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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.
Micah announced that those who lay awake at night plotting evil that they put into practice the next day would experience woe. Woe announces punishment coming because of guilt (cf. Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 3:11; Jeremiah 13:27; Ezekiel 13:3; Ezekiel 13:18; Hosea 7:13; Amos 5:18; Habakkuk 2:6; Zephaniah 2:5). The people in view seem to be the rich because they had the ability to carry out their schemes. In times of affluence and peace, the rich and the poor in society normally become richer and poorer, and this was true in Israel and Judah in the late eighth century B.C.
"This expectation of divine help and justice at morning (also in 2 Samuel 15:2; Job 7:18; Psalms 37:6; Psalms 73:14; Psalms 90:14; Psalms 143:8; Jeremiah 21; Jeremiah 12; Hosea 6:3; Hosea 6:5; Zephaniah 3:5) probably had to do in part with the king’s practice of administering justice in the morning . . ." [Note: Waltke, in The Minor . . ., p. 636.]
1. Sins of the wealthy 2:1-5
Having spoken abstractly about rebellion and sin (cf. Micah 1:5), Micah now specified the crime of the Israelites that had both social and theological dimensions.
"The oracles against Samaria and Judah in the first chapter speak in general terms of their rebellion and sin and put the accent on immediate political destruction. This oracle indicts them for specific crimes and puts the accent on the eternal and theological punishment." [Note: Waltke, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 156.]
"It is in Micah 2:1-5 that the prophet establishes the basis for the national crisis and the future collapse of the nation. It was not the imperialism of Assyria or the fortunes of blind destiny that brought the house of Israel to this critical stage. It was her disobedience to her God. How different is the prophetic view of history from that of the secular mind!" [Note: McComiskey, p. 409.]
C. The sins of Judah 2:1-11
Micah identified the sins of the people of Judah, all of which violated the Mosaic Covenant. In view of these transgressions, divine punishment was inevitable and just.
In chapter 1 the sins of the people of both Northern and Southern Kingdoms seem to be in view, but now Micah’s audience, the people of Judah, appear to be the main subjects of his prophecy, in view of what he said. We should not draw this line too boldly, however, since the same sins that marked the people of Judah also stained the citizens of Israel.
The plotting in view involved robbing others of their fields, houses, and inheritances ( including lands) through deception (cf. 1 Kings 21:3; Isaiah 5:8). The wealthy not only violated the tenth commandment against coveting what belongs to a neighbor but also the eighth commandment against stealing (Exodus 20:15; Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 5:19; Deuteronomy 5:21; Colossians 3:6-7). Furthermore they broke the second greatest commandment that said they should love their neighbors as themselves (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:34-40).
"They practiced the world’s version of the Golden Rule: ’Whoever has the gold makes the rules.’" [Note: Wiersbe, p. 392.]
Because they had done these things, Yahweh was plotting to bring calamity on the family of the Israelites that they would not be able to escape. They would be locked into it like a yoke holds the neck of an ox. The coming judgment would be a hard time for them that would humble them.
When God’s judgment fell, other people would ridicule the Israelites. God’s people would also lament with bitter weeping and mourn their complete destruction, as the victims of the rich Israelites’ crimes just cited had mourned. They would bewail God’s removal of His blessings, including their lands, from them and His giving them to others that they considered apostate.
"The situation envisaged seems to be the forced evacuation of the landed elite, who are marched away by the foreign invader while their estates are left to their erstwhile serfs, who are contemptuously spoken of as religious renegades." [Note: Allen, p. 291.]
Evidently the Israelites determined the boundaries between some land plots by casting lots (cf. Joshua 14:1-5; Psalms 16:6). No one would remain in the land who could do this in the assembly of Yahweh, namely, the covenant nation. The reason was that God would send His people into captivity and give their land to their captors.
This is one of many examples of God’s talionic justice. The Israelites would reap what they had sowed (cf. Galatians 6:7). They had taken land from their countrymen greedily and illegally, so God would take their land from them and let others occupy it.
The writer used another wordplay. False prophets were "speaking out" (lit. "dripping," Heb. natap) and telling Micah not to "speak out," not to announce the message of coming judgment for sin. These prophets were trying to silence him because they did not like his message (cf. Isaiah 30:10; Amos 7:10-13). They were saying that Micah and his fellow true prophets, such as Isaiah, should not prophesy as they were doing. As long as they did, disgrace (for the sins they were charging the people with) would not leave the Israelites. This preferable interpretation sees the second and third lines of the verse as the words of the false prophets as well as the first part of the first line. The NASB translation interpreted the last two lines as the words of Micah.
2. Sins of the false prophets and the greedy 2:6-11
References to false prophets open and close this pericope (Micah 2:6-7; Micah 2:11). In the middle, Micah again targeted the greedy in Judah for criticism (Micah 2:8-10). Apparently the false prophets condoned the practices of the greedy and took offense at Micah’s antagonism toward their patrons.
Micah reminded his audience that the false prophets were telling them that God would be patient with them and that judgment was not His way of dealing with them. They evidently felt that it was inconsistent to say that Yahweh would allow His people to experience disaster since He had committed Himself to them (cf. Deuteronomy 26:17-18). Theirs was a completely positive message. They failed to remind the people that God had also promised to punish them if they departed from His covenant (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
Micah affirmed that God would indeed bless those who do right (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). One should not blame the continuing disgrace of the nation on his and his fellow prophets’ pronouncements. After all, God provided blessing, when His people obeyed Him, as well as discipline, when they disobeyed. It was the people’s obedience or disobedience, not Micah’s prophecies, that were responsible for their condition. Preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God involves telling people how they fall short of God’s requirements, so they can repent and enjoy His blessing, as well as affirming them for their good deeds.
"Spirit" could refer to the spirit or attitude of the Lord, or it could refer to the Holy Spirit. Either translation makes sense, but since the Holy Spirit executes the will of God in the world, He is perhaps in view here (cf. Genesis 1:2).
By failing to warn them of coming judgment for sin, the false prophets were really treating their fellow Israelites as their enemies; they were not doing them a service but a disservice. Micah proceeded to list more sins that the wealthy in Judah were practicing. They had taken the clothing of their fellow Israelites as payment for their debts, something their law forbade (cf. Exodus 22:26-27; Amos 2:8). They also did this to unsuspecting travelers who passed through their land and to soldiers who had recently returned from war.
It is possible that Micah had the false prophets in view here and in the following verses and not just the rich Israelites (cf. Micah 3:5). However, "My people" seems to imply a larger group of Israelites than just the false prophets, probably the numerous wealthy oppressors among the people. They might as well have been the Assyrians or the later Babylonians in spoiling Israel. [Note: Waltke, in The Minor . . ., p. 646.]
Waltke noted that in 1993, when he wrote, 35 percent of the wealth of the United States was concentrated in the hands of less than 1 percent of the people, many of whom functioned as patrons to the supposed representatives of the people. [Note: Ibid., p. 647.]
The rich Israelites also exacted payment from the dependent women of Israel so they could no longer afford to live in their own houses (cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40). Their conduct affected the children since these children would have to live out their lives in a foreign land as exiles (cf. Exodus 22:21; Psalms 146:9). The splendid heritage of the Israelites was the land Yahweh had given them (cf. Jeremiah 3:19).
Sarcastically, Micah told the rich oppressors to rise up and depart from the land (cf. Amos 4:4-5). They were wrong to be at rest in Israel when it had become an unclean place because of the people’s sinfulness (cf. Deuteronomy 12:9; Psalms 95:11). They should leave while they could because painful destruction was coming as punishment (cf. Leviticus 18:24-28).
"Their dirty conduct in illtreating their needy neighbors has rendered them unfit to tread Canaan’s soil any longer." [Note: Allen, p. 298.]
Micah bemoaned the fact that the Israelites had become so responsive to the false prophets that if one of them even spoke out (cf. Micah 2:6) promising alcohol galore they would follow him. Any prophet who preached greater affluence and prosperity would have a receptive audience. In contrast, Micah’s message of doom was unpopular. God’s people would follow anyone whose prophetic fantasies blew with the wind, in contrast to being led by the Spirit (Micah 2:7), or who lied to them by speaking falsehood.
"But we today need to deal with our sins of covetousness, selfishness, and willingness to believe ’religious lies.’ We must abandon ’soft religion’ that pampers our pride and makes it easy for us to sin. Why? Because ’our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29), and ’The Lord shall judge His people’ (Hebrews 10:30). Remember, judgment begins in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17)." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 393.]
"Unfortunately the evangelical church today is too closely associated with the business establishment, too usually motivated by serving self, not others, and too little concerned with the oppressed and needy, in spite of the clear teaching of the NT on this subject (Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 12:31; Acts 4:32-37; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:10; 1 John 3:16-18)." [Note: Waltke, in The Minor . . ., p. 649.]
The Lord Himself would assemble the scattered remnant of all the Israelites (Jacob and Israel; cf. Micah 1:5) following His dispersion of them in exile. The Assyrian and Babylonian exiles were only the first of several that the Jews have experienced. More recently, the Romans scattered them in A.D. 70, and since then most Jews have lived dispersed around the world rather than in a homeland of their own. The return of many modern Jews to the State of Israel does not fulfill this prophecy, as is clear from what Micah and the other prophets said about that future regathering.
The remnant refers to the part of the people that would remain following the dispersion of the majority. Yahweh would assemble them as a shepherd gathers sheep in a fold in the midst of a pasture (cf. Micah 5:4; Micah 7:14). This pictures the regathering of the Israelites in the Promised Land, which is similar to an island in the world. This pen would be full of noise and people because it would be a time and place of great rejoicing, like the city of Jerusalem was during one of Israel’s annual feasts.
"That long-awaited time of blessing will come about for the nation of Israel in the Millennium. Some interpreters claim that this promise of blessing is being fulfilled now in the church, rather than in the future for Israel [i.e., covenant theologians]. However, if Micah 2:12 refers to spiritual blessing for the church, then Israel has been misled all these centuries since Abraham to think that she will inherit the land forever." [Note: Martin, p. 1481.]
D. A prediction of future regathering and leadership 2:12-13
The message of the false prophets was not completely wrong; it presented the positive aspects of God’s promises to Israel but omitted the negative. Micah’s message had been mainly negative; the people needed to repent or they would experience divine chastening. Now Micah reminded his hearers that there were positive blessings ahead for Israel, but they would come later.
As a shepherd breaks through obstacles and barriers to lead his sheep into pleasant pastures, so Israel’s Good Shepherd will clear the way for His sheep to return to the land (cf. Psalms 78:52-53; Psalms 80:1). They will break out of their former habitations, pass through the way He opens for them, and leave all parts of the world to return to the Promised Land.
Yahweh would not only function as their Shepherd but also as their (Davidic) King (cf. Isaiah 6:5). He will lead them as a mighty conqueror and ruler (cf. Isaiah 33:22; Zephaniah 3:15; Zechariah 14:9).
"If studied in isolation from the total context of the prophecy, the passage may be understood simply as a prediction of the return from the Captivity. But this is inadequate in view of the broader background of Micah’s concept of the future." [Note: McComiskey, p. 415.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Micah 2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12