Micah 7:17
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 you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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).

Micah 7:17. They shall lick the dust like a serpent — They shall fall to the earth through fear, and carry themselves very humbly and submissively toward God’s people. They shall move out of their holes like worms — They shall be afraid to stir out of their lurking-holes; and if they creep out like worms, they shall presently hide their heads again. They shall be afraid of the Lord our God — Overthrowing the Babylonish empire by Cyrus. This is expressed Isaiah 45:1, by loosing the loins of kings. And fear because of thee — When they shall see Almighty God appear so conspicuously in thy favour. The text is parallel to that of Jeremiah 33:9, They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and the prosperity that I procure unto it; that is, unto Jerusalem. Or, if the prophet be considered as addressing God, the meaning is, When they understand that it was long before denounced by the prophets that destruction should come upon them, and thy people be delivered, and they see all things tending to bring this to pass, then shall they begin to be afraid of thy power.7:14-20 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.They shall lick the dust like a (the) serpent - To lick the dust, by itself, pictures the extreme humility of persons who east themselves down to the very earth (as in Psalm 72:9; Isaiah 49:23). To lick it "like the serpent" seems rather to represent the condition of those who share the serpent's doom Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25, whose lot, viz. earth and things of earth, they had chosen (Rup.): "They shall move out of their holes", or, better, shall tremble, (that is, "come tremblingly,") out of their close places , whether these be strong places or prisons, as the word, varied in one vowel means. If it be strong places, it means, that "the enemies of God's people should, in confusion and tumltuously with fear, leave their strongholds, wherein they thought to be secure, not able to lift themselves up against God and those by Him sent against them." "Like worms of the earth", literally, creeping things, or, as we say, reptiles, contemptuously. "They shall be afraid of", or rather come trembling to, the Lord our God; it is uot said their, but our God, who hath done so great things for us. And shall fear because of (literally, from) Thee, O Lord, of whom they had before said, Where is the Lord thy God?

It is doubtful, whether these last words express a "servile tear," whereby a man turns away and flees from the person or thing which he fears, or whether they simply describe fear of God, the first step toward repentance. In Hosea's words, "they shall fear toward the Lord and His goodness" Hosea 3:5, the addition, and His goodness, determines the character of the fear. In Micah, it is not said that the fear brings them into any relation to God. lie is not spoken of; as becoming, any how, their God, and Micah closes by a thanksgiving, for God's pardoning mercy, not to them but to His people.

And so the prophet ends, as he began, with the judgments of God; to those who would repent, chastisement, to the impenitent, punishment: "sentencing Samaria, guilty and not repenting" (Rup.), to perpetual captivity; to Jerusalem, guilty but repenting, promising restoration. So from the beginning of the world did God; so doth He; so shall He unto the end. So did He show Himself to Cain and Abel, who both, as we all, sinned in Adam. Cain, being impenitent, lie wholly cast away; Abel, being penitent," and through faith offering a better sacrifice than Cain, and "bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance, He accepted." So He hath foreshown as to the end Matthew 25. Rup.: "And that we may know how uniformly our Judge so distinguisheth, at the very moment of His own death while hanging between the two thieves, the one, impenitent and blaspheming, He left; to the other, penitent and confessing, He opened the gate of paradise; and, soon after, leaving the Jewish people unrepentant, He received the repentance of the Gentiles." Thus the prophet parts with both out of sight; the people of God, feeding on the rich. bounty and abundance of God, and His marvelous gifts of grace above and beyond nature, multiplied to them above all the wonders of old time; the enemies of God's people looking on, not to, admire, but to be ashamed, not to be healthfully ashamed, but to be willfully deaf to the voice of God. For, however to lay the hand on the mouth might be a token of reverent silence, the deafness of the ears can hardly be other than the emblem of hardened obstinacy.

What follows, then, seems more like the unwilling creeping-forth into the Presence of God, when they cannot keep away, than conversion. It seems to picture the reprobate, who would not "hear the Voice of the Son of God and live" John 5:25, but who, in the end, shall be forced to hear it out of their close places or prisons, that is, the grave, and come forth in fear, when they shall "say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us" Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16. Thus the prophet brings us to the close of all things, the gladness and joy of God's people, the terror of His enemies, and adds only the song of thanksgiving of all the redeemed.

17. lick the dust—in abject prostration as suppliants (Ps 72:9; compare Isa 49:23; 65:25).

move out of their holes—As reptiles from their holes, they shall come forth from their hiding-places, or fortresses (Ps 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 (De 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, see on [1156]Ho 3:5, and Jer 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].

They, the proud and cruel enemies of Israel, the Babylonians, shall lick the dust; in the most submissive, servile manner testify their subjection, promise to serve and honour the Jews released out of captivity: it is an expression which alludes to the servile manner of those Eastern complimenters, Psalm 72:9 Isaiah 49:23, and was fulfilled in the days after the return. when the kings of Persia favoured the Jews, and (as the manner of courtiers is) in compliance with their kings the grandees forwarded the prosperity of the Jews, as may easily be conjectured from the 6th and 7th chapters of Ezra.

Like a serpent; condemned to eat the dust and perpetually to crawl on the dust; it seems to intimate. the perpetuity of slavery and subjection that the enemy should fall under, and that it should be on them as a curse like that on the serpent.

They shall move out of their holes, so the strong holds and fastnesses of the Babylonians, who kept Israel in captivity, are called, like worms of the earth; which do with trembling and haste wriggle themselves out of their holes when the earth is shaken about them, or as when ants tumultuously in their fright run about from the ant-hill scattered with the foot; so should these enemies of Israel flee out of their holds, and leave them to conquering Persians, as Isaiah foretold, Isaiah 45:1-4.

They shall be afraid; a panic fear, expressed by the loosening of the loins of kings, Isaiah 45:1; so did the conquering Cyrus proceed in the course of his victories, as Isaiah 41:2,3, God strengthened his arm, and left the heart of Babylonians sinking within them.

Of the Lord our God; who did powerfully work for Cyrus in order to the delivering us out of captivity. It was our God, (saith the prophet in the person of Israel,) for his promise’ sake made to us, who did those great things by Cyrus and for us.

And shall fear because of thee; so that the name of Jews, their power and greatness shall be terrible to their enemies. They shall lick the dust like a serpent,.... Whose food is the dust of the earth, according to the curse pronounced on it, Genesis 3:14; and which is either its, natural food it chooses to live on, as some serpents however are said (o) to do; or, going upon its belly, it cannot but take in a good deal of the dust of the earth along with its food; and hereby is signified the low, mean, abject, and cursed estate and condition of the seed of the serpent, wicked and ungodly men, the enemies of Christ and his people; who wilt be forced to yield subjection to him and his church, and will pretend the most profound respect for them, and the highest veneration of them. The allusion seems to be to the manner of the eastern nations, who, in complimenting their kings and great men, bowed so low to the ground with their faces, as to take up with their mouths the very dust of it. Particularly it is said of the Persians, that they first kiss the pavement on which the king treads, before they speak unto him, as Quistorpius on the place relates; and Valerius Maximus (p) says, that when Darius Hystaspis was declared king by the neighing of his horse, the rest of the six candidates alighted from their horses, and prostrated their bodies to the ground, as is the manner of the Persians, and saluted him king; and Herodotus (q) observes the same, custom among the Persians; and to this custom the poet Martial (r) refers; and Drusius says it is a custom in Asia to this day, that, when any go into the presence of a king, they kiss the ground, which is a token of the great veneration they have for him. The phrase is used of the enemies of the, Messiah, and of the converted Jews and Gentiles at the latter day, and is expressive of their great submission to them; see Psalm 72:9;

they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth; who put out their heads and draw them in again upon the least notice or approach of danger; or like serpents, as Jarchi and Kimchi, which lurk in holes, and creep out of them oft their bellies, or any other creeping things. The word (s) here used signifies a tremulous and tumultuous motion, like the wriggling of a worm out of the earth; or the hurry of ants, when their nests are kicked or thrown up: this is expressive of the confusion and perturbation of the enemies of the Lord and his people; of the Babylonians, who were obliged in a hurry to leave their palaces, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret their holes, and their fortresses and towers, and deliver them to the Medes and Persians; and of Gog and Magog, and the antichristian states, who will be obliged to abandon their places of abode, and creep out of sight, and be reduced to the lowest and meanest condition;

they shall be afraid of the Lord our God: because of the glory of his majesty, the greatness of his power, and for fear of his judgments:

and shall fear because of thee; O God, or Israel, as Kimchi; the church of God, whom they despised and reproached before; but now shall be seized with a panic, and live in the utmost dread of, because of the power and glory of God in the midst of them, and lest they should fall a sacrifice to them.

(o) Vid. Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 1. c. 44. Colossians 27. (p) L. 7. c. 3. sect. 2.((q) Polymnia, sive l. 7. c. 12. (r) "Et turpes humilesque, supplicesque, Pictorum sola basiate regum". Epigram. l. 10. Ephesians 71. (s) "contremiscent", Munster, Tigurine version, Cocceius; "frement, sive tumultuabuntur", Calvin; "trepide prorepent", Burkius.

They shall {r} 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.

