By Sam E. Stone
Micah began his prophecy with a scathing indictment of all who held administrative and judicial positions in the state (chapters 1, 2). These leaders had been placed in authority to serve the people, while in reality they were using their status to rob them (Micah 3:1, 2). The prophet described the leaders’ cruelty in mistreating the people with a dramatic figure of speech—eating their flesh, just as some would eat cattle.
When judgment came upon the nation (as it certainly would), God would not hear cries for mercy even though they came from his people (Proverbs 1:28). In Psalm 18:41, David gave a similar warning. The Day of Grace would end when the Day of Judgment arrived (Jeremiah 35:15).
The prophet began chapter 3 by asking, “Should you not embrace justice?” The reason for the existence of rulers, prophets, and priests was to serve the people and God. “They have been put into high positions of authority in order that they may serve the people and dispense justice to everyone,” A. Fraser noted. “Instead, they are abusing their office and robbing the very people whom they are supposed to be protecting. They enjoy good food and luxuries while others starve.” A similar warning was given in the New Testament by Paul. He spoke of those teachers who only tell people what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).
James E. Smith pointed out that Micah 3 “contains three oracles on the theme of justice addressed to the heads of the nation and the prophets who supported them. . . . Micah makes it clear that the government itself is the object of his denunciation, especially in its role as the guardian of justice.”
Micah listed four charges against the prophets of his day: causing people to go astray; selfishly doing what was expedient; always giving a message of peace; and fighting against any who refused to offer them a bribe. This was all going to change. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God. Isaiah warned of similar impending judgment (Isaiah 29:10).
In contrast to the leaders’ disobedience to God’s will, Micah declared, But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might. He would tell it like it is! The rulers were like those Isaiah described who “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
Harold Shank explained, “To the unjust, desperate to know how God was with them, Micah holds out little hope . . . (He) anticipates that where these unjust are now praying on Zion, others will soon be plowing on Zion . . . . The God who melts mountains (Micah 1:4) will denude the temple mountains in Jerusalem.”
Years later Jeremiah condemned King Jehoiakim of Judah: “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor” (Jeremiah 22:13).
Those facing God’s judgment included leaders, priests, and prophets. They wrongly assumed that they were above the law of God and would never have to worry about his ultimate condemnation of them all. (Compare Jeremiah 23:16, 17.) James E. Smith explained the thinking of what he calls the “tyrannical triumvirate.” The criminals in Zion would ask, “Is not Yahweh in our midst?”
“In the last great oracle of this chapter (9-12), Micah gathers up all that he has so far said and hurls it at those whom he has been denouncing. The nation’s leaders are dishonest. They are trying to build a prosperous city and a prosperous nation, but at the expense of the lives of the poor” (Fraser). Their actions were completely out of sync with God’s will.
The temple was on a prominent hill within the city. The ark of God was in the holy of holies of that temple. To the leaders this was proof enough that Yahweh was in their midst. Israel was his chosen nation. God had an obligation to defend and protect them from enemies. Therefore, “no disaster will come upon us,” the people reasoned.
How wrong they were! Soon they would find that God had no tolerance for corrupt officials. Babylon would conquer the temple as well as the city. God’s promise of judgment issued by Micah and Jeremiah would come true.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.