they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it; not either the Assyrians or Chaldeans; nor the people that fled with Zedekiah; but the sheep of Christ following him their Shepherd; who, in the strength of Christ, and the power of his grace, break out of their prison houses; and break off the yokes and fetters in which they have been detained, and all allegiance to former lords; and break through their enemies, and become more than conquerors through him that has loved them; and "pass through him the gate"; the strait gate, and narrow way, that leads to the Father, and to the enjoyment of all the blessings of grace; and into the sheepfold, the church, and the privileges of it; and even into heaven itself, eternal life and happiness: and by which also they "go out", for he is a door of escape unto them out of the hands of all their enemies, and from wrath to come; and he is a door of hope of all good things unto them, and which leads to green pastures, and by which they go in and out, and find pasture:
and their King shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them; not the king of Assyria or Babylon, before their respective armies, the Lord God himself being in a providential way at the head of them, and succeeding them; nor Hoshea or Zedekiah, going before their people into captivity, the Lord having forsaken them; but the King Messiah, who is King of Zion, King of saints, that goes before his people as a king before his subjects, and as a shepherd before his flock; and who is the true Jehovah, the Lord our righteousness, who is at the head, and is the Head of his church; the Captain of their salvation, that is at the head of his armies, his chosen and faithful ones, they following and marching after him, Revelation 17:14.
(a) In Mattanot Cehunah in Bereshit Rabba, parash. 85. fol. 75. 2. Vid. Galatia. Arcan. Cathol. Ver. l. 3. c. 30.
INTRODUCTION TO Micah 3
In this chapter the prophet reproves and threatens both princes and prophets, first separately, and then conjunctly; first the heads and princes of the people, civil magistrates, for their ignorance of justice, and hatred of good, and love of evil, and for their oppression and cruelty; and they are threatened with distress when they should cry unto the Lord, and should not be heard by him, Micah 3:1; next the prophets are taken to task, for their voraciousness, avarice, and false prophesying; and are threatened with darkness, with want of vision, and of an answer from the Lord, and with shame and confusion, Micah 3:5; and the prophet being full of the Spirit and power of God, to declare the sins and transgressions of Jacob and Israel, Micah 3:8, very freely declaims against princes, priests, and prophets, all together; who, though guilty of very notorious crimes, yet were in great security, and promised themselves impunity, Micah 3:9; wherefore the city and temple of Jerusalem are threatened with an utter desolation, Micah 3:12.
is it not for you to know judgment? what is just and right to be done by men, and what sentence is to be passed in courts of judicature, in cases brought before them and not only to know, in a speculative way, what is equitable, but to practise it themselves, and see that it is done by others; and when they duly considered this, they would be able to see and own that what the prophet from the Lord would now charge them with, or denounce upon them, was according to truth and justice.
who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones: like wild beasts that tear off skin and flesh from the bones, and then devour them; or like cruel shepherds, that, not content to fleece their flocks, skin them, and take their flesh also, and feed themselves, and not the flock; or like butchers, that first take off the skin off a beast, and then cut up its flesh. The design of the expressions is to show what rigour, cruelty, and oppressions, these rulers exercised on the people and by their heavy taxes and levies, and exorbitant penalties and fines, pillaged and plundered them of all they had in the world, and left them quite bare, as bones stripped of their skin and flesh. So the Targum,
"seizing on their substance by violence, and their precious mammon they take away.''
"who spoil the substance of my people, and their precious mammon they take from them;''
and what aggravated their guilt was, that they were the Lord's people by profession and religion they so used; whom he had committed to their care to rule over, protect, and defend:
and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron: did with them as cooks do, who not only cut flesh off the bones, and into slices, but break the bones themselves, to get out the marrow, and chop them small, that they may have all the virtue that is in them, to make their soup and broth the richer; by which is signified, that these wicked and avaricious rulers took every method to squeeze the people, and get all their wealth and riches into their hands, that they might have in a more riotous and luxurious manner.
he will even hide his face from them at that time; turn his back upon them, and a deaf ear to them, and show them no favour, nor grant them any help and protection:
as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings; he will punish them according to the law of retaliation; as when the poor cried unto them, when they were stripping them of their substance, and they would not hearken to them, so now, when they cry unto the Lord in their distress, he will not hearken to them; and as they turned their backs, and hid their faces from those that were afflicted by them, and would show them no favour, so will the Lord deal with them; and as they exercised the utmost cruelty and barbarity that could be done, they will now be given up into the hands of cruel and merciless men, that will use them in like manner: or, "because they have done ill in their doings" (b) to the poor, whose cause God will defend and vindicate.
