Bible Commentaries
Micah 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Title. Indicates the author and the time of his activity. On the person of the prophet see Introduction, p. 356; on the chronological data, pp. 361ff.

Samaria The capital of the northern kingdom (Micah 1:6).

Jerusalem The capital of the southern kingdom (Micah 3:12).

Verses 2-4

The judgment upon Samaria, Micah 1:2-7.

Micah 1:2-4 picture the coming of Jehovah in judgment.

All ye people;… O earth,… all that therein is A sublime apostrophe to the whole earth. All the nations of the earth are to listen and take warning, for a world judgment is decreed by Jehovah. Because these verses speak of a world judgment, while ordinarily the book speaks of judgment upon Israel or Judah only, Stade and Marti consider 2-4 a later interpolation by some one who could not understand how Judah and Israel alone could be punished, when other nations deserved even more the divine judgment. This conclusion does not follow necessarily; as an introduction to a more specific announcement these verses are perfectly natural. Similar expressions are found in other parts of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Isaiah 1:2). In 1 Kings 22:28, the words may be a later interpolation from this passage (compare LXX.).

And let the Lord Jehovah be witness against you Perhaps better, that the Lord Jehovah will be witness against you. Be witness is equivalent to be accuser. Since in 2a the nations are addressed, it seems only natural to interpret these words as addressed to the same. Micah means to announce the coming of Jehovah to a general judgment, though at present he will confine himself to Israel and Judah (5ff.). To understand Micah 1:2 as addressed to Israel, “people” (literally, peoples) referring to the tribes constituting the nation, is arbitrary and unnatural, and to refer 2a to the nations and “against you” in 2b to Israel is even less warranted.

From his holy temple Not the temple in Jerusalem, but, as “come down” inverse 3 shows, the dwelling place of Jehovah on high (Psalms 11:4). On holy see comment on Joel 2:1; Zechariah 14:20.

For Micah 1:3 does not state the reason why the people should give ear; it is rather the continuation of the statement in 2b. A better translation would be, Yea, behold.

Cometh More accurately, is about to come (G.-K., 116p.). The event is thought to be imminent. The language of Micah 1:3-4 is highly poetic. As frequently in the Old Testament (for example, Psalms 18:7 ff.), Micah 1:4 describes the appearance of Jehovah in the imagery of a thunderstorm, while Micah 1:3 seems to think of him as a mighty hero leaving his castle and going forth to war.

His place Temple (Micah 1:2).

Come down From heaven to earth.

Tread upon the high places See on Amos 4:13.

The present Hebrew text does not show the several clauses of Micah 1:4 in their logical order. A more natural arrangement would be, “And the mountains shall be melted under him as wax before the fire, and the valleys shall be cleft as waters that are poured down a steep place.” Whether or not this was the original order, the present arrangement being due to a later copyist, cannot be determined. The picture is that of a terrible thunderstorm.

Molten Some have interpreted this simile of the flashes of lightning, which seem to dissolve the mountains. It is better, however, to think of streams of water that pour from heaven until the very mountains appear to be dissolved by them (Judges 5:5; Psalms 68:8).

Cleft This is a continuation of the first simile. The water rushes on with such force that it cuts out deep channels, until the valleys seem to be cleft asunder. The force of these torrents is likened to the force of water falling over a high precipice. Both similes imply utter destruction, and they are intended to teach that, when Jehovah passes through the earth in judgment, nothing but ruin and desolation is left behind.

Verses 2-16


Micah is impelled by the Divine Spirit to announce the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem, the capitals of Israel and Judah. The latter may not suffer as soon as the former; nevertheless, escape is impossible. The prophecy opens with a sublime apostrophe to the nations of the earth and a magnificent picture of the approach of Jehovah in judgment (2-4). Samaria will be laid in ruins on account of her sins (5-7). In time the judgment will fall also upon Judah (8-16). The announcement to Judah the prophet puts into the form of a lament over its fall, a lament indicating the deep emotion which sways the prophet as he contemplates the terrible calamity.

Verse 5

5. In this instance the judge of all the earth comes for a specific purpose, to execute judgment upon Israel.

Jacob… Israel Some suppose that Jacob means the whole of the chosen people, including Judah, while Israel is thought to refer to the northern kingdom only; but there seems to be insufficient warrant for this differentiation. In view of the distinction between north and south in 5b it would be natural to expect the same distinction in 5a. Since “Jacob” designates the northern kingdom in 5b, it can hardly be used of Judah in 5a. Hence the question suggests itself, whether in the place of “Israel” the text did not read originally “Judah.” If the present text is correct “Israel” and “Jacob” in 5a should probably be regarded as synonyms, both denoting the whole nation, which only in 5b is divided into north and south, called Jacob and Judah respectively.

Transgression A weak reproduction of the original. The rendering “rebellion,” or “apostasy,” which implies taking a determined hostile attitude, comes nearer the original.

High places The technical Old Testament term for the local sanctuaries scattered throughout the land; they were so called because they were commonly located on natural or artificial elevations. Nominally the worship practiced there was in honor of Jehovah, but it became so permeated with immoral, heathenish elements that it threatened the very life of the Jehovah religion. As a result the prophets hurl the severest condemnation against this cult; and finally, under Josiah (621 B.C.), worship at the local sanctuaries was abolished (compare also 2 Kings 18:4). Instead of “high places” three of the most important ancient versions present a different reading; Peshitto reads “sin”; LXX. and Targum, “sin of the house of.” If either of these is accepted as original, the parallelism between the two parts of 5b will resemble more closely that between the two parts of 5a. If the present Hebrew text is followed, “high places” must be understood as practically equivalent to “transgression.”

The suggestion that 5b is a later marginal gloss to 5a is without sufficient warrant.

What is the transgression Literally, Who is. Transgression, the abstract, is here equivalent to the concrete transgressor, or better, originator of transgression. The thought is that the apostasy of the people is due to the influence that went out from the two capitals. Here the court and nobility were to be found; and it is the teaching of all the eighth century prophets that these were in a large measure responsible for the sins of the people.

The indictment is followed by the announcement of judgment; Micah 1:6-7 deal with Samaria, the rest of the chapter with Judah. The former will be destroyed.

As an heap Literally “into an heap.” It will become like a heap of stones in a field. The prophet seems to think of stones gathered out of the field by the husbandman. The emendation “into jungle,” favored by some, is not needed.

As plantings of a vineyard R.V., “as places for planting vineyards.” Again better, into. If the city was allowed to remain in ruins, in time people would plant vineyards on the sides of the fertile hill upon which Samaria was located. The rest of Micah 1:6 presents a picture of complete ruin. Houses and walls will be broken down to their very foundations (Psalms 137:7); and since the land is to be cultivated, the stones are removed by hurling them down the hill on which the city was built (1 Kings 16:24). Cheyne quotes from a report describing the ruins of Samaria in modern times as follows: “There is every appearance of the ancient buildings having been destroyed, and their materials cast down from the brow of the hill, in order to clear the ground for cultivation; masses of stones are thus seen hanging on the steep sides of the hill, accidentally stopped in the progress of their descent by the rude dykes and terraces separating the fields.… The materials of the ruins… are piled up in large heaps, or used in the construction of rude stone fences; many of these heaps of stones are seen in the plains at the foot of the hill.” A later destruction of Samaria by John Hyrcanus is described by Josephus ( Antiquities, 13: 10, 3).

With the city the images of the gods will be destroyed, which will prove their impotence and nothingness (Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 30:22).

Graven images Representations of deities made of stone; the expression “shall be beaten to pieces” would hardly be applicable to wooden idols (compare Micah 5:13).

Hires Refers to the love gifts offered by the worshipers to the illegitimate deities, in order to secure their favor; “gifts suspended in temples and sacred places in honor of the gods.” These along with the idols and graven images will be swept away in the impending judgment. This will happen because they have gathered it R.V., “them.” This word is not in the original, but the context makes it clear that the images, votive offerings, idols, etc., are meant.

