The Western mindset tends to very literal interpretation of the Bible, believing the words of the prophets to be descriptive of physical reality. But, the Bible was written in the Eastern metaphorical, poetical style where physical things we can see represent spiritual things we cannot see.
For instance, according to Clarke’s commentary, Micah 2:6 literally reads
“Do not cause it to rain; they will cause it to rain; they cannot make it rain sooner than this; confusion shall not depart from us.”, and is translated in the KJV as
“Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.“
We can see the origin of this meaning in Deu. 32:2.
“ My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:“
God’s word, His doctrine drops as rain onto the earth. The word “as” indicates a metaphor, a comparison so that His word is like the rain. The Jews understood “rain” in relation to the prophecies of God.
In Micah 2:6 the people didn’t want to hear the prophet’s words, they did not want the bad news, nor to know the judgment God was bringing upon them. They wanted the prophet to speak smooth things, so that the people would not be ashamed. They didn’t want to be accused of their sin.
Let’s look at another metaphorical word used throughout the prophecies in the Bible which Western people too often take literally – ‘earth’.
Micah 1:2, “Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.”
In the prophetical usage “earth” stands for Israel, the people and the land of Israel or Judah, and the covenant God had made with Israel. Deut. 4:26 states that God will call “the heavens and the earth” to testify against the children of Israel. What would testify against them except the word of God, or His covenant with them. Therefore, the “heavens and earth” of Deut. 4:26 was the old covenant with Israel. (See my previous post “Heaven & Earth Have Passed Away” for more detail.)
Micah 1:1 identifies who the audience of his prophesy is – “concerning Samaria and Jerusalem”. Samaria was the royal or capital city of the northern ten tribes of Israel, and Jerusalem was the royal or capital city of Judah.
The prophet was speaking to the Israelites! The entire book of Micah is of the prophesies to the Israelites, and began before the Assyrian captivity of the northern ten tribes, and before the Babylonian captivity of the two tribes of Judah.
The audience is confirmed again in Micah ….1:5, “For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?“
So, who was the intended audience? The descendants of Jacob who were the twelve tribes of ISRAEL. Then, when the prophet says “Hear all ye people; hearken O earth, and all that therein is:”, the “people” in the first half are coupled with and synonymous with the “earth” in the second half, and specifically the Israelites were the “earth” He was speaking to. God was directing His word down from His holy temple above to the people of the earth below in Israel.
Deu. 32:1, “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”
The Old Testament, the old covenant was given to the Israelites, the sons and tribes of Jacob. When God sent His prophets to speak to the people, the people inhabited the land, and were of the “earth”. In fact, most of the Old Testament was written to and for the Israelites, covenantal fleshly Israel. Throughout the OT the word “earth” is synonymous with Israel.
Now, knowing the audience and that the time of the prophesy of Micah begins before the Assyrian captivity around 722 BC, how then are we, who are reading and studying the book of Micah some 2700 years later, to view Micah 4:1-8?
“1But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
6 In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;
7 And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
8 And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.“
This is a Messianic prophesy given unto the tribes of Jacob, Israel, and the time is the last days of the tribes of Israel. (Gen. 49:1; Num. 24:14; Deu. 4:30; 31:29; Jer. 23:20; 30:24; Ez. 38:16; Dan. 10:14; Hos. 3:5) The last days, the latter days were always the last days of national Israel and the old covenant God had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were the last days of the earthly house of the Lord, the temple which was destroyed in A.D. 70.
“Her that halted” were those of Israel that stumbled and turned from God to idolatry, and “her that was cast far off” were those afflicted and taken into captivity under the Assyrians and Babylonians – the tribes of Israel.
God would make of the remnant a strong nation under the new covenant, the new heavens and the new earth. (Isa.65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13) The many nations that would be blessed through the seed of Abraham, Christ (Gal. 3:16), would become that strong nation, and have access to the house of the God of Jacob, and it would be established in the last days of the old heavens and the old earth, the old covenant with the tribes of Israel. (Heb. 8:13)
This prophesy of Micah is speaking of the uniting of all people of every nation who flow into the spiritual temple of God, into the body of Christ, the everlasting kingdom which Christ would establish during the last days of the old covenant with fleshly Israel during the first century A.D, when He appeared on earth. (Heb 1:1-2; 8:8-11)
As the people of many nations flowing into the house of the Lord would become one spiritual nation, then nation would not be rising up against nation. They would be God’s people, one in the Lord, and at peace one with another. (Rom. 9:24-26; 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 12:12,13; Eph. 2:16; Col. 3:15)
People of many nations could not flow into the inner courts of the earthly temple of the old covenant, as anyone not of the tribes of Israel who entered into the inner courts of the earthly tabernacle would be killed. So this prophesy, and the prophesy of Is. 2:2 is not speaking of any earthly temple of either the first century A.D., or the contrived state of Israel which was created in 1948.
