MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Micah 4

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord's Reign in Zion Prophecies of Israel's Glorious Future and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom The Lord's Universal Reign The Future Reign of Yahweh in Zion
  (4:1-5:15)    
4:1-3 4:1-4 4:1-2 4:1-4
    4:3-4  
4:4-5      
  4.5 4.5 4.5
Zion's Future Triumph   Israel Will Return from Exile The Scattered Flock is Gathered to Zion
4:6-8 4:6-7 4:6-7 4:6-7
  4:8 4:8-12 4:8
      The Siege, Exile, and Liberation of Zion
4:9-10 4:9-10   4:9-10
      Her Enemies to be Crushed on the Threshing Floor
4:11-12 4:11-13   4:11-13
4:13     The Distress of the Davidic Dynasty
    4:13-5:1 4:14-5:1
4:14      

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.

 

BACKGROUND STUDY

Micah 4:1-3 is very similar to Isa. 2:2-4. It is obvious that literary borrowing has occurred from one or the other or they both borrowed from a third source.

The book of Micah seems to reflect two historical dates, as well as an eschatological position. Throughout the book, either (1) the Syro-Ephramatic War of 735 b.c. is the background or (2) the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib the Assyrian in 701 b.c. However, at the beginning of chapter 4, we realize that these two historical crises foreshadowed (1) the Babylonian invasion (v. 10) and (2) the ultimate crisis of history, the Kingdom of God. Several questions are left unanswered!

1. Does any OT prophet see the two comings of the Messiah?

2. Does this refer to a Jewish oriented millennium or a church oriented eternity?

3. Are the nations becoming believers and followers of YHWH (vv. 1-4) and/or His messiah or are they enemies to the bitter end (vv. 11-13)?

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:1-5
 1And it will come about in the last days
 That the mountain of the house of the Lord
 Will be established as the chief of the mountains.
 It will be raised above the hills,
 And the peoples will stream to it.
 2And many nations will come and say,
 "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
 And to the house of the God of Jacob,
 That He may teach us about His ways
 And that we may walk in His paths."
 For from Zion will go forth the law,
 Even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
 3And He will judge between many peoples
 And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
 Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
 And their spears into pruning hooks;
 Nation will not life up sword against nation,
 And never again will they train for war.
 4And each of them will sit under his vine
 And under his fig tree,
 With on one to make them afraid,
 For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
 5Though all the peoples walk
 Each in the name of his god,
 As for us, we will walk
 In the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.

4:1,3-5 These are words from Micah, as are vv. 9-13. In v. 2 the nations speak and in vv. 6-8 YHWH speaks. This entire section is similar to Isa. 2:2-4.

4:1 "in the last days" This phrase (BDB 31 CONSTRUCT with BDB 398) is repeated often in the OT (cf. Gen. 49:1; Num. 24:14; Deut. 4:30; 31:29; Isa. 2:2; Jer. 23:20; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39; Ezek. 38:16; Dan. 10:14; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1). BDB (p. 31) describes it in this way, "The final period of history so far as the speaker's perspective reaches that sense thus varies with the context, but it often equals the ideal or Messianic future."

The phrase has some variation:

1. Dan. 2:28 - BDB 1079 CONSTRUCT with BDB 1095 ("the end of days")

2. Ezek. 38:8 - BDB 31 CONSTRUCT with BDB 1040 ("the latter years")

In Ezek. 38 the phrase is parallel to the famous prophetic phrase "that day" (cf. Ezek. 30:2-3; 38:10,14,18; 39:11; also Isa. 2:12; 10:3; 13:6,9; 34:2,8; 61:2; Jer. 30:7,8; Joel 1:15; 2:11,31; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1:14, 15, 16,18).

The Jews of the interbiblical period developed a concept of two ages: the current evil age (begun in Gen. 3) and an age of righteousness inaugurated by the Messiah (cf. Micah 3:12-13; 5:1-5a). However, from further NT revelation (i.e., progressive revelation), we understand that the Messiah came not once, but twice. The period from the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem until the Second Coming could be called the "last days." The interpretive issue is when does the Second Coming occur? (1) some unknown future time; (2) before an earthly thousand year reign; (3) before the beginning of eternity? Part of this question deals with how we view the future. Is it earth-like (restored Garden of Eden) or totally different (cf. I Cor. 15:35-49)? Is the Bible literal (dispensational premillennial) or literary (see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruninghooks)? See Special Topic: The Two Ages at Hosea 3:5.

▣ "the mountain of the house of the Lord" Jerusalem was built on seven hills. The two major ones were Mt. Moriah, on which the Temple stood, and Mt. Zion (i.e., site of the old Jebusite fortress and David's palace), which became a literary metaphor for the whole city (cf. v. 2).

The imagery of a mountain as the dwelling place of god/God is recurrent in Mesopotamian, Canaanite, Hebrew (e.g., Ps. 48:2; 87; Isa. 14:13; Ezek. 28:14), and Greco-Roman literature. There is an interesting article, "Divine Assembly," in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 50-53 and also "Mountain" (pp. 572-574).

1. for Mesopotamia - ziggurats (man-made mountains)

2. for Canaan - Mt. Zaphon

3. for Hebrews - Mt. Zion/Moriah or a mountain in the north

4. for Greeks - Mt. Olympus

Micah has just predicted the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. 3:12). Now he asserts that God's universal kingdom will come to fruition in Jerusalem. God will establish His reign on a renamed Mt. Zion (i.e., "New Jerusalem," cf. Revelation 21). The ruined hill will become the most important mountain on the earth (note the parallelism between lines 2, 3, and 4). For the difference between OT prophecies about the future and NT prophecies, see full note at 4:7.

▣ "It will be raised above the hills" This is figurative language representing the preeminence of the temple in Jerusalem. Always Jewish people say, "Let us go up to Jerusalem." This concept is now widened into a universal sense. Mt. Moriah is viewed as the highest, most significant elevation on the planet, that place that is closest to God!

▣ "the peoples will stream to it" Notice this wonderful universal element in 4:1-3. This is a recurrent theme in the OT (cf. Ps. 22:27; 66:4; 86:9; Isa. 19:21,23; 27:13; 45:20-25; 50:6-8; 66:23; Jer. 3:17; 4:2; 12:14-16; Zech. 2:11; 8:20-23; 14:16).

Notice how in the OT people come to God's mountain on the temple, but in the NT His people are sent out (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). There is a new temple—Jesus—and by faith in Him each believer becomes a temple. Instead of coming to the temple in Jerusalem, the NT temples go to the nations! God's universal, eternal, redemptive plan is now functioning!

For the difference between these OT prophetic predictions and the NT forecast of the future kingdom see full notes in the Special Topic at 4:7.

Notice the startling contrast between 3:12 (i.e., exile) and 4:l (i.e., restoration and glorification). Also notice the universal nature of the coming reign of the Messiah (cf. 2:13; 5:2-5a). This universal aspect is so characteristic of Isaiah and Micah (e.g., Dan. 7:9-10,13-14). It is uncertain if they come once and go home or come every year like a Jewish annual feast.

It is to be noted that in a context of Babylonian exile (cf.v. 10) the VERB "will stream" (BDB 625, KB 676, Qal PERFECT) is the same VERB Qal IMPERFECT) used to describe the captive nations streaming away from Babylon in Jer. 51:44. Cyrus (cf. Isa. 44:28-45:3), God's chosen vessel, allowed all the exiled people to return home.

4:2 "And many nations will come and say" Verse 2 records the supposed comment of the nations. All people are welcome (e.g., Isa. 11:10; 49:22). If there is one God (i.e., monotheism, cf. I Kgs. 8:43,60), all humans are made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), and He promises to redeem all mankind (cf. Gen. 3:15), then "one people" is the ultimate goal (cf. Gal. 3:23-29; Eph. 2:11-3:13). YHWH chose to reveal Himself through national Israel, but ultimately through the ideal Israelite, His Servant (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12), His Son (cf. Ps. 2: II Sam. 7).

Verse 2 has several IMPERATIVES:

1. "come" - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. "go" - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERFECT

3. "teach" - BDB 434, KB 436, Hiphil IMPERFECT, but JUSSIVE in meaning

4. "walk" - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal COHORTATIVE

 

"That he may teach us about His ways

 And that we may walk in His paths" There are three aspects to biblical faith: first is knowing God (personal relationship), second is knowing God's will (Scripture, cf. Ps. 19:7-14; 119:1-176), and the other is living God's will (Scripture obedience, cf. Isa. 51:4-8). God wants a people who reflect His character. God's goal has always been to reach the world (cf. lines 6 & 7)! Humans were created for fellowship with God!

4:3 "And he will judge between many peoples" This is an extreme contrast between Judah's judicial actions and YHWH's (cf. 3:1, 9, 11). YHWH's judgments (i.e., Messiah's judgments [so Ibn Ezra], Isa. 11:3-5; Micah 5:4) will result in social peace, not exploitation (cf. Isa. 2:2-4).

"Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares

 And their spears into pruning hooks" It is a beautiful metaphor to describe the peace of the days of the Messiah (cf. Ps. 46:9, 76:3; Hosea 2:18; the reverse in Joel 3:10).

 The exact nature of these agricultural implements is uncertain (BDB 88 III). They were made of metal and were used, not like a wooden plow to turn over soil, but to scratch a furrow. This was usually a metal tipped piece of sharpened wood.

▣ "And never again will they train for war" The VERB "train" (BDB 540, KB 531, Qal IMPERFECT) means to learn (e.g., Deut. 4:10; 17:19; Ps. 119:73). It can refer to warfare (cf. I Chr. 5:18; Song of Songs 3:8). Not only is the coming restoration universal, it is also permanent (cf. vv. 5 line 3; 7 line 4).

4:4 "And each of them will sit under his vine

 And under his fig tree" Israel and Judah were agricultural societies. This idiom denoted a peaceful and happy agricultural life. These phrases reflect the restoration of all descendants of Abraham back to the Promised Land, where each had their family land restored (cf. I Kgs. 4:25; Isa. 36:16; Zech. 3:10).

"With no one to make them afraid" In the OT if God's people live in light of His promises and covenant, He will defend them (cf. Lev. 26:3-6). This text in Micah reflects the Messiah's presence and rule (which reflects an eschatological setting).

▣ "For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken" This speaks of the power and trustworthiness of God's Word (cf. Isa. 40:5,8; 45:23; 55:11). God's promises and trustworthiness are the basis of man's faith (cf. I Kgs. 8:56).

The title for God, "Lord of hosts," in a context relating to Israel and Judah, refers to God the commander and leader of the army of angels. In some contexts (i.e., Mesopotamian astral worship) it refers to the pagan theory of gods/angels behind the lights in the sky (i.e., planets, stars, constellations, comets, etc.). see Special Topic: Names for Deity at Amos 1:2.

4:5 This verse seems to be out of context. This is a strange verse in a context which speaks of the universal and permanent reign of the one true God, YHWH of Israel. Some see it as:

1. This glorious future is not here yet because currently every nation has its own god (cf. II Kgs. 17:29).

2. Not all people of all the nations would recognize YHWH even in a future ideal time (e.g., Rev. 22:15).

3. This is an affirmation of those who have come to Jerusalem (cf. vv. 1e, 2a, 3a,b) and now affirm YHWH their sovereign and God forever.

The tension in this chapter between "believing nations" and "unbelieving nations" is seen in the contrast between vv. 1-4 and v. 5!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:6-8
 6"In that day," declares the Lord,
 "I will assemble the lame,
 And gather the outcasts,
 Even those whom I have afflicted.
 7I will make the lame a remnant,
 And the outcasts a strong nation,
 And the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
 From now on and forever.
 8And as for you, the tower of the flock,
 Hill of the daughter of Zion,
 To you it will come—
 Even the former dominion will come,
 The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.

4:6-8 This continues the theme of earlier chapters in Micah, God as shepherd (cf. 2:12-13, Ps. 23; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34), who cares for those who society has rejected (cf. Isa. 35:5-6; 61:1-2; Jer. 31:8; zeph. 3:19). No one is left out or left behind!

4:6 "In that day" See note at 4:1.

▣ "lame" This word means "limping flock" or "wounded sheep" (BDB 854 II, cf. Zeph. 3:19).

▣ "assemble" As lame and outcast are parallel, so too, the VERBS:

1. "assemble" - BDB 62, KB 74, Qal COHORTATIVE

2. "gather" - BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel COHORTATIVE

 

"outcasts" This refers literally to sheep who have left the flock (i.e., banished ones, BDB 621, cf. Zeph. 3:14).

▣ "Even those whom I have afflicted" God Himself brought judgment on His people (here the exiled "lame" and "outcast") in order to bring them back to the place of personal faith. God disciplines those who are part of His family (cf. Heb. 12:5ff).

4:7 "a remnant. . .a strong nation" God always starts with a small group (e.g., Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.), but this small group of believers is meant to become more than the stars of heaven, the sands of the sea, and the dust of the earth (Genesis promise to the Patriarchs). They (believers in YHWH) are meant to fill the earth.

God Himself or His Messiah (i.e., depending on 1) which covenant one affirms and 2) your personal, biblical world view) will gather and accomplish this universal task (Ezek. 36:22-38). God's plan has always included all human beings (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6). In Genesis the Garden of Eden is the special place; in Exodus-Joshua the Promised Land is the special place; in the prophets Jerusalem is the special place; in the NT it is New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.

For the theological implications to "remnant" see Special Topic at Micah 2:12.

NASB, NKJV,
REB"the outcasts"
NRSV"those who were cast off"
TEV"those who are left"
NJB"the far-flung"
JPSOA"the expelled"
NIV"those driven away"
NAB"those driven far off"

The Hebrew text is uncertain. Several emendations have been suggested:

1. "to be far off" - BDB 229, KB 245

2. "weaklings"

3. "sick ones"

4. "weary ones" (JB)

 

▣ "the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion" There is a literary parallel between reigning and shepherding in the Old Testament (e.g., shepherd, 5:4,6 and reign, 4:7; 5:12).

"From now on and forever" This parallels v. 5d. God's promises are sure. God's plans are permanent. However, there is a progressive revelation. The OT has become the NT. God reveals Himself in fuller ways and categories, but the goal is always life with Him! See Special Topic: 'Olam (forever) at Hosea 2:19.

SPECIAL TOPIC: OT PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE VS. NT PREDICTIONS

4:8 "tower of the flock" This is possibly (1) a special place name near Bethlehem itself, where sacrificial sheep for daily sacrifice were raised (i.e., Jerome and possibly Gen. 35:2,1 or Migdal-eder). This will become the focus of prophecy in 5:2, which relates to the Messiah's (who is the sinless Lamb of God, cf. John 1:29) birthplace or (2) it refers to the king/shepherd watching over his people from the capital (here it is God or His messiah).

It is possible, using poetic synonymous parallelism, to understand:

1. "in Mount Zion," v. 7 line 3

2. "tower of the flock," v. 8 line 1

3. "hill of the daughter of Zion," v. 8, line 2 (cf. vv. 10,13)

4. "the daughter of Jerusalem," v. 8 line 5

as referring to the capital of the south (i.e., Jerusalem, cf. Isa. 24:23).

▣ "Hill of the daughter of Zion" This is possibly another place name, Ophel (BDB 779 I). Ophel was the district of Jerusalem where David's palace was located. It may be an allusion to a restored Davidic dynasty (cf. II Sam. 7).

▣ "Even the former dominion will come" This section may reflect Isa. 1:24-26. After Israel is judged, she will be restored to her previous greatness. This, of course, is metaphorical for restoration because, in reality, her future is far more extensive (i.e., universal) than her past (i.e., kingdom of David and Solomon).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:9-13
 9"Now, why do you cry out loudly?
 Is there no king among you,
 Or has your counselor perished,
 That agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth?
 10Writhe and labor to give birth,
 Daughter of Zion,
 Like a woman in childbirth,
 For now you will go out of the city,
 Dwell in the field,
 And go to Babylon.
 There you will be rescued;
 There the Lord will redeem you
 From the hand of your enemies.
 11And now many nations have been assembled against you
 Who say, 'Let her be polluted,
 And let our eyes gloat over Zion.'
 12But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord,
 And they do not understand His purpose;
 For He has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor.
 13Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion,
 For your horn I will make iron
 And your hoofs I will make bronze,
 That you may pulverize many peoples,
 That you may devote to the Lord their unjust gain
 And their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.

4:9-13 The historical setting is again ambiguous, but because of v. 10, it seems to reflect the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. by neo-Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar II.

4:9 "why do you cry out so loudly" This refers to the time of exile. See Jer. 8:19.

▣ "Is there no king among you" This seems to be a sarcastic comment on chapter 3. The king was God's representative, and yet, if the king is evil, to whom can the people turn?

▣ "has your counselor perished" King and counselor are parallel and refer to the head of the royal line. In Isa. 9:6 it is one of several titles of the coming Messianic king. See Isa. 3:1-3.

▣ "like a woman in childbirth" Birthing (cf. v. 10 lines 1-3) is an OT metaphor of judgment and pain (cf. Isa. 42:14; Jer. 4:31; 6:24). In Mark 13:8 and Rom. 8:22 it is used of the birth pangs of the new age (i.e., for ever and ever).

4:10

NASB"Writhe and labor to bring forth"
NKJV"be in pain and labor to bring forth"
NRSV"writhe and groan"
TEV"twist and groan"
NJB"writhe in pain and cry aloud"

Both of these VERBS ("writhe" BDB 296, KB 297, and "labor" BDB 161, KB 189) are Qal IMPERATIVES.

"For now you will go out of the city, Dwell in the field" This is specifically referring to a forced exile after the capture of Jerusalem. These people will be forced to live out of doors while they are being marched to new homes and fields far away.

▣ "And go to Babylon" This is a specific allusion to the powerful Mesopotamian nation that conquered Assyria and the Fertile Crescent. Assyria took captive the Northern Ten Tribes (Israel) in 722 b.c. (cf. chapters 1-2). Babylon took captive the Southern Two Tribes (Judah) in 586 B b.c. (cf. 3:12).

Many scholars are surprised at such a specific reference to Babylon. This same non-chronological aspect can be seen in Isa. 13-14. However, it must also be mentioned that Babylon can be a way of referring to Mesopotamia, for there was a Babylonian Empire before Assyria and even long before that (cf. Gen. 10:10). It could also, following Gen. 11:4-9, refer to anti-God world powers (like Daniel). This would follow John the Apostle's use in the book of the Revelation (cf. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2,10,21).

▣ "There you will be rescued;

 There the Lord will redeem you

 From the hand of your enemies" Here is another glimpse of hope (lines 7-9) amidst the blackness of judgment (lines 1-6). There is another radical subject break after v. 10. The new subject is introduced in vv. 11-12. The text moves from deliverance to another future attack beyond their return from Babylon.

4:11 "now many nations have been assembled against you" This seems to refer to the mercenary troops found both in the Assyrian (e.g., Sennacherib, 701 b.c.) and Babylonian armies (e.g., Nebuchadnezzar, 586 b.c.). However, those who are looking for a certain pre-millennial position often find credence in their position from passages like this in the Prophets.

NASB"Let her be polluted"
NKJV"Let her be defiled"
NRSV"Let her be profaned"
TEV"must be destroyed"
NJB"Let us desecrate her"

The VERB (BDB 337, KB 335, Qal IMPERFECT, but JUSSIVE in meaning) means "to be polluted or profaned" (cf. Ps. 106:38; Jer. 3:1,9). This same root is used in Isa. 9:16; 10:6).

NASB, NJB"let our eyes gloat over Zion"
NKJV"let our eyes look upon"
NRSV"let our eyes gaze upon"
TEV"we will see"

The VERB is parallel to the one above. It (BDB 302, 301, Qal JUSSIVE) is one general term "to see."

 The USB Translator's Handbook suggests that these two VERBS had a sexual connotation and this was the reason why the metaphor of "daughter" is used in vv. 8, 10, 13 (p. 129) or possibly the Promised Land's ritual defilement by foreign troops is the connotation of the two parallel VERBS (p. 129).

4:12 When those who do not know YHWH or His Word view history, they see Him judging His own people. They miss the goal of a special covenant people as a means for all people to know God. Abraham's descendants did not keep the covenant, did not reveal God, so God chose to reveal Himself (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

 In this chapter the tension between (1) believing nations and (2) attacking, unbelieving nations is accentuated. The poetry is brief and ambiguous. It is difficult (impossible) to systematize it. These are flashes of truth, of future events, or literary metaphors. Two great truths are taught:

1. God's will of a restored believing humanity will be a reality.

2. Some will not believe and will attack God by attacking His people.

3. One group will be with God forever; one group will be destroyed!

 

"He has gathered them" This seems to imply that God has gathered Israel's and Judah's enemies to allow her to destroy them (cf. v. 13; Isa. 13-14; Ezek. 38-39; Joel 4; Zech. 14).

4:13 Verses 12-13 must be taken together to understand God's comment. He calls His restored covenant people to devastate those pagan nations which God used to punish His own people for their sins (cf. v. 12; Isa. 41:15-16; Jer. 51:20-23; Habakkuk).

The first two VERBS ("arise" BDB 877, KB 1086 and "thresh" BDB 190, KB 218) are both Qal IMPERATIVES.

But in v. 13 God is speaking to His restored covenant people (i.e., New Covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34). One day His people will be victorious. God wanted to use Abraham's descendants. He wanted the world to know Him and come to Him, but Abraham's seed did not and the world could not!

▣ "to the Lord of all the earth" Again, notice this universal emphasis. In context this chapter relates to God's first covenant people, but in light of Jesus, it refers to the new covenant people!

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. Why are the books of Isaiah and Micah so similar?

2. Is it unusual for the Old Testament prophecies to have a universal implication?

3. Why is v. 5 out of context?