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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Micah 4

Verses 1-4

GOD’S PROMISES TO HIS PEOPLE

Micah 4:1 to Micah 5:15

The Future of Zion (4:1-5:1)

The Re-establishment of Zion (4:1-4)

In four familiar verses nearly parallel to Isaiah 2:2-4, and, like Zechariah 3:10, containing language similar to that of 1 Kings 4:25, there appears a vision of the restoration and future glory of Zion. In clearly defined steps attention is directed successively to the future exalted position of the Temple hill of Jerusalem, to the international reputation and importance of the Temple, and to the future peaceful condition of a world governed by the Lord of hosts. In figurative language the prophet sees the exaltation of the Temple hill above all other hills and mountains on earth; no geological upheaval is involved, only the social and political circumstances indicated in the rest of the vision. But the expected flow of peoples to the Temple must be understood as a literal expectation of the prophet. He foresaw a day when God’s ways would be sought out by many nations. "Law" (Torah, or instruction), the kind of guidance expected from the priests in early days, would be found in Zion, not just for restored Jews but for all peoples. The word of the Lx)rd would issue from Jerusalem. The prophet does not think in terms of a written law, but of simple direct answers to the problems of national leaders of the world. God will settle problems between nations, whether near or far from Jerusalem. The result will be that weapons of warfare will be of no value, and will be made over into agricultural instruments, while people will be able to relax under the shade of their own trees, enjoying the fruits of these trees in peace, "and none shall make them afraid." It is God’s decree.

It is easy to see ways in which this vision of the future glory of Zion follows logically the indictment of the latter part of chapter 3. True guidance from God, so rare in Micah’s day, will become universal in the day envisioned. War and destruction, expected as punishment for the evils of the eighth century, will be a thing of the past. Violence and bloodshed, the normal accompaniment of business life in Micah’s day, will be replaced by a truly peaceful existence.

It is rather generally agreed that the vision of restoration is the work of a poet later than Micah, attached to the fragmentary remnants of the work of the eighth-century prophet, as it has also been inserted into the work of Isaiah (2:2-4). As such an addition to the work of Micah it corrects the impression of despair left by the early prophet and sketches the glorious state of things when the sufferings of the period of punishment will come to an end. This addition belongs to the more theological of the two groups of additions to the work of the original Micah, since it stresses the judgment of God himself from Jerusalem. The passage declares God’s intention for the world of "the latter days" in a way that has not been surpassed. Details of the method of accomplishment of his will are not in sight, and thus the vision remains as an ideal, beckoning men of the twentieth century no less than it has challenged the Jews and Christians of all ages.

Verse 5

The Dedication of the Faithful (4:5)

One verse stands alone following the vision of the future glory of Zion. It brings things "back to earth" in a realistic statement of toleration and of religious determination. Breathing an entirely different spirit from the exalted vision of verses 1-4, verse 5 grapples with present realities, in an age of increasing awareness of the variety of religious practices and beliefs. The writer of this verse was aware that the idealistic hope that many nations would come to Jerusalem seeking instruction from God would not be fulfilled immediately. If the returning exiles really expected an outstanding and world-attracting revelation from God as they set out upon the "second Exodus," they were disappointed; they had to recognize that Babylonians and Persians and the many other peoples around them would continue to follow the practices of their various religions. Only God’s special intervention would change that: the returning Jews were powerless to bring all nations to worship their God.

But they could dedicate themselves to the Lord and determine to be faithful to him for ever and ever. While in Isaiah 2:5 the people are exhorted to "walk in the light of the Lord," in Micah 4:5 the determination to "walk in the name of the Lord" is expressed. By "walking in the name of a god, the writer means simply that life and worship will acknowledge and honor only the appropriate national deity. No true Jew will become a worshiper of the gods of Babylon or adopt practices tolerated by these gods.

Verses 6-8

The Reign of the Lord from Zion (4:6-8)

This brief fragment continues to stress the divine presence and rule from Mount Zion, but centers attention on new details, with the result that the impression made is different from that of 4:1-4. Here the Lord is concerned with "the lame" and "those who have been driven away," apparently from among the Hebrew people. It is these weak and afflicted ones who will become the Remnant which in turn will be made into a strong nation. Zion is still central, now described as the "tower of the flock," but it is not the Temple that is important or religious instruction which is emphasized. In this prediction the goal is the return of "the former dominion . . . the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem," which may be understood as referring to the kingdom’s greatest extent during the reigns of David and Solomon. From the extreme idealism of 4:1-4, which is essentially religious in its mood, the viewpoint has shifted toward the political. But here it is still God who rules; human shepherds do not yet appear as part of the picture. The practical problems of making the Kingdom of God real on earth are not within the scope of this fragment.

Verses 9-10

The Promise of Redemption (4:9-10)

Verses 9 and 10 interject questions addressed to the "daughter of Zion," and conclude with a promise of redemption by the hand of the Lord. The questions concern a time of distress for the people of Jerusalem, but they assume the presence of a king-counselor to whom the people should be turning in their fear. What that time is cannot be defined with certainty; the reference to Babylon, taken in connection with the reference to a king in Jerusalem, suggests the last days before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, either 597 or 587. At that time the kings, though still on the throne, were so ineffective that the people had reason to be seized with pangs like those of a woman about to give birth. The presence of these two verses, following the reference to the Lord’s reign from Zion, may perhaps be attributed to a desire on the part of an editor to emphasize for his time the fact that God rules over Zion whether an earthly king is to be found there or not.

The announcement of the course of events following the fall of Jerusalem — residence in the open country and a journey to Babylon — is followed by the promise of rescue and redemption. It is the Lord who will accomplish the restoration of his people. Though originally intended for a time of despair and extreme political uncertainty, the concluding verse of this section is also appropriate for a time of overconfidence in the achievements of men.

Verses 11-13

The Fate of Zion’s Enemies (4:11-13)

The next section deals with the enemies of Zion and, in a remarkably bloodthirsty mood, ascribes thoughts to the Lord remote from those of the vision of the nations seeking instruction in 4:1-4. This passage perhaps expresses an editor’s idea of the way in which the Lord’s redemption (not defined in 4:10) would take place. Nations which have assembled with the idea of the conquest of Zion learn to their sorrow that Zion is no weakling, but that she has horns and hoofs of metal and knows how to use the latter to beat out the grain from the sheaves gathered in harvest. The fate of the enemies of Zion, according to the picture presented in this brief fragment, will be for them to bring their wealth to the very gates of Zion as they prepare their hostile attack and then to have that wealth snatched from them by the victim they had come to rape.

It is difficult for modern men, conditioned by the ideals of Christianity and the exalted vision of Isaiah 40-55 and other parts of the Old Testament, to see how such thoughts can be ascribed to God. It must be remembered, of course, that such a fragment as this arose out of the deep distress of siege — such as that of 701 B.C. when Sennacherib nearly conquered Jerusalem or that of 485 B.C. when the Persians apparently put down an effort to establish a Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem. At such a time of dire need and extremity it is easier to ascribe ideas of vengeance to God than it is in more peaceful times. And it must be recalled that the Hebrew people had a strong sense of God’s justice and power to accomplish his purpose. At times they believed that he would use natural forces to achieve his ends (as in the song of Deborah, Judges 5:20-21), but they also believed that he made use of human instruments. Here the whole people of God serve to accomplish his punishment of the assembled enemies of his Chosen People. When modern man hesitates to ascribe thoughts of vengeance to God, he ends often by not ascribing to him any specific thoughts regarding individuals or nations. The Hebrew, on the other hand, had a vivid sense of God’s concern for his people and developed in the postexilic period a strong feeling that all the wealth of the nations is really the property of "the Lord of the whole earth."

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Micah 4". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/micah-4.html.