Micah spoke out against the oppression of the people by both spiritual and secular leaders.

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Injustice shows itself, according to Micah, primarily in three activities: in coveting what belongs to others, in perverting justice, and in hypocritical religiosity. Selfish coveting is for Micah the source of all sorts of evil... Micah takes the word "covet' from the ninth and 10th commandments (Exodus 20:17) and says: (2:2),

"They covet fields and seize them,

 And houses, and take them;

 they oppress a man and his family,

 a man and his inheritance."

One thinks immediately of officers and administrative officials from Jerusalem who are assigned to the fortress cities around Moresheth. They seek beautiful fields and houses in the pleasant countryside. Micah describes their psychology (2:1) as they keep themselves awake in bed at night, devising their plans. The next morning they carry out the plans "because it is in their power to do so."

As a result of their imaginative planning their basic covetousness quickly matures into brutal acts of violence against property and people: property they "seize"; people they "oppress" (2:2). Both measures are strictly forbidden by God's law, "Thou shalt not oppress thy neighbor or rob him" (Lev. 19:13)….

Micah must accuse Jerusalem's leading officials in every field of one crime above all others--the hankering for money:

"This city's leaders give judgment for a bribe;

 its priests interpret the law for pay;

its prophets give their revelations for money" (3:11) ...

Pronouncing Doom

Upon those who have been thus accused (of covetousness and greed) Micah pronounces doom most unambiguously. The very first word of chapter 2 strikes the basic note with its hoy (woe):

"Woe to those who lie awake and plan evil upon their beds,

so that when morning comes they may perform it!"

Woe! Hoy! That is the cry of lamentation which was customarily heard throughout ancient Israel's clans whenever death struck home. According to Micah's adaptation of this woe, the selfish schemers are actually rotting corpses. Whoever pushes people aside in a selfish quest for things is pushing life aside and seeking death.

The prophet is not, however, proclaiming a general abstract proposition. His "Woe!" is an announcement, made ahead of time, of the evil‑planners' doom. Their doom itself he describes in 2:3-5: "Therefore thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I am planning disaster!'"   Man's evil planning has already been encircled by God's superior plan. Micah becomes more precise: "You will not remove your necks from disaster; you will no longer be able to walk uprightly (erect)." Micah even puts a dirge into their mouth:  "We are utterly ruined. Our captors divide our fields."

The Punishment Fits the Crime

Expropriation and expulsion threaten the expropriators and expellers. They fall into the pit they have dug for others. Elijah says to Ahab, according to I Kings 21:19, "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood."

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Hans Walter Wolff

Hans Walter Wolff (1911-1993) was a German Protestant theologian. From 1967 to 1978 he was Professor of Old Testament at the Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg.