The twelve Minor Prophets

The twelve minor writing prophets have shorter books than the major prophets.  These writing prophets range from the 8th to the 5th century BCE.  These include Hosea from the 8th century BCE, Joel from the 8th -5th century BCE, Amos from the 8th century BCE, Obadiah and Jonah from the 6th century BCE, Micah and Nahum from the 8th century BCE, Habakkuk and Zephaniah from the 7th century BCE, Haggai and Zechariah from the 6th century BCE, and Malachi from the 5th century BCE.  Some of these prophets had an influence on New Testament Christian writers.

My Understanding of Micah

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.

 

Divine appeal (Mic 7:18-7:20)

“Who is a God

Like you?

You pardon iniquity.

You pass over

The transgressions

Of the remnant

Of your possessions.

He does not retain

His anger forever,

Because he delights

In showing clemency.

He will again have compassion

Upon us.

He will tread

Our iniquities

Under foot.

You will cast all our sins

Into the depths of the sea.

You will show faithfulness

To Jacob.

You will show

Unswerving loyalty

To Abraham,

As you have sworn

To our ancestors,

From the days of old.”

This Book of Micah ends with this psalm of praise to Yahweh, while asking for his mercy.  There is no other God like Yahweh, who has pardoned iniquity.  He has let go of the transgressions of his people.  His anger was short lived, because he delighted in granting clemency, since he had compassion for them.  He has stamped on and thrown out all their sins.  He has shown faithfulness and loyalty to Jacob and Abraham, just as he did to all their ancestors in the good old days.  Notice the change from the descriptive “he” to the more intimate “you”.

The fear and confusion of the various countries (Mic 7:16-7:17)

“The nations shall see,

They shall be ashamed

Of all their might.

They shall lay their hands

On their mouths.

Their ears shall be deaf.

They shall lick dust,

Like a snake,

Like the crawling things

Of the earth.

They shall come trembling out

Of their fortresses.

They shall turn in dread

To Yahweh,

Our God.

They shall stand

In fear of you.”

The various nations or countries will see what is happening.  They will be ashamed of their own strength.  They will put their hands over their mouths, not speaking.  They will be deaf, not hearing.  They will be like creeping, crawling snakes, licking the dust of the earth.  They will come trembling out of their strong fortresses.  They will stand in dread and fear of Yahweh, our God.  The tables will be turned on them.

Prayer for Yahweh’s protection (Mic 7:14-7:15)

“Shepherd your people

With your staff.

Shepherd the flock

That belongs to you.

They live alone

In a forest,

In the midst

Of a garden land.

Let them feed

In Bashan,

In Gilead,

As in the days of old.

As in the days

When you came out

Of the land of Egypt,

Show us

Marvelous things.”

Micah wanted Yahweh to use his shepherd’s staff to protect his people that belonged to him.  However, they were now living in a forest that was in the middle of some wonderful garden land.  They wanted to feed on the plains of Bashan and Gilead, like in the good old days, when they first came out of Egypt.  They wanted to see all these wonderful things, as they began their restoration after the exile.

Oracle of restoration (Mic 7:11-7:13)

“This is a day

For the building

Of your walls!

In that day,

The boundary

Shall be far extended.

In that day,

They will come

To you,

From Assyria to Egypt,

From Egypt to the River,

From sea to sea,

From mountain to mountain.

But the earth

Will be desolate,

Because of its inhabitants,

For the fruit of their doings.”

This is a post-exilic call to restore Israel.  They would build walls around their buildings.  They would have an extended boundary for their country.  The Israelites would all return from Assyria to Egypt, from the Nile River to the Euphrates River, from sea to sea, and mountain to mountain, from everywhere.  However, the earth would be desolate, because of what the living people were doing.  The fruit of their activity left them in bad shape, desolate.

Micah would rise again (Mic 7:8-7:10)

“Do not rejoice over me!

O my enemy!

When I fall,

I shall rise.

When I sit in darkness,

Yahweh

Will be a light for me.

I will bear the indignation

Of Yahweh,

Because I have sinned

Against him.

I wait

Until he takes

My side.

I wait

Until he executes judgment

For me.

He will bring me out

To the light.

I shall see

His vindication.

Then my enemy

Will see.

Shame will cover her

Who said to me.

‘Where is Yahweh

Your God?’

My eyes will see

Her downfall.

Now she will be trodden down,

Like the mire

Of the streets.”

Micah did not want his enemies to rejoice because he was going to rise again, just like Israel itself.  When Micah was in darkness, Yahweh was his light.  He was suffering the judgment of Yahweh, because of his sins.  However, Yahweh was going to vindicate him.  At that point, his enemies would be put to shame.  Those who had taunted him about his God Yahweh, would be stamped on in the streets, like stinky mud or mire.