29 January 2012

Divisions: Micah 6

Let's take a look at two versions of the text surrounding Micah 6:8.

First, from BibleGateway.com - these lines form the ending of a section titled "The LORD's Case Against Israel." They follow a white-space break. The next section is titled "Israel's Guilt and Punishment." Verses 6-8 are quoted here. NIV.

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Second, from Bartleby - these lines form the beginning of a section titled "What the LORD Requires." The section continues through verse 16; verses 6-10 are copied here. KJV.

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

The LORD's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.

Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?

Context matters - and the way we divide scriptures is a concrete example of that.

By inserting a break after verse 8, we emphasize the command; by putting that command at the end of a section that we title "The LORD's Case Against Israel," we emphasize the failure to live up to that command as a (perhaps the) prime cause of the judgment that will follow.

Conversely, by burying verse 8 in the middle of a longer passage that we title "What the LORD Requires," we de-emphasize the command, placing it as part of a larger list of grievances.

Rhetorical analysis: it works. And by "works," I mean it shows us things that we might take for granted or fail to notice otherwise.

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