Chapter Two provides a detailed explanation of the wrongs that led to ruin. Micah tells us about the premeditated plotting and planning and coveting land. This is followed by the plotting and planning of Yahweh against the oppressors. The judgment fits the crimes. Thus those who have seized land will suffer the expropriation of their ill-gotten land when the “assembly of Yahweh” meets to allot land. It is unlikely that Micah is describing an ancient historical practice of periodically reallocating land. This describes an eschatological reversal. It was the kind of eschatological reversal anticipated by Luke.
It has been suggested that it is unlikely that the rich would be busy seizing land when the invasion is imminent. Jeremiah 32:6-15 is cited to demonstrate that such conduct was considered foolish. Initially, it should be noted that the false prophets were bolding asserting that no harm would come to Jerusalem. Therefore the rich, who believed the false prophets, did not consider the invasion to be imminent. Furthermore, this position, that the rich would not be seizing land, ignores a number of known historical facts about this time period when Hezekiah was king.
Hezekiah is one of three kings in the Bible, not described as wicked. The account of this king in the Hebrew Bible is contained in 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32. He introduced religious reform, reinstated religious traditions and abolished idolatry from his kingdom. It is believed that the religious reforms of Hezekiah were provoked by the words of the Prophet Micah.
Hezekiah refused to pay the tribute imposed upon his father. This led to the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13-16) in the 4th year of Sennacherib (701 BC). Hezekiah anticipated the Assyrian invasion, and made several major preparations. One is considered to be an impressive engineering feat. A tunnel 533 meters long was dug in order to provide Jerusalem exclusive access to the waters of the Spring of Gihon, which was located outside the city. In addition, a wall, described in Isaiah 22:11 as the broad wall, was built around the city.
In my last blog, I noted “What is generally not known nor mentioned by the Micah commentaries is that in the accounts of his campaigns, Sennacherib mentioned how Hezekiah captured the cities of the coastal plains controlled by the Philistines and held their king a captive in Jerusalem.”
2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles does report that Hezekiah was successful in his wars against the Philistines driving them back in a series of battles as far as Gaza. He regained all the cities his father had lost plus some but no mention was made of the capture of the King of the Philistines. Josephus indicated that Hezekiah captured all their cities from Gaza to Gath. This campaign was undertaken to strengthen the defense of Judah and secure the agricultural region that supplied Jerusalem with food. Finally, Hezekiah fortified the Jerusalem perimeter for the protection of the city. Moresheth, located about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem was probably part of this fortified perimeter.
Broshi has written about expansion of Jerusalem during the reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh. During the 8th century, the socio-economic effects of urbanization and surplus farming became acute. Surplus farming describes the growth of wealth by those family farmers able to grow more than the family actually needed to support itself. The surplus was used to purchase other assets including land. The growth of Jerusalem in this period is attributed to the influx of refugees from the Northern Kingdom after its collapse and the border policy that forced people residing in the perimeter area to relocate. Many of people moved to Jerusalem. Finally when the war began, additional refugees arrived in Jerusalem from the war zone.
The preparation of Hezekiah began when the King decided to stop paying tribute. The preparations set forth in the preceding paragraphs did not occur overnight. This time period of extensive preparation, during which the invasion was imminent, probably lasted more than four years. It is my opinion that Micah in his violent verbal assault of the rich people coveting and seizing land was in fact, inter alia, critiquing the King’s border policy that forced relocation of small poor family farmers and allowed the rich people to seize the vacated land so that it could be used for surplus farming.
The woe speech contained in the second chapter was designed to convince the audience that the exile of the northern kingdom of Israel was an act of Yahweh that was intended to punish Israel for enabling its more powerful elements to seize the land of small family farmers. The woe speech was devastating because the same practice is now occurring in Judah as the country prepares for the Assyrian invasion. If the same land practice was not occurring, there would be no point to the speech as it would have no impact on the audience. It would be a history lesson spoken with no purpose. The audience was prepared. Its response indicated that they believed the false prophets who had said no harm will harm to Jerusalem. Micah’s reaction was strong: “My people have become an enemy.”
Gospel of Luke