The Lamentation of the People and the Lord's Promise.

THE PRAYER OF REPENTANCE. — V. 1. Woe is me! so the prophet calls out in the name of the congregation, for I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as when a few lonely stalks are left in the harvest-field, as the grape-gleanings of the vintage, when only a few berries are left, the entire picture being one of utter desolation; there is no cluster to eat, all the fruit having been removed; my soul desired the first-ripe fruit, panting for this delicacy, which was particularly relished by the people. The entire sentence may also be construed as an exclamation: Not a grape to eat! Not an early fig, such as my soul desired! The picture is now explained. V. 2. The good man is perished out of the earth, one who can be depended upon for faithfulness, and there is none upright among men, the upright having become as scarce as early figs after the grape-harvest. They all lie in wait for blood, cp. Ps. 10, 8 ff.; they hunt every man his brother with a net, although they are the sons of one Father and each one is bound by the Law to love the other as himself. V. 3. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, literally, "upon evil are their hands to perform it well," they are glad, eager, full of zeal for the evil; the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward, seeking revenge for themselves whenever they consider their dignity hurt; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up, or, "and the great man - the mischief of his soul he utters, and together they plait it," all the mighty men of the nation intriguing together to weave webs of intrigues, snares for their unwary victims, V. 4. The best of them is as a brier, from which one may expect only evil and harm; the most upright, the one considered an example of virtue, is sharper than a thorn hedge; the day of thy watchmen, the day foretold by the true prophets, and thy visitation cometh, the judgment is at hand; now shall be their perplexity, confusion, that men would not know where to turn for counsel and assistance. The extreme moral corruption of the people is now sketched in a few bold strokes. V. 5. Trust ye not in a friend, in any with whom one might daily associate, put ye not confidence in a guide, in a most intimate friend; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom, for it was not safe to place unlimited confidence in one's very wife. V. 6. For the son dishonoreth the father, openly despising him, the daughter riseth up against her mother, refusing her the love and honor which she owes, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, all the most sacred relationships being utterly broken down; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. Similar conditions preceded the fall of Jerusalem and will precede the end of the world. Cp. Matt. 10, 21. V. 7. Therefore, so the prophet cries out, because such were the conditions, I will look unto the Lord, lifting up his eyes for salvation from the God of the covenant; I will wait for the God of my salvation, holding out in spite of what seems a disheartening delay; my God will hear me, with an effectual, active answer. Cp. Ps. 27, 9; Is. 17, 10. V. 8. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, the hostile world-power in general being addressed, as from the standpoint of the Lord's people; when I fall, I shall arise, for the restoration of Israel was thought of chiefly in the spiritual sense; when I sit in darkness, suffering with the affliction brought on by God's judgments, the Lord shall be a light unto me. Cp. Ps. 27, 1. V. 9. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, with the humble submission which characterizes the repentant heart, because I have sinned against Him, such a free and unequivocal confession being essential if the sorrow is genuine, until He plead my cause, taking the part of His people against the enemies, and execute judgment for me, maintaining and establishing His Church in spite of all hostility; He will bring me forth to the light, namely, out of the darkness of captivity and oppression, and I shall behold His righteousness, for the deliverance of His people was in agreement with the Lord's ancient promises. V. 10. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, this being the confident expectation of the Lord's people, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord, thy God? in the scornful question usually asked by the enemies of the Church. Mine eyes shall behold her, with quiet satisfaction; now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets. V. 11. In the day that thy walls are to be built, rather, "a day of building thy walls" (is coming), so the prophet assures the believing members of His people, those who were truly awaiting the Messiah's coming, in that day shall the decree be far removed, namely, the decree which fixed a sharp line of division between Israel and the heathen nations. V. 12. In that day also He shall come even to thee, the restored Zion, from Assyria and from the fortified cities, from the cities of Egypt, and from the fortress, namely, Egypt, even to the river, the Euphrates, to indicate all the countries lying between, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain, from all the regions and countries of the earth, all those whom the Lord had chosen from the various countries of the world. Cp. Is. 19, 18-25. V. 13. Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate, the reference very likely being to the earthly Palestine, because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. While the Land of Promise, which formerly flowed with milk and honey, has largely lost its fertility, the spiritual Zion, the Church of God, is built up by members added from all the nations of the earth.

THE PROPHET’S LAST SUPPLICATION. — V. 14. Feed Thy people with Thy rod, with a true shepherd's care, the staff being the mark of the shepherd, Zech. 11, 4 ff.; Ps. 23, 4, the flock of Thine heritage, the possession of Jehovah, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel, rather, "in the forest in the midst of Carmel let them feed," surrounded by the richest blessings; let them teed in Bashan and Gilead, whose rich meadows were proverbial in Israel, as in the days of old, when, under David, the kingdom enjoyed the fullness of material and spiritual prosperity. The Lord answers this plea with an assurance of His mercy, to be given in a larger measure than His people asked for. V. 15. According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt when He overthrew the enemies with a mighty hand and revealed His goodness to Israel, will I show unto him marvelous things, His Church being given the wonders of His grace. V. 16. The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might, because all their vaunted power would be as nothing in the sight of the almighty God; they shall lay their hands upon their mouth, in reverent silence, in extreme astonishment, their ears shall be deaf, before the thunder of Jehovah's mighty deeds. V. 17. They shall lick the dust like a serpent, in deepest humiliation; they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth, literally, "as those things that creep on the earth"; they shall tremble forth out of their hiding-places; they shall be afraid of the Lord, our God, approaching to Him with terror, and shall fear because of thee. With these words the prophet once more turns directly to Jehovah, addressing Him in words of praise. V. 18. Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, in the act of justification which is the basis of the work in His Church, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? in granting forgiveness to those who are His people in truth. Cp. Ex. 34, 6. 7. He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy, His great acts of mercy being the outstanding feature of His work in His Church. V. 19. He will turn again, so the prophet assures the believers; He will have compassion upon us, He will subdue our iniquities, treading them down like enemies that rise up against the believers; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea, so that they are covered over and can no more rise to condemn the Lord's people. V. 20. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the mercy to Abraham, as contained in the wonderful Messianic promises, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old. With this exalted hymn of praise Micah closes his book, speaking in a strain similar to that of Paul in Rom. 11, 33-36. We have here true Gospel-preaching, such as sustained the believers of the Old Testament in their eager watching for the time of the Messiah, to which we also may turn for comfort in the midst of the corruption of these last days of the world, knowing, however, that our salvation is nigh.