(r) They will fall flat on the ground because of fear.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. they shall move out of their holes] Rather, ‘they shall come trembling out of their fastnesses’ (same word as in Psalm 18:46, where A. V. ‘close places’).

like worms] Lit., ‘like creepers’ (or rather, trailers). The same term occurs in Deuteronomy 32:24.

they shall be afraid of] Rather, ‘they shall turn with shuddering towards.’Verse 17. - They shall lick the dust like a serpent (Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25). The enemies of God's people "shall lick the dust" (Psalm 72:9), shall be reduced to the utmost degradation (Isaiah 49:23). They shall move out of their holes, etc.; rather, they come trembling out of their close places (or, fastnesses, Psalm 18:46), like crawling things of the earth. They who prided themselves on their security shall come forth from their strongholds in utter fear, driven out like snakes from their lairs (comp. Psalm 2:11; Hosea 11:10, etc.). They shall be afraid of (whine with fear unto) the Lord our God. They shall be driven by terror to acknowledge the God of Israel. The expression is ambiguous, and may mean servile fear, which makes a man shrink from God. or that fear. which is one step towards repentance; the latter seems intended here, as in Hosea 3:5, where, as Pusey says, the words, "and his goodness," determine the character of the fear. Because of (or, before) thee. It is the heathen who are still the subject, not the Israelites (Jeremiah 10:7). The sudden change of persons is quite in the prophet's style. The narrative commences with ויהי, as Ruth (Ruth 1:1), 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 1:1), and others do. This was the standing formula with which historical events were linked on to one another, inasmuch as every occurrence follows another in chronological sequence; so that the Vav (and) simply attaches to a series of events, which are assumed as well known, and by no means warrants the assumption that the narrative which follows is merely a fragment of a larger work (see at Joshua 1:1). The word of the Lord which came to Jonah was this: "Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach against it." על does not stand for אל (Jonah 3:2), but retains its proper meaning, against, indicating the threatening nature of the preaching, as the explanatory clause which follows clearly shows. The connection in Jonah 3:2 is a different one. Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian kingdom, and the residence of the great kings of Assyria, which was built by Nimrod according to Genesis 10:11, and by Ninos, the mythical founder of the Assyrian empire, according to the Greek and Roman authors, is repeatedly called "the great city" in this book (Jonah 3:2-3; Jonah 4:11), and its size is given as three days' journey (Jonah 3:3). This agrees with the statements of classical writers, according to whom Νῖνος, Ninus, as Greeks and Romans call it, was the largest city in the world at that time. According to Strabo (Romans 16:1, Romans 16:3), it was much larger than Babylon, and was situated in a plain, Ἀτουρίας, of Assyria i.e., on the left bank of the Tigris. According to Ctesias (in Diod. ii. 3), its circumference was as much as 480 stadia, i.e., twelve geographical miles; whereas, according to Strabo, the circumference of the wall of Babylon was not more than 365 stadia. These statements have been confirmed by modern excavations upon the spot. The conclusion to which recent discoveries lead is, that the name Nineveh was used in two senses: first, for one particular city; and secondly, for a complex of four large primeval cities (including Nineveh proper), the circumvallation of which is still traceable, and a number of small dwelling-places, castles, etc., the mounds (Tell) of which cover the land. This Nineveh, in the broader sense, is bounded on three sides by rivers - viz. on the north-west by the Khosr, on the west by the Tigris, and on the south-west by the Gazr Su and the Upper or Great Zab - and on the fourth side by mountains, which ascend from the rocky plateau; and it was fortified artificially all round on the river-sides with dams, sluices for inundating the land, and canals, and on the land side with ramparts and castles, as we may still see from the heaps of ruins. It formed a trapezium, the sharp angles of which lay towards the north and south, the long sides being formed by the Tigris and the mountains. The average length is about twenty-five English miles; the average breadth fifteen. The four large cities were situated on the edge of the trapezium, Nineveh proper (including the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nebbi Yunas, and Ninua) being at the north-western corner, by the Tigris; the city, which was evidently the later capital (Nimrud), and which Rawlinson, Jones, and Oppert suppose to have been Calah, at the south-western corner, between Tigris and Zab; a third large city, which is now without a name, and has been explored last of all, but within the circumference of which the village of Selamiyeh now stands, on the Tigris itself, from three to six English miles to the north of Nimrud; and lastly, the citadel and temple-mass, which is now named Khorsabad, and is said to be called Dur-Sargina in the inscriptions, from the palace built there by Sargon, on the Khosr, pretty near to the north-eastern corner (compare M. v. Niebuhr, Geschichte Assurs, p. 274ff., with the ground-plan of the city of Nineveh, p. 284). But although we may see from this that Nineveh could very justly be called the great city, Jonah does not apply this epithet to it with the intention of pointing out to his countrymen its majestic size, but, as the expression gedōlâh lē'lōhı̄m in Jonah 3:3 clearly shows, and as we may see still more clearly from Jonah 4:11, with reference to the importance which Nineveh had, both in the eye of God, and with regard to the divine commission which he had received, as the capital of the Gentile world, quae propter tot animarum multitudinem Deo curae erat (Michaelis). Jonah was to preach against this great Gentile city, because its wickedness had come before Jehovah, i.e., because the report or the tidings of its great corruption had penetrated to God in heaven (cf. Genesis 18:21; 1 Samuel 5:12).
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