiting--( Leviticus 26:16 , to which perhaps the allusion here is, as in Micah 6:14 , Psalms 107:17 Psalms 107:18 , Jeremiah 13:13 ).
14. eat . . . not be satisfied--fulfiling the threat, Leviticus 26:26 .
thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee--Thou shalt be cast down, not merely on My borders, but in the midst of thee, thy metropolis and temple being overthrown [TIRINUS]. Even though there should be no enemy, yet thou shalt be consumed with intestine evils [CALVIN]. MAURER translates as from an Arabic root, "there shall be emptiness in thy belly." Similarly GROTIUS, "there shall be a sinking of thy belly (once filled with food), through hunger." This suits the parallelism to the first clause. But English Version maintains the parallelism sufficiently. The casting down in the midst of the land, including the failure of food, through the invasion thus answering to, "Thou shalt eat, and not be satisfied."
thou shalt take hold, but . . . not deliver--Thou shalt take hold (with thine arms), in order to save [CALVIN] thy wives, children and goods. MAURER, from a different root, translates, "thou shalt remove them," in order to save them from the foe. But thou shalt fail in the attempt to deliver them ( Jeremiah 50:37 ).
that which thou deliverest--If haply thou dost rescue aught, it will be for a time: I will give it up to the foe's sword.
15. sow . . . not reap--fulfilling the threat ( Leviticus 26:16 , Deuteronomy 28:38-40 , Amos 5:11 ).
16. statutes of Omri--the founder of Samaria and of Ahab's wicked house; and a supporter of Jeroboam's superstitions ( 1 Kings 16:16-28 ). This verse is a recapitulation of what was more fully stated before, Judah's sin and consequent punishment. Judah, though at variance with Israel on all things else, imitated her impiety.
works of . . . Ahab--( 1 Kings 21:25 1 Kings 21:26 ).
ye walk in their counsels--Though these superstitions were the fruit of their king's "counsels" as a master stroke of state policy, yet these pretexts were no excuse for setting at naught the counsels and will of God.
that I should make thee a desolation--Thy conduct is framed so, as if it was thy set purpose "that I should make thee a desolation."
inhabitants thereof--namely, of Jerusalem.
hissing--( Lamentations 2:15 ).
the reproach of my people--The very thing ye boast of, namely, that ye are "My people," will only increase the severity of your punishment. The greater My grace to you, the greater shall be your punishment for having despised it, Your being God's people in name, while walking in His love, was an honor; but now the name, without the reality, is only a "reproach" to you.