Liberation and salvation in the book of Micah : a South African perspective
Author(s)Mthethwa, Abraham Mthunzi
KeywordsBible. O.T. Micah -- Criticism, interpretation
Liberty (Theology) -- Biblical teaching
Salvation -- Biblical teaching
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The hypothesis of this study is that in order for a society in conflict to become peaceful, real salvation must be obtained after real liberation. The relationship in the book of Micah between liberation, which is the setting free of people from oppression and exploitation, and salvation, which is the setting free of people from guilt and sin, is examined in order to apply the principles to our present-day society. In both eighth century Judah and contemporary South African society, people were excluded from political and economic power and this resulted in class conflict. The historical materialistic approach has been implemented to analyse the eighth century background of the time of the prophet Micah and the text of Micah, as well as that of the contemporary South African situation. By means of this method a careful analysis of the social classes, such as the ruling, middle and exploited classes was made. An exploration of the background of the book of Micah exposes injustices on various levels of society. On the socio-economic level wealthy landowners deprived poor landowners of their birthright because land was an economic resource linked to cultural and religious values. Political leaders as exploiters of the poor maintained the status quo, while religious leaders did not protect the interests of the people, which led to their deprivation of religious education. Social injustices such as oppression and exploitation practised by the king and his officials deprived people of a meaningful life. God replied to the injustices practised by authorities in Judah by imposing judgement on the nation. A remnant, however, was to be brought back. Liberation, therefore, comes through judgement. The purpose of God in allowing Israel to be oppressed and to experience disaster in exile was to put his people in a new relationship with him. In the exile situation liberation and salvation coincide when, on the grounds of setting his people free from sin and guilt, God also liberates them from the burden of the exile. A total change of the attitude of Israel, however, is a prerequisite. The outcome of this process of change is the rebuilding of the country and the nation. As in eighth century Israel, liberation and salvation in the South African situation is a difficult process demanding tremendous effort from everybody involved. On the basis of the principles found in the book of Micah, new direction can be given to this process in order to develop a new relationship between God and his people in South Africa. Christians should take the lead in this process, but should also co-operate with other religious groups and with the government to bring about peaceful change. An attitude of mutual liberation and indulgence (salvation) amongst the people of South Africa, based on the Word of God, is what, in principle, God wants from all South Africans in order to bring about a peaceful society.