For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

2:1.  “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.”

The prophet pronounces woe or judgment upon those who lie awake at night devising evil schemes for their own enrichment regardless of the means by which that enrichment may be obtained, and who then rise up in the morning to execute their plans, being not only unscrupulous in their scheming, but having also the power to seize by force what they want.  Part of that evil power was their wealth which enabled them to secure false court judgments in their favor through bribery of corrupt judges; the charging of exorbitant interest for loans to the needy, even though God had forbidden them to lend money at usury; the use of false weights in connection with buying and selling; and a host of other wrong methods by which they cheated others and enriched themselves.

God, however, would match the punishment to the crime.  As they had taken by force the lands and houses of the poor who were powerless to resist them, so would they in turn be delivered into the hand of the Assyrians whom they would be powerless to resist, and who would take by force from them all they possessed.

It is to be noted, incidentally, that God had forbidden the permanent sale of property.  In the year of jubilee the property that had been sold was to revert to its original owner, the price of property being governed by the nearness of the sale to the year of jubilee: the closer to that year, the lower the price, since the buyer would have a shorter time to use it, see Le 7.

It cannot be denied that the very same evils pervade today’s society; but He Who beheld the evil in the midst of Israel, sees no less clearly the present evil, and will just as surely punish it, His stroke coming in the form of the impending Tribulation judgments which will destroy the whole structure of society, just as His judgment of Israel brought the complete destruction of that nation.  As they were slain or carried away captive, so will the Tribulation end with the banishment of every evildoer into hell.

2:2.  “And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away!  so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.”

An example of just such evil covetousness was Ahab’s seizure of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Ki 2:1-16.  By fair means or foul (and preferably by foul), the greedy heartless rich seized the possessions of the poor who lacked the means to resist them, forgetting that God beheld their evil, and was about to requite it in full measure, and by the very same means as they themselves employed.  As they seized by force, so would the enemy Whom God was about to send, also take by force, not only their possessions, but their persons.  As they had killed, so would they be killed.  As they had made slaves of the victims they had left penniless, so would they be carried away into slavery.

2:3.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.”

As they, unseen, in the darkness of night, in the seclusion of their beds, had unjustly plotted evil against others, so, unknown to them, was God planning evil against them, but as the just recompense of their very great wickedness.

“... from which ye shall not remove your necks.”  As their victims were powerless against them, so would the evil oppressors be helpless against God.  As their evil scheming had resulted in the yoke of slavery being placed on the necks of their hapless victims, so were they about to find their own necks in God’s yoke as the Assyrians would lead Israel; and later the Babylonians, Judah, off into slavery.

“... neither shall ye go haughtily.”  They had walked with heads held high in arrogant pride, but there would be no arrogance, no pride, as they themselves were led off as slaves of their captors.

“... for this time is evil.”  The language of the KJ version is ambiguous.  Certainly that time was evil in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the victims of the rich and cruel oppressors, but the reference is to the coming Assyrian, and later the Babylonian, devastation of Israel and Judah, as God’s instruments of destruction.

There can be no question that that foretold judgment of Israel and Judah is itself the foreshadowing of that which came in AD 70 at the hand of the Romans, and which is in turn the foreshadowing of the still more terrible judgments of the  coming Tribulation, which will devastate, not just Israel, but the whole world.

2:4.  “In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.”

“Parable” here means a satire: taunting song: mocking dirge, that would be sung by Israel’s enemies, they pretending to put themselves in Israel’s place, and mockingly uttering her words of mourning as though they themselves were suffering her sorrow.  They would mockingly repeat her bitter lament, “We be utterly spoiled, etc.”

“... he hath changed the portion of my people” is also translated as “... our fields are apportioned out among our captors,” “... God has confiscated our land and sent us far away.”

“... turning away he hath divided our fields” means that God had turned away from them and given the land to the enemy Assyrian.

With all of these things her enemies would satirically mock captive Israel, taunting her by repeating her own bitter lament.

2:5.  “Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord.”

To “cast a cord by lot” was to mark off the boundary of an assigned piece of land.  The rich grasping land owners had had no compunction about altering boundary lines to increase their holdings by falsely claiming as theirs what rightfully belonged to their poor neighbors.  But God was about to end all that, by having them carried captive into Assyria, where their captors would measure off for them, not fields, but the limits of what they, now become slaves, could or could not do.

2:6.  “Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.”

The false prophets were trying to silence God’s messengers by forbidding them to deliver God’s rebuke and its accompanying assurance of coming judgment.  The Amplified translation renders this verse, “Do not preach, say the prophesying false prophets; one should not babble and harp on such things: disgrace will not overtake us....”

Today’s false prophets are equally determined to silence those who would proclaim the truth, but they are dangerously subtle in doing their nefarious work.  They pretend to preach the same gospel as the true evangelist, but theirs is a gospel expunged of warning, for it denies the existence of hell, and the eternal punishment of the unrepentant, and presents God as being too loving to consign anyone to any kind of punishment.  And they are popular and successful because that is exactly what men want to hear, so that the preacher of truth is mocked and hated just as were the prophets whom Israel also mocked and stoned.  But time confirmed the words of God’s prophets then, and so will it be again.  The judgments they foretold came, as will those of the impending Tribulation, only the spiritually blind failing to see how very close those judgments are.

