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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Micah 7

Verses 1-6

HOPELESSNESS OF THE NATION’S CONDITION, Micah 7:1-6.

Scholars are not agreed on the person of the speaker in these verses; some think of the prophet, some of Zion, some of the “true Israel,” that is, Israel after the spirit. If there is any connection between Micah 7:1-6, and chapter 6, which is, to say the least, quite probable, it seems best to consider the prophet as the speaker. He attempts to describe “the desperate condition of the nation, anarchy, persecution, universal corruption of justice, the ties of society dissolved, even friendship and wedded love is no longer to be trusted.” If Zion is understood as the speaker the verses imply a humility and penitence out of place following immediately upon Micah 6:16; hence most recent commentators who make Zion the speaker deny the verses to Micah.

In Micah 7:1 the prophet bewails, in figurative language, his sad and disappointing experience in preaching to the people.

Grape gleanings He was looking for good clusters of grapes, but he found nothing but poor gleanings.

My soul desired the first ripe fruit The context favors the rendering of R.V. margin, “nor first-ripe fig which my soul desired.” He looked for first-ripe figs (see on Hosea 9:10), but found none.

The figures are explained in Micah 7:2-6. As he gazed about him he saw nothing but corruption and violence.

Earth… among men Since the prophet is not thinking here of the whole earth, but of the land of Judah and its inhabitants, we should read “land” for “earth,” the Hebrew word having both meanings (otherwise in Micah 7:13). Good [“godly”] This word is from the same root as that translated in Micah 6:8, “mercy,” R.V., “kindness” (see on Hosea 2:19). Here the adjective has an active meaning, he who shows kindness toward his fellow men. Such men have disappeared entirely (Micah 3:2-3; Micah 6:10-16; compare Hosea 4:1-2).

Upright All have become crooked and corrupt.

They all lie in wait for blood Anxiously they are looking for opportunities to commit robbery and violence; and to accomplish their desires they are quite ready to shed blood (see on Micah 3:10).

Brother In the wider sense of “ fellow citizen” or “neighbor.”

Hunt… with a net They have quenched the instincts of love and sympathy; they are scheming continually to do harm to one another.

The interpretation of Micah 7:3-4 is very uncertain. To remove the obscurities various emendations of the text have been proposed. If the present Hebrew text is correct, R.V. presents a more satisfactory translation of Micah 7:3: “Their hands are upon that which is evil to do it diligently; the prince asketh, and the judge is ready for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth the evil desire of his soul: thus they weave it together.” Following this translation the meaning seems to be:

Their hands Literally, both hands. All hands are stretched out to do evil; selfishness rules everywhere, and all are bent upon satisfying their own selfish ambitions. The prophet now enumerates those whose guilt is the greatest.

Prince See on Hosea 3:4.

Judge The one occupying a judicial position.

Great man The man of wealth, power, and influence.

They weave it together The three classes enumerated conspire together to carry out their evil schemes (compare 1 Kings 21:13). How they work together is also indicated.

The prince asketh Of the judge, to overlook a crime committed by a friend of the prince, or to condemn a man who has displeased him, though he may be innocent.

The judge… for a reward The Hebrew has no verb; but if the present text is correct, R.V. undoubtedly reproduces correctly the thought. The judge is ready to accept a reward or bribe offered by the prince, and for such consideration he readily assents to the latter’s demands.

The great man… uttereth The wealthy and powerful man freely makes known his desires, for he knows that his money and influence “talk,” and will secure for him the co-operation of others. Thus the nobles conspire together and rob and murder unhindered (compare Isaiah 1:21-23; Amos 5:12).

The best of them is as a briar Which pricks, hurts, and injures. Corruption in Judah is so widespread that even he who stands out as the best and the most upright is worse than a thorn hedge (compare 2 Samuel 23:6; Proverbs 15:19).

Thus far the prophet has described the present hopeless condition; with the present deal also Micah 7:5-6. Hence the context would favor the interpretation of 4b also as dealing with the present. However, the text itself is generally thought to point to a future judgment. Song of Solomon 4 b be regarded as a marginal gloss based upon Isaiah 3:1-7?

The day of thy watchmen The day foreseen by the watchmen of Jehovah or of Israel, the prophets (Isaiah 21:6); the day of Jehovah (see on Joel 1:15), a day to which the prophets preceding Micah refer quite frequently. This day is called “thy visitation” or “judgment,” because on it judgment will be executed on all the enemies of Jehovah. Cometh [“is come”] The prophetic perfect (see on Micah 6:13).

Now It is close at hand.

Their perplexity The change from the second to the third person is not uncommon in prophetic discourse (G.-K., 144p.). The judgment will produce the wildest, confusion (Isaiah 22:5), so that they will not know what to do.

Some interpret Micah 7:5-6 as explanatory of “perplexity,” in the sense that “at the outbreak of judgment and of the visitation the faithlessness will reach the height of treachery to the nearest friends, yea, even to the dissolution of every family tie.” This interpretation is based upon the New Testament use of these verses (Matthew 10:35-36; Luke 12:53). However, in the light of the context it seems better to regard the verses a continuation of 4a, describing, in the form of warnings, the awfulness of the present corruption. Friendship can be trusted no longer, truth and fidelity are unknown, all alike practice deceit.

Friend… guide… her that lieth in thy bosom A climax. The friend (R.V., “neighbor”) is the person with whom one has ordinary, everyday intercourse; the guide (R.V., “friend”; margin, “confidant”), he to whom one is bound by closer ties of intimacy and friendship. Neither can be trusted any longer; and even the wife lying upon the bosom is not worthy of confidence, for she does not hesitate to betray her husband by revealing his secrets. “The closest ties of blood-relationship are trodden under foot, and all the bonds of reverence, love, and chastity are loosened.”

Dishonoreth Literally, treats as a fool (Deuteronomy 32:15).

Men of his own house These are not the persons already named, but others who formed a part of a Hebrew household, the servants (Genesis 39:19; 2 Samuel 12:17-18).

Verses 1-20

JEHOVAH AND ISRAEL IN CONTROVERSY THE ULTIMATE SETTLEMENT, Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:20.

With Micah 6:1, begins a new series of utterances. The contents and arrangement are essentially the same as in the preceding sections, denunciation of sin, announcement of judgment, promise of the redemption and glorification of a remnant.

Verses 7-10

CONFIDENCE OF THE PENITENT COMMUNITY IN A FINAL DELIVERANCE, Micah 7:7-10.

As these verses stand now, one might suppose, on first thought, that they came from the same speaker as Micah 7:1-6. The prophet, having bewailed the present corruption of his fellow citizens, breaks out, “Whatever they may do, as for me, I will look unto Jehovah.” But the language of Micah 7:8-10 clearly shows that the speaker cannot be the prophet; he must be the people, or at least a remnant of the people. If the verses come from Micah we must assume that he pictures to himself the nation in the midst of the calamity, which he has repeatedly announced. A remnant, he believes, will remain loyal, and into the mouth of this personified remnant, sitting in darkness, overpowered by the enemy, he places supplications for speedy deliverance, and expressions of confidence. The contrast between the moral and spiritual condition of the people described in Micah 7:1-6 and the humility and confidence expressed in Micah 7:7-10 is very remarkable. Either Micah was a man of extraordinary dramatic power and of wonderful imagination, or the verses cannot come from him.

I will look… wait The old stubbornness is gone; softened through suffering, the remnant is ready to wait patiently until Jehovah will interfere on its behalf.

The God of my salvation He alone can deliver (see on Hosea 14:3; compare Psalms 27:9).

Will hear The suppliant is convinced that God will hear, and that the hearing assures a gracious answer (Isaiah 30:19). Upheld by this sublime confidence, the petitioner turns to the arrogant enemy that oppresses Israel.

Rejoice not For your triumph will not be permanent.

When I fall A picture of calamity and distress. By the help of Jehovah the remnant expects to rise again.

Sit in darkness Another figure of calamity and trouble. Jehovah will keep a watchful eye on his people and will be their “light” through the promises which illumine the gloom and keep alive hope and courage.

In the assurance that Jehovah is still God, and in the consciousness of its sin and guilt, the remnant is willing to bear patiently its present affliction.

I will bear the indignation Because I deserve it, and because in due time Jehovah will again smile upon me.

Plead my cause,… execute judgment The enemy has gone beyond his commission (Isaiah 10:5 ff.; Habakkuk 1:11), hence Israel has cause for complaint; but it is willing to leave its case in the hands of Jehovah; he will punish the proud foe and recompense the remnant for its sufferings.

Light Of prosperity and felicity.

I shall behold his righteousness Which will manifest itself in the deliverance from the enemy. In this God acts righteously, because the preservation and deliverance of the people is in accord with the covenant relation existing between him and Israel.

When Jehovah will thus interfere on behalf of his people, the enemy, arrogant on account of temporary success, will be confounded.

Where is Jehovah thy God See on Joel 2:17.

Mine eyes shall behold her R.V., “Mine eyes shall see my desire upon her.” These words and the rest of the verse might possibly be interpreted as a continuation of the boast. When the enemy beheld the misfortune of Zion he thought that he would speedily see his desire upon her, that is, would see her completely in his power, for he would now have an easy time with the unfortunate people. It seems better, however, to understand the words as an expression of confidence on the part of the hopeful remnant. The latter expects to see its desire upon its enemy, who will be trodden down as the mire of the street (Isaiah 10:6), while the remnant will be exalted and glorified.

Verses 11-13

PROMISE OF A GLORIOUS RESTORATION, Micah 7:11-13.

In Micah 7:11 ff. the speaker is no longer the penitent, expectant remnant, but Jehovah himself, or the prophet as the spokesman of Jehovah. He comforts and encourages the speaker of Micah 7:7-10 with promises of a glorious restoration. Marti, in order to avoid a change in speakers, reads throughout the pronouns of the first person.

It is impossible to accept the text of Micah 7:11-12 as correct in every detail, on the other hand, the text is probably not as corrupt as is assumed by some scholars. Of the present text, A.V. does not offer the best translation. Two or three slight changes, supported in part by LXX., will produce a much better text (compare also R.V.): “A day for the building of thy walls shall that day be; extended shall be thy border on that day; and they shall come unto thee from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt even to the River, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.”

In the day that thy walls are to be built Better, R.V., “A day for building thy walls!” The breaking down of the walls is threatened in Micah 3:12; in the day of restoration they will be rebuilt.

Decree This translation gives no good sense, and all attempts at interpretation have proved futile. Hence it is better to follow R.V. margin in translating “boundary” or “border.” In the day of restoration the borders of the promised land will be extended so as to make room for the returning exiles (Obadiah 1:18-21). The word, which is rare in this sense, was used because of the similarity in sound between it and the original of “removed” or “extended.”

That day The day in which the expectations expressed in Micah 7:7-10 will be realized.

Micah 7:12 contains a promise that in “that” day multitudes will flock to Jerusalem from every direction.

He shall come R.V., “shall they come.” A.V. is a literal rendering of the original. Who shall come? Some find the answer in Micah 4:3 (compare Isaiah 19:24). From all parts of the world people will flock to Jehovah to be instructed by him. Others think of the return from exile; the exiles who were scattered in all directions will return to their old home. Perhaps both ideas are included.

Assyria The place of exile of the northern tribes (2 Kings 17:23).

Egypt So far as we know no Hebrews had been carried into exile to Egypt before the time of Micah, but after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. some took refuge there (2 Kings 25:26). Hence many think that this promise presupposes the exile (compare Isaiah 11:11 ff.). There is much to be said in favor of this view, though the mention of Egypt as a place of exile does not absolutely prove a late date, in view of Hosea’s expectation of an Egyptian exile (Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 9:6). If Micah shared this view of which we have no evidence he would naturally mention Egypt in a description of the restoration. No difficulty exists if the words are interpreted as pointing to a flocking of non-Israelitish worshipers to Jehovah (compare Isaiah 19:24).

The river The Euphrates. The second clause is identical in meaning with the first.

Sea… mountain The prophet may not have in mind any special sea or mountain; the expression may be used simply to indicate all parts of the known world. If he is thinking of definite locations the seas would probably be the Mediterranean in the west and the Persian Gulf in the southeast, the mountains, perhaps Mount Lebanon in the north and Mount Sinai in the south, unless we suppose that he is thinking of the far-away mountains beyond Assyria and Egypt.

The rendering of Micah 7:13 in A.V. and R.V. is a translation plus an interpretation. “Land” is understood as referring to Palestine. Before the glory expected in Micah 7:7-10 and promised in Micah 7:11-12 can be realized the land must be destroyed (Micah 3:12) because of the unrighteous doings of its inhabitants. Another interpretation seems more in harmony with the context. Instead of “land” we should read “earth” (compare Micah 7:2), and Micah 7:13 should be rendered, “But the earth shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.” This is to be understood as a threat of the destruction of the whole earth, exclusive of Palestine, because of the outrages committed by its inhabitants against the people of Jehovah. This judgment upon the nations will make possible the return of the exiles (compare Joel 3:7-8; also Jeremiah 32:20, where “men” is used of the nations outside of Israel).

Verses 14-17

THE PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE, Micah 7:14-17.

In Micah 7:14 occurs another change in speakers. The people, through the prophet, pray for the fulfillment of the promise of restoration.

Feed… with thy rod See on Micah 5:4.

Flock of thine heritage Since Micah uses several times the figure of the shepherd (Genesis 49:24), this expression is used instead of the more common “people of thine heritage.”

Which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel The English translations are correct in connecting the entire relative clause with “thine heritage.” This relative clause is to be understood not as expressing the desire that the faithful remnant may be permitted to dwell apart from the nations of the world, but as describing a present condition “which now dwell solitarily.”

In the wood R.V., “forest.” The original has no preposition; it seems better to omit it in the translation, and to take the words in apposition to the preceding “which dwell solitarily,” “a forest (better, jungle) in the midst of Carmel.” The meaning becomes still clearer if “Carmel” is taken as a common noun “garden land” (compare Isaiah 37:24; where it is translated “fruitful field”). Then the whole clause will read, “which dwell solitarily, a jungle in the midst of a garden,” which describes the condition of the petitioner. The enemies are flourishing like a beautiful garden; in the midst of them lives the miserable petitioner like a wild jungle in a garden, without beauty or comeliness. O that the shepherd would lead his flock into green pastures!

Bashan… Gilead Districts east of the Jordan which were renowned for their rich pastures (see on Amos 1:3; Amos 4:1; compare Numbers 32:1 ff.); here they are mentioned as types of rich pasture land.

Days of old A very indefinite expression referring to the period of prosperity preceding the present distress (see on Micah 5:2, where the words are translated “everlasting”).

The present text would make Micah 7:15 the reply of Jehovah to the petition expressed in Micah 7:14. But (1) the change in pronouns, “thy coming forth” and “unto him,” is peculiar; (2) 17b places it beyond doubt that Micah 7:16-17 continue the petition to Jehovah. This makes it at least probable that Micah 7:15 is a part of the petition, and we may be justified in altering one consonant so that the verb will read, “do thou show unto us.”

Thy coming out R.V., “thy coming forth out.” The coming forth of Jehovah to lead the people from Egypt at the time of the Exodus (compare Judges 5:4).

Marvelous things The same term is applied in Exodus 3:20, to the plagues which Jehovah brought upon Egypt to compel the release of his people. Similar superhuman manifestations they desire in their present crisis.

Micah 7:16-17 continue the petition, pointing out the effects which the “marvelous things” of Jehovah will have upon the nations. When the latter see the mighty works of Jehovah they will be confounded.

At all their might Their might will count for nothing in the presence of an almighty God (compare Hosea 4:19). Lay their hand upon their mouth See on Micah 3:7 (compare Judges 18:19; Job 21:5).

Their ears shall be deaf “From the thunder of his mighty acts.” (Job 26:14; compare Isaiah 33:3). In terror they will prostrate themselves before Jehovah.

Lick the dust A figurative expression equivalent to “prostrate themselves in the dust,” a sign of submission (Isaiah 49:23).

Like a serpent Compare Genesis 3:14.

They shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth R.V., “like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places.” A picture of abject fear (compare Psalms 18:45). The terror of the nations is emphasized also in the rest of Micah 7:17.

Verses 18-20

A DOXOLOGY, Micah 7:18-20.

Reveling in the thought of a glorious future, the prophet ascribes all honor and praise to Jehovah, who alone is God.

Who is a God like unto thee The question may contain a play upon the name Micah, which means Who is like Jehovah? If Micah 7:7-20, does not come from the prophet Micah (see p. 368), does this play explain why the verses were embodied in the Book of Micah? To the author Jehovah is supreme; and of all the divine attributes Jehovah’s compassion and loving-kindness impress him most deeply.

Pardoneth iniquity Compare Exodus 34:7, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

The remnant of his heritage See on Micah 5:3, and reference there; also on Joel 3:2. For the close of Micah 7:18 compare Psalms 103:8-9 (see on Joel 2:13).

He will turn again Better, R.V., “He will again have compassion.” He cannot cast off forever his children.

Subdue R.V., “tread our iniquities under foot.” He will trample upon sin as upon an enemy; equivalent to “he will destroy.”

In 19b the prophet returns to the direct address, from which the use of participles caused him to depart.

Cast… into… the sea Never to be raised again. The expression may contain an allusion to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15:5; Exodus 15:10). Micah 7:20 closes the doxology and the entire book with an expression of confidence that Jehovah will deal with his people according to the promise made to the fathers.

Jacob… Abraham These two names are applied to the nation because to these two ancestors were given the most precious promises (Genesis 22:16-18; Genesis 35:9 ff.).

Days of old Points to the patriarchal age when the promise was first given, but also to subsequent repetitions of the promise.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Micah 7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/micah-7.html. 1874-1909.