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Micah 7:3

3. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.

3. Super malitia manuum suarum ad beneficiendum; princeps postulat, et judex in mercede (ego transfero ad verbum,) et magnus loquitur pravitatem animae suae ipse; et complicant (vel, ut alii vertunt, confirmant; sed proprie est complicari; et metaphora apte convenit contextui, ut statim videbimus.)


This verse is properly addressed to the judges and governors of the people, and also to the rich, who oppressed the miserable common people, because they could not redeem themselves by rewards. The Prophet therefore complains, that corruptions so much prevailed in judgments, that the judges readily absolved the most wicked, provided they brought bribes. The sum of what is said then is, that any thing might be done with impunity, for the judges were venal. This is the Prophet’s meaning.

But as interpreters differ, something shall be said as to the import of the words. על הרע כפים, ol ero caphim, For the evil of their hands to do good. Some give this explanation, “Though they are openly wicked, yet they make pretenses, by which they cover their wickedness:” and the sense would be this, — that though they had cast aside every care for what was right, they yet had become so hardened in iniquity, that they wished to be deemed good and holy men; for in a disordered state of things the wicked always show an iron front, and would have silence to be observed respecting their shameful deeds. Some interpreters therefore think that the Prophet here complains, that there was now no difference between what was honorable and base, right and wrong; for wicked men dared so to disguise their iniquities, that they did not appear, or, that no one ventured to say any thing against them. Do you, however, examine and consider, whether what the Prophet says may be more fitly connected together in this way, That they may do good for the wickedness of their hands, that is, to excuse themselves for the wickedness of their hands, they agree together; for the prince asks, the judge is ready to receive a bribe. Thus, the rich saw that exemption might have been got by them, for they had the price of redemption in their hands: they indeed knew that the judges and princes could be pacified, when they brought the price of corruption. And this is the meaning which I approve, for it harmonizes best with the words of the Prophet. At the same time, some give a different explanation of the verb להיטיב, laeithib, that is that they acted vigorously in their wickedness: but this exposition is frigid. I therefore embrace the one I have just stated, which is, — that corruptions so prevailed in the administration of justice, that coverings were ready for all crimes; for the governors and judges were lovers of money, and were always ready to absolve the most guilty, but not without a reward. For the wickedness then of their works, that they may do good, that is, that they may obtain acquittance, the prince only asks; he examines not the case, but only regards the hand; and the judge, he says, judges for reward: the judges also were mercenary. They did not sit to determine what was right and just; but as soon as they were satisfied by bribes, they easily forgave all crimes; and thus they turned vices into virtues; for they made no difference between white and black, but according to the bribe received. 184184     This clause, though the general sense is allowed by most to be the same, is yet variously rendered. Drusius says, “Locus hic diu me multumque torsit.” The original is, —
   el hre kpyM lhyjyb

    The most satisfactory rendering is that which is offered by Marckius, which is this, —

   Propter malefaciendum volae pro benefaciendum,
For doing evil [
are their] hands instead of doing good.

   Rabbi Jonathan, as quoted by Marckius, gives substantially the same rendering, though not literally, —

   Malum faciunt manibus suis, et non bonum faciunt,
Evil they do with their hands, and they do no good.

   Our version is that of Junius and Tremelius, and is substantially followed by Newcome; and Henderson’s version is, —

   For evil their hands are well prepared;

   which is nearly that of the Septuagint,—

   Epi to kakon tav ceirav autwn etoimazousi

    But the following would be as literal a translation as that of Marckius,

   For doing evil are their hands, to do it thoroughly.

   The last verb means not only to do good, but also to make a thing good or complete, fully to execute it. — Ed.

This view is consistent with what the Prophet immediately subjoins, The great, he says, speaks of the wickedness of his soul, even he By the great, he does not mean the chief men, as some incorrectly think, but he means the rich, who had money enough to conciliate the judges. They then who could bring the price of redemption, dared to boast openly of their wickedness: for so I render the word הות, eut, as it cannot be suitable to translate it here, corruption. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does the great; there was then nothing, neither fear nor shame, to restrain the rich from doing wrong. — How so? For they knew that they had to do with mercenary judges and could easily corrupt them. They hence dared to speak of the wickedness of their soul: they did not cloak their crimes, as it is the case when some fear of the Law prevails, when justice is exercised: but as no difference was made between good and evil, the most guilty boasted openly of his wickedness. And the pronoun הוא, eva, he himself, is also emphatical; and this has not been observed by interpreters. He then himself speaks of the wickedness of his soul; he did not wait until others accuse him of doing wrong, but he shamelessly dared to glory in his crimes; for impunity was certain, as he could close the mouth of the judges by bringing a bribe. Speak then of the wickedness of his soul does he himself. 185185     The whole verse may be rendered thus,—
   For doing evil are their hands, to execute it fully:
The prince asks, and the judge
also, for reward;
When the great man speaks of oppression,
That it is his desire, then they contrive it together,
or, literally, entwine it.

   To render הות נפשו הוא, “the wickedness of the soul,” as Newcome does, is to leave out wholly the last word; and Henderson does the same. Piscator gives the form of the words, “aerumnam, quam expetit — the mischief, which he desires.” The two last words literally are, “his desire it is.” — Ed.

And further, they fold up wickedness; which means, that raging cruelty prevailed, because the governors, and those who wished to purchase liberty to sin, conspired together; as though they made ropes, and thus rendered firm their wickedness. For the great man, that is, the rich and the monied, agreed with the judge, and the judge with him; and so there was a collusion between them. It hence happened, that wickedness possessed, as it were, a tyrannical power; for there was no remedy. We now apprehend the real design of the Prophet, at least as far as I am able to discover. It now follows —

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