Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hear give ear

Typically the covenant lawsuit begins with heaven and earth being summoned to act as witnesses and a demand that the accused listen. Verse two states:

“Hear, all you peoples,

Give ear, O earth and all that is in you,

That the Lord Yahweh may testify against you.”

There are two other verses where the “peoples” are assembled to hear Yahweh’s wrath against them. In Isaiah 34:1 we read: “Draw near, O nations, to hear, and hearken, O peoples! Let the earth listen, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it.” Isaiah 3:13-14 states: “The Lord has taken his place to contend, he stands to judge the peoples. The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.’”

Hear is a command word Micah used in 1:2; 3:1; 6:1 to begin major sections. Each of the three divisions contains words of judgment followed by words of salvation. Catchwords and motifs, comparisons and contrasts, link the different units into coherence.

Although the second verse contains the phrase “that the Lord Yahweh may testify against you,” verse 2-7 is not considered a covenant lawsuit. Micah 6:1-8 is a good example of a covenant lawsuit.

One of the elements missing from this so-called “covenant” lawsuit in verse 2-7 is that the accused is not present or if present has not yet been identified. This point is briefly mentioned by Andersen and Freedman in their commentary.

A criminal trial in absentia is certainly possible although not generally allowed in American jurisprudence. Lately we have seen trials in absentia in certain European terrorism cases. It was probably not allowed in Hebrew law in the 8th century BCE. If covenant lawsuits mirror secular law, then we should be able to cite an example of such procedure from the secular law. The evidence suggests otherwise. The existence of the cities of refuge indicates that the person charged with manslaughter that had fled to the city was, not only physically safe, but also he could not be tried in absentia.

The more satisfactory explanation for verse 2-7 is that these verses represent a judgment oracle proclaimed by the Prophet. Has Micah turned the tables on the people by initially summoning them as an audience and now the people have become the accused and the recipients of the judgment oracle with trial omitted? Or is this the judgment issued against Samaria with sentence omitted as to Jerusalem being reviewed by the people of Jerusalem?

Perhaps the Prophet Micah in uttering this judgment oracle prior to the fall of Samaria (722 BCE) viewed this oracle as a warning against Jerusalem. This technique is effective because God’s judgment against Samaria implies a judgment against others such as Jerusalem. This strategy attempts to convince a Judean audience that Jerusalem will suffer a similar fate for similar reasons.

Copyrighted 2007


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