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Notes on the Prophecy of Micah
The Summons To Hearken
Micah’s prophecy, while simple in structure and clear in the main, yet contains a number of seemingly involved and obscure passages. In taking up its study, one feels more than ever the need of divine illumination to understand aright the dark sayings so frequently occurring. But the theme of the book is plain. It is the wretched estate of all Israel because of their sin, and the wonderful deliverance to be brought in by Him “whose goings-forth have been of old, from everlasting,” yet who was to come out of Bethlehem-Ephratah to effect salvation for His people. Hence, though this first chapter begins with their solemn arraignment for “the transgression of Jacob” and “for the sins of the house of Israel,” the book concludes with the precious assurance that He whom they have offended will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea. In all this we are on familiar ground, often trodden heretofore, and cast up as a highway by “Moses and all the prophets.” It is only as to details there is difficulty, and then nothing of a fundamental character.
Micah is called “the Morasthite,” that is, a man of Moreshah; or, as he himself calls it in verse 14, Moresheth-gath; or, again, Mareshah, in the following verse, a town lying to the south-west of Jerusalem, and therefore in the land of Judah.
Micah is cited by the elders of Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah, a hundred years later, as an example of one who had prophesied ever against Israel, but who was not apprehended therefor by the godly king Hezekiah (Jeremiah 26:16-24.26.19).
His prophecy might have been all delivered at one time, as there are no clear breaks in its continuity; but it seems more likely that it consists of three discourses and a prayer-each of the former commencing with a summons to hear. In that case the first division would embrace chaps. 1 and 2; the second, chaps. 3 to 5; and the third, chap. 6; while chap. 7 would be the fourth and last.
Coming to the front a little later than Isaiah, Micah is his contemporary for the greater part of his ministry. In verse 1 we find, as also on examination of the book before us, that it embraces all Israel, not merely Judah, where the seer himself dwelt.
“Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth (or land), and all that therein is: and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple” (ver. 2). In spirit the people are called back to the days of Leviticus 1:1, when the voice of Jehovah was heard from the sanctuary, setting forth the holiness that was comely in those among whom He dwelt. Now, He speaks again from the sanctuary; but, this time, to convict them of having violated His Word in every particular, and thus forfeited all title to blessing under the covenant of works entered into at Sinai and confirmed in the plains of Moab. They are summoned to let Adonai Jehovah21 be witness against them. To do so will be to justify God and to condemn themselves; and for a failed people this is the path of blessing.
It is a great thing to bow to the whole Word of God, even when it judges me and condemns my ways. To do so is the precursor to something better; but to excuse myself at the expense of God’s truth is a process most hardening to the conscience.
In verses 3 and 4 the Lord is represented as coming out of His place to inquire into Israel’s state. The language used is highly figurative, the sublimity of which must be conceded by all. Like volcanic fires bursting forth and rending the earth is the awakening of Jehovah to judge His people.
The transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel furnish the occasion for this display of power and wrath. Samaria, with her mixture of idolatrous rites and Israelitish worship, is the transgression of Jacob. Jerusalem, in its treachery and apostasy, is the sin of Judah. Therefore Samaria was to become a desolation, as a vineyard given over to destruction. All the graven images and idols of every kind were to be beaten to pieces, and her “hires” (Lesser translates, “her wages of sin”) burned in the fire. Nothing shall abide the day of Jehovah’s fury (vers. 5-7).
Ver. 8 seems to be language put into the mouth of the despoiled nation; or it may be the prophet’s own picture of his bitter sorrow at the fate about to befall Samaria. It is an instance of the peculiar character of this book.
Nothing now could stay the avenging hand, for “her wound is incurable!” It is solemn indeed when God thus has to pronounce upon the malady affecting those who bear His name. Like a spreading pestilence, “it is come unto Judah, [and] hath reached unto the gate of My people, even to Jerusalem” (ver. 9). The whole body was affected, and the whole head sick. See Isaiah 1:5, Isaiah 1:6.
Alas, that the Philistine enemes of Israel should hear of so wretched a condition prevailing among those who were called “The redeemed of the Lord!” “Tell it not in Gath, weep ye not loudly [there].” But “in Beth-le’-aphrah (‘the house of the dust’ ) roll thyself in the dust!” (ver. 10). The prophet plays on the word Aphrah, signifying “the dust.” There, might fallen Israel well resort, and roll themselves in the dust because of their sins.
To city after city desolation and woe are assured. Saphir, “the fair,” shall be given up to shame. Zaanan, “the place of flocks,” was to be without any to come forth of her portals. “The mourning of Beth-ezel (or, Beth-haezel, ‘the house at hand’) taketh from you its halting-place.” Here, again, the prophet is playing on the name. Beth-ezel was evidently what we would call a half-way house. It shall no longer be a halting-place for travelers on their way to the city of the great King (ver. 11).
The dweller in Maroth (“bitterness”) finds only the bitter, and bewails the good that comes not. To Jerusalem’s gate, evil sweeps down like a flood; and what is so solemn is, that it is “from the Lord.” He it is who is judging His people because of their sin (ver. 12).
The 13th verse is difficult of interpretation. For some reason Lachish is declared to be the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion. Hence her people shall flee before the advancing enemy.
Neither are the two following verses sufficiently clear to dogmatize as to their explanation. They seem to imply an unsuccessful effort to form a Philistine alliance for protection from the common foe; but Achzib (“the lie”) shall become indeed that to the kings of Israel. Typically the passage may well point us to the coming day when the lie of Antichrist will be believed, and when he will be confided in to deliver the apostate nation from the onslaught of the last Assyrian; but all in vain. For the Assyrian shall prove to be in very deed the rod of Jehovah’s anger.
Unhappy Israel, fallen so low that conscience no longer troubled, may well make herself bald and mourn in anguish for her delicate children, destroyed by the sins of the fathers. “They are gone into captivity from thee” (ver. 16).
The whole chapter is a dirge of unappeasable sorrow because the nation has forsaken Him who would have blessed them so richly had they but 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.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Micah 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent