The Book of Micah
Together with Amos, Hosea and Isaiah, Micah was an eighth-century BC prophet. Since the Assyrians were going to take the Northern kingdom (Israel) captive, Micah was urging the Southern kingdom (Judah) to repent — or face a similar judgement. The preaching of Micah was so remarkable that Jeremiah 26:18-19 quoted Micah 3:12.
Author and Date
The name Micah means ‘Who is like God?’ Micah ministered during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, three kings of Judah (1:1) who ruled between 750-686 BC. Micah not only saw the Northern kingdom (Israel) taken captive by the Assyrians, but he also lived during a time of economic prosperity in Judah — but increasing religious apostasy too. He was from Moresheth, a town about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem (Constable 2017:2) and Micah must have written this book either during or just after Hezekiah’s reign (715-686 BC).
Audience and Purpose
Micah tells us what his purpose is: ‘But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin’ (3:8). He also summarises his message: ‘What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?’ (1:5). To the original audience, unless Israel and Judah repented, turned to God and then obeyed the Law of Moses under which it was at that time, the capital cities and centres of worship in Samaria and in Jerusalem would respectively be destroyed by the Assyrians and Babylonians. But Micah also showed that Israel and Judah would eventually be restored because of the promises that God had made to the patriarchs: ‘He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old’ (7:19-20; cf. also Romans 11:28b-29). Rooker (2011:454) rightly states that the doctrine of a remnant (2:12; 4:7; 5:7; 7:18) and hope oracles are important not only in Micah, but also in other eight-century prophets (ex: Isaiah 37:32; Amos 5:15). Another purpose of the book is to demonstrate that the true faith of the remnant results in ‘social justice and practical holiness, with a view towards the ultimate reign of the Messiah on the earth’ (Green 2014:1369). Micah highlights not only the social injustices that marked the ruling classes (2:1-2, 8-9; 3:3-7, 9-11; 6:10-12; 7:3), but he also prophesied about the Messiah’s birthplace, lineage, origin and eventual reign in the Messianic kingdom (4:1-8; 5:2).
Structurally, the Book of Micah is arranged into three large sections, each starting with a clear call to ‘hear’ or ‘hear now’ (1:2; 3:1; 6:1). Each of these large sections contains a message of judgement (1:2-2:11; 3:1-12; 6:1-7:7) but also of salvation (2:12-13; 4:1-5:15; 7:8-20). Rooker (2011:455) notes that chapters 1-3 ‘contain words of rebuke, chaps. 4-5 give words of comfort, and chaps. 6-7 start with rebuke and end with comfort’. The three sections noted above can, however, also contain smaller sub-units. Dorsey (1999:299) identified the following sevenfold chiastic structure for Micah:
A Coming defeat and destruction 1:1-16
Theme: sin, of which Israel is guilty; the people are going into exile; God will destroy the walls…
B Corruption of the people 2:1-13
Begins with woe; social evils and greed
C Corruption of the leaders 3:1-12
Begins: hear now; corruption of rulers, prophets and priests; dishonesty and social injustice; prophets prophesying for pay; justice abhorred but evil loved; topics: eating and mouth
D Glorious future restoration in the Messianic kingdom 4:1-5:15
C’ Corruption of the leaders 6:1-16
Begins: hear now; past good rulers and good priests; dishonesty and social injustice; Balaam hired to prophesy; do justice and love kindness; topics: eating and mouth
B’ Corruption of the people: Don’t trust anyone but the LORD 7:1-7
Begins with woe; social evils and greed
A’ Future reversal of defeat and destruction 7:8-20
Theme: sin, which God will forgive; the people will return from exile; future rebuilding of the walls…
Dorsey (1999:298) also identified the following structure for the proposed centre of Micah:
A Establishment of the LORD’s reign over nations 4:1-5
B Good news for the exiles, the remnant 4:6-7
C Rulership from an earlier time coming to Migdal-eder, Bethlehem 4:8-10
D The LORD will reverse Israel’s present hopeless situation 4:11-5:1
C’ Ruler from an earlier time will come to Bethlehem 5:2-5a
B’ Good news for the remnant 5:5b-9
A’ Establishment of the LORD’s transforming control over nations 5:10-15
Quote of Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:5-6
Matthew 2:5-6 contains the direct fulfilment of a direct prophecy (Scholtz 2016:5). Not only does Micah 5:2 prophesy that the Christ will be born in Bethlehem, Ephrata, but his ‘goings forth are from of old, from everlasting’ (NKJV) – clear proof of the eternality and divinity of Christ. Cooper (1958:215-216) identifies four kinds of direct prophecies concerning Christ, namely prophecies concerning his first advent (ex.: Deuteronomy 18:15–19; Psalm 16:8-11; Isaiah 7:14), prophecies concerning his second advent (ex.: Psalm 2:8–10; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:39), prophecies that interweave Jesus’ first and second advents (ex.: Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 9:5–6; Zechariah 9:9) and prophecies that reflect the entire course of the career of the Messiah (ex.: Psalm 110; Isaiah 42:1-4; 61:1-3; 65:1-25).
Relevance and Conclusion
During the time when Micah ministered, judges hated the good and loved the evil (3:1b-2), false prophets ‘prophesied’ falsely (3:5-7, 11; cf. 5:12) and priests taught for money (3:11). This is not so different from conditions in the world today, with justice being perverted, corrupt leaders exploiting the vulnerable and false religious teachers spreading lies. In such circumstances, the LORD tells the believing Jewish remnant — and by application, also to disciples of Christ from all the nations — that we should do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (cf. Micah 6:8). When the Messiah returns, conditions will be quite different, for this Ruler will teach us his ways (4:2), previously exploited believers will dwell securely (4:6-7; 5:4) and the LORD will shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD (5:4). Who is like God?
Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on Micah, 2017 edition.
Cooper, D.L., 1958, Messiah: His Historical Appearance, Biblical Research Foundation, Los Angeles.
Dorsey, D.A., 1999, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.
Green, D., 2014, ‘Micah’, in M. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (eds.), The Moody Bible Commentary, pp. 1369-1377, Moody Publishers, Chicago.
Rooker, M.F., 2011, ‘The Book of Micah’, in E.H. Merrill, M.F. Rooker & M.A. Grisanti, The World and the Word, pp. 453-458, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville.
Scholtz, J.J., 2016, ‘Vooronderstellings wat die eskatologie beïnvloed’, In die Skriflig 50(1), a2170.
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