Feed thy people with thy rod - בשבטך beshibtecha, "with thy crook." The shepherd's crook is most certainly designed, as the word flock immediately following shows. No rod of correction or affliction is here intended; nor does the word mean such.
Solitarily - They have been long without a shepherd or spiritual governor.
In the midst of Carmel - Very fruitful in vines.
Bashan and Gilead - Proverbially fruitful in pasturages.
Feed Thy people with Thy rod - The day of final deliverance was still a great way off. There was a weary interval before them of chastisement, suffering, captivity. So Micah lays down his pastoral office by committing his people to Him who was their true and abiding Shepherd. who that has had the pastoral office, has not thought, as the night drew near in which no man can work, “what will be after him?” Micah knew and foretold the outline. It was for his people a passing through the valley of the shadow of death. Micah then commits them to Him, who had Himself committed them to him, who alone could guide them through it. It is a touching parting with his people; a last guidance of those whom he had taught, reproved, rebuked, in vain, to Him the Good Shepherd who led Israel like a flock. The rod is at times the shepherd‘s staff Leviticus 27:32; Psalm 23:4, although more frequently the symbol of chastisement. God‘s chastisement of His people is an austere form of His love. So He says, “If his children forsake My law, I will visit their offences with a rod and their sin with scourges: nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from them” Psalm 89:31, Psalm 89:33.
The flock of Thine inheritance - So Moses had appealed to God, “Destroy not Thy people and Thine inheritance which Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness - They are Thy people and Thine inheritance” Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29; and Solomon, in his dedication-prayer, that, on their repentance in their captivity, God would forgive His people, “for they be Thy people and Thine inheritance which Thou broughtest forth out of Egypt” 1 Kings 8:51; and Asaph, “O Lord, the pagan are come into Thine inheritance” Psalm 79:1; and again, “Why doth Thine anger smoke against the sheep of Thy pasture? Remember the tribe of Thine inheritance which Thou hast redeemed” Psalm 74:1-2; and Joel, “Spare Thy people and give not Thine heritage to reproach” Joel 2:17; and a Psalmist, “They break in pieces Thy people, O Lord, and afflict Thine heritage” Psalm 94:5; and Isaiah, “Return for thy servants‘ sake, the tribes of Thine inheritance” Isaiah 63:17.
The appeal excludes all merits. Not for any deserts of their‘s, (for these were but evil,) did the prophets teach them to pray; but because they were God‘s property. It was His Name, which would be dishonored in them; it was His work, which would seemingly come to nothing; it was He, who would be thought powerless to save. Again, it is not God‘s way, to leave half-done what He has begun. “Jesus, having loved His own which were in the world, loved them unto the end” John 13:1. God‘s love in creating us and making us His, is the earnest, if we will, of His everlasting love. We have been the objects of His everlasting thought, of His everlasting love. Though we have forfeited all claim to Ills love, He has not forfeited the work of His Hands; Jesus has nor forfeited the price of His Blood. So holy men have prayed;, “I believe that Thou hast redeemed me by Thy Blood: permit not the price of the Ransom to perish.” “O Jesus Christ, my only Saviour, let not Thy most bitter Passion and Death be lost or wasted in me, miserable sinner!”.
Which dwell solitarily, or alone - Micah uses the words of Balaam, when he had been constrained by God to bless Israel. “The people shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations” Numbers 23:9. Moses had repeated them, “Israel shall dwell in safety alone” Deuteronomy 33:28. This aloneness among other nations, then, was a blessing, springing from God‘s being in the midst of them Exodus 33:16, Deuteronomy 4:7, the deeds which He did for them Exodus 34:10; Deuteronomy 4:3, the law which He gave Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 4:33. So Moses prayed, “Wherein shall it be known here, that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight?” Exodus 33:16, is it “not in that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are on the face of the earth”. It was, then, a separate appeal to God by all His former loving-kindness, whereby He had severed and elected His people for Himself.
In the wood, in the midst of Carmel - God “turneth a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water and dry ground into watersprings” Psalm 107:34, Psalm 107:5. Isaiah at the same time used the like image, that “Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field (Carmel), and the fruitful field (Carmel) shall be esteemed as a forest” Isaiah 29:17. The wild forest was to be like the rich domestic exuberance of Carmel (see the note at Amos 1:2). He would say, “Feed Thy people in Babylon, which is to them a wild homeless tract, that it may be to them as their own peaceful Carmel.” Without God, all the world is a wilderness; with God, the wilderness is Paradise.
Let them feed in Basha and Gilead - The former words were a prayer for their restoration. Gilead and Bashan were the great pasture-countries of Palestine (see the note at Amos 1:3, vol. i. p. 234; iv. L p 280),, “a wide tableland, with undulating downs clothed with rich grass throughout,” where the cattle ranged freely.
They were the first possessions, which God had bestowed upon Israel; the first, which they forfeited. Micah prays that God, who protected them in their desolation, would restore and protect them in the green pasture where He placed them. They are a prayer still to the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep John 10:11, John 10:15, our Lord Jesus Christ, that He would feed His flock whom He has redeemed, who have been given to Him as an inheritance Psalm 2:8, the little flock Luke 12:32, to which it is the Fathers good pleasure to give the kingdom, which cleaveth to Him and shall be heirs with Him Romans 8:17. Cyril: “Christ feedeth His own with a rod, guiding them gently, and repressing by gentle fears the tendency of believers to listlessness. He bruiseth as with a rod of Iron, not them, but the rebellious disobedient and proud, who receive not the faith; believers He instructs and forms tenderly, feeds them among the lilies Ephesians 4:15, with minds well-fed and nourished and gladdened with all spiritual delights.
But the chosen and elect dwell solitarily, being apart from the rest who think only of the things of earth, and give themselves to the pleasures of sense. So then these, having the mind at rest, freed from the vain and abominable tumults, are placed apart as in a wood and in a mountain. By the wood you may understand, the rich and varied and solid instruction (as it were trees and flowers) both in doctrine and life; by the mountain, what is high and lofty. For none of the wisdom, accounted of in the Church, is low. They are “fed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old”, rich pastures; for the mind of the holy is beautified, delighting itself in the contemplation of the inspired Scriptures, and filled, as it were, with a certain richness, and shares without stint all excellence in though or in deed; and that, not for a brief and narrow season, but forever. For what gladdeneth the flesh falleth therewith and fadeth and hasteth away like a shadow; but the participation of the good things from above and of the Spirit, stretcheth out along endless ages.”