We have here a long train of mourners attending the funeral of a ruined kingdom.
I. The prophet is himself chief mourner (Mic. 1:8, 9): I will wail and howl; I will go stripped and naked, as a man distracted with grief. The prophets usually expressed their own grief for the public grievances, partly to mollify the predictions of them, and to make it appear that is was not out of ill-will that they denounced the judgments of God (so far were they from desiring the woeful day that they dreaded it more than any thing), partly to show how very dreadful and mournful the calamities would be, and to stir up in the people a holy fear of them, that by repentance they might turn away the wrath of God. Note, We ought to lament the punishments of sinners as well as the sufferings of saints in this world; the weeping prophet did so (Jer. 9:1); so did this prophet. He makes a wailing like the dragons, or rather the jackals, ravenous beasts that in those countries used to meet in the night, and howl, and make hideous noises; he mourns as the owls, the screech-owls, or ostriches, as some read it. Two things the prophet here thus dolefully laments:—1. That Israel’s case is desperate: Her wound is incurable; it is ruin without remedy; man cannot help her; God will not, because she will not by repentance and reformation help herself. There is indeed balm in Gilead and a physician there; but they will not apply to the physician, nor apply the balm to themselves, and therefore the wound is incurable. 2. That Judah likewise is in danger. The cup is going round, and is now put into Judah’s hand: The enemy has come to the gate of Jerusalem. Soon after the destruction of Samaria and the ten tribes, the Assyrian army, under Sennacherib, laid siege to Jerusalem, came to the gate, but could not force their way any further; however, it was with great concern and trouble that the prophet foresaw the fright, so dearly did he love the peace of Jerusalem.
II. Several places are here brought in mourning, and are called upon to mourn; but with this proviso, that they should not let the Philistines hear them (Mic. 1:10): Declare it not in Gath; this is borrowed from David’s lamentation for Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:20), Tell it not in Gath, for the uncircumcised will triumph in Israel’s tears. Note, One would not, if it could be helped, gratify those that make themselves and their companions merry with the sins or with the sorrows of God’s Israel. David was silent, and stifled his griefs, when the wicked were before him, Ps. 39:1. But, though it may be prudent not to give way to a noisy sorrow, yet it is duty to admit a silent one when the church of God is in distress. “Roll thyself in the dust” (as great mourners used to do) “and so let the house of Judah and every house in Jerusalem become a house of Aphrah, a house of dust, covered with dust, crumbled into dust.” When God makes the house dust it becomes us to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, and to put our mouths in the dust, thus accommodating ourselves to the providences that concern us. Dust we are; God brings us to the dust, that we may know it, and own it. Divers other places are here named that should be sharers in this universal mourning, the names of some of which we do not find elsewhere, whence it is conjectured that they are names put upon them by the prophet, the signification of which might either indicate or aggravate the miseries coming upon them, thereby to awaken this secure and stupid people to a holy fear of divine wrath. We find Sennacherib’s invasion thus described, in the prediction of it, by the impressions of terror it should make upon the several cities that fell in his way, Isa. 10:28, 29 Let us observe the particulars here, 1. The inhabitants of Saphir, which signifies neat and beautiful (thou that dwellest fairly, so the margin reads it), shall pass away into captivity, or be forced to flee, stripped of all their ornaments and having their shame naked. Note, Those who appear ever so fine and delicate know not what contempt they may be exposed to; and the more grievous will the shame be to those who have been inhabitants of Saphir. 2. The inhabitants of Zaanan, which signifies the country of flocks, a populous country, where the people are as numerous and thick as flocks of sheep, shall yet be so taken up with their own calamities, felt or feared, that they shall not come forth in the mourning of Bethezel, which signifies a place near, shall not condole with, nor bring any succour to, their next neighbours in distress; for he shall receive of you his standing; the enemy shall encamp among you, O inhabitants of Zaanan! shall take up a station there, shall find footing among you. Those may well think themselves excused from helping their neighbours who find they have enough to do to help themselves and to hold their own. 3. As for the inhabitants of Maroth (which, some think, is put for Ramoth, others that it signifies the rough places), they waited carefully for good, and were grieved for the want of it, but were disappointed; for evil came from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem, when the Assyrian army besieged it, Mic. 1:12. The inhabitants of Maroth might well overlook their own particular grievances when they saw the holy city itself in danger, and might well overlook the Assyrian, that was the instrument, when they saw the evil coming from the Lord. 4. Lachish was a city of Judah, which Sennacherib laid siege to, Isa. 36:1, 2. The inhabitants of that city are called to bind the chariot to the swift beast, to prepare for a speedy flight, as having no other way left to secure themselves and their families; or it is spoken ironically: “You have had your chariots and your swift beasts, but where are they now?” God’s quarrel with Lachish is that she is the beginning of sin, probably the sin of idolatry, to the daughter of Zion (Mic. 1:13); they had learned it from the ten tribes, their near neighbours, and so infected the two tribes with it. Note, Those that help to bring sin into a country do but thereby prepare for the throwing of themselves out of it. Those must expect to be first in the punishment who have been ringleaders in sin. The transgressions of Israel were found in thee; when they came to be traced up to their original they were found to take rise very much from that city. God knows at whose door to lay the blame of the transgressions of Israel, and whom to find guilty. Lachish, having been so much accessory to the sin of Israel, shall certainly be reckoned with: Thou shalt give presents to Moresheth-gath, a city of the Philistines, which perhaps had a dependence upon Gath, that famous Philistine city; thou shalt send to court those of that city to assist thee, but it shall be in vain, for (Mic. 1:14) the houses of Achzib (a city which joined to Mareshah, or Moresheth, and is mentioned with it, Josh. 15:44) shall be a lie to the kings of Israel; though they depend upon their strength, yet they shall fail them. Here there is an allusion to the name. Achzib signifies a lie, and so it shall prove to those that trust in it. 5. Mareshah, that could not, or would not, help Israel, shall herself be made a prey (Mic. 1:15): “I will bring a heir (that is, an enemy) that shall take possession of thy lands, with as much assurance as if he were heir at law to them, and he shall come to Adullam, and to the glory of Israel, that is, to Jerusalem the head city;” or “The glory of Israel shall come to be as Adullam, a poor despicable place;” or, “The king of Assyria, whom Israel had gloried in, shall come to Adullam, in laying the country waste.” 6. The whole land of Judah seems to be spoken to (Mic. 1:16) and called to weeping and mourning: “Make thee bald, by tearing thy hair and shaving thy head; poll thee for thy delicate children, that had been tenderly and nicely brought up; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle when she casts her feathers and is all over bald; for they have gone into captivity from thee, and are not likely to return; and their captivity will be the more grievous to them because they have been brought up delicately and have not been inured to hardship.” Or this is directed particularly to the inhabitants of Mareshah, as Mic. 1:15. That was the prophet’s own city, and yet he denounces the judgments of God against it; for it shall be an aggravation of its sin that it had such a prophet, and knew not the day of its visitation. Its being thus privileged, since it improved not the privilege, shall not procure favour for it either with God or with his prophet.