Micah 6:9-16

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

Micah 6:9-16 comprises the third part of the “covenant lawsuit” recorded in Micah chapter 6. This part (section) of the lawsuit narrative consists of two divisions. The first division, vss. 9-12 contains a listing or catalog of the sins of God’s covenant people in the “city” that deal with possessions (treasures) that were obtained in wickedness, unjust commercial practices by corrupt merchants, violence of the rich in society to those less fortunate and the persistent practice of lying and deceitful tongues by all the inhabitants of the “city.” The second division, vss. 13-16 contains God’s judgment upon His covenant people as a consequence of these sins. God in the scene of this “covenant lawsuit” is the prosecuting attorney who makes His indictments against His people and is also the supreme judge who renders a verdict of judgment that cannot be appealed as there is no higher court of appeal in the “city,” upon the earth or in the heavens.

6:9-12  The Catalog of Their Sins

9 The voice of the LORD cries to the city.

            It is wisdom to fear your name:

     “Listen, to the rod and the one who has appointed it.

10 Can I overlook the treasures of wickedness

                        in the house of the wicked,

            and the dishonest weights used in trading is accursed?

11 Can I acquit the person with rigged scales,

            and with a bag of dishonest weights?

12 For the rich of your city are full of violence,

            and its inhabitants tell lies,

    and their tongues speak deceit from their mouths.

Micah begins this section, vss. 9-12, with, “The voice of the LORD cries to the city,” DASV, (similar to the KJV and the NKJV). The NIV and ESV translate this phrase as “Listen! The LORD is calling to the city,”  and the NASB translates it as “The voice of the LORD will call to the city.” These differences in translation reflect the possible meanings of the Hebrew Masoretic Text, (MT). Although there are differences of opinion as to how this phrase in the Hebrew should be translated, the sense of the message is clear. Micah desires his audience to pay close attention to what the LORD is saying to them. This phrase is within the context of a divine covenant lawsuit. See comments on 6:1 above. In the final verses of chapter 6, Micah records the LORD’s summary statement of the sinfulness of His covenant people, vss. 9-12, followed by His judgment upon them, vss. 13-16.

Micah adds to the need for the people to listen to the LORD, by stating “it is wisdom to fear your name.” Some English versions have the conjunction “and” at the beginning of this phrase to smooth the transition between the first and second phrases of vs. 9. This second phrase of vs. 9 is a sharp reminder of a truth that has been previously stated in the O.T. (in the English Versions): Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33 and Isaiah 33:6. This combination of fear and wisdom are also attributes of the promised Messiah, Isaiah 11:2. To fear the “name” of the LORD is an expression with the meaning to have the most or deepest reverence for Him. It also could be expressed as making (attributing to, considering) the LORD the highest priority in one’s life. To fear the LORD is also to sanctify Him and be in  of awe of Him as indicated in the last phrases of Isaiah 29:23, “they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” ESV. The last phrase of this verse in the KJV is, “and they shall fear the God of Israel.”  The word “wisdom” in Micah 6:9 is the Hebrew tûšiyâ. It is perhaps best expressed in Proverbs 2:7, “He (the LORD) reserves sound wisdom for the upright. “ Wisdom, tûšiyâ  is described as an attribute of the LORD, “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.” Isaiah 28:29.

In the context of Micah 6:9, the people are to fear (give reverence, sanctify, give the highest priority to) the LORD as an indication of the wisdom the LORD gives because by this they should understand (listen, give heed) “to the rod and the one who has appointed it.” Although this phrase is difficult to translate in English (see for example the NASB translation), the meaning is clear. God’s covenant people are to have the wisdom to understand that the coming judgment upon them (the rod, representing the coming of the Assyrians) has been appointed (to summon) by God. The Assyrians will come soon (722-721 B.C) to capture the northern kingdom of Israel and take their people into captivity and will come a few years later (701 B.C) to capture most of the prominent towns of Judah (see notes for Micah 1:8-16, above). This judgment by the rod, Hebrew maṭe,  that God has appointed is also further described in vss. 13 to 16 of Micah chapter 6. Another prophet used the word maṭe in a similar passage to describe the judgment of God upon Israel,  “See, the day! Look, it comes! Your doom has sprung up. The rod has blossomed, pride has bloomed. 11 Violence has grown into a rod of wickedness. None of them will be left, none of their crowd, neither their wealth nor anything of distinction among them.” Ezekiel 7:10-11.

