The Vision of Micah….a time without religious strife.
To understand what I am about to tell you may require you to suspend what you believe you already know. What you know will more than likely act as a filter and prevent you from considering something new. Can you suspend belief?
Micah was a prophet during the years 739 through 693 BCE, during the reigns of three kings of Judah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Christians, Muslims, and even Jews, despite the fact that all three recognize that prophets such as Micah are considered valid speakers of the Divine’s truth to humanity, generally overlook one of Micah’s prophecies. Micah’s description of the end of days is similar to Isaiah’s, but with a very significant difference; the difference I believe is why his message is so often ignored.
The vision of Micah that I wish to focus on leaves behind the voice of the genocidal God and the concept of herem that is depicted in the Book of Deuteronomy and the Book of Samuel and instead proclaims a new way to walk with God.
His prophecy is important, and its significance has implications for all religions, though only Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe that the Hebrew prophets convey a message from the Infinite Divine. I will cite in full the first five verses of chapter four; I will use the Jewish Publication Society’s 1955 translation. I suggest that you compare it with your favorite English translation.
1. But in the end of days it shall come to pass, That the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the top of the mountains, And it shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow unto it.
2. And many nations shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us to 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 out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3. And He shall judge between many peoples, And shall decide concerning mighty nations afar off; And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning-hooks; Nation shall not lift up 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.
5. For let all the peoples walk each one is the name of its god, But we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.
Micah described a time when nations shall give up war and turn the implements of war into the implements of peaceful agriculture; when people will still toil in their vineyard and in their orchards, but they will no longer be afraid. How and why does this all come about? What is the key element that will change to transform humanity from a war like existence to one of peace?
I believe Micah’s answers this question in his fifth verse.
Throughout the history prior to Micah, the land we in the West call the Middle East has always been a place ravaged by war. Wars were waged by rulers who proclaimed that they were acting in the name of their gods, or more simply, proclaimed that they were gods themselves and thus all should bow down to them. War and religion were intricately tied together, and thus religion was the rationale for all the wars and conquests throughout the Middle East.
To imagine a time of peace would logically mean a time when there would no longer be the proclaimed reason for war—which was that one god needed to dominate all other gods and those who worship other gods. Religious intolerance is the often stated reason for going to war.
I read Micah’s prophecy as an amazingly logical presentation. An amazingly realistic conception of the end of days when the world would be without fear and people would work in their vineyards and orchards. Micah envisions that the world embroiled in war is a world filled with religious intolerance. Therefore a world without war is a world where there exists the complete opposite of the status quo of world ruled by intolerance, a world of universal religious tolerance: ‘For let all the peoples walk each one is the name of its god’.