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Micah 2:12-13

12. I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.

12. Congregans congregabo te totum Jacob; colligens colligam residuum Israel; simul ponam eum tanquam oves Bosra, tanquam gregem in medio ovilis sui; tumultuabuntur prae hominibus (id est, propter hominum multitudinem.)

13. The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.

13. Ascendet effractor coram ipsis; frangent et transibunt portam, et egredientur per ipsam; et transibit rex ipsorum coram ipsis; et Jehova in capite ipsorum.


The exposition of this passage is twofold. The greater part of interpreters incline to this view, — that God here promises some alleviation to the Israelites, after having sharply reproved them, and threatened them with utter ruin. They therefore apply this passage to the kingdom of Christ, as though God gave hope of a future restoration. But when I narrowly weigh every thing, I am, on the contrary, forced to regard these two verses as a commination, that is, that the Prophet here denounces God’s future vengeance on the people. As, however, the former opinion is almost universally received, I will briefly mention what has been adduced in its favor, and then I shall return to state the other meaning, which I prefer.

It is suitable to the kingdom of Christ to say, that a people who had been dispersed should be gathered under one head. We indeed know how miserable a dispersion there is in the world without him, and that whenever the Prophets speak of the renovation of the Church, they commonly make use of this form of expression, that is, that the Lord will gather the dispersed and unite them together under one head. If then the passage be referred to the kingdom of Christ, it is altogether proper to say, that God by gathering will gather the whole of Jacob. But a restriction is afterwards added, that no one may extend this restoration to the whole race of Abraham, or to all those who, according to the flesh, derived their descent from Abraham as their father: hence the word שארית, sharit, is laid down. Then the whole of Jacob is not that multitude, which, according to the flesh, traced their origin from the holy Patriarchs, but only their residue. It then follows, I will set them together as the sheep of Bozrah, that is, I will make them to increase into a large, yea, into an immense number; for they shall make a tumult, that is, a great noise will be made by them, as though the place could not contain so large a number. And they explain the next verse thus, — A breaker shall go before them, that is, there shall be those who, with a hand, strong and armed, will make a way open for them; inasmuch as Christ says that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, (Matthew 11:12) they then mean that the people will have courageous leaders, whom nothing will stop from breaking through, and that they will also lead the whole people with them. They shall therefore go forth through the gate, and their king shall pass through. This also well agrees with the kingdom of Christ. For whenever God declares that he will be propitious to his Church, he at the same time adds, that he will give a king to his people; for their safety had been placed in that kingdom, which had been erected by the authority and command of God himself. It is therefore a common thing, and what occurs everywhere in the Prophets, that God would give a king from the seed of David to his people, when it would be his will to favor them with complete happiness. Thus they understand that a king shall pass on before them, which is the office of a leader, to show them the way. And Jehovah shall be at their head; that is, God himself will show himself to be the chief king of his people, and will ever defend by his help and grace those whom he adopts as his people.

But I have already said that I more approve of another. exposition: for I see not how the Prophet could pass so suddenly into a different strain. He had said in the last verse that the people could endure no admonitions, for they only desired flatteries and adulation. He now joins what I have lately referred to respecting the near judgment of God, and proceeds, as we shall see, in the same strain to the end of the third chapter: but we know that the chapters were not divided by the Prophets themselves. We have therefore a discourse continued by the Prophet to the third chapter; not that he spoke all these things in one day; but he wished to collect together what he had said of the vices of the people; and this will be more evident as we proceed. I will now come to the words.

Gathering, I will gather thee, the whole of Jacob; collecting, I will collect the remnant of Israel. God has two modes of gathering; for he sometimes gathers his people from dispersion, which is a singular proof of his favor and love. But he is said also to gather, when he assembles them together to devote and give them up to destruction, as we say in French, Trousser; and this verb is taken elsewhere in the same sense, and we have already met with an instance in Hosea. So, in the present passage, God declares that there would be a gathering of the people, — for what purpose? Not that being united together they might enjoy the blessings of God, but that they might be destroyed. As then the people had united together in all kinds of wickedness, so God now declares, that they should be gathered together, that the one and the same destruction might be to them all. And he adds, the remnant of Israel; as though he said, “Whatever shall remain from slaughters in wars and from all other calamities, such as famine and pestilence, this I will collect, that it may be wholly destroyed.” He mentions the remnant, because the Israelites had been worn out by many evils, before the Lord stretched forth his hand at last to destroy them.

He afterwards subjoins, I will set them together as the sheep of Bozrah; that is, I will cast them into one heap. Bozrah was a city or a country of Idumea; and it was a very fruitful place, and had the richest pastures: hence Isaiah 34, in denouncing vengeance on the Idumeans, alludes at the same time to their pastures, and says, “God will choose for himself fat lambs and whatever is well fed, and will also collect fatness, for the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah.” So also, in this place, the Prophet says, that the Jews, when collected together as it were into a bundle, shall be like the sheep of Bozrah. And he further adds, as the sheep in the middle of the sheepfolds, though some render it, leading: דבר, daber, sometimes means to lead; but I see no reason why it should be drawn so far from its meaning in this connection. I take it as signifying a sheepfold, because sheep are there collected together. Some interpreters consider that a siege is referred to here, that is, that God would confine the whole people within cities, that they might not be open to the incursions of enemies; but I extend the meaning much wider, namely, that God would gather the people, in order at last to disperse them. I will then gather them, as I have already said, Je vous trousserai; as the sheep of Bozrah in the middle of the sheep fold; and there shall be a noise on account of their number; that is, “Though ye now glory in your number, this will avail you nothing; for I shall be able to reduce you all to strait, so that you may, as ye deserve, perish together.”

It follows, Ascend shall a breaker before them; that is, they shall be led in confusion; and the gate shall also be broken, that they may go forth together; for the passage would not be large enough, were they, as is usually done, to go forth in regular order; but the gates of cities shall be broken, that they may pass through in great numbers and in confusion. By these words the Prophet intimates, that all would be quickly taken away into exile. And they shall go forth, he says through the gate, and their king shall pass on before if them The Prophet means here, that the king would be made captive; and this was the saddest spectacle: for some hope remained, when the dregs of the people had been led into Chaldea; but when the king himself was led away a captive, and cast into prison, and his eyes pulled out, and his children slain, it was the greatest of misery. They were wont to take pride in their king, for they thought that their kingdom could not but continue perpetually, since God had so promised. But God might for a time overturn that kingdom, that he might afterwards raise it anew, according to what has been done by Christ, and according to what had been also predicted by the Prophets. “Crosswise, crosswise, crosswise, (transversa) let the crown be, until its lawful possessor comes.” We then see that this, which the Prophet mentions respecting their king, has been added for the sake of amplifying.

He afterwards adds, Jehovah shall be at the head of them; that is, He will be nigh them, to oppress and wholly to overwhelm them. Some consider something to be understood, and of this kind, that Jehovah was wont formerly to rule over them, but that now he would cease to do so: but this is too strained; and the meaning which I have stated seems sufficiently clear, and that is, — that God himself would be the doer, when they should be driven into exile, and that he would add courage to tyrants and their attendants, in pursuing the accursed people, in order to urge on more and more and aggravate their calamities and thus to show that their destruction vault happen through his righteous judgment. We now then understand the real meaning of the Prophet. 9191     Calvin is not singular in his view of this passage. Scott takes the same view, while Henry regards the passage as containing a promise, and so do Marckius, Newcome, and Henderson. But some have considered the words as those of the false prophets, referred to in the eleventh verse, and that Micah answers them in the next chapter. There is no sufficient ground for this opinion. Of those who regard the passage as including a promise, some apply it to the restoration from the Babylonian captivity, and others to spiritual restoration by the gospel. But the passage, viewed by itself, and in its connection with the next chapter, bears evidently the appearance of a commination: there are especially two words which manifestly favor this view, — תהימנה and הפרף; both are taken generally, if not uniformly, in a bad sense. The first means to tumultuate, to be turbulent and riotous, to be clamorous and noisy; the second signifies to demolish, to break through, to destroy, and in every instance in which it is found as a personal noun, it means a destroyer or a robber. — See Psalm 17:4; Ezekiel 18:10; Daniel 11:14. The first is a verb in the second person plural of the future tense, and in the feminine gender, because of the comparison made in the former lines to sheep and a flock. The verbs in the 12th verse are all in the future tense, and the two first in the 13th are in the past, according to what is common in prophecies, but must be rendered as futures. I propose the following version of the passage, —
   12. Gathering, I will gather Jacob, the whole of thee;
Assembling, I will assemble the residue of Israel;
Together will I set them as the sheep of Bozrah,
As a flock in the midst of its fold;

Ye shall be more noisy than men.

   13. Ascend shall the breaker in the sight of them,
they shall break through,
And pass the gate, yea, they shall go forth through it,
And pass shall their king before them,
And Jehovah
shall be at their head,
or, for their leader.

   — Ed.
Now follows —

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