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This chapter begins with a lamentation of the prophet, in the name of the church and people of God, concerning the general depravity and corruption of the times in which he lived, ( Micah 7:1-6); then declares what he was determined to do for his relief in such circumstances, ( Micah 7:7); comforts himself and the church with a good hope and firm belief of its being otherwise and better with them, to the shame and confusion of their enemies that now rejoiced, though without just reason for it, ( Micah 7:8-10); with promises of deliverance, after a desolation of the land for some time, ( Micah 7:11-13); and with the answer returned to the prayers of the prophet, ( Micah 7:14,15); which would issue in the astonishment of the world, and their subjection to the church of God, ( Micah 7:16,17); and the chapter is concluded with admiration at the pardoning grace and mercy of God, and his faithfulness to his promises, ( Micah 7:18-20).
Ver. 1 . Woe is me ! etc.] Alas for me unhappy man that I am, to live in such an age, and among such a people, as I do! this the prophet says in his own name, or in the name of the church and people of God in his time; so Isaiah, who was contemporary with him, ( Isaiah 6:5); see also ( <19C005> Psalm 120:5,6); for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage ; when there are only an apple or a pear or two, or such sort of fruit, and such a quantity of it left on the top of the tree, or on the outermost branches of it, after the rest are gathered in; or a few single grapes here and there, after the vintage is over; signifying either that he was like Elijah left alone, or however that the number of good men were very few; or that there were very few gathered in by his ministry, converted, taught, and instructed by it; or those that had the name of good men were but very indifferent, and not like those who were in times past; but were as refuse fruit left on trees, and dropped from thence when rotten, and when gathered up were good for little, and like single grapes, small and withered, and of no value; (see Isaiah 17:6); [there is] no cluster to eat ; no large number or society of good men to converse with, only here and there a single person; and none that have an abundance of grace and goodness in them, and a large experience of spiritual and divine things; few that attend the ministry of the word; they do not come in clusters, in crowds; and fewer still that receive any advantage by it; my soul desired the first ripe fruit ; the company and conversation of such good men as lived in former times; who had the firstfruits of the Spirit, and arrived to a maturity of grace, and a lively exercise of it; and who were, in the age of the prophet, as scarce and rare as first ripe fruits, and as desirable as such were to a thirsty traveller; (see Hosea 9:10). The Targum is, “the prophet said, woe unto me, because I am as when good men fail, in a time in which merciful men perish from the earth; behold, as the summer fruits, as the gleanings after the vintage, there is no man in whom there are good works; my soul desires good men.”
Ver. 2. The good [man] is perished out of the earth , etc.] Here the prophet expresses in plain words what he had before delivered in figurative terms. The “good” or “godly” man, as in ( Psalm 12:1); is one that has received the grace of God, and blessings of grace from him, and lives a godly life and conversation; who has the good work of grace begun in him and is found in the performance of good works, and does his duty both to God and man from godly principles; and particularly is kind and merciful to the poor and needy, and those in distress. The complaint is, that there were few, or scarce any, of this character in the earth, in the land of Israel, where there used to be great numbers of them, but now they were all dead and gone; for this is to be understood, not of the perishing of their graces or comforts, much less of their perishing in their sins, or perishing eternally, but of their corporeal death: and [there is] none upright among men ; that are upright in heart and life; that have right spirits renewed in them, are Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile; and walk uprightly, according to the rule of the divine word, truly honest, faithful men; very few such were to be found, scarce any; (see Psalm 12:1 Isaiah 57:1); they all lie in wait for blood ; for the substance, wealth, and riches of men, which is as their blood and life; is their livelihood, that on which they live; this they wait for an opportunity to get from them, and, when it offers, greedily seize it; and stick not even to shed blood, and take away life, for the sake of gain: they hunt every man his brother with a net ; as men lay nets for fish, and fowl, and beasts, and hunt them till they have got them into them; so these men laid snares, not for strangers only, but for their own brethren, to entangle them in, and cheat and defraud them of their substance; and this they would do, even to the destruction of them, as some render it; for the word also signifies “anathema”, destruction, as well as a “net”. So the Targum. “betray or deliver his brother to destruction.”
Ver. 3 . That they may do evil with both hands earnestly , etc.] Or “well” f212 , strenuously, diligently, to the utmost of their power, labouring at it with all their might and main; as wicked men generally are more industrious, and exert themselves more to do evil than good men do to do good; and even weary themselves to commit iniquity: or, “instead of doing good”, as Marinus in Aben Ezra, take a great deal of pains to do evil; work with both hands at it, instead of doing good. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, “they prepare their hands for evil”; the Syriac version is, “their hands are read? to evil, and they do not do good”; with which agrees the Targum, “they do evil with their hands, and do not do good.”
Some make the sense to depend on what goes before and follows; “to do evil, both hands” are open and ready, and they hurt with them; “but to do, good the prince asketh, and the judge for a reward” f213 ; forward enough to do evil, but very backward to do any good office; the prince asketh, and the judge [asketh] for a reward ; and, if they do it, must be bribed, and have a reward for it, even persons of such high character; but this sense is not favoured by, the accents; besides, by what follows, it seems as if the “prince”, by whom may be meant the king upon the throne, and the “judge” he that sits upon the bench under him, sought for bribes to do an ill thing; to give a cause wrong against a poor man, and in favour of a rich man that will bribe high: and the great [man] he uttereth his mischievous desire ; the depravity, corruption, and perverseness of his soul; who is either some great man at court, that, being encouraged by the example of the prince and judge, openly and publicly requires a bribe also to do an ill thing; and without any shame or blushing promises to do it on that consideration; or a counsellor at the bar, who openly declares that he will speak in such a cause, though a bad one, and defend it, and not doubt of carrying it; or else this is some rich wicked man, that seeks to oppress his poor neighbour, and, being favoured by the prince and judge he has bribed, does without fear or shame speak out the wickedness of his heart, and what an ill design he has against his neighbour, whose mischief, hurt, and ruin, he seeks: so they wrap it up together ; or, “twist it together” f214 ; as cords are, which thereby become strong; slid so these three work up this mischievous business, and strengthen and establish it; and such a threefold cord of wickedness is not easily broken or unravelled: or, “they perplex it” f215 ; as thick branches of trees are implicated and wrapped together; so these agree to puzzle and perplex a cause, that they may have some show of carrying it with justice and truth. So the Vulgate Latin version renders it, “they trouble it”; confound the matter, and make it dark, dubious, and difficult.
The Targum is, “they corrupt it”; or deprave it; put an ill sense on things, and make a wrong construction of them.
Ver. 4. The best of them [is] as a brier , etc.] Good for nothing but for burning, very hurtful and mischievous, pricking and scratching those that have to do with them: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge ; which, if a man lays hold on to get over, or attempts to pass through, his hands will be pricked, his face scratched, and his clothes tore off his back; so the best of these princes, judges, and great inch, who put on a show of goodness, and pretended to do justice, yet fetched blood, and got money out of everyone they were concerned with, and did them injury in one respect or another; or the best and most upright of the people of the land in general, that made the greatest pretensions to religion and virtue, yet in their dealings were sharp, and biting, and tricking; and took every fraudulent method to cheat, and overreach, and hurt men in their property: the day of thy watchmen ; either which the true prophets of the Lord, sometimes called watchmen, foretold should come, but were discredited and despised, will now most assuredly come; and it will be found to be true what they said should come to pass: or the day of the false prophets, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; either which they predicted as a good day, and now it should be seen whether it would be so or not; or the day of their punishment, for their false prophecies and deception of the people: [and] thy visitation cometh ; the time that God would punish the people in general for their iniquities, as! well as their false prophets, princes, judges, and great men; who also may be designed by watchmen: now shall be their perplexity : the prince, the judge, and the great man, in just retaliation for their perplexing the cause of the poor; or of all the people, who would be surrounded and entangled with calamities and distresses, and not know which way to turn themselves, or how to get out of them.
Ver. 5. Trust ye not in a friend , etc.] This is not said to lessen the value of friendship; or to discourage the cultivation of it with agreeable persons; or to dissuade from a confidence in a real friend; or in the least to weaken it, and damp the pleasure of true friendship, which is one of the great blessings of life; but to set forth the sad degeneracy of the then present age, that men, who pretended to be friends, were so universally false and faithless, that there was no dependence to be had on them: put ye not confidence in a guide ; in political matters, in civil affairs, as civil magistrates, judges, counsellors; or in domestic matters. The Targum renders it, in one near akin. Kimchi interprets it of an elder brother; and Aben Ezra of a husband, who is to his wife the guide of her youth; and in religious matters as prophets, priests who were false and deceitful. It may design a very intimate friend, a familiar acquaintance, who might of all men be thought to be confided in; of whom the word is used, ( Psalm 55:13); keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom ; from a wife, and much more from a concubine or harlot. The Targum is, “from the wife of thy covenant keep the words of thy mouth;” divulge not the thoughts of thine heart, or disclose the secrets of it, to one so near; take care of speaking treason against the prince, or ill of a neighbour; it may be got out of such an one, and who may be so base as to betray it: or utter not anything whatever that is secret, the divulging of which may be detrimental; for, in such an age as this was, one in so near a relation might be wicked enough to discover it; (see Ecclesiastes 10:20).
Ver. 6. For the son dishonoureth the father , etc.] Speaks contemptibly of him; behaves rudely towards him; shows him no respect and reverence; exposes his failings, and makes him the object of his banter and ridicule; who ought to have honoured, reverenced, and obeyed him, being the instrument of his being, by whom he was brought up, fed, clothed, and provided for; base ingratitude! the daughter riseth up against her mother ; by whom she has been used in the most tender and affectionate manner; this being still more unnatural, if possible, as being done by the female sex, usually more soft and pliable; but here, losing her natural affection, and forgetting both her relation and sex, replies to her mother, giving ill language; opposes and disobeys her, chides, wrangles, and scolds, and strives and litigates with her, as the Targum: or rises up as a witness against her, to her detriment, if not to the taking away of her life: the daughter in law against her mother in law ; this is not so much to be wondered at as, the former instances, which serve to encourage and embolden those that are in such a relation to speak pertly and saucily; to reproach and make, light of mothers in law, as the Targum; or slight and abuse them: a man’s enemies [are] the men of his own house ; his sons and his servants, who should honour his person, defend his property, and promote his interest; but, instead of that, do everything that is injurious to him. These words are referred to by Christ, and used by him to describe the times in which he lived, ( Matthew 10:35,36); and the prophet may be thought to have an eye to the same, while he is settling forth the badness of his own times; and the Jews seem to think be had a regard to them, since they say f216 , that, when the Messiah comes, “the son shall dishonour his father”, etc. plainly having this passage in view; and the; whole agrees with the times of Christ, in which there were few good men; it was a wicked age, an adulterous generation of men, he lived among; great corruption there was in princes, priests, and people; in the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, and in all ranks and degrees of men; and he that ate bread with Christ, even Judas, lifted up his heel against him. The times in which Micah the prophet here speaks of seem to he the times of Ahaz, who was a wicked prince; and the former part of Hezekiah’s reign, before a reformation was started, or at least brought about, in whose reigns he prophesied; though some have thought he here predicts the sad times in the reign of Manasseh, which is not so probable.
Ver. 7. Therefore I will look unto the Lord , etc.] Here the prophet, in the name of the church and people of God, declares what he would do in such circumstances, since there was no dependence on men of any rank, in any relation or connection with each other; he resolved to look alone to the Lord, and put his trust in him; look up to the Lord in prayer, use an humble freedom with him, place a holy confidence in him, expect all good things from him, and wait for them; look to Christ in the exercise of faith, which is, in New Testament language, a looking to Jesus; and the Targum interprets this clause of the Word of the Lord, the essential Word, who is to be looked unto, and believed in, as the Son of God, who is the true God, and eternal life; as the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world; as the Mediator between God and men: as in all his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; as the Lord our righteousness, and as the only Saviour and Redeemer of men; and that for all things; when in darkness, for light; when weak, for strength; when sick, for healing; when hungry, for food; when disconsolate, for comfort; in short, for all supplies of grace here, and for eternal glory and happiness hereafter; and though he is in heaven, and not to be seen with our bodily eyes, yet he is held forth in the word of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it; and is to be seen there with an eye of faith: I will wait for the God of my salvation ; who is the author both of temporal, and of spiritual, and eternal salvation; for the light of his countenance, when he hides himself; for the performance of promises he has made; for answers of prayer put up to him; for discoveries of pardoning grace, having sinned against him; for help and assistance in all times of need; for the salvation of the Lord, for an application of it, for the joys and comforts of it; and for Christ the Saviour, his coming in the flesh, which all the prophets and Old Testament saints were looking and waiting for: and who, doubtless, was upon the mind and in the view of the prophet when he uttered these words, my God will hear me ; this is the language of faith, both to say that God was his God, and that he would hear and answer him; the former is the ground of the latter; God has an ear to hear when his people cry; and sooner or later it appears that he does hear, by giving an answer of peace unto them, which issues in their salvation they have been praying, looking, and waiting for. The Targum is, “my God will receive my prayer.”
Ver. 8 . Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy , etc.] These are the words of the prophet in the name of the church, continued in an apostrophe or address to his and their enemy; by whom may be meant, literally, the Chaldeans or Edomites, or both, who rejoiced at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the calamities the people of the Jews were brought into at it; (see <19D707> Psalm 137:7,8 Obadiah 1:12); spiritually, Satan the great enemy of mankind, and especially of the church and people of God, to whom it is a pleasure to draw them into any sin or snare, and to do them any hurt and mischief; and also the Inert of the world, who hate and persecute the saints; and watch for their haltings, and rejoice at their falls into sin, and at any calamity and affliction that may attend them, though there is no just reason for it; since this will not always be the case of the saints, they will be in a better situation, and in more comfortable circumstances; and it will be the turn of their enemies to be afflicted, punished, and tormented: when I fall, I shall arise ; or, “though I fall” f217 , or “have fallen”; into outward afflictions and distresses, which come not by chance, but by divine appointment; or into the temptations of Satan, and by them, which sometimes is suffered for wise and purposes; or into sin, which even a good man, a truly righteous man, is frequently left unto; but then he does not fall from real goodness, from true grace, nor from his justifying righteousness, which is everlasting, and connected with eternal life: he may fall from a lively exercise of grace, from steadfastness in the faith, and a profession of it; but not from the principle of grace, nor a state of grace; or from the love and favour of God: he may fall, but not totally or finally, or so as to perish everlastingly; nor is he utterly cast down, the Lord upholds him, and raises him up again; he rises, as the church here believes she should, out of his present state and condition, into a more comfortable one; not in his own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, under a sense of sin, by the exercise of true repentance for it, and by faith in Christ, and in a view of pardoning grace and mercy; (see Psalm 37:24) ( Proverbs 24:16); when I sit in darkness ; or “though” f218 . The Targum is, “as it were in darkness;” not in a state of unregeneracy, which is a state of total darkness, but in affliction and distress; for, as light often signifies prosperity, so darkness adversity, any afflictive dispensation of Providence; and especially when this attended with desertion, or the hidings of God’s face; it is to be, not without any light of grace in the heart, or without the light of the word, or means of grace; but to be without the light of God’s countenance; which is very uncomfortable, and makes dark providences darker still; (see Isaiah 50:10); yet, notwithstanding all this, the Lord [shall be] a light unto me ; by delivering out of affliction; by lifting up the light of his countenance; by causing Christ the sun of righteousness to arise; by sending his Spirit to illuminate, refresh, and comfort; by his word, which is a lamp to the feet, a light to the path, a light shining in a dark place; (see Psalm 27:1 <19B204> 112:4). This passage is applied by the Jews to the days of the Messiah.
Ver. 9. I will bear the indignation of the Lord , etc.] The Targum prefaces these words with “Jerusalem saith;” and they are the words of the prophet, in the name of Jerusalem or the church, resolving in the strength of divine grace to bear the present affliction, which had at least some appearance of divine indignation in it; not against the persons of God’s people, who are always the objects of his love, and towards whom there is no fury in him; but against their sins, which are displeasing and abominable to him; and this is not in a vindictive way, for such indignation they could never bear; nor can any creature stand before it, or bear up under it; and, besides, Christ has bore the wrath and indignation of God in this sense for them but it here means the displicency and indignation of God in fatherly chastisements, consistent with the strongest love and affection for them; and to bear this is to be humble under the mighty hand of God, quietly to submit to it, and patiently to endure the affliction, without murmuring and repining, till the Lord pleases to remove it. The reason follows, because I have sinned against him ; the best of men sin; sin is the cause and reason of all affliction and distress, whether temporal or spiritual. The consideration of this tends to make and keep good men humble, and quietly submit to the chastising rod of their heavenly father, which they see it is right and proper should be used; and as knowing that they are chastised and afflicted less than their iniquities deserve; and that it is all for their good; a sense of sin stops their mouths, that they have nothing to say against God. The word ajj here used sometimes signifies the offering an expiatory sacrifice for sin to God; and Gussetius thinks this is the meaning of it here; and observes, that with the oblation of a contrite heart, and works of charity, the satisfaction of Christ is to be pleaded, and in our way to be offered up to God the Judge, through faith flying to it; whereby the mind is disposed to bear correction patiently, in hope that favour will quickly shine forth in help and deliverance: until he plead cause, and execute judgment for me ; Christ the mighty Redeemer, and powerful and prevalent Mediator, not only pleads the cause of his people with God his Father, and obtains all blessings of grace for them; but he also pleads their cause against their enemies, an ungodly people that strive with them, persecute and distress them; and will in his own time do them justice, and execute vengeance, his righteous judgments, on those that hate them, and rise up against them, as he will on all the antichristian party: he will bring me forth to the light ; like a person taken out of prison, or out of a dungeon, to behold and enjoy the light of the sun and day. The sense is, that he will openly espouse the cause of his church, and give her honour and glory publicly before men; bring forth her righteousness as the light, and her judgment as the noon day; and make her innocence appear as clear as the day, and bring her at last to the light of glory; (see Psalm 37:6 Isaiah 58:8,10); [and] I shall behold his righteousness : the equity of his proceedings with his people, in chastising and afflicting them, that they are all right and good; his justice in punishing their enemies, and executing judgment on them; his goodness and beneficence to the saints, all his ways being mercy and truth; his faithfulness in the fulfilment of his promises; and the righteousness of Christ, which justifies them before God, renders them acceptable to him, will answer for them in a time to come, and introduce them into his everlasting kingdom and glory.
