1 Woe is me! For I have become
as when the summer fruit has been gathered,
as when the grapes have been gleaned:
there is no cluster to eat,
no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.
2 The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
and each hunts the other with a net.
3 Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;
the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,
and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;
thus they weave it together.
4 The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;
now their confusion is at hand.
5 Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;
6 for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me. – Micah 7:1-7 ESV
In this chapter, Micah gives his very personal perception of how things are going in Israel and Judah. He has been pouring out himself on behalf of his people, sharing the message given to him by God, but his efforts have been met with resistance and rejection. Micah had longed to see his people respond the God’s call for repentance. He knew God was serious when He warned of coming judgment. But Micah had believed that there was still time for the people to heed God’s call and return to Him with humble and contrite hearts.
Yet, here in chapter 7, we hear the downcast words of a disappointed prophet. He has come to the point where he realizes that the fate of the people of Israel is sealed. Their stubborn hearts will not allow them to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). And, from Micah’s perspective, all his efforts have been in vain.
He pronounces a woe upon himself. He uses the Hebrew word, ‘alĕlay, which was an expression of lament or deep sorrow. The circumstances in Judah and Israel had left him without hope and feeling as if there was nothing more for him to do. He compares the situation facing the people of God to that of a man attempting to find fruit after the harvest has been gathered.
Not a cluster of grapes or a single early fig
can be found to satisfy my hunger. – Micah 7:1 NLT
The imagery utilized by Micah is intended to stress the poor nature of harvest that had been gathered. There had been so little fruit that the fruit pickers had stripped the trees and the vines bare. Nothing had been left for the poor and needy. Every single grape and fig was gone. Nothing was left.
And Micah makes sure the reader understands he is speaking metaphorically. He doesn’t want anyone misunderstanding his point.
The godly people have all disappeared;
not one honest person is left on the earth. – Micah 7:2 NLT
The spiritual state of the people of God was unexpectedly catastrophic. It was worse than anyone could have ever imagined, including Micah. And what makes his assessment so devastatingly disappointing is that this was not what God had intended for His chosen people. The prophet Isaiah provides a stark contrast between God’s divine intentions for Israel and their actual response to His grace and mercy.
The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence. – Isaiah 5:7 NLT
Israel was to have been God’s fruitful vineyard. And the psalmist describes how God had chosen Israel and placed them in the land of promise with the expectation that they would be fruitful and prosper.
You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine;
you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land.
You cleared the ground for us,
and we took root and filled the land.
Our shade covered the mountains;
our branches covered the mighty cedars.
We spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea;
our shoots spread east to the Euphrates River. – Psalm 80:8-11 NLT
God had blessed them. They had enjoyed tremendous prosperity under God’s gracious care. But the psalmist goes on to describe what happened next.
But now, why have you broken down our walls
so that all who pass by may steal our fruit?
The wild boar from the forest devours it,
and the wild animals feed on it. – Psalm 80:12-13 NLT
And Isaiah described just how disappointed God was with the harvest among His chosen people, His vineyard.
Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter. – Isaiah 5:1-2 NLT
And Micah gives evidence that the grapes were indeed bitter.
The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind… – Micah 7:2 ESV
The situation among the people of Israel is demoralizingly bad. Speaking hyperbolically, Micah states that the godly are nowhere to be found. The entire nation is made up of dishonest, unethical murderers and evildoers. The officials and judges demand bribes, and the rich use their power and influence to twist and extort justice to get what they want. But it’s not just the rich and powerful who model this kind of behavior. Everyone is guilty.
the best of them is like a brier;
the most honest is as dangerous as a hedge of thorns. – Micah 7:4 NLT
They are all like briers and thorns, inflicting pain and sorrow wherever they go. Rather than practicing justice and showing kindness to one another, they dispense unnecessary injury – all for the sake of their own personal desires and agendas. But Micah warns them that their days are numbered. God was going to deal with His unfruitful vineyard.
But your judgment day is coming swiftly now.
Your time of punishment is here, a time of confusion. – Micah 7:4 NLT
Isaiah had also recorded the words of God concerning this coming day of judgment.
Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it. – Isaiah 5:5-6 NLT
And Micah, who has gone out of his way to describe just how bad things were, makes sure the people of Israel understand it is only going to get worse.
Don’t trust anyone—
not your best friend or even your wife!
For the son despises his father.
The daughter defies her mother.
The daughter-in-law defies her mother-in-law.
Your enemies are right in your own household! – Micah 7:5-6 NLT
The apostle Paul issued a similar statement to his young protege, Timothy, warning him that the last days were going to be marked by unprecedented spiritual apostasy and moral degradation.
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT
But in spite of his dire prediction, Paul encouraged Timothy to “remain faithful to the things you have been taught” (2 Timothy 3:14 NLT). He pointed Timothy back to the promises of God found in the Word of God.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
And in a similar fashion, Micah states his unwavering commitment to God, even in the midst of all that is going on around him. He had heard the word of God and proclaimed it faithfully. And while things were not working out as he had hoped or expected, he was going to continue to turn to God for help and hope.
As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me. – Micah 7:7 NLT
Micah started out this chapter with an expression of lament. But here, in verses 7, he expresses his heartfelt trust in God. He was not going to let the circumstances of life diminish his reliance upon God. He may have been surrounded by godless people who had turned their back on God, but he was determined to remain confidently committed to trusting Yahweh.
And the apostle Paul provides us with similar words of encouragement, reminding us to remain faithful to God even in the face of trials, tribulations, and seasons of uncertainty.
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. – Philippians 2:14-18 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.