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by Charles John Ellicott
THE REV. S. L. WARREN.
THE Book of the Prophet Micah is presented as the sixth in order of the minor prophets in the Hebrew, Vulgate, and our own canon, but in the LXX. it follows Hosea and Amos as the third.
It would be deeply interesting to construct a life of Micah, for he was so full of vivid personality that it could not fail to be remarkable; but the materials are almost wholly wanting. We conclude that his birthplace was Moresheth, in the maritime plain of the kingdom of Judah, and we conjecture that this was in the neighbourhood of Eleutheropolis. St. Jerome, indeed, mentions that he visited a village in those parts “which formerly contained the sepulchre of Micah, where is now a church.”
The Prophet Micah foresaw the Assyrian invasion, and described with the vividness of an eye-witness the approach of the enemy destroying city after city, drawing nigh even unto Jerusalem itself. As to the rival capital, Samaria, “it shall be made as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.”
But the message of the prophet was to the people of Judah, for if they, unwarned by the denunciations of the aroused anger of Jehovah, and unmoved by the exhibition of His judgments, continued in their evil course, they would be swept into captivity, carried away to a city the very name of which must have excited ridicule in the minds of his hearers. (See Micah 4:10.)
This, however, Micah foresaw and foretold, and the scope of his prophecy became thereupon extended. He beheld the execution of the decree, nay, even further than that, its reversal at the appointed time. The Jews shall return to their own land, and once more dwell under the protection of Jehovah. But the vision grew, its horizon was more and more extended, and the prophet uttered predictions which every Jew interpreted as referring to the advent of their Messiah and His triumphant reign. He declared the very town in which He should be born, emphasising the fact, and anticipating the objections which would naturally rise to the mind of the Jews from the insignificance of Bethlehem for such high dignity. The end of Micah’s prophecy is Messiah’s eternal reign, in accordance with the truth of Jehovah “sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.”
No student of the Books of Isaiah and Micah can fail to be struck with a similarity of style in the writings of the two prophets. There is the same power of graphic description; there is the similar identification of themselves with their subject; there are like alternate heights and depths of joy and trouble. But Micah is more terse. He gives the telling touches which, in Isaiah’s utterances, expand into long bursts of sustained eloquence. The similarity in the style of Isaiah and Micah is strikingly attested by the passage , and Micah 4:1-3, common to the two writers, but which is eagerly claimed as original in behalf of both, (See Note at the place.)
As far as the individuality of Micah is discovered in his prophecy, he is conspicuous even among prophets for the boldness, the thoroughness of his denunciations, and for the rapidity of his contrasts. The thunder-cloud of blackness descending upon sin again and again darkens with the suddenness of a storm his bright visions of glory; and on the other hand, there is always visible through the heaviest clouds the rainbow of hope from the sunshine of God’s mercy. The light and the darkness are in constant juxtaposition. The period of Micah’s life was cast in very troublous times. The reign of Ahab had impressed itself ineffaceably upon the character of Israel, and had left terrible marks upon that of Judah. Idolatry had been introduced into the Temple itself; statues of the accursed Baal were found even there. The abominations of the heathen in their most repulsive form prevailed; Jewish children were burnt in the fire to propitiate the idol Moloch. All society was disorganised; it was corrupt at the core. The desire of every citizen was to outwit his fellow. No judicial decision was to be obtained except through bribery; every contract was sullied with dishonesty.
In such a time Micah stood forth, and proclaimed the fall and destruction of Samaria, which came to pass in the fourth year of Hezekiah; and he drew attention to the danger which menaced the cities of Judah, even the Holy City itself. But his predictions were not satisfied by the Assyrian invasion. Their fulfilment has to be looked for in the terrible descent upon Judæa by the King of Babylon, a city in Micah’s time too insignificant to attract any notice from Jewish politicians. And then, further than this, the prophecies of Micah reached to a far more distant horizon. His words spoke to Jewish ears of a Messiah to come, and they were treasured up as indicating the very place of His birth. The nearer and the more remote events immediately covered by his predictions were significant of the whole future of the people of God. There was the terrible wickedness which was to eat more and more deeply into the heart of society; there was the time of mourning for the good, of rejoicing for the evil; and there was the hour of signal punishment committed to the enemies of God against His faithless people; while these enemies, having become insolent and defiant, were to be eventually defeated. And then at the last there was the triumph of the faithful children of God, the Lord Himself passing on at the head of the remnant of Israel.
the Sixth Week after Easter