Micah 4

Steven Ger 01 July 2014

Micah 4:1 (as well as its almost verbatim parallel in Isaiah 2:2-4) is a classic example of a prophecy of the future reign of the coming Messiah. It describes an era when the nation of Israel will be supremely elevated on the international stage regarding both its spiritual prestige and geopolitical circumstances. The reason for Israel's prominence in this messianic age is the presence of the Messianic King, who will reign from Jerusalem. The King will be the reason that international attention is so narrowly focused on the center of His government. His glorious rule will be characterized by twin abilities: first, His skill in establishing an era of unprecedented global peace and prosperity, where the abolition of war means that "nation will no longer lift up sword against nation" and swords will be hammered into plowshares (v.3-4) and second, the capacity to govern with unparalleled acumen and wisdom (v. 2-3)

Central to this portrait of this future (as indicated by Micah's use of the technical phrase, "the last days", v.1) messianic age will be the restored Temple ("the house of the Lord", v.1). Using language that seems to progress beyond that of hyperbole (and in light of the description in Zech. 14:4-5, 10), Micah describes the elevation of the Temple Mount in both world renown and actual geologic prominence. The Temple will become an international beacon, attracting not just Jewish people but an unrelenting international torrent of worshippers, as well (v.1-2). The purpose of this worldwide pilgrimage will be to attend the remarkable instruction of the Messianic King. It is from the Messiah that God's Torah ('law' or 'instruction') will go forth to the assembled masses on the Temple Mount (v.2). Rather than a mere intellectual exercise, this instruction will be of a spiritually life-changing nature. The nations will have gathered together both to learn of "God's ways" and to walk in "His paths" (v.2).

The Hebrew Scriptures' portrayal of the Messianic King as both lawgiver and law interpreter extraordinaire has long been an established component of traditional Jewish expectation. Linking Micah's prophetic imagery together with the farewell address of the prototypical lawgiver himself, Moses (Deut. 18:15-19), a well-defined and clearly traceable thread can be discerned. Moses' promise of a singular Jewish prophet like himself arising within Israel's unspecified future gave rise to the not unreasonable expectation among the rabbis and the Jewish people that the Messiah would not only possess the ability to expound upon and explain Torah, but would also reveal additional, as yet unrevealed components of Torah. Rabbi Levi Ben Gershom, called Gersonides (14th century), may have had in mind Micah's imagery of nations flowing to Jerusalem to learn from the Messiah when he wrote in his commentary on the Torah that "Moses by the miracles which he wrought drew but a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all nations to the worship of God." Within the ancient Midrash, we find this discussion: "When (Messiah) will come... he will elucidate for them the words of the Torah... Why will King Messiah come and to do what will he come? To gather the exiles of Israel and to give them thirty new commandments" (Genesis Rabbah 98:9). According to Midrash Talpiyot (58a), as quoted in Raphael Patai's, The Messiah Texts, "The Holy One... will sit and expound the new Torah which he will give through the Messiah... For had Adam not sinned, the letters would have arranged themselves into other words... In the future to come, when the sin of Adam will have been forgiven, the words will return to their primordial state, and the very Torah of Moses will contain the full complement of letters... arranged into other words, as it would have been had Adam not sinned."

Within the Yemenite Midrash, also quoted from Patai's Messiah Texts, we find "(God) will seat the Messiah in the supernal Yeshiva and they will call him, 'the Lord,' just as they call the Creator... And the Messiah will sit in the Yeshiva, and all those who walk on earth will come and sit before him to hear a new Torah and new commandments." The 13th century Yalkut adds, "God will sit in Paradise and interpret to the righteous a new Torah which he will give them by the hand of King Messiah." Finally, there is this thought: "When our righteous Messiah comes, we shall understand also the blank spaces in the Torah" (Rabbi Levi Yitzhaq of Berdichev)

When Jewish people consider messianic prophecy (if they ever consider messianic prophecy!), Micah 4's images most readily come to mind: a portrait of the messiah as conquering king, righteous world ruler, instigator of international peace and justice as well as the restorer of Israel's glory. However, the messianic prophecies contained within the Hebrew Scriptures provide a far broader portrait. Prior to His eventual righteous rule and reign, the Messiah would first enter the world in humble circumstances, live a life characterized by perfect obedience, and suffer a humiliating, agonizing death on behalf of His people. Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled those expectations to the letter. And following His death, just as the Hebrew Scriptures anticipate, He rose from the grave, having conquered death forever. His resurrection power is our guarantee that the glorious future reign described by Micah is assured.

Steven Ger

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