Of the hire of an harlot Not to be understood literally of wages of prostitution; nor is the expression to be connected with the licentious practices at the local sanctuaries (Deuteronomy 23:17-18); it is to be explained rather in the light of Hosea 2:5 ff. Israel had prospered; the prosperity she regarded as the gift of her lovers, the Baalim; it could be called the hire of a harlot, because it allured the pure wife Israel from her faithful husband Jehovah, to run after illegitimate paramours, the gods of the land. The things made of the harlot’s hire will return “unto the hire of a harlot.” If the preceding figure is continued this must mean that the things will be regarded by the enemies who will despoil the city as gifts from their deities, given in order to increase the love of the worshipers. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that the same figure is retained. The prophet may intend to change it and mean that the things carried away will be used by the captors in their idolatrous worship; they will present them to the deities to secure their favor. If so, the second “hire of a harlot” is equivalent in meaning to “hire” earlier in the verse. It was customary in ancient times, when a city was captured, to carry away its idols and temple treasures (Joel 3:5; Hosea 10:6; Isaiah 46:1-2; Daniel 1:3).

The suggestion of Wellhausen, favored by other scholars, to read “her Asherahs” (Micah 5:14) for “her hires” is worthy of notice. The emendation is based upon the opinion that in view of the expressions “her graven images” and “her idols” in the two parallel lines we should expect a similar expression in the third line.

Verses 8-16

Lament over the fall of Judah, 8-16.

The sins of the south (Micah 1:5) demand the punishment of Judah. The judgment is already present to the vision of the prophet, and in Micah 1:8-16 he gives expression to his grief over the fall of the southern kingdom. In a series of plays upon their names he pictures in 10-15 the fate awaiting the cities and villages in the south. In 16 he calls upon Zion to mourn, because her children have gone into exile.

The speaker in Micah 1:8 is the prophet as an individual, not the nation with which the prophet may identify himself. He bewails the calamity that has befallen Samaria, in part because he sympathizes with the inhabitants of the north as fellow Israelites, but chiefly because he realizes the danger threatening his native state (Micah 1:9), “for it is come even unto Judah; it reacheth unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.” Micah was a native of Judah, hence it is but natural that he should enter with deeper compassion into the experiences of his own people. In a similar manner, Hosea, a native of Israel, feels more deeply for the north than Amos, a native of Judah.

Go stripped and naked This is to be understood not in the sense of being stripped of all clothing and entirely naked, but in the sense of barefooted and stripped of the upper garment (compare Isaiah 20:2). This act was a symbol both of mourning and of exile; by it the prophet gives expression to his grief, and at the same time seeks to exhibit the fate which the nation must suffer.

Dragons,… owls Better, R.V., “jackals,… ostriches.” The long piteous cry of the jackal, which Riehm describes as a “heart-rending wail, sometimes like the whimpering and the loud cry of children,” and which in its penetration is “suggestive of a lost soul,” and the “fearful screech” of the ostrich, a “peculiar call, now a shrill outcry, now a low moan,” aptly describe the mournful wail of the grief-stricken prophet (for similar comparisons see Job 30:29; Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11).

Verse 9

Micah 1:9 points to the impending ruin of Judah as one of the reasons for the grief and consternation of the prophet. He knows that, if Samaria falls, the enemy will sooner or later attack the south. This fear was seen to be justified when in 702-701 the army of Sennacherib advanced to the very gates of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:37; compare Isaiah 1:7).

Wound More accurately, stripes; the devastation wrought by the enemy.

Incurable Nothing can cure the effects of the judgment, or prevent the spread of the disaster; it will steadily spread until the very heart, Jerusalem, becomes affected. Not even the presence of Jehovah in the temple can save the city.

It is not possible to reproduce in English the plays upon words so evident in the original of 10-15; sometimes it is difficult to apprehend the allusion of the prophet, and in more than one place the correctness of the present Hebrew text is not beyond question. The word plays are not due to the playful mood of the prophet. “He could not possibly jest about the fate of his friends. No, he is in sober earnest, and sees a preordained correspondence between names and fortunes.” Some consider the artistic character of the passage sufficient reason for denying the verses to Micah.

The apostrophes to the cities remind one of Isaiah 10:28 ff. It is possible that Micah, like Isaiah, intends to describe the route taken by the enemy toward the capital, though in view of the uncertainty with regard to some of the cities this cannot be proved. If this is the prophet’s purpose, Micah, unlike Isaiah, expects the advance to come from the west, the territory of the Philistines; and this is the direction followed by Sennacherib in 702-701.

Verse 10

10. The prophet fears the malicious joy of the heathen neighbors, which would be an insult to Jehovah. Hence he pleads with the people not to permit the news to become known in the surrounding territory.

Declare ye it not at Gath R.V., “Tell it not in Gath.” Gath was one of the five chief cities of the Philistines (see on Amos 1:6-8; Amos 6:2). The words are found also in 2 Samuel 1:20; they may have become a proverbial saying.

Weep ye not at all This is the literal rendering of the present Hebrew text; but (1) the form of the verb is unusual; (2) in all the other instances each proper noun is connected with only one verb. For these reasons many are inclined to accept as original the common LXX. reading, “weep ye not in Acco.” Acco, the later Ptolemais, was situated on the Mediterranean coast north of Mount Carmel. In this passage it would represent the heathen neighbors in the north, as Gath represents those in the south. According to Judges 1:31, the Canaanites were not driven out from Acco. Any disaster of the Hebrews would cause them to rejoice, hence they are to be kept in ignorance. If we assume a contraction for the purpose of making the rhythm smoother or producing a more perfect paronomasia, this translation might perhaps be justified by the present Hebrew text. However, such contractions are unusual, and it may be better to suppose that the original text was accidentally altered as a result of the similarity in Hebrew between the word reproduced in English by “at all” (literally, to weep) and the original of “in Acco.” The other LXX. rendering, “in Bochim,” is less probable.

The house of Aphrah R.V., “Beth-le-aphrah,” which means “house of dust.” Throughout these verses the towns are selected not because of their importance, but rather because of the suggestiveness of their names. In Joshua 18:23, is mentioned an Ophrah in Benjamin, and with it the place referred to here has often been identified; but since most or all of the places named by Micah seem to be located in the Shephelah, between Judah and Philistia, Beth-le-aphrah should probably be looked for in the same district. Thus far, however, no satisfactory identification has been proposed, and the various emendations suggested are equally unsatisfactory. The element Aphrah has been compared with the second element in Beto-gabra, that is, Eleutheropolis, and with the last element in the name Wady-el-Ghufr, south of the same place.

Roll thyself in the dust R.V., “have I rolled myself.” The latter reproduces the present Hebrew text, the former follows a Masoretic suggestion. LXX. and other ancient versions read, “roll yourselves,” thus co-ordinating this verb with the other two in the verse, and this last reading may be original. The verb is found in three other places in the Old Testament, and in all three it is translated “wallow,” so that there seems no justification for rendering it here “be-sprinkle” (with dust or ashes); and such rendering would greatly weaken the thought of the prophet.

Sprinkling ashes or dust upon the head was a common symbol of mourning (2 Samuel 13:19; Amos 2:7); the impending calamity will be so severe that extraordinary expressions of grief are called for; instead of sprinkling dust or ashes upon their heads, they are urged to wallow in it.

Much has been said concerning the obscurity of Micah 1:10, but, as interpreted above, it seems perfectly clear and intelligible. The prophet desires that the news of the disaster should be withheld from the surrounding enemies, but, he continues, in Beth-le-aphrah, that is, within your own borders, wallow in the dust as a sign of distress and mourning.

Verse 11

11. The text of this verse is very obscure, which may be due in part to the attempt to secure paronomasia even at the cost of clearness, and in part to corruption of the text. The presence of several grammatical peculiarities and difficulties make it highly probable that the text has suffered in transmission. Various emendations have been proposed, but all are more or less unsatisfactory. The comments here are based upon the assumption that, essentially at least, the text is correct.

Pass ye away Into exile.

Saphir R.V., “Shaphir”; meaning “Beauty-town.” It has been identified with Shamir (Judges 10:1) in Mount Ephraim; but the town must be looked for farther south, near the border of Philistia. The Shamir in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:48) would be more suitable. Robinson identified Shaphir with one of the mud villages, called es-Suafir, about three and one half miles southeast of Ashdod; the same place seems to be mentioned by Jerome and Eusebius, and may be the place meant by Micah, but the identification must still be regarded as doubtful.

Having thy shame naked R.V., “in nakedness and shame”; with shame uncovered. If the text is correct, it implies a warning to the inhabitants of Shaphir that they will be driven into exile and subjected to shameful treatment.

Zaanan Meaning, perhaps, “March-town.” It is not yet identified; perhaps it is identical with Zenan (Joshua 15:37).

Came not forth R.V., “is not come forth.” The inhabitants of Zaanan are so terrified that they do not dare leave their city to fight or to flee. Their terror increases as they learn of the fate of the neighboring towns.

Beth-ezel May be the same as Azel (Zechariah 14:5; see there). The meaning of the name is “The house by the side of,” and the city is named here on account of this meaning. Being in the neighborhood, it should become a place of refuge to the fugitives; but in this crisis the city belies its name, for it fails to give support.

He shall receive of you his standing R.V., “shall take (better, takes) from you the stay thereof.” An obscure expression, which has received manifold interpretations. The most satisfactory, though not free from difficulties, is that which makes the sentence to mean that the presence of the enemy in Beth-ezel will make it impossible for any fugitive from Zaanan to take refuge there; therefore, the inhabitants of the latter city, when they hear of the distress of the neighboring town, will hesitate to leave their own.

Verse 12

12. Maroth Means Bitternesses. The place is entirely unknown; the context suggests that it was near Jerusalem.

Waiteth carefully R.V., “anxiously.” The derivation of the verb form is uncertain; the margin, tracing it to another root, translates, “is in travail for,” that is, is in pain and distress like a woman in childbirth. If the meaning “wait” is preferred a slight change in the form may be necessary.

For good Deliverance from distress, liberty; or, perhaps, the possessions which they have lost or are about to lose. The expression is somewhat peculiar, and the text may be in disorder; but Marti’s emendation, “How can Maroth expect anything good?” is no improvement.

Micah 1:12 b does not connect with Micah 1:12 a, as if it gave the cause of Maroth’s feelings, but with Micah 1:8, giving another reason for the prophet’s lamentation in fact, the chief reason; the “evil,” that is, the calamity sent by Jehovah, will threaten the holy city itself. However, it is possible to read “yea” instead of “for” in the beginning of 12a and of 12b; then Micah 1:12 would be a continuation of the preceding verses, containing additional statements concerning the calamity about to fail.

Verses 13-14

13. Lachish The modern Tel-el-Hesy, in the Shephelah, sixteen miles east of Gaza, in a slightly northerly direction; at one time it was a city of considerable importance (Joshua 15:39; Jeremiah 34:7). The play is between the name of the city and the word translated “swift beast” (R.V., “steed”). Lachish is exhorted to flee as swiftly as possible, for the retribution about to overtake her will be exceptionally severe.

Beginning of the sin The prophet makes Lachish responsible for the corruption and idolatry of Judah.

Daughter of Zion A personification of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, standing here probably in the wider sense of Judah. The last clause seems to imply that in some way the corruption of Israel had been transplanted to Lachish, and from there in turn to Judah; or, perhaps, that corruption similar to that of Israel was found in Lachish. Certainty on this point cannot be had. If the former is the proper interpretation, nothing is known of how all this came about.

It is difficult to determine who is addressed in 14a; following so closely upon the mention of Lachish, one would naturally suppose that the words are intended for it; but did Moresheth-gath ever belong to Lachish? If the text is correct, it seems more satisfactory to interpret the words as addressed to Judah. It will be compelled to give up to the enemy Moresheth-gath (see p. 356). The play is upon Moresheth and the Hebrew word Me’orasah (Deuteronomy 22:23), “betrothed,” though the latter does not occur here. It suggested, however, the word translated “presents” (R.V., “a parting gift”). This word is used in 1 Kings 9:16, to denote the marriage portion given by the father to his daughter when she is married and leaves his home; in general it “denotes anything belonging to a man which he dismisses or gives up for a time, or forever.” In the latter sense the word is used here. Some suppose Moresheth to be addressed, and they change the text so as to read, “Therefore parting gifts shall be given to thee, O Moresheth-gath.”

Achzib Mentioned again in Joshua 15:44, along with Mareshah; it may be the same as Chezib (Genesis 38:5) and Cozeba (1 Chronicles 4:22). It is probably to be identified with the modern Ain-Kezbeh, about eight miles north-northeast of Beit-Jibrin, in the Shephelah. For “the houses of Achzib” we might read “the two Beth-Achzib,” and this is favored by some writers. The second Achzib is thought to be identical with the one mentioned in Joshua 19:29; Judges 1:31, and situated in the territory of Asher; which is identified with the modern Ez-zib, on the coast between Acco and Tyre. The ordinary translation is to be preferred, since in a list of towns in Judah a city in the far north is out of place.

Lie R.V., “deceitful thing.” The Hebrew word, akhzabh, is applied, in Jeremiah 15:18, to a stream that dries up during the hot season, and thus deceives the traveler, who expects to refresh himself with its water (compare also Job 6:15).

Kings of Israel Since the lament is concerning Judah, one would naturally expect “kings” or “king of Judah,” unless, on the basis of Micah 1:9, it is assumed that Micah expected the calamity to fall upon the north and south simultaneously. In that case “Israel” might be used of the whole people and “kings” of the monarchs of both Israel and Judah; they would find no refuge in Achzib, either because it is in ruin or because it is occupied by the enemy. If this is the right interpretation the translation “the two Achzib” becomes more probable; the king of Judah flees to the one in the south, the king of Israel to that in the north. Others take “Israel” to be equivalent to “Judah”; but this use of “Israel” is late and would point to a date subsequent to the eighth century B.C. Besides, Judah having but one ruler, what would “kings of Judah” mean? In reply it has been said, (1) that “kings” is equivalent to “dynasty,” and that the use of this term is perfectly justified, because when one king suffers the entire dynasty, represented in his person, suffers; (2) that after the prediction of the fall of the northern kingdom (Micah 1:6-7) “Israel” might be applied to Judah, for the latter was, after the destruction of Samaria, the sole representative of the nation Israel. To most students this reasoning will appear inconclusive, and it may be best to admit that much uncertainty remains.

Verse 15

Micah 1:15 contains the last play upon words, Mareshah and Yoresh, “the possessor,” translated in A.V. “heir,” in R.V. “him that shall possess.”

Mareshah Joshua 15:44, implies that this place is located near Achzib; it is generally identified with a ruin Merash, one mile south of Beit-Jibrin. The Israelites took the city from the Canaanites, but they will be displaced by a new possessor sent by Jehovah.

Adullam The reference is to the “cave of Adullam,” where David hid himself (1 Samuel 22:1 ff.). In that out-of-the-way place the “glory,” that is, the nobility (Isaiah 5:13-14), will be compelled to seek refuge, or, the wealth and possessions must be hidden, because the rest of the land is overrun by the enemy. Adullam was in the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:35), but its exact location is uncertain, though it has been identified with several modern ruins. Clermont-Ganneau identified it with the modern Aid-el-ma, a steep hill covered with ruins, about three miles southeast of Soco and about eight miles northeast of Mareshah. The suggestion has been made to separate the original for Adullam into two words and, with changed vocalization, to translate “forever”; the whole sentence, “the glory of Israel shall set forever.” Elhorst thinks that in the text of 15b, which he considers corrupt, another play upon words is hidden; he restores it and translates, “The inhabitants of Adullam shall go under the yoke,” that is, into exile.

The above interpretation of 8-15 is based, with few exceptions, upon the present Hebrew text. It must be admitted, however, that in several instances the uncertainty is very great, and many modern scholars treat the Hebrew text with much greater freedom.

With Micah 1:16 the prophet’s lament closes. Judah, conceived as a mother, is urged to mourn for her children, because they are doomed to exile.

Delicate R.V., “of thy delight”; they are very dear to Judah.

Baldness Artificial baldness was a symbol of mourning (Amos 8:10; Isaiah 3:24); in Leviticus 19:27-28; Deuteronomy 14:1, it is prohibited, probably on account of its heathen associations. The appeal is repeated, in slightly different language, three times for the sake of emphasis.

Eagle Better, R.V. margin, “vulture.” Baldness is not a mark of the eagle, but it is of the vulture. The prophet probably has in mind the carrion vulture, common in Egypt and in Palestine, the front part of whose head is entirely bald, while the back part has only a thin covering.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Micah 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.