Micah in 6:10-12 gives the reasons that God will appoint (summon) the “rod” (vs. 9) to come upon His people. They have violated the covenant He gave them. First, in terms of the market place, God pinpoints how they have broken His covenant. He calls their dwellings, “the house of the wicked.” They had been redeemed out of the “house of bondage” (from Egypt) vs. 4, only to evilly craft for themselves a house of wickedness. God cannot and will not “overlook the treasures (treasuries) of wickedness.” The merchants had made for themselves houses of wicked gain by using “dishonest weights” in their trading (marketplace dealings). The words in the DASV, “dishonest weights,” and “scant measure” in the KJV, is also translated as “short ephah” as in the NIV. This refers to the practice of using a smaller sized basket (the ephah) which did not hold the total amount of produce that a buyer would expect. 13 This practice of cheating the buyer was an action that God described as “accursed,” Hebrew zâ‘am, which has the meaning of God abhorring it and  being enraged in His righteous indignation against it.  The author of Proverbs describes the plight of the house of the wicked in comparison to the house of the righteous, “There is treasure in the house of the righteous, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.” Proverbs 15:6. Also, “The Righteous One considers the house of the wicked, he casts down the wicked to their ruin.” Proverbs 21:12. The use of dishonest weights, vss. 10 and 11 and “rigged scales,” vs. 11 by these wicked merchants was forbidden in the law, “Do no injustice by using dishonest measures of length, weight or volume. 36 You must have honest scales and weights, an honest dry measure ephah and an honest liquid measure hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:35-36.

The second violation of God’s covenant is stated in Micah 6:12, “For the rich of your city are full of violence.” The word for violence, ḥâmâs, and is often translated as violence but it also has the meaning of being malicious. For example, the act of being a malicious witness is prohibited in the law by God in Exodus 23:1 and Deuteronomy 19:16 (ESV). The word “violence” is preferred in most English versions. This type of violence is not physical but is an act of harm in a financial and wellbeing sense that affects the livelihood of its victims. The rich so oppress the poor by this type of violence that the little the poor have, are taken from them, as Micah described in chapter 2 vss. 1-2 and vs. 9.

The third violation of God’s covenant is also stated in 6:12, “its inhabitants tell lies, and their tongues  speak deceit from their mouths.” This is not a statement of any specific type of lie or deceit but indicates that which is a stamp of their character. They could be described as “liars” just as those in vss. 9-10 could be described as “cheaters” and “deceivers.” The covenant law of God prohibited lying and deceit. God stated in the ninth commandment that, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16. See also Leviticus 6:1-7. Other prophets expressed similar concerns,  “3They bend their tongue like a bow ready to shoot out lies. They have grown strong in the land, but not for the cause of truth; for they proceed from one evil to the next, and they do not know me,” says the LORD. 4 “Let each one beware of his neighbor, and do not trust any brother. For every brother will supplant by deception, and every neighbor will go around as a slanderer. 5 Everyone will deceive his neighbor, and no one tells the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies; they wear themselves out trying to commit sin. 6 Your home is in the midst of one lie on top of another. They refuse to know me,” says the LORD.”   Jeremiah 9:3-6. “Woe to them! For they have deserted me. Destruction to them! For they have rebelled against me. Though I want to redeem them, yet they speak lies against me.” Hosea 7:13. “This is what the LORD says: For three crimes of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes. They were led astray by the lies, after which their forefathers walked.” Amos 2:4.

6:13-16 The Consequences of Their Sins

The final verses in Micah chapter 6 depicts the outcome of the  covenant lawsuit that the LORD has brought against His people. The LORD in vss. 13-16 performs the role as the supreme judge pronouncing judgment on His covenant people. They will be struck by Him. He will wound them seriously and they will be made desolate (made destitute and destroyed), vs. 13. They will live in constant hunger for their stored food resources will be plundered by their enemies, vs. 14. They will not harvest what they have planted nor enjoy the wine from the grapes they have grown and processed, vs. 15. They will come to complete ruin (desolation) and be mocked and scorned by other nations because of their persistence in walking in the wicked ways of evil kings such as Omri and Ahab, vs. 16.

13 Therefore I will strike you with a serious wound;

I will make you desolate because of your sins.

14 You will eat, but not be satisfied;

hunger will be in your midst.

What you store away, will not be saved;

what you do manage to save,

I will give over to the sword.

15 You will sow,

but not reap;

you will tread the olives,

but not anoint yourself with olive oil;

you will tread grapes,

but not drink the wine.

16 For you keep the statutes of King Omri,

and follow all the practices of the house of Ahab,

and you walk according to their principles.

Therefore I will make you an utter ruin,

and your inhabitants an object of mockery,

and the nations will ridicule you.

This section, vss. 13-16 begins with “therefore” (implied in the text), indicating that the judgment decreed by God upon His covenant people is a direct result of their corrupt practices in the marketplace, vss. 10-11 and the maliciousness, lies and deceit of the wealthy, vs. 12 which all led to the oppression of the poor and less fortunate. Micah records that God will take decisive action against His people with a number of punitive judgments.

The first judgment, vs. 13, is that God will strike them with a serious wound, DASV. This is similar to the ESV, being struck with a “grievous blow,” but is stated as “I will make (thee) sick, in smiting thee,” in the KJV, which is similar to the translation of the NKJV and NASB. The NIV has, “I have begun to destroy you.” The Hebrew word for a “serious wound” (DASV) is ḥâlâ, which has the literal meaning of being made sick or afflicted. So the LORD will strike (or smite) His people with sickness (affliction) so they cannot enjoy the fruit of their labors. Moses had warned them of the consequences of disobedience to God by breaking His covenant requirements. Moses records God’s warning, “But if you will not obey me and will not do all these commandments; 15 and if you reject my statutes, and if your soul abhors my regulations so that you do not keep all my commandments, and you break my covenant; 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring terror on you, with wasting diseases and fever, that will weaken your eyesight and sap the strength of your life. You will sow your seed in vain because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you will be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is chasing you.  18 If, in spite of all these things, you still will not listen to me, then I will discipline you seven times more because of your sins. 19 I will break your stubborn pride and I will make your sky like iron and your land like bronze. 20 Your strength will be wasted in vain; for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit.” Leviticus 26:14-20  See also, Leviticus 26: 21-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

The second judgment, vs. 13, is that God will make them “desolate”, because of their sins. The word “desolate” is the Hebrew šâmêm, having the  meaning of appalled, desolation, ruin and waste. God’s people, their possessions and city will suffer such a devastating loss that they will be left desolate and destitute. After the exile in Babylon of the captives from Judah, which this judgment in Micah 6:13-16 has its historical fulfillment, God gave a summary to Zechariah of why His covenant people were so desolate, “This is what the LORD of hosts says, ‘Execute true justice, and show kindness and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow, orphan, foreigner, or the poor. Let none of you devise evil in your heart against one another.’ 11 But they refused to listen, stubbornly turning away, covering their ears, so that they would not have to listen. 12 They made their hearts as hard as rock, so they would not have to obey the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. 13 So it happened that just as I called, and they refused to listen, so now they will call out and I will refuse to listen,” said the LORD of hosts. 14 Instead, I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations they had not known. Thus the land became desolate behind them, so that no one passed through it or returned to it. For they made the pleasant land into a wasteland.” Zechariah 7:9-14. The word “desolate” in Zechariah 7:14 is the same Hebrew word šâmêm translated as “desolate” in Micah 6:13.

The third judgment is recorded in vs. 14a. The judgments of vss. 14-16 can be seen as specific aspects of the two overarching judgments stated in vs. 13. In vs. 14a God states that the people will eat but not be satisfied. This could be because there will not be enough food for the populace to consume. This also was prophesized by Moses, “When I break your supply of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will ration out your bread by weight and you will eat but not be satisfied.”  Leviticus 26:26.

The fourth judgment is stated in vs. 14b. The DASV has, “hunger will be in your midst.”  This phrase in the Hebrew is translated differently in the English Versions that are most often referenced in this study of Micah.

That which is to be in the midst of the people is also stated as “hunger” in the DASV, NKJV and ESV,  as “casting down” in the KJV; as “vileness” in the NASB. The NIV has a paraphrase of hunger, “your stomach will still be hungry.” The word “hunger” in this verse is the Hebrew yešaḥ, occurring only in this verse in the O.T. This word has the meaning of “emptiness” 14 suggesting the result of hunger which fits the context of vs. 14.

The fifth judgment is also stated in vs. 14b. The food which will be stored or saved will not last because it will be taken by the sword, implying a violent removal by their enemies. It does not state what will be stored but the context seems to imply harvested crops but it could also include any item they sought to keep safe. These enemies (the sword) would come upon them at God’s bidding, for God stated in vs. 14b, “I will give over to the sword.” They should not think that these enemies came of their own volition or imperialistic ambition. They will be set upon God’s covenant people by God Himself who in judgment has become their enemy. See Isaiah 28:21 which depicts this act as God’s unusual or alien act against His own people.  See also the passages mentioned above in Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28. The onset of their enemies is depicted in (selected passages) Isaiah 7:17-25; Jeremiah 7:14-17 and Micah 1:9-16.

The sixth judgment is stated in vs. 15a. It poetically describes the failure of God’s covenant people to harvest or eat or use of what they have planted. One aspect of this is described as not be able to anoint themselves with oil. The word “anoint” is the Hebrew word sûḵ, which has the meaning of smearing on or spreading on. Moses had warned the Israelites of this result of covenant disobedience in Deuteronomy 28:40. Olive oil was used for personal cleanliness, Ruth 3:3; see also 2 Samuel 12:20; 14:2; 2 Chronicles 28;15; Ezekiel 16:9 and Daniel 10:3. The implication of this judgment is that they will suffer both the removal of the medicinal qualities of this oil and also suffer the social impropriety of body odors and its resulting embarrassment.

The seventh judgment is stated in vs. 15b. Not only will they not enjoy the benefits of olive oil but also they will not have wine to drink even though they have picked the grapes and trod on them to produce the juice that they would ferment to produce wine. This is due to their enemies coming upon them at the time of harvest to take away the juice of the grapes, see vs. 14b. God’s people will thus be left in a most desolate condition as wine was a staple at mealtimes. Both of these precious commodities were considered blessings from God, Deuteronomy 32:13; 33:24 and Psalm 45:7-8. But due to their rebellion against the LORD, they will suffer the consequences of the removal of these blessings.

The eighth judgment is stated in vs. 16b. This judgment has a specific additional cause attached to it. God laments that His covenant people, “keep the statutes of King Omri, and follow all the practices of the house of Ahab, and you walk according to their principles.” The wickedness of King Omri is stated in 1 Kings 16:16-23 and that of Ahab is stated in 1 Kings chapters  18-22. The NASB has in vs. 16 that God’s people “observed”  all the statutes of Omri and the works of Ahab and have “walked”  in their devices. These descriptive terms “observed” and “walked” are directly opposed to the requirements God expected of His people in obedience to Him. 15 See for example, Leviticus 18:4-5; Leviticus 26:2-3; Deuteronomy 8:6; and 19:9.

The judgement for observing and walking in the statutes, works and practices (devices) of these evil kings is that God will cause (make) His people “an utter ruin” (a desolation). They will be objects of mockery (derision) and ridicule (reproach) by the people of the nations to which they have been exiled.  The Hebrew word translated as “ruin” in the DASV is šamâ, which has the meaning of astonishment, horror, desolation, and destruction. The Deuteronomy parallel passage, chapter 28:15-68 has the same word, translated as “horror” in  the DASV in vs. 37, “You will become an object of horror, a proverb and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will exile you.” The second description of their judgment in Micah 6:16 is that the nations will consider them to be an object of “mockery”  (DASV) which is the Hebrew word šerêqâ, which occurs only seven times in the O. T. most often with the meaning of “hissing” as in the KJV, NKJV, ESV but translated as “derision” in the NIV and NASB. The third description of their judgment is that they will be subject to “ridicule” by these nations. The word translated in the DASV as “ridicule” is the Hebrew ḥerp̱â, often translated as reproach and scorn.

God’s covenant people had continually sinned against Him by their wicked worship of idols, their rebelliousness of  trusting of other nations for help instead of trusting in God, their corrupt acts of social injustice, based upon bribery favoring the rich, which left the most unfortunate in their midst without any advocate or assistance, the greed of their religious leaders who enacted ungodly spiritual duties for payment and by their egregious practices of observing and walking in the ways of vile and evil kings. In every aspect of their personal, political, civil, social and religious lives, they acted in disobedience and defiance of God’s covenant requirements for them. The resulting judgment upon them was so severe and unthinkable that Micah pronounced woe upon himself (7:1) for living among such abominable people.


Notes for Micah 6:9-16

  1. Thomas Constable, Micah, page 57.
  2. See TWOT article 924.
  3. JoAnna M. Hoyt, Micah, page 775