For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

3:1.  “And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?”

To the heads of the people Micah addressed the rhetorical question, Are you not supposed to know the need of doing what is right?  Of course they were supposed to know, but they had for so long rationalized their evil conduct that in their view it was no longer wrong.  They had become as described in 1 Tim 4:2: those whose consciences had become seared as with a hot iron so that they no longer functioned.

The practical lesson is that conscience ignored, and sin habitually indulged in, inevitably produce the same terrible state - even in a believer!  There is very great need to maintain a tender conscience.  Nor should the leaders of God’s people ever forget the responsibility they have to be examples to the flock, and to teach them His truth, see comments on verse 11.

3:2.  “Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;”

They were the very antithesis of what the leaders of God’s people ought to have been, and centuries later their true state was revealed in their crucifixion of Him Who was the embodiment of good.

So seared were their consciences, so great their lust for wealth and power, so complete their departure from God, that metaphorically they skinned their victims alive, and tore the flesh from their bones.  And dramatic as the language is, must we not admit that it describes not only the spirit that controls today’s world, but that also controls many of those who take the place of spiritual leaders?

3:3.  “Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.”

This metaphoric cannibalism continues to describe the character of the leaders.  Such was the extent of their cruel greed that they devoured their victims economically, leaving them with nothing; but in doing so they were destroying the nation, for God, sickened by their insatiable lust for wealth, was about to have the Assyrian devour them by carrying them out of the land into captivity.

Under the veneer of “smart business practices” which cloaks the commercial activity of today’s Christendom, lurks the same avaricious spirit; and awaiting it is a judgment even more terrible than that which overtook the nation addressed by Micah: the terrible Tribulation judgments will leave this present evil world in ruins.

3:4.  “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.”

As they had turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those they had so cruelly impoverished, so would God refuse to listen to their cries when the Assyrian did to them exactly what they had done to their helpless victims.

The practical lesson being taught is that sinners who refuse to repent will experience the fate portrayed by Israel’s captivity in Assyria: they will plunge into hell without hope of escape, God’s ear closed for ever against their cries.  As they, while on earth, refused to cry to God, so will He in eternity, refuse to listen to their cries.  That generation of Israel carried captive into Assyria never returned.  They died in captivity.  And it is instructive to note that Assyria means a step.  Sinners busy themselves with the things of this passing world, forgetting that but a step, a breath, separates them from eternal torment.

3:5.  “Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.”

Having announced the fate of the rich political oppressors, the prophet next proceeded to describe the character of the false prophets, who led the nation astray with their lies about continued peace and prosperity, and their failure to denounce the sin of the people, and to warn that only repentance could avert God’s judgment.

“... that bite with their teeth.”   “Bite” as used here is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “to strike with a sting (as a serpent); figuratively to oppress with interest on a loan ... lend upon usury.”  The teaching of the false prophets was like the deadly sting of a serpent’s bite, for in failing to warn the people of coming judgment they were ensuring their destruction at the hand of God.  Had they declared the truth there was the hope that it might have pierced the consciences of the people leading them to repentance.

Their false assurances of peace profited the lying prophets: their conscience-seared hearers were happy to pay for just such assurances of continued peace and prosperity; but “he that putteth not into their mouths” (literally, provide them with food), that is, those who wouldn’t pay them, and who rejected their false prophesying, they hated, and would destroy if they could.  Against them they prophesied judgment for their failure to pay the charlatan prophets.  They are, in fact, the OT counterparts of those described in Ro 16:17-18, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

Nor is it any different with today’s Christendom and the world at large.  They too love the lies of those who preach peace, who declare that the world is getting better, that man by his own efforts will bring in the long dreamed of Utopia; and who say that if there is a God at all, He is too loving to consign the unrepentant to eternal torment in the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.  Such “prophets” bask in the approval of an unbelieving world upon which the judgment of God is about to break.

And like their OT counterparts, they and the people they deceive, are united in their bitter hatred of those who fearlessly preach God’s Word.

How very dangerous false prophets are has been declared by the Lord Himself when He warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” Mt 7:15.  Very many of those who profess to be spiritual guides today are inwardly ravening wolves, in “the ministry” for gain, it being like medicine, law, engineering, etc., simply a vocation for which a theological education is the qualification, even though Scripture knows nothing of such a calling. 

Qualification to minister God’s Word is a gift given by the Holy Spirit, see Eph 4:11-16, and all the theological education in the world cannot give that enablement.

In this connection, the late Dr Harry Ironside has made the very appropriate comment, “One is reminded of the grim jest of Pope Leo X, who, it is said, made the remark to his companion princes of the church, ‘What a profitable thing this myth about Jesus Christ has been to us!’”  The heresy, however, is not confined to Romanism.  It is rampant in Protestantism also.

3:6.  “Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.”

It is clear from Scripture that God sometimes communicated with men through dreams, but here Micah’s warning to the false prophets was that spiritual darkness would envelop them.  The time when true prophets might enjoy revelations from God, would become for the lying prophets, the time when they, with the nation they had deluded with their lies, would languish in captivity under the judgment of God.

