Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.God’s judgment against oppression, Micah 2:1-3. A lamentation for the removal of his people, Micah 2:4-6. A reproof for their injustice and delight in false prophets, Micah 2:7-11. A promise of restoration, Micah 2:12,13.
The prophet now denounceth judgment against oppressors in particular, of which sort of men Judah had too many, and Israel had many more at that day.
That devise iniquity; contrive and frame mischiefs to others, how they may be ruined, as appears Micah 2:2, and all the gain that can be made of their fall may be brought into the hand of the contrivers; which was the sin of the great ones in Israel, who for near forty years together were plotting to undo one another. And work evil: here is a dislocation of the words, unless the prophet would intimate to us, that in God’s account the resolving to do evil is doing it.
Upon their beds; when they should rest from making trouble to others, as well as rest from their labour and troubles of the day, when they should praise God for their own ease, safety, and rest, then their inhumanity and cruelty is forecasting how to grieve, vex, and swallow up others.
When the morning is light; so soon as they rise, and that is early; when such practices are in design, these cannot sleep till they make them fall on whom they fix their designs.
They practise it; finish or execute their mischievous purposes. Because it is in the power of their hand; they care not whether there be either justice or reason for what they do; if they have power enough to do, they will take confidence to do it, and never blush.
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.And they, who devised mischief, Micah 2:1,
covet fields; first set their minds upon their meaner neighbour’s estate, think how convenient it lieth to theirs, as Ahab thought Naboth’s did for him.
And take them by violence; by power wrest the estates out of their hands, at their own rate; or, if they will not so part with them, these mischievous oppressors will act a Jezebel’s part with Naboth, which was no hard matter to do in Israel, during the times that ran parallel with those of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
Houses, in which their poorer and innocenter neighbours dwelt; but perhaps these houses spoiled a prospect, or straitened the great ones, who, right or wrong, will have them, that they may enlarge their own houses, orchards, or gardens.
Take them away; they tear, devour, and swallow up the poor man.
His house; his family, which by this means is left to poverty and beggary.
His heritage: this explains the former, and addeth somewhat to the greatness of their sin, that this is done against ancient right and possession, which the oppressed plead, nay, in a case where God hath forbidden them to sell their heritage, Leviticus 25:23 Numbers 36:7 1 Kings 21:3.
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.Therefore; for this great, inhuman, cruel oppression. Thus saith the Lord; the Lord by his prophet declareth what he will do, and adviseth them to consider it, for it is a most manifest retaliation or punishing the offenders, so that every one may see God deals with them, as they dealt with their oppressed neighbours.
Against this family do I devise an evil; they devised, now God will devise; theirs was evil against others, God will devise evil against them; theirs was evil of sin, God’s is an evil of just punishment, against their family, as they devised evil against the family of their poor neighbours. God will bring the Assyrian power upon them.
From which ye shall not remove your necks; they laid snares where open force would not suffice, so that the poor could not get out of their hands, but were impoverished and enslaved; so God will deal with them by the Assyrian, from whose power they shall not escape.
Neither shall ye go haughtily; you have made others hang the head, so shall you now. For this time is evil; you great ones have made it all evil time, evil for sin against me and the innocent, and for cries and griefs to the poor; I will make it an evil time, full of penal calamities and miseries on the whole family or posterity of Jacob.
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.In that day; when God shall retaliate, as Micah 2:3, when he shall by the Assyrian captivity fulfil what hero is threatened by the prophet.
Shall one take up; there shall be taken up, or be in common ordinary use among those that know what is befallen you.
A parable; or taunting, scorning proverb; this tells them how their Assyrian conquerors should reflect reproach and shame upon captive Israel, much like that Psalm 137:3, which the Babylonians used toward captive Judah.
Lament with a doleful lamentation; your friends for you, and you for yourselves, shall mourn most bitterly, as the import of the Hebraism is, lament with a lamentation of lamentations. So though all are not alike affected, yet every one shall carry it towards miserable Israel according as they are affected, condoling their sad state, or insulting over them.
We be utterly spoiled: this is the sum of their mournful lamentation over their own state; Our land wasted, our friends slain, our cities taken, plundered, and sacked, our houses and goods either taken away from us or burnt, and our persons no more our own, but captives, under the power and will of our enemy; thus spoiled, nothing is any longer ours.
He; the Assyrian, say some; God, say others; indeed God did it by the Assyrians. Hath changed the portion; the estate, wealth, plenty, freedom, safety, joy, and honour, into poverty, famine, servitude, danger, grief, and dishonour. The land of Canaan was the inheritance, and all the conveniencies it afforded were part of the portion of Israel; but, O doleful change! these all taken away from Israel, and given to others.
My people; it is either the prophet, who calls them his people, or rather, every one of Israel that useth this lamentation, Who saith
my people. How hath he removed it from me! how dreadfully hath God dealt with Israel! removing their persons into captivity, and transferring their right and possession to enemies!
Turning away he hath divided our fields; either, thus turning away from us in displeasure, God hath divided our fields among others, given them to the enemy, and he hath divided them to whom he pleaseth, to his own people and soldiers; or else this word turning away may be rendered returning, and be spoken of the enemy, when he returned he did divide our fields; or, as the margin of our Bibles, instead of restoring our fields, which we hoped, and our mistaken leaders promised, God hath given the enemy success and power to divide our fields, and to allot them to others.
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD.Therefore; because your sins, so great, universal, and incorrigible, have provoked God to frame and design this desolation against you, and because he will punish you according to your ways.
Thou; either oppressor, spoken thus as to one, that it might comprehend every one of them, who are described Micah 2:2, or else this thou is the whole family, spoken of Micah 2:3; perhaps both these may best be meant here.
None that shall cast a cord by lot; none that shall ever return to this land, to claim an inheritance there, or to see it allotted by line, and given to them to possess it. The prophet here alludes to the manner of dividing fields and inheritance of old in use among them, as in Joshua’s time. So both the whole family in general, and the great ones, oppressors and extortioners, are more particularly menaced with an utter and perpetuated exclusion out of the land in which they sinned, and whence they are carried captives; whoever do, neither they, nor their posterity, shall possess inheritances in it.
In the congregation of the Lord; they should no more be the congregation of the Lord, nor should their children be so, or stand in the congregation of the Lord at any time hereafter, to claim their portion among God’s people. Thus they are rejected and disinherited, and this to this day is verified on the main body of this people.
Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.Prophesy ye not; it is manifest that our version here intends this as an interdict, or prohibition, laid upon the true prophets, whose hearers were so far from amending and turning unto God in compliance with his counsel, and obedience to his commands given out by his prophets, that rulers and people agree to silence the prophets, and expressly forbid them to distil or drop their severe predictions against the kingdom.
That prophesy faithfully, as Isaiah, Hoses, Joel, and Micah now did.
They, or my true prophets, saith God,
shall not prophesy to them; shall cease from further troubling and terrifying these people, who fear not my judgments, and will not by repentance prevent their miserable captivity and shame. So God doth in his displeasure grant their desire, and gratify the interdict in judgment against them.
That they shall not take shame; that they may, as they seem resolved to put off all blushing and shame, go on without checks or rebuke, till they be utterly ruined: they are impatient of that shame they should take to themselves for their sins, and therefore would not hear the truth; so it shall be, and they shall not be shamed to repentance, but they shall be ashamed in their ruin. This seems the meaning of the words in our version, and I will not add any other, though there are several versions which somewhat vary from ours.
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?Named; you are in name, not in truth, you call yourselves, and would be called by others, the seed and posterity of Jacob.
The house of Jacob; you glory in Jacob, whom God blessed, guided, and preserved, and you think he should so bless you; but you nothing think how Jacob feared, obeyed, and worshipped God, you are not honest, plain-hearted, and upright with God as he.
Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? the power, goodness, wisdom, and kindness of God is not less now than formerly, he is as merciful to design good, as gracious to promise, as great and good to perform his word; but the reason he doth not promise good to you, but threatens punishment upon you by his prophets, is all from yourselves; it is for your sins; you do the things that must be discountenanced, and if you would hear better things by the prophets, you must do better, you must do what God requires by them.
Are these his doings? are these severer proceedings against you the doings your God delighteth in? Doth he choose to take this way? Doth not mercy better please him? He would be more pleased to speak comfortably to you: do you as Jacob did, and God will deal with you as he did with him.
Do not my words do good? my words promise all good, and my prophets declare good to those that are indeed the house of Jacob. All the ways of God are in an even tenor, mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and testimonies to do them, as Psalm 25:10.
To him that walketh uprightly; that with honest hearts walk in the ways of God; but froward sinners, and dissembling hypocrites, cannot with reason expect the same usage from God, who will give peace and show mercy to Israel, whilst the workers of iniquity are led out to punishment. This whole verse is excellently cleared by the prophet Isaiah Isaiah 59:1-3, &c.
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.This verse to me seems to be designed as a proof of the perverseness and iniquity of this people, and consequently a justifying of God, and his prophet, threatening severity against them: they flattered themselves, and were angry with the prophet; but God doth in these words convince them that they could not with reason expect better tidings. For from a long time since they have revolted from me, and
of late they have renewed, with addition of new violence to their old. All of them have
risen up, and acted hostilities among themselves; Israel against Judah, and Judah against Israel, and of late the ten tribes have conspired against one another, subjects against their kings, and great ones against the meaner sort; all places’ are full of the sins and woeful effects of civil seditions, and the treasonable practices of violent men.
Ye pull off the robe with the garment, you strip those to their skin, take away their clothes, and leave them naked,
that pass by securely; that in peace, and fearing no evil, go about their private affairs,
as men averse from war; disliking such rebellious, bloody, and oppressive-courses, and wishing every one might enjoy his right without plunderings, sequestrations, confiscations, and decimations, for not being of their party. All which we may easily believe attended the factious and rebellious times which succeeded after Jeroboam’s death, briefly mentioned 2 Kings 15:8, &c., which read with this verse, and diligently consider how it paints out those times of Israel’s sinning.
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.The women; the poor disconsolate widows, whose husbands you had first slain with the sword of war, or unjustly condemned to death; or else the wives of husbands whom you had oppressed, and by perverted judgment had condemned to forfeit their estates.
Of my people: this aggravates the sin, that this was done against Israelitish women, not strangers, against those that were by peculiar provision of God’s law to be tenderly and mercifully dealt with, Exodus 22:22.
Cast out; disseised, and turned out, as if unworthy to dwell longer in their old habitations, which they pretend forfeited, as Paradise by Adam, who was therefore in this very word east out, Genesis 3:24, or as Hagar out of Abraham’s family, Genesis 21:14.
Pleasant houses; either pleasant for situation, such seats were to these as dangerous as Naboth’s vineyard was to him, or else pleasant to them because they were their own, where they enjoyed their husbands and children, and wished no more preferment, content with their beloved habitation, and domestic conveniencies,
From their children have ye taken away; you have by your violence and oppression ruined their posterity, turned their children out of houses and estates, which were secured by the law of God from any legal alienation and sale beyond the jubilee; you have confiscated them for ever.
My glory; which was the glory of my bounty to them, in use of which they did give glory to me, and by continuance of which they might have lived above contempt.
For ever; either continually you have done this, or what you have done you intend to stand for ever.
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.Arise ye, and depart; you inhabitants of Israel, especially you oppressors, bestir yourselves. and prepare for your departure out of this land; for, will ye nill ye, so it is, you shall be carried away: the words also may fairly be applied to the oppressed, to lessen the troubles they were under, and to advise them to retire out of this land.
This is not your rest: though it was given this people for a rest under God’s wing, yet it was on condition of continued obedience; but since they do not observe the condition, they shall never find the expected rest; one trouble shall succeed another, until the captivity sweep them all away, both oppressors and oppressed; these therefore should grieve the less at their present trouble, nor grudge to transplant themselves.
Because it is polluted, with many, and great, and old sins,
it shall destroy; spew them out as a burden intolerable to the earth that bears them, as Leviticus 18:25; this polluted land shall be destroyed.
A sore destruction; such as may well require a lamentation; such as Micah 2:4; a grievous desolation, such as never shall be repaired.
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.This people were weary of true’ prophets, and silenced them, Micah 2:6, but they were fondly taken with the false prophets, and what these promised them; and these, as here described, are by a dreadful judgment on this people permitted, or left to deceive them.
If a man walking in the Spirit and falsehood; a prophet that pretends to walk in the Spirit, i.e. to have the Spirit of prophecy, and on that pretence takes the boldness to promise pleasing things in God’s name, whereas he never received such promises of good from God.
Do lie, against God, and to the people.
I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink: Micah, and his real-contented brethren, foretell scarcity, war, dismal calamities, and an Assyrian captivity of all for ever; I tell you these are idle dreams, you shall have plenty, and good days, and may eat, drink, and be merry; such times of evil you shall never see.
He shall even be the prophet, by a just and dreadful judgment from God, as well as by an unhappy and fatal choice of the people, 1 Kings 22:6,10-12, with 1 Kings 22:34 Ezekiel 13:3,10.
Of this people; doomed to unparalleled misery by God for their sins, and pulling it upon themselves by their obstinate impenitence and blindness.
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.There are three different interpretations of this verse, of which it is hard to say which is most agreeable to the intent of this scripture; I will propose all three, and leave each reader to choose for himself. First, Some will that these words be a continuation of the false prophet’s preaching prosperity and good days. So the words are a promise made to them contradictory to the menaces of the Lord by Micah; he foretold all would end in destruction; the false prophet foretells the assembling of all the seed of Jacob into their land and cities, and bringing back the remnant of the captive Israelites carried away by Tiglath-pileser, and their safety in their own fold as the flock of Bozrah, and should make great noise of joy and rejoicing in their multitudes. All which, spoken by the false prophet, Micah refutes in the 13th verse. Secondly, Others make it an evangelical promise of the restitution of Israel by the Messiah, and many Jews agree with Christian expositors herein, though, the Jews refer it to a temporal restitution, not yet fulfilled: the Christians refer it to a spiritual, partly fulfilled, yet more fully to be accomplished hereafter; and suitably to this hypothesis they interpret all the passages of this text and the 13th verse; both which will very fairly bear the sense by these put upon them, and may be the mystical sense of the words, but we, who inquire into the literal meaning, think it advisable not to swell the volume by long digressions. A third opinion ought to be considered ere we can choose which we shall adhere to. Now the third opinion, in expounding the text, makes it a commination or dreadful threat against this people, and thus suits it:
I, i.e. God, offended with them. Will surely assemble; by his providence will cause to come together.
O Jacob; he calls to the house of Israel to consider it.
All of thee; all who were fleeing, upon hope of what their false prophets promise, to return to their own land and cities.
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; the same thing in little different words, repeated to assure us the truth of the thing.
I will put them together; all that remain of the ten tribes (for some were before carried away by Tiglath-pileser) shall most assuredly be gathered together, that they may all be in one covey covered with the Assyrian net.
As the sheep of Bozrah; in multitudes like those flocks.
As the flock in the midst of their fold; whence none of the sheep can get out and make their escape: so should this people be enclosed and taken.
They shall make great noise of cries and lamentation for their distresses and lost condition.
By reason of the multitude of men; such great multitudes cooped up, shall hideously lament. their own condition, like multitudes that suffer shipwreck together: all this God will bring upon them by the multitude of the Assyrian soldiers which come up against them.
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.In the opinion of those who account the 12th verse to be part of the flattering discourse of false prophets, this verse is the prophet Micah’s reply to those false teachers; so far is it from truth that God will restore the remnant, and establish them, that he assures them the contrary will surely and suddenly befall them; and these do in the same manner expound the words as they of the third opinion, mentioned Micah 2:12, thus:
The breaker; the Assyrian with his mighty host, i.e. Shalmaneser and his army.
Is come up; the present put (after the style of the prophets) for the future, because the thing was near, and very certain.
Before them; the people of Israel might see them, would they open their eyes; the preparations for this expedition are visible to all that will observe what is doing abroad. The mighty army of the Assyrian king shall ere long approach the confines, enter the land, invest the cities, yea, the metropolis of Israel.
They have broken up; no frontiers shall be strong enough to keep them out of the land.
Have passed through the gate; no cities so strong with walls and gates, which the Assyrian shall not take and possess, and enter in through the gates, as of his own cities.
And are gone out by it; and securely go out too.
Their king, Shalmaneser,
shall pass before, in triumphant manner,
them, his own army, and the captive Jacob.
And the Lord, offended with the Jews,
on the head of them; leading and succeeding the Assyrians in this war.