Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.
Verses 1-4. - § 8. After Zion's degradation Messiah shall be born, and shall bring the world into subjection. Verse 1. - This verse is joined to the preceding chapter in the Hebrew. Jerusalem is addressed, as in Micah 4:9, 11, not the invading army. The prophet returns to the view of the misery and humiliation expressed in that passage. Gather thyself in troops; or, thou shalt gather thyself, etc. Jerusalem must collect its armies to defend itself from the enemy. O daughter of troops. Jerusalem is thus named from the number of soldiers collected within her walls, from whence marauding expeditions were wont to set forth. Pusey considers that she is so called from the acts of violence, robbery, and bloodshed which are done within her (Micah 2:8; Micah 3:2, etc.; Jeremiah 7:11). Keil thinks the prophet represents the people crowding together in fear. It is more natural to refer the expression to the abnormal assemblage of soldiers and fugitives within the walls of a besieged city. Septuagint, Ἐμφραχθήσεσαι θυγάτηρ ἐμφραγμᾷ, "The daughter shall be wholly hemmed in;" Vulgate, Vastaberis, filia latronis. He hath laid siege. The enemy is spoken of by an abrupt change of person (comp. Isaiah 1:29). Against us. The prophet identifies himself with the besieged people. They shall smite the judge of Israel, etc. "The judge" represents the supreme authority, whether king or other governor (Amos 2:3); but he is called here "judge," that the sacred name of king may not be spoken of as dishonoured. To smite upon the cheek is the grossest insult (comp. 1 Kings 22:24; Job 16:10; Luke 22:64) When Zion is thus besieged, and its rulers suffer the utmost contumely, its condition must look hopeless, Such a state of things was realized in the treatment of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25.), and in many subsequent sieges of Jerusalem. But the underlying idea is that Israel shall suffer dire distress at the hands of her enemies until Messiah comes, and she herself turns to the Lord. The LXX. translates shophet, "judge," by φυλάς, "tribes," but the other Greek translators give κριτήν.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Verse 2. - At the time of Zion's deepest distress, and when her earthly king is suffering the grossest degradation, reduced as it were to the shepherd house at Bethlehem, a Deliverer shall arise thence who shall do wonderful things. This passage was quoted by the Sanhedrin to answer Herod's question where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:5, 6; comp. John 7:42). But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah. Ephratah (Ephrathah, or Ephrath), "fruitfulness," is another name for Bethlehem, "House of bread" (Genesis 35:19; 1 Samuel 17:12; Ruth 1:2); from its position it is also called Bethlehem Judah (Judges 17:7), being situated in the tribal lot of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem, and thus distinguished from a town of the same name in Zebulun(Joshua 19:15). Septuagint, κιὰ σὺ Βηθλεὲμ οῖκος Ἐφραθά τοῦ Ἐφραθά Alex.]. "And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrathah." The rest of the clause is best translated, too little to be among the thousands of Judah. Each tribe was divided into "thousands," which would be equivalent to clans, with its own head. Probably the reckoning was made of fighting men (see note on Zechariah 9:7; and comp. Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:21, 30; 1 Samuel 10:19). Bethlehem, called in the text Bethlehem Ephratah for solemnity's sake, was a small place (κάμη, John 7:42), of such slight importance as not to be named among the possessions of Judah in Joshua 15, or in the catalogue of Nehemiah 11:25, etc. Yet out of thee shall he (one) come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel. In spite of its insignificance, this birthplace of David shall be the birthplace of Messiah. "Shall some forth" is spoken sometimes of birth and descent, as in Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 35:11; at other times it contains merely the notion of proceeding from, as in Jeremiah 30:21. In the present ease both ideas are suitable. Unto me (Jehovah is speaking). To my praise and glory, to do my will. Micah by these words would recall the announcement concerning David made to Samuel, "I have provided me a king" (1 Samuel 16:1), and thus show the typical relation of David to the Messiah (Keil). Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. The meaning of the word rendered "goings forth" (motsaoth) is somewhat doubtful. Septuagint, ἔξοδοι: Vulgate, egressus. The Fathers see in it a declaration of the eternal generation of the Son: he who was born in time at Bethlehem hath an eternal existence. In this case the plural form of the word is a plural of majesty, or an abstract expression (comp. Psalm 114:2, "dominions;" Isaiah 54:2. "habitations"). To Christians, who believe in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the plural would express the continual generation or the Son from the Father from everlasting and to everlasting, never beginning and never ending; as the Council of Lateran says, "Without beginning ever and without end, the Father begetting, the Sen being born (nascens), and the Holy Ghost proceeding." Many commentators take the "goings forth" to be the ancient promises, the revelations of the Angel of the covenant to the patriarchs, the various preparations made in type and history for the appearance of the great Son of David in due time; but this is a forced interpretation of the word. Granted that Micah's contemporaries understood the prophecy to state merely that a Saviour should arise from the lineage of David who traced his descent from hoar antiquity, and might be said to have lived in the days of old, this fact (if it be a fact) does not preclude us, with our more perfect knowledge, from seeing a deeper meaning in the inspired utterance, an adumbration of the nature of that Prince whom Isaiah calls "Everlasting" (Isaiah 9:6), the Word who "was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1, 2). We may note certain contrasts in these two first verses. Zion, "the daughter of troops," is contrasted with the mean and insignificant Bethlehem; yet the former shall be shamefully handled, the latter highly honoured; that one's king shall be dethroned and disgraced, this one's Ruler is from everlasting and to everlasting.
Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
Verse 3. - Therefore; i.e. because God hath designed to punish before delivering, and this deliverance is to arise from the little Bethlehem, not from Jerusalem. This presupposes that the house of David will have lost the throne and have been reduced to a low condition. Will he give them up. Jehovah will give up the people to its enemies; this is the way in which the house of David shall come to low estate. She which travaileth hath brought forth. Many commentators have taken the travailing woman to be the afflicted community of Israel, or Zion; but we may not altogether reject the old interpretation which regards this as a prophecy of the birth of Christ from the Virgin, in accordance with the received Messianic exposition of Isaiah's great prediction, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive" (Isaiah 7:14). Such an announcement comes in naturally after the announcement of the Ruler coming forth from Bethlehem. Israel shall be oppressed until the time ordained when "she who is to bear" shall bring forth. Then (rather, and, i.e. until) the remnant of his brethren shall return unto (with) the children of Israel. The remnant of his brethren are the rescued of the Judaeans, who are the brethren of Messiah according to the flesh; these in a literal sense shall return from exile together with the others, and in a spiritual sense shall be converted and be joined with the true Israelites, the true seeder Abraham.
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
Verse 4. - He shall stand. The Ruler, Messiah, shall stand as a good shepherd, guiding and ordering his flock, watchful and ready to aid and defend (comp. Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:11). Septuagint, στήσεται καὶ ὄψεται, "shall stand and see." Feed; i.e. his flock. Septuagint, ποιμανεῖ τὸ ποίμνιον αὐτοῦ. In the strength of the Lord, with which he is invested and which he displays in the care of his people. In the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. Messiah shall rule in all the power and glory with which God hath revealed himself on earth (comp. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:18; John 1:14). They shall abide; Septuagint, ὑπάρξουσι "they shall be." The children of Israel shall sit, dwell, in rest and peace in their own land (Micah 4:4; Leviticus 26:5, 6; Joel 3:20; Amos 9:14, 15). The Vulgate, from a different pointing of the Hebrew, renders, convertentur. With this the Chaldee and Syriac agree. But this idea is already expressed in ver. 3. Now shall he be great. When the prophecy is fulfilled and Messiah is feeding his flock, his dominion shall extend unto the ends of the earth (comp, Malachi 1:11, 14; Psalm 2:8; Psalm 72:8; Luke 1:32).
And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.
Verses 5, 6. - § 9. Under Messiah's rule shall be peace. Cheyne considers these verses to have been inserted by an afterthought, either to explain the "many nations" and "many peoples" of Micah 4:11, 13, or to rectify the omission of the period of foreign rule. This may be reasonably allowed; but it is not necessary to the explanation of the paragraph, which is merely a further description of Messiah's kingdom. Verse 5. - And this Man shall be the Peace; and he shall be Peace; Vulgate, et erit iste Pax. This same Ruler will not only bring peace, and be the Author of peace, but be himself Peace; as Isaiah (Isaiah 9:5) calls him "Prince of Peace," and St. Paul (Ephesians 2:14) "our Peace." Peace personified (comp. Zechariah 9:9). It is best to put a full stop here, and remove the colon at "land" in the next clause. There may be an allusion to Solomon, the peaceful king, who erected the temple and whose reign exhibited the ideal of happy times. Septuagint, καὶ ἔσται αὐτῇ εἰρήνη, "and to her shall be peace." When the Assyrian shall come. The prophet, in this and the following verses, shows what is that peace which Messiah shall bring. Asshur is named as the type of Israel's deadliest foe, and as that which even then was threatening the kingdom: witness Sennaeherib's invasion in Hezekiah's time, when the angel of the Lord smote the alien army with sudden destruction (2 Kings 19.). The prophecy looks forward to a far distant future, when the world power is strayed against God's people; the details (as often in such prophecies) do not exactly suit the actual facts in contemporary history. Then shall we raise against him seven shepherds. We, the Israel of God, shall be enabled to repel the enemy. "Shepherds," i.e. princes, and those in abundance. "Seven" is the perfect number, representing completeness and rest. And eight principal men; or, princes among men, appointed by the Ruler as his subordinates and representatives. These are said to be "eight," to imply their great number: there should be a superabundance of able leaders. (On a similar use of numbers, see note on Amos 1:3.) The LXX. renders, ὀκτὼ δήγματα ἀνθρώπων, "eight attacks of men," reading differently.
And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.
Verse 6. - They shall waste. The word rendered "waste" (raah) is capable of two interpretations according as it is derived. It may mean "to break" or "to feed;" and in the latter sense may signify either "to eat up" or "to be shepherd over," as the Septuagint, ποιμανοῦσι, The addition, with the sword, however, limits the explanation, whichever verb we refer it to. These leaders shall not only defend their own land against the enemy, but shall carry the war into the hostile territory, conquer it, and rule with rigour (for the phrase, comp. Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5). True religion has always a war to wage with error and worldliness, but shall conquer in the power of Christ. The land of Nimrod. This is taken by some commentators to mean Babylon, the other great enemy of the Church of God. But Babylon is nowhere in Scripture called "the land of Nimrod," though Nimrod is connected with Babel in Genesis 10:10; and the term is better explained here as a synonym of Assyria, used to recall the "rebel" (so Nimrod is interpreted) who founded the first empire (Genesis 10:8-12), and gives the character to the kingdom of this world. In the entrances thereof; literally, in the gates thereof; i.e. in the cities and fortresses, corresponding to the "palaces" of ver. 5 (comp. Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 13:2; Nahum 3:13). Septuagint, ἐν τῇ τάφρῳ αὐτῆς, with her trench;" Vulgate, in lanceis ejus, which, if the Hebrew he taken as Jerome reads it, will he in close parallelism with the words in the preceding clause, "with the sword." Thus (and) he shall deliver us. Israel has to undergo much tribulation and many struggles, but Messiah shall save her.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.
Verses 7-9. - § 10. The people under Messiah's rule have a mission to execute; they are to be not only conquerors, but saviours also. Verse 7. - First, Israel in God's hands shall be an instrument of life and health to the nations. The remnant of Jacob. The faithful, Messianic Israel, as Micah 4:7; Isaiah 10:21. Many people; rather; many peoples (Micah 4:11, 13); so in ver. 8. The LXX. inserts ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, "among the nations," as in ver. 8. As a dew from the Lord. Converted Israel shall act as Messiah himself in refreshing and stimulating the nations. Receiving grace from him, she shall diffuse it to others. (For the metaphor of dew thus used, comp. Deuteronomy 32:2; Hosea 14:6.) It is especially appropriate in a country where from May to October the life of herbage depends chiefly on the copious dews (comp. Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 33:13, 28; Haggai 1:10). As the showers upon the grass. The dew is called "showers" as appearing to descend in a multitude of drops. That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. This refers to the dew, which is wholly the gift of God, and is not artificially supplied by man's labour, as Egypt is "watered by the foot" (Deuteronomy 11:10). So grace is God's free, unmerited gift, and will come upon the nation! in his good time and way. The LXX. has here a curious rendering, Καὶ ὡς ἄρνες ἐπὶ ἄγρωστιν ὅπως μὴ συναχθῇ μηδεὶς μηδὲ ὑποστῇ ἐν υἱοῖς ἀνθρώπων, which Jerome explains of the obdurate Gentiles who continue in unbelief, "as lambs upon the grass, that none may assemble nor withstand among the sons of men."
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
Verse 8. - Secondly, Israel shall be a terrible power among the nations, and invincible in strength. ("Nova theocratica agit suaviter et fortiter" (Knabenbauer). As a lion. The Lamb of God is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5; Numbers 23:24), and he "is set for the fall and rising again of many" (Luke 2:34). In his irresistible strength Israel shall overcome all enemies. So Judas Maccabaeus is compared to a lion (1 Macc. 3:4).
Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
Verse 9. - The prophet's exulting prayer for the success of his people. Thine band shall be, etc.; rather, let thine hand be lifted up; and so in the next clause, "let thine enemies be out off." The phrase, "high be thy hand upon, or over," recalls the expression in Exodus 14:8, "The children of Israel went out with an high hand" (comp. Numbers 33:3; Isaiah 26:11; and our idiom, "to get the upper hand"). (For the promise contained in the prayer, see Isaiah 60:12.)
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:
Verses 10-15. - § 11. Messiah shall destroy all the instruments of war, and put down all idolatry, having taught his people to rely upon him alone. Verse 10. - In that day. When Messiah's kingdom is established. Micah depicts the interior perfection of the Church, as he had before explained its relation to external nations. Horses... chariots. The things most used in attack and defence, and forbidden by God as betraying distrust in his providence (comp. Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 2:7; Zechariah 9:10). In the reign of the Prince of Peace all war shall cease (Isaiah 9:4-6).
And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:
Verse 11. - Cities. Abodes of luxury and pride. From Messiah's kingdom all pomp and vain glory shall be shut out. Strongholds. Such defences shall not be needed nor allowed (comp. Isaiah 2:15; Zechariah 2:4, 5).
And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:
Verse 12. - Witchcrafts. Magic and sorcery, which were much practised in Syria and Palestine, as in Chaldea, the literature of which country consists in great part of spells and charms. It is to the belief in the efficacy of such incantations that we owe the episode of Balak and Balaam (Numbers 22-24.), and the enactments in the Law; e.g. Deuteronomy 18:10, etc. (comp. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 47:12). Septuagint, τὰ φάρμακά σου, "thy poisons;" Vulgate, maleficia. Soothsayers; properly, cloud diviners, or storm makers; either persons who professed to divine by means of the shape and colour of clouds, or, as the old Scandinavian witches, charlatans who assumed the power of musing and directing storms. Cheyne compares the common name of sorcerers among savages, "rain makers."
Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.
Verse 13. - Graven images, of stone or metal (Leviticus 26:1). Standing images; Septuagint, τὰς στηλάς σου, "thy columns;" Vulgate, statuas tuas These are stone images or pillars dedicated to false gods (1 Kings 14:23). A pillar to mark a place consecrated to the worship of the Lord was allowed (see Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:13, 45; Isaiah 19:17). It was when this custom degenerated into idolatry that it was sternly denounced (Deuteronomy 16:22; Deuteronomy 27:15, etc.).
And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.
Verse 14. - Thy groves (Asherim); Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, etc. Ashersh was a Canaanitish goddess, whose worship was celebrated with licentious rites. She corresponds to the Ashtoreth of the Phoenicians and Ishtar of the Assyrians, and seems to have been adored as the goddess of the productive power of nature. Her symbol was a tree or a wooden post. So (and) will I destroy thy cities; i.e. those cities which have been the centres of idolatry, or are especially connected with such worship (comp. Amos 5:5). The word rendered "cities" has by some been translated, and by others has been so altered as to be translated, "adversaries;" but there is no variety in the reading, or in the rendering of the ancient versions (except the Targum); and, explained as above, it is no mere repetition of the thought in ver. 11.
And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
Verse 15. - The time of Messiah is the era when judgment shall fall on the obdurate heathen. Such as they have not heard; rather, which have not hearkened, which are disobedient. Septuagint, "Because they hearkened not" (comp. Isaiah 66:15-18; Joel 3:9, etc.; Zephaniah 3:8; Haggai 2:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). It is implied that some of the heathen will hearken to the revelation of Jehovah by the Messiah.