7:1-20 From Pronouncements of Judgment to Oracles of Hope
1-4 Deterioration of society on the public level
5-6 Deterioration of society in private
7 The commitment to remain loyal
8-17 The reversal of Israel’s fortunes
18-20 Hope for God to act in his goodness
Points of interest
- “Woe is me” (7:1) is a comparatively rare phrase in the Hebrew Bible, used elsewhere only in Job 10:15.
- Verses 1-4 reckon Israel to a vineyard which has not produced the desire fruit (cf. Isa. 5 and the many parables of Jesus).
- Micah searches for one righteous person among his audience. This is reminiscent of Abraham who looked for a group of righteous person in Sodom in order to turn away God’s wrath (Gen. 18:23-33).
- Jesus quoted from Micah 7:6 (Matt. 10:21; Luke 12:52) in showing that his teachings will divide a family if not everyone shares a full commitment to discipleship.
- Many scholars think that, beginning from verse 7, the speaker is the personified voice of the city of Jerusalem. In fact, one of the Targums adds “Jerusalem says” right before verse 9.
- God’s righteousness (7:9) refers to God’s faithfulness to his covenant. The verse details how God, as the righteous judge, will plead [Jerusalem’s] case and execute justice for the city. These are things which God promised to accomplish on his side of the covenant agreement.
- The enemy (7:8, 10) is a feminine noun in Hebrew, which explains the feminine pronouns in 7:10.
- The expansion of Israel’s territory in 7:11 links to other similar promises located in Psalm 72:8 and Zech 9:10.
- 7:14 requests that God restore the regions of Bashan and Gilead to Israel. These lands, known for their fertility and resources, were captured by the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III during the same period of history that Micah lived and prophesied (cf. 2 Kings 15:29).
- The chapter ends on a high note with positive comments about God’s uniqueness, forgiveness, and faithfulness to the promises given to the patriarchs.
- We must have the courage, faithfulness, and endurance to stand firm as Christians, even when society’s moral compass points in a radically different direction than our own. Although Micah lived in a culture where ethical morals had significantly declined, he nevertheless stood firm in his allegiance to the God is Israel. He didn’t simply indicate that society was ungodly for the sake of condemning others. Rather, he contrasted the world’s morals with his own commitment. The furthering gap between God’s covenant standards and the world’s moral decline strengthened Micah’s resolve and commitment to God. We must learn from his example and seek to encourage others to remain loyal to God and his commandments, especially those spoken through Christ.
- We should consider how we might imitate God (cf. Eph. 5:1) in his traits of mercy and forgiveness. Although much of the Book of Micah concerns the judgment which came upon the Israelites in their sin, it ends with a positive reference to the goodness of God. If God does not retain his anger forever, we should likewise learn to easily forgive one another, remembering that “love does not consider the wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5). We need to be reminded that all who are redeemed in Christ are nevertheless flawed, including ourselves.
6:1-16 God’s Case Against Israel
6:3-5 What God Has Done for the People
6:6-8 What God Expects in Return
6:9-12 What God Cannot Tolerate
6:13-16 What God Is Moved to Do
Points of interest
1. When Balak counseled Balaam to curse Israel, God turned the situation into a blessing for his people (cf. Num. 22-24).
2. “From Shittim to Gilgal” refers back to when the Israelites crossed into the promised land. Shittim is east of the Jordan while Gilgal is on the west side.
3. Micah 6:8 is certainly the key verse within this passage. Rather than offering an abundance of sacrifices in an attempt to appease God, a more personal response is required of the people. The first of these favored acts is to demonstrate justice. ‘Justice’ is a theme of Micah preached throughout his book, pointing towards the actions of the leaders and even at the local level (6:11). “Loving mercy” is the second thing which is required. “Mercy (Heb. chesed) perhaps is better rendered as loyalty or covenant faithfulness. Finally, the people are to walk humbly/carefully with their God.
4. The curses which God plans to bring upon his people in their unfaithfulness resemble other passages where Moses warned of similar things (Lev. 26:26; Deut. 28:30-31, 38-40).
4. Omri was an evil king who founded Samaria (1 Kings 16:16-30).
5. King Ahab was Omri’s son, who married the Sidonian woman Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-34). Both of these figured were evil.
- One of the more important things to grasp from this passage is an understanding and appreciation of our place within the covenant relationship with the one true God. For Micah’s audience, God initiated the covenant relationship by rescuing them from Egypt, placing before them an instructor of the Torah (Moses), and promised them a rich and abundant inheritance of land. Christians have similarly been rescued from our sins, been given a teacher (Jesus), and have been promised an inheritance in the kingdom of God. The response expected by God, both in the past and in the present, is not simply being loyal and faithful, but loving loyalty (6:8). Yes, obedience is important, but it must flow from a loving heart towards God in appreciation for all that he has done for us and continues to do. When we learn to appreciate his kindness towards us, then we will appropriately respond with love.
- This passage also clearly demonstrates that God holds us accountable for our actions, often punishing us prior to the Day of Judgment. Those among Micah’s audience who were unrepentant were, in particular, given up to sickness (6:13). This is not a theme limited to Micah. Those who abused the Lord’s communion table were given over to sickness (and some to death, 1 Cor. 11:30). James 5:15-16 seems to indicate some sort of relationship between sickness and sins. How are we to learn from the mistakes of Micah’s audience? I personally have never considered my behavior or sins when was sick, but perhaps I should look closer at my life, be more willing to confess my sins, and seek the Lord’s healing.
- Micah 6:16 remarks that the children of Israel have follow the statutes, works, and devices of unfaithful leaders. While it is true that Christian leaders and teachers will be held to account for how they manage the flock, Micah placed considerable responsibility on those who listen to and followed them. We can learn from this passage by demonstrating discernment when it comes to Christian teachers and preachers. God never expects us to blindly receive their messages (Acts 17:11; 1 Thes. 5:21; 1 John 4:1-2). Everyone is responsible for their own faith and obedience.
3:1-4 Rulers denounced for failing to demonstrate justice.
3:5-8 Prophets denounced for abusing their gifts.
3:9-12 Micah summarizes their sins and speaks forth God’s response.
4:1-5 Vision of the peaceful coming kingdom.
4:6-13 Punishment and redemption prophesied.
Points of interest
-3:4, prayers and pleas for help are ignored by God because the petitioner practices evil deeds.
-3:5, prophets are deemed false if they only preach “peace” and refuse to call people to repentance. Micah, a true prophet, speaks both judgment and peace.
-3:11, the leaders ignorantly placed their trust on God dwelling in their midst to the detriment of obeying the terms of the covenant.
-Mic. 3:12 was remembered and quoted by the prophet Jeremiah 100 years later (Jer. 26:18-19). Judah apparently responded appropriately to Micah’s preaching, which in turn moved God to relent from bringing calamity promised to fall upon Jerusalem.
-4:1, currently Mt. Zion is not the highest of the mountains in that region. In order for it to become the chief mountain, God will have to geographically intervene to alter the landscape.
-The Jewish Targum (commentary read alongside the passage) for Mic. 4:7 (“the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever”) states: “The kingdom of God will be revealed.”
-4:10 mentions Babylon as the location where Judah will be taken for exile. Micah’s prophetic ministry was in the eighth century BCE. Babylon conquered Jerusalem and exiled its inhabitants in 586 BCE. The redemption language is reminiscent of the time when God rescued Israel from Egypt (a ‘type’ of exile).
- We must take care to not fall into the same trap that the audience of the prophets fell into. They only desired to hear the good news (and paid the prophets to hear these words). They did not want to hear the preaching which identified their sins (the bad news). While readers of the Book of Micah tend to resonate with the more favorable messages found in the fourth and fifth chapters, we need to discipline ourselves to listen to the harsh words of Micah as well. Remember that “all Scripture is inspired…to rebuke and reprove” (2 Tim. 3:16).
- Micah stood alone as the voice for God which called the Israelites out for their sins. If we can put ourselves in his shoes, we would see that it is often difficult to maintain the courage to call sin for what it is: disobedience towards the God we serve. It is much easier to let our fellow Christians deal with their problems on their own and for us to mind our own business. God commands his people in Galatians 6:1 to restore the sinner in the spirit of gentleness. While these conversations are often difficult to have, we need to imitate Christ in bearing the burdens of others within the believing community.
- Micah 4:5 says that “we will [continually] walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.” While it is extremely important to know who God is, the prophet Micah is summoning his audience to walk (i.e. live) according to the one true God. While it is relatively easy to confess the true God, it is a life-long commitment to walk in his ways. We must acknowledge that both aspects are important to the Christian life without letting one outweigh the other (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16; “watch your life and your doctrine”).
Notes on Micah chapter one
1:8-16 Micah’s lament of the coming judgment
1:2-7 God’s case against Samaria and Jerusalem
Time of Prophetic Ministry
742-735 (the reign of Jotham, good king)
735-715 (the reign of Ahaz, bad king)
715-687 (the reign of Hezekiah, good king)
722 BCE Samaria is captured by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, its citizens are exiled
701 BCE Jerusalem is attacked (but not captured) by Sennacherib, king of Assyria
- The biblical historian in 2 Kings 17:6-14 recounts the reasons for why God allowed Samaria to be captured by the Assyrian armies. How can we orient our lives as Christians so that we don’t fall prey to the same mistakes?
- Micah is attempting to wrestle with and make sense of the way God is punishing His people. Similarly, the author of Hebrews instructs us to consider the purpose and intended outcome of God’s discipline (Heb. 12:4-11). The judgment of God upon His people in the past should serve as a warning to later generations, demonstrating that God will call to account those who fail to faithfully uphold the covenant agreement and commands.
- Micah’s attitude was one of mourning and lamenting when he preached to God’s people. In fact, he connected and identified with their suffering which was caused by God’s judgment (Mic. 1:8). When we act as Christ’s witnesses, proclaiming the coming kingdom and the forgiveness offered by the cross, we must not exhibit attitudes of superiority or snobbery over our audience. We are all sinners and therefore all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The prophet Micah was neither happy nor joyful when he carried forth the word of the LORD. Rather, he mourned the fact that God’s people were not living up to the expectations as members of the covenant. In short, before we preach to others, we need to first examine our attitude and motivation.