MICAH

Daniel Green

INTRODUCTION

Author. The author of the book was Micah, a prophet God called to pronounce judgment on Israel. His hometown, Moresheth, was likely Moresheth Gath, in the fertile hills southwest of Jerusalem, between the Dead Sea and Mediterranean Sea. His name means "who is like Yahweh?" Although less prominent than his contemporary Isaiah, he was mentioned in Jr 26:18–19 for his effective preaching. Nothing else is known of him except what is revealed in the biblical text.

Date and Background. Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham (742–735 BC), Ahaz (735–715 BC), and Hezekiah (715–686 BC). During this period Assyria, under Tiglath-pileser III, began to dominate the region. Resistance was futile as Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, fell in 722 BC. The southern kingdom was overrun as well and heavy fines were levied, although Hezekiah (and Jerusalem) were spared. At the time the prophecy was given, Israel was enjoying considerable economic prosperity, which led to "a selfish materialism, a complacent approach to religion as a means of achieving human desires, and disintegration of personal and social values" (Leslie Allen, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976], 240). The book is prophetic in tone and often employs poetry to communicate its message.

Purpose. The purpose of the book is to demonstrate that true faith results in social justice and practical holiness, with a view toward the ultimate reign of Messiah on the earth. The emphasis on social justice is evident in the censure of unlawful seizure of fields (2:1–2), theft (2:2), exploitation of women and children (2:9), corrupt leadership (3:1–9), unethical business practices (6:10–12), violence (7:2), and bribery (7:3). Nevertheless a better future is foreseen when such sin will be banished as Messiah is born to reign righteously over Israel (4:1–8, 5:2–5a, 7:7–20).

Structure. The book is clearly divided into three messages that follow the superscription (1:1). The divisions begin with the words "hear, oh peoples" (1:2), and "hear now" (3:1; 6:1). The messages say that judgment will come (1:2–2:13), blessing will follow judgment (3:1–5:15), and blessing will surpass judgment (6:1–7:20).

OUTLINE

I. Superscription (1:1)

II. Message One: Judgment Will Come (1:2–2:13)

A. Sins Against God (1:1–16)

B. Sins Against Men (2:1–13)

III. Message Two: Blessing Will Follow Judgment (3:1–5:15)

A. The Rebuke of Israel’s Leaders (3:1–12)

B. The Future Blessing of Jerusalem (4:1–5:1)

C. The Coming of Messiah (5:2–15)

IV. Message Three: Blessing Will Surpass Judgment (6:1–7:20)

A. God’s Ethical Standards (6:1–8)

B. Rebuke for Poor Business Ethics (6:9–16)

C. Rebuke for Poor Interpersonal Ethics (7:1–6)

D. Hope for Messianic Compassion (7:7–20)

COMMENTARY ON MICAH

I. Superscription (1:1)

1:1. This verse provides introductory background for the three messages of the book. The word of the Lord (Hb. Yahweh) refers to the prophecy that came from the God of Israel, and emphasizes His faithfulness to covenantal promises. It was given to Micah to be delivered to three kings of Israel (see Introduction). It concerned the impending judgment of Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of the northern and southern kingdoms, respectively.

II. Message One: Judgment Will Come (1:2–2:13)

A. Sins Against God (1:1–16)

1:2a. The command to listen (3:1, 6:1) is directed to the world. The phrases hear, O peoples and listen, O earth are set in synonymous parallel. They are identical in meaning, summoning all the people, without exception, to pay attention. It is best to see the nations not as recipients of the prophesied judgments, but as witnesses to what God was about to do among His own chosen people.

1:2b–3. Lord God (Hb. Adonai Yahweh) emphasizes the supreme might of God who dwells in heaven, His holy temple. He was about to issue an indictment (Dt 31:19–21) against His unholy people. God would come down from heaven to trample on the high places of pagan idolatry (1Kg 12:31–32; Ezk 20:27–32) that His people had built. While the phrase may include geographical mountains, it is best taken as the cultic shrines located on them (Bruce K. Waltke, A Commentary on Micah [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007], 48).

1:4. Micah employed hyperbolic language to emphasize the catastrophic results of God’s visitation. He used the words mountains and valleys as a merism, a figure of speech marking opposite extremes to indicate that everything in Israel would be affected. Wax (Pss 68:1–2; 97:5–6) and cascading water describe both the geological and sociopolitical instability that would ensue.

1:5–7. Rebellion (Hb. pesha, to transgress) and sins (Hb. chattaah, to miss the mark, sin; Jdg 20:16) describe attitudes and actions that are contrary to God’s holy standards. These words are often coupled in Micah (1:5; 3:8; 6:7; 7:18). The rhetorical questions (v. 5) indict the religious centers of Samaria and Jerusalem as the most sinful places in their respective kingdoms. No stone would be left unturned in the destruction of the former, and her foundations would be razed. In the process, all the accoutrements of pagan worship would be destroyed. The clever play on words in v. 7b means that the silver and gold from the idols of Israel (Dt 7:25), here depicted as a harlot, would be harvested from its burning buildings by another religious harlot, Assyria. Believers should realize that any idols in their own lives are most displeasing to God and should rid themselves of them. Fame, food, money, power, sex, and sports are all potential false gods.

1:8–9. Micah would prophesy barefoot and naked as a sign of his utter spiritual humiliation, just as Isaiah did (Is 32:11). A lament was mournful wailing over sin that was often accompanied by fasting (Jnh 1:13; Zch 7:5). His would be like that of a howling jackal which, along with the ostrich, lived in places made uninhabitable by the judgment of God (Is 13:20–22). It was too late for the southern kingdom to repent as the enemy hordes were certain to ravage the country. The Assyrian commander Sennacherib destroyed 46 cities of Judah before he stopped short of Jerusalem in 701 BC.

1:10–12. A number of skillful word plays are employed here to signal the destruction of southern cities: (1) Beth-le-aphrah (possibly an alternative name for Ophrah, about 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem, the name meaning "House of Dust") roll yourself in the dust (aphrah), a sign of deep grief; (2) Tell it (nagad) not in Gath (which means "the place of telling," i.e., the city of Gath, southwest of Jerusalem); (3) "abandon, oh dweller of the beautiful place (Shaphir) in shameful nakedness"; (4) "do not go forth (yatsa’) you who dwell in ‘Go Forth’ " (tsa’anan, Zaanan, along the southern coast); (5) "from the house of protection (Beth-ezel) he will withdraw support"; and (6) "because the inhabitant of Maroth (sounds like mara, meaning ‘bitterness’ in Hb.) has become weak."

1:13–16. Lachish (30 miles southwest of Jerusalem), which sounds like the Hebrew word (racash) for "gathering," would gather its fine chariot horses for a hasty retreat from Sennacherib. He would later decorate his walls in Assyria with the finery that he pillaged from the rebellious city that had led Israel into sin. Moresheth-gath brings to mind the betrothal of a bride (Hb. meoreset, betrothal gifts) with the accompanying gifts being given instead to the invaders. Achzib (sounds like the Hebrew for "deception") would not be able to provide the expected resistance to the invaders. Mareshah, which sounds like the Hebrew word yarash (possess) would be possessed. The glory of Israel refers either to the people in general or its children (Hs 9:11–13). All would flee in shame to Adullam, 12 miles south of Bethlehem, to which David had once run for his life (1Sm 22:1). They would shave their heads as they mourned their sins (Is 15:2).

B. Sins Against Men (2:1–13)

2:1–3. Woe would come on those who had lain awake at night thinking of strategies for defrauding fellow Israelites (Pr 4:16). They had abused power, coveting and seizing the precious inherited land and houses of the poor (1Kg 21:1–15). God would therefore visit the family of oppressors with calamity. Their strutting would be stopped, and they would find no way of escape.

2:4–5. People would taunt these evildoers and would mockingly "lament a lament of lamentation" (literal translation). God’s principle of an eye for an eye (Ex 21:24) would play out as the land grabbers would have their own lands taken from them. These would be given to apostate, hostile Assyrians who cared nothing for the God of Israel. The enemy who would control the land would not be stretching [out] a measuring line, that is, survey the land to establish rightful ownership. In a similar way, God will not overlook the sins of believers today, who cheat the poor of their precious assets through bogus monetary schemes, or who see to the eviction of such people from public housing so as to build fabulously profitable high-rise condominiums on the sites. They will surely reap what they sow (Gl 6:7).

