b. 7:14-20 God Forgives and Removes Their Sins
7:14-17 Prayer and Promise
14 Feed your people with your rod,
the flock of your inheritance,
which live alone in the forest
in the midst of Mount Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old.
15 “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them marvelous things.”
16 The nations will see and be ashamed of all their might; they will lay their hand over their mouths;
their ears will be deaf.
17 They will lick the dust like a serpent,
like things that crawl on the ground.
They will come trembling out of their fortresses;
they will come with fear to the LORD our God,
and will be afraid of you.
Micah, in 7:14 introduces the section vss. 14-17 with a prayer that God would shepherd His people, (feed His flock), who live as His unique separated people in lands the prophet calls a forest, and that God would once again bless His people by allowing them to feed (pasture their flocks) in the lush area of Bashan and Gilead. It is likely that at the time of Micah’s writing of this passage, all of the best and most fertile land area of the northern kingdom of Israel was administered by the Assyrians since 722-721 B.C.. Also the rural lands of Judah had also been devastated by the Assyrian assault of 701 B.C. (Micah 1:10-16). The words, “feed your people” seem to imply the poor conditions of the land from which the people of Judah could not harvest enough crops to feed everyone.
Micah requested that the LORD shepherd (feed) His people with His rod, Hebrew šêḇeṭ, (staff, scepter) Psalm 23:4; indicating that God was a shepherd king which would be a reminder of the one from whom the Davidic dynasty was named. See Micah 5:1 for another usage of šêḇeṭ, “they will strike the ruler of Israel with a rod (šêḇeṭ) on the cheek.” God’s covenant people are called “the flock of your inheritance,” which the prophet may have used Deuteronomy 4:20 as a Scriptural reference. See also (selected verses) Deuteronomy 9:26, 29; 32:9; 1 Kings 8:51; Psalm 28:9; 74:2; Jeremiah 10:16; 51:19 and Joel 3:2. The words, “flock of your inheritance” is phrase rich with covenant significance. It should have reminded the people of Judah that they were in a covenant relationship with the LORD who spoke of this relationship with the formulaic words, “I am their God” Exodus 29:45-46; Leviticus 26:44-45. Prophets of a later time often spoke of this covenant relationship with the expanded formula, “they will be my people and I will be their God.” See Jeremiah 24:7; 31:33; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 37:23, 27 and Zechariah 8:8. Micah in 7:18, spoke of this relationship with the words, “the remnant of his possession.” See notes on this verse.
The description of God as shepherd king overseeing His flock was previously declared by Micah, see 2:12-13; 4:6-8 and 5:4. It was a portrait of a special relationship that would resonate with the people of Micah’s generation who were very familiar with shepherd-sheep terminology and what it implied. It was not the language of the marketplace or other structures of society but of the caring and sacrificial role of a shepherd who would put his own life in peril to care for and defend his flock. In the New Testament this portrait was revealed in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ who died for His flock so they would have an eternal relationship with their Chief Shepherd. Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11. See also Hebrews 13:11; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4 and Revelation 7:17.
Micah in 7:14 stated that God’s people “live alone” The words live alone, Hebrew ḇâḏâḏ (separate) signify that God’s people are unique rather than simply living by themselves in the land.16 This again points to the special relationship between these people and God. The word “forest” would not mean a lush or verdant area of trees but a term loosely used to describe sparse foliage. The word “forest” is the Hebrew ya‘ar, a word Micah used in 3:12 describing a “brush.” See also Numbers 23:9 and Deuteronomy 33:28.
The phrase in the DASV “in the midst of Mount Carmel” suggests that the people live in the shadow of this mountain which will be a place that in the future God will abundantly bless with agricultural richness, See Isaiah 35:2 and Jeremiah 50:19-20. Other English translations translate the Hebrew word ḵarmel as “a garden land,” ESV; “in fertile pasturelands,” NIV; and “a fruitful field,” NASB. The KJV and NKJV translate this word as “in the midst of Carmel.” The word ḵarmel, can be translated as a reference to Mount Carmel or as a “garden land” or “orchard” which gives the meaning of the word.17
Micah’s prayer that God’s people would “feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old,” may have been a reference to Numbers 32:1-4. The location of Bashan and Gilead was in the northern kingdom of Israel in the tribal area of Manasseh and Gad. See also Deuteronomy 32:14. Judah did not have any forest areas which had grass orchards or pasturelands,18 so Micah made reference to Bashan and Gilead in the northern kingdom of Israel. His prayer was that in the future God’s people (the flock of your inheritance) would enjoy these verdant areas. A reference to the future abundance that will be realized in this area is stated in Zechariah 10:10.
In 7:15, Micah records the LORD’S response to his prayer. God promises to show His people “marvelous things” (wonders, miracles) in the future as He did when He brought them out of Egypt. The miraculous marvelous things of that time included the plagues upon the land of Egypt, Exodus chapters 7 to 12; the pillars of cloud and fire to lead His people, Exodus 13:21-22; the dividing of the Red Sea, Exodus chapter 14; manna (bread) from heaven, Exodus chapter 16; water from the rock, Exodus 17:1-7; the spectacle of the His presence on Mount Sinai, Exodus chapter 19; and the giving of the law, Exodus chapters 20 and following. Many other events occurred along the way from Egypt to Canaan that would be remembered as miraculous things. God’s promise of future miracles and wonders was not limited to the return of the exiles from Babylon but certainly would include the events of the establishment and governance of the Messianic kingdom.19 The response of the nations, who are hostile to God’s people, is recorded in Micah 7:16-17.
In 7:16-17, Micah records eight responses from the nations who will witness the marvelous works of the LORD in the last days and who will also be humiliated before Him.
First, the nations will show their humiliation by being ashamed of their might. These nations who had despised and afflicted God’s covenant people will be ruined. Another prophet declared, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. For though in my wrath I struck you, yet in my favor I have had mercy on you. 11 Your gates also will be open continually; they will never be shut day or night, so that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings leading the procession. 12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish; those nations will be totally destroyed. 13 The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the cypress, fir, and pine trees, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. 14 The descendants of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all those who despised you will bow down at your feet, and they will call you ‘The City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 60:10-14.
Second, they will show their shame by laying “their hands over their mouths.” This is a common expression of being ashamed. It is an expression of closing one’s mouth in the recognition of the power and might of God. See Judges 18:19; Job 21:5; 29:9-10; 40:4; Isaiah 52:15; 60:14; and Romans 3:19. It is likely they will also be ashamed of their gods whom the worshiped in vain. Isaiah spoke God’s words of the comparison between those who will be humiliated because of their false worship in comparison to God’s covenant people who will not be put to shame, “They will all be put to shame, and humiliated; they who make idols will go away disgraced. 17 But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or humiliated.” Isaiah 45:16-17. See also Isaiah 45:20-24.
Third, in their shame the nations will experience “deaf ears” as they will now only be responsive to God. This deafness was similar to the indictment of God against His own people that three of God’s prophets recorded, Isaiah 6:8-10 and Jeremiah 5:18-21; Ezekiel 12:2.
Fourth, they will “lick the dust like a serpent.” This is certainly a direct reference to God’s judgment upon Satan who took the form of a serpent and deceived earth’s first parents, Genesis 3:14-15. The nations who will severely oppress God’s people in the future will be agents of the evil one and will face the same punishment. This type of humiliation is often recorded in the Scriptures. See Psalm 44:25; 72:9; Isaiah 49:23-26; 60:14; 65:25; and Revelation 3:9.
Fifth, the people of these nations will come trembling out of their fortresses. The word “trembling” is the Hebrew râg̱az, which has the meaning to “quake or quiver with fear.” They will literally be shaking with fear and dread as they witness the mighty and wondrous works of God on behalf of His covenant people. See other descriptions of trembling in the Minor Prophets in Joel 2:1, 10; Amos 8:8; Habakkuk 3:7, and 3:16.
Sixth, they will leave their fortresses. These strongholds, Hebrew, misg̱ereṯ, include lands enclosed by a protective border. They will leave these secure places in fear for they will no longer protect them as they will be forced to acknowledge God’s great power and might in protecting and empowering His people. King David in a much earlier day spoke words that were prophetic foretastes of these events that will occur in the last days. See 2 Samuel 22:46 and Psalm 18:45.
Seventh, the people of these nations will “come with fear to the LORD our God.” They will be compelled to come to God with great fear of Him. The word “fear” is the Hebrew p̱âḥaḏ, which has the meaning of awe, dread and terror. This word occurs 24 times in the O.T., Deuteronomy 28:66; Job 3:25; 4:14; 23:15; Psalm 14:5; 27:1; 53:5; 78:53; 119:116; Proverbs 3:24; 28:14; Isaiah 12:2; 19:16, 17; 33:14; 44:8, 11; 51:13; 60:5; Jeremiah 33:9; 36:16, 24; Hosea 3:5 and Micah 7:17. Of these, a few are fitting cross-references. For example the words of Jeremiah are closest in meaning, “This city will bring me joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth that will hear all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble for all the good and peace that I provide for it.” Jeremiah 33:9. Also consider King David’s words, “Do the evildoers really not know? They eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the LORD. 5 There they are totally terrified, for God is in the company of the righteous.” Psalm 14:4-5. Isaiah also declared, “The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone who hears mention of it will be terrified, because of what the counsel of the LORD of hosts advises against it.” Isaiah 19:17. It is to be lamented that today, there appears to be little if any understanding of what it is to fear the Lord in the sense of awe and reverence to Him. One author, understanding the lack of fear (reverential awe ) of God in our modern society, wrote a magnificent volume encouraging Christians to embrace the necessity of this awe and reverence for God. The author, Jerry Bridges, entitled his book, The Joy of Fearing God.20 There is indeed deep joy for Christians who seize the initiative to fear God as the surest way to have true fellowship with Him.
Eighth, the final response, recorded in 7:16-17 of those nations who have oppressed the covenant people of God, is that they will “be afraid of you.” This will be a mighty reversal of the worldly and evil order of things in which the mighty and powerful afflict and persecute the weak and vulnerable. The nations in the last days, that have humiliated God’s covenant people who live among them, will themselves be humiliated and be in dread of the people of God. When the people of Israel travelled through the wilderness and had to walk through many lands, God put a fear of them amongst these nations, see Numbers 22:3; Deuteronomy 2:25; and 11:25. This was also true for the nations that lived in Canaan, Joshua 9:24. In the last days the nations will once again fear God and His unique people. They will serve the very people they had previously oppressed, Isaiah 60:1-21 and 61:8-11. God’s people will be a terror to these once powerful and punishing nations:
11 Look, all those who are angry with you
will be put to shame and disgrace.
Those who dispute with you
will come to nothing and perish.
12 You will look for your opponents,
but not find them.
Those who attack you
will come to nothing at all.
13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand,
saying to you,
“Don’t be afraid;
I will help you.
14 Do not be afraid, O Jacob, you worm.
You men of Israel,
I will help you,”
says the LORD;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Look, I will make you to be a new sharp threshing instrument
having many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains,
crush them and make the hills like chaff.
16 You will winnow them and the wind will carry them away,
and the whirlwind will scatter them.
Then you will rejoice in the LORD;
you will glory in the Holy One of Israel.
7:18-20 Praise for God’s Pardon
The final verses of Micah’s prophecy is a hymn of praise for God’s pardon (forgiveness) of sins. The Holy One of Israel is alone the true God and the only being that could forgive sins. God’s forgiveness involves passing over the transgressions of those who are called the “remnant of his possession” (heritage, inheritance). Because God delights in faithful love (covenant loyalty) to His unique people, He does not retain His anger but will have compassion on them. Charles Feinberg commented on these verses,
“The last three verses of this book are joined to the book of Jonah for reading in the synagogue on the afternoon of the Day of atonement. Once a year on the afternoon of the New Year, the orthodox Jew goes to a running stream or water and symbolically empties his pockets of his sins into the water, while he recites verses 18-20. The service is called “Tashlich” after the Hebrew word meaning “thou will cast.” 21
18 Who is a God like you, that pardons iniquity,
and passes over the transgression of the remnant of his possession?
He does not remain angry forever,
because he delights in loyal love.
19 He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and loyal love to Abraham,
which you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
This concluding hymn of praise is a series of descriptive portraits of God’s loyal love, Hebrew ḥeseḏ, to His covenant people. It also is the theological summary of the prophetic writings of Micah. The prophet has written in detail about the sins of his generation that have severed the people from God. God will surely punish these people for their wickedness towards each other (social injustice), and their rebellion towards Him, (spiritual adultery). Their sinfulness will lead to (1) the death of many, (2) the destruction of their property and (3) the displacement from their land. It would also be just and holy for God to completely cut off His people from a relationship with Him. But God’s justice and holiness is unique. There is no God like Him. His loyal love, ḥeseḏ, abounds to those who are the “remnant of his possession.” He will not remain angry forever, and He forgives sins and casts them out of reach, and out of memory. He will have compassion on His chosen people, showing faithfulness to the lineage of Abraham and Jacob, their forefathers to whom He swore a covenant oath, promising them a land to call their own, a seed (lineage) that will last forever, and that they will be a blessing to all the earth.
In 7:18 Micah begins this concluding hymn of praise with the question, mî ’êl kā·mō·w·ḵā, Who is a God like you? This may have been a reference to the words of Moses in his song following the miraculous events of the crossing of the Red Sea, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?” Exodus 15:11. See also Deuteronomy 3:24; 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 35:10; 71:19; 77:13-14; 89:6 and 113:5. Micah’s question also reflects the meaning of his name, Who is like Yahweh? Micah’s question was rhetorical requiring a negative answer, there is no one like the LORD. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, wrote about the unique existence and power of God, Isaiah chapters 40-41. In ages past Moses forthrightly declared to Pharoah, “there is none like the LORD our God,” Exodus 8:10. Many years after Micah’s days, another prophet declared,
“There is no one like you, O LORD;
you are great,
and your name is great in power.
7 Who should not fear you, O King of the nations?
This is what you deserve.
For among all the wise men of the nations,
and in all their kingdoms,
there is no one like you.”
Following this rhetorical question and implied response that there is none like God, Micah states several ways that conclusively prove God’s uniqueness. These statements form the theological core of Micah’s prophecy which has as its foundation the central element of God’s relationship with His chosen people. This is described as His loyal faithfulness to His covenant (Abrahamic) that He made with Israel’s founding fathers. It also implies God’s faithfulness to the other covenants He made with Phinehas (Priestly); with David (Davidic) and the New Covenant.
The first statement, 7:18 is that their unique God “pardons iniquity.” The word “pardon” is the Hebrew nâśâ’ with a meaning of “to lift up” or “to carry.” Among its more than 650 occurrences, it is found in a very dramatic discussion that Moses had with God. Moses pled with God to forgive the sins of his people after his brother Aaron crafted a golden calf and told the people that this idol was the god that brought the people of Israel out of Egypt. God’s anger burned against his chosen people, and He threatened to consume them. Moses responded, “But now, please forgive their sin, but if not, then blot me out of your book that you have written.” Exodus 32:32. Moses understood that it was God’s sole providence to forgive (nâśâ’) sins. These sins would be lifted up from the people and carried away not to be held to their account. Micah often used the word nâśâ’, “take them” 2:2; “take up” 2:4; “lifted” 4:1; “lift up” 4:3; “bear” 6:16; “bear” 7:9 and most importantly “pardoning” in 7:18. “Iniquity,” Hebrew ‘âôn, a noun, occurs in Micah 7:18 and 19, has the meaning of perversion and guilt. In its verb form it often occurs in the context of punishment for iniquitous acts. The words Micah used for wickedness in 7:18-20, (iniquity, transgression, iniquities, sins) are certainly intended to cover the evil acts of the people in a collective sense without suggesting that only specific acts of evil are forgiven.
One scholar reminds us of the role of the scapegoat in this “lifting up” of the guilt of sins of the people of Israel on the Day of Atonement and carrying this guilt away into the wilderness. The NASB in Leviticus 16:22, states, “The goat shall bear (nâśâ’) on itself all their iniquities (‘âôn) to a solitary land.” The goat portrayed the lifting up and carrying away of the people’s iniquities.22 Micah reminds his audience that the LORD, pardons (lifts up and removes) their iniquities. Isaiah also spoke of this in the fourth Servant Song. “Yet he bore (nâśâ’) the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12. This O.T. truth is of course made more visible in the N.T. God could pardon the iniquities of those who confess their sins because of the atoning sacrifice of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The Son bore the sins of the world upon Himself, and God made Him (who knew no sin) to be sin on our behalf, that we (the one who’s sins are forgiven) would become (be made) the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who trust in the sacrificial atoning death of Christ on their behalf, have their sins transferred (put on His account) to Christ and remarkably also have Christ’s righteousness transferred to them (credited to their account). God thus can look at them without His just wrath applied to them because they now have the very righteousness of Christ applied to them. They can now stand justified completely in the presence of God and live forever with God without fear of His consuming fire against them.
The second statement is that their unique God “passes over transgression of the remnant of his possession.” The words “passes over” is one word in Hebrew, ‘âḇar, having the meaning of movement. Its most significant occurrence is in Exodus 12:12-13, “For on that night I will pass (‘âḇar) through the land of Egypt and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and animal; and I will execute judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. Then when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there will be no plague on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Micah states in 7:18 that God “passes over” (moves without stopping to take action against) their “transgressions. This Hebrew word is translated as “passes by” in the KJV; as “forgives” in the NIV; and as “passing over” in the ESV, NASB and NKJV. In the New Testament, this significant theological term is described as “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7. The word in the O.T. for passes over, ‘âḇar, occurs often in Micah, translated as “pass into” 1:11; “pass by” 2:8; “pass on” 2:13; “through” 2:13; “goes through” 5:8 and most significantly “passes over” 7:18. That which is passed over is “transgressions” Hebrew p̱eša‘, having the meaning of rebellion, revolt, to break a relationship which in the context of 7:18-20 would be the covenantal relationship between God and His chosen people. The Hebrew word p̱eša‘, occurs often in Micah translated in the DASV as “transgression” in 1:5 (twice); 6:7 and 7:18 as “transgressions” in 1:13 and as “rebellion” in 3:8.
God passes over the transgressions, and all the other acts of grace in 7:18-20 on behalf “of the remnant of his possession.” Micah had previously described these people in a future setting in 7:14 as “the flock of your inheritance.” They are people chosen and belonging to God who are His legal possession. They are a “remnant” because they have remained loyal to Yahweh and have not broken the covenant established between them and their God. Sadly they will not be very numerous but will have their numbers increase in the last days. Micah speaks of them specifically in 2:12-13; 4:7; 5:7-8 and 7:18. Other direct references to this remnant of God’s people occur in Ezra 9:8, 13-15; Isaiah 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 28:5; 37:4, 31-32; 46:3; Jeremiah 6:9; 23:3; 31:7; 50:20; Ezekiel 9:8; 11:13; Amos 5:15; Zephaniah 2:7, 9: Zechariah 8:6, 11-12 and Romans 9:27 and 11:5. The first mention of those who God has kept to Himself is in 1 Kings 19:18, “I have 7,000 left in Israel, all of whom have never bowed the knee to Baal or have kissed him with their mouths.” The Apostle Paul, quoting from1 Kings 19, explains in Romans 11:1-5 that even in Paul’s generation, God had a remnant, “chosen by grace.” God will preserve for Himself a remnant in every generation, even to the last days so He can fulfil His covenant promises to Israel.23
The remnant belong solely to God. They are His naḥălâ, translated as “possession” in the DASV and NASB; as “heritage” in the KJV and NKJV; and as “inheritance” in the ESV and NIV. That they are God’s own possession and are often called the “sheep of His pasture.” See for example, Psalm 74:1; 79:13; 95:7; 100:3; Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34:31 and Micah 2:12. He will never forsake them, Psalm 94:14, and will pardon their sins and show faithful covenant loyal love to them as Micah declares in 7:18-20. In Romans 11:1 Paul emphatically declared, “has God rejected His people? By no means!” Romans chapters 9-11 is the greatest defense in the Scriptures of God’s loyal love to the people of His possession. These chapters are not inserted into Paul’s great theological discourse comprising the letter to the Romans as an afterthought or as a token acknowledgment of Paul’s heritage. Rather they comprise the inspired conclusion to Paul’s apologetic teaching ending with one of the most blessed doxologies in all of the Scriptures, 11:33-36.
The third statement is that their unique God “does not remain angry forever.” God has every right to be angry, Hebrew ’ap̱; at the rebelliousness and wickedness of His covenant people. God is holy and He cannot abide with evil in any form. God had entered into a loving intimate relationship with His chosen people formulated through the covenants He had made with them. The covenant formulaic “they will be my people and I will be their God” resonates throughout the pages of the O.T. See comments for Micah 7:14. This relationship was so intimate that God spoke of His people as sons and He as their Father. 2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 63:16 and Jeremiah 3:19. Also God spoke of a symbolic husband/wife relationship, Isaiah 62:5, which was torn apart by Israel’s sinfulness. Jeremiah 3:20. God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises has the result of calming His anger, Psalm 30:5; 103:8-18; Jeremiah 3:12-14.
The fourth statement is that their unique God “delights in loyal love.” The word “delights” is the Hebrew ḥâp̱êṣ, which literally means to “desire with delight and show great favor towards.” There is intimacy in this delight. Isaiah in an extended passage wrote of this intimacy in the delight of the LORD with His covenant people, (“delights” in 62:4 translates the Hebrew ḥâp̱êṣ).
“1 For Zion’s sake I will not stay silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet,
until her vindication brightly shines forth,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
that the mouth of LORD will give you.
3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You will no longer be called “Forsaken;”
neither will your land any more be labeled “Desolate.”
Instead you will be called Hephzibah [My delight is in her],
and your land Beulah [Married];
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land will be married.
5 For like a young man marries a virgin,
so your sons will marry you;
and like the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.”
Isaiah 62:1-5. See also Psalm 18:19 and 41:11.
Micah declares that the direct object of God delight is in His own loyal love (which manifests itself in God’s delight in His covenant people). This loyal love is the Hebrew ḥeseḏ, which is one of the most theologically important aspects of God’s love to be found in the Scriptures.24 See comments on the word “faithfulness” in Micah 6:8. God so delights in His own loyal love to His covenant promises and that this love is so lavish that His covenant people are the beneficiaries of it. God is perfectly faithful to His covenant promises and will keep them without even a shadow of failure. In doing so His covenant people are blessed immeasurably and have the assurance of hope that all of these promises will be kept intact. They can look forward to a future day when they will be brought by His grace to Zion and enjoy the wondrous blessings of a kingdom ruled by their Messiah who is their redeemer and savior and also their great shepherd who will care for them forever.
Jeremiah proclaimed, “Look, I will gather them out of all the countries where I have driven them in my anger, fury and great wrath. I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one path that they may fear me forever, for their good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them. I will never cease doing good to them. I will put my fear in their hearts, so that they will never turn aside from me.41 Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land with the faithfulness of my whole heart and soul.” Jeremiah 32:37-41.
Yet another prophet declared,
“17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
he is a warrior who will save.
He will rejoice over you with joy,
he will renew you in his love.
He will rejoice over you with singing.’
18 I will gather those who grieve over the appointed festivals,
so that you will no longer bear the disgrace for it.
19 Look, at that time I will deal with all who oppressed you;
I will save the lame,
and gather the outcasts.
I will make them praised and respected,
who had been shamed throughout the whole earth.
20 At that time I will bring you home,
and at that time I will gather you.
I will make you respected and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I bring back your fortunes
before your eyes,”
says the LORD.”
The fifth statement is that their unique God, 7:19, “will again have compassion upon us.” The word compassion is the Hebrew râḥam, meaning to show mercy and be compassionate. In the minor prophets, râḥam, occurs 13 times but just once in Micah. It is a major theme of Hosea occurring in 1:6 (twice); 1:7; 1:8; 2:1, 4, 23 (twice) and 14:3. It also occurs once in Habakkuk in a famous passage where the prophet prays, “Revive your work in our time; in the midst of these years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2, and twice in Zechariah, 1:12 and notably in 10:6 where the prophet records God’s wonderful promise, “I will strengthen the house of Judah; I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because of my compassion on them. They will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the LORD their God, and I will answer their prayers.”
Micah realizes that God must punish His people for their sins, Micah 7:9 but also acknowledges that “once again” God will show compassion and loyal love to them. See also Psalm 102:13; 103:4, 13; 116:5 and 119:156.
The timing and duration of God’s compassion upon His covenant people would likely have stunned Micah. It would first come after the Babylonian exile when God through the human decree of king Cyrus directed the return of many to Jerusalem and Judah to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple. It would come again during the days of the Roman control over the land when God’s Son, Jesus Christ would be incarnated as a human, to live among the Jewish people and then die a cruel but atoning death upon a Roman cross carrying the sins of the world for all time upon Him. Following the rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah by the Jews, destruction would once again come upon these obstinate people in 70 and 135 AD. God’s compassion would seem to be hidden for almost two millennia but again He directed world events to allow the Jewish people to once again have a homeland of their own in 1948. There still awaits a greater manifestation of God’s compassion upon them that will witness the return of His Son as the messianic King to rule over the earth, for a thousand years and then to rule forever in the eternal state.
The sixth statement is that their unique God, 7:19, “will tread our iniquities under foot.” The word “tread” is the Hebrew ḵâḇaš, meaning to conquer, subdue and subjugate. Occurring 15 times in the O.T., ḵâḇaš, refers to subduing creation or peoples but only in Micah 7:19 to iniquities (guilt). Thus Micah uses the words treading under foot in the DASV and other English versions to portray God’s actions as stomping on them to bring them into subjection. The KJV simply has “He will subdue our iniquities.” The picture of God treading on the sins of His covenant people should have brought to mind the treading under feet of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and their continuing assault on the citizens of Judah, Micah 1:10-16. God will do to their iniquities just as oppressive nations do to their enemies. See comment on 7:18 for the word “iniquity.”
The seventh statement is that their unique God, 7:19 will “cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Not only will their wicked actions (sins, iniquities, transgressions vss, 18-20) be conquered and subdued by God by God treading them underfoot, but they will also be cast into the depths of the sea, to be forever out of reach and out of memory. In King David’s well-known confession of his sins regarding the incident with Bathsheba, he pleaded with God to “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.” Psalm 51:9. David also wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12. Isaiah recorded God’s promises, “I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25. Also, “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22. Jeremiah spoke in like manner of God’s promise, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34. This is also the teaching of the New Testament. Peter declared, “Therefore repent and turn back to God so that your sins may be blotted out. Then times of refreshment may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19. This is the clear teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Paul states, within the context of a gospel message, Colossians chapter 1, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For he rescued us out of the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14.
The eighth statement is that their unique God, 7:20 will “show faithfulness to Jacob and loyal love to Abraham, which you have shown to our fathers from the days of old.” These final words of Micah aptly explain the veracity all of the above statements regarding God’s promises to them. God will accomplish all these things because of His faithful loyal love to His covenant people. God faithfully keeps His covenant promises, specifically, in this context, to His covenant with Abraham, introduced in Genesis 12:1-3; stated in 15:18-21, confirmed with Abraham in 17:1-21 and with Isaac in 26:2-5 and with Jacob in 28:10-17. It is also referred to often in the O.T. see for example, 1 Chronicles 16:15-18 and Psalm 105:8-15. Micah when writing these final words may have had the words of the covenant renewal recorded in Exodus 34 in mind.
“Then the LORD passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loyal love and truth,7 keeping loyal love for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. Yet he will by no means pardon the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7.
As with the other covenants, they will find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ who proclaimed, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20. See also 1 Corinthians 11:25 and Hebrews 12:24. By faith in the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ, believers participate in the covenantal promises of God, including the blessings of the Abrahamic, Davidic and New covenants. God is faithful to His covenant promises. He continually shows His faithfulness, Hebrew ’emeṯ, to Jacob. God’s ’emeṯ, (faithfulness, truth) is seen many times in the O.T. See for example, Exodus 34:6; Psalm 19:9; 25:10; 31:5; 91:4; 115:1; Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah 4:2 and 32:41. This characteristic is specifically shown in God’s Servant, the Messiah, Isaiah 42:3. God also shows His loyal love, Hebrew ḥeseḏ; to Abraham. God’s faithfulness and loyal love to His people is proof that He keeps His covenant promises that He made with them. God will not allow them to fail as to be extinguished and He will keep be a faithful remnant in every generation. All of God’s promises to them will be faithfully and completely fulfilled during the future wondrous earthly reign of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Any, whether Jew or Gentile who would desire to participate in these promises must put their faith in Jesus Christ. The most well-known verse of the Bible is still true today, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes on him will not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
Notes for Micah 7:14-20
- Andrew E. Hill Micah, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, page 344.
- See TWOT 1041, 1042.
- C. F. Keil, Micah, The Twelve Minor Prophets, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament by
- F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, notes on Micah 7:14-17, online resource.
- See chart of Israel’s future kingdom, highlighting many marvelous things, in the John MacArthur Study Bible located in the notes for Isaiah chapter 65.
- Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God. Waterbrook Press, 1997.
- Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, Moody Press, page 186.
- J. M. Hoyt, Amos, Jonah & Micah, page 808.
- See the study by Arnold Fruchtenbaum, MBS 191, The Remnant of Israel: Past, Present and Future, Ariel Ministries.
- See ḥeseḏ, kindness, TLOT volume 2, pages 449-464 and TWOT ḥeseḏ, article 698a, pages 305-307.