Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit.VII.
(1) Woe is me!—Micah gives here a fearful picture of the demoralised state of society in Judah which had called down the vengeance of God. As the early fig gathered in June is eagerly sought for by the traveller, so the prophet sought anxiously for a good man; but his experience was that of the Psalmist: “The godly man ceaseth; the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.(2) With a net.—The net, which in the Hebrew term comes from a verb meaning to shut up, was used both by the fisherman and the fowler. “They lay wait for one another, as hunters for wild beasts.”
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.(3) That they may do evil with both hands earnestly.—Literally, well. Dr. Benisch, in his Old Testament newly translated under the supervision of the Rev. the Chief Rabbi of the United Congregations of the British Empire (1852), avoids the oxymoron of doing “evil” “well” by translating the passage, “concerning the evil which their hands should amend,” which satisfactorily harmonises with the rest of the passage.
So they wrap it up.—Literally, twist it, and pervert the course of justice.
The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.(4) The day of thy watchmen—i.e., the time which thy prophets have foreseen, about which they have continually warned thee. “Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken” (Jeremiah 6:17).
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.(5, 6) Trust ye not . . .—All is now distrust and suspicion. The households are divided each against itself, and the relationships which should mean mutual confidence and support have become the occasion of the most bitter hostility. Our Lord adopts these words to express the strife and division which, He foresaw, would defile Christianity. (Comp. Matthew 10:35; Mark 13:12; Luke 12:53.)
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.(7) Therefore I will look unto the Lord.—Because of all this gloom which has settled upon the earth, I, for my part, will lift up mine eyes to the everlasting hills, whereon rests the light of Jehovah’s presence.
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.(8) O mine enemy.—The Hebrew word is strictly a female enemy (see Micah 7:10), and is used of enemies collectively. The cities of Babylon and Edom are probably intended. They are mentioned together in Psalms 137 : “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom.” . . . “O Babylon, that art to be destroyed.” The fall of those cities should be final, but Jerusalem would rise again.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.(9) I will bear.—Micah places himself and his people with confidence in the hands of God. So, too, id David speak when his sin was brought home to him by God: “I am in a great strait; let us fall now into the hand of the Lord: for His mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man” (2Samuel 24:14). “This is the temper of all penitents when stricken by God, or under chastisement from Him.”
Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.(10) Now shall she be trodden down.—The enemy that had taunted the Jews with the powerlessness of Jehovah should be trodden down when the Jews were delivered. Such was the experience of Sennacherib, who inquired contemptuously whether the Lord could deliver Jerusalem out of his hand.
In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed.(11) In that day shall the decree be far removed.—The “decree” was something “definite,” as an appointed law or statute, and this should be far removed. Some interpret this prophecy to mean the removal of the law of separation between Jews and Gentiles; others explain it as predicting that the decree of God concerned not the Jews only, but distant nations who should press into the kingdom of God. And this explanation coincides with the effect of the decree, which was to bring to Jerusalem people from “the ends of the world.”
In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.(12) In that day also he shall come.—Rather translate, In that day shall they (impersonal) come even to thee from Assyria and (from) the cities of Matzor (i.e., Egypt), and from Matzor even to the river (Euphrates), and from sea to sea, and (from) mountain to mountain. The prophet beholds people coming from all parts of the earth to Jerusalem. Isaiah foresaw the like future, and spoke of Assyria, Egypt, and Israel being assembled together, “whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25). The Christian reader can hardly refrain from discerning on the horizon of Micah’s vision that marvellous assembly of the representatives of the nations in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.(13) Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate.—There is still bitterness in the cup. In the midst of the triumphant expectation of the glory to come, there rises up the vision of the desolation of the land in the near future, by reason of the sins of the people.
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.(14) Feed thy people with thy rod.—Or, with thy shepherd’s crook. The prophet lifts up his prayer for the people, either dwelling “alone” among the idolaters of Babylon—among them, but not of them—or living a nation, mysteriously apart from other nations, returned from Babylon, and settled on the fruitful mountain range of Carmel, or in the rich pasture land on the east of Jordan. The extraordinary fertility of this “Land of Promise” has been recently brought into prominence, and its future prosperity predicted in glowing colours by Mr. Oliphant, in The Land of Gilead.
According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.(15) According to the days of thy coming out.—The promise of Jehovah, in reply to the prophet’s supplication, graciously recalls His interposition in the land of Egypt. This interposition shall be repeated.
They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.(17) They shall lick the dust like a serpent.—The doom of the determined enemies of the Lord and His people recalls that of Satan, the great enemy, as personified by the serpent. “Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:14).
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.(18) Who is a God like unto thee?—Micah, with an allusion to the significance of his own name, concludes his book with a burst of enthusiastic homage to the God of gods. The gracious character here ascribed to Jehovah is unparalleled in the Bible in human utterances; it is the response of the prophet to the glorious words spoken by Jehovah of Himself (Exodus 34:6-7). The promise there made to Moses is here extended by the inspiration of the prophet to the Gentiles. The “remnant” refers to the returned from the captivity.
Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.(20) Thou wilt perform.—The closing words in the prophecy of Micah are gloriously taken up some centuries later by Zechariah: “As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:54-55).