Micah 1 – Coming Judgment on Israel and Judah
A. Coming judgment on Israel.
1. (1) Introduction to the prophecy of Micah.
The 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.
a. Micah of Moresheth: The city of Moresheth (also called Moresheth Gath in Micah 1:14) was about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem on the border lands between Judah and the Philistines. This means that the prophet Micah was like the prophet Amos, a man from the country sent to the city to bring the word of the Lord.
i. We really don’t know anything about Micah’s background or call, but we do know that he had a strong sense of his own calling as a prophet, and he says so in Micah 3:8.
b. In the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah: This means that Micah ministered as a prophet some time between the years 739 b.c. (the start of the reign of Jotham) and 686 b.c. (the end of the reign of Hezekiah). Since Hezekiah was a noted reformer, we can surmise that the sin Micah confronted mainly concerns the time before the important reforms of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20).
c. Concerning Samaria and Jerusalem: The city of Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. Micah looks to both the northern and southern kingdoms in his prophecy.
i. In Judah during this time, King Ahaz was a particularly evil ruler. In Israel, there were a succession of evil kings.
2. (2-5) The Lord comes to judge Israel and Judah.
Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place; He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will split like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. 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 are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?
a. The Lord is coming out of His place: With vivid images, Micah sees the Lord descending from heaven to earth, and coming with judgment. If the mountains and valleys cannot stand before Him, what hope does sinful, rebellious man have?
b. All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel: This dramatic, powerful descent of the Lord is only because of the sins of His people.
i. It is easy to imagine that the people of Judah and Israel thought this was unfair. They looked around at the pagan nations surrounding them and saw that they were even more corrupt than themselves. Nevertheless, the principle stands: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). However, we also do well to remember the second part of that verse: And if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
3. (6-7) Samaria left desolate in judgment.
“Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, and I will uncover her foundations. All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; all her idols I will lay desolate, for she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, and they shall return to the pay of a harlot.”
a. I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field: Micah prophesies the coming judgment on Samaria, the capital city of Israel. This was fulfilled in 722 b.c. when Samaria fell to the Assyrians and was completely destroyed.
b. All her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire: Micah combines the ideas of idolatry and spiritual adultery. Money spent on idols and their worship will be brought to nothing when the mighty army of the Assyrians destroys Samaria.
i. “Golden images, of such monetary value yet so spiritually and politically worthless, were constructed from the wages of cult prostitutes. The conquerors will break them up and use the money to repeat the same cycle. Only the heart of depraved man could worship gods like that!” (Waltke)
B. Coming judgment on Judah.
1. (8-9) The agony of announcing judgment on the nation of Judah.
Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches, for her wounds are incurable. For it has come to Judah; it has come to the gate of my people; to Jerusalem.
a. I will wail and howl: Micah can’t prophesy in a dispassionate, detached way. When he sees judgment coming upon his people, it makes him wail and howl like the jackals.
i. Micah didn’t just announce judgment and then yawn. He cared so deeply that he wept with God’s people. The preacher’s duty is more than to just announce judgment and to walk away. He has to care. “Many who have rejected a Christian’s logic have been won by his tears.” (Boice)
b. For her wounds are 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.
2. (10-16) The shame of Judah’s judgment is evident among the nations.
Tell it not in Gath, weep not at all; in Beth Aphrah roll yourself in the dust. Pass by in naked shame, you inhabitant of Shaphir; the inhabitant of Zaanan does not go out. Beth Ezel mourns; its place to stand is taken away from you. For the inhabitant of Maroth pined for good, but disaster came down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem. O inhabitant of Lachish, harness the chariot to the swift steeds (she was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion), for the transgressions of Israel were found in you. Therefore you shall give presents to Moresheth Gath; the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. I will yet bring an heir to you, O inhabitant of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam. Make yourself bald and cut off your hair, because of your precious children; enlarge your baldness like an eagle, for they shall go from you into captivity.
a. Tell it not in Gath: The city of Gath belonged to the Philistines, and it hurts Micah to think that the Philistines will rejoice at the pain of God’s people.
b. In Beth Aphrah roll yourself in the dust: Following to the end of the chapter, Micah uses puns and plays on words to talk about the judgment coming upon the cities of Judah. These towns are clustered in the Shephelah – the lowlands between the coastal region and the mountains of Judah.
i. Though Micah uses puns, this isn’t about clever word games – it goes back to the ancient idea that a name isn’t just your “handle” but describes – sometimes prophetically – your character and your destiny. In showing how the name of these cities is in some way a prophecy of their destiny, Micah shows how our character becomes our future.
c. Beth Aphrah: To Micah, Aphrah sounds like the Hebrew word for dust, so he told the citizens of Beth Aphrah to roll in the dust in anticipation of coming judgment.
d. Shaphir: The name of this town sounds like the word for beautiful. It won’t be beautiful for long, and Micah warns the citizens of Shaphir to prepare for judgment.
e. Zaanan: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for exit or go out. When the siege armies come, they won’t exit at all – they will be shut up in the city until it falls.
f. Beth Ezel: The name of this town means the nearby city. When the army of judgment comes, it won’t be near and helpful to any other city.
g. Maroth: The name of this town means bitterness, and when the army of judgment comes the citizens of Maroth will know plenty of bitterness.
h. Lachish: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for to the horses. Lachish was an important fortress city, and they should go to the horses to fight, but ironically they will go to the horses to flee the army of judgment.
i. Moresheth: The name of this – Micah’s hometown – sounds like the Hebrew word for betrothed. Here he speaks of giving the city wedding gifts as she passes from the rule of one “husband” (Judah) to another (the invading army).
j. Aczib: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for deceitful or disappointing. This city will fall so quickly it will be a deception and a disappointment for Israel.
k. Mareshah: The name of this town is related to the Hebrew word for possessor or heir. The invading army will soon possess this city.
l. Adullam: The was the place of refuge for David when he fled from King Saul. It will again be a place of refuge for the high and mighty among Israel, when they are forced to hide out in Adullam.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission