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A Study of The Minor Prophets: Micah 5, 6, 7

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

     This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
Chapter 5

     The advice is to form up in 'troops', such as groups of soldiers,
      “ma·so·wr” (siege) “sam” (put / appointed) “‘a·le·nu” (against) us “bas·se·bet” (with rod (the shepherd's weapon, not his 'staff')) “yak ku” (strike / smite) “hal·le·hi” (jaw / cheek) the “shaphat” (judge) of Israel.
      The rod was the shepherd's weapon, as in the 23 Psalm. A blow to the 'cheek' is not intended to be fatal.

Welcome to one of the best known Messianic prophecies from the Minor Prophets.....
     Bethlehem is identified by name, and by nickname: “le·hem” “’ep·ra·tah” (Ephrath (see 1 Chronicles 4 : 4)), and is described as “sair” (insignificant) among 'thousands' of Judah.

3 .... and another one....
     This is another prophecy of the remnant returning. This time it involves 'labor and delivery' and those that 'have left' returning to Israel.

     And now we have the ultimate image of 'the Good Shepherd'...
      “be oz” (might / strength) and “big·’o·wn” (majesty / exultation) and they shall “we·ya·sa·bu” (inhabit / remain) for He (unidentified but implied to be either 'the One' or GOD Himself) shall “yig dal” (great) 'to the ends of the earth'.

5 and 6
... and perhaps one of the oddest ones!
      “we·ha·yah” (shall come to pass), “zeh” (this one / that one) “salowm / shalom” (peace)...
      then it mentions Assyria (as the capital Assur) coming into 'our land', apparently meaning Judah and not including the Northern Kingdom as they were already there
      .... and when “yid rok” ('he' treads) “be·’ar·me·no·w·te·nu” (in our citadels / palaces), “wa·ha·qe·mo·nu” (arise / raise up) “'a law” (over / because / beside / above / etc) him seven “ro 'im” (shepherds / herdsmen), and eight “ne·si·ke” (prince / chief) men.
      “we·ra·‘u ” ('and they shall' harm / afflict) the land of Assur ....

An Assyrian city-god tangent.
     There's something somewhat peculiar about the Assyrian pantheon of gods.
      First off, they were polytheistic, as were many ancient peoples, but their version of their pantheon of gods was a lot more flexible than the majority of the others in the region. Let's start with an older mythology and then look at Assyria.
      In very quick and simple terms: In ancient Sumer and Akkadia (4000 to about 2000 BC), Marduk had been a minor deity that supported incantations, later, as Babylon rose to its first golden age, he was adopted as the patron of the city.
      To the north along the Tigris river, the city of Assur (Ashur) was growing and increasing in power and influence. What was odd about this was the way people thought of the city as a living thing, which as it grew, developed something of a personality, and then, eventually, became its own god. Instead of like their older cousin downstream Babylon having 'adopted' an existing god as its patron, Assur became one, with a room for the god to live in on top of the ziggurat in the center of the city. Which is one reason we're never exactly sure when one of the Minor Prophets use Assur to mean the entire Empire whether they mean the Assyrian Empire, its capital city, or the pagan god of that city, or, indeed, all three.
      Upstream in the ancient city of Nimrud (also called Kalhu) they too had a 'resident god' which was then disposed as Assur subjugated them into the growing empire. A trend that continued even to the point that when Assyria sacked Israel they brought the items from the temple there back to their own as proof that their god was dominate. And for a time, Assur became the chief god for all of Assyria.
      For a time, both Assur (the city), Nimrud, as well as Ninevah to their north, served as the capital of the empire, which increased their wealth and prestige dramatically.
      That is until about 620 BC when the Persians and a few 'friends' came to call and on their way out, looted and burned all three cities in turn. There are a few links below if you want to read more about them.
End tangent

     .... with the sword, and the “bip·ta·he·ha” (doorway (gates)) of Nimrod he shall deliver from Assyria, when he comes into our land, and walks within our borders.
      The prophecy is specific, this One of Peace will arrive in Judah, and 'shake things up a bit'.

     the “se'erit” (remnant) of “ya‘aqob” (Jacob) like....
      The translations get the flavor of the verse. The Jewish People will have been scattered across the world, but then it says, paraphrased, they don't wait on men, or the sons of men. And they shall be 'like a lion',
      The statement here is to the effect that what God does with the 'remnant' of Israel, and when, is HIS business, not ours.

     The image of the scattered Jews scattered among 'many peoples' continues, but with a different tone, we join at 'the lion'
      .... “ke·’ar·yeh” (as / like a lion) “be·ba·ha·mo·wt” (among the animals) “ya 'ar” (of the forests 'wildlands'), like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, “'a bar” (passes through) “be·ba·ha·mo·wt” (trample) and “we ta rap” (tear 'to pieces'), and none can “mas·sil” (rescue).

      Apparently, just the presence of the Jews in a society of unbelievers is, by itself, enough of a disruption to cause problems.

