Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentMICAH 2
Having in the preceding chapter foretold the approaching doom of both the northern and southern kingdoms of "the house of Jacob," Micah announced the crimes of the people, especially of the nobles, for which God had determined to punish the entire nation (Micah 2:1-2). He particularly identified that punishment as their removal from the land which they mistakenly believed was "theirs," not the Lord's (Micah 2:4-5). He then identified and refuted the "false prophets" whose lies had deceived the people and encouraged them in their rebellion against God (Micah 2:6-11). He concluded the chapter with a brief but strong promise of redemption for "a remnant" of the people (Micah 2:12-13).
Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.
The meaning of the last clause here is, "Their hand is as a god to them; they make their own power the highest force they will recognize."F1 "They are not led into their evil by others, for they themselves conceive the evil purpose in their own hearts."F2 At bedtime, when men of a righteous disposition mark the hour with meditation upon God's Word and the offering up of prayers to the Father, the thoughts of the evil men (Micah 2:1) were directed toward the accomplishment of some evil purpose.
And they covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away: and they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
Even a man and his heritage…
The ancient land-laws of the children of Israel are the background of this. Upon their entry into Canaan, God had allocated, by the casting of lots, to each of the tribes of Israel their inheritance; and, in turn, the various families within the various tribes each received its God-given portion. This arrangement was sacred; and upon every golden jubilee, all sales, mortgages, and interim property deals were cancelled; and all of the land reverted to its original possessors, or their heirs. Such an arrangement, whatever may have been considered its shortcomings, prevented the building up of a landed nobility, which in every age and in all countries has resulted in the bitter and heartless oppression of the poor. In demanding a king, the Israelites took the first step in dismantling God's system. The ancient jubilees were no longer honored, as commanded in Lev. 25:13ff; and the result was the harsh oppression and robbery of the poor, as depicted in these verses. The kings, of course, were opposed to continuing God's system, and they frequently engaged in the exploitation of the poor upon their own behalf, as did Ahab, when he slew Naboth in Samaria and took away his inheritance (1 Kings 21f).
It should be noted that it was a covenant provision of the will of God which was wantonly violated and repudiated by Israel.
They covet fields, etc…
This is a violation of the Decalogue in the specific instance of Commandment X, in some ways one of the most significant in the whole Decalogue, because it indicated that, God regarded sins of thought as well as of action.F3 The apostle Paul seemed to have regarded this as the most difficult commandment in the ancient Law (Romans 7:7). With all respect for God's law at a very low ebb, disastrous conditions soon resulted. McKeating described the situation in those days thus:
"During the monarchy, whatever the theory of the matter, land did in practice pass out of the hands of the small landholders. When peasants fell into serious debt, they often had no option but to sell, and the laws of redemption and jubilee were a dead letter."F4
Therefore thus saith Jehovah: Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks, neither shall ye walk haughtily; for it is an evil time.
Thus saith Jehovah…
After the manner of all the prophets, Micah had begun by the ascription of his whole message to Jehovah; but he reiterated it again and again, as did they all. Carlson's paraphrase of this verse is:
"Jehovah will recompense those oppressors according to their doings. He will prepare a halter (yoke) for their necks. Instead of going about with their heads haughtily lifted, they will be led into captivity with haltered necks."F5
Keil also agreed that, "The yoke that the Lord will bring upon them is subjugation to the hostile conqueror of the land and the oppression of exile."F6
In that day shall they take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, [and] say, We are utterly ruined: he changeth the portion of my people: how doth he remove [it] from me! to the rebellious he divideth our fields.
In this, the rich and heartless oppressors of the poor, who have been robbed of their lands, by the powerful overlords of their society, shall be avenged. The evil oppressors have taken away the lands of the poor; very well, God will take it away from them.
Wolfe challenged the translation of the word for "parable," insisting that it means "by-word" or "reproach."F7 That might be correct, for did not Moses prophesy concerning Israel? that:
"Jehovah will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation that thou hast not known ...; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word, among all the peoples whither Jehovah shall lead thee away" (Deuteronomy 28:36-37).
To the rebellious he divideth our fields…
Deane identified the rebellious here as, The king of Assyria (or Babylon), named as being a rebel against Jehovah, whom he might have known by the light of natural religion (Romans 1:20).F8 Deane is correct except in his apparent supposition that great kings among the Gentiles, such as that of Assyria, would not have known God, except by the light of natural religion. On the other hand the entire ministry of Jonah culminated in the conversion of the entire city of Nineveh, including the king. Subsequent kings of Assyria were, therefore, in a genuine sense apostates or rebellious against God. There is hardly any question upon which there is more misunderstanding than that of the extent of God's revelation to the pre-Christian Gentile world. (See the discussion of this in my commentary on Romans, pp. 30, 34.)
Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast the line by lot in the assembly of Jehovah.
Some would limit this to the evil oppressors, but we believe that it applies to the whole nation of Israel. The reference to "casting the line by lot" is a reference to the manner of dividing the land of Canaan among the Israelites after God had led them into the possession of it under Joshua. The wicked nobility had destroyed that ancient system; and therefore God would take the entire land away from them through the instrumentality of conquest and deportation about to fall upon them. In short, Israel was here prophesied to lose "their land," the land of Canaan, because of their wanton violation of their covenant with God.
Therefore, it is a gross mistake to imagine that these words refer to some future time when God would again parcel out the land to the Israelites, excluding the evil exploiters. Ah no! As Keil said, "Such a thought cannot be arbitrarily taken for granted here."F9 Yes indeed, there was uttered a moment later, the promise of a victory for the people of God, but it must be applied strictly to the righteous remnant, and not to Israel in the fleshly sense. Mic. 2:12-13 are unmistakably Messianic. As Deane pointed out, some commentators see the meaning of this verse, as a threat that the ungodly element in the nation of Israel would die without leaving children; "But this seems far-fetched and inadmissible."F10 We surely agree.
Prophesy ye not, [thus] they prophesy. They shall not prophesy to these: reproaches shall not depart.
Due to difficulties in the text, some of the lines in Micah at this point are ambiguous in meaning; but the whole passage seems to refer to the objection against Micah's preaching registered by the false prophets who said, "Prophecy not." Certainly that is what happened during the preaching of Amos (Amos 7:10-13); and it most certainly occurred in the ministry of Micah also. Mays accepted such a meaning here:
"With an absolute assertion of their feeling of security, Micah's opponents deny the relevance of judgment to them. The disgrace of humiliating catastrophe, any misfortune that would leave them exposed to the insults of those who beheld their downfall, would never touch them."F11
McKeating understood the meaning to be, "The prophet has been dismissed as a `ranter' and he is flinging the epithet back at his critics."F12 Certainly, there is inherent in these verses something of the idea that, "The corrupt leaders, using the false prophets, sought to stop Micah; but they were totally unsuccessful."
Shall it be said, O house of Jacob, Is the Spirit of Jehovah straitened? are these his doings? Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?
One objection of the false prophets was that God had promised only good to Israel, therefore they would have none of the dire prophecies of doom from Micah; and Micah's retort, visible here, is that God would reward the people "who walked uprightly," a distinction that the false prophets had ignored.
But of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye strip the robe from off the garment from them that pass by securely [as men] averse from war.
My people. enemy ..…
Several things are inherent in the implications of this verse. God's people who do not obey him may no longer look to God as a friend, their status being changed to that of God's enemy! Furthermore, crimes against one's fellow man must be accounted as equivalent to crimes against God! The particular crime in view in this verse was, You strip the broad-dress-cloak from the upper garment, from those who pass by trustingly, turning away from war, i.e., peaceably disposed.F13
The whole verse is, "an allusion to Mosaic law (Exodus 22:25), according to which the coat taken from the poor as a pledge was to be returned before sunset."F14 Deane defended the the Hebrew text of the O.T. in this verse, stating that "there is no reason for altering it."F15 He also stressed the phrase "of late," indicating that the crimes of Israel for which they were to be punished were recent and that through habitual practice those sins had at that point become a way of life to the once chosen people. Amos had warned Israel against this very sin (Amos 2:8).
The women of my people ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their young children ye take away my glory for ever.
The outrage and presumptuous arrogance of Israel's sins are in this verse exposed as being particularly despicable in that they were perpetrated against defenseless women and children, the implication being that the women were widows and the children orphans.
This undoubtedly claimed the contravention of sacred law. The book of the covenant specifically included among its statutes: "You must not afflict any widow or orphan" (Exodus 22:21-22).F16
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your resting-place; because of uncleanness that destroyeth, even with a grievous destruction.
There are two possible meanings here. Ironside understood the address to be to the oppressed, instructing them not to continue in fellowship with what was unclean and unholy. He also extended the teaching to include Christians today. "To continue in fellowship with what is opposed to God's mind will result in desolation."F17 It can scarcely be denied that such an idea is in the passage.
"Perhaps here likewise the sense is that there can be no resting place in Canaan for those who have violated the terms of the covenant. Once more, Micah appears to envisage deportation as the divinely ordained destiny of these sinners against the covenant."F18
Likewise, Keil understood this verse as a repetition of God's announcement of punishment, "in the form of a summons to go out of the land into captivity."F19
McKeating paraphrased it, "Up and begone ... you that would defile yourselves, would commit any mischief, however cruel."F20 Scoggin, however, and others understand the primary thrust of the verse to be toward "the faithful few."F21 It appears to this writer that both meanings are surely in the passage, as Allen called it, "a double entendre."F22
If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood do lie, [saying], I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
Some of the more radical paraphrases of this verse give something of the shocking implications of this verse. Scoggin has, "This people wants a preacher who is a lying wind-bag, someone who will talk for wine and whiskey!"F23 Clark was correct in the discernment that the situation depicted in this verse is today visible all over the world. "There remains today a willing audience for anyone who panders to the vices of the age under the guise of proclaiming God's truth."F24
The verses of this sub-section (Micah 2:6-11) have the utility of authenticating the prophecies of captivity for God's people, following invasion and destruction of their capitals. It is simply amazing that some of the critical commentators miss this; in fact, all of them miss it. They freely admit, of course, that this little section is perfectly included in Micah as a part of the prophet's genuine message, but denying his reference to invasion, destruction, and captivity as prophecies, insisting that those "prophecies" were inserted at a later time by interpolators, editors, redactors, etc. What an impossible inconsistency lies in such views! The feature of this section is that the false prophets and leaders of the people opposed, contradicted, and tried to prevent the prophet from delivering his message from God, because the doom the prophet mentioned had already taken place? Certainly not. Impossible! The whole passage, therefore, has the utility of proving that Micah's denunciations were indeed true prophecies, not merely pretended prophecies imposed upon the text by some later scribe.
In this first major division of Micah (Mic. 1--2), this is the second exhibition of such a built-in proof of its authenticity. In Mic. 1, it will be recalled that the behavior of the prophet himself, who went about naked, rolled in the dust, wailed like a screaming jackal, and screeched like ostriches, etc. -- that behavior proved that it was a future event referred to by his denunciations.
Now, such internal evidences as these are incontrovertible. They constitute a corpus of solid evidence impossible to fake. Moreover, it is the type of evidence that the humblest and least pretentious among men will certainly see and appreciate. It is the type of evidence which a man following the plow would never overlook, but at the same time the kind of evidence to which the scholarship of the world is totally blind! How wonderful are the ways of the Lord! A fool could see it, but some can't!
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as a flock in the midst of their pasture; they shall make great noise by reason of [the multitude of] men.
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee..…
The actual meaning of this clause is revealed in the second member of the Hebrew parallelism in the next clause, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. This restricts the promise to the spiritual Israel, the new Israel to become visible in the kingdom of the Messiah. Some of the critical community have had a fit about so gracious a promise as this appearing in the midst of Micah's powerful threats of doom and punishment. Of course, as Clark said, There is no need to follow those scholars who regard this and Mic. 2:13 as a later insertion into the text.F25 There is no textual evidence whatever of any such thing as these verses being a gloss or an interpolation; but critical scholars blindly following one of their false rules, reject them anyway. The rule referred to is the conceit, accepted as axiomatic truth in some of the critical communities, to the effect that, No prophet could predict judgment and hope at the same time.F26 Of course, that rule has been absolutely repudiated by the most recent scholarship, as indicated by the same writer; but in the meanwhile, enemies of the Bible are still parroting their old and outdated objections.
This promise of hope belongs exactly where Micah placed it. It comes near the conclusion of section 1 of the prophecy (near the end of Mic. 1--2); and the same pattern of including a message of ultimate hope for the righteous remnant was followed by Micah also in the following two divisions of his prophecy.
I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah…
This is a prophecy of the widespread acceptance of Christianity throughout the world in the times of Messiah. Allen accurately discerned that this casts light upon the predictions in Mic. 2:1-5.F27 He also recognized that these verses fit perfectly into the larger framework of the whole prophecy, especially that of the chapter in which they are found. It dovetails neatly into those which precede, answering questions they (the verses) raise and developing hints they drop.F28
This place was a chief city of Edom, noted for its large flocks of sheep,F29 indicating, of course, that there would be many in the coming kingdom of Christ. Hailey's summary of these last two verses is, The dark cloud is penetrated by a Messianic promise: a remnant will be saved.F30 As Keil pointed out, The assembling together here presupposes a dispersion among the heathen, such as Micah had threatened in this section Mic. 1:11,16, and Mic. 2:4.F31 Thus, we have another example of how these verses are part and parcel of the whole prophecy, being exactly where they belong, and exactly where Micah placed them.
The breaker is gone up before them: they have broken forth and passed on to the gate, and are gone out thereat; and their king is passed on before them, and Jehovah at the head of them.
There are two possible meanings here. As Hailey indicated, one of the interpretations is that, "The Messiah is the breaker who breaks down the wall of sin that separated them from the Lord and made them bondsmen."F32 That meaning is surely in line with what Pusey and practically all of the older interpreters thought to be correct. "This promise therefore is an encouraging revelation from God, rather than the vain optimism of some unnamed false prophet."F33 Clark and others have supposed that, "This prophecy, as regarding the northern kingdom has never been fulfilled";F34 but this impression is due to a failure to recognize the prophecy as foretelling the kingdom of Christ, in which all the prophecies for both the old fleshy kingdoms (the whole house of Israel), as well as for the hopes of the Gentiles, were all gloriously fulfilled in a single event, that of the coming of Christ to lead men out of the captivity of darkness and sin. "The fulfillment of this prophecy commenced with the gathering together of Israel to its God and King by the preaching of the gospel."F35 Keil went onward to postulate something yet future from the times of Messiah regarding the fleshly Israel; but the prohibition of such interpretations is inherent in the truth that in the present dispensation, "There is no distinction between them (Jews) and us (Gentiles) (Romans 10:12). Therefore, we do not hesitate to declare that the total fulfillment of the glorious promise here must be found in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we identify, unequivocally with the church which he redeemed and purchased with his own blood.
Without, in any sense, rejecting or compromising the view expressed thus far under Mic. 2:13, we believe there is something else in it.
This would appear to be another instance of a word-play so consistently prevalent throughout Micah. The term breaker was applied by a number of historians to Assyria, having reference to the extraordinarily cruel and inhuman treatment of the peoples they conquered, enemies being impaled, flayed, or beheaded in great numbers.F36 Contrasted with that breaker, Micah promised that the great Breaker of mankind's darkness and sin would appear in the achievement of human redemption. If this discernment is correct, it still further ties the passage to all that Micah had just written, and makes it virtually impossible accurately to understand the passage as any kind of insertion into Micah's prophecy.
Footnotes for Micah 2
1: Gleason L. Archer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 753.
2: W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14, Micah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 17.
3: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 17.
4: Henry McKeating, Cambridge Bible Commentary, Micah (Philadelphia: at the University Press, 1971), p. 162.
5: E. Leslie Carlson, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 885.
6: C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 440.
7: Rolland E. Wolfe, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VI (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 912.
8: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 18.
9: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 442.
10: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 18.
11: James Luther Mays, Micah, A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), p. 69.
12: McKeating, op. cit, p. 164.
13: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit., p. 754.
14: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 445.
15: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 18.
16: Leslie C. Allen, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Micah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 298.
17: H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, reprint, 1979), p. 228.
18: Leslie C. Allen, op. cit, p. 298.
19: C. F. Keil, op. cit, p. 445.
20: Henry McKeating, op. cit., p. 165.
21: D. Elmo Scoggin, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville Broadman Press, 1972), p. 200.
22: Leslie C. Allen, op. cit, p. 298.
23: D. Elmo Scoggin, op. cit., p. 199.
24: David J. Clark, The New Layman's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 991.
26: Ralph L. Smith, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 139.
27: Leslie C. Allen, op. cit., p. 301.
29: Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1872), p. 200.
31: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 446.
32: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 200.
33: Gleason L. Archer, op. cit, p. 755.
34: C. Leslie Carlson, op. cit, p. 856.
35: C. F. Keil, op. cit, p. 449.
36: Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: William Benton, Publisher 1961), Vol. 2, p. 850.