Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.VI.
(1) Hear ye now what the Lord saith.—The third portion of Micah’s prophecy opens with a solemn appeal to Nature to hear the Lord pleading with His people. A similar summons is found in Deuteronomy 32:1 : “Give ear, O ye heavens, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.(4) For I brought thee up.—There seems a pause intended; but Israel, abashed, remains silent. So the Lord continues to plead: “Thou dost not testify against me? No; for I showed thee the greatest mercies: I redeemed thee out of Egypt, the house of bondage.” Moses, Aaron, and Miriam are mentioned as the three great members of the family to whom it was committed to carry out the Divine decree.
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.(5) What Balaam the son of Beor answered.—This incident is adduced in the “pleading” as a signal instance of the controlling power of God, exercised in an unmistakable manner in behalf of the Israelites. Balaam was constrained to bless when he had the highest conceivable motive to curse the Israelites. He apologised for this involuntary action on his part to Balak. There is no more conclusive instance extant of the will of man controlled to do the exact opposite of his intended action in the history of mankind. It is better to put a stop after “answered him.” The next sentence records an independent instance of the interposition of God in behalf of Israel. “Remember also the incidents which happened from Shittim to Gilgal.” Shittim was the name of a valley in the plains of Moab (Joel 3:18), from which place Joshua sent two spies to view Jericho immediately before the passage of the Jordan to Gilgal was effected, under the circumstances mentioned in the fourth chapter of Joshua.
Righteousness.—The word rather means here liberality, beneficence.
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?(6) Wherewith shall I come . . .?—This has been taken by some commentators as Balak’s question to Balaam, who gives his reply in Micah 6:8. Dean Stanley writes, after his picturesque manner, of “the short dialogue preserved, not by the Mosaic historian, but by the Prophet Micah, which at once exhibits the agony of the king and the lofty conceptions of the great Seer” (Jewish Church, Lect. 8). But it is rather in harmony with the context to understand it as the alarmed and conscience-stricken reply of the Jewish people impersonated in some earnest speaker to the pleading brought before them by the prophet in the Lord’s name.
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?(7) The fruit of my body.—Will God require the sacrifice of such a precious possession, as Isaac was to Abraham, to atone for my wrong-doing? There may possibly be an allusion to human sacrifices, such as Ahaz offered to Molech, or to the act of Mesha, King of Moab, who “took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him up for a burnt offering upon the wall.”
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?(8) To do justly . . .—God “setteth more by mercy than by sacrifice.” So also in Ecclesiastes: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man.”
The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.(9) Unto the city—i.e., Jerusalem, the metropolis of the wealth and sinfulness of Judah.
The man of wisdom shall see thy name—i.e., will regard it. The sentence may be thrown in parenthetically, as in the warning, “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” And he will perceive the hand of God in the visitations for sin.
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?(10) The scant measure.—Literally, the hateful ephah of leanness—i.e., less than it should be. The Jews were much addicted to the falsification of weights and measures. They made “the ephah small, and the shekel great, falsifying the balances by deceit” (Amos 8:5).
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?(11) Shall I count them pure?—Rather, Can I be innocent with the deceitful balances? The enactments about weights were very stringently expressed in the Law, both affirmatively and negatively: e.g., in Leviticus 19:35-36, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have.” And, “thou shalt not have in thy house divers weights,” . . . and “divers measures, a great and small” (Deuteronomy 25:13-14).
For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.(12) The rich men thereof—i.e., of the city. The sins of spoliation and fraud were practised by men who had not even the pitiable excuse of poverty and distress.
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.(14) Thy casting down.—The Hebrew word is found only in this passage. It comes from an unused root, meaning to be void, empty. Hence it may be translated hunger.
Thou shalt take hold.—Thou shalt collect thy property for flight, to save it from the enemy; but in vain: it shall be captured.
Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.(15) Thou shalt tread the olives—i.e., as wheat upon the threshing-floor. Oil was regarded as indispensable for personal comfort. In Jotham’s parable of the trees in council about the choice of a king, the olive-tree was regarded first in estimation, before even the vine and fig-tree.
For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.(16) The statutes of Omri.—The people of Judah, instead of keeping the commandments of the Lord diligently, adopted the statutes of the house of Omri, the founder of the idolatrous dynasty of Ahab. They reproduced the sins of the northern kingdom, and their conduct was aggravated by the advantages vouchsafed to them. The greatness of their reproach should therefore be in proportion to the greatness of the glory which properly belonged to them as the people of God.