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Micah 3

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Wicked Rulers and Prophets Threats directed Against Samaria and Jerusalem Micah Denounces Israel's Leaders Against the Rulers Who Oppress the People
  (1:2-3:12)    
3:1-3 3:1-3 3:1-4 3:1-4
3:4 3:4    
3:5-7 3:5-8 3:5-7 3:5-8
3:8-12   3:8-11 To the Rulers: Prophecy of the Ruin of Zion
  3:9-12   3:9-12
    3:12  

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.

 

BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER - God calls the leaders of Judah to account.

A. Political rulers, 3:1-4

B. Prophets, 3:5-8

1. false, vv. 5-7

2. true, v. 8

C. Rulers, priests, and prophets, 3:9-12

D. There is an obvious parallelism between A. and C. (i.e., "hear," shema, Qal IMPERATIVE)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:1-4
 1"And I said,
 'Hear now, heads of Jacob
 And rulers of the house of Israel.
 Is it not for you to know justice?
 2You who hate good and love evil,
 Who tear off their skin from them
 And their flesh from their bones,
 3And who eat the flesh of my people,
 Strip off their skin from them,
 Break their bones,
 And chop them up as for the pot
 And as meat in a kettle."
 4Then they will cry out to the Lord,
 But He will not answer them.
 Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time,
 Because they have practiced evil deeds.

3:1 This is a strong contrast to 2:12-13. The abrupt transition from judgment to restoration characterizes this book. This literary technique may be unconsciously related to the antithetical parallelism of Hebrew poetry! Chapter 3 picks up again on the theme of divine judgment.

▣ "Hear" This is the Hebrew Shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE), which means to hear so as to do (cf. 1:2; 3:1; 6:1). This word seems to outline the book. See note at 1:2.

▣ "heads of Jacob. . .rulers of the house of Israel.

 Is it not for you to know justice" All three lines of poetry refer to the political leaders of Judah (cf. vv. 9-10) who should have been trained in the Mosaic law (cf. Deut. 12:17), but followed a policy of greed and self-centeredness (cf. Amos 5:15; Isa. 1:16,17). Calling Judah, Israel, probably shows (1) this was spoken after the fall of the Northern Ten Tribes to Assyria in 722 b.c. or (2) it was a way of showing condemnation (e.g., Ezek. 23).

▣ "justice" The Hebrew term (BDB 1048) has a wide semantic field:

1. the act of judging (e.g., Isa. 41:1; 59:11; Hosea 5:1,11; 10:4; Micah 7:9)

2. justice

a. an attribute of God (e.g., Hosea 2:19)

b. an attribute of man (e.g., Micah 3:1; 6:8; Isa. 1:17)

3. ordinance

a. of God (e.g., Jer. 8:7)

b. of king (e.g., I Sam. 8:9,11)

4. judge's decision (e.g., Exod. 21:1,31; 24:3)

5. one's legal right (e.g., Isa. 10:2; 49:4; Jer. 5:8)

6. custom (e.g., I Kgs. 18:28; II Kgs. 11:14; 17:34)

This term is found several times in Micah (cf. 3:1,8,9; 6:8; 7:9) as well as other eighth century prophets.

1. Isaiah, 41 times

2. Amos, 4 times

3. Hosea, 6 times

 

3:2-3 Instead of acting like shepherds, these political leaders (cf. Ezek. 34) acted like butchers (i.e., "tear off," "strip off," "break," "chop"). The phrase, "eat the flesh of my people," is used in this similar metaphorical sense in Ps. 14:4, 27:2 and Prov. 30:14.

3:2 "You who hate good and love evil" The two VERBS (BDB 12, KB 17) are both Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLES. These leaders' response was exactly opposite from God's will (cf. Isa. 1:16-17,21-23,26; 5:7,8,20; Amos 5:15).

3:4 "Then they will cry out to the Lord,

 But He will not answer them" The VERB "cry out" (BDB 227, KB 277, Qal IMPERFECT) is a legal term for appealing to the court for help. As these wicked judges did not hear the cries of the poor aliens, orphans, and widows, God will not hear their cry either (cf. Deut. 31:17,18; 32:20; Prov. 21:13; Isa. 1:15; 59:2; 64:7; Jer. 33:5; James 2:13).

"He will hide His face from them at that time" The VERB (BDB 711, KB 771) is JUSSIVE in form, but not in meaning. The "them" refers to the faithless leaders. This is ultimate rejection and parallel to "He will not answer them" and "He will hide His face from them."

"Because they have practiced evil deeds" Here is the problem. God's people have repeatedly and flagrantly rebelled and rejected their covenant obligations. They are now reaping what they sowed (cf. 7:13; Isa. 3:10,11; Gal. 6:7).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:5-12
 5" Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
 Who lead my people astray;
 When they have something to bite with their teeth,
 They cry, "Peace,"
 But against him who puts nothing in their mouths,
 They declare holy war.
  6Therefore it will be night for you—without vision,
 And darkness for you—without divination.
 The sun will go down on the prophets,
 And the day will become dark over them.
 7The seers will be ashamed
 And the diviners will be embarrassed.
 Indeed, they will all cover their mouths
 Because there is no answer from God.
 8On the other hand I am filled with power—
 With the Spirit of the Lord—
 And with justice and courage
 To make known to Jacob his rebellious act,
 Even to Israel his sin.
 9Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob
 And rulers of the house of Israel,
 Who abhor justice
 And twist everything that is straight,
 10Who build Zion with bloodshed
 And Jerusalem with violent injustice.
 11Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe,
 Her priests instruct for a price,
 And her prophets divine for money.
 Yet they lean on the Lord saying,
 'Is not the Lord in our midst?
 Calamity will not come upon us.'
 12Therefore, on account of you,
 Zion will be plowed as a field,
 Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
 And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest."

3:5 "Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets" The prophets were one of several ways to know the will of YHWH. The very ones who were to reveal God, did not know Him (cf. Hosea 4:1). I Samuel 28:6 mentions three ways Saul inquired of YHWH:

1. dreams

2. Urim and Thummim (i.e., High Priest)

3. prophet (i.e., Samuel)

 

▣ "Who lead my people astray" The VERB (BDB 1073, KB 1766, Hiphil PARTICIPLE) means "to cause to err" (cf. Amos 2:4; Hosea 4:12; II Kgs. 21:9; Isa. 3:12; 9:16; Jer. 50:6). This refers to the false prophets mentioned in 2:6-7; 3:10-11.

"When they have something to bite with their teeth" This refers to the eating of food (i.e., gifts from the people they prophesied for, cf. 3:5, lines 4 and 5). They prophesy for hire, not for God (cf. Isa. 59:9-11). They tell the generous clients just what they want to hear (i.e., peace and prosperity); they tell their poor clients problems and scarcity.

The term "bite" (BDB 675, KB 729, Qal PARTICIPLE) usually refers to a snake bite.

"They cry, ‘Peace'" Literally shalom (BDB 1022) is the Hebrew word which means "wholeness." Apparently, if the prophets were well-fed (i.e., paid in food, cf. I Sam. 9:7-8), they would proclaim good news (e.g., Jer. 5:12; 6:13-14; 8:10-11; 13:14; 23:17; Ezek. 13:10); if they were not well-fed, they would proclaim "holy war" (BDB 536). Their message was based on selfish interests, not YHWH's will. These prophets were available for private, as well as, royal consultations.

However, giving a gift to a prophet was a common practice (e.g., I Kgs. 14:3; II Kgs. 4:42; 8:8-9). It is the manipulation of the message that is the problem!

▣ "They declare holy war" The term "holy" is not in the MT, but comes from the VERB (BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel PERFECT), which comes from the Hebrew root for "holy." It is used to describe setting apart certain people for war in Jer. 51:27; Joel 3:9 and here (cf. Robert Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 177). The implication is that God will send bad things, problems, conflicts against those who are not generous with the prophets (i.e., God's spokesperson). I sense this same technique today in America in tithing sermons that pronounce doom if you do not give a current percentage to the church (i.e., storehouse tithing)!

3:6 "night. . .darkness. . .sun will go down. . .day will become dark" These are four terrible metaphors (no sunlight used by Isaiah) for the removal of God's Spirit and insight from the rulers and prophets. Darkness is used as a metaphor for lack of revelation (i.e., light, e.g., Ps. 82:5; Prov. 2:13; 4:19; Isa. 59:9; II Pet. 1:19; I John 1:6; 2:11). The darkness will result in judgment (cf. Amos 5:18-20). Another metaphor in Amos 8:11-12 is famine of God's word. God will not respond to their prayers or their prophets!

▣ "vision" Visions (BDB 302) and dreams (BDB 321) were often paralleled (cf. Job 33:15; Isa. 29:7; Dan. 7:1) as ways of receiving God's message. Usually (but not exclusively) visions occurred in the day and dreams at night.

▣ "divination" This (BDB 890, KB 1115) was an ancient means of knowing God's will through some physical or mechanical means (e.g., negative, Deut. 18:9-22; positive, I Sam. 28:6 and Gen. 44:5,15).

3:7 "seers" This was the earliest name for prophets (BDB 302, e.g., I Sam. 9:9; II Sam. 24:11; I Chr. 9:22; 25:5; Isa. 30:10; Amos 7:12).

NASB, NKJV"ashamed"
NRSV, TEV"disgraced"
NJB"covered with shame"

The VERB (BDB 101, KB 116, Qal PERFECT) means to be ashamed (e.g., 7:16; Hosea 4:19; 10:6; 13:15 and many times in Isaiah).

NASB"embarrassed"
NKJV"abashed"
NRSV"put to shame"
TEV"humiliated"
NJB"covered with confusion"

This VERB (BDB 344, KB 340, Qal PERFECT) is parallel with "ashamed" and also means ashamed. They are both used together in Isa. 24:23. It is used of

1. idolaters in Isa. 1:29

2. diviners here

3. Babylon in Jer. 50:12

 

▣ "mouths" Literally this is "mustache" (BDB 974). This symbol of covering the mustache meant (1) grief (cf. Ezek. 24:17,22) or (2) shame (i.e., lepers, Lev. 13:45).

"Because there is no answer from God" These leaders are suffering the same lack of communication with God as the leaders described in v. 4 (cf. I Sam. 28:6). Heaven is silent!

3:8 As verses 5-7 have been a discussion of false prophets, v. 8 is a description of a true prophet who is in full communication with God (cf. Ps. 89:13-14, the prophet shares or better reflects the character of God). Notice the true prophet is filled (BDB 569, KB 583, Qal PERFECT) with (1) power (BDB 470); (2) YHWH's Spirit (cf. Isa. 11:2; Ezek. 2:2); (3) justice (BDB 1048 "judgment"); and (4) courage (BDB 150 "might") to make sin known (cf. Isa. 58:1). What a contrast with the leaders' shame, grief, and impotence!

Although the full doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is not obvious in the OT, the personal presence of God with and within humans is revealed:

1. Bezalel, Exod. 31:3; 35:31

2. Joshua, Deut. 34:9

3. Saul, I Sam. 19:23-24

4. Elijah, I Kgs. 18:46

5. Ezekiel, Ezek. 1:3; 37:1; 40:1

6. Micah, Micah 3:8

7. Messiah, Isaiah 11:2; 48:16; 61:1 (Luke 4:18-19)

Also notice the connection between the prophets and the Spirit in Hosea 9:7.

NASB"On the other hand"
NKJV"but truly"
NRSV, TEV"but as for me"
NJB"Not so with me"

Literally the MT has "but indeed I." The Hebrew ADVERB (BDB 19) is a strong ADVERSATIVE (used often in Job, cf. 1:11; 11:5; 12:7; 13:4; 14:18; 17:10; 33:1).

"Jacob. . .Israel" As the last two lines of v. 8 show Micah addressing both Judah's sins and Israel's sins, so too, lines 1 and 2 of v. 9.

3:9

NASB, NKJV"Now hear this"
NRSV"hear this"
TEV"listen to me"
NJB"kindly listen to this"

This phrase is literally "hear I pray this." The VERB (BDB 1033, KB 1570) is a Qal IMPERATIVE, followed by a PARTICLE used for entreaty (אב) and then the demonstrative ADJECTIVE "this."

▣ "Who abhor justice" The VERB (BDB 1073, KB 1765, Piel PARTICIPLE) means regard as an abomination (e.g., Amos 5:10; 6:8; Isa. 14:19; 49:7). These leaders were not sincerely wrong, but haters of the right, good, and godly (cf. Isa. 5:20; Amos 6:12). The term "justice" (BDB 1048) is repeated in vv. 8 and 9.

▣ "And twist everything that is straight" The VERB "twist" (BDB 786, KB 875, Piel IMPERFECT) means "to pervert" or "to make crooked" (cf. Prov. 10:9; 28:18; Isa. 59:8).

The term "straight" is the etymological root of the OT term for "justice" or "righteousness," which meant a straight edge or measuring reed (cf. Isa. 5:20). Most of the Hebrew words for sin speak of a deviation from this divine standard. See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS at Hosea 2:19.

3:10 "Zion. . .Jerusalem" Zion is the name of one of the seven hills upon which Jerusalem was built. It often is used to refer to the whole city or nation.

▣ "with bloodshed. . .with violent injustice" These two NOUNS are parallel (cf. Jer. 22:13,17; Hab. 2:12).

3:11 All three groups of leaders are mentioned in this verse and all three are condemned for their greedy, materialistic attitude (cf. 7:3; Isa. 56:9-12; Jer. 5:30-31; 6:13-14; 8:8-12; 14:13-18,22-23; 26:10-15,16; Ezek. 13; 22:23-31).

"pronounce judgment for a bribe" This shows the corruption of the judiciary (cf. 7:3; II Chr. 19:7; Isa. 1:23; 5:23). Wealth controlled every aspect of Jewish life.

▣ "priests instruct for a price" One role of the priests (and Levites) was to educate the people on the precepts of the Mosaic Law (e.g., Deut. 33:10; II Chr. 15:3; 17:9). Priestly understanding and teaching (and living) of the Mosaic Law was crucial to a healthy, spiritual Israel (cf. Hosea 4:6).

"Yet they lean on the Lord, saying" The term "lean" is used of leaning on a staff (BDB 1043, KB 1612, Niphal IMPERFECT, cf. Ps. 23:4). These leaders were wrapping their evil deeds and nations in religious dress. Their mouth said one thing; their actions another (cf. Isa. 29:13)! They were claiming YHWH's protection (covenant benefit) because of their covenant relationship to Him, but were completely ignoring the covenant requirements (cf. Deut. 27-29; Lev. 26; Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13).

▣ "Calamity will not come upon us" This must have been a recurrent theme of the false prophets, which became a cultural proverb (cf. Jer. 5:12; 23:17; Amos 9:10), but they were wrong (cf. 2:3).

3:12 This must have been an extremely startling statement to the people of Judah. They trusted in God's promises that Jerusalem and the Temple would never fall (i.e., Isaiah's promises to Hezekiah, probably based in II Sam. 7), and yet, because of their flagrant neglect of the ethical aspects of the covenant, God would take them into exile (cf. Jer. 26:18). Jerusalem would be like Samaria (cf. 1:6)! This is the first prophetic mention of the fall of Jerusalem ("plowed as a field") and the Temple (i.e., overgrown with vegetation, literally "a high place of a forest"). This is theologically parallel to Isa. 5. I am sure that Micah was discredited in 701 b.c. when this did not occur (i.e., Sennacherib's army destroyed by God, cf. II Kgs. 19:35-37), however, the prophet was vindicated in 586 b.c., when this prophecy was literally fulfilled under the siege of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, asserts that the king (i.e., Hezekiah, cf. 1:1) and people of Judah responded to Micah's message and, therefore, God relented of His judgment (p. 36).

▣ "on account of you" They (the political and religious leaders) were not only going to experience the judgment of God (like the wealthy exploiters), their activities were the reason for the judgment of God!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR MICAH 2-3

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. What was the essence of the false prophets' message in 2:6-11?

2. Why is 2:12-13 such a radical break from the context?

3. How does one tell the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet?

4. How can God promise to always have a man on the Davidic throne (II Samuel 7), and yet predict the total destruction of Jerusalem and the monarchy?