The general prevalence of wickedness. (1-7) Reliance on God, and triumph over enemies. (8-13) Promises and encouragements for Israel. (14-20)
Verses 1-7 The prophet bemoans himself that he lived among a people ripening apace for ruin, in which many good persons would suffer. Men had no comfort, no satisfaction in their own families or in their nearest relations. Contempt and violation of domestic duties are a sad symptom of universal corruption. Those are never likely to come to good who are undutiful to their parents. The prophet saw no safety or comfort but in looking to the Lord, and waiting on God his salvation. When under trials, we should look continually to our Divine Redeemer, that we may have strength and grace to trust in him, and to be examples to those around us.
Verses 8-13 Those truly penitent for sin, will see great reason to be patient under affliction. When we complain to the Lord of the badness of the times, we ought to complain against ourselves for the badness of our hearts. We must depend upon God to work deliverance for us in due time. We must not only look to him, but look for him. In our greatest distresses, we shall see no reason to despair of salvation, if by faith we look to the Lord as the God of our salvation. Though enemies triumph and insult, they shall be silenced and put to shame. Though Zion's walls may long be in ruins, there will come a day when they shall be repaired. Israel shall come from all the remote parts, not turning back for discouragements. Though our enemies may seem to prevail against us, and to rejoice over us, we should not despond. Though cast down, we are not destroyed; we may join hope in God's mercy, with submission to his correction. No hinderances can prevent the favours the Lord intends for his church.
Verses 14-20 When God is about to deliver his people, he stirs up their friends to pray for them. Apply spiritually the prophet's prayer to Christ, to take care of his church, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to go before them, while they are here in this world as in a wood, in this world but not of it. God promises in answer to this prayer, he will do that for them which shall be repeating the miracles of former ages. As their sin brought them into bondage, so God's pardoning their sin brought them out. All who find pardoning mercy, cannot but wonder at that mercy; we have reason to stand amazed, if we know what it is. When the Lord takes away the guilt of sin, that it may not condemn us, he will break the power of sin, that it may not have dominion over us. If left to ourselves, our sins will be too hard for us; but God's grace shall be sufficient to subdue them, so that they shall not rule us, and then they shall not ruin us. When God forgives sin, he takes care that it never shall be remembered any more against the sinner. He casts their sins into the sea; not near the shore-side, where they may appear again, but into the depth of the sea, never to rise again. All their sins shall be cast there, for when God forgives sin, he forgives all. He will perfect that which concerns us, and with this good work will do all for us which our case requires, and which he has promised. These engagements relate to Christ, and the success of the gospel to the end of time, the future restoration of Israel, and the final prevailing of true religion in all lands. The Lord will perform his truth and mercy, not one jot or tittle of it shall fall to the ground: faithful is He that has promised, who also will do it. Let us remember that the Lord has given the security of his covenant, for strong consolation to all who flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in Christ Jesus.
Micah 7:1-20 . THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CORRUPTION; THE CHOSEN REMNANT, DRIVEN FROM EVERY HUMAN CONFIDENCE, TURNS TO GOD; TRIUMPHS BY FAITH OVER HER ENEMIES; IS COMFORTED BY GOD'S PROMISES IN ANSWER TO PRAYER, AND BY THE CONFUSION OF HER ENEMIES, AND SO BREAKS FORTH INTO PRAISES OF GOD'S CHARACTER.
1. I am as when, &c.--It is the same with me as with one seeking fruits after the harvest, grapes after the vintage. "There is not a cluster" to be found: no "first-ripe fruit" (or "early fig"; [MAURER]. So I look in vain for any good men left ( Micah 7:2 ).
2. The Hebrew expresses "one merciful and good in relation to man," rather than to God.
is perished out of the earth--( Psalms 12:1 ).
3. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly--literally, "Their hands are for evil that they may do it well" (that is, cleverly and successfully).
the great man, he--emphatic repetition. As for the great man, he no sooner has expressed his bad desire (literally, the "mischief or lust of his soul), than the venal judges are ready to wrest the decision of the case according to his wish.
so they wrap it up--The Hebrew is used of intertwining cords together. The "threefold cord is not quickly broken" ( Ecclesiastes 4:12 ); here the "prince," the "judge," and the "great man" are the three in guilty complicity. "They wrap it up," namely, they conspire to carry out the great man's desire at the sacrifice of justice.
4. as a brier--or thorn; pricking with injury all who come in contact with them ( 2 Samuel 23:6 2 Samuel 23:7 , Isaiah 55:13 , Ezekiel 2:6 ).
the day of thy watchmen--the day foretold by thy (true) prophets, as the time of "thy visitation" in wrath [GROTIUS]. Or, "the day of thy false prophets being punished"; they are specially threatened as being not only blind themselves, but leading others blindfold [CALVIN].
now--at the time foretold, "at that time"; the prophet transporting himself into it.
perplexity--( Isaiah 22:5 ). They shall not know whither to turn.
5. Trust ye not in a friend--Faith is kept nowhere: all to a man are treacherous ( Jeremiah 9:2-6 ). When justice is perverted by the great, faith nowhere is safe. So, in gospel times of persecution, "a man's foes are they of his own household" ( Matthew 10:35 Matthew 10:36 , Luke 12:53 ).
guide--a counsellor [CALVIN] able to help and advise (compare Psalms 118:8 Psalms 118:9 , 146:3 ). The head of your family, to whom all the members of the family would naturally repair in emergencies. Similarly the Hebrew is translated in Joshua 22:14 and "chief friends" in Proverbs 16:28 [GROTIUS].
her that lieth in thy bosom--thy wife ( Deuteronomy 13:6 ).
6. son dishonoureth the father--The state of unnatural lawlessness in all relations of life is here described which is to characterize the last times, before Messiah comes to punish the ungodly and save Israel (compare Luke 21:16 , 2 Timothy 3:1-3 ).
7. Therefore I will look unto the Lord--as if no one else were before mine eyes. We must not only "look unto the Lord," but also "wait for Him." Having no hope from man ( Micah 7:5 Micah 7:6 ), Micah speaks in the name of Israel, who herein, taught by chastisement ( Micah 7:4 ) to feel her sin ( Micah 7:9 ), casts herself on the Lord as her only hope," in patient waiting ( Lamentations 3:26 ). She did so under the Babylonian captivity; she shall do so again hereafter when the spirit of grace shall be poured on her ( Zechariah 12:10-13 ).
8. Rejoice not--at my fall.
when I fall, I shall arise--( Psalms 37:24 , Proverbs 24:16 ).
when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light--Israel reasons as her divine representative, Messiah, reasoned by faith in His hour of darkness and desertion ( Isaiah 50:7 Isaiah 50:8 Isaiah 50:10 ). Israel addresses Babylon, her triumphant foe (or Edom), as a female; the type of her last and worst foes ( Psalms 137:7 Psalms 137:8 ). "Mine enemy," in Hebrew, is feminine.
the indignation of the Lord--His punishment inflicted on me ( Lamentations 3:39 ). The true penitent "accepts the punishment of his iniquity" ( Leviticus 26:41 Leviticus 26:43 ); they who murmur against God, do not yet know their guilt ( Job 40:4 Job 40:5 ).
execute judgment for me--against my foe. God's people plead guilty before God; but, in respect to their human foes, they are innocent and undeserving of their foes' injuries.
bring me forth to the light--to the temporal and spiritual redemption.
I shall behold his righteousness--His gracious faithfulness to His promises ( Psalms 103:17 ).
10. shame shall cover her--in seeing how utterly mistaken she was in supposing that I was utterly ruined.
Where is . . . thy God--( Psalms 42:3 Psalms 42:10 ). If He be "thy God," as thou sayest, let Him come now and deliver thee. So as to Israel's representative, Messiah ( Matthew 27:43 ).
mine eyes shall behold her--a just retribution in kind upon the foe who had said, "Let our eye look upon Zion." Zion shall behold her foe prostrate, not with the carnal joy of revenge, but with spiritual joy in God's vindicating His own righteousness ( Isaiah 66:24 , Revelation 16:5-7 ).
shall she be trodden down--herself, who had trodden down me.
11. thy walls . . . be built--under Cyrus, after the seventy years' captivity; and again, hereafter, when the Jews shall be restored ( Amos 9:11 , Zechariah 12:6 ).
shall the decree be far removed--namely, thy tyrannical decree or rule of Babylon shall be put away from thee, "the statutes that were not good" ( Ezekiel 20:25 ) [CALVIN]. Psalms 102:13-16 Isaiah 9:4 . The Hebrew is against MAURER'S translation, "the boundary of the city shall be far extended," so as to contain the people flocking into it from all nations ( Micah 7:12 , Isaiah 49:20 , 54:2 ).
12. In that day also--rather, an answer to the supposed question of Zion, When shall my walls be built? "The day (of thy walls being built) is the day when he (that is, many) shall come to thee from Assyria," &c. [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. The Assyrians (including the Babylonians) who spoiled thee shall come.
and from the fortified cities--rather, to suit the parallelism, "from Assyria even to Egypt." (Matzor may be so translated). So Assyria and Egypt are contrasted in Isaiah 19:23 [MAURER]. CALVIN agrees with English Version, "from all fortified cities."
from the fortress even to the river--"from Egypt even to the river" Euphrates (answering in parallelism to "Assyria") [MAURER]. Compare Isaiah 11:15 Isaiah 11:16 , 19:23-25 , 27:13 , Hosea 11:11 , Zechariah 10:10 .
13. However glorious the prospect of restoration, the Jews are not to forget the visitation on their "land" which is to intervene for the "fruit of (evil caused by) their doings" (compare Proverbs 1:31 , Isaiah 3:10 Isaiah 3:11 , Jeremiah 21:14 ).
14. Feed thy people--Prayer of the prophet, in the name of his people to God, which, as God fulfils believing prayer, is prophetical of what God would do. When God is about to deliver His people, He stirs up their friends to pray for them.
Feed--including the idea of both pastoral rule and care over His people ( Micah 5:4 , Margin), regarded as a flock ( Psalms 80:1 , 100:3 ). Our calamity must be fatal to the nation, unless Thou of Thy unmerited grace, remembering Thy covenant with "Thine heritage" ( Deuteronomy 4:20 , 7:6 , 32:9 ), shalt restore us.
thy rod--the shepherd's rod, wherewith He directs the flock ( Psalms 23:4 ). No longer the rod of punishment ( Micah 6:9 ).
which dwell solitarily in the wood, in . . . Carmel--Let Thy people who have been dwelling as it were in a solitude of woods (in the world, but not of it), scattered among various nations, dwell in Carmel, that is, where there are fruit-bearing lands and vineyards [CALVIN]. Rather, "which are about to dwell (that is, that they may dwell) separate in the wood, in . . . Carmel" [MAURER], which are to be no longer mingled with the heathen, but are to dwell as a distinct people in their own land. Micah has here Balaam's prophecy in view (compare Micah 6:5 , where also Balaam is referred to). "Lo, the people shall dwell alone" ( Numbers 23:9 ; compare Deuteronomy 33:28 ). To "feed in the wood in Carmel," is to feed in the rich pastures among its woods. To "sleep in the woods," is the image of most perfect security ( Ezekiel 34:25 ). So that the Jews' "security," as well as their distinct nationality, is here foretold. Also Jeremiah 49:31 .
Bashan--famed for its cattle ( Psalms 22:12 , Amos 4:1 ). Parallel to this passage is Jeremiah 50:19 . Bashan and Gilead, east of Jordan, were chosen by Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh, as abounding in pastures suited for their many cattle ( Numbers 32:1-42 , Deuteronomy 3:12-17 ).
15. thy . . . him--both referring to Israel. So in Micah 7:19 the person is changed from the first to the third, "us . . . our . . . their." Jehovah here answers Micah's prayer in Micah 7:14 , assuring him, that as He delivered His people from Egypt by miraculous power, so He would again "show" it in their behalf ( Jeremiah 16:14 Jeremiah 16:15 ).
16. shall see--the "marvellous things" ( Micah 7:15 , Isaiah 26:11 ).
confounded at all their might--having so suddenly proved unavailing: that might wherewith they had thought that there is nothing which they could not effect against God's people.
lay . . . hand upon . . . mouth--the gesture of silence ( Job 21:5 , 40:4 , Psalms 107:42 , Isaiah 52:15 ). They shall be struck dumb at Israel's marvellous deliverance, and no longer boast that God's people is destroyed.
ears . . . deaf--They shall stand astounded so as not to hear what shall be said [GROTIUS]. Once they had eagerly drunk in all rumors as so many messages of victories; but then they shall be afraid of hearing them, because they continually fear new disasters, when they see the God of Israel to be so powerful [CALVIN]. They shall close their ears so as not to be compelled to hear of Israel's successes.
17. lick the dust--in abject prostration as suppliants ( Psalms 72:9 ; compare Isaiah 49:23 , 65:25 ).
move out of their holes--As reptiles from their holes, they shall come forth from their hiding-places, or fortresses ( Psalms 18:45 ), to give themselves up to the conquerors. More literally, "they shall tremble from," that is, tremblingly come forth from their coverts.
like worms--reptiles or crawlers ( Deuteronomy 32:24 ).
they shall be afraid of the Lord--or, they shall in fear turn with haste to the Lord. Thus the antithesis is brought out. They shall tremble forth from their holes: they shall in trepidation turn to the Lord for salvation (compare Note, Jeremiah 33:9 ).
fear because of thee--shall fear Thee, Jehovah (and so fear Israel as under Thy guardianship). There is a change here from speaking of God to speaking to God [MAURER]. Or rather, "shall fear thee, Israel" [HENDERSON].
18. Grateful at such unlooked-for grace being promised to Israel, Micah breaks forth into praises of Jehovah.
passeth by the transgression--not conniving at it, but forgiving it; leaving it unpunished, as a traveller passes by what he chooses not to look into ( Proverbs 19:11 ). Contrast Amos 7:8 , and "mark iniquities," Psalms 130:3 .
the remnant--who shall be permitted to survive the previous judgment: the elect remnant of grace ( Micah 4:7 , Micah 5:3 Micah 5:7 Micah 5:8 ).
retaineth not . . . anger--( Psalms 103:9 ).
delighteth in mercy--God's forgiving is founded on His nature, which delights in loving-kindness, and is averse from wrath.
19. turn again--to us, from having been turned away from us.
subdue our iniquities--literally, "tread under foot," as being hostile and deadly to us. Without subjugation of our bad propensities, even pardon could not give us peace. When God takes away the guilt of sin that it may not condemn us, He takes away also the power of sin that it may not rule us.
cast . . . into . . . depths of the sea--never to rise again to view, buried out of sight in eternal oblivion: not merely at the shore side, where they may rise again.
our . . . their--change of person. Micah in the first case identifying himself and his sins with his people and their sins; in the second, speaking of them and their sins.
20. perform the truth--the faithful promise.
to Jacob . . . Abraham--Thou shalt make good to their posterity the promise made to the patriarchs. God's promises are called "mercy," because they flow slowly from grace; "truth," because they will be surely performed ( Luke 1:72 Luke 1:73 , 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ).
sworn unto our fathers--( Psalms 105:9 Psalms 105:10 ). The promise to Abraham is in Genesis 12:2 ; to Isaac, in Genesis 26:24 ; to Jacob, in Genesis 28:13 . This unchangeable promise implied an engagement that the seed of the patriarchs should never perish, and should be restored to their inheritance as often as they turned wholly to God ( Deuteronomy 30:1 Deuteronomy 30:2 ).