After briefly introducing himself and his ministry, Micah proceeds directly with his first vision. He draws an image of God as ruler of all Creation, sitting on His throne, not so much the symbolic throne in Jerusalem’s Temple, but the divine Throne of Heaven. Something demands His attention, and He intends to visit some portion of His realm. It’s not good news; He comes in wrath.
Reading this poetry requires a sharp mind, as Micah snatches up dual meanings every step of the way. God comes down in wrath upon the high places, both as pagan shrines and as simply those parts of the earth God encounters first if we imagine Him falling like thunder upon a victim. His mere presence could ruin the earth, and in seconds He could alter forever the topography of the land. But the point of His visit is the sins of Samaria piled so high it covers everything rather like the Flood of Noah. Not that Jerusalem is so much better, particularly during the reign of Ahaz, who dared revive the worship of Molech and other disgusting Canaanite deities, along with several new ones from who knows where.
We are regaled with colorful images. The massive stonework and beauty of Samaria will become rubble at the foot her hill, such that one could easily plant a vineyard. The top of the high ground will be just a collection of bare foundations. All the treasures, particularly the incredibly high investment in the richly decorated pagan idols, would be forgotten. Since Samaria has been so utterly unfaithful to her Lord, her wealth would be forgotten like some grand harlot whose home burned to the ground. So much for the wages of sin. You can gain so very much in such a short time, but you can’t keep it. God may take His sweet time as humans measure such things, but His justice is sure and extreme.
It was time for Micah to strip naked as one whose sorrow is so deep he can only express it by the most shocking social behavior. What does it matter to those near him there in the Southern Kingdom? It’s the same sins infesting Jerusalem, and the destruction would not leave his hometown untouched. Indeed, when Assyria began the campaign by destroying Samaria, she continued by taking every city in Judah as well, with the exception of Jerusalem alone, saved by a miracle. The destruction came to the very gates of Zion, though.
In a series of clever puns and mental associations, Micah catches our attention. Don’t let the Philistines in Gath (“Wine Press” as a place of celebration) think they can celebrate this bad news, because they would be crushed by Assyria, too. Those in Beth Aphra (“House of Dust”) will roll in the dust, a ritual act of sorrow. Let the folks in Saphir (“Beauty”) cover their nakedness in shame, no longer so proud. Zaanan (sounds like “depart”) can’t leave. Those in Beth Ezel (“House of Separation”) will be separated from God’s protective Presence. People in Maroth (“Bitter Springs”) were hoping for sweetness, but the bitterness of God’s wrath came to very gate of Jerusalem. Lachish (sounding very close to “swift steed”) will need to break out by chariot. This was the first southern city to break out of God’s holiness by adopting the sins of Jeroboam in Samaria.
But there’s more. Jerusalem will say goodbye (literally, give a parting gift, a possession) to the Moresheth (“Possession”) of Gath. Achzib (“Deception”) will deceive and turn traitor to their rulers in Israel. Mareshah was a personal possession, inherited by whomever was tribal chief of Judah, but the only heir coming to take possession would be the heir of the Assyrian throne. Meanwhile, the famous caves of Abdullam (“Refuge”) will see the “glory of Israel” — nobility in their battle finery — come cowering to hide.
Instead of widening one’s tent with extra sections for a growing family of young children, the people of Israel and Judah would spread out their baldness as a sign of mourning and loss. Those children would be taken away as captives, the noble sons born in luxury to become the lowest slaves in the Assyrian palaces.