Micah 3 – Against Princes and Prophets
A. God against the princes of His people.
1. (1-3) The violence of leaders against God’s people.
And I said:
“Hear now, O heads of Jacob,
And you rulers of the house of Israel:
Is it not for you to know justice?
You who hate good and love evil;
Who strip the skin from My people,
And the flesh from their bones;
Who also eat the flesh of My people,
Flay their skin from them,
Break their bones,
And chop them in pieces
Like meat for the pot,
Like flesh in the caldron.”
a. Hear now, O heads of Jacob: Previously, Micah addressed his comments to God’s people in general. Next he specifically spoke to their leaders, because they had both a special responsibility and accountability before God.
b. You who hate good and love evil: If this description wasn’t bad enough, Micah went on to illustrate how terribly the leaders of Israel and Judah used the people – as if they were cannibals feasting on the people of God (who also eat the flesh of My people).
i. “Since the grinding poverty of the poor was leading them into an early grave, the prophet, in a sustained metaphor, depicts the magistrates responsible for creating these conditions as acting like cannibals. This grotesque figure aims to awaken the conscience of the reprobates.” (Waltke)
ii. This reminds us the people never exist for the sake of the leaders, but leaders are there for the sake of the people. A leader should never serve God’s people dominated by the question, “What is in it for me?” When they do, they are like the cannibalistic leaders described by Micah.
2. (4) God’s judgment of silence against corrupt leaders.
Then they will cry to the LORD,
But He will not hear them;
He will even hide His face from them at that time,
Because they have been evil in their deeds.
a. Then they will cry to the LORD, but He will not hear them: This was one example of God’s judgment against the corrupt leaders. When they cried out for God’s help, the LORD would remain silent.
b. He will even hide His face from them at that time: One aspect of the blessing pronounced by the priests of Israel was asking the LORD to make His face shine upon them (Numbers 6:25). Here, Micah promised the opposite of this blessing – that God would even hide His face from them at that time.
B. God against the false prophets to His people.
1. (5-7) The sin and promised judgment of false prophets.
Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets
Who make my people stray;
Who chant “Peace”
While they chew with their teeth,
But who prepare war against him
Who puts nothing into their mouths:
“Therefore you shall have night without vision,
And you shall have darkness without divination;
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
And the day shall be dark for them.
So the seers shall be ashamed,
And the diviners abashed;
Indeed they shall all cover their lips;
For there is no answer from God.”
a. The prophets who make my people stray: Micah returned to a theme first mentioned in Micah 2:11, speaking of the false prophets who brought hollow comfort and pretend peace to God’s people.
b. The sun shall go down on the prophets: Through Micah, God announced that He would bring the false prophets into complete confusion and disrepute. They will have no answer from God and therefore they shall be ashamed.
2. (8) Micah’s confidence as a true prophet of God.
But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD,
And of justice and might,
To declare to Jacob his transgression
And to Israel his sin.
a. I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD: In contrast to the coming shame of the false prophets, Micah had justified confidence in the LORD who called him as a prophet. Because he knew God and was close to God and His word, Micah knew that he was full of power by the Spirit of the LORD.
i. Micah also knew that the power came by the Spirit of the LORD, not by anything in Micah. The power also came from justice and might because Micah knew he was on the side of God’s word and God’s strength.
ii. “We must have the Holy Spirit, and if we have him not, all our machinery will stand still; or if it goes on, it will produce no effect whatever. I heard of a Christian man whose mill-wheel was noticed to be in motion on a certain Sunday. The people going to worship greatly wondered thereat; but one who went by set their minds at rest by pointing out that the wheel was only turning idly round, because the water, by accident, was allowed to flow over it. But the man said, ‘It is very like our minister and his sermons. There is no work being done, but the wheel goes round, clickety click, clickety click, though it is not grinding anything.’ Therein it also greatly resembles many an organisation for spiritual service: the water is passing over it, glittering as it flows; but the outside motion does not join on to any human need, nor produce any practical result, and nothing comes of the click and hum.” (Spurgeon)
b. To declare to Jacob his transgression: Like most prophets in the Old Testament, Micah’s job was to expose the sin of God’s people.
i. We might say that under the new covenant, prophets have a somewhat different calling. Under the old covenant, the law was not written on the heart of the believer and the Holy Spirit did not indwell each believer in the same way as under the new covenant.
ii. Therefore, there was a greater need for the convicting work of the Spirit of God coming from the “outside,” from prophets such as Micah. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul described the ministry of the prophet like this: But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men (1 Corinthians 14:3). This certainly doesn’t mean that under the new covenant prophecy will never be used to expose sin, but it isn’t its central purpose.
3. (9-12) Unrepentant Jerusalem will share Samaria’s fate of destruction.
Now hear this,
You heads of the house of Jacob
And rulers of the house of Israel,
Who abhor justice
And pervert all equity,
Who build up Zion with bloodshed
And Jerusalem with iniquity:
Her heads judge for a bribe,
Her priests teach for pay,
And her prophets divine for money.
Yet they lean on the LORD, and say,
“Is not the LORD among us?
No harm can come upon us.”
Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple
Like the bare hills of the forest.
a. Now hear this…who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: In this chapter, Micah first spoke to the judges, then to the prophets. Next he speaks to the princes, you heads of the house of Jacob. The rulers of Jerusalem were not much better than the rulers of Israel and could expect similar judgment unless they repented.
b. Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us”: The leaders of Jerusalem had false confidence in religious ritual and form. All the while, judgment was appointed for Jerusalem unless they repented.
i. The great thing about the prophet Micah was that he was listened to. Hosea was ignored, and so was Amos. They threw Jeremiah in jail for his prophetic message of coming judgment. In contrast, King Hezekiah and the leadership of Judah listened to the prophet Micah.
ii. Jeremiah 26:17-19 describes how even a hundred years later the impact of Micah was remembered: Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying: “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.”
iii. “He was heard in the days of Hezekiah. A revival followed. Then, one hundred years later, his words were still remembered, and the memory of what happened earlier was used of God to spare the life of Jeremiah.” (Boice)