The Book of Micah
Chapter 6 Summarized:
Contents: Jehovah’s controversy with Israel’s past and present.
Conclusion: God issues a challenge to all who have ever professed belief in Him, but have wandered from Him, to testify against Him, if they have found His demands unreasonable, or if He has not fully paid His accounts. If our ceremonies be accepted of Him, they must be backed by lives conformed to His will and in communion with Him, for He cannot be deceived by external ceremonies. If professors of religion ruin themselves by sin, it will be the most terrible of any ruin.
Key Word: Controversy, v. 7. Strong Verses: 3, 7, 8.
Christ Seen: v. 7. Sacrifices and ceremonies have their value from the reference they have to Christ, the great propitiation, but the believer disregards their meaning, they are an abomination. Thousands of rams and rivers of oil cannot take the place of one little stream of the blood of Christ, the power of which is truly appropriated to the heart.
Introduction: After the precious promises in the two foregoing chapters, relating to the Messiah’s kingdom, the prophet is here directed to set the sins of Israel in order before them, for their conviction and humiliation, as necessary to make way for the comfort of gospel-grace. Christ’s forerunner reproved, and preached repentance, and so prepared his way. Here, I. God enters an action against his people for their base ingratitude, and the bad returns they had made him for his favors (v. 1-5). II. He shows the wrong course they should have taken (v. 6-8). III. He calls upon them to hear the voice of his judgments, and sets the sins in order before them for which he still proceeded in his controversy with them (v. 9), their injustice (v. 10-15), and their idolatry (v. 16), for both which ruin was coming upon them.
Call to the mountains, hills, and people (6:1—2)
Micah 6:1 turns back from its look into the future, to the time of Micah.
Arise, contend thou—or “Stand up, plead your case” as in a court of law. God commands Micah to relay his message to the people who are complaining that the Lord has been unjust toward them.
Before the mountains—“Let the mountains be my witness,” says the Lord, “They have been here all along and are in the position to tell who has been unjust” (Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2. This verse sets the scene of a court of law. There is the divine Plaintiff (Yahweh), the Plaintiff’s spokesman (Micah), the witnesses (the mountains), and the defendant (Israel).
Verse 2: Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD’S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. The Hebrew word translated “controversy” was also used in the previous verse; it shows that Yahweh has a legal case against Israel. It might be better rendered “the Lord’s case”, “the Lord’s accusation”, or perhaps “the indictment of the Lord”. Yahweh is the only one who has a right to complain. Yet after all he has done for Israel, she has the gall to question his justice (Isa. 5:3; 43:26).
Controversy with the people: sins and judgment (6:3—8)
Verse 3: O my people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me. The greatest indication of God’s justice is that he has always called them “his people” even when they have turned their backs on him.
Wherein have I wearied thee?—Yahweh asks what he has done to make them so weary that they stopped obeying him. It is clear that their impatience with God could not be due to God’s failure. In the following verses, Micah recounts the many great things God has done for Israel, showing his patience and faithfulness with his people. He had always given them strength and provision, and had only asked for their obedience in return (1 John 5:3).
Verse 4: For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Where you were slaves, and grievously oppressed; from all this I redeemed you. Was this a small benefit? I sent before thee Moses, my chosen servant, and instructed him that he might be your leader and lawgiver. I sent with him Aaron, that he might be your priest and transact all spiritual matters between myself and you, in offerings, sacrifices, and atonements. I sent Miriam, to whom I gave the spirit of prophecy, that she might tell you things to come, and be the director of your females. To this sense the Chaldee, “I have sent three prophets before you; Moses, that he might teach you the tradition of judgments, Aaron, that he might make atonement for the people; and Miriam, that she might instruct the females.”
Verse 5: O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD. Balak plotted to destroy Israel by getting Balaam to curse her (Num. 22:5).
What Balaam . . . answered—but the prophet Balaam blessed Israel in spite of Balak’s bribery (Num. 22:5; 24:9-11). Balaam said that the only way to hurt Israel was to get them to turn to idols and prostitution (Num. 31:16). This did happen, however, in Shittim, also known as Acacia (Num. 25:1-5; 2 Pet. 2:15; Rev. 2:14).
From Shittim unto Gilgal—Shittim was the place of Israel’s downfall, but God did not leave her there. This was the final camp of Israel east of the Jordan. The modern identification of Shittim is not known with certainty. After leaving Shittim, Israel crossed the Jordan to set up camp at Gilgal, where God renewed the covenant with her by means of the rite of circumcision (Josh. 5:2-11). The exact site of Gilgal is uncertain, though it was known to lie to the east of Jericho, between it and the Jordan River. God could have utterly destroyed Israel when she first turned to idolatry, but he spared her and led her into the Promised Land. Over and over again God has shown mercy when he could have destroyed Israel (Judg. 5:11; Ps. 24:5; 112:9).
Verse 6: Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Now the people, as defendants, appear; but instead of vindicating themselves, or attempting to dispute what has been alleged against them, they seem at once to plead guilty; and now anxiously inquire how they shall appease the wrath of the Judge, how they shall make atonement for the sins already committed. They wish to pray and to make supplication to their Judge; but how shall they come before him? They have no right to come into his presence. Some offering must be brought; but of what kind, or of what value? Their sin is unprecedented, and usual methods of access will not avail.
Verse 7: Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams—these might be procured, though with difficulty; but conscience says neither will these do. With ten thousands of rivers of oil—this is absurd and impossible; but could even these be procured, could they all make atonement for such guilt, and ingratitude, and rebellion?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression—this was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Phoenicians, and their successors the Carthaginians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites.
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?—this clause is an explanation of the former. Shall I make the first-born, the best and goodliest of my children, a Sin-Offering for my soul? And thus the original is used in a multitude of places. When they had put all these questions to their reason and conscience, they found no satisfaction; their distraction is increased, and despair is about to take place, when Jehovah, the plaintiff, in his mercy interposes:
Verse 8: He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? God had told his people what he wanted long before (Deut. 10:12; 30:11-14). All of their religious duties were worthless unless they were obedient. God did not just require external gifts from his people. Sacrifices were only partial evidences of their love for God (1 Sam. 15:22). God wanted his people to come humbly to serve God out of love, and to prove their love by showing justice and mercy toward others. When the Messiah came he was the perfect sacrifice and the ultimate evidence of God’s love for his people (Heb. 9:23; 10:1). To do justly—the word here calls the people to respond to God by acting fairly toward others, something uncommon in Micah’s day (6:10, 11).
To love mercy—this word means loving-kindness, one of God’s attributes. God had faithfully acted with loving-kindness in the covenant with his people and he expected the same of them.
To walk humbly with thy God—this includes both active and passive obedience. God requires three moral duties of those who profess to belong to him (Matt. 23:23; to act justly, to act according to mercy, and to love God (Luke 11:42; cf. James 1:27). To walk with God involves constant prayer and watchfulness (Gen. 5:24; 17:1).
Controversy with the city: sins and judgment (6:9—16)
Verse 9: The LORD’S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. Here Micah begins a proclamation condemning the nation to destruction.
The man of wisdom—the corrupt leaders of Israel, if they are wise, will pay attention to the Lord and what he says (Prov. 18). If they fear God and do as he says, they might yet escape the coming destruction (Prov. 1:7).
Hear ye the rod—Now Micah calls the people to hear what punishment awaits them (Isa. 9:3; 10:5, 24). The “rod” is the punishment Israel will soon suffer. Isaiah uses this same term to describe the Assyrians (Isa. 10:5, 24), and they are seen as an instrument of divine wrath. Thus, the use of this term could represent a warning of Assyrian invasion.
Verse 10: Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? This rhetorical question affirms that the corrupt leaders are still oppressing the poor for personal gain.
The scant measure that is abominable is referring to the common practice among merchants of cheating poor customers by using a “scant measure” to measure out the grain or oil they might be selling. This is related to the use of false scales and weights mentioned in the following verse (Prov. 11:1; Amos 8:5).
Verse 11: Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? If the Lord were to let their evil ways pass, it would put his name in jeopardy. He would say “well done” only to those who followed his instructions; to everyone else he would have to send punishment (Psa. 18:26).
Wicked balances . . . deceitful weights—Like the “scant measure” of the previous verse, this reveals how the wealthy merchants oppressed the poor.
Verse 12: For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. The people of power in Micah’s day acted violently toward the people under them. The leaders also lied to the people, probably making promises they had no desire to keep just to keep the oppressed quiet and under control.
Verse 13: Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins. Perhaps better, “I also am weary with smiting thee, in making thee desolate for thy sins.” They were corrected, but to no purpose; they had stroke upon stroke, but were not amended.
Verse 14: Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword. The people would not have enough food; there would be plenty of money, but it would not be worth anything. They would be physically and psychologically sick at the loss of all they possessed. There shall be calamity in the midst of thee. It shall have its seat and throne among you.
Verse 15: Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.
There would be no harvests because of the land’s destruction, or all the crops would be taken and eaten by invaders. The corrupt leaders, with all their wealth, would be unable to buy food.
Verse 16: For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.
Omri, king of Israel, the father of Ahab, was one of the worst kings the Israelites ever had; and Ahab followed in his wicked father’s steps. The statutes of those kings were the very grossest idolatry. Jezebel, wife of the latter, and daughter of Ithobaal, king of Tyre, had no fellow on earth. From her Shakespeare seems to have drawn the character of Lady Macbeth; a woman, like her prototype, mixed up of tigress and fiend, without addition. Omri Ahab, and Jezebel, were the models followed by the Israelites in the days of this prophet.
That I should make thee a desolation . . . the reproach of my people—the very thing they boasted about, that they were God’s people, would be the thing that would be the hardest for them to bear. People would laugh at them because they had been a traitor to their God. God had been so good to them, as people had seen; now they would see how he would punish them for their disobedience.
The following material were used in the
preparation of these notes:
Quick Verse 2005: Matthew Henry's commentary, New Commentary on the whole Bible.
E-Source: Barn's notes
Bible Explore 4 (downloaded version): Stong's Hebrew-Greek, ISBE,
All Bible text is from the King James Version
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