Micah: From Shittim to Gilgal


     “My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord…. Micah 6:5 NIV

    Every family has a story or two about a branch of the family tree that made a sideways decision which led their particular clan down the primrose path.

    Family reunions are spent in conversations that go something like this:

    “Whatever happened to…”

    “Oh you know they just fell apart after the…. I heard their children ended up…. Tsk,tsk,tsk isn’t it just terrible and they had so much promise.”

    On the other hand every family also has its success stories.


   “Oh you know he finished his degree and got hired as the CEO of…What a marvelous guy. I wish he was here today.”

    Ultimately the difference between the two stories lies in a decision not necessarily a personality. Usually the family black sheep is wounded but likeable, while the family hero can often be an arrogant know-it-all or a bully.

     Israel was no different. Micah was calling the people to remember that their success or failure as a nation did not lie in their personality or their talent. Their hope lay in their decision regarding God.

    God says in Micah 6:5 ” Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal.”

    That’s a reference you will probably miss unless you know Israel’s history. It’s not a reference to a journey over land. The distance between Shittim and Gilgal is really only a jump across the River Jordan. It’s a reference to a journey through time. You see it took Israel forty years to jump the Jordan because of a decision made at Shittim. To understand you have to go all the way back to the days of Moses.

     The story of Shittim began as Israel arrived at  the doorstep of Moab. Moab’s king, Balak, was looking for a way to get rid of what he consider a major pest problem.

    So he sent for the seer Balaam. Balak wanted the magic man to whammy the Israelites with a curse. Instead Balaam blessed them in the name of Israel’s God.

     Balak not to be so easily discouraged looked for a way around the blessing. Balaam apparently a little bent out of shape about being “misused” by God helped Balak find the loophole.

      Through subterfuge Balak arranged for the women of Moab to sleep with the men of Israel and ensnare them into the worship of a false God. That one decision stole Israel’s godly blessing and released a plague upon the Israelites that killed 24,000 people.

     Forty years later the people of Israel finally crossed the Jordan and landed at Gilgal. In that place they had to make a decision different from the decision they made at Shittim. They had to choose God. It was in Gilgal according to Joshua chapter 5 that the Israelites renewed their dedication at last to God through the covenant of circumcision.

     At Shittim and in their successive wilderness wanderings the Israelites stopped practicing circumcision (the sign of their dedication to God). A wrong choice made by one generation flowed over to effect the potential blessing of the next. So at Gilgal the Israelites had to reverse the curse by making a new choice. That one decision by the men of Israel, to endure the pain of cutting the flesh off at Gilgal, released a generation of blessing that allowed them to take the land of Canaan as their own.

      Generations later God called to His people through Micah and warned them to remember the journey their ancestors took. He offered His hands out and said , ” Choose…Shittim or Gilgal?”

     Today He says to us, “Shittim or Gilgal?”

     He is cheering you on to His choice.

“He has showed you, O man, 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.” Micah 6:8 NIV


7 thoughts on “Micah: From Shittim to Gilgal

  1. Thank you for your exegesis on this passage from Micah. I was struggling to find the meaning of God’s reference to Shittim and Gilgal for a sermon I’m preparing for the men in recovery at our mission.

  2. If you read Numbers 25-33 it seems that the Israelites arrived at Shittim shortly before crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land of Canaan. It was 40 years before this at Kadesh Barnea that the Lord determined not to allow the previous generation of Israelites to enter the Promised Land because of their lack of faith (Numbers 13,14). In light of this information, I think it may be more likely that the Micah 6:5 reference to Shittim and Gilgal is referring to the Lord’s miraculous act of stopping the flow of the Jordan and the Israelites’ long-awaited entrance into the Promised Land (Joshua 3-5). I think it is a call to intentionally sustain their faith and courage for the trials ahead by remembering the many saving acts the Lord had already performed for them. And in the greater context of all of Chapter 6, I think the point is for the Israelites to acknowledge that they serve a God who abundantly provides and cares for them and who really asks very little from them in return (verse 8).

      • Great exposition by both writer & commenter. May be Shittim to Gilgal is a combination of both: Israel’s experience with the women of Moab at Shittim & Gods deliverance through Jordan where they burried the past & were usshered into a future of glory.

  3. What a fantastic commentary, I have been for some while writing a story called the Adam and Eve tree and it compares to the Pilgrims progress in some ways and I was concerned that the will of God may be that the jew is placed upon the West bank for a reason. Could that be their breaking faith all those hundreds of years ago and is Joshua’s pillar still standing? Wonderful Thank you.

    At the battle of Edrai, Moses jumped up very high, he grabbed the Giant Og’s big toe, saying Giants come and Giants go,
    They say Og’s bed was very wide, making him too fat to hide, he hardly got through the bedroom door, ten miles away you’d hear him snore,
    Giants com and giants go, Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho and if you got a giant stood in front of you-You better ask yourself what Moses would do!?

    • I believe the Jews are placed there as a fulfillment of prophetic promise according to the Scripture. It is not a punishment though I am sure some days it might seem that way to them but a promise and the greatest promises to ISrael are yet to be revealed at the second coming of Messiah.

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