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Micah 7:14

14. Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

14. Pasce populum tuum in virga tua (vel, paedo tuo) gregem haereditatis tuae, habitantes in solitudine (vel, seorsum) in sylva, in medio Carmeli; pascentur in Basan et Gilead, secundum dies antiquos.

 

Here the Prophet turns to supplications and prayers; by which he manifests more vehemence, than if he had repeated again what he had previously said of the restoration of the Church; for he shows how dreadful that judgment would be, when God would reduce the land into solitude. This prayer no doubt contains what was at the same time prophetic. The Prophet does not indeed simply promise deliverance to the faithful, but at the same time he doubly increases that terror; by which he designed to frighten hypocrites; as though he said, “Most surely except God will miraculously preserve his own people, it is all over with the Church: there is then no remedy, except through the ineffable power of God.” In short, the Prophet shows, that he trembled at that vengeance, which he had previously foretold, and which he did foretell, lest hypocrites, in their usual manner, should deride him. We now see why the Prophet had recourse to this kind of comfort, why he so regulates his discourse as not to afford immediate hope to the faithful, but addresses God himself. Feed then thy people; as though he said, — “Surely that calamity will be fatal, except thou, Lord, wilt be mindful of thy covenant, and gather again some remnant from the people whom thou hast been pleased to choose: Feed thy people.”

The reason why he called them the people of God was, because they must all have perished, unless it had been that it was necessary that what God promised to Abraham should be fulfilled, —

‘In thy seed shall all nations be blessed,’ (Genesis 12:3.)

It was then the adoption of God alone which prevented the total destruction of the Jews. Hence he says emphatically, — O Lord, these are yet thy people; as though he said, — “By whom wilt thou now form a Church for thyself?” God might indeed have collected it from the Gentiles, and have made aliens his family; but it was necessary that the root of adoption should remain in the race of Abraham, until Christ came forth. Nor was there then any dispute about God’s power, as there is now among fanatics, who ask, Can God do this? But there was reliance on the promise, and from this they learnt with certainty what God had once decreed, and what he would do. Since then this promise, ‘By thy seed shall all nations be blessed,’ was sacred and inviolable, the grace of God must have ever continued in the remnant. It is indeed certain, that hypocrites, as it has been already stated, without any discrimination, abused the promises of God; but this truth must be ever borne in mind, that God punished the ungodly, though relying on their great number, they thought that they would be always preserved. God then destroyed them, as they deserved; and yet it was his purpose, that some remnant should be among that people. But it must be observed, that this distinction ought not to be extended to all the children of Abraham, who derived their origin from him according to the flesh, but to be applied to the faithful, that is, to the remnant, who were preserved according to the gratuitous adoption of God.

Feed then thy people by thy crook 194194     “The crook signifies God’s peculiar care for his people.” — Grotius. He compares God to a shepherd, and this metaphor often occurs. Though שבט, shebeth, indeed signifies a scepter when kings are mentioned, it is yet taken also for a pastoral staff, as in Psalm 23 and in many other places. As then he represents God here as a Shepherd, so he assigns a crook to him; as though he said, O Lord, thou performest the office of a Shepherd in ruling this people. How so? He immediately confirms what I have lately said, that there was no hope of a remedy except through the mercy of God, by adding, the flock 195195     “He compares the elect people,” says Marckius, “to a flock of sheep, because they resemble them in weakness, in innocency, in meekness, in usefulness, in fruitfulness, and in close union. See Psalm 95:7; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:12; Zechariah 9:16, 10:3; John 10:16, etc.” “They are thy sheep, thy peculiar property, who hear thee, who need thy guidance and feeding, for they are weak and helpless, and liable to go astray without the preserving care of their Shepherd.” — Cocceius. of thine heritage; for by calling them the flock of his heritage, he does not consider what the people deserved, but fixes his eyes on their gratuitous adoption. Since, then, it had pleased God to choose that people, the Prophet on this account dares to go forth to God’s presence, and to plead their gratuitous election, — “O Lord, I will not bring before thee the nobility of our race, or any sort of dignity, or our piety, or any merits.” What then? “We are thy people, for thou best declared that we are a royal priesthood. We are then thine heritage.” How so? “Because it has been thy pleasure to have one peculiar people sacred to thee.” We now more clearly see that the Prophet relied on God’s favor alone, and opposed the recollection of the covenant to the trials which might have otherwise made every hope to fail.

He afterwards adds, Who dwell apart, or alone. He no doubt refers here to the dispersion of the people, when he says, that they dwelt alone. For though the Jews had been scattered in countries delightful, fertile and populous, yet they were everywhere as in a desert and in solitude, for they were a mutilated body. The whole of Chaldea and of Assyria was then really a desert to the faithful; for there they dwelt not as one people, but as members torn asunder. This is the dispersion intended by the words of the Prophet. He also adds, that dwell in the forest For they had no secure habitation except in their own country; for they lived there under the protection of God; and all other countries, as I have already said, were to them like the desert.

He adds, In the midst of Carmel The preposition כ, caph, is to be understood here, As in the midst of Carmel, they shall be fed in Bashan and Gilead, as in ancient days; 196196     These two lines are better arranged by Newcome, and the necessity of a preposition understood is obviated, while the original is more strictly rendered, —
   In the midst of Carmel let them feed,
In Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

   It is also better to render “feed” as a prayer than in the future tense, to correspond in tenor with the beginning of the verse. Henderson connects “Carmel” with the former line, and thinks that “dwelling alone in the wood” refers to the condition of the Jews when restored, and quotes the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 23:9. But this seems to be a far-fetched exposition; and the word “wood,” which means generally a dreary place, renders it wholly inadmissible. A state of destitution and misery is evidently intended. “They were now,” says Henry, “a desolate people; they were in the land of their captivity as sheep in a forest, in danger of being lost and made a prey to the beasts of the forest.” — Ed.
that is, though they are now thy solitary sheep, yet thou wilt gather them again that they may feed as on Carmel, (which we know was very fruitful,) and then, as in Bashan and Gilead. We know that there are in those places the richest pastures. Since then the Prophet compares the faithful to sheep, he mentions Bashan, he mentions Carmel and Gilead; as though he said, “Restore, O Lord, thy people, that they may dwell in the heritage once granted them by thee.” Why he says that they were solitary, I have already explained; and there is a similar passage in Psalm 102:17; though there is there a different word, ערער, oror; but the meaning is the same. The faithful are there said to be solitary, because they were not collected into one body; for this was the true happiness of the people, — that they worshipped God together, that they were under one head, and also that they had one altar as a sacred bond to cherish unity of faith. When therefore the faithful were scattered here and there they were justly said to be solitary, wherever they were.

He afterwards adds, according to ancient days Here he places before God the favors which he formerly showed to his people, and prays that he would, like himself, go on to the end, that is that he would continue to the end his favors to his chosen people. And it availed not a little to confirm their faith, when the faithful called to mind how liberally had God dealt from the beginning with the posterity of Abraham: they were thus made to feel assured, that God would be no less kind to his elect, though there might be, so to speak, a sad separation: for when God had banished the Jews into exile, it was a kind of divorce, as though they were given to utter destruction. Yet now when they recollect that they had descended from the holy fathers, and that a Redeemer had been promised them, they justly entertain a hope of favor in future from the past benefits of God, because he had formerly kindly treated his people.


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