2:6–7. These verses contain the words of false prophets who understandably resented Micah’s preaching and tried to get him to follow their own practice of not preaching against sin. It is possible that the Hebrew word sug translated in the NASB as turned back might be translated as "overtake," and may refer to the consequences of sin that the false prophets believed would not befall them ("disgrace will not overtake us" [ESV, NIV]). But sug usually means "to turn away" or "to turn back" (Jr 38:22; 46; Is 42:17; Zph 1:6) and more likely is understood here as the embarrassment of the false prophets, which would not cease until Micah stopped contradicting them. They were losing face. Micah defended the character of God, and His right to judge them, by asserting these truths. (1) His Spirit had shown great patience. (2) He could not justly be accused of any wrong. (3) His words always led to blessing for those who applied them in leading a righteous lifestyle. These were truths that the false teachers were not willing to hear or preach.

2:8–9. God viewed Israel’s unethical actions as the aggression of an enemy. The false prophets illegally seized the clothing of unsuspecting travelers and war veterans who were perhaps debilitated due to wounds or weariness. Unrepresented widows were driven from their homes, depriving them of their meager pleasures. Their children suffered likewise. My splendor means the glory of God, which would not be manifested in the land due to the disobedience of Israel’s leaders.

2:10–11. Micah uses a play on words to depict the coming judgment. The rebellion of v. 8 ("My people have arisen as an enemy") is associated with their displacement (arise and go to exile). Their filthy idolatry would be the motivation for God to drive them from the restful conditions that they enjoyed in the land. The prophet denounced the gullibility of the people who were willing to follow false teachers (those who were aimless [walked after wind], who told falsehood and lies, v. 11), no matter how absurd their messages might be.

2:12–13. Despite the certainty of the coming judgment, there was still hope for Israel. In the future God would reassemble Israel and bring her en masse back to the land. The noise of so many people would be like a huge herd of sheep. Their king, the Lord, would break down all barriers to their return. The word "breaker" (Hb. parats, Ex 19:22, 24; 2Sm 6:8) should be interpreted as a substantival participle, referring to the Messiah. He is the same person as the "king" and the "lord" and will lead the return of his people to the land. While some scholars understand this prophesy to have been fulfilled when the people were released by Cyrus the Persian in 539 BC, it is best, considering the context, to take it as a reference to the Messianic reign in the millennial kingdom (Mc 5:2–5a).

Southern Cities of Micah’s Prophecies

 

Adapted from The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Copyright 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.

III. Message Two: Blessing Will Follow Judgment (3:1–5:15)

A. The Rebuke of Israel’s Leaders (3:1–12)

3:1–4. Hear now (see 1:2; 6:1) marks the beginning of the second message, which is addressed to unjust leaders, beginning with political rulers. Micah describes their love for evil and hatred for good under the extended metaphor of slaughtering an animal. Their destructive treatment resembled skinning dead animals and chopping them up for the cooking pot (vv. 2–3). This oppression would result in God turning a deaf ear to the leaders when they later cried for help. The shining or hiding of God’s face (v. 4) in Scripture stands for His blessing or the withholding thereof (Nm 6:24–26; Is 59:2). Leaders of churches and other Christian organizations should be careful not to exploit people in order to achieve selfish personal or professional goals.

3:5–7. Next in line for rebuke were the religious officials. The prophets led the flock astray through their partiality. They preached sweet messages of assurance to those who filled their bellies, but delivered highly threatening messages to those who did not (Jr 5:14–15). The judgment of their ministries was likened to the setting of the sun. Darkness would replace light, and there would be no more messages for them to preach. God would shut their mouths

3:8. In contrast, Micah was filled with the power of God’s mighty Spirit. This empowered him to call boldly for justice and courageously denounce the rebellion of the southern and northern kingdoms, Jacob and Israel, respectively. Believers need to depend on the Spirit to speak without fear to the various cultures of the world that have long since departed from God’s will.

3:9–12. These verses address a spectrum of ungodly leaders. The rulers of both the northern and southern kingdoms had perverted God’s standards of justice. They had rendered the smooth road to social justice impassable. Who build Zion with bloodshed (v. 10) refers to the characteristic violence and intimidation by which they governed. Financial gain was the main motive for their teaching (Ex 23:8; Pr 17:23). Yet they were self-deluded, believing that God would protect them from all threats (v. 11). But this was not so. The foundations of the buildings in Jerusalem would be torn up like sod turned by the plow, and the temple and its mount would be made desolate (v. 12). Christian leaders today should examine their motives for teaching the Word of God (1Pt 5:2), and those serving in the political realm should govern by God’s principles.

B. The Future Blessing of Jerusalem (4:1–5:1)

4:1–2. Although judgment would come upon Israel prior to the exile, the distant future would still be bright. The Lord would initiate a grand era of peace. The temple mount, to be desolated by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, would come to worldwide prominence in the millennial kingdom (Is 2:1–4). Unprecedented interest in the worship of the true God will exist. The crooked paths of the rulers of Micah’s day (Mc 3:9) will give way to God’s justice. The exclusive worship of Yahweh will prevail as the word of the Lord from Jerusalem went out.

4:3–4. The Lord will govern the world justly (through the one to be revealed in 5:2–5a). All the nations will submit to Him and enjoy a time of universal peace. The fig tree and vine represent the broad individual prosperity that will exist at that time.

4:5. This verse looks forward. Although religious compromise presently reigned in their country, it would not always be so. Instead, they would live faithfully by God’s strength in the future (Jos 21:45).

4:6–8. Early in the millennium Jewish believers, who make up the faithful remnant of Israel, will regather in Jerusalem (Is 56:1–8). Tower of the flock (v. 8) identifies Jerusalem, populated by the faithful remnant, with a tower in an open field near Jerusalem where Jacob pitched his tent after Rachel’s death in childbirth (Gn 35:16–21). Terrible suffering would give way to joyous celebration in the land. The conditions of this prophecy were not met in the return of the Israelites to the land after the Babylonian exile. They did not, at that time, become a strong nation (v. 7) nor were they restored to their former dominion (v. 8). The prophecy will come to pass after the great tribulation and the second coming of Christ (Zch 14:1–11). Jerusalem will then be returned to its former glory.

4:9–10. The cry of lamentation bemoaned the loss of leadership, which would vanish from Judah, leaving it without guidance (Pr 11:14; 15:22). The people will be led through fields on their way to Babylon. Hope remained, though, as a rescue would one day bring them back to their homeland.

4:11–5:1. The scene shifts to the more remote future here, to another siege on Jerusalem. The nations will assemble for the campaign of Armageddon, intent on resisting the Messiah and destroying His people. Instead, they will be destroyed (Ps 2:1–12; Zch 14:1–3; Rv 19:11–19). The word gather is a double entendre. While the nations will be intent on gathering to destroy Jerusalem, God will in fact be gathering them for the figurative threshing floor (Robert Chisholm, Interpreting the Minor Prophets [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990], 148). The prophecy (Mc 5:1) looks back briefly to the preexilic siege and the smiting of Zedekiah by the Babylonians (2Kg 25:1–7). Christ has at no time been smitten in a military encounter with enemy troops. Thus, it represents Micah’s encouragement to Jerusalem to resist Nebuchadnezzar, an effort that ultimately proved futile.

C. The Coming of Messiah (5:2–15)

5:2. This verse returns to the future and forms one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible. In contrast to the fall of the eminent city of Jerusalem is set the glory of little known Bethlehem ("house of bread"). The added description of Ephrathah, by which it was first known (Gn 35:19), distinguished it from Bethlehem of Zebulun (Jos 19:15). Too little to be among the clans of Judah is explained by its omission from the list of more prominent cities in Judah (Jos 15:21–63; Neh 11:25–36). Its significance would be as the birthplace of the Messiah. The temporal nouns when used alone can speak of eternity. From long ago (Hb. qarem) refers to God as eternal in Dt 33:27 (translated "eternal") and Hab 1:12 (translated "everlasting"). Eternity (Hb. olam) refers to the eternality of God in Gn 21:33 (translated "Everlasting"). The two words when used together as in Pr 8:22–23 ("of old," Pr 8:22, and "from everlasting," Pr 8:23), denote eternity past. In both Pr 8 and Mc 5:2 they are placed together to emphasize Messiah’s coming from and existence in eternity past, not merely the antiquity of his ancestral roots as a descendant of David. The Talmudic idea of a preexistent Messiah is based on this passage. The use of the plural goings forth indicates that Messiah made multiple appearances since eternity past. This fits well with the appearances of the Angel of the Lord (i.e., theophanies; in Ex 23:20–23; 32:34 with 33:14–15; Is 63:9). The one Micah described had been active in the world for centuries before his writing, yet would be born as a human being centuries thereafter. He would be fully divine, yet would be born of a woman (Mt 2:1–12). Thus the Messiah of Israel would be a God-Man and their ruler. Micah made this prediction more than eight centuries before its fulfillment.

5:3. Give them up anticipates God sending the nation into exile. A debate over the meaning of she who is in labor yields three common interpretations of the phrase. (1) It refers to Israel being regathered to the land after the Babylonian exile. (2) It refers to the virgin Mary who gives birth to Jesus who gathers His people to the promised land after the second coming. (3) It refers to Israel as metaphorically giving birth with the same result. If this last view is correct, then the events of the two advents of Christ are brought together in 5:2–3 without reference to the time between them (Is 9:6–7). This view is consistent with Mc 4:9–10 and is to be preferred. The remainder of His brethren refers to a believing remnant to be identified at the time of Christ’s second coming.

5:4–5a. The Messiah would be endued with the power of God as David His ancestor had been (1Sm 5:2), and God’s majesty would be evident in His rule. Israel would remain securely in the land during His universal reign (Ps 2:7–8; 72:8; Mal 1:11–14).

5:5b–6. The shepherd would protect Israel during this time by raising up numerous faithful leaders. Assyria and Nimrod (a synonym for Assyria) seems to be used figuratively here for all of the nation’s future enemies.

5:7–9. The future faithful remnant of Israel would bring spiritual refreshment and insight to the whole world, like dew (v. 7). As God sent the dew upon the ground, so they would be used instrumentally to bring knowledge of Him to the inhabitants of the millennial kingdom. They would also wield military might when necessary (vv. 8–9), thus destroying their enemies. The metaphor of a lion indicates fierce and intimidating power.

5:10–14. The Lord Himself would purify the people of Israel. The words translated cut off (vv. 10, 11, 12, 13), destroy (vv. 10, 14), tear down (v. 11), and root out (v. 14) suggest strong disciplinary action. He would purge the nation of its dependence on military might (Dt 17:16) and idols. These idols were carved with human hands and then vested with supernatural power in the minds of the people. The images were related to the worship of the pagan god Baal and his female counterpart Asherah. This purging will apparently take place at the second coming to prepare the nation for the millennium.

5:15. Rebellious enemies of God and His people would not be spared at this time. He would pour out wrath on them (Ps 2:1–12; Is 63:1–6). They would not raise their heads again in rebellion until the end of the 1,000 years (Rv 20:7–10).

IV. Message Three: Blessing Will Surpass Judgment (6:1–7:20)

This last message continues to critique the attitudes and actions of God’s people, but it also offers more hope than the first two addresses. Poor ethics and idolatry continue to be impugned, but the correction yields, finally, to blessed assurance in the grace of God.

A. God’s Ethical Standards (6:1–8)

6:1. This verse introduces a courtroom metaphor that pictures God challenging Israel to defend its actions before the mountains, which are a personified jury. They represent the people of the world who had witnessed Israel’s actions against Him. Mountains also appeared this way in secular treaties in the ancient Near East and thus give solemnity to the proceedings (Chisholm, Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 153).

6:2. God took the part of the plaintiff issuing an indictment. He called on the witnesses (the mountains) to hear His complaint against Israel so as to make a decision as to its innocence or guilt.

6:3–5. Israel was put on the witness stand here, being addressed with rhetorical questions. God challenged the rebellious nation to justify its recalcitrance. How had God wearied Israel? The point of the question was to challenge any impatience that they had with Him. They had no ground for this feeling since God is always good and never blameworthy (Nah 1:7; Jms 1:13–17). God made His case by recalling His past faithfulness, beginning with His miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Ex 5–15), and continuing with His determined blessing of the people in the face of pagan opposition (Nm 22–24). In the former, an oft-cited act of might, He provided the necessary leadership and, in the latter, frustrated ungodly leaders who wished to harm His people. The words from Shittim to Gilgal recall His continued faithfulness in guiding the people through the wilderness and across the Jordan River (Jos 3:1; 4:18–19). Gilgal was the base of operations for the attack on Jericho. This had all been a demonstration of God’s righteousness, evidence that His people were ignoring at that time. In difficult times, God’s people need to remember what He has done for them and acknowledge His faithfulness in some way (Jos 4:7) perhaps in a journal, photograph, or blog. These can be used as reminders when doubts arise.

6:6–8. At this point, Micah speaks of himself. The above demonstration of God’s righteousness formed the basis for His demands of moral righteousness from his people. They had been hypocritical, executing the offerings that God commanded (Lv 1–8) without the proper preparation of heart. The point is most certainly not that God did not value animal sacrifices but rather that the sacrifices needed to be offered sincerely as part of a whole life given to God (Jr 17:24–26). Bruce Waltke (A Commentary on Micah, 391) addresses this critical relationship: "The prophets did not repudiate sacrifice, but subordinated it to ethics (1Sm 15:22–23; Is 1:12–20; Am 5:21–27)." Israelites were to demonstrate the reality of their faith by both sacred ritual and love for their fellow men. Even if they had given their firstborn sons on the altars of sacrifice (a hyperbole) it would not have been sufficient to mask their inconsistency elsewhere. The often-quoted v. 8 seems to form a sort of summary of the law (Mk 12:29–31). God wanted Israel to manifest three characteristics: (1) justice (Hb. mishphat, the moral rectitude of God that His people may also possess, Ps 106:3) in dealings with other human beings (Jms 1:27–2:13; Gl 6:9–10); (2) kindness ("loyal love," Hb. chesed, absolute faithfulness to covenantal relationships) for the community of believers that God had called to Himself; and (3) humility (Hb. sane, modest reserve before God) contrition in their relationship with him. Christian social action must begin with a proper understanding of God, who is righteous. Some in the contemporary church have minimized doctrinal orthodoxy in their admirable concern for social justice, resulting in a weakening of sound theology. Evangelicals, on the other hand, have held tenaciously to basic doctrine, while sometimes being unconcerned with the social implications of their faith. Believers should understand that to walk with the righteous God of the Bible requires both.

B. Rebuke for Poor Business Ethics (6:9–16)

6:9–12. Micah called on the people to pay attention to God’s accusations concerning their dishonest business dealings. Instead of taking God casually, they were to fear His name (v. 9), that is, revere His person, a practice of all wise people (Pr 9:10; 15:33). The rendering of the term tribe (NASB) is difficult. It may be better to translate it "rod" (ESV, NIV) as the context is one of God’s displeasure. Thus, God personifies and addresses the rod of discipline and warns that should Judah not repent of their practices, He would use that rod to chasten them. They had gotten rich dishonestly by delivering a short measure (v. 10) (lit., "not delivering a full ephah," approximately a bushel) for the money and using inaccurate weights on manipulated scales (v. 11; see Lv 19:35–36; Am 8:5–6). They had also resorted to lies and intimidation. Modern believers should realize that the workplace is often a more telling test of character than a church service.

6:13–15. God would strike them with his rod (Heb 12:5–12), changing their health to sickness and their security to insecurity. What they tried to put in safekeeping would be lost and nothing they had would satisfy. Their fields and vineyards would not produce. In short, their ill-gotten gain would vanish.

6:16. This verse helps explain the demise of their ethics. They had essentially left their faith, adopting the practices of pagans. The Omride dynasty had produced Ahab who, under the influence of his Sidonian wife Jezebel, brought full-fledged Baal worship to Israel. The spirit of Omri still lived on after 150 years. God would eventually give them up to the humiliation of the Babylonian captivity (Ps 137:1–3; Lm 2:10–17).

C. Rebuke for Poor Interpersonal Ethics (7:1–6)

7:1. Woe was the mournful cry of the prophet over the spiritual destitution that he witnessed in the land (Jb 10:15; Mt 23:13–39). Fruit is commonly used in Scripture as a metaphor for character (Mt 7:15–22; Gl 5:22–23). Lack of good fruit brings rebuke by God (Is 5:1–7). Micah was shaken by the spiritual barrenness of his country. He likened himself to one working in a vineyard that had not produced. There was not even enough fruit to fill his stomach, let alone a marketable crop.

7:2. Micah wrote hyperbolically about Israel. It seemed like every single good and upright person had become corrupt. He pictured them lying in wait to commit wicked deeds against their countrymen (Pr 1:10–19).

7:3–4. The prince, judge, and a great man should have led the country toward righteousness. Instead, they were so skilled in evil as to be called ambidextrous in the performance of it (both hands), and their relationships were characterized by intrigue. Then, as now, power spoke more loudly than conscience. They manipulated the system toward their desired end. Their actions were as injurious to the nation as briars and thorn hedges. The phrase the day … (v. 4c) introduces a break in the flow of the passage and may be best translated "the day of your watchers, the day of visitation, has come." God appointed Micah and other prophets (watchers) to warn Israel about spiritual pitfalls (Ezk 3:17) but they would not listen (Jr 6:17). Consequently, He would visit them with the judgment of exile in Babylon. Christians in high places should flee corruption and, instead, use their influence in ways that please the Lord.

