Today we begin the book of Micah. Written by a prophet called Micah (short for “Micaiah” meaning “who is like Yahweh”), this book prophesies about the destruction of Israel (the northern kingdom) at the hands of the Assyrians and the takeover of Judah (the southern kingdom) by the Babylonians, but also points to the day when both Israel and Judah would be restored. Micah himself was from Moresheth, a town in the southern kingdom of Judah who ministered as a prophet in Judah during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. This suggests that Micah’s ministry – and this book – took place between 750 and 686 B.C.
Today’s passage is Micah 1:1-16. Let’s go!
Micah 1:1 (NIV) 1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah–the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
On verse 1: Samaria was the capital city of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah (the southern kingdom). When Micah refers to Samaria, here he means the entire kingdom of Israel. When he refers to Jerusalem, he means the entire kingdom of Judah.
Micah 1:2-4 (NIV) 2 Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. 3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.
On verses 2-4: The picture Micah sees is of a God who is awesome in power, who changes the landscape when He appears – mountains melting and valleys splitting apart (v4). Truly God is powerful and awesome beyond our imagination. Yet how ironic and incredible it is that when Jesus the Son of God appeared on earth centuries later, instead of causing mountains to melt and valleys to split, Jesus chose to appear as harmless and helpless as a newborn baby.
Micah 1:5 (NIV) 5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?
On verse 5: What is God’s reason for showing up on earth, according to Micah? It is because of “Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel”. In other words, Micah pictures God as coming to judge Israel (represented by Samaria) and Judah (represented by Jerusalem). What can we learn from this? God is not indifferent to our sin. God is holy and just and must do something about sin.
Micah 1:6-9 (NIV) 6 “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations. 7 All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” 8 Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl. 9 For her wound is incurable; it has come to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself.
On verses 6-9: In verses 6 to 7, Micah talks about how Israel the northern kingdom will be judged, while in verses 8-9 a grieving Micah describes how his own home county of Judah will be judged.
Micah 1:10-15 (NIV) 10 Tell it not in Gath; weep not at all. In Beth Ophrah roll in the dust. 11 Pass on in nakedness and shame, you who live in Shaphir. Those who live in Zaanan will not come out. Beth Ezel is in mourning; its protection is taken from you. 12 Those who live in Maroth writhe in pain, waiting for relief, because disaster has come from the LORD, even to the gate of Jerusalem. 13 You who live in Lachish, harness the team to the chariot. You were the beginning of sin to the Daughter of Zion, for the transgressions of Israel were found in you. 14 Therefore you will give parting gifts to Moresheth Gath. The town of Aczib will prove deceptive to the kings of Israel. 15 I will bring a conqueror against you who live in Mareshah. He who is the glory of Israel will come to Adullam.
On verses 10-15: In verse 10, when Micah says “Tell it not in Gath”, Micah is recalling what King David said when he found out that his predecessor Saul had been killed by the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath” (2 Samuel 1:20) means “don’t tell Israel’s enemies about the shame that Israel has experienced”, Gath being a major enemy city.
In the rest of verse 10 until verse 15, Micah uses poetic language and clever word plays to describe how various towns in Judah will be in mourning and shame because of the destruction that they will eventually face. For example:
“Beth Ophrah” means house of dust and Micah tells the people of Beth Ophrah to “roll in the dust” (v10).
“Shaphir” means “beautiful”, and yet Micah predicts that Shaphir will live in nakedness and shame (v11).
“Zaanan” sounds like the Hebrew for “come out” but Micah says that “Zaanan” will not come out (v11).
“Beth Ezel” means house of protection and yet its protection will be taken from them (v11).
The people of Maroth wait for relief but only write in pain (v12).
“Lachish” which sounds like “team” in Hebrew, and yet Micah suggests that Lachish did the most “un-team” thing by leading the rest of Judah into sin (v13).
“Moresheth” means inheritance or possession, and yet Moresheth will be receiving a parting gift because it will be dispossessed (v14).
Aczib, which sounds like deception, will be a deceptive and false hope for Israel (v14)
Mareshah, which sounds like conqueror in Hebrew, will have a conqueror brought against it (v15).
What can we learn from all this? Understanding that a city’s name was supposed to indicate a city’s destiny or God-given purpose, Micah’s word plays here illustrate how sin derails our destiny and sends us in the opposite direction of our God-given purpose. Praise God that though our sin derailed us, His Son redeemed us and set our feet on the right path once again.
Micah 1:16 (NIV) 16 Shave your heads in mourning for the children in whom you delight; make yourselves as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.
On verse 16: Micah’s prophesies about Israel and Judah would be fulfilled when Assyria invaded Israel in 701 B.C. and the Babylonians took over Judah starting in approximately 600 B.C. Micah’s words were not just poetic, but prophetic. God’s Word does not just sound powerful. It is powerful.
Heavenly Father, I praise You for being holy and just like no other, powerful beyond compare. Thank You that when our sin derailed us, Your Son brought us back and set us on the right course again. Where would we be without Jesus? In Jesus’ name, AMEN!