The Faculty of Jewish Studies
The Office of the Campus Rabbi
Prof. Samuel Vargon
Department of Bible
(6) And the remnant of Jacob
Shall be in the midst of many peoples,
As dew from the Lord,
As showers upon the grass,
That are not looked for from man,
Nor awaited at the hands of the sons of men.
(7) And the remnant of Jacob
Shall be among the nations,
In the midst of many peoples,
As a lion among the beasts of the forest,
As a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
Who, if he go through treadeth down and teareth in pieces,
And there is none to deliver.
(8) Let thy hand be lifted up above
And let all Thine enemies be cut off.
This week's Haftarah begins with a short prophecy about the "remnant of Jacob," presented in two symmetric stanzas (verses 6 and 7), each beginning with an almost identical depiction of the future condition of the Jewish people. Each stanza continues with a double metaphor: "as dew" and "as showers" in the first, and "as a lion" and "as a young lion" in the second; both develop the metaphor further with a relative clause (that are not looked for; "Who if he go"). The second stanza adds a prayer that our enemies be destroyed.
For all their symmetry, the two stanzas also have striking contrasts:
dew which revives the spirit, as opposed to a lion that devours
and tramples. We will explain each in turn. Through his imagery
of dew and showers, which bring blessing to plant life, the prophet
Micah describes the beneficent influence the Jews are destined
to have on those around them. The "many peoples," the
object of Israel's actions, will be as plants revived by the dew
-- Israel -- as explained in Ibn Ezra's commentary: "The
people of Israel will teach the other nations to call on the name
of God, and they shall be among them the same way as 'I shall
be as the dew to Israel' (Hosea 14:6)." "Showers"
denote plentiful rain that falls upon the earth.
This metaphor is further developed by the relative clause "That
are not looked for from man, nor awaited at the hands of the sons
of men." Now the relative clause is ambiguous: Does it describe
the dew or is its antecedent "the remnant of Jacob"?
Since the verb expressing "looked for" (kavah)
and "awaited" (yahel) in biblical Hebrew always
have as their subject human beings, the antecedent of this clause
is not the dew or showers (that can not look for or await the
aid of man), but rather the "remnant of Jacob." In
other words, in time to come the remnant of the Jewish people
will not put their trust in man, as they do at present, but will
patiently await deliverance by God. This will bring blessing
to the Jewish people, and they will in turn become a source of
blessing to the nations the way dew and rain bring blessing to
vegetation. However, some commentators believe the antecedent
of "That are not looked for..." to be the grass, that
does not need to look towards man since all its needs (rain, dew)
are provided from Heaven. Indeed, in biblical syntax frequently
the object of one clause becomes the subject of the clause that
In the second image, the prophet goes on to compare the Jewish
people to a lion among the other animals of the forest: "As
a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the
flocks of sheep." In the future, the relationship between
the remainder of the Jewish people and the other nations will
be like that of a mighty lion to weaker beasts. Here, too, "who"
presumably refers back to the "remnant of Jacob" and
not to the lion. In time to come, the status of the Jewish people
will change: it will trample and devour other nations, and they
will find no deliverance from the remnant of Israel.
The contradiction between the sense of the two verses stands out against their similarity in form. Verse 6 anticipates the beneficent influence of the remnant of Israel, whereas verse 7 portrays the remnant of Israel on the nations of the world, as a fighter vanquishing and trampling its foe. Commentators have tried to resolve this contradiction in various ways. One exegete (Abarbanel, in his second comment) maintains that each of the verses refers to a different group of nations: those nations that listen to the Lord and come to Zion to worship in God's house and receive his teachings, those that treat the Jews kindly, will receive the blessing of dew (v. 6); whereas those that do not listen to the Lord or that treat the Jews badly will be trampled and torn apart by the remnant of Israel (v. 7).
Other exegetes offer a chronological solution: to fulfill the
destiny set forth in verse 6, first verse 7 must be fulfilled;
i.e. the Jews must first defeat the nations, vanquishing them
in war, and then will they bring a beneficent influence to bear
on them. We think that one can resolve the contradiction by
assuming that the speaker in verse 6 is not the same as that in
verse 7; i.e., two different opinions are being voiced here.
While Micah sees that remnant of Israel in time to come as a peaceful
nation, others among the people look forward to Israel becoming
a nation with the military prowess to trample other nations as
a lion does its prey. In the light of this expectation, they
call on the people to prepare now for the future battle they will
wage against the nations in order to destroy them. Accordingly,
verse 8, "Let thy hand be lifted up above thine adversaries,
and let all Thine enemies be cut off," can be interpreted
in two ways: as a call to Israel (tarom is in the 2nd
person) to begin carrying out the ideal of destroying its enemies,
or as a supplication addressed to God. The supplicant sees the
enemies of the Jewish people as enemies of God and calls on the
Lord overcome them, wiping them out.
According to our interpretation of this passage as reflecting
a controversy between the prophet Micah and his adversaries, it
follows that Micah agrees with Isaiah's view. Isaiah also called
on the people to wait for the Lord that "hideth His face
from the house of Jacob" and look to His deliverance (Isaiah
8:17; 30:18); to trust in God, to wait "in sitting still
and rest," in "calm and quiet," in order to be
saved (Isaiah 7:4; 30:15). For "Then shall Asshur fall
with the sword, not of man, and the sword, not of men, shall devour
him" (Isaiah 31:8). In contrast to those who put their trust
in Israel vanquishing its foes by its own might, Micah, like Isaiah,
does not see the future salvation of Israel in its military prowess.
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