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Let us proceed to explain that sentence of the Prophet, in which he shows the cause why the teachers deceived the people and turned the truth of God to a lie; and this was, because they were greedy of gains and were wholly given to avarice. We hence see, according to the testimony of Paul, that avarice affords a cause to all evils, (1 Timothy 6:10;) and that wherever this contagion comes, all things necessarily fall into decay: for when avarice reigns in the hearts of men, the truth of God especially is ever adulterated.
But Micah adduces two evidences of avarice, — that they cried, Peace, when well fed and filled, — and that they proclaimed war, when they were hungry. Then as to the first points he says, הנשכים בשניהם וקראו שלום, that is, “who bite with their teeth,
The expression, “to bite with the teeth,” is singular, when understood to signify voraciousness, as evidently it does here;
for the corresponding words in the next distich, “who put not into their mouth,” seem to require this meaning. Almost all
critics, except some of the Greek Fathers, who followed the Septuagint, agree in attaching to this import to the sentence.
The paraphrase of Rabbi Jonathan is, “To him who offers to them a feast
of meat, they prophesy peace.” Jerome’s view is the same. Dathias gives this paraphrase, dum illis datur quod edunt — “While is given them something to eat.”
Henry’s comment is much to the purpose, — “They will flatter and compliment those who will feed them with good bits, will give them something to eat; but as for those who put not into their mouths, who are not continually cramming them, they look upon them as their enemies; to them they do not cry, Peace, but even prepare war against them; against them they denounce the judgments of God: they preach either comfort or terror to men, not according as they are to God, but as they are to them; as the crafty priests of the Church of Rome, in some places, make their image either to smile or to frown upon the offerer, according as his offering is.” — Ed. and cry, Peace.” But the sentence is to be so understood, that when they did bite well, they announced peace with full confidence: for by the word, bite, the Prophet means their gormandizing; for they who, under the guise of God’s name, sought only their own advantage, were not satisfied with a moderate support, inasmuch as they were like hungry dogs. They therefore devoured, and gorged themselves, without any limits or moderation. This is the reason why he says that they did bite: for he compares them either to lions or to bears; and we know that wild beasts are not satiated with a small quantity of food, but that they gnash as it were their teeth except they are always pampered. So also Micah says, that the false teachers of his age were voracious men, who demanded a large proportion of food. We see the same thing in our day as to the monks under the Papacy, especially those who, under the name of mendacity, devour the substance of all people. Except they are pampered, they always murmur; nay, they are not content with murmurs, they proclaim war, as the Prophet says here. We indeed see at the same time, that they are insatiable; for when they come to tables well furnished, no one would say that they are men, but beasts, for they devour every thing. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning.
But it is not voracity alone that is reprehended: he says, that they sold their blessings. when they were well filled and had their stomach well supplied. In the same manner the monks also are wont to pronounce peace when they are well fed, — “O! ye do good, when ye take care of the brethren; for they are careful of you: when ye sleep in your beds, they watch, and their prayers make you rich; for how could the world stand, were it not that the brethren make amends for it? As then ye are so kind to our community, all things shall turn out well and prosperously to you, and God also will bless you.” This then is the practice of those who for reward sell their blessings; they cry, Peace, that is, they confidently declare that all things shall be well, they make God propitious, provided such liberality towards their order be ever continued.
But, on the other hand, he also says, If any one gives not to their mouth, they instantly sanctify war against you
The original may be thus rendered,—
But whosoever will not put into their mouth,
Even against him they will proclaim war.
— Ed. : but I give a different rendering, as the passage requires, — that they reclaim war; though the word is literally to sanctify. But we have seen in Joel 2, that the word is used to designate any solemn proclamation, — “Sanctify a fast”, that is, Proclaim a fast. So also in this place, They sanctify war, that is, they proclaim war, when any one does not feed them, nor satisfy their gormandizing; for they could not bear want. In short, the Prophet shows, that these false teachers were so blinded by avarice, that they discerned not the difference between right and wrong; but only praised those who fed them: and, on the other hand, when they found that they and their stomach were not cared for nor satisfied, they cursed, fulminated, and uttered nothing but anathemas; as we see to be done at this day by the monks under the Papacy. The Prophet now says —
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