This paper seeks to reflect upon the pericope of Micah 3:1-12 in light of the entire book of Micah and its historical and religious situation in Salvation History. To begin to develop a full understanding of this passage in its context, the paper will first recall the general message of the book and this passage’s placement within that book, some important repetitions, some comments on the historical and religious landscape of the time; some commentary on the passages proclamation and final canonical form; a summary and critique of the analysis of several Scripture scholars, and a final reflection by the author of the paper. A failure to properly understand what we can of the historical time, literary form, and themes of the entire book of Micah could easily lead one to misunderstand important parts of this text as part of God’s Revelation and providential care of His People. They would be further divisive to God’s people.
In the name of God, the prophet Micah addressed both kingdoms during the time of the late divided kingdom but focused on the Kingdom of Judah, especially her leadership and their behavior. The book itself testifies to the LORD coming to Micah, a man of the country, “in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Mic 1:1). In regard to the book’s general structure, it contains two major movements; each has their own unfolding of oracles of judgment and condemnation (Mic 1:2-3:12 and 6:1-7:6) and a concluding message of hope for salvation in God (Mic 4-5 and 7:7-20).
A familiar passage later in the book gives perhaps the best summary of the content of the prophet Micah: “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). Micah was very much aware of the sin of God’s people, he speaks of it very forwardly, and he works in service to God to lead Judah in understanding that God has distanced Himself from them because of their sin. The clear judgments and condemnations Micah declares are intended to serve as a corrective to bring God’s people back to Him through right worship and lives of justice. It is clear to Micah that it is only because of God’s complete and total fidelity to His people that His indictments and condemnations can rehabilitate them and bring about their conversion and restoration. The book concludes with beautiful liturgical acclamations of faith in God, calls to Him for mercy and deliverance, and a profession of confidence in God’s providential plans for the salvation of His People.
Micah 3:1-12 falls at the end of the first movement of indictments and punishments (Mic 1:2 – 3:12). In the first chapter, Micah speaks to all people and urges them to pay close attention (Mic 1:3) so they can hear the charges he levels for the Northern Kingdom, represented by its capital city Samaria, and the Southern Kingdom and her capital Jerusalem. Samaria will be laid to waste physically and spiritually due to their practice of idolatry (Mic 1:6-7). Micah goes on to speak in mourning that this sin of the North has also taken root in the people of Judah in Jerusalem (Mic 1:8-9). Micah prompts the people to mourn with him (Mic 1:16) in hopes that the evil coming upon the South in God’s justice will bring about her repentance (Mic 1:12). Otherwise, it seems Micah believes Judah will be destroyed like Samaria. In chapter two, Micah lays bare the sin of the people that will bring about their demise: actions of greed and injustice. These sins which they have plotted and worked out upon their beds (Mic 2:1), he identifies as coveting other’s land and inheritance upon death (Mic 2:2). There being false preachers teaching among the people (Mic 2:11). All these things are not only a rupture with the Law but are manifestations of divided hearts among God’s people.
Having gathered the landscape of the passages surrounding Micah 3:12, we begin to see some helpful context in best understanding the passage of this paper. In Micah 1-3, as a true prophet who has come “to declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins,” he systematically calls out the leadership of Judah (Mic 3:9-11), who should “know what is right” (Mic 3:2) but falsely believe God is with them and will protect them, all the while they carry out evil. In true charity, Micah announces that Judah will go the way of the Northern Kingdom because of their evil: “plowed like a field… and… reduced to rubble, and the mount of the temple to a forest ridge” (Mic 3:12). The leaders, priests, and prophets of Judah are busy about the things of the temple; but they have missed the mark of true worship and union with God “only to do justice and to love goodness” (Mic 6:8).
Micah never becomes totally fixated on judgment and punishment (Mic 1-3), which are necessary corrective, but always moves in the hope of God’s providential care of deliverance of His People. In Micah 4, there is great hope “in days to come” (Mic 4:1) that God will restore His people in peace, and this peace will flow from their right relationship with God, which will by its nature order justice and good in the world, especially for the weak (Mic 4:4-6). In the following chapter, the hope of restoration continues to build as Micah speaks of a ruler who will come from Bethlehem, “the least among the tribes of Judah” (Mic 5:1), who will “take his place as a shepherd” (Mic 5:3) to gather all of Israel in His strength and to rule over them in peace (Mic 5:3).
Within the passage of Micah 3:1-12 are found several word and theme repetitions, which all are bound up in relationship to one another. Firstly, we read more than a few times of “you leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel” (Mic 3:1, 9) and of those who “lead” (Mic 3:5, 11). In these passages, Micah, as a true prophet, is to “declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins” (Mic 3:8) and, therefore, levels charges against the leadership. This repetition speaks to the injustice and deceit done by the priests and false prophets, who, as the leadership, should “know what is right” (Mic 3:2). From this flow, there are two related themes and repetitions.
The priests and prophets, who have as their charge and responsibility to “know what is right” (Mic 3:2) actually “abhor justice and pervert all that is right” (Mic 3:9) and “hate what is good, and love evil” (Mic 3:2). He elaborates and names their evils: “leaders render judgment for a bribe, the priests teach for pay, the prophets divine for money” (Mic 3:11). These actions of theirs have cannibalized the people (Mic 3:2-3) and have “[built] up Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness” (Mic 3:10). These repeating words and themes make present something a bit subtler within the text. There is a contrast in the use of “you leaders” and “you rulers” (Mic 3:1, 9) with the repetition of “my people” (Mic 3:3, 5). This distinction makes ‘visible’ the spiritual rupture that has occurred in the leadership, who should be leading God’s people toward Him in truth and justice, but instead, have “lead [God’s] people astray” (Mic 3:5) and scandalized them with their actions. Therefore, punishment and destruction must come for all people (Mic 3:12) so all can be properly ordered beyond the formalities of the temple to the right relationship with God.
With the backdrop of the entire book, we see the passage of Micah 3:1-12 in light of a pattern of calls to “hear” (Mic 1:1, 3:1, 9, 6:1, 2, 9) where the LORD threatens His people for their persistent sin and evil. After each of these oracles of punishment come oracles of salvation and restoration. The punishment for sin and evil, sometimes symbolized in night/darkness (Mic 3:6, 7:8), is there so God’s People will allow Him to be their light. The darkness is there because of their sin and is designed to move them back to the light of the justice and truth of God. There is also the theme across the book of Micah of the LORD God razing cities and structures (Mic 1:6, 3:12, 5:9-12, 6:7). In the oracles of salvation, we read of the LORD building and restoring (Mic 4:1, 7:11) The entire book of Micah moves back and forth between punishment and salvation, he indicts them. He punishes them so that He can purify and restore them.
In the first movement of this pericope, Micah 3:1-4, the prophet calls out the “leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel” (Mic 3:1), those who lead God’s people and who should “know what is right” (Mic 3:1). He levels charges against them because they “hate what is good, and love what is evil” symbolically comparing their actions to a form of cannibalism (Mic 2-3) in the way they use human persons for their own selfish ends. This horrific symbolism really strikes at the expansive disconnect of leadership who should know and walk in justice and their behavior toward their fellow man. For this injustice of evil, God judges them through Micah and declares that He will no longer be intimately present to them and will not act upon their cries to Him (Mic 3:4).
In the next movement of the passage, Micah 3:5-8, the true prophet drills into those who bring upon themselves the title of prophet, with their own indictments for leading God’s people astray (Mic 3:5). Those who serve themselves, not God, by delivering nice messages of peace to those who satisfy and tend to their needs, and giving messages of conflict and trouble to those persons who do not (Mic 3:5). Punishment for these false prophets comes in the form of exposing their lie: “you shall have night, not vision, darkness, not divination; the sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be dark for them. Then the seers shall be put to shame, and the diviners confounded; they shall all cover their lips, because there is no answer from God” (Mic 3:6-7). While the false prophets have no understanding or explanation for the situation, Micah a true prophet called by God, will be “filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, with justice and with might; to declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins” (Mic 3:8). A true prophet makes known man’s crime and sin before God, for God is justice Himself, and this is the first step toward mercy and restoration.
In the last movement of this pericope, Micah 3:9-12, the prophet levels sweeping charges across all the leaders, priests, and prophets of Judah whom, he says, “abhor justice, and pervert all that is right” (Mic 3:9). Micah substantiates these indictments by making known that leaders “build up Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness! The priests teach for pay, the prophets divine for money” (Mic 3:10-11). The heart of the matter is addressed when Micah says about them: “they rely on the LORD, saying, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No evil can come upon us!” (Mic 3:11). These leaders carry out their evils under the guise of religion, and the prophet Micah calls out the temple establishment for their injustices. Because of this, Micah announces punishment: “Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, and the mount of the temple to a forest ridge” (Micah 3:12).
We see within this passage how God uses His prophet to move His people, throughout the unfolding of human history, out of their hardness of heart and away from the evils to which they’ve given themselves. The leaders of Judah lost sight of the practice of religion in their lives and the place of the temple as a means to give the right order to worship God in the temple and to bear witness to Him in the world with justice and goodness. Through Micah, God’s wisdom dictates all of Judah needs to be rattled out of their indifference and false security with the razing of Zion, Jerusalem, and the temple. In this act of God as a shepherd, He will help all His people to come to know their sin and it’s darkness. Thus, He will refocus and properly order their lives in His justice and righteousness.
An essential aspect of correctly reading and understanding prophetic literature is to recognize and be mindful of the literary form of passages. In Micah 3:1-12 is three consecutive oracles of judgment. A prophetic judgment speech may sometimes seem very black-and-white and final in its indictment and announcement of punishment. But, these kinds of oracles are intended to be a means to an end. This genre is intended to declare the reality of the situation: that there has been a breach of covenant relationship by God’s people (the indictment), and to move them to repentance and conversion before God must enact just justice upon the situation (the verdict of coming judgment action). This justice could be delivered in the near or distant future depending on the people’s response to the correction. As was stated previously, we see in the book of Micah waves of judgment and hope, especially with the message of hope and restoration in Micah chapter 4: “The Temple shall become once again the center of the land and of the world… A remnant will be at the origin of a new Israel, and its leader will be a true shepherd, a bringer of peace in the name of the Lord… Jerusalem will be renewed, and the sources of sin will be eliminated” (Laberge 250). But, the only way for God to shepherd His people in true charity to this end was to confront them of their sin through the prophet’s oracles of judgment, as we find in Micah 3:1-12.
In the first oracle of judgment (Mic 3:1-4), Micah begins his indictment by declaring those to whom he is addressing: “Hear, you leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel!” (Mic 3:1). In his indictment of the leadership, who should know and love what is right (Mic 3:1-2) do not lead in justice those in their care, but instead exploit those beneath them, feasting on them like cannibals (Mic 3:2-3)! Therefore, justice will come for them when they are in need and cry out to the LORD, “He will not answer them; He will hide his face from them at that time, because of the evil they have done” (Mic 3:4).
The second oracle of judgment (Mic 3:5-8) follows when Micah narrows in specifically on the group of false prophets as he tells them: “O you who lead [God’s] people astray, when your teeth have something to bite you announce peace, but proclaim war against the one who fails to put something in your mouth” (Mic 3:5). Micah thus charges the corrupt prophets for serving themselves by not speaking the truth of God’s message to His people. Just and corrective punishment will come for them when they have no visions and are left in the dark (Micah 3:6-7), and people will come to see in them a contradiction.
