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Micah 2

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Woe to Evildoers Threats Directed Against Samaria and Jerusalem The Fate of Those Who Oppress the Poor Against Land-Grabbers
2:1-2 2:1-5 2:1-2  
      2:2-4
2:3-4   2:3-4  
2:5   2:5 2:5
Lying Prophets     The Prophet of Misfortune
2:6-9 2:6-11 2:6-7 2:6-11
    2:8-10  
2:10-11      
Israel Restored   2:11 Promises of Restoration
2:12-13 2:12-13 2:12 2:12-13
    2:13  

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Chapters 1-2 form a literary unit. God's judgment on Samaria (the capital of Israel) should have been a warning to Judah!

 

B. As chapter 1 is in the literary form of a court scene, chapter 2 is in the literary form of a funeral dirge.

 

C. This chapter has many similarities to the book of Amos, Micah's eighth century contemporary to the Northern Ten Tribes.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:1-5
 1Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
 Who work out evil on their beds!
 When morning comes, they do it,
 For it is in the power of their hands.
 2They covet fields and then seize them,
 And houses, and take them away.
 They rob a man and his house,
 A man and his inheritance.
  3Therefore, thus says the Lord,
 "Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity
 From which you cannot remove your necks;
 And you will not walk haughtily,
 For it will be an evil time.
 4On that day they will take up against you a taunt
 And utter a bitter lamentation and say,
 'We are completely destroyed!
 He exchanges the portion of my people;
 How He removes it from me!
 To the apostate He apportions our fields.'
  5Therefore, you will have no one stretching a measuring line
 For you by lot in the assembly of the Lord."

2:1 "Woe" This interjection, "ah," "ha," means "alas" (BDB 222, e.g., Isa. 1:4,24; 10:5; 17:12; 28:1; 55:1; Jer. 22:18; 34:5; Amos 5:16; 6:1). This is the characteristic literary marker of a funeral dirge (i.e., a 3-2 beat). As chapter 1 was replete with words of lamentation and mourning (cf. vv. 8,10,11,16), so chapter 2 continues this theme (cf. v. 4).

▣ "to those who scheme iniquity. . .Who work out evil on their beds" These are parallel lines. The first VERB "scheme" (BDB 362, KB 359) and the second, "work out" (BDB 821, KB 950) are both Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLEs. This reflects the premeditated plans of evil Israelites (cf. Ps. 36:1-4; Prov. 23:7; Isa. 32:7). In this context it is referring to ways to get more land from the poor rural farmers.

▣ "When morning comes, they do it" The VERB in the second line is repeated, but here it is a Qal IMPERFECT denoting continuing action. Sin starts in the thought life (cf. Hosea 7:6). The rabbis said our mind is like a plowed field ready for seed. What our eyes see, our ears hear, and what our thoughts dwell on becomes our actions!

▣ "For it is in the power of their hands" This is the OT equivalent of "might makes right." Just because we can does not mean we should. There is an ethical God. He has made an ethical world. All humans will give an account to Him of their stewardship of the gift of life!

2:2 "They covet fields, and then seize them. . .They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance" These are four parallel lines (chiastic structure) with two strong VERBS.

1. "covet" - BDB 326, KB 325, Qal PERFECT

2. "seize" - BDB 159, KB 186, Qal PERFECT

3. "take away" - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal PERFECT

4. "oppress" - BDB 798, KB 897, Qal PERFECT

 Remember the extreme importance that the Jewish people placed on land inheritance within the Promised Land (cf. Lev. 25:23; Num. 33:54; 36:1-12; Josh. 12-21). God's gift to all the descendants of Abraham was now in the hands of greedy, wealthy exploiters. Micah, growing up and living in a small rural community, had seen it again and again.

 The term "house" can refer to a place of dwelling or to one's family (as could the term "inheritance"). These exploiters wanted everything—land, children, adults, and all their property!

2:3 "Therefore, says the Lord,

 Behold, I am planning" The INTERJECTION "behold" (בה, BDB 243 II) denotes a surprising statement of outcome. The UBS Helps For Translators series on Micah, says, "This is a way of showing that something new and unexpected is about to happen" (p. 82).

This is irony. As evil humans plan (same VERB as was used in v. 1, "scheme"), so too, God plans (i.e., "we reap what we sow, e.g., Gal. 6:7).

▣ "against this family" The term "family" means clan (BDB 1046). Notice the aggressive sin of some affects the complacent, silent majority and the whole nation (cf. Amos 3:2) is judged!

NASB"calamity"
NKJV, TEV,
NJB"disaster"
NRSV"evil"

This Hebrew term (BDB 949) means "evil," "distress," or "wickedness." In Exod. 32:12,14 it refers, as here, to the judgment of God (cf. Deut. 29:112; Amos 9:4). It is used twice in v. 3 and also in 3:2,11.

▣ "you cannot remove your necks" The VERB (BDB 559, KB 561) is a Hiphil IMPERFECT. This idiom of conquest is also used in Lam. 1:14; 5:5. It refers to a yoke on the neck of an ox which directs its activity.

▣ "walk haughtily" Israel had become proud and arrogant (i.e., eighth century historical setting). God will change their walk and mind about this (cf. Isa. 2:11,12).

2:4 "On that day" This refers to the time of God's judicial activity, sometimes, as here, it is temporal, other times it is eschatological (i.e., the Day of YHWH).

▣ "taunt" This refers to a song or proverb (i.e., mashal, BDB 605 II), which others speak to denote thecurrent condition/situation of a person or group. It becomes a training tool for warning others not to do the same.

▣ "lamentation" This refers to a funeral dirge (BDB 624, KB 675, Qal PERFECT). The taunt is v. 4c-f (four lines of poetry).

This term (BDB 624, KB 675) is repeated three times in the Masoretic Hebrew Text:

1. the VERB (Qal PERFECT)

2. the NOUN (MASCULINE SINGULAR)

3. the NOUN (FEMININE SINGULAR)

This repetition denotes a grievous lamentation (wailing).

▣ "We are completely destroyed" This is a COGNATE construction used for emphasis:

1. BDB 994, KB 1418, a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE

2. BDB 994, KB 1418, a Niphal IMPERFECT

 

2:4 "He exchanges the portion of my people" The term "exchanges" (BDB 558, KB 560, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is a legal term for the transfer of a land title. Verses 4 and 5 are the wail of the powerful, wealthy, influential Israelites (who stole from the poor) over the coming exile. But notice, it is not sorrow for their actions, but sorrow over the consequences of their actions. They are reaping what they sowed (in kind)!

▣ "To the apostate He appoints our fields" This can refer either to (1) an apostate (i.e., one who turns back, BDB 1000, NKJV) or (2) JPSOA has "rebel" from "ravager," which denotes the Assyrian invaders (from similar Hebrew root, BDB 1000, NRSV, TEV, NJB). The irony is that these rich and powerful Jewish land grabbers are calling others (i.e., the invaders) land grabbers.

2:5 "you will have no one stretching a measuring line" The LXX changes the VERB "exchange" in the previous verse to "measure" to match this line of poetry.

▣ "For you by lot in the assembly of the Lord" This refers to the sacred division of the Promised Land (Josh. 12-21). This statement is tantamount to the powerful, wealthy, influential being excommunicated from the Promised Land, both temporally and eschatologically (cf. v. 10). This passage implies that God's judgment to these exploiters is even more severe than Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9 ("visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children"). This exclusion is permanent and transgenerational!

▣ "by lot" The term "lot" (BDB 174) originally referred to the Urim and Thummim carried by the High Priest on his chest behind the twelve stones. It is not certain what form this mechanical means of knowing YHWH's will took:

1. different colored stones

2. stones with "yes" or "no" painted on them

3. stones with letters on them

4. other unknown means.

The NT word for "clergy" comes from this Hebrew concept.

▣ "the assembly of the Lord" This is a covenant phrase. The Septuagint translates the term qahal by ecclesia (gathering or assembly, which was later used by the NT believers as a title for themselves, i.e., church).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:6-11
 6"Do not speak out," so they speak out.
  But if they do not speak out concerning these things,
 Reproaches will not be turned back.
 7Is it being said, O house of Jacob:
 'Is the Spirit of the Lord impatient?
 Are these His doings?'
 Do not My words do good
 To the one walking uprightly?
  8Recently My people have arisen as an enemy—
 You strip the robe off a fellow-Israelite,
 From unsuspecting passers-by,
  From those returned from war.
 9The women of My people you evict,
 Each one from her pleasant house.
 From her children you take My splendor forever.
 10Arise and go,
 For this is no place of rest
 Because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction,
 A painful destruction.
 11If a man walking after wind and falsehood
 Had told lies and said,
 'I will speak out to you concerning wine and liquor,'
 He would be spokesman to this people."

2:6-7 Verses 6-7 are dialogue. Micah speaks. It is hard to be certain where Micah starts and stops and where the rich, speaking as a group, start and stop.

 Leslie Allen (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), p. 292, has a good translation of vv. 6 and 7: "…stop your preaching, they preach. They should stop preaching in this vein: humiliation won't overtake us: the community of Jacob is party to the covenant. Has Yahweh lost His temper? Is this the way He acts? Do not His promises spell good fortune? Do not we keep company with the One who keeps His word?"

 Verses 6 and 7, to some extent, seem to reflect the rich's traditional covenant theology, but it fails to adequately understand the covenant requirement (cf. Deut. 27-28).

2:6 "Do not speak out, so they speak out" There is a play (the VERB is repeated three times) on the term "speak out" or "prophesy" (BDB 642, KB 694, Hiphil IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, i.e "to drop a message on someone," cf. v. 6 [3 times, all Hiphil IMPERFECTS]; v. 11 [twice, also Amos 7:16]). The term "speak out" is literally "to drip" (cf. Deut. 32:2; Ezek. 20:46; 21:2).

2:7 This verse has three (NASB, NKJV) or four (NRSV, TEV, NJB) questions. Who is speaking is uncertain. Some translations say (1) the condemned rich; (2) the false prophet (NKJV); or (3) YHWH Himself.

NASB"Is it being said, O house of Jacob"
NKJV"You who are named the house of Jacob"
NRSV"Should this be said, O house of Jacob"
TEV"Do you think the people of Israel are under a curse"
NJB"Can the house of Jacob be accursed"

The divergence is due to a hapox legommenon, "should it be said" (BDB 55, KB 65, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE). The NET Bible emends it to an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the same root resulting in "Does the family of Jacob say?"

 The word "accursed" (NJB) or "cursed" (TEV) is the result of an emendation to the term "said."

"the Spirit of the Lord" In context this does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but the personality of YHWH (i.e., YHWH's Spirit, cf. 3:8). Here with the BERB (BDB 894, KB 1126, Qal PERFECT) it refers to the Lord's patience (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB) or lack of anger.

2:8 "Recently My people have arisen as the enemy" The VERB (BDB 877, KB 1086) is a Polel IMPERFECT. The covenant people have repeatedly broken their obligations to the Mosaic Covenant. This is what the exploiters refused to acknowledge! God's people were acting like an invading enemy against their own covenant brothers and sisters.

The problem in translating this phrase is that the MT is using "my people" as the attackers and exploiters, when in the following lines they are the exploited. Several translations emend the MT to "but you rise up against my people as an enemy" (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB, NET Bible).

"You strip the robe off a fellow-Israelite" The VERB (BDB 832, KB 980) is a Hiphil IMPERFECT. This reflects the action of the rich in exploiting the poor. This passage reflects the greed and heartlessness of the wealthy, influential, Israelite land grabbers in evicting poor people from their houses and taking their clothes (even their children) as a guarantee for money borrowed (cf. Exod. 22:26,27).

Notice the groups impacted by this exploitation:

1. covenant brothers, v. 8b-c

2. military veterans, v. 8d

3. covenant women, v. 9a-b

4. covenant children, v. 9c

 

NASB"From unsuspecting passers-by"
NKJV"From those returned from war"
NRSV"From those who trust you, as they pass by"
TEV"Men returning from battle, thinking they are safe at home, but there you are, waiting to steal"
NJB"on those who feel safe you inflict the damage of way"

From these different translations it is obvious that the Hebrew is ambiguous or defective. From context the robe is demanded from unsuspecting strangers. The phrase about "returned from war" is what causes the confusion.

The best interpretation of this ambiguous phrase is that when Jewish soldiers returned home from fighting foreign enemies (potential invaders and land grabbers) they thought they were safe, but not so. Their own covenant brothers attacked them unexpectedly and took their land and possessions!

2:9 "The women of My people you evict" The VERB (BDB 176, KB 204, Piel IMPERFECT) means "to drive out" (cf. Hosea 9:15). This implies that the husbands have already been sold into indentured servitude.

"From her children you take My splendor forever" These children become slaves and worse (as did the fathers). Their rightful inheritance as God's covenant people in the Promised Land was lost to greed and exploitation. They will also be corporately affected by the judgment of God (i.e., exile) that will come to national Judah, as it did to Israel. But in the future, they will receive their inheritance again (cf. v. 5). So "forever" is a way of showing intensity, not time here.

This may metaphorically reflect the policies of the Assyrian army of killing the very young (and the very old) before exiling the parents.

2:10 "Arise and go" These two VERBS (BDB 877, KB 1086, "arise; and BDB 229, KB 246, "go") are both Qal IMPERATIVES. This either reflects (1) a warning to the faithful few (i.e., the remnant) or (2) more probably, God's judgment of the nation (i.e., exile).

 ▣ "this is no place of rest" This term is used of the Promised Land in Deut. 12:9; Ps. 95:11. It is an idiom for invasion and exile.

▣ "Because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction" This term (BDB 380) is used in the OT to describe the abominations of the Canaanites. Micah uses this same term to accuse the people of God of similar acts (cf. Lev. 18:24ff) that caused God to remove the Canaanites (cf. Gen. 15:6). He now removes the Israelites.

There is another COGNATE construction:

1. VERB, BDB 287 II, KB 285, Piel IMPERFECT ("bring a destruction")

2. NOUN, BDB 287, KB 285 ("a painful destruction")

 

NASB"painful destruction"
NKJV"utter destruction"
NRSV"grievous destruction"
TEV"doom this place to destruction"
NJB"extortionate pledge"

The Niphal PARTICIPLE (BDB 599, KB 637) is literally "made sick" (e.g., Jer. 14:17). Physical illness is used as a metaphor for sin and rebellion (e.g., Isa. 1:5-6).

2:11 "If a man, walking after the wind and falsehood" This seems to refer to the message of the false prophets who are readily embraced, while true prophets are rejected (cf. v. 6). These false teachers were always preaching covenant health, wealth, and prosperity (cf. 3:5; based on proof-texts from Deut. 27-29). They always ignored the covenant responsibilities (see The Disease of the Health, Wealth Gospels by Gordon Fee). Most OT covenants are conditional!

This phrase is a play on the words "spirit" and "wind" (BDB 924, cf. Hosea 8:7, 12:1).

▣ "I will speak out to you concerning wine and liquor" This would refer to God's agricultural abundance, promised in Deut. 28. Here it may refer to the spiritual effects of prosperity (cf. Isa 5:11,12,22; 28:7). Drunkenness is often a metaphor of judgment in the OT.

See Special Topic: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol (Fermentation) and Alcoholism (Addiction) at Amos 6:6.

"He would be spokesman to this people" The message of the prosperity promised to the covenant people (Deut. 28), yet separated from covenant responsibility (Deut. 27, 29), was a favorite theme (as it is today). These false teachers promised peace (cf. 3:5) and prosperity, but in reality, God's judgment, not blessing, was swiftly approaching!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:12-13
 2"I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob,
 I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
 I will put them together like sheep in the fold;
 Like a flock in the midst of its pasture
 They will be noisy with men.
 13The breaker goes up before them;
 They break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it.
 So their king goes on before them,
 And the Lord at their head."

2:12-13 These verses are a radical change from judgment to hope, which characterizes this book. There have been several theories concerning this radical change: (1) John Calvin and Kimchi see vv. 12 and 13 as referring to the deportation into exile; (2) it is possibly another quote from the false teachers (i.e., a response to v. 10); (3) this is Micah's personal hope in YHWH's protection; or (4) an insertion of the later redactor. I prefer the sudden shifts to the poetic parallelism known as antithetical parallelism, so common in Hebrew Wisdom Literature, and prophetic poetry.

2:12 "I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob" This is a promise of future restoration to the Promised Land through YHWH's power by YHWH Himself (cf. Deut. 30:4; Jer. 23:3; 31:8). Even though Israel was judged because of the wicked, all of its people paid the price of invasion and exile. God will set it straight for those (and their descendants) who truly trust and obey Him!

Verse 12 is in the first person ("I"), but v. 13 is in the third person. This is common in Hebrew, but here, possibly v. 12 is YHWH speaking and v. 13 Micah's comment and development.

▣ "the remnant of Israel" This theological concept becomes a recurrent hope in the Prophets. It refers to a small group of faithful, believing, obedient, covenant Israelites from which YHWH will build His kingdom (cf. 4:6-7). The majority of the covenant people (i.e., descendants of Abraham) are not believers, not obedient, and not right with God. They deserve temporal and eschatological judgment.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE REMNANT, THREE SENSES

▣ "like sheep in the fold,

 Like a flock in the midst of its pasture" This may be a play on (1) a place name, Bozrah (MT, JPSOA), which was known for its excellent sheep or (2) a parallel to a pasture and, therefore, a protected enclosure (i.e., sheepfold, which requires an emendation to the MT).

These allusions to sheep and shepherding are covenant metaphors for YHWH's care and provision (cf. Psalm 23). The sheep are guarded and cared for. The last line of v. 12 seems to imply (1) a joyful group or (2) as in NKJV and NIV, a large number of people.

2:13 Micah seems to be speaking again (i.e., third person references to YHWH). This verse is Messianic text. The Davidic kingship will be restored (cf. II Sam. 7).

There is a word play between "breaker" (v. 13a, BDB 829, KB 971, Qal PARTICIPLE) and "break out" (v. 13b, BDB 829, KB 971, Qal PERFECT). The king will lead his people out of the pen of the exile into a large pasture, where they run and jump with joy! Notice the concept of pen is used in two senses: in v. 12 as a protective enclosure, but in v. 13 as a restrictive enclosure.

Notice how the Davidic King (cf. v. 13c) is paralleled with YHWH (cf. v. 13d). This implies a divine king (cf. 5:2-4)! However, this context could be seen as YHWH, the One who caused the exile is the very One who reverses it. The king may be a way of referring to God (cf. 4:7; I Sam. 8:7).

"the gate" This was an Old Testament metaphor for the power of a city or city-state. This is a word play between the gate of the sheepfold and the national power (i.e., Assyria), which exiled the Northern Ten Tribes (in. 722 b.c.).