Book of Micah

MICAH, BOOK OF. The fifth of the Minor Prophets, dating from the late 700s b.c. The book predicts the fall of Samaria, which occurred in 722, but concerns more especially the sins and dangers of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah around 700. As an outline will show, the message varies between condemnation for the present sins and God’s purpose of ultimate blessing for his people:

Outline:

I. Predicted Desolation of Samaria and Jerusalem (1:1-3:12)

II. Eventual Blessings for Zion (4:1-8)

III. Invasion and Deliverance by Davidic Ruler (4:9-5:15)

IV. Condemnations for Sins (6:1-7:6)

V. Eventual Help From God (7:7-20)

In the opening portion of the book, Mic.1.1-Mic.3.12, God’s judgment is first announced on Samaria for her idolatry. Micah’s interest seems to lie chiefly in Jerusalem, however, whose desolation is announced in Mic.3.12 in very similar terms. Mic.2.1-Mic.2.13 and Mic.3.1-Mic.3.12 are a catalogue of Judah’s sins. Oppression of the poor was a characteristic, but another basic factor was the refusal to hear God’s prophets. As in Jeremiah’s day, they preferred prophets who predicted peace (cf. Mic.3.5 with Jer.8.10-Jer.8.11; Ezek.13.10). It is not improbable that Jeremiah and Ezekiel took their texts on this subject from Micah. At least Micah’s warnings of 3:12 were well known in Jeremiah’s day (Jer.26.18). Jeremiah’s friends quote these words verbatim, ascribing them to the Micah of Hezekiah’s time. Negative critics point out that Jeremiah quotes Micah as a prophet of doom, and they conclude that no prediction of hope in Micah is genuine. The conclusion seems far-fetched. Jeremiah’s friends quoted only that part of the book that was applicable to their situation. This argument need not be extended to the rest of the book.

The second section, Mic.4.1-Mic.4.8, includes a passage that is practically identical with Isa.2.1-Isa.2.4. Many have questioned whether Micah quoted Isaiah or vice versa, or whether both quoted a common oracle. But Isa.2.1 calls this passage the word of Isaiah, which should decide the matter. Micah evidently uses Isaiah’s promise and skillfully weaves it into his own composition.

The third section, Mic.4.9-Mic.5.15, comes against the background of the wars of Hezekiah’s day. The Assyrians carried captive forty cities of Judah and received tribute from Hezekiah as Sennacherib himself tells us (cf. also 2Kgs.18.13-2Kgs.18.16). But God delivered Jerusalem (2Kgs.18.35). The “seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men” of Mic.5.5 probably is merely a symbolic numerical way of saying “one great deliverer”—a numerical device that can be paralleled in old Canaanite literature.

Yet in this section the Captivity and return from Babylon are also predicted. Negative critics insist that similar passages in Isaiah (e.g., 48:20) are late and actually written after the events described. In their denial of supernatural prediction, they must also say that Mic.4.10 is late. But according to Isa.39.6 and also by Assyrian testimony, Babylon was a menace in Micah’s own day; so these verses are quite appropriate.

Against these dangers to Judah, God holds out that messianic hope of Mic.5.2. The mention of Bethlehem Ephrathah identifies the Messiah as of David’s line (cf. Isa.11.1; Jer.23.5; Ezek.37.24). The “clans of Judah” is read the “rulers of Judah” in Matt.2.6 by using different (and probably correct) vowels on the Hebrew consonants. “You, Bethlehem,” is masculine and therefore is probably a direct reference to the Messiah from Bethlehem, for the gender would be feminine if only the city were addressed.

The condemnations of the fourth section (Mic.6.1-Mic.7.6) include several references to the Pentateuch and other historical books (Mic.6.4-Mic.6.5, Mic.6.16; cf. also Mic.5.6 with Gen.10.8-Gen.10.9). The response of Mic.6.8 is famous. Some have argued that it teaches salvation apart from sacrifice. Actually, it alludes to Deut.10.12 and involves Israel’s duty to obey all the Mosaic injunctions. Christ probably refers to this verse in his condemnation of the formalistic Pharisees (Matt.23.23).

The book closes with the prophet’s declaration of faith in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant of blessing for Abraham.

Bibliography: L. C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (NIC), 1976; J. L. Mays, Micah: A Commentary, 1976.——RLH