Micah is placed by the opening verse, as we have seen it done already for Amos and Hosea. We don’t need to demand facticity, but rather accept that this is orienting us in a bigger picture, before the selected and edited words of the prophet are arranged for us by others who follow the events and ages of Micah.
I noted on Sunday that Micah comes from Isaiah’s neighbourhood in Judah, in Moresheth. That’s south of Israel, though the prophesies are looking north. Jotham starts young, near the mid-700’s but is gone before Samaria falls to Assyria. Hezekiah is known for reforming in the south, in response to the cautionary tale told from the north in its fall to Assyria.
Micah’s opening oracle is directed to all nations of the world, not limited to the priests and elite of the north, like the first couple of prophets we read.
This is a bold claim of a cosmic God of all, not a tribal deity, coming from a hidden place, and approaching from high places, bringing down mountains and flooding up valleys in fire, or cascading waterfalls. It’s big.
Why? The cause is tribal. Jacob, the twelve tribes, has sinned. Specifically, Samaria is a centre of infidelity. Jerusalem is the one shrine of Judah. Samaria will be wrecked, levelled, overgrown for agriculture, vineyards: no small threat for a big prosperous city. That’s big too.
The idols, the fancy gold and silver, the pride of the riches of Israel, will all be taken – for the prophet – not such a big deal. After all, they are the accepted currency of anybody chasing a buck, whoring after immediate rewards. Not big.
Micah resolves to lament and wail. What’s happened to Samaria has reached the gates of Jerusalem. Everybody, in all the nations, should get the message: if God did that to them – it could happen to us all.
You and I can get the first allusion in v10, ‘tell it not in Gath’ – that’s what David said about the death of Saul. If the Philistines in Gaza knew our troubles, they’d take advantage of us!
We don’t get the puns that follow: Ben Ophrah, ‘house of dust’, should roll in dust. Shaphir (beautiful, fair) won’t be. Zaanan (‘come out’) can’t. Beth Ezel (‘stand by’) won’t have neighbour Jerusalem to stand by. You can look up the Hebrew puns - perhaps our parallel is ‘Toronto’ (‘gathering place’) will be no place to get together!
The geography tour ends at Adullam, the cave where David hid from Saul. From the opening ‘Gath’ to the cave ending, this is the dark side of the David saga, the end of his dynasty, which had only been grudgingly granted by God.
Who is left, when the Assyrians have depopulated the country to provide labour crews across their empire? The old and feeble, and not enough of us, with shaved heads and lost spirits. We didn’t prepare our pampered kids for this!
1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
2 Hear, you peoples, all of you; listen, O earth, and all that is in it; and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
3 For lo, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4 Then the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will burst open, like wax near the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.
5 All 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?
6 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour down her stones into the valley, and uncover her foundations.
7 All her images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste; for as the wages of a prostitute she gathered them, and as the wages of a prostitute they shall again be used.
8 For this I will lament and wail; I will go barefoot and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches.
9 For her wound* is incurable. It has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.
10 Tell it not in Gath, weep not at all; in Beth-leaphrah roll yourselves in the dust.
11 Pass on your way, inhabitants of Shaphir, in nakedness and shame; the inhabitants of Zaanan do not come forth; Beth-ezel is wailing and shall remove its support from you.
12 For the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good, yet disaster has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem.
13 Harness the steeds to the chariots, inhabitants of Lachish; it was the beginning of sin to daughter Zion, for in you were found the transgressions of Israel.
14 Therefore you shall give parting gifts to Moresheth-gath; the houses of Achzib shall be a deception to the kings of Israel.
15 I will again bring a conqueror upon you, inhabitants of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam.
16 Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair for your pampered children; make yourselves as bald as the eagle, for they have gone from you into exile.