7:5–6. Micah returned to his previous theme of national treachery. It ran so deeply that no relationship was unaffected. Not a neighbor, a close friend, or even a wife (she who lies in your bosom) could be trusted. There was no safe haven. Even the most closely related persons in a family were suspect.

D. Hope for Messianic Compassion (7:7–20)

7:7–8. Micah served as an example to the nation here. The situation was grim but he still hoped in God’s mercy. He would continue to pray to God to save him and his country. Although the northern and southern kingdoms would fall, the people and the nation would be restored in the future. The words do not rejoice over me (v. 8) are a polemic against Israel’s enemies. The victory these nations enjoyed would not be final. Micah and his people would survive, and thrive again when Messiah’s kingdom comes to the earth.

7:9. A stunning contrast is present in this verse in which Micah serves as a representative of the Jewish people. The one who is indignant with Micah’s (and Israel’s) sin is the same one who pleads the prophet’s case. God would pour out wrath against the people for their sin. Jerusalem would be besieged, and they would go into exile. Nevertheless, as they acknowledged their sins before Him, He would faithfully lead them back to Himself.

7:10–13. In the future, Israel’s mockers would be brought into submission according to the prayers of His people (Ps 79:10–13). When the millennium begins, Israel’s borders will be expanded and walls will be built not around her cities (Zch 2:4–5) but around her prosperous vineyards (John Martin, "Micah," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985], 1490). Just before the beginning of this period, God will humble Israel’s Gentile enemies (Mt 25:31–46).

7:14. Who speaks here? Is it the congregation of Israel, God, or the author of the book? It is probably Micah who appeals to God to lead His flock like a good shepherd (He is the shepherd in 2:12 and 5:4), directing them to blessing with His rod. The flow of the argument is that although God will judge Israel with exile, there would be a future restoration (vv. 9–13). Micah appeals to God, in v. 14, to faithfully bring about that restoration. They were His special possession. Micah longed for the days of old (v. 20) when they had inhabited a terrain of alternating woodlands and fertile pastures, safe from their enemies. Bashan and Gilead were regions on the east side of the Jordan river.

7:15–17. God’s response to Micah’s plea in v. 14 came in a promise to do a miracle like the Exodus on their behalf. A hand on their mouth indicated shock or awe (Is 52:15). In the future, the nations of the world will be stunned by Israel’s recovery and will flee like frightened reptiles. They will greatly fear Israel, even as they did her God. Lick the dust may be intended to call to mind God’s promise to eventually crush Satan (Gn 3:15) who always opposes His will.

7:18–20. Micah closes his book with praise to God for a number of His attributes that benefited the remnant, that is, the faithful among Israel. He acknowledged Him as unique (Ex 15:11), forgiving, relenting of anger, and immutable in His love for them. In addition, He was compassionate and protective. The beautiful metaphor of v. 19b pictures God casting their sins into a deep sea, far from His sight. The phrase you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea is the basis for the Jewish custom of Tashlich (which means "you will cast"), when Jewish people cast bread into a body of water on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize God’s removal of sin. His last words recall the unconditional covenant with Abraham (Gn 12:1–3; 15:12–21; 17:1–8). Although God would chasten them for their sins, He would never cast them away. A kingdom will one day come upon the earth in which all the promises to the patriarchs will be fulfilled (Is 2:1–4; 9:1–7; 11:1–10; 35:1–10). The nation of Israel has a bright physical and spiritual future to which she may look forward. God’s faithfulness to Israel is a reminder for contemporary believers that they should exult in the astoundingly faithful nature of God who watches over them with loving discipline and grants forgiveness freely and fully to those who seek it.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, Leslie. Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.

Barker, Kenneth, and Waylon Bailey. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998.

Chisholm, Robert. Interpreting the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.

———. "A Theology of the Minor Prophets" in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, edited by Roy Zuck, 397–434. Chicago: Moody, 1991.

Feinberg, Charles. The Minor Prophets. Chicago: Moody, 1976.

McComiskey, Thomas. "Micah" in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 395–445. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985.

Smith, Gary V. NIV Application Commentary: Hosea, Amos, Micah. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah–Malachi. Waco: Word Books, 1984.

Waltke, Bruce. A Commentary on Micah. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

 

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