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and he shall be the one of peace.
If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers.
Micah, as I have said, confirms his former statement. By the word dwell, he no doubt meant a quiet and peaceable inhabitation; as though he had said, that the children of God would, under Christ, be safe and secure. Now he adds, And he shall be our peace. It might have been asked, “Whence will come this secure dwelling? For the land has been very often wasted, and the people have been at length driven to exile. How then can we now venture to hope for what thou promises, that we shall be quiet and secure?” Because, he says, He shall be our peace; and we ought to be satisfied with the protection of the King whom God the Father has given us. Let his shadow, then, suffice us, and we shall be safe enough from all troubles. We now see in what sense the Prophet calls Christ the Peace of his people or of his Church; he so calls him because he will drive far away all hurtful things, and will be armed with strength and invincible power to check all the ungodly, that they may not make war on the children of God, or to prevent them in their course, should they excite any disturbances.
We further know, that Christ is in another way our peace; for he has reconciled us to the Father. And what would it avail us to be safe from earthly annoyances, if we were not certain that God is reconciled to us? Except then our minds acquiesce in the paternal benevolence of God, we must necessarily tremble at all times, though no one were to cause us any trouble: nay, were all men our friends, and were all to applaud us, miserable still would be our condition, and we should toil with disquietude, except our consciences were pacified with the sure confidence that God is our Father. Christ then can be our peace in no other way than by reconciling God to us. But at the same time the Prophet speaks generally, — that we shall lie safely under the shadow of Christ, and that no evil ought to be feared, — that though Satan should furiously assail us, and the whole worth become mad against us, we ought yet to fear nothing, if Christ keeps and protects us under his wings. This then is the meaning, when it is said here that Christ is our peace.
He afterwards subjoins, When the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces then we shall raise up against him or on him, seven shepherds and eighty princes of the people
The order of the words in Hebrew is not strictly observed in this instance. There is here an example, not infrequent in the prophets, of the nominative case absolute, —
And he shall be our peace:
The Assyrian—when he shall come into our land,
And when he shall tread in our palaces,
The raise shall we against him
Seven shepherds and eight anointed men.
נסיכי אדם, literally anointed of men; but it is a phrase signifying men in authority, princes or sovereigns. נסיכים is rendered dukes in Joshua 13:21, and princes in Psalm 83:11, and Ezekiel 32:30. It is not necessary to say “eight princes of men,” but, “eight princes,” or “eight anointed men.” — Ed. The Prophet intimates that the Church of God would not be free from troubles, even after the coming of Christ: for I am disposed to refer this to the intervening time, though interpreters put another construction on the words of the Prophet. But this meaning, is far more suitable, — that while the help which God promised was expected and yet suspended, the Assyrians would come, who would pass far and wide through the land of Israel. Hence he says, that though Assur should come to our land, and break through, with such force and violence that we could not drive him out, we shall yet set up for ourselves shepherds and princes against him. It must at the same time be observed, that this prophecy is not to be confined to that short time; for the Prophet speaks generally of the preservation of the Church before as well as after the coming of Christ; as though he said, — “I have said that the king, who shall be born to you, and shall go forth from Bethlehem, shall be your peace; but before he shall be revealed to the world, God will gather his Church, and there shall emerge as from a dead body Princes as well as Shepherds, who will repel unjust violence, nay, who will subdue the Assyrians.”
We now see what the prophet had in view: After having honored Christ with this remarkable commendation — that he alone is sufficient to give us a quiet life, he adds that God would be the preserver of his Church, so as to deliver it from its enemies. But there is a circumstance here expressed which ought to be noticed: Micah says, that when the Assyrians shall pass through the land and tread down all the palaces, God would then become the deliverer of his people. It might have been objected, and said, “Why not sooner? Would it have been better to prevent this? Why! God now looks as it were indifferently on the force of the enemies, and loosens the reins to them, that they plunder the whole land, and break through to the very middle of it. Why then does not God give earlier relief?” But we see the manner in which God intends to preserve his Church: for as the faithful often need some chastisement, God humbles them when it is expedient, and then delivers them. This is the reason why God allowed such liberty to the Assyrians before he supplied assistance. And we also see that this discourse is so moderated by the Prophet, that he shows, on the one hand, that the Church would not always be free from evils, — the Assyrians shall come, they shall tread down our palaces, — this must be endured by God’s children, and ought in time to prepare their minds to bear troubles; but, on the other hand, a consolation follows; for when the Assyrians shall thus penetrate into our land, and nothing shall be concealed or hidden from them, then the Lord will cause new shepherds to arise.
The Prophet means that the body of the people would be for some time mutilated and, as it were, mangled; and so it was, until they returned from Exile. For he would have said this to no purpose, We shall set up for ourselves, if there had been an unbroken succession of regular government; he could not have said in that case, After Assur shall come into our land, we shall set up princes; but, There shall be princes when Assur shall come. The word set up denotes then what I have stated, — that the Church would be for a time without any visible head. Christ indeed has always been the Head of the Church; but as he designed himself to be then seen in the family of David as in an image or picture, so the Prophet shows here, that though the faithful would have to see the head cut off and the Church dead, and like a dead body cast aside, when torn from its head; yea, that though the Church would be in this state dreadfully desolated, there is yet a promise of a new resurrection. We shall then set up, or choose for ourselves shepherds.
If any one raises an objection and says that it was God’s office to make shepherds for his people, — this indeed I allow to be true: but this point has not been unwisely mentioned by the Prophet; for he extols here the favor of God, in granting again their liberty to his people. In this especially consists the best condition of the people, when they can choose, by common consent, their own shepherds: for when any one by force usurps the supreme power, it is tyranny; and when men become kings by hereditary right, it seems not consistent with liberty. 149149 It is by no means a safe rule, to draw a conclusion from the spiritual government as to what a temporal government should be. The subjects are guided by very different principles; and the same sort of government will not suit countries under different degrees of civilization. To theorize on this subject, as on many others, leads often to wrong conclusions. An hereditary sovereignty may seem to trench on liberty; but our own country exhibits an example where both exist to an extent unknown in the present or in any former age. Under no democracy has liberty ever been so freely and so fully enjoyed as in this land, which has been so wonderfully favored by a kind and gracious Providence. We owe, perhaps, far more than we are aware to an hereditary sovereignty. — Ed. We shall then set up for ourselves princes, says the Prophet; that is, the Lord will not only give breathing time to his Church, and will also cause that she may set up a fixed and a well-ordered government, and that by the common consent of all.
By seven and eight, the Prophet no doubt meant a great number. When he speaks of the calamities of the Church, it is aid, ‘There shall not be found any to govern, but children shall rule over you.’ But the Prophet says here that there would be many leaders to undertake the care of ruling and defending the people. The governors of the people shall therefore be seven shepherds and eight princes; that is, the Lord will endure many by his Spirit, that they shall be suddenly wise men: though before they were in no repute, though they possessed nothing worthy of great men, yet the Lord will enrich them with the spirit of power, that they shall become fit to rule. The Prophet now adds —