God sues the Jewish people
See you in court1Listen, the LORD has something to say:
I’ve had it with you.
We’re taking this case to trial.
So, tell the mountains your side of the story.
Go ahead and make your case.
2The hills have seen it all,
Since the founding of the earth.
So, let them listen as the LORD speaks,
As he sues his people of Israel.
3Dear people of mine,
What have I done to you?
How did I hurt you?
4I sent you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
And I brought you out of slavery in Egypt.
5My people, remember King Balak of Moab,
And what he was going to do to you?
Remember the seer Balaam, Beor’s son,
And what he told the king?
Do you remember crossing the Jordan River
On that trip from Acacia Grove to Gilgal?
Can’t you remember how the LORD saved you?
Judah’s weak defense6What can I do to fix this?
What should I bring when I bow in front of him?
Perhaps a sacrifice for forgiveness?
Maybe some year-old calves?
7Or would it take a thousand rams
Or 10,000 rivers of olive oil?
Does he need my oldest son for my sins,
As a piece of my body, to save my soul?
Micah’s reply: Don’t play dumb8 Come on, people, you know what’s right.
He told you what to do.
Don’t get snooty in your walk with God.
Crooked Jews of Judah9The LORD is calling out Jerusalem,
Though wise people worship him.
Listen up, tribe of Judah
And you people in Jerusalem.
10When I go into a bad person’s house,
Should I overlook the stolen treasures
And the dishonest scales used in business?
11Should I allow rigged scales
And cheater weights that go with them?
12Your violent rich people
Have blood on their hands
Your people lie
With tongues tuned to lie.
All they can do is lie.
Judah sentenced to death13So, I’ve already started making you sick.
I’m hitting you hard for your sins.
14I’ll let you eat, but I’ll keep you hungry.
You’ll feel hunger pangs in your gut.
You’ll store provisions, but they won’t last
Because I’ll give what you saved to your enemies.
15You’ll plant your crops,
But you won’t harvest them.
You’ll crush your olives,
But you won’t get to feel the oil on your skin.
You’ll stomp the grapes,
But you won’t drink the wine.
16You ignored my laws
But obeyed laws of King Omri
And laws of his son, Ahab.
You lived by their rules. You’ll pay by mine.
I’ll wipe you out.
The world will laugh at what’s left of your people.
The world will hate you and they’ll show it.
Balak was king of Moab, a nation across the Dead Sea from Israel, in what is now Jordan. The desert route Moses led the Hebrews to their Promised Land of Israel took them through Moab. The king was afraid to admit this large group of refugees into his country. So, he hired a sorcerer named Balaam to put a curse on Moses and the Israelite ancestors of today’s Jewish people. Instead, Balaam blessed them on three occasions (Numbers 22:2-24:25). After that, King Balak went back home.
King Balak of Moab hired the seer named Balaam to curse Israel. On God’s orders, apparently received in dreams or visions, Balaam refused the king. He also repeatedly blessed the invading Hebrews instead (Numbers 23-24). However, he also seems to have played a role in getting the women of Midian to lure Israelite men into sex rituals and idolatry. Israelite warriors killed him in a battle against Midian (Numbers 31:8). Balaam’s name showed up on an ancient inscription found in what is now Jordan’s city of Deir Alla. The inscription is a fragment of a collection of visions by “a divine seer” called “Balaam, son of Beor”—just as the Bible writers identified him. The Deir Alla Inscription said, “the gods came to him at night.” The inscription, painted in ink on a plastered wall, dates to roughly 800 BC, several centuries after Balaam and Moses.
The name in Hebrew is Shittim, which church folks wouldn’t want to read out loud in a worship service. It literally means “acacia trees,” or an acacia grove. So, “Acacia Grove.” You’re welcome.
Gilgal’s location is uncertain. Joshua 4:19 puts it on Canaan’s border near Jericho. It’s identified as Israel’s staging camp before the Israelites launched the attack on Jericho. But the description in Deuteronomy 11:30 seems to put it near the center of Canaan, in the neighborhood of Shechem and the sacred oaks of Moreh that Abraham passed by, as reported in Genesis 12:6.
God stopped the Jordan River during the springtime flood season so Joshua and the Israelites could cross into Canaan, which eventually became Israel (Joshua 3:16-17).
Literally, a burnt offering. A burnt offering is one that consumes the entire animal and pays the price for sin, atoning for sin. Laws related to the burnt offering are in Leviticus 1.
This sounds like human sacrifice, which Jewish law forbids (Deuteronomy 18:10; Leviticus 18:21). But some Jews did it anyhow (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31). They did it in the Valley of Hinnom on the southwest side of Jerusalem; it was Gehenna in Greek, the international language in Jesus’ day. Later, the people used that valley as a city dump, with a fire said to constantly smolder. The name of Gehenna became a metaphor describing God’s judgment. That’s because after the Jews started worshiping idols and sacrificing their own children in the valley, the Bible says God sent invaders from the Babylonian Empire. Babylonians temporarily wiped the Jewish nation off the political map, destroying Jerusalem and leveling the Temple. If Micah wasn’t talking about sacrificing the oldest son, he might have been referring to the fact that God claimed dibbs on Israel’s firstborn children and animals. They didn’t belong to the parents. They belonged to God. The first male child in each family was often considered the most important. He got a double share of the family inheritance. In the first reported sacrifice offered to God, Abel “killed the first lambs born to his prized sheep” (Genesis 4:4). The order God gave Moses wasn’t about human sacrifice, which God would outlaw. He provided a way for the parents to buy back (redeem) their children. The reason behind the ritual was to remind Israelites and their descendants, including Jewish people today, that God took the lives of Egypt’s firstborn, but spared the children of Israel. See also Exodus 13:12-15 and Numbers 18:15-16 for the process of reclaiming the children.
Other Bible writers reflect the same idea that Micah offers (Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17).
This verse is impossible to accurately translate. That’s why so many Bible translations treat the text so differently. They’re guessing, trying to figure out how to make the mysterious arrangement of Hebrew words fit the context.
Merchants selling products by weight could rig their scales to favor the business. Or they could use mislabeled weights. A merchant’s weight might say the customer is getting five pounds (2 kg) of whole walnuts (about 175 nuts). But the customer might be walking away a dozen walnuts shy of a picnic basket. Not enough for a polite customer to notice. But enough to make a difference for the merchant at the end of the day.
Omri (reigned 884-873), king of the northern Jewish nation of Israel, started a family dynasty of kings that included his son and successor Ahab (reigned about 873-852 BC). Ahab married the infamous Jezebel, a princess from what is now Lebanon, who ordered prophets of God executed (1 Kings 18:4-19)
Babylonians will do to the southern Jewish nation of Judah what Assyrians had already done to the northern Jewish nation of Israel: Erase them from the map. Assyrians erased Israel in 722 BC by deporting the leaders and others who survived the war, so they couldn’t rebuild Israel. Babylon did the same to Judah more than a century later, in 586 BC. The difference is that 50 years after Babylon crushed Judah, Persians from what is now Iran defeated Babylon. They freed most political prisoners and told them to go home and rebuild their cities. Many Jews did just that. Others stayed where they had grown a new generation of children. The contract between God and Israel warned that God would deport the Jews for breach of contract (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
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