Ver. 10 . Then [she that is] mine enemy shall see [it] , etc.] The Chaldeans and Edomites shall see people of the Jews rising out of their calamities, brought out of the darkness of their captivity in Babylon, and enjoying the light of peace and prosperity in their own land. Some editions of the Targum, and Jarchi and Kimchi, have, in their glosses on this verse and ( Micah 7:9), Rome, of whom they interpret this enemy, as Mr. Pocock observes; and so R. Elias says the Targum is, “then shall Rome see”; by which they mean the Christians, in opposition to the Jews; otherwise it would not be amiss to interpret it of Rome Papal, or antichrist, in opposition to the church of God; seeing the antichristian party will see witnesses of Christ, slain for his sake, rise again, and ascend to heaven, or be brought into a glorious and comfortable state; (see Revelation 11:12); and may be applied to any age of the church, and to any particular saints raised out of a state of darkness and affliction into a prosperous one, in the sight of their enemies, and in spite of them, to their great mortification; (see Psalm 23:4-6); and shame shall cover her which said unto me, where is the Lord thy God ? as the Heathens; the Chaldeans, did to the Jews, ( <19B502> Psalm 115:2); and which must be very cutting to them, as it was to David, ( Psalm 42:10); when they flouting and jeering said, where is thy God thou boastedst of, and didst put thy trust and confidence in, that he would deliver and save thee? what is become of him, and of thy confidence in him? The Targum is, “where art thou that art redeemed by the Word of the Lord thy God?” but when they shall see that the Lord God has returned unto them, and wrought salvation for them, they will be ashamed of their flouts and jeers; and by reason of their sad disappointment, add the change of things for the worse to them, who now will be brought into calamity and distress themselves: mine eyes shall behold her ; the enemy: their fall, as the Targum; being in a most despicable and ruinous condition, under the vengeance of the Almighty; and that with pleasure and satisfaction, not from a private spirit of revenge, but because of the glory of divine justice, which will be displayed in their righteous destruction; (see Psalm 58:10); now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets ; that is, entirely conquered, and utterly destroyed; reduced to, the utmost meanness, and had in the greatest contempt: this was fulfilled when Babylon was taken by the Medea and Persians; and when the Edomites were conquered and brought into subjection to the Jews by the Maccabees; and will be the case of all the enemies of Christ and his church, of all the antichristian states, one day.
Ver. 11. [In] the day that thy walls are to be built , etc.] These words are not spoken to the enemy, as some think; either the Chaldeans, the walls of whose city, Babylon, being demolished by the Persians, it would be a long day or time before they were rebuilt and when their power of sending their decrees abroad among the nations would be far off: or to the enemy that should think to build up their walls with the spoils of Israel, in the time of Gog and Magog, and when their decree determined over the nations and Israel would also be far off; but they are the words of the prophet to the church and people of God, comforting them with observing, that there would be a day when the walls of Jerusalem, and the temple, which would lie in ruins during their captivity, would be rebuilt; and which was fulfilled in the times of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah; and so the Targum, “that time the congregation of Israel shall be built;” and which had a further accomplishment, in a spiritual sense, in the first times of the Gospel, when the church of Christ was built up, and established in the world and will still have a greater completion in the latter day, when the tabernacle of David, or church of Christ, shall be raised that is fallen, and its breaches closed, and ruins repaired, ( Amos 9:11); [in] that day shall the decree be far removed ; which, as it literally respects Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of that after seventy years captivity, may signify either the decree of God concerning that captivity, which would then cease, according to the time fixed by it; or the cruel laws and edicts of the Babylonians, which should no more bind and press the Jews, and be as a heavy yoke upon them; those statutes, which were not good, that were given them. So the Targum, “at that time the decrees of the nations shall cease;” or the decree of Artaxerxes, forbidding and hindering the rebuilding of the city: but if the phrase “far removed” signifies its being divulged and spread far abroad, as it is interpreted by some; then it may refer to the decree of Cyrus for rebuilding the city and temple; and which was revived and confirmed by Darius Hystaspis, and by Darius Longimanus, and which was published everywhere; and by means of which the Jews from all parts were encouraged to come up to their own land, and proselytes with them; and which sense suits well with what follows: and as this, in a spiritual sense, may have regard to the church of Christ in Gospel times, it may signify the removal of human laws, traditions, rites, and ceremonies, respecting religious things, among the Gentiles, and their giving way to those of God and Christ; or the promulgation of the Gospel in all parts, called a decree, ( Psalm 2:6); because a revelation of the decrees of God, respecting the salvation of men, and to which it owes its efficacy; by means of which many would be brought to the church, and the kingdom of Christ be enlarged, and spread everywhere, as follows:
Ver. 12. [In] that day [also] he shall come even to thee , etc.] Which words also are not directed to the enemy, as some interpret them; as to Chaldea or Babylon; and the sense be, that Cyrus should come thither, and take it; or any more remote enemy of the Jews in the latter day, to whom the day of the Lord should come, or his decree of vengeance or judgment upon them, or any enemy to waste and destroy them; but they are a continued address to Jerusalem or the church, signifying that “he”, the people of the Jews, the body of them, with the proselyted Gentiles, should come from all parts to Jerusalem to rebuild it upon the decree of Cyrus; and that multitudes of all, or at least many nations, should flock to the church of Christ, upon the publication of the Gospel: from Assyria : where many of the Jews, and even of the ten tribes, were, whither they were carried captive: and [from] the fortified cities ; in Assyria, and other countries, where the Jews might be placed, either as prisoners, or to do servile work, as repairing the fortifications; or for the defence of the country, from which they were to be and were released upon Cyrus taking of Babylon; and was a type of the redemption by Christ from greater bondage. It may be rendered the cities of Egypt, as Kimchi observes, here and in ( 2 Kings 19:24 Isaiah 19:6); and so Ben Melech: it is interpreted by some Matzor, being the same with Mitzraim, which is the name for Egypt; and the sense would be more easy, as well as the words run more smoothly, thus, “shall come from Assyria even to the cities of Egypt”: and then it follows, and from the fortress even to the river ; or from Egypt, to the river Euphrates, which was one of the boundaries of the land of Israel: and from sea to sea ; from the Persian sea to the Mediterranean sea, or from the Red sea thither, and from the several maritime parts where they inhabited: and [from] mountain to mountain ; from Mount Taurus to Carmel, or Lebanon, or Hor; or from the several mountains to which they had fled to, safety, and where they had dwelt. It may respect the extent of the church and kingdom of Christ in the latter day, enlarged by the numerous conversions of Jews and Gentiles in all parts of the world. The Jews shall be gathered from all places where they are, and join themselves to the church of Christ; and these several places, particularly Assyria, Egypt and the islands of the sea from whence they shall be brought, are mentioned in other prophecies; (see Isaiah 11:11) ( Zechariah 10:9-11); though this may respect, not barely the conversion and gathering of them to Christ and his church, but of the Gentiles also in those several countries, thus; they “shall come from Assyria, and the fortified cities”; that is, from the Turkish empire; the land of Assyria, and its fortified cities, being in the possession of the Turks, and in whose dominions many Jews at this day reside; and not only they, but multitudes in the Ottoman empire, shall be converted in the latter day, and become members of Christian churches; signified by the flocks of Kedar, and the rams of Nebaioth, that shall be gathered to the church, and minister there, ( Isaiah 60:7); and they shall come “from the fortress even to the river”; from everyone of the fortified cities before mentioned to the river Euphrates, which will be dried up to make way for the kings or kingdoms of the east, for their conversion to Christ, and embracing his Gospel; even the large kingdoms of Persia, Tartary, China, etc. ( Revelation 16:12); or “from Egypt to the river Euphrates”; and so signifies the same as before, Egypt being part of the Turkish dominions; or else the Roman jurisdiction, spiritually called Egypt, may be meant, ( Revelation 11:8); and in several Popish countries are many Jews, who will be called from thence; as well as many of the Papists themselves shall be called out of mystical Babylon, and embrace the true religion of Christ: “and from sea to sea”; this is a well known description of the amplitude of Christ’s church and kingdom in Gospel times, especially in the latter day; (see Psalm 72:8 Zechariah 9:10); or, as it may be rendered, “the sea from the sea” f222 ; that is, the inhabitants of the sea, or of the islands of it, shall come from thence to the church, (see Isaiah 11:11); these are the same with the abundance of the sea, that shall be converted to Christ, and join his people in the latter day, as in our isle and others, ( Isaiah 40:5); “and [from] mountain to mountain”; or rather, “and mountain shall come to the mountain” f223 ; that is, the inhabitants of the mountain, or of Rome, that is situated on seven mountains, of mystical Babylon, the great mountain; these shall be called from hence to Mount Zion, the church of the living God, where Christ with the 144,000 will be; and which shall then be established on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it, ( Revelation 14:1 Isaiah 2:2,3). The Targum is, “at that time the captives shall be gathered from Assyria, and the strong cities, and from Churmini (or Armenia), the great and the fortified cities, even unto Euphrates, and the western sea, and the mountains of the mountain.”
Ver. 13. Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate , etc.] Not the land of Chaldea, as some; or the land of the nations, as Jarchi and Kimchi; but the land of Israel. That part of it, which was possessed by the ten tribes, was made desolate by Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and that which was inhabited by the two tribes, by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and this desolation was to be, “notwithstanding” the above prophecies, and prior to the fulfilment of them. So some render the words, as in the margin of our Bibles “after the land hath been desolate” f224 ; and it is observed, partly to prevent wicked men promising themselves impunity from the above prophecies; and partly to prevent despair in good men, when such a desolation should be made. And then again it was made desolate by the Romans, previous to the spread and establishment of the church of Christ, by the success of the Gospel in the Gentile world, in the first times of it; and by the conversion of the Jews, and bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles, in, he last times of it; because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings : because of the sins of the inhabitants of the land of Israel: the desolation made by the kings of Assyria and Babylon was for the idolatry of Israel and Judah, and other sins; and the desolation made by the Romans for the Jews rejection of the Messiah.
Ver. 14. Feed thy people with thy rod , etc.] These are either the words of God the Father to Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, calling upon him to do his office as such; to feed the people he had given him, the sheep of his hand, the flock of his pasture, by his Spirit, and with his word and ordinances; (see Zechariah 11:5); or of Christ to his ministers, his undershepherds, to feed his sheep and his lambs, the people committed to their care and charge, with wholesome words, with sound and good doctrine, by faithfully preaching the Gospel, and administering the ordinances to them: or rather the words of the prophet, a prayer of his to God or Christ, to take care of the people of God in their desolate state, in captivity; to guide and lead them, protect and defend them, by his power and providence, as a shepherd directs, leads, governs, and preserves his flock with his pastoral crook or rod; or, as before, to feed the church of God as a shepherd does his flock, lead them into good pastures, and secure them from all their enemies: and this, being a prayer of faith, may be considered as a prophecy or prediction of what would be; and so some render the words, “thou shalt feed thy people”, etc. f225 . The Targum is, “feed thy people with thy word, the people of thine inheritance, in the age which is to be renewed;” in the new world, the world to come; plainly referring to the times of the Messiah; the flock of thine heritage ; who are like to sheep for their harmlessness and innocence, and to a flock of them, being associated together, and folded in the church; and though but a little flock, yet the lot, the portion, the inheritance of Christ; all which is a strong reason for his feeding, keeping, and preserving them, being committed to his care and charge for that purpose: which dwell solitary [in] the wood ; dwell alone in the world, which is like a wood and a wilderness; separated from the men of the world; distinguished by the grace of God, chosen and called out from among them, and different from them both in principle and practice: this may have respect to the Jews, in their dispersion, living separate from and unmixed with the nations of the world; or rather to their dwelling in safety and security under the protection of the great Shepherd, the Messiah, David their Prince, when they shall be returned to their own land in the latter day: in the midst of Carmel ; or of a fruitful field, as Carmel was; enjoying all happiness and prosperity, temporal and spiritual: let them feed [in] Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old ; places in the land of Israel famous for rich and fat pastures; and so express the great plenty of good things wished for, and which will be enjoyed by the Jews when converted to Christ, and replaced in their own land; and are an emblem of those spiritual good things, and of those rich and green pastures of the word and ordinances, which the great Shepherd is desired to lead, and does lead, his people into; (see Psalm 23:1,2) ( Ezekiel 34:14); these places are now in the hand of the Turks, and so the words may be a petition for their conversion, as well as for the Jews, that this country may no more be inhabited by Heathens, but by the Israel of God, as Gulichius very well observes.
Ver. 15 . According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt , etc.] This is an answer of the Lord to the prayer of the prophet, assuring him, and the church he represents, and on whose account he applies, that there would be as great a deliverance wrought for them, and as wonderful things done, as when Israel was brought out of the land of Egypt, which was effected with a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, and was attended with amazing events; as the plagues in Egypt; the passage of the Israelites through the Red see, and the destruction of the Egyptians in it: will I show unto him marvellous [things] ; that is, unto the people of the Lord, the flock of his heritage, the solitary and peculiar people, fed and preserved by him: as the deliverance out of Egypt; was the Lord’s work, so the deliverance from Babylon; as the one was the work of his power upon the heart of Pharaoh to let the people go, so the other as great an act of his power working upon the mind of Cyrus, stirring him up to let the captives go free, without price or reward; yea, to furnish them with necessaries by the way, and to rebuild their city and temple: and as Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red sea, so the kingdom of Babylon was swallowed up by the Medes and Persians; yea, in some respects the latter deliverance exceeded the former, and erased the remembrance of it; (see Jeremiah 16:14,15); and that redemption by Christ, which both these were typical of, was greater and more marvellous than either, being a deliverance from, and an abolition and destruction of sin, Satan, the law, hell, and death, and attended with things the most wonderful and surprising; as the birth of Christ of a virgin; the miracles done by him in life, and at death; the doctrines of the Gospel preached by him and his apostles, and the amazing success of them, especially in the Gentile world, being testified and confirmed by signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. This passage, both by ancient and modern Jews f227 , is applied to the times of the Messiah. So in an ancient book of theirs, speaking of the times of the Messiah, they say, “from that day all the signs and wonders, and mighty works, which the Lord did in Egypt, he will do for Israel, as it is said, “according to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt”, etc.”
It is also said, by a modern writer of theirs, “because of the miracles and wonders which shall be in the days of the Messiah, such as the gathering of the captives, the resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of Gog and Magog, besides other miracles and wonders, the end of the redemption is called the end of wonders in ( Daniel 12:6); and this is that which God has promised by his prophets, particularly Micah, ( Micah 7:15); “according to the days”, etc. and from what follows, with the rest of the verses to the end of the book, it is manifest that these promises are not yet fulfilled, but will be fulfilled in the days of the Messiah.”
From whence it appears, that it was the sense of the ancient Jews, as well as some modern ones, that miracles would be wrought in the days of the Messiah; though some of them reject them, and look not for them; particularly Maimonides says, “let it not enter into thine heart that the King Messiah hath need to do signs and wonders; as that he shall renew things in the world, or raise the dead, and the like; these are things which fools speak of; the thing is not so.”
But however, certain it is, the ancient Jews expected miracles to be done by the Messiah; hence some, in the times of Jesus, said, “when Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” ( John 7:31); and accordingly the miracles Jesus did were full proofs of his being the Messiah, and were wrought for that purpose, and owned as such; wherefore the above Jew, though he is right in the application of this passage to the times of the Messiah, yet is wrong in saying these promises are not yet fulfilled, since they have had a full accomplishment in the Messiah Jesus; nor is another to be looked for, or such miracles to be hereafter wrought.
Ver. 16. The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might , etc.] The Chaldeans or Babylonians, when they shall see the wonderful things done by the Lord in the deliverance of his people out of their hands, shall be ashamed of their own power and might, in which they trusted, and of which they boasted; but now shall be baffled and defeated, and not able to stop the progress of the arms of Cyrus, or detain the Jews any longer their captives; or they shall be confounded at the power and strength the Jews will have to repossess their land, rebuild their city and temple, under the encouragement and protection of the king of Persia; and as this may refer to a further accomplishment in Gospel times, it may respect the confusion the Gentile world would be in at the mighty power and spread of the Gospel, in the conversion of such multitudes by it, and in the abolition of the Pagan religion. Kimchi interprets this of the nations that shall be gathered together with Gog and Magog against Jerusalem in the latter day; see ( Ezekiel 38:15,16,23 39:21); they shall lay [their] hand upon [their] mouth : be silent, and boast no more of themselves; nor blaspheme God and his word; nor insult his people; nor oppose his Gospel, or open their mouths any more against his truths and his ordinances: their ears shall be deaf ; hearing so much of the praises of God, of the success of his interest, and of the happiness of his peopled dinned in their ears, they will be stunned with it, and scarce know what they hear; become deaf with the continual noise of it, which will be disagreeable to them; and will choose to hear no more, and therefore through envy and grief will stop their ears at what is told them.
Ver. 17. They shall lick the dust like a serpent , etc.] Whose food is the dust of the earth, according to the curse pronounced on it, ( Genesis 3:14); and which is either its, natural food it chooses to live on, as some serpents however are said to do; or, going upon its belly, it cannot but take in a good deal of the dust of the earth along with its food; and hereby is signified the low, mean, abject, and cursed estate and condition of the seed of the serpent, wicked and ungodly men, the enemies of Christ and his people; who wilt be forced to yield subjection to him and his church, and will pretend the most profound respect for them, and the highest veneration of them. The allusion seems to be to the manner of the eastern nations, who, in complimenting their kings and great men, bowed so low to the ground with their faces, as to take up with their mouths the very dust of it. Particularly it is said of the Persians, that they first kiss the pavement on which the king treads, before they speak unto him, as Quistorpius on the place relates; and Valerius Maximus says, that when Darius Hystaspis was declared king by the neighing of his horse, the rest of the six candidates alighted from their horses, and prostrated their bodies to the ground, as is the manner of the Persians, and saluted him king; and Herodotus observes the same, custom among the Persians; and to this custom the poet Martial refers; and Drusius says it is a custom in Asia to this day, that, when any go into the presence of a king, they kiss the ground, which is a token of the great veneration they have for him. The phrase is used of the enemies of the, Messiah, and of the converted Jews and Gentiles at the latter day, and is expressive of their great submission to them; (see Psalm 72:9 Isaiah 49:23); they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth ; who put out their heads and draw them in again upon the least notice or approach of danger; or like serpents, as Jarchi and Kimchi, which lurk in holes, and creep out of them oft their bellies, or any other creeping things. The word here used signifies a tremulous and tumultuous motion, like the wriggling of a worm out of the earth; or the hurry of ants, when their nests are kicked or thrown up: this is expressive of the confusion and perturbation of the enemies of the Lord and his people; of the Babylonians, who were obliged in a hurry to leave their palaces, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret their holes, and their fortresses and towers, and deliver them to the Medes and Persians; and of Gog and Magog, and the antichristian states, who will be obliged to abandon their places of abode, and creep out of sight, and be reduced to the lowest and meanest condition; they shall be afraid of the Lord our God : because of the glory of his majesty, the greatness of his power, and for fear of his judgments: and shall fear because of thee ; O God, or Israel, as Kimchi; the church of God, whom they despised and reproached before; but now shall be seized with a panic, and live in the utmost dread of, because of the power and glory of God in the midst of them, and lest they should fall a sacrifice to them.
Ver. 18. Who [is] a God like unto thee , etc.] There is no God besides him, none so great, so mighty, as he; none like him for the perfections of his nature; for the works of his hands; for the blessings of his goodness, both of providence and grace; and particularly for his pardoning grace and mercy, as follows: that pardoneth iniquity : that “lifts” it up, and “takes” it away, as the word signifies; thus the Lord has taken the sins of his people off of them, and laid them on Christ, and he has bore them, and carried them away, as the antitype of the scapegoat, never to be seen and remembered any more; and whereas the guilt of sin lies sometimes as a heavy burden upon their consciences, he lifts it up, and takes it away, by sprinkling the blood of Christ upon them, and by applying his pardoning grace and mercy to them: pardon of sin is peculiar to God; none can forgive it but he against whom it is committed; forgiveness of sin is with him, promised by him in covenant, proclaimed in Christ, by him obtained and published in the Gospel: and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage ? the people of God are his portion, his lot, and his inheritance; they are a remnant according to the election of grace, chosen of God, taken into his covenant, redeemed by Christ, and called by grace, and brought to repent and believe; these God forgives, even all their transgressions, sins, and iniquities of every kind; which is here expressed by another word, “passing [them] by”, or “passing over [them]”: sin is a transgression or passing over the law, and pardon is a passing over sin; God taking no notice of it, as if he saw it not; not imputing it to his people, or calling them to an account for it; or condemning and punishing them according to the desert of it; but hiding his face from it, and covering it: he retaineth not his anger for ever ; that which he seemed to have against his people, and appeared in some of the dispensations of his providence, is not continued and lengthened out, and especially for ever, but it disappears; he changes the course of his providence, and his conduct and behaviour to his people, and, hews them his face and favour, and manifests his forgiving love; which is a turning himself from his anger; (see Psalm 85:2,3 Isaiah 12:1); because he delighteth [in] mercy ; which is natural to him, abundant with him, and exercised according to his sovereign will and pleasure, very delightful to him; he takes pleasure in showing mercy to miserable creatures, and in those that hope in it, ( <19E711> Psalm 147:11); this is the spring of pardon, which streams through the blood of Christ.
Ver. 19. He will turn again , etc.] From his anger, and show his face and favour; which is not inconsistent with his everlasting and unchangeable love; for anger is not opposite to love, and is only a displicency at sin, and not at the persons of his people; and, properly speaking, is not in God; is rather in appearance than in reality; when his people sin against him, he shows himself as if he was angry; he turns away from them, and withdraws his gracious presence and sensible communion from them; but when they are brought to a sense of sin, and acknowledgment of it, he returns to them, manifests his love to them again, and applies his pardoning grace, which is the thing believed would be done; it is only another expression of that, as all the rest that follow are: the prophet, or the church, dwells on this article of grace, and heaps up words to express it by, as if they could never say too much or it, or sufficiently explain it. The Targum is, “his word shall return;” he will have compassion upon us ; the Lord is naturally compassionate; he is full of compassion, he has a heart of compassion; these are tender mercies, and never fail, and which are exercised in a sovereign way; pardon of sin flows from hence; every manifestation or it is a display thereof: sin brings afflictions on the saints, and then the Lord pities them, and is afflicted with them; sin grieves them, and he is as it were grieved for them; it wounds them, and then, as the good and compassionate Samaritan, he pours in the oil and wine of pardoning grace, and heals them; they are, while in this state, in such circumstances often as need his compassion, and they may be assured of it, ( Psalm 78:38); he will subdue our iniquities ; which maybe understood also as a further explanation of the grace of pardon: sin is an enemy to God and his people; it is too strong and mighty for them; it reigns over them in a state of nature; they are under the power of it, and cannot get rid of it, its influence, guilt, and punishment; Christ has conquered it, made an end of it, and took it away; God tramples upon it, as a conqueror does upon the necks of his enemies; it ii subdued by him, and is under his feet; which he treats with contempt, disdains to look upon, keeps it under, so that it shall never rise again to the condemnation of his people; he overcomes the provocation of it, removes the guilt by pardon, and secures from the punishment of it: or this may be considered as the effect of pardon; as what is done in consequence of it, by the Spirit and grace of God in sanctification; when not only the deeds of the body are mortified through the Spirit, or the outward conversation reformed, but the inward power of sin is weakened; it is laid under the restraints of efficacious grace, and is kept under by it; so that it shall not and cannot have the dominion over the saints again, of which they may be confident, ( Romans 6:14); and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea ; never to be seen any more; though they are seen with the eye of omniscience, and taken notice of by the eye of providence, yet not beheld with the eye of avenging justice, that being satisfied by Christ; besides, all the sins of God’s people have been removed from them to Christ, and by him carried away into the land of oblivion; so that they are no more to be seen on them, who are through his blood and righteousness without fault, spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and, being out of sight, they are out of mind, never remembered any more, and like things cast into the sea, destroyed and lost: perhaps there may be some allusion to the Egyptians drowned in the Red sea; and what is cast into the sea, especially into the depths of it, is irrecoverable, not to be fetched up again, nor does it rise more; and so it is with the sins of God’s people, forgiven for Christ’s sake, even “all” of them; for they have all been bore by Christ, and are covered, blotted out, and pardoned, not one remains unforgiven; (see Isaiah 38:17). This is an apostrophe of the prophet unto God. The Targum is, “and he will cast into the depths of the sea all the sins of Israel;” and it may denote their being loathsome and abominable to him, and therefore here cast by him. It is very common in Jewish writings to say of anything that is useless, abominable, accursed, and utterly rejected, that it is to be east into the salt sea. For instance “Aquila the proselyte divided an inheritance with his brother (a Gentile), and he cast the profit of it into the salt sea: three doctors there were; one said, the price of the idol he cast into the salt sea; another said, he cast the price of his part of the idol into the salt sea; and the other said, he cast the idol itself into the salt sea f237 .”
Again it is said f238 , “a sin offering, whose owner is dead, goes into the salt sea.”
The Heathens used sea water for the purgation and expiation of sin; hence the poet f239 , to aggravate the wickedness of a very wicked man, observes, that the ocean itself could not wash away his sins. And Cicero f240 , speaking of the law of the Romans for the punishment of parricides, which ordered that they should be sewed up alive in sacks, and cast into the river, observes the wisdom and propriety of it; they would not, says he, have them cast naked into the river, lest, when they should be carried into the sea, they should pollute that by which other things that are defiled are thought to be expiated. So Iphigenia is made to say that the sea washes away all the sins of men. These are the Jewish and Heathenish notions; whether there is any allusion to them may be considered; however, certain it is, that nothing short of the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, or the sea of Christ’s blood, can wash away sin; that cleanses from all sin; and happy are they whose sins are cast in thither, or are expiated and purged away thereby!
Ver. 20. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob , etc.] That is, the promise made to Jacob, the Lord would faithfully perform and make good to his posterity, natural and spiritual, especially to those who are Israelites indeed; [and] the mercy to Abraham ; the gracious promises made to him, which sprung from mere grace and mercy; all respecting his natural and spiritual seed; and especially the promise of the coming of the Messiah, that seed of his in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed; and which is the eminent instance of the mercy and grace of God to Jews and Gentiles, that walk in the steps of Abraham; (see Luke 1:68,72,73); which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old ; or the promises both of multiplying the seed of Abraham, and of giving them the land of Canaan, and of the Messiah springing from them, were confirmed by an oath, ( Genesis 22:16-18). The Targum is, “thou wilt give the truth of Jacob to his sons, as thou hast sworn to him in Bethel; the goodness of Abraham to his seed after him, as thou hast sworn to him between the pieces; thou wilt remember to us the binding of Isaac, who was bound upon the altar before thee; thou wilt do with us the good things which thou hast sworn to our fathers, from the days of old;” which Kimchi interprets of the three fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.