Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 5 October 2019
18 Who is a
God like You taking away iniquity, passing over the transgression of the
remnant of His heritage? He does not retain forever His anger, because
He delights in covenant loyalty.
19 He will turn
again; He will have compassion on us. He will subdue our iniquities, and You
will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
20 You will give
faithfulness to Jacob, loyalty to Abraham, which You have sworn to our
fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20 BR)
For a complete exegesis
of this passage see my commentary
Shabbat Shuvah it is customary to consider the severity of transgressions
against God in order to motivate self-examination and repentance. The
Haftarah on Shabbat Shuvah is taken from three minor prophets, Hosea, Joel
and Micah. I am reading the Haftarah portion from Micah, Chapter Seven,
verses 18-20. This is my translation.
Micah was a contemporary of
Isaiah and in his short book he rebukes the corrupt leaders of Judah for
falling into the sins of Samaria, blasts pervasive injustice in all its
forms, pronounces God's wrath on the wicked, and calls for repentance. The
book of Micah is also significant for future hope. An eternal ruler would be
born in Bethlehem to shepherd the flock of Israel and in the last days there
would be restoration of the land and the spread of Torah among the nations.
For Micah ADONAI is the Light of salvation. The prophet closes his book with
a praise of God's grace and covenant faithfulness.
In verse 18 Micah poses a
rhetorical question concerning the reality of his time, but also offers a
promise that could only be fulfilled by the Messianic ruler from Bethlehem.
Micah speaks of God's response to sin for which he uses two terms. First,
iniquity, or avon, is a term with three
different meanings: it can refer to wicked conduct, guilt for sinful
acts, or the punishment prescribed for sinful conduct. The second term,
transgression, or pesha, is used for deliberate disobedience of God's
commandments. The great majority of Bible versions present God's response to the
sin problem as forgiving or pardoning, which presents a conundrum.
If you examine
the Torah instructions for atonement sacrifices, you won't find an avon
offering or a pesha offering. A sin offering (chatta'ah),
including that of Yom Kippur, could only provide atonement for sins that
were unintentional, committed accidentally or from simple negligence. And
for every sin for which there was a prescribed punishment, a sin offering
could not relieve the sinner of that punishment. Most of the time avon
and pesha refer to offenses for which there was no atonement, such
as blasphemy, idolatry, immorality and murder.
In fact, there
are thirty-six specific transgressions that required the sinner to be cut
off from Israel, usually by death. Sha'ul lists several of these capital
crimes in 1Corinthians 6:9-10 and says "such were some of you." I daresay
that Sha'ul's comment could apply to us. Such were some of us. The
implication is that sin should belong in our past, not be a part of our
The verb translated "pardon"
really means to lift, carry or take. Yom Kippur is a recognition that
iniquity had polluted the holy sanctuary and
needed to be cleansed (Lev 16:16). Aaron was to offer one goat to purify the
holy place and a second goat was sent into the wilderness to carry the
iniquities of the nation away from the presence of God (Lev 16:21-22).
Micah uses a
dramatic parable in verse 19 to describe this spiritual removal operation,
but makes the action future. God will cast both iniquities and sins into the
sea. It is very
common in the Jerusalem Talmud to say of anything that is abominable,
accursed, and utterly rejected, that it is to be cast into the salt sea,
which is appropriately called "Dead."
that the day would come when God would take avon from His people by
taking the punishment for avon on Himself. In his sermon in Pisidian
Antioch Sha'ul declared that the death of Yeshua provided atonement for sins
for which there was no atonement in the Torah (Acts 13:38-39). Thus, there
is no sin for which you cannot be forgiven, if there is sincere confession
and repentance. From God's point of view sin is a choice and Sha'ul warned
"if we keep on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation
of judgment" (Heb 10:26-27).
In verse 20 Micah gives the
reason for the divine removal of iniquity. God made irrevocable covenants
with Abraham and Jacob. In those covenants God promised to provide blessing
through their Seed (singular) to all the nations of the world and that Jacob
would become a company of nations. Sha'ul referred to it as a commonwealth
(Eph 2:12). Thus, God would take away iniquity not just from the descendants
of Jacob, but all the nations of the world, a once-for-all atonement, so
that there would be one flock serving the Great Shepherd from Bethlehem,
Yeshua the Messiah.
Copyright © 2019 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.