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Micah 2:7

7. O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?

7. Qui diceris domus Jacob, an reductus est in angustias Spiritus Jehova? (alii vertunt, an imminutus est Spiritus Jehovae; קצר significat coarctare, significat etiam imminuere apud Hebraeos; sed melius quadrat sensus ille quem reddidi.) An haec sunt opera ejus? Annon verba mea bona sunt cum eo (hoc est, apud cum) qui rectus ambulat?


The Prophet now reproves the Israelites with greater severity, because they attempted to impose a law on God and on his prophets and would not endure the free course of instruction. He told us in the last verse, that the Israelites were inflated with so much presumption, that they wished to make terms with God: “Let him not prophesy” they said, as though it were in the power of man to rule God: and the Prophet now repeats, Is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened? as though he said, Ye see the intent of your presumption, and how far it proceeds; for ye wish to subject God’s Spirit to yourselves and to your own pleasure. The prophets doubtless did not speak of themselves, but by the bidding and command of God. Since then the prophets were the organs of the Holy Spirit, whosoever attempted to silence them, usurped to himself an authority over God himself, and in a manner tried to make captive his Spirit: for what power can belong to the Spirit, except he be at liberty to reprove the vices of men, and condemn whatever is opposed to God’s justice? When this is taken away, there is no more any jurisdiction left to the Holy Spirit. We now then see what the Prophet means in this place: he shows how mad a presumption it was in the Israelites to attempt to impose silence on the prophets, as though they had a right to rule the Spirit of God, and to force him to submission.

Is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened? And this mode of speaking ought to be noticed, for it possesses no ordinary emphasis; inasmuch as the Prophets by this reproof; recalls the attention of these perverse men to the author of his teaching; as though he had said, that the wrong was not done to men, that war was not carried on with them, when instruction is prohibited, but that God is robbed of his own rights and that his liberty is taken away, so that he is not allowed to execute his judgment in the world by the power of his Spirit.

And farther, the Prophet here ironically reproves the Israelites, when he says, O thou who art called the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of Jehovah reduced to straits? For if heathens, who have never known the teaching of religion, and to whom no heavenly mysteries have been revealed, had said, that they would have nothing to do with the prophets, it would have been much more endurable; for what wonder would it be for ignorant men to repudiate all instruction? But it was monstrous for the Israelites, who gloried in the name of God, to dare to rise up so rebelliously against the prophets: they always boasted of their own race, as though they surpassed all the rest of the world, and were a holy nations separated from all others. Hence the Prophet says, “Ye wish to be called the house of Jacob; what is your excellency and dignity, except that you have been chosen by God to be his peculiar people? If then you have been habituated to the teaching of God, what fury and madness it is, that you cannot bear his prophets, but wish to close their mouths?” We now then see the point of this irony, when the Prophet says that they were called the house of Jacob He seems at the same time to intimate, in an indirect way, that they were a spurious race. As they were called by other prophets, Amorites and Sodomites: even so in this place the Prophet says, “Ye are indeed the house of Jacob, but it is only as to the name.” They were in reality so degenerated, that they falsely pretended the name of the holy patriarch; yea, they falsely and mendaciously boasted of their descent from holy men, though they were nothing else but as it were rotten members. Inasmuch then as they had so departed from the religion of Abraham and of other fathers, the Prophet says, “Thou art indeed called what thou art not.”

He afterwards adds, Are these his works? Here he brings the Israelites to the proof, as though he said, How comes it, that the prophets are so troublesome and grievous to you, except that they sharply reprove you, and denounce on you the judgment of God? But God is in a manner forced, except he was to change his nature, to treat you thus sharply and severely. Ye boast that you are his people, but how do you live? Are these his works? that is, do you lead a life, and form your conduct according to the law laid down by him? But as your life does not in any degree correspond with what God requires, it is no wonder that the prophets handle you so roughly. For God remains the same, ever like himself; but ye are perfidious, and have wholly repudiated the covenant he has made with you. Then this asperity, of which ye are wont to complain, ought not to be deemed unjust to you.

He then subjoins, Are not my words good to him who walks uprightly? Here the Prophet more distinctly shows, why he had before asked, Whether their works were those of the Lord; for he compares their life with the doctrine, which on account of its severity displeased them; they said that the words of the prophets were too rigid. God here answers, that his words were gentle and kind, and therefore pleasant, that is, to the pious and good; and that hence the fault was in them, when he treated them less kindly than they wished. The import of the whole then is, that the word of God, as it brings life and salvation to man, is in its own nature gracious, and cannot be either bitter, or hard, or grievous to the pious and the good, for God unfolds in it the riches of his goodness.

We hence see that God here repudiates the impious calumny that was cast on his word; as though he had said, that the complaints which prevailed among the people were false; for they transferred the blame of their own wickedness to the word of God. They said that God was too severe: but God here declares that he was gentle and kind, and that the character of his word was the same, provided men were tractable, and did not, through their perverseness, extort from him anything else than what he of himself wished. And the same thing David means in Psalm 18, when he says that God is perverse with the perverse: for in that passage he intimates, that he had experienced the greatest goodness from God, inasmuch as he had rendered himself docile and obedient to him. On the contrary, he says, God is perverse with the perverse; that is, when he sees men obstinately resisting and hardening their necks, he then puts on as it were a new character, and deals perversely with them, that is, severely, as their stubbornness deserves; as for a hard knot, according to a common proverb, a hard wedge is necessary. We now then perceive the meaning of this passage, that God’s words are good to those who walk uprightly; that is they breathe the sweetest odour, and bring nothing else but true and real joy: for when can there be complete happiness, except when God embraces us in the bosom of his love? But the testimony respecting this love is brought to us by his word. The fault then is in us, and ought to be imputed to us, if the word of God is not delightful to us.

Some expound this whole passage differently, as though the Prophet relates here what was usually at that time the boast of the Israelites. They hence think that it is a narrative in which he represents their sentiments; (narrationem esse mimiticam;) as though the Prophet introduced here the ungodly and the rebellious animating one another in their contempt of God’s word, O thou who art called the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened? Hypocrites, we know, are so blind and intoxicated by a false confidence, that they hesitate not heedlessly to abuse all the favors of God. As then God had conferred a great excellency on his people, they thus emboldened one another, — “Are we not the children and posterity of Abraham? What will it avail us to be a holy and chosen race, and the peculiar people of God, and a royal priesthood, if we are to be thus unkindly treated? We find that these prophets shamefully reprove us: where is our dignity, except we show that we have more privileges than other nations?” These interpreters therefore think the meaning to be this, — that they make a show of their own privileges, that they might with more liberty reject every instruction, and shake off every yoke. And when it is said, Is the Spirit of God diminished? these interpreters regard this as meaning, that they were satisfied with the solemn promise of God, and that as they were a holy race, they now superciliously despised all the prophets, — “Is the Spirit of God dead, who was formerly the interpreter of the everlasting covenant, which God made with us? Has he not testified that we should be to him a holy and elect people? Why then do ye now attempt to reduce to nothing this sacred declaration of the Holy Spirit, which is inviolable?” It is then added, Are these his works? “Ye talk of nothing but of threats and destruction; ye denounce on us numberless calamities: but God is beneficent and kind in his nature, patient and merciful; and ye represent him to us as a tyrant; but this view is wholly inconsistent with the nature of God.” And, in the last place, God subjoins, as these interpreters think, an exception, — “All these are indeed true, if faithfulness exists among you, and the authority of my word continues; for my words are good, but not to all without any difference: be upright and sincere, and ye shall find me dealing kindly, gently, tenderly, and pleasantly with you: then my rigor will cease, which now through my word so much offends and exasperates you.”

This meaning may in some measure be admitted; but as it is hard to be understood, we ought to retain the former, it being more easy and flowing. There is nothing strained in the view, that the Prophet derides the foolish arrogance of the people, who thought that they were sheltered by this privilege, that they were the holy seed of Abraham. The Prophet answers that this titular superiority did not deprive God of his right, and prevent him to exercise his power by the Spirit. “O thou then who art called the house of Jacob; but only as far as the title goes: the Spirit of God is not reduced to straits. But if thou boastest thyself to be the peculiar people of God, are these thy works the works of God? Does thy life correspond with what he requires? There is no wonder then that God chastises you so severely by his word, for there is not in you the spirit of docility, which allows the exercise of his kindness.” 8585     Newcome, adopting האמר, as found in four MSS., renders the first part of the verse as the language of the people, though not in the sense of those referred to by Calvin. His version is as follows: —
   Doth the house of Israel [Jacob] say,
“Is the Spirit of Jehovah straightened?
Are these his doings?”

   “Straightened,” i.e., confined to a few, such as Micah. And by “doings,” he means the judgments before announced. Henderson regards the “doings,” or, as he renders them, “operations,” in the same light, though he views the words as spoken by the Prophet, and renders the first line thus, —

   What language, O house of Jacob!

   The first word, האמור, as it is in our text, is viewed by Henderson, as well as by Marckius, as a passive participle, signifying what is said or spoken, and the ה prefixed is considered as a note of exclamation. But the objection made to our common version is not valid, that אמר in Niphael, when it means being called or named, has uniformly an ל after it, for we have an instance to the contrary in Jeremiah 7:32, עוד התפח ולא-יאמר, “and it shall no more be called Tophet.” — Ed.

But though the Prophet here upbraids the ancient people with ingratitude, yet this truth is especially useful to us, which God declares, when he says that his word is good and sweet to all the godly. Let us then learn to become submissive to God, and then he will convey to us by his word nothing but sweetness, nothing but delights; we shall then find nothing more desirable than to be fed by this spiritual food; and it will ever be a real joy to us, whenever the Lord will open his mouth to teach us. But when at any time the word of the Lord goads and wounds, and thus exasperates us, let us know that it is through our own fault. It follows —

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