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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Micah 6

 

 

Verses 1-8

Micah Now Calls On Creation To Witness YHWH’s Case Against Israel, And Finishes By Stating YHWH’s Requirements. (Micah 6:1-8)

Knowing that the people might be puzzled as to why YHWH should treat His people as described in Micah 5:10-15, Micah, having called on creation as witnesses, now presents YHWH’s case. The people respond to His case and reveal in their response their total lack of understanding of what YHWH is really like. Their view is that He can be pacified with offerings and gifts. Micah then replies by explaining what YHWH does really want of them, that they will do what is right, love compassion, and walk thoughtfully before God.

The Prophet calls on creation to hear YHWH’s case against His people (Micah 6:1-2).

‘Hear you now what YHWH says,

“Arise, contend you before the mountains,

And let the hills hear your voice.

Hear, O you mountains, YHWH’s controversy,

And you enduring foundations of the earth,

For YHWH has a controversy with his people,

And he will contend with Israel.”

YHWH Puts His Case to the People (Micah 6:3-4).

“O my people, what have I done to you?

And in what have I wearied you?

Testify against me.”

“For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,

And redeemed you out of the house of bondage,

And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised,

And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him;

Remember from Shittim to Gilgal,

That you may know the righteous acts of YHWH.”

The People Ask What Is Required Of Them (Micah 6:6-7).

With what shall I come before YHWH?

And bow myself before the high God?

Shall I come before him with burnt–offerings,

With calves a year old?

Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams,

Or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

The Prophet Explains What YHWH Really Wants (Micah 6:8).

Micah 6:8

“He has showed you, O man, what is good,

And what does YHWH require of you?

But to do justly, and to love kindness,

And to walk humbly with your God?

We will now consider it section by section.

Micah 6:1-2

‘Hear you now what YHWH says,

“Arise, contend you before the mountains,

And let the hills hear your voice.

Hear, O you mountains, YHWH’s controversy,

And you enduring foundations of the earth,

For YHWH has a controversy with his people,

And he will contend with Israel.”

In the first instance Micah calls on the people to hear what YHWH says, and then calls on them to make their case before the mountains and hills which have witnessed all that has gone on in past ages, especially the false worship in the high places. Then he turns to the mountains and the foundations of the earth, asking them to witness the controversy that YHWH has with His people, and will now bring before them

Note the careful chiastic arrangement. The opening and closing thoughts are of contending, while in between come the two controversies. This calling on creation to witness God’s controversies with His people is a regular feature of the prophets. See Isaiah 3:13 ff; Isaiah 5:3 ff; Jeremiah 25:31; Hosea 4:1; Hosea 12:2.

Micah 6:3

“O my people, what have I done to you?

And in what have I wearied you?

Testify against me.”

YHWH Himself now calls on His people to tell Him what He has done to upset them, and why they have grown weary of Him. He is calling on them to testify against Him. But before they make their reply He explains what He has done for them so that they will be without excuse.

Micah 6:4-5

“For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,

And redeemed you out of the house of bondage,

And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised,

And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him;

Remember from Shittim to Gilgal,

That you may know the righteous acts of YHWH.”

His case is a strong one:

· He reminds them how He had brought them out of Egypt, and had redeemed them from the house of bondage, the very basis on which His covenant with them was made. (compare Exodus 20:2). DELIVERANCE.

· He reminds them how He had provided leadership in the persons of Moses the Prophet, Aaron the Priest and Miriam the Prophetess ( a unique reference to the latter two in the prophets). LEADERSHIP.

· He reminds them how the King of Moab had planned wickedness against them by means of a false prophet, and how He had caused Balaam to refute the King and bless Israel. PROTECTION.

· He reminds them how they had crossed the Jordan from Shittim to Gilgal on dry land. MIRACULOUS ASSISTANCE.

And He had done it so that they might know the righteous acts of YHWH. Note the emphasis on righteous. YHWH wants to bring home that He is above all righteous. This should have made them pause and think before they made fools of themselves. But it failed. Like many religious people their view was that what mattered to God was right religious ritual and observance, and plenty of it.

And so they asked:

Micah 6:6-7

With what shall I come before YHWH?

And bow myself before the high God?

Shall I come before him with burnt–offerings,

With calves a year old?

Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams,

Or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

They wanted to know what was required of them as they made their formal obeisance to YHWH, the High God, in the temple. Did He require burnt offerings consisting of the valuable one year old calves? Did He expect thousands of rams or tens of thousands of rivers of oil, more lavish offerings even than Solomon’s (1 Kings 8:5)? Did He expect them to sacrifice their own firstborns to Him in order to pay for their sins, giving the fruit of their body (their firstborns) for the sin of their inner hearts? This last was the requirement of Moloch (Melech) from his worshippers. Did YHWH require the same?

Note how the level of sacrifice has risen with each step forward. But they are expecting an easy ride. They do not expect the last two requests to be taken seriously. They know from their history that YHWH hates child sacrifice. So they are confident that they really know how much God wants. But Micah’s reply comes back as a shock to them. God wants none of these things unless their hearts are right. He is not looking for ritual and observance. However great their offerings it will not be sufficient. What He is looking for is obedience to the covenant, to His moral requirements.

Compare for similar prophetic teaching, Isaiah 1:11-17; Amos 5:21-24; Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 50:7-14; Psalms 51:16-17).

Micah 6:8

“He has showed you, O man, what is good,

And what does YHWH require of you?

But to do justly, and to love kindness,

And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah’s reply is sublime. He points out that YHWH has Himself shown them what is good. It is to do what is right. It is to love showing compassion and mercy. It is to walk humbly with God carefully observing His commandments. Note that the last adverb translated ‘humbly’ includes the idea of careful consideration to what is required. The point of prime importance is His stress on the fact that what YHWH requires is not ritual and offerings but true goodness of life, and that only that will prevent all the evil things that have been described coming upon them.

Sadly his words were ignored. But they are spoken to us too. We fail to observe them at our peril.


Verses 9-16

The Prophet Now Reinforces His Words By Calling For Their Response And Emphasising Their Failures And What Will Result From Them (Micah 6:9-16).

Although YHWH pleads with His people they still walk in their sinful ways and disregard His voice. Thus He warns them that they will bring on themselves the disaster that is coming.

Micah 6:9

‘The voice of YHWH cries to the city,

And the man of wisdom will see your name,

Hear you, O rod,

And those who have appointed him.

The voice of YHWH is speaking to all the cities of Judah, and especially to Jerusalem, and those who are wise will see Who He is and what He is.

But His words come especially to the king, the one who holds the sceptre, the one finally responsible for justice. ‘Hear, O rod,’ He cries, and includes within His cry those who appointed the king. It is a serious matter to be in a position of leadership. It is equally serious to be responsible for having appointed such a leader.

Alternately we may translate as a cry to the people, ‘Hear you the rod, and those who have appointed him.’ In the end both apply. All are responsible to hear the voice of YHWH.

Micah 6:10-11

Are there yet treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,

And a short measure that is abominable?

Shall I be pure with wicked balances,

And with a bag of deceitful weights?

The first charge is that of dishonesty in business dealings. Are the houses of the fraudulent businessmen full of dishonest gain? Do they make use of a short measure, thus not giving fair value? Can a man be pure when he uses dishonest balances (scales), or when he makes use of dishonest weights when measuring.

The ensuring of standard weight and measures was no easy task, and monitoring of it even harder. So men took advantage of the situation to give short measure. They thought that they were very clever, but they overlooked the fact that God knew and saw. It is interesting that in Micah’s eyes this even came before violence. It was something that most affected the poor.

Micah 6:12

‘For the rich men thereof are full of violence,

And the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies,

And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.

The rich men get their way by violence and sending round ‘the heavies’. They keep people in fear, by making them live under threat of what will happen if they are not compliant. And all the inhabitants lie and cheat, and nothing that they say can be trusted. Thus each city is full of transgression and sinfulness, for the least to the greatest.

Micah 6:13-15

‘Therefore I also have smitten you with a grievous wound,

I have made you desolate because of your sins.’

You will eat, but not be satisfied,

And your humiliation (or ‘garbage’) will be in the midst of you,

And you will put away, but will not save,

And what you save will I give up to the sword.

You will sow, but will not reap,

You will tread the olives, but will not anoint yourself with oil,

And the vintage, but will not drink the wine.

It is because of these sins that He has been describing that YHWH will smite them with a grievous wound and make them desolate. As so often the idea may partly be of plague and pestilence, as well as of invasion. It includes all the judgments of YHWH. This is why they will suffer illness, their land will be laid waste, their riches dissipated, and their cities destroyed.

And the consequence will be that they will not partake of the fruits of their labours. Those who have worked so hard to build up wealth, will find that they lose it all, and those who have laboured to provide for their own needs, will find themselves in greater need. And all because of their sins. They will find themselves with insufficient to eat, with their streets full of inedible garbage (or worse).

They will store up, but it will be in vain, for it will be lost. And what they do save will be given over to invading soldiers. They will sow their crops, but be in no position to reap them, they will tread the olives, but be unable to make use of the produce, they will tread the grapes, but not enjoy the wine.

The whole picture is in terms of what they are living for, and the things that matter to them most. They are the things that they have put before obedience to YHWH. And therefore they will lose them all. It might be by pestilence or it might be by warfare, but it would be sure.

Micah 6:16

‘For the statutes of Omri are kept,

And all the works of the house of Ahab,

And you walk in their counsels;

That I may make you a desolation,

And the inhabitants thereof a hissing,

And you will bear the reproach of my people.

Omri was Ahab’s father, and in the eyes of the outside world a great king of Israel. Other nations saw Israel’s kingship for years to come as consisting of ‘the house of Omri’, even when it had strictly ceased to be so. He came to the throne, with the support of the people, after a series of coups and counter-coups which followed the death of Baasha. He built Samaria and moved the capital of Israel from Tirzah to Samaria. There was no doubt of his greatness. But God’s record of him was that he ‘did evil in the sight of YHWH and sinned above all who were before him’ (1 Kings 16:25). We are probably to see from this that, as well as supporting the two sanctuaries set up by Jeroboam, he openly encouraged idolatry and the worship of the gods of Canaan.

And these sins were carried to an even greater extent by his son Ahab who married Jezebel the daughter of the king of Sidon and Tyre, who introduced the Tyrian Baal (‘Aleyan Baal’) into the land on top of the local Baals. It was she who would be the great enemy of Elijah, and whose god would be humiliated at his hands.

It was the works of such openly evil kings as these that the people followed, and it was their counsels that they observed, rather than remaining faithful to YHWH and obeying His covenant. And these gods were not concerned about men’s behaviour (they were too busy sinning themselves). They were said to be perfectly satisfied with sacrifices. Thus to follow them was to turn from all the righteous ways of YHWH.

That was why YHWH will make this people a desolation (as he had the house of Ahab who were all slaughtered), and why people will hiss at them, and why they will bear the reproach that is due to His people for their sins. The idea behind hissing is that of derision (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 51:37).

The mention of Omri and Ahab does not necessarily indicate that Micah is speaking to Israel as against Judah. It is just that Omri and Ahab were such symbols of wickedness and idolatry that they could be used even in Judah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Micah 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/micah-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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