The third oracle in this pericope (Mic 3:9-12) becomes even more sweeping in its charge against the leadership, those: “who abhor justice, and pervert all that is right; who build up Zion with bloodshed… leaders render judgment for a bride, the priests teach for pay, the prophets divine for money, while they rely on the Lord, saying, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil can come upon us!”” (Mic 3:9-11). Micah then speaks of the coming justice and punishment for the leaders, especially the religious around the temple, who carry out their wicked deeds with the presumption that the Lord is in their midst: “Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, and the mount of the temple to a forest ridge” (Mic 3:12).
In regards to historical context, the book of Micah itself states in its superscription that Micah’s time of prophecy was during the “days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Mic 1:1) and therefore, the Navarre Bible’s commentary places his ministry around 727 – 700 BC (Casciaro 180). With that in mind, Micah would have begun his ministry just a few years before the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Samaria to the great nation of Assyria, and he would have been serving as a prophet at the time of Isaiah. But unlike Isaiah, who was connected to the line of David, Micah was from a small country town called Moresheth, “about twenty-three miles southwest of Jerusalem” (Collins 321), and there is no evidence that he was connected with the nation’s affairs or in a position of great social or political influence.
The historical time of Micah was a difficult one on several but interconnected fronts. These times were difficult with the growing power and active conquests of the Assyrian empire, Samaria having changed from a vassal state to a puppet nation, and the deep-seated fear of possible exile, should Assyria seek total conquest of Samaria and after that, the kingdom of Judah. “The Assyrian armies of Tiglath-pilesar III conquered Damascus in 732 and Samaria in 722. Ashdod fell in 711. Sennacherib occupied part of the coastal land, menacing Moresheth and the area… Jerusalem was besieged in 701” (Laberge 249). The Interpreter’s Bible explains the time was full of corruption in Judah: leaders were dishonest, and morals were also lacking among the common people. Due to these pressing external-type situations and the internal corruption among leadership and people alike, Micah, therefore, was greatly distressed at the people’s rejection of God in idolatrous practices and through social and religious injustices.
Micah sees in his time, in both the North and the South, that God’s people have become spiritually dull to covenant life and somewhat presumptuous of their security in the LORD (Mic 3:11). Micah gives over his life as a prophet to call the people of Israel and Judah to hear God’s message of indictments so that they might repent from their evil deeds before punishment comes. But it should be made clear that “sin is the reason for the coming punishment. The Assyrian king is but an unconscious instrument of God’s wrath” (Laberge 249) to work upon the hearts of His people. The prophet Micah calls out the nation’s idolatry, the social and political justice issues among God’s people, and, in a special way, the misleading of the leadership. Micah later becomes more specific in calling out the leadership for abuses of the poor, corrupt priests, false prophets, and syncretism of cult between the worship of YHWH and Canaanite gods in Judah.
Although there is disagreement among Scripture scholars about the dating of different parts of the book of Micah, there seems to be a good consensus that chapters one through three, which includes the focus passage of this paper (Micah 3:1-12), were the words of the prophets delivered during his historical life (727-700 BC). Historically, in the first three chapters, Micah calls out the evil of the people of God in both kingdoms (Mic 1:2), proclaims the fall of Samaria (Mic 1:6) because of God’s judgment of their sin, and warns the people of Judah through his funeral lament (Mic 1:8-16) that because of their similar evil, they may face God’s justice through Assyria. In chapters two and three, Micah, as a true prophet, speaks the truth in oracles of judgment to those of wealth and leadership in the capital city of Judah. In each of these three oracles, God brings into light the reality of the present injustices and, in the announcement of punishment, intends to correct the perversions of faith in social, political, and religious evils.
Regarding the book of Micah’s oral message to written canonical form, John J. Collins remarks, “as in the case of all the prophetic books… we must reckon with a process of edition and supplementation that may have gone on for centuries… The actual extent of the supplementation of the oracles of Micah is a matter of controversy” (Collins 321). The oral transmission of the messages of the prophet, the supplementation of the text with the adjusted application of some oracles to later historical events, and its final canonical form is something very much in discussion among scholars. There seems to be some general consensus from Collins, Laberge, and the Navarre Bible’s commentary that Micah 3:1-12, along with most all of the first two chapters, are original to Micah. Collins’s analysis of the book’s development and final canonical form concludes: “there can be little doubt, however, that the oracles underwent a process of transmission and that the book, like those of the other pre-exilic prophets, was given its present form after the Babylonian exile” (Collins 322).
