Leaders and prophets rebuked, 1-12
Here we have three doom oracles, of equal length (four verses), all structured similarly, and all on the theme of justice. In each we are told who is accused (magistrates, then prophets, then priests), what they are accused of, and what the sentence is (God’s silence, silence plus darkness, then his absence when Jerusalem has fallen). (NBC)
1 Then I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the house of Israel.
Should you not know justice,
2 you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;
3 who eat my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
like flesh for the pot?”
4 Then they will cry out to the LORD,
but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done.
You leaders of Jacob – Achtemeier explains that in the smaller villages and towns, justice was dispensed by the local elders, meeting at the town gates. In Jerusalem, however, they would have been appointed by the king from among the family and clan leaders (cf. Deut. 16:18–20; 2 Chron. 19:4–10).
To know justice is, of course, not simply to know about it – to have read the legal textbooks and so on. It is to care about it, to seek to uphold it. Commentators stress that this should be understood with a broad range of meaning – not just decisions made in a court of law. For Barker (NAC), the term suggests everything that contributes to proper order in society. Craigie cites Disraeli, who call justice ‘truth in action’. For Isaiah, it is to ‘correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause’ (Isa. 1:17).
Paul insisted that all human rule is delegated by God (Rom 13:1), and rulers are accountable to him, whether they acknowledge it or not. See also Moses’ instructions to leaders in Ex 18:21, and Jehoshaphat’s words to his officials in 2 Chron 19:6f.
Who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones – They reduce ‘my [Micah’s] people’ to skeletons and thus send them to an early grave. See also (from a century later) Zeph 3:3.
Who eat my people’s flesh – Not shepherds, but cannibals! These people are doing precisely the opposite of what they should be doing. Instead of protecting the lives of the vulnerable, they are ruining those lives.
Allen: ‘The courts were run by officials no better than butchers who skin and bone carcasses – so impoverished of property and deprived of legal rights were those who sought redress at their tribunals. Micah’s words give the impression of a wicked conspiracy at work. The judges were hand in glove with the criminal elite who made it worth their while or were even included in their ranks. The defenceless were skinned of property and money to swell the fortunes of those who should have been their protectors.’
Barker (NAC) quotes the vivid words of G.A. Smith: ‘While Micah spoke he had wasted lives and bent backs before him.… Pinched peasant-faces peer between all his words.’
In how many countries today are the weak exploited and abused, and the authorities not lifting a finger to help them?
What Micah is describing here is not just individual sin, but structural and institutionalised sin – ‘the result of decades, if not centuries, of spiritual and moral decadence on the part of those in authority. His strictures have their modern parallels in exposures of police corruption, bent lawyers, intimidation of witnesses and the Mafia-like impact of the underworlds which control drugs, gambling, weapons and prostitution.’ (Prior)
When injustice becomes a way of life, then God will deal with it not with mercy, but with judgement.
My people – Doubtless Micah’s vivid description of wickedness in high places comes from personal observation, his outrage ‘fueled by faces in his mind of people he knew from back home in Moresheth who were so victimized, and from personal encounters with the poor, homeless victims who came to Jerusalem.’ (Phillips) As Allen says, ‘these are his kith and kin, folk he knows and others like them. How dare these brutes so illtreat his brothers and sisters under God!’
‘A quick perusal of the Ten Commandments will show that God requires us to preserve the life and well-being of our fellow man, to respect the property that God has given to others, and not to covet the blessings enjoyed by our neighbors.’ (Phillips)
As Phillips remarks, an index of God’s detestation of sin was available for all to see in the daily sacrifices that were offered in the Temple. And, still more strikingly, we see it in the death of him who knew no sin, but sacrificed himself on our account (Eph 1:7).
Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them – Those who have failed to heed the cries of others will find their own cries ignored by the Lord. This accusation implies that, like the other complained about in this chapter, these people were going through the motions of religious observance. But their religion, empty and heartless as it was, will disappoint them.
Allen says that the term translated to ‘cry out’ is a technical term for an appeal to a judge. See 2 King 8:1-6 for an example of the exercise of this right. But these judges would listen to no such appeal: therefore, their own appeals to God would go unheeded. Cf. Prov 21:13.
‘It is God’s glory that he is faithful to hear the cries of his people in distress. Psalm 107:6 celebrates God’s readiness to answer prayers: “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” But this would not happen when Jerusalem’s rulers cried their prayers to God.’ (Phillips)
‘As the judges turn a deaf ear to the poor, so too God will not listen to their pleas when they are helpless.’ (TOTC) Here is a clear enough answer to the question: Does God always answer prayer?
‘Moses confronts us here with the greatest evil that could ever befall us, that is, that God rejects those who reject him, and that God refuses to answer then, so that all their prayers are in vain and are no longer received by God’ (Calvin)
Davis remarks that secular leaders and rulers are accountable to God, whether they recognise this or not. ‘Western secularists may tout their sacred cow of “separation of church and state”, but that mantra will not win them immunity from the scrutiny and judgement of God’s word.’
‘There will come a time when the most proud and scornful sinners will cry to the Lord, and sue for that mercy which they once neither valued nor copied out. But it will then be in vain; God will even hide his face from them at that time, that time when they need his favour, and see themselves undone without it.’ (MHC)
He will hide his face from them – They will no longer experience his friendship and favour. Cf. Num 6:24f; Psa 27:7-9. Waltke remarks that this is the worst form of judgement: not the affliction itself, but the absence of God in it.
Because of the evil they have done – lit. ‘In fitting return…’ (Allen); once again, Micah is concerned to show that the punishment will fit the crime. Those who have been deaf to the cries of the oppressed will find that the Lord is deaf to their own cries for help.
Allen rightly refers to Micah’s oracle a ‘a cry from the heart’. The prophet is expressing ‘God’s own disgust at corruption in the lawcourts.’
Christians, too, may feel God’s chastisement when they ‘grieve the Holy Spirit’ (Eph 4:30). ‘Indeed, when we feel an absence of God from our lives, and a corresponding lack of the grace of his Spirit within us, we should investigate the pattern by which we have been living, the sins we have been accommodating, and our faithfulness (or lack thereof) to the obligations God has given us for those under our care.’ (Phillips)
Is there hope for those who are thus rebuked? Indeed there is. Jeremiah would look back at this period and declare that Hezekiah had turned to the Lord in repentance and faith (Jer 26:19). God heard his prayer, and withdrew the threat of disaster. The same was true even in the case of Manasseh, who had been so thoroughly wicked (2 Chron 33:12f).
5 This is what the LORD says:
“As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
if one feeds them,
they proclaim ‘peace’;
if he does not,
they prepare to wage war against him.
6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions,
and darkness, without divination.
The sun will set for the prophets,
and the day will go dark for them.
7 The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
They will all cover their faces
because there is no answer from God.”
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression,
to Israel his sin.
Waltke thinks that the speech marks should begin in v6 (not v5, as NIV). Allen also: ‘This is Yahweh’s message for the prophets who lead my people astray…’
The prophets who lead my people astray – They were properly-credentialed ministers, who could look back to the prophetic community associated with Elijah and Elisha. As Achtemeier notes, These prophets seem to have possess real gifts, but they used them to ‘lead my people astray’, for personal gain. Their sin is that ‘they are letting the size of the fee determine the content of their prophecy’. Knowing whether a prophecy, or other kind of teaching, is true or not can be a challenge for Christians today. But now, as then ‘By their fruits you will know them’, Mt 7:15-20.
Achtemeier: ‘The book of Deuteronomy gives two tests by which the judgment between two contradictory messages could be made (Deut. 13:1–3; 18:21–22), and these are still good measures of true preaching and false.’
Prior remarks that when injustice characterises the marketplace and the courtroom, at least it should be possible to expect the religious leaders to stand up and speak out. But the prophets did not confront the wicked businessmen and political leaders: they colluded with them.
If one feeds them – The underlying picture is of a snake which kills in order to devour. The expression encompasses bribery of all kinds.
As Achtemeier says, it was customary for prophets to be offered gifts or fees, 1 Sam 9:7f; 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 4:42; 8:7-9. But in the present case the payment amounted to bribery. Keep them well-fed, and they will prophesy good things for you. If not, war is coming. Clearly, ‘money talked louder than God to these false prophets.’ (NBC)
‘To falsely prophesy evil against a person was to subject the person to dread and fear of the most ravaging kind, and the false prophets were subjecting the poor to such injury simply out of their own greed and callousness toward their compatriots.’ (Achtemeier)
They are like those who opposed Paul: ‘Their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things’ (Phil. 3:19).
They proclaim peace – ‘Micah charges that the false prophets were granting assurances of shalom to the very sinners who were most violently oppressing God’s people and most flagrantly transgressing God’s law.’ (Phillips)
As Bentley puts it: ‘These false prophets were telling the inhabitants of Judah that everything was all right. Of course that was what they wanted to hear. We all love to hear good news. We long to be assured that everything is well. We desire an easy pathway through life. No wonder the people listened with pleasure when the false prophets said that everything was peaceful.’
But peace is far too important to be trivialised, given its
- nature, Eph 2:11-18
- conditions, Isa 48:16-22
- way, Isa 26:3; Acts 10:36; Rom 5:1
- author, Isa 9:6; 2 Thess 3:6
- makers, Mt 5:9; James 3:18
- cost, Col 1:20
- alternatives, Eze 7:23-27; Lk 19:37-66
See also Isa 48:22; Jer 6:14.
In contrast these false prophets uttered not a word against the corrupt officials of vv1-4.
These people were perhaps, as Achtemeier ruefully notes, ‘the forerunners of every preacher who would not think of upsetting the largest contributor to the church budget, or of every institution that has named a building after a wealthy scoundrel, or of every university that has given an honorary doctor’s degree to an ignorant but generous millionaire.’
Today, preachers of the ‘prosperity gospel’ can fill their churches with those who are willing to part with their money, if only they can be promised health and yet more wealth. ‘“Peace, peace!” they cry. “God wants only to bless you and fill your life with earthly things!” Yet they seldom point out God’s holy anger against sin and they suppress the message of the cross, since it implies that God might be more serious and demanding than churchgoers are interested in paying to hear.’ (Phillips)
They prepare to wage war – Theirs is a message of peace for those who pay them and feed them; for others, war is declared. As Prior says: ‘The people who ought to have been told about war had peace preached to them. The people who ought to have heard about peace found that the religious authorities, like the rest of those in authority, had declared war on them.’
Divination was strictly forbidden (Deut 18:9-14), but sometimes practised (2 Kings 17:14-18). Micah is not condoning it here, but simply saying that ‘regardless of the techniques they may employ, God will give no word to these men…whatever they try won’t work.’ (Davis)
They will see no more visions; all around will be darkness. They will lose the source of their prestige and standing in society. With the lost of their gift, they have lost the source of their elicit gain. (Waltke)
God may withdraw the spirit of prophecy, in part or wholly. See 1 Sam 3:1; 28:6,15; Amos 8:11f.
We need today, says Phillips, congregations who are sufficiently well-instructed in the essential truths of the faith that they can recognised false teaching for what it is. Conversely, we need ministers who will thus instruct their congregations in the fundamentals of the faith. Part of what it means to love God is to love God’s truth (cf. Deut 13:3).
With the American slave trade in mind, Ellison (Feasting on the Word) insightfully remarks: ‘Although evil surely resides in individual acts, evil also becomes routinized in everyday attitudes and systemic patterns that, over time, are taken for granted as “the way things are.” Innocently or not, people “without vision,” “without revelation” (v. 6), let their institutions do their sinning for them while they keep up the appearance of having “clean hands.”’
They will all cover their faces – Better, ‘their lips’. They have nothing to say.
So it was in other times of apostasy and disobedience: ‘In the period of chaos before the rise of the monarchy, it is said that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” (1 Sam. 3:1). When the Lord removes blessing from Saul, the king’s inquiries go unanswered (1 Sam. 28:6). In the midst of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis of the 730s, Isaiah says that the Lord was “hiding his face” (Isa. 8:17).’ (Feasting On The Word)
‘Micah’s diagnosis warns that it is still possible for a theologian to become more concerned about fees than faith, about honoraria than honor.’ (Limburg, cited by Barker)
In contrast to the false prophets, who have no power, Micah is filled with power. The word of the Lord, coming from a prophet who is empowered by the Lord, is like a hammer shattering the rocks, Jer 23:29, or a burning fire, Jer 20:20:9. (Achtemeier).
‘Those who act honestly may act boldly; and those who are sure that they have a commission from God need not be afraid of opposition from men.’ (MHC)
Not only is the prophet filled with power, he is also filled with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might – The reference to ‘justice’ reminds us, as Davis remarks, it is not just gifts, but character, that marks a minister as genuine. ‘He does not simply “make a living”, but there is a certain godly passion that percolates within him and drives his ministry.’ ‘Might’ suggests ‘manliness’ or ‘courage’ (“guts”, as we say).’ (Davis)
‘He was full of power, and of judgment, and of might; he had an ardent love to God and to the souls of men, a deep concern for his glory and their salvation, and a flaming zeal against sin. He had likewise courage to reprove it and witness against it, not fearing the wrath either of great men or of great multitudes; whatever difficulties or discouragements he met with, they did not deter him nor drive him from his work; none of these things moved him. And all this was guided by judgment and discretion; he was a man of wisdom as well as courage; in all his preaching there was light as well as heat, and a spirit of wisdom as well as of zeal.’ (MHC)
Power…justice – Prior quotes Pascal: ‘Justice without power is powerless. Power without justice is tyrannical. Justice and power must therefore be connected, so that what is just is also powerful and what is powerful is also just.’
‘Micah’s distinction between a Spirit-led prophet and one motivated by selfish greed exerts a decisive influence on the kind of ministry a preacher will have today. The true minister of God’s Word relies not on oratory or zeal, not on verbal manipulation or emotional sentiment, not on scholarly authority or trendy insight, but on the powerful working of the Holy Spirit attending on God’s Word.’ (Phillips) See 2 Cor 4:2.
- We think of Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna, who refused to recant his faith in Christ in the face of Roman lions: “Eighty and six years have I served [Christ],” he said, “and he never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
- We think of Martin Luther, who refused to compromise the teaching of God’s Word when threatened with flames by the pope. “Here I stand,” Luther declared. “I cannot do otherwise.”
- We think of the English preachers, Latimer and Ridley, during Bloody Mary’s persecution. Chained to the stake, awaiting the flames, Latimer called out, “Be of good comfort, brother Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”
- We think of Chinese house-church pastors such as Allen Yuan and Samuel Lamb, both of whom were imprisoned in labor camps for over twenty years but resumed preaching about Jesus as soon as they were released. “The more persecution, the more the church grows,” Lamb states. Yuan has said: “We have a saying in Beijing. If you dare to preach, people will believe.” Their spirit will triumph over all the powers of earth and hell, by the Word of the Lord and the strength of his might.
Of such stalwart believers, Hebrews 11:16 says, “God is not ashamed to be called their God,” and “he has prepared for them a city.”
The prophet was called and empowered to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin – ‘There will always be something surgical about faithful preaching: it will always seek to expose undetected rebellion and hidden idolatry. Genuine believers realize how healthy this is and rejoice to have their sin exposed in this way.’ (Davis)
There is great pressure on modern preachers to be ‘positive’, ‘encouraging’, ‘uplifting’, and so on. Micah’s experience here provides a powerful corrective to this man-pleasing approach. Davis remarks that it was only after his marriage that he realised how selfish and self-centred he was. ‘So it is with many Christians; they should find that it is after they have been converted and are among the people of God that they see they are far more deeply corrupted, perverse and idolatrous than they ever imagined.’
Prior remarks that we have here ‘some timeless pointers to a truly Spirit-filled ministry’. And these will contrast quite strongly with many contemporary definitions of such a ministry. ‘To be filled with the Spirit,
- is to be ranged against all injustice in our society;
- is to stand up for, and on the side of, the oppressed and helpless victims of unjust laws and unjust people;
- is to speak out God’s word fearlessly, even when there is likelihood of personal attack;
- means calling sin sin, not being mealy-mouthed about unpalatable parts of the message God has entrusted to us.’ (Formatting changed)
‘Those who come to hear the word of God must be willing to be told of their faults, and must not only give their ministers leave to deal plainly and faithfully with them, but take it kindly, and be thankful; but, since few have meekness enough to receive reproof, those have need of a great deal of boldness who are to give reproofs, and must pray for a spirit both of wisdom and might.’ (MHC)
‘The carnal heart is not warmed to the thought of a holy God, but we must preach this. The sinful nature is offended by the notion of God’s wrath versus all sin. The lustful human heart resents it when cherished sins are condemned as evil. Man’s self-righteous heart is repelled by the idea that sin must be atoned for by blood. The relativist is outraged by the insistence that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus. But we must battle for all these things, like Micah and the true prophets, in the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and might. We do not battle for truth so that sinners will be condemned, since that will happen without our preaching. We battle for truth so that sinners might be saved—by confessing their sin, repenting, and believing in the Savior Jesus Christ, whose blood alone redeems our transgressions and sins.’ (Phillips)
‘For congregations used to hearing prophetic preaching directed at those outside the church who do not do what is right, the challenge will be to let Micah speak to those who are sitting in—and in front of—the pulpit, as well as those sitting in city hall or corporate headquarters elsewhere.’ (Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On The Word)
Taylor adds the following homiletic suggestion: ‘Micah singles out leaders because their decisions affect wide numbers of people. The preacher might choose an example from the news that demonstrates how many people a single decision can affect. He or she might start with headline news—something far away that will not threaten anyone present—getting agreement from the congregation on the wrongness of that story, before adding one closer to home, and finally ending with one that affects everyone in the room (even if they need some help recognizing that).’
