Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.II.
(1) Woe to them that devise.—The prophet proceeds to denounce the sins for which the country was to receive condign punishment at the hands of God. There is a gradation in the terms employed: they mark the deliberate character of the acts: there were no extenuating circumstances. In the night they formed the plan, they thought it out upon their beds, and carried it out into execution in the morning. So also the gradually increasing intercourse with the wicked is described, as reaching its culmination, in the first Psalm: Walking with the ungodly leads to standing among sinners, and at last sitting habitually in the seat of the scornful.
And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.(2) And they covet fields.—The act of Ahab and Jezebel in coveting and acquiring Naboth’s vineyard by violence and murder was no isolated incident. The desire to accumulate property in land, in contravention of the Mosaic Law, was denounced by Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah: “Woe unto them that join house to house. that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth” (Isaiah 5:8).
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.(3) I devise an evil.—As they devise evil against their brethren, so am I devising an evil against them: they shall bow their necks under a hostile yoke.
In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.(4) Shall one take up a parable against you—i.e., the enemies shall repeat in mockery the doleful lamentations with which you bewail your pitiable state.
Turning away he hath divided.—Rather, to an apostate—i.e., an idolater—he hath divided our fields. The land they were taking from others God would give into the hands of an idolatrous king.
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD.(5) Thou shalt have none . . .—i.e., thou shalt have no part or inheritance in the congregation of the Lord—apparently referring to the ancient division of the land by lot.
Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.(6) Prophesy ye not.—The construction of this verse is very confused, but the intention of it is fairly clear. It contains the address of the oppressors to the true prophets, and their reply. The oppressors desire the prophets to cease prophesying; nevertheless, the prophecies shall be continued, but without benefit to those who will not put away their shame.
O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?(7) Is the spirit of the Lord straitened?—In this verse the prophet expostulates with the people who are the people of the Lord, the house of Jacob, in name only. The Spirit of the Lord, who changeth not, is still the same towards them. They brought their sufferings on themselves; those who put away their shame, and walk uprightly, shall receive benefit from the prophet’s words.
Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war.(8) Ye pull off the robe.—Micah dwells upon the continued rapacity of the people. They robbed the quiet inoffensive traveller of both outer and inner garment; they took away both “cloke” and “coat.” (Comp. Matthew 5:40; Luke 6:29.)
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.(9) The women of my people.—They spared not even the widows and fatherless, the objects of God’s tender care.
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.(10) This is not your rest.—The Lord, requiting them for their cruelty to the poor and defenceless, declares that their own time of trouble was imminent. They should be thrust forth from the land which they polluted. It was no place of rest for them. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.(11) If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood—i.e., in a lying spirit, speaking smooth and pleasant things, such as the people loved to hear, after the fashion of Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah—he will be a fit prophet for this people. So also Jeremiah spake: “The prophets prophesy falsely. . . . and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:31).
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.(12, 13) I will surely assemble . . .—With a characteristic abruptness Micah turns from the height of sin and punishment to the height of the deliverance—from Ebal to Gerizim. Israel and the remnant shall be gathered together as a goodly flock in the luxuriant pastures of Idumæan Bozrah. The Breaker shall go before them as their Saviour and Deliverer, yea, even Jehovah at their head. The return from captivity symbolised the eventual restoration of the people of God into His everlasting kingdom.
The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.(13) The breaker.—“This Breaker is, by the confession of the Jews, the title of the Messias. . . . The same appeareth by that saying of Moses Haddershan in Bereshith Rabba: The plantation from above is Messias; as it is written, the Breaker is come up before them’” (Pearson, On the Creed, Art. 6, note).