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The Sins Which Have Brought Judah’s Calamity On It (Micah 2:1-11 ).
These prophecies would have been spoken well before the scenes previously depicted, which from the point of view of this chapter are still in the future. They are a detailed explanation as to why YHWH will punish His people.
Woe to those who devise iniquity
And work evil on their beds!
When the morning is light, they practise it,
Because it is in the power of their hand.’
God’s woe is described on those who spend their time while in bed on working out ways to grow rich by false means, and then putting it into practise when they get up. They sin night and day. It is a way of life with them. We are reminded of those of whom it was said that ‘the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually’ (Genesis 6:5). The night time is a time for planning evil. The day time is a time for practising it.
‘And they covet fields, and seize them;
And houses, and take them away,
And they oppress a man and his house,
Even a man and his heritage.’
They are mainly the wealthy people. (‘how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter under the Kingly Rule of God’ - Luke 18:24). They covet their neighbour’s fields and find means of seizing them by using underhand methods, political influence or loopholes in the law. They gain possession of their houses, and dispossess the inhabitants. They oppress ‘smaller’ men and their families, and try to take over their heritage. We can compare the same men spoken of by Isaiah in a similar way, ‘Woe to those who join house to house, who lay field to field, until there is no room and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land’ (Isaiah 5:8)
That this was possible given the teaching of the Law about the preservation of a man’s heritage (all land was to return to its original owner after fifty years and had to be available for redemption - Leviticus 25:10) just emphasises how far the people as a whole had strayed from God’s covenant. It had simply been put aside, the hope being that as long as the ritual was maintained at a certain level God would be satisfied. What they had overlooked was that it was in fact their practical behaviour that was of most importance to God. In God’s Law a man’s heritage was sacred.
‘Therefore thus says YHWH,
Behold, against this family do I devise an evil,
From which you shall not remove your necks,
Neither shall you walk haughtily,
For it is an evil time.’
YHWH now warns them that because of their behaviour He will devise a catastrophe against them (either the family of Jacob or the ‘family’ of rich men) that they will not be able to avoid. It will be like a heavy yoke from which they will be unable to remove their necks, nor will they be able to walk with their nose in the air, because it will be a catastrophic time.
It is a reminder to us that if we do not obey His word, and if we neglect the needy, then God will allow circumstances to overtake us to our detriment as well.
‘In that day will they take up a parable against you,
And lament with a doleful lamentation,
And say, We are utterly ruined,
He changes the portion of my people,
How does he remove it from me!
To the rebellious he divides our fields.’
Outsiders will now jeer at them in a proverb song, ‘and lament with a lamenting lamentation’, moaning pretentiously and saying sarcastically with a mocking voice, ‘We are utterly ruined.’ The picture is one of total derision. And this will be because God will have altered the situation that they have manufactured. He will do it by removing the land from the wealthy, by their being transported, and then dividing it up among the rebellious, that is the invading enemy.
Whether the last three lines are part of the taunt or the reply of the once rich men makes little difference. These rich men who had ignored the portions that God had divided amongst His people, now grumbled because they felt that their portions had been taken from them. And worst of all, He gives it to the enemy. The fullness of the judgment that has come on them because of their greed is made clear.
Note the change of tense which makes the words very personal. Each grumbler is speaking about his own loss.
‘Therefore you will have none who will cast the line by lot,
In the assembly of YHWH.’
And the result will be that none of the leadership will be left. None will be available to cast the lot in the assembly of YHWH. This may have in mind such things as the use of Urim and Thummim by the Priest, the casting of lots over the goats on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:8), and possibly have in mind the method of dividing up the land in view of the fact that the original owners and their families were no longer of the land, in the same way as it had been done originally (Numbers 26:55). The use of the lot under YHWH’s guidance was a common way of coming to such decisions in Israel. It was probably used on such occasions as Joshua 7:16-18; Judges 20:18; 2 Samuel 2:1; etc.
‘ “Do not prophesy,” is how they prophesy.
They will not prophesy to these.
Reproaches will not depart.’
Micah now takes up a grievance against the cult prophets. In their prophecies they prophesy against prophesying, and will not prophesy against these evils, and the result will be that there will be no prophesying to the people about these things and the people will still bear their reproach. Their reproaches will not depart as a result of repentance but will remain. He may have in mind especially that this suggestion not to prophesy was aimed at him.
‘Will it be said, O house of Jacob,
“Is the Spirit of YHWH straitened?
Are these his doings?
Do not my words do good,
To him who walks uprightly?’
He then takes up the question as coming from ‘the house of Jacob’ as to whether he is limiting the Spirit of YHWH and putting a straitjacket on Him by suggesting that He will behave in this way. Is YHWH so filled with threats? Is He so restricted? YHWH’s reply is simple, let them consider the good that His words do to those who walk uprightly in accordance with His covenant. (Micah never actually mentions the covenant. But it constantly lies behind what he says). It is a hint to them to consider whether they are walking uprightly.
There is no indication in his words as to whether the words are spoken to Israel or Judah. Either (or both) could be described as ‘the house of Jacob’. The probability must be that it is Judah.
‘But of late my people is risen up as an enemy,
You strip the robe from off the garment,
From those who pass by securely,
As men averse from war.’
YHWH continues by pointing out, however, that many do not walk uprightly. They behave like enemy soldiers might be expected to behave. When men are passing through in peace as travellers, men who would expect in God’s land to travel in security, they find themselves waylayed and their robbers seize their rich robes, leaving them in their undertunics. Whether this also was the rich men’s doing, or whether it was the equivalent action of the greedy poor we are not told. But again the point is that they are not doing God’s will.
‘The women of my people you cast out,
From their pleasant houses,
From their young children you take away,
My glory for ever.’
And they even find means of buying out the houses of women from under them, possibly once their husbands have died, and then cast them out onto the streets. And from the young children they permanently take the possessions that God had guaranteed to them, or their godly heritage. ‘Glory’ often means possessions and wealth (compare Isaiah 17:3). Alternately it may indicate that these young children as a result of their mistreatment go to the bad.
We can compare here the words of Amos 8:5-6, where such men declared, ‘when will the new moon be gone (what a nuisance sabbaths were) that we may sell corn, and the sabbath that we might set forth wheat, making the measure small and price great, and dealing falsely with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and sell the refuse of the wheat’.
‘Arise you, and depart,
For this is not your resting place,
Because of uncleanness which destroys,
Even with a grievous destruction.’
So Micah calls on those who are performing such wickedness to arise and depart. It is time the invading armies took them off. (It was regularly the rich and important who were the first to be deported). For God’s land is not their resting place, it is the resting place for the meek and lowly in heart. They are thus debarred from it because of their uncleanness, an uncleanness which is destructive to a grievous extent.
The idea of God’s land as being a place of rest for His obedient people is found in Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 3:20; Deuteronomy 12:10; Psalms 95:11. Compare also Hebrews 3-4. It was the place of God’s rest.
‘If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood do lie, saying,
“I will prophesy to you of wine and of strong drink,”
He will even be the prophet of this people.’
Micah despaired of getting the people to listen. They were not interested in the truth. What they wanted was people who tickled their ears and fitted in with their lifestyles. So if a prophet offered them what they wanted, prophesying in a spirit of falsehood, then they would cleave to him and follow him. All he had to do was offer wine and strong drink and they would see him as their prophet. For they preferred false spirits to the true Spirit (Micah 2:7; Micah 3:8).
It is probable that we are to see the spirit of falsehood as a genuine evil spirit, not just as tendency to falsehood. Compare the evil spirit from God that came on Saul (1 Samuel 18:10).
YHWH Will Gather The Remnant of Israel Like A Shepherd Gathers His Sheep And Leads Them Home (Micah 2:12-13 ).
As regularly happens on the prophets Micah now follows the bad news with good news. This was a common practise with Isaiah. For the prophets had a twofold purpose, to deal with the sins of the people, and to enable them to recognise that in spite of all their failure God would ensure their future. He would bring His people back to Himself.
‘I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of you.
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah,
As a flock in the midst of their pasture,
They will make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.
While he has been warning the rich and the powerful of the captivity that awaited them, he also wanted to assure the people that that would not simply be the end. For God’s promises were sure. Many Israelites might disappear into the great beyond, but they are not to think that they are lost sight of by God.
For God intends one day to bring back many of those in exile, as a sheep gathers His flock, and there He will feed them and they will make a great noise because they are men. What He has done will not be hidden. These words need not have the Babylonian captivity in mind. Micah had watched even his own townsfolk taken into exile. He could not doubt that some of them would return under God’s gracious hand. The sheep of Bozrah were plentiful and well-favoured. Compare here Isaiah 40:11.
‘The breaker out is gone up before them,
They have broken forth and passed on to the gate,
And are gone out of it,
And their king is passed on before them,
And YHWH at the head of them.’
The picture is a triumphant one. Just as YHWH the great Escapist, had broken them out of Egypt and had gone up before them, so that they too were able to break out, He now enables them to break out of wherever they are settled, passing out through the gate, for nothing can hold Him in, and going with them out of the city. They will go forward with their King passing on before them, with YHWH at their head.
The picture is the typically Isaianic one concerning God as the great Deliverer. See for example the constant movement from present sin to glorious future in Isaiah 1-5, and the constant references to God as bringing righteousness and salvation. And compare Isaiah 52:12.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Micah 2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30