Micah 6:1-8 exegetical assignment part 2

This is the continuation of this essay of which the first part was posted here

An overview

6:1-2 The prophet summons the mountains / creation as witnesses in a lawsuit. The nation of Israel is called to bear witness as to how God has failed them. Poetically Micah establishes the grandeur of this jury of witness’s. For it is among and within sight of the mountains and hills whom the Israelite nation lived. They are witnesses of their apparent neglect.[1] This is a continuation of the theme within Micah of God’s universal rule and sovereignty over all creation; from towering heights to down into the deepest depths (foundations of the earth).[2]

6:3 God pleads to the judiciary to summon Israel to answer him. To force them to tell Him face to face how He has wearied them. There is a similarity with Job 40:8. God contends with Job asking how he can be condemned so that Job can be right.

The term weariness is one of someone totally losing their patience waiting for another to deliver them from their current experience.[3] There is an element of sarcasm here as God pretends to be searching His own heart as to how he has wronged and driven them away.[4]

6:4 He shows that he has cared for Israel, having delivered them safely into the Promised Land; freeing them from the slavery of Egypt, caring for them and ensuring safe travel. Saying, “I sent you Moses, Aaron and Miriam as my spokespeople”

This is a reminder of God granting the Hebrew people a threefold leadership and continual foundation for communitive living. Moses represents the law, Aaron the priesthood[5]

What is unusual though is the mention of Miriam as a co-leader and her inclusion in this passage is singularly striking and raises questions as to “why?” Allen notes she was the sister of Aaron, a prophetess and singer linking her to her prophetic praise song after crossing the Red Sea.[6]

On the surface her inclusion with Moses and Aaron seems to be a rebuke to the Israelites regarding her song of praise upon crossing the Red Sea in the Exodus narrative from the Egyptians. The reminder of her praise is contrasted to the their current grumbling which is similar to the actions when during the exodus they grumbled to Moses about their lack and God said they were grumbling against Him. Ex 16:12

I believe there is more going on here at a deeper level. The fact of previous prophetic omission and her sudden appearance begs the question; “Why?” Is there something deeper going on that perhaps has been traditionally missed?[7]

I believe that her inclusion is a further encouragement and rebuke to the Hebrew nation in a further three areas. The first two are contained in the story of her dissension against Moses, her subsequent leprous punishment and remarkable healing and re-establishment as a national leader upon her repentance. According to the Midrash, not only did God heal Miriam, he caused her to appear younger and more beautiful than before.[8] Through her inclusion God is telling the Israelites to come back to Him and he would not only forgive and heal them, but re-establish them as a beautiful nation, more powerful than before.

The third area of rebuke is in the area of the temple priestesses and false prophetesses whom Jezebel established. Not only is this thought reinforced by God’s rebuke towards the magistrates, priesthood and prophets in chapter 3 and for following ungodly cultic practices in verse 6:16. We will see the link to false worship in verses 6-7. Therefore we can see that Aaron is a reminder of the true priesthood and Miriam a true representative of a Godly woman and a true spokeswoman for God.

6:5 This passage is full of hidden surprises. For not only is God reminding the Israel nation of his goodness; with the same breath he is rebuking them for their continued failure to keep the covenant.

Most scholars understand these verses as being a twofold reminder to remember God’s initial and continual goodness in bringing them out of slavery into the Promised Land. [9] The first being a reminder of the incident with king Balak and the prophet Balaam[10] It seems a reminder that God caused the prophet to speak blessings over the nation, instead of the curses he had been hired to speak. The second telling the story of their crossing over the Jordon into the land God has given them. However in the story of the prophet Balaam and king Balak; God trice rebukes Balaam upon Balak’s invitation to curse the Hebrew people. Num 22:1- 24:25

This incident happened at Shittim, where the Hebrew nation encamped before crossing the Jordon into Gilgal. Three distinct incidences happened within Shittim and Gilgal that show how they broke God’s covenant.[11] In Shittim they break covenant with the Lord through Baal worship, Num 25:3 A man has a sexual encounter with a Midianite priestess 25:8 and the tribe of Ruben / Gad provoke the lord by saying they didn’t want to enter into the promised land.

Hutton says, “Gilgal represents Israel’s entry and consolidation of the land”[12] noting that Hosea 4:15 and Amos 4:4 speak of Israel’s concentration of sin there. There are three specific incidents where the breaking of the covenant took place. Baal worship Jdg 2:11-12, setting up of the monarchy 1Sam 11:14-15 and King Saul disobeys God 1 Sam 13:8-15

Therefore, we see an interesting break within the three point parallel structure of this passage, here the reader or audience is invited to pause, stop and think about the story and what actually happened. In doing so, we note that the story within this verse continues the three point parallelist theme within this passage.

6:6-7 It’s now the respondent’s (Israel) turn to respond and it appears that he does so, by asking if he is to worship the Lord through largess of offerings that haven’t been seen since the day of Solomon. There are two interesting notes to make about this reply.

