Study of the Prophets #21: Micah (Cont.)
Last week we left off with the consoling words of HaShem that He will gather His own and deliver them to the Land at the end of the age. Now we must digress as we pick up at Chapter 3 where Micah rebukes the leaders:
“I said, ‘Listen, now, you leaders of Jacob and officers of the House of Israel!
In the previous chapter, Micah admonished the entire nation for the evil deeds they had committed against the poor. Now he gets up close and personal with the leaders of the nation and holds them personally responsible for the deeds of the people. They are the ones to be blamed, for they are responsible to know the law, administer justice, and return to the poor that which has been taken by their oppressors (Radak). This is why the Torah says that leadership is not for everyone, and that there are some who should not be in a leadership position. There is a great responsibility connected with one who teaches Torah: James 3:1 reads “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Even if the leaders were to claim they were ignorant of the injustices committed by the people, they would still be accountable, for it is their responsibility to investigate whether justice has been administered (Abarbanel).
According to Malbim, the use of the names Jacob and Israel are to distinguish between the legitimate leaders of the kingdom of Judah (Israel) and Jacob as the self-appointed leaders of the Northern Kingdom. However, we know from previous studies that the use of Jacob indicates a context dealing with the supplanter/deceiving aspect of Israel, and Israel connotes a higher spiritual state. Therefore, it may be that Jacob is used for the southern kingdom of Judah and Israel for the leaders of the House of Israel; the Ten Tribes in the North. Regardless, all the leaders are covered, no matter who is Jacob and who is Israel.
Is it not up to you to know the law? [But you] hate good and love evil;
Not only do the leaders fail to guide the people in what is good and just, but they participate in oppressing the poor and taking their money for food (Radak). Compare this to Amos 5:15 exhorting the people to love good and hate evil, and establish justice by the gate, meaning this applies to the entire city.
you rob [people’s] skin from upon them and their flesh from upon their bones;
This is a metaphorical description of the rampant thievery (Metzudos). Since the poor have been robbed of their source of sustenance, it is as if they have been flayed; for without nourishment, the body wastes away (Radak).
[you] have eaten the flesh of My people, you have stripped their skin from upon them,
The Torah elaborates on the metaphor describing the severe oppression of the poor to include oppression of the righteous.
you have broken open their bones;
This indicates how severely the people were oppressed. It is as if their bones were broken open to extract the marrow. The oppression was relentless, extending to the very core of humanity.
and you have sliced them like that which is in a pot and like meat in a cauldron.
Just when one would imagine it could not be worse, the description in this verse indicates yet another level of oppression; as if the bones that have been stripped of their meat and the marrow removed were placed in a pot and cooked down (Metzudos).
Then they will cry out to HaShem, but He will not answer them;
When G-d comes to rescue His nation and gather them from exile (2:12), the wicked will cry out to Him to save them also; they too wish to be rescued from exile. But their pleas will be ignored. Further proof of this fact that that not all will be saved as taught in Christianity is found in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew Chapter 25 and Matthew 7:21-23. I encourage you to read these verses to solidify this truth in your minds.
He will hide His face from them at that time, just as they had done evil with their deeds.”
G-d will remove His Divine Presence from their midst. He will hide His face as if He does not see their troubles. For just as they ignored the cries of the poor, so too will G-d ignore their cries, measure for measure (Ibn Ezra; Radak; Abarbanel). Malbim maintains that this verse is answering the complaints of 2:7 about whether Hashem has become short spirited. He explains that these are not G-d’s evil doings, but the direct result of their own evil deeds.
Continuing with verse 5 to the end of the chapter: “Thus said HaShem about the prophets who mislead My nation,
The prophecy is directed at the false prophets (Metzudos).
who chew with their teeth and declare peace, but whoever does not put [food] into their mouths, they prepare war against him:
The people presented gifts of meat delicacies to the false prophets and in return, the well-fed “prophets” foretold a future of peace and tranquility. Think for a moment of many so-called “prophets” you have read about on the internet; some who said they would withdraw from their ministries if their prophecies did not come true, yet remain on the internet with thousands of followers! The false prophets waged campaigns against those who did not offer gifts or prophecy that war was imminent. These types of people are all over the place in our society today and Satan uses them in a big way. How skillfully Satan is to plant wolves in places of worship or on religious websites to lure the spiritually ignorant or weak away from the whole Truth of G-d’s Torah. This alone is proof of their fraudulent status as their predictions are always commensurate to the gifts they receive. Today, we often see televangelists seeking money in order to pray for you or promise you prosperity for a “love gift.” The Long Island Medium eases the minds of troubled souls by communicating with the dead; a practice that we know is strictly forbidden by G-d.
Therefore, it shall be night for you because of such divination;
The false prophecies will result in night and darkness for those who had uttered them; then as now. For when the enemy arrives, it will be obvious that they are fakes.
the sun will set upon the prophets and the daylight will be blackened for them.
Micah is referring to the three categories of people who claimed to foretell the future: seers, diviners, and false prophets. Seers claimed to see their visions at night; but instead of the night ushering in a vision, the vision will usher in the night. Diviners usually practiced their divinations in a dark place; instead of the darkness bringing the divination, the divination will bring on the darkness. The false prophets prophesied by day. Their punishment will be that the sun will set for them and their day will become dark (Malbim).
When the false prophets see that their predictions did not happen they will be ashamed and disgraced, for the people will now realize that what they were told was not the Word of G-d.
and all of them will wear veils over their lips, for [they] had no word of G-d
Veiling the upper lip was a traditional sign of mourning. The false prophets would hide their shame in this manner, as if in mourning; also translated as experiencing shame that their false prophecies were revealed. Not so much that they were frauds, but that they were caught.
But as for me, I was filled with the strength by the spirit of HaShem, and [with] justice and might,
Micah declares that he is not like the false prophets who fear the nation and bribe the people with false prophecies. He states he is filled with the strength of justice and courage. Therefore, the words he speaks are true and just and he is not afraid to rebuke the people for their sins (Radak). There is a certain kind of peace, the shalom of G-d, that comes when we know that what we are saying or doing is supported by G-d’s Torah. In Micah’s case, G-d communicated with him and assured him that what he was doing was of G-d and not in his own wisdom.
to inform Jacob of his transgression, and Israel of his sin.
One of the tasks of G-d’s prophet is to prevent the people from committing evil deeds as far as it is possible.
Listen, now, to this, O leaders of the House of Jacob and officers of the House of Israel, who detest justice and who twist all that is straight
Micah again turns to the leaders of both kingdoms, rebuking them for their corruptness. They corrupt justice, and cause it to be despised in the eyes of the people. They distort all the just and straight words that he (Micah) speaks. We see this in our contemporary society. Those who seek to live just and honest lives are discouraged more often than ever as they see the unjust prospering and our government promoting unjust behaviors and practices. We must be internally motivated to follow G-d’s Torah, trusting by faith and obedience that G-d will deliver us in His time. We must stay on the King’s highway no matter the obstacles. It is the only road to peace:
…who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity.
All the leaders murder and use the wealth of their victims to build their homes in Zion (Metzudos), with money stolen from the poor.
Her leaders judge for bribes and her Kohanim teach for a fee…
The leaders of Jerusalem, the kings, or possible the Sanhedrin (judges of the High Court that was situated next to the Temple), would rule in favor of the one who offered a bribe, violating G-d’s Torah “ Do not accept a bribe” (Exodus 23:8).
The Kohanim were responsible for teaching the Torah and for answering questions regarding the law (Deut. 33:10; Malachi 2:7). Micah rebukes the Kohanim for their corruption in tailoring their rulings to benefit the people who gave them bribes (Radak; Metzudos).
…and her prophets divine for money…
The false prophets foresaw good tidings for those who paid them their asking price (Metzudos).
– yet they rely on HaShem saying, ‘behold, HaShem is on our midst; no evil can befall us!’
Although they committed the sins of which Micah spoke and G-d called to their attention, they had the audacity to assume that as long as G-d’s Presence remained in their midst in the Holy Temple, He would protect them from harm. This distortion was contested by Jeremiah (Ch. 7) later on and Ezekiel (4:11). G-d instructed Micah to tell the people that their protection was dependent only on their actions and good deeds. It was not at all dependent on whether His Divine Presence was in their midst. O how we can apply this to the mindset of many people in our world today. Actions and good deeds imply the grace and law concept of a true believer as Yahshua describes in Revelation. Actions may be associated with guarding the commands of G-d, and good deeds with carrying the testimony of Yahshua. Note however, that both words are action verbs that in no way imply a professed belief in G-d. When G-d withdraws His Ruach; that is when the rapture occurs, taking those of whom the Ruach guides and teaches, I maintain that we will see a significant change in the status/condition of the United States and the world. The Rapture certainly includes the calling out of believers from the world with the exception of those sealed to witness to Judah.
Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed over like a field; Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble…
Because of the numerous sins of the people, G-d will disregard His honor and will destroy His holy city. Zion, that had been built, will now resemble a plowed field. Jerusalem, whose buildings had been built through iniquity, will be destroyed. The enemy will heap the stones of its structures into mounds of rubble (Radak). Recall after 9/11 how arrogantly our politicians vowed to rebuild a tower or towers bigger and better than those that had been destroyed. There was no call for repentance, just as in the time of Micah. Jerusalem was not immune to G-d’s punishment, and neither is New York or anywhere else on earth. If we do not repent and see G-d and follow His Torah, He will certainly do again as He did in this scenario; give the people a spiritual “time out” and take everything from them in order to get them to look up and acknowledge His sovereignty. In the first chapter of Micah (v.6), Micah foretold of the destruction of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom to a heap of stones. Now he foretells a similar fate for Jerusalem in the southern kingdom. Interestingly, the nation was to be punished in a threefold manner destroying Zion, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount and there were three types of people who claimed to see the future: seers, diviners, and false prophets.
and the temple Mount will become like stone heaps in a forest.”
Once the Temple will be destroyed, its mount will become overgrown with weeds and trees.
Micah was the first prophet to foretell the destruction of the Holy temple. His prophecy was later quoted by the elders of Israel in defense of the prophet Jeremiah (26:18). From their words, it is clear that Micah uttered this prophecy during the reign of Hezekiah.
Next week we will continue with Chapter 4
Rabbi Tamah Davis