Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 in Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal The World’ (The Think Twice Series)
Think Twice is a series of reflections on faith, culture, and tradition that may affect a person’s way of thinking and judgment.
It invites the readers to hold their judgment for a second and reconsider the matters at hand – Think Twice!
The blogs in this series are solely the author’s personal views and reflections.
The song was written and produced by Michael Jackson in 1991 and is part of his album Dangerous. In his interview with Martin Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson, the star said he composed the song in his Giving Tree inside his Neverland ranch.
The official music video of the song features children living from countries suffering from unrest especially Burundi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heal_the_World). The song is a call for people to strive to provide a safer and better place for the next generation, as the music video portrays (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWf-eARnf6U).
I like the song and the music but what captured my attention most is the part of the lyric that says,
“We could fly so high. Let our spirits never die. In my heart I feel you are all my brothers. Create a world with no fear. Together we cry happy tears. See the nations turn their swords into plowshares.” (Emphasis mine).
The phrase is found in Old Testament passages,
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (NKJV)
and Micah 4:3,
“He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (NKJV) (emphases mine)
Former US presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan used this phrase in their speeches. The phrase was used also in the finale of the musical Les Misérables (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swords_to_ploughshares).
The two passages mentioned above are in contrast with what the prophet Joel says,
“Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am strong.'” (NKJV)
Here the prophet refers to a holy war as a form God’s judgment of evil thus, he calls people to turn their plowshares and pruning hooks – tools used for farming/economy, into swords – tools for destruction and war. While Isaiah and Micah used the phrase to refer to a future filled with hope, peace (that is, the absence of war), contentment and prosperity. It pictures the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham in which Israel or Zion will become the center of the world where every nation will come from. (How to Read the Bible Book by Book. A Guided Tour. Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2004;The Bridgeway Bible Commentary, Don Flemming. The Word: 2005 ).
A plowshare is the main cutting blade of a plow, behind the coulter. (Oxford Online Dictionary). It was most probably a common tool for used in an agricultural country such as Israel.
To End All Wars
In the United Nations garden there is a bronze statue of a man swinging a hammer with one hand at a sword that he’s holding in the other. The statue is called, “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares.” It’s the work of the Russian-born sculptor Evgeniy Vuchetich. According to the United Nations’ website, the statue symbolizes “man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.” (emphases mine).(https://uberglobal.wordpress.com/ueber-plows/)
Both Isaiah and Micah lived and prophesied in 700 BC, so we don’t really know who first used the metaphor of plowshares and swords. United Nations was established in 1945 as a response to the challenge of reconstructions of nations affected by World War II and the hunger for peace. Michael Jackson wrote Heal the World in 1991.
We don’t know how those biblical passages made their way into Michael’s literary work. He probably was a reader of God’s Word or he got it somewhere else. What is clear is that he was aware of the need to lay down the weapons of war in exchange for peace and prosperity.
All of these endeavors were geared towards creating a safer and better place to live in both for the present and future generations.
For Michael Jackson, this was his way of responding to the needs of his time aside from ‘We Are The World’ in collaboration with Lionel Richie for USA for Africa project in 1985.
The world is provided with another window from which it can have a view of the stars personhood – his love for fellow human beings – despite the controversies surrounding his public and personal/domestic life which includes his alleged relationship with children which cost him millions of dollars in settlements, his changing appearance, and his dangling of his third child Prince Michael II over his hotel balcony while staying in Berlin in 2002.
For us, this is quite enough reason to hold our judgment of the star for a moment and reconsider our view and knowledge of him…Think Twice!
Still, part of the lyrics says, “There are ways to get there…” Yes Michael, there are ways to get there. Isaiah and Micah’s vision, the central principle from which the United Nations was established and your contributions still work today.
We are still dreaming of a world healed from strife – a better place to live in. May we find our way to get there while we still have time.