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by Daniel Whedon
The Person of the Prophet.
FOR information concerning the prophet Micah we are dependent almost exclusively upon the book bearing his name.
The name Micah is an abbreviated form of Micaiah, as the prophet is called in Jeremiah 26:18, and means Who is like Jehovah? It contains, therefore, a confession of faith on the part of his parents. The family of Micah is unknown; his father is not named, which omission may be an indication of humble parentage.
In Micah 1:1, Micah is called the “Morashtite” (R.V.), that is, an inhabitant of Moresheth, a village probably identical with “ Moresheth-gath” in Micah 1:14. His home town is named in order to distinguish him from an older prophet Micaiah (1 Kings 22:8 ff.), and from the numerous other persons bearing the same name. The exact location of Moresheth is not yet determined. From Micah 1:14, it would seem that it was near the city Gath (see on Amos 6:2). Jerome refers to it as a small village near Eleutheropolis, about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the lowlands of Judah, near the Philistine border.
The only passage outside of the Book of Micah which mentions the prophet is Jeremiah 26:18-19. From that passage it would seem that Micah was, at least in part, responsible for the reformation under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4). Of the later life of Micah nothing is known. Some think that his activity continued into the dark reign of Manasseh (see pp. 359, 366).
The Time of the Prophet.
The date of Micah is to be discussed in a subsequent section; here it may be sufficient to state that, according to the heading in Micah 1:1, and Jeremiah 26:18, Micah prophesied in the days of Hezekiah. The political, social, moral, and religious conditions in Judah during the prophetic activity of Micah and of his older contemporary Isaiah were essentially the same as in Israel during the activity of Amos and Hosea (see pp. 18ff., 196ff.).
The Chronicler furnishes more complete information concerning the reign of Uzziah than the author of the Book of Kings. Combining the information furnished by the two, we learn that Uzziah, who died about 740 B.C., left to his son Jotham a kingdom enjoying a great measure of external prosperity. While Jeroboam II was extending the borders of Israel in the north (see p. 197), Uzziah was strengthening the kingdom of Judah in the south. He waged successful wars against the Philistines, and annexed part of their territory to his own. The Ammonites and Edomites were his vassals. He fortified Jerusalem and other cities, reorganized the army, and stocked his arsenals with ammunition of war.
In addition, he was not unmindful of the arts of peace. He developed very extensively the natural resources of the country. Being a lover of agriculture, he possessed many fields which were carefully tilled, watchtowers were erected for the protection of the king’s cattle, and cisterns were dug for the collection and retention of the winter rains.
Uzziah was interested also in commerce. He rebuilt the port of Elath on the eastern arm of the Red Sea, by which foreign commerce might find its way into Judah. Sela, which had been captured by the king’s father, Amaziah, commanded the trade route to southern Arabia.
All this brought to Judah a prosperity unequaled since the days of David and Solomon.
Uzziah was succeeded by his son Jotham, who continued his father’s policy. Jotham’s independent reign he had been co-regent with his father for some years (2 Kings 15:5) was very brief. Toward its close Judah was threatened with an invasion by the allied forces of Damascus and Israel. The real crisis, however, did not come until he had been succeeded by his son Ahaz. At first the hostile armies were successful, and “the heart of the king trembled, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest tremble with the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). In despair Ahaz, against the protest of the prophet Isaiah, appealed for assistance to Tiglath-pileser III, of Assyria. The Assyrians advanced with great rapidity, and the two nations were punished severely. Judah was saved, but at the cost of her national independence; henceforth she became a vassal of the Assyrian king. During the remainder of his reign Ahaz seems to have remained loyal to Assyria; and during the early years of Hezekiah, Judah kept out of difficulties by quietly paying tribute. The fall of Samaria in 722-721 made an impression that was not soon forgotten, and this impression became intensified when in 720 Sargon II defeated an Egyptian army near Raphia, on the borders of Egypt. Nevertheless, the states along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean bore impatiently the Assyrian yoke. As early as 711 Judah came near being involved in a revolt against Sargon. The death of the latter in 705 was the signal for uprisings throughout the entire empire. Merodach-baladan made himself again king of Babylon, and he succeeded in stirring up rebellion in the west, in which Judah joined. Sennacherib, the successor of Sargon, was compelled to spend several years in the east, in order to quell disturbances there; but in 702-701 he marched westward. Tyre, Sidon, and other states fell before him, Judah was overrun (2 Kings 18:13), Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem “like a bird in a cage,” and the fall of the city was confidently expected. It was at that point that a divine Providence compelled Sennacherib to raise the siege of the city and return to Nineveh. Jerusalem was saved. Little more is known of the events during the reign of Hezekiah; even the year of his death is uncertain; he died sometime between 697 and 686.
Since certain prophecies in the book are thought by some to come from a period subsequent to Hezekiah, it may be well to consider briefly the political events under his successor Manasseh. According to 2 Kings 21:1, Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he ruled fifty-five years. He seems to have been an opponent of the pure and spiritual Jehovah religion proclaimed by the eighth century prophets, and under him a great religious reaction swept over Judah. Concerning political events in his reign information is meager. He must have continued to pay tribute to the Assyrian kings, though 2 Chronicles 33:11, states that he brought upon himself the anger of the king of Assyria and was carried in chains to Babylon. On the whole, the political life of Judah seems to have remained unchanged under Manasseh.
Socially and morally Judah presented a dark picture during the latter part of the eighth century and the first part of the seventh century B.C. Conditions are pictured most vividly in the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, the Book of Kings dealing almost exclusively with political events. Of the two prophets, Isaiah views the situation from the standpoint of the patrician, the man of the city, Micah from that of the humble peasant from the country.
Foremost among the evils seen by Micah was the greed of the nobles manifesting itself in the attempts to build up large estates by forcibly ejecting the smaller property holders (Micah 2:1-2). The judges were quite willing to assist their powerful friends in robbing the weak (Micah 3:11); the poor widows and orphans, who were without defenders, were cruelly robbed and plundered, and even sold into slavery (Micah 2:9). Creditors were heartless. The common people were oppressed by excessive taxation, that the magnificent palaces of the capital might be erected. The hopelessness of the situation is aptly described in Micah 7:5-6, though these verses may not come from Micah himself: “Trust ye not in a neighbor; put ye not confidence in a friend; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoreth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.” Every man’s hand seems to have been against his neighbor; even the most sacred relations of life were disregarded.
Like the other prophets, Micah saw that the nobles were chiefly to blame for the awful social and moral corruption. He likened them to cannibals, who tear the flesh of the people from their bones and eat it (Micah 3:3). Their greed and rapacity knew no limits; like highway robbers they pounced upon passers-by and stripped off their garments (Micah 2:8). Helpless women and children were their special prey (Micah 2:9). Under the guise of the law, decisions were given in favor of the one offering the largest bribe (Micah 3:11). It may be interesting to read in this connection Isaiah 2:6 to Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4.
Concerning religious conditions Micah says less than the other eighth century prophets, but the few remarks on the subject confirm the statements of his greater contemporary Isaiah. Religion had become a matter of form; ceremonial observances were thought to meet all religious requirements, and, as in Israel (see Amos, p. 198), the misapprehension was widespread that, so long as the external acts of worship were scrupulously performed, the people were entitled to the divine favor and protection (Micah 6:6-7). This false notion seems to have found encouragement even among the religious leaders (Micah 3:11): “yet will they lean upon Jehovah, and say, Is not Jehovah among us? none evil can come upon us.” In addition to this perverted Jehovah worship idolatry was quite common (compare Isaiah 2:8). Ahaz sought to please his Assyrian masters by introducing foreign elements in the temple worship (2 Kings 16:10 ff.). Hezekiah, it is true, sought to bring about a religious reformation, but it was hardly as sweeping as 2 Kings 18:4, would, at first sight, seem to indicate; for in the days of Josiah, about a century later, there were still found undisturbed high places reared by Solomon in or near Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:13).
Under Manasseh religious conditions grew worse very rapidly. The idols torn down under Hezekiah were carefully restored; the Asherim were again set up; the enchanters and soothsayers exercised their old influence (2 Kings 21:6); even human sacrifice was offered (2 Kings 21:6; compare 2 Kings 16:3). The worship of other deities was introduced into the temple itself; as was natural, those of Assyria received first place (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:11-12). The popular worship of Judah at this time must, indeed, have been a strange combination of foreign and native cults.
Surely amid these conditions the task of a prophet was not an easy one.
The Date and Integrity of the Book.
That the prophet Micah labored during the period and under the conditions described in the preceding section can be easily shown; it is a more difficult task to fix the date of the entire Book of Micah. Micah 1:1, written probably at a later time by the collector of the Minor Prophets into one book, is intended to be the title of the entire book. Apparently it ascribes all the prophecies in the book to Micah; and it assigns the prophet’s activity to the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; in round numbers, to the years between 740 and 700. That Micah prophesied in the days of Hezekiah is affirmed also in Jeremiah 26:18-19, where Micah 3:12, is quoted. The passage quoted is so closely connected with the preceding verses that verse 12 undoubtedly carries with it the entire third chapter; and certain striking similarities between it and chapters 1, 2 place it almost beyond doubt that all three chapters, in substance at least, proceeded from the same author. But internal evidence for example, Micah 1:6 makes it clear that Micah 1:1 ff., belong to the years immediately preceding or following the fall of Samaria. If that city fell in the sixth year of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:10), internal evidence would seem to support the testimony of the title and of Jeremiah 26:18-19, that Micah prophesied in the days of Hezekiah.*
[* The chronology of Judah during the latter part of the eighth century B.C. is very obscure. If we follow 2 Kings 18:9, Hezekiah began to reign about 728; if we follow 2 Kings 18:13, his reign must have begun about 715. There is no intimation of a co-regency, and apparently the two dates stand irreconcilable. The subject cannot be discussed here at length (see Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Chronology”). There seems to be good reason for believing that Hezekiah came to the throne before the fall of Samaria; and, tentatively at least, the dates of the three kings named in the title may be given, as follows: Jotham, 737-735; Ahaz, 735-728; Hezekiah, 728-697.] Until near the middle of the nineteenth century the testimony of the title was accepted as final. Ewald was the first to question the authorship of chapters vi, vii, which he assigned to another prophet living during the dark reign of Manasseh. Since then a constantly increasing number of passages have been denied to Micah. Of more recent writers on the book Cheyne ( Encyclopaedia Biblica, article “Micah”) declares: “One result is that in no part of chapters 4-7 can we venture to detect the hand of Micah. What the real Micah was must be learned from chapters 1-3, which are mostly genuine.” In 1-3 he is inclined to question Micah 1:10-15; Micah 2:5; Micah 2:10; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 3:2 b, Micah 3:3 b. Nowack is somewhat more conservative. Chapters 1-3, with the possible exception of Micah 2:12-13, he unhesitatingly ascribes to Micah. With regard to chapters 4, 5 he is more skeptical: “If there are any words of Micah at all in chapters 4, 5, these can include no more than Micah 4:9-10, Micah 5:9-13.” The next section, Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6, he thinks “might, so far as their contents are concerned, proceed from Micah;… but not only the tenderness of feeling exhibited in Micah 6:1 ff., but also the dramatic and exceedingly animated descriptions, make the composition of this section by Micah very improbable.” Of Micah 7:7-20, he says emphatically that it “cannot possibly be attributed to Micah.” Marti assigns to the prophet Micah only Micah 1:5 b, Micah 1:16; Micah 1:16; Micah 2:1-4; Micah 2:6-11; Micah 3:1-2 a, Micah 3:3 a, Micah 3:4-5 a, Micah 3:2 b, Micah 3:5-10. These passages, he thinks, were arranged by Micah himself in one collection, which was the Micah book known in the days of Jeremiah.
These three scholars represent the more extreme tendency in the criticism of the Book of Micah; and a close examination of the questioned passages as well as of the objections raised against them may show that it is not necessary to follow them all the way.
Leaving aside, then, a few minor passages in the first part of the book which can be discussed, when necessary, more readily in the notes an inquiry into the integrity of the Book of Micah must give attention to Micah 2:12-13; Micah 4:0; Micah 5:0; Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6; Micah 7:7-20. Only Micah 1:2 to Micah 2:11; Micah 3:1-12, are generally admitted to come from Micah, and to have been delivered near the fall of Samaria; and within these chapters, as already indicated, Cheyne and Marti question a number of verses.
Micah 2:12-13 are questioned because “they are foreign to the line of thought expressed in chapters 1, 2, for they presuppose the exile, and occupy themselves with the restoration of the people”; to which objection may be added the claim that linguistically they are closely connected with the exilic and postexilic literature. The linguistic argument is always precarious, and in this case it is without sufficient foundation. If the truth of the other objection, that Micah 2:12-13, presuppose the exile as already present, could be established, the verses would have to be assigned to the exilic period; but, as will be shown in the notes on these verses, there is nothing in them that presupposes the exile as a present reality; in fact, there exists a rather close logical connection between Micah 2:11-12. In view of this fact the objection to the originality of these verses cannot be considered conclusive (see below, comments on Micah 2:12-13).
There are those, however, who do not deny the verses to Micah, but who consider them out of place in their present position. Steiner, for example, would place them after Micah 4:8; but, as already indicated, there is a real thought connection between Micah 2:12-13 and the preceding verses, so that a mere external abruptness of transition cannot be regarded as conclusively proving that the verses are out of place, especially since such abrupt transitions are not infrequent in prophetic literature. Besides, though the transposition would remove in part abruptness, it would not do so entirely.
Chapters 4, 5, with the possible exception of a few verses, have been denied to Micah chiefly on two grounds: 1. The strange and frequent juxtaposition of Messianic hopes and announcements of judgments is said to weaken the message of the prophet. Hence, it is said, Micah cannot be responsible for it. This objection is raised against all similar passages in other prophetic books (see Hosea, pp. 35f.; Amos, p. 215). When it is once admitted, however, that the prophets entertained a hope of the preservation of a remnant, the difficulty vanishes almost completely. The promises are made not to the entire people, but to this remnant. Since the doctrine of the remnant cannot be removed from the utterances of the other eighth century prophets, why may it not have formed a part of Micah’s religious thinking?
But if this doctrine can be found in Micah the presence of these ideal pictures of the future presents no difficulty; it would be more surprising not to find them. When it is further borne in mind, as is pointed out in the introductory remarks to chapters 4, 5 and in the notes on these chapters, that the two chapters are a collection of short oracles, all dealing with the same subject, the Messianic outlook, but not coming from the same period of the prophet’s activity, and describing the Messianic age from different points of view, suggested by the ever-changing historical background of the various utterances, the objection will be found to lose all its force. 2. The second objection is closely related to the first. It is pointed out that mutually exclusive views present themselves in these chapters (compare Micah 4:6-8, with Micah 4:9-10; Micah 4:11-13, with Micah 5:1-4, with Micah 5:5 ff.); that in several instances a connection can be established only by artificial means (compare Micah 4:4, with Micah 4:5; Micah 4:8, with Micah 4:9-13, with Micah 5:1-4); that ideas are expressed which were not current until after the time of Micah (compare Micah 4:11-13, with Ezekiel 38, 39); and that certain relations are pre-supposed which are foreign to Micah’s era (for example, Micah 4:6-8; Micah 5:1 ff.). This series of objections would have considerable weight if it were necessary to take chapters iv, v as containing one discourse, delivered at one and the same time. But, as soon as it is recognized that the chapters contain a collection of oracles, delivered at different times, under different circumstances, growing out of different historical situations, the objections lose their force, unless it can be shown that the separate oracles contain linguistic, historical, or religious features that militate against the authorship of Micah. For a detailed discussion the reader should turn to the commentary on these chapters; here it may be sufficient to say that the arguments against the authenticity of the chapters or of any part of them do not appear to be in any sense conclusive.
So far as the contents of Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6, are concerned, this section might, according to Nowack’s admission, have proceeded from Micah. The objections to this portion are based chiefly on the differences in style and intensity of emotion as compared with the earlier chapters of the book. But these differences are by no means so marked as to exclude unity of authorship. True, the conditions presupposed in the verses are not quite the same as those presupposed in chapters 1-3; the corruption seems to be more extensive and more marked. This fact in itself would account for the depth of feeling shown by the author of these utterances; this intenser feeling, in turn, would lead to more earnest and passionate appeals; and, surely, it would be only natural that these should influence the style. Nowhere can be discovered anything that makes impossible the belief in Micah’s authorship.
If the testimony of the title in Micah 1:1, can at all be relied upon, the prophet lived through a very eventful period (see above, pp. 357ff.). In that general period the reign of Ahaz seems to furnish a most suitable occasion for these utterances, as a few comparisons will show. Ahaz was inclined toward the worship of foreign deities (2 Kings 16:10 ff.); the complaint of Jehovah in Micah 6:1 ff., implies that the people were forsaking him. Ahaz caused his son to pass through the fire (2 Kings 16:3; compare Micah 6:7). Ahaz walked “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Kings 16:3); Micah 6:16, complains, “The statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels.” To the reign of Jotham, only a year or two before Ahaz’s accession, belong the prophecies in Isaiah ii-v; and it may be interesting to compare Micah 7:1-6, with Isaiah 3:1-15; especially Micah 7:5-6, with Isaiah 3:5; compare also Micah 7:4, with Isaiah 10:3.
Though it has become customary, since the days of Ewald, to assign chapters 6, 7 to the dark reign of Manasseh, written either by Micah himself, who might easily have continued his ministry into the reign of Manasseh, or by some other prophet, whose name has not been preserved, it seems more probable that Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6, comes from near the beginning of Micah’s ministry, the reign of Ahaz. Kirkpatrick says rightly, “Chapter vi, at any rate, is a piece of public preaching which is more likely to belong to the time of Ahaