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Micah 1:3-4

3. For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.

3. Quia ecce Jehova egreditur e loco suo, et descendet, et calcabit super excelsa terrae:

4. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.

4. Et liquefient montes sub eo, et solventur (vel, dehiscent) valles; sicut cera a conspectu ignis, sicut aquae in locum inferiorem actae.


The Prophet pursues the same subject; and he dwells especially on this — that God would be a witness against his people from his sanctuary. He therefore confirms this, when he says that God would come from his place Some interpreters do at the same time take this view — that the temple would hereafter be deprived of God’s presence, and would hence become profane, according to what Ezekiel declares. For as the Jews imagined that God was connected with them as long as the temple stood, and this false imagination proved to them an allurement, as it were, to sin, as on this account they took to themselves greater liberty, — this was the reason why the Prophet Ezekiel declares that God was no longer in the temple; and the Lord had shown to him by a vision that he had left his temple, so that he would no longer dwell there. Some, as I have said, give a similar explanation of this passage; but this sense does not seem to suit the context. I therefore take another view of this sentence — that God would go forth from his place. But yet it is doubted what place the Prophet refers to: for many take it to be heaven, and this seems probable, for immediately after he adds, Descend shall God, and he will tread on the high places of the earth This descent seems indeed to point out a higher place: but as the temple, we know, was situated on a high and elevated spot, on mount Zion, there is nothing inconsistent in saying that God descended from his temple to chastise the whole of Judea as it deserved. Then the going forth of God is by no means ambiguous in its meaning, for he means that God would at length go forth, as it were, in a visible form. With regard then to the place, I am inclined to refer it to the temple; and this clause, I have no doubt, has proceeded from the last verse.

But why is going forth here ascribed to God? Because the Jews had abused the forbearance of God in worshipping him with vain ceremonies in the temple; and at the same time they thought that they had escaped from his hand. As long then as God spared them, they thought that he was, as it were, bound to them, because he dwelt among them. Besides, as the legal and shadowy worship prevailed among them, they imagined that God rested in their temple. But now the Prophet says, “He will go forth: ye have wished hitherto to confine God to the tabernacle, and ye have attempted to pacify him with your frivolous puerilities: but ye shall know that his hand and his power extend much farther: he shall therefore come and show what that majesty is which has been hitherto a derision to you.” For when hypocrites set to sale their ceremonies to God, do they not openly trifle with him, as though he were a child? and do they not thus rob him of his power and authority? Such was the senselessness of that people. The Prophet therefore does not say without reason that God would go forth, that he might prove to the Jews that they were deluded by their own vain imaginations, when they thus took away from God what necessarily belonged to him, and confined him to a corner in Judea and fixed him there, as though he rested and dwelt there like a dead idol.

The particle, Behold, is emphatical: for the Prophet intended here to shake off from the Jews their torpidity, inasmuch as nothing was more difficult to them than to be persuaded and to believe that punishment was nigh at hand, when they flattered themselves that God was propitious to them. Hence that they might no longer cherish this willfulness, he says, Behold, come shall the Lord, forth shall he go from his place Isaiah has a passage like this in an address to the people, Isaiah 26; but the object of it is different; for Isaiah intended to threaten the enemies of the Church and heathen nations: but here Micah denounces war on the chosen people, and shows that God thus dwelt in his temple, that the Jews might perceive that his hand was opposed to them, as they had so shamefully despised him, and, by their false imaginations reduced, as it were, to nothing his power.

He shall tread, he says, on the high places of the earth. By the high places of the earth I do not understand superstitious places, but those well fortified. We know that fortresses were then fixed, for the most part, on elevated situations. The Prophet then intimates, that there would be no place into which God’s vengeance would not penetrate, however well fortified it might be: “No enclosures,” he says, “shall hinder God from penetrating into the inmost parts of your fortresses; he shall tread on the high places of the earth.” At the same time, I doubt not but that he alludes, by this kind of metaphor, to the chief men, who thought themselves exempted from the common lot of mankind; for they excelled so much in power, riches, and authority, that they would not be classed with the common people. The Prophet then intimates, that those, who were become proud through a notion of their own superiority would not be exempt from punishment.

And he afterwards adds, that this going forth of God would be terrible, Melt, he says, shall the mountains under him It hence appears, that the Prophet did not speak in the last verse of the departure of God, as though he was going to forsake his own temple, but that he, on the contrary, described his going forth from the temple, that he might ascend his tribunal and execute punishment on the whole people, and thus, in reality, prove that he would be a judge, because he had been very daringly despised. Hence he says, Melt shall the mountains under him, the valleys shall be rent, or cleave, as wax before the fire, as waters rolling into a lower place 6363     These two similes, as observed by Marckius and others, refer not to the same thing, but to the two things previously mentioned,—the wax, to the mountains,—and the waters, to the valleys. This kind of order, in a sentence, is common in Hebrew. The Septuagint presents an instance, not uncommon, of an attempt to reconcile what, from not apprehending the sense, appeared incongruous; for motion is ascribed to the mountains— σαλευθησεται τα ορη, and melting to the valleys—τακησονται, quite contrary to the meaning of the words in Hebrew. Newcome renders the last line thus, —
   “As waters poured down a steep place.”

   Henderson renders the last word, “a precipice;” and Marckius, declive—”a declivity.” I would give this version of the whole verse, —

   For, behold, Jehovah shall go forth from his place;
Yea, he shall descend and tread on the high places of the land;
And dissolve shall the mountains under him,
And the valleys shall burst forth;
Like the wax before the fire,
Like waters rolling down a declivity.

   The verb בקע is applied to express the bursting out of waters from a fountain, of the young when emerging from the egg, and of light dispelling darkness. It is here in Hithpael, and only in one other place, Joshua 9:13; where it means the bursting of wine bottles, made of leather. The word מורד is going down, descent, declivity, καταβασις, Sept. See Joshua 10:11; Jeremiah 48:5

   “Do men trust to the height and strength of mountains, as if they were sufficient to bear up their hopes and bear off their fears? They shall be molten under him. — Do they trust to the fruitfulness of the valleys and their products? They shall be cleft, or rent, — and be wasted away as the ground is by the waters that are poured down a steep place.” — Henry.
The Prophets do not often describe God in a manner so awful; but this representation is to be referred to the circumstance of this passage, for he sets forth God here as the judge of the people: it was therefore necessary that he should be exhibited as furnished and armed with powers that he might stake such vengeance on the Jews as they deserved. And other similar passages we shall hereafter meet with, and like to those which we found in Hosea. God then is said to melt the mountains, and he is said to strike the valleys with such terror that they cleave under him; in short, he is said so to terrify all elements, that the very mountains, however stony they may be, melt like wax or like waters which flow, — because he could not otherwise produce a real impression on a people so obstinate, and who, as it has been said, so flattered themselves even in their vices.

We may further easily learn what application to make of this truth in our day. We find the Papists boasting of the title Church, and, in a manner, with vain confidence, binding God to themselves, because they have baptism, though they have adulterated it with their superstitions; and then, they think that they have Christ, because they still retain the name of a Church. Had the Lord promised that his dwelling would be at Rome, we yet see how foolish and frivolous would be such boasting: for though the temple was at Jerusalem, yet the Lord went forth thence to punish the sins of the people, yea, even of the chosen people. We further know, that it is folly to bind God now to one place, for it is his will that his name should be celebrated without any difference through the whole world. Wheresoever, then, the voice of the Gospel sounds, God would have us to know that he is present there. What the Papists then proudly boast of — that Christ is joined to them — will turn out to their own condemnation; — why so? Because the Lord will prove that he is the avenger of so impious and shameful a profanation, as they not only presumptuously lay claim to his name, but also tear it in pieces, and contaminate it with their sacrilegious abominations.

Again, since God is said to melt the mountains with his presence, let us hence learn to rouse up all our feelings whenever God comes forth not that we may flee to a distance from him, but that we may reverently receive his word, so that he may afterwards appear to us a kind and reconciled Father. For when we become humble, and the pride and height of our flesh is subdued, he then immediately receives us, as it were, into his gentle bosom, and gives us an easy access to him, yea, he invites us to himself with all possible kindness. That the Lord then may thus kindly receive us, let us learn to fear as soon as he utters his voice: but let not this fear make us to flee away but only humble us, so that we may render true obedience to the word of the Lord. It follows —

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