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November 30, 2005
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Bible Study Notes for Micah 4

4:8 . watchtower/stronghold. Although Migdal Eder ( niv : “watchtower of the flock”) is a place name elsewhere ( Gen 35:21 ), it is paralleled in this context with Ophel, a section of the old city of David on the eastern hill of the city of Jerusalem. As such, both images are of a citadel or watchtower protecting the “flock” and serving as a rallying point from which God’s eventual restoration of the nation and the people will occur (compare the opposite image in Is 32:14 ). If the term refers to an actual citadel tower, it could be the central tower of the Ophel (the citadel or the hill it was on) in Jerusalem (daughter of Zion).

4:10 . Babylon. It would have been more logical in Micah’s day if he had assigned Ashur or Nineveh as the place of exile. But prophecy is not always logical. In Micah’s time, the Neo-Assyrian empire, under the Sargonid rulers, Sargon II and Sennacherib, was the most powerful political network the world had ever seen. It stretched across the Near East and would eventually even include Egypt for a short time. The ravaging army of Sennacherib was responsible for destroying many towns and villages in Judah during his two invasions, and the Assyrian reliefs even depict captives being taken away from Lachish. During this period, Babylonia and its Chaldean rulers were subjected, just like all other nation states, by the Assyrians. However, they, like the Medes in western Iran, periodically tested the Assyrian hegemony with revolts or by attempting to subvert Assyria’s allies and vassal states. Particularly troublesome was Merodach-Baladan, who ousted Assyrian rulers of Babylon on at least two occasions. Finally in 689 b.c. Sennacherib sacked the city and assumed the title of king of Babylon. Shortly after 660, as the Assyrian empire began to crumble, Babylonia and Media combined to put even greater pressure on the last of the great Assyrian kings, Ashurbanipal. His death in 627 marked the end of Assyrian world power and the emergence of Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonian empire.[1]

4:12 . sheaves to the threshing floor. One of the principal agricultural installations in the village culture throughout the ancient Near East was the threshing floor. Sheaves of grain were brought to this central location, where they would be threshed and winnowed. Because of the importance of agriculture and fertility, the threshing floor was often a place of ritual importance. Threshing floors were large, flat, open areas and certainly could have been useful for other purposes besides threshing. It is no surprise, therefore, that it should double as an open-air facility when space constraints or the desire for public visibility rendered the palace facilities inadequate. Consequently it became a place of assembly where legal as well as business transactions could be finalized. In the Ugaritic Epic of Aqhat, the king, Danil, publicly judges cases at the threshing floor outside the gate of his city. It was a place where the good was separated from the bad.

4:13 . horns of iron, hooves of bronze. Although there are no direct references to animals pulling a threshing sled in the biblical text (see, however, comment on 2 Sam 24:22 ), Micah is clearly describing standard operations at a threshing floor. Egyptian tomb paintings depict oxen and donkeys pulling a sled weighted with pieces of flint and metal over the grain, and this custom is still followed by farmers in the Middle East. There is also some evidence for metal shoes being attached to the feet of these animals to more efficiently cut the stalks of grain.[2]

 



[1]Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament. electronic ed., Mic 4:8-10. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

[2]Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament. electronic ed., Mic 4:12-13. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.