Matthew Poole's Commentary
And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?Micah reproveth the cruelty of the princes, Micah 3:1-4, and the falsehood of the prophets, Micah 3:5-7. His zeal in showing the sins of the princes, priests, and prophets, and their illgrounded security, Micah 3:8-12.
And I said: in further discharge of his prophetic office, and his direction from the Lord, the prophet proceeds to preach.
Hear; attend diligently, and give good ear. I pray you: being to address to governors, he entreats their attention, as we have the Hebrew particle here rendered, which might have been rendered now, and so the Gallic version doth render it, and the particle signifieth both.
O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; you that are by birth heads of the families, and by office princes and rulers in Israel and Jacob, i.e. in the kingdom both of the ten tribes, and more particularly the two tribes, as appears from the last verse of this chapter.
Is it not for you? are you not bound by office? do not men expect? doth not God require? doth not the public weal engage you to be well skilled in the laws of God?
To know judgment; understand, approve, conform to and rule by equity, and the just laws of your God. You, princes, magistrates, and ruling officers, ought to know and do judgment and justice; you of all men should know and do right.
Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;Who hate the good: in practice and affection these rulers were directly contrary to what they should have been and done, they hated not only to do good, but they hated the good which was to be done, and those that did it; and what kind of men may we judge they were who hated good men, and what was good, and by consequence hated also God himself?
Love the evil; choose, embrace, encourage, delight in, and prefer both evil works and evil workers, and take pleasure to do evil yourselves: the worst character that can be given of any sort of men.
Who pluck off their skin from off them: you by office are shepherds, and should feed, guide, heal, protect, and love the flock, but you use them as cruelly as the shepherd, who, instead of shearing of the fleece, would pluck off the skin, arid flay them.
And their flesh from off their bones; another proverbial speech of the same import, and chargeth highest injustice and inhumanity upon these princes and rulers: see Ezekiel 22:27 Zephaniah 3:3.
Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.Eat; maintain themselves and their followers, nay, live in luxury and excess, revelling in banquets and feasts, as the word is many times used, Amos 6:4.
The flesh; the estates, goods, and livelihood of their subjects, neighbours, and brethren.
My people; whom I have chosen, maintained, and allotted an inheritance unto, of whom I once said, Who toucheth them toucheth the apple of mine eye, Deu 32:10 Zechariah 2:8.
Flay their skin from off them; with barbarous cruelty and unheard-of injustice strip off (as butchers strip the sheep they kill) the very skin; or as hunters, which having taken the prey, wearied and worried first by their dogs, do strip off the skin to sell, and eat the flesh in feasts and riotous banquetings.
They break their bones; an allusion to wolves, boars, or lions, which devour the flesh, tear the skin, and break the bones of the innocent, weak, and defenseless lambs or sheep; thus our prophet tells these rulers plainly what they were, did, and how barbarously cruel and wicked.
Chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron: these bloody murderers, princes, and chieftains are here compared to cooks, and the subjects, weak neighbours, are compared to the bare bones which the cook doth by his art prepare for the pot, and to the flesh cut small for the caldron, that all might be boiled and extracted out to make pottage, and delicious broths or jellies: thus the great ones used the meaner sort, who lived under their jurisdiction. Possibly the prophet may aim at the bloody, cruel, and devouring times under Shallum, &c., or to that reported of Menahem, 2 Kings 15:16, when probably much of this was done according to the very letter.
Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.Then; when that time and those miseries which Micah foretells shall come upon them, Micah 1:6-8 2:3, when God shall retaliate and pay these great ones in their own coin. They; the cruel oppressors, these tyrannical judges, that pitied none, devoured all, and feared not the Divine vengeance.
Cry unto the Lord, as if they were his, and as if he were bound to deliver; they then shall own he can, and none else can deliver them, and they will expect a saving hand after all their rebellions against and contempts of God.
But he will not hear them; as they heard the cry of the oppressed, but would not hear; so God will hear the cry of their distresses, but not hear the requests they make; he will do no more for them than as if he did not hear them, he will be as a stranger to their case.
He will even hide his face from them; they turned away their face from beholding and pitying the poor, now God will turn away his eye from them, and, as if unconcerned, leave them to their own distresses, and their enemies’ rage and cruelty. At that time: this is added to assure them they should have least respect from God when they need it most; so they shall receive what they gave, judgment without mercy, as it is Jam 2:13.
As they have behaved themselves ill in their doings: this speaks both the reason why, and the manner how, God will thus leave them to the oppressor; the greatness of their sin deserved this, and such was the quality of their sins, that nothing fitter than a retaliation to punish the sin, convince the sinner, teach the world righteousness, and to vindicate God.
Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.Thus saith the Lord: now Micah in the name of the Lord foretells what shall become of false prophets, he had frankly dealt with the seculars, now he deals as plainly with the ecclesiastics.
Concerning the prophets that make my people err: though he give them the title they assume to themselves, yet he doth very fully describe them, and shows they are false prophets; they err, and make others to err with them. Israel is too apt to mistake his God, and his ways; these false prophets make them err more, both concerning their former ways of religion and civil policy, and concerning their present danger and duty, and concerning future judgments and punishments.
That bite with their teeth, when they are furnished with gifts, and well fed.
And cry, Peace; they promise great prosperity, they pretend to give assurance from God that all shall go well with Israel, and none of the dismal woes threatened by Micah and such-like prophets should ever be verified on them.
And he that putteth not into their mouths; but those who will not feed these false prophets, that bid them not welcome to their tables, nor make good cheer for them,
They even prepare war against him; they do threaten with war, and all calamities that attend it; or else, as enemies prepared, they work them all the mischief they can, and show what god they serve, even the god of this world, and their own bellies.
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.Therefore; because of their irreligious and atheistical pretences to Divine revelations, and to come from heaven with promises directly contrary to God’s purpose and word, even when their consciences told them they did lie herein. Night of ignorance, and loss of gifts; but since they had none such as they pretended to, I see not how they could lose them. I rather take this night to be a night of distresses, a time of great calamities upon these prophets more than ordinary, and upon all the people they seduced. Unto you; deceivers, and false prophets.
Ye shall not have a vision; you shall no more pretend to have a vision, you shall not dare any more to foretell any thing to this people.
It shall be dark unto you; a very calamitous time to all, but most to you who lived upon lying visions, and now shall starve for want of them.
Ye shall not divine; have neither skill nor will any more to set up for yourselves in that trade; being found great impostors, and such as have seduced this people into sin first, and misery next, they will be enraged against you, and you shall not safely appear among them.
The sun shall go down over the prophets; a proverbial speech, and contains much the same that night and dark do contain. Perhaps this intimates the visible hand of God extraordinarily against them, and making their sorrows the more dreadful, as darkness by the sun going down at noon, would speak itself an extraordinary judgment, and most terrify the world.
The day shall be dark over them; the best circumstances any of them shall be in shall be so sad and woeful, that they shall not know which way to take for themselves or direct for others.
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.Then; in the days of this calamity, which shall confute all the flattering promises of these prophets.
The seers, who called themselves, were accounted by others, and were advised with as men that had visions from God, were prophets in name and repute with the deceived people.
Be ashamed; their impostures being detected, they shall be covered with shame, the people shall talk what they are, and tell them to their faces wherever they meet them that they are false and lying varlets, not worthy to live, and the very consciences of these men shall then fly in their faces and upbraid them.
The diviners confounded; diviners here are seers, slid being confounded the same with ashamed; this ingemination adds to the thing spoken, at least a fuller verification of it.
They shall all cover their lips; so lepers did, Leviticus 13:45; and men ashamed and mourners did thus, Ezekiel 24:17,22. So these shall mourn and pine in their shame.
For there is no answer of God; God doth not answer them; rather, because the answer they had formerly given and pretended to be from God now appears not to have been from him, they should therefore by the sentence of the law be stoned, Deu 13:10 Zechariah 13:3: so Elijah dealt with Baal’s prophets, and it is like these false prophets detected might fear the like from those they had deceived.
But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.But truly, notwithstanding this shame and silence covering these false prophets, yet, saith Micah,
I am full of power; courage, vivacity, and ability, becoming a prophet of God.
By the Spirit of the Lord; not from himself, but from the Spirit of God given to him, and duly qualifying him to the faithful discharge of the prophetic office; and without fear, flattery, by-respects, or self-seeking, I have already, and still do, and will declare the sins, duties, and dangers of this people, that they may repent and be saved, or my God may be justified when he judgeth, and this people may know the difference between a false and true prophet.
And of judgment; a spirit of judgment to discern aright times and seasons, to discern right from wrong, truth from lies, and pure worship of God from idolatry, and what are the consequents of all these to a people who decline from the way of truth and purity, or adhere to it.
And of might; resolution, undaunted in speaking God’s word to the greatest of men; as I have dared, I still do dare to tell the heads of Jacob and princes of Israel what they do against God, and what God will do against them.
To declare unto Jacob his transgression; with impartial reproofs, with severe menaces from God, to preach against Jacob’s transgressions.
And to Israel his sin; the same repeated. All the twelve tribes have sinned, and God will visit.
Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.This verse is word for word the same in the former part of it with the former part of the first verse of this chapter; we refer thither for explication of it. The prophet having asserted his Divine call, and avowed his faithfulness in the prophetic office, Micah 3:8, he here gives us one more proof of it, dealing roundly with the magistrates in both kingdoms, Israel and Judah.
That abhor judgment; whereas judgment should be their great delight, as it is of every good magistrate, these had hearts that detested it, were weary of the directions of God’s law in their polity, and hated to be controlled by it.
And pervert all equity; where you can, you wrest the law to countenance your unequal proceedings, and wrong those you should right, and acquit those you should condemn. And there is many a woe denounced against such.
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.They; heads, princes, judges, and great ones among them.
Build up; enlarge or beautify, and fortify.
Zion; the houses in Zion, or perhaps may be meant the temple and its buildings, and the royal palace of the kings of Judah.
With blood; with wealth and gifts which these builders made themselves masters of by violence, taking away the life of the owners, or else fining and amercing them. By this course they wrested part of their estates from them, by the other they seized all; they also for gain sometimes acquitted the guilty, and freed them in capital cases, and so sold the blood of the innocent.
And Jerusalem with iniquity; by such injustice Jerusalem was brought to ruin at last, though some particular persons and families did raise themselves, their houses and palaces, to a present largeness and stateliness.
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.The heads thereof judge for reward; whereas the judges were God’s deputies, to hear and determine causes, as the merit of the causes were found, without respect of persons, they should have been careful to give such judgment as God would give; for the judgment is the Lord’s, and he sits in the midst of the judges. These corrupt judges attended little to the cause, but much to rewards, and with them the greatest bribe made the justest cause, and he was most guilty who was poor and could not, or honest and would not, give the expected reward. This was most directly against the law of God, Exodus 23:8 Deu 16:19, and expressly cursed, yet it was the common course and practice with them.
The priests thereof teach for hire: these men should have impartially declared the law of God to all, told them what was clean or unclean, what was prohibited, what permitted, what commanded; what was safe to them, being pleasing to God, and what dangerous to them, being offensive to their God: but these for hire would direct them how to please themselves, and though they broke the law, not be guilty; to extort, yet not be guilty of usury; to kill an enemy, yet not be guilty of murder, nor break the sixth commandment; to be unnatural to parents, yet not sin. Who paid them well, should find them most excellently skilled in the casuistical divinity the Jesuits at this day are masters of.
The prophets thereof divine for money; which being extraordinary persons raised of God, and sent by him to deliver his message impartially to all his people, to all ranks of men among them, without fear, flattery, prejudice, or any by respects; there were in this people at this day a sort of men called prophets, but were indeed mere fortune-tellers, as we call a vagabond sort of persons among us, and these made a trade of divining, and as if it were in their power to frame future things to the mind and humour of men, for a good round sum of money they would sell prosperity to them; for they never told great good to come to any but such as gave a great reward, and little money with them never purchased the news of a great advantage; and whoso had first the misery to be poor, that they could not buy, or else were wiser than to believe these impostors, these were sure to be told a sad story of troubles and afflictions. There were many disciples of Balaam, 2 Peter 2:15, they loved the wages of unrighteousness.
Yet will they lean upon the Lord; whilst magistrates, priests, and prophets are thus abominably corrupt, yet they will presumptuously lean upon the Lord, and flatter themselves that he is present with them, that he owneth them as his peculiar people. And say; yea, they boast so.
Is not the Lord among us, as our God, our Shield? whereas he was among them, but provoked to be their enemy, though they will not believe it.
None evil can come upon us; so they do falsely conclude, against all the word of God, and against all his true prophets’ admonitions, no evil of affliction, such as war, famine, and captivity, can come upon them. Thus far these corrupt Jews.
Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.By this it appears that this sermon was preached to Judah and its governors, priests, and prophets, who were thus wicked in Ahaz’s time, and probably continued so in the beginning of Hezekiah’s time. Jeremiah puts this out of all doubt, Jeremiah 26:18, saying that Micah spake these words to all Judah. As for the time, it was in all likelihood before the thirteenth year of Hezekiah, say some; I rather think it was in the very beginning of Hezekiah, and that this might awaken them of that age to comply with Hezekiah in the reformation. Zion here is threatened as endangered, nay ruined, by the sins of magistrates, priests, and prophets: they thought that Zion should be their safety, however they sinned; God by his prophet assures them the quite contrary, their sins should be the danger and destruction of Zion.
For your sake; because your sins are so great and many. God would have spared Sodom for the sake of righteous men, these may be safety to a city; but God will not spare the wicked for any place’s sake, nor shall a temple be more security to a wicked people than heaven was to sinning angels. Though these flagitious men cried out against Micah, and suchlike men, as a public danger, truth is, the injustice, idolatry, and inhumanity of public persons were the great danger.
Ploughed as a field; either by the enemy and conqueror, thereby forbidding it to be ploughed without his leave, or by such as remained after the body of the people were carried captive. Jerusalem, one of the goodliest cities of the world, proud in its lofty and beautiful buildings, the city of the great King, shall become heaps; shall all lie in rubbish, its stately buildings shall be demolished and lie buried in their own ruins.
The mountain of the house, holy mountain, on which the temple, one of the wonders of the world, did stand, beautified with rarest buildings,
as the high places of the forest; shall lie so long waste as to be run over with wood as a forest, and be a lodge of wild beasts.