Superscription. The verse characterizes the book as a particular instance of the LORD's word (that is, as a prophetic book), sets it in a particular time, and associates it with a prophetic character from the
past, Micah (see introduction). The word of the LORD concerned both Samaria and Jerusalem, the capitals of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms respectively. But most of this “word”
(i.e., the book of Micah) deals with the fate of Jerusalem and Judah. In this book references to Samaria serve only to preface
and sharpen the message concerning Judah.
A set of readings about divine judgment, exile, social ethics, and divine hope. The set consists of four main sections:
1.2–16; 2.1–5; 2.6–11; 2.12–13
About divine judgment and exile. The punishment moves from Israel to Judah, a reflection of the exile of Israel which was followed by that of Judah.
On literary units in prophetic books that begin with “hear” or listen (Heb “shim‘u”) see Amos 3.1–6.14 n. Listen, all you peoples: The Heb is more emphatic: “Hear, O peoples, all of them.” My Lord God: Heb “Adonai YHVH” vocalized (MT) as “Adonai Elohim” as in Amos 1.8, Obad. 1
, and many other places. In most instances where YHVH appears in the Heb, it is vocalized “Adonai.” Where it appears alongside “Adonai,” as here, this is not possible, so YHVH is vocalized “Elohim,” and the translation indicates this by printing “GOD.” Although be your accuser is a possible reading—it is based on an interpretation of the phrase as “be a witness against you”—so is “be a witness among
you.” The text encourages this ambiguity.
A wordplay: Heights is echoed in shrines (same word in the Heb). The latter could also be translated “high places.”
Harlot’s wealth (or hire)‐.‐.‐.‐idols‐.‐.‐.‐harlotry: The metaphorical association of sinful worship with prostitution is common in the prophetic books; see esp. Hos. chs 1–3.
Many readers today raise the question of the problematic ways in which this metaphorical association may have colored the
way in which gender roles are viewed in society (e.g., “the worshipper” is male and he is at risk of going astray because
of enticing females whose job is to snare him). See notes on the book of Hosea.
I will lament: The speaker in v. 7
is the LORD, as it is in v. 9
, but most readers think that here it must be a human character, most likely the prophet (see Radak, Ibn Ezra). The Targum
has “they” instead of “I” and represents an understanding of the speaker as the people of Israel. The subject of these actions
in the Heb is, however, ambiguous. The image of the LORD lamenting and grieving, and even metaphorically going stripped and naked because of the fate of His people, may have been unthinkable to the Targum and medieval commentators, but not necessarily
so to biblical writers, who stressed the divine pathos (e.g., Isa. 63.10; Hos. 11.8–9
), a point often emphasized by the American rabbi and philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel.
In some places it is difficult to understand the Heb. All agree however that the most salient feature of this text is its
concentration of wordplays on the names of towns, each of which substantially contribute to the meaning of the unit. (Note
that towns and their inhabitants are represented by female imagery.) English renderings of some of these wordplays and the
con‐ noted message they communicate would be as follows:
“In Dusthouse I will roll myself in dust.”
“Pass on your way, girl of Pretty‐town, in shameful nakedness.”
“The girl of Bitterness‐town aches for good, yet evil has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem.”
“The houses of Deception‐ville shall be a deception to the kings of Israel.” Whereas in all these instances the name of the
town is constructed as an omen about its future, no such claim is made for Jerusalem. Jerusalem stands in a category of its
own, no nomen‐omen for it. Some scholars maintain that the list may reflect the results of military campaigns in the area
either in 734–732,722, 712, or for the most part, 701 BCE, i.e., the victorious campaign against Judah by Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. The text itself does not ask its readers
to identify the disaster described in these vv. with any particular military campaign. The name Sennacherib does not occur
anywhere, the disaster is not particularly associated with the name of any Judahite king, nor is the world of the text directly
associated with chronological information (contrast Isa. 7.1; 20.1; Jer. 32.1; 46.1–2; Hag. 1.1
). These features are not the result of chance. The book of Micah does not set any of its literary units in a narrowly marked
historical period. The result is a literary work that may be read in general terms because it downplays particular historical
The text is equivocal: Dispossessor may also be understood as (rightful) inheritor; the glory (or honor) of Israel may refer to Israel’s wealth, might, or army, or to the LORD; the name of the town Adullam evokes a possible association with Heb “‘olam,” “forever.”
For they have been banished from you may be translated also as “for they have gone from you into exile.” The readers of the book who were aware of the exile to
Babylonia (see 4.10
, and intro.) identified such exile with the Babylonian exile.
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