     “ta rom” ('shall be' raised) “ya de ka” (your hand) “'al” (toward) “sa·re·ka” (adversaries), and all your “’o·ye·be·ka” (enemies / foes) shall be “yik·ka·re·tu” (cut down / off)

10 and 11
The target of the next several verses is NOT clearly identified. Evidently it is NOT Judah or the Remnant of Israel, but seems to be aimed at those enemies mentioned in 9.
     paraphrase: in That Day says YHWH, I will destroy your ability to make war.
      And it will be a bad day in your cities and military bases.

     “we·hik·rat·ti” (cut down / off (same root as in verse 9, remember this one)) “ke·sa·pim” (sorcery) from your hand, and “u·me·‘o·wn·ni” (fortune tellers / soothsayers) you shall not have.

     (cut down) “pe·si·le·ka” (carved images / idols) and “u·mas·se·bo·w·te·ka” (sacred pillars / standing stones) and you shall not worship the work of your hands.

     Does this include icons and images such as are found in many churches (Catholic and otherwise) that have taken on the role of a pagan idol and are themselves an object of veneration and worship instead of what they represent?
      When you come down to it, ANYTHING can come between us and GOD, and thereby become an idol, including such things as communion cups and the cross at the front of the building, it doesn't have to be a statue of the Virgin Mary, it could be a pine tree with decorations on it, or the checkbook.
End Sidebar

     “we·na·tas·ti” ('and I will' uproot) your wooden images.

Stand by for prophecy of The Wrath Of GOD.
     “we·‘a·si·tî” ('and I will' fashion / make) “be 'ap” (anger) “we·‘a·si·ti” (heated rage) “na·qam” (vengeance) on the nations that have not “sa·me·‘u” (heard)

      Keep this statement in mind as we move into Chapter 6, the quote we opened Micah with.

Chapter 6

     Paraphrase: 'Now, hear what YHWH says', “qum” (stand up), “rib” (contend / plead case (has legal implications)) with/'in front of' the “he·ha·rim” (mountains / hills), 'and let the hills hear your voice'.

     paraphrase: Mountains, and the foundations of the earth, hear the legal case YHWH brings against His people, Israel.

     “'ammi” (My people), what “‘a·si·tî” ('have I done' / accomplished) “le ka” (to you / with you) “u mah” (what / how) “hel·’eti ka” (wearied / made impatient), “'a nah mi” (testify / answer me)

     history lesson

     more history
      Balaq / Balak, Numbers 22, was at least a prince of Moab, as per verse 10.
      Shittim, the site of the camp east of the Jordan, a forest of the trees of the same name in the river plain.
      Gilgal was the first Israelite settlement West of the Jordan, see Joshua 4.
      ... that you may know “sid·qo·wt” (righteousness) of YHWH.

The speaker changes.
     “bam mah” (what / why / how (begins basic inquiry)) “’a·qad·dem” (come before / meet) YHWH, and “'ik kap” (bow down / bend down (does not specify kneeling or prostration) “le·lo·he” (before The God) “ma·ro·wm” (High)? 'shall I come before' Him with burnt offerings, with 'year old calves'?

     Two questions here, the first is about male sheep and oil.
      The second is chilling:
      .... “ha 'et ten” (give / appoint / offer / etc) “be·ko·ri” (first born) “pis 'i” (transgression / rebellion), 'the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul'?

     Go read this one in the translations, it is the answer to the questions in the previous verse.
            No, really, go read it. To make it easier, here it is in the New Living Translation:

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God.”

     paraphrase: “the Voice of YHWH cries to the city, wisdom shall see Your Name, and the rod, and who sent it”
      The warning is clear, those who are wise will heed the Word.

10 - 12
     Micah drops back to his 'social justice' platform, and talks about those whose treasure comes from doing evil.
      ... that is “ze 'u mah” (cursed / indignant).
      Then Micah gets into 'weights and measures' being fraudulent.
      And then he goes on about 'violence' and 'lies'.

      It all sounds very familiar. No?

     “we gam-” (also / furthermore) “'a ni” (I) “he·he·le·ti” (afflicted / weak (as an illness)) “hak·ko·w·te·ka” (struck / defeated) “has mem” ('make' desolate) “'al- hat·to·te·ka” (because of your sin (singular))

14 and 15
     in short: things get bad, then they get worse

      Omri is the Very Good General, and VERY BAD KING mentioned in 1 Kings 16 and a few other passages. He is also mentioned on Shalmaneser III's famous Black Obelisk found in ancient Nimrud.
      His son Ahab was also king, and we'll leave that one right there.
      The verse actually ends with them getting “lis·re·qah”, for that, let's go back to the days of Vaudeville when an act stunk up the stage, and the audience would “boo” and “hiss”. In Jewish culture, a 'hiss' toward somebody was one step short of an actual curse word or the 'evil eye'.

Chapter 7

     “'al lay li” (alas (or better: 'Woe is me')) for I am “ke·’a·se·pe-” (picker / gatherer) “qa yis” (summer fruit), like those that glean grapes, there is none to eat, “bik·ku·rah” (first ripe fruit) “’iw·we·tah” (desires) “nap si” (soul)
      A rather poetic description of that deep yearning for something which is unavailable.

     “'a bad” (vanished) “ha sid” (godly (faithful to God)) from the earth, “we ya sar” (upright / right / straight) “ba 'ad am” (among men). They all “le·da·mim” (blood / bloodshed) “ye·’e·ro·bu” ('lie in' ambush) 'every man hunts his brother' with “he rem” (a curse).

     Because “ha ra'” (evil / bad) “kap pa yim” ('with both' hands) “le·he·tib” (do well), the prince asks for 'gifts', and the judge bribes, “we·hag·ga·do·wl” (and the great 'man') speaks “haw wat” (destroy / destruction) “nap sow” (desire 'in soul'), “way·‘ab·be·tu·ha” ('so they' weave together (conspire)).

     condensed paraphrase of first part: 'they're like thorn bushes'
      In the second half of the verse, Micah mentions the 'watchers' or 'watchmen', we took a long look at them in Hosea 9, well, they're back, and as the verse ends, they are “me·bu ka·tam” (confused). Which could well mean they are soldiers on duty, but it could also be that they are from 'out of town'.
      The implication there, and here, is that these 'watchmen' are not the humans on the walls looking out in case an enemy approaches from outside, these watchers are 'on the wall' but are angels looking IN. One of the roles the archangel Michael had was protecting Israel, which includes protecting it from itself. Which seems to apply here.
      Why would an angel be confused that Israel's punishment is now in motion? Because it happens on God's timescale and in His way, and He didn't check with them, or us, beforehand.

5 and 6
     Some advice from the prophet. Paraphrased: Don't trust in friends, or have confidence in people, watch your mouth around your wife.
      And it continues: Family members will turn on each other,
      .... the “’o·ye·be” (enemies) of “'is” (a man) are “'an se” ('individuals') 'in his' “be tow” (house).

     to YHWH (I) will look. “’o·hi·lah” (wait 'and hope') “le·lo·he” ('on the' God) “yis 'i” (salvation) “yis·ma·‘e·ni” (hear AND listen) “’e·lo·hay” (my God (form of Elohim)).

     The translations are good.
      The second passage echoes some of the tone of Jonah's prayer about seeking God when he was in darkness.

Stand by for possible Redeemer prophecy.
     “za 'ap” (wrath) of YHWH, “'es sa” (carry / bear) because “ha ta ti” (I have sinned (that is the exact meaning of the Hebrew)) against Him until “’e·lo·hay” ('he' contends) my case, “we·‘a·sah” (accomplish) “mis pa ti” (judgment (as justice)) “yo·w·si·’e·ni” ('he will' bring 'me') “la·’o·wr” (to light), I will see “be·sid·qa·tow” (his righteousness).

     Discussion: The term here “u·te·kas·se·ha” (will cover her) indicates that the 'enemy' it is talking about is female. The question in the verse about 'where is your God' reminds one of Job's wife's attitude in Job 2. The fate of the woman in this verse, being cast down in to the mud, echoes part of Revelation, beginning in chapter 17 with the 'great whore' of Babylon and her eventual downfall.
      In the next two verses, the similarity to the woman/city in Revelation continues.

11 and 12
     The decree to build the walls goes out everywhere.
      And the people come from everywhere.

     and yet the land is “u·te·kas·se·ha” (desolate / wasteland (Jeremiah is quite fond of this word)) because of those who live there and the “u te·kas·se·ha” (fruit) “ma·‘al·le·hem” (deeds)

The message changes again. Now, it is a prayer.
     “re 'eh” ('take to' pasture) your people with your staff, “son” (flock) of your “na·ha·la·te·ka” (inheritance), who dwell “le ba dad” (in isolation) in a forest, on Mount Carmel...
      The list of 'places of old' includes Bashan and Gilead which are east of the Jordan, implying all of Isreal's original territory.

15 and 16
     Paraphrase: the nations will see the wonders like in Egypt. And they shall 'put their hand over their mouth', and their ears will be deaf.
      It would appear that when faced with the reality of the works of God, the people who don't believe, won't believe.

     Micah calls them snakes.
      .... of YHWH “’e·lo·he·nu” (our God (form of Elohim)) “we·yir·’u” (be afraid (dismayed / overcome)) “mim·me·ka” (from 'you').

18 and 19
     The Prophet now praises some of the same aspects of GOD that Jonah had an issue with.
      And the promise that 'our sins' will be no more.

     Again, Micah uses 'Jacob' as the name of the founder of Israel, who will receive truth, but then he cites the mercy to Abraham,
      .... which you have sworn to our fathers, from days of old.

End Micah

Selected Sources for this book:

The Sumerians

Assur / Ashur city deity

Kalhu / Nimrud

The New Living Tranlation

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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