Micah 1 (ESV)
Micah was a prophet during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea. Micah speaks mostly to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but he also predicts the fall of Samaria, which took place in 722 BCE.
In chapters 1 through 3, Micah rails against landowners and religious and political leaders who have abused their power and conspired to do evil, coveted and defrauded others of their property, stolen and plundered, hated good and loved evil, oppressed the poor, despised justice and distorted truth, accepted bribes, used their religious positions for profit, engaged in dishonest business practices, acted with violence and deceit, and murdered their own people . . . Try to remember, as you are reading, that this is an ancient document. It might sound surprisingly current!
1The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Micah is a hard prophet to understand because the book alternates back and forth between threats of doom and promises of hope. It is hard to figure out what situations he is referring to and how the hope and doom relate to each other. Probably the reason the book is arranged like this is to make the point that where God and his people are concerned, there is always hope, even in the darkest catastrophe. So Micah mingles gloom and glory through his book.
The Coming Destruction
2 HEAR, you peoples, all of you;
pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,
and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
The prophet is calling the people of Israel to “hear” the Lord’s complaint against Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom. The Lord is coming, not to rescue his people from distress, but to confront his people with their sins:
3For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4And the mountains will melt under him,
and the valleys will split open,
like wax before the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
5All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
Now the prophet promises that punishment for sin will come — first, because of idolatry:
6Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,
a place for planting vineyards,
and I will pour down her stones into the valley
and uncover her foundations.
This prophecy was fulfilled in 722 BCE when Samaria fell to the Assyrians and was completely destroyed.
7All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.
The prophet tries to describe his grief as he contemplates the destruction which is soon coming:
8 For this I will lament and wail;
I will go stripped and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
9 For her wound is incurable,
“Our only incurable wounds are the ones we refuse to bring to God. With Him, all things are possible (Luke 18:27), but when we refuse to bring our sin to Him, then our wounds are incurable.”
and it has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
The prophet describes the march of the conqueror through ten cities, arriving finally at Jerusalem:
10 Tell it not in Gath;
weep not at all;
roll yourselves in the dust.
11Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come out;
the lamentation of Beth-ezel
shall take away from you its standing place.
12For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
because disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
13Harness the steeds to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to the daughter of Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
14Therefore you shall give parting gifts
the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing
to the kings of Israel.
15I will again bring a conqueror to you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.
The prophet invites the Israelites to join him in mourning, for their children will be sent into exile:
16 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.
Verse 3 contains a wonderful promise: The Lord is coming! This was terrifying news for the people of Micah’s day. Yet it is truly good news for God’s people of every time and place. It points to two joyous occasions — first, to the coming of the baby Jesus, “God in flesh made manifest,” in Bethlehem. Isaac Watts describes the welcoming reaction of nature to that event:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king . . .
And heaven and nature sing.
Second, it points to another coming of the Lord, an event the Church has been longing for since Christ ascended into Heaven. Jesus will return, before all nations, and will judge the living and the dead. For believers who have been called out of a variety of darknesses into God’s marvelous light, this final coming is good news!
HERE Casting Crowns sings “Glorious Day.”
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.