Both hands are skilled at evil; the prince and the judge demand a bribe; when the powerful utters his evil desire, they all conspire together.
1. Unity of purpose. They are men of one idea - how to please themselves. As they have abandoned all thought of seeking their pleasure in doing the will of God, and doing "good unto all men;" they concentrate their energies, "both hands," on gratifying every desire whatever the cost may be.
2. Perversion of conscience. We are reminded of this by Jerome's rendering, "They call the evil of their hands good." They speak of the evil done as "well done." They could hardly be so earnest in sin unless they had in some way perverted conscience. Some of the forms of iniquity disclosed in vers. 3-6 imply this. And certainly this is one of the most fatal results of sinning. Acts of sin form habits of sinning which react on the judgment and pervert it till the doom is incurred, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil!" etc. (Isaiah 5:20).
3. A conspiracy of men of influence. We expect a certain amount of crime and moral obliquity in what has been called the residuum of society; but profligacy in high places is a scandal and "a reproach to any people." See Jeremiah's experience (Jeremiah 5:1-5). Wherever the infection began, it has spread now to the court and the judgment hall: "Death is entered into our palaces." There is such a dearth of good men (vers. 1, 2) that the restraint of their protests, or even of the silent testimony of their presence, is awanting. The princes expect bribes, or "black mail." The judges judge for reward. The testimony of contemporaneous and later prophets on this point is very strong (Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:27; Hosea 4:18; Amos 5:12). And they veil these crimes under milder names. The prince demands, but calls it "asking." The judge's bribe is called a reward for service rendered. The great man hesitates not to "utter his mischievous desire" in the presence of meaner men, who, he knows, will be ready enough to carry it out, if they can thus curry favour with him or earn money, though it be the price of blood; "thus they weave it together" (Revised Version). Illustrate by the conspiracy of Ahab, Jezebel, and the elders and nobles in the robbery and murder of Naboth.
4. We see this infection extending to the most sacred scenes of family life. What a terrible picture is suggested by vers. 5, 61 The great men who have conspired in crime carry the contagion home with them. They cannot leave their sin on the threshold, like an infected garment. Their children catch the plague. Even a wife is not above suspicion. Thus curses come home to roost. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. Families are demoralized. "The end of those things is death." Learn.
1. Earnestness is not in itself an excellent thing. The devil is terribly in earnest, "going about as a roaring lion," etc. (1 Peter 5:8). False teachers are sometimes more earnest than the true. "They zealously seek you in no good way" (Galatians 4:17). Earnestness may be as glowing as a fire, and as destructive.
2. Earnest sinners should be a motive and stimulus to the servants of Christ. If they are so eager in the work of destruction, what manner of persons ought we to be in the work of salvation? Yet some move neither hand, but stand all the day idle. Others are half-hearted, and therefore ply their work with but one hand, not devoting all their faculties to him whom they own as both Redeemer and Lord. Illustrate from King Joash's interview with Elisha (2 Kings 13:14 19). Loyalty to our Saviour-King demands concentration of energy and enthusiasm of devotion, that we may do good "with both hands earnestly." - E.S.P.
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the Judge asketh, for a reward
(A. L. Simpson, D. D.)
I. WITHOUT HANDS. There are some good men who seem to be without hands altogether. From dawn of life until dusk they do nothing expressly for Christ. They could work with hands, because they do, in other things, a song, a political struggle, or their business. I know the excuses that will be pleaded, and the bars that will be put in for arrest of judgment:
II. WITH ONE HAND. So, many of His servants serve Him. And this is well when it is just at the beginning of the service. A little is attempted at first. A little more is added, and so the service grows into some fulness, and the worker into some strength. You may be tender with the green blade if you see that it is green and therefore growing. A man may be touching Christian work only "with one hand," but better so than not at all. More will come. Ha will be weary soon working with one hand. He will need the other for his own relief. He will take if he is not discouraged. Let all the one-handed men hear the "God-speed" of the older workers.
III. WITH BOTH HANDS. For, after all, there is no perfection, even of a relative kind, with one. And the continued use of one only is a shocking imperfection in the Christian service. For as both hands have been given for use, the other will not be idle. It will be working in forbidden ways. It will be undoing what is done by the other. "With both hands," then, for very safety. When we think of it, how very few things there are in the house, or in labour, or in business that we can do with one hand. A man without an arm is considered disabled as a workman.
IV. WITH BOTH HANDS EARNESTLY. It is not enough that all the talents are laid out; they must all be laid out to the best advantage. It is not enough that every power and passion shall be enlisted in the Lord's service; they must all be baptized, inspired, and energised with a Christian earnestness. Thought must be suffused with feeling, and work must be filled and vitalised with love. There are those who work "with both hands," who keep nothing back. There is no conflict of principles in their souls, and no visible flaw in their obedience. But the mechanism is mechanical, there is no vital action. The Christian earnestness is not mere vehemence and heat. It is essential that it be informed with full intelligence. The difference between fanaticism and zeal is chiefly a difference in knowledge. Christian earnestness is wise and thoughtful in the application of knowledge, in the judgment of persons, events, times, or seasons. Christian earnestness is very patient. Some reasons for an earnest life.
1. Self-preservation requires it.
2. Honesty requires it.
3. Benevolence requires it.
4. Gratitude requires it.
5. Time requires it.
6. The text requires it.This text is one taken from the enemy. We have seized it as from the devil. It describes his hosts. We thank them for the attitude. We accept the challenge. We are no soldiers unless we do.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
And so they wrap it up
Homilist.The author of this book, though a contemporary of Hezekiah, evidently sketches a period in Jewish history far more corrupt than his own day. The period he refers to in the context was a period when the good man had "perished out of the earth," and when "upright men existed not"; a period when all were "lying in wait for blood," and every man was "against his brother." Yet though the people and the authorities of this period were so corrupt, they had not entirely lost all shame of the abominations, for the prophet says, "they wrap it up." All were busy in artful endeavours to conceal from others the wickedness of their conduct. Now, the endeavour of these people to wrap up their sin in concealment is worthy our attention, for several reasons —
I. BECAUSE IT IS GENERAL. Sin seems to have in it an instinct of self-concealment; it cannot bear the light. Like the noxious reptiles of the earth, it shrinks from observation. Hence no sooner does a man commit a sin than he seeks "to wrap it up."
1. He seeks "to wrap it up" from society. In all grades of society, in all departments of action, men are active in wrapping up their sin. The dishonest tradesman wraps up the thousand sins of his daily avaricious life in the bland smile, the cringing bow, and the false statement which he makes to his customers. Every parcel he delivers to the purchaser is wrapt up in falsehood. In the professions you have the same wrapping. The lawyer, the physician, the priest, each has his sins, and each has his method of wrapping them up. Candidates for public offices will "wrap up" the sinful wishes that prompt them to seek the post, by many an avowal of patriotism and benevolence, as false as they are fair. This general "wrapping up" of our sins from the eyes of our fellow men shows the essential hideousness of sin. The conscience of universal man feels that it is an execrable thing, therefore he seeks to conceal it.
2. He seeks to "wrap it up" from his own conscience. This the sinner does by specious excuses which he offers to himself for his wickedness. Sometimes he will seek to "wrap" his sin in the garb of custom, so as to hide its enormity from his conscience, and he hopes that the custom of his trade or his profession will justify his doings. Sometimes he will "wrap" his sin in the infirmities of men who have been regarded as good, and he will seek to satisfy conscience by reference to the imperfections of men whom the world, the Church, and even the Bible itself, canonise as saints. Sometimes he will endeavour to "wrap up" his sin of religious neglect by promises of improvement in a future time, as Felix did of old. The endeavour of this people to wrap up their sin is important to notice —
II. BECAUSE IT IS WICKED. It is adding sin to sin; the concealment of a sin is a double sin. By wrapping a sin up, however strong may be your motives for doing so, you enhance the guilt, and make the matter worse. The serpent hatches its brood under the cover.
1. Concealing sin is a sin against our constitution. We are organised to be open and revealing; we have organs made to reveal fully and faithfully what is in us, and our natural instincts urge us to this revelation.
2. Concealing sin is a sin against society. We have no right to appear to others what we are not. The hypocrite is, of all forgers, the most wicked and dangerous.
3. Concealing sin is a sin against God. It is an insult to His omniscience. The endeavour of these people to wrap up their sins is important to notice —
III. BECAUSE IT IS UNWISE.
1. The endeavour must inevitably prove fruitless. Even here, circumstances often occur in a man's history to bring out to the full view of his contemporaries his hidden sins. The wrappage gets rent, and the unswathed monster leaps into the light, and men shudder. "Murder will out"; and not only murder. Yes, and to a man's own conscience here, often by the force of moral conviction, all the monsters are unwrapt. But in the future there will be a full and complete unfoldment. Fold after fold, however intricately and numerously winded round the evil tiling, will be unloosed and thrown away in the flames of the last day. "God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing" (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
2. The endeavour is eternally inimical to happiness. The child who commits a crime against his parents will move in wretched gloom in the happy circle of love, so long as he seeks to wrap up his offence. Let him confess it in tears, and the dark cloud will break, and the sun will shine again into his heart. Thus David felt, "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long" (Psalm 32:3). "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh shall have mercy."
3. The endeavour, if persisted in, will involve in unutterable ruin.
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