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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Micah 3

 

 

Verses 1-4

Outrages committed by civil rulers, Micah 3:1-4.

The denunciation in Micah 3:1-4, is addressed to the nobles, called “heads” and “princes” or “magistrates” (compare Isaiah 1:10). They are reminded, by means of a rhetorical question, that it is their duty to know the principles of righteousness and equity; ignorance of these does not excuse their unrighteous conduct.

Jacob,… Israel — These are synonymous expressions, which, in the light of Micah 3:10, must refer to Judah (Micah 3:9; but compare Micah 2:12). Samaria may have fallen before these words were uttered, so that Judah had become the sole representative of Israel.

Know judgment — R.V., “justice,” or equity. In view of the special privileges enjoyed by Israel (Amos 2:11; Hosea 11:1-4; Isaiah 1:2) there was no reasonable excuse for ignorance concerning the principles of righteousness on the part of anyone, certainly not on the part of the leaders of the people.

Their conduct is so different from what one might expect.

Hate the good — Wrongdoing has become their second nature (Amos 3:10); their disposition has become utterly perverted, so that they hate that which they should love, and love that which they should hate (compare Isaiah 1:16-17). This corruption expresses itself in appalling cruelties. 2b, 3 describe in the strongest language possible the cruelties of the nobles. They flay the poor people alive, tear the flesh from their bones; they break their bones (others, “they lay bare their bones”), chop them in pieces, boil them in the caldron, and devour them. It is hardly necessary to state that the expressions are not to be understood literally as implying cannibalism; they are vivid pictures of heartless cruelty and oppression. Similar expressions are found in Isaiah 3:15, “What mean ye that ye crush my people and grind the faces of the poor?” and Amos 2:7 (Jerome), “Who crush the heads of the poor upon the dust of the earth.” For the simple “as for the pot” LXX. reads “as flesh for the pot,” which furnishes a suitable parallel to the next clause.


Verse 4

4. Such criminals Jehovah will forsake in the hour of judgment.

Not hear — They will cry unto him for deliverance, but he will leave them to their terrible fate. As they would not heed the cry of the oppressed, so Jehovah will not heed them.

Hide his face — In anger (compare Hosea 5:15).

Then… at that time — The context leaves no doubt that these words refer to the time of judgment. Cheyne says, “We must suppose that, when Micah delivered this prophecy (of which we can have but a summary), he introduced between Micah 3:3-4 a description of the ‘day of Jehovah,’ the day of just retribution.” That we have but a summary of the prophet’s message is probably true, but it is not so certain that a description of the day of Jehovah, or even a specific reference to it, was needed; the people would comprehend the prophet’s meaning without it (compare the use of “now” in Amos 6:7; Hosea 2:10).


Verse 5

Condemnation of the mercenary prophets, Micah 3:5-8.

5. Micah considers the mercenary prophets largely responsible for the moral and spiritual decline of the nation.

Make my people err — They lead the people astray by preaching the divine favor and peace, when their message should have been one of repentance and judgment. 5b sets forth the motives determining the character of their message.

That bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace — If they receive something to eat, or, in a more general sense, if by doing so they can serve their own interests, they announce, without regard for the truth, peace, that is, something that will please the hearers. The rough expression “bite with their teeth,” instead of the simple “eat,” is in perfect harmony with the strong language of Micah 3:2-3.

He that putteth not into their mouths — He who fails to purchase their favor.

Prepare war — Woe to such a one; for him they have only unpleasant things; unto him they declare the wrath of Jehovah and all sorts of calamity (see on Joel 3:9). “The satisfying or non-satisfying of their stomach determined the character of their prophecy.”


Verse 6-7

Micah 3:6-7 are addressed directly to the mercenary prophets, not to the “heads” of the nation.

Night… dark — Figures of calamity and distress. At such time the advice of a prophet is most needed, but they will have no advice to give.

Sun… day — The “sun” of prosperity will set and the “day” of judgment, which is “darkness and not light” (Amos 5:18), will dawn.

Have a vision… divine — At present the mercenary prophets may claim that they receive their message in the same manner as the “true” prophets, but in the day of calamity a difference will be seen, for they will have no message with which to encourage their grief-stricken countrymen. The reason for the silence is stated in Micah 3:7.

Seers… diviners — Synonymous terms denoting the mercenary prophets, the second calling attention to the illegitimacy of their pursuit.

Ashamed,… confounded — Also synonyms. They will “stand ashamed, because their own former prophecies are proved by calamity to be lies, and fresh, true prophecies fail them, because God gives no answer.”

Cover their lips — Literally, beard. They will no longer venture to speak. The phrase means covering the face up to the nose, which is a sign of humiliation, shame, and mourning (Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17). For a study of the phenomenon of “false” prophecy in Israel, see Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, iv, pp. 116ff. All that needs to be said here is that there were two distinct classes of false prophets: (1) The mercenary prophets, who are condemned here for their insincerity; (2) the political prophets, who may have been sincere, but who lost sight of the religious mission and destiny of the nation, and whose prophecies were determined entirely by political ambitions.


Verse 8

In Micah 3:8 Micah contrasts himself with the mercenary prophets.

Spirit — He is animated by a higher spiritual force than they; he is under the influence of the Divine Spirit (see on Joel 2:28).

Power — Authority, strength, and courage to withstand the popular clamor.

Judgment — A keen moral sense that enables him to see what is right and true; he does not call evil good or black white (compare Isaiah 5:20).

Might — Manliness, courage. He remains unmoved by flattery or threat, by gain or loss; he stands firmly for what he considers right and true. Hence he does and forever will, in spite of false prophets, fearlessly expose sin and apostasy.

Some commentators are inclined to omit “by the spirit” as a later gloss, on account of its peculiar position in the sentence and its grammatical construction. There may be good reason for this omission, but this would not affect the thought of the verse, since the virtues named are, in other passages, traced to the influence of the Divine Spirit (see on Joel 2:28; compare Isaiah 11:2).


Verses 9-11

Renewed condemnation of the nation’s religious and political leaders — Doom of Jerusalem, Micah 3:9-12.

After the direct denunciation of the prophets, Micah sums up the sins and crimes which may be laid to the charge of nobles, priests, and prophets, and announces the utter destruction of Jerusalem.

Micah 3:9-10 are addressed exclusively to the “heads” and “princes” (R.V., “rulers”) of the nation, whose duty it was to administer justice. It is worthy of notice that not one word is said in condemnation of the king. This silence concerning the king may be due to the fact that the prophecy was uttered at a time when a king in sympathy with the prophetic teaching was upon the throne, namely, Hezekiah (compare Jeremiah 26:17-19; 2 Kings 18:3-4). The “heads,” instead of administering justice, abhorred and perverted it. How they did this is stated in Micah 3:11. The capital owed its splendor and magnificence very largely to the crimes condemned in Micah 3:9.

Blood — Blood-guiltiness (Isaiah 1:15; compare G.-K., 124n) that is, “violent conduct leading to the ruin of others.” By extortion and other illegitimate means they secured the material needed for the erection of palaces and other majestic structures. The last clause repeats the same thought for the sake of emphasis. Micah 3:11 contrasts the conduct of the rulers, priests, and prophets with their religious professions; and so it contains a summary of all the accusations uttered in the preceding verses, and paves the way for the announcement of doom in Micah 3:12.

Reward — Better, bribe. All the eighth century prophets find it necessary to preach against corruption of this sort (see on Amos 5:12; compare Isaiah 1:23; Micah 7:3).

The priests… teach for hire — It was the duty of the priests to teach the Torah (see on Hosea 4:4 ff., especially Micah 3:6) and to give judgment in difficult legal cases; this they were to do uninfluenced by any personal consideration (Deuteronomy 17:11); but in time the priests became unfaithful, and the question of reward played an important part in the discharge of their duties.

Divine for money — See on Micah 3:5.

Lean upon Jehovah — In the face of this moral depravity rulers, priests, and prophets claimed to be entitled to the favor and protection of Jehovah.

Is not Jehovah among us? — In their opinion the prophet of judgment was a fanatic, a fool; they were convinced that, since Jehovah was on their side, no evil could befall them (see introductory remarks to Amos 3:1 to Amos 4:3; Amos 3:2; Amos 5:14). The mass of people might, perhaps, be excused for laboring under a misapprehension, but not so the leaders; they should have known that Jehovah demands holiness of heart and life rather than a painstaking ritual service.


Verse 12

12. The inevitable results of such criminal folly must be severe judgment.

Zion… Jerusalem… mountain of the house — The three names might denote three distinct sections of the capital: Zion, the southeast spur of Mount Ophel, the ancient Jebusite stronghold, including the royal palaces; the mountain of the house, the temple area; Jerusalem, the city proper; or they might be understood as synonymous expressions, each denoting the entire city, the three expressions being used to make possible the use of several verbs; such usage would emphasize the completeness of the destruction. Whichever of these two interpretations one may accept, there can be no doubt that the prophet means to foretell the utter destruction of Jerusalem. It will fall into ruin and will be plowed like a field; even the temple mount will be forsaken and will be turned into jungle. Concerning the fulfillment of this prophecy, Stanley says: “The destruction which was then threatened has never been completely fulfilled. Part of the southeast portion of the city has for several centuries been arable land, but the rest has always been within the walls. In the Maccabean wars (1 Maccabees 4:38) the temple courts were overgrown with shrubs, but this has never been the case since.” With this prophecy compare Isaiah 32:13-14. The utterance of Micah is quoted in Jeremiah 26:18, in defense of Jeremiah, who was accused of blasphemy because he predicted a similar destruction of Jerusalem.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Micah 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/micah-3.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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