(b) "eo quod", Sept. "quia", Drusius; "pro eo quod", Grotius.
that bite with their teeth, and cry, peace; prophesy smooth things, promise all kind of prosperity and plenty, and bite their lips, and keep in those distresses and calamities which they could not but see coming upon the people; or, while they are prophesying good things, they gnash their teeth against the prophets of the Lord, and bitterly inveigh against them for threatening with war, destruction, and captivity; or, by flattering the people with their lips, they bite them, devour their substance, and are the cause of their hurt and ruin; or rather, so long as the people fed them well, and they had a sufficiency to bite and live upon, they foretold happy days unto them, So the Targum,
"he that feeds them with a feast of flesh, they prophesy peace to him;''
which sense is confirmed by what follows,
and he that putteth not into their mouth, they even declare war against him; who do not give them what they ask, or do not feed them according to their desire, do not keep a good table for them, and cram and pamper them, but neglect them, and do not provide well for them; these they threaten with one calamity or another that shall befall them; and endeavour to set their neighbours against them, and even the government itself, and do them all the mischief they can by defamation and slander.
and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; such darkness of affliction should be upon them, that they would not offer to deliver out any divination or prediction of good things coming upon them; or such darkness and distress would be their portion "because of divination" (d), on account of their lying divinations they had imposed upon the people:
and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them; their time of prosperity will be over, and they shall be no more in favour with the people, or courted and feasted by them; but shall be had in the utmost contempt and abhorrence. The Targum of the whole is,
"therefore ye shall blush at prophesying, and be ashamed of teaching; and tribulation as darkness shall cover the false prophets, and the time shall be darkened upon them.''
(c) "propter visionem", Munster, Piscator. (d) "propter divinationem", Munster; "propter divinare, i. e. divinationem", Vatablus; "prae visione----prae divinatione", Burkius.
yea, they shall all cover their lips; stop their mouths, hold their tongues, and be entirely and totally silenced; they will not pretend to utter any other vision or prophecy; nor be able to say one word in defence of themselves, and of what they have before prophesied; every thing in providence being contrary to what they had said, and agreeable to the words of the true prophets; or they shall cover their lips as mourners; as the Targum adds, by way of explanation; see Ezekiel 24:17. It is said (e) there were two gates in Solomon's temple; one called the gate of the bridegrooms, the other the gate of mourners; to those that entered the latter, if their lip was covered, it was said, he that dwells in this house comfort thee; and so the lips of the false prophets being covered may signify that they were now sorry for what they had done, at least because of the calamities on them and the people; though the former sense seems best:
for there is no answer of God; not that they shall be ashamed and silenced because they shall now have no answer of God, for they never had any, which this would imply; but that it shall now be most plain and clear to all that the Lord never spoke by them, and they never had any answer from him; all their visions, divinations, and prophecies, were of, themselves, and not of him; what they delivered was not the word of the Lord, but their own; and this now being discovered and manifest to everyone, wilt put them to utter silence and shame. The Targum is,
"for there is not in them a spirit of prophecy from the Lord.''
(e) R. Jacob, Sepher Musar, c. 9. apud Drusii Proverb. claSongs 2. l. 21. sect. 194.
and of judgment, and of might; or of the judgment of truth, as the Targum; being able to discern truth and error, between what comes from the Spirit of God, and what from a lying spirit, or a spirit of divination and falsehood; what is proper to, be spoken, when the right time, and to whom; and having courage and greatness of mind, fearing no man's person or face, but bold
to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin; freely and openly to set it before them in a true light, with all aggravating circumstances, and reprove them for the same; and threaten them with the judgments of God in case they, repented not; see Isaiah 58:1; and as a proof of all this, says what follows:
(f) Ebr. Comment. p. 468.
that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity; a sad character of princes, rulers, and judges, who not only ought to know but to love judgment, justice, and equity, and do them; even take delight and pleasure in the distribution of them to everyone, and in every cause that came before them; but, instead of this, hated to do that which was right and just; and perverted all the rules and laws of justice and equity, clearing the guilty, and condemning the innocent.
"who build their houses in Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with deceits.''
(g) "aedificans", Montanus, Munster, Burkius. (h) "Quisque eorum aedificat", Vatablus, Piscator, Drusius.
and the priests thereof teach for hire; for though they had a sufficient and honourable maintenance provided by the law of God for them, yet, not content with this, they took a price of the people for teaching them; and that not such things as were agreeable to the will of God declared in his word, which they ought to have done freely; but such doctrines as were most pleasing to carnal men, and indulged them in their lusts, presumption, and vain confidence:
and the prophets thereof divine for money; tell men what should befall them; what good things they should be possessed of; what plenty and prosperity they should enjoy; and this they did according to the sum of money given them, more or less. This must be understood of the false prophets:
yet will they lean upon the Lord; on his are, providence, and protection, as if they were filled to these things, and might securely rely and depend upon them; though by their sins and transgressions they had forfeited all the bent fits and privileges thereof. To lean by faith upon the Lord; or in his Word, as the Targum; and to trust in his promises, in his power, and faithfulness, and goodness; when this springs from an honest and upright heart, and is attended with the fruits of righteousness and holiness, it is well pleasing to God, and highly regarded by him, and such may, depend upon his blessing and protection; but to talk of faith in him, and reliance upon him, when the whole course of the conversation is wicked, this is abominable in the sight of God, and displeasing to him:
and say, is not the Lord among us? trusting to this, that the temple of the Lord was among them, and that the temple of God were they; that the most holy place was there, where were the symbols of the divine Presence, the ark, cherubim, and mercy seat; and so concluding from hence their safety and security; putting their confidence in outward places and things, in external worship, sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies, when they neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, truth, and mercy: and so
none evil can come upon us: as pestilence, famine, sword, and captivity, the prophets of the Lord had threatened them with.