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Micah 4:3

3. 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.

3. Et judicabit inter populos multos, et arguet (vel, corripiet) gentes robustos usque in longinquum, et concident gladios suos in vomeres, et lanceas suas in falces: non tollent gens contra gentem gladium, et non assuescent ultra praelio.

 

The Prophet here describes the fruit of Divine truth, — that God would restore all nations to such gentleness, that they would study to cultivate fraternal peace among themselves, and that all would consult the good of others, having laid aside every desire for doing harm. As then he has lately showed, that the Church of God could not be otherwise formed than by the Word, and that the legitimate worship of God cannot be set up and continued, except where God is honored with the obedience of faith; so now he shows that Divine truth produces this effect, — that they, who before lived in enmity towards one another and burned with the lust of doing harm, being full of cruelty and avarice, will now, having their disposition changed, devote themselves wholly to acts of kindness. But, before the Prophet comes to this subject, he says, —

He will judge 122122     There is a difference of opinion as to the nominative case to the verb “judge;” whether it be Jehovah in the preceding line, or the word of Jehovah. The most natural construction is the last supposition. Jerome and Cyril, as quoted by Marckius, refer it to the word of Jehovah, taking the word for Christ: but this cannot be admitted, as the law and the word seem to mean the same thing, and must be considered as the word of the Gospel; and Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, when referring to this passage regard it as such. And this is the view which Marckius seems to prefer. The rendering then would be, —
   And it shall judge among many people,
And convince strong nations afar off.
among many people, and will reprove strong nations. The word judge, in Hebrew, means the same as to rule or govern. It is certain that God is spoken of here: it is then the same as though the Prophet had said that though the nations had not hitherto obeyed God, they would now own him as king and submit to his government. God has indeed ever governed the world by his hidden providence, as he does still govern it: for how much soever the devil and the ungodly may rage; nay, how ever much they may boil with unbridled fury, there is no doubt but that God restrains and checks their madness by his hidden bridle. But the Scripture speaks of God’s kingdom in two respects. God does indeed govern the devil and all the wicked, but not by his word, nor by the sanctifying power of his Spirit: it is so done, that they obey God, not willingly, but against their will. The peculiar government of God is that of his Church only, where, by his word and Spirit, He bends the hearts of men to obedience, so that they follow him voluntarily and willingly, being taught inwardly and outwardly, — inwardly by the influence of the Spirit, — outwardly by the preaching of the word. Hence it is said in Psalm 110, ‘Thy willing people shall then assemble.’ This is the government that is here described by the Prophet; God then shall judge; not as he judges the world, but he will, in a peculiar manner, make them obedient to himself so that they will look for nothing else than to be wholly devoted to him.

But as men must first be subdued before they render to God such obedience, the Prophet expressly adds, And he will reprove (corripiet) or convince (arguet) many people. And this sentence ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence learn, that such is our innate pride, that not one of us can become a fit disciple to God, except we be by force subdued. Truth then would of itself freeze amidst such corruption as we have, except the Lord proved us guilty, except he prepared us beforehand, as it were, by violent measures. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in connecting reproof with the government of God: for the verb יכח, ikech, signifies sometimes to expostulate, to convince, and sometimes to correct or reprove. 123123     The two verbs here used are שפט, to judge, and הוכיח, in Hiphil, to reprove. The first is to decide what is right and wrong, and also to defend the right and to punish the wrong; hence it means to arbitrate, and also to vindicate as well as to punish. The first sense is most suitable to this place. — The other verb does not occur in Kal, but in Hiphil, it means to make manifest, or show, by facts or by words, or by action; and hence it signifies to demonstrate, to convince, to reprove, to chastise. The Septuagint often renders it by ελεγχειν, which, Parkhurst says, means, in its primary sense, to demonstrate by convincing reasons or arguments. Lowth’s version in Isaiah is, “And shall work conviction,” etc. Newcome renders it “convince.” The rendering of Henderson, “give decision,” is not to be approved. See John 16:8. — Ed. In short, the wickedness and perversity of our flesh are here implied; for even the best of us would never offer themselves to God, without being first subdued, and that by God’s powerful correction. This, then, is the beginning of the kingdom of Christ.

But when he says, that strong nations would be reproved, he hereby eulogizes and sets forth the character of the kingdom of which he speaks: and we hence learn the power of truth, — that strong men, when thus reproved, shall offer themselves, without any resistance, to be ruled by God. Correction is indeed necessary, but God employs no external force, nor any armed power, when he makes the Church subject to himself: and yet he collects strong nations. Hence then is seen the power of truth: for where there is strength, there is confidence and arrogance, and also rebellious opposition. Since then the Lord, without any other helps, thus corrects the perverseness of men, we hence see with what inconceivable power God works, when he gathers his own Church. It is to be added, that there is not the least doubt, but that this is to be applied to the person of Christ. Micah speaks of God, without mentioning Christ by name; for he was not yet manifested in the flesh: but we know that in his person has this been fulfilled, — that God has governed the universe, and subjected to himself the people of the whole world. We hence conclude that Christ is true God; for he is not only a minister to the Father, as Moses, or any one of the Prophets; but he is the supreme King of his Church.

Before I proceed to notice the fruit, the expression, רחוק עד, od rechuk, “afar off” must be observed. It may intimate a length of time as well as distance of place. Jonathan applies it to a long continuance of time, — that God would convince men to the end of the world. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intended to include the most distant countries; as though he had said, that God would not be the king of one people only, or of Judea alone, but that his kingdom would be propagated to the extremities of the earth. He will then convince people afar off

He afterward adds, with respect to the fruit, They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks I have already briefly explained the meaning of the Prophet: he in fact shows that when the nations should be taught by the word of God, there would be such a change, that every one would study to do good, and to perform the duties of love towards his neighbors. But by speaking of swords and spears he briefly intimates, what men, until they are made gentle by the word of the Lord, are ever intent on iniquitous tyranny and oppression; nor can it be otherwise, while every one follows his own nature; for there are none who are not wedded to their own advantages, and the cupidity of men is insatiable. As then all are thus intent on gain, while every one is blinded by self-love, what but cruelty must ever break forth from this wicked principle? Hence then it is, that men cannot cultivate peace with one another; for every one seeks to be the first, and draws every thing to himself; no one will willingly give way: then dissensions arise, and from dissensions, fightings. This is what the Prophet intimates. And then he adds, that the fruit of the doctrine of Christ would however be such, that men, who were before like cruel wild beasts, would become gentle and meek. Forge then shall they their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.

Raise, he says, shall not a nation a sword against a nation, and accustom themselves they shall no more to war He explains here more fully what I have before said, — that the Gospel of Christ would be to the nations, as it were, a standard of peace: as when a banner is raised up, soldiers engage in battle, and their fury is kindled; so Micah ascribes a directly opposite office to the Gospel of Christ, — that it will restore those to the cultivation of peace and concord, who before were given to acts of hostility. For when he says, ‘Raise a sword shall not a nation against nation,’ he intimates, as I have already stated, that wherever Christ does not reign, men are wolves to men, for every one is disposed to devour all others. Hence as men are naturally impelled by so blind an impulse, the Prophet declares, that this madness cannot be corrected, that men will not cease from wars, that they will not abstain from hostilities, until Christ becomes their teacher: for by the word למד, lamed, he implies, that it is a practice which ever prevails among mankind, that they contend with one another, that they are ever prepared to do injuries and wrongs, except when they put off their natural disposition. But gentleness, whence does it proceed? Even from the teaching of the Gospel.

This passage ought to be remembered; for we here learn, that there is not growing among us the real fruit of the Gospel, unless we exercise mutual love and benevolence, and exert ourselves in doing good. Though the Gospel is at this day purely preached among us, when yet we consider how little progress we make in brotherly love, we ought justly to be ashamed of our indolence. God proclaims daily that he is reconciled to us in his Son; Christ testifies, that he is our peace with God, that he renders him propitious to us, for this end, that we may live as brethren together. We indeed wish to be deemed the children of God, and we wish to enjoy the reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ; but in the meantime we tear one another, we sharpen our teeth, our dispositions are cruel. If then we desire really to prove ourselves to be the disciples of Christ, we must attend to this part of divine truth, each of us must strive to do good to his neighbors. But this cannot be done without being opposed by our flesh; for we have a strong propensity to self-love, and are inclined to seek too much our own advantages. We must therefore put off these inordinate and sinful affections, that brotherly kindness may succeed in their place.

We are also reminded that it is not enough for any one to refrain from doing harm, unless he be also occupied in doing good to his brethren. The Prophet might indeed have said only They shall break their swords and their spears; so that they shall hereafter abstain from doing any hurt to others: this only is not what he says; but, “They shall forge,” or beat,” their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;” that is, when they shall abstain from all injuries they will seek to exercise themselves in the duties of love, consistently with what Paul says, when he exhorts those who had stolen to steal no more, but to work with their own hands, that they might relieve others (Ephesians 4:28.) Except then we endeavor to relieve the necessities of our brethren, and to offer them assistance, there will not be in us but one part of true conversion, as the case is with many, who are not indeed inhuman, who commit no plunder, who give no occasion for complaint, but they live to themselves, and enjoy unprofitable leisure. This indolence the Prophet here indirectly condemns, when he speaks of the plowshares and the pruning hooks.

Again, a question may be here asked, — Was this fulfilled at the coming of Christ? It seems that the Prophet does not describe here the state of the Church for a time, but shows what would be the kingdom of Christ to the end. But we see, that when the Gospel was at first preached, the whole world boiled with wars more than ever; and now, though the Gospel in many parts is clearly preached, yet discords and contentions do not cease; we also see that rapacity, ambition, and insatiable avarice, greatly prevail; and hence arise contentions and bloody wars. And at the same time it would have been inconsistent in the Prophet to have thus spoken of the kingdom of Christ, had not God really designed to perform what is here predicted. My answer to this is, — that as the kingdom of Christ was only begun in the world, when God commanded the Gospel to be everywhere proclaimed, and as at this day its course is not as yet completed; so that which the Prophet says here has not hitherto taken place; but inasmuch as the number of the faithful is small, and the greater part despise and reject the Gospel, so it happens, that plunders and hostilities continue in the world. How so? Because the Prophet speaks here only of the disciples of Christ. He shows the fruit of his doctrine, that wherever it strikes a living root, it brings forth fruit: but the doctrine of the Gospel strikes roots hardly in one out of a hundred. 124124     “All these predictions must be confined to the nations converted by the word of Jehovah, and brought into Zion, that is, such as truly repent and believe, and must not be extended to all nations indiscriminately, or to all who embrace the Christian name, who are often as far as possible from the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as they neither learn nor follow his doctrine. — Marckius. The measure also of its progress must be taken to the account; for so far as any one embraces the doctrine of the Gospel, so far he becomes gentle and seeks to do good to his neighbors. But as we as yet carry about us the relics of sin in our flesh, and as our knowledge of the Gospel is not yet perfect, it is no wonder, that not one of us has hitherto wholly laid aside the depraved and sinful affections of his flesh.

It is also easy hence to see, how foolish is the conceit of those, who seek to take away the use of the sword, on account of the Gospel. The Anabaptists, we know, have been turbulent, as though all civil order were inconsistent with the kingdom of Christ, as though the kingdom of Christ was made up of doctrine only, and that doctrine without any influence. We might indeed do without the sword, were we angels in this world; but the number of the godly, as I have already said, is small; it is therefore necessary that the rest of the people should be restrained by a strong bridle; for the children of God are found mixed together, either with cruel monsters or with wolves and rapacious men. Some are indeed openly rebellious, others are hypocrites. The use of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world.

We must now understand that at the time our Prophet delivered this discourse, Isaiah had used the very same words, (Isaiah 2:4:) and it is probable that Micah was a disciple of Isaiah. They, however, exercised at the same time the Prophetic office, though Isaiah was the oldest. But Micah was not ashamed to follow Isaiah and to borrow his words; for he was not given to self ostentation, as though he would not adduce any thing but what was his own; but he designedly adopted the expressions of Isaiah, and related verbally what he had said, to show that there was a perfect agreement between him and that illustrious minister of God, that his doctrine might obtain more credit. We hence see how great was the simplicity of our Prophet, and that he did not regard what malevolent and perverse men might say: “What! he only repeats the words of another.” Such a calumny he wholly disregarded; and he thought it enough to show that he faithfully declared what God had commanded. Though we have not the עד רחיק, od rechuk, in Isaiah, yet the meaning is the same: in all other things they agree. It now follows—


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