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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Micah 2

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-5

Common Sins and Their Punishment (2:1-13)

Woe to Planners of Wickedness (2:1-5)

Getting to particular charges of sin, Micah attacks those who "devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds!" In clear language (Micah 2:2) he explains the specific nature of the evil his contemporaries planned as they lay awake at night, and in the concluding section of the strophe (Micah 2:3-5) he details the appropriate punishment now being devised by the Lord. As the rich and powerful members of the community have successfully seized the properties of the weak, so now the Lord will raise up others (vs. 4) who will divide the fields.

In the evil time to come all the present haughtiness of such powerful members of the community will vanish, and instead there will be the old complaint of the ruined, "He is changing the status quo!" This time, however, the cry will be one of sarcasm and irony, as those who heretofore were ruined by the wealthy now watch the downfall of their oppressors and taunt them. Worst of all, those who have been high-handed in their evil deeds will end with "none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the Lord." They will end by not having a share in the public decisions regarding the division of property; they will not even be represented by surviving members of their families.

Micah’s poetic indictment of the planned — and perhaps technically legal — seizure of property by those in a position to accomplish the necessary manipulations finds a response through the ages in the hearts of those who have suffered economic injustice or who have watched helplessly while such injustice occurred. It stands as an assurance of God’s concern for the weak, and of his intention to remedy the wrongs committed.

Verses 6-11

An Attack on Micah’s Preaching (2:6-11)

In what appears to be the consequence of an interruption from members of his audience, Micah deals with objections to the kind of preaching he presented. The passage begins with a quotation of the interrupter’s objection. Micah was asked to stop preaching about the evils of coming disgrace on the principle that to talk of such things is to invite them, or that those who are secure should not be disturbed in their "peace of mind." The opening word, "preach," is a contempt-loaded expression implying ecstatic or irresponsible utterance, "drivel," or even "foam." Accepting the slander, Micah apparently (a confused text here makes the point uncertain) hurled the term back into the teeth of his critics: "Thus they preach."

In a more reasonable spirit, Micah continues his answer to the interruption (vs. 7) with a series of questions addressed to those present. The term "house of Jacob" defines them as the ones called by God to be his people, but in fact questions the reality of their faithfulness in the present. Cleverly Micah turns from the interruption and continues quickly to present his charges of evil against the people.

In the three following questions (Micah 2:7-8) Micah raises the issue of the responsibility of God for the evil that is to come. Although he does not answer them, the form of his questions implies that the primary responsibility is upon those who have done the evil. The question regarding God’s "Spirit" (here the inner being of God from which his moods arise) implies that it is certainly not impatience on God’s part that is bringing an end to the security and prosperity of Judah. God would prefer to bring good rather than evil to his people, but their sins cannot be overlooked.

Micah returns to his indictment. The declarations of verse 8 are textually difficult, as the margin indicates. The conjectures show that the responsibility for the forthcoming evil is clearly laid upon the evil men of the Judean state, who have already allied themselves against their people, attacking their trusting fellow citizens as enemies. Like a conqueror they have driven women from their pleasant homes (vs. 9), and have robbed children of God’s "glory." It is difficult to identify the implications of this deprivation, but apparently the wicked have, as it were, brought about a defeat of God himself, so that the children who survive will feel a sort of perpetual national humiliation, concerned more with religious feeling than with nationhood.

To these same wicked members of the community Micah addresses a final and emphatic dismissal in verse 10. It is a "goodby and good riddance" addressed prophetically to those who will be captives of the enemy, the opposite of Jeremiah’s vision of the two baskets of figs, where the departing captives are viewed with some hope (Jeremiah 24:1-10).

In a final declaration (Micah 2:11), perhaps an independent fragment, Micah returns to the subject of preaching. Let a man begin to babble a lot of loose talk and lies, and the people will hail him as the kind of preacher they approve! He will be all the more acceptable if he announces as his subject, "I am for wine and whisky!" In this declaration Micah suggests the existence of the problem of intemperance in his day, and of the danger of any word of encouragement toward alcoholism. This is Micah’s only adverse reference to wine and strong drink (compare 6:15 and 7:1). Evidently the rich of his day were too busy plotting serious economic sins to be attacked for indulgence in heavy drinking.

Verses 12-13

Return After Punishment (2:12-13)

In a brief interlude there comes a prophetic word which looks beyond the time of punishment to a time of restoration. Using the analogy of a shepherd leading his flock, a prophet, probably not Micah, describes the moment of departure of a noisy gathering of men from a place of confinement. The imagery is reasonably clear and its meaning can be determined to a certain extent: the fragmentary promise concerns "the remnant of Israel," which is evidently all that is left of the Chosen People descended from Jacob; this remnant is gathered into one place awaiting a journey or release; as it waits it is a noisy multitude, indicating a mood of joy rather than of distress. The king, who is the Lord himself and not either a descendant of David or a foreign conqueror, arrives to head the line of march. The actual beginning of the anticipated movement comes when "he who opens the breach" goes up before them. It is not clear whether this one who initiates the outward movement is to be understood as a leader (like a bellwether ram or goat) arising from within the gathering or as a chief shepherd who arrives on the scene to begin the day’s move.

All details seem to point to an exilic setting. While it is not impossible that the fragment may refer to the release of the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their confinement in the city during the siege by Sennacherib in 701 B.C., it appears more likely that it belongs to the period in which the return from exile in Babylon was anticipated, and that it was inserted among Micah’s prophecies to relieve their gloomy weight.

Whether it originally referred to the time of Hezekiah or to a later period, the passage is one further assurance of the intention of God to accomplish his purpose for Israel through a faithful remnant, whom he himself will lead. Such an assurance is unexpected in the midst of Micah’s extended indictment of the sins of his time. But, like a good parent, God has often combined assurances of his love and of his good purpose with his reprimands and words of warning.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Micah 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/micah-2.html.
 
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