Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentMICAH 4
This and the following chapter are the citadel of Old Testament prophecy. Here Satan is vanquished; the light of truth is lighted for millenniums of time; the bold and undeniable prophecies of the coming of the Son of God, the establishment of his kingdom, the glorious success of it, and the ultimate fate of the wicked are graphically foretold in such a manner as to frustrate, discredit, and confound every effort of the evil one to get rid of the message. It lives forever. In this chapter, the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ and the going forth of the word of the Lord from Jerusalem are graphically predicted and described. The further judgment of the secular Israel for their idolatry was exactly predicted and foretold, even Babylon being named as the place of their banishment a full century, and more, before the event. If one really wishes to experience the deepening and strengthening of his faith, then let him understand this chapter and other portions of Micah.
SATAN'S ATTACK UPON MICAH
Satan is perfectly willing to allow practically all of Micah to stand as the unquestionable Word of God through that prophet; but the fearless predictions of this chapter have aroused the evil one to his fiercest activity. He must oppose what is written here. He has no choice. No matter if there are no arguments against it, he will make arguments anyway. When all else fails, he simply screams "it is not so!" Those who are familiar with the efforts of Satan to discredit the Bible could easily reproduce the arrogant carpings of Old Testament enemies without ever reading their books. Not one new argument in a thousand years has come out of their schools. Their knee-jerk response is as predictable as grass turning green in summer.
Satan's first maneuver is to declare that none of the "in" people accept this chapter. "According to the best scholarly opinion, Mic. 4--5 contain no material by the prophet Micah."F1 The assertion of this is that none of it is true prophecy; all of it was inserted by an imposter long after Micah lived. Note the false claim that "the best scholarship" accepts such denials. What Christian has not heard that before? The same author declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ that, "None of the rulers or Pharisees believed on him" (John 7:48). To be sure, the Pharisees also considered themselves and those who agreed with them as "the best scholars," no doubt believing that they were the "in" people. As a matter of fact, they were the "outs" and were the most profoundly blind and deceived scholars that the world had ever known up to that time.
"Since Micah was a prophet of doom," none of this happy material in Mic. 4 could have come from him!F2 This hoary-headed and decrepit objection has been discredited and disproved so often that it is astounding any of the "best scholars" would dare to make it; but as noted above, those who deny this passage are pressed beyond limits. As a matter of simple truth, all of the prophets, including most conspicuously the Christ himself, that Prophet like unto Moses, brought messages both of doom and of glory. Who has not heard of heaven and hell?
Another proposition is that, "The consensus of scholarship is that these chapters, Mic. 4--5, are post-exilic."F3 Such views intimidate some people; but it should be recalled that the same "consensus" was teaching that the world is flat not very long ago in the historical past, or that "matter can neither be created nor destroyed" as recently as 1930. The same "consensus" dated the gospel of John in the mid-second century A.D., until the Rylands fragment exploded their denial of apostolic status to that gospel. We are thankful indeed that many of the greatest scholars of a thousand years, yes, the majority of them, do not hesitate to receive this glorious chapter for exactly what it is, the prophecy of Micah. We shall cite the opinions of a number of these in the notes below.
Are there any reasons, really, why these chapters should not be accepted as bona fide? No! Not one tiniest jot or tittle of solid evidence may be cited. If one is willing to accept as "evidence" the speculative imaginations of Bible enemies, then the theoretical guesses and suppositions of such enemies could be pointed out as evidence; but there's no wisdom in any such acceptance. The imaginations of men are, by definition, wicked. The unity and integrity of Micah are unquestionable and absolutely incapable of being disproved. The mere reading of it by a discerning scholar is sufficient to dispel the insinuations which are cast against it by people who do not believe in the inspiration of God's Word, nor even in the supernatural, nor in any such thing as predictive prophecy, nor in any revelation of holy religion from the Father in heaven, only believing in themselves and their vain imaginations. How sad it is that the pitiful inclination of sinful, fallible men is to believe it when Satan arrogantly contradicts the Word of God, saying, "Ye shall NOT surely die."
But in the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it.
In the latter days…
has the meaning of, in the times of the Messiah. It always denotes the Messianic era when used by the prophets.F4 The literal translation of these words would be `At the end of the days.' an expression used by the prophets to refer to the last days, or to the times of the Messiah.F5 The apostle Peter declared on the day of Pentecost that the expression refers to this present dispensation (Acts 2:16). Of course, this requires the interpretation of this passage as a description of the glory and success of the kingdom of Christ. The whole passage points to the end of the Jewish age and the introduction of a new era under the spiritual ruler.F6
Mountain of Jehovah's house. exalted above the hills ..…
It is not a geographical upheaval that was predicted here, but that, The worship of the true God (of which the temple mountain was a symbol) shall be promulgated among all nations.F7
Peoples shall flow unto it…
The word flow here is from the same root as river.F8 The people will flow as a mighty river into the kingdom (church) of Jesus Christ.
Before leaving this verse, we should take note of the upsetting fact (to most scholars) that these verses are very similar, in fact, almost identical with a passage in Isa. 2:2-4. The old knee-jerk response to this is to stage a full, learned debate on which is the original! Such a ludicrous contest is postulated by the acceptance of the false premise that similar passages in holy writ are invariably to be understood as the original, and a copy. That is not the case, in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. It presupposes that God could not have spoken to two, or more, prophets in identical words; and where, under the sun of heaven, is any proof of a canard like that? When sacred writers quoted each other, they named the author quoted, usually adding that "God had spoken through him." If either Isaiah or Micah had quoted the other, would he not have said so? But how about the debate? It always winds up with an array of scholars on both sides of the question, as has been the case here. When such a stalemate occurs, then the old reliable proposition is resorted to, that affirms both writers were quoting an older document! "Some scholars propose a third source from which the Holy Spirit led both men to gain material for their discourses."F9 Indeed, what is that third source, that higher authority, that previously existing fountain of wisdom, if it is not God Himself?. God is the author who spoke through Micah.
We do not have to do here with the literature of men, but with the inspired Word of God, who said, "The testimony of two men is true"; and, therefore he has given us the same promise through both Micah and Isaiah, that all men may know that neither wrote from himself, but that he was moved by the Holy Spirit.F10
And many nations shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, 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 out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem;
This has been gloriously fulfilled throughout the Christian dispensation by the hundreds of millions of souls all over the planet Earth who have found in Jesus Christ their all in all and who look to him only for salvation and eternal life. One cannot help but wonder if the thought ever enters the minds of those who attribute this chapter to an imposter as to how such a rascal ever came up with so significant and beautiful a truth as this!
Mountain of Jehovah. God of the house of Jacob ..…
These expressions were identified with the old Israel; but their spiritual import belongs altogether to the new Israel of God in Christ.
The contrast between "many nations" here and the single nation of secular Israel who constituted the ancient chosen people, absolutely requires that the passage be applied to a new era and a new Israel composed not merely of one race, but of all races, not of one nation alone, but of all the multiplied nations of the world.
For out of Zion shall go forth the law…
These words are of the prophet Micah, not the conclusion of the nations.F11 A number of very significant facts are inherent in this divine word. (1) The gospel would spring from Jerusalem, where Christ exercised his ministry, died, rose again from the dead, and from whence he commanded his disciples that `repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.'F12 (2) The gospel was not for the purpose of destroying the law of Moses, but for the sake of fulfilling it. The righteousness of Christ himself consisted, at least in part, of his perfect obedience to the ancient Law; and as Christ's righteousness is that alone which redeems men now, the salvation of every man is surely, thereby, related to it. (3) Note that it will be a law that will go forth from Jerusalem in the new dispensation, confirming exactly what is reiterated again, and again by the sacred writers of the New Testament who referred to the gospel as the precious law of liberty (James 2:12), the perfect law (James 1:26), the royal law (James 2:8), the law of faith (Romans 3:27), the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2), the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), and not being without law ... but under law to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). No greater misunderstanding prevails upon earth today than the notion that the grace of God has freed God's children from all law. They were, of course, freed from the law of Moses; but they are under law to Christ.
and he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This is not the promise of some literal millennium here on earth in which period the wicked nations of earth will be brought together in some kind of a confederation under Israel (fleshly) and in which the ideal peace and prosperity envisioned here will ensue. No! It is of that new society, the church of God in Christ, that the prophet spoke here. "Micah was here describing the character of that kingdom ruled from the spiritual Zion."F13 It has been gloriously fulfilled in that the kingdom of Christ has come down through history without any reliance whatever upon the military weapons which are the stock in trade of the unconverted. This great truth is not nullified by the violation of it by "the great whore." Could this refer to a time when there will no longer be any war on earth? No! Jesus himself said that "wars and rumors of wars" shall continue throughout history (Matt. 24). As Mays said, "The promise of peace here is founded on the promise of the reign of Yahweh becoming the center of order for all peoples."F14 As long as the nations of the earth prefer to walk in rebellion against God, wars are inevitable.