Leo Laberge, in his treatment of Micah 3:1-12 in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, sees in this chapter three distinct but connected sections, wherein “the leaders are accused of perverting (distorting) judicial decisions and what is right. Leaders (3:1-4), prophets (3:5-8), and… again leaders, among whom the prophets are counted (3:9-12) are addressed” (Laberge 252). In the first part addressed to the leaders (Mic 3:1-4), Laberge explains that those leaders of the twelve tribes, who should know and enact good, do the opposite, and justice will come in God rejecting them by ignoring their cry and turning His face from them. The second part (Mic 3:5-8), Laberge says, is addressed to the false prophets who should make known God’s word but instead give messages tailored to filling their stomachs with food. The punishment will come in the forms of darkness, distress, and mourning. Laberge contrasts the false prophets (who will be speechless in the morning (Mic 3:6-7)) with the statement Micah makes of himself and his mission as an authentic prophet: “but as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, with justice and with might; to declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins” (Mic 3:8). Laberge’s comments on the last oracle (3:9-12) explain the sins of the leadership who have rejected God in justice, and explain the coming justice of God in the “allusions to Jerusalem and to Zion in vv 10 and 12… [which] insist on the punishment to come, in the terms used in chap. 1 for Samaria. Jerusalem will be ruined, and the mountain of the Lord (v 12) will not escape its fate” (Laberge 252). All this destruction, Laberge explains, is because of the evil of the leaders (Mic 3:12), who are so out of touch that they fear nothing and assume God is with them in their wickedness (Mic 3:11).
Laberge’s analysis of this pericope is especially helpful in clarifying how rebellious things have become in the South, with the leadership rejecting the covenant with God in their daily lives. He does well to make it clear that the leadership knows they are rejecting their responsibility of justice when they hate justice and choose evil. Micah must then announce God’s judgment upon the people, as He withdraws from them as they have from Him in their actions, and they must face the coming punishment they have chosen as their lot. Laberge also does well in his analysis to make clear the vast difference between the false prophets, who give messages of their own for their good (rejecting their vocation), and Micah, who faithfully delivers God’s message to the leadership, in total disregard for his own well-being! Overall, Laberge’s commentary on this pericope is a solid general overview of the situation to which the passage is speaking.
James Limburg, in the Interpretation commentary, explains that Micah 3:1-12 is an oracle of doom in three sayings that should be taken together. In Micah 3:1-4, Limburg explains that the prophet is using a rhetorical device to make his point regarding the leader’s injustices when he asks them: “is it not your duty to know what is right” (Mic 3:1)? Rather than explain the meaning of justice, Micah himself responds by “describing a situation where justice is not being maintained” (Limburg 174). Because of the leadership’s injustices, when trouble comes, God will not respond to their cry because they “hate what is good, and love evil” (Mic 3:2). In his treatment of Micah 3:4-8, Limburg explains that Micah’s charges of greed and self-interest of the theologian-types of the day “appears to be epidemic in Judean society (cf. 2:2; 3.11)” (Limburg 176). Limburg explains that the punishment for misleading God’s people will be darkness and silence for the spectrum of prophets, regardless of the form of divinization they practice, because the religious leaders have broken with God and their vocation. The last saying of this chapter, Micah 3:9-12, is addressed again to the leaders of Jerusalem. Limburg explains that Micah probably delivered this oracle to the leaders who “abhor justice” (Mic 3:9) in the midst of the great city of Jerusalem because he knew they had built the city with bloodshed and wickedness (Mic 3:10) in the forms of unfair wages and forced labor. Limburg concludes his commentary by explaining how unique Micah 3:12 is regarding the prophet’s direct address “because of you” in reference to the crowd present that there is no mention of the LORD in the pronouncement of destruction, and the stark reality that this great and marvelous city will be decimated and resemble a plowed field because it is spiritually dead. “The silence of the living God will be matched by the silence of a city which has died” (Limburg 179).
Limburg’s commentary on the first movement is helpful to understand that by the rhetorical question, Micah puts forward to the leadership, his intention is to move them to self-awareness of their vocation and to see the conflict within themselves as persons of God and leaders in their evil behaviors. The metaphor that follows speaks of their actions toward the people as though they were animals but in an illogical order to further show the discord between justice and the evil actions of the leaders. Limburg’s insights on the literary style and expression were helpful and brought out things other commentaries didn’t speak to directly. Limburg’s insights into Micah 3:12 are interesting as his analysis seems to understand the phrase “because of you” (Mic 3:12) not necessarily being addressed to the leadership (which the NJBC and IB agree upon), but to the people of his audience who heard his message. Limburg recognizes the passage is addressed to the leaders (Micah 3:9), then notes the change to third person in Micah 3:11 to speaking about civil leaders, priests, and prophets, and in Micah 3:12 the prophet “turns to his audience and addresses them directly: “because of you…” (Limburg 178). Perhaps more could be understood of the text from direct study of its original language and context regarding whether “because of you” (Micah 3:12) was addressed to the leadership or the audience of Micah. Perhaps Limburg believed Micah expected the ordinary men and women to bring about a reform of the leadership somehow after they fell away from leading the people in God’s justice and peace, and therefore, holds the everyday person just as accountable for the leadership’s evil.
The Interpreter’s Bible believes the oracle Micah 3:1-12 was delivered to a gathering of prominent persons of Jerusalem. Micah’s indictment of the leaders, who were misleading the nation, were both moving God to distance Himself from them and leading the city to ruin and destruction. In Micah 3:1-4, the commentary explains how Micah likens the leadership who have together rejected acts of justice for acts of evil to a butcher in his handling of animals to be harvested or to wild beasts of the field toward their prey. This commentary, unlike others, gives a nice treatment to the meaning of Micah 3:4, the evildoer’s “cry to the Lord,” which it says should be understood as a cry to God in prayer. But, their cry to God in prayer is not what we’d expect, it explains: “After they had devoured a man and his household (2:2), they praised the Lord for their system of free enterprise and thanked Him for His bounty. Micah reminded his audience that God does not listen to prayers from pseudoreligious individuals of this sort… He cannot bear looking at people who have reduced religion to such mockery” (Bosley 917). The Interpreter’s Bible’s analysis of Micah 3:5-8 explains how the prophet is addressing one of the major areas of corruption and racketeering in the city by calling out those who claim to be prophets, seers, and diviners but, in fact give no messages from God! “Although they had an opportunity to mediate high ideals, they had so abused their positions of leadership for a selfish end that the whole institution of prophecy was falling into disrepute” (Bosley 919). The commentary explains Micah 3:9-12 as the prophet’s judgment upon the various leaders of the nation, who had come to abhor justice, as it was “incompatible with their mania for exploitation and greed” (Bosley 919) by which they built the doomed city, trusting falsely God was with them, their city and its temple to protect and safeguard them.
The Interpreter’s Bible has done a fine job in its commentary to bring out the historical situation regarding the leadership, false prophets, and Micah as a true prophet of God in his passing judgment on the betrayal of God’s people, and himself announcing and the inevitable wrath at hand. It comments on Micah’s prediction of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem and even the Temple, which his hearers would have understood as heresy, are helpful to appreciate the radicalness of the prediction. Recalling that God hid His face and sat in silence (Mic 3:4,7), perhaps this explains why the announcement of Micah 3:9-12 comes from Micah, the man, trying to startle the leadership into seeing the inevitable end of a city built upon wickedness and blood (Mic 3:10). Although this destruction didn’t happen in Micah’s time a century later with the Babylonians, we must remember that as a prophet Micah had encountered the LORD God and His justice, and therefore the commentary explains that Micah “could not see the judgment of God upon Israel fairly executed without razing the iniquitous city whence evil radiated out to the farthest corner of the land” (Bosley 920).
Before concluding this paper, let us reflect back on this passage in a broader view and its meaning for us today because the passage says something very important about God’s steadfast nature. Despite the dark and destructive conclusion of this passage, there is still a note of hope in salvation present: “But as for me, I am filled with power, and with the spirit of the LORD, with justice and with might; to declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins” (Mic 3:8). Although God has withdrawn in some ways from the evil leaders, He maintains some presence and action among His people in His prophet, whom He sent and has filled with power, to call all to justice and devotion to God by turning away from evil. The note of hope in this passage is also in union with other movements of hope in the book of Micah that seem to trust in God’s providential and unwavering care and fidelity to His people. We do well to remember this amidst the sin and evil of our time: Salvation history shows God never abandons His People. Now, through His Church, God still works to lead those of His flock to respond to Him through right relationship and conversion amidst the trials of our day, to commune with Him, and to share in His life.
Also, in this passage, we hear of the evils going on among the leadership: under-the-table bribes for a favorable judgment, prophets giving messages based on their payment, and priests exploiting their teaching office to fill their pockets with coins. For these offenses against justice, God turns His face and is silent to their cries, and the prophets are left in darkness with nothing to say, all to manifest that one cannot be devoted to God without being just to your neighbor. God is Justice. This passage as a whole also gives special caution to those whom God has called into positions of leadership. They stand to lead God’s people (Mic 3:3,5), not their own. It also serves as a warning that leaders must not grow lax and fall into the presumption that God is with them in all things and no evil can touch them (Mic 3:11) just because they serve as leaders. As human persons, we all wrestle with concupiscence, and those in positions of any kind of leadership are not immune to this. It is good for our conscience to be pricked by passages like Micah 3:1-12 which confront us anew with the responsibility of the charge one may be given by God in a vocation of leadership, and how integral it is for them not only to “know what is right” (Mic 3:1) but to incarnate that truth in the whole of their lives (Mic 3:8), else they are but walking contradictions to both God and their neighbor.
Lastly, in this passage, we hear of the evils of the leadership. In its conclusion, we hear of the destruction of the temple (Mic 3:12). The leaders, while outwardly connected with and appearing concerned about the temple, in fact, left the temple daily to go about their evils (Mic 3:2, 5, 9). They lived lives of deep contradiction, especially the religious leaders. Their worship and service to God at the temple was not translated into their lives in their leadership and service of God’s People. Instead of justice and mercy reigning in their lives as they flowed from the temple, they exploited and devoured those in their care. It is obvious that to the leadership, the temple (and even God Himself) has no meaning or effect on them except as an object to be used in their exploits. It is fitting then that Micah announced that the temple mount would become a small ridge of trees (Mic 3:12). If the temple is taken away, perhaps the People of God might then be started at its loss and turn again toward the LORD. The temple serves no means of worship and communion with God if it does not orient and direct people’s lives in the world through justice and righteousness. Therefore, in our day, let us trust in the prophet Micah when he said, “in days to come, the mount of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain: it shall be raised above the hills, and peoples she steam to it…” (Mic 4:1). Let us trust in the LORD and His steadfast care: for what He gives and for what He takes away, that in all things, all persons may seek the LORD and walk in His ways.
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Collins, John J. “Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah.” Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004. 307-29. Print.
Laberge, Leo. “Micah.” Ed. Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Ed. Raymond E. Brown. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990. 249-54. Print.
Limburg, James. “The Book of Micah.” Ed. Patrick D. Miller Jr. and James Luther Mays. Interpretation. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. 159-98. Print.
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Senior, Donald, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan. The Catholic Study Bible: The New American Bible. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.