Micah Chapter 1: The Great Time of Trouble

Dec 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Micah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Micah Chapter 1: The Great Time of Trouble

Micah 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

The “word of the LORD” came to Micah in the days of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, all of whom were of the Judah line. What Micah saw concerned Samaria and Jerusalem. Samaria, the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom, represented the ten tribes, while Jerusalem, the capital of the two-tribe kingdom, represented the two tribes. Thus Micah’s prophecy pertained to both houses of Israel.

Micah, a Morasthite, came from Moresheth, which was in the lowlands of Israel. Evidently, then, Micah had been a farmer.

Micah 1:2 Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.

The prophecy starts abruptly after a brief introduction. Here “earth” refers to the people, the social order, and not to the physical planet. “All” of the people in Israel in Micah’s day were being addressed primarily, although a secondary application pertains to the last days of the present evil world. Micah literally addressed the nation back there, and there is also a message for the people living today.

The message came not only from the Lord God but also from His “holy temple.” With the source being stated this way, the message was even more authentic to the people. They could each take the message personally, for it originated from God’s own personal resentment and indignation. Micah wanted the hearers to know that the message came not from him but from God and from His “holy temple.” God was threatening the people.

In addition to the message originating from Jehovah’s holy Temple, there is the thought that He would come down from the Temple. Verse 2 also shows that God’s own throne in heaven is sometimes spoken of as a “temple.” The literal temples of Israel were merely a reminder or an illustration—a memorial, a place of worship, a convenience, where God talked to His people— of something much higher and grander.

Micah 1:3 For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.

Not only would God come down, but also He would come forth. The use of that expression indicated that a strong message would be delivered. God was coming down and forth to tread the “high places of the earth,” but why was He not coming just to tread the “earth”? The places of false (heathen) worship were usually in the groves on the hills, that is, in prominent places.

Moreover, the wicked individuals controlling society were seated in “high places.” In other words, the rich and the wealthy—the leaders of the nation—would primarily get the brunt of this message. Antitypically, the message is addressed to leaders in positions of responsibility in Christendom, especially to those in religious realms. The mention of treading alludes to the treading of the winepress, when God will manifest vengeance.

Micah 1:4 And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.

An earthquake is the backdrop for this lesson. When an earthquake occurs, fissures open up and molten lava flows forth from the crater down the hill. It was as if God would come down and touch the high places and melt them so that molten lava would flow down. This is a strong picture of trouble! Often there is a valley between two mountains, and it would take a very great earthquake to separate the mountains to the point of causing a cleft in the valley.

The lava was described as being (1) like wax and (2) like waters “poured down a steep place”; that is, it would descend rapidly from the mountains. Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii are wellknown examples of fast-flowing lava. We know that Micah was alluding to a volcanic eruption because the tops of the mountains were involved. An earthquake can set off a volcanic eruption or be associated with it.

Back there at the time of judgment, a  literal earthquake could have taken place to remind the people of Micah’s message. However, at the end of the age, this earthquake and volcanic eruption will be symbolic.

Micah 1:5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?

The previous verses showed that the motive of Jehovah was to tread the high places. Now verse 5 gives the reason: “For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?” In this context, “Jacob” refers to the ten-tribe kingdom. What was wrong with Samaria and Jerusalem? Why did Micah single them out? Power and responsibility, both religious and civil, were concentrated in the two capitals, and corruption was centered there too. Although corruption was widespread throughout the two kingdoms, it was worse in the seats of government.

Micah 1:6 Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.

A farmer might remove stones from the top layer of soil and pile them up in a heap, or he might build a fence by placing stones in a heap. Almost all of the major archaeological digs of the last hundred years have been in “heaps,” for a city would be leveled and another built on top of it, etc. Ancient civilizations were buried in a “heap” and covered over with soil, sand, and rubble. Many cities have become heaps (called “mounds” or “tells” by archaeologists).

God said He would make Samaria not only a heap in the field but also a place for planting vineyards. In preparation for a new planting, the remains of a former crop or vineyard were removed and piled up as debris or tossed in a heap. When sufficiently dry, the excess dead vines were often burned.

God further declared that He would “pour down” the stones of Samaria into the valley and “uncover her foundations” (see Revised Standard Version). In other words, the city had to be leveled in order for its foundations to be uncovered. Antitypically, this is a picture of the civil and religious institutions being destroyed—which means that the corrupt conditions in Christendom’s high places will be revealed in the great Time of Trouble. This corruption, which is the cause of so much injustice in society, will be exposed at its source.

Micah 1:7 And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.

Verse 7 is a reminder of the “harlot” picture in Revelation chapter 17. In the type, God rolled down Samaria’s stones and uncovered her foundations. This likening of the city of Samaria to a harlot is similar to the description of Babylon the Great, to which Micah was alluding. The fact that the graven images would not just topple over but had to be beaten into pieces shows a concentrated and organized effort. The purpose of breaking the images to pieces would be to prevent their ever being rebuilt or put together again. Hence complete destruction is shown.

“All her hires [earnings] shall be burned with fire” (RSV). Not only would Samaria be destroyed, but the wealth and money associated with her would also be decimated. To be “burned with fire” indicates that the basic metals used for money would be melted and reused. In the antitype, the money of the current order will lose its value and identity in the melting process.

What is the difference between “graven images” and “idols”? In addition to sculptured images, false religions use pictures, icons, etc. Hence statuary will be destroyed, money will be melted and burned, and all furnishings and accessories connected with idol worship will be destroyed. On the higher plane, not only will the false religious systems be destroyed but all their trappings as well.

“For from the hire of a harlot she gathered them, and to the hire of a harlot they shall return” (RSV). Micah likened the wealth and much goods of Samaria to the earnings of a prostitute, or harlot. To the Jews of Samaria, it did not appear that way, for in their own eyes, their wealth was legitimate. However, at the time of the destruction of the ten tribes, the wealth was seen in its true light. The people then realized they had acquired their wealth unjustly. This portion of verse 7 is another way of saying that the foundations would be uncovered, that the real source of their revenue would be revealed. By ignoring their consciences, the people began to believe their wealth was legitimate, but exposure came eventually.

Today this principle can be seen in churches that have raffles, Bingo, parties, etc. Such activities provide revenue for the denomination, with the wealth all supposedly being for the Lord’s cause, but the day will come when the activities will be seen in their true light. These practices encourage gambling and can even break up homes by taking money needed for necessities.

The nominal Church should not be predicated on that type of revenue. Giving should be on a voluntary basis and not of constraint. “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

Micah 1:8 Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.

Micah the prophet was talking, and verse 8 gives us insight into something he literally did; namely, he went naked and howled like wild animals. This method certainly attracted the attention of the people, but it would have required much faith and courage on Micah’s part. To get his message across, he purposely dramatized and thus made himself stick out like a sore thumb in society. He was saying in effect, “What you see in my deplorable condition, and in my howling and wailing, will happen to you.” This was a powerful message by a prophet who was sincerely stirred up and full of indignation. If not genuinely affected by the message, Micah would have given a weak wail, obeying only because the Lord had told him to do so. But he personally FELT the message. Because of his indignation, he experienced no shame over his nakedness. His attitude was, “If you think you shame me by looking at me, you are mistaken. You are looking at what will happen to you!” Micah had to be an extremely strong character. This dramatization reminds us of Isaiah, who spent two years with his buttocks exposed.

Incidentally, the prophets Isaiah and Micah overlapped for part of their ministries, although Isaiah began earlier and they served in different areas.

Comment: In the RSV, “dragons” and “owls” are “jackals” and “ostriches,” respectively.

Reply: An owl or dove is known for its wise-looking eyes. Similarly, the frogs of the froglike, unclean spirits that come out of the mouths of the beast, the dragon, and the false prophet are noted for their croaking doctrines and pronouncements and their “wise” look. The owl hoots at night under cover of darkness. What exactly the “dragon” is in nature is hard to say, but as the Revised Standard says, it could be a jackal, which is like a hyena. However, the word “dragons” of the King James is providential, for it reminds us of the dragon in the Book of Revelation. If “dragons” refer to the crocodile family, perhaps such beings make unusual sounds at night. Otherwise, the animal would be the jackal or the hyena. The word “owls” is probably more accurate than “ostriches.”

