Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
“The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham,
Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and
Like all of the prophets, the
message Micah delivered was God’s, not his.
The mention of these three
kings of Judah (the kings of Israel aren’t mentioned because they were not of
the Davidic line, and were therefore not recognized by God) tends to confirm
that he was also of Judah, but “concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” makes it
equally clear that his ministry concerned both, for they shared a common
guilt. The one as much as the other had sinned against God: they had broken
the covenant into which they had entered with Him at Sinai in the days of
Moses, see Dt 28. That covenant guaranteed blessing for obedience; and
cursing for disobedience; and the believer’s life is governed by the same
principle, the lamentable state of apostate Christendom and the world
testifying to their flagrant rebellion against God and His Word - and with the
same results: His punishment, in the form of the Tribulation judgments, is
about to break upon their guilty heads.
That apostate Christendom, and
the unprofessing world, are the two entities foreshadowed by Jerusalem and
Samaria of prophetic times, is indicated by the fact that Jerusalem was
associated with the same formal, ritualistic religion as marks Christendom
today; and Samaria (the ten tribes which had severed all connection with
Jerusalem, and set up their own form of worship), represent the ungodly world
that has abandoned even the pretext of association with God.
“Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the
Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.”
A careful reading of Scripture
indicates that the earth is used symbolically to portray genuine faith in God;
the land, to portray mere profession; and the ground, total indifference to
spiritual things, so that the double call here to “all ye people,” and to the
“earth,” may be to remind us that ultimately the warning is not only to the
unbelieving world, but also to those who belong to Christ. The latter are no
more exempt from judgment than are the former, the only difference being that
sin in the believer’s life will rob him of happiness here on earth, and of
reward at the judgment seat of Christ; but that of the unbeliever will cost
him his soul, and guarantee him eternal torment in the lake of fire.
The declaration that the
indictment comes from the omniscient God Who is of purer eyes than to behold
evil, or to look upon iniquity, Hab 1:13, is the assurance that there will be
no possibility of gainsaying His charges.
“For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and
tread upon the high places of the earth.”
First, the language may be
metaphoric, having reference to God’s executing judgment against guilty Israel
(the ten northern tribes), and Judah, using as His agents nations such as
Assyria and Babylon, or natural phenomena such as famine, plague, and
locusts. But keeping in mind that all past judgments are but foreshadowings
of those that will devastate the earth in the impending Tribulation, the
reference may be to the Lord’s coming to end the Tribulation, judge the
nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.
“And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft,
as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.”
While this may still be the
metaphoric description of the devastation that would be wrought by Assyria in
722 BC, by Babylon in 586 BC, and by Rome in AD 70, it is much more likely
that it refers to the Tribulation judgments, for no past expressions of God’s
wrath against Israel or Judah have ever produced the results described here.
Scripture, however, does describe phenomenal physical changes that will occur
on the earth prior to the Lord’s coming to set up His kingdom, see, e.g., Isa
14:4-11; Re 6:12-17; 8:5-13; 9:1-21; 16:1-21; and also at the moment of His
descent to the earth, see Zec 14:1-12.
“For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of
Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are
the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?”
Jacob is obviously used here
to depict the fleshly idolatrous character of Israel (the ten northern tribes
having Samaria as their capital). Not only were they guilty of cruel
oppression of the poor in their midst, of dishonest business practices,
judicial and political corruption, but in addition, worshiped idols, while
continuing the travesty of worshiping Jehovah, but as just another of the many
gods they regarded as His equals or even superiors.
Jerusalem was guilty of the
very same sins, and would therefore suffer the same judgments.
“Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a
vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will
discover the foundations thereof.”
Samaria, built by Omri, and
extended by Ahab, husband of the notorious Jezebel, sat on a hill having a
commanding view of the Esdraelon plain, through which ran the main trade
routes. Almost from the beginning it was associated with idolatry, of which
it very quickly became the principal center, God’s denunciation of its evil
being declared by virtually all the prophets.
The destruction foretold here
was carried out by the Assyrian Shalmaneser V, in 722 BC, and completed in 721
BC by his successor Sargon II, who is reported to have carried away over
It wasn’t until the first
century BC that Samaria was rebuilt by the Romans, Herod having a prominent
part in its restoration, and renaming it Sebaste in honor of the Roman Emperor
Augusta (Sebastos). Today it exists as the Arab village of Sebastieh, in the
vicinity of which lie the ruins of the once great city.
In its destruction in 721 BC
it was reduced to virtually a heap of stones in a field, its ruins, and the
stones that had been thrown or had fallen down the slopes of the hill, serving
as material for terraces upon which to grow vines.
There is good reason to
believe that in the ruin of the idolatrous Samaria we are being pointed to the
coming state of our present world as a result of the impending Tribulation
“And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the
hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I
lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall
return to the hire of an harlot.”
Idolatry is spiritual
adultery, hence the reference to the riches associated with the evil system as
being the hire of a harlot. But a further evil significance is indicated in
the words of this verse. As noted already, gross sexual sin was an integral
part of the idolatrous worship, each heathen temple having its corps of
religious prostitutes, male and female, whose services brought a continuous
flow of revenue to the ruling priesthood. Strong’s Concordance defines
hires as a present, gift, as the price of harlotry, so the warning
is, that not only would the whole vile system be destroyed, but its ill-gotten
wealth would be further reason for the descent of the consuming fire of Divine
wrath. The riches being returned “to the hire of an harlot” is the symbolic
announcement that their sin, like all sin, would result in there coming upon
them God’s wrath, which is often likened to consuming fire, and their ultimate
consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire. It may also be viewed
literally, for the money would continue to be used for the very same purpose
by the Assyrians whose idolatry was characterized by the same evil practices.
“Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a
wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.”
His contemplation of the
judgment to fall upon Israel, and later also upon Judah, so touched Micah’s
heart that he was moved to bitter lament such as that used to express the
grief of mourners at a funeral. His going “stripped and naked” is literally
that he would go barefoot, sackcloth replacing his ordinary clothing. Dragons
is variously translated as jackals, wolves, wild dogs, their mournful
howling being like of that of the professional mourners at funerals.
“For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the
gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.”
Samaria’s wound was
self-inflicted, for had she been obedient she would not have become the object
of God’s wrath; nor was there any hope of healing. She refused to repent,
thus making it impossible for God to pardon her many and terrible sins. Nor
had she and Judah any excuse, for centuries earlier, in Dt 28:15-68, God had
declared all the judgments that disobedience would incur.
And her contagion had affected
Judah, so that figuratively God stood at her gate also, ready to lay upon her
the same chastisement as that which was about to destroy Samaria - and for the
same reason: she too refused to repent. Judah, in fact, was the more
culpable, for she had not only the warnings recorded in Dt 28, but also the
example of Israel, God graciously postponing her (Judah’s) punishment for
another one hundred and thirty years after the destruction of Israel.
How much greater therefore is
the guilt of this present evil world! It has had the privilege of reading of
the fulfillment of all the judgments predicted against Israel and Judah, to
warn it against repeating their folly, but the warnings have all been wasted.
This generation will neither read, nor listen when they are told by God’s
messengers, but rather, compound their guilt by mocking the messengers, and
assigning the Scriptures to the realm of mythology, in spite of the fact that
His Divine authorship is clearly imprinted upon every page. Spiritually blind
eyes and deaf ears fail to perceive the imminence of the coming judgment!
“Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll
thyself in the dust.”
In this and the following few
verses, there is in the original a play on words which is lost in the
translation to English, and again we are indebted to the late Dr Tatford for
enlightenment, he having written, “F.W. Farrar (The Minor Prophets, pp.
130-1) provides a translation (perhaps a little exaggerated) which makes clear
the way in which the figure of speech was employed in this section. ‘In Gath
(Tell-town) tell it not; in Akko (Weep-town) weep not! In Beth-le-Aphrah
(Dust-town) roll thyself in the dust. Pass by, thou inhabitress of Shaphir
(Fair-town) in nakedness and shame! The citizen of Zaanan (March-town)
marched not forth. The mourning of Beth-ezel (Neighbor-town) taketh from you
its standing-place. The inhabitress of Maroth (Bitter-town) is in travail
about good, because evil hath come down from Jehovah to the gate of
Jerusalem. Bind the chariot to the swift horse, thou inhabitress of Lachish
(Horse-town); she was the beginning of sin for the daughter of Zion, for the
transgressions of Zion were found in thee. Therefore wilt thou, Oh Zion, give
dismissal (farewell presents) to Moresheth-Gath (The Possession of Gath). The
houses of Achzib (False-spring) became Achzab (a disappointing brook) to
Israel’s kings. Yet will I bring the heir (namely Sargon, king of Assyria) to
thee, thou citizen of Mareshah (Heir-town). Unto Adullam (the wild beasts’
cave) shall the glory of Israel come! Make thyself bald (Oh Zion) for the
children of thy delight. Enlarge thy baldness as the vulture, for they are
gone into captivity from thee.’”
The puns were based on
assonance: the similarity of sound between the name of the place and the
activity mentioned in connection with it, e.g., the sound of the name Akko is
similar to the sound of the word for weeping.
While Gath means a
winepress, the sound of the name Gath is similar to the sound of the word
for talking or story-telling, Phillip’s translation being, “... in Gath where
tales are told, breathe not a word!” Literally, the command not to tell Gath
of God’s punishment of His people, indicates that God did not wish foreigners
to gloat over what was exclusively between Him and His own, within the family,
so to speak.
The expression, “Tell it not
in Gath,” is recorded in 2 Sa 1:20 as part of David’s lament over the death of
Saul and Jonathan.
The phrase “weep ye not at
all” in the original is connected with Acco or Accho (some translations
indicate that it is synonymous with Bethel, or an unknown place called Bakah).
Acco (Accho) is mentioned in Jgs 1:31 as having been assigned to Asher in the
division of the land under Joshua. It was a port on the coast between the
Carmel headland and Tyre, and means his straitness. Phillips
translates this phrase “In Acco, the town of Weeping, shed no tear!”
The location of Aphrah
(Beth-le-aphrah) is unknown, but believed to have been near Hebron. The
connection between it and rolling in the dust is easily seen, for it means
dust-heap, so that the command is for those who live in the equivalent of
a dust-heap to roll themselves in dust as a sign of contrition for their many
“Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the
inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Beth-ezel; he shall
receive of you his standing.”
Saphir means fair, so
that the words “Pass ye away ... having thy shame naked,” mean “Go on your way
into slavery, no longer fair, but naked and ashamed.”
Zaanan, location unknown,
means their flock, but some translators, because of the sound of the
name, associate it with marching, and therefore with military might,
and render this section of the verse, “You who live in Zaanan, the town of
Marching, there is no marching for you now,” - Phillips. Others translate it
as, “The people of Zaanan dare not show themselves outside their walls,” -
Taylor. The thought being expressed here in connection with Zaanan seems to
be that the people of the city had remained within its walls when an enemy had
destroyed the neighboring city of Beth-ezel, but there would be no walls
strong enough to shield the guilty inhabitants from the coming wrath of God.
As they had failed to render aid to Beth-ezel, so in the approaching day of
God’s judgment would there be no one to give them aid.
Beth-ezel in the vicinity of
Lachish, and meaning the neighbor’s house: the next house, stood on a
hillside according to some, but had apparently been destroyed as mentioned
above. Nothing is known of the place, but it is presumed to have been in
“... he shall receive of you
his standing,” seems to have as many interpretations as there are
interpreters, though the general thought appears to be that in the coming
judgment Zaanan would have no standing: it would be destroyed just as
completely as had been Beth-ezel.
“For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down
from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem.”
Maroth, meaning bitterness,
is unknown, but thought to have been identical with Maarath meaning naked
place, and located just a few miles southwest of Bethlehem-Judah. The
play on words continues, for while Maroth is pictured as a travailing woman
hoping for good to come forth, the reality is that her hope is vain: only
trouble would come forth. The judgment of God was already at the gate of
Jerusalem, leaving Maroth and all the other towns of Judah to face the reality
that the whole land was doomed because of refusal to repent and forsake its
“O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the
beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel
were found in thee.”
Lachish, meaning walk of a
man, was located 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and 15 miles west of
Hebron. It was one of the last few cities taken by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC
when the autonomy of Judah ended.
The command to the people of
Lachish was to yoke the swiftest horses to the chariots and try to escape.
Her being described as the “beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion,” and
its being said that “the transgressions of Israel were found in thee,” mean
that she was the first place in Judah to adopt the idol worship of her
northern sister Israel, and it was from Lachish that the evil quickly spread
The continued play on words is
based on the fact that the sound of the name is similar to the sound of the
word for horses. The city, in fact, was famous for its horses, one translator
naming it Horsetown, hence the command to use the horses in an effort
to escape, though the truth was that the swiftest horses in the world couldn’t
carry them beyond reach of God’s coming judgment.
“Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moresheth-gath: the houses of Achzib
shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.”
As noted in the introduction,
Moresheth-gath meaning possession of Gath, was Micah’s home town. The
reference to the giving of presents to Moresheth-gath is connected with the
dowry given to a bride about to leave her father’s house. The giving of the
dowry signified the end of her association with the home of her childhood; and
the thought behind the prophet’s words is that even the city which was his
home would not be spared. It too would be destroyed in the coming judgment.
There are two Achzibs: one in
the territory of Asher; and the one mentioned here in Judah. The name means
I shall make a lie, and here the play on words is too obvious to miss,
for Achzib is almost identical in sound with the word for a winter brook which
dries up in summer just when its water is needed most. Achzib would be “a lie
to the kings of Israel” in that, as one translation renders it, “Achzib has
deceived the kings of Israel, for she promised help she cannot give,” -
There was no possibility of
their being delivered from the judgment of God. They had crossed the
invisible line that separates His mercy from His wrath.
“And yet I will bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall
come unto Adullum the glory of Israel.”
Other translations are much
clearer than the KJ. “Yet will I bring a conqueror upon you, O lady
inhabitant of Mareshah, who shall possess you; the glory and the nobility of
Israel shall come to Adullum [to hide in the caves, as did David],” - Amp.
“And you too, O people of Mareshah, I will send others to take your place; and
the glory of Israel shall hide in the cave of Adullum,” -NEB.
Adullum means a testimony
to them, and again the play on words is plain. The very fact of Israel’s
nobility trying to find refuge in a cave (one of the biblical symbols of
death), would indeed be a testimony to them - to their wickedness that
compelled God to destroy them, to bring them down to death.
“Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness
as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.”
While the reference here is to
Israel as a national entity, it is to be recognized that it applies also to
the individuals comprising the nation. God had forbidden the shaving of the
head in mourning, see Dt 14:1, but there are indications that Israel had
disobeyed this command, as they had virtually every other He had given, see,
e.g., Jer 16:6.
The play on words, though less
easily discerned, is related to their shaving their heads in mourning, so that
they would resemble vultures; and the loss of glory entailed in the loss of
their hair, points to the loss of what was their glory and their greatest
treasure: the loss of their children, many of whom would be separated from
them in the course of being carried into captivity.