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III. THE SECOND ORACLE: THE GUILT OF ISRAEL’S LEADERS AND HER FUTURE HOPE CHS. 3-5
In the first oracle, only the last two verses dealt with Israel’s future blessings (Micah 2:12-13) while everything preceding exposed her sins and guilt. In this second oracle, the balance of emphasis is different. About one-third deals with present sins (ch. 3) and two-thirds with future blessings (chs. 4-5).
A. Condemnation of Israel’s leaders ch. 3
This chapter consists of three sections. The first two point out the sinfulness of two groups of Israel’s leaders, civil and religious, and the last one climaxes to assure their punishment. The leaders of God’s people were not the only guilty individuals, of course, but they were particularly responsible and culpable because they affected so many other Israelites.
This second oracle begins like the first and third ones, with a summons to hear the prophet’s message (cf. Micah 1:2; Micah 6:1). The initial "And I said" ties this oracle to the preceding one and provides continuity. Micah asked rhetorically if it was not proper for Israel’s rulers to practice justice (fairness, equity). It was not only proper, but it was essential. Again, Jacob and Israel are synonyms for all 12 tribes (cf. Micah 1:5; et al.).
1. The guilt of Israel’s civil leaders 3:1-4
Yet these rulers had stood justice on its head. They hated good and loved evil (cf. Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 1:16-17; Amos 5:15). Tearing the flesh off the people, eating their flesh, and cooking their bones all represent abuse of their victims for their own selfish ends. The figure is of a hunter, and the implication is that the rulers regarded and treated the ordinary citizens as mere animals rather than as human beings. The rich stripped the poor of their money and property and oppressed them unmercifully (cf. Zephaniah 3:3)
"Nothing short of new appetites, resulting from the new birth (John 3:3-8) can remedy moral corruption." [Note: Waltke, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 162.]
Because these rulers had turned deaf ears to the pleas of orphans and widows, they would eventually cry out to Yahweh in prayer asking Him for help. But He would not answer them (cf. Psalms 27:7-9; Proverbs 21:13; Jeremiah 7:12-15). God hiding His face from them is an anthropomorphism picturing God disregarding them, turning His back on them. God hears all prayers because He is omniscient, but He chooses not to respond to some of them.
The Lord also had a message concerning the false prophets who were misleading His people. The false prophets gave benedictions to those who paid them, but people who did not give them anything received maledictions of doom and gloom (cf. Lamentations 2:14; Jeremiah 6:14). Self-interest motivated these prophets rather than the fear of the Lord (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3).
"It was an ancient and respectable practice for a prophet to accept payment for services rendered to his clients. After all, as Jesus affirmed, ’the worker is entitled to his wages’ (Luke 10:7). But with so apparently subjective a craft as prophecy there was ever a temptation. Why not make the message match the customer’s pocket?" [Note: Allen, p. 311.]
Even today some ministers favor those who treat them well and neglect, or worse, those who do not.
"Few men are as pitiable as those who claim to have a call from God yet tailor their sermons to please others. Their first rule is ’Don’t rock the boat’; their second is ’Give people what they want.’" [Note: Wiersbe, p. 394.]
2. The guilt of Israel’s religious leaders 3:5-8
Because of this type of treatment, the Lord would withhold prophetic revelations from them. Rather than seeing the light, they would grope in the darkness. The sun, a symbol of God who bestows blessings and favor, would set on their day, and they would have to live in the darkness of His disfavor.
Seers and diviners would suffer embarrassment because they would not be able to come up with any word from the Lord when the people asked for it. Covering the face was a sign of mourning (cf. Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22).
"Like unclean lepers they will go about with covered moustaches (faces, NIV; Heb., shapim) the very area of their abused gift (cf. Leviticus 13:45." [Note: Waltke, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 163.]
Seers received visions (Micah 3:6), and diviners practiced divination (Micah 3:6) to ascertain the future. The title "seer" is an old one describing a prophet (1 Samuel 9:9), but "diviners" sought knowledge of the future through illegitimate means and were outlawed in Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10). Thus these two titles were derogatory terms for the false prophets.
"True prophets had insight into Israel’s history from a sympathy with God’s kingdom perspective; false prophets could not discern the hand of God in history because they saw life through vested interests. True prophets conditioned the nation’s well-being on its fidelity to the Lord, whereas false prophets arrogantly conditioned it on fidelity to themselves. True prophets seek the Lord’s gain; false prophets their own." [Note: Idem, in The Minor . . ., p. 663.]
In contrast to the false prophets who were full of greed (cf. Acts 5:3), Micah claimed to be full of spiritual power (not ecstasy) as a result of God’s Spirit. He virtually claimed that his prophecies were inspired. This statement also implies that Micah experienced continuous empowerment by the Holy Spirit as a prophet (cf. Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14). Whereas the Spirit empowered some Old Testament servants of the Lord only temporarily (cf. Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 16:14), He apparently empowered others, including most of the writing prophets, more or less continuously (cf. Numbers 11:17; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13). [Note: See Wood, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 87-90.] Micah followed the will of God, and God’s Spirit filled him (cf. Ephesians 5:18). Justice marked his pronouncements (cf. Micah 3:1-3; Micah 3:5) and courage his ministry (cf. Micah 3:4; Micah 3:6-7; cf. Acts 4:13). He did not tailor his prophecies to his honorarium or fear what people might withhold from him if his message was negative (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:2-6). His ministry was to declare the sins of the Israelites (as well as their future hope), and he fulfilled it faithfully and boldly.
Micah proceeded to carry out his ministry (cf. Micah 3:8). He called on all Israel’s leaders to pay attention to what he had to say to them, they who despised (lit. utterly abhorred) justice and perverted right ways (cf. Isaiah 5:20).
3. The indictment of Israel’s leaders 3:9-12
He further described his audience of leaders as those who built Jerusalem by sacrificing the lives of innocent people. Micah used "Zion" and "Jerusalem" as synonyms to describe the same place (cf. Micah 3:12; Micah 4:2; Micah 4:8; Psalms 149:2; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 40:9; Amos 6:1). However sometimes, as here, Zion carries theological overtones meaning not just the city but what the city represented, namely, the kingdom of God on earth.
The judges gave favorable verdicts to those who bribed them (cf. Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 27:25), and the priests only taught those who would pay them. The prophets likewise only prophesied for a price (cf. Deuteronomy 16:19). Yet they all claimed to trust in the Lord and encouraged themselves with the false hope that since the Lord was among them He would allow no evil to overtake them (cf. Psalms 46:4-5; Jeremiah 7:4).
Micah announced a wholly different future for the Israelites. God would plow up (overthrow) Jerusalem like a field and tear down its buildings until they were only ruins (cf. Micah 1:5-6). Even the temple mount, the most holy place in all Israel, would become like a hilltop in a forest: overgrown and neglected.
Jeremiah, who lived a century later, quoted this portion of Micah’s prophecy to assure the Jerusalemites of his day that the doom of their city was certain (Jeremiah 26:18). Jeremiah prefaced this quotation with, "Thus the LORD of hosts has said." He viewed Micah’s prophecy as inspired of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).
"Micah’s words, remembered for their shocking severity a hundred years later, deserve to be taken to heart by each generation of God’s people. They challenge every attempt to misuse the service of God for one’s own glory and profit. They are a dire warning against the complacency that can take God’s love and reject his lordship. They are a passionate plea for consistency between creed and conduct. The Lord is content with nothing less." [Note: Allen, p. 321.]
"If Micah were ministering among us today, he would probably visit denominational offices, pastors’ conferences, Bible colleges, and seminaries to warn Christian leaders that privilege brings responsibility and responsibility brings accountability." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 395.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Micah 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent