Micah Chapter One

 

Introduction – Life and Times of Micah

 

            Micah was a native of the little town of Moresheth, in many places called Moresheth-Gath because it was the Philistine town of Gath up until being conquered by Uzziah, who reigned as king of Judah from 810 to 759 B.C.  This town was located about 22 miles southwest of Jerusalem near the great trade route between the mountains of Israel and the plain of the Mediterrean.  Much of the world’s commerce passed through this region during the time of Micah just as it did when Joseph was sold into slavery.  We read of Uzziah:

 

II Chronicles 26:11Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king’s captains.”  v.13And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.”

 

            Micah was a humble man of the country, much like Amos, who was sent to Israel.  Chronologically Micah follows Hosea and this is the sequence we’re using to study the books of the minor prophets.  He prophesied during the reign of three Judean kings, Jotham, son of Uzziah, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  He was living when Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, which occurred during the 6th year of the reign of Hezekiah.

            These three kings of Judah were a mixed bag.  First Jotham, son of Uzziah:

 

II Chronicles 27:2And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the LORD. And the people did yet corruptly.”  v.6So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God.”

 

But we also read that Jotham allowed the people of Judah to live in the excesses of sin:

 

II Kings 15:35Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD.”

 

So Jotham was counted as one of the good kings of Judah but apparently he treated the covenant with God much as we might approach a business contract, keeping it in word but not in principle.  He did not worship God.  He allowed his people to keep their places of idol worship; to worship as they chose rather than keeping God’s covenant.

The next king during the time of Micah was Jotham’s son Ahaz who was the epitome of evil:

 

II King 16:3-4 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel. 4And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.”

 

He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel whom we have seen over the past few months to all be evil.  He “MADE HIS SON TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE”, i.e. he sacrificed his son to an idol god, probably Molech or Baal who was the most prominent among the Canaanites.  He is pictured as being totally devoted to pagan worship.

His son, Hezekiah, who ruled Judea next was just the opposite:

 

II Kings 18:3-53And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 5He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. 7And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. 8He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.”

 

Hezekiah, the last king, served by Micah as the prophet of God, exhibits a number of very positive attributes as king.  First of all he was better than all of the other kings of Judah; he followed in the footsteps of David in administering his kingdom.  He did was what was right in the sight of God.  He removed the high places, the places of idol worship.  He destroyed the images that were being worshiped, even the fiery serpent that was set up in the camp of Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 21) that was now being worshiped as an idol. 

As a result, God was with him, he threw off the oppression of Assyria and further removed the Philistine people from being a threat to Judah, going beyond even what Uzziah had accomplished.

            Thus we have the history, politics and spiritual condition of Judah during the time that Micah served as a prophet.  Micah, as are all of the books of the prophets, is the inspired word of God.  First we have the testimony of Micah himself:

 

Micah 3:8But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.”

 

We have the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter as verification:

 

II Peter 1:21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

 

            We also find in the book of Micah a number of prophecies concerning Jesus Christ.  We will review those as we encounter them in our detailed study.

 

Read Micah 1:1-5 – Warnings for Jerusalem and Samaria

 

v.1The 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.”

 

            Micah prophesied what he “SAW CONCERNING SAMARIA AND JERUSALEM”.  Micah is sent by God to warn both Israel and Judah.  As we noted in the introduction Israel was destroyed during the lifetime of Micah.  God revealed specifically to him those things that he spoke.  We are not told how this was done as we are with Isaiah where God gave Isaiah a vision which he recorded.

 

Isaiah 1:1The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”

 

Perhaps Micah was given a vision as well, we’re not told.  Almost 100 years later, Jeremiah also confirms the message of Micah:

 

Jeremiah 26:18Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.”

 

v.2Hear, 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.”

 

            First Micah calls the people to listen, hear and heed his warnings, much the same as Moses did:

 

Deuteronomy 32:11Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”

 

God is going to speak from his holy temple and all of the earth is to listen; to bear witness to God’s warnings, how that God in his mercy and longsuffering has borne with Judah and Israel in their sin.  But also to remove all doubt that the judgments that will be brought upon them are the result of their sin and the wrath of a benevolent but jealous God who has determined that the time has come for their punishment.  They are to witness that God gave fair warning, God’s watchmen, the prophets, have discharged their duties faithfully and no one has excuse for their disobedience of God’s law and their disrespect for God.  God will stand as an unimpeachable witness against their sin just as he will at Judgment Day:

 

Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

 

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

 

            The entire Israelite nation boasted of themselves as being the chosen people of God, the descendents of Abraham.  In the days of Jesus preaching, they questioned him:

 

John 8:3333They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”

 

They seemed to think that this special relationship allowed them to live their lives as they chose, to ignore God’s covenants and spurn God’s commandments, to invent religious laws of their own.  But such is not the case.  God himself will come down and bring judgment upon them.  The Psalmist reminds us:

 

“BUT OUR GOD is IN THE HEAVENS: HE HATH DONE WHATSOEVER HE HATH PLEASED.”  Psalms 115:3

 

This admonition is much the same as we find in the vision of Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 26:21For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”

 

So God is coming out of his place to personally attend to the punishment of Israel and Judah.

 

v.44And 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.”

 

            As the prophet urges the people to hear his words, as he proclaims the judgments that will come upon all Israel; he reminds them of the power of God.  Their forefathers had witnessed this power:

 

Exodus 19:18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”

 

God spoke this earth and all that is in it into existence and he could speak it out of existence again should he so choose.  His power is beyond the imagination of men to perceive and really understand.  In his record of his vision, his prophecy, Isaiah describes it this way:

 

Isaiah 64:1-3Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, 2As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! 3When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.”

 

v.55For 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?”

 

            This judgment will come because of the transgressions of Jacob, all Israel, both the northern and southern kingdoms.  As we saw in our introduction of this book; even Ahaz, king of Judah during the time of Micah’s prophesy, was a wicked and evil as any of the kings of Israel.  Even under King Jotham, father of Ahaz, the worship of idols was allowed to continue:

 

II Kings 15:35Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD.”

 

Read Micah 1:6-9 – The Fate of Samaria

 

v.6Therefore 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.”

 

            Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom, is singled out for special treatment in God’s wrath.  She is the center of government and religion for the entire country.  This city is where men lived that enjoyed the most wealth and blessings of God’s providence.  This city is where the false prophets and priests lived and taught.  This is where the kings who led them into apostasy ruled.  God had warned them through his prophet Amos:

 

Amos 5:11-12Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins:…

 

She will be reduced to a heap of debris in a bare field, God “WILL DISCOVER HER FOUNDATIONS”.  How do we “find” or lay bare the foundations of a house?  We destroy it much like when a house is totally destroyed by a tornado or fire.  This is the level of destruction that God will bring upon Samaria.

 

v.7And 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.

 

            God’s punishment of Israel will be commensurate with Israel’s sin.  God’s commandment to Israel concerning their worship of idols was plain and specific:

 

Exodus 20:3-5Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”

 

Now, because of their disobedience, not only will Israel’s idols be torn down and destroyed but their, cities, towns and even their nation as well.  This destruction is described by Isaiah:

 

Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, 19And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.” Isaiah 37:18-19

 

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

 

            The destruction of towns and cities in the warfare of this era was usually accompanied by the taking of captives as slaves.  They were stripped naked, beaten and literally herded like cattle to whatever destination they were being taken.  The American Standard Translation, 1901, renders the “WAILING LIKE THE DRAGONS” as the wailing or howling of jackals.  When land is made desolate wild animals move in.  The prophet Isaiah describes it this way, again reading from the American Standard Version:

 

Isaiah 13:21-22 “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there.  And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.

 

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

 

            Samaria’s spiritual wounds are “INCURABLE”, there is no return, there will be no repentance.  Not because God will not give them opportunity but rather because they ignored the opportunity, the encouragement, the continued pleading of God’s prophets to do so.  They have become such as Jesus described in the sermon on the mount:

 

Matthew 7:6Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

 

Or as the prophet Jeremiah describes:

 

For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.  There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.” Jeremiah 30:12-13

 

How horrible it must be to be without hope!  It is one thing to learn that we have an incurable disease, to learn that man’s knowledge of medicine has no cure for our illness.  But to be told that we have no hope spiritually, we have no hope of heaven, that we have been totally disowned and abandoned by God because we simply have refused to acknowledge and obey His laws and precepts?  My mind cannot comprehend what this condition would be like.  This is the condition of Israel.  Then the prophet adds that Judah is falling into the same situation.

 

Read Micah 1:10-16 – Judgments Against Judah

 

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

 

            Now Micah begins a series of declarations of judgment against various towns and cities within Judah, telling some what they should do to repent of God’s charges against them.

            Gath was a city of the Philistines that was taken over by Judah while Uzziah was king as we noted in the introduction to this book.  When Saul and Jonathan were killed David directed that Israel should:

 

Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” II Samuel 1:20

 

Now Micah says do not tell Gath the fate of Israel so that they would not weep for those upon whom God is taking his vengeance.  We remember that Aaron was instructed by God not to weep for Nadab and Abihu when God destroyed them for their disobedience (Leviticus 10:6).

            Aphrah or Bethle-aphrah is a town in the Shephelah between Joppa and Gaza.  They are instructed to repent in dust, a situation very similar to those who repented in sackcloth and ashes at various times in Biblical history.

 

v.11Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.”

 

            The inhabitants of Saphir, a location that neither the scripture or secular history tells us about, would be driven from their homes or be carried away into captivity naked; stripped of any belongings, even clothing.

            The area of Zaanan, a region near Jerusalem, where flocks were kept was heavily populated yet did not come to the aid of Beth-e-zel, when they were overrun and conquered by the Assyrians.  They were taken up with their own calamities because they showed no compassion to those around them when they could have rendered assistance.

 

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

 

            Next we see the city or location of Maroth.  Some scholars think this is referring to one of three locations called Ramoth, one in Gilead, one in the tribe of Isschar and one in the south also called Baalath-Beer.  In my mind none of these fit the context of Micah 1:12, unless it is Baalath-Beer .  We’re told that they “WAITED CAREFULLY FOR GOOD” and were grieved and disappointed because they waited in vain and watched Assyria besiege Jerusalem.

 

v.13O 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.”

 

            This verse of the first chapter of Micah is most interesting because it points toward a later time in the history of Judah.  Lachish is a city of Judah that was originally taken for Israel by Joshua (Joshua 10:32).  It is located in the lowlands of Judah west and probably south of Jerusalem.  It was one of the cities captured by Sennacherib, the Assyrian:

 

II Kings 18:13Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.”

 

This was part of the same campaign by Assyria against Judah where Hezekiah prayed to God for deliverance (II Kings 19) and God spared Jerusalem from capture by the Assyrians.

 

II Kings 19:35-36And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.”

 

This city was characterized by Micah as being the “BEGINNING OF THE SIN” and had followed the “TRANSGRESSIONS OF ISRAEL” of which we are very familiar due to our prior study.  Lachish was probably a center of idol worship in Judah; that is what these words seen to indicate.

 

v.14Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.”

 

            Moresheth-gath is the location Micah was from, therefore very familiar to him.  It had been a city of the Philistines as we noted earlier.  Achzib was another city nearby or closely adjoined to Moresheth.  One not that far from Jerusalem that would be depended upon to help defend the kings of Judah.  The name Achzib means a lie and apparently the people of this city could not be trusted to perform their purpose in the kingdom.  Other commentators tie this prophecy to what happened between Hezekiah and Sennacherib that we find recorded:

 

II Kings 18:14-16 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house. 16At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.”

 

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

 

            Mareshah, who could not or would not come to the assistance of Israel would herself become prey to the Assyrians.  God will bring an heir to take over this city except in this case the heir would be an enemy.  One who would reduce the glory of Mareshah to the dust and desolation of Adullam, a cave in which David hid from his enemies.

 

v.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 whole of Judah seems to be the object of this warning.  Assyria will make the land bald, destroying towns and their fenced cities.  This was in conjunction with the destruction of the northern kingdom and not the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon that occurred about 150 years later.  Cutting off of the hair is a sign of mourning in many cultures and that is what is being referred to here.  Jeremiah uses similar language later:

 

Jeremiah 7:29Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.”

 

The day would come for Judah when they would make themselves bald in the shame of their captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.

 

William L. Schwegler; Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, LA; December 21, 2008