1 And I said, "Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob and you princes of the house of Israel. Is it not for you to know judgment?
2 You hate the good and love the evil. You pluck off their skin from them and their flesh from off their bones.
3 You also eat the flesh of my people and flay their skin from off them. You break their bones and chop them in pieces, as for the pot and as flesh within the cauldron.
4 Then you shall cry to the LORD, but he will not hear you. He will even hide his face from you at that time, as you have been ill behaved in your doings."
5 Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who deceive my people, who bite with their teeth, and cry, "Peace," and he who puts nothing into their mouths, they even prepare war against him:
6 "Therefore, night shall be for you so that you shall not have a vision. And it shall be dark for you so that you shall not divine. And the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.
7 Then the seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners confounded. Indeed, they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God."
8 But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of judgment and of might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Jacob and princes of the house of Israel, who abhor judgment and pervert all equity.
10 They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Her heads judge for bribes, her priests teach for payment, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they will lean upon the LORD and say, "Is the LORD not among us? No evil can come upon us."
12 Therefore, Zion for your sake shall be plowed as a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
In this chapter the prophet reproves and threatens both princes and prophets, first separately, and then conjunctly; first the heads and princes of the people, civil magistrates, for their ignorance of justice, and hatred of good, and love of evil, and for their oppression and cruelty; and they are threatened with distress when they should cry to the Lord, and should not be heard by him (verses 1-4); next the prophets are taken to task, for their voraciousness, avarice, and false prophesying; and are threatened with darkness, with lack of vision, and of an answer from the Lord, and with shame and confusion (verses 5-7); and the prophet being full of the Spirit and power of God, to declare the sins and transgressions of Jacob and Israel (verse 8), very freely declaims against princes, priests, and prophets, all together; who, though guilty of very notorious crimes, yet were in great security, and promised themselves impunity (verses 9-11); therefore the city and temple of Jerusalem are threatened with an utter desolation (verse 12).
[v.2] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Inasmuch then as the state of this ancient people had become so degenerated, let us learn to walk in solicitude and fear, while the Lord governs us by pious magistrates and faithful pastors: for what happened to the Jews might soon happen to us, so that wolves might bear rule over us, as indeed experience has proved..."
[v.3] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "When a private man is disposed to do harm, he is restrained at least by fear of the laws, and dares not to do anything at his pleasure; but in princes there is a greater boldness; and they are able to do greater injustice: and this is the reason why they ought to observe more forbearance and humanity. Hence levity and paternal kindness especially are suitable for princes and those in power."
[v.4] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "It may however be asked here, how it is that God rejects the prayers and entreaties of those who cry to him? It must first be observed, that the reprobate, though they rend the air with their cries, do not yet direct their prayers to God; but if they address God himself, they do this clamorously; for they expostulate with him, and contend with him, they even vomit out their blasphemies, or at least they murmur and complain of their evils. The ungodly then cry, but not to the Lord; or if they address their cries to God, they are, as it has been said, full of clamor. Hence, except one is guided by the Spirit of God, he cannot pray from the heart. And we know that it is the peculiar office of the Spirit to raise up our hearts to heaven: for in vain we pray, except we bring faith and repentance: and who is the author of these but the Holy Spirit? It appears then that the ungodly so cry, that they only violently contend with God: but this is not the right way of praying. It is therefore no wonder that God rejects their clamors... But when any one falls [and repents] he will ever find God propitious to him, as soon as he cries to him; but when with obstinate minds we pursue our own course, and give no place to repentance, we close up the door of mercy against ourselves."
[v.5] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "They will flatter and compliment those who will feed them with good bits, will give them something to eat; but as for those who put [nothing] into their mouths, who are not continually cramming them, they look upon them as their enemies; to them they do not cry peace, as they do to those whom they look upon as their benefactors, but they even prepare war against them; against them they denounce the judgments of God."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 2:12-3:5:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you would have the image of your justice to shine in princes, and whom you arm with the sword, that they might rule in your name, and be really your ministers,— O grant, that this your blessing may openly appear among us, and that by this evidence you may testify that you are not only propitious to us, but had also a care for our safety, and watch over our welfare and well-being: and may you so shine by your word, that it may never be obscured or clouded among us through any depraved cupidity, but ever retain its own clear purity, so that we may proceed in the right path of salvation, which you have discovered and prescribed, until we be at length gathered into your celestial kingdom, to enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been procured for us by the blood of your only-begotten Son. Amen.
[v.8] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God's servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as it is said in Ezekiel 3:8-9; nor must we yield to their fury, but preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this courage of which Micah speaks."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 6-10:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you would have us to be ruled by the preaching of your word,— O grant, that those who have to discharge this office may be really endued with your celestial power, that they may not attempt anything of themselves, but with all devotedness spend all their labors for you and for our benefit, that through them we may be thus edified, so that you may ever dwell among us, and that we through our whole life may become the habitation of your Majesty, and that finally we may come to your heavenly sanctuary, where you daily invite us, as an entrance there has been once for all opened to us by the blood of your only-begotten Son. Amen.
[v.11a] - "Nothing then remains pure where avarice bears rule." —John Calvin
[v.11b] - Reference, Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Proverbs 15:27, 17:23; Isaiah 1:23; 1st Peter 5:2.
[v.11c] - "money" - Literally, "silver," but is often understood as money in general.
[v.11d] - "Yet they will lean upon the LORD" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "It is penitence that leads us to God; for it is when we are cast down that we recumb on him; but he who is inflated with self-confidence flies in the air, and has nothing solid in him."
[v.11-12] - Calvin's prayer for these verses is included with the first verse of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter.