Study of the Prophets #26: Micah (Conclusion)

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue                            

Study of the Prophets: Micah (Conclusion)

This week we conclude our study of Micah with examination of Chapter 7:

Woe is me, for I am like the last pickings of the summer fruits, like the gleanings of the grape harvest

Micah compares the small number of righteous people of his generation to the sparsity of summer fruit (Metzudos)or to unripe figs of inferior quality that remain on the trees after the harvest (Rashi) He laments over his situation and cries out because he has been chosen as a prophet in a generation where righteous men are scarce (Rashi). He laments over the degree of wickedness of G-d’s people and the retribution G-d has planned for them (Radak); there is no cluster to eat;

The metaphor continues; there is no man whose deeds are honorable and good, and there is no one from whom good deeds may be learned (Radak) my soul earns for a ripe fruit. Micah yearns for someone to teach piety, justice, and integrity.  The devout one has disappeared form the land; and one upright among men is no more. This statement reiterates the previous statements and sadness over the dominance of evil.   They all lie in ambush [to shed] blood; they trap, each man his brother, with a net. There is no love between brothers; each tries to trap the other as a bird in a net (Radak).  They expect to benefit from the evil of their hands; the official asks [for bribes]; the judge [has a share] in the payment; and the nobleman expresses his selfish desires; and they plait them together. The best of them is like a thorn, the upright one, like a hedge of thistles. These statements further describe the pervasiveness of evil in the society; G-d’s chosen!  We are able to observe this social degradation in our country this very day! It is not difficult to teach on such evil and deception; injustice and bribery from our government down to the family unit; which cannot even be described as “nuclear” any longer!  There is a bill being introduced that is called “Stop Act” that is an attempt by a man who at least appears to have some integrity, to prevent senators and congressmen from spending their time raising money for candidates and start doing the work they were elected by the public to do in the House or the Senate. Interestingly, this individual brought to light the fact that many of the people who raised money for candidates retired very shortly after receiving the money!  The corruption in our country and world today can easily be compared to that which Micah laments throughout his ministry.

On the day of your expectation, your punishment will come; now you will become perplexed. On that day you will become perplexed and confused by the severity of the punishments and will not know what to do (Metzudos). Another perspective on this verse is that the people will become confused by thein accurate “prophecies” of the false prophets (Radak).

 Do not trust a friend; do not rely on an official; guard the doorways of your mouth from the one who lies in your bosom. Micah is describing the low moral standards of his time, and without knowing it, our time in the 21st century! In this generation, one cannot trust his friend or one who is in an official position, people who are expected to keep his word. One must guard his words from his wife because she too, will reveal his secrets (Metzudos). Alternatively, Micah is instructing the women not to place their confidence in their husbands (see Proverbs 2:17; the husband of her youth).

 For a son disparages [his] father; a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter -in-law against a mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the people of his household. Micah continues to elaborate on the pervasiveness of degradation in the society; even to the intimate family members. The Sages assert that this verse characterizes the period prior to the arrival of the Messiah, when arrogance will be great. They could not be more accurate. All we need do is look around, sometimes experiencing such disrespect and arrogance in our own family.  But the appropriate response to such problems is found in the next verse; As for me, I put my hope in HaShem and await the G-d f my salvation; my G-d will hear me. We can compare this section to that spoken of by Yahshua Himself in the B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 10:35-37 further instructs us on how to place our priorities: “Don’t suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Whoever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me. And anyone who does no take up his execution- stake and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Do not rejoice over me my enemy, for though I fell, I will rise! Micah now foretells the exchange that will take place between a contrite Israel and its oppressor nations (Rashi). Babylonia (Rashi) and Rome (Rashi; Radak; Abarbanel), do not rejoice over me, for though I have fallen into exile I will yet rise (Radak).

Though I sit in the darkness, HaShem is a light unto me!  The Jerusalem Talmud (Berachos 1:1) compares the redemption of Israel to the light of day. Just as the light slowly increases from dawn to sunrise, so too will the redemption start slowly and increase until it is complete, for the exile is the darkness and the redemption the light.

 I shall bear the fury of HaShem for I have sinned unto Him, The Israelites will bear the fury of G-d, Who in His anger with them for sinning against Him delivered them into the hands of the nations (Radak; Mahari Kara). By bearing G-d’s anger they will be purged from the sins they committed through repentance, and will be forgiven and restored. Spiritual Israel will then “wear fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear” (Rev. 19:7-8)

 until He will take up my cause and execute judgment for me; He will bring me out into the light; I will behold His righteousness. Until G-d will plead my cause and execute justice against those nations who oppressed the Israelites. Although this will occur at the time of redemption, during the exile the nation sits in darkness, unable to see the light of G-d’s righteousness. Only at the time of redemption will they realize His righteousness and kindness to the nation during the period of their exile, for it was all for their benefit. This is consistent with our “wilderness experiences” whereby we are not always able to see the reason behind what we are allowed to go through until “after the storm.” As we grow in our relationship to HaShem, we must do our best to internalize the words of Sha’ul (Paul) as he describes how Yahshua is glorified through our behaviors during the storms of our lives. Rom. 8:23 and 2 Cor. 12:8-10, the latter of which reads “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness” ‘Therefore, I am happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me. Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf f the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong.”

 Then my enemy will see the shame and will cover her, she who said to me, ‘Where is HaShem your G-d?’ My eyes will behold her; now she will be for trampling, like mud in the streets.” When the enemy sees the kindnesses that G-d shows true believers, they will bear their shame for taunting them and mocking the One True G-d. It will be evident to the nations that G-d was with His people all the time and that the hardships the Israelites had to endure were fir their ultimate benefit and for His glory.

The day to rebuild your fences, that day is far away in a distant time.  The enemy had chided Israel, much as people mock us today. They said “the day that you hope to rebuild your fences- the say of your salvation will never come. The rebuilding of your fences is a reference to Amos 9:11: “On that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David; and I will repair their breaches, and its ruins I will raise up and I will build it up as in the days of old.” There will indeed be a day that the nation will be rebuilt and the decrees of its enemies will be nullified.   That day exists! And he will come against you: from Assyria to the fortified cities; from Egypt to the [Euphrates] River; from the Western (Mediterranean) Sea; and from mountain to mountain. And the land will be desolate with its inhabitants, as the fruit of their actions. Micah replies to the mockings of the enemy. That day of redemption will indeed come, but your fate will be that the enemy will come to you to destroy you. They will first destroy our principal oppressor, Assyria, and then reach out to all the fortified cities (Rashi; Radak). From the fortified cities they will go to the Euphrates River, the [northeastern] boundary of the Land of Israel, and then to those who dwell along the sea that is in the west [Mediterranean], the western boundary of the Land of Israel, and then to those who swell in the mountains (Rashi). The land of the nations will be desolate because of the evil they did to Israel.

An alternative explanation of this verse, Micah is not foretelling the destruction of Israel’s enemies but the ingathering of the exiles that will take place on that day from the four corners of the earth (Targum Yonasan).

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage; let them dwell [in secure] isolation, in forest as in fertile field; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in days of old. Micah prays to G-d that He have mercy on the Israelites, and take them out of exile. He beseeches G-d to guide them with His staff as the shepherd leads his flock and that He protect them so they should not be driven by the rod of their enemies. He prays that Israel should dwell in secure isolation for one dwells alone only when he is secure. Those who live in fear of an enemy dwell together so that one may assist and protect the other. Bashan and Gilead were fertile pasture areas on the eastern bank of the Jordan and were inhabited in ancient times by the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh. The days of old refer to the days of Moshe, for it was he who allocated the portions to the tribes.

As in the days when you left the land of Egypt I will show it wonders. G-d responds to Micah’s prayer; Tell the nation that I will perform wonders for it as I previously did during the Exodus from Egypt. Although the generation of the forthcoming redemption will not be the actual generation that took part in the Exodus from Egypt, nevertheless they are referred to as such- when you left- for it is as if they too went out of Egypt. This is restated every year at the Passover Seder.  Citing this passage, the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 15:12) writes that the future redemption will occur during the month of Nissan, as did our redemption from Egypt.

 The nations will see and be ashamed of all their [unveiling] power; this is a continuation of G-d’s reply. This is what will occur at the time of the redemption (Ibn Ezra). Fast forward to Revelation chapter 20 verse 7 and forward: “ When the thousand years are over, the Adversary will be set free from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four quarters of the earth. Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is countless as the sand on the seashore; and they came up over the breadth of the Land and surrounded the camp of G-d’s people and the city He loves. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Adversary who had deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The nations that will assemble with Gog and Magog against Jerusalem will see the miracles that G-d will perform and will be put to shame, for they had relied on their own might to attack Jerusalem but were instantly shattered (Radak; Abarbanel). (See the above citation in Rev. 20:7-10.

 they will place a hand over [their] mouth; their ears will become deaf. They will be so astonished at the extent of the miracles that G-d will perform that they will be unable to vocalize the unbelievable sites they see (Malbim). They will ignore the tidings of Israel’s success as if they are deaf, for it distresses them (Metzudos).

 They will lick the dirt like the snake and like creatures that crawl on the ground; The prophet describes the final humbling of the nations and their awe and reverence for G-d and Israel (Radak). The nations will prostrate themselves before Israel and it will seem as though they are licking the dust of their feet as the snake licks the dust, which he eats as his food (Radak; Metzudos). Creatures that crawl on the ground are either snakes or worms or similar (Radak).

they will tremble from their places of confinement; They will tremble because of their cramped places of captivity. Places of confinement may also refer to their palaces to which they have run to try and escape.

 they will fear HaShem our G-d and be afraid of you. Who is a G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and overlooks transgression for the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His wraith forever, for he desires kindness. He will once again show us mercy; He will suppress our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Grant truth to Jacob, kindness to Abraham, as You swore to our forefathers in days of old. “

According to the Kabbalah, these last three verses correspond to the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that G-d taught Moshe after the sin of the Golden Calf. Micah, who has been the recipient of good tidings regarding Israel’s future (Metzudos) and has been told that the nation will be forgiven for its sins (Malbim), now offers praise to G-d. Micah addresses G-d(Radak) and praises Him for His promise of good fortune. (Metzudos). There is no one but You, You alone are G-d; Almighty One, Who is like You? (Malbim; R’Mendel Hirsch).

G-d is unlike any other power in the world. He patiently bears insult and sustains life that is used against Him, allowing time for humans to repent before it is too late. One should strive to emulate YHVH/Yahshua by training himself to be patient, bear insult, and even to be kind to those who hurt him and pray for his enemies. The B’rit Chadashah is replete with Yahshua’s instructions to humans on how to get along with each other and how to relate to Him. Furthermore, we are not worthy of the forgiveness and provision G-d bestows on us; what a G-d we are blessed to have as our Creator and Redeemer! The remnant of His heritage refers to those who will be found to be faithful servants; those Jews and Gentiles who are grafted into One stick in the Hand of YHVH/Yahshua according to Ezekiel 37:19. Further support for the belief that there will only be a remnant who are saved is found in Romans 9:27;11:5. The phrase “All Israel will be saved” in Romans 11:26 refers to those grafted into one stick in the hand of the Messiah; NOT geographical Israel and NOT all biological Jews. We need to get this straight in our minds through continued prayerful study of G-d’s Torah.

May we be found among those who will be included in the remnant chosen by grace; obedient to G-d out of love and awe for His greatness and sovereignty.

Micah followed the style used by Moshe to admonish the people and deliver G-d’s instructions/rebuke/encouragement. This prophecy ends on an encouraging note that although we must endure hardships and witness many storms and drought on our wilderness journey, there is a balm in Gilead to soothe our souls if we continue our race toward the prize to the finish (Hebrews 12).

Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai,

Rabbi Tamah Davis