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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Micah 1

 

 

Verse 1

This and the following chapter (2) which are grouped together in the sacred text have the record of the word of the Lord through Micah; and, since this section has a prophecy of the approaching destruction of Samaria, that part of it must surely have originated in the times of Jotham king of Judah, that doubtless being the reason for Micah's inclusion of that king in the superscription.

Micah 1:1

"The word of Jehovah that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem."

The battle of Micah begins with this verse. It is clearly the imprimature of the Holy Spirit, validating the entire book of Micah as the word of the Lord. Concerning this author, and other inspired writers of the Old Testament, an apostle of Jesus Christ declared that "Holy men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21), and that the prophets themselves, far from merely commenting upon current conditions as they discerned and interpreted them, were delivering the true words of God to men, "which the Spirit of God that was in them did testify" (1 Peter 1:11). These comments by the apostle Peter are more valuable in understanding Micah than a hundred of the current commentaries that proceed to deny every other word of it as having any authenticity or significance whatever. This verse 1, like all the rest of the book, is written by Micah; without this verse, nothing is left. Although, to be sure, there are other examples of "thus saith the Lord" in the prophecy, this verse identifies (1) the author of its contents, God Himself, (2) the prophet through whom the message was delivered, and (3) the names of the kings of Judah during whose reigns the message was delivered "concerning Samaria and Jerusalem." In this verse, the Holy Bible says that the prophecy is "The word of the Lord." It is inconceivable that Micah could have delivered this great prophecy without this validating superscription, in exactly the same manner as that followed by many other prophets of the sacred scriptures. Micah, therefore, included it; he wrote it; he made it a part of his book; he testified that the prophecies in it must be dated as early as the days of Jotham, before the fulfillment of his prophecies.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, however, Satan has loved to contradict what God says; and the evil one has not hesitated to contradict what God says in this verse. He says that:

"This superscription is not the prophet's words.[1]; Micah 1:2 was inserted by the redactor.[2] The second and third lines of Micah 1:5 are not the language of Micah.[3] "Thus saith the Lord," God's Word still comes to those who hear and obey the prophetic call.[4] (in other words, Micah had no more insight into God's will than obedient Christians today!). Micah 1:1 was prefixed to Micah by a compiler (long after the book was written). etc., etc."[5]

Just as God, of old, spake through men; so does Satan; and therefore we have accurately ascribed the above words to their true source. It is the old, old lie, "Ye shall not surely die," as delivered by our Enemy in the Paradise of Eden. This does not question the honesty or the sincerity of the evil one's spokesmen; but the very fact of God's Word being contradicted identifies the source of the contradiction by those who may, or may not, be deceived. We have hit this problem rather firmly here in the first verse, for it is our intention to waste very little time with it in the following notes. Before passing, however, it is a joy to recognize that there are many of the greatest scholars who have not hesitated to honor all of Micah, including this superscription as indeed the word of Jehovah. "This verse introduces the whole prophecy as having come from Jehovah."[6] "Micah began prophesying before the destruction of Samaria (Micah 1:5)."[7] "The threat of the destruction of Samaria was evidently uttered before 722 B.C."[8] We appreciate this especially from McKeating, because he went further and gave the reason why "some scholars" have felt compelled to tamper with this verse. The problem is predictive prophecy which they do not believe is possible! "They are therefore obliged either to translate the words differently, or to see the words as a prophecy after the event, inserted at a later date."[9] The faithful student should, therefore, always remember that contradictions of the sacred prophecies are merely testimonials to the unbelief of their advocates, and that the most ridiculous and unscientific "reasons" imaginable are pressed into service to bolster their infidelity. The great giants of Biblical exegesis throughout the ages were unanimous (in all practical sense) in their acceptance of the total of this book as inspired of God. Rampant unbelief in the last century or so is not founded either upon intelligence, or scientific evidence, but merely upon the subjective speculations and imaginations of men who are determined, before they ever begin their investigations, not to believe. See more on this in the introduction. In recent times, many of the ablest scholars such as Deane, Keil, D. Clark, and many others, firmly hold to convictions that in this prophecy we are dealing with the Word of God. We may conclude this study of the superscription with Deane's flat statement: There really is no sufficient reason for doubting the accuracy of the superscription."

Verse 2

"Hear, ye peoples, all of you, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord Jehovah be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple."

A statement such as this could hardly be expected to follow anything other than the very type of inspired and God-sent prophecy announced in the preceding verse.

"All of you, O earth ..." "The nations, all of them, are summoned .... for Israel's case is part and parcel of the world's case."[11] Notice, in particular, that this verse continues to affirm that the Lord is the author of the message being delivered; and that means, of course that the unbelievers have to get rid of this one also. Wolfe said, "This verse was not written until at least a century and a half after Micah!"[12] Rather, we should have said, that was spoken through Wolfe! The true author of such contradictions we have already identified. The thing which disturbs Satan in a reference like this is the fact that the judgment about to be executed upon Israel and Judah was a type and paradigm of the great and eternal Judgment that shall conclude the present age. Nothing could be more repugnant either to Satan, or to evil men, than the Biblical doctrine of Eternal Judgment.

"The Lord from his holy temple ..." "The holy temple here is not Jerusalem, but heaven; it is from there that the judgment emanates."[13] A failure to discern the highly figurative import of this passage always marks the response of those who are unspiritual. "The language used (in Micah 1:3-4) is highly figurative, the sublimity of which must be conceded by all."[14]

"Although directed primarily against Samaria, and ultimately against the southern capital, the prophet sets his pronouncement against a vast backcloth of world judgment. Micah's God is no provincial deity but the universal Overlord to whom all nations must render account."[15]


Verse 3

"For behold Jehovah cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth."

How undiscerning are those who take occasion from this to speculate upon the superstitious ignorance of Micah who supposed that heaven was some kind of headquarters on the other side of some convenient cloud! It is not the ignorance of Micah which glories in such observations. Micah in this and the following verses expressed in language as powerful and beautiful as any ever written the visible manifestation of the eternal God in the pattern of his deeds and in the execution of his judgments, doing so anthropomorphically, that is, by comparing his conduct to that of a man. How else could the manifestation of God to humanity be described? Man has no other vocabulary with which to undertake such a task.

"And will tread upon the high places of the earth ..." God is greater than man; he is higher than man; any manifestation of God to his human subjects involves a "coming down" upon the part of God. None of the apostles or prophets of either the Old Testament or the New Testament considered God to be anything other than spirit. "God is a spirit ... he is not far from any one of us ... in him we live and move and have our being...where shall I flee from God's presence ... even in the uttermost parts of the sea, Thou art there ... the darkness and the light are both alike to God ... etc., etc."


Verse 4

"And the mountains shall be melted under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, as waters that are poured down a steep place."

The geophysical disturbance of the whole earth is repeatedly mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament as accompaniments of the final judgment day. See Revelation 6:14ff, 11:19,16:17-21, etc. The mention of such phenomena here definitely indicated that the judgment about to be executed against Samaria and Jerusalem is typical of that ultimate judgment upon all mankind, hence the propriety of demanding that "all nations" hear it (Micah 1:2). Some commentators find a reference in these verses to "a great storm"; and it is certain that the "clouds of heaven" shall be present on that occasion (Matthew 24:30). "The description of God's advent to judgment is founded on the idea of a terrible storm and great earthquake, accompanied by volcanic eruptions";[16] but, to be sure, it is impossible to tell if such a description is literal, metaphorical of even greater terrors, or both.


Verse 5

"For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?"

