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I. HEADING 1:1
Prophetic revelation from Yahweh came to Micah concerning Samaria (the Northern Kingdom) and Jerusalem (the Southern Kingdom). These capital cities, by synecdoche, represent their respective nations and the people in them. These capital cities also, by metonymy, suggest the leaders of the nations, which Micah targeted for special responsibility. Micah "saw" these revelations (rather than "heard" them) because the Lord revealed them to him in visions and or dreams (Numbers 12:6; cf. Isaiah 1:1; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1). Micah ("Who is like Yahweh?") was a resident of Moresheth-gath (Micah 1:14), which was a Judean town in the Shephelah (foothills) of Judah west and a bit south of Jerusalem. The mention of Micah’s hometown rather than his father’s name suggests that he had come to Jerusalem and had become known there as the Micah from Moresheth. [Note: Allen, p. 265] Normally a man who was a longtime resident of a town was described as the son of so and so rather than as being from a particular place. Micah received and delivered his prophetic messages during the reigns of three of the kings of his nation: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This dates his ministry between 750 and 686 B.C. [Note: See my comments on the writer and date in the Introduction section above.] Similar full headings (superscriptions) begin the books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Zephaniah.
Micah cried, "Hear ye, hear ye!" to the people of the earth, as a clerk summons a courtroom jury to pay attention to the testimony that will follow. Micah presented his message in the setting of a courtroom trial. This is the rib (lawsuit) oracle form, examples of which are quite common in the Prophets. Sovereign Yahweh was about to give His witness against His people ("you," Micah’s audience; cf. Deuteronomy 31:19-21; Deuteronomy 31:26). This appeal assumes that those called on to listen will agree with the testimony to be given. The Lord would come out of His temple to give His testimony. The Hebrew word hekal literally means "palace" rather than "temple." It refers to the location of the throne of judgment. This appears to be a reference to God’s heavenly temple in view of the following verses (cf. Psalms 11:4; Isaiah 3:13-14; Habakkuk 2:20).
"What the peoples are supposed to hear serves not to increase their knowledge but to determine their lives." [Note: Hans W. Wolff, Micah, p. 55.]
A. The judgment coming on Israel 1:2-7
This opening pericope sets the tone and forms the backdrop for the rest of the book. All people were to hear God’s indictment against His people (Micah 1:2). Punishment was coming (Micah 1:3-4) that would be both reasonable (Micah 1:5) and certain (Micah 1:6-7).
II. THE FIRST ORACLE: ISRAEL’S IMPENDING JUDGMENT AND FUTURE RESTORATION 1:2-2:13
This is the first of three messages that compose the Book of Micah (cf. chs. 3-5; 6-7). Each of these messages gives evidence of containing other messages that Micah evidently preached and then compiled into the canonical form in which we have them. Each of the three main messages begins with the same imperative (Heb. shm’), translated "Hear" (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4). In each one, promises of restoration follow predictions of ruin. Words of hope follow announcements of doom.
The Lord was about to intervene in the affairs of His people. He is not only transcendent above all but immanently involved in the world, one of the most basic revelations in Old Testament theology. When He came, all the earth would melt, split, and quake before His awesome power (cf. Judges 5:4-5). Since He could affect the physical creation so drastically, His people needed to fear Him. Treading on the high places of the land, where the Israelites worshipped in idolatry (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:17), probably also implies that He would crush pagan worship. [Note: McComiskey, p. 404; John A. Martin, "Micah," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 1477.]
"If men would tremble before God, instead of before each other, they would have nothing to fear." [Note: Waltke, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 152.]
The Lord’s intervention was due to the Israelites’ sins and rebellion against their sovereign lord. Samaria personified the rebellion of the Israelites, and Jerusalem had become a high place for idolatry rather than for holy worship. These capital cities had become leaders in wickedness rather than in holiness.
Micah liked to use "Jacob" as a title for all Israel (Micah 2:7; Micah 2:12; Micah 3:1; Micah 3:8-9; Micah 4:2; Micah 5:7-8), though he also used it to describe the Northern Kingdom (here) and the patriarch Jacob (Micah 7:20). This name recalls the rebelliousness that marked the patriarch for most of his early life and that had subsequently marked his descendants. Micah used the name "Israel" to describe both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms. Several of the prophets referred to the Southern Kingdom as "Israel," especially after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C., because that kingdom represented the true Israel under the Davidic kings and the Aaronic priesthood. They referred to the Northern Kingdom as "Israel" in contrast to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Israel’s capital, Samaria, stood atop a mountain, but Yahweh said He would make it a pile of ruins in a field. That is, He would both destroy and humiliate it. It would become a rural rather than an urban place, suitable for planting vineyards. He would topple the stones of its buildings into the valley below and expose their foundations by destroying their superstructures. The fulfillment came with the Assyrian overthrow of Samaria in 722 B.C. Even today the foundations of Samaria’s buildings lie exposed.
God would smash Samaria’s idols proving them incapable of defending themselves much less helping others. He would burn the luxurious ornaments that the people offered as temple gifts in the conflagration that would accompany Samaria’s overthrow. All the pagan images that the people had made would perish. The Lord viewed these physical treasures as the earnings of harlot Israel who had been unfaithful to Him (cf. Hosea). The Israelites had committed adultery with temple prostitutes, but the Assyrians would destroy the gifts that they had brought into their temples and use them for their own idolatrous worship.
"The reference is probably to the gold and silver plating on the images, melted down from the dirty money handed over for the use of religious brothels. Invading soldiers are to tear it off as loot and spend it as currency for further prostitution, as soldiers will." [Note: Allen, p. 274.]
