Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
III. The Way to Salvation - Micah 6 and 7
Micah having declared to the people of Israel not only the judgment that will burst upon Zion on account of its sins, but also the salvation awaiting in the future the remnant saved and purified through the judgment, now proceeds, in the third and last address, to point out the way to salvation, by showing that they bring punishment upon themselves by their ingratitude and resistance to the commandments of God, and that it is only through sincere repentance that they can participate in the promised covenant mercies.
Exhortation to Repentance, and Divine Threatening - Micah 6
In the form of a judicial contest between the Lord and His people, the prophet holds up before the Israelites their ingratitude for the great blessings which they have received from God (Mic 6:1-5), and teaches them that the Lord does not require outward sacrifices to appease His wrath, but righteousness, love, and humble walk with God (Mic 6:6-8), and that He must inflict severe punishment, because the people practise violence, lying, and deceit instead (Mic 6:9-14).
Introduction. - Announcement of the lawsuit which the Lord will have with His people. - Mic 6:1. "Hear ye, then, what Jehovah saith; Rise up, contend with the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice! Mic 6:2. Hear ye, O mountains, Jehovah's contest; and ye immutable ones, ye foundations of the earth! For Jehovah has a contest with His people; and with Israel will He contend." In Mic 6:1 the nation of Israel is addressed in its several members. They are to hear what the Lord says to the prophet, - namely, the summons addressed to the mountains and hills to hear Jehovah's contest with His people. The words "strive with the mountains" cannot be understood here as signifying that the mountains are the objects of the accusation, notwithstanding the fact that ריב את־פ signifies to strive or quarrel with a person (Jdg 8:1; Isa 50:8; Jer 2:9); for, according to Mic 6:2, they are to hear the contest of Jehovah with Israel, and therefore are to be merely witnesses on the occasion. Consequently את can only express the idea of fellowship here, and ריב את must be distinguished from ריב עם in Mic 6:2 and Hos 4:1, etc. The mountains and hills are to hearken to the contest (as in Deu 32:1 and Isa 1:2), as witnesses, "who have seen what the Lord has done for Israel throughout the course of ages, and how Israel has rewarded Him for it all" (Caspari), to bear witness on behalf of the Lord, and against Israel. Accordingly the mountains are called האתנים, the constantly enduring, immutable ones, which have been spectators from time immemorial, and מוסדי ארץ, foundations of the earth, as being subject to no change on account of their strength and firmness. In this respect they are often called "the everlasting mountains" (e.g., Gen 49:26; Deu 33:15; Psa 90:2; Hab 3:6). Israel is called ̀‛ammı̄ (Jehovah's people) with intentional emphasis, not only to indicate the right of Jehovah to contend with it, but to sharpen its own conscience, by pointing to its calling. Hithvakkach, like hivvâkhach in the niphal in Isa 1:18.
Mic 6:3-5 open the suit. Mic 6:3. "My people! what have I done unto thee, and with what have I wearied thee? Answer me. Mic 6:4. Yea, I have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, redeemed thee out of the slave-house, and sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Mic 6:5. My people! remember now what Balak the king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim to Gilga; that thou mayest discern the righteous acts of Jehovah." The Lord opens the contest with the question, what He has done to the nation, that it has become tired of Him. The question is founded upon the fact that Israel has fallen away from its God, or broken the covenant. This is not distinctly stated, indeed; but it is clearly implied in the expression הלאתיך, What have I done, that thou hast become weary of me? לאה, in the hiphil, to make a person weary, more particularly to weary the patience of a person, either by demands of too great severity (Isa 43:23), or by failing to perform one's promises (Jer 2:31). ענה בי, answer against me, i.e., accuse me. God has done His people no harm, but has only conferred benefits upon them. Of these He mentions in Mic 6:4 the bringing up out of Egypt and the guidance through the Arabian desert, as being the greatest manifestations of divine grace, to which Israel owes its exaltation into a free and independent nation (cf. Amo 2:10 and Jer 2:6). The kı̄ (for) may be explained from the unexpressed answer to the questions in Mic 6:3 : "Nothing that could cause dissatisfaction with me;" for I have done nothing but confer benefits upon thee. To set forth the leading up out of Egypt as such a benefit, it is described as redemption out of the house of bondage, after Exo 20:2. Moreover, the Lord had given His people prophets, men entrusted with His counsels and enlightened by His Spirit, as leaders into the promised land: viz., Moses, with whom He talked mouth to mouth, as a friend to his friend (Num 12:8); and Aaron, who was not only able as high priest to ascertain the counsel and will of the Lord for the sake of the congregation, by means of the "light and right," but who also, along with Moses, represented the nation before God (Num 12:6; Num 14:5, Num 14:26; Num 16:20; Num 20:7 ff., and 29). Miriam, the sister of the two, is also mentioned along with them, inasmuch as she too was a prophetess (Exo 15:20). In Mic 6:5 God also reminds them of the other great display of grace, viz., the frustration of the plan formed by the Moabitish king Balak to destroy Israel by means of the curses of Balaam (Numbers 22-24). יעץ refers to the plan which Balak concocted with the elders of Midian (Num 22:3 ff.); and ענה, Balaam's answering, to the sayings which this soothsayer was compelled by divine constraint to utter against his will, whereby, as Moses says in Deu 23:5-6, the Lord turned the intended curse into a blessing. The words "from Shittim (Israel's last place of encampment beyond Jordan, in the steppes of Moab; see at Num 22:1 and Num 25:1) to Gilgal" (the first place of encampment in the land of Canaan; see at Jos 4:19-20, and Jos 5:9) do not depend upon זכר־נא, adding a new feature to what has been mentioned already, in the sense of "think of all that took place from Shittim to Gilgal," in which case זכר־נא would have to be repeated in thought; but they are really attached to the clause וּמה עבה וגו, and indicate the result, or the confirmation of Balaam's answer. The period of Israel's journeying from Shittim to Gilgal embraces not only Balak's advice and Balaam's answer, by which the plan invented for the destruction of Israel was frustrated, but also the defeat of the Midianites, who attempted to destroy Israel by seducing it to idolatry, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, the entrance into the promised land, and the circumcision at Gilgal, by which the generation that had grown up in the desert was received into the covenant with Jehovah, and the whole nation reinstated in its normal relation to its God. Through these acts the Lord had actually put to shame the counsel of Balak, and confirmed the fact that Balaam's answer was inspired by God.
(Note: With this view, which has already been suggested by Hengstenberg, the objections offered by Ewald, Hitzig, and others, to the genuineness of the words "from Shittim to Gilgal," the worthlessness of which has been demonstrated by Caspari, fall to the ground.)
By these divine acts Israel was to discern the tsidqōth Yehōvâh; i.e., not the mercies of Jehovah, for tsedâqâh does not mean mercy, but "the righteous acts of Jehovah," as in Jdg 5:11 and Sa1 12:7. This term is applied to those miraculous displays of divine omnipotence in and upon Israel, for the fulfilment of His counsel of salvation, which, as being emanations of the divine covenant faithfulness, attested the righteousness of Jehovah.
Israel cannot deny these gracious acts of its God. The remembrance of them calls to mind the base ingratitude with which it has repaid its God by rebelling against Him; so that it inquires, in Mic 6:6, Mic 6:7, with what it can appease the Lord, i.e., appease His wrath. Mic 6:6. "Wherewith shall I come to meet Jehovah, bow myself before the God of the high place? Shall I come to meet Him with burnt-offerings, with yearling calves? Mic 6:7. Will Jehovah take pleasure in thousands of rams, in ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give up my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" As Micah has spoken in Mic 6:3-5 in the name of Jehovah, he now proceeds, in Mic 6:6, Mic 6:7, to let the congregation speak; not, however, by turning directly to God, since it recognises itself as guilty before Him, but by asking the prophet, as the interpreter of the divine will, what it is to do to repair the bond of fellowship which has been rent in pieces by its guilt. קדּם does not here mean to anticipate, or come before, but to come to meet, as in Deu 23:5. Coming to meet, however, can only signify humble prostration (kâphaph) before the divine majesty. The God of the high place is the God dwelling in the high place (Isa 33:5; Isa 57:15), or enthroned in heaven (Psa 115:3). It is only with sacrifices, the means appointed by God Himself for the maintenance of fellowship with Him, that any man can come to meet Him. These the people offer to bring; and, indeed, burnt-offerings. There is no reference here to sin-offerings, through which disturbed or interrupted fellowship could be restored, by means of the expiation of their sins; because the people had as yet no true knowledge of sin, but were still living under the delusion that they were standing firmly in the covenant with the Lord, which they themselves had practically dissolved. As burnt-offerings, they would bring calves and rams, not because they formed the only material, but because they were the material most usually employed; and, indeed, calves of a year old, because they were regarded as the best, not because no others were allowed to be offered, as Hitzig erroneously maintains; for, according to the law, calves and lambs could be offered in sacrifice even when they were eight days old (Lev 22:27; Exo 22:29). In the case of the calves the value is heightened by the quality, in that of the rams by the quantity: thousands of rams; and also myriads of rivers of oil (for this expression, compare Job 20:17). Oil not only formed part of the daily minchah, but of the minchah generally, which could not be omitted from any burnt-offerings (compare Numbers 15:1-16 with ch. 28 and 29), so that it was offered in very large quantities. Nevertheless, in the consciousness that these sacrifices might not be sufficient, the people would offer the dearest thing of all, viz., the first-born son, as an expiation for their sin. This offer is founded, no doubt, upon the true idea that sacrifice shadows forth the self-surrender of man to God, and that an animal is not a sufficient substitute for a man; but this true idea was not realized by literal (bodily) human sacrifices: on the contrary, it was turned into an ungodly abomination, because the surrender which God desires is that of the spirit, not of the flesh. Israel could and should have learned this, not only from the sacrifice of Isaac required by God (Genesis 22), but also from the law concerning the consecration or sanctification of the first-born (Exo 13:12-13). Hence this offer of the nation shows that it has no true knowledge of the will of its God, that it is still entangled in the heathen delusion, that the wrath of God can be expiated by human sacrifices (cf. Kg2 3:27; Kg2 16:3).
The prophet therefore proceeds in Mic 6:8 to overthrow these outward means of reconciliation with God, and reminds the people of the moral demands of the law. Mic 6:8. "They have told thee, O man, what is good, and what Jehovah requires of thee, simply to do right, and love good, and walk humbly with thy God." הגּיד, impersonal, "one has told," or they have told thee, namely Moses in the law. The opinion that Jehovah should be supplied as the subject is a very improbable one, for the simple reason that Jehovah is expressly mentioned in the second dependent clause. The use of כּי אם, nisi, as in the similar connection of thought in Deu 10:12, may be accounted for from the retrospective allusion to the gifts mentioned by the people: not outward sacrifices of any kind, but only the fulfilment of three following duties: namely, above all things, doing righteousness and exercising love. These two embrace all the commandments of the second table, of whose fulfilment Israel thought so little, that it was addicted to the very opposite, - namely, injustice, oppression, and want of affection (vid., Mic 2:1-2, Mic 2:8; Mic 3:2-3, Mic 3:9 ff., Mic 6:10 ff.). There is also a third: humble walk with God, i.e., in fellowship with God, as Israel, being a holy priestly nation, ought to walk. Without these moral virtues, sacrificial worship was a spiritless opus operatum, in which God had no pleasure (see at Sa1 15:22 and Hos 6:6).
But because Israel is altogether wanting in these virtues, the Lord must threaten and punish. Mic 6:9. "The voice of Jehovah, to the city it cries, and wisdom has thy name in its eye; hear ye the rod, and who appoints it!" With these words Micah introduces the threatening and reproachful words of the Lord. קוך יהוה is not to be taken by itself, as an exclamation, "Hark! voice of the Lord!" as in Isa 13:4; Isa 40:6, etc. (Umbreit), but must be connected with what follows, in accordance with the accents. Whilst the prophet tells the people in Isa 40:8 what Jehovah requires, he introduces the following threat with "voice of Jehovah," etc., to give the greater emphasis to the reproof, by intimating that it is not his own voice, but Jehovah's, which is speaking now. "To the city," i.e., to the chief city of the kingdom, viz., Jerusalem. The sentence which follows, and which has been explained in very different ways, has the same object. תּוּשׁיּה, a word borrowed from the Chokmah-literature (Proverbs and Job), both here and Isa 28:29, formed from ישׁ or the root ושׁי (ושׁה), in the sense of subsistentia, substantia, then mostly vera et realis sapientia (see Delitzsch on Job 26:3). יראה שׁמך is taken by many as a relative clause, "Blessed is he who sees Thy name," i.e., gives heed to Thy revelation, Thy government of the universe; but if this were the sense, the relative could not have been omitted, or the infinitive ראת must have been used. תּוּשׁיּה is rather to be taken as the object, and שׁמך as the subject: Thy name sees wisdom, i.e., has the true wisdom of life in sight (ראה as in Gen 20:10 and Psa 66:18). There is no necessity for the conjecture יראה for יראה (Ewald and Hitzig); and notwithstanding the fact that ירא is adopted in all the ancient versions, it is unsuitable, since the thought "wisdom is to fear Thy name" would be a very strange one in this connection, unless we could paraphrase the name into "word of the person speaking." For other explanations, see Caspari. Hear ye, i.e., observe, the rod, viz., the judgment threatened by the Lord, and appointed for His rebellious nation. The reference is to the imperial power of Assyria, which Isaiah also describes in Isa 10:5, Isa 10:24, as the matteh and shēbhet by which Israel is smitten. The suffix to יעדהּ refers to שׁבט, which is construed here as a feminine; יעד denotes the appointment of an instrument of punishment, as in Jer 47:7.
The threatening words commence in Mic 6:10; Mic 6:10-12 containing a condemnation of the prevailing sins. Mic 6:10. "Are there yet in the house of the unjust treasures of injustice, and the ephah of consumption, the cursed one? Mic 6:11. Can I be clean with the scale of injustice, and with a purse with stones of deceit? Mic 6:12. That their rich men are full of wickedness, and their inhabitants speak deceit, and their tongue is falseness in their mouth." The reproof is dressed up in the form of a question. In the question in Mic 6:10 the emphasis is laid upon the עוד, which stands for that very reason before the interrogative particle, as in Gen 19:12, the only other place in which this occurs. אשׁ, a softened form for ישׁ, as in Sa2 14:19. Treasures of wickedness are treasures acquired through wickedness or acts of injustice. The meaning of the question is not, Are the unjust treasures not yet removed out of the house, not yet distributed again? but, as Mic 6:10 and Mic 6:11 require, Does the wicked man still bring such treasures into the house? does he still heap up such treasures in his house? The question is affirmative, and the form of a question is chosen to sharpen the conscience, as the unjust men to whom it is addressed cannot deny it. איפת רזון, ephah of consumption or hungriness, analogous to the German expression "a hungry purse," is too small an ephah (cf. Deu 25:14; Amo 8:5); the opposite of א שׁלמה (Deu 25:15) or א צדק (Lev 19:36), which the law prescribed. Hence Micah calls it זעוּמה = זעוּם יהוה in Pro 22:14, that which is smitten by the wrath of God (equivalent to cursed; cf. Num 23:7; Pro 24:24). Whoever has not a full ephah is, according to Deu 25:16, an abomination to the Lord. If these questions show the people that they do not answer to the demands made by the Lord in Mic 6:8, the questions in Mic 6:11 also teach that, with this state of things, they cannot hold themselves guiltless. The speaker inquires, from the standpoint of his own moral consciousness, whether he can be pure, i.e., guiltless, if he uses deceitful scales and weights, - a question to which every one must answer No. It is difficult, however, to decide who the questioner is. As Mic 6:9 announces words of God, and in Mic 6:10 God is speaking, and also in Mic 6:12, Mic 6:13, it appears as though Jehovah must be the questioner here. But אזכּה does not tally with this. Jerome therefore adopts the rendering numquid justificabo stateram impiam; but זכה in the kal has only the meaning to be pure, and even in the piel it is not used in the sense of niqqh, to acquit. This latter fact is sufficient to overthrow the proposal to alter the reading into piel. Moreover, "the context requires the thought that the rich men fancy they can be pure with deceitful weights, and a refutation of this delusive idea" (Caspari). Consequently the prophet only can raise this question, namely as the representative of the moral consciousness; and we must interpret this transition, which is so sudden and abrupt to our ears, by supplying the thought, "Let every one ask himself," Can I, etc. Instead of רשׁע we have the more definite mirmh in the parallel clause. Scales and a bag with stones belong together; 'ăbhanı̄m are the stone weights (cf. Lev 19:36; Deu 25:13) which were carried in a bag (Pro 16:11). In Mic 6:12 the condemnation of injustice is widened still further. Whereas in the first clause the rich men of the capital (the suffix pointing back to עיר in Mic 6:9), who are also to be thought of in Mic 6:10, are expressly mentioned, in the second clause the inhabitants generally are referred to. And whilst the rich are not only charged with injustice or fraud in trade, but with châmâs, violence of every kind, the inhabitants are charged with lying and deceit of the tongue. Leshōnâm (their tongue) is not placed at the head absolutely, in the sense of "As for their tongue, deceit is," etc. Such an emphasis as this is precluded by the fact that the preceding clause, "speaking lies," involves the use of the tongue. Leshōnâm is the simple subject: Their tongue is deceit or falsehood in their mouth; i.e., their tongue is so full of deceit, that it is, so to speak, resolved into it. Both clauses express the thought, that "the inhabitants of Jerusalem are a population of liars and cheats" (Hitzig). The connection in which the verse stands, or the true explanation of אשׁר, has been a matter of dispute. We must reject both the combination of Mic 6:12 and Mic 6:13 ("Because their rich men, etc., therefore I also," etc.), and also the assumption that Mic 6:12 contains the answer to the question in Mic 6:10, and that אשׁר precedes the direct question (Hitzig): the former, because Mic 6:12 obviously forms the conclusion to the reproof, and must be separated from what precedes it; the latter, because the question in Mic 6:11 stands between Mic 6:10 and Mic 6:12, which is closely connected with Mic 6:10, and Mic 6:12 also contains no answer to Mic 6:10, so far as the thought is concerned, even if the latter actually required an answer. We must rather take אשׁר as a relative, as Caspari does, and understand the verse as an exclamation, which the Lord utters in anger over the city: "She, whose rich men are full," etc. "Angry persons generally prefer to speak of those who have excited their wrath, instead of addressing their words to them."
The threat of punishment follows in Mic 6:13-16. Mic 6:13. "So also now do I smite thee incurably, laying waste because of thy sins. Mic 6:14. Thou wilt eat, and not be satisfied; and thine emptiness remains in thee; and thou wilt remove, and not save; and what thou savest I will give to the sword. Mic 6:15. Thou wilt sow, and not reap; thou wilt tread olives, and not anoint thyself with oil; new wine, and not drink wine." With וגם־אני the threatened punishment is represented as the consequence of, or retribution for, the sins of the people. החליתי הך: literally, I have made the smiting thee sick, i.e., smitten thee with incurable sickness (for hechelaah, see at Nah 3:19 and Jer 30:12; and for the fact itself, Isa 1:5-6). The perfect expresses the certainty of the future. The suffix refers to the people, not of the capital only, but, as we may see from Mic 6:16, of the whole of the kingdom of Judah. Hashmēm (an uncontracted form; see Ges. 67, Anm. 10), devastando, is attached to the preceding verb in an adverbial sense, as a practical exemplification, like the שׁבע in Lev 26:18, Lev 26:24, Lev 26:28, which Micah had in his eye at the time. For the individualizing of the punishment, which follows, rests upon Lev 26:25-26, and Deu 28:39-40. The land is threatened with devastation by the foe, from which the people flee into fortresses, the besieging of which occasions starvation. For the fulfilment of this, see Jer 52:6 (cf. Kg2 6:25). ישׁח, ἁπ.λεγ., hollowness, or emptiness of stomach. ותסּג, thou mayest remove, i.e., carry off thy goods and family, yet wilt thou not save; but even if thou shouldst save anything, it will fall into the hands of the enemy, and be destroyed by his sword (vid., Jer 50:37). The enemy will also partly consume and partly destroy the corn and field-fruit, as well as the stores of oil and wine (vid., Amo 5:11). ולא תסוּך שׁמן is taken verbatim from Deu 28:40.
This trouble the people bring upon themselves by their ungodly conduct. With this thought the divine threatening is rounded off and closed. Mic 6:16. "And they observe the statutes of Omri, and all the doings of the house of Ahab, and so ye walk in their counsels; that I may make thee a horror, and her inhabitants a hissing, and the reproach of my people shall ye bear." The verse is attached loosely to what precedes by Vav. The first half corresponds to Mic 6:10-12, the second to Mic 6:13-15, and each has three clauses. השׁתּמּר, as an intensive form of the piel, is the strongest expression for שׁמר, and is not to be taken as a passive, as Ewald and others suppose, but in a reflective sense: "It (or one) carefully observes for itself the statutes of Omri instead of the statutes of the Lord" (Lev 20:23; Jer 10:3). All that is related of Omri, is that he was worse than all his predecessors (Kg1 16:25). His statutes are the Baal-worship which his son and successor Ahab raised into the ruling national religion (Kg1 16:31-32), and the introduction of which is attributed to Omri as the founder of the dynasty. In the same sense is Athaliah, who was a daughter of Jezebel, called a daughter of Omri in Ch2 22:2. All the doing of the house of Ahab: i.e., not only its Baal-worship, but also its persecution of the Lord's prophets (Kg1 18:4; Kg1 22:27), and the rest of its sins, e.g., the robbery and murder committed upon Naboth (1 Kings 21). With ותּלכוּ the description passes over into a direct address; not into the preterite, however, for the imperfect with Vav rel. does not express here what has been the custom in both the past and present, but is simply the logical deduction from what precedes, "that which continually occurs." The suffix attached to בּמעצותם refers to Ahab and Omri. By למען the punishment is represented as intentionally brought about by the sinners themselves, to give prominence to the daring with which men lived on in godlessness and unrighteousness. In אתך the whole nation is addressed: in the second clause, the inhabitants of the capital as the principal sinners; and in the third, the nation again in its individual members. שׁמּה does not mean devastation here; but in parallelism with שׁרקה, horror, or the object of horror, as in Deu 28:37; Jer 25:9; Jer 51:37, and Ch2 29:8. Cherpath ‛ammı̄: the shame which the nation of God, as such, have to bear from the heathen, when they are given up into their power (see Eze 36:20). This shame will have to be borne by the several citizens, the present supporters of the idea of the nation of God.