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Micah 4:11-13

11. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.

11. Et nunc congregatae sunt contra se gentes multae (vel, robustae,) dicentes Damnata erit; et aspiciet in Sion oculus noster.

12. 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.

12. Ipsi vero non noverunt cognitationes Jehovae, et non intellexerunt consilium ejus; quia congregabis eos quasi manipulum in aeream.

13. 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.

13. Surge, et tritura filia Sion; quia cornu tuum ponam ferrum, et ungulas tuas ponam chalybem; et conteres populos robustos; et dicabis Jehovae opes ipsorum, et substantiam eorum Dominatori universae terrae.

 

The Prophet’s object here is to give some alleviation to the faithful lest they should succumb under their calamities; for, as we have stated, there were most grievous evils approaching, sufficient to overwhelm the minds of the godly. The Prophet then raises up here, with the moat suitable comfort, those who would have otherwise fainted under their calamities; and the sum of the whole is this, — that the faithful were not to be confounded on finding the ungodly proudly triumphing, as they are wont to do, when they seem to have gained their wishes. Since, then, the wicked show a petulant spirit beyond all bounds, the Prophet exhorts the faithful to sustain themselves by God’s promises, and not to care for such insolence. He then subjoins a promise, — that God would assemble all the forces of their enemies, as when one gathers many ears of corn into a bundle, that he may thrash them on the floor. I will come now to the words of the Prophet.

Assemble, he says, against thee do nations, or strong nations: for, by saying, גוים רבים, guim rebim, he intimates one of two things, either that they were strong, or that they were large in number: as to the subject there is no great difference. The Prophet had this in view, — that though the Church of God may be pressed by a great multitude of enemies, it yet ought not to be broken down in mind: for the ungodly, while they cruelly domineer, do not understand the design of God. Assemble, then, against thee do many nations He sets the thing before them, to heal them of terror: for when we are beyond the reach of harm, we, for the most part, too heedlessly despise all dangers; and then, when we come to a real struggle, we tremble, or even fall and become wholly weak. This is the reason why the Prophet sets before the Jews their prospects, and shows that the time was near when they were to endure a siege, as enemies would, on all sides, surround them. Assemble then do nations, and strong or many nations: he shows here that the Jews had no reason to despond, though their enemies would far exceed them in number, and in forces, and in courage, for it was enough for them to be under the protection of God.

Who say, condemned now shall be Zion 133133     Jam damnata erit. Newcome renders the distich thus, —
   Who say, Let her be defiled,
And let our eye see
its desire on Zion.

   Profaned, or defiled, it is no doubt the meaning of the verb. But it is better to retain the future tense here, though it may often, in the third person, be rendered as an imperative. To look on, is a Hebrew idiom, and means often to triumph or exalt over another, or to gain the upper hand. See Psalm 22:17; Psalm 118:7. Several copies have the word for “eyes” in the singular number, as the verb is so: but anomalies of this kind often occur, as it is the case in Greek with respect to plural nouns in the neuter gender, and in Welsh, and when the verb precedes its nominative, almost in all instances. I offer the following version, —

   Who say, “Defiled shall she be,
And look on Zion shall our eyes.”

   — Ed.
The verb חנף, chenaph, means to act wickedly and perversely. It may then be literally rendered, ‘profane (scelerata) shall be Zion; and on it shall our eye look:’ but this word is often taken metaphorically for condemnation. The meaning then is, ‘Zion is now condemned:’ and the Prophet, no doubt, intended to intimate here, that the enemies would so triumph, as though Zion were not under the guardianship of God; as when any one, who has rendered himself hateful by his vices, is left and forsaken by his patrons. So, then, the Prophet here arms the faithful against the arrogance of their enemies, that they might not despair, when they found that they were condemned by the consent of all men, and that this was the opinion of all, — that they were forsaken by God.

