These are some of my notes for Sunday, May 10, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
Books referenced here are:
1.) IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
2. The Minor Prophets, Micah by Waltke, edited by McComiskey
3. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah: New American Commentary, Micah by Barker of Barker and Bailey
This verse demonstrates:
1.name of prophet: Micah
2.source of message: word of the LORD
3.where the prophet lived: Moresheth
4.when he lived: reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah
5.how he got his message: vision
6.who his message was for: Samaria and Jerusalem(Barker)
Word of the LORD: IN the ANE, words of gods had intrinsic power that guaranteed the success of whatever they proclaimed. See Is 55:8-11.
Moresheth: Or Moresheth-Gath, likely near Philistine Gath, It is today equated with Tell el-Judeideh, a village 25 mi SW of Jerusalem and 6 mi NNE of Lachish. Along with Lachish, Adullam, and Mareshah, it served as western fortifications for Israel.(Barker, BBCOT)
Time: The combined reigns of the three kings gives a span of 750-686 BC. Most scholars restrict Micah to the reign of Ahaz, who co-ruled with the other kings. Say 740- 715 BC. Others get more specific and assume the mention of Samaria’s destruction in 722 BC, putting Micah’s book closer to that date. Interestingly, Micah ignores the names of the Samaritan kings in the North, presumably because they are viewed as illegitimate because they achieved the throne by assassination. Isaiah and Hosea also ignore these kings.(Barker, BBCOT, Waltke)
Micah “saw the word of the LORD”: Is this that he actually experienced visions, or simply a way of saying he received the message? Waltke sees “saw” as referring both to the message given Micah and Micah’s interpretation of that message.(Waltke)
Samaria is only specifically mentioned in 1:1 and 1:6-7. It is both the capital city of the North kingdom of Israel and a name for the entire North Kingdom itself. The city was built on a high plateau by Omri about 880 BC, at a crossroad with access to the Jezreel valley, Shechem, the Mediterranean coast, and both major North/South roads nearby. It replaced the previous capital of Tirzah. Excavations have found pottery shards in the ruins with writing on them, usually business receipts, with many of the names including “Baal”, the Canaanite god, as part of them, thus affirming Micah’s charges of Samaria’s apostacy. (Barker, BBCOT)
“Listen” or “Hear” The Hebrew shama, means not just “hearing” something, but often implies understanding and responding.
“All you people… earth and everyone in it” : God calls the whole world to witness His coming judgment against Samaria and Israel. God, as king of the universe, makes judgments that are universal in importance. There is also an implied idea that what God holds against His chosen people He will also hold against the rest of the world. Waltke disagrees with Barker here and sees “all you people” as the Israelite kingdoms, and the “earth” as a repeated reference to the Jewish kingdoms.(Waltke, Barker)
Will be a witness against you: At first glance the “witness” would seem to be against Samaria and Israel. But grammatically the nearest word or phrase for “witness” to modify is “all you peoples”, the whole world. Waltke of course disagrees.(Barker)
Leaving His place: This refers back to 1:2’s “His holy temple”. The image is of a king rising from his throne and leaving his palace in order to conduct matters of state, a war or a judgment. Numerous verse speak of God “coming”, a shorthand for divine intervention in history (Ps 18:9, 96:13, 144:5; Is 26:21, 34:4, 40:10, 64:1-3; Zec 2:10, 14:3; Mal 3:1).(Barker)
“High places” in the KJV might indicate pagan shrines as per Mic 1:5, but more likely means simple mountains, in relation to 1:4. Some have also interpreted it as referring to fortresses or even cities. But in this kind of apocalyptic, visionary imagery in v. 3-4, it seems likely just to refer to the majestic mountains as symbols of earthly power, trampled by the supremely more powerful God. (Barker, Waltke, BBCOT)
That God’s appearance in the world makes reality and nature tremble is testified to in Ex 19:16-19, 20:18,21; Judg 5:4-5, 20-21; Ps 18:7-15; Nah 1:2-6; Hab 3:3-15)
The similes here deal with the effects of God’s appearance on mountains and valleys. “Wax near a fire” is mountains melting, and “water cascading” the valleys splitting. God’s intervention in the world inevitably changes the world in a huge way.(Barker)
“All this” = God’s coming judgment.
Jacob is the other name of Israel, patriarchal founder of the Jewish nation. Israel is used by Micah for the Jewish people (1:14-15, 2:12, 5:2, 6:2) for Northern kingdom (1:13) and for the Southern kingdom (3:1, 8-9; 5:1,3)(Barker)
The rebellion and sin are testified to in various OT passages (1 Kg 14:15-16, 16:30-33; 2 Chr 28:1-4, 24-25). Micah speaks of God’s eventual response to these longstanding sins. “Rebellion”, Heb. pesha refers to a willful violation of covenant (1 Kg 12:19; Jer 2:29; Amos 1:3), and “sins” Hebrew chattath, refers to deviation from covenant rules (Judg 20:16; Pro 19:2)(Waltke)
Pagan high places were usually located on high points, with an asherah, probably a wooden pole, symbolizing the fertility goddess, and a masseba, a stone pillar, symbolizing the fertility god. A stone altar would be located nearby for ceremonies, and a tent or room set aside for storing ritual dishes and use in meals from sacrifices. (Waltke)
Micah quotes God in 1:6-7. The devastation described points to Samaria’s ruin when Assyria captured the capital city Samaria in 722-21 under kings Shalmaneser V and Sargon II (2 Kg 17:3-6). The destruction of Samaria didn’t fully happen though until 108-7 BC under John Hyrcanus, but even then the city was reconstructed under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC) and more elaborately, Herod the Great who renamed the city “Sebaste”, the Greek form of Augustus, the Roman emperor at the time who gave control of the city to Herod the Great.(Barker, Wiki)
Assyrian sources speak of the “ravaging” of Samaria, which occurred 724-21 BC, and presumably followed the standard Assyrian practice of devastating the outlying country and cities before attacking a nation’s capital. The fact that it took three years to take Samaria speaks of how well-located and fortified the elevated city was, with original walls of about five feet thick and a later case mate defensive wall over thirty feet thick.(BBCOT)
“Roll stones into the valley” is a natural picture of attacking ancient cities, which were usually on elevated land and surrounded by walls. Breaking the defenses would pull the stones making up the city walls down into the valley below.
Samaria’s idols, wealth, and religious prostitution would be destroyed, a punishment for violation of Deu 23:17-18. The wealth accumulated in her temples would go to Assyria’s temples.(Barker)
Cultic prostitution, in which paid sex was part of religious ritual performed by priestesses is not very firmly proven by ancient records, if at all. What is well attested is that ancient temples would raise funds by offering female staff as normal prostitutes, and that some women staff in temples raised money to support themselves by acting as prostitutes. However, the inevitable association of these women with the temples they served in likely led to an inherent understanding of the prostitution as associated with the temple god, especially if the god was a female fertility goddess like Ishtar.(BBCOT)
The actual payment to the prostitutes would be in the form of money, or food, or clothing, which would go into the temple treasuries.(Waltke)
That the verse speaks only of the idols and temples of Samaria shows that God’s wrath was specifically directed against them.(Waltke)
Micah perceives the ruin of Samaria would also reach Judah and Jerusalem, about 20 years after Samaria’s ruin.
“Barefoot” is a sign of mourning in 2 Sam 15:30.
“Naked” refers to wearing only a loincloth (1 Sam 19:24; Is 20:2-4; John 21:7)
Howl and mourn: The cry of the jackal is used of a lament in Job 30:29. The jackal, owl, and ostrich are all animals with mournful cries often heard out in the wilderness.(Barker, Waltke, BBCOT)
These things are obviously some sort of mourning ritual Micah plans to engage in, but it doesn’t look exactly like a typical mourning rite. It does, however, resemble Isaiah’s similar ritual (Is 20:2-4) warning against another captivity.(Waltke)
The wound is the judgment that would destroy Samaria as a kingdom in the form of the Assyrian army. That same army would reach the gates of Jerusalem 20 years later, only to have God turn them back miraculously at the last moment.(Barker)
“Woe” is a variant on the Hebrew mourning cry, and suggests those condemned here are as good as dead.
“Wickedness” refers to social injustice here, while “evil” refers to things God hates (Gen 39:9; 2 Sam 11:27)
These oppressors begin planning how they will oppress their neighbors and get ever more as soon as they wake, something God hates (Pro 6:18), for they should be thinking of Him (Ps 63:6). Then they add fuel to God’s anger by rushing to implement their crafty evil as soon as the day dawns.(Barker)
Part of the great covenant between God and Israel was his granting land to the people as their king, the ultimate landowner, and the terms of the covenant were arranged so that land would remain perpetually within families (Lev 25:23-30; Num 27:1-11), creating a nation of free landowners. But in this time land speculation was rampant. Thus not only were Israelites not protecting the poor as was their covenantal duty, they were also making null God’s land edicts. And the accumulation of wealth and property meant the rich could all the more shut out the voices of the poor in community decision-making. It was reducing the supposed free landholders of Israel to slaves of the few wealthy. This situation displeased God enough that Micah, Isaiah (5:8) and Amos (8:5-6) all speak against it.(BBCOT, Barker)
“They covet”, a direct violation of Ex 20:17. (Waltke)
Fields and houses were those things that families could pass down, insuring family stability. Thus Micah’s accusation of stealing inheritances.
As these greedy land- seizers have plotted evil against their neighbors, and been supported in it by the law courts, so God plots disaster for their whole nation. It is plainly a form of lex talionis, “eye for an eye”. This refers at least to the Assyrian destruction of Samaria in 722 BC, and likely the devastation that accompanied the subsequent Assyrian attack against Judah in 701 BC.(Barker, Waltke)
The greedy would get their reward when others would taunt them with words they had heard earlier from their own victims: “We are ruined!”. Assyrian practice being to deport captive populations, the greedy landowners would be sent away from all the land they acquired wickedly, and likely granted a much smaller portion of land in a distant country.(Barker)