Flowing into is a conscious action of free will and free choice. Those that want to become children of Abraham, and sons of God will choose to flow into the spiritual house of the Lord, the spiritual temple, the New Jerusalem. (Rom.. 9:12-17; Rev. 21:1-3)
The new covenant is with spiritual Israel, with all of the people who have been immersed in water (baptized) for the remission of their sins (Mark 16:16). They are the ones who are covered by the blood of Christ (Rom. 4:7) and are resurrected spiritually into the house of the Lord, and are sons of God, and children of the promise to Abraham. (Rom. 9:7,8; Gal. 3:27 – 29)
Those of the promise, those who are in spiritual Israel of the new covenant, those of every nation and tribe who are in the kingdom are the subject of the prophesy of Micah c.4. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, because they desire peace. They will not learn war anymore.
Does the prophesy actually say there will be no more war? Verse 5 makes a distinction between those who follow after their own gods, and “we” who will walk after the Lord. Therefor, the prophesy shows that those who follow after their own gods exist at the same time of those who follow after the Lord. This indicates the wicked still exist at the same time that those of the promise are in the new heavens and new earth covenant.
What about the people who do not choose to flow into the house of the Lord? Those who will not have God reign over them? (1 Sam. 8:7; Luke 19:27) Is God going to force them into His house whether they will or not? The prophesy doesn’t speak to those outside of the house of the Lord. The wicked are still outside of the city. (Rev. 22:15)
The prophesy does not say all people will flow into the house of the Lord, just people of many nations. Therefore the wicked are still going to be learning and making war.
Peace is only available in the spiritual body of Christ, the city of the new Jerusalem. Those outside that city are still in sin, are not covered by Christ’s righteousness, and are not at peace with God. (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)
As long as this physical world continues there will be people who do not want God to reign over them, and will not flow into the house of the Lord. There will be sin and wickedness because people have free will. Evil people outside of God’s city, outside of the new covenant which Christ established with His death on the cross, will always be waging war against any who stand in their way, including God.
Utopia is not available on this earth. It is only available in heaven. We who are in the kingdom of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have the promise of peace and our eternal reward in heaven. A spiritual prophesy of a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual covenant does not translate to a world political condition. Micah c.4 is not a prophesy of a political world view, or of a peaceful national politic existence. (See also Isa. 2:4)
The symbolic use of plowshares and pruning hooks are used in a spiritual kingdom to plow the fields for the Lord, and to cut off the dead or dying parts of the plants. The work of those in the new covenant, in the spiritual house of the Lord is to teach and preach the word of God, to sow the seed, and tend the plants. (Rom. 10:13-15; 2 Tim. 2:2)
If this prophesy was about a future, perfect condition of national peace on earth, then why do we need plowshares and pruning hooks to work the fields? Why would we need to preach the word and teach others about the gospel of Christ?
If this prophesy were about the end of the physical cosmos, then why would a physical earthly kingdom be needed?
Everyone who tries to make this prophesy fit a world politic where every nation is at peace with every other nation is misapplying this scripture, and is assuming that everyone will allow God to reign over them. It does not apply outside of the kingdom of God, outside of the house of the Lord.
Notice the obverse in Joel 3:10.
“ Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.”
Joel c.3 was a prophesy of the Lord which proclaimed God’s time of judgment and war against the Gentile nations who gloried in their victories over Israel. Turning their plows into swords was a call to war, and specifically a come and get it statement of the Lord. He was going to repay their evil, and preserve the remnant of His people.
The prophesy of Joel 3:20 that Judah would dwell forever and Jerusalem from generation to generation is fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, the new heavens and the new earth, the new covenant. Spiritual Israel, all those of the seed of Abraham through Christ Jesus have everlasting life in the house of the Lord. (Mat. 19:29; 25:46; Luke 18:30; John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; Rom. 6:22; 1 Tim. 1:16)
The new heaven and the new earth, the new Jerusalem, the new covenant came down out of heaven to the earth after the destruction of the first heaven and earth, after the first covenant was put aside in A.D. 70. Rev. 21:3 tells us that God’s tabernacle, His temple is with men.
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
God’s tabernacle cannot be with men if there is no more physical earth, if there is no one living on earth. The kingdom did not come with observation. (Luke 17:20) The tabernacle is spiritual, and the kingdom is within us, and in our midst. (Luke 17:21) All who are within that tabernacle, within the new Jerusalem have the peace He promised. (Rom. 5:1; 8:6; 14:17; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 2:14; Phil. 4:7; Col 1:20)
The prophesy of Micah c.4 was fulfilled with Christ’s death on the cross, with the destruction of the earthly tabernacle in A.D. 70, and is continuing to be fulfilled every day that a new soul puts on Christ through baptism, and enters into the new heavens and new earth, the new covenant of God.
All scripture is from the KJV, and all bold emphasis is mine. See posts for “It’s Not The End of The World”, “The Latter Days Are Not Our Days”, “The Beast of Revelation”, “The Whore of Babylon” and others at the right margin.