In view of this coming judgment, Micah said he felt compelled to lament and wail. He would express his sorrow by going barefoot and naked, a common way of expressing it in his culture (cf. 2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 25:34). Jackals and ostriches (or owls) were nocturnal animals that lived alone and were peculiar for their nocturnal hunting habits and for their wailing sounds. Micah said he would mimic them.
"Unlike some tub-thumping modern preachers of fire and damnation, Micah preaches judgment out of such love that he weeps for his audience." [Note: Idem, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 154.]
1. Micah’s personal response 1:8-9
B. Lamentation over the coming judgment 1:8-16
"The judicial sentence against Samaria (Micah 1:2-7), fulfilled in 722/721 B.C., certifies the doom of idolatrous Judah (Micah 1:8-16), predicted in connection with Sennacherib’s invasion of the Shephelah [Judean foothills] in 701 B.C." [Note: Waltke, in The Minor . . ., p. 624.]
Samaria had a wound from which she could not recover, namely, a wound of punishment caused by her sin (cf. 1 Kings 20:21). This sin and its consequence had also infected Judah, even the capital city of Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 1:5-6). Jerusalem should have been especially holy because of the temple and God’s presence there, but it was polluted. Punishment reached the gate of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. when Sennacherib attacked the city, but the Lord turned back the invader (cf. 2 Kings 18-19).
"The problem with Samaria was that she was toxic; her infection had spread to Judah." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, "Micah," in The Bible Exposition Commentary/Prophets, p. 391.]
Micah urged the Israelites not to report the Assyrian invasion of Jerusalem in Gath (cf. 2 Samuel 1:20), not even to indicate a crisis by weeping publicly. Why Gath? It was an enemy (Philistine) town, and news of Jerusalem’s siege would encourage Israel’s enemies. Specifically, "Gath" (gat) may have been chosen because of its similar sound in Hebrew to the verb "tell" (taggidu; cf. 2 Samuel 1:20).
However, in the cities of Israel, like Beth-le-aphrah (Beth Ophrah, house of dust), the inhabitants should roll in the dust expressing their distress (cf. Joshua 7:6; Job 16:15; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 25:34).
2. Micah’s call for the people’s response 1:10-16
The prophet used several clever wordplays in this poem to describe the desolation that God would bring on Judah. He selected towns and villages near his own hometown in Judah’s Shephelah whose names were similar to the coming devastations or to other conditions that he described. The known towns encircle Micah’s hometown of Moresheth-gath.
"Interestingly Sennacherib too used wordplays when recording his conquests." [Note: Martin, p. 1479. See the map in Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, p. 339, for the probable locations of the places mentioned in this passage.]
James Moffatt’s paraphrase gives the sense of Micah’s wordplays.
"Tell it not in Tellington!
Wail not in Wailing!
Dust Manor will eat dirt,
Dressy Town flee naked.
Safefold will not save,
Wallchester’s walls are down,
A bitter dose drinks Bitterton." Etc. [Note: The Old Testament, a new translation by James Moffatt.]
Residents of Shaphir ("beautiful," "pleasant") would become the opposite of their name, shamefully naked, when the invasion came. Inhabitants of Zaanan, a town name that sounds like the Hebrew word translated "come out," would not be able to come out of their town to escape. The people of Beth-ezel ("house of removal") would lament because the Lord would remove its support.
Residents of Maroth, which sounds like the Hebrew word translated "bitterness," would become weak as they waited for help that would not come. Their expectation would become bitter because God would send calamity to the gates of Jerusalem. Before Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem in 701 B.C., he defeated 46 other towns in Judah (2 Kings 18-19). [Note: See D. W. Thomas, ed., Documents from Old Testament Times, p. 67, for Sennacherib’s account.]
Sarcastically, Micah urged the people of Lachish (Heb. lakish), a town known for its horses, to hitch a team (Heb. rekesh) of horses to a chariot to escape from the enemy. They would not be able to escape, however, because Lachish had led Jerusalem, as horses lead a chariot, into the sin of idolatry.
Zion (Jerusalem) would give Moresheth-gath as a portion of a parting gift to the invader. The Davidic king would not be able to prevent the Assyrians from taking Moresheth-gath captive. The people of Achzib (Heb. ’akzib), represented here by their houses, would become deceitful (Heb. ’akzab) to the kings of Israel because they could not fend off the enemy.
The Lord would bring on the inhabitants of Mareshah ("possessor") one who would take possession of them. The glory of Israel, probably her leaders, would flee ashamedly for safety to Adullam, as David had done earlier (1 Samuel 22:1). [Note: Charles H. Dyer, in The Old Testament Explorer, pp. 784-85, charted these place names, their meanings, and their significances helpfully.]
Micah called on the Judeans to cut their hair very short as a sign of sorrow over the departure of their children (perhaps the nobles) into exile. The eagle appeared to be bald because its head was white.
"This section (Micah 1:10-16) begins with words that recall David’s lament at the death of Saul and ends with the name of the cave where David hid from Saul. These dark moments in David’s life form a gloomy backdrop to the description of the fall of the towns Micah spoke of. Though he is never directly mentioned, the figure of David appears hauntingly in the tapestry of destruction-not a David standing tall in triumph, but a David bowed down by humiliation. It is as if Micah saw in the fall of each town and the eventual captivity of the two kingdoms the final dissolution of the Davidic monarchy. Like David, the glory of Israel would come to Adullam." [Note: McComiskey, p. 408.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Micah 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent