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Journal for the Study of the Old Testament http://jot.sagepub.


Micah 1.2-16: Observations and Possible Implications

Ehud Ben Zvi Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 1998 23: 103 DOI: 10.1177/030908929802307708 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Ehud Ben Zvi


of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E6

1. Introduction

A full discussion of Micah 1 is beyond the limits of any article, but the following observations may contribute to a better understanding of the historical community in which and for which, Mic. 1.2-16 was composed as a written text, namely, the first community of readers and rereaders. The reference to re-readers is a must in this context because it is most likely that prophetic books were not read once and then put aside, but read, re-read, meditated upon, edited, redacted, copied and the like. If this is so, then most of the readers of the book-even within the community for which the book was written-were in fact re-readers. It is, moreover, reasonable to assume that the writers of these books were well aware that this was the case. The present analysis thus differs from many previous studies2 in its focus on some of
An oral version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies held at Montreal, June 1995. 1. On this issue and its implications, see E. Ben Zvi, A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Obadiah (BZAW, 242; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1996), § 1.2.2, and passim. See my previous work, Studying Prophetic Texts Against Their Original Backgrounds: Pre-ordained Scripts and Alternative Horizons of Research, in S.R. Reid (ed.) Prophets and Paradigms. Essays in Honor of Gene M. Tucker (JSOTSup, 229; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), pp. 125-35. 2. Within the realm of historical-critical studies see, for instance, K. Elliger, Die Heimat des Propheten Micha, ZDPV 57 (1934), pp. 81-152; G. Fohrer, Micha 1, in F. Maass (ed.) Das ferne und nahe Wort (Festschrift L. Rost; BZAW, 105; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1967), pp. 65-80; J.T. Willis, Some Suggestions on the Interpretation of Micah I 2, VT 18 (1968), pp. 372-79; V. Fritz, Das Wort gegen

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104 the features of the written text of Mic. 1.2-16. The assumptions governing this paper and setting its research strategy are set out below. (a) The world presented to the (re-)readers of the book of Micah in general, and Mic. 1.2-16 in particular is above all a literary world. It may include direct references to the historical circumstances at the time of composition, and is likely to contain information about, and show a perspective that is congruent with, the putative time in which the speeches are set in the book, that is, the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, as the community in which the book was written construed them. Direct historical referentiality cannot be assumed, nor dating advanced on the basis of the tense of the verbs used by a speaker. (b) This being so, the most secure starting point in historical-critical studies of the text of Mic. 1.2-16 is not a possible and still speculative reconstruction of the text of a presumed, original proclamation of a (reconstructed) historical prophet, but rather the text of the prophetic book3 and its literary world. Thus the starting questions for the type of study proposed here are not Is it likely that an eighth-century prophet prophesied so and so? but What kind of story about God, an eighth-century prophet, Israel, and the like is told to the community of readers and re-readers of this text? How does this story reflect the circumstances of and shape the community of re-readers? What are

Mays, Micah (OTL; PhiladelLa Formation du livre de Micheé B. Renaud, Westminster, 38-60; 1976), pp. phia : (Paris: Gabalda, 1977), pp. 9-59; H.W. Wolff, Micah (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1990 [German orig. 1982]), pp. 39-66; D.R. Hillers, Micah (Hermeneia; Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 16-30; C.S. Shaw, Micah 1.10-16 Reconsidered, JBL 106 (1987), pp. 23-29 and idem, The Speeches of Micah (JSOTSup, 145; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), pp. 32-67; M. Alvarez Barredo, Relecturas Deuteronomisticas de Amós, Miqueas y Jeremias (Murcia: Instituto Teológico Franciscano, 1993), pp. 84-89.
Samaria Mi 1 2-7, ZAW 86 (1974), pp. 316-31; J.L.

simplest overview of modem historical-critical research on these verses disagreement among scholars concerning (a) the text of Mic. 1.2-16, and esp. vv. 10-15, (b) its redactional history, and (c) the historical circumstances referred to, or reflected by a proposed first layer(s) of the text. Despite substantial disagreements concerning its precise contents, the latter layer is usually associated with the historical figure of the eighth-century prophet Micah and his message. Such an association, of course, defines the set of potential historical circumstances that may be taken into account as possible (historical) backgrounds for the message of the
Even the



(reconstructed) earlier version of the text that later became Mic. 1.2-16 (to be, of course, distinguished from Mic. 1.2-16).
3. Of course, there is

role for textual criticism at this stage.

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the main features of the intended audience of this text? Is it likely that the intended audience resembles the actual (re-)readers of the text?4

2. Observations 2.1 Introduction It is interesting that already the first verse following the heading of the book contains at least one case of ambiguity,5 one of unclear referent (most likely a connoted double-referent), and an apparent grammatical oddity involving a change in person.6 It is from these basic observations that our investigation begins.
2.2 Ambiguity: Significance and Context It is reasonable to assume that the intended audience of the text would notice that IDD in 7Db DDD i11i1&dquo; 7~~h &dquo;i1&dquo;17 may be (re-)read as against you or among you, or both. Modem scholars dealing with
4. Cf. Ben Zvi, Obadiah; idem, Studying Prophetic Texts. 5. I prefer to use the term ambiguity for any case of potential indeterminacy, whether it involves lasting indeterminacy or not. Cf. Ben Zv1, Obadiah, § 1.2.2 (pp. 3-6), and see R.A. de Beaugrande and W.U. Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (London: Longman, 1981 [German original 1972]), p. 84. 6. For instance, in addition to the cases discussed in the body of this paper, one may draw attention to ? in Mic. 1.2 (see Mal. 3.5; Ps. 50.7), and compare it with forever (e.g., ?, for the booty, (Gen. 49.27; Isa. 33.23; Zeph 3.8) and in 1.2 Isa. 30.8; 64.8; Amos 1.11; Mic. 7.18). The text in Mic. (and other similar and most instances; e.g., Zeph. 3.8) allowed, likely suggested multiple connotations to the intended audience; cf. E. Ben Zvi, A Historical-Critical Study of The Book of Zephaniah (BZAW, 198; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1991), pp. 220-23. 7. The mentioned text occurs as a motivation/explanation clause; that is, the ? is epexegetical. See B.K. Waltke and M. OConnor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), §33.2.2. On the issue of the double divine name here see D. Barthélemy (et al.), Critique Textuelle de l Ancient Testament (OBO, 50.3; Fribourg: Éditions Universitaires; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), III, pp. 711-12. 8. It is true that the type of discourse in Mic. 1.2 favors against you as the salient meaning of the text. Since the context suggests that the indictment is against Samaria and Judah—or, from a larger perspective, against Israel /Yahwehs people (that is, the group characterized in theological/ideological terms)—but neither against ? ? nor ? ?, it seems most reasonable that at least upon re-reading (and meditating upon), the audience of this book would have wondered about this ?. See below. It is also worth noting that ? is not marked by its preceding context as pointing


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106 this text have often tended to reconstruct an original, univocal reading of the text by allowing only one of these two potential readings. In any case, these scholars have not missed its ambiguity, and indeed one may conclude that among modern as well as ancient (re-)readers ambiguity has admirably fulfilled its role as attention getter .For

mainly or only to the meaning against you (to the exclusion or among you or concerning you). In fact, the text seems to require its intended audience to develop a clear understanding of what the text is about, and of its type, only after they have read more than Mic. 1.1-2. They need the following verses. But these verses, on the one hand, contribute to the shaping of a scheme about the text being read in which the default expectation is to understand ? as against you, but on the other, render this interpretation dubious. (Mediaeval Jewish interpreters tended to solve the conflicting [re-]reading expectations by limiting the referent of ? ? to the tribes of Israel [the adduced reference in this regard is Deut. 33.19] and of ? ? to the land of Israel [see Radak and Abrabanel] rather than by dealing with the possible meaning that ? could have carried. This way of solving the problem seems less likely to reflect that of the intended audience of Mic. 1.2-16 than the one advanced here. Notice the rarity of their understanding of the pair ? ? and of ? ?.) 9. Thus, for instance, A. Weiser, Die Propheten Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadja, Jona, Micha (ATD, 24; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 8th edn, 1985), pp. 232, 235-36; Wolff, Micah: The Prophet (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), pp. 32-33 prefers the translation among—and cf. LXX, but see Willis, Suggestions, p. 376; whereas Hillers, Micah, p. 17, and probably a majority among modem scholars, support the meaning against.
Of course, there



scholars who tend to follow

a more


position. See, for instance, C.J. Dempsey, The Interplay between Literary Form and Technique and Ethics in Micah 1-3 (dissertation, The Catholic University of
America, 1994), pp. 66, 91.
One may mention that Redaktionsgeschichte approaches to the text (such as those advanced by Renaud and Nogalski) do not solve the issue of how ? was most likely (re-)read by the community of (re-)readers for which Micah 1 in its final form was composed, unless one assumes that these (re-)readers or at least the intended audience of the book adopted an strategy of (re-)reading based on a diachronic/historical or layer-based arrangement of texts. But if so, if such an arrangement was meant to be the main interpretative key for the (re-)reading of the text—in itself a difficult proposal, why did the authors of the text not leave any clear, textually inscribed markers that might help the (re-)readers of the book to (re-)read it in the way they intended to be (re-)read? Were they misleading on purpose? For the aforementioned approaches, see Renaud, Formation, pp. 12, 53-54 and J. Nogalski, Literary Precursors to the Book of the Twelve (BZAW, 271; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1993), pp. 129-30, 140-41. 10. On ambiguity as attention getter see Ben Zv1, Obadiah, §§2.2.3, 2.3.3, 3.4,

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107 the ancient (re-)readers were surely not unaware of the ambiguity, especially since the text seemed to contradict their default (re-)reading tendencies (see above). If so, they had to decide whether DDH conveys a sense akin to against you, or among you, (or perhaps concerning you), or a combination of these meanings-or is a case of polyvalence. Of course, the more meaningful the differences between the possible (re-)readings, the more important the (re-)readers understanding(s) of DDH. In this case the issue at stake is not peripheral in the theological/ideological discourse of the community(ies) for whom this text was composed (or edited in its final form). What kind of scheme were the ancient (re-)readers expected to develop, by the first verse after the title,11 about the text they were (re-)reading? The choices were: (a) the nations (in fact all the earth and what is in it) are concerned with Yahwehs judgment of Israel, but are asked only to witness that judgment, without being judged themselves; (b) the nations are to be judged, convicted and punished, perhaps in addition to Israel; and (c) a possible combination of (a) and (b), as envisaged in Isaiah 34.12 Perhaps the choice was deferred by the original (re-) readers at this point in the text, so as to develop their understanding in the light of what follows. If this phrase was understood as a call to the nations to act as witnesses against Israel, then what kind of message did that convey to the

4.3, 5.2.5, 8.3; E. Ben Zvi, M. Hancock and R. Beinert, Readings in Biblical Hebrew (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) pp. 120, 151-52, 154-55; idem, Zephaniah, pp. 84-86; 185-87, 220-23, 227-30; and the bibliographies in these texts. 11. See Ben Zvi, Obadiah, § 1.2.2 (and passim); idem, Studying Prophetic Texts. 12. Of course, contrary to Mic. 1.2, and in this regard only, the meaning of the call in Isa. 34.1 becomes clear already in v. 2. Compare with, for instance, Jer. 25.30-31. Hillers, Micah, p. 19, and others, suggests that the imagery of the nations here is a transformation of the conception of the divine council. Even if one would agree that this type of imagery is genetically related to that of the divine council, from the viewpoint of a historical critical analysis of the book of Micah, still the case
should be made that the community of readers for which this book was written was aware of this genetic relationship, and understood the reference to the nations in Mic. 1.1within the context of a (transformed) divine council. No convincing case has been advanced in this respect, nor does the text suggest that the divine council or its transformation were actual issues in the horizon of thought of the intended audience. In contrast, there is clear evidence in the text that points to the underlying presence of issues raised by the two other approaches mentioned above.

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(re-)readers? Are the nations called because they have to be concerned with the divine judgment over Israel?3 Will they also incur devastation-in which case is it implied that the nations are about to suffer because of Israels sins?&dquo; Or are they to act as witnesses because they will enforce Gods punishment over Israel, as explicitly claimed in numerous instances in prophetic literature? Significantly, both approaches find support in ancient Near Eastern material collected by Daniels,16 and all the more by the subsequent text in Micah l. In fact, vv. 3-4 describe a shattering, destructive theophany whose extent is presented as universal. This theophany is explicitly explained as a consequence of Israels wrongdoing. Yet the key term conveying universality is somewhat ambiguous: r~t~ in v. 3 seems to convey a meaning closer to earth than land in v. 2, because the same term appears in v. 2, and there it suggests to the readers a universal referent. Yet when the word occurs in v. 3, it is in the form of ~~t~ ~n1~:;1 (kethib) or Y1t~ nQH (qere), whose resemblance to 771,71 n1~:;1 in v. 5 was unlikely to missed by (re-)readers attentive to the numerous repetitions, puns, alliterations and other worplays that characterize Micah 1. Thus, the text develops a trajectory from a universal earth to a land of Judah.17 A (re-)reader aware of vv. 2-7 is thus likely to ponder whether Y~t~ in v. 3 means earth or land (that is, the land of Israel); from the viewpoint of v. 2, the former is more likely, but from the perspective of vv. 5-7, the latter. In fact, ~~~ seems to play a Janus role, looking both forwards and backwards in the text, associatg ing vv. 3-4 with v. 2 on the one hand, and with vv. 5-7 on the other.&dquo;


13. See the following destructive theophany (and see discussion below). 14. Cf. Zeph. 1.18; also cf. Jer. 4.22-28 where even if one accepts that the salient meaning of ? there was restricted to land (that is, the land of Israel; see v. 26, and even v. 25b), the more general connotations of the imagery are quite strong. 15. It is worth stressing that a mirror set of questions arises when one approaches texts such as Jer. 30.10, and see, for instance, Isa. 66.18-21. 16. Cf. D.R. Daniels, Is there a "Prophetic Lawsuit" Genre?, ZA W 99 (1987), pp. 339-60 (356-58). 17. Of course, in this type of instances one may use terms such as progression or better pattern of progression (which are relatively common in socio-rhetorical studies) rather than trajectory. Yet I am somewhat uncomfortable with the possible connotations of the term progression in relation to a text that (a) contains Janus markers—see below—and (b) is constantly (re-)read within a community of (re-) readers. Hence, trajectory will be used in this paper. 18. Cf. Dempsey, Interplay, p. 95.

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stressing that the ambiguity created by ~~i~ and emphasized its double by duty function mirrors an ambiguity about the question of whether the nations will suffer because of Israels sins. Our attention turns now to the second possibility, namely whether the nations are supposed to enforce the punishment of Israel. The numerous images of military defeat in ch. I certainly seem to answer this question. Yet it is worth noting that neither the implied success of the nations in battle, nor the focus of the description of divine judgment against Samaria, Judah or Jerusalem requires the (re-)readers to think that the nations are off the hook or that nothing more will be said about them (cf. Mic. 5.4-5, 6-8; 7.15-20; 4.1-5). The nations summoned in v. 2 may act as conquerors, but still be called for judgment, and accordingly the basic ambiguity of this part of v. 2 cannot be removed. 19 Finally, the prophet is described as having the power and the authority to summon all the nations, the entire world and all that is in it (cf. Mic. 6.1 ). This prophetic power and authority are presented as self-evident, with no need for explanation. The persuasive way in which this characterization of the prophet shapes the reading of the book of Micah from the outset is worth noticing. 20
It is worth

2.3 Unclear Referent: Significance and Context The phrase iv7p ?:,,i1 (that is, his holy temple), also in v. 2, is most likely an intentionally unclear reference that may be (re-)read as indicating a heavenly temple, the Jerusalem temple, or both. The ambiguity conveys a close association between the divine and the earthly temple,21 which would be congruent with the Jerusalem-centred


Compare with the common image of Babylon and Assyria as both conquerors Yahweh and also as worthy of divine punishment, at least partially because

of their conquests. 20. Of course, one may claim that this had to be the case, otherwise the book would not have been acceptable as prophetic. But in any case (cf. Jonah), the claim to authority is noteworthy; in fact, its transparency is a most useful device whose purpose is to strongly characterize the personage of the prophet as it evolves in the book. 21. The reference in Ps. 11.4 is often interpreted as pointing to the celestial temple, though it is not absolutely necessary. The references in Jon. 2.5, 8 and especially those in Pss. 5.8; 79.1; 138.2 point to an earthly temple (which may or may not have celestial connotations in the discourse of those who wrote and read these texts) but see Hab. 2.20. Wolff (Micah, p. 55) and others maintain that the

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110 character of Micah 1, and with Micah as a whole (e.g., Mic. 1.9, 12; 3.10; 4.1-5, 8-12). In any event, this is a case of an ambiguous referent in the service of a theological/ideological stance, and the attentiongetting role of ambiguities in prophetic literature is again to be

But 1iDP ~~&dquo;j1is only one of many expressions and terms in Micah 1 that communicate more than one meaning. To mention a few from elsewhere in this chapter, the word generally translated as good in v. 12, ~1t!), may also connote sweetness, (see above), so it may be set in opposition to n11r,j, which may refer to bitter things or to rebellion or both. 21 More significant, and with much more at stake, both W&dquo;j1 and ~~1iD&dquo; 71nD in v. 15 allow for more than one interpretation. For instance, iD1&dquo;j1 may mean (rightful) inheritor or to dispossessor;24 ~~1iD&dquo; 1~~, that is, the honour (or glory) of Israel may be understood as Israels wealth, might, army, or even Yahweh.25 If so, v. 15 as a whole, could have evoked more than one possible

reference in Mic. 1.2 is likely to refer to the heavenly sanctuary; but cf. R. Vuilleumier, Michée (CAT, 11b; Geneva: Éditions Labor et fides, 2nd edn, 1990), p. 16; Hillers, Micah, pp. 19-20. 22. Cf. Song 1.2-3; see Hillers, Micah, p. 26. 23. Cf. A.J. Petrotta, Lexis Ludens: Wordplay and the Book of Micah (American University Studies, 7.105; New York: Peter Lang, 1991), pp. 77-78. 24. Cf., for instance, Hillers, Micah, p. 28. 25. For instance, ? most likely refers to army in Isa. 8.7 and 21.16, and to wealth in Num. 24.11; Isa. 10.3; 66.12. Yahweh is referred to as the honour/glory of Israel in Jer. 2.11; Ps. 106.20 (and cf. Deut. 10.21; Ps. 3.4). Notice also the ironical use of ? in Hos. 10.5. According to the tradition of tiqqûnê s ferîm, the relevant references to theglory o of Israel in Jer 2.11 and Ps. 106.20 are the result of textual emendation, but tiqqûne ferim may also refer to an exegetical process and not to a textual phenomenon o s (E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [Minneapolis : Fortress Press; Aasen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum; 1992], p. 265), and especially concerning these verses, see W. McKane Jeremiah I: Introduction and Commentary on Jer I-XXV (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1986), p. 34; A.A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms (NCB; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972), p. 742; H.-J. Kraus, Psalmen 60-150 (BKAT 15.2; 6th edn; NeukirchenVluyn : Neukirchener Verlag, 1989), p. 903. A common line of interpretation associates ? N? with David and the Davidic king (e.g., Renaud, Formation, p. 27; Wolff, Micah, p. 63). But neither the expression demands nor the context requires such an interpretation. Cf. Hillers, Micah, p. 28.

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scenario.26 The ancient readers (or re-readers) for whom Micah 1 first written were presumably left to ponder.


2.4 Grammatical Oddity: Significance and Context Finally a somewhat unexpected change of person also occurs in v. 2. One finds there 07~ (that is, all of them) immediately after the vocative. It is true that this is not an extremely odd case, for a movement to the third person is also found in Isa. 54.1 and Ezek. 21.30 in relatively similar contexts 27 but still, it calls attention to itself.2 Grammatical shifts involving person, gender, and number are a well known feature of Micah I and are especially frequent in vv. 10-15.29 As Berlin has shown, they serve to enhance stylistic variety,3 but changes from the second to the third person and vice versa (as the one in v. 2) also point to a blurring of the differentiation between direct and

indirect modes in the



speeches assigned



26. One may also notice the repetition of the initial combination of consonants ? in v. 15, which seems to lead to a climactic ? ? ? ?. Significantly, in a text so fond of puns, plays on (denoted and connoted) words and of witty and instructive (geographical) names as Mic. 1.10-15 (cf. Petrotta, Lexis, pp. 70-85; Peckham, History and Prophecy [ABRL, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1993] p. 286) ? may have evoked in the (re-)readers a secondary, underlying expression, namely the very common in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible ? (cf. Peshitta). If so, then not only is the texture of the text much richer, but the meanings evolving out of the (re-)reading(s) of the text within the historical community carry multiple facets informing each other. Significantly, there is no doubt that the witty and instructive character of the language present here is a textually inscribed feature of the text. It seems that it provided an interpretative key to the intended audience for their (re-)reading of the text. It is likely that such a language was chosen by the writer(s) from the outset because of its ability to express multi-layered or polyvalent

27. See Hillers, Micah, p. 16 and bibliography mentioned there. See also P. Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Subsidia Biblica, 14; 2 vols.; Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1991), §146.j.2. 28. It is worth mentioning that as with ? in v. 2, most modem researchers have paused to study and discuss the presence of ? in this text, which has thus certainly served as an attention getter. 29. For a list of examples concerning the latter see, for instance, Peckham, History, p. 361. (Peckham explains the frequent change in address in terms of choral

30. A. Berlin, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; 1985), pp. 40-41; J.L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and its History (New Haven: Yale University Press; 1981), p. 22.

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112 characters in the text. This confusion of modes of representation associates the voice reporting that a speaker (a character in the hook) said so and so with the speaker himself (or herself), while at the same time acknowledging their separate existence.3 The tendency towards a fusion of voices here-for other cases see below-helps to associate the reporting voice with the image of the prophet Micah, to whom so much authority is assigned in this text.32 Yet the merging of voices maintains the vividness of the direct address so as to communicate to the readers the impression that the voice who is telling them that Micah said so and so and even the (re-)readers themselves are-as it were-actually there.33 Such an impression unites the text and its (re-) readers and enhances the claim for the faithfulness of the text, and indirectly for the actual greatness of Micah. Both claims strengthen the authority and legitimacy of the written text, for it is only through the reading of this text that people may access the prophet. The authority claimed by the authorial voice for the character Micah, and for itself (and perhaps, indirectly, for the writer of the book) builds up the authority of the written text. The clear tendency in this text is not to show explicit grammatical or textual markers alerting the readers of changes of speakers. As a result, it is often claimed that the speaker in vv. 2-4 is the prophet, and that in vv. 5-7 it is Yahweh, and then again the prophet in both

31. An acknowledgment that even in direct reported speech in a narrative frame, the narrator is the one who write the characters words is reflected, for instance, in Judg. 16.18, which reads: ?

Of course, the stronger the tendency towards consistency and grammatical congruency, the stronger the inclination to emend the text. Such a trend is observable in the qere of Judg 16.18. As for ? in Mic. 1.2, the Syriac points to this trend, but MT is not only the most difficult reading, but also repeated in 1 Kgs 22.28 and 2 Chron. 18.27. See Hillers, Micah, p. 16. 32. One may note, in passing, that the reporting voice is invisible as it were for many readers and interpreters of the text who perceive only the voices of Micah and Yahweh. Moreover, at least some of these readers tend also closely to associate these two voices. The merging of the voices discussed here (see also below) serves as a textual device that contributes to the shaping of such reading approaches. 33. Cf. J. Sanders, Affective Functions of Perspective in Biblical Narratives and News Reports, in G. Rusch (ed.), Empirical Approaches to Literature: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of Empirical Study of Literature, IGEL, Budapest, 1994 (Siegen: LUMIS, 1994), pp. 291-97.

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8-9 and 10-16.34 However, the text does not require readers to alter their assumption about who the speaker is when they move from v. 4 to v. 5,35 but then the contents of v. 6 suggest to them the most likely speaker is Yahweh. Verse 5 turns, in fact, into a Janus verse, looking to both what precedes and what follows, and accordingly, creates an area of overlap between the speech of two characters, Yahweh and the prophet.36 Thus the text is written so to require the readers to develop a fluid scheme about who talks, to whom, and about whom in this text. The prophetic I and the divine I merge into one another. A similar fluidity is encouraged with respect to those addressed in this text. These are first the nations, then probably an Israelite or Judahite audience (though there are no markers), then a list of Judahite cities, and finally a female figure that seems to evoke the image of daughter Zion (see v. 16). The text never becomes explicit.3 The

34. For a recent exception, see T.K. Beall, The System and the Speaking Subject in the Hebrew Bible: Reading for Divine Abjection, Biblical Interpretation 2 (1994), pp. 171-89. 35. In fact, since sentences beginning with X-? occur elsewhere in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in Prov. 12.13 and 28.2, 29.6, the language of the verse may suggest that the speaker is human and not divine. The change from a style that evokes a hymnic setting to one evoking a wisdom setting suits well the movement from a description of a theophany to an explication of its reasons, and does not necessitate the presence of a new character as a speaker, as apparent transgression of types of discourse or genres are common literary devices to draw the attention of readers, both in antiquity and in modem times because they play contrary to common expectations. See, for example, 1 Chron. 23.12-15 and Jon. 1.2-3. 36. A comparable instance occurs in vv. 8-9. On somewhat different grounds, Dempsey (Interplay, p. 83) has recently advanced the claim that vv. 8-9 look forward and backward simultaneously. Vv. 8-9 describe the expected, and correct response to what precedes them: lament and mourning. Such a response carries almost inevitably some elements of selfhumiliation. A secondary and connoted characterization of Yahweh as (it were?) suffering and mourning because of Israel and its calamity is not certain in this case, but surely not unimaginable. See Isa. 63.10 (cf. Judg 10.16); and also E.S. Gerstenberger and W. Schrage, Suffering (Biblical Encounters Series; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980), pp. 98-102. On these issues cf. Beal, System, esp. pp. 180-81. 37. Note in this regard the position advanced by von Orelly (cf. Vuilleumier, Michée, p. 16) that first half of v. 2 is addressed to the nations, whereas the second half to Israel (that is that the second person plural referred to by the ? discussed above actually points to Israel). Still, at the least the salient referent there is the

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114 third person references, mostly feminine, show a trajectory of referents related in one way or another to the earth, the nations, and especially to Israel and Judah. A recurrent image in this group is that of the shameful woman, associated with both actions and consequences.&dquo; Whereas the second person, and most of the third person tends to be portrayed in a negative way, the first person in Micah 1 is always presented in a positive and authoritative way.39 These considerations suggest that the consistent blurring of differences between the speakers, on the one hand, and the addressees on the other, by means of areas of overlap and identity confusion is not only a stylistic device to get the attention of the (re-)readers of the book, but serves the purpose of associating certain entities with one another in the discourse (mental space) of the (re-)readers: the nations with sinner Israel and the prophet with Yahweh.
2.5 Additional Ways of Associating Entities in Micah 1 The suggestion that the text creates an association between the nations and sinner Israel is strengthened by v. 7 which links the two by different means.4 The close bond between God and prophet is not only conveyed by the zones of overlap mentioned above, but also through the specific contents of the text and its precise wording. Gods words in vv. 5-7 are written in such a way that they presuppose those said by
a summary of previous scholarship on Mic. 1.2, see Willis, Some Suggestions. 38. The exceptions are the references related to God (for example, v. 4). Needless to say, the recurrent use of the image of the shameful woman reflects (and contributes to) a particular horizon of social thought. This issue deserves, however, a

nations. For

separate discussion. 39. Lament, mourning and the related self-humiliation are presented in this text as
a positive and rightful response to the proclamations there. If the speaker is described in such terms, then the speaker is described in a very positive light. See also discussion above. 40. The worship in Samaria is associated with a harlots fee, and so seems to be the worship of the nations. For a different understanding that also enhances the idea of a similarity between Israel and the nations see Hillers, Micah, pp. 20-21. A common proposal is to emend ? in v. 7 to the pual (for example, BHK, cf. DCH; the Peshitta, the Tg, the Vg and some Hebrew MSS). Watson maintains that ? is not a verb, but a suffixed noun, which he renders as her gathering meaning her pantheon. See W.G.E. Watson, Allusion, Irony and Wordplay in Micah 1,7, Bib 65 (1984), pp. 103-105. For ? as what can be bought with "hire/fee", see

Isa. 23.18.

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115 in vv. 2-4. In turn, those assigned to the latter in vv. 8-9 presuppose the divine speech in vv. 5-7.41 Moreover, the precise wording that the authorial voice attributes to God and to the prophet includes some clear cross-references (for example MnT in vv. 5 and 8, r-IR mQ3 and n71n mQ3 in vv. 3 and 5 respectively). A conscious process of linking one speech to the other likely played a role at the level of the writing of this section. Verse 8 links 1~OQ and 1n (that is, lamentation and jackal) on the one hand, and ~3~ and ~73~ nn (mourning and ostrich) on the other; both pairs occur only here in the entire Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. 7on and ~3~ (lamentation and mourning) on the one hand, In and i1lV rim (that is, jackal and ostrich) on the other, are common pairs (cf. Gen. 50.10; Jer. 6.26; Amos 5.16; Est. 4.3; and Isa. 34.13; 43.20; Job 30.29 respectively) available to the writer. Given that the context calls for lamentation and mourning in v. 8, the presence of the first pair is something to be expected, and so is that the parallel structure be based on the splitting of this pair. But why would the writer wish to link lamentation and mourning to ostriches and jackals, just in this


text ?42

pervasive use of word plays and repetitions of sounds, it is reasonable to assume that 1n (jackal) in v. 8 was chosen not only because it was contextually possible (cf. Job 30.29-21) but also because it plays on the word pnn which occurs three times in the preceding verse. Then, once the word In entered into the text, then ~~3~ nn its common word-pair, swiftly followed it, and thus the readof the text were introduced to two word associations that do not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, 7on - In and ~=R - i1:J.!i FQ. In sum, v. 8 points to a most likely deliberate effort to phrase the prophets speech so as to develop a literary link to the speech assigned to God, in the preceding subunit.43

Taking into

account the

41. Notice ? ? in v. 5 and ? ? in v. 8. Compare, for instance, with the of Dempsey, Interplay, pp. 82-83. Dempsey also argues that vv. 8-9 look both forward and backward. 42. The references to ? and? ? serve to convey an image opposite to that of culture and city life. But such an image could have been evoked by other animals, and by other parallel lines; the issue remains why only here we have the two associations mentioned above. 43. For example W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to its Techniques (JSOTSup; 26; Sheffield: JSOT Press; 1984), pp. 136-44. On the general craft of composition in biblical Hebrew, see L. Alonso Schökel, A Manual of Hebrew
recent work

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The utilization of similar words and expressions to bind together different subunits, and in some cases to build a network of crossreferences is well attested in Micah 1. For instance, the expression ~~7t~1~ 1~iV in v. 12 points back to D?iDi1&dquo;-1~ &dquo;~1 nDv~7D v. 9, in the previous subunit, or vice versa. The latter subunit is, as we have seen, linked in turn to vv. 5-7, which in turn presuppose vv. 2-4. In addition, v. 12, with its unique 11 11&dquo; seems to ask its readers to relate it directly to v. 3. Significantly, the latter conveys the image of Yahwehs coming down (7-l) for destruction. 2.5 Cross-references and Transformations: The Case of Israel The most extensively worked, and the most stressed of these transformations or trajectories concerns the term Israel. This term occurs four times in Micah 1, in vv. 5, 13, 14, 15. In v. 5 the parallelism between ::lp1 1iD~::l and ?~1iD&dquo; n3 m&t3nm (that is, between the transof Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel) suggests to the gression readers that the terms house of Israel and Israel are likely to point to Jacob, that is, the northern kingdom. The second part of the verse seems at first to confirm this, for it reads 1i1~iD ~i?i1 ::lp1 1iD~-&dquo;~ (what [or who] is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria?), yet the conclusion of the verse brings a nuance, for it reads mQ3 01 D?iDi1&dquo; ~i?i1 i11ii1&dquo; (what/who is the high place [possible connoted meaning grave, memorial, or burial mound44] of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?). In other words, from the point of view of the structure of the verse, X71n ni~::l is to ?~1iD&dquo; n3 ni&t3n as ::lP1 1iD~, in the second line is to ::lp 1 1~~ in the first line. It is true that structural equivalence does not mean semantic equivalence, but against the background of the two identical references to ::lP1 1iD~ and the various referents of Israel, one must raise the possibility that the text evoked or reflected an equation of Israel with Judah. The other three references to Israel are in the context of a text discussing the fate of Judah, and its towns. ?~1iD&dquo; &dquo;1iD~ in v. 13 (that is, the transgressions of Israel) can hardly point to the northern kingdom alone. In fact, its
Poetics (Subsidia Biblica, 11; Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1988), pp. 180-200. 44. See Ezek. 43.7 (and cf. W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel [Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983 (German original 1969)], II, p. 409); Isa. 53.9 (cf. R.N. Whybray, Isaiah 40-66 [NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1981], p. 178); Job 27.15. Shaw, Rudolph and others emend to ? (e.g.,

Shaw, Speeches, p. 33, but


Wolff, Micah, p. 42).

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likely referent, within the context of vv. 10-15, is either Judah theological concept of Israel that is associated, or equated at the practical level, with Judah. The referent of ~~1iD~ 0~Q, the kings of Israel in v. 14, is most likely, at least at the plain level of the text, the kings of Judah. But a text that calls them the kings of Israel strongly suggests to the audience that Israel is Judah, which means that Israel here cannot refer to the northern kingdom, but functions as a theological concept. A similar theological/ideological discourse is most likely responsible for other occasions in which the expression king of Israel is clearly used in reference to a king or kings of Judah, in Chronicles (e.g., 2 Chron. 20.34 [cf. I Kgs 22.46]; 21.2; 28.19, 27; 33.18).45 The fourth and last reference to Israel in chapter one is in the expression ~~1t~ 71nD (v. 15). This expression is not unequivocally determined: it may point to several referents (see above), but significantly none of them is likely to be the political institution of the northern kingdom. Israel here may denote either directly a theological/ideological concept of Israel, or Judah, and if so, it would convey indirectly the concept that Judah is Israel, and accordingly Israel here would be that theological concept.46 The text here thus transforms the meaning of Israel from a likely, but not certain, reference to the northern kingdom, to a concept that may include it, but most likely refers to Judah, to two instances pointing in one way or another to Judah and theological Israel, so implying their close
or a

I would like to make a passing mention of another trajectory, that of the words in the construct attached to Israel in Micah l. They move from MINnrl to IDVJE, to 1:~n, and finally to 71nD. Admittedly, there is
45. Ancient versions, some Hebrew MSS, and Sebirin point to a reading king of Judah rather than king of Israel in 2 Chron. 21.2 and 28.19; but as the evidence from Sebirin already suggests, the former is the simpler reading from a contextual perspective. On Sebirin see I. Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah (Masoretic Studies, 5; Missoula, MT; Scholars Press, 1980), pp. 62-64, and E. Tov. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 64. 46. I have discussed elsewhere the centrality of the idea that theological Israel is to be associated with monarchic Judah, exiled Israel (that is, exiled Judah), and returnee Israel (that is, the community centered around Jerusalem in the Persian period). See Ben Zvi, Inclusion in and Exclusion from Israel as Conveyed by the Use of the Term "Israel" in Postmonarchic Biblical Texts, in S.W. Holloway and L.K. Handy (eds.), The Pitcher is Broken: Memorial Essays for Gösta W. Ahlström (JSOTSup, 190, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), pp. 95-149.

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118 way to understand this sequence, especially because of multiplicity of meanings created by ~t~~G~ 71nD. The number of ambiguous terms, connoted meanings, word puns that work at more than one level or direction, and the like that are found in Micah 1 make it improbable that the resulting multiplicity of meanings is an accident due to blind chance or happy coincidence. Instead, it seems that they play an integral and substantial role in shaping the message of the text for the community of (re-)readers.






to state the obvious, these observations all point to the writtenness of Mic. 1.2-16. The writtenness and the associated demands upon the intended audience presuppose intended, and very competent, (re-)readers, not one-time listeners. Since it is unlikely that the actual audience of Mic. 1.2-16 was completely different from the intended audience presupposed by this text, then these considerations strongly suggests that the actual, historical, rhetorical situation of Mic. 1.2-16-at least in its present form-is not that of a living prophet orally addressing the people, but of a community of readers (re-)reading and meditating upon a written text. 41 Such a historical, rhetorical situation is consistent with that of the book of Micah as a whole, which is certainly not an oral text. This is not to deny that there could have been a prophet Micah in the eighth century who could have addressed his audience orally. The point is that neither the (re-)readers of the book of Micah in general nor those of Mic. 1.2-16 in particular are hearing the voice of that prophet or his words; rather they (re-)read a written text about a personage Micah, and through their (re-)reading of the text/book-and in way that is informed by their understanding of the putative time of Micah-they reconstruct as it were a historical figure of their past, the prophet Micah. This figure may, may not, or may only partially reflect some aspects of the historical prophet Micah, if there was one-which is likely but still unverifiable. In any case, one cannot simply assume that the Micah of the text (that is, the Micah of the tradition) fully resembled or even had to resemble a historical Micah who lived in the eighth century. 48

First, and

47. Contra Shaw, Speeches. 48. Significantly, much effort in historical-critical studies of Micah has focused

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Second, the numerous ambiguities, multiple meanings, trajectories, and the lack of certainty about referents point to a text written to be read and reread by a highly educated group, and written by a member of this elite of literati.49 Third, written works are written first for people who can read. Of course, their message may be communicated to others, but always through the intermediation of those who can read. Moreover, given the aforementioned literary features and their demands upon the (re-) readers, this intermediation cannot be possibly equated with reading aloud to the illiterati. Fourth, the more the text is considered a gate towards divine knowledge-as prophetic books certainly claim to be-the more the educated (re-)readers and interpreters (and indirectly those who support them) play the social role of brokers of the divine for the rest of the population, and for themselves. In this regard their function is similar to that of the authorial voice in the book which reports to the intended audience of the book about the word of Yahweh that came to Micah..., and to the prophetic voice in Micah which addresses several audiences in the world created by the book. The educated (re-) readers, interpreters and writers, the authorial voice and the prophetic voice are all brokers of divine knowledge. Moreover, the closer the authorial and prophetic voices in the text are associated with Yahweh, and accordingly, the more solid their role of brokers is, the more significant is the role of the readers, rereaders and interpreters of the prophetic text as brokers themselves. 50 Fifth, these observations, though limited to only a few points in Micah 1, serve to illuminate some aspects of the world of thought that
the reconstruction of the historical Micah (see above). One may notice, howfigure of the eighth century prophet Micah and his message is reconstructed on the basis of redactional (or compositional) hypotheses concerning Mic. 1.2-16, which in turn are often both shaped by the scholars perception of what could have been the most likely message of an eighth century prophet such as Micah. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that there are clear social, cultural and theological reasons for the emphasis on the figure of the historical prophet in modern historical-critical scholarship. A study of these reasons deserves a full monograph.) 49. As a parenthetical remark, I would mention that this shows that one can learn more by focusing on the intended audience of the book than on the characterization of those addressed by Micah in the literary world of the book. 50. These issues have been discussed in a more detailed manner in Ben Zvi,

ever, that the historical

Obadiah, passim.

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120 characterized the them:

1. 2.


in which the book


written, among


A strong focus on Judah, and especially Jerusalem/Zion. An acceptance, at least at some level, of the world view that Israel is, as it were, Judah, which is consistent with the mentioned focus on Zion/Jerusalem, and in my opinion, typical of the post-monarchic period.&dquo; An image of monarchic Judah (and Israel) as a sinful com-

munity worthy of divine punishment. An underlying wondering and pondering about the role of the nations, by themselves, and vis-A-vis Israel, in the divine
economy. A tendency to focus, at least on the surface, either on the monarchic past or the utopian future, rather than on the postmonarchic present.52



all these tendencies





Several textual observations concerning the text of Mic. 1.2-16 suggest that the intended audience (and likely the actual audience) of the text consisted of a group of educated literati who assumed the role of brokers of divine knowledge for the larger community. This article also points to some particular aspects of the world of thought of the community for which this text was written.

51. See Ben Zvi, Inclusion in and Exclusion from Israel, esp. pp. 129-49. 52. This tendency is consistent with the relative absence of direct information in Achaemenid period literature about the actual, present Jerusalem temple as opposed to the plethora of references to both the past and future Temple(s). The suspension of the present in favour of the past and future so common in this literature deserves a
are due to Professor Carol J. Dempsey, University of Portland, with whom I discussed, at length, the oral version of this paper. I am also indebted to those who were patient enough to listen to this paper at the 1995 CSBS meeting and gracefully enough to comment on it.

study of its own. 53. My thanks

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