Micah 2:1-5

3. 2:1-11 The Wickedness of the Wayward

a. 2:1-5 The Prosperous who Plunder

Verses 1-5 of Micah chapter 2 is a woe oracle declared upon those who devise plans and carry them out to remove the less fortunate from their houses. Micah defines the sins of the wicked and then delivers the sentence of God’s judgment upon them. In chapter 1, Micah had denounced those who had sinned against God. In chapter 2 Micah describes those who have sinned against each other. In chapter 1, the sin of the people is idol worship which is spiritual idolatry. In chapter 2 the sin of the people is coveting which is also idolatry. Because of these sins against God and against God’s covenant people, the people of Judah have brought God’s punishment upon themselves. The literary structure of 2:1-5 is that of a poem in verses 1-4 followed by a statement of God’s judgment in vs. 5.

2:1 Woe to those who devise iniquity,

            who plot evil on their beds.

   When the morning dawns, they do it,

            because it is in the power of their hand.

2:2 They covet fields, then seize them,

            and houses, and take them.

    They cheat a person out of his house,

            even taking a person’s family inheritance.

A simple outline of 2:1-2 could be stated as (1) planning evil, (2) plotting executed and (3) poor evicted. Micah begins his description of these sins against the people by a pronouncement of woe. Woe, Hebrew hôy was used quite often by the O.T. prophets to announce God’s coming judgment upon not only His covenant people but also the nations that were neighbors or enemies of Israel. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, used hôy sixteen times and other words for woe five times in his prophetic writings. In the New Testament the Greek word for “woe,” οὐαί occurs 46 times mostly exclaimed by Jesus Christ as a declaration of judgment. Micah’s pronouncement of woe is directed to those who devise (plan, NIV), iniquitous and evil schemes while they lie on their beds at night and then execute these schemes in the morning. They to this because they have the power to accomplish it. The words “it is in the power of their hand” is similar to Laban’s words to Jacob, recorded in Genesis 31:29, “it is in the power of my hand.”

The identification of “those” to whom this declaration of woe is given, is not stated by Micah but would certainly include wealthy landowners and those of power and influence. See Micah 7:3 “The prominent ones…weave their plots together.” They should have been the protectors of the poor, Exodus 22:25-27; 23:6-7; Leviticus 19:13; but instead they were covetous of the land of others who had little in financial and material holdings. Long before the days of Micah, king Ahab of Samaria coveted the vineyard of his neighbor Naboth and plotted against his neighbor, resulting in Naboth’s death, to attain what his heart coveted, 1 Kings chapter 21. Long before the days of Ahab, king David of Jerusalem, coveted his neighbor Uriah’s wife and plotted against his neighbor, resulting in Uriah’s death to attain what his heart coveted, 2 Samuel chapter 11. In the N.T. Paul states that coveting is the same as idolatry, Colossians 3:5.

Coveting was prohibited in the tenth of the ten commandments, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17. Both kings Ahab and David were guilty of sinning against their neighbour and God by their acts of covetousness. Also, the moral and ceremonial laws declared by God to His covenant people included this precept, “you shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him.” Leviticus 19:13 (NKJV). These wealthy and powerful landowners also neglected the fact that the land belonged to the LORD, Leviticus 25:23, Job 41:11. In the N.T. see Romans 11:35.

The wicked wealthy and powerful devise iniquity and plot evil. The Hebrew word ʾāʹ·wěn is translated as “iniquity” in the DASV, KJV, NKJV, NIV NASB; and as “wickedness” in the CSB and ESV. The Hebrew word rǎʿ is translated as “evil,” in all these English versions. These two Hebrew words also occur together in Psalm 28:3; Isaiah 31:2 and 59:7. In the English text of Scripture the words “iniquity” and “evil” often occur together as well as other words with a similar meaning such as “sin” and “wickedness.”

In 2:2 The Lord strongly rebukes those who covet the land and houses of others and seize them thus cheating them of their “family inheritance.” They would have given loans to poor landowners. The properties of the poor and less fortunate were held as collateral to the loans. When payment was demanded by these wealthy and powerful loan holders, the poor had no recourse but to “sell” their land thus giving up their family inheritance. The Mosaic law made provision for the return of land to families during the year of Jubilee, the 50th year following seven times of seven sabbath years, Leviticus 25:8-17, and 27:24. Also provisions were made for the inheritance of family land to family members including surviving daughters, Numbers 27:1-11, 36:1-13. Naboth, vehemently objected to king Ahab’s request to obtain Naboth’s vineyard because it was the inheritance from his father, 1 Kings 21:3. The seizure of land and homes from those who did not have the wealth or power to prevent this atrocious social injustice was abhorrent in God’s eyes and the only members of Judah’s society speaking out against this practice was the lonely prophets of God, whose words fell on deaf ears.1

2:3 Therefore this is what the LORD says:

            “Look, I am planning a disaster against this family,

                        from which you will not be able to remove your necks.

            You will no longer walk in arrogance,

                        for it will be a time of trouble.

2:4 In that day they will take up a taunt against you,

            and lament with a mournful lamentation, saying,

   ‘We are utterly ruined!

            He changes the portion of my people.

     How does he remove it from me!

            He allots our fields to traitors.'”

2:5 Therefore you will have no one to mark out the boundaries by lot

            in the assembly of the LORD.

In 2:3-5, Micah declares the LORD’s judgment upon those within the covenantal “family” of the children of Israel who should have been protectors of the poor and unfortunate family members. They instead showed contempt for the instructions of the LORD by being a predator instead of a protector. God’s judgment will bring disaster in the form of a more powerful predator who will remove the ruthless from their residences. The entire family will face exile. There are several wordplays in these verses which highlight Micah’s acumen with the Hebrew language.2

2:3 Therefore this is what the LORD says:

Micah separates the description of the perpetrators of evil and the declaration of the penalties for evil by “therefore.” The prophet will emphasize this distinctive separation again by the use of “therefore” in 2:5.

Look, I am planning a disaster against this family,

from which you will not be able to remove your necks.

Micah displays his literary excellence in 2:3-5 beginning with a comparison of those who “devise iniquity” in 2:1, and the LORD who is “planning disaster” 2:3. The landowners who are powerful and wealthy within the society who devise (plan) ḥāšab iniquity and plot evil rǎʿ will be outmaneuvered by the supreme powerful and wealthy landowner who is planning ḥāšab disaster rǎʿ against them. Years later Jeremiah declared God’s judgment, “Now tell the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am preparing a disaster against you and devising a plan against you. So turn now everyone from his evil way and improve your ways and your actions.” Jeremiah 18:11.

This disaster will come upon “this family” which is a metaphor for the entire nation of Judah and specifically for the wealthy and powerful who prey upon the weak and poor of the Judean society. The citizens of Judah are reminded that they are a family, the children of Israel. God’s impending judgment upon the predators of the family will affect the entire family community. The prophet Amos stated, “Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family I brought up out of the land of Egypt: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” Amos 3:1-2. See also Jeremiah 8:3.

The consequence of the “disaster” that God is planning against His covenant family is that they will be unable to escape, like someone who is placed in a yoke and cannot remove their necks from it. Moses warned the children of Israel before they entered the promised land, that as a consequence of their sins against God, they would “serve your enemies that the LORD will send against you, in hunger, thirst, nakedness and need of everything. He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.” Deuteronomy 28:48. See also Jeremiah 27:2 Lamentations 1:14; 5:5; and Hosea 10:11. The yoke of God’s judgment is painful and His burden is heavy compared to the yoke of following Jesus which is easy and His burden is light. See Matthew 11:30.

You will no longer walk in arrogance,

for it will be a time of trouble.

The predators of the people, Micah 2:1-2, who for a time walked in arrogance will now have a time of trouble. “Arrogance” is the Hebrew word rômâ which occurs only in this verse, is translated as “haughtily” in the KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV and “proudly” in the NIV. Isaiah also prophesized God’s judgment on the ruthless, “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease and bring down the haughtiness of the ruthless.” Isaiah 13:11. God’s judgment will come as a “time of trouble.” The word “trouble” is the same Hebrew word translated as “disaster” earlier in this verse. The double occurrence of rǎʿ emphasizes the certainty and extremity of God’s judgment, indicating His outrage against social injustice arrogantly perpetrated by those who distain His laws.

4 In that day they will take up a taunt against you,

Those who will observe the disaster to come upon the wealthy and powerful and unfortunately will also include all the people of Judea, take up a taunt against the “family,” vs. 3. Micah’s use of irony is portrayed in the words “take up,” vs. 4 Hebrew nâśâ’ which is the same Hebrew word translated as “take them” in vs. 2. The predators who take up fields and houses away from the weak and poor will hear from others who will take up a taunt (song) against them. A taunt, Hebrew mâšâl is a proverb or adage spoken against someone. Usually those who sing or speak a taunt do so to humble or ridicule those who are being sung/spoken against. Micah paints a literary picture of those who were once powerful and mighty in the Judean society being taken in exile and in their misery, while they are marched away, hear the taunts of those who are observing the beginning of their captivity. For other examples of mâšâl, see the taunt against the King of Babylon, Isaiah chapter 14:4-21. See also Habakkuk 2:6. Balaam’s “discourses” (DASV “oracles”) pertaining to the children of Israel, are also defined as a mâšâl.  See Numbers 23:7, 18; 24:3, 15, 20, 21, and 23.

and lament with a mournful lamentation, saying,

‘We are utterly ruined!

Because of the disaster God will bring to the wealthy and powerful predators within the Judean society, they will “lament with a mournful lamentation.”  This three-word phrase in the Hebrew, nā·hā(h)ʹ nehîʹ ni·heyāhʹ, could also be translated “lament with a lament of lamentation.” Lament in the O.T.  “to wail, to cry aloud,” was often an expression of mourning by those hired for the occasion, Jeremiah 9:17-22; Ezekiel 32:16-19 and Amos 5:16. However in the picture portrayed by Micah, it is the very culprits who have committed crimes against their countrymen who will loudly wail in lamentation because of the calamity that has come upon them. Lamentation is something that many perceive to be something left in the sands of time but at least one scholar argues that the Church today should consider the practice today.3

Micah reveals that the content of their lament is the expression “we are utterly ruined,” which in the Hebrew has the same sound to the word “fields,” which occurs later in vs. 4. The reason the powerful predators lament their ruin is that the very fields they plotted to take from the poor and less fortunate will be taken from them leaving them poor, weak, without resources and captives of their enemies. To compound their miserable state, the fields they previously ruthlessly seized have been seized by the Assyrians, whom are described as apostates or traitors.

He changes the portion of my people.

How does he remove it from me!

He allots our fields to traitors.

The New Living Translates this three-line lament (DASV) as “God has confiscated our land, taking it from us. He has given our fields to those who betrayed us.” The phrase “portion of my people” refers to the land of Canaan, which God gave to the children of Israel. It is land that had stipulations for remaining in the possession of the original tribal families. See notes on vss. 2:1-2 above. The wicked “land-grabbers” in their lament rightly acknowledge that it was “He” (God) who was the divine judge who removed their possessions (fields) and has allotted them to “traitors.” The word “traitors” DASV, is translated differently by various English versions. It is translated as “turning away” in the KJV; as “turncoat” in the NKJV; as “apostate” in the NASB and ESV”; and as  “traitors” in the NIV. The meaning of this word “traitors” could be “rebellious,” “obstinate,” “willful”4 or simply “heathen.”5  It is perhaps best to understand Micah’s intention of the appalling fact that the lands given to the Children of Israel were to be removed from them and given by God to obstinate heathen. What a galling end to the land of promise for these Covenant people of God.

5 Therefore you will have no one to mark out the boundaries by lot

            in the assembly of the LORD.

The final statement in verses 1-5 is an editorial comment by Micah reflecting on the judgment of God upon the social injustice of the wealthy and powerful in the Judean society of his day. As the prophet foresaw in his vision, God’s ultimate solution to the unrelenting wickedness of his people, he summarized their plight in terms of land allotment. The “assembly of the LORD” refers to “this family,” vs. 3 which in turn refers to the entire Covenant people of God who are in Judah. God has turned over His chosen people to be mastered by “obstinate heathen” who will neither care for them nor will they protect them. They will be thrown out of their land and taken to a land where they have no family inheritance, vs. 2. The land that is allotted by God to the Assyrians will have no one belonging to “God’s family” to set or mark out its boundaries by lot. Micah was referring to the method that Moses had instructed the Israelites for apportioning the land God had given to them. Numbers 34:13;  Joshua 18:4, 10. The word “boundaries” in 2:5 is the Hebrew word ḥeḇel, which is translated as “destruction” in 2:10.

Israel’s Land

Israel’s homeland was given to them by God. It was promised to them through a covenant between God and Abram, later Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant had three main provisions, “land, seed and blessing.” The land is first mentioned in the promise of the covenant in Genesis 12:1-3 and then in the covenant itself, Genesis 15:18; and 17:1-21. See also Exodus 2:24; 6:4-8; and Leviticus 26:40-45.  God told Abram, “I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land where you are now a foreigner, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” Genesis 17:8.

Possession of the land however, had conditions of obedience stipulated through the Mosaic (Sinaitic) covenant. If the Israelites failed to obey God’s decrees and specifically the ten commandments, they would suffer the loss of their land and be scattered among the nations. However in the later days, God will have mercy upon them and in faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, God will respond to their distress and suffering from those who oppress them and will gather them from the nations and bring them back to the land. See Deuteronomy 3:23-31; 8:18-19; 28:58-63 and 30:1-5. But the succeeding generations from the days of Moses, forgot his instructions and warnings. They assumed that because they were descendants of Abraham they would live in the land forever. They had no regard for God’s law and its precepts concerning unilateral faithfulness to God and the preservation of the land through sabbath year rests, and family inheritance. See Leviticus 25:1-55 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.

God finally enacted His judgment upon His covenant people for their wickedness and  rebellion against Him by violating His commands. God removed His people from the land of promise. The first removal came in 722 B.C. when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and exiled most of its inhabitants. The second removal, from 605 to 586 B.C. was at the hands of the Babylonians who conquered the southern nation of Judah and completely destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. Many returned to Judah after 70 years of exile and rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple. The Jewish people were under foreign domination in “their” land from that point until the Romans demolished Jerusalem and burnt the temple in AD. 70. A final destruction of the land by the Romans occurred in AD 135. Although a few Jewish people remained in the land following the Roman conquest, the land was under the control of Gentiles until a United Nations resolution in 1948 ceded a portion of the land to the Jews. The Jewish people do not have possession of all the land of promise. They will only have complete possession when their Messiah returns to establish His kingdom over the earth and sets up His capital in Zion. Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-3 and Zechariah 14:9-21.

Notes for Micah Chapter 2.

  1. Leslie C. Allen, “Micah’s Social Concern,” Vox Evangelica 8 (1973): 22-32.
  2. Robert B. Chisholm Jr. Interpreting the Minor Prophets, Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1990, pages 138-39.
  3. Gary V. Smith, Notes on Lamenting under comments for Micah 1:13-16. The NIV Application Commentary, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zondervan, 2001, Kindle Edition
  4. Walter Kaiser, Micah, page 42.
  5. The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001, entry for Hebrew #7728, page 838.