1 Hear now what the LORD says. "Arise, contend before the mountains and let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, O mountains, the LORD'S controversy, and you strong foundations of the earth, for the LORD has a controversy with his people and he will plead with Israel.
3 O my people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against me.
4 For I brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of servants, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
5 O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, [and what I did] from Shittim to Gilgal, so that you may know the righteousness of the LORD."
6 How shall I come before the LORD and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
9 The LORD'S voice cries to the city—and wisdom shall fear your name, "Hear the rod and who has appointed it.
10 Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the ungodly, and the scant measure that is abominable?
11 Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances and with the bag of deceitful weights?
12 For the rich men thereof are full of violence and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
13 Therefore, I have also made you to grieve in smiting you. I have made you desolate because of your sins.
14 You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and your emptiness shall be in the midst of you. And you shall take hold, but shall not preserve. And that which you preserve I will give up to the sword.
15 You shall sow, but you shall not reap. You shall tread the olives, but you shall not anoint yourself with oil. You shall make sweet wine, but shall not drink wine.
16 For the statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab are kept, and you walk in their counsels. Therefore, I will make you a desolation and the inhabitants thereof a hissing, and you shall bear the reproach of my people."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains reproofs of the people of Israel for their sins, threatening them with punishment for them. The prophet is bid to tell them of the controversy the Lord had with them, which he did (verses 1-2); and the Lord calls upon them to declare if they had anything to object to his attitude toward them (verse 3); and then puts them in mind of the favors they had received from him, in bringing them out of Egypt, and giving them such useful persons to go before them, lead and instruct them, as he had (verse 4); and also reminds them of what passed between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam the soothsayer; the questions of the one, and the answer of the other; whereby the designs of the former against them were frustrated (verses 5-8); but since the voice of the Lord by his prophet was disregarded by them, they are called upon to listen to the voice of his rod (verse 9); which should be laid upon them for their fraudulent dealings, injustice, oppression, lies, and deceit (verses 10-12); and therefore are threatened with sickness and desolation, and a deprivation of all good things, the fruit of their labors (verses 13-15); and that because the statutes of Omri, the works of Ahab, and their counsels, were observed by them (verse 16).
[v.2] - "Sin begets a controversy between God and man." —Matthew Henry
[v.5] - "[and what I did] from Shittim to Gilgal" - In other words, "Remember what I did for you from Shittim to Gilgal." This statement is to be separate from the one about Balak and Balaam. Text in square brackets added for implied meaning. The added text was taken from John Owen's rendering of the text. From John Gill's Exposition: "Here something must be supplied to make sense of the words; 'remember what good things I did for you, from Shittim to Gilgal'; the former was the place where the children of Israel committed lewdness and idolatry, and was on the other side [of the] Jordan; and the latter was the place they came to when they had passed over [the] Jordan, where the covenant of circumcision was renewed, and the first passover kept; now they are called upon to remember the goodness of God to them from one place to another, and what [was] done between them; how that at Shittim, though they provoked the Lord to anger, yet he did not cut them all off, but spared a number of them, to enter and possess the land of Canaan; and though Moses died by the way, yet he raised up Joshua to go before them, and in a miraculous manner led them through the Jordan [River], and brought them to Gilgal—favors ever to be had in remembrance."
[v.6-8] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet shows what has been often stated before,— that whenever God chides his people, he opens to them the door of hope as to their salvation, provided those who have sinned repent."
[v.8a] - "The expression is remarkable—'to love mercy,' or benevolence, beneficence, or kindness; it is not only to show mercy or kindness, but to love it, so as to take pleasure and delight in it." —John Owen
[v.8b] - "walk humbly" - Literally, "humble yourself."
[v.8c] - "[It is not] a matter of wonder that the Prophet begins with the duties of love; for though in order the worship of God precedes these duties, and ought rightly to be so regarded, yet justice, which is to be exercised toward men, is the real evidence of true religion." —John Calvin
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-8:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have made known to us your Law, and have also added your Gospel, in which you call us to your service, and also invite us with all kindness to partake of your grace,— O grant, that we may not be deaf, either to your command or to the promises of your mercy, but render ourselves in both instances submissive to you, and so learn to devote all our faculties to you, that we may in truth avow that a rule of a holy and religious life has been delivered to us in your law, and that we may also firmly adhere to your promises, lest through any of the allurements of the world, or through the flatteries and crafts of Satan, you should allow our minds to be drawn away from that love which you have once manifested to us in your only-begotten Son, and in which you daily confirm us by the teaching of the Gospel, until we at length shall come to the full enjoyment of this love in that celestial inheritance, which has been purchased for us by the blood of your only Son. Amen.
[v.9a] - "The LORD'S voice cries to the city" - This may also be read as, "The voice of the LORD cries to awaken."
[v.9b] - "wisdom" - Here, wisdom, implies the wise, or the man of wisdom.
[v.9c] - "your name" - That is, the name of God.
[v.14a] - "emptiness" - That is, emptiness due to hunger, as mentioned previously in the verse. It can also mean humiliation, dejection, or depressed state.
[v.14b] - "And you shall take hold, but shall not preserve" - In other words, "And you shall carry valuables away to rescue them, but you will not be able to keep them secure, or safe."
[v.14c] - "And that which you preserve I will give up to the sword" - In other words, "And whatever you do secure I will destroy."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 9-14:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you can find in us cause enough to execute not only one kind of vengeance, but innumerable kinds of vengeance, so as to destroy us at length altogether,— O grant, that we may of our own accord anticipate your judgment, and with true humility so abhor ourselves, that there may be kindled in us a genuine desire to seek what is just and right, and thus endeavor to devote ourselves wholly to you, that we may find you to be propitious to us: and since we in so many ways offend you, grant, that in true and sincere faith we may raise up all our thoughts and affections to your only-begotten Son, who is our propitiation, that you being appeased, we may lay hold on him, and remain united to him by a sacred bond, until you at length gather us all into that celestial kingdom, which he has procured for us by his own blood. Amen.
[v.15] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The meaning is, that whatever fruit the land produced, would come into the hands of enemies, for all things would be exposed to plunder."
[v.16a] - "Omri... Ahab" - Omri and Ahab were both evil kings of Israel. Omri bought the hill of Samaria and built upon that, and he "wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all who were before him." Then, after him, his son, Ahab reigned in Israel. Ahab took for himself as wife, Jezebel the wicked woman (1st Kings, ch. 21; Revelation 2:20), served and worshiped Baal, and was wholly given to idolatry. It is said of him that he "did evil in the sight of the LORD above all who were before him," and that he "did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him." Reference, 1st Kings 16:16-34.
[v.16b] - "kept" - Or, "observed." It can also be read as, "carefully observed," or, "diligently observed."
[v.15-16] - Calvin's prayer for these verses is included with the first four verses of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter.