Old Testament Survey - Lesson 27

Jonah and Micah

In this lesson, you explore the rich narratives and theological themes of the prophets Jonah and Micah. Jonah's story emphasizes the boundless grace and mercy of God, portraying a prophet who struggles with his own nationalist and anti-Assyrian sentiments, which starkly contrast with God's inclusive grace. Through Jonah's journey—from his reluctance to preach in Nineveh to his dismay at God's forgiveness of the city—you learn about the nature of divine mercy and the challenges of accepting it. Micah, ministering in a different context, champions social justice and prophesies about the messianic future from a humble town of Bethlehem. He calls for true piety that goes beyond ritual sacrifices, urging adherence to justice, mercy, and humility before God. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 27
Watching Now
Jonah and Micah

I. Overview of Prophetic Context

A. The Role of Prophets

1. Jonah and Micah as 8th century prophets

B. Historical Background of Jonah's Ministry

1. Time during Jeroboam II's reign

2. Initial non-capital status of Nineveh

3. Shift in capital cities within Assyria

C. Character and Background of Jonah

1. Jonah's origin and personal background

2. Jonah's nationalistic and anti-Assyrian stance

II. Literary Analysis of the Book of Jonah

A. Unique Aspects of the Book

1. Biographical and narrative style

2. Limited prophetic proclamation

B. Composition and Structure

1. Staircase narrative structure

2. Literary devices and third-person narrative

III. Themes and Theological Insights

A. The Concept of Divine Mercy

1. Jonah’s personal experience of God’s mercy

2. Corporate experience of mercy in Nineveh

B. Prophetic Message and Its Implications

1. Critique of Jonah’s character and theology

2. Illustration of God’s boundless grace

IV. Comparison and Contrast with Micah

A. Historical Context and Ministry of Micah

1. Micah’s time and socio-political setting

2. Micah as a contemporary of Isaiah

B. Major Themes in Micah’s Prophecies

1. Justice, mercy, and humility

2. Eschatological visions and messianic predictions

V. Impact and Legacy

A. Influence on Later Traditions and Scriptures

1. Reception and reinterpretation in later Jewish thought

2. Christian interpretations and applications

B. Lessons from the Prophets

1. Ethical and spiritual insights

2. Enduring questions and challenges

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Jonah and Micah
Lesson Transcript


We're continuing our discussion of the heralds of the Lord's glory and grace, the prophets of ancient Israel, whose prophecies are preserved in the books that we find in our Bibles. The subjects of our discussion in this lesson are the prophets Jonah and Micah, two contrasting 8th century prophets of Israel. The book of Jonah, in my mind, is a brilliant message of the boundless grace and mercy of God.

But before we get there, we need to talk about the context of Jonah's ministry and the character of the minister. Though many doubt the historicity of the events described in the book of Jonah and treat it as a late polemical literary tractate, according to 2 Kings 14.25, Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II. He had predicted the extension of Israel's borders to Hamath in the north and the Sea of Aravah, the Dead Sea, in the south.

This was therefore a time of the northern kingdom's renaissance, which may account for Jonah's displeasure with his own job description. Jonah came from northern Israel, as we'll see in a moment, but he lived in a time when the Assyrian Empire was on the rise. We will see the importance of Nineveh in this city.

There is a slight problem, however. Nineveh was not the capital of the Assyrian Empire until several decades after Jonah lived, so we have to talk a little bit about how the Lord can say to Jonah in this book, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city. The capital of Assyria moved around depending on who was the big emperor at the top.

In Jonah's day, the capital was at a place called Kalah. This is the middle of the 8th century. It was at Kalah, which is not far from Nineveh, but it was not Nineveh.

It was not built as the capital until the time of Sargon II, who was responsible for finally finishing off Samaria in 722 BC. So that's a few decades after Jeroboam II. How then can we talk about Nineveh in this book? Presumably, in my interpretation, we'll talk about this a little bit more later, but it seems that the book was actually written later than the events.

It seems to have been written after Assyria had done its work in the divine program, by which time Nineveh was in fact the capital. So that writing this story of this prophet at a time when Nineveh had emerged as the capital city, this name Nineveh functions as a cipher for the capital city of Assyria, wherever that capital city might have been. That seems to be the simplest answer.

Apart from the data provided in 2 Kings 14.25 and the book of Jonah itself, nothing is known about this man. His name means dove, but to relate the name to his message is very forced. I can't see a connection here.

His father was Amittai, of whom we know nothing. His home was Gathipher, an insignificant town in the tribal territory of Zebulun. He was from the sticks, as we say in our vernacular.

The book reveals Jonah as an ardent nationalist, pro-Israelite and anti-Assyrian. Now, the latter disposition is understandable in the light of the storm clouds other prophets see gathering on the horizon, but it is not excusable. We'll see that in a moment.

The book describes a man who was also not only nationalist, anti-Assyrian, he was peevish, stubborn, and self-centered. When Yahweh catered to his personal comfort, he was absolutely delighted, but when he lost his shade, he became suicidal. What can we say about the book of Jonah? Jonah differs from all the other prophetic books, with the possible exception of Daniel, though as we've mentioned, this book is not considered among the prophets in the Hebrew canon.

But Jonah is different from the others in that it is primarily biographical. It is a story of the prophet's experience. In fact, prophetic proclamation is limited to a single sentence, 40 days and Nineveh will be destroyed, 3 verse 5. In style, it bears a closer resemblance to the Elijah and Elisha narratives in Kings.

Because of the consistently negative picture the book paints of the prophet, it is doubtful Jonah was the author. And note also the fact that Jonah is always spoken of in the third person rather than first person. But then on the other hand, this could also be a literary device.

In the past, critical scholarship has tended to date the book in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah because of its supposed universalism. It is a message about God's gracious disposition toward other peoples. But this approach has rightly fallen into disrepute in our time, and I'm happy about that.

Doug Stewart suggests the narrator was someone who knew Jonah, and perhaps even the Phoenician sailors personally on that boat. After Jonah's experience, which Stewart accepts as historical, the story must have spread all over Israel, and the narrator may have based his account on direct contact with his sources, that is, the man Jonah. When we look at the style and structure of Jonah, this book, we notice a very careful literary composition.

Exhibiting a staircase structure as Kevin Youngblood has noticed. The first section consists of 1-1 to 2-11. In 1-1 to 4a, there's setting the stage, then 1-4b to 2-1b.

There is a pre-peak episode, and then you have third, a peak episode in the first part, 2-1c to verse 11. That's most of chapter two. The second main section is the rest of the book.

You have setting the stage in 3-1 to 3b, which largely repeats information we saw in 1-1 to 4a. Then you have a pre-peak episode, 3-3c to 10. Then the peak episode, 4-1 to 4, obviously the climax of the book.

But now we have a post-peak episode, which gives us another picture of this man in rather unattractive circumstance. Stewart characterizes the book as sensational, didactic, prophetic literature. It is sensational in that the way the story is told arouses the imagination with a series of remarkable events, the storm at sea, the fish, the plant story, like Daniel and the Elijah, Elisha accounts.

But sensational, stimulating the imagination does not need to mean fictional. The weight of the book's message depends on it being historical. It is didactic in that it teaches a lesson.

But it is not a midrashic tale, a commentary composed to explicate another text. This book offers a prophetic sermon from an historical experience. This is narrative, biographical preaching at its best.

But what is the point of this biographical sermon? Of course, the answer is, don't be like Jonah. And more importantly, understand what God is really like. But this raises the most important issue posed by the book.

How could all this happen? The sequence of events is extraordinary. As we said, the storm at sea, the calming of the sea, the fish at the right point at the right time, the size of Nineveh at this time, the remarkable response of this hardened Assyrian audience, the gourd, the east wind, the worm, it all seems so incredible, and rightly so. For the point of Jonah's experience is that he is the sign.

His life is an object lesson of what could or would happen to Nineveh. If one allows for miracles for the purpose of divine communication elsewhere, as in the plagues of Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea, why not here? Without a real event, Jesus referenced to Jonah in Matthew 12, 40 is inane. What about the message of the book? Unlike a previous generation of scholars, more and more are rejecting this as a universalistic tractate and arguing against bigotry and racism.

Yes, it challenges Jonah's anti-Assyrianism, but no more. The focus of the narrator is not even on the human actor, either his actions or his attitudes. All these are a foil for the primary actor, Yahweh, who is the subject of the primary sentence, almost without exception in chapter 1, the most important figure in chapter 3, and in Jonah's psalm of praise in chapter 2. His focus is entirely on God.

The question in the last verse of the book puts the focus where it should be. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh? This is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question, but it is rhetorical. Jonah's myopic vision answers it negatively.

No, you should not have compassion on Nineveh. But this was the problem, that we have the book, an embarrassing record for Jonah. Would you like this said about yourself? It suggests that he had actually learned his catechism well.

He could quote the characteristic of God as taught in the Torah in chapter 4, verse 2, so his view of God is orthodox, but he could not accept divine grace without limits. The issue of the book is not what is this man like, but what is God like? That he did not allow himself to be limited by human definitions is cause for praise by all. Jonah could not accept the orthodox definition of divine grace, except of course when he was the beneficiary, but don't talk to the Ninevites about God's grace, and yet that's exactly what we see in the book.

When we look more carefully at the structure and rhetorical strategy, we notice a very brilliantly created composition, artfully created. Under the theme of the boundless grace and mercy of God, we see several dimensions of that issue presented. It opens up in chapter 1, verses 1 to 3, with the announcement of the mission of mercy.

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great and evil city, and proclaim the message against it. Then we have the first major section in chapter 1, verses 4 to 2, verse 10. You have the personal experience of divine mercy.

Jonah experiences what the Ninevites will experience in the end, as do the Phoenician sailors on the boat. It begins by describing the desperate need for mercy. Jonah has bought a ticket at Joppa for a sail to Tarshish.

He's supposed to go to Nineveh in the east, but he heads west. Well, he's sleeping, fast asleep, on this boat when we have the divinely ordained crisis. The Lord sends a storm on the Mediterranean, and the boat is about to go under.

In verses 6 to 9, we have the sailors' responses to the crisis, including the intensification of the crisis in 1, verses 10 to 13. But then the story takes a turn as God's mercy begins to intervene, and we see God's mercy in two dimensions. When the people, by casting the lot, expose Jonah, when the sailors, by casting the lot, expose Jonah as the problem baggage on this ship, and they discover that they are to throw the problem baggage overboard, at first they resist.

They don't want Jonah to die. These Phoenician sailors have more mercy, more compassion than the prophet of Yahweh, who has left the presence of God and betrayed his mission and is heading off on vacation to Spain. But when the sailors, the storm gets worse and worse until they ask Jonah, who are you? Where do you come from? What is your mission? And he says, I am Jonah.

I'm an Israelite, a Hebrew, and I serve the creator of heaven and earth, Yahweh. And then the sailors become really afraid because now they know they're not just fighting against the God of the sea. They are fighting against the great God who created everything.

It's a bigger issue than they had expected. But in the end, had they not been obedient to the charge to throw him over, they would all have perished. They do throw him over, and immediately the storm is calmed, and the sailors acknowledge the mercy of God.

The text says, and they feared God. Jonah had said, I am a Hebrew. I fear Yahweh.

Well, to Jonah, this is just a passport stamp of allegiance. I'm an Israelite, and Yahweh is the God of Israel. I'm part of this nation.

But now these sailors, the narrator says, then the sailors feared the Lord, and they offered sacrifices to him. This is a different dimension of fear. This is the kind of fear that means trusting awe.

They were in awe of the God of Israel, which is more than we can say for Jonah. So Jonah is thrown overboard, and how does God demonstrate his mercy? He sends an emissary, a fish, to swallow him and to deliver him back on shore and rescue him from the storm, from certain death. Jonah feared he was dying, and this is chapter two.

It's a song of praise to Yahweh. It's a psalm praising God for having been so merciful to him. He uses the word chesed.

Those who abandon the Lord forsake their chesed. Jonah has experienced that mercy. In chapter three, we witness the corporate experience of divine mercy, not just personal, but corporate.

The Lord recommissions Jonah to get going, go to Nineveh, that city, that great city, and proclaim against it, 40 days and it's over. You will be destroyed. The city will be destroyed.

And Jonah now, he says, I can preach that. He doesn't like the Ninevites, and so he goes and he preaches 40 days and it'll be destroyed. But what happens? The unthinkable.

The Ninevites repent, and God retracts his threat, and he has mercy on the Ninevites, and he spares them. This wicked city experiences the mercy of God. But herein lies the problem of the book.

In chapter four, we have a divine lesson on mercy. It begins with a prophet complaining Jonah was furious with God. He said, I knew this would happen because I knew you're a gracious, compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness, and that's exactly what happened.

And the theme of the book becomes, what's wrong with God? And in Jonah's mind, it is that he has mercy on wicked people, the Assyrians. Jonah has a theological problem here. He knows his catechism really, really well.

He quotes, virtually quotes Exodus 34, 6 to 7. But this drives us to the last episode, a lesson, a lecture on mercy for Jonah. Jonah takes his lawn chair, and he sits down outside his hotel outside the city of Nineveh, and he waits for the fire to fall. But it never falls, and Jonah is furious.

And of course, the sun is hot, the Mesopotamian sun, and the Lord causes a gourd to rise over his head to give him shade, give him a little comfort. And Jonah is elated until a grub, must have been a massive grub, comes along and nips off the gourd, and it withers and dies. And then Jonah is mad.

God asks, Jonah, what's wrong with this picture? You had mercy on the plants, which gave you shade, should I not? For which you hadn't done any work. It just grew up there on itself, and you were happy. Should I not have mercy on Nineveh, all these people, and all the animals? It is a shaming lesson for Jonah.

In the Bible, we see God portrayed in different ways, actually, and when we read the First Testament, many people think that in the First Testament, God is always angry. God is always looking for somebody to beat up. But when we read the book of Jonah, we find the opposite problem.

With reference, this is a lesson on Exodus 34, 6-7. The Lord passed before Moses, and Moses heard him proclaim, Yahweh, Yahweh, a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in unfailing love and faithfulness, who keeps unfailing love for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin, but who will not clear the guilty, who visits the iniquity of fathers on the children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation. Jonah's quotation in chapter 4 at the beginning is a virtual quotation of the first part of this.

Jonah had learned his catechism well. The problem was not his theology. The problem was his heart, and that's what this book is about.

We need to hear the message of this book. The prophet, the professional prophet, called by God to serve him, is the only creature in this story that doesn't keep his appointments. It's interesting that the word appointment, and God appointed, there are all kinds of appointments here, inanimate and animate things keep their appointments.

The wind, God appointed a wind, and there it was. God appointed a fish. God appointed a gourd.

God appointed a grub. They all keep their appointments. The only character not keeping his appointments was Jonah.

This is a literary cartoon of the first order. We need, on the one hand, to smile and laugh when we see how ugly Jonah the prophet looks, but on the other hand, we need also to ask, is this a mirror for us, and do we see ourselves in this picture, the book of Jonah? We move now to another prophet just a little bit later than Jonah, but still from the eighth century. This prophet is Micah.

According to the superscription, Micah ministered during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which makes him a Judean contemporary of Isaiah. In fact, these two books have in common a variation of the same prophecy. When you read Micah 4, 1 to 3, you think, I've heard this somewhere before, and the answer is, yes, you have in Isaiah 2, 2 to 4. Since chapter 6 speaks of the dynasty of Omri and Ahab as on the verge of disaster, Micah must have prophesied before 722 BC, the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel.

During this time, Judah and Israel were both in trouble politically and militarily. The rulers, aristocrats, and conniving priests in both countries felt secure in their fortified cities, but the peasants had no protection, either from the marauding Assyrians, either from their rulers or the marauding Assyrians. Micah stands up as the champion of the oppressed, fearlessly denouncing the graft and greed of the upper classes.

But what can we say about the prophet? Well, first, Micah is an abbreviated form of Mikayahu, which translates, who is like Yahweh? In 7.8, we hear him declaring an utterance that plays on his name, who is like God, he asks. Micah's home was in Moreshath, a suburb of Gath. This was the easternmost of the five major Philistine cities, which suggests that Micah was a Judean who lived initially at least outside of his, perhaps his birth land, but he ministered in Gath.

But since Gath and the rest of the Philistine cities fell to the Assyrians along with the northern kingdom, by 7.22, Micah had a keen awareness of the bitter effects of war and probably moved over to Judah to escape the invader. Micah's influence in the southern kingdom is reflected in Jeremiah 26, 17 to 19. One hundred years later, the people of Judah recalled how their ancestors had repented at the preaching of Micah and how this had led to Hezekiah's reforms, which had the effect of God calling off his threatened judgments.

Peterson, in an older commentary, The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets, describes Micah's relationship to Isaiah like this. The two prophets, Isaiah and Micah, represent two social levels and their viewpoints diverge. We have here two separate approaches, and though they are one in their fundamental faith, they are certainly not one in the interpretation of the faith and its application to life.

Isaiah is an aristocrat. Micah is a democrat, as Peterson says. Isaiah is the friend and confident of kings and princes, but Micah associated only with the common people

Isaiah lives in Jerusalem and regards the capital as the hub of the universe. Micah lives on the land and has little regard for Jerusalem as the western farmer has for Washington. Isaiah is concerned mainly with politics and international affairs, but Micah does not pass beyond ethical and religious considerations.

This is a fascinating book. Most scholars credit Micah with a bulk of the prophecies in here, though some interpret 7, 8 to 20, which is a hopeful passage, as a later edition. Although the entire book offers excellent preaching material, Micah contains a few textual gems.

His eschatological vision of Zion as the capital of the world, 4, 1 to 5, his prediction of the Messiah who will come from lowly Bethlehem, but whose reign of peace will extend to the ends of the earth. He writes, on the first, he writes, in the last days the mountain of Yahweh's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains. It will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

Many nations will come and say, come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths. The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up a sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for Yahweh Tzva'ot, the Lord of hosts, has spoken. And all the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of Yahweh, our God, forever and ever. It's a brilliant passage.

Echoed in Isaiah, as we will see, but his prediction of the Messiah in Micah 5 is equally brilliant. But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh the Lord, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God, and they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and he will be our peace. I tell you, if our word needs any word from the prophets, it is these two words. Micah offers hope in his eschatological vision of Zion and his prediction of the Messiah.

But there's one other exegetical gem in this book, and that is Micah's definition of true piety and godliness. Chapter 6, verses 6 to 8. Here he sounds like Moses in Deuteronomy 10, verse 12, when he asks the question, with what shall I come before Yahweh and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Here he's talking about child sacrifice, to the pagans offering one's children was not a perversion. No, it was the height of piety.

It's giving the best that you have to your God. And so Micah is asking the question, is Yahweh impressed with that? He has told you, O mortal, what is good and what Yahweh does require of you but to do justice, to love chesed, and to walk humbly with your God. This is a text that we all need to memorize, put in our hearts and in our heads, but especially apply with our whole lives.

This is the brilliant prophecy of Micah, who is like Yahweh. In addition to Micah's eschatological vision of Zion as the capital of the world, his prediction of the Messiah who will come from lowly Bethlehem, his definition of true piety and godliness, we should be inspired by his appeal to Yahweh to shepherd his flock and his portrayal of God as a gracious and covenant-keeping God. In 7, 14 to 20, we hear more echoes of Exodus 34, 6 to 7. Micah prays, shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest in fertile pasture lands.

Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days long ago, as in the days when you came out of Egypt. I will show you my wonders. Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power.

They will put their hands on their mouths, and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens.

They will turn and dread to Yahweh, our God, and will be in awe of you. Who is a God like you who pardons sin, who forgives transgression, the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever, but you delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us.

You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago. This is the gospel according to Micah.