9 Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob,
you rulers of the house of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
10 who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness.
11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they lean upon the LORD and say,
“Is not the LORD among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
Phillips looks forward to the time when Jeremiah would preach a sermon with the text, “Stop trusting in the temple!” ‘The problem Jeremiah faced was that so many people led godless lives yet sought to claim God’s saving promises. In his day, the vices of theft, murder, p 219 adultery, blasphemy, and idolatry characterized the behavior of the people. Yet the people committing these sins still had the audacity to come before God’s presence at the temple and claim his salvation.’
Hear this – ‘He would not, he durst not, make thus bold with the great men, but that he was carried out to do it by a prophetical impulse and impression.’ (MHC)
You leaders – See Isa 3:2f for a list of who these might be.
Those who should have ‘known justice’ (v1) actually despise it. Don’t suppose that they went around saying, “We despise justice!” No: they are self-deceived, and blind to their own faults. (Prior)
Who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness – They had an impressive skyline to show: a triumph of economic acumen and technological know-how. But, like many such achievements today, it masked grinding poverty and systematic corruption.
Phillips notes that Jerusalem expanded three- or four-fold during the reign of Hezekiah. Important projects included the digging of the Siloam tunnel that brought water into the city.
Mays: ‘It was urban renewal with a vengeance, a new Jerusalem that cost the lives of men.’
Prior remarks that the picture of Jerusalem that Micah paints here is in complete contrast to picture that most of its inhabitants and visitors would see: ‘Its buildings were impressive, its prosperity was massive; its past was a source of pride – and its temple dominated the whole vista.’
Vawter: the meaning is ‘that they have squeezed the slender resources of their victims by nothing short of bloodshed to provide the brick and mortar for their flamboyant municipal works.’
Allen: ‘An eviction order here, a whisper there to arrange compulsory purchase, drafting ‘volunteers’ into forced labor squads—in these and doubtless other more murderous ways the men with the whip hands held cheap the God-given rights of property, liberty, and life.’
As Waltke remarks, ‘The ten commandments guaranteed all men four rights: the right to life (‘you shall not murder’), the right to a home (‘you shall not commit adultery’), the right to property (‘you shall not steal’) and the right to reputation (‘you shall not give false testimony’). Israel’s leaders, although required to bestow these rights, in fact violated them.’
Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money – ‘When men do that which in itself is good, but do it for filthy lucre, it loses its excellency, and becomes an abomination both to God and man.’ (MHC)
‘A legal problem? Take it to the judge. A religious problem? Take it to the priest. A personal problem? Take it to the prophet. A satisfactory answer was guaranteed if money passed from hand to hand.’ (Allen)
The leaders, priests and prophets all have mercenary motives, yet they still think that God is among them and will protect them. They have a form of godliness, while denying its power.
Davis says that bribery was so widespread in the ancient world that no Mesopotamian text exists that actually outlaws it. Actually, it was ‘not only a common practice, but was recognised as a legal transaction.’ (Finkelstein, cited by Davis). The word of the Lord stands against corrupt financial dealings, however embedded they may be in any society.
‘What troubled Micah (and God far more) was the sin in the courts, palaces, and temple. All three branches of government were corrupt. Worse yet they worked hand in hand. The politicians got their way in the courts, and the judges were paid for their destruction of justice. The prophets also benefited from this arrangement and supported the government in turn.’ (Boice)
As for the antidote to this near-universal tendency towards greed and exploitation, Calvin says: ‘The truest means of remedying and checking this evil inclination that lies within us, is to show charity towards our neighbors.’
They lean upon the Lord – The prophet turns from their moral behaviour to their religious practices. And, yes, the Lord can be leaned upon, Isa 10:20. But with trust, not presumption. ‘We lean on him for mercy and forgiveness, for strength and guidance – or we lean on him at our peril.’ (Prior)
They presumed that God was on their side, without stopping to ask, “Yes, but are we on God’s side?”
“Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us” – It is all to easy for religious leaders to suppose that with their wonderful buildings, gorgeous vestments, and lofty liturgy they have secured God’s presence among us, notwithstanding the sinfulness of their hearts. It is far otherwise. Part of the problem was that ‘the leadership imagined that God’s commitment to his house, his hill and his city was irrevocable.’ (Prior)
Phillips notes that such presumption can take various forms: presuming upon God’s power; presuming up his promises; and presuming upon his patience.
‘This kind of piety remains a danger whenever we drive a wedge between or working lives and our worshipping lives. The workplace then becomes a hermetically sealed compartment, from which we routinely exclude any recognition of the presence of God by reserving worship for the holy place. Spiritual and moral perspectives are not considered relevant or practical in such secular space. Much local church life buys into this dichotomy, simply by failing to address the realities of the workplace and thus giving tacit endorsement to a Sundays-only faith.’ (Prior)
At the heart of the double life just described (says Prior) is the wish for God to bless our schemes, rather truly submitting to his will. We use his word as our insurance policy, rather than as our Maker’s instructions.
Phillips reminds us that Jeremiah would invited people to visit Shiloh, precisely because that place, once the focus for the worship of the Lord, was now forsaken (Jer 7:12; cf. Psa 78:58-60). There are many such Shilohs today.
‘This is a warning to people today who rely on their church membership to grant them God’s favor, apart from a living and obedient faith. It warns Christian youths who go along with their parents to church and observe an outward faith but engage in no true discipleship to Christ. It is a warning to nations such as America, which glibly assumes God’s favor because of past spiritual achievements, yet now embraces the grossest perversions and the most despicable sins. Most of all, it is a warning to churches that observe Christian traditions but neither teach true doctrine nor promote godly living.’ (Phillips)
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble – No sooner had the temple been dedicated ( 1 Kings 8) than the Lord was warning Solomon that faithlessness would lead to the Lord’s abandonment of the temple, 1 Kings 9. Now, 250 years later, that time has arrived.
‘The sentence that Jerusalem’s fate will be the same as that of apostate Samaria brought Hezekiah to his knees (2 Kgs 18–20; 2 Chr. 29–31; Jer. 26:19). Hezekiah’s repentance, in accordance with the principle laid down in Jeremiah 18:8, turned the punishment aside. Because of this principle, judicial sentences are in effect threats.’ (Waltke)
‘The Lord, because of their breach of covenant, used King Nebuchadnezzar’s Neo-Babylonian army to raze Jerusalem and its temple. They were reduced to a “mound of ruins”…similar to an archaeological tell and to Ai, foreshadowing the Roman destruction of A.D. 70. Jerusalem became a place suitable only for wild animals. And the temple mount that thronged with worshipers became as deserted as when Abraham almost offered Isaac there on Mount Moriah (Gen 22:2, 14).’ (Barker)
‘Jesus likewise announced the fall of the temple (Matt. 24) after denouncing the religious leaders for misusing the service of God for their own glory and profit (Matt. 23).’ (Waltke)
‘No mere individual among the people of Israel would have dared even think such wild thoughts, let alone declare them in public and address them directly to the nations’ leaders. Such language was tantamount to high treason, as Jeremiah in particular was later to find out. But Micah…had argued from the basis of God’s own word to the only conclusion possible in the face of such pervasive wickedness in high places.’
Davis warns that no nation – Christian though it may believe itself to be – can afford to say, “God would never…” We cannot argue that because we have a noble spiritual heritage, or so many fine church buildings, or give so much money to good causes, that we are somehow invulnerable.
Indeed, Jeremiah got himself into trouble through prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem. His life was saved when it was found that Micah had preached the same message one hundred years earlier (Jer 26:18f quotes Mic 3:12). The passage in Jeremiah informs us that Micah’s message did not fall entirely on deaf ears Hezekiah, at least, heeded it and instigated notable reforms.
Who is to say that a city or nation cannot suffer the same fate, for the same reasons, today? (Prior)