Micah 1:9 For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.

The Revised Standard Version reads, “For her [Samaria’s] wound is incurable; and it has come to Judah, it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.” Samaria was being likened to a harlot, a woman, and hence was a “she” or “her.” The harlot’s sickness was incurable and needed drastic action or “surgery.” Mystic Babylon, too, has an incurable wound: “We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed” (Jer. 51:9).

Micah 1:10 Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.

Gath was one of five royal Philistine cities. The burden of this prophecy was more against the professed people of God than against the heathen. Aphrah means “dust.” Like verses 11-14, verse 10 is a pun, or play on words, with the names of the towns. The message was directed primarily against Judah and Samaria, and not against the heathen towns, even though the latter were sin cities. The purpose of the pun could have been to affect the attitude of Judah and Samaria toward the towns. The Jews were magnifying the towns by unfavorably sounding their names; that is, when they mentioned Gath, it was from an unfavorable standpoint. The name was used in derision—as an object worthy of evil consequences. Micah took up these colloquial expressions as if to say to Judah and Samaria, “The laugh is really on you, for the mourning and weeping will not occur in these traditional places but will happen to you!”

Micah 1:11 Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Beth-ezel; he shall receive of you his standing.

Micah 1:12 For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.

Micah 1:13 O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.

Micah 1:14 Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moresheth-gath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.

Micah 1:15 Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.

Verses 11-15 read as follows in the RSV: “Pass on your way, inhabitants of Shaphir, in nakedness and shame; the inhabitants of Zaanan do not come forth; the wailing of Beth-ezel shall take away from you its standing place. For the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good, because evil has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem. Harness the steeds to the chariots, inhabitants of Lachish; you were the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion, for in you were found the transgressions of Israel. Therefore you shall give parting gifts to Moresheth-gath; the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing to the kings of Israel. I will again bring a conqueror upon you, inhabitants of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam.”

Verse 1 stated that Micah was from Moresheth, which is mentioned in verse 14. Thus the locality in which the prophet was born and raised was included as part of the prophecy. (A higher significance lies behind that name.) Moresheth was near the Philistine territory. Shaphir and Zaanan were towns in Israel that bordered the Philistine territory. Verses 10-15 are difficult for us to understand, but Micah was talking about things familiar to the people of his day. Therefore, the sarcasm and play on words would have been understood back there.

The Book of Micah began by saying it was a prophecy directed against Samaria, a city used to represent the ten tribes, and Jerusalem, a city used to represent the two tribes. Then the prophet went into a play on words by using the same consonants but just changing the vowels or the pronunciation, thereby giving two different meanings. The sarcasm was directed against the nation of Israel.

Sodom and Gomorrah are symbols of wickedness and of what will happen to the evildoer, yet the Lord described Israel in one part of her history as being “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:10). Thus, while the criticism of these other cities not under the Lord’s name was just, the nation of Israel, who thought she was in a better position, was sinful and wicked herself. The moral lesson was a reflection on the nation. While the Jews spoke derogatorily of others, they themselves were guilty, and their words would bounce back on them, for the contagion of sin that started in the area surrounding Israel permeated her also. That is the general idea of what Micah was saying, but the actual meaning of verses 10-15 is difficult to comprehend.

Micah 1:16 Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.

The RSV reads, “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair, for the children of your delight; make yourselves as bald as the eagle, for they shall go from you into exile.” In olden times, a person made himself bald because of sin or debasement. For example, if a battle was lost, penance before God could be shown by making oneself bald. The individual debased himself and also usually put on sackcloth (burlap) and ashes. It was an attempt to belittle one’s own glory, beauty, strength, or cleanliness in order to have a petition answered by the Lord.

Although Micah was referring to an event yet future, the King James has him speaking as if it were already in the past. In other words, he was predicting that Israel and Judah would both go into captivity. Judah had already gotten the cancer, and it was only a matter of time until captivity would occur. At the time Micah spoke, Judah was not yet in captivity, but he spoke as if the land were already rid of its inhabitants. Thus this prophecy was derisive. Verse 9 shows Judah had reached the point of no return, and therefore, the future captivity was a sure thing.

(1975 Study with Excerpts from a 1993 Study)

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