Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentMICAH 7
The chapter falls into two divisions, the first being a representation in the mouth of the prophet upon behalf of Zion-Jerusalem, "bewailing the absence of any righteous ones within her borders."F1 It is not necessary to suppose that the general population of the city engaged in any such lament; it is rather an outline of the dreadful social conditions uttered by Micah in the form of a lament. The conditions revealed show "a complete social rebellion against constituted authority and natural relations."F2 The first paragraph (Micah 7:1-6). reads very much like the front pages of newspapers in the United States at the present time.
Mic. 7:7-17 are spoken upon behalf of the spiritual remnant, in whose mouths Micah places a confession of sins and a plea for Jehovah to receive them. A final prophecy of what God will do (Micah 7:18-20) brings the prophecy of Micah to a close.
Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat; my soul desireth the first-ripe fig.
Beginning here and through Mic. 7:6, we have "one of the most poignant criticisms of a commercial community ever to appear."F3 Nothing "to eat" is a metaphor of the lack of honesty and integrity in Jerusalem, as appears in succeeding verses. Just as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, "There were not `ten righteous persons' for whose sake the city might have been spared!"F4
"Like Jeremiah, a century later (Jeremiah 5:1), he is unable to find a single godly person. He compares himself to a man wandering in the fields in search of something to eat."F5
The godly man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.
The description of deplorable conditions continues. "Brutal egotism everywhere prevails; justice is perverted; bribery is rampant; the best are like briars, rough and ugly to deal with."F6 This verse explains the metaphor of Mic. 7:1. "The grape and the early fig represent the righteous man."F7 The prophet was "like Diogenes who went about Athens with a lantern, trying to find an honest man."F8
Their hands are upon that which is evil to do it diligently; the prince asketh, and the judge [is ready] for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth the evil desire of his soul: thus they weave it together.
Corruption had permeated the highest levels of their society. The very men upon whom rested the responsibility for justice and order in their society were themselves guilty of the most abominable crimes and injustices. Things were so decadent that the community's "great men" openly spoke of their willingness to be bribed. "They had no shame in letting the whole town know that they could be bought."F9 Allen's paraphrase of Isaiah's words regarding conditions in his day are appropriate here:
"Your court officials are rebels,
Accomplices of thieves.
Everyone of them loves a bribe
And chases after presents.
They do not defend the orphan
And never hear the widow's case" (Isaiah 1:23).F10
To do it diligently…
The original language also carries the idea of skillfully. Bad men gain a dreadful skill and wisdom in evil, as Satan has; and cleverness in evil is their delight.F11
The best of them is as a brier; the most upright is [worse] than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen, even thy visitation, is come; now shall be their perplexity.
The day of thy watchmen…
This was the day of judgment upon Israel for their apostasy from God, long foretold by the prophets (thy watchmen), that is, the day of their perplexity. This change of persons (from thy to their) is characteristic of Micah's style.
Verses 5, 6
Trust ye not in a neighbor; put ye not confidence in a friend; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoreth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.
"Passion and sin break every band of friendship, kindred, gratitude, and nature."F12 So it was in the times of the gospel persecutions. "A man's foes are they of his own household" (Matt. 10:35-36; Luke 12:53). McKeating observed that these words would be applicable to "any seriously troubled times."F13 Certainly, it was the great crisis brought about by the total defeat of Israel that lay at the heart of the conditions indicated here. "This is the condition that developed in the midst of the punishment and confusion."F14 "It was an unnatural breakdown of cohesion in the home, the microcosm of society."F15 Before leaving these verses, a comment like that by Wolfe should be noted:
When any person gets the idea that he is the only good person remaining alive, he drifts into a detachment from his fellows and thereby forfeits all possibility of rendering further usefulness.F16
Such a view should be rejected, because Micah was not merely venting his prejudice in these lines, but conveying to men the words of God. The indictment, therefore, was not of Micah, but of the Lord. Moreover, it would be impossible to apply such a comment to Christ who used these very words. Furthermore, Paul himself declared that "There is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10ff).
But as for me, I will look unto Jehovah; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
Whereas, Micah had been speaking for the grossly wicked city, in these lines he spoke for the righteous remnant, as indicated by the inclusion of himself and the switch to the first person. There are magnificent Messianic overtones in the balance of this concluding chapter.
The one great consideration so often overlooked by scholars intent only upon a literary examination of the text is that from the very beginning of the promise to Abraham and his posterity, the pledge on the part of God assuring the posterity of Abraham of blessing and prosperity always pertained exclusively to the "spiritual seed" of the great patriarch, and not at all merely to his fleshly descendants. These were emphatically distinguished from each other by the holy Christ himself (John 8), and by the apostle Paul whose epistle to the Romans cannot be understood at all apart from the discernment of the two Israels.
In the pre-Christian era, God's message through the prophets always had that quality of being addressed to both Israels, now to the righteous remnant, and then to the secular and unspiritual majority. One may therefore: not rely upon what may be supposed to have been the prophet's understanding of what he wrote; for it may be accepted as certain that the prophets themselves did not in every instance understand the revelation which they received (1 Peter 1:10-12). This also accounts for the fact that certain passages, in the minds of scholars, "do not seem to fit." Significantly, all of their tampering with the text and scissoring and pasting it into a hodgepodge of their own creation -- all that never results in any improvement.
In this light, we confidently reject the opinions which view these words (Micah 7:7) as a part of a Psalm later incorporated into the text by some "editor," or the notion that this promise of blessing "does not fit" the preceding paragraph. "The confidence of the remnant and their submission to the will of God are beautifully delineated in Mic. 7:7-10."F17
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, Jehovah will be a light unto me.
"Israel addresses Babylon, her triumphant foe."F18 Blindly rejecting any such thing as predictive prophecy, some would delete these verses, or attribute them to some "post-exilic editor." However, the words are a vital and significant portion of the prophet's word of encouragement for a people shortly doomed to captivity; and it was precisely such encouraging words as these that enabled the humbled and enslaved remnant of the people to endure and triumph over that captivity. They took his pledge of God's blessing with them when they went into bondage in Babylon. How otherwise, it may be asked, did these words become an established part of the divine prophecy of Micah?
I will bear the indignation of Jehovah, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, [and] I shall behold his righteousness.
The true penitent accepts the punishment of his iniquity (Leviticus 26:41,43); they who murmur against God do not yet know their guilt (Job 40:4-5).F19
This verse is the language of the repentant remnant of the people, accepting the justice of their punishment, and yet still trusting in the covenant with God which they were determined to keep.
This believing remnant receives Jehovah's faithfulness and consistency in fulfilling all his promises of punishment for apostasy, so they can trust him to deal with their foes and oppressors in His own time and way.F20
Then mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her who said unto me, Where is Jehovah thy God? Mine eyes shall see [my desire] upon her; now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
Where is Jehovah thy God.?
The true Israel, even Jesus Christ the holy One, suffered exactly this same taunt upon the cross itself (Matthew 27:43).
Shame shall cover her…
This describes the anticipated astonishment of Babylon (my enemy) in the day of God's redeeming his people from exile.F21
A day for building thy walls! in that day shall the decree be far removed.
"Prophesying the rebuilding of the walls also follows very naturally ... Israel also looked for a day when their frontiers would be extended, when her dominion would run from Assyria to Egypt."F22
It is a great mistake, however, to overlook the spiritual import of these great prophecies. True, Israel's captivity was concluded in the triumphant return of the people to Jerusalem, a very necessary event prerequisite to the cohesion of the chosen people and the eventual delivery, through them, of the Messiah; but only in that Messiah, Jesus Christ, were the borders of a new Israel to be inclusive of the whole world. Today, even as of old, there are many who are so blinded by the vision of a worldly kingdom that the great spiritual empire of the Son of God seems never to enter their minds.
In that day shall they come unto thee from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt even to the River, and from sea to sea, and [from] mountain to mountain.
This verse continues the prophecy of the extensive acceptance of Christianity all over the world. Those who would restrict it to some literal fulfillment in the resurgence of the old Hebrew Empire miss the point altogether. The language here includes much more than the area between the Mediterranean Sea and Euphrates River. Such expressions as "sea to sea" and "mountain to mountain" encompass the whole world. The background of this prophecy was laid in Mic. 7:10, where by the means of a taunt echoed at Calvary itself, the true Israel, CHRIST, is surely in view. It is in Christ, the true Israel, that Israel receives tribute from every land on earth.
Yet shall the land be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
This verse looks back to the literal land of Israel, the earthly Jerusalem, literally to be downtrodden and desolated for millenniums of time "for the fruit of their doings." This is a bold contrast with the prosperity and excellence of the kingdom of Christ. We deny that this could be a reference to Babylon in any exclusive sense. Nor can we accept the view that the passage refers to "the tribulation and the last days."F23 Deane pointed out that "very many commentators refer this passage to the land of Canaan."F24 and we agree that, as the words stand, they could hardly mean anything else. Although, due to the very nature of prophecy, there could be many things foreshadowed here, it appears to this student that the destruction of Jerusalem and subjugation of Palestine for long centuries concurrent with the rise of the kingdom of Christ must be accepted as the primary meaning of the place. Barnes' discerning comment is:
"This sounds almost like a riddle and contradiction: `the walls built up,' `the people gathered in,' `the land desolate.' Yet it was all fulfilled to the letter. Jerusalem was restored, the people were gathered in, first from captivity, then to Christ; and yet the land was again desolate through the "fruit of their doings" who rejected Christ."F25
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thy heritage, which dwell solitarily, in the forest in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
Micah came to the near-end of his prophecy in these words. Before those days of deliverance and glory just mentioned, a long and terrible pathway of persecution, privation and death lay before God's people, even the righteous remnant; and, in these final verses, "Micah laid down his pastoral office to Him who was their true and abiding Shepherd."F26 Micah knew that the people would walk "through the valley of the shadow of death"; and, as he was nearing the end of his labors, he felt many of these emotions of faithful preachers of the gospel who draw near to "that hour that cometh in which no man can work." Appropriately, therefore, he commended the faithful remnant to the keeping of the "Chief Shepherd and bishop of their souls."
These Were names associated with the former excellence and glory of the chosen people; and by the use of this terminology, Micah solicited for his people the most wonderful of all God's wonderful blessings.
As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt will I show unto them marvellous things.
One more prophecy of that "Glorious Era" yet to come under the reign of Christ appears in this:
"I will show unto them marvelous things ... as in the days of their coming up out of Egypt ..." That was the occasion of those great and astounding miracles of God through Moses, including the ten devastating plagues that effected the delivery from Egypt. The promise here is that "God will do it again!" That Prophet, like unto Moses, and who like Moses would astound the whole world with his miracles -- that Prophet would arise and "show them marvelous things." Amazingly, Wolfe read the prophecy correctly, but missed its application! "With the restoration of Israel, miracles would again abound as they did centuries earlier at the Red Sea!"F27
Verses 16, 17
The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hand upon their mouth; their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places; they shall come with fear unto Jehovah our God, and shall be afraid because of thee.
Most of the commentators attempting an explanation of these verses apply them to "the abject surrender" of the Gentile nations to Israel in the days of Israel's coming glory, or to "their prostration before Jehovah with fear and trembling, and their recognition that `in none other name under heaven is there salvation.'"F28 That latter view is preferable to the other; but we incline to view this passage as eschatological, referring to the final humiliation of all the unbelieving world in those days immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. The low estate of mankind (crawling ... licking dust ... deaf ... the great fear) does not appear to represent the triumph of Christianity, but a final rejection of it that is prophesied to occur shortly before the end of the age. The entire 18th chapter of Revelation gives a more elaborate picture of the same conditions in view here.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in lovingkindness.
Pardoneth iniquity. passeth over the transgression ..…
The great hallmark of the New Covenant lies in the promise of God to forgive the sins of his people, a promise that simply did not pertain to the old covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-35); and, therefore, in this we have a certain indication that the passage is Messianic. Note that the promise of forgiveness here is not to the whole of apostate Israel, but to the righteous remnant, the true Israel to be revealed in Christ and from which no person, either Jew or Gentile is excluded. This identification of which Israel would be the recipient of the glorious promises appearing again and again in Micah is the key to understanding the whole prophecy.
Verses 19, 20
He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, [and] the lovingkindness to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
Compassion upon us…
This is a promise of forgiveness to the righteous remnant, to all that are in Christ Jesus. These last two verses are in no sense a doxology. It is not a prayer for God to do the glorious things mentioned, but a promise that HE WILL DO THEM. The ASV should be followed here.
God never cancelled or abrogated the glorious promises made to the patriarchs. The promise that he would bless all the families of the earth in Abraham is now being fulfilled in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. The Messianic age is clearly identified here as the time when those precious promises would indeed be fully and completely realized.
The casting of sins into the sea indicated that they would be put completely out of God's sight, "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalms 103:12), and remembered no more forever (Jeremiah 31:34), and "blotted out" (Acts 3:19).F29 Before concluding this study of Micah, we again call attention to the "remnant" concept which appears on every page of it. McKeating stressed its importance thus:
"The idea of a remnant is an extremely important one, it helps to solve the dilemma of how to reconcile the absolute righteousness and the everlasting love of God. God could judge his people, and destroy them, but nevertheless save enough of them (the remnant), penitent and purified, to serve as the nucleus of a renewed Israel."F30
Therefore, instead of reading the alternate passages of doom and blessing as the blundering result of some "editor's" rearranging of the text of this prophecy, may men read the one as applicable to the disobedient, and the other as glorious encouragement for the "righteous remnant." Unto Jesus Christ our Lord be the glory, and the power, and the dominion forever and ever. Amen!
Footnotes for Micah 7
1: Homer Hailey, Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 216.
2: Ibid., p. 217.
3: George Adam Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham), p. 429.
4: Albert Barnes, Notes on the Minor Prophets, Vol. 2) (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 89.
5: D. Elmo Scoggin, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 225.
6: J. E. McFayden, Abingdon Bible Commentary (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1929), p. 796.
7: W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14, Micah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 106.
8: Rolland E. Wolfe, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. III (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 943.
9: D. Elmo Scoggin, op. cit., p. 226.
10: Leslie C. Allen, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Micah (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 386.
11: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 90.
12: Ibid, p. 91.
13: Henry McKeating, Cambridge Bible Commentary, Micah (Cambridge: University Press, 1971), p. 189. <14> D. Ehno Scoggin, op. cit., p. 226.
15: Leslie C. Allen, op. cit., p. 389.
16: Rolland E. Wolfe, op. cit., p. 945.
17: H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Bros., 1925), p. 251.
18: Robert Jamieson, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), p. 820.
20: Gleason L. Archer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 760.
21: Rolland E. Wolfe, op. cit., p. 946.
22: Henry McKeating, op. cit., p. 191.
23: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit., p. 760.
24: W. J. Deane, op. cit. p. 109.
25: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 98.
27: Rolland E. Wolfe, op. cit., p. 948.
28: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 220.
29: Ibid., p. 221.
30: Henry McKeating, op. cit., p. 192.