Micah 3
Pulpit 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?
Verse 1-ch. 5:15. - Part II. DENUNCIATION OF THE CRIMES OF THE GRANDEES, FOLLOWED BY A PROMISE OF THE GLORIFICATION OF ZION, THE BIRTH OF MESSIAH, AND THE HIGHEST EXALTATION OF THE PEOPLE. Verses 1-4. - § 1. Sins of the rulers, and their punishment. Verse 1. - The prophet denounces the sins of the rulers, false prophets, and priests; and begins with the injustice and oppression practised by the great men. And I said. The new address is thus introduced as being analogous to the denunciations in the preceding chapter, which were interrupted by the promise of deliverance, to which there is no reference here. O heads of Jacob; synonymous with princes of the house of Israel (comp. ver. 8; Micah 1:5). Micah addresses the heads of families and the officials to whom the administration of justice appertained. These magistrates and judges seem to have been chiefly members of the royal family, at any rate in Judah; see Jeremiah 21:11, 12 (Cheyne). Septuagint, οἱ κατάλοιποι οἴκου Ἰσραήλ, "ye remnant of the house of Israel." Is it not for you to know judgment? Ye, of all men, ought to know what is just and fair, and to practise it (compare the opening of the Book of Wisdom).
Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
Verse 2. - The good...the evil; i.e. goodness and wickedness. Septuagint, τὰ καλά τὰ πονηρά (Amos 5:14, etc.; John 3:20; Romans 1:32). Who pluck off their skin from off them. They are not shepherds, but butchers. We have the same figurative expression for merciless extortion and pillage. Ezekiel makes a similar complaint (Ezekiel 34:2-4). Cheyne sees in this and the following verse a possible allusion to cannibalism as at least known to the Israelites by hearsay or tradition. There is a passage in Wisdom (12:5) which somewhat countenances the idea that the Canaanites were guilty of this enormity, but it is probably only a rhetorical exaggeration of the writer. In the present passage the terms seem to be simply metaphors taken from the preparation of meat for human food. Such an allusion is natural in the mouth of one who had just been speaking of Israel as a flock (Micah 2:12).
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.
Verse 3. - The idea of the last verse is repeated here with more emphasis. The people are treated by their rulers as cattle made to be eaten, flayed, broken up, chopped into pieces, boiled in the pot (comp Psalm 14:4). (For an analogous figure, see Ezekiel 34:3-5.)
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.
Verse 4. - The merciless shall not obtain mercy. Then, when the day of chastisement has come, "the day of the Lord," of which, perhaps, the prophet spoke more fully when he originally delivered this address. He will not hear them. A just retribution on those who refused to hearken to the cry of the poor and needy (comp. Psalm 18:41; Proverbs 1:28; Jeremiah 11:11; James 2:13). As they have behaved themselves ill in their doings; according as they have made their actions evil, or because they have, etc.; ἀνθ ω΅ν (Septuagint).
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.
Verses 5-8. ? § 2. Sins of the false prophets who led the people astray. Verse 5. - Concerning the prophets (Micah 2:11). These are the lying prophets of whom Jeremiah complains (Lamentations 2:14). That bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace. Very many commentators take the phrase, "bite with the teeth," to mean "eat," so that the clause signifies that the prophets when bribed with food predict peace and happiness to people. The antithesis of the following clause seems to require this explanation, which is further supported by the Chaldee. But it is quite unprecedented to find the word translated "bite" (nashakh) in the sense of "eat," or as it is taken here, "to have something to eat;" wherever it occurs it means "to bite like a serpent," to wound (see Genesis 49:17; Numbers 21:8, 9; Amos 5:19; Amos 9:3). The parallelism of the succeeding member does not compel us to put a forced interpretation upon the word. These venal seers do vital harm, inflict gravest injury, when they proclaim peace where there is no peace; by such false comfort they are really infusing poison and death. He that putteth not into their mouths. If any one does not bribe them, and so stop their evil mouths. They even prepare war against him. The Hebrew expression is, "they consecrate" or "sanctify war." There may be allusion to the religious rites accompanying a declaration of war (Jeremiah 6:4; Joel 3:9); but Micah seems to mean that, if the customary bribes are withheld, these prophets announce war and calamity as inevitable; they proclaim them in God's name, as speaking with his sanction and under his Inspiration (comp. Jeremiah 23:16, etc.; Ezekiel 13:19; see note on Zephaniah 1:7).
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.
Verse 6. - Night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision. The Hebrew is, "from," or "without a vision." Septuagint, ἐξ ὁράσεως, "out of vision;" Vulgate, pro visione. Hence some interpret this as spoken to the false prophets, who, to punish their lying prophecies and pretended revelations, shall be overwhelmed with calamity. But it is best taken as still addressed to the rulers, and Micah tells how that in the time of their distress there shall be no prophecy to direct them (comp. 1 Samuel 28:6; Proverbs 1:28; Lamentations 2:9). "Night shall be unto them without a vision." "Night" and "darkness" are metaphors for calamity, as in all languages. That ye shall not divine; without divination. Septuagint, ἐκ μαντείας, "out of prophecy." Parallel and identical in meaning with the preceding clause. The sun shall go down over the prophets; i.e. over the false prophets. The sun of their prosperity shall set. Micah seems to derive his imagery from the phenomena of an eclipse (comp. Jeremiah 15:9; Amos 8:9). The day. The time of their punishment (Micah 2:4; Amos 5:18).
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.
Verse 7. - Shall the seers be ashamed. The false prophets shall be ashamed because their oracles are proved to be delusive. They shall all cover their lips; the upper lip; i.e. the face up to the nose, in sign of mourning and shame (see Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17, 22). It is equivalent to covering the head for the same reason, as Esther 6:12; Jeremiah 14:4. Septuagint, Καταλαλήσουσι καὶ αὐτῶν πάντες αὐτοί, taking the verb to mean "shall open" (not "cover") their lips against them. For there is no answer of God. There was no revelation (Psalm 74:9; Ezekiel 7:26). Septuagint, Διότι οὐκ ἔσται ὁ ἐπακούων αὐτῶν, "Because there shall be none that hearkeneth unto them."
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.
Verse 8. - Micah contrasts his own powers and acts with those of the false prophets. I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord. Micah asserts that he speaks and sots by the direct inspiration of God; he claims three gifts bestowed upon him by the Holy Spirit to enable him to effect his purpose. The first of these is "power," - such might imparted to him that his words fall with force and proclaim their Divine origin (comp. Luke 1:17; Acts 1:8). The second gift is judgment - the righteous judgment of God; this fills his mind and comprises all his message. The third gift is might, i.e. a holy courage that enables him to face any danger in delivering his testimony (comp. 2 Timothy 1:7). In these points he is in strong contrast to the false prophets, who were not inspired by the Spirit of God. spoke not with power, called good evil, and evil good, were timid and time-serving. Jacob... Israel. The two are identical as in ver. 1, and the clauses in which they occur contain the same thought repeated for emphasis' sake.
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.
Verses 9-12. - § 3. Recapitulation of the sins of the three classes - rulers, priests, and prophets, with an announcement of the destruction of Zion and the temple. Verse 9. - The prophet exemplifies his courage by delivering in full the denunciation with which he commenced (ver. 1: see note there). Hear this. What follows. Pervert all equity. Ye, who by your position ought to be models and guardians of justice and equity, violate all laws, human and Divine, make the straight crooked, distort every notion of right (comp. Isaiah 59:8).
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.
Verse 10. - They build up Zion with blood. Blood is, as it were, the cement that binds the building together. They raise palaces with money gained by extortion, rapine, and judicial murders like that of Naboth (1 Kings 21; comp. Jeremiah 22:13, etc.; Ezekiel 22:27; Habakkuk 2:12). Cheyne thinks this to be a too dark view of the state of public morals, and would therefore consider "blood" to be used for violent conduct leading to ruin of others, comparing Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:3; Proverbs 1:11. In these passages, however, actual bloodshed may be meant; and we know too little of the moral condition of Judaea at this time to be able to decide against the darker view.
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.
Verse 11. - Judge for reward. The very judges take bribes (Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:12), which the Law so stringently forbade (see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19, etc.). The priests thereof teach for hire. The priests were bound to teach and explain the Law, and decide questions of religion and ritual (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 33:10; comp. Haggai 2:11, etc.). This they ought to have done gratuitously, but they corruptly made it a source of gain. Divine for money. The accusation in ver. 5 is repeated. These false prophets sold their oracles, pretending to have a suitable revelation when paid for it (Ezekiel 22:28; Zephaniah 3:3, 4). Yet will they lean upon the Lord. These priests and prophets were worshippers of Jehovah and trusted in him, as though he could not fosake his people. They had faith without love, divorced religion from morality, made a certain outward conformity serve for righteousness and truth. Is not the Lord among us? (Exodus 17:7). As though the very fact that they had in their midst the temple, wherein Jehovah's presence was assured, would protect them from all harm, whatever their conduct might he. Such presumptuous confidence is reproved by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:4, 8, etc.; comp. Amos 5:14, and note there).
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.
Verse 12. - This is the prophecy quoted by the elders to King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:17, etc.). It may have been delivered before Hezekiah's time originally, and repeated in his reign, when it was productive of a reformation. The denunciation is a mourn-fill contrast to the announcement in Micah 2:12; but it was never completely fulfilled, being, like all such judgments, conditioned by circumstances. Therefore... for your sake. For the crimes of rulers, priests, and prophets. Shall Zion... be ploughed as a field. Three localities are specified which destruction shall overtake Zion, Jerusalem, and the temple. Zion means that part of the city where stood the royal palace. The prophecy relates primarily to the destruction of the city by the Chaldeans, when, as Jeremiah testifies (Lamentations 5:18), Zion was desolate and foxes walked upon it. The expression in the text may be hyperbolical, but we know that the ploughing up of the foundations of captured cities is often alluded to. Thus Horace, 'Carm.,' 1:16, 20 -

"... imprimeretque muris
Hostile aratrum exercitus insolens."
(Comp. 'Propert.,' 3:7, 41; and for the whole passage, Isaiah 32:13, 14.) "The general surface of Mount Zion descends steeply eastwards into the Tyropoeon and Kidron, and southwards into the Valley of Hinnom. The whole of the hill here is under cultivation, and presents a most literal fulfilment of Micah's prophecy" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 540). "From the spot on which I stood," says Dr. Porter, "I saw the plough at work in the little fields that now cover the site of Zion" ('Illustrations of Bible Prophecy,' p. 17). Jerusalem shall become heaps. The city proper shall become heaps of ruins (Jeremiah 9:11; Nehemiah 2:17; Nehemiah 4:2) Septuagint, ὡς ὀπωροφυλάκιον ἔσται, "as a storehouse for fruits," as in Psalm 78. (79) 1. The mountain of the house. The mountain on which the temple was built, Mount Moriah, and therefore the temple itself, no longer mentioned as the Lord's dwelling place. As the high places of the forest; or, as wooded heights, returning, as it were, to the wild condition in which it lay when Abraham offered his sacrifice thereon. In the time of the Maccabees, after its profanation by the heathen, the account speaks of shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest or in one of the mountains (1 Macc. 4:38). Such was to be the fate of the temple in which they put their trust and made their boast.

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