This Book of Micah is the sixth prophetic book in the the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Bible. Micah means ‘Who is like Yahweh?’ While this book is relatively short, it includes laments, and petitions. Micah probably prophesied during the reigns of King Jotham (740-736 BCE), King Ahaz (736-716 BCE), and King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) of Judah. Micah may have been a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea. The Book of Jeremiah mentioned Micah as a prophet from Moresheth, who prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah.
Micah rebuked the people of Judah for their dishonesty and idolatry. His prophecy about the Messiah to be born in the town of Bethlehem was later cited in the Gospel of Matthew. Micah was active in Judah before the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE. He also experienced the devastation of the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BCE also. As Micah lived in a rural area, he often rebuked the corruption of city life in Israel and Judah, especially the city of Jerusalem.
Micah’s messages were a mixture of denunciations and prophecies. In his early prophecies, he predicted the destruction of both Samaria and Jerusalem for their respective sins. Micah predicted the downfall of Jerusalem, because they had used dishonest business practices that impoverished the city’s citizens. He also was against the prophets of his own day, whom he accused of accepting money for their oracles.
Micah also criticized Israel because of their dishonesty in the marketplace and the corruption in their government. He warned the people about the coming destruction, if they did not change their ways. Between 734 and 727 BCE, King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria conducted almost annual campaigns in Israel, reducing Israel and Judah to vassal states. On Tiglath-Pileser’s death, Israel has rebelled, resulting in an Assyrian counter-attack and the destruction of their capital, Samaria, in 721, after a three-year siege. Micah said that Yahweh had destroyed Samaria because of their crimes of idolatry, oppression of the poor, and misuse of power. However, many of the northern kingdom people became refugees into Judah that increased social stresses in Jerusalem.
Perhaps only the first three chapters come directly from this 8th century prophet Micah. The first stage would have been the collection and arrangement of some spoken sayings of the historical Micah. Still later, after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, this book may have been revised and expanded further to reflect the circumstances of the late exilic and post-exilic community. Thus, the early 5th century BCE would seem to be the correct time period when this book was completed.
Like Isaiah, this book has a vision about the punishment of Israel and the creation of a ‘remnant.’ There would be world peace at Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch. The people would be just and turn to Yahweh, awaiting the end of their punishment. Micah looked forward to Israel ruling over various countries. Micah was also a favorite of New Testament gospel writers.
The Book of Micah book opens with the typical title of all the prophetic books, as the word of Yahweh came to the prophet Micah. The Assyrian King Sennacherib had attacked Judah in 701 BCE via the Philistine coastline near Lachish. Thus, Micah warned that the fall of Samaria might mean these same towns would be next. Yahweh’s punishment was for their sins of idolatry and the abuse of the poor people.
Micah denounced the greed of the wealthy and powerful, as he wanted Yahweh to curse the wicked ones, because they had misused their power. They had become a military people. Thus, they would not have any inheritance. However, Micah was warned by others not to prophesize about the rulers harming Yahweh’s people. All the people wanted to do was to listen to those prophets extolling the virtues of wine. Although they would be scattered, there would be a new assembly.
There would be a judgment on wicked Zion and its rulers who did not listen to the cry of their people. Micah was against the lying corrupt prophets, who thought that Yahweh would be with them all the time. Micah was the exception to these bad prophets. This bad situation was going to lead to their ruin.
Zion had a future hope because Yahweh would have a peaceful reign there. They had to walk with Yahweh, who would gather all the people to Mount Zion, including the lame. Like Isaiah, he wanted them to know that they would have a future when the enemies of Zion would be defeated. Despite their trials, Yahweh would not desert his people.
Although the king of Israel would be insulted, there would be a new promised ruler from Bethlehem. Assyria would be defeated with a remnant of Jacob returning to Israel. Then Yahweh was going to do away with false worship with a vengeance.
There would be lawsuit or controversy with Yahweh. He accused the people of Judah of breaking the covenant through their lack of justice and honesty, just like the northern kings of Israel. Micah explained how they could get back on Yahweh’s good side. They had to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Yahweh. The burnt offerings of both animals and humans were not necessary. There still had dishonest trade practices in the city, even though Yahweh had saved them in Egypt and Canaan.
Micah complained that there were no more just people, since everyone was evil. You could not trust anyone. Micah, however was different. If he got knocked down, he would get up again. He was going to hope in a future restoration. He prayed to Yahweh for protection. There would be future prosperity, as Micah was grateful for Yahweh’s mercy.