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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

- Micah

by Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch



Person of the Prophet. - Micah, מיכה , an abbreviated form of מיכיה (Micaiah), as he is called in Jeremiah 26:18, which is also a contraction of מיכיהוּ , “who is as Jehovah?” - i.e., one dedicated to Jehovah the incomparable God (Greek, Μιχαίας ; Vulg. Michaeas or Micha , Nehemiah 11:17) - is called hammorashtı̄ , the Morashitite, i.e., sprung from Moresheth-gath in the plain of Judah (see at Micah 1:14), to distinguish him from the elder prophet Micah the son of Imlah (1 Kings 22:8.), as well as from other persons of the same name, of whom ten are met with in the Old Testament, apart from Maacah the wife of Rehoboam, a grand-daughter of Absalom (1 Kings 15:2, 1 Kings 15:10, 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 11:20.), who is also called מכיהוּ in 2 Chronicles 13:2 (see Caspari on Micha, p. 3ff.). Our Micah was therefore a Judaean, and prophesied, according to the heading to his book, in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; so that he was contemporaneous with Isaiah. He prophesied “concerning Samaria and Jerusalem,” the capitals of the two kingdoms, that is to say, concerning all Israel, the fate of which was determined by the circumstances and fates of the two capitals. The correctness of this statement, and at the same time the genuineness of the heading, are confirmed by the contents of the book. Micah not only predicts, in Micah 1:6-7, the destruction of Samaria, which took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah; but he also mentions Asshur, the great enemy of Israel at that time, as the representative of the power of the world in its hostility to the kingdom of God (Micah 5:4); and he agrees so thoroughly with Isaiah in his description of the prevailing moral corruption, as well as in his Messianic prophecies, that we are warranted in inferring the contemporaneous labours of the two prophets (compare Mich. Isaiah 2:11 with Isaiah 28:7; Mich. Micah 3:5-7 with Isaiah 29:9-12; Mich. Micah 3:12 with Isaiah 32:13-14; and Mich. Micah 4:1-5 with Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 5:2-4 with Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:5). To this we may add the account in Jeremiah 26:18-19, that certain men of the elders of Judah, when seeking to vindicate Jeremiah, who was condemned to death on account of his prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, quoted word for word Micah 3:12, to show that in the days of Hezekiah Micah had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, without having been put to death by king Hezekiah and all Judah. It is true that Hitzig, Ewald, and others, have founded an argument upon this against the correctness of the heading to our book, according to which Micah prophesied not only under Hezekiah, but also under Jotham and Ahaz, interpreting it as meaning that the elders of Judah knew from good historical tradition the time when the particular words in Micah 3-5 had first been uttered. But they are wrong in this. For even if Micah had uttered this prophecy for the first time in the reign of Hezekiah, it would by no means follow that he had not also prophesied before that, namely, in the reign of Hezekiah. The relation in which Micah 4:1-5 stands to Isaiah 2:2-5 is sufficient of itself to point to the times of Jotham (see at Micah 4:1). Again, Micah 6:16 does not suit the times of Hezekiah, but only those of Ahaz, who walked to such an extent in the ways of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:2), that Judah could be charged with holding by the statutes of Omri and all the deeds of the house of Ahab. Moreover, the assumption that the elders of Judah in the time of Jehoiakim knew from good traditional authority the precise time in which Micah uttered that threat, is quite an unfounded one. They simply knew that Micah's prophetic writings sprang from the time of Hezekiah; and of the kings under whom Micah prophesied according to the statement of the writings themselves (Micah 1:1), they mention only Hezekiah, because he was the only one who “constituted a spiritual authority” (Hengstenberg). But the fact that Micah's prophecies were committed to writing in the time of Hezekiah by no means precludes the supposition that either the prophecies themselves, or certain portions of them, were uttered orally to the people before that time. Hitzig's attempt to prove that all the three addresses in our book were composed in the time of Hezekiah, is founded upon a false historical interpretation, and upon unscriptural ideas of the nature of prophecy.

We know nothing more about the circumstances of Micah's life, than what may be gathered from his writings. According to these, he no doubt prophesied in Jerusalem, the capital of his native land. This is evident from the fact that he chiefly condemns the moral corruption of the great and mighty men of the kingdom, and makes Zion and Jerusalem for the most part the centre of his prophecies. There is not sufficient ground for Ewald's assertion, that there are many signs which indicate an inhabitant of the plain. The introduction of the names of particular places in Judah in Micah 1:10-15 furnishes no proof of any “peculiar interest in the Jewish country, more especially the Jewish lowland, as being his home.” Only a portion of the places mentioned in this passage were situated in the lowland. Moreover, Isaiah also enumerates a whole list of places in Judah (Isaiah 10:28-32), and is minutely acquainted with the circumstances of Zebulun and Naphtali, and the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1), although he was settled in Jerusalem, and had probably been born there. Still more precarious is the inference that has been drawn from Micah's somewhat rough and rugged style. For all that can be adduced in support of this is confined to the rapid and abrupt transitions from threatening to promise, in which he resembles Hosea (vid., Micah 2:1-13; Micah 3:9-12; Micah 4:1.), and generally from one subject to another (e.g., Micah 7:1-7, Micah 7:11-13), but more especially from one person to another, or from one number and gender to another (Micah 1:10; Micah 6:16; Micah 7:15-19). This may be all explained from the vivacity of his won individuality, and the excited state of his mind; and simply indicaters the boldness of his words, but not any want of culture in his style. His words are never deficient in clearness or evenness; whilst in abundance of figures, similes (Micah 1:8, Micah 1:16; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 4:9, etc.), and rhetorical tropes, as well as in speciality, paronomasia, in play upon words (Micah 1:10-15), and dialogue (Micah 2:7-11; Micah 6:1-8; Micah 7:7-20, his style resembles that of his highly cultivated contemporary Isaiah. The traditional accounts respecting his descent from the tribe of Ephraim, his death, and his grave, contained in Ps. Dorotheus and Ps. Epiphanius (collected in Carpzovii, Introd. iii. pp. 373-4), have partly originated in the confounding of our Micah with the elder Micah the son of Imlah, who lived in the reign of Ahab, and are partly inferences from the heading to our book.

2. The Book of Micah. - The contents of the book consist of three prophetic addresses, which are clearly distinguished from one another in form by similarity of introduction (all three commencing with שׁמעוּ , Micah 1:2; Micah 3:1; Micah 6:1), and substantially by their contents, which pass through the various stages of reproof, threat, and promise, and are thereby rounded off; so that all attempts at any other division, such as that of Ewald to connect Micah 3:1-12 with the first address, or to arrange the book in two parts (ch. 1-5 and Micah 6:1, Micah 7:1), are obviously arbitrary. Micah 3:1-12 can only be connected with ch. 1 and Micah 2:1-13 so as to form one address, on the groundless assumption that Micah 2:12-13 are a later gloss that has crept into the text; and though the ואמר before שׁמעוּ־נא in Micah 3:1 does indeed connect the second address more closely with the first than with the third, it by no means warrants our dividing the whole book into two parts. In the three addresses, ch. 1, Micah 2:1-13, 3-5, and Micah 6:1, Micah 7:1, we have not “three prophecies of Micah, delivered to the people at three different times,” as Hitzig and Maurer still suppose, but merely a condensation rhetorically arranged of the essential contents of his verbal utterances, as committed to writings by Micah himself at the end of his prophetic course in the time of Hezekiah. For these addresses are proved to be merely portions or sections of a single whole, by the absence of all reference to the concrete circumstances of any particular portion of time, and still more by their organic combination, as seen in the clearly marked and carefully planned progressive movement apparent in their contents. In the first address, after a general announcement of judgment on account of the sins of Israel (Micah 1:2-5), Micah predicts the destruction of Samaria (Micah 1:6, Micah 1:7), and the devastation of Judah with the deportation of its inhabitants (Micah 1:8-16), and justifies this threat by an earnest and brief reproof of the existing acts of injustice and violence on the part of the great men (Micah 2:1-5), and a sharp correction of their abettors the false prophets. (Micah 2:6-11); after which this address closes with a brief promise of the eventual restoration of the remnant of Israel to favour (Micah 2:12, Micah 2:13). The second address closes with a brief promise of the eventual restoration of the remnant of Israel to favour (Micah 2:12, Micah 2:13). The second address spreads itself out still more elaborately in the first half (Micah 3:1-12) over the sins and crimes of the heads of the nation, viz., the princes, the false prophets, the unjust judges and bad priests; and because of these sins threatens the destruction and utter devastation of Zion, and the temple hill. As an antithesis to this threat, the second half (Micah 4:1-13 and Micah 5:1-15) contains a promise, commencing with the opening of a prospect of the glorification of Zion and Israel at the end of the days (Micah 4:1-7), advancing to an assurance of the restoration of the former dominion of the daughter of Zion, after the people have first been carried away to Babel, and rescued again out of the hand of their enemies, and of her triumph in the last conflict with the nations of the world (Micah 4:8 -14), and culminating in the announcement of the birth of the great Ruler in Israel, who will arise out of Bethlehem, and feed His people in the majesty of Jehovah (Micah 5:1-5), and not only protect the rescued remnant of Jacob against the attacks of the imperial kingdom, but exalt it into a beneficent, and at the same time fearful, power to the heathen nations (Micah 5:6-8), and establish a kingdom of blessed peace (Micah 5:9-14). The third address sets forth the way to salvation in the dramatic dress of a law-suit between Jehovah and His people, by exhibiting the divine benefits for which Israel had repaid its God with ingratitude, and by a repeated allusion to the prevailing sins and unrighteousness which God must punish (ch. 6), and also by showing how the consciousness of misery will lead to the penitential confession of guilt and to conversion, and by encouraging to believing trust in the compassion upon His people, rebuild Zion, and humble the foe, and by renewing the miracles of the olden time fill all nations with fear of His omnipotence (Micah 7:1-17); after which the prophet closes his book with praise for the sin-forgiving grace of the Lord (Micah 7:18-20).

From this general survey of the contents of the three addresses, their internal connection may be at once perceived. In the first the threatening of judgment predominates; in the second the announcement of the Messianic salvation; in the third there follows the paraenesis or admonition to repentance and humiliation under the chastising hand of the Lord, in order to participate in the promised salvation. As this admonition rests upon the threat of judgment and promise of salvation in the two previous addresses, so does the allusion to the judgment contained in the words, “Then will they cry to Jehovah, and He will not answer them” (Micah 3:4), presuppose the announcement in ch. 1 of the judgment about to burst upon the land, without which it would be perfectly unintelligible. Consequently there can be no doubt whatever that Micah has simply concentrated the quintessence of his oral discourses into the addresses contained in his book. This quintessence, moreover, shows clearly enough that our prophet was not at all behind his contemporary Isaiah, either in the clearness and distinctness of his Messianic announcements, or in the power and energy with which he combated the sins and vices of the nation. There is simply this essential difference, so far as the latter point is concerned, that he merely combats the religious and moral corruptness of the rulers of the nation, and does not touch upon their conduct on its political side. (For the exegetical literature, see my Lehrbuch der Einleitung, p. 296.)

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