Consolation follows, But they know not the thoughts of Jehovah, nor understand his counsel: for verbs in the past tense have the meaning of the present. Here the Prophet recalls the attention of the godly to a subject the most suitable to them: for when the wicked rise up so cruelly against us, we are apt to think that all things are allowed to them, and then their reproaches and slanders immediately take possession of our minds and thoughts, so that we in a manner measure God’s judgment by their words. Hence when the ungodly deride our faith, and boast that we are forsaken by God, we succumb, being as it were filled with amazement: and nothing is easier than to shake off from us faith and the memory of God’s promises, whenever the ungodly are thus insolent. The Prophet then does not without cause apply a remedy which ought to be carefully observed by us. Who say, condemned is Zion; but they are like the blind when judging of colors, for they understand not the counsel of Jehovah and his thoughts they know not. We now then see what the Prophet had in view, which was to show, — that the faithful would be unwise and foolish, if they formed an opinion of God’s judgment according to the boasting of the ungodly: for Satan carries them away in a furious manner; and when the Lord gives them liberty to do evil, they think that they shall be conquerors to the end. As then the ungodly are thus inebriated with foolish confidence, and despise not only men, but God himself, the Prophet here holds up and supports the minds of the godly that they might ascend higher, and thus understand that the design of God was not the same as what the wicked thought, who neither belonged to nor approached God. 134134     The beginning of these two lines is very emphatic: I would give this rendering, —
   But they they know not the purposes of Jehovah,
And they understand not his counsel.

   It has been rendered, “But, as for them;” but this is flat, and too prosaic. — Ed.

It is especially needful to know this truth. Some at the first sight may think it frigid, “O! than, what does the Prophet mean? he says that what these declare is not the design of Jehovah; and this we know.” But were all to examine the subject, they would then confess with one mouth, that nothing could have been more seasonable than this consolation. Now we are wounded by reproaches, and this very often happens to ingenuous men; and then, while the ungodly vomit forth their slanders, we think that God rests indifferently in heaven; and one of their words, like a cloud, obscures the judgment of God. As soon as any one of the wicked derides us, and laughs at our simplicity, threatens ferociously, and spreads forth his terrors, his words, as I have said, are like a cloud intervening between us and God. This is the reason why the Prophet says here, that the thoughts of Jehovah are different, and that his counsel is different: in short, the Prophet’s object is to show, that whenever the ungodly thus proudly despise us, and also reproachfully threaten and terrify us, we ought to raise our thoughts to heaven. — Why so? Because the design of God is another. Their boastings then will vanish, for they arise from nothing, and they shall come to nothing, but the purpose of God shall stand.

But let us now see why the Prophet spoke here of the design and thoughts of God: for if only these two words are brought before us, there is certainly but little solid comfort, and nothing that has much force or power. There is then another principle to be understood, — that the thoughts of God are known to us, who are taught in his school. The counsel of God then is not hidden, for it is revealed to us in his Word. Consolation therefore depends on a higher and a more recondite doctrine; that is, that the faithful, in their miseries, ought to contemplate the counsel of God as in a mirror. And what is this? that when he afflicts us, he holds a remedy in his hand, and that when he throws us into the grave, he can restore us to life and safety. When, therefore, we understand this design of God, — that he chastens his Church with temporal evils, and that the issue will ever be most salutary, — when this is known by us, there is then no reason why the slanders of the ungodly should deject our minds; and when they vomit forth all their reproaches, we ought to adhere firmly to this counsel of God. But that the ungodly are thus proud is no matter of wonder; for if they raise their horns against God, why should they not despise us also, who are so few in number, and of hardly any influence, at least not equal to what they possess? The Church is indeed contemptible in the eyes of the world; and it is no wonder if our enemies thus deride us, and load us with ridicule and contempt, when they dare to act so frowardly towards God. But it is enough for us to know, that they do not understand the counsel of God. We now then see the Prophet’s meaning, and an explanation follows, —

For thou shalt assemble them, he says, as a sheaf 135135     Manipulum, a handful, a bundle of fruit; מיר, a sheaf,—a poetical singular for the plural — sheaves. — Ed. to the floor The Prophet adds this clause as an explanation, that we may know what the counsel of God is, which he has mentioned, and that is, that God will collect the enemies as a sheaf. What is a sheaf? It is a small quantity of corn, it may be three hundred or a thousand ears of corn: they are ears of corn, and carried in a man’s hand. And then, what is to be done with the sheaf? It is to be thrashed on the floor. It was indeed difficult to believe, that enemies, when thus collected together on every side, would be like a sheaf. If an army assembled against us, not only ten or twenty thousand, but a much larger number, who would think, according to the judgment of the flesh, that they would be like a sheaf? They shall be as so many deaths and graves: even the thought of God ought to be to us of more account than the formidable power of men. Whenever, therefore, our enemies exceed us in strength and number, let us learn to arise to that secret counsel of God, of which our Prophet now speaks; and then it will be easy for us to regard a vast multitude to be no more than a handful. And he says, that our enemies are to be gathered to a floor, that they may be thrashed there. They assemble themselves for another purpose; for they think that we shall be presently in their power, that they may swallow us up; but when they thus collect themselves and their forces, the Lord will frustrate their purpose and cause them to be thrashed by us. It follows, —

Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion; for I have made thy horn 136136     Horn, in Scripture, means often elevation, dignity, power, strength. It means evidently in the last here. Zion was made strong to thrash the nations, and supplied with strong hoofs to tread on them. The Paraphrase of Rabbi Jonathan is to the purpose, Fortes sicut ferrum, et robusti sicut aes — “Strong as iron, and robust as brass.” And that this is the meaning is proved by what follows, Thou shalt beat in pieces, or beat small, or thrash out, strong nations.Ed. iron, and thy hoofs brass. The Prophet here confirms what he had previously said: and he exhorts the daughter of Zion to arise; for it was necessary for her to have been cast down, so as to lie prostrate on the ground. God did not indeed restore at once his Church, but afflicted her for a time, so that she differed nothing from a dead man. As then a dead body lies on the ground without any feeling, so also did the Church of God lie prostrate. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Arise, daughter of Zion; as though God, by his voice, roused the dead. We hence see, that the word קומי, kumi, is emphatical; for the Prophet reminds us, that there is no reason for the faithful wholly to despair, when they find themselves thus cast down, for their restoration is in the hand and power of God, as it is the peculiar office of God to raise the dead. And this same truth ought to be applied for our us, whenever we are so cast down, that no strength, no vigor, remains in us. How then can we rise again? By the power of God, who by his voice alone can restore us to life, which seemed to be wholly extinct.

He afterwards subjoins, Thresh, for I have made thy horn iron, and thy hoofs brass. A mode of thrashing, we know, was in use among the Jews the same with that in Italy and at this day in French Provence. We here thrash the corn with flails; but there by treading. The Prophet speaks here of this custom, and compares the Church of God to oxen; as though he said “The Jews shall be like oxen with iron horns and brazen hoofs that they may lay prostrate under them the whole strength of the nations. However much then the nations may now excel, I will subject them under the feet of my people, as if sheaves were thrashed by them.”

