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In this litigation speech, Micah called his audience to hear what Yahweh had told him to say. Yahweh had a case (lawsuit, Heb. rib) to bring against His people. The Lord was summoning Israel to defend herself in a courtroom setting. He addressed the mountains, hills, and foundations of the earth as the jury in this case (cf. Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2). The Lord called this jury, which had observed Israel’s history from its beginning, to hear His indictment against the nation. Compare the function of memorial stones (Genesis 31:43-50; Joshua 22:21-28). If these jurors could speak, they would witness to the truthfulness of the Lord’s claims.
A. The Lord’s indictment against His people 6:1-5
The Lord called the Israelites, His people, to testify how He had caused them to be so weary of Him that they ceased to obey Him. His rhetorical questions were unanswerable; He had not given them reason to become dissatisfied with Him (cf. 1 Samuel 17:29; 1 Samuel 20:1; 1 Samuel 26:18; 1 Samuel 29:8; Isaiah 5:4). His questions convey a sense of pathos; rather than simply criticizing them, He asked how He had failed them. They had complained against Him often, but He had given them no occasion to do so.
Instead of wronging them, He had done nothing but good for them. Instead of letting them down, He had lifted them up. He had brought them from Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land of milk and honey. He had brought them out of the house of slavery, Egypt, which their Passover celebrated (cf. Exodus 12:3; Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:12-13; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 15:15; Deuteronomy 24:18). And He had given them capable leaders for their wilderness travels in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, a trio of siblings whom the Israelites respected throughout their history. Moses, the prophet, had given them their law (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Aaron served them as their first high priest, and Miriam was a prophetess who led them in praising God for His goodness (Exodus 15:20-21).
Yahweh charged the Israelites to remember that Balak, king of Moab, wanted God to curse His people, but Balaam revealed that God would never do that (Numbers 22-24). God’s intentions for His people had consistently been good. The events of their crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land showed the same thing. Shittim was the Israelites’ last camping place before they crossed the Jordan, and Gilgal was where they camped first after crossing (Joshua 3:1; Joshua 4:18-19). God had always done what was consistent with His covenant obligations to His people, never burdening them but always protecting, defending, and enabling them. He had lovingly led them from slavery in a hostile foreign land to settlement in their own comfortable country (cf. Joshua 24; 1 Samuel 12).
The prophet, for His people, asked himself what offering He should bring to the exalted Lord in heaven that would be appropriate in view of Yahweh’s mercies to the Israelites throughout their history. Would burnt offerings of year-old calves be suitable, since they were the very best offerings and expressed the worshipper’s total personal dedication to Yahweh (cf. Leviticus 9:2-3; Leviticus 22:27)?
B. Micah’s response for the Israelites 6:6-8
In this pericope Micah responded to God’s goodness, just reviewed, as the Israelites should have responded. His was the reasonable response in view of Yahweh’s loyal love for His people (cf. Romans 12:1-2).
Or would the Lord take pleasure if he offered Him thousands of rams and an extravagant amount of oil, like Solomon and other kings had done (cf. Leviticus 2:1-16; 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 30:24; 2 Chronicles 35:7)? Neither the quality of a sacrifice nor its quantity was the important issue. Perhaps making the ultimate sacrifice and offering his firstborn son to atone for his sins would please the Lord. Micah, of course, did not believe that these sacrifices by themselves would please Him, but he used them as examples of ritual worship that the Israelites thought would satisfy God.
No, these sacrifices were not what the Lord wanted. He had already told the Israelites what would be good (beneficial) for them when they sinned (cf. Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 10:18; 1 Samuel 12:24; Hosea 12:6). He wanted each of His people ("O man") to change his or her behavior. The address "O man" emphasizes the difference between God and man, particularly man’s subordination under God. It also connects Micah’s hearers, the people, not just the leaders, with the vain worshippers described in the two previous verses. Specifically, the Lord wanted His people to practice justice rather than continuing to plot and practice unfairness and injustice toward one another (cf. Micah 6:11; Micah 2:1-2; Micah 3:1-3). He also wanted them to love kindness, to practice loyal love (Heb. hesed) by carrying through their commitments to help one another, as He had with them (cf. Micah 6:12; Micah 2:8-9; Micah 3:10-11). And He wanted them to walk humbly with Him, to live their lives modestly trusting and depending on Him rather than arrogantly relying on themselves (cf. Micah 2:3). There is a progression in these requirements from what is external to what is internal and from human relations to divine relations. Doing justice toward other people demands loving kindness, which necessitates walking humbly in fellowship with God. [Note: Mays, p. 142. See also Waltke, in Obadiah, . . ., p. 197.]
This verse contains one of the most succinct and powerful expressions of Yahweh’s essential requirements in the Bible (cf. Matthew 22:37-39; Matthew 23:23; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Colossians 3:12; James 1:27; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 5:5). It explains the essence of spiritual reality in contrast to mere ritual worship. Though the Lord asked His people to worship Him in formal ways, which the Mosaic Covenant spelled out, His primary desire was for a heart attitude marked by the characteristics Micah articulated (cf. Psalms 51:16-17; Jeremiah 7:22-26).
"No vital relationship with God is possible if one is unfaithful to the responsibilities arising out of his God-given relationships with his fellow men." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "A Theology of the Minor Prophets," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 403.]
Micah announced that Yahweh would call to the city of Jerusalem; He would declare something important to the people of that town, Micah’s audience of Judeans. They would be wise to hear Him and to fear Him because of who He is (cf. Micah 6:1; Micah 3:1; Proverbs 1:7). The Lord summoned His people, the tribe of Judah, to hear Him because it was He who had sovereignly chosen them.
1. Israel’s sins 6:9-12
C. The Lord’s sentence of judgment 6:9-16
The Lord became specific about Israel’s sins, as a prosecuting attorney, and then announced His verdict, as a judge.
The Lord asked if there was still anyone in the wicked house of Judah who had treasures that he or she had accumulated through wicked behavior. For example, was there any seller who used a small ephah, one that was less than a true ephah? If so, this was evidence of not acting justly (Micah 6:8; cf. Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Amos 8:5). The ephah was a basket that held about six gallons of dry produce. Using a slightly smaller basket robbed the buyer of some product that he was purchasing for the price of an ephah. The implication of the question is that this practice was common in Jerusalem.
Likewise dishonest scales and inaccurate weights used in commercial transactions were things God could not declare were all right. Ancient weights and measures were not as exact as our modern equivalents, varying as much as six percent. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Weights and Measures," by D. J. Wiseman.] Micah’s contemporaries were stretching the limits beyond what was acceptable.
The rich people of Jerusalem practiced violence (lawlessness) in obtaining what they wanted from the weak. They lied to one another and practiced trickery and deception to obtain their desires. All of this was evidence of injustice that arose from a heart of unkindness toward others and lack of submission to God (Micah 6:8).
Because of these sins the Lord promised to make His people sick, downtrodden, and desolate.
2. Israel’s punishment 6:13-16
They would continue to eat, but their food would not bring them satisfaction (cf. Leviticus 26:26). Their excessive accumulation of things would result in more garbage and waste products that they would have difficulty getting rid of. They would try to keep safe what they had bought, but they would not be able to do so, and what they did lock away would only become the property of invading soldiers eventually (cf. Leviticus 26:16-17; Deuteronomy 28:30). The Lord was repeating the curses for covenant unfaithfulness listed in the Mosaic Code.
They would sow seed, but they would not reap a harvest because the Lord would not bless the land with rain and cause the crops to grow (cf. Deuteronomy 28:30). They would harvest and press their olive crops, but there would be so little product that they would not even be able to anoint themselves with oil. Similarly their grape harvests would be so small that they would produce too little wine to drink (cf. Deuteronomy 28:39-40; Amos 5:11).
The people of Judah were living like their brethren in Israel who followed the instructions of the wicked Israelite kings Omri, Ahab, and their descendants. This group of Israel’s kings constituted some of the worst in the history of the Northern Kingdom largely because of their idolatry and unjust oppression of the weak (cf. 1 Kings 16:21 to 1 Kings 22:40). Micah emphasized Israel’s social sins more than idolatry, about which Isaiah had more to say, though there is a close relationship between both types of sin. Because of this wickedness Yahweh promised to turn the residents of Jerusalem over to destruction. Even though they were His people, they would become objects of horror and scorn by other nations.
"Loss of reputation is ever the final indignity which rubs salt into the wounds of suffering." [Note: Allen, p. 382.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Micah 6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17