Lessons From the Scriptures: Micah 1:1–7:20
Jehovah’s Justice and Name Exalted
THE prophet Micah lived in the eighth century B.C.E., a time of idolatry and injustice in Israel and Judah. Conditions then so closely parallel those prevailing today that Micah’s messages and warnings are pertinent to our time. And the positive tidings he also presented give us real hope in a world dominated by Satan.—1 John 5:19.
Micah’s message is perhaps best summed up in the following three expressions: “Woe . . . to those practicing what is bad.” “What is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” “We, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God . . . forever.”—Micah 2:1; 6:8; 4:5.
Jehovah does not endlessly tolerate wrongdoers. Idolatry and revolt are rampant in Israel and Judah. Hence, Jehovah serves as a witness against them. Their images will be crushed. The idolaters will become ‘bald like an eagle’ and will suffer exile.—1:1-16.
For the faithful, Jehovah proves to be the God of hope. Scheming despots are denounced as thieves and robbers. Calamity will strike them. Yet a promise of restoration is made to “the remaining ones of Israel.” “In unity I shall set them, like a flock in the pen,” says Jehovah.—2:1-13.
Jehovah expects justice to be practiced by those shouldering responsibility among his people. To the abusive leaders of Israel, it is said: “Is it not your business to know justice? You haters of what is good and lovers of badness, tearing off their skin from people and their organism from off their bones.” Micah, “with the spirit of Jehovah, and of justice and mightiness,” pronounces God’s judgments against them. The unjust leaders, he says, judge for bribes, the priests instruct for a price, and the prophets practice divination for money. Therefore, Jerusalem “will become mere heaps of ruins.”—3:1-12.
A Message of Hope
True worship will be practiced earth wide. Micah prophesies that “in the final part of the days,” people of many nations will be instructed in Jehovah’s ways. God will render judgment, and war will be no more. True worshipers ‘shall walk in the name of Jehovah their God forever.’ In spite of banishment and pain, his people will be delivered out of the palm of their enemies.—4:1-13.
We can have confidence in God’s promised Deliverer. A ruler out of Bethlehem will shepherd in Jehovah’s strength. “Deliverance from the Assyrian” is foretold. A remnant of true worshipers will become like refreshing dew and copious showers, and all forms of false religion and demonism will be uprooted.—5:1-15.
Jehovah’s Justice Will Prevail
Jehovah expects his people to abide by his just and righteous standards. What has he done to deserve shabby worship? He has done good things for his people. ‘And what is Jehovah asking back but that they exercise justice, love kindness, and be modest in walking with their God?’ If they continue in their wicked violence and exploitation, they can expect only his adverse judgment.—6:1-16.
We should trust in Jehovah’s justice and mercy. Even family members will become enemies. But Micah says: “I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” The prophet trusts in Jehovah’s justice, knowing that God “will certainly not hold onto his anger forever, for he is delighting in loving-kindness.”—7:1-20.
Lessons for today: Jehovah expects his people to exercise justice. With reference to business practices, in effect the Christian must ask himself: “Can I be morally clean with wicked scales and with a bag of deceptive stone weights?” (6:11) In these last days, all of Jehovah’s people must contribute to the unity of his earthly organization and accept instruction in his ways of peace. We should do everything possible to exalt Jehovah’s name and promote true worship.—2:12; 4:1-4.
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BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ 1:16—In Israel, baldness was associated with shame, mourning, and distress. (Isaiah 3:24-26; 15:2, 3; Jeremiah 47:5) Some pagan nations made a practice of shaving their heads bald in a time of sorrow for a dead relative. While natural baldness was not considered unclean under the Law, Israelites were not to shave their heads in mourning because they were “a holy people to Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 14:1, 2) However, Micah told Israel and Judah to shear off their hair because of their sinful idolatrous course that disqualified them as a holy people and made them and their offspring deserving of captivity. The Hebrew word here translated “eagle” may refer to the griffon vulture, which has only some soft white down on its head. Though not of the same species as the eagle, it is considered to be of the same family.
○ 2:12—These words find present-day fulfillment in spiritual Israel. (Galatians 6:16) Particularly from 1919 onward, the way was made clear for the anointed remnant to escape from their captivity in religious Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:2) As Micah foretold, they were gathered ‘like a flock in the pen, like a drove in its pasture.’ As they have been joined since 1935 by the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” they have indeed become “noisy with men.”—Revelation 7:9; John 10:16.
○ 3:1-3—Here is a startling contrast between Jehovah, the kind Shepherd, and the cruel leaders of his ancient people in Micah’s day. These failed in their commission to protect the flock by exercising justice. They cruelly exploited the figurative sheep not only by fleecing them but also by ‘stripping off their skin’—like wolves. The wicked shepherds deprived the people of justice, subjecting them to “acts of bloodshed.” (3:10) Through perverted judgments, the defenseless were defrauded of their homes and livelihood.—2:2; compare Ezekiel 34:1-5.
○ 4:3—These “many peoples” and “mighty nations” are not to be identified with the political nations and governments. Rather, these are individuals out of all nations, persons who break away from their nationalism and turn to united service in Jehovah’s mountain of true worship. (Isaiah 2:2-4) Jehovah ‘renders judgment and sets matters straight’ in a spiritual way for these believers who take their stand for God’s Kingdom. These persons of the “great crowd” conform to divine judgments, beating their swords into plowshares and thus living at peace with their fellow witnesses of Jehovah.
○ 5:2—Bethlehem Ephrathah was probably identified as such because there were two towns named Bethlehem. Micah identifies the one in Judah, just south of Jerusalem. The other town was up north, in Zebulun. (Joshua 19:10, 15) “Ephrathah,” or “Ephrath,” was an early name for the Bethlehem in Judah or the area around it. (Genesis 48:7; Ruth 4:11) Such detailed identification underscores the accuracy of God’s prophetic promises regarding the Messiah.
○ 6:8—Micah was not minimizing the value of the sin-atoning sacrifices but was highlighting what was truly valuable in Jehovah’s eyes. (Compare Deuteronomy 10:12.) For the sacrifices to be acceptable to Jehovah, the sinner had to manifest the qualities of justice, kindness, and modesty. Today, Jehovah looks for the same in our service.—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
○ 7:4—The brier and the thorn hedge are plants that can snag clothing and rip the flesh. Micah was here describing the moral decay of the nation in his day. So he evidently meant that even the best among the wayward Israelites was as hurtful or painful as a brier or thorn hedge to anyone getting too close.
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Micah foretold Jesus’ birthplace