Posts Tagged ‘church life’

Puns in the Bible: The Book of Micah

May 26, 2011 2 comments

Micah’s Warnings to the Towns of Judah

As I continue going through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, now in the book of Micah, I observe the similarities between several of these minor prophets — and thus similar applications. The books of Hosea, Amos and Micah were written during the same general time period (the 8th century BC), and contain similar warnings against Israel’s apostasy, including hypocrisy and formalism, even a “promise box” religion, a notional faith not evidenced in how we live.   These sermon series were delivered at various times throughout the 1970s and 1980s, not intended to be listened to in sequence, yet the “application” to our daily church life is similar:  how our natural tendency in churches is to just follow the routine, go through the motions, and easily turn cold towards spiritual things.

Hosea and Amos wrote to the northern kingdom of Israel, whereas Micah wrote to both Israel and Judah, yet the problems are the same.  Yet each prophet has his own style and particular teachings, such as Hosea’s marriage illustration, or Amos’ shepherd experience.  Micah in particular included some interesting puns, word-plays in the original Hebrew, in the first chapter references to locations within Judah — names and meanings that his audience no doubt recognized.  Consider Micah 1:10-15, which names several places in Judah:  Beth-le-aphrah, Shaphir, Zaanan, Beth-ezel, Maroth, Lachish, Moresheth-gath, Achzib, and Mareshah — just names that we skim over, but with interesting meanings as used in the verses.

  • The name “Beth-le-aphrah” means “town of dust” — so Micah here says “in Beth-le-aphrah roll yourselves in the dust.”
  • In “Pass on your way, inhabitants of Shaphir” the name Shaphri is very close to the Hebrew word for fair or beautiful, a “fair town.”
  • In verse 11, the inhabitants of Za-anan (“going out”) will not be able to go out.
    Beth-ezel (“Standton”) will have its standing place taken away.
  • In Maroth (bitter land) they wait anxiously for better things, but it will not come.
  • Jerusalem, the city of fortune or city of peace: misfortune and disaster is coming.  No peace is coming to the city of peace.
  • Lachish — “Chariotsburg” — is addressed in reference to the chariots that were stored there.
  • Moresheth Gath:  “betrothed” — the city is promised to another:  “Therefore you shall give parting gifts to Moresheth Gath.”
  • Achzib — “Deceitville” shall be a deceitful thing
  • Mareshah — (possessor or heir) — will have a new, foreign hei

This section begins and ends with references to David’s life:  “Tell it not in Gath” in verse 10, a clear reference to 2 Samuel 1, David’s lament at the news of the defeat at Mt. Gilboa, the battle that killed King Saul and his son Jonathan.  Then the closing, verse 15, references Adullam (“the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam”): the cave where David dwelled as an outlaw, a place of rough living among malcontents.  Yet such is what shall come upon Israel.