The first is in the reply….6a bow myself before God on high… Waltke notes the Hebrew phraseology is one of a bent reed and not found in cultic language.[13] However it is used in the context of false worship; such as found in Isaiah where God rebukes false worship within fasting. Isa 58:5 Secondly within the phraseology of human sacrifice, it say’s “… the fruit of my womb” signifying that the speaker is a female.[14]

The context of these two verses shows the complete disregard of life within the social and cultic aspect of divine worship. A level of sarcasm could be read into it, which asks the question if the speaker is rejecting Micah as a divine prophet preferring to continue with their own practices.

6:8 God totally ignore the previous speaker, instead turns to a specific male saying that he has already been told what is good. This goodness is most likely a referral to the covenant and law[15] and hence we see Moses being brought back into the picture. Not only does it refer to Moses, it also refers to the subsequent ministry and calling of the nations prophets for the nation to continue walking in justice, kindness and walking in obedience with God.

Conclusion

In conclusion this passage contains a two-fold message. The first being an encouragement of what God had done for them in establishing them as a nation. Within this setting God shows them His mercy and kindness, reminds them of his promises of blessing and cursing within the law and His methods of Godly leadership.  Secondly he shows them that they have consistently failed Him within both a cultic worship and social context. This passage therefore establishes God’s righteousness as He continues to lay out His case before the court of their specific unrighteousness in Micah 6:9-16 into chapter seven.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Elizabeth. New International Biblical Commentary, Minor Prophets 1. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc 1996.

Allen, Leslie C. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, the books of Joel, Obadiah. Jonah and Micah. U.S.A: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.

Bronner, Leila L. 1991. “Biblical prophetesses through rabbinic lenses.” Judaism 40, no. 2: 171. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed October 1, 2010).

Davies, Graham I. 1987. “Seek the Lord: A Study of the Meaning and Function of the Exhortations in Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, and Zephaniah.” Vetus testamentum 37, no. 1: 117-318. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 9, 2010).

Gleason, L Archer Jr. “Micah.” In New Bible Commentary Third Edition, ed. D Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, 752-761. Leicester England: Intervarsity Press 1970.

Gutzke, Manford George Plain Talk on Minor Prophets. USA :The Zondervan Corporation 1980

Hutton, Rodney R. 1999. “What Happened from Shittim to Gilgal? Law and Gospel in Micah 6:5.”Currents in Theology and Mission 26, no. 2: 94-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 9, 2010)

Hyman, Ronald T. “QUESTIONS AND RESPONSE IN MICAH 6:6-8.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 33, no. 3 (July 2005): 157-165. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 29, 2010).

Keil, C. F and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on The Old Testament: The Twelve Minor Prophets vol1. Grand Rapids Michigan: W.B Eerdmans Publishing 1969

Marsh, John, Amos and Micah. Great Briton, SCM Press Ltd 1959

Sperling, S David. 2000. “Miriam, Aaron and Moses: sibling rivalry.” Hebrew Union College Annual 70, 39-55. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 1, 2010).

Waltke, Bruce K. “Micah”in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical Expository Commentary. (ed), T.E. McComiskey, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

Watson, Paul L. 1963. “Form criticism and an exegesis of Micah 6:1-8.” Restoration Quarterly 7, no. 1-2: 61-72. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 1, 2010).


[1] Leslie C. Allen, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, the books of Joel, Obadiah. Jonah and Micah. U.S.A: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976 pg. 365

[2] Elizabeth. Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Minor Prophets 1. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc 1996. Pg. 349.

[3] Ibid pg. 350

[4] Leslie C. Allen, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, the books of Joel, Obadiah. Jonah and Micah. U.S.A: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976 pg. 365

[5] Elizabeth. Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Minor Prophets 1. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc 1996. Pg. 351

[6] Leslie C. Allen, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, the books of Joel, Obadiah. Jonah and Micah. U.S.A: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976 pg.367

[7] None of the commentaries and journals I have researched has made a note of Miram’s unique appearance within prophetic literature. I believe that this uniqueness deserves a deeper looking into.

[8] Leila L. Bronner, 1991. “Biblical prophetesses through rabbinic lenses.” Judaism 40, no. 2: 171. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed October 1, 2010).

[9] Rodney R. Hutton, 1999. “What Happened from Shittim to Gilgal? Law and Gospel in Micah 6:5.”Currents in Theology and Mission 26, no. 2: 94-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 9, 2010)pg. 95

[10] We can’t forget the incident of God causing the donkey to speak to Balaam.

[11] Rodney R. Hutton, 1999. “What Happened from Shittim to Gilgal? Law and Gospel in Micah 6:5.”Currents in Theology and Mission 26, no. 2: 94-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 9, 2010)pg. 96.

[12] Ibid 98

[13] Bruce K Waltke, “Micah”in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical Expository Commentary. (ed), T.E. McComiskey, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009 pg. 732

[14] “Ibid” pg. 733

[15] “Ibid” pg 734

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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2 Responses to Micah 6:1-8 exegetical assignment part 2

  1. Pingback: Micah 6:1-8 exegetical assignment part 1 | Trinitarian Dance

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