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Micah 6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God Pleads with Israel A Series of Laments, Threats, and Denunciations Directed Against All Classes of Israelites The LORD's Case Against Israel Yahweh's Case Against Israel
  (6:1-7:7)    
6:1-2 6:1-2 6:1 6:1-5
    6:2  
6:3-5 6:3-5 6:3-5  
    What the Lord Requires  
6:6-7 6:6-8 6:6-8 6:6-8
6:8      
Punishment of Israel's Injustice     Against Tricksters in the City
6:9-12 6:9-16 6:9-16 6:9-15
6:13-16     The Example of Samaria
      6:16

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 CHAPTER 6

A. YHWH brings His people to court in vv. 1-5. He documents His faithfulness to them in vv. 3-5. This is a common literary device in the prophets (e.g., Isa. 1; Jer. 2: Hosea 4).

 

B. The people answer God's charges in vv. 6-7.

 

C. The Prophet speaking for YHWH summarizes His will for His people in v. 8

 

D. The prophet speaking for YHWH delineates the sins of the rich and powerful of Israel in vv. 9-16. Because of them the covenant curses of Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 are now invoked (e.g., Rev. 26:26; Deut. 28:15,18,40,51).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:1-5
 1Hear now what the Lord is saying,
 "Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
 And let the hill hear your voice.
 2Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the Lord,
 And you enduring foundations of the earth,
 Because the Lord has a case against His people;
 Even with Israel He will dispute.
 3My people, what have I done to you
 And how have I wearied you? Answer Me.
  4Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt
 And ransomed you up from the house of slavery,
 And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
 5My people, remember now
 What Balak king of Moab counseled
 And what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
  And from Shittim to Gilgal,
 In order that you might know the righteous acts of the Lord."

6:1-2 "Hear" There are several IMPERATIVES in vv. 1-2:

1. "Hear" (BDB 1033, KB 1570, i.e., in the sense of a prayer petition) - Qal IMPERATIVE

2. "Arise" (BDB 877, KB 1086) - Qal IMPERATIVE

3. "Plead your case" (DBD 936, KB 1224) - Qal IMPERATIVE

4. "Hear" (BDB 1033, KB 1570) - Qal IMPERATIVE used in a JUSSIVE sense

5. "Listen" (BDB 1033, KB 1570) - Qal IMPERATIVE

"Hear" is a way for Micah to start a new section (cf. 1:1; 3:1; 6:1). The second IMPERATIVE "arise" is MASCULINE SINGULAR. It could refer to Micah as God's spokesman or collectively to the nation. Option #1 fits best.

This chapter is a court scene, like chapter 1. Notice the number of terms with a legal connotation:

1. "Arise" (i.e., to testify, e.g., Deut. 19:15-16 and false witnesses in Ps. 27:12; 35:11), v. 1

2. "Plead" (i.e., to contend in court; negatively, e.g., Isa. 1:17; 3:13; 97:16; positively 7:9; Ps. 103:8-14, esp. 9; Jer. 50:34)

3. "Hear" (i.e., in the sense of a jury or judge, e.g., 1:2)

4. "Listen" (same word as #3)

5. "Indictment" (same word as #2)

6. "A case" (same word as #3 and #5)

7. "Dispute" (BDB 406, KB 410, Hithpael IMPERFECT, i.e., adjudication of a judge, e.g., Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3)

YHWH is divorcing His covenant people because of their repeated unfaithfulness (Hosea) and sin (Amos). This court scene may continue through chapter 7.

▣ "before the mountains. . .hills" In the OT it takes two witnesses to confirm truth (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:5). YHWH calls "the mountains" and "hills" to witness against Israel and Judah as He does "heaven and earth" (cf. Deut. 4:26; 31:28; 32:l; Ps. 50:4 and Isa. 1:2). Several times in the OT mountains are personified (e.g., II Sam. 1:21; Ps. 68:15-16; Isa. 35:1). These were the very places (i.e., "high places") Ba'al and Asherah were worshiped.

6:2 This verse is legal metaphor. YHWH turns from addressing His collective people, Judah, to address the permanent, foundational, personified witnesses, the mountains and hills.

▣ "His people" Privilege (covenant people, cf. v. 3; Rom. 9:4-5) brings responsibility!

▣ "Even with Israel He will dispute" This does not refer to the Northern Ten Tribes (i.e., Israel) only (cf. v. 16), but here to all of the tribes, the descendants of Jacob (Israel).

6:3-5 YHWH asks His people why, when He has been faithful, they have continued to be rebellious. YHWH is using a covenant treaty pattern (i.e., Hittite Suzerein Treaties of the second millennium, which also form the outline of the book of Deuteronomy and Joshua 24) to recall His faithful acts.

6:3 "what have I done to you" YHWh asks them to bring their complaints or charges against Him (cf. Jer. 2:5). Where, when, how has He not been faithful to His covenant responsibilities?

▣ "Answer Me" This is a legal term (BDB 772, KB 851, Qal IMPERATIVE), which means "to give evidence against" (cf. Exod. 20:16; Deut. 5:20; II Sam. 1:16). YHWH is acting as one party in a divorce case.

6:4 "I brought you up. . .Egypt" This refers to YHWH's promise to Abraham in Gen. 15:6 and relates to the events of the exodus. The exodus is the foundational act in the history of national Israel (cf. Exod. 20:2; Deut. 5:6; 7:8). This event clearly showed YHWH's faithful commitment to His covenant responsibilities (e.g., Amos 2:10; 3:1; 9:7). God's grace came before the Mosaic law.

▣ "ransomed" This word literally means "to buy back" (BDB 804, KB 911, Qal PERFECT). It was used in the sense of buying someone back from slavery or a prisoner of war. See Special Topic:Ransom/Redeem at Hos.7:13.

"I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam" God had provided the needed revelations and godly leadership, but His people had rebelled, even during the exodus. God's people have a track record of rebellion (cf. Stephen's sermon in Acts 7).

Notice Miriam is mentioned in a parallel way to Moses and Aaron.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

6:5 "remember now" This (BDB 269, KB 269) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. YHWH wants His covenant people to remember an earlier time of testing and revelation (i.e., Num. 22:5-6).

▣ "Balak. . .Balaam" This event is recorded in Numbers 22-25.

▣ "Shittim" This was the last camping site of Israel before entering the Promised Land. It is also the scene of the sin of Israel with Moabite women (i.e., fertility worship, cf. Num. 33:49 and Josh. 3:1).

▣ "Gilgal" This was the first camping site within the Promised Land (cf. Joshua 4:19). Even in the midst of their sin and rebellion at Shittim, God forgave them and brought them safely through the raging, flooding Jordan into the Promised Land.

 Taken together the mentioning of these two locations would imply the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River during its flooding season.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:6-8
 6With what shall I come to the Lord
 And bow myself before the God on high?
 Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
 With yearling calves?
 7Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams,
 In ten thousand rivers of oil?
 Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts,
 The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
 8He has told you, O man, what is good;
 And what does the Lord require of you
 But to do justice, to love kindness,
 And to walk humbly with your God?

6:6-7 In verses 6-7 the literary form of diatribe (i.e., a supposed objector) is used. The prophet uses a supposed collective person to voice the false views which were commonly held by the people of Judah. They thought God was being unfair to them and that He only wanted more sacrifices.

6:6

NASB"the God on high"
NKJV"the High God"
NRSV"God on high"
TEV"the God of heaven"
NJB"God All-high"

This (BDB 43, CONSTRUCT BDB 928) is metaphorical for the Most High God or exalted God (cf. Ps. 99:2; 113:4; 38:6; Isa. 57:15).

▣ "yearling calves" These were unblemished calves used for sacrifice from the age of eight days to one year (cf. Lev. 9:3 and 22:27).

6:7 "in thousands of rams. . .rivers of oil" The people are (1) charging God of being unreasonable in His requirements. However, God never asked for these things. They reflect pagan worship practices. Or (2) on some national occasions large numbers of sacrifices are given (i.e., dedication of Solomon's temple, e.g., I Kgs. 8:63). Could this representative speaker be talking of an event of national repentance (i.e., ritual sacrifice)?

"first-born. . .fruit of my body" Is this a purposeful distortion (i.e., hyperbole) or a sincere misunderstanding of Genesis 22 or Exod. 13:2-12? There are several places in the Mosaic Law where human sacrifice is condemned (cf. Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; Ps. 106:37; Jer. 7:31).

It is possible that God's people had become so spiritually confused that they attempted to worship YHWH in the form of Molech, the fertility fire god of Ammon (cf. Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; I Kgs. 11:7; II Kgs. 3:27; 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 23:10; Jer. 32:35; Amos 5:26; Acts 7:43).

God's people attempted to save the nation by offering an innocent one ("child"). In some way they had logically extended the sacrificial system (cf. Leviticus 1-7) in an inappropriate direction. However, it is this same concept that is behind Genesis 22 and Calvary (cf. Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21).

6:8 "He has told you" The VERB (BDB 616, KB 665) is a Hiphil PERFECT and may reflect v. 4. God had provided a revelation of His character and will (esp. as it related to sacrifice, cf. I Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:16-17; Isa. 1:11-17; Hosea 6:5-6). This verse seems to reflect the comment of Micah.

"O, man" This VOCATIVE is addressing the idolatrous covenant people of Judah. This verse is not addressing how Gentiles might be saved (i.e., works righteousness), but how covenant people must live in grateful response to God's forgiveness (which in the OT was symbolized as the sacrifice of an innocent animal cf. John 1:29; II Cor. 5:21). For a good brief discussion of this topic see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 336-337.

▣ "what is good" This verse is the most famous saying of Micah. It refers to the priority of loving, interpersonal relationships on a high level of care and love (cf. Ps. 14:1,3; 37:3; 51:17; Hosea 12:6 and described in Ps. 15:2-5), not cultic performance (i.e., sacrifice) only (cf. Isa. 1:13; Amos 5:21-23). This verse is a wonderful definition of what is good (BDB 373 II) in God's eyes (cf. 3:2; Isa. 1:17; 5:20; Amos 5:14-15).

▣ "require" This VERB (BDB 205, KB 233) is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, which represents continuous action. The term means "to demand" or "ask for" (e.g., Deut. 18:19; 23:21).

▣ "justice" In this context "justice" (BDB 1048) refers to social fairness, which is discussed in vv. 9-11. The OT knows no distinction between the secular and the sacred! All of life is sacred! See note at 3:1.

There is a series of three Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTs:

1. "Do justice" (BDB 793, KB 889)

2. "Love kindness" (BDB 12, KB 17)

3. "Walk humbly" (BDB 229, KB 246)

The word "humbly" (BDB 857, KB 1039) is an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE.

Biblical faith affects every aspect of daily life. Faith is a lifestyle, not just a theology or creed. The divine covenant gift of eternal life (i.e., the restoration of the image and likeness of God lost in the fall) has observable characteristics (both in relation to God and other humans). This verse is one of the best in the OT describing these characteristics.

▣ "love kindness" This is the powerful covenant word hesed (BDB 338). It refers to God's covenant loyalty. It reflects God's sacrificial, no-strings-attached, love. I think this term, in many ways, is analogous in meaning to the NT agape. See Special Topic: Hesed at Hosea 2:19.

"walk humbly" This is an acknowledgment of human need (i.e., possible meaning of this rare word "humble," BDB 557, cf. Prov. 11:2) and God's provision (Mosaic covenant requirements). Ritual without the proper attitude (cf. Isa. 29:13 vs. 57:15 and 66:2d) is an abomination (cf. I Sam. 15:22; Matt. 23:23). "Walk" in the Bible is (1) a metaphor of identification with someone (e.g., Gen. 5:24; 6:9; Job 34:8; Ps. 1:1; Mal. 2:6) and/or (2) a metaphor for daily living (cf. Eph. 4:1,17; 5:2,15). Biblical faith is daily, not weekly or annually, personal relationship directed toward God and other human beings!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:9-16
 9The voice of the Lord will call to the city—
 And it is sound wisdom to fear Your name:
 "Hear, O tribe. Who has appointed its time?
 10Is there yet a man in the wicked house,
  Along with treasures of wickedness,
 And a short measure that is cursed?
 11Can I justify wicked scales
 And a bag of deceptive weights?
 12For the rich men of the city are full of violence,
 Her residents speak lies,
 And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
 13So also I will make you sick, striking you down,
 Desolating you because of your sins.
 14You will eat, but you will not be satisfied,
 And your vileness will be in your midst.
 You will try to remove for safekeeping,
 But you will not preserve anything.
 And what you do preserve I will give to the sword.
 15You will sow but you will not reap.
 You will tread the olive but will not anoint yourself with oil;
 And the grapes, but you will not drink wine.
 16The statutes of Omri
 And all the works of the house of Ahab are observed;
 And in their devices you walk.
 Therefore, I will give you up for destruction
 And your inhabitants for derision,
 And you will bear the reproach of My people."

6:9 "The voice of the Lord" The message begins in line 3 and continues to v. 16. This word "voice" (BDB 876) is used several times for God speaking (cf. Exod. 19:19; I Kgs. 19:13; Isa. 6:8; Ezek. 10:5). The NJB has "He thunders to the city," which alludes to Exod. 19:13,16.

▣ "the city" This refers to Jerusalem, the special place where YHWH caused His name to dwell (cf. Deut. 12:5,11), the location of the temple.

▣ "it is sound wisdom to fear Your name" The phrase is a comment from Micah or a later editorial addition (omitted in JB and NJB). It was a wisdom saying. The NRSV puts it in brackets.

The Hebrew term (BDB 444) translated "sound wisdom" is a technical term used in wisdom literature (cf. Job 11:6; 12:16; 26:3; Prov. 2:7; 3:21; 8:14; 18:1; Isa. 28:29).

The term "fear" is an emendation from the Hebrew "to see" (BDB 906, cf. NKJV) following the Septuagint (BDB 431), which fits the context better and is found in NASB, RSV, NRSV, TEV, NEB, REB, NIV.

The word "name" stands for the person of God (BDB 1027, cf. Gen. 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; Acts 7:59; 9:14,21; 22:16; Rom. 10:9-13; I Cor. 1:2; II Tim. 2:22).

▣ "Hear" This (BDB 1033, KB 1570) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. The NKJV has "Hear the Rod!"; NIV has "Heed the rod."

▣ "O tribe" This follows the Septuagint. The Masoretic Text has "rod" (BDB 641, i.e., "shepherd's staff," cf. Exod. 4:17; Isa. 10:5). The Hebrew root can mean (1) rod; (2) staff; (3) branch; or (4) tribe. God addresses His people's social exploitations of the poor and needy covenantal brothers and sisters (cf. v. 12).

NASB"Who has appointed its time"
NKJV"Who has appointed it"
NRSV". . .an assembly of the city"
TEV"you people who have assembled in the city"
NJB". . .of assembled citizens"

The NASB and NKJV follow the Hebrew text while the NRS, TEV, and NJB choose an emendation (not in the LXX).

If the MT is followed it speaks of God's sovereign establishment of Jerusalem and His judgment of it!

6:10

NASB"Is there yet a man in the wicked house"
NKJV"Are there yet the treasures of wickedness"
NRSV"Can I forget the treasures of wickedness"
TEV"In the houses of evil people and treasures"
NJB"Can I overlook the false measure"

The first word in the MT is uncertain:

1. are there (MT, NKJV)

2. can I forget (NRSV)

3. can I bear (NJB)

The context of false scales (i.e., vv. 10-11) seems to demand revocalization (change of the vowels but not consonants) of the Masoretic Text to the commercial metaphor (cf. v. 11). The MT is in the form of a question which expects a "yes" answer.

6:10-11 "short measure. . .wicked scales. . .deceptive weights" The MT of v. 11 is in the form of a question, but expects a "no" answer. These are examples of commercial cheating (cf. Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5). For a full discussion of Hebrew weights and measures see the Special Topic at Amos 8:5.

6:12 "the rich" Micah's message to the privileged, powerful, influential, and wealthy covenant citizens is very similar to that of Amos'. Notice how line 2 and line 3 are parallel. All three lines are a summary of vv. 9-10 and the opposite of v. 8.

6:13-15 God will judge the people of Jerusalem by siege and exile. All their ill-gotten gains will be enjoyed by others. Notice the reason for these actions is not the weakness of YHWH in protecting His people from foreign gods, but their sin (cf. vv. 13b,16)!

6:13

NASB, NKJV"I will make you sick"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"I have begun to strike you down"

The NASB and NKJV follow the MT; the others follow the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Vulgate.

▣ "Desolating you" This term (BDB 1030, KB 1563, Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE) is found in many Akkadian medical texts translated "paralyze," "numb" and "lame." Therefore, the first two lines of poetry in v. 13 have a medical metaphor related to sinning covenant people.

6:14

NASB"your vileness will be in your midst"
NKJV"hunger shall be in your midst"
NRSV"there shall be a gnawing hunger within you"
TEV"you will still be hungry"
NJB--------

The problem is the term "vileness" or empty (i.e., hunger, BDB 445). Its meaning is uncertain. KB (446) has "to be dirty." The Peshitta translates it as "filth" (i.e., dysentery). It is also uncertain if it refers to (1) an individual or (2) the sinful society.

NASB"You will try to remove for safekeeping"
NKJV"You may carry some away"
NRSV"you shall put away"
TEV"you will carry things off"
NJB"you will store up"

The VERB "remove" (BDB 690 I, KB 744, Hiphil [this form is used everywhere also in the OT of moving a boundary stone] JUSSIVE) is understood to be an attempt to hide possessions or valuables for safe keeping, but it will not be effective!

The next line of poetry uses the VERB "preserve" or "save" (BDB 812), which was used in Isa. 5:29 of a lioness licking her food to preserve it. The NKJV seems to follow this scavenger metaphor, as does the NET Bible.

6:15 "sow but. . .not reap" This is part of the curse for breaking the covenant (cf. Deut. 28:30 ff).

▣ "will not anoint yourself with oil" Olive oil had many purposes in the ancient Near East. One of them was to rub on the skin in preparation of a social event. It was a symbol of happiness and joy. The lack of oil was seen as a divine judgment (cf. Deut. 28:40).

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"grapes
NKJV"sweet wine"
TEV"wine"

This is the Hebrew term for "new wine" (BDB 440). See Special Topic at Amos 6:6.

6:16 "Omri" This was a politically effective king (cf. I Kgs. 16:21-28, for dates of reign see Appendix). His name became the common name for the Northern Ten Tribes in the Assyrian records (i.e., House of Omri). This title became a symbol for their godless living. It characterized Judah (e.g., II Kgs. 17:19,22)!

▣ "Ahab" This is Omri's son who married Jezebel, who brought numerous prophets of Ba'al and Asherah into Samarian society (cf. I Kgs. 16:29-34; 18; 21:25, for dates of reign see Appendix).

NASB"derision"
NKJV, NRSV"hissing"
TEV"despise"
NJB"a laughing-stock"

This is the Hebrew word "hissing" (BDB 1056), which was a cultural way of showing disgust and rejection (cf. II Chr. 29:8; Jer. 19:8; 25:9,18; 29:18; 51:37).

NASB, NKJV"you will bear the reproach of My people"
NRSV"so you shall bear the scorn of my people"
TEV"People everywhere will treat you with contempt"
NJB"hence you will endure the scorn of other peoples"

The different translation options are based on:

1. The MT - NASB, NKJV, NRSV

2. The Septuagint - TEV, NJB

 

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 did God bring His people to court?

2. Why are vv. 6-7 so upsetting?

3. Is God concerned with our business life?