After reading both of the passages in Matthew and Micah in their respective contexts I had to scratch my head and ask myself how one applies to the other. To investigate why the passage in Micah is used by the writer of Matthew, we need to look at what the setting is around the Micah passage and view it in context.
For the son dishonourth the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,; A mans enemy’s are the men of his own house.Micah 7:6 (JPS)
What is the setting around this passage, and its context? To answer these questions we need to know a little about Micah, to help us understand whats going on when he gave several statements similar to this one. Micah was a prophet during the same time as Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea1. He prophesied during the reigns of three of the Kings of Judah; Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (739 – 693 BCE)2. He was born in a town in Judah close to the Philistine border called, Moresheth-Gath3. His prophesies were directed toward Jerusalem, during a time of idol worship.
Micah’s book of prophecy is divided into three sections4.
- Chapters 1-3
- denunciation of sin and proclamations of approaching punishment
- Chapters 4-5
- words of hope and cheer
- Chapters 6-7
- a combination of both
Chapter 7 is in three parts, consisting of verses;
- The corruption of the Judian society
- Israel confesses and expresses his faith in Gods ultimate vindication
- a prayer for the return of Divine favor and praise of God’s mercy
When examining verse 6 in context, describing the corruption of Judah at that time, it paints the picture for chapter 7. He is expressing how their enemies can be within their own house, with family members rising up against other members of their own family. As they drifted away from God and involved themselves in idol worship, leaving Torah aside, love and trust dwindled away.
The prophet then continues with the next 7 verses (7-13) to prophecy the confession of Israel and Gods vindication. He then concludes with prayer in verses 14-20.
The Christian New Testament makes the claim that Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew. This is part of the charge given to the 12 disciples as they were being sent out by Jesus.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a mans foes will be those of his own household.Matthew 10:34-36 (NKJ)
The way the author of Matthew presents it like it’s a quote from the Tanach (Old Testament). He incorporates it into what he claims Jesus says. However, Micah begins verse 6 with; “For the son dishonors the father”. Matthew says, “For I have come to set a man against his father”. Micah is describing a state of affair caused by idol worship, Matthew is making a claim that Jesus is using a reference from Micah and applying it to himself that he is causing disharmony in peoples homes, that in actuality was caused by idol worship.
This doesn’t add up! If Jesus knew the Tanach well enough to quote from it, even with the error at the beginning of his quote, he would know the context of the Scripture. He wouldn’t have used this verse. Especially because it is the opposite of what the messiah will bring during the “Messianic Era”5. There will be peace like we have never seen. There are not any verses in the Tanach (Old Testament) that even hints toward discord during the Messianic Era. Also upon reading the remainder of Matthew, and the other books of the New Testament, there aren’t references of Jesus bringing disharmony to the families. It appears that this is a case where the writer of Matthew took a passage from Micah out of context and inserted it into his book. Also interesting is that this incident only appears in Matthew and not in any of the other gospels.
Micah says, that a son dishonors his father, and a daughter rises up against her mother. Can history repeat itself? Micah is giving a state of affairs in Judah. He was also letting people know that a change of course needed to take place within each of them. Are sons dishonoring their fathers, and daughters rising up against their mothers today? Are people worshiping idols today? They may not be the same style or type of idol mentioned in the Bible, but an idol doesn’t have to be an object. Judah didn’t listen to the prophets, and found itself in exile. It never returned to the glorious kingdom it once was. It was allowed to rebuild and became a nation, but it never really had the same status as before. Perhaps we should examine ourselves, study Torah with a study partner so we can exchange thoughts and learn together. Returning to the mark!
1The Twelve Prophets, A Cohen, The Soncino Books of The Bible, The Soncino Press, 1961, page 153
4Ibd The record of prophesies are not in chronological order, but rather recorded in order of significance.
5The Messianic Era is the time when the prophesied messiah will be revealed and the various prophecies will unfold.