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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Micah 2

 

 

Verse 1-2

1, 2. A vivid description of the corrupt conduct of the aristocracy.

Work evil upon their beds — To be distinguished from “they practice it” in the next clause; the first refers to the preparation of the ways and means with which they carry out their evil schemes. In the darkness of the night they lay their plans; in the morning they carry them out.

In the power of their hand — No one can prevent their crimes, for their wealth and power enable them to do anything they please (Micah 7:3).

The general accusation in Micah 2:1 is followed by a specific condemnation of the greed and avarice manifesting itself in the attempts to rob poor property owners of their holdings. Elijah (1 Kings 21) and Isaiah (Isaiah 5:8 ff.) championed the rights of the common people against similar outrages. The accumulation of wealth and resources in the hands of a few seriously threatened the national stability and permanence. “The old Israelite state was so entirely based on the participation of every freeman in the common soil, and so little recognized the mere possession of capital, that men were in danger of losing civil rights along with house and fields, and becoming mere hirelings or even slaves.”

Oppress — Margin, “defraud.”

Heritage — The hereditary portion of the land assigned to each family at the time of the conquest and guarded by the “Jubilee Law” (Leviticus 25:8 ff.; compare Numbers 27:1-11; Deuteronomy 27:17).


Verses 1-11

CAUSES OF THE IMPENDING JUDGMENT, Micah 2:1-11.

It is commonly assumed that chapters 2 and 3 form a “single prophecy, the subject of which is the cause of the coming judgment.” That both chapters deal substantially with the same subjects is undoubtedly true, but it is equally clear that, as the chapters stand now, there is a distinct break at the close of the second chapter. Hence there seems good reason for separating 2 and 3, and joining the latter more closely with Micah 4:5. Only by cutting out Micah 2:12-13, can a connection between 2 and 3 be established; on the other hand, if chapter 3is connected with 4, 5, at least some of the reasons for omitting these verses disappear (see p. 363, and on Micah 2:12-13). The following comments are based upon the assumption that chapters 1, 2 form a complete whole, and that chapter ii is intended to set forth the causes making inevitable the judgment threatened in the preceding chapter. It opens with a woe upon the proud nobles, who have become misleaders of the people (Micah 2:1-4). The accused resent the denunciation; the attempt is made to silence the prophet, and to find consolation in the message of the mercenary prophets. But, the prophet insists, there is no escape from the wrath of Jehovah; as they have driven the poor from their homes, so they will be driven from their possessions into exile (Micah 2:5-11). From this exile only a remnant will return under the leadership of Jehovah (Micah 2:12-13).


Verse 3-4

Micah 2:3-4 announce the judgment.

Therefore — Because they devise evil.

I devise an evil — Or, calamity (Amos 3:6). Jehovah will bring upon the evil doers a calamity from which there can be no escape.

This family — May, perhaps, include the whole nation (Amos 3:1), though it could be used of Judah alone.

Shall not remove your necks — The evil is likened to a yoke that rests heavily upon the neck and cannot be shaken off.

Haughtily — The pressure of the yoke makes impossible walking with heads erect, a sign of pride and arrogance. Evidently the prophet expects the calamity to be inflicted by a foreign conqueror, who will place his yoke upon the nation’s neck.

This time is evil — R.V., “it is an evil time.” The expression is used again in Amos 5:13, but with a slightly different meaning.

The downfall of Israel will cause rejoicing among the conquerors and lamentation among the conquered.

Parable — Hebrews mashal, which denotes any figurative saying; here probably a “taunt song” (compare Isaiah 14:4; Habakkuk 2:6).

Against you — By the successful opponents. This seems to be the most natural interpretation, though the Hebrew does not make it absolutely necessary to suppose that it is to be uttered by the victorious conqueror.

Lamentation — To be uttered by Israel over the calamity suffered (Amos 5:16). A supposed play upon words in the original, Pusey reproduces by, “They shall wail a wail of woe.” The whole verse is in poetic form and may be rendered more accurately: —

In that day men will raise against you a taunting song,

They will lament a lamentation:

It is finished, they shall say,

We are utterly ruined,

The portion of my people he changeth,

How doth he remove it from (literally, for) me;

Unto the rebellious he divideth our fields.

The purport of the verse is clear. The enemies will taunt Israel because their God has failed to deliver them; Israel will lament because enemies have taken possession of the holy land and divided it among themselves. At the same time it is recognized that all this is Jehovah’s doing; he takes back the land formerly assigned to Israel and hands it over to the enemy.

The Hebrew text of Micah 2:4 contains several peculiarities; the most marked of these are the abrupt transition, without even the slightest indication, from the enemies to Israel (lines 1 and 2), and the unexpected change from plural to singular and singular to plural (lines 4-7; “we”… “my”… “me”… “our”); besides, LXX. varies considerably from the present Hebrew text. For these reasons modern commentators are inclined to regard the text as more or less corrupt. Nowack, following Stade, reconstructs it, partly on the basis of LXX., and partly by conjecture, so that it reads, “Then will be uttered over you a proverb and a lamentation, as follows: —

The portion of my people is divided off with a measuring rod, there is none to give it back,

To those who have led us into exile are apportioned our fields, we are utterly ruined.”

The lament itself Marti restores: —

Alas! how are we utterly ruined! our land is apportioned!

Alas! how our captors do mock! our land is divided!

In both reconstructions the Kinah verse (see on Amos 5:1-3) is used, which is very appropriate in this connection.

With Micah 2:5 the difficulties increase. That in Micah 2:6 the prophet takes up the words of some one else and bases his words upon this utterance is beyond doubt; but who pronounces the curse in Micah 2:5? Some consider the verse a continuation of Micah 2:3-4. There loss of property and deportation are threatened; but, it is said, the prophets always look forward to a restoration, and this was in the mind of Micah when he uttered Micah 2:5; he means to say that when the restoration becomes a reality the ungodly will have no part in the redistribution of the land. Others insist that there is no thought of a restoration in this verse; hence they refer the threat to the immediate future; the ungodly are to have no longer any part in the inheritance of Jehovah, because their families will be cut off in the impending judgment. The singular “thou” is thought to be used in order to indicate that every individual sinner is to be punished; not one will escape the threatened judgment. The first interpretation is perfectly possible, the second is highly improbable, because the context makes no distinction between the fate of the good and the bad at the time of the judgment. In Micah 2:3-4 the threat is made against the whole people; it will be utterly ruined, the enemy will take possession of the entire land, everybody is expected to go into exile. In the exile some will remain loyal to Jehovah, others will apostatize. Between the two classes a separation will be made at the time of the restoration; only the faithful will return to their former home. In this restored community, which is the congregation of Jehovah, the ungodly will have no part.

Others, who insist that the only reference to a restoration in this chapter is in Micah 2:12-13, give a still different interpretation. They consider Micah 2:5 the utterance of a bystander who, as the spokesman of the people, attempts to interrupt the denunciatory discourse of Micah. To a great majority of the people the words of Micah 2:4 would seem blasphemy. How could a man dare to announce that Jehovah was weaker than the gods of the Assyrians, that he could not or would not protect his chosen people; that the sanctuary would be desecrated? A man who uttered words such as Micah dared to utter must be a blasphemer or a madman; in either case he deserved the wrath of God. These thoughts a bystander put into words.

“Because of his blasphemous words, the Jews think, Micah should be killed (compare Jeremiah 26:8-9; Jeremiah 26:11), destroyed with his entire family (Jeremiah 11:19), so that his possessions would fall into the hands of strangers (Amos 7:17); he should suffer the punishment of the false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:9), and with him will suffer his descendants (Jeremiah 22:30), who are rooted out before they see the light. The form of this threat corresponds with the prophet’s prediction; he is to suffer the very fate which he threatens them, lose permanently his inheritance.” The most recent commentators, Nowack and Marti, consider Micah 2:5 a later gloss. If the verse is original the choice lies between the first and the third interpretations, and of these the third seems to be, on the whole, the most satisfactory.


Verse 6-7

6. Attempts to silence the prophets were not infrequent; undoubtedly Micah’s patience was tried many times by those who resented his teaching. But he cannot be silenced; he flings back the prohibition and makes it the starting point for new denunciations. If Micah 2:5 contains the utterance of a bystander, “Prophesy not,” in Micah 2:6 may be understood as a summary of the prohibition implied in the threat there. The new condemnation falls chiefly upon the faithless religious teachers.

The text of 6ff. is in many places obscure; frequently the translation is doubtful, and there is much uncertainty as to where the objections which Micah takes up end, and where his own condemnations begin. G.A. Smith includes Micah 2:6-7 in the objection, and he renders the two verses as follows: —

Prate not, they prate, let none prate of such things!

Revilings will never cease!

O thou that speakest thus to the house of Jacob,

Is the spirit of Jehovah cut short?

Or are such his doings?

Shall not his words mean well with him that walketh uprightly?

This differs considerably from the translations found in A.V. and R.V., but it requires only very slight alterations in the present Hebrew text. Of the two English translations that of R.V. is certainly superior to that of A.V. That even the Revisers found it difficult to understand the present text is shown by the numerous marginal readings.

If Smith’s reproduction of the original is accepted as correct, the meaning of the two verses becomes clear. The people or the false prophets insist that Micah discontinue his foolish talk, his eternal revilings. Everyone can see that his statements are absurd. Does he mean to say that Jehovah will cast off his people? Has he ceased to be long-suffering? Is this the method of God’s dealings with his chosen people? This last question forms the basis of the prophet’s reply. He admits the truth implied in the question, but he points out in 8ff. that they are mistaken in their estimate of themselves. They are not upright; on the contrary, in every possible manner have they set aside the will of Jehovah; hence, according to their own reasoning, they can expect no favor from him.

Prophesy — Literally, drop, that is, words (see on Amos 7:16). Here the word is used in an unfavorable sense, equivalent to “grumble,” “find fault.” In the following clause “the prophet flings the same word back at them sarcastically.” In this case the verb is in the frequentative tense, “they prophesy (or, prate) continually.”

To them — If the above interpretation is correct a better rendering would be “of these things” (so R.V. margin). The prophet is told to let alone politics and social conditions — the politicians will look after these things; he is to confine himself to the preaching of the “simple gospel.” In the last clause of Micah 2:6 the above translation reproduces the Hebrew more accurately; the words are those of the prophet’s opponents, who are weary of listening to his grumbling. The opening words of Micah 2:7 have proved a puzzle to all commentators, and practically all favor emendations. Smith alters the words so that they may be understood as an address to Micah, introducing several questions which are intended to show the absurdity of his attitude.

Straitened — Or, impatient; literally, shortened. Has Jehovah ceased to be long-suffering?

These — The things described in Micah 2:3-4.

Mean well — God can send no message of judgment to those who serve him faithfully.

A second interpretation divides the sentences of Micah 2:6-7 between the prophet and his opponents. “Prophesy ye not” is assigned to the opposition, “thus they prophesy” are thought to be the words of Micah, introducing the preceding quotation. To this attempt to silence him the prophet replies with two rhetorical questions: (1) “Shall one not preach to these?” — that is, to such as are described in Micah 2:1-2; they certainly deserve the condemnation. (2) “Shall not reproaches depart?” Is it not time for the reproaches heaped upon the prophet to come to an end? In Micah 2:7 the prophet is thought to introduce an additional objection raised to his preaching: “Shall it be said, O house of Jacob,” or “by the house of Jacob.” These are understood to be the words of the prophet, introducing the objection itself, which is expressed in two questions: (1) “Is the spirit of Jehovah shortened?” The prophet’s words seemed to imply that Jehovah has ceased to be long-suffering; this accusation against Jehovah the objectors indignantly deny. (2) “Are these his doings?” The forsaking of his people, as announced in Micah 2:3-4. This also they are unwilling to believe. To these objections the prophet replies, introducing Jehovah himself as the speaker, by asking a question which points out, by implication, that he is not blaspheming Jehovah, but that they, by their own conduct, have made it impossible for Jehovah to show them any favor. The objections raised by the people indicated that they had failed completely to understand the ethical character of Jehovah and of his government. Like Amos, Micah is compelled to show that Jehovah cannot save Israel simply because they are his chosen people; they must maintain the proper attitude of heart and life if they would enjoy his goodness (Micah 6:8). Their shortcomings and failures are further described in Micah 2:8-9. In view of this condition of things there is left no doubt that the denunciation of Micah 2:3-4 is perfectly justified, hence the sentence is repeated in Micah 2:10.

These are the two most important interpretations of Micah 2:6-7; others need not be mentioned. The force of the verses remains essentially the same with either. The second follows more closely the present Hebrew text, but it is by no means certain that the latter has come down to us in its original purity; it may have suffered in the course of transmission.


Verse 8-9

Micah 2:8-9 contain a picture of the corruption and oppression found on every hand.

Of late — Literally, yesterday. This is certainly not equivalent to “long ago,” but points to the recent past. The prosperity growing out of the efficient reign of Uzziah was largely responsible for the corruption that met the prophet’s eye (see pp. 357ff.).

My people — This expression is used sometimes of the whole people, sometimes primarily of the poor and needy who suffer oppression and whose only defender is Jehovah (Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 3:15). A comparison of Micah 2:8 with Micah 2:9 shows that in the former the reference is primarily to the oppressing nobles, in the latter to the oppressed poor.

As an enemy — The nobles prove themselves enemies of Jehovah, whose property is to have mercy, by the cruel treatment they accord to the poor and needy, who are under the special care of Jehovah (Exodus 22:21 ff.; Deuteronomy 27:19).

Pass by securely… averse from war — They pounce upon their victims without provocation; as they pass by peaceably, attending to their own business, they fall upon them.

Pull off the robe with the garment — R.V., “strip the robe from off the garment.” A very obscure clause; A.V. evidently means that they take both the robe and the garment, though it may be difficult to distinguish between the two pieces of clothing named. The accusation clearly implies highway robbery; there may also be an allusion to the crime condemned in Amos 2:8. However, it is practically impossible to justify the translation of A.V.; R.V. is more accurate, but what does it mean to “strip the robe from off the garment”? The difficulty is generally recognized, and various emendations have been proposed, affecting also other parts of Micah 2:8. With a few changes, justified in part by LXX., Micah 2:8 might be read, “But ye are the foes of my people, rising against those who are peaceful; the garment ye strip from them that pass by quietly, averse to war.”

9. Women — The prophet has in mind widows, who, being without defenders, fall an easy prey to the greedy nobles; they are driven from their possessions.

Their children — Who were unable to defend themselves.

Have ye taken away my glory forever — This glory was their citizenship in the nation of Jehovah. When they were sold as slaves they were cut off from the nation, and thus they lost a privilege and glory belonging to them. Special care for the fatherless and the widows is enjoined in Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 27:19; compare Isaiah 1:17; and the neglect of this duty is condemned again and again by the prophets (compare Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2).

Wellhausen and others propose a slight alteration of the text, which, though not necessary, emphasizes even more the heartless cruelty. They change “from their pleasant houses” into “from their pleasant children”; literally, from the children of their pleasure. This would add the thought that they tear the mother from the children by selling them to different masters.


Verse 10

10. In the face of such outrages mercy and long-suffering are out of place; judgment must be executed, and in Micah 2:10 the sentence contained in Micah 2:3-4 is reiterated; the guilty ones must be cut off from their pleasant homes and cast into exile.

Arise ye, and depart — Their punishment will be according to the lex talionis; they have sold others into slavery, now they must suffer a similar fate.

Your rest — R.V., “resting place.” “Rest was one of the chief aspects under which Canaan was regarded” (Deuteronomy 12:9), but it cannot be a resting place for such as are not on good terms with the owner of the land, Jehovah. As the text reads at present, the rest of the verse states why the land can no longer be a resting place for them. As a result of the defilement the land will “vomit out its inhabitants.” A better rendering is that of R.V., “because of uncleanness that destroyeth, even with a grievous destruction”; an even better translation would be, “because of uncleanness that brings destruction, even grievous destruction.” LXX., however, suggests a different reading, which may be original. It separates 10b more completely from 10a, and reads the former, “because of uncleanness ye shall be destroyed with a grievous destruction.”


Verse 11

11. In Micah 2:6-7 the listeners had expressed their unwillingness to accept the kind of preaching Micah was giving them. The opposition did not silence the prophet, it only stimulated him to new efforts; he pointed out that the present demanded the message he was delivering, and reiterated the announcement of judgment. Micah 2:11 presents the close of the threat; in it the prophet gives a description of the kind of prophet the people would like to hear, one who has always a message of peace and prosperity, and who at all times heaps flattery upon the self-righteous sinners.

In the spirit and falsehood — R.V., “in a spirit of falsehood.” A.V. gives a literal rendering of the original, except that before “spirit” the definite article should not be used. But “a spirit,” standing by itself, is not equivalent to “a false spirit,” and the context makes it impossible to think of the Spirit of God. Hence it is better to follow R.V. margin and read “in wind and falsehood.” “Wind” is a picture of the vain and worthless things after which such a false prophet chases; “falsehood” has reference to the purpose for which he delivers his message; he purposes to deceive the people in order that he may serve his own personal interests.

Lie — In seeking to deliver an acceptable message, he announces peace and prosperity when the message of Jehovah is one of calamity and judgment.

Wine and… strong drink — To be understood in a wider sense of all “earthly blessings and sensual enjoyments.” This is what they like, and the prophet knows that any man who preaches such a gospel will be received with open arms.

Return of a purified remnant, 12, 13.


Verse 12-13

Micah 2:12-13 transpose us abruptly from the present corruption, facing imminent doom, to the distant future, when a remnant of the people carried into exile (3, 4) will be restored. On the surface the transition from Micah 2:11 to Micah 2:12 appears abrupt, but there is a real logical connection between the two verses. The people are ready to turn to a prophet who will promise pleasant things. This Micah cannot do; nevertheless his message is not one of unmitigated doom; he too has salvation to proclaim, though not for the immediate future or for all. Judgment, distress is all he sees ahead of him; all will be banished from the land. In exile the corrupt will be annihilated, but the loyal remnant, purified through suffering, will be assembled again by Jehovah; he himself will redeem it and restore it to its old home.

Jacob,… Israel — Seem to be identical in meaning, denoting the whole nation; similarly “all” and “remnant” appear to be synonymous. The thought is one found in other prophetic utterances, that at the time of the restoration the present distinction between north and south will be obliterated, that the call will be extended to the whole nation, but that only a remnant will respond (Ezekiel 34:11-14). This remnant will be numerous, however, and noisy like a flock of sheep.

As the sheep of Bozrah — If the text is correct the “sheep of Bozrah” must be regarded as a popular saying like “kine of Bashan” (Amos 4:1), alluding to Bozrah’s wealth in sheep (see on Amos 1:12). The suggestion that a Moabite city is meant here rather than the Edomite Bozrah has little in its favor. LXX. suggests a different translation; it read the same consonants that are contained in the Hebrew word for Bozrah, but evidently it took these consonants as representing two elements, the preposition “in” and the noun “affliction.” “In affliction” is not suitable here; still the reading of LXX. may indicate that “Bozrah” is not the original. The parallel line would lead one to expect here an expression similar to “in the midst of their fold.” There is a modern Arabic word meaning “sheep-stall,” containing the same consonants as the word “affliction” but different vowels, which is applied to the place in which the sheep are kept during the night to protect them against wild beasts. The corresponding Hebrew word may be intended here; the erroneous vocalization being due to the Masorites, who were more familiar with the proper noun Bozrah than with the common noun. With this change the sentence may be read, “I will put them together as sheep in the sheep-fold,” that they may be safe from all enemies.

Great noise — Their numbers will be great; hence the noise made by them will be loud.

The gathering will take place before the actual deliverance; united, the remnant will be strong enough to overcome all obstacles and return to its old home.

The breaker — The one who breaks down the obstacles and opens the way. If the picture of the flock is continued the expression is best understood as denoting the shepherd who opens the gate to let the sheep pass through; if, as is not impossible, the figure changes to that of an army, it denotes the captain who is to lead the host in triumph from exile. In either case the term is of Messianic import (see on Hosea 1:11).

Through the gate — The land of exile is likened, in the one case, to a sheepfold; in the other, to a prison house. Through the gates the remnant will march in triumph on its way home. Broken up [“broken forth”]… passed through… gone out — “The three verbs… describe in a pictorial manner progress which cannot be stopped by any human power”

Their king — Before the returning host will go their king, Jehovah, as at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 13:21; compare Isaiah 52:12); Jehovah is not identical with the “breaker.”

The connection of Micah 2:12-13 with Micah 2:11 is not very close; the leap into the future appears to be abrupt. This abruptness is responsible for a great deal of discussion concerning these two verses. Some have held that the words were spoken not by Micah, but by the false prophets. This view is shown to be improbable by the following considerations: (1) The restoration of a remnant implies a carrying into exile, but the latter is the very thing the false prophets deny. (2) In Micah 2:12 Jehovah is the speaker — “I will assemble.” Would Micah introduce Jehovah as speaking through the prophets whom he condemns so severely? (3) The prophecy is a true prophecy; it is one which in essence is found in all the prophetic books (compare Micah 4:6). It is not likely that Micah would put a true prophecy into the mouth of a false prophet. Others consider the verses exilic or postexilic, and thus a later addition to the oracles of Micah. “They presuppose the exile and dispersion” (Wellhausen). However, it is by no means certain that the exile is presupposed as an actual fact. All the prophets seem to have penetrated the darkness of the present and the immediate future and to have seen, in a more distant era, a ray of light and glory. The modern tendency, which treats as later exilic or postexilic interpolations all passages in pre-exilic prophecies which promise a restoration, does not appear to be well founded (see pp. 35f.). It seems almost unthinkable that the prophets, with their lofty conception of Jehovah, should leave the nation in the despair of exile. If the existence of pre-exilic prophecies pointing to a restoration is granted, the only objection remaining against these verses is the looseness of connection with their context. This looseness of connection has led some to think that, while the words may be Micah’s, they are not in their original position. “The entire context leads me to expect after Micah 2:11 a return to and repetition of the threat of punishment, and there can be no question that the contrast between Micah 2:11, and Micah 3:1, is greatly weakened by these two verses. To deny them to Micah we have no reason, but it is possible that they may have been transposed from another context. Their original place might have been after Micah 4:8, preparing the way for chapter v, but separated from it by Micah 4:9-13, which verses look back to the present.” The only support, then, for this view is the seeming abruptness with which the prophet passes from denunciation to promise, and the interruption in thought between Micah 2:11, and Micah 3:1. The latter objection vanishes if chapter iii is taken as the beginning of a new section rather than as a continuation of chapter ii (see p. 384); the first loses much of its force if logical connection can be established between Micah 2:11, and Micah 2:12-13. The existence of such connection has already been pointed out in the beginning of the comments on Micah 2:12-13, and it seems close enough to warrant the belief that the verses are from Micah and that they are in their original place. It is not even necessary to suppose that the fall of Samaria occurred between the time when Micah 2:11, was uttered and the time when Micah 2:12-13, was spoken; the prophet simply looks beyond the exile announced in Micah 2:3-4.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Micah 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/micah-2.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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