The second oracle starts today, directed to the leaders of Jacob and the rulers of Israel – leaders of the whole people, and of the northern people. Should you not know justice? The corrupt elite counted on the love of God, neglecting the justice of God – but should they not expect God to provide justice, ‘karma’?
These folks are treating the people as a butcher treats livestock – the text is graphic. When they get the same treatment from invading Assyrians, and cry to God for help, can they expect a more interventionist God than current victims enjoy?
We’re back to complaining about the competing prophets, who lead people astray and justify the upper classes. As long as they get paid, they proclaim ‘peace’ – but that’s a fickle kind of professional, who works for fees. When things change, God won’t answer the fancy techniques of the false prophets.
But, says the text, Micah, who has been asserting justice and righteousness, will be vindicated and gain in power as the invaders come. He will get to say ‘told ya so’. The payoff for moral courage might be worth short term rejection, eh?
To elaborate and be perfectly clear, Micah enumerates the audience again: rulers of Jacob, Israel who despise justice, distort what is right. He comes closer to home in Zion and Jerusalem, where profitable arrangements are providing wealth to build the southern city too, but all are driven by bribes, each has a price, and prophets say what people want to hear like fortune tellers.
Micah mocks his competing religious hucksters who affirm their own prosperity gospel that ‘God wants you to be rich’ The threat is brought home to Zion and Jerusalem: it will be ploughed under like a field, in rubble. That’s a bit painful, as the rubble is ploughed at our old church this week, eh? The temple mount will be bare – and indeed, once Solomon’s Temple was wrecked by the Babylonians, it was so, and in turn after the Romans, it was so. That’s not simply prediction of either event, but resonance of this construction of the shape of things to come.
Micah 3 (NRSV)
1 And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?—
2 you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people,* and the flesh off their bones;
3 who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat* in a kettle, like flesh in a cauldron.
4 Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have acted wickedly.
5 Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths.
6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them;
7 the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.
8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity,
10 who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong!
11 Its rulers give judgement for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, ‘Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us.’
12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.