Micah 6:1-5

IV. Message Three: 6:1-7:20 God’s Judgment on the Ruthless and the Future Relationship with the Ruler

  1. 6:1-5 God’s Charge to His Covenant People
  2. 6:6-8 Micah’s Command to the Chastised People
  3. 6:9-16 God’s Condemnation of His Contemptuous People
    a. 6:9-12 The Catalog of Their Sins
    b. 6:13-16 The Consequences of Their Sins
  4. 7:1-7 The Transgressions of Judah
    a. 7:1-6 The People who Sin
    b. 7:7 The God who Saves
  5. 7:8-20 The Confession and Forgiveness of Sins
    a. 7:8-13 The People Confess Their Sins
    b. 7:14-20 God Forgives and Removes Their Sins

Micah 6:1-7:20  is the third of three cycles or messages within the structure of the book. The first message/cycle is recorded in Micah 1:1-2:13 and the second in 3:1-5:15. This third message contains in chapter 6, God’s indictment (covenant lawsuit) against His people and His command for them to defend themselves with the hills and mountains as their witnesses. God is judging the people of Judah for being unfaithful to His covenant by despising Him through their dishonest business practices, their violence of the privileged against the less fortunate and the lies and deception of the general populace. They also practiced the evil actions of wicked kings identified as Omri and Ahab. They refused to repent of their sinfulness and failed to be faithful to God’s covenant by not following Him with wholehearted faith, devotion and reverence. Because of their wickedness God reveals their sentence of judgment. They will face destruction and ruin and become the mockery and ridicule of other nations. Within the midst of the Lord’s indictment in this chapter, Micah in vs. 8 proclaims what they should have remembered of what the Lord requires of them, a message that sums up the heart of the O.T. teaching on their relationship with God.

In chapter 7, Micah describes the sinfulness of his nation and the demise of the faithful and upright among them. The prophet follows this lament with the knowledge that God is the source of his salvation and light. In wonder and amazement Micah declares that God will have compassion for His people and pardon their iniquity and remove the guilt of their sins from their midst. God will once again show His loyal love to His people as He did to their ancient forefathers. The three messages of the prophet concludes on a high note of  God’s compassion, love and salvation and for His people as He faithfully keeps His covenant promises to them.

6:1-5 God’s Charge to His Covenant People

1 Listen to what the LORD says:

            “Get up, plead your case before the mountains,

                        and let the hills hear your voice.

2 Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s indictment,

            and you enduring foundations of the earth.

    For the LORD has a controversy with his people,

            and he will bring a charge against Israel.

As with each message/cycle, the third begins with “listen,” (other versions have “hear”). The Hebrew word is  šâma‘.  This Hebrew word occurs often in Micah, see 1:2; 3:1; 3:9; 5:15; 6:1 (twice); 6:2; 6:9 and 7:7 and has the meaning of obedience to what is being heard. Chapter 6 can be understood within the context of a courtroom setting (covenant lawsuit) 1 with the LORD as the prosecuting attorney and judge, with the mountains and hills as the witnesses and with God’s covenant people as the defendants.

The people of God are commanded to arise or “get up” to “plead their case.” They have been called to the witness stand to defend themselves before the divine judge. The words “plead your case” is a translation of the Hebrew verb rîyḇ, which occurs also in Micah 7:9 along with the word “cause.”  The Hebrew verb rîyḇ, has the meaning of arguing, contention, pleading and quarrelling. 2  In the Scriptures it is often the LORD who contends.  In Isaiah 3:13 the ESV has, “The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples.” In other passages it is for His people to plead for others, “Learn to do good. Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17. In Micah 6:1 it is for God’s covenant people who are charged by Him to plead their own case in their own defense.

The words “mountains” and “hills” and the “foundations of the earth” in vss. 1-2 are most likely a reference to these earthly features as enduring witnesses to the words, works and testimony of the LORD. See Deuteronomy 4:26;  32:1; Psalm 50:4 and Isaiah 1:2 where both the heavens and the earth are called as witnesses. The Lord also called Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains and hills, Ezekiel 36:1-12. They would have since their creation, witnessed His mighty acts on behalf of His chosen people, the establishment of His covenants, the giving of His law, His protective care and of His people and His longsuffering and patience with these people during the many years since He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. God had remained faithful to His covenant promises with them and the hills, mountains and foundations of the earth had “witnessed” this along with the covenant unfaithfulness of God’s people.

One author suggests that the mountains and hills refer to the nations of the earth. 3 Another suggests that the “foundations of the earth” may refer to the bottom of the mountains that rise from the sea. 4  These features could also be compared to the function of the “memorial stones” which were raised as witnesses to the covenants made between humans, Genesis 32:42-50 and Joshua 22:21-28. 5  Stones were also used as a memorial for the mighty acts of God such as the stones God commanded Joshua to set up adjacent to the crossing place of the Jordan, Joshua 4:1-7.

In 6:2 the mountains and foundations of the earth are called upon to hear the LORD’s “indictment.” The word “indictment” in the DASV is the Hebrew noun rîyḇ which has the meaning of an indictment, dispute or an accusation. It is the same Hebrew noun as the word translated in the DASV as “controversy” also in 6:2. Micah’s dual usage of rîyḇ further indicates that this is a passage depicting the LORD convening a “covenant lawsuit” with His people. This Hebrew noun in 6:2 is translated differently in the English versions. In the KJV both are translated as “controversy;” in the NKJV both are translated as “complaint;” in the ESV both are translated as “indictment.”  The NASB has “indictment” for the first occurrence and “case” for the second. The NIV has “accusation” for the first occurrence and “case” for the second.

The last phrase of 6:2 states in the DASV that the LORD will bring a “charge” against Israel. The word “charge” is the Hebrew yâḵaḥ,  which has the meaning of a rebuke, to judge, to decide and to prove. This word also occurs in the setting of a “covenant lawsuit” in Psalm 50:8, 21 and Hosea 4:4. It also occurs in Micah 4:3 in a far future setting where the Messiah will settle “disputes” among the inhabitants of His millennial kingdom.

The usage of the word “Israel” in 6:2 may indicate both the northern and southern kingdoms are indicated or it is a general word for His people. If it refers to both the northern and southern kingdoms, it may indicate that Micah proclaimed these words prior to the fall of the northern kingdom in 622 B.C.  The NASB leaves this question open with its translation, “Because the LORD has a case against His people; even with Israel He will dispute.” However, because of the mention of the LORD’s actions on behalf of His people in vss. 4-5, it seems appropriate to understand the word “Israel” in a collective sense, referring to all His people regardless of where they reside. They are called “His people” in vs. 2 and again at the beginning of vs. 3 indicating His covenantal relationship with them.

3 O my people, what have I done to you?

            How have I wearied you?

                        Answer me.

4 For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,

            redeemed you out of the house of bondage;

                        I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam before you.

5 O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab plotted,

            and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him.

   Remember what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

            that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”

Verse 3 introduces the first of three rhetorical questions which comprise God’s indictment with His people. God uses this method of interrogation instead of a direct statement of charge against them. The first rhetorical question is comprised of two parts: O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you?  The second question of indictment occurs in vs. 8:  What does the LORD require of you? The third question of indictment occurs in vs. 11 Can I acquit the person with rigged scales, and with a bag of dishonest weights?

The exclamation beginning vs. 3, O my people, should be coupled with the ending of vs. 8, your God. This is an indirect reference to the words of the “covenant formula,” They will be my people, and I will be their God, stated several times in the Scriptures.  See, in the NIV: Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 24:7; 31:33; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 34:30; 37:23, 27; Zechariah 8:8; 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Hebrews 8:10. It is also a statement of God’s eternal relationship with His people as stated in Revelation 21:3. Because they are His people, with whom He has made several covenants, God remains faithful to them as He has remained faithful to His covenants.

