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Micah 4:9-13 meaning

Micah now described four events that would occur before the future Messianic Kingdom.

After describing the future glories of the LORD’s Messianic reign of Christ in vv. 1 - 8, Micah then shifted to the realities in his time. In this section, which includes the first verse of chapter 5, he described what would occur in the near future using three prophecies. All of them begin with the word Now (vv. 9, 11, 5:1), which directs his audience’s attention from the distant future, and back to their current situation, which includes the certainty of a pending invasion.

In the first prophecy, Micah asks several rhetorical questions. The first is why do you cry out loudly? (v. 9). The word you is feminine singular and refers to Jerusalem as a young woman. The word for cry out (Hebrew “ṯārî‘î”) conveys the idea of screaming loudly when experiencing severe pain or distress (Isaiah 15:4). It is an intense expression literally translated “why are you shouting a shout?”

It seems that Micah was speaking to the Jews as if they were already in the Babylonian Exile. This was a fate that was yet over a hundred years in the future. However, Micah asks them questions in a present voice about a future event as though it is actually happening. This elevates the certainty of the prophecy, that there will be such an exile. Israel had broken its covenant/treaty with God, and the corrective provisions were going to be enacted, as God had promised, and as they had agreed.

The next two questions answer the first. He asked the people Is there no king among you, Or has your counselor perished? From the human standpoint, when the nation goes into exile, the people will not have their own king. The king of Israel was the LORD’s anointed ruler and was responsible for leading the people under the LORD’s guidance. Again, Micah speaks of a future event as a present reality, in order to elevate the certainty that it will come to pass.

These questions were designed to remind the people of their divine King and Counselor (Isaiah 33:22, 44:6, 9:6). He was still among them and He had a plan for His people. The prophet spoke with certainty of a future time when both the human king and counselor were gone because they were taken into exile and ruled by the Gentile Babylonians. But their divine King is still on His throne.

This loss of her king/counselor is spoken of as resulting in agony that gripped Jerusalem like a woman in childbirth. The experience of being taken captive and being mistreated, as the Jews walked to a foreign land and an uncertain future, caused unbearable physical and psychological pain. Micah spoke of this future event as a current reality, showing its certainty to come to pass.

It is possible that these questions were designed to shame the Jews into believing that the LORD was their true King and Counselor (Isaiah 9:5), and that after disciplining them for their sin, He would deliver them from exile and restore them back to the Promised Land. In each case, this would be according to Israel’s covenant/treaty with the LORD. Their covenant/treaty with their Suzerain (Ruler) God provided that they would be exiled for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:41). It also provided that after they repented, God would restore them to the land (Deuteronomy 30:3).

After asking the Jews why they were crying as a woman in labor, the LORD then seems to command them to Writhe and labor to give birth (v. 10). The Daughter of Zion (those in Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah) would thus be Like a woman in childbirth.

The reason for their pain and fear was that they were doomed to go into exile. It began in three stages. First, they would be forced to go out of the city by their captors. Second, they would Dwell in the field (camp in the open countryside) as they journeyed to their destination. Third, they would go to Babylon, their destination (Isaiah 39:6, Jeremiah 20:4-6).

That they would go to Babylon was surprising because, in Micah’s day, Babylon was not the greatest power in the region—Assyria was. But the sovereign LORD knew that Babylon would shortly be the dominant empire in the Ancient Near East, and it would be His instrument of judgment upon His people.

In another dramatic turn, Micah proclaimed that There (meaning Babylon) you will be rescued. The word rescued (Heb. “tinnāṣêlî”) means “to be delivered” or “to be saved.” The LORD Himself will rescue His people (Jeremiah 29:10-12). They needed to be judged for their sins (Isaiah 48:18-20), but afterwards He would bring them back to the Promised Land.

The rescue or salvation of the Jews likely has several fulfillments. One is the rescue of the Jewish people from Satan’s effort to eliminate them through his agent Haman, as described in the book of Esther (Esther 3:6, 7:10). Another could be the good work God intended to do among His people while they dwelt in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:11). This could include that in Babylon the Jewish people began to worship with their minds because they no longer had the temple, as well as the development of the tradition of meeting in synagogues. But it certainly included God’s promise to rescue them from exile.

After they had been in Babylon for a time, There the Lord will redeem you From the hand of your enemies. Jeremiah predicted that Judah would serve Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). Ezra began to lead Jews back to Judah during the reign of the Persian king Cyrus (Ezra 1:1).

But the word enemies, being plural, might refer to many of Israel’s enemies with Babylon representing them. Nonetheless, the LORD would redeem (Heb. “yiḡ’ālêḵ,” “avenge,” “be a kinsman-redeemer” as in Ruth 2:1) His people and restore them to their homeland. The return under Ezra was a partial fulfillment. A greater fulfillment remains.

When this prophecy will be completely fulfilled is not known (Acts 1:7). Babylon could represent all of Israel’s enemies throughout history, as well as the spirit of the worldly kingdoms (Revelation 17:5). It does seem apparent that the full restoration of Israel and the complete destruction of its enemies is still in the future, as of this writing. It will happen when the Messianic kingdom is established (Revelation 20:6).

The last three verses of this chapter contain another prophecy. Like the previous two verses (9 - 10), it describes what will happen now (v. 11). This seems to still refer to the future event that is spoken of with the same certainty as if it were occurring now. Instead of Babylon being the aggressor, many nations have been assembled against you, with you referring to Jerusalem, could refer to mercenaries from various peoples that were part of the army of Assyria at that time. However it seems more likely that the many nations here are in reference to the nations that have been Israel’s enemies over the centuries and even into the future.

At the end of the age, the nations of the earth will gather against Jerusalem (Revelation 19:19). Scripture speaks of the woes of the earth as being like the “pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). It seems that the attacks upon Jerusalem and God’s people will escalate then culminate at the end of the age. In every case, God will be their protector, and will redeem them from the hands of their enemies.

The picture here seems to be of an isolated Jerusalem whose enemies have gathered together against God’s covenant people. The city appeared to be isolated with no help and no hope. These nations taunt them about their situation saying, ‘Let her be polluted, And let our eyes gloat over Zion.’ To be polluted is to be “defiled,” so they were wishing that the “Daughter of Zion” be defiled and ruined. They wanted this to happen so they could gloat (lit. “see”) the humiliation of the people of Zion.

These nations thought themselves to be superior to the LORD’s people. They also probably thought that, because Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, their deities were more powerful than the LORD, making them superior to Zion. This is consistent with the picture in Revelation 19, where it appears that all the nations of the earth have united against Jerusalem (Revelation 19).

However, they were in for a rude awakening because they do not know the thoughts of the Lord (v. 12). Nor do they understand His purpose. The word purpose (Heb. “‘ăṣāṯōw”) can also be translated “plan.” They do not have the LORD’s perspective on what He was going to do. They did not understand that they were being used merely as instruments of judging Israel and not of being exalted above others.

Instead, the LORD has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. Like grain being broken into pieces when placed on a threshing floor, the nations will be devastated (Zechariah 14:12-15).

In light of this, the LORD commands Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion (v. 13). The people of Jerusalem and Zion were commanded to arise, a call to holy war (Numbers 10:35f). Here, His people will do the threshing of the nations.

They cannot do this by their own power, however. The LORD Himself will equip and empower them to win the battle. Using the image of a female cow, the LORD described His equipping of Jerusalem (Daughter of Zion, v. 8) for victory over her enemies. First, He promised that your horn I will make iron. The horn is a symbol of strength (Deuteronomy 33:17, 1 Samuel 2:1), and by making the horn iron the LORD gave them overwhelming strength to accomplish the victory. Second, He said that your hoofs I will make bronze, protecting them from stumbling during battle.

The reason the LORD empowered the people was so they may pulverize many peoples. Over the decades, several peoples had crushed the Israelites. Now, with the LORD’s help, they will crush the nations. This could refer to Revelation 19, at which time Jesus will return and lead the defeat of Israel’s enemies with His own hand (Revelation 19:11-21).

When God rescues Israel, they will devote to the Lord their unjust gain. After defeating their enemies, they will take the booty that their enemies took from their conquests and give it to the LORD. The word devote (Heb. “wəhaḥăramtî”) means to exclude something from ordinary use by people and dedicate it for a special purpose. In this case, they would plunder the defeated peoples and dedicate their wealth to the Lord of all the earth. The word Lord used in this last phrase of the verse is the Hebrew word “’ăḏōwn”, which means “master” and emphasizes His sovereignty over all the earth.

Since these events have not taken place yet, this is probably a reference to the Battle of Armageddon still in the future (Revelation 16:16, 19:19-21). There, the LORD will fight the battle and give Israel the victory.


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