“... ye shall not divine” means simply that their lying would cease, because their former dupes, in the misery of Assyrian captivity, would have learned how false their prophecies had been, and would no longer listen to them.  As they had led the people into darkness so would God recompense them.  In Assyrian captivity spiritual darkness would envelope them like a pall.  It would indeed bring the setting of their sun, and the beginning of a spiritual night which would never end, for it would be followed by the eternal darkness, first of hell, and then of the lake of fire.

Scholars are divided as to whether the latter half of the verse applies to all prophets, or only to the false.  In a sense both are true, for with the words of the true prophets verified by the coming of the destruction they had foretold, there would be no need of their continuing to prophesy.  The Assyrian captivity would be figuratively a time when Israel’s sun would have gone down.  It would in truth be a dark day for the sinful nation, the small believing remnant having to go into captivity with the apostate mass of the people, but having the assurance of God’s presence with them even in captivity.

The NAB translation gives the meaning in a very few words, “Therefore you shall have night, not vision, darkness, not divination.”

3:7.  “Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners, confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.”

A seer is literally a beholder of a vision, and in a good context it refers to one who received a communication from God in a vision or dream.  A diviner, on the other hand, was one whose revelations were obtained through mechanical means such as the designs formed by oil on water; examination of animal entrails; the position of sticks, arrows, etc., that have been thrown into the air and fall to the ground at random.  There were other forms also, but in general divination doesn’t seem to be given favorable mention in Scripture, and in the present context it is clear that the seers and diviners were the false prophets.  The coming of the judgment foretold by the true prophets would prove these imposters to be liars, and in that day shame would cover them, they would be silent, and have to admit that they had never had a communication from God.  To cover the lip was a gesture of shame and sorrow.

And so will it be with their present day counterparts.  The Tribulation judgments will reveal their prophesying of peace to have been lies.

3:8.  “But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.”

There is less difference between boasting and false modesty than is always perceived, for the one as much as the other is a lie.  The boaster’s speech indicates that he thinks the ability he boasts of is inherent rather than an enablement given by God, and he thereby robs God of glory.  False modesty also robs God,  for in belittling the gift or ability given him, the man is actually belittling God, and thereby robbing Him of the glory which is His due.

The true prophet, as here Micah, was guilty neither of boasting nor false modesty: he was simply declaring the truth relative to his God-given enablement, and in doing so he glorified God.  He was full of power, but it wasn’t his own: it was that of the Holy Spirit working through him.

“... of judgment, and of might” is literally the announcement of the truth that he had been given the ability to see what was just and right; and in addition, the courage to declare it, which of course involved the exposure and denunciation of the sins of both Judah and Israel.

It is that same enablement that is so obviously lacking in the vast majority of those who preach today, and which explains the failure of their words to evoke any response from those who hear them.  Their audiences are neither frightened nor angered, for the preachers reflect the Laodicean character of today’s professing church as described in Re 3:15-16, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

3:9.  “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the houses of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.”

The latter part of this verse is also translated, “... who loathe justice, and pervert (twist) all that is right.”

This was addressed to the leaders of both Judah and Israel, and it testifies, not only to their very great sin, but also to Micah’s courage, for they could have consigned him to the same fate as had been suffered by many of the prophets: death.

3:10.  “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.”

Zion was the name of the Temple mount; and Jerusalem, the name of the city surrounding the mount; and in using both names the prophet was declaring that there was as much iniquity involved in their religious life, as in their social and business activities.  Every facet of life was totally corrupt, and was therefore to be destroyed. 

Part at least of the building up of Jerusalem consisted of building costly homes and magnificent public buildings with money obtained by crooked means, including murder, from their helpless victims.

Can anyone deny that this is also the character of today’s Christendom, and that the evil is incurable, fit only for the devouring flame of Divine judgment that will destroy it in the coming Tribulation?

3:11.  “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.”

Whether it was the judges, the priests, or the prophets, all of them lusted for money.  Law court decisions were handed down, not on the just appraisal of evidence, but in favor of the litigant who could pay the largest bribe.  The priests likewise refused to teach God’s law without being paid; nor would the so-called prophets divine, i.e., foretell the future (see verse 8) without also being paid.  All of this is specifically forbidden by God, see Ex 23:8 and Dt 16:19.

So blind were they to their own wickedness, so seared were their consciences, that they firmly believed themselves to be in a right relationship with God, that He dwelt in their midst in the Temple, and that judgment would never overtake them.

Those who occupy places of leadership amongst God’s people are commanded by Paul, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” Ac 20:27-31.

Is not Mammon the god of today’s world?  Is not today’s society marked by the same evil spirit?  Must not the same just God Who destroyed Israel and Judah, destroy also apostate Christendom, and this present evil world?  Every word of Scripture declares that He must, and that He will; and every scripturally taught man recognizes that destruction is imminent.

3:12.  “Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.”

The city they had built up and made rich and powerful “with blood, and ... with iniquity,” see verse 10, God was going to utterly destroy.

Zion is the name usually applied to the Temple mount, though it is sometimes applied to the whole city of Jerusalem.  This prophecy was fulfilled in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, and carried away most of the people of the land as captives.

“... the mountain of the house” refers to the whole mount on which city and Temple stood.

The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, however, was itself the foreshadowing of the later destruction carried out by the Romans in AD 70, those two destructions being in turn a preview of the far more terrible judgment yet to come in the Tribulation.

[Micah 4]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough