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Micah 1

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
  Superscription    
1:1 1:1 1:1 1:1
The Coming Judgment of Israel Threats Directed Against Samaria and Jerusalem A Lament for Samaria and Jerusalem The Judgment of Samaria
  (1:2-3:12)    
1:2 1:2-7 1:2-4 1:2-4
1:3-5      
    1:5-7 1:5-7
1:6-7      
Mourning for Israel and Judah     Lament for Jerusalem and the Lowland Towns
1:8-9 1:8-9 1:8-9 1:8-15
    The Enemy Approaches Jerusalem  
1:10-11 1:10-16 1:10-14  
1:12-13      
1:14-16      
    1:15-16  
      1:16

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:1-7
 1The Word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
 2Hear, O peoples, all of you;
 Listen, O earth and all it contains,
 And let the Lord God be a witness against you,
 The Lord from His holy temple.
 3For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place.
 He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.
 4The mountains will melt under Him,
 And the valleys will be split,
 Like wax before the fire,
 Like water poured down a steep place.
 5And all this is for the rebellion of Jacob
 And for the sins of the house of Israel.
 What is the rebellion of Jacob?
 Is it not Samaria?
 What is the high place of Judah?
 Is it not Jerusalem?
 6For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country,
 Planting places for a vineyard.
 I will pour her stones down into the valley,
 And will lay bare her foundations.
 7All of her idols will be smashed,
 All of her earnings will be burned with fire,
 And all of her images I will make desolate,
 For she collected them from a harlot's earnings,
 And to the earnings of a harlot they will return.

1:1 "The Word of the Lord" These prophecies are not Micah's words, thoughts, or feelings, but YHWH's (cf. Hosea 1:1)! This is revelation, not political or theological guesswork.

▣ "Micah" This is a short form of the Hebrew name Micaiah, which means "who is like YHWH" (cf. Jer. 26:18). This prophet was a "country preacher" (i.e., no mention of his father or ancestor) like Amos, not associated with the professional prophetic guild or the court prophets (i.e., Isaiah).

"the Moresheth" This refers to the city mentioned in 1:14 (Moresheth-Gath), which was a small village between Lachish and Gath in the Philistine area about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

"in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah" See chart, "The Kings of the Divided Kigdom" in the Appendix. The exact dates on these reigns are disputed because of (1) different ways to count the ascension year and (2) the dates of co-reigns. See Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.

"which he saw" The term (BDB 302) is used of prophets in an ecstatic state receiving a message from God (e.g., Isa. 1:1; 2:1; 13:1; Amos 1:1; Hab. 1:1). Often it refers to prophecies or visions of judgment (e.g., Isa. 2:1; 28:7; 30:10; Amos 1:1). The term is often used to describe a prophet as a "seer" (e.g., Amos 7:12; Micah 3:7; Isa. 29:10; 30:10). See Special Topic: Prophet (The Different Hebrew Terms) at Amos 7:12.

"Samaria" The capitals stand for the nations. Most of Micah's prophecy deals with the southern kingdom of Judah. However, his prophecy is introduced by a judgment pronouncement against the capital of the Northern Ten Tribes, Samaria (cf. 1:2-9). This may have been a literary technique to get the attention of the people in Judah or it may show how Micah was influenced by Amos' ministry and message, who also was a prophet to the north and included references to Judah.

1:2 "Hear" Chapters 1 and 6 both use the literary technique of a court scene to describe God's legal case against His people. Both of them begin with the word "hear" (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE), as does chapter 3. See notes at Amos 3:1 and Hosea 4:1. This threefold use of shema (i.e., hear so as to do, cf. Deut. 6:4) may reveal the author's outline (see Introduction, VII. C.). However, Micah uses this word often (cf. 1:2; 3:1,9; 5:15; 6:1[twice],2,9; 7:7). Seven of them, like this one, are Qal IMPERATIVES (cf 3:1,9; 6:1,2,9).

"Listen" The VERB (BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil IMPERATIVE), meaning "give attention to," is parallel to "hear." This same pattern is found in Isa. 28:23; Hosea 5:1, and Zech. 1:4 and similar in Jer. 34:1; 49:1.

"let the Lord God be a witness against you" The VERB (BDB 224, KB 243, Qal JUSSIVE) matches the two previous IMPERATIVES (hear, listen) and now God is a witness! This is obviously a court scene. God witnesses wickedness (e.g., Jer. 29:33) and then He becomes one who testifies in court (e.g., I Sam. 12:5; Mal. 3:5). He is (1) the judge; (2) the witness; and (3) the one who exercises the court's decision.

▣ "O peoples. . .O earth" In Jewish law, two or three witnesses are needed to confirm a point in a law court (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Therefore, God of the earth and all the people of the earth itself are to be the witnesses in this court case (cf. Deut. 4:26; Isa. 1:2). YHWH Himself acts as a witness against His own people (cf. Deut. 31:19-21,26).

▣ "the Lord God" Literally this is translated Adon - YHWH (e.g., Isa. 56:7). See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Amos 1:2.

▣ "The Lord from His holy temple" YHWH symbolically dwelt above and between the wings of the Cherubim, which were on the lid of Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was housed in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem (cf. Exod. 25:22). This is where heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical, the transcendent and the immanent met. The line of poetry in v. 2d is parallel to v. 3a (also a judgment idiom, cf. Isa. 26:21).

 For the word "holy" see Special Topic at Amos 2:7.

1:3 "tread on the high places of the earth" This VERB (BDB 201, KB 231, Qal PERFECT) is also in Amos 4:13, which speaks of the intimate presence of God with His physical creation (cf. Job 9:8). The term "earth" (BDB 75) may mean "land" (i.e., His land, the Promised Land), but here probably all creation.

 "To tread" may imply (1) God's intimate presence or (2) His judgment in the symbol of crushing grapes with His feet (e.g., Isa. 63:3; Lam. 1:15).

 The term "high places" (BDB 119) can refer to the mountains of the earth or, because the same word is used in v. 5 for the local fertility altars, it may reflect YHWH's destruction of these local worship sites (cf. v. 7).

1:4 God's coming (for blessing or judgment, in this context, judgment) is often associated with upheavals in nature (e.g., Exod. 19:16-20; Ps. 18:7-15; 97:1-6; Isa. 40:4; 64:1-2; Joel 2:30-31; Amos 9:5). Verse 4 has a poetic pattern of parallelism (i.e., line 1 goes with line 3 and line 2 with line 4). This is incipient apocalyptic imagery. Human sin has affected physical creation (cf. Gen. 3; Rom. 8:19-22).

"fire" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at Amos 7:4.

"poured" This VERB (BDB 620, KB 669) and "smashed" (BDB 510, KB 507) are both Hophal forms, which are PASSIVE and ACCUSATIVE.

1:5 "all of this is for the rebellion of Jacob. . .Israel" See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY at Amos 1:2. Lines 1 and 2 of v. 5 are a good example of synonymous parallelism. There are no VERBS in v. 5.

▣ "Samaria" This is the capital of the Northern Ten Tribes called Israel, built by Omri, whose son, Ahab, married Jezebel and thereby introduced Canaanite fertility worship into the northern kingdom (cf. I Kgs. 16:29-33;17-18). It was a heavily fortified city that took the Assyrians three years to conquer (finally Sargon II in 722 b.c. did). These capitals are a way of referring to the nation as a whole. The leaders (kings, prophets, and priests) of both Israel and Judah are responsible for their nation's idolatry and collapse!

▣ "What is the high place of Judah" The word "place" is plural in the Masoretic Text; therefore, it might refer to the idolatrous high places of Ba'al spread throughout the land (cf. II Chr. 34:3-4,7). By parallelism it refers to the capital of Judah, Jerusalem.

1:6-7 YHWH is the speaker as He may be in vv. 8-16.

1:6 "Samaria a heap of ruins" This refers to the fall of the city in 722 b.c. under Sargon II of Assyria.

"Planting places for a vineyard" Samaria will be so destroyed she will look like an open field which could be turned into a vineyard. This is parallel in thought to Jerusalem being plowed as a field (cf. 3:12; Jer. 26:18).

"I will pour her stones down into the valley" This refers to Samaria's stone fortifications being pulled down from the mesa into the valley.

1:7 This reflects the worship of the female fertility god, Asherah, which amounted to spiritual adultery against YHWH, thus divorce court.

"earnings" The term (BDB 1072-1073) is used three times and refers to Israel's idolatry (TEV, cf. Deut. 23:18; Isa. 23:17). In some contexts it refers to foreign alliances (e.g., Ezek. 16:23-29) and may be an allusion to them here (cf. NRSV). The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1281, suggests three possible meanings:

1. the wages of cultic prostitutes (who were used to beautify the shrines)

2. the produce of the land regarded as a gift from Ba'al

3. the offerings at the idol shrines used to beautify the shrines

4. gold and silver idols sold at the shrines (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 207)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:8-16
 8Because of this I must lament and wail,
 I must go barefoot and naked;
 I must make a lament like the jackals
 And a mourning like the ostriches.
 9For her wound is incurable,
 For it has come to Judah;
 It has reached the gate of my people,
 Even to Jerusalem.
 10Tell it not in Gath,
 Weep not at all.
 At Beth-le-aphrah roll yourself in the dust.
 11Go on your way, inhabitant of Shaphir in shameful nakedness.
 The inhabitant of Zaanan does not escape.
 The lamentation of Beth-ezel: "He will take from you its support."
 12For the inhabitant of Maroth
 Becomes weak waiting for good,
 Because a calamity has come down from the Lord
 To the gate of Jerusalem.
 13Harness the chariot to the team of horses,
 O inhabitant of Lachish—
 She was the beginning of sin
 To the daughter of Zion—
 Because in you were found
 The rebellious acts of Israel.
 14Therefore, you will give parting gifts
 On behalf of Moresheth-gath;
 The houses of Achzib will become a deception
 To the kings of Israel.
 15Moreover, I will bring on you
 The one who takes possession,
 O inhabitant of Mareshah.
 The glory of Israel will enter Adullam.
 16Make yourself bald and cut off your hair,
 Because of the children of your delight;
 Extend your baldness like the eagle,
 For they will go from you into exile.

1:8-9 This could signal (1) the personal mourning of Micah (cf. Ibn Ezra; NET Bible footnote 1, p. 1622); (2) vv. 8-16 could continue YHWH's direct speech (cf. The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1207) using human metaphors (cf. Hos. 11:8) and Hebrew sound plays (cf. Isa. 10:24-32); or (3) the Targums change "I" to "they" and have the speaker be corporate Israel.

1:8 "Because of this" In v. 5 "this" referred to Samaria's sin, but in v. 8 it refers to God's judgment (by means of a foreign invasion) on His people, both Samaria (722 b.c.) and later Jerusalem (605, 597, 586, 582 b.c.).

▣ "lament. . .wail. . .go barefooted. . .naked. . .lament. . .mourning" All of the VERBS in v. 8 are COHORTATIVE in form and/or meaning.

 

1. 

2. 

3. 

4. 

 

NASB, NRSV 
NKJV 
TEV 
NJB 
(BDB 704, KB 763, Qal COHORTATIVE)
NASB, NRSV, NJB 
NKJV 
TEV 
(BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil COHORTATIVE)
NASB 
NKJV 
NRSV, NJB 
TEV 
(BDB 229, KB 246, Qal COHORTATIVE)
NASB 
NKJV p;
NRSV 
TEV, NJB 
- lament
- wail
- mourn
- howl

- wail
- howl
- lament

- "I must go barefoot and naked"
- "I will go stripped and naked'
- "I will go barefoot and naked"
- "I will walk around barefoot and naked"

- "I must make a lament"
- "I will make a wailing"
- "I will make lamentation"
- "I will howl"

 (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERFECT, but COHORTATIVE in meaning because of parallelism)

 These are all signs of mourning. Possibly the prophet was dressed in sackcloth when he preached. This scene is continued in v. 16 (cf. Amos 8:10). The animals mentioned represent both the absence of people and the presence of the demonic (cf. NEB).

 "Naked" would mean not total nudity, but wearing just the inner loincloth without the usual outer robe (cf. I Sam. 19:24; II Sam. 6:20; Isa. 20:2-4; John 21:7). However, Assyria used total nudity as a way to embarrass and demoralize its captives (cf. v. 11; Isa. 47:2-3; Jer. 13:26; Hosea 2:3,10).

▣ "ostriches" The word (BDB 419, "greed"; better KB 421; "ostrich" in the Septuagint and Vulgate, NKJV, NRSV, TEV) refers to an animal that sounds to humans as "mourning." Ostriches make little sound, therefore, some think "owls" (cf. Peshitta, NJV, NJB, NEB, NIV, REB has "desert-owl"). Also because it is one of several creatures that lived in the ruins of destroyed cities (cf. Isa. 13:21; 34:13; 43:20; Jer. 50:39). However, the Hebrew word is simply uncertain.

1:9 The shocking sin of the Northern Ten Tribes had infected the tribe of Judah (i.e., "wound," cf. Isa. 1:5-6; Jer. 10:19; 14:17; 15:18; 30:12-17). At this point in the message the prophet must have surprised his Judean hearers at his denunciation of them along with the Northern Ten Tribes (cf. Ezek. 23). For God, judgment was the only option so that His idolatrous children might turn back to Him!

▣ "For her wound is incurable" The term "wound" (BDB 646) is used as a metaphor for sin. There are several different terms used:

 1. here, mkh (BDB 646) - Isa. 1:6; Jer. 6:7; 30:12,17

2. mzr (BDB 267) - Hosea 5:13

3. hbrh (BDB 289) - Ps. 38:5; Isa. 53:5

4. mhll (BDB 319) - Isa. 53:5

Sin is also depicted as a disease in Deut. 32:29; II Chr. 7:14; Ps. 30:2; 41:4; 103:3; 107:20; Isa. 6:10; 30:26; 57:18-19; Jer. 3:22; 17:14; 33:6; Hosea 6:1; 7:1; 11:3; 14:4, which YHWH heals!

"gate" The city gate was the social, commercial, judicial center of a city (e.g., Amos 5:10,12,15).

1:10-16 Isaiah uses word plays to compare cities to their judgment in Isa. 10:24-32. Micah follows this pattern. Verses 10-16 contain a series of Hebrew word plays between certain towns in the Shephelah or coastal plains of Judah. They would have been affected by the Assyrian invasion by Sennacherib in 701 b.c. (although there were several earlier encroachments, i.e., Sargon II in 711).

1:10 "Tell it not in Gath" The VERB (BDB 616, KB 665) is Hiphil IMPERFECT, but JUSSIVE in meaning. This may be an allusion to II Sam. 1:20, where David grieves over the death of Saul and Jonathan. This would imply, "Do not tell Judah's enemy, the Philistines, who live in Gath." The Philistines invaded Judah in 735 b.c. to gain territory.

"Weep not at all" The VERB is a combination of an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of "weep" (BDB 113, KB 129) and a Qal IMPERFECT, which is JUSSIVE in meaning.

"Beth-le-aphrah" There is a play on the term aphrah, which sounds very close to the term "dust" (BDB 779), therefore, "house of dust" (Beth-le-apharah).

The VERB "roll" (BDB 814, KB 935, e.g., Jer. 6:26; Ezek. 27:30) is repeated, a Hithpael PERFECT and a Hithpael IMPERATIVE. It is similar in sound to the word Philistine (those who live in Gath).

There is an interesting article on gestures in the Bible in the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 326-328. It lists several uses of dust in mourning:

1. sit in dust, Isa. 47:1

2. roll in dust, Micah 1:10

3. bowed down to the dust, Ps. 44:25; 119:25

4. dust (ashes) on the head, II Sam. 1:2; Neh. 9:1; Esther 4:1; Job 2:12; Isa. 58:5; Jer. 6:26

 

1:11 "Go on your way" The VERB (BDB 716, KB 778) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. The inhabitants of this city are to parade in shame as they are taken into exile by Assyria.

"Shaphir" This is a play on the name "beautiful city" or "pleasant city" (BDB 1051, cf. Josh. 15:48), which is now shamed (BDB 102) and naked (BDB 289), which was the punishment of prostitutes (cf. Ezek. 23:29).

"Zaanan" This is a sound play on the name of the city and the VERB "coming out" or "going out" (possibly אדצ BDB 838 or BDB 422, KB 425, Qal PERFECT). This city will not be able to escape God's coming judgment (i.e., exile). They cannot leave their besieged city, but will leave their homeland forever.

▣ "Beth-ezel: He will take from you its support" Possibly this is a sound play on "house of removal" or "house of nearness." God will take away this city's foundation (i.e., support, BDB 765, this is the only use of this term with this meaning) or take it into exile. The meaning of the city's name is uncertain (BDB 111) as is the whole line following it.

1:12 "Maroth Becomes weak waiting for good" The name of this city (BDB 598, cf. Josh. 15:59) sounds like "bitterness" (BDB 600, cf. Ruth 1:20) and is a play on the Hebrew term "waiting for good" (or MT "writhing') with "good" meaning physical deliverance.

▣ "calamity has come down from the Lord" The term "calamity" is from the Hebrew root "evil" (BDB 948 II). These types of verses in the OT do not describe God's character as much as denote monotheism (there is only one ultimate causality in the universe). The One Cause (i.e., YHWH Elohim) is ethical and covenantal. Disobedience brings consequences!

▣ "Jerusalem" This is a word play between the concept of "calamity" (BDB 948 II) and the latter part of the word "Jerusalem" (BDB 436), which means "peace and safety" (BDB 1022).

1:13 "Harness" The VERB (BDB 958, KB 1299) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. The meaning is uncertain, but refers to binding or attaching something, so in a context of horses and chariots it refers to their rigging.

▣ "Lachish" This is a sound play on "Lachish" (BDB 540) as a military installation (cf. II Chr. 32:9; Jer. 34:7) chiefly for chariots, which sounds like the Hebrew term "to the steeds" (Hebrew PREPOSITION, and, BDB 940, cf. I Kgs. 4:28). Lachish would have been the strongest and best fortified of all the cities listed.

"daughter of Zion" This is an idiom for Jerusalem; Zion being one of several hills inside the walls.

1:14 "Moresheth" This was Micah's hometown. Its name sounds very much like the Hebrew word "purchase price of a wife" (BDB 555, e.g., I Kgs. 9:16). This play on marriage practices can be seen in v. 14a. With exile coming there will be no more weddings. The wedding gifts (cf. I Kgs. 9:16) will now be parting gifts or wedding gifts as the wife leaves the father's house (i.e., exile).

▣ "Achzib" This Hebrew city's name (BDB 469, cf. Josh. 15:44) is very close to the Hebrew term "deception" (BDB 469).

1:15 "Mareshah" This city's name in Hebrew is uncertain (BDB 601). There is a sound play between the VERB (BDB 439, KB 441, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) meaning "the one who takes possession" and the city's name.

▣ "Adullam" This is the cave (BDB 726) where David hid from Saul (cf. I Sam. 22:1-2). This phrase may mean (1) the leaders (i.e., "glory of Israel") of Israel (cf. TEV) will enter the underworld; (2) David's old place of hiding; or (3) that YHWH Himself will send an heir (NKJV) or conqueror (NRSV) to Mareshah and then Adullam. God Himself (the glory of Israel, cf. I Sam. 15:29) will judge and destroy these cities. The NJB considers the cities as "the glory of Israel." Obviously the poetry is ambiguous, but the context is one of judgment, not deliverance.

1:16 "Make yourself bald and cut off your hair" The first three VERBS are all IMPERATIVES:

1. "make bald" - BDB 901, KB 1140, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. "cut off" (shear) - BDB 159, KB 186, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. "extend" - BDB 931, KB 1210, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

These were signs of mourning (cf. Isa. 15:2; Jer. 16:6; Amos 8:10), but they often became associated with idolatry (cf. Lev. 21:5; Deut. 14:1).

"children of your delight" This means (1) your idolatry (Canaanite fertility worship) has been judged and your illegitimate children have paid the price; (2) you should mourn over the loss of your children. Assyria killed the very young and the very old, then took the rest into exile (cf. Amos 7:17); or (3) the word "children" is a metaphor for the small cities surrounding Jerusalem.

▣ "the eagle" This probably refers to the white headed griffin vulture that, from a distance, looked as if it were bald. Its presence was a sign of carnage (i.e., warfare, cf. Jer. 48:40; 49:22; Hosea 8;1).

▣ "For they will go into exile" Micah is the first prophet to assert the exile of the southern two tribes. This must have caused them some great consternation because they were depending on God's promises to the Davidic throne made in II Sam. 7. One wonders if the prophet Micah was discredited when this did not occur in 701 b.c.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Which of Micah's three contemporaries, Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos, is he most like?

2. Why does Micah begin his prophecy with Samaria?

3. Why are vv. 9 and 16 so startling?