Micah’s dreadful vision
Micah’s message from God1The LORD sent a message to Micah – a vision about the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Micah came from the town of Moresheth. He lived during the reigns of three kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah.
God criticizes Israel, Judah2Everyone listen—people everywhere.
The LORD and God of everyone is in his sacred Temple.
And he’s going to speak out against you.
3Look. The LORD is coming.
He’s descending from his home above.
He’s coming to earth
And he’ll walk on the mountains.
4Hills and mountains will melt beneath him
Like bee wax in a campfire.
Valleys will flush away
Like water streaming down a mountain.
5Jacob’s descendants are to blame.
What’s about to happen is because of Israel’s sins.
What did Jacob’s family do wrong?
Take a hard look at Samaria.
What did Judah do wrong?
Take a good look at Jerusalem.
6So, I’ll give Samaria a makeover.
I’ll turn it into a rock city of ruin.
I’ll scrape the town off its foundations
And turn it into dirt fit for a vineyard.
7I’ll smash every idol they sculpted,
Idols built with money paid to prostitutes.
Then I’ll melt that wealth
And give it to foreigners.
Micah’s tears8I’ll feel terrible about this.
I’ll grieve and sob.
I’ll tear away my clothes,
Howl like a jackal,
And moan like an ostrich.
9Samaria’s plague is contagious.
It spread to Judah
And broke through Jerusalem’s gates.
Cities in trouble10Don’t tell Gath.
In Dust House Town,
They’ll roll in the dust.
11City of Beauty,
They’ll take you away naked and walking in shame.
City of Soldiers
Will go into hiding.
City of Good Neighbors
Won’t come to help you.
12Bittertown hopes for the best
But gets the worst:
Disaster and pain,
With no one to save them.
The LORD brings it all the way home,
Through the city gates of Jerusalem.
13Horsetown, hitch your chariots.
Rush to the battle.
It’s all your fault.
You led Jerusalem into sin.
Israel’s sin started with you.
14You’ll give final goodbye gifts
To Moresheth-Gath, the City of Brides.
Israel’s kings count on the City of Lies.
But disappointment is all the kings get.
15 Entitlement Town, you’ll lose it all.
I’m sending an army to conquer you.
Israel’s leaders will run for their lives
To the caves near the city of Adullam.
16Shave your head bald as an eagle
And turn on the tears right now.
Those children you love, the precious ones,
Will get carried away to a foreign land.
Micah identifies the two nations by their capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem. Bible writers sometimes use those city names as alternate names – nicknames of the two nations. Israel split in two after King Solomon died. Northern tribes became Israel. Southern tribes took the name of the dominant tribe: Judah.
Moresheth was in southwest Judah, near the city of Gath. Micah calls it by the twin cities name of Moresheth-Gath (1:14).
Micah’s ministry spanned about 55 years, from about 742-786 BC. He was on hand to witness the fall of Israel in 722 BC. Assyrian invaders destroyed many cities and deported survivors so they wouldn’t rebuild the Jewish country that Assyrians considered stubbornly rebellious.
It’s unclear what “Samaria” and “Judah” mean here. Perhaps Micah was accusing the leaders who ruled in those two capital cities. Or maybe he used the capital names to refer to the nations, like people today might use “Washington DC” to refer to the United States, or “Paris” to mean France.
It’s unclear if we’re supposed to take the prostitutes literally or figuratively. They could symbolize Israel’s unfaithfulness to God by worshiping idols. Other prophets use that symbolism (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Ezekiel 16:15). But taken literally, it could refer to ritual sex with temple prostitutes. Baal was an ancient and local god of weather and fertility in family, flocks, and fields. People worshiped him using different styles of idols and by calling him various names: Hadad, Cloud Rider, Baal of [fill in whatever the local region was, such as Baal-zephon or Baal of Peor]. Peor was a mountain in Moab where people worshiped Baal. Baal of Peor was apparently a local representation of him. When women from Moab seduced some of the Israelite men to engage in either ritual sex or just plain ol’ illicit sex, it led the men into idolatry (Numbers 25). Some scholars say one worship ritual involved entertaining Baal by letting him watch people have sex. They did this so he would make it rain. It’s a tad gross, but some taught that the rain was Baal’s semen. So, if the sex of worshipers got Baal stimulated enough, he would make it rain in this predominately dry part of the world.
When Assyrians captured Samaria in 722 BC, they took whatever they wanted – especially gold, silver, and gems. Anything of value.
That’s a line from a funeral song David wrote after Philistines defeated King Saul’s army. They killed Saul and most of his sons, including David’s close friend, Prince Jonathan. People may have used this phrase to express grief over a family member or a dear friend. As in, “What am I going to do without her?”
The city is Beth-leaphrah, meaning “House of dust.” Here, and in the next few verses, Micah uses the city names as a play on words. It’s impossible to catch that in English when we use the Hebrew version of the city names. Here, we’re using the English meaning, so we can see the puns and wordplay. Location of this town is uncertain, as it is with most of those that follow in this word play.
Micah doesn’t say how the city of Lachish sinned so monumentally that it caused all this trouble. One guess is that it became a gateway city, importing Egyptian religion with a gallery full of gods—more than 1,000.
“Moresheth,” Micah’s home, sounds like the Hebrew word for “dowry” or a “bridal gift.” The point may be that exile is the going-away gift Israel brings to Micah’s hometown. Israel’s sin is the reason for what Assyria will do to Israel and Judah. Assyria, in 722 BC, erases Israel. It also pillages Judah but leaves the compliant government intact.
The city name, Aczib, sounds like the Hebrew word for “lie.” When Assyria attacks, the city may be either unable or unwilling to fight at all. Either way, they couldn’t stop Assyria’s army.
The city name, Mareshah, sounds like a word for: conqueror, heir, or a person with a lot of possessions.
David fled to the city of Adullam to hide in the caves from King Saul (1 Samuel 22:1).
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