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Micah (Or The Righteous Of Israel) Bewails The Condition Of The People (Micah 7:1-6 ).
Micah (or the righteous of Israel whom he represents) now describe(s) the dreadful moral condition of his own people. From rich and powerful to the lowest level of society all are untrustworthy and undependable. Even close members of families cannot trust each other.
This passage bore heavily on the heart of Jesus when He considered the conditions of the people of His own day, and what was to come. The idea behind Micah 7:1 may well be the motivation which led to Jesus’ dealings with the fig tree in Mark 11:11-25; compare Matthew 21:18-22, while Micah 7:6 was cited by Him in Matthew 10:21; Matthew 10:35-36.
‘Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits,
As the grape gleanings of the vintage,
There is no cluster to eat,
My soul desires the first ripe fig.
Micah is on the search for righteous people. He likens himself to a man going out into the orchards after the summer fruits have been gathered in, when according to the Law there should have been some left-overs, the gleanings, for the poor. But there were none. The rich had stripped every branch bare for greatest profit. Thus all that was left to him was to long for the firstripe fig which would begin the next season (which men could pluck if they were hungry). That was either an early green fig from a particular type of fig tree which could be gathered before the usual fig crop, or simply ‘the firstripe fig before the summer, which when he who looks on it sees, he eats it up while it is in his hand’ mentioned in Isaiah 28:4. There are two points to the illustration. Firstly that Micah went looking for fruit and found none, and could only wait in hope for the first ripe fig of the following season, (a disastrous situation for the poor who depended on the gleanings) an illustration of the barrenness of the nation. And secondly that the growers were failing to observe God’s commandments. Thus accentuating the barrenness. Jesus did not even find the first ripe figs, so bad were the spiritual and moral conditions in Jerusalem in His day.
The godly man is perished out of the earth,
And there is none upright among men,
They all lie in wait for blood,
They hunt every man his brother with a net.
In the same way as there was no fruit on the fruit trees, so were there no godly people in the land. As Micah looked around he bewailed the fact that ‘the godly man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men.’ That was how it seemed to him. Christians in places where there is little fellowship often feel that way. But things are never quite as bad as they seem, as is evidenced by the fact that righteousness wins in the end, because of the activity of God.
Indeed rather than being upright men are steeped in sin. Like a hunter out to get his victim every man is out to entrap his brother. Violence abounds, and there is internecine rivalry. Brotherly love is totally lacking.
Their hands are on that which is evil,
To do it diligently,
The prince asks, and the judge is ready for a reward,
And the great man, he utters the evil desire of his soul,
Thus they weave it together.
Everyone is diligent in putting their hands to what is evil. Even the prince wants rewarding for his favours, and the judges are waiting for a bribe. The great man thus gets his own way by saying what he wants and then paying the appropriate bribe. They all in their own ways are weaving the same pattern of sin together. Of course such things happen in many societies. But here it had become blatant.
The best of them is as a briar,
The most upright is worse than a thorn hedge,
The day of your watchmen, even your visitation, is come,
Now will be their perplexity.
Indeed the best of them is like a briar which tears at the hands, and the most upright is worse than a thorn bush. Those who tangle with them soon wish they had not, because they find the equivalent of vicious thorns left in their hands.
But these people should beware. For the day of their watchmen, the day of their visitation is come. This may be referring to the prophets as their watchmen (Isaiah 21:6; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7; Habakkuk 2:1) and thus be speaking of the day of visitation against which they warned. Or it may have in mind the city’s watchmen. In times of peace the watchmen had a weary task for which none were grateful. Day after day they watched in vain, and achieved nothing. But their day came when the enemy were seen on the horizon and they were able to give the warning. All the waiting had then been worthwhile. All then recognised their worth. And this was the day that was now coming, the day when the enemy approached, the day when the people would be visited with God’s judgment. Now indeed they would find themselves in a state of perplexity.
Do not trust in a neighbour,
Do not put confidence in a friend,
Keep the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom.
For the son dishonours the father,
The daughter rises up against her mother,
The daughter in law against her mother in law,
A man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
But the worst thing of all about the society in which Micah lived as he saw it was the total lack of confidence that it was possible for people to put in each other. Neighbour could not trust neighbour, friend could not trust friend, and even that bastion of loyalty the family, had become a haven of distrust and malice. It was a picture of society at its very lowest.
How far this reflected the actual circumstances under which he lived in Jerusalem, or how far it was simply the direction in which he saw things going, we are left to decide for ourselves. But the warning is clear. This is what eventually happens to society when it turns against God.
Jesus cited Micah 7:6 as an illustration of what Christians must expect from many of their unbelieving families. The thought is tragic. A son dishonouring his father. A daughter rivalling and going against her mother, a daughter-in-law being active against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies being those of his own household. It was almost inconceivable, but such was the depths of human sinfulness that it would happen.
The Righteous of Israel Are However Confident That In All This YHWH Will Be With Them And Will Sustain Them While Their Enemy Will Be Confounded (Micah 7:7-10 ).
The words that follow clearly refer to more than just Micah. He is speaking as the representative of the truly righteous, the ‘seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal’ (righteous Israel or the righteous remnant of Jerusalem). While they are not wholly sinless and may have to bear the indignation of YHWH, they know that He will act on their behalf. They know that in the end He will vindicate them, and that their enemies will be confounded.
‘But as for me, I will look to YHWH,
I will wait for the God of my salvation,
My God will hear me.’
Rejoice not against me, O my enemy,
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness,
YHWH will be a light to me.
The hearts of the righteous (thinking from the point of view of each one of them, or from the point of view of the righteous remnant in Jerusalem) look to their God. They are ready to wait patiently for their Saviour to act on their behalf and deliver them. They do not doubt that He will hear them.
And so they challenge their enemies not to rejoice when they think that they have fallen. For when they fall they will, with the help of YHWH, arise. When they sit in darkness they know that YHWH will be a light to them.
How often this turns out to be true for the Christian. Everyone must pass through times of darkness, and they may not at first be aware that the light of YHWH is there to help them, but gradually that light will find its way through, and they will discover that God has been with them all the time, leading the way.
‘I will bear the indignation of YHWH,
Because I have sinned against him,
Until he plead my cause,
And execute judgment for me,
He will bring me forth to the light,
And I will behold his righteousness.’
The righteous recognise that they might have to bear the indignation of YHWH along with others. They know that they are not without sin, and that they must expect chastening. But they know also that eventually He will plead their cause. He will not leave them under chastening. He will act on their behalf. He will execute justice for them. He will bring them forth into the light. And then they will behold His righteousness and His saving power (which is a part of His righteousness). Then they will see the King in His beauty and will be satisfied.
‘Then my enemy will see it,
And shame shall cover her who said unto me,
Where is YHWH your God?
My eyes will see my desire on her,
Now will she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.’
And all their enemies round about, who had enjoyed her discomforture (this suggests especially the righteous of Jerusalem) will be ashamed. The rival neighbour who had sneeringly said, ‘Where is YHWH your God?’ will be filled with embarrassment. For they will find themselves trodden down like the mire of the unmade muddy streets.
Micah Gives A Declaration Of Confidence In What YHWH Will Do In The Future For His True People.
In this remarkable prophecy Micah declares that in the future the nations will come to Jerusalem from their own mountains, to seek the mountain of YHWH, and yet it will be to a desolate land to which they come because of the fruit of the people’s doing. This is an accurate reflection of the situation in Jerusalem when there was the new nation of Israel, the messengers of YHWH (and of the Messiah) to which many from around the world would come to find life in Christ, while there was also the old nation of Israel which was barren and fruitless.
‘A day for building your walls!
That will be a day when the decree will be far removed (or ‘when the boundary will be extended’).’
Micah expects a day of rebuilding. This prophecy was probably made as Assyria closed in on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah were one by one destroyed. But Micah is confident that the walls of those cities would be rebuilt when Israel was free again. The prophecy gained in meaning once Jerusalem itself had been destroyed, but there is no mention of it in the narrative.
The removal of the decree probably refers to YHWH’s decree to bring judgment on His people, but it may refer to the king of Assyria’s decree to destroy Judah. Either way the decree will be reversed and be far removed because of YHWH’s will. The alternative possible translation indicates that once again Judah would expand outwards once the invasion was over.
Of course the prophecy found an expanded fulfilment when Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but that was not necessarily what the prophet (or the Holy Spirit speaking through the prophet) had in mind.
What is, however, central in the words is the promise of the reversal of judgment and the guarantee of future prosperity..
‘In that day will they come to you from Assyria,
And from the cities of Egypt,
And from Egypt even to the River,
And from sea to sea,
And from mountain to mountain.
But Micah also has in mind his prophecy in Micah 4:2, and so he assures them that one day (‘in that day’ is a prophetic term for a long time ahead) the nations will come to God’s people and to Jerusalem from all round the world. They will come from Assyria, and Egypt (compare Isaiah 19:18-25), and from the land between Egypt and the Euphrates, and from east and west (the Great Sea to the Persian Gulf), and from mountain to mountain. This last phrase ties in with the hills above which the mountain of YHWH will be exalted (Micah 4:1). They will leave behind their own various mountains of the gods as they seek YHWH.
Alternately the reference may be to the return of Exiles from those countries. But the first seems more likely in view of Micah 4:2
Yet will the land be desolate because of those who dwell in it,
For the fruit of their doings.
And yet they will come to a desolate land because those who dwell in it have not looked after it and have not behaved well in it. It is not the land and the people to whom they are coming, but to YHWH and His messengers (Micah 4:2).
The Prophet Now Pleads with YHWH To Feed His People Like A Shepherd (Micah 7:14 ).
In Micah 5:4 the coming King was to ‘stand and feed in the strength of YHWH’. Here Micah looks forward to that day. He calls on YHWH to feed His people with His rod. The rod indicates the shepherd’s rod with which He will act as their protector while the sheep are feeding so that they can feed securely (compare Psalms 23:4). Alternately it may have in mind ‘the rod who will arise out of Israel’ (see Numbers 24:17), the coming Messiah who is to feed His people (Micah 5:2-4). Either way the future time of blessing is in mind.
The flock, who are YHWH’s heritage, are pictured as gathered in the forest on Mount Carmel and dwelling alone. This may have in mind a known remnant of the northern kingdom who had taken refuge there and as a tiny remnant were a picture of the pressed in people of God, or may simply be a way of emphasising the solitariness in the world of God’s people (compare Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28). Either way the prayer is for the extension of their pasturage into a land of fruitfulness.
‘Feed your people with your rod,
The flock of your heritage, who dwell solitarily,
In the forest in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
As in the days of old.’
The cry is that God would feed His people with His rod, by leading them into good pastures under His protection, and that His hemmed in people might be granted widespread pastures in places of great fruitfulness. The idea may be that they might be restored to the boundaries of old, with Carmel on the west and Bashan and Gilead on the east, as in the days of old. Bashan and Gilead were famous for having good pasturage for flocks and being places of fruitfulness.
‘The flock of your heritage, who dwell solitarily, in the forest in the midst of Carmel.’ This may suggest that it was here that refugees from the destruction of Israel and Samaria had found safety, and that he was now pleading that they might be able to expand throughout the land as in the days of old. But certainly the general idea is that YHWH will once again be the Shepherd of His people and lead them forth so that they might spread throughout the whole country that had once been theirs. In other words, it is a prayer for fulfilment of the promises for the good times to come.
YHWH Makes His Reply (Micah 7:15 ).
‘As in the days of your coming forth out of the land of Egypt,
Will I show to them marvellous things.
YHWH’s response is to promise that just as He had when He had delivered them from Egypt, so would He once again so marvellous things for them. He will reach out with His powerful hand and His mighty arm, so as to deliver His people.
And certainly the future restoration of His people from many places of exile to Palestine, and the later establishment of a powerful and widespread Jewish nation, was evidence that He kept His word. And even more marvellous things were done when the Messiah came among them and healed all who came to Him, preparing them for their inheritance to come. In Hebrews this picture of inheriting the land is finally seen in terms of the new Heaven and earth, when Abraham will receive the fulfilment of God’s promises in a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:10), and where his descendants will receive a better country, that is a heavenly (Hebrews 11:16).
Micah Then Outlines What The Effect Will Be On The Nations As A Result Of What YHWH Will Do (Micah 7:16-17 )
What YHWH will do will amaze the nations and will also make them ashamed of their belligerence. Thus they will come to Him with no vaunted claims of their own, and will submit to Him, and know the fear of YHWH.
The nations will see,
And they will be ashamed of all their might,
They will lay their hand upon their mouth,
Their ears will be deaf.
‘They will lick the dust like a serpent,
Like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places,
They will come with fear to YHWH our God,
And will be afraid because of you.’
Before the glorious revelation of YHWH, especially as revealed in the coming of His Messiah as healer, wonder worker and Saviour, the nations will be ashamed of their weapons and their armed might, they will lay their hands on their mouths so as to express their awe (‘God is in Heaven and we are on the earth, therefore let your words be few’ - Ecclesiastes 5:2), not daring to speak, they will close their ears to the externalities of the world, they will humble themselves as the serpent was humbled in Eden (Genesis 3:14), they will recognise their lowliness before Him as they creep out of their ‘hiding places’ into His light, and they will come with fear to YHWH, and will fear the people of God. The picture is of the Gentiles responding to the message of Christ, and submitting at His feet
Micah Closes His Prophecy With The Assurance of What God Will Do For His People. (Micah 7:18-20 ).
As his prophecy comes to its close Micah continues by exulting in God’s pardoning goodness and in His compassionate mercy. In this message he is very much in parallel with Isaiah. See Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22. Then he declares His confidence and certainty that God will fulfil to His true people all the promises He has made to their fathers. He is to be seen both as the great Forgiver, and as the great keeper of His promises.
Who is a God like unto you,
Who pardons iniquity,
And passes over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?
He retains not his anger for ever,
Because he delights in lovingkindness.
Firstly He stresses the pardoning goodness of God, and asks what other god is like YHWH, who pardons men’s inbred sin, and passes over the failings and disobedience of what will remain of His heritage after His judgments. Notice that the forgiveness is to the remnant. The unrighteous have been dealt with and removed.
And this is because He does not retain His anger for ever, because He delights in true and genuine covenant love. God’s sovereign purpose of mercy for His people had been revealed at Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 20:1-18) and means that in the end mercy must triumph over judgment, because of what He is. But this can nevertheless only be, once He has purged His people and brought judgment on the wicked. His wrath against sin must first be removed.
He will again have compassion on us,
He will tread our iniquities under foot,
And you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
So He will again have compassion on His people, will tread their inner sins under his foot as so much refuse, and will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. All that stood against them will be removed for ever as they go forward into the everlasting kingdom.
‘You will perform the truth to Jacob,
And the lovingkindness to Abraham,
Which you have sworn to our fathers,
From the days of old.
Thus will He fulfil the promises that He made to the fathers in the days of old. He will demonstrate His truthfulness of nature towards Jacob (and his descendants), and He will demonstrate His lovingkindness and compassion (covenant love) towards Abraham, in the way that He swore to them in the days of old. He will prove faithful to all that He has promised. Thus does Micah finish with an indication that God will be fully vindicated.
Notice finally the promises of grace and truth. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Micah 7". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26