2:7.  “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?”

This verse is also translated, “Is that the right reply for you to make, O House of Jacob?  Do you think the Spirit of the Lord likes to talk to you so roughly?  No!  His threats are for your good, to get you on the path again” - Taylor; while yet other translations indicate that the question “is the spirit of the Lord straitened?” is literally, “is the spirit of the Lord impatient?”  “Is the Lord short of patience?”  “Has Jehovah lost patience?”

The querulous complaint of Israel was not justified.  God is not impatient, but on the contrary very patient.  Israel’s long continued and multiplying evil, however, had finally exhausted His patience.  All His rebukes and warnings given through His prophets had been designed to bring the guilty nation back to an obedient walk so that He could continue to bless them, but all had been to no avail.  They increased their sin, refused to repent, and rejected His warnings, and now they must suffer His righteous wrath.

An even more sinful and rebellious Christendom has followed in Israel’s foolish footsteps, and is also about to experience the outpouring of His righteous wrath in the quickly approaching Tribulation, her guilt being compounded by reason of having the record of Israel’s disastrous experience to warn her against repeating that nation’s folly.

2:8.  “Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war.”

The Jerusalem Bible translates this verse, “It is you who play the enemy to my people.  From the innocent man you snatch his cloak, on the man who thinks himself safe you inflict the damage of war.”

They accused God of being an enemy of Israel because He denounced the evil deeds of the rich who so cruelly oppressed the poor, but His angry response to their false charge was to confront them with the multiplied sins they committed daily against their unfortunate fellows, and which marked them as the enemies of the people. 

The reference to their pulling off “the robe with the garment” seems to relate to their flagrant breach of His commandment which forbade a creditor to take the debtor’s cloak as security without returning it to him by sundown, see Dt 24:13.  They, however, stripped the hapless debtor, as marauding soldiers would strip their victims

2:9.  “The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.”

The women mentioned were widows, and with callous indifference the unscrupulous rich, greedy for even more wealth, evicted them from their God-given inheritance, thus leaving them and their children destitute.

In acting as they had they had also taken away God’s glory, for it was His glory to prosper His people, and when the rich robbed the poor they were making it appear that He was incapable of meeting their needs.

2:10.  “Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.”

There is no thought here of their obeying the command by leaving the land voluntarily.  This was God’s assurance that He was about to have them dragged away as slaves, leaving behind them all that they had rapaciously seized from the poor.  By His just requittal of their evil they were going to experience the very same misery their unjust seizure of lands and goods had caused the hapless victims of their callous greed.

Rest was one of the blessings with which God rewarded obedience, but their moral pollution of the land cut off that blessing, and guaranteed their destruction.  As they had robbed the poor of peace by oppressing them, so now they were about to become the oppressed as slaves in Assyria where they would be granted no peace.  How accurately God fits the punishment to the crime!

2:11.  “If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.”

If one came to them in a spirit of lies, professing to be a true prophet, and promising them the joy of which wine and liquor are the biblical symbols - and there were many such deceivers - he would be just such a prophet as they wanted and deserved, for they, by their own lying words, had deceived the poor and robbed them to enrich themselves.

Again, God was about to match the punishment to the crime!

It is instructive, however, to note that this is exactly what is foretold relative to the judgments which are about to overtake Christendom and this present evil world, see 1 Thes 5:1-3, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”  Relative to these evil days Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they, having itching ears, heap to themselves teachers; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” 2 Tim 4:3-4.

2:12.  “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 a great noise by reason of the multitude of men.”

Even in the execution of judgment God remembers mercy, as declared here.  Beyond the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities; beyond the Diaspora of AD 70; beyond the Tribulation judgments, He points to a coming day of peace and blessing when He will bring out of the now imminent Tribulation, a believing remnant of Israel (no longer divided into Judah and Israel, but a united nation, one flock).  Bozrah, meaning a fold, a place of safety, and renowned for its rich pastures, speaks, not only of the peace and safety, but of the rich blessing that will be enjoyed by Israel in the Millennium.  But the blessing will go beyond regathered Israel: a believing remnant of the nations will also be brought into the enjoyment of millennial blessing.  The Lord Himself also spoke of that coming day when He was here on earth, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd,” Jn 10:16.

“... they shall make a great noise by reason of the multitude of men,” means simply that in the coming Millennium, instead of having to cut them off in judgment, their obedience will enable Him to bless them, their multiplication being an evidence of that blessing.

2:13.  “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.”

Other translations clarify the obscurity of the KJ version, e.g., “The Breaker [the Messiah] will go up before them.  They will break through, pass in through the gate and go out through it,” - Amplified; “The Messiah will lead you out of exile and bring you through the gates of your cities of captivity, back to your own land,” - Taylor.

“... the Lord on the head of them” is better translated “the Lord at the head leading them.” 

This points to what will follow the Tribulation judgments: God will regather His scattered people from the four corners of the earth, bringing them back to Canaan to enjoy millennial blessing under the beneficent reign of their King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

[Micah 3]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough