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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Micah 3

 

 

Verses 1-8

Micah’s Indictment of Judah (Micah 3:1-8).

Micah inveighs first against the leadership of Judah, and then against the prophets who make people err for the sake of money, and the priests who teach for hire. We can compare Isaiah’s similar indictment in e.g. Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:1-4.

Micah 3:1

‘And I said, “Hear, I pray you, you heads of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel: is it not for you to know justice?” ’

‘And I said.’ A loose opening phrase simply declaring ‘and this is another thing that I prophesied, although at another time’.

He calls on them to remember who they are. Are they not the heads of Jacob and the rulers of Israel, the very people of God? Should they not then be models of justice? Is that not why they have been put in their positions by God?

Largely in mind here are those who have been put in authority to maintain the justice and wellbeing of God’s people. Such a system of justice had originally been set up by Moses (Exodus 18:25-26) and applied to the situation in the land by Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:4-7). And there would be numerous local leaders who would be responsible for local justice, family heads who would act as the magistrates of the day.

Micah 3:2

“You who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;”

But instead of being a friend of justice they loved the evil and hated the good. (Compare Isaiah 5:19-20; Amos 5:14-15). They took advantage of the system for their own benefit. It is as though because of their greedy ways they skinned people alive, and took the flesh from their bones. For they seek to strip them of everything. In modern parlance they bled them dry.

This is always the way in an affluent society. People become more and more greedy for possessions and for status and for ‘fun’. Instead of being full of gratitude to God, they indulge in sin and pleasure, and reject godliness. It is indeed strange how prosperity leads to sin. It is because men are no longer then driven to God in their need, and want rather to enjoy to the full what they have got. And of course because they are driven by the desires of the flesh.

Micah 3:3

“Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the cauldron.”

This is certainly not intended to be taken literally, although at times it may have occurred during sieges. It is continuing the hyperbole of the previous verse. To ‘eat the flesh’ and similar phrases regularly mean to harm or kill (Psalms 27:2 compare Psalms 14:4; Psalms 53:4). No doubt regular savage beatings did take place, but the picture here goes a little beyond that.. The remainder would have been the actions of cannibals, which they would certainly not actually have been. It is all rather a vivid description of viciousness and of a total lack of concern for people, and an instance of great wickedness. It is a revelation of man’s inhumanity to man.

Micah 3:4

‘Then will they cry to YHWH, but he will not answer them; yes, he will hide his face from them at that time, according as they have wrought evil in their doings.’

And then having behaved in this way they turn to YHWH and expect Him to hear their prayer. Well, here is His answer. they will cry to Him but He will not answer them, He will instead at that time of need hide His face from them, in accordance with their evil behaviour, because in their actions they have wrought evil. He will treat them as they have treated others.

Micah 3:5-6

‘Thus says YHWH concerning the prophets who make my people to err; who bite with their teeth, and cry, “Peace”, and whoever does not put (food) into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Therefore it will be night to you, that you shall have no vision; and it will be dark to you, that you shall not divine; and the sun will go down on the prophets, and the day will be black over them.’

YHWH then turns to the cultic prophets who are leading the people astray with their teaching and their prophecies. If they are properly provided for they prophesy ‘peace’ for their benefactors, but if anyone does not provision them then they become belligerent and act as though they were at war with them.

But because of this instead of prophetic vision they will have night time. Instead of being able to discern the future they will be in darkness. There will be no more sunny days for them. Instead all their days will be black ones. Illumination will be no more.

These cult prophets, who when they were godly men could be of such help to the people, had unfortunately often run counter to the true prophets. On the good side were those who had supported Samuel (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:10-11 and Elisha (2 Kings 2:2; 2 Kings 5:7; 2 Kings 5:15; 2 Kings 4:38-41; see also 1 Kings 18:4), but on the other side were those who constantly prophesied peace and wellbeing regardless of behaviour (2 Kings 22:6-13; Jeremiah 28:1-17; Ezekiel 13:1-23). They were not necessarily dishonest, simply over optimistic and unaware of the truth about YHWH, and in some cases mercenary. They prophesied ‘peace, peace, where there was no peace. They believed God’s promises about the Davidic house, and that He would watch over His people. What they failed to see was that sin changed the whole situation. And the further problem was that they had learned to recognise the kind of prophecies that would bring them financial benefit.

One of the differences between Micah and these peace prophets was Micah’s personal concern for the people. He constantly speaks of them as ‘my people’ either on his own behalf or on God’s (Micah 1:9; Micah 2:4; Micah 2:8-9; Micah 3:3; Micah 3:5; Micah 6:3; Micah 6:5; Micah 6:16), and he was concerned to speak by the Spirit of YHWH. These other prophets were more interested in their stomachs. They were also influenced by political pressure (2 Kings 22:13); immorality (Isaiah 28:7), and greed (Ezekiel 13:19), or were simply in a state of confusion because events had overtaken them and they did not know what to say (Jeremiah 14:14).

Micah 3:7

‘And the seers will be put to shame, and the diviners confounded; yes, they will all cover their lips; for there is no answer from God.’

When people come to the seers and the diviners they will have nothing to say. They will rather have to cover their lips, because there will be no answer for them from God. The words envisage circumstances taking place (such as invasion) where people are desperately looking for answers which wee not simply platitudes. It is at that time that they will learn the true value of these prophets.

Micah 3:8

‘But as for me, I am full of power by the Spirit of YHWH, and of judgment, and of might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.’

In contrast Micah will have answers for them. For he is not in darkness. He is full of power by the Spirit of YHWH, he is full of right judgment and of might, which is why he can declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

Micah has no doubt that YHWH is with him. He knows that YHWH’s Spirit is empowering him. And he knows that the teaching that he brings is from YHWH. It is true spiritual judgment. Furthermore he knows that he brings it in the power of YHWH. And unlike the other prophets he does not utter platitudes and what people want to hear, he speaks of transgression and sin, precisely what they do not want to hear, and he does it because that is the burden of the Spirit Who is within him..


Verses 9-12

He Summarises The Situation In The Land And Declares What will Come Upon Them As A Result (Micah 3:9-12).

Micah now advises the corrupt leaders of their sins and of what is coming on them because of them. And yet he also comments on the fact that in spite of their behaviour, they actually claim to lean on YHWH and genuinely consider that nothing can happen to them because YHWH is among them. Well, he says, let them consider this fact, that because of what they are YHWH is intending to plough up Zion like a ploughed field, to turn Jerusalem into heaps, as He had done Samaria, and to make the mountain of YHWH’s house like the high places in the forests. This latter may mean that it will be ravaged like the high places had been ravaged by Hezekiah’s reforms, or that it will simply be seen as another false place of idolatry.

Micah 3:9

‘Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice, and pervert all equity.

Micah 3:10

‘Those who build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.’

Instead of building up a pure and righteous Zion which would bring honour to YHWH, they are establishing Zion by violence and murder, and building up Jerusalem on total sinfulness. Thus somehow its filth needs to be washed away and its blood purged (Isaiah 4:4)

Micah 3:11

‘The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet they lean upon YHWH, and say, “Is not YHWH in the midst of us? No evil will come upon us.’

The leading judges make their judgments on the basis of bribes, the priest teach for wages rather than out of a desire to spread God’s word, and the prophets tell people whatever they want to hear, as long as they pay them well enough. And yet these same men profess to lean on YHWH, and then naively declare, ‘Is not YHWH in the midst of us?’ They are so sure that YHWH is among them that they cannot conceive that anything harmful could befall them. Such is people’s naive belief in God. They yet had to learn that God is not to be bought. He is there on behalf of the humble and contrite in spirit.

Micah 3:12

‘Therefore will Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem will become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.’

And because of their sinfulness, and because of their false view, they will sadly at some time learn how wrong they are. YHWH might come among them, but it will be in order to turn Zion (the outer Jerusalem) into a ploughed field, and to turn the fortress of Jerusalem into ruined heaps. Jerusalem will be destroyed.

That God delayed doing this was probably due to Hezekiah’s loyalty, Isaiah’s prayers, and Micah’s intercession. It would be another hundred years before it came to fruition. But as Micah heard the news of the advancing armies of Assyria, it was not necessarily so unexpected, for he knew that YHWH’s protecting hand could no longer be guaranteed. He was not yet to know that God would yet have mercy and spare Jerusalem for another hundred years. Although we should note that it did come in the end.

Interestingly it was this prophecy of Micah that saved Jeremiah from worse treatment when he too prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, although a contemporary was martyred (Jeremiah 26:17-24).

‘And the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.’ This was the mount on which the Temple was built. But his warning here was that the Temple would be no safer than the ‘high places’ of a forest, those sacred shrines scattered throughout the hills of Judah, which would be desecrated by every invading army, as they mocked the gods of the land, and which were destroyed by Hezekiah. So even with its security on a mountain in the very centre of the city of Jerusalem, they must not think that the Temple was safe from the judgment of God. He could destroy it as easily as the high places had been destroyed by foreign soldiery and by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4). Its inviolability was a myth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Micah 3:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/micah-3.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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