It is in this context as God as the faithful covenant keeper that He asks the first of His rhetorical questions of indictment. The is a two-part question, “What have I done to you? How have I wearied you?”  The demand following this indictment is a command to answer Him. There of course can be no answer for God has not done anything to them or weary them that they would have any cause to break His covenant. This is most likely the Mosaic covenant as referenced in Deuteronomy 29:25, “Then people will answer, Because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their forefathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”  The entire Mosaic Covenant with all of its commandments and stipulations and in particular, with Micah 6: 6-7 in this context, it is a direct reference to how His people should worship Him.

Isaiah recorded that God had not wearied them, “But you did not call upon me, O Jacob; you have grown tired of me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you demanding frankincense.” Isaiah 43:22-23. However, in the same context Isaiah stated that just the opposite was true, they had wearied God, “You have bought me no sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.”  Isaiah 43:24. Malachi also stated that God’s people had indeed wearied Him, “You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them;” or “Where is the God of justice?”” Malachi 2:17. See also Isaiah 1:14.

In vss. 4-5 Micah records God’s faithfulness to His people. At least four separate accounts of the “righteous acts” (vs. 5) of the LORD are stated. God’s “righteous acts” are a manifestation of His character and thus all His acts can be understood as righteous and also perfect, holy, just, wise, loving, (and all other aspects of His character). God’s righteous acts cannot be separated from whom God is, His intrinsic nature. Samuel spoke of God’s righteous acts as recorded in 1 Samuel 12:7; as did Daniel in Daniel 9:16. Also those who will be victorious over the beast, his image and the number of his name will glorify God in heaven by singing “the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and awesome are your works, O Lord God Almighty, righteous and true are your ways, King of the ages. 4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before you;  for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4. 6

The first account, vs. 4, is that the LORD brought His chosen people up out of the land of Egypt (and) redeemed them out of the house of bondage. In many passages in the O. T. and some in the N.T., the LORD reminded His people of this event that truly inaugurated the tribes of Israel as a nation. The event itself, and its related themes were announced by God just prior to its occurrence in Exodus 6:6-8, “Therefore say to the Israelites, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the slavery of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from bondage to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 Then I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the Egyptian slavery. 8 I will bring you in to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.” This event including the plagues on Egypt and continuing to the crossing of the Red Sea is recorded in Exodus chapters 7 to 14. Reminders of this paramount event are recorded in many Scriptures including (selected only), Leviticus 11:45; 25:38; Numbers 4:35-38; 15:41; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 24:17; Judges 2:1; 6:8; 1 Samuel 8:7-8; 1 Kings 8:16, 51; 2 Kings 17:7, 35-39;  Psalm 81:10; Jeremiah 7:22-23; 31:32; 34:13; Ezekiel 20:8-12;  Daniel 9:15-16; Hosea 13:4; Amos 2:10; Haggai 2:5; Acts 7:36; Hebrews 8:9 and Jude 1:5.

The word “redeemed” Hebrew p̱âḏâ, has the meaning to ransom (redeem, rescue) for a price paid. The price paid for the rescue of Israel from Egypt was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt, Exodus 4:23 and 12:29. This act was to be remembered annually during the feast of unleavened bread by the Israelites in an act of consecration of all first born, both human and animal, because they belonged to the LORD, Exodus 13: 1-16. This act of consecration involved the giving to the LORD the firstborn of all animals as an act of redemption (p̱âḏâ “redeem”), Exodus 13:13.  David spoke of this act of redemption in 2 Samuel 7:23 as did the psalmist in Psalm 78:42. Jesus, who was Mary’s firstborn, Luke 2:7, was consecrated in accordance with this law, Luke 2:22-23. In Micah 6:4, the LORD is reminding His covenant people that a price was paid to ransom them from their bondage in Egypt and therefore they rightfully belonged to Him as they were consecrated to Him.

