Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
MICAH CHAPTER 3
Chapter 3 verse 1 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah setting forth the sins of the leaders of the people on account of which they were to be punished with exile. Whereas the preceding verse (Micah 2:13) spoke of God at the HEAD of the people, the prophet now addresses the sinful temporal HEADS of Jacob and rulers of Israel, who should have known better than to act as they were acting: "Is it not for you to know justice?"
Vv 2-3: The root of all their evil is that they are devouring each others' very skin and flesh, robbing and exploiting the people and consuming them like meat in a pot. The prophet will return to the theme of oppression and injustice by the wealthy and powerful in vv 9-11.
V 4: When the coming trouble strikes, the sinners will cry out to God but He will not answer; rather, He will hide His face from them because of their evil deeds.
V 5 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah taking the analysis of the evil of the people a stage further by exposing the venality of the false prophets who support the evil of the rulers by selling prophecies of peace and prosperity to those willing to pay them while declaring holy war against anyone who refused. The contemporary equivalent of these false prophets and soothe-sayers would appear to be the armies of spin doctors and hack media pundits whose job is to sell the policies of the very wealthy and powerful to the hypnotized public and pull a cloak over their wrongdoing and corruption.
Vv 6-7: Micah foretells that when the coming doom strikes, the false prophets will be put to shame. Many of the official spokesmen and mainstream media commentators who were predicting in the early 1990's that Israel's Oslo agreement with the "Palestinians" would lead to a golden age of peace in the Middle East would also be put to shame if they were forced to re-read their words again in the light of the nightmare that has developed as a result. The same applies to those who promised that Israel 's "disengagement" from Gaza would lead to greater security.
V 8: Micah asserts that in contrast to the baseless prophecies of the false prophets, his own prophecies are full of the power and spirit of God. Unlike the false prophets, he will not flatter the corrupt rulers and cover over their wrongdoing.
V 9: The prophet returns to castigating the rulers for their corruption. "If you see a generation that suffers from many troubles, go out and examine the judges of Israel, for all the troubles come only on account of the judges of Israel, as it says, "Hear this you heads of the House of Jacob and rulers of the House of Israel who pervert justice" (Shabbos 139a).
V 10: ".they build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity" - "Each one builds his house with blood since they shed people's blood to take their money to build their own houses, and they build Jerusalem with money extracted through corruption, exploitation and deception" (Metzudas David). This is a prophecy that resonates with those familiar with the property market in various parts of present-day Israel with Jerusalem foremost among them. Many honest citizens are quite at a loss as to how to afford a house when prices are driven ever higher by powerful players who have amassed enormous wealth on the backs of others. Those same honest citizens note that while they themselves are pinched ever tighter economically as "the measure is reduced and the shekel price is increased" (Amos 8:5), the wealthy keep getting wealthier and bank profits have never been higher.
V 11: This verse lists three sins, which were to be requited with the three punishments listed in the following verse (Shabbos 139a). The three sins are: (1) The heads (=the kings or Sanhedrin, RaDaK) take bribes in passing judgments and making their governmental decisions. [Recent revelations about corruption at the top levels of the Israeli government may be presumed to be merely the tip of an iceberg.] (2) The priests, whose function was to teach Torah and issue halachic rulings could be bought for a price and would rule accordingly. [Today it is the editors and columnists who decide what is right and wrong in favor of whoever pays them, and predetermine the public debate before it even begins.] (3) The prophets (the ideologues) divine for money.
V 12: Therefore: (1) Zion shall be plowed like a field. This prophecy was realized with the destruction of the Temple - the Romans literally plowed up the Temple Mount . In case this was not enough, the prophecy has been realized again quite literally in our days with the extensive Arab excavations on the Temple Mount in recent years, in which many priceless archaeological relics have been barbarically destroyed. (2) Jerusalem shall become heaps of rubble. This too was realized when the Romans destroyed the city, and again when the Jordanians wantonly destroyed synagogues and other buildings in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem after its capture in the 1948 War of Independence. (3) The Temple Mount shall become like the high places of the forest. Anyone who has seen the Temple Mount from the Mt of Olives or aerial pictures knows that it has been planted with many trees, in flagrant violation of the Torah prohibition against planting any tree in the vicinity of God's altar (Deut. 16:21).
A famous Talmudic passage tells how after the destruction of the Second Temple a group of sages passed by its ruins and, on seeing a fox emerge from the place of the Holy of Holies, broke down weeping, while Rabbi Akiva laughed. When his companions asked why he laughed, Rabbi Akiva answered that seeing the literal fulfillment of Micah's prophecy in our present verse gave him confidence that the prophecy of Zechariah will also be fulfilled that "old men and old women will yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem. and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing." (Zechariah 8:4; Maccos 24b).
Verses 1-3: "And it shall be at the end of days." Following the preceding prophecy of destruction, this sublime prophecy of consolation about the restoration of the Temple and how the nations of the world will stream to seek out God and His Torah is also found in Isaiah 2:2-4 with almost identical wording except for very minor changes.
RaDaK comments (on v 1) that in saying that the Temple Mount will be "established on the top of the mountains and it shall be EXALTED ABOVE the hills" the verse does not necessarily mean that it will be literally higher than it was, but that the nations will exalt and give honor to the Temple Mount and come there to serve HaShem. We may presume that the Temple Mount will no longer be insulted by being called merely the "third holiest place" of a tradition that does not recognize the name of HaShem or Moses his prophet. Rather, the Temple Mount will be the central focus of the entire world, from which the Torah - the word of HaShem - will go forth to all parts of the globe.
"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" (v 3). Despite the noble declared aims of the United Nations, the world is clearly still very far from the realization of this prophecy, as astronomical sums of money and resources continue to be poured into arms and armaments by nations great and small. We can only hope and pray that God will bring humanity to its senses before we destroy ourselves and the whole world. It is comforting that Micah here prophecies that eventually "they will not learn war any more" (v 3).
V 5: "For let all people walk everyone in the name of his gods" - "all the nations will go to destruction for having worshipped idols" (Targum) - "but we shall walk in the Name of HaShem our God for ever and ever."
Vv 6-7 make up a short Parshah Pethuhah continuing with the prophecies of consolation about the end of days, when God will bring in the scattered of Israel, who are as if limping in exile, being unable to move from their place (Metzudas David).
V 8: The prophet promises Jerusalem - the center to which the "flocks" gather on the pilgrim festivals - that the former dominion will return: this is the original united kingdom of David as it was before the Ten Tribes split from Judah and Benjamin (Rashi, Metzudas David, RaDaK).
V 9: There are varying interpretations of the Hebrew word TA-RIYI in this verse. Some render, "Why do you CRY OUT aloud", relating the root to TERU'AH as in the shofar blast. However, Rashi relates the root to REI'A, a "friend", rendering, "Why do you need to seek out friends and lovers, the kings of Egypt and Assyria , to help you?" The same question could be put to the rulers of Israel today: Why do you feel the need to rely on your peace treaty with Egypt and your backers in Washington when God is your King and advises you how to run your affairs - by following His Torah?
V 10: The prophet compares the coming ructions of exile to the pain of a mother giving birth - but promises that after the exile will come redemption and restoration.
V 11-14: Rashi and particularly RaDaK explain this passage as a prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles in the time of Mashiah. Verse 11 begins with the word NOW as if to say, You can be quite confident that this prophecy will come to pass, even if it does so only after a long time, just as if it were happening NOW (RaDaK).
"And now many nations are gathered against you, who say, Let her be defiled and let our eyes look upon Zion " (v 11). These "many nations" are Gog and Magog and the many nations that are with him (RaDaK). We see with our own eyes how in every international forum today the voices of the nations are raised in cries of accusation that Zionist Israel is "defiled", and they all wait for her downfall.
"But they do not know the thoughts of HaShem." (v 12). The nations do not understand that it is part of God's plan that they should feel compelled to come against Jerusalem, intending to plunder and destroy her - for this is how He draws them so as to gather in the Vale of Yehoshaphat where He will defeat them (Joel 4:2; Rashi on Micah 4:12). The nations will be like sheaves gathered in from the field - to be beaten and threshed.
V 13: "Having compared the nations to sheaves, God tells Zion that despite her weakness after the exile, He will strengthen her and give her metal horns with which to gore the nations and brass hooves with which to trample them" (Metzudas David).
V 14: "Now gather yourself in bands, daughter of troops - he has laid siege against us; they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." Rashi applies this verse to the Babylonians who were to destroy the First Temple because of Israel 's sin of abusing their prophets and judges and striking them on the teeth. However, RaDaK applies the verse to the people of Jerusalem under siege from the forces of Gog and Magog, when "half the city will go out in exile" (Zechariah 14:2) and the enemies will publicly degrade the judges and leaders of Israel to the point that they will contemptuously strike them on the jaw. The public demonization of leading rabbis in our time - accompanied by the unscrupulous twisting of their words to imply the opposite of what they intended (=striking them on the jaw) may also be a sign of the fulfillment of this prophecy.
MAY GOD TURN OUR HEARTS TO HIM AND RESTORE US TO OUR LAND AND BUILD HIS TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM QUICKLY IN OUR TIMES. AMEN.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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