The prophet and his prophecy
Little is known about the prophet Micah beyond what can be learned from the book itself and from Jeremiah 26:18 (discussed later). Micah was from the town of Moresheth (1:1), probably Moresheth Gath (1:14) in southern Judah. He prophesied concerning Israel and Judah. We do not know about his family but unlike Isaiah with court connections he was likely from a humbler background and while there was much in his message that was similar, as with Amos there was a particular sensitivity on social injustice issues, which he had witnessed first-hand, especially as they affected the towns and villages of his homeland. Micah means “who is like the Lord”, which was also reflected in his message.
Background and context
Micah prophesied sometime between 750 and 686 BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (1:1). He was a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. Micah predicted the fall of Samaria (1:6), which took place in 722–721. His early ministry was toward the end of the reigns of Jotham and during the reign of Ahaz (732–716) (a particularly bad king). Micah’s message reflects social conditions prior to the religious reforms under Hezekiah (715–686). Micah’s ministry most likely fell within the period 735–700.
The background of the book is the same as that found in the earlier portions of Isaiah, though Micah does not exhibit the same knowledge of Jerusalem’s political life as Isaiah does, living his life as he did in a Judean village. What we wrote earlier concerning context, under Hosea, applies also to Micah. Relevant Biblical texts covering this period are 2Kings 15:32-20:21; 2Chronicles 27-32. Israel was in an apostate condition. Micah predicted the fall of her capital, Samaria (1:5–7), and also foretold the inevitable desolation of Judah (1:9–16).
A synopsis of the Book
- Title (1:1)
- First Cycle: Judgment and Restoration of Israel and Judah (1:2—2:13)
- Judgment on Israel and Judah (1:2—2:11)
- The predicted destruction (1:2–7)
- Lamentation over the destruction (1:8–16)
- Woe to oppressive land-grabbers (2:1–5)
- Condemnation of wealthy wicked and false prophets (2:6–11)
- Restoration of a Remnant (2:12–13)
- Second Cycle: Indictment of Judah’s Leaders, but Future Hope (chs. 3–5)
- Indictment of Judah’s Leaders (ch. 3)
- Guilty civil leaders (3:1–4)
- False prophets of peace and Micah’s response (3:5–8)
- Corrupt leaders and Zion’s fall (3:9–12)
- Future Hope for God’s People (chs. 4–5)
- The coming kingdom (4:1–5)
- Restoration of a remnant and Zion (4:6–8)
- From distress to deliverance (4:9–10)
- From siege to victory (4:11–13)
- From helpless ruler to ideal king (5:1–4)
- The ideal king delivers his people (5:5–6)
- The remnant among the nations (5:7–9)
- Obliteration of military might and pagan worship (5:10–15)
- Third Cycle: God’s Charges , Ultimate Triumph (chs. 6–7)
- God’s Charges against His People (6:1—7:7)
- A divine covenant lawsuit (6:1–8)
- Further charges and the sentence (6:9–16)
- A lament over a decadent society (7:1–7)
- The Ultimate Triumph of God’s Kingdom (7:8–20)
- An expression of trust (7:8–10)
- A promise of restoration (7:11–13)
- A prayer, the Lord’s answer, and the response (7:14–17)
- A hymn of praise to God (7:18–20)
The message of the Prophet
Micah’s message alternates between oracles of doom and oracles of hope, God’s “sternness” and His “kindness.” The theme is divine judgment and deliverance. Micah also stresses that God hates idolatry, injustice, rebellion and empty ritualism (see 3:8), but delights in pardoning the penitent (see 7:18–19). Finally, the prophet declares that Zion will have greater glory in the future than ever before (e.g. 4:1–2). The Davidic kingdom, though it will seem to come to an end, will reach greater heights through the coming Messianic deliverer (see 5:1–4), whose first and second comings are anticipated, yet not distinguished.
Chapter 1 while making it clear the vision Micah shared concerned Samaria and Jerusalem (representing Israel and Judah) and coming judgment, that message is for the whole world. (1.2). The incurable wound of God’s people will result in the deaths of Israel and Judah, and will lead to the people into exile (1.8-16).
Chapter 2 makes it clear God’s complaint and the outcome: “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil … Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war. The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.” (2:1-3, 8-9). Micah criticises the false prophets who could be brought (2:7, 11). Yet there is hope for a future remnant: “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them” (2:12,13).
Chapter 3: addresses God’s complaint against the leaders: “Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones” (3:2) and the result: “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings” (3:4). As for Gods judgment on the leaders, who behave wickedly and claim they are on God’s side and are safe: “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.” (3:11).
Chapter 4: begins with the same future, glorious yet to be fulfilled expectation of Isaiah 2:1-5 “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it” (4:1).
Chapter 5: look forward to the first coming on the Messiah, just as Micah (4:1-5) (and Isaiah 2) looked forward to his Second Coming: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth” (3:2-4), and while part of this was fulfilled (as we are reminded each Christmas), some of this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. While Micah sees the soon invasion of the Assyrians, they will not ultimately win. A remnant will survive and triumph and there will be a purified people of God! (5.5-15). “I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard” (5:15).
Chapter 6: sees God bringing charges against His people. He asks how He has wronged them that they should treat Him like this, and recounts His history of caring for them (6.1-5), with Micah spelling out what God requires: “He hath shewed 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?” (6:8). The chapter ends with again Israel’s guilt and punishment is made clear: dishonesty, violence and deceit will lead to their ruin and to public scorn (6.9-16).
Chapter 7: Micah’s lament for the appalling state of his society (7.1-7) is tragic, “The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net” (7:2). Yet there is also hope: “Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me” (7:7,8) and Micah ends on a high: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old” (7:18-20). Not only is this reminiscent of the gospel message but offers hope to the Jewish people and of God’s promise.
One of the less obvious Micah texts referred to in the New Testament was when Jesus quoted “For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (7.6) and He did so in order to prepare His disciples for some of the struggles they would face (Matthew 10.35-36 and Mark 13.12). The one place outside the Book of Micah when Micah was quoted in the Old Testament was “Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?” Jeremiah 26:18,19. Not only do we read of an example of a king heeding a prophet’s warning but this was used by Jeremiah’s supporters when some talked of putting to death Jeremiah for his warnings.