Micah 4 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Micah 4
Pulpit Commentary
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
Verse 1-5. - § 4. The prophet suddenly announces the future glory of the temple mountain and the ideal happiness of the people Verse 1. - But. There is no adversative particle here; the verse is merely connected with what precedes without any expressed contrast. What is implied is that it was impossible that the temple, to which God's high promises attached, should lie waste forever. The passage, vers. 1-3, occurs in Isaiah 2:2-4, The question as to which prophecy is the earlier cannot be settled. Possibly both prophets borrowed the language of some earlier work, as Isaiah is thought to have done on other occasions, e.g. Isaiah 15. and 16. the community of ideas leading them to the same source of testimony. In the last days; literally, at the end of the days; Cheyne, "in the days to come." It is the usual phrase to designate the time of Messiah, unto which the prophet's thoughts are directed, and for which all preceding events and periods are a preparation (Jeremiah 23:20; Hosea 3:5; comp. 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Timothy 4:1). Septuagint, ἐπ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, "at the last days." The phrase may often suitably be rendered, "in latter days," as spoken not absolutely, but relatively to preceding times. The mountain of the house of the Lord. Mount Moriah, the ruin of which was foretold (Micah 3:12). But the term here seems to include Jerusalem itself. Shall be established, firmly and permanently (as 1 Kings 2:45), no longer subject to ruin and devastation. In the top of the mountains; better, on the head of the mountains. The idea is that the temple mountain shall be raised above, and stand forth prominently from the lower hills that surround it and form its basis (comp. Ezekiel 40:2; Zechariah 14:10; Revelation 21:10). The prophet speaks as if he contemplated a physical change, expressing thereby with singular force the notion that the worship of the true God (of which the temple was the symbol) shall be promulgated among all nations of the world; that from the old Jewish centre of religion a new order of things shall arise, not transitory, nor local, but extending to all time and pervading the utmost parts of the earth. And people (peoples) shall flow unto it. The prophet beholds the nations of the world coming up in formal procession to join in the service of the temple. Thus is adumbrated the comprehension of all nations in the Catholic Church. Isaiah says "all nations" in the parallel passage (comp. Zephaniah 2:11 and Zechariah 8:22, and notes there).
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Verse 2. - The prophet further explains his last statement The new revelation shall be so conspicuous and so attractive that all men shall hear, and desire to become partakers of it. Many nations. In contrast to the one nation from whom the Leer emanated. They shall exhort one another to resort to the great religious metropolis, i.e. to the true religion. Of his ways. His plans in the moral government of the world, and the way in which he would have men walk in order to please him. For the law (torah); teaching, direction; not the Mosaic Law, but a rule of life (Proverbs 6:23). This is the reason given by the prophet for the eagerness of the nations to resort to Jerusalem. They would seek instruction at the hand of those authorized to give it (see note on Micah 3:11). The word of the Lord. The revelation of Jehovah, the gospel. From Jerusalem. It is obvious that in a defined sense the gospel sprang from Jerusalem, the place where Christ exercised his ministry, died, rose, ascended; where the apostles received their commission and the gift of the Holy Ghost (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8); the gospel being not set up in opposition to the Law, but being its fulfilment and development.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Verse 3. - The effect of this reception of true religion shall be universal peace. He shall judge among many people; or better, between many peoples. The Lord shall be the Arbiter to whom all disputes shall be referred, as in the next clause. When his reign is acknowledged and his Law obeyed, all war and all causes of war shall cease. The gospel is a gospel of peace and love, and when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ" (Revelation 11:15), peace and love shall everywhere abound. (For the phrase in the text, comp. Judges 11:27; 1 Samuel 24:12, 15.) Rebuke strong nations afar off. The word rendered '"rebuke" means here "decide concerning," "act as umpire for." The arbitration of the sword shall no more be resorted to. The words "afar off" are omitted in the similar passage of Isaiah. Beat their swords into ploughshares; i.e. they shall practise the arts of peace instead of war. Literally, the short broad sword of the Israelites might readily be converted into a share, and the spear forged into a pruning hook (comp. Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:10). Martial has an epigram entitled, "Falx ex ense" (14:34) -

"Pax me certa ducis placidos curvavit in usus:
Agricolae nunc sum, militis ante fui."
The reverse process is seen in Joel 3:10, where ploughshares are beaten into swords. Thus Virgil, 'Georg.,' 1:508 -

"El curvae rigidum falces conflantur in ensem."

(Comp. Ovid, 'Fast.,' 1:699, etc.)
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Verse 4. - This verse is omitted in Isaiah. They shall sit every man under his vine. This image of plenty and security is derived from the account of the material prosperity of Israel in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:25), in accordance with the Mosaic promise (Leviticus 26:4, etc.). It passed into a proverb expressive of peace and happiness (comp. Zechariah 3:10; 1 Macc. 14:12). The mouth of the Lord of hosts. The great promise is thus confirmed (Isaiah 58:14). The LXX. usually renders this expression in Jeremiah and the minor prophets by Κύριος παντοκράτωρ, elsewhere by Κύριος σαβαώθ, and Κύριος δυνάμεων. It means, "the Lord of the powers of heaven and earth," the idea being originally that God was the Leader of the armies of Israel.
For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
Verse 5. - This verse gives the reason why Israel is thus strong and safe. In the parallel passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 2:5) it is converted into an injunction to the house of Jacob. All people will walk; rather, all nations walk. Everyone in the name of his god. "To walk" is generally used of moral and religious habits (e.g. 2 Chronicles 17:4; Psalm 89:31; Ezekiel 5:6, etc.); so here the meaning is that all other nations adhere to their false gods, and frame their life and conduct relying on the power and protection of these inanities, and, by implication, shall find their hope deceived. And we will walk in the name of the Lord our God. This is the secret of Israel's strength. The heathen can never prevail against the true believers who put their whole trust in the Lord, and live in union with him. By saying we, the prophet identifies himself with the faithful people. Forever and ever. The Church shall never fail. Heathen powers last for a time; the kingdom of Messiah is everlasting.
In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;
Verses 6, 7. - § 5. In this promised restoration all Israel is included, if they choose to accept, the offer. Verse 6. - In that day. The Messianic age of ver. 1. Her that halteth; Septuagint, τὴν συντετριμμένην, "her that is bruised;" Vulgate, claudicantem. Under the image of a flock footsore and dispersed, the prophet signifies the depressed condition of the excelled Hebrews (comp. Micah 2:12; Zephaniah 3:19). It is the sick and afflicted here who are to he gathered together, the remnant, that is (ver. 7), wherever found, which turns to the Lord in repentance and humility.
And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
Verse 7. - I will make her that halted a remnant. The" remnant" is "the election," that portion of Israel which accepts the offered redemption (Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5); and God declares that he will treat this section, now miserable and depressed, as sharers in the Messianic promises (see note on Zephaniah 3:19). As commonly, the restoration from captivity and the privileges of Messiah's kingdom are combined in one foreshortened view. But this "remnant" shall be made into a strong nation, which no power shall overthrow (Isaiah 11:14; 55:22). The Lord shall reign over them. Not through an earthly representative, but by himself (comp. Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 52:7; Obadiah 1:21; Zechariah 14:9). In Mount Zion. This prophecy does not necessarily point to any literal earthly fulfilment, but rather to the establishment of Christ's spiritual kingdom, and the revelation of that new Jerusalem which St. John saw "descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10).
And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
Verses 8-10. - § 6. After a certain period of calamity and captivity the kingdom of David shall be revived. Verse 8. - And thou, O tower of the flock (migdal-edar). There was a village with a tower so called near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:21), and it is thought that Micah refers to it as the home of David and as destined to be the birthplace of Messiah. But the context compels us to consider the expression as a periphrasis for Jerusalem, which the prophet here addressee, declaring that the royal power shall be restored to her. It is evidently the same place as the stronghold (ophel, "the hill") of the daughter of Zion. The name "Ophel" is affixed to the southern spur of Moriah, opposite to the Mount Zion, from which it was separated by the Tyropoeon Valley. It was fortified by Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:3) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:14), and on it were the king's house, i.e. the old palace of David, and "the tower that lieth out," or the upper tower (see Nehemiah 3:26, 27). This is probably the "flock tower" mentioned in the text (comp. Isaiah 32:14, where Ophel and the watch tower are named together); and it is so called as having been originally a place of refuge for flocks, or of observation for shepherds. Micah uses the two expressions to represent the power and dominion of Jerusalem. The propriety of the usa of the term "flock tower" is seen when we remember that David was a shepherd before he was king, and that the Israelites are the sheep of the Lord's pasture. The reference to a flock in the prceeding verses may also have influenced the prophet's thought. Owing to a slight variation in the reading, the LXX. renders Ophel by αἰχμώδης, "dark;" so Jerome, "nebulosa;" Aquila, σκοτώδης: Symmachus, ἀπόκρυφος. These translators would refer the term to the ruinous condition of the tower. The first dominion shall come, i.e. the former, original empire, such as it was in the days of David and Solomon, and which had been lost in later times. The LXX. adds, ἐκ Βαβυλῶνος: and hence the Greek expositors explain the passage as referring to the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. The kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. The verb "shall come" is better taken with "the first dominion," and this clause in apposition to the former, "the kingdom of" or "the reign over the daughter of Jerusalem." Sovereignty over Jerusalem, or, as others take it, that appertains to Jerusalem, represents rule over the whole country. In Messiah the glory and power are restored to the throne of David (Luke 1:32, 33).
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counseller perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.
Verse 9. - Before this glorious revival the prophet foresees calamity and exile in the nearer future; yet he bids the people not to despair. Why dost thou cry out aloud? The prophet hears the cry of Zion, and asks the cause. Septuagint, Ἱνατί ἔγνως κακά; "Why knowest thou evils?" from a variation in reading. Is there no king in thee? Hast thou lost thy king? Is this the reason of thy sorrow? The allusion is to the captivity of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (2 Kings 24, 25.). The loss of the king, the representative of the help and favour of God, was a token of the withdrawal of the Divine protection (comp. Lamentations 4:20; Hosea 13:10). Thy counsellor. A synonym for "king." Cheyne notes that the root of melech ("king") in Aramaic means "to counsel." In Isaiah 9:6 Messiah is called "Counsellor." The Septuagint, treating the word as a collective, renders, ἡ βουλή σου, "thy counsel." Pangs, etc. The comparison of sorrow of heart to the anguish of labour pains is very common (comp. Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 6:24; 6:43; Hosea 13:13).
Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.
Verse 10. - Be in pain. The anguish is not to be resisted, but shall end, like birth pains, in deliverance. Septuagint, Ωδινε καὶ ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἔγγιζε, "Be in pain, and do bravely, and draw near," which is like Aeneas's encouragement to his friends (Virgil, 'AEneid,' 1:207) -

"Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis." For now shalt thou go forth. The prophet leaves his metaphor, and announces that the people shall "go forth" into captivity. He says "now,"as having the scene before his eyes. They must leave their city, live shelterless in the open country, be carried to a distant land, even to Babylon. Shall dwell in the field; i.e. while they are making their way to the place of their captivity. Thou shall go even to Babylon. This is simple prophecy, and could have been known to Micah only by inspiration. In his day Assyria was the enemy whom Israel had to dread (as Micah 5:5, 6), Babylon being at this time in the position of a conquered country, and not becoming again powerful and independent for another century, So Isaiah prophesied of the captivity to Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8), if modern critics have not shaken our faith in the genuineness of that chapter. Micah does not define the time of the Captivity, or the agents; he notes merely the place whither the Jews were at last to be deported. Even in this case "Babylon" may have its typical import, and be taken to represent the great world power arrayed against the chosen race; and the prophecy may look forward to other fulfilments in succeeding ages. Some commentators think that Babylon is here mentioned as the most distant country known, or as a portion of the Assyrian empire. Others suppose that Sargon transported some Israelitish captives to Babylon to replace the rebellious Babylonians whom he exiled to Palestine ('Records of the Past,' 7:29; 2 Kings 17:24; comp. 2 Chronicles 33:11), and that thus Micah was naturally led to represent the Judaeans as following their brethren. Whichever explanation we take, there is no reason to consider that the reference to Babylon is the interpolation of a late editor of the prophetic writings. There shall thou be delivered. In Babylon deliverance shall arise. This prophecy was first literally fulfilled in the return from captivity under Cyrus; it is further fulfilled, under Christ, in the rescue of the true Israelites from the bondage of sin and the world.
Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.
Verses 11-13. - § 7. Rescued from Babylon, Zion overcomes all enemies in the strength of God. Verse 11. - Now also; and now. A new scene is presented in contrast to the view in vers, 1-4. Many nations are gathered against thee. Primarily the Assyrians are meant (Isaiah 33:3), whose armies were composed of various nationalities (Isaiah 22:6; see below, Micah 5:5). Pusey thinks that the reference is rather to the attacks of petty enemies, e.g. in Maccabean times, and in the Samaritans' opposition to the rebuilding of the temple. Cheyne would place vers. 5-10 in a parenthesis, and connect the present with the ideal description in vers. 1-4. Let her be defiled; i.e.. profaned, despoiled of her boasted holiness and inviolability. LXX., ἐπιχαρούμεθα, "we will rejoice." The Vulgate, lapidetur, points to her punishment as an adulteress, which does not suit the context. Let our eye look upon Zion. The heathen anticipate with malicious pleasure the sight of the humiliation of Jerusalem (comp. Obadiah 1:12, 13).
But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.
Verse 12. - But the enemies who came to exult over Zion do not know God's design while blindly working it out. God's people are not to be destroyed, but their adversaries. They know not the thoughts of the Lord. The heathen, who were the instruments of God's wrath against his people, knew nothing of his purpose in thus afflicting them, nor perceived that they themselves were drawn together for punishment. He shall gather (hath gathered) them as the sheaves into the floor. Their blindness is proved by their not perceiving till too late that God has brought them together before Jerusalem, as sheaves are brought into the threshing floor, in order to be broken up and destroyed (comp. Isaiah 21:10; Jeremiah 51:23). The metaphor is carried on in the next verse. Various are the explanations of the prophet's reference in this prophecy. Many commentators see in it a reference to the destruction of the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35); others discern a defeat of the Scythians after the return from captivity; others, again, place it in the times of the Maccabees; and others interpret it of the defeat of the mystical adversaries of God's Church adumbrated in Ezekiel 38; Zechariah 12; and Revelation 20. But the prophet has not one definite event in view, but looks forward to the general conflict between the powers of the world and the Church, of which the historical events and material enemies were the types. Certain historical circumstances may exactly suit the prediction, but they do not exhaust it. And indeed we do wrong to seek for minute and definite fulfilment of particular predictions. Such utterances are often conditional and are modified by subsequent circumstances. The prophets are concerned with great moral truths and the righteous government of the world, and are not always to be interpreted with literal exactness.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.
Verse 13. - Arise. Shake off thy sorrow and fear and despair. And thresh. Tread thine enemies underfoot, now that they are gathered in the floor, as the oxen tread out the corn (Isaiah 41:15, etc.; Jeremiah 51:33.) Thine horn. The horn is an emblem of power and victory, as appertaining to the wild ox, the most powerful animal in Canaan (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11.) The metaphor of threshing is dropped for the moment, but resumed in the next clause. Hoofs. In allusion to the mode of threshing mentioned above (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9). People; peoples. Israel shall crush all the nations that rise up against her. I (God) will consecrate. So the Masoretic text; but the second person, which the ancient versions give, is preferable. Septuagint, ἀναθήσεις, "thou shalt dedicate;" Vulgate, interficies. Thou, Zion, shalt devote their gain unto the Lord. This consecration, or devotion, to the Lord in the case of living things involved death, the restitution to the Lord of the life which he had given (see Leviticus 27:21, 28, 29; Zechariah 14:21). Thus the spiritual Israel, purified by suffering, and redeemed, shall consecrate to the Lord the power of the world; and all the wealth and might of earth shall be subservient to the glory of the kingdom of God,

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