Micah 3

God Will Judge Judah’s Sinful Leaders

1I said,
“Listen, you leaders
Heb “heads.”
of Jacob,
you rulers of the nation
Heb “house.”
of Israel!
You ought to know what is just,
Heb “Should you not know justice?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course you should!”

2 yet you
Heb “the ones who.”
hate what is good,
Or “good.”

and love what is evil.
Or “evil.”

You flay my people’s skin
Heb “their skin from upon them.” The referent of the pronoun (“my people,” referring to Jacob and/or the house of Israel, with the Lord as the speaker) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

and rip the flesh from their bones.
Heb “and their flesh from their bones.”
Micah compares the social injustice perpetrated by the house of Jacob/Israel to cannibalism, because it threatens the very lives of the oppressed.

3 You
Heb “who.”
devour my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin,
and crush their bones.
You chop them up like flesh in a pot
The MT reads “and they chop up as in a pot.” The translation assumes an emendation of כַּאֲשֶׁר (kaasher, “as”) to כִּשְׁאֵר (kisher, “like flesh”).

like meat in a kettle.
4 Someday these sinners will cry to the Lord for help,
Heb “then they will cry out to the Lord.” The words “Someday these sinners” have been supplied in the translation for clarification.

but he will not answer them.
He will hide his face from them at that time,
because they have done such wicked deeds.”
5 This is what the Lord says: “The prophets who mislead my people
are as good as dead.
Heb “concerning the prophets, those who mislead my people.” The first person pronominal suffix is awkward in a quotation formula that introduces the words of the Lord. For this reason some prefer to begin the quotation after “the Lord says” (cf. NIV), but this leaves “concerning the prophets” hanging very awkwardly at the beginning of the quotation. It is preferable to add הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) at the beginning of the quotation, right after the graphically similar יְהוָה (yehvah; see D. R. Hillers, Micah [Hermeneia], 44). The phrase הוֹי עַל (hoy al, “woe upon”) occurs in Jer 50:27 and Ezek 13:3 (with “the prophets” following the preposition in the latter instance).

If someone gives them enough to eat,
they offer an oracle of peace.
Heb “those who bite with their teeth and cry out, ‘peace.’” The phrase “bite with the teeth” is taken here as idiomatic for eating. Apparently these prophets were driven by mercenary motives. If they were paid well, they gave positive oracles to their clients, but if someone could not afford to pay them, they were hostile and delivered oracles of doom.

But if someone does not give them food,
they are ready to declare war on him.
Heb “but [as for the one] who does not place [food] in their mouths, they prepare for war against him.”

6 Therefore night will fall, and you will receive no visions;
Heb “it will be night for you without a vision.”
The coming of night (and darkness in the following line) symbolizes the cessation of revelation.

it will grow dark, and you will no longer be able to read the omens.
Heb “it will be dark for you without divination.”
The reading of omens (Heb “divination”) was forbidden in the law (Deut 18:10), so this probably reflects the prophets’ view of how they received divine revelation.

The sun will set on these prophets,
and the daylight will turn to darkness over their heads.
Heb “and the day will be dark over them.”

7 The prophets
Or “seers.”
will be ashamed;
the omen readers will be humiliated.
All of them will cover their mouths,
Or “the mustache,” or perhaps “the beard.” Cf. KJV, NAB, NRSV “cover their lips.”

for they will receive no divine oracles.”
Heb “for there will be no answer from God.”

8 But I
The prophet Micah speaks here and contrasts himself with the mercenaries just denounced by the Lord in the preceding verses.
am full of the courage that the Lord’s Spirit gives,
and have a strong commitment to justice.
Heb “am full of power, the Spirit of the Lord, and justice and strength.” The appositional phrase “the Spirit of the Lord” explains the source of the prophet’s power. The phrase “justice and strength” is understood here as a hendiadys, referring to the prophet’s strong sense of justice.

This enables me to confront Jacob with its rebellion,
and Israel with its sin.
Heb “to declare to Jacob his rebellion and to Israel his sin.” The words “this enables me” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

9 Listen to this, you leaders of the family
Heb “house.”
of Jacob,
you rulers of the nation
Heb “house.”
of Israel!
Heb “who.” A new sentence was begun here in the translation for stylistic reasons (also at the beginning of v. 10).
hate justice
and pervert all that is right.
10 You
Heb “who.”
build Zion through bloody crimes,
Heb “bloodshed” (so NAB, NASB, NIV); NLT “murder.”

Jerusalem through unjust violence.
11 Her
The pronoun Her refers to Jerusalem (note the previous line).
leaders take bribes when they decide legal cases,
Heb “judge for a bribe.”

her priests proclaim rulings for profit,
and her prophets read omens for pay.
Yet they claim to trust
Heb “they lean upon” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV); NAB “rely on.”
the Lord and say,
“The Lord is among us.
Heb “Is not the Lord in our midst?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course he is!”

Disaster will not overtake
Or “come upon” (so many English versions); NCV “happen to us”; CEV “come to us.”
12 Therefore, because of you,
The plural pronoun refers to the leaders, priests, and prophets mentioned in the preceding verse.
Zion will be plowed up like
Or “into” (an adverbial accusative of result).
a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
and the Temple Mount
Heb “the mountain of the house” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV).
will become a hill overgrown with brush!
Heb “a high place of overgrowth.”

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