Introduction to the Book of the Prophet Micah
Micah, the Morasthite, or of Moresa, a village near the city Eleutheropolis, in the southern part of Judah, is the sixth in order of the twelve minor prophets. He prophesied under Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, for about fifty years. Some have confounded him with Micaiah, son of Imlah, who lived in the kingdom of the ten tribes, under the reign of Ahab.
The spurious Dorotheus says that Micah was buried in the burying-place of the Anakim, whose habitation had been at Hebron, and round about it. This prophet appeared almost at the same time with Isaiah, and has even borrowed some expressions from him. Compare Isaiah 2:2 with Micah 4:1, and Isaiah 41:15 with Micah 4:13.
The prophecy of Micah contains but seven chapters. He foretells the calamities of Samaria, which was taken by Shalmaneser, and reduced to a heap of stones. Afterwards he prophesies against Judah, and declares the troubles that Sennacherib should bring upon it under the reign of Hezekiah. Then he declaims against the iniquities of Samaria. He foretells the captivity of the ten tribes, and their return into their own country. The third chapter contains a pathetic invective against the princes of the house of Jacob, and the judges of the house of Israel; which seems leveled against the chief of the kingdom of Judah, the judges, the magistrates, the priests, the false prophets, etc. He upbraids them with their avarice, their injustice, and falsehood; and tells them they will be the occasion that Jerusalem shall be reduced to a heap of rubbish, and the mountain of the temple shall be as a forest. We are informed, Jeremiah 26:18, Jeremiah 26:19, that this prophecy was pronounced in the reign of Hezekiah; and that it saved Jeremiah from death.
After these terrible denunciations, Micah speaks of the reign of the Messiah, and of the establishment of the Christian Church. And as the peaceable times which succeeded the return from the Babylonish captivity, and which were a figure of the reign of the Messiah, were disturbed by a tempest of a short continuance, Micah foretold it in such a manner as agrees very well with what Ezekiel says of the war of Gog against the Jews. Micah speaks in particular of the birth of the Messiah; that he was to be born at Bethlehem; and that his dominion was to extend to the utmost parts of the earth. He says that God should raise seven shepherds, who should reign by the sword over Assyria, and in the land of Nimrod; which Calmet explains of Darius, son of Hystaspes; and of the seven confederates that killed the magian, and who possessed the empire of the Persians, after the extinction of the family of Cyrus. The fifth chapter, from verse 7 to the end, describes the flourishing estate of the Jews in their own country, from the reign of Darius, and after the Maccabees; yet in such a manner, that he mingles several things in it that can apply only to the Church of Jesus Christ.
The two last chapters of Micah contain, first, a long invective against the iniquities of Samaria: then he foretells the fall of Babylon; the re-establishment of the cities of Israel; the greatness of the country possessed by the Israelites; their happiness; the graces wherewith God will favor them; and all this in such lofty terms, that they chiefly agree with the Christian Church. St. Jerome says that Micah was buried at Morasthi, ten furlongs from Eleutheropolis; and Sozomenes says that his tomb was revealed to Zebennus, bishop of Eleutheropolis, under the reign of Theodosius the Great. He calls the place of his burial Beretsate, which is probably the same as Morasthi, ten furlongs from Eleutheropolis.
Bishop Newcome observes that Micah was of the kingdom of Judah, as he only makes mention of kings who reigned over that country. It is supposed that he prophesied farther on in the reign of Hezekiah than Hosea did; although Micah 5:5 was written before the captivity of the ten tribes, which happened in the sixth year of Hezekiah. It is plain from Micah 1:1, Micah 1:5, Micah 1:9, Micah 1:12, Micah 1:13, that he was sent both to Israel and Judah. Like Amos and Hosea, he reproves and threatens, with great spirit and energy, a corrupt people. See Micah 2:1-3, Micah 2:8, Micah 2:9, Micah 2:10; Micah 3:2-4, Micah 3:6, Micah 3:10-12; Micah 7:2-4. And, like Hosea, he inveighs against the princes and prophets with the highest indignation. See Micah 3:5-7, Micah 3:9-12; Micah 7:3. The reader will observe that these similar topics are treated of by each prophet with remarkable variety, and copiousness of expression.
We may justly admire the elegance of his diction: -
Micah 2:12 - "I will surely gather, O Jacob, all of thee:I will surely assemble the residue of Israel.I will put them together as sheep of Bozra,As a flock in the midst of their fold:They shall make a tumult from the multitude of men.
Micah 2:13 - He that forceth a passage is come up before them:They have forced a passage, and have passed through the gate; and are gone forth by it:And their King passeth before them, even Jehovah at the head of them."
Micah 4:1 - "But it shall come to pass, in the latter days,That the mountain of the temple of Jehovah shall beEstablished on the top of the mountains,And it shall be exalted above the hills;And the people shall flow into it:
Micah 4:2 - And many nations shall go, and shall say,Come, and let us go up unto the mountain of Jehovah,And unto the temple of the God of Jacob:That he may teach us of his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.
For from Sion shall go forth a law,And the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.
Micah 4:3 - And he shall judge between many people,And he shall convince strong nations afar off:And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,And their spears into pruninghooks:Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,Neither shall they any longer learn war."
His animation -
Micah 1:5, lines 3, 4 - "What is the transgression of Jacob? - is it not that of Samaria?And what are the high places of Judah? - are they not those of Jerusalem?"
Micah 4:9 - "And now why dost thou cry out loudly?Is there no king in thee?Hath thy counsellor perished?For pangs have seized thee, as a woman in travail."
There are few beauties of composition of which examples may not be found in this prophet. For sublimity and impressiveness in several places, he is unrivalled. The Lord's controversy, Micah 6:1-8, is equal to any thing even in the prophet Isaiah. It has a powerful effect on every attentive reader.
His strength of expression: -
Micah 1:6 - "Therefore will I make Samaria a heap of the field, a place for the plantings of a vineyard:And I will pour down her stones into the valley, and I will discover her foundations."
Micah 3:2 - "Ye who hate good and love evil:Who pluck their skin from off them,And their flesh from off their bones."
Micah 3:3 - Who have also eaten the flesh of my people,And have flayed their skin from off them,And have broken their bones;And have divided them asunder, as flesh in the pot:And as meat within the caldron."
Micah 7:1 - "Wo is me; for I am becomeAs the gatherers of late figs, as the gleaners of the vintage.There is no cluster to eat:My soul desireth the first-ripe fig.
Micah 7:2 - The good man is perished from the land,And there is none upright among men.All of them lie in wait for blood;They hunt every man his brother for his destruction."
His pathos: -
Micah 1:16 - "Make thee bald, and cut off thine hair for thy delicate children;Enlarge thy baldness as the eagle;For they are gone into captivity from thee."
Micah 2:4 - "In that day shall a proverb be taken up against you;And a grievous lamentation shall be made:Saying, 'We are utterly laid waste:He hath changed the portion of my people:How hath he departed from me,To bring again him that divided our fields!'"
His sublimity: -
Micah 1:2 - "Hear, O ye people, all of you:Hearken, O land, and all that are therein.And let the Lord Jehovah be witness against you;Even the Lord from his holy temple.
Micah 1:3 - For, behold, Jehovah will go forth from his place:And he will come down, and will tread upon the high places of the earth.
Micah 1:4 - And the mountains shall be molten under him;And the valleys shall cleave asunder;As wax before the fire, As waters poured down a steep place."
Micah 6:1 - "Hear ye now what Jehovah saith:Arise, contend thou before the mountains;And let the hills hear thy voice."
Micah 7:16 - "The nations shall see, and shall be confounded because of their might:They shall lay their hand upon their mouth; their ears shall be deaf.
Micah 7:17 - They shall lick the dust as the serpent;As the creeping things upon the earth, they shall tremble from their close places:Because of Jehovah our God, they shall stand in awe; and they shall fear because of thee."
The prophet begins with calling the attention of all people to the awful descent of Jehovah, coming to execute his judgments against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Micah 1:1-5; first against Samaria, whose fate the prophet laments on the dress of mourners, and with the doleful cries of the fox or ostrich, Micah 1:6-8; and then against Jerusalem, which is threatened with the invasion of Sennacherib. Other cities of Judah are likewise threatened; and their danger represented to be so great as to oblige them to have recourse for protection even to their enemies the Philistines, from whom they desired at first to conceal their situation. But all resources are declared to be vain; Israel and Judah must go into captivity, Micah 1:9-16.
The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite - For all authentic particulars relative to this prophet, see the introduction.
In the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah - These three kings reigned about threescore years; and Micah is supposed to have prophesied about forty or fifty years; but no more of his prophecies have reached posterity than what are contained in this book, nor is there any evidence that any more was written. His time appears to have been spent chiefly in preaching and exhorting; and he was directed to write those parts only that were calculated to profit succeeding generations.
Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.Hear, all ye people - The very commencement of this prophecy supposes preceding exhortations and predictions.
Hearken, O earth - ארץ arets, here, should be translated land, the country of the Hebrews being only intended.
And let the Lord God be Witness - Let him who has sent me with this message be witness that I have delivered it faithfully; and be a witness against you, if you take not the warning.
The Lord from his holy temple - The place where he still remains as your King, and your Judge; and where you profess to pay your devotions. The temple was yet standing, for Jerusalem was not taken for many years after this; and these prophecies were delivered before the captivity of the ten tribes, as Micah appears to have been sent both to Israel and to Judah. See Micah 1:5-9, Micah 1:12, Micah 1:13.
For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.For, behold, the Lord cometh forth - See this clause, Amos 4:13 (note). He represents Jehovah as a mighty conqueror, issuing from his pavilion, stepping from mountain to mountain, which rush down and fill the valleys before him; a consuming fire accompanying him, that melts and confounds every hill and dale, and blends all in universal confusion. God is here represented as doing that himself which other conquerors do by the multitude of their hosts; levelling the mountains, filling some of the valleys, and digging for waters in others, and pouring them from hills and dales for the use of the conquering armies, by pipes and aqueducts.
And why is all this mighty movement? Micah 1:5. "For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel."
And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?What is the transgression of Jacob? - Is it not something extremely grievous? Is it not that of Samaria? Samaria and Jerusalem, the chief cities, are infected with idolatry. Each has its high places, and its idol worship, in opposition to the worship of the true God. That there was idolatry practiced by the elders of Israel, even in the temple of Jehovah, see Ezekiel 8:1, etc. As the royal cities in both kingdoms gave the example of gross idolatry, no wonder that it spread through the whole land, both of Israel and Judah.
Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.I will make Samaria - I will bring it to desolation: and, instead of being a royal city, it shall be a place for vineyards. Newcome observes, that Samaria was situated on a hill, the right soil for a vineyard.
I will discover the foundations thereof - I will cause its walls and fortifications to be razed to the ground.
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.All the hires thereof shall be burned - Multitudes of women gave the money they gained by their public prostitution at the temples for the support of the priesthood, the ornamenting of the walls, altars, and images. So that these things, and perhaps several of the images themselves, were literally the hire of the harlots: and God threatens here to deliver all into the hands of enemies who should seize on this wealth, and literally spend it in the same way in which it was acquired; so that "to the hire of a harlot these things should return."
Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.I will make a wailing like the dragons - Newcome translates: -
I will make a wailing like the foxes, (or jackals),
And mourning like the daughters of the ostrich.
This beast, the jackal or shiagal, we have often met with in the prophets. Travellers inform us that its howlings by night are most lamentable; and as to the ostrich, it is remarkable for its fearful shrieking and agonizing groanings after night. Dr. Shaw says he has often heard them groan as if they were in the greatest agonies.
For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.Her wound is incurable - Nothing shall prevent their utter ruin, for they have filled up the measure of their iniquity.
He is come - even to Jerusalem - The desolation and captivity of Israel shall first take place; that of Judah shall come after.
Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.Declare ye it not at Gath - Do not let this prediction be known among the Philistines, else they will glory over you.
House of Aphrah - Or, Beth-aphrah. This place is mentioned Joshua 18:23, as in the tribe of Benjamin. There is a paronomasia, or play on words, here: בבית לעפרה עפר bebeith leaphrah aphar, "Roll thyself in the dust in the house of dust."
Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.Inhabitant of Saphir - Sapher, Sepphoris, or Sephora, was the strongest place in Galilee. - Calmet. It was a city in the tribe of Judah, between Eleutheropolis and Ascalon. - Houbigant.
Zaanan - Another city in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:13.
Beth-ezel - A place near Jerusalem, Zechariah 14:5. Some think that Jerusalem itself is intended by this word.
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.The inhabitant of Maroth - There was a city of a similar name in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:59.
O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.Inhabitant of Lachish - This city was in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:39, and was taken by Sennacherib when he was coming against Jerusalem, 2 Kings 18:13, etc., and it is supposed that he wished to reduce this city first, that, possessing it, he might prevent Hezekiah's receiving any help from Egypt.
She is the beginning of the sin - This seems to intimate that Lachish was the first city in Judah which received the idolatrous worship of Israel.
Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.Give presents to Moresheth-gath - Calmet says that Moresa or Morashti, and Achzib, were cities not far from Gath. It is possible that when Ahaz found himself pressed by Pekah, king of Israel, he might have sent to these places for succor, that by their assistance he might frustrate the hopes of the king of Israel; and this may be the meaning of "The houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel." In these verses there are several instances of the paronomasia. See Micah 1:10, עפר aphar, dust, and עפרה aphrah, the name of the city. Micah 1:11. צאנן tsaanan, the city, and יצאה yatsah, to go out. Micah 1:13, לכיש lachish, the city, and רכש rechesh, the swift beast. Micah 1:14, אכזיב achzib, the city, and אכזב achzab, a lie. Such paronomasias were reputed ornaments by the prophets. They occur in Isaiah with great effect. See Isaiah 5:7.
Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O - Mareshah - Here is another instance, הירש haigeresh, to bring an heir, and מרשה mareshah, the city, the name of which signifies heirship. And so of the above proper names.
Adullam the glory of Israel - This was a fenced city in the south of Judah (see 2 Chronicles 11:7) towards the Dead Sea.
There is much obscurity in the concluding verses of this chapter. They undoubtedly refer to the captivity of Israel, and to circumstances of distress, etc., which are not mentioned in any of the historical books, and therefore their reference and meaning can only be conjectured.
Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.Make thee bald - Cutting off the hair was a sign of great distress, and was practised on the death of near relatives; see Amos 8:10.
The desolation should be so great that Israel should feel it to her utmost extent; and the mourning should be like that of a mother for the death of her most delicate children.
Enlarge thy baldness as the eagle - Referring to the mounting of this bird, when in casting its feathers and breeding new ones, it is very sickly, and its strength wholly exhausted.
They are gone into captivity - This is a prediction of the captivity by Shalmaneser. Samaria, the chief city, is called on to deplore it, as then fast approaching.