He then adds, 137137     It is not often that Calvin passes over a sentence without noticing it, but he does so here; and it is this, and thou shalt tear in pieces strong nations. The verb is הדקות, thou shalt beat small, or thrash out; see Isaiah 28:28; perhaps the latter sense is most suitable to the passage. The meaning is, that a complete subjugation will take place. To thrash and to thrash out, is to conquer and to bring thoroughly under subjection. — Ed. And thou shalt separate or consecrate their wealth to Jehovah, and their substance 138138     The Hebrew word for this is חיל, and for “wealth” בצע. The latter means gain, spoil, or what is often unjustly got, or what is scraped together and constitutes the wealth of the covetous; חיל is properly substance, including possessions of all kinds, land, cattle, etc. בצע serves to include money, silver and gold; and חיל, everything else which makes up wealth.
   The verb, “consecrate,” is in Hebrew in the first person, as it is in our version. There is no different reading; but the Septuagint and the earlier versions put it in the second person, to correspond with the previous verb, “Thou shalt beat in pieces.” There will be no difference in the sense, if we render it according to the Hiphil form, in which it is found, — “I will cause thee to consecrate.” Jerome, Theodoret, Marckius, Dathius, Newcome, and Henderson, adopt the second person. — This construction renders the passage no doubt more uniform. — Ed.
to the Lord of the whole earth Here the Prophet specifies the end for which God had purposed to subject the heathen nations to his chosen people, — that he might be glorified. This is the meaning. But they have refined too much in allegories, who have thought that this prophecy ought to be confined to the time of Christ: for the Prophet no doubt meant to extend consolation to the whole kingdom of Christ, from the beginning to the end. Others, not more correctly, say, that this is to be referred to the Babylonian captivity because then Daniel and some others thrashed the people, when heathen kings were induced through their teaching to restore the temple, and also to offer some worship to the God of Israel. But on this point they are both mistaken, because they take the word thrashing in a different sense from the Prophet; for it commonly means that heathen nations are to be subjected to the Church of God: and this takes place, whenever God stretches forth his hand to the faithful, and suffers not the ungodly to exercise their cruelty as they wish; yea, when he makes them humbly to supplicate the faithful. This often happens in the world, as it is written of Christ, ‘thy enemies shall lick the earth,’ (Psalm 72:9.) But this prophecy shall not be fulfilled until the last coming of Christ. We indeed begin to tread on our enemies whenever God by his power destroys them, or at least causes them to tremble and to be cast down, as we find that they dread whenever any change takes place; and then they blandly profess that they desire to serve God. So at this day it has happened both in France and in Italy. How many hypocrites, for the sake of an earthly advantage, have submitted themselves to God? and how many such England produced when the Gospel flourished there? All the courtiers, and others who were unwilling to incur the displeasure of the king, professed themselves to be the very best lovers of religion. (optimos pietatis cultores, — the best observers of piety) But yet this is ever the case,

‘Aliens have been false to thee,’ (Psalm 18:44.)

We hence see what the prophet means when he speaks of thrashing: he intimates, that the Lord would often cause that the enemies of the Church should be bruised, though no one crushed them: but, as I have said, we must look forward to the last day, if we wish to see the complete fulfillment of this prophecy.

He afterwards adds, Thou shalt consecrate their wealth to Jehovah, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth The Prophet shows here, that the dominion is not to be hoped for by the children of God, that they may abound in worldly pleasures, and appropriate every thing to themselves and also abuse their power, as ungodly men are wont to do; but that all is to be applied to the worship and the glory of God. For what purpose, then does God design his Church to become eminent? That he himself may alone shine forth, and that the faithful may rightly enjoy their honor, and not become thereby proud. There is, therefore nothing more alien to the power of the Church than pride, or cruelty, or avarice. This, then that is said ought to be carefully observed, their wealth thou shalt consecrate to Jehovah He had spoken before of power, “Thou shalt bind strong people, thou shalt thrash them, and thou shalt tread them under thy feet;” but lest the faithful should turn all this to a purpose the Lord had not designed, a most suitable correction is immediately added, and that is, that this power shall not be exercised according to the will of men, but according to the will of God: Thou shalt then consecrate, etc.; and he uses the word חרם, cherem, which means to make a thing an anathema or an offering; 139139     The word is very emphatic; it means to devote a thing to a purpose forever, so as to be unchangeably settled. חרם, says Parkhurst, “is anything separated absolutely from its common condition and devoted to Jehovah, so as to be incapable of redemption. See Leviticus 27:21, 28, 29. As a verb in Hiph. To separate or devote thus to Jehovah. Leviticus 27:28, 29; Micah 4:12.” It is therefore a sacrilege to take merely to our own use what ought to be, or what we have, thus consecrated to the Lord. — Ed. as though he said “God will raise his Church that it may rule over its enemies; but let the faithful at the same time take heed, that they rule not tyrannically; for God designs ever to reign alone: therefore the whole excellency, the whole dignity, the whole power of the Church ought to be applied for this end, — that all things may become subject to God, and every thing among the nations may be altogether sacred to him so that the worship of God may flourish among the conquerors, as well as among the conquered.” We now perceive the Prophet’s object in speaking of consecrating the wealth of the nations. Now follows —


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