The reason for the summary judgment about to be executed upon the whole of Israel, Samaria first, afterwards Judah, lay in their sinful departure from the knowledge and service of the true God. Other nations likewise were guilty of the same transgressions; but "the house of Jacob," specifically mentioned here, were the covenant people, people who had received manifold favors from God and who had entered into solemn covenant with God to be his people and to honor his name and obey his commandments. Therein was the guilt of Israel intensified and aggravated. It has often been said that the Minor Prophets are proof of the prior covenant relationship between God and Israel. Without that preexisting covenant, none of these glorious prophecies could have been written. The full existence and understanding of the Pentateuch and related books is not merely suggested by all this, it is demonstrated.

"What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria ...?" Samaria here is the usual name for the northern kingdom, being recognized in this passage as an integral part of the "house of Jacob," the whole Israel. See extensive references to the apostasy in the book of Hosea, above. Samaria had repudiated the worship of Jehovah and had taken up the vile fertility gods of the Canaanite pagans who had preceded them in the land. Sacred prostitution and many other horrors were the "stock in trade" of that whole system.

"What are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem ...?" This line is offensive to the strict modern grammarians who, as McKeating said, would have written it, "What is the sin of the house of Judah? is it not Jerusalem?"[17] See the introduction for comment on Micah's style. He cared nothing about meeting all the grammatical niceties regarding "an appropriate antithesis." As a result, his language is even more forceful. As McKeating said:

"The text as it stands, "What is the hill-shrine of Judah?," suggests that Micah's objections to Samaria and Jerusalem are mainly objections to the kind of worship that goes on in them. The much-vaunted sanctuary of the Lord at Jerusalem is no better than a pagan hill-shrine."[18]

In the view accepted here, that is exactly what Micah said, and what he meant to say. "Emendations" to improve Micah's rhetoric are absolutely uncalled for. "The crimes of the ten tribes of Israel are found in Samaria, and the transgressions of Judah are found in the high places of Jerusalem."[19] Ahaz (1 Kings 16:4ff) had led the way in the total corruption of the worship of God in Jerusalem. "Hezekiah's partial reformation had not taken place when Micah uttered the prophecy here."[20] The great disaster being prophesied will be brought on "by Israel's moral degeneracy; for both the capital cities, Samaria and Jerusalem, have become centers of idol-worship."[21]

In connection with this verse, Allen cited the great principle enunciated in the New Testament, that, "The time has come for judgment to begin at the household of God" (1 Peter 4:17). God will judge all the wicked nations of the earth; but, "Who is to stand trial first? None other than God's own people."[22]


Verse 6

"Therefore I will make Samaria as a heap of the field, and as places for planting vineyards; and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will uncover the foundations thereof."

The fact of this verse being a prophecy of what God promised that he would do indicates that the prophecy was written some time prior to 722 B.C., at which time the most terrible fulfillment of all that was promised here actually occurred. Sargon I I, completed the seige in the latter part of 722 and the first part of 721 B.C., having succeeded to the Assyrian throne after Shalmaneser had begun the siege over two years earlier. Samaria, situated on a great butte, with steep walls on all sides, was completely subdued, the stones of many of its structures being rolled down the walls of the butte, "into the valley." The very foundations of it were uncovered.

Unbelievers of any such things as predictive prophecy are greatly troubled by such a glorious example of it, hence all of the efforts to change either the date or the wording of the book of Micah. See more on this under Micah 5:2.


Verse 7

"And all her graven images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her hires shall be burned with fire, and all her idols will I lay desolate; for the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them, and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return."

This verse pinpointed the great sin of Samaria. Like the old Canaanite pagans before them in their land, they had turned heart and soul unto the worship of their vile bull-gods, the baalim, reeking with its corruption and largely supported by its system of sacred prostitution. The Decalogue carried the injunction that Israel should "not make unto thee any graven image"; but, instead they had filled the land with them. Archer's summary of this is as follows:

"The Assyrian troops of Sargon would smash her idols and destroy the dedicated treasures and votive monuments (the harlot's hires from her false lovers, the heathen gods) in her temples. All the materialistic gains and advantages (such as the political alliance with Phoenicia engineered by Jezebel's marriage to Ahab) will be wiped out, or carried off as spoil by the enemy."[23]

"The accent is firmly on Yahweh as the prime mover behind history."[24]

In Micah 1:6, the prophet had declared that Samaria would become as "a heap in a field"; and oddly enough, in one of the monuments to the conquest of Samaria excavated at Nineveh, are descriptions of Israel's cities, of which the inscriptions read, "They were made into a rubbish-heap and a field."[25] Even today, Samaria "is heaps of stone, not only on the hill-summit but also in the fields below."[26]


Verse 8

"For this will I lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals, and a lamentation like the ostriches."

Many of the prophets of God reinforced their prophetic denunciations by symbolical behavior in themselves, as when Hosea was married to Gomer. For such a lament as that pictured here to have had any effect at all, or for it to have been in any manner appropriate, would require that it be done before the fall of Samaria came. After it had fallen, there would have been no point whatever in it. No one goes around wailing about history; it was an approaching disaster that broke the prophet's heart; and he vainly tried to warn the people.

The character of the lament which Micah began here, as it unfolded, indicated that Jerusalem and Judah also would be involved in the approaching ruin. "To confirm this, he announced the destruction of a number of cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem."[27]

"Stripped and naked ..." probably signifies the removal of all except a loin-cloth. It would have been a device for getting attention.

"Jackals and ostriches ..." Those who have heard the howl of jackals declare that it is an especially bloodcurdling scream. The noises made by ostriches were also calculated to convey a sense of grief and horror.


Verse 9

"For her wounds are incurable; for it is come even unto Judah; it reacheth even to the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem."

"Her wounds are incurable ..." The reason why Samaria's wound was fatal resided in the fact of Jerusalem itself having become corrupted. In Jerusalem should have been the true worship capable of reclaiming the apostate northern kingdom; but the opposite had occurred. Samaria's sins had been approved and adopted in Jerusalem, hence the wound could not be healed. The progressive hardening of the once "chosen people" would continue and could never be averted, except in the instance of a few and scattered remnant who would patiently look for "the kingdom of God."

Micah's purpose was twofold. He would lament at the same time the impending destruction of Samaria and the ultimate fate of Jerusalem which was to occur some 150 years afterward. One may be very sure that such a message as Micah's would have been despised and mocked by the proud and arrogant inhabitants of both kingdoms.


Verse 10

"Tell it not in Gath, weep not at all: at Bethleaphrah have I rolled myself in the dust."

In this and the next few verses, there is a series of puns, or paronomasias, as the scholars call them, two of which are here. The word Gath means "Tell-town"; and the word Bethleaphrah means "Dust-town."[28] A similar thing is true of a number of other names in the following verses; but the true impact of the meaning is lost in the translation. A rough approximation of it in this verse is "Tell it not in Tell-Town, I roll in the dust at Dust-town." Hailey gave a quotation from Farrar in which, by taking great liberties with the text, he thus rendered the whole passage. James Moffatt did a very similar thing, thus:

Weep tears at Tear-town (Bochim), Grovel in the dust at Dust-town (Beth-ophra),

Fair stripped, O Fair-town (Saphir)!

Stir-town (Zaanan) dares not stir...

To horse and drive away, O Horse-town (Lakhish)...

Israel's kings are ever balked at Balk-ton (Achzib).[29]SIZE>

The differences in some of the names, as evidenced by various renditions are due to uncertainties in the text. Some scholars affirm that the text (the Masoretic text) of Micah is corrupt in places. Bruce Vawter said, "Second only to Hosea, the book of Micah is in an extremely bad state of preservation."[30] However, Wolfe declared that, "The text of Micah is in a good state of preservation, which indicates it was in possession of people who gave it good care during the pre-canonical period."[31] Certainly, there are not enough uncertainties to make very much difference in understanding the prophecy. The broad message is clear as the sun at noon on a cloudless day.

SIGNIFICANCE OF MICAH 1:8-16

The overwhelming significance of this part of Micah lies in the prophet's behavior, which would have been an absolute absurdity if his prophetic doom of Samaria and Jerusalem had already occurred. These verses therefore have the utility of demonstrating that we are most certainly dealing with a prophecy of terrible events yet future at the time Micah uttered it. There is no other rational explanation of Micah's behavior and the entire tone of this lament. No wonder that those who deny the prophecy can find nothing in the passage. Wolfe declared that, "The passage carries little religious significance."[32] E. Leslie Carlson observed that the very sequence of town names in this passage is significant, because, "The listing of the cities showed the route of the invader. Whereas, the first five cities are north of Jerusalem, the last five are south or southwest of Jerusalem."[33] This was exactly the route followed by the Assyrians. There is plenty of significance in this portion of the Word of God for those willing to perceive it.


Verse 11

"Pass away, O inhabitant of Shaphir, in nakedness and shame; the inhabitant of Zaanan is not come forth: the wail of Beth-ezel shall take from you the stay thereof. For the inhabitant waiteth anxiously for good, because evil is come down unto the gate of Jerusalem."

The plain import of these verses foretells disaster that shall fall upon the various places mentioned, all of them lying in the general vicinity of Jerusalem.

"Pass away, O inhabitant of Shaphir ..." Keil understood this as a reference to the deportation of captives, stating that, "The carrying away of Judah, which is hinted at in Micah 1:11, is clearly stated in Micah 1:16."[34] He also pointed out that it is incorrect to limit this to the invasion of the Assyrians, as that carrying away was accomplished about 150 years after Micah wrote by the Babylonians. They, of course, followed the same invasion route as the Assyrians had used.


Verse 13

"Bind the chariot to the swift steed, O inhabitant of Lachish: she was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion; for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee."

"She was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion ..." It is an interesting question how a border town like Lachish, located some 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, was "the beginning" of the sin of the southern kingdom. It occurred like this: "Lachish was apparently one of the first cities to permit the Northern Israelite cults to be established in it."[35] The proximity of the town to Jerusalem, its strength and significance as a fortified outpost, the concentration of the horse business and its connection with military power, - all of these things possibly contributed to the mortal infection that was communicated to Jerusalem from Lachish. The attractiveness of Baal-worship for the Israelites was evidently derived from its bold and uninhibited licentiousness. The missionaries of it were the countless sacred prostitutes associated with it.

There is a very interesting thing about Lachish being singled out here as the "beginning" of Jerusalem's sin. Since Micah had already pointed out that Samaria's priority in sin would result in her being doomed first, introducing the principle mentioned under Micah 1:5, Lachish "the beginning" of Zion's sin would also precede Zion in the destruction coming upon her. Jerusalem would fall to Babylon in 586 B.C.; but Lachish and some forty Other towns in that vicinity of the holy city would be destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. He sent out detachments from his main army to capture and destroy "forty-six walled towns and many villages in Judah, from whom he took 200,150 people, and much spoil."[36] Sennacherib himseft took part in the siege of Lachish; and excavations of his palace reliefs depict him receiving the spoil of Lachish. It was from Lachish that Sennacherib sent the insulting message to Hezekiah, whom Sennacherib referred to as "shut up like a caged bird." Providentially, Jerusalem, at that time was spared; but nevertheless the judgment fell upon the immediate environs. (See 2 Kings 18-19).


Verse 14

"Therefore shalt thou give a parting gift to Moresheth-gath; the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing unto the kings of Israel."

Although somewhat ambiguous, the mention of "a parting gift" is ominous, as is also the mention of the deception to be practiced upon Israel's kings. Achzib was related to another Hebrew word, Akzab, the two words having much the same sound.[37] Akzab meant "deceitful"; and from that similarity Micah continued his strange play upon words. Israel's kings would be deceived at Deceit-Town!

"Moresheth-gath ..." "This was the name of Micah's home town; and it was associated with Gath in order more precisely to give its location."[38]


Verse 15

"I will yet bring unto thee, O inhabitant of Moreshah, him that shall possess thee: the glory of Israel shall come even unto Abdullum."

"I will bring unto thee ..." This meant that God would bring the conqueror to Moresheh, another of the numerous towns which were in this passage objects of Micah's prophecy.

"The glory of Israel shall come even unto Abdullum ..." Abdullum was a name associated with the days of the distress of king David, in the times when, "David was an outlaw in hiding (in the cave of Abdullum) to save his life from king Saul, and when his army was a ragtag company of malcontents (1 Samuel 22:1f)."[39] Of course, Israel was fond of glorying in the days of David's greatness and glory; but here the prophet was saying, "It's back to the cave of Abdullum for Israel's glory!" "Abdullum was noted for its caves."[40]


Verse 16

"Make thee bald, and cut off thy hair for the children of thy delight: enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee."

This chapter has the prophecy "concerning Samaria and Jerusalem" (Micah 1:1,5,9,12); and it is incorrect to view the prophecies as separated in time by any lengthy period. The judgment of Samaria and Jerusalem was one judgment, although executed at different times. Samaria fell completely in 722 B.C. to Sargon of Assyria; the cities and towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem fell to Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 B.C.; and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It was only upon that latter occasion that the citizens of Jerusalem were carried into captivity, exactly the same fate that the Assyrians had imposed upon the area towns in 701 B.C. We believe that all of these events were prophesied in this chapter, perhaps as early as 740 B.C., during the reign of Jotham, long before any of them had occurred. It is ridiculous, the manner in which the scissors and paste scholars have cut the chapter up to make all of the prophecies "declarations after the fact." Had that been true, no one would ever have paid the slightest attention to this book of Micah. The very preservation of it for more than two and one half millenniums of time authenticates it as a true prophecy.

"Make thee bald ..." "Artificial baldness was a sign of mourning (Leviticus 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:1). The eagle (mentioned here) was probably the griffon vulture."[41]

"They are gone into captivity from thee ..." We are in full agreement with Deane, that:

"This cannot refer exclusively to the Assyrian invasion ... but must look forward to the Babylonian deportation in Micah 4:10. The latter calamity alone is parallel to the destruction of Samaria announced in Micah 1:6-7."[42]

Archer also discerned the necessary application of this prophecy of captivity to the event of 586 B.C.:

"The exile here foretold is more likely to be the Babylonian (Micah 4:10) than the Assyrian (which involved only the provinces and not Jerusalem itself). It is possible that both invasions (701,586 B.C.) are in view."[43]

The whole chapter is a dirge of unappeasable sorrow because the nation had forsaken him who would have blessed them so richly had they walked in his ways. May there be in us a different spirit! Otherwise we too must learn in bitterness of soul the folly of departure from the living God.[44] That this chapter deals with genuine predictive prophecy, the accurate foretelling of events in advance of their occurrence, is unquestionable. That is the only reason why the book was written, the only possible reason why it was preserved, and the only excuse whatever for its being in the Hebrew canon. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that the seventy-five generations of mankind who preserved it and handed it down to us were simpletons. Not only are such basic assumptions valid, the details of the prophecy are such that they could not possibly have been produced after the events: the mingling of events to be fulfilled in the times of Sargon II (722 B.C.), Sennacherib (701 B.C.), and Nebuchadnezzar (586 B.C.), the fantastic behavior of the prophet himself in the lament, screaming like a jackal, rolling in the dust, etc. It is simply unbelievable that any man, much less a prophet of God, would have celebrated a past historical event in any such manner. Yes, this chapter is one of the greatest prophetic achievements of all time.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Micah 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/micah-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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