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SECTION VI. ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET MICAH. 1. Author and date. - II. Occasion and Scope.
its contents. - IV. Prophecies concerning the Messiah. -Observations on its style.
BEFORE CHRIST, 758–699.
1. MICAH, the third of the minor prophets according to the arrangement in the Hebrew and all modern copies, as well as in the Septuagint, was a native of Morasthi, a small town in the southern part of the territory of Judah ; and, as we learn from the commencement of his predictions, prophesied in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of that country : consequently he was contemporary with Isaiah, Joel, Hosea, and Amos.
II. The people of Judah and Israel being very profane and impenitent in the days of Isaiah' (in consequence of which the Assyrian captivity was then hastening upon Israel, and the Babylonian not long after fell upon Judah), the prophet Micah was raised up to second Isaiah, and to confirm his predictions against the Jews and Israelites, whom he invited to repentance both by threatened judgments and by promised mercies.
III. This book contains seven chapters, forming three parts, viz.
INTRODUCTION or title i, 1. Part I. comprises the prophecies delivered in the reign of Jotham
king of Judah (with whom Pekah king of Israel was contemporary), in which the divine judgments are denounced, against both Israel
and Judah for their sins. (i. 2-16.) Part II. contains the predictions delivered in the reigns of Ahaz
king of Judah (with whom his son Hezekiah was associated in the government during the latter part of his life), and of Pekah king of Israel, who was also contemporary with him. (ii.-iv. 8.) In this prophetic discourse, Micah foretels the captivity of both nations (ii. 1–5.), and particularly threatens Israel for their enmity to the house of David (6~13.), and Judah for their cruelty to the pious. (iii. 147.) He then vindicates his prophetic mission (8 -12.), and predicts the yet future triumphant state of the church.
(iv. 1-8.) Part III. includes the prophecies delivered by Micah during the
reign of Hezekiah king of Judah, the first six years of whose government were contemporary with the greater part of the reign of Hoshea, the last king of Israel. (iv. 9-13. v.-vii.) In this portion of the book of Micah, the Jews are threatened with the Babylonish captivity (iv. 9, 10.); the total overthrow of Sennacherib's forces is foretold (11-13.); and the pious king Hezekiah is assured of God's preservation by a new promise of the Mes. siah who should descend from him, and by a prediction of Sennacherib's murder. (v. 1-15.) The people are then forewarned of 1 Compare 2 Kings XV.-xix. 2 Chron. xxvi.--xxi. Isa. xxxvi.--xxxviii.
the judgments that would befal them for their sins in the reign of Manasseh (vi. 1-16.), the wickedness of whose reign is further described, together with his captivity and return from Babylon, as also the return of the Jews from Babylon, and from their general dispersion after they shall be converted to the Gospel.
IV. The book of Micah, who (we have seen) was the contemporary of Isaiah, contains a summary of the prophecies delivered by the latter concerning the Messiah and the final return of the Jews, which are thus translated and arranged by Dr. Hales. Chap. V. 2. “And art thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, little to be [esteemed}
Among the thousands of Judah ?.
Who shall rule my people, the Israel (of God] :
From days of eternity.)
Until the time that she which shall bear
Along with the outcasts of Israel.
In the strength of THE LORD,
And He shall be their PEACE." " This prophecy,” Dr. Hales remarks, "consists of four parts, 1. The human birth-place of Christ. 2. His eternal generation. 3. His temporary desertion of the Jews, until his miraculous birth of the virgin, after which they are to return with the true Israelites. 4. His spiritual and universal dominion.
The application of the first part of this prophecy was decided at the time of our Saviour's birth, by the most respectable Jewish synod that ever sate, convened by Herod, to determine from prophecy the birth-place of the MESSIAH, which they agreed to be Bethlehem, upon
the authority of Micah, which they cited. Their citation, of the first part only, is given by the evangelist Matthew, in an improved translation of the original, greatly superior to any of the antient versions. Matt. j. 6. " And thou Bethlehem, territory of Judah,
Art by no means least among the captains of Judah ;
Who shall guide my people, the Israel (of God].” 1. Here the Evangelist has removed the ambiguity of the question proposed by the prophet, by supplying the answer in the negative. As in Nathan's prophecy,“ Shalt thou build me a house ?” (2 Sam. vii. 5.), the parallel passage answers in the negative, “ Thou shalt not build me a house.” (1 Chron. xvii. 4.)
2. He has supplied a chasm in the Masorete text, of 7113, Nagid, a usual epithet of the Messias (1 Chron. v. 2. ; Isa. lv. 4. ; Dan. ix. 25.), usually rendered 'Hyouuevos, “ leader,” by the Septuagint, and retained here by the evangelist, as a necessary distinction of his character, as supreme commander, from “ the captains of thousands," styled 'Hyguoli, judiciously substituted for the thousands themselves in Micah, to mark the analogy more correctly.
3. He has also determined the pastoral nature of the Messiah's “ ” "rule" by the verb formavel, “shall guide as a shepherd,” afterwards intimated by Micah, ,747), xa novavel, as there rendered by the Septuagint. For He is the Shepherd of Israel” (Gen. xlix. 24. ; Psal. lxxx. 1.), " the chief shepherd” (1 Pet. v. 4.), and "the good shepherd” (John s. 14.), who appointed his apostles to "guide and pasture his sheep.” (John xxi. 6.)
4. The human birth of the Messiah is carefully distinguished by Micah from his eternal generation, in the parenthetical clause, which strongly resembles the account of the primeval birth of Wisdom. (Prov. vii. 22-25.)
5. The blessed virgin of Isaiah's former prophecy (vii. 14.) is evidently alluded to by Micah, and also the return of the remnant of the Jews (Isa. X. 20, 21.), and of the final peace of his kingdom. (Isa. ix. 6, 7.)
This prophecy of Micah is perhaps the most important single prophecy in the Old Testament, and the most comprehensive, respecting the personal character of the Messiah, and his successive manifestation to the world. It crowns the whole chain of prophecies descriptive of the several limitations of the blessed seed of the woman to the line of Shem, to the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the tribe of Judah, and to the royal house of David, here terminating in his birth at Bethlehem," the city of David.” It carefully distinguishes his human nativity from his eternal generation ; foretells the rejection of the Israelites and Jews for a season ; their final restoration, and the universal peace destined to prevail throughout the earth in the Regeneration. It forms, therefore, the basis of the New Testament, which begins with his human birth at Bethlehem, the miraculous circumstances of which are recorded in the introductions of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels; his eternal generation, as the ORACLE or Wisdom, in the sublime introduction of John's Gospel : his prophetic character, and second coming, illustrated in the four Gospels and Epistles, ending with a prediction of the speedy approach of the latter in the Apocalypse. (Rev. xxii. 20.)?
V. The style of Micah is, for the most part, forcible, pointed, and concise, sometimes approaching the obscurity of Hosea; in many parts animated and sublime, and in general truly poetical.
SECTION VII. ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET NAHUM. 1. Author and date. - II. Scope and synopsis of its contents. - III.
Observations on its style.
BEFORE CHRIST, 720—698.
I. NAHUM, the seventh of the minor prophets, is supposed to have been a native of Elkosh or Elkosha, a village in Galilee, and
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situate in the territory that had been apportioned to the tribe of Simeon. There is very great uncertainty concerning the precise time when he lived ; some making him contemporary with Jotham, others, with Manasseh, and others, with Josiah. The most probable opinion is that, which places him between the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, about the year 715 before the Christian æra : and, as the design of this prophet is to denounce ruin upon Nineveh and the Assyrians, for their cruel tyranny over the Israelites, and as the captivity of the ten tribes took place in the tenth year of Hoshea king of Israel (2 Kings xvii. 6., &c. compared with 2 Kings xvii. 9-11.), it is most likely that Nahum prophesied against the Assyrians for the comfort of the people of God, towards the close of Hezekiah's reign.
II. The inhabitants of Nineveh, like those of other great cities abounding in wealth and luxury, having become extremely corrupt in their morals, God commissioned Jonah to preach to them the necessity of repentance, as the only means of averting their imminent destruction. And such was the success of his preaching, that both the king and people repented and turned from their evil ways; and the divine judgment was in consequence delayed for a time. It appears, however, that this repentance was of no long duration ; for, the Ninevites relapsing into their former wickedness, the prophet Nahum was commissioned to denounce the final and inevitable ruin of Nineveh and the Assyrian empire by the Chaldeans, and to comfort his countrymen in the certainty of their destruction.
His prophecy is one entire poem, which, opening with a sublime description of the justice and power of God tempered with longsuffering (i. 148.), foretels the destruction of Sennacherib's forces, and the subversion of the Assyrian empire (9_12.), together with the deliverance of Hezekiah and the death of Sennacherib. (13— 15.) The destruction of Nineveh is then predicted, and described with singular minuteness. (ii. ii.)?
ill. In boldness, ardour, and sublimity, Nahum is superior to all the minor prophets. His language is pure ; and the exordium of his prophecy, which forms a regular and perfect poem, is not merely magnificent, it is truly majestic. The preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its dawnfal and desolation, are expressed in the most vivid colours, and with images that are truly pathetic and sublime.
1 The best commentary, perhaps, on this prophet, is the ninth of Bishop New. ton's Dissertations (vol. 1. pp. 141-158.); in which he has ably illustrated the predictions of Nahum and other prophets who foretold the destruction of Nineveh.
ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ZEPHANIAH.
1. Author and date.-II. Scope and Analysis of this book.
BEFORE CHRIST, 640-609.
1. THIS prophet, who was “the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah,” (i. 1.) is supposed to have been of the tribe of Simeon; but, though he has mentioned his ancestors for no less than four generations, nothing certain can be inserred from thence, as to the family to which he belonged. We learn, however, from his prophecy that he delivered his predictions in the reign of Josiah ; consequently he prophesied about the time that Jeremiah entered on his prophetic office, and in method and subject he greatly resembles him.
On this account Zephaniah has been considered as the abbreviator of Jeremiah; but it is evident that he prophesied before Jeremiah, because the latter (Jer. ii. 5. 20. 22.) seems to speak of those abuses as partially removed, which the former (Zeph. i. 4, 5. 9.) describes as existing in the most flagitious extent. From his account of the disorders prevailing in Judah, it is probable that he discharged the prophetic office before the eighteenth year of Josiah ; that is, before this prince had reformed the abuses and corruptions of his dominions. The style of Zephaniah is poetical, though it is not characterised by any striking or uncommon beauties.
II. In consequence of the idolatry and other iniquities prevailing in the kingdom of Judah, whose inhabitants had disregarded the denunciations and admonitions of former prophets, Zephaniah was commissioned to proclaim the enormity of their wickedness, and to denounce the imminent desolation that awaited them ; to excite them to repentance, to foretel the destruction of their enemics, and to comfort the pious Jews with promises of future blessings.
His prophecy, which consists of three chapters, may be divided into four sections, viz.
Sect. 1. A denunciation against Judah for their idolatry. (i.) Sect. 2. Repentance the only means to avert the divine vengeance.
(ii. 1-3.) Sect. 3. Prophecies against the Philistines (ii. 4-7.), Moabites
and Ammonites (8–11.), Ethiopia (12.), and Nineveh. (13
15.) Sect. 4. The captivity of the Jews by the Babylonians foretold
(iii. 1-7.), together with their future restoration and the ultimiate prosperous state of the church. (8-20.)