The second account of the righteous acts of the LORD is stated in Micah 6:4 as “I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam before you.” This second statement is certainly related to the first as the three siblings mentioned, Moses, Aaron and Miriam had the most significant roles to play in the exodus experience. Moses was of course the most important figure towering above in significance even Pharoah of Egypt, “Then the LORD said to Moses, See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” Exodus 7:1. Aaron was the spokesman for Moses and was an eyewitness of all the supernatural events that occurred. God, somehow in spite of Aaron’s most grievous sin in fashioning a golden calf for the Israelites to worship, Exodus chapter 32 and Deuteronomy 9:7-21, made Aaron and his sons priests to lead the worship of the people of Israel, Exodus chapters 28-29. Miriam, who was instrumental in the care for her baby brother Moses, Exodus 2:1-10, later was called a prophetess who led the women in song in praise to the LORD for His deliverance of the Israelites from the armies of Egypt at the Red Sea, Exodus 15:20-21. These three are mentioned as part of the LORD’s righteous acts in spite of their sins, Aaron and Miriam in opposing Moses, Numbers chapter 12 and Moses along with Aaron who failed the LORD at the waters of Meribah Kadesh,  Numbers 20:12 and Deuteronomy 32:51-52. God uses whom He so desires to accomplish His predetermined plans. Humans are sinful and none are righteous, Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:10, but God uses them as all His acts are righteous, Isaiah 5:16.

The third account of the righteous acts of the LORD is stated in Micah 6:5 as “remember now what Balak king of Moab plotted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him.” This event, the oracles of Balaam, Numbers 22-24; occurred while the people of Israel were camped in the plains of Moab. Balak and his people were in great fear of the Israelites. The Moabite king called upon Balaam, a well-known seeker of omens, Numbers 24:1, to issue curses on Israel so that the Moabites would be able to defeat them, Numbers 22:1-6. God intervened and caused Balaam’s words to be oracles of blessings on His people. It is of great significance that Moses and the tribes of Israel were not eyewitnesses to these events. They were revealed to Moses later by God when Moses was writing his five books. God therefore called upon His covenant people to remember an event in which He supernaturally intervened on their behalf, but they were unaware of its occurrence. God demonstrated His faithfulness to His covenant even in the midst of His people’s unfaithfulness to it, Numbers chapter 25.

The fourth account of the righteous acts of the LORD is stated in Micah 6:5, “remember what happened from Shittim to Gilgal.” The Hebrew text only contains the words (English translation), “from Shittim to Gilgal.” Shittim was the last place the Israelites camped before the crossing of the Jordan River, Joshua 3:1 and Gilgal was the first place of their camp following this crossing, Joshua 4:19. The context of this phrase seems to point to the events that happened between these two locations, namely the parting of the Jordan River, Joshua chapters 3 and 4. This crossing involved the miraculous blocking of the waters of the river so the Israelites could easily cross over from the east to the west banks of the river, Joshua 3:14-17. This event was remembered by the psalmist, Psalm 114:3, 5. Some suggest that there is more to the LORD’s reminder of “from Shittim to Gilgal” than the single episode of the crossing of the Jordan River. 7 However this is understood as just the crossing of the Jordan River or as an expanded meaning involving other events, the people of God in Micah’s day were compelled to remember God’s covenant faithfulness to them and their opposite covenant unfaithfulness.

Notes for Micah 6:1-5

  1. See Robert B. Chisholm, Interpreting the Minor Prophets, pages 153-155 and Andrew E. Hill, Micah, page 336. Bruce K. Waltke has an extended technical discussion on Micah 6:1-8, see Micah, pages 366-394, as does JoAnna M. Hoyt, EEC, Micah, pages 749-778.
  2. For an extended discussion on rîyḇ, see TWOT, article 2159, pages 845-846.
  3. Thomas Constable, Micah, page 53.
  4. Kenneth L. Barker, Micah, page 109.
  5. Bruce K. Waltke, Micah, page 376.
  6. In Revelation 15:4 the words “righteous acts” can also be translated as “righteous judgments.”
  7. JoAnna M. Hoyt, Micah, pages 756-760.