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Micah ends with a commitment to trust and a prediction of forgiveness:

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the Elohim of my salvation; my Elohim will hear me. (Micah 7:7 ESV)

18 Who is El like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7)

Why does Micah wait for Elohim expecting Him to hear and then praise El for forgiving iniquity, steadfast love, and compassion?

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    As a matter of faith and experience I would suggest that Deity (as such) is whom Micah looks to for a complete salvation and the Father (in particular) he looks to for the experience of real and felt pardon (on the basis of that complete salvation). Up-voted +1 and edifying. But whether that can be stated hermeneutically , I am not yet certain . . . . . .
    – Nigel J
    Mar 31, 2023 at 7:37
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    @NigelJ Thank you. The action of forgiving sins might lend itself to hermeneutics. Mar 31, 2023 at 7:54

4 Answers 4

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+100

As the OP observes, Micah waits for Elohim, but it is El who is praised for pardoning transgression. Reflecting on the shift from Elohim to El, it seems to me that the question posed in Micah 7:18 is not rhetorical but one that holds the key to the answer.

The majority of English translations render el (Strong’s Hebrew 410) in Micah 7:18 as “God” with an uppercase g.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? – Mic 7:18 NIV

For comparison, the majority of translations render el in Ex 15:11 as “god” with the lowercase g:

Who among the gods is like you, LORD? – Ex 15:11

Based on the premise that El in Micah 7:18 is a title of God with a capital G and not just a noun referring to deity in general, I examine the rest of the verse with particular attention to the words nasa (Strong’s 5375) and nachalah (Strong’s 5159). Each word has more than one possible meaning. The word nasa is rendered as pardon in the NIV translation but could also mean to bear or carry. The word nachalah, rendered as inheritance, could also mean property or possession.

The different meanings of nasa and nachalah lead me to consider alternative interpretations of Micah 7:18. At first glance, El refers to He who forgives the transgression of the remnant, those that are of his possession (cf Is 43:1). But El could also refer to He who bears the transgression (cf Is 53) of the self-same remnant, those that are of his inheritance (cf Ps 2:7-8).

The two facets of El are thus reflected by and united in the same words, the first as primary and the second as though a mirror image. This duality of meaning implies a plurality of saving actions, but the construction of the text and the use of the singular El, instead of the plural Elohim, does not allow for a corresponding plurality of Gods. However, it removes any question that it is El who is doing both actions.

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    Nice insight. I see the comparison/contrast to using Elohim to describe God. Rather than a plural word, the singular El is used for a plural working. Rather than a supposed plurality of majesty, there is an actual plural of saving actions. Apr 5, 2023 at 15:44
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    @Revelation Lad - I like how you've stated it. Yes, there is a plurality of saving actions but the singular El does not allow for a corresponding plurality of Gods. There is an intricate play between the singular and plural here.
    – Nhi
    Apr 5, 2023 at 16:15
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I prefer the New Catholic Bible's translation for verse 18a:

What god can compare with you...

According the the Jewish Encyclopedia article on the Names of God the form of the word elohim is associated with God's majesty.

[elohim is] plural in form though commonly construed with a singular verb or adjective. This is, most probably, to be explained as the plural of majesty or excellence, expressing high dignity or greatness

The word el, on the hand, simply means a deity and does not carry the implication of excellency that the plural form does unless modified by various adjectives or epithets such as el shaddai, el olam etc. .

It is used in both the singular and plural, both for other gods and for the God of Israel.

So in verse 7 Micah is speaking of the god of Israel, namely YHWH, as the True God, the elohim of his salvation. He later asks rhetorically if any god (el) compares to the true one. There are no capitals in biblical Hebrew but in my opinion the word "el" should not be capitalized here, and phrase should be translated as "which god is like you."

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  • Does this mean salvation is attributed to God's excellence and forgiving sin is just "regular" God? Apr 1, 2023 at 5:28
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Look at the wording. מִי־אֵ֣ל כָּמֹ֗וךָ Who is a God like you. It is saying that other gods aren't like our God (אֱלֹהֵ֨ינוּ֙). The different word for God is used because of making the comparison to other gods.

Who is a God like thee! This also is borrowed from the triumphal ode of Miriam (Ex. 15:11; cf. Ps. 76:8). Whether there is any play here on the name Micah, must be left undecided. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kleinert, P., & Bliss, G. R. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Micah (p. 53). Logos Bible Software.

מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה (Exodus 15:11, BHS)

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  • מי־ כמכה באלם יהוה In Exodus 15:11 Miriam is comparing יהוה to other gods אלם. Micah is stating אל is God. If Micah was following Miriam, wouldn't he include יהוה as was done in verse 7:17? Apr 1, 2023 at 5:45
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This will not answer the question but may help to add some context with a few simple facts:

  1. Occurrences of אֱלֹהִים (elohim) outnumber the instances of אֵל (el) at just over 10 to 1.
  2. Authors' (or the Holy Spirit's) choice has a difficult pattern to discern between the two forms of the same noun for God. For example:
  • אֱלֹהִים (elohim) is used exclusively up to the end of Gen 13
  • אֵל (el) is used exclusively in Gen 14-16
  • Both forms appear in Gen 17, 21, 28, etc.

However, there is one other occasional pattern of use - when compound titles of god are used, there is a decided preference for אֵל (el), such as:

  • God Most High, Gen 14:18, 19, 20, etc
  • God Almighty, Gen 17:1, 28:3, 35:11, etc
  • God Everlasting, Gen 21:33
  • God-Bethel, Gen 31:33

However, this is not exclusively the case and does not apply in Micah 7. Therefore, why the inspired Bible writers were inspired to write what they did is a question for the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

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  • I am of the belief what was written was inspired. So I would take issue with the position a writer was being fickle with word choice. Rather I would believe there was some purpose behind a choice whose meaning, as English shows, could be conveyed with an alternate word. Mar 31, 2023 at 15:43
  • @RevelationLad - I agree the writers were inspired - I also agree that "fickle" was a very poor choice of word. I will update this.
    – Dottard
    Mar 31, 2023 at 21:07

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