There are some sincere students of God's Word who receive this passage as a promise of the time when, "the established authority of Christ will appear beyond anything which obtains in this present church age";F15 but we believe that such a fulfillment would belong to that period of "the new heavens and the new earth" mentioned by the apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:13).
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it.
Here again, the import of the passage is that of spiritual confidence and joy of the redeemed in Christ Jesus. The more Christian a society becomes, the more nearly this perfect ideal is approached. It is impossible, of course, to apply this to literal Jerusalem, an impossibility that provoked Mays to declare that this "is a contradiction of Mic. 3:12, and that it has no place in Micah."F16 Such a statement would have been impossible for any person who understands the passage. The tragedy of many in the critical community of scholars is that they are fundamentalists, having no ability whatever to discern the spiritual import of a passage designed to reveal the great spiritual verities of God's kingdom. (See the dissertation on that phenomenon in my commentary on James--Jude, pp. 289, 290.
Every man under his vine. his fig-tree ..…
Let it be observed that the ideal state set forth here is not any kind of socialist or Marxist state ownership of all property;F17 the God-given status of private property is clearly discernible in it.
The pitiful blindness of the human race is apparent in the fact that sociologists actually suppose that it will be possible for carnal mankind to achieve such a society as that ideally set forth by Micah, through such man-made devices as the League of Nations, United Nations, World Court, or similar invention. As Allen said, "Bitter experience has shown the need for the missing ingredient,"F18 obedience to the will of God.
The mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it…
This has the meaning of, The Lord of the powers of heaven and earth. and affirms the authority of God himself for the passage before us. The enemies of God's word who would like to delete this chapter have nothing to offer. The attacks that have been made have but a poor foundation. Their allegations are made unjustly.F19
For all the peoples walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever.
All the peoples walk everyone in the name of his god…
This comment explains that the glorious promises of the prior four verses do not pertain to those who continue to walk in the darkness of paganism. They violently abuse this passage who would make it declare that, paganism is perfectly proper for pagans!F20 What is clearly evident here is the fact that the glorious promises of the previous four verses will be limited to the persons walking in the name of the true God, the promise being certified to them that they shall indeed do so forever and ever. Even the cessation of their lives upon earth will not be the end of their walk with the Master.
By saying `we,' the prophet identified himself with the faithful people. The Church shall never fail. Heathen powers last for a time, but the kingdom of heaven is everlasting.F21 The fact that this promise is now fulfilled in Christ, and is not to be fulfilled in some future time is abundantly clear from the New Testament.F22 The great implication of this verse is that:
"Even at the time when many nations stream to the mountain of the Lord, there will still be nations that do not seek Jehovah and his word, a thought that is still further expanded in Mic. 5:4ff.F23
In that day, saith Jehovah, will I assemble that which is lame, and I will gather that which is driven away, and that which I have afflicted;
"Under the image of a flock, footsore and dispersed, the prophet signified the depressed condition of the Hebrew exiles (yet to take place)."F24 The meaning is that none of the rebellious race of Israel will be excluded from the divine blessings in Christ, provided only that, "they turn to the Lord in repentance and humility."F25
and I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation: and Jehovah will reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth even for ever.
That portion of the old Israel which was "lame" and "cast off," as for example the hated and hunted minority in the times of Elijah, will become, through God's power, "the remnant," that is, the only part of old Israel that will partake of the everlasting kingdom in Christ. The nucleus of the New Israel of God would be precisely those persons in the old order who were disowned and cast out as evil by the Pharisees.
The only Jerusalem in this passage is that of the new Jerusalem which the apostle John saw descending out of heaven. There is nothing here about any construction of a secular monarchy in the literal Jerusalem. It refers to the establishment of Christ's spiritual kingdom.F26
And thou, O tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, yea, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.
O tower of the flock…
This expression comes from the custom of erecting a tower from which a shepherd could watch over his flock; and the meaning is that, From a spiritual watchtower, Jehovah would watch over his flock.F27
The former dominion…
has in mind the age of David and Solomon,F28 That was the period of greatest glory for the throne of David, the restoration of which was promised in the Messiah. What Micah was saying here is that The Son of David (Christ) will preside over the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem. The prophet introduces the Messiah who would come and through whom Jehovah would exercise the rule.F29
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? Is there no king in thee, is thy counsellor perished, that pangs have taken hold of thee as of a woman in travail?
Here follows a contrast between the judgments already pronounced against the literal house of Jacob and about to be reiterated, with the glorious and universal blessings of the kingdom of heaven in Christ set forth by Micah in Mic. 4:1-8. The now is therefore temporal having direct reference to the way it was when Micah wrote and when the times he was prophesying would be fulfilled in the defeat and captivity of the punished chosen people.
The loss of king and counselor with the resulting defeat and overthrow of the secular nation would not be cancelled or circumvented by the will of God. The terrible penalties already prophesied would indeed take place; but this and the following verse were given for the encouragement of the faithful remnant. The general meaning of both this and the following verse is that, The captivity which would destroy the king and the state would be the birthpangs of a better state,F30 a spiritual one, in which Christ, not some literal earthly monarch, would be the true ruler of God's re-created Israel, the New Israel of the present order. The fantastic notion that God, for some reason, is yet interested in another replay of an earthly kingdom such as that of Solomon and David is sheer nonsense. It was the desire for that very thing that blinded the Jews to their Christ when he came; and it was precisely because Jesus effectively refused to approve of any such thing that they crucified him.
Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail; for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and shalt dwell in the field, and shalt come even unto Babylon: there shalt thou be rescued; there will Jehovah redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.
For now shalt thou go forth…
Again the temporal now focuses upon events much nearer in the future than the ultimate establishment of Messiah's kingdom. The people's going to dwell in the field signified their complete military defeat, an event that lay much nearer at hand.
Thou shalt come even unto Babylon…
Satan has a fit about this; but here it is, uttered a full century and more before the event, giving God's people an example of predictive prophecy unsurpassed, although frequently equaled in the Bible. Being unable to mount any convincing argument for excluding the passage from the Bible, the enemies of the word assert that Micah thought his prophecy would be fulfilled by the Assyrians, thus alleging a contradiction based upon what they suppose the prophet thought. It is an old and very reprehensible device. At the time Micah wrote, Babylon did not even exist as an independent power, Assyria being the dominant world power at that time; But Micah's seeing into the far-off future of Babylon's subsequent supremacy and Judah's connection with that proves him to be an inspired prophet.F31
As is always the case with the great predictive prophecies in the Bible, this one also is multiple in meaning. The going of Israel to Babylon will come about because of military disaster, indicated by their going forth out of the city and dwelling in the field. The slavery of the people is indicated by their "dwelling" in the field, the usual habitation of slaves. The rescue and redemption of the people are also prophesied at the same time.
See the discussion of The Bible's Predictive Prophecies under Mic. 5:2.
Students should keep continually in mind the summary of this study on Mic. 4:10 by W. J. Deane, a scholar ranking very much higher than some of those claiming to be "the best." He wrote:
"There is no reason to consider that the reference to Babylon is the interpolation of a late editor of the prophetic writings."F32
Much of the writing of the prophets states the glorious realities of spiritual truth in materialistic terms, leading to the oft-observed phenonenon of a double fulfillment. Such is true of this Mic. 4:10. Israel's captivity in Babylon was, first of all, a spiritual thing. Having taken up the worship of the idol-gods of the Canaanites, they were in spiritual darkness, suffering under the captivity of sin and wickedness; and their going "unto Babylon" was a spiritual thing also, "Babylon" having stood throughout the ages as a synonym for sin and rebellion against God. In that sense, Israel went into Babylon before their conquest either by Assyria or Babylon.
But it was a real, historical event that Micah prophesied here. Israel was destined literally to be carried away into Babylonian captivity, a prophecy fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar and his generals who destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
There was also a double fulfillment of the prophecy that, "There shalt thou be rescued ... redeemed." It was literally fulfilled under Cyrus who released the Jews from slavery, aiding and encouraging their return to Jerusalem a full seventy years after their captivity began. "It is further being fulfilled under Christ, in the rescue of the true Israelites from the bondage of sin and the world."F33
And now many nations are assembled against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye see [our desire] upon Zion.
The rescue and redemption of God's people, whether from literal slavery in Babylon, or from the pursuit of sin and unrighteousness, is by no means the end of the world's hatred and opposition. The literal fulfillment occurred in the opposition of the surrounding nations to Israel's rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem; and in the larger theater of world-history, the hatred and warfare of the world against the church are never for one moment abated.
Many nations are assembled against thee…
In this verse, the prophecy moves dramatically toward the final judgment of all the world, an event to be preceded by the hatred of the nations of the world against the truth, and against God's people. The ultimate and terminal alignment of the nations of mankind against God will be accomplished through the cunning manipulation of Satan, organizing all the world against God, a maneuver made possible by the choice, at that time, by the vast majority of humanity to walk in darkness rather than light, to serve evil and not righteousness. That such is prophesied for the future is certain. Micah indicated it here; and the prophecy of Revelation covers the same incredible event again and again in the parallelisms regarding the battle of Armageddon, the destruction of the beast, and of the false prophet, etc. (See my commentary on Romans, pp. 376-383, 447-456, 475-478 for extensive studies on the very event Micah prophesied here.) Of course, this interpretation applies this portion of the prophecy to events just prior to the Second Advent of Christ.
But they know not the thoughts of Jehovah, neither understand they his counsel; for he hath gathered them as the sheaves to the threshing-floor.
They know not the thoughts of Jehovah…
The hatred of the world for God's truth, their desire to behold the defilement of all that is true and beautiful (Micah 4:11), and their unanimous consent to be gathered together in opposing and oppressing God's people -- all this will result from the refusal of humanity to know the thoughts of the Lord, preferring the spirit of evil.
He hath gathered them as sheaves…
Wherever the harvest metaphor appears in the Bible it generally applies to the final judgment; and at that point in time when the near-totality of the human race shall have rejected God and joined openly in the warfare against truth and righteousness, the judgment is at hand. When wickedness has borne its full fruit, run its course, done its thing, and completed the natural circle, nothing remains for God to do except to gather in the harvest. Harvest is also a time of threshing;, and it was that aspect of harvest that Micah stressed at once.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many peoples: and I will devote their gain unto Jehovah, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion…
The character and nature of the church are inherent in what comes to view here. The true Israel in the final dispensation (the present) is Christ the Lord; and his church is fully and completely identified with him in Christ and as Christ. The daughter of Zion would be precisely that church, or kingdom of the Messiah; and it is in her character of being Christ, the true Israel that she shall thresh the nations, a stern reference to the final judgment. This is not a prophecy that secular, fleshly, worldly Israel will conquer all the nations of the world and ruthlessly destroy them. That Someone will do so is surely taught; but that One is Christ to whom the Father hath committed the judgment of this ungodly world (John 5:27).
The metaphor of threshing the nations is a terrible one indeed. "The allusion is to the threshing machine studded underneath with iron spikes dragged over the threshing floor."F34 Some of Israel's enemies had actually executed such a horror upon them (Amos 1:3; 1 Kings 13:7); and the promise in this verse is that God will reward the wicked nations in kind, for their godless, evil ways.
Devote their gain. and substance ... unto the Lord ..…
The wealth and glory of the whole rebellious earth will indeed, at last, be sacrificed to God in one flaming holocaust. Note particularly here that the wealth of the world is not to be appropriated by the state of Israel.
Deane saw in this passage the additional truth that, "The spiritual Israel, purified and redeemed, shall consecrate to the Lord the power of the world."F35
Footnotes for Micah 4
1: Rolland E. Wolfe, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. III (New York: Abingdon Press, 1950), p. 921.
2: Henry McKeating, Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1971), p. 170.
3: D. Elmo Scoggin, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 206.
4: C. F. Keil, Vol. 10, Commentary on Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 456.
5: Gleason L. Archer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 756.
6: Homer Hailey, A Commentary on Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 204.
7: W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary, Micah, Vol. 14 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 49.
8: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit., p. 756.
9: E. Leslie Carlson, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 856.
10: H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, reprint, 1926), p. 235.
11: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 457.
12: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 49.
13: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 205.
14: James Luther Mays, Micah, A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 93.
15: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit., p. 756.
16: James Luther Mays, op. cit., p. 95.
17: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit., p. 756.
18: Leslie C. Allen, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Micah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 327.
19: C. von Orelli, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: Howard-Severance Co., 1915), p. 2046.
20: Henry McKeating, op. cit., p. 173.
21: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 50.
22: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 106.
23: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 459.
24: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 50.
27: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 207.
28: Henry McKeating, op. cit., p. 173.
29: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 207.
30: H. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 582.
31: Robert Jamieson, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), p. 816.
32: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 51.
34: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 35.
35: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 35.