on Micah 3 :12
Therefore shall Zion - be ploughed as a field - It shall undergo a variety of reverses and sackages, till at last there shall not be one stone left on the top of another, that shall not be pulled down; and then a plough shall be drawn along the site of the walls, to signify an irreparable and endless destruction. Of this ancient custom Horace speaks, Odar. lib. i., Od. 16, ver. 18.
Altis urbibus ultimae
Stetere causae cur perirent
Funditus, imprimeretque muris
Hostile aratrum exercitus insolens.
"From hence proud cities date their utter falls;
When, insolent in ruin, o'er their walls
The wrathful soldier drags the hostile plough,
That haughty mark of total overthrow."
Thus did the Romans treat Jerusalem when it was taken by Titus. Turnus Rufus, or as he is called by St. Jerome, Titus Arinius Rufus, or Terentius Rufus, according to Josephus, caused a plough to be drawn over all the courts of the temple to signify that it should never be rebuilt, and the place only serve for agricultural purposes. See the note on Matthew 24:2. Thus Jerusalem became heaps, an indiscriminate mass of ruins and rubbish; and the mountain of the house, Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, became so much neglected after the total destruction of the temple, that it soon resembled the high places of the forest. What is said here may apply also, as before hinted, to the ruin of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in the last year of the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of the Jews.
As the Masoretes, in their division of the Bible, reckon the twelve minor prophets but as one book, they mark this verse (Micah 3:12) the Middle verse of these prophets.
on Micah 3 :12
Therefore shall Zion for your sake - for your sake shall Zion
Be plowed as a field - They thought to be its builders; they were its destroyers. They imagined to advance or secure its temporal prosperity by bloods; they (as men ever do first or last,) ruined it. Zion might have stood, but for these its acute, far-sighted politicians, who scorned the warnings of the prophets, as well-meant ignorance of the world or of the necessities of the state. They taught, perhaps they thought, that "for Zion's sake" they, (act as they might,) were secure. Practical Antinomians! God says, that, "for their sake," Zion, defiled by their deeds, should be destroyed. The fulfillment of the prophecy was delayed by the repentance under Hezekiah. Did he not, the elders ask Jeremiah 26:19, fear the Lord and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them? But the prophecy remained, like that of Jonah against Nineveh, and, when man undid and in act repented of his repentanee, it found its fulfillment.
Jerusalem shall become heaps - (Literally, of ruins) and "the mountain of the house," Mount Moriah, on which the house of God stood, "as the high places of the forest," literally "as high places of a forest." It should return wholly to what it had been, before Abraham offered up the typical sacrifice of his son, a wild and desolate place covered with tangled thickets Genesis 22:13.
The prophecy had a first fulfillment at its first capture by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah mourns over it; "Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, foxes walk" Lamentations 5:18 (habitually upon it. Nehemiah said, "Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste" Nehemiah 2:17; and Sanballat mocked at the attempts to rebuild it, as a thing impossible; "Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of dust, and these too, burned?" (Nehemiah 4:2, (3:34, Hebrew)), and the builders complained; "The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed (literally, sinketh under them), and there is much dust, and we are not able to build the wall" (Nehemiah 4:10, (Nehemiah 4:4, Hebrew)). In the desolation under Antiochus again it is related; "they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts, as in a forest or in one of the mountains" (1 Macc. 4:38). When, by the shedding of the Blood of the Lord, they "filled up the measure of their fathers" Matthew 23:32, and called the curse upon themselves, "His Blood be upon us and upon our children" Matthew 27:25, destruction came upon them to the uttermost.
With the exception of three towers, left to exhibit the greatness of Roman prowess in destroying such and so strong a city, they , "so levelled to the ground the whole circuit of the city, that to a stranger it presented no token of ever having been inhabited." He "effaced the rest of the city," says the Jewish historian, himself an eyewitness . The elder Pliny soon after, 77 a.d., speaks of it, as a city which had been and was not . "Where was Jerusalem, far the most renowned city, not of Judaea only, but of the East" , a funeral pile."
With this corresponds Jerome's statement , "relics of the city remained for fifty years until the Emperor Hadrian." Still it was in utter ruins . The toleration of the Jewish school at Jamnia the more illustrates the desolation of Jerusalem where there was none. The Talmud relates how R. Akiba smiled when others wept at seeing a fox coming out of the Holy of holies. This prophecy of Micah being fulfilled, he looked the more for the prophecy of good things to come, connected therewith. Not Jerusalem only, but well-nigh all Judaea was desolated by that war, in which a million and a half perished , beside all who were sold as slaves. "Their country to which you would expell them, is destroyed, and there is no place to receive them," was Titus' expostulation to the Antiochenes, who desired to be rid of the Jews their fellow-citizens.
A pagan historian relates how, before the destruction by Hadrian , "many wolves and hyenas entered their cities howling." Titus however having left above 6,000 Roman soldiers on the spot, a civil population was required to minister to their needs. The Christians who, following our Lord's warning, had fled to Pella , returned to Jerusalem , and continued there until the second destruction by Hadrian, under fifteen successive Bishops . Some few Jews had been left there ; some very probably returned, since we hear of no prohibition from the Romans, until after the fanatic revolt under Barcocheba. But the fact that when toward the close of Trajan's reign they burst out simultaneously, in one wild frenzy , upon the surrounding pagan, all along the coast of Africa, Libya, Cyrene, Egypt, the Thebais, Mesopotamia, Cyprus , there was no insurrection in Judaea, implies that there were no great numbers of Jews there.
Judaea, aforetime the center of rebellion, contributed nothing to that wide national insurrection, in which the carnage was so terrible, as though it had been one convulsive effort of the Jews to root out their enemies . Even in the subsequent war under Hadrian, Orosius speaks of them, as "laying waste the province of Palestine, once their own," as though they had gained possession of it from without, not by insurrection within it. The Jews assert that in the time of Joshua Ben Chananiah (under Trajan) "the kingdom of wickedness decreed that the temple should be rebuilt" . If this was so, the massacres toward the end of Trajan's reign altered the policy of the Empire. Apparently the Emperors attempted to extinguish the Jewish, as, at other times, the Christian faith. A pagan Author mentions the prohibition of circumcision .
The Jerusalem Talmud speaks of many who for fear became uncircumcised, and renewed the symbol of their faith "when Bar Cozibah got the better, so as to reign 2 12 years among them." The Jews add, that the prohibition extended to the keeping of the sabbath and the reading of the law . Hadrian's city, Aelia, was doubtless intended, not only for a strong position, but also to efface the memory of Jerusalem by the Roman and pagan city which was to replace it. Christians, when persecuted, suffered; Jews rebelled. The recognition of Barcocheba, who gave himself out as the Messiah , by Akibah and "all the wise (Jews) of his generation" , made the war national.
Palestine was the chief seat of the war, but not its source. The Jews throughout the Roman world were in arms against their conquerors ; and the number of fortresses and villages which they got possession of, and which were destroyed by the Romans , shows that their successes were far beyond Judaea. Their measures in Judaea attest the desolate condition of the country. They fortified, not towns, but "the advantageous positions of the country, strengthened them with mines and walls, that, if defeated, they might have places of refuge, and communication among themselves underground unperceived."
For two years, (as appears from the coins struck by Barcocheba They had possession of Jerusalem. It was essential to his claim to be a temporal Messiah. They proposed, at least, to "rebuild their temple" and restore their polity." But they could not fortify Jerusalem. Its siege is just named ; but the one place which obstinately resisted the Romans was a strong city near Jerusalem , known before only as a deeply indented mountain tract, Bether . Probably, it was one of the strong positions, fortified in haste, at the beginning of the war .
The Jews fulfilled our Lord's words, "I am come in My Father's Name and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" John 5:43. Their first destruction was the punishment of their Deicide, the crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ; their second they brought upon themselves by accepting a false Christ, a robber and juggler . "580,000 are said to have perished in battle" , besides "an incalculable number by famine and fire, so that all Judaea was made well-nigh a desert." The Jews say that "no olives remained in Palestine." Hadrian "destroyed it," making it "an utter desolation" and "effacing all remains of it." "We read" , says Jerome (in Joel 1:4), "the expedition of Aelius Hadrianus against the Jews, who so destroyed Jerusalem and its walls, as, from the fragments and ashes of the city to build a city, named from himself, Aelia." At this time there appears to have been a formal act, whereby the Romans marked the legal annihilation of cities; an act esteemed, at this time, one of most extreme severity . When a city was to be built, its compass was marked with a plow; the Romans, where they willed to unmake a city, did, on rare occasions, turn up its soil with the plow. Hence, the saying , "A city with a plow is built, with a plow overthrown." The city so plowed forfeited all civil rights ; it was counted to have ceased to be.
The symbolical act under Hadrian appears to have been directed against both the civil and religious existence of their city, since the revolts of the Jews were mixed up with their religious hopes. The Jews relate that both the city generally, and the Temple, were plowed. The plowing of the city was the last of those mournful memories, which made the month Ab a time of sorrow. But the plowing of the temple is also especially recorded. Jerome says , "In this (the 5th Month) was the Temple at Jerusalem burnt and destroyed, both by Nebuchadnezzar, and many years afterward by Titus and Vespasian; the city Bether, whither thousands of Jews had fled, was taken; the Temple was plowed, as an insult to the conquered race, by Titus Annius Rufus." The Gemara says , "When Turnus, (or it may be "when Tyrant) Rutus plowed the porch," (of the temple) Perhaps Hadrian meant thus to declare the desecration of the site of the Temple, and so to make way for the further desecration by his temple of Jupiter. He would declare the worship of God at an end.
The horrible desecration of placing the temple of Ashtaroth over the Holy Sepulchre was probably a part of the same policy, to make the Holy City utterly pagan. The "Capitoline" was part of its new name in honor of the Jupiter of the Roman Capitol. Hadrian intended, not to rebuild Jerusalem, but to build a new city under his own name . "The city being thus bared of the Jewish nation, and its old inhabitants having been utterly destroyed, and an alien race settled there, the Roman city which afterward arose, having changed its name, is called Aelia in honor of the Emperor Aelius Hadrianus." It was a Roman colony , with Roman temples, Roman amphitheaters.
on Micah 3 :12
3:12 For your sake - Because of your sins. The mountain - The mountain, on which the temple stood. This is that passage, which is quoted, Jer 26:18, which Hezekiah and his princes took well: yea, they repented and so the execution of it did not come in their days.