Verses 1–6

This is such a description of bad times as, some think, could scarcely agree to the times of Hezekiah, when this prophet prophesied; and therefore they rather take it as a prediction of what should be in the reign of Manasseh. But we may rather suppose it to be in the reign of Ahaz (and in that reign he prophesied, Mic. 1:1) or in the beginning of Hezekiah’s time, before the reformation he was instrumental in; nay, in the best of his days, and when he had done his best to purge out corruptions, still there was much amiss. The prophet cries out, Woe is me! He bemoans himself that his lot was cast in such a degenerate age, and thinks it his great unhappiness that he lived among a people that were ripening apace for a ruin which many a good man would unavoidably be involved in. Thus David cries out, Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech! He laments, 1. That there were so few good people to be found, even among those that were God’s people; and this was their reproach: The good man has perished out of the earth, or out of the land, the land of Canaan; it was a good land, and a land of uprightness (Isa. 26:10), but there were few good men in it, none upright among them, Mic. 7:2. The good man is a godly man and a merciful man; the word signifies both. Those are completely good men that are devout towards God and compassionate and beneficent towards men, that love mercy and walk with God. “These have perished; those few honest men that some time ago enriched and adorned our country are now dead and gone, and there are none risen up in their stead that tread in their steps; honesty is banished, and there is no such thing as a good man to be met with. Those that were of religious education have degenerated, and become as bad as the worst; the godly man ceases,” Ps. 12:1. This is illustrated by a comparison (Mic. 7:1): they were as when they have gathered the summer fruits; it was as hard a thing to find a good man as to find any of the summer-fruits (which were the choicest and best, and therefore must carefully be gathered in) when the harvest is over. The prophet is ready to say, as Elijah in his time (1 Kgs. 19:10), I, even I only, am left. Good men, who used to hang in clusters, are now as the grape-gleanings of the vintage, here and there a berry, Isa. 17:6. You can find no societies of them as bunches of grapes, but those that are are single persons: There is no cluster to eat; and the best and fullest grapes are those that grow in large clusters. Some think that this intimates not only that good people were few, but that those few who remained, who went for good people, were good for little, like the small withered grapes, the refuse that were left behind, not only by the gatherer, but by the gleaner. When the prophet observed this universal degeneracy it made him desire the first-ripe fruit; he wished to see such worthy good men as were in the former ages, were the ornaments of the primitive times, and as far excelled the best of all the present age as the first and full-ripe fruits do those of the latter growth, that never come to maturity. When we read and hear of the wisdom and zeal, the strictness and conscientiousness, the devotion and charity, of the professors of religion in former ages, and see the reverse of this in those of the present age, we cannot but sit down, and wish, with a sigh, O for primitive Christianity again! Where are the plainness and integrity of those that went before us? Where are the Israelites indeed, without guile? Our souls desire them, but in vain. The golden age is gone, and past recall; we must make the best of what is, for we are not likely to see such times as have been. 2. That there were so many wicked mischievous people among them, not only none that did any good, but multitudes that did all the hurt they could: “They all lie in wait for blood, and hunt every man his brother. To get wealth to themselves, they care not what wrong, what hurt, they do to their neighbours and nearest relations. They act as if mankind were in a state of war, and force were the only right. They are as beasts of prey to their neighbours, for they all lie in wait for blood as lions for their prey; they thirst after it, make nothing of taking away any man’s life or livelihood to serve a turn for themselves, and lie in wait for an opportunity to do it. Their neighbours are as beasts of prey to them, for they hunt every man his brother with a net; they persecute them as noxious creatures, fit to be taken and destroyed, though they are innocent excellent ones.” We say of him that is outlawed, Caput gerit lupinum—He is to be hunted as a wolf. “Or they hunt them as men do the game, to feast upon it; they have a thousand cursed arts of ensnaring men to their ruin, so that they may but get by it. Thus they do mischief with both hands earnestly; their hearts desire it, their heads contrive it, and then both hands are ready to put it in execution.” Note, The more eager and intent men are upon any sinful pursuit, and the more pains they take in it, the more provoking it is. 3. That the magistrates, who by their office ought to have been the patrons and protectors of right, were the practicers and promoters of wrong: That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, to excite and animate themselves in it, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh, for a reward, for a bribe, with which they well be hired to exert all their power for the supporting and carrying on of any wicked design with both hands. They do evil with both hands well (so some read it); they do evil with a great deal of art and dexterity; they praise themselves for doing it so well. Others read it thus: To do evil they have both hands (they catch at an opportunity of doing mischief), but to do good the prince and the judge ask for a reward; if they do any good offices they are mercenary in them, and must be paid for them. The great man, who has wealth and power to do good, is not ashamed to utter his mischievous desire in conjunction with the prince and the judge, who are ready to support him and stand by him in it. So they wrap it up; they perplex the matter, involve it, and make it intricate (so some understand it), that they may lose equity in a mist, and so make the cause turn which way they please. It is ill with a people when their princes, and judges, and great men are in a confederacy to pervert justice. And it is a sad character that is given of them (Mic. 7:4), that the best of them is as a brier, and the most upright is sharper than a thorn-hedge; it is a dangerous thing to have any thing to do with them; he that touches them must be fenced with iron (2 Sam. 23:6, 7), he shall be sure to be scratched, to have his clothes torn, and his eyes almost pulled out. And, if this be the character of the best and most upright, what are the worst? And, when things have come to this pass, the day of thy watchmen comes, that is, as it follows, the day of thy visitation, when God will reckon with thee for all this wickedness, which is called the day of the watchmen, because their prophets, whom God set as watchmen over them, had often warned them of that day. When all flesh have corrupted their way, even the best and the most upright, what can be expected but a day of visitation, a deluge of judgments, as that which drowned the old world when the earth was filled with violence? 4. That there was no faith in man; people had grown so universally treacherous that one knew not whom to repose any confidence in, Mic. 7:5. “Those that have any sense of honour, or spark of virtue, remaining in them, have a firm regard to the laws of friendship; they would not discover what passed in private conversation, nor divulge secrets, to the prejudice of a friend. But those things are now made a jest of; you will not meet with a friend that you dare trust, whose word you dare take, or who will have any tenderness or concern for you; so that wise men shall give it and take it for a rule, trust you not in a friend, for you will find him false, you can trust him no further than you can see him; and even him that passes for an honest man you will find to be so only with good looking to. Nay, as for him that undertakes to be your guide, to lead you into any business which he professes to understand better than you, you cannot put a confidence in him, for he will be sure to mislead you if he can get any thing by it.” Some by a guide understand a husband, who is called the guide of thy youth; and that agrees well enough with what follows, “Keep the doors of thy lips from her that lieth in thy bosom, from thy own wife; take heed what thou sayest before her, lest she betray thee, as Delilah did Samson, lest she be the bird of the air that carries the voice of that which thou sayest in thy bed-chamber,” Eccl. 10:20. It is an evil time indeed when the prudent are obliged even thus far to keep silence. 5. That children were abusive to their parents, and men had no comfort, no satisfaction, in their own families and their nearest relations, Mic. 7:6. The times are bad indeed when the son dishonours his father, gives him bad language, exposes him, threatens him, and studies to do him a mischief, when the daughter rises up in rebellion against her own mother, having no sense of duty, or natural affection; and no marvel that then the daughter-in-law quarrels with her mother-in-law, and is vexatious to her. Either they cannot agree about their property and interest, or their humours and passions clash, or from a spirit of bigotry and persecution, the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child, Matt. 10:4; Luke 21:16. It is sad when a man’s betrayers and worst enemies are the men of his own house, his own children and servants, that should be his guard and his best friends. Note, The contempt and violation of the laws of domestic duties are a sad symptom of a universal corruption of manners. Those are never likely to come to good that are undutiful to their parents, and study to be provoking to them and cross them.