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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Micah

- Micah

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

TITLE AND WRITER

The title, as usual in the prophetical books of the Old Testament, comes from the name of the traditional writer.

The name "Micah" is a shortened form of "Micaiah," which means, "Who is like Yahweh?" A different Micaiah, the son of Imlah, served as a prophet in the Northern Kingdom during the reign of King Ahab of Israel (874-853 B.C., 1Ki_22:8-28; 2Ch_18:3-27). Micah’s hometown was Moresheth-gath, which stood about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem in Judah (Mic_1:1). It was called Moresheth-gath (Mic_1:14) because it was fairly close to the Philistine town of Gath. Moresheth-gath was also about six miles northeast of Lachish, an important Judean town in Micah’s day because it stood on an international trade route. Since Moresheth-gath stood only about a day’s walk west of Tekoa, Amos’ hometown, these prophets, who were roughly contemporary, may have known each other. [Note: Leon Wood, The Prophets of Israel, p. 310.] Amos prophesied during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah (Amo_1:1), and Micah prophesied during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, who followed Uzziah (Mic_1:1).

UNITY

Critics of the book have tried to prove that it is the product of several writers or editors (redactors). The reason for this view is its lack of apparent coherence. Chapters 4-7 have become the target of most critical attack, yet the book is harmonious in its basic structure. [Note: See Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 451-52, for further discussion, or T. E. McComiskey, "Micah," in Daniel-Minor Prophets, vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, pp. 396-97; J. Mays, Micah: A Commentary, pp. 21-33; Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, pp. 241-52.]

DATE AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION

Micah prophesied during the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham (750-732 B.C.), Ahaz (732-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.; Mic_1:1). This made him a late eighth-century contemporary of Isaiah, who also ministered in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (cf. Isa_1:1), and Amos and Hosea, who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (cf. Amo_1:1; Hos_1:1). These were years of economic affluence and international peace but spiritual decadence for both kingdoms, especially Israel.

Micah witnessed the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria in 722 B.C. He also lived through the invasion of Judah by the Assyrians under King Sennacherib in 701 B.C. Leon Wood believed Micah wrote between 735 and 710 B.C. because he did not mention Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah. [Note: Wood, p. 309.] However, Leslie Allen argued convincingly that Mic_2:12-13 alludes to Sennacherib’s blockade of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. [Note: Allen, pp. 242, 244, and 301.] According to Sennacherib’s own records he captured 46 of King Hezekiah’s strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages. He claimed to have taken captive over 200,000 Judahites plus innumerable animals. Two of the Judean cities taken were Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in importance, and Moresheth-gath, Micah’s hometown. Micah referred to the distress that this foreign invasion produced in Judah (Mic_1:10-16; Mic_5:6).

AUDIENCE AND PURPOSE

Micah ministered to the people of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. He predicted the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and warned the Judeans that God would discipline them too for their sins. As in all the prophetical books, the standard by which God measured His people was the Mosaic Covenant. If they obeyed, they would enjoy blessing, but if they disobeyed, they could expect punishment (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Micah, too, pointed out how the Israelites had broken the covenant and that judgment was inevitable, but he also promised ultimate restoration in view of God’s promises to the patriarchs. Micah never used the word "covenant" (Heb. berit), but it is clear from what he wrote that thoughts of the covenant were always in his mind.

STRUCTURE AND EMPHASES

The Book of Micah consists of three messages. In each one the theme of judgment is prominent, but there is also mention of restoration and a remnant (Mic_2:12; Mic_4:7; Mic_5:7-8; Mic_7:18). [Note: See Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, p. 837.] Eventually God would restore the Israelites to a position of world prominence under their Messiah.

"Much debate surrounds the structure of the book of Micah. Opinions vary radically. Some argue that the book has no overall structure but is simply a loose collection of prophetic oracles. Others identify extremely complex and sophisticated structures. A few points are certain: 1. Micah did not speak these oracles at one time. The book is best taken as an anthology of his prophetic messages over the years of his ministry. 2. Chronology is not the key to the structure of the book, though early in the book Micah does predict the capture of Samaria and Sennacherib’s invasion, while at the conclusion of this book, he looks forward to the Babylonian captivity and the restoration. 3. The prophecy is roughly structured on the basis of alternating messages of threat and hope." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 452.]

DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS

The main aspects of God that Micah emphasized were His sovereignty, self-consistency, and His leadership of all events and His people toward the fulfillment of all His ultimate plans and purposes for them.

"Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah stressed God’s incomparability." [Note: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 201.]

Like all the other eighth-century prophets, Micah also attacked the idolatry that accompanied the acceptance of Canaanite worship. However, his distinctive burden was the social injustices that marked the ruling class (Mic_2:1; Mic_2:8-9; Mic_3:11; Mic_6:11; cf. Amos). He was a champion of civil rights. He preached with Amos’ passion for social justice and Hosea’s heart of love. [Note: Henk Jagersma, A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period, pp. 152, 162.] He has often been called, "the prophet of the poor," or, more accurately, the prophet of the oppressed middle class. [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, "Micah," in The Minor Prophets, p. 594.]

Micah wrote about the coming Messiah. He predicted His birthplace, lineage, and origin (Mic_5:2), His future reign (Mic_4:1-7; Mic_5:4), and he referred to Him as Israel’s king (Mic_2:13) and ruler (Mic_5:2).

"Micah’s doctrine of the remnant is unique among the Prophets and is perhaps his most significant contribution to the prophetic theology of hope. The remnant is a force in the world, not simply a residue of people, as the word ’remnant’ (she’erit) may seem to imply. It is a force that will ultimately conquer the world (Mic_4:11-13). This triumph, while presented in apparently militaristic terminology (Mic_4:13; Mic_5:5-6), is actually accomplished by other than physical force [cf. Mat_5:3-12]. By removing everything that robs his people of complete trust in him (Mic_5:10-15), the Ruler from Bethlehem will effect the deliverance of his people. The source of power for God’s people in the world is their absolute trust in him and his resources." [Note: McComiskey, p. 399.]

Like many of the prophetical books, Micah contains much poetry. One of the prominent features of Hebrew poetry is parallelism of thought, and this marks Micah. Micah used his native language as a craftsman. He utilized puns, wordplays, and probing questions. This book, like most of the other Prophets, is a collection of messages that Micah delivered.

There is one citation from Micah in the Old Testament and two in the New. The elders of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day referred to Micah to support not persecuting Jeremiah for predicting judgment on Jerusalem (Jer_26:17-19). Matthew quoted Mic_5:2 as predicting the birthplace of Messiah (Mat_2:5-6), and he recorded Jesus’ quotation of Mic_7:6 regarding conflict within families (Mat_10:35-36).

"In OT study Micah has tended to be overshadowed by Amos and Hosea and especially by his great contemporary Isaiah, whose prophetic material has been preserved in much greater quantity. Stylistically, to be sure, he sometimes has more of the qualities of an orator than of a poet. But his message is proclaimed with no uncertain sound, as with passionate forthrightness he attacks the social evils of his day. His stubborn refusal to float on the tide of his social environment, and his courageous stand for his convictions of God’s truth, must commend Micah to believers in every age." [Note: Allen, p. 241.]

"The church today needs men like Micah who can see the connection between the Western world’s spurning of its Christian heritage and the international crises that surround it." [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, "Micah," in Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, p. 139. Since both of Waltke’s commentaries on Micah that I cite in these notes bear the same title, "Micah," I will hereafter distinguish them by using the names of the two books of which they are parts.]

The Hebrew text of Micah is fairly well preserved.

OUTLINE

I.    Heading Mic_1:1

II.    The first oracle: Israel’s impending judgment and future restoration Mic_1:2 to Mic_2:13

A.    The judgment coming on Israel Mic_1:2-7

B.    Lamentation over the coming judgment Mic_1:8-16

1.    Micah’s personal response Mic_1:8-9

2.    Micah’s call for the people’s response Mic_1:10-16

C.    The sins of Judah Mic_2:1-11

1.    Sins of the wealthy Mic_2:1-5

2.    Sins of the false prophets and the greedy Mic_2:6-11

D.    A prediction of future regathering and leadership Mic_2:12-13

III.    The second oracle: the guilt of Israel’s leaders and her future hope chs. 3-5

A.    Condemnation of Israel’s leaders ch. 3

1.    The guilt of Israel’s civil leaders Mic_3:1-4

2.    The guilt of Israel’s religious leaders Mic_3:5-8

3.    The indictment of Israel’s leaders Mic_3:9-12

B.    Blessing for Israel in the future chs. 4-5

1.    The exaltation of Zion Mic_4:1-8

2.    The might of Zion Mic_4:9 to Mic_5:1

3.    The King of Zion Mic_5:2-5 a

4.    The peace of Zion Mic_5:5-6

5.    The vindication of Zion Mic_5:7-9

6.    The purification of Zion Mic_5:10-15

IV.    The third oracle: God’s case against Israel and the ultimate triumph of His kingdom chs. 6-7

A.    The Lord’s indictment against His people Mic_6:1-5

B.    Micah’s response for the Israelites Mic_6:6-8

C.    The Lord’s sentence of judgment Mic_6:9-16

1.    Israel’s sins Mic_6:9-12

2.    Israel’s punishment Mic_6:13-16

D.    Micah’s lament over his decadent society Mic_7:1-7

E.    Micah’s confidence in the Lord Mic_7:8-20

1.    Advice to the ungodly Mic_7:8-13

2.    Prayer for deliverance Mic_7:14-17

3.    Praise for forgiveness Mic_7:18-20

Bibliography

Aharoni, Y. The Land of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967.

Allen, Leslie C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Bright, John. A History of Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959.

Carlson, E. Leslie. "Micah." In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp. 851-861. Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. Handbook on the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002.

_____. "A Theology of the Minor Prophets." In A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 397-433. Edited by Roy B. Zuck. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.

Dyer, Charles H., and Eugene H. Merrill. The Old Testament Explorer. Nashville: Word Publishing, 2001. Reissued as Nelson’s Old Testament Survey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.

Jagersma, Henk, A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period. Translated by John Bowden. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.

Longman, Tremper, III and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Martin, John A. "Micah." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 1475-92. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1985.

Mays, J. Micah: A Commentary. Old Testament Library series. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.

McComiskey, Thomas Edward. "Micah." In Daniel-Minor Prophets. Vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard P. Polcyn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985.

Morgan, G. Campbell. Living Messages of the Books of the Bible. 2 vols. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912.

The New Bible Dictionary, 1962. S.v. "Shepherd," by R. A. Stewart.

_____. S.v. "Weights and Measures," by D. J. Wiseman.

Thomas, D. W., ed. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: Harper & Row, 1958.

Waltke, Bruce K. "Micah." In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expositional Commentary, 2:591-764. 3 vols. Edited by Thomas Edward McComiskey. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992, 1993, and 1998.

_____. "Micah." In Obadiah, Jonah, Micah: An Introduction and Commentery. Tyndale Old Testament Commenteries series. Leicester, Eng., and Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988.

Waltke, Bruce K., with Charles Yu. An Old Testament Theology: an exegetical, canonical, and thematic approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Wiersbe, Warren W. "Micah." In The Bible Exposition Commentary/Prophets, pp. 389-403. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries; and Eastbourne, England: Kingsway Communications Ltd., 2002.

Wolff, Hans W. Micah: A Commentary. Translated by Gary Stansell. Continental Commentaries series. Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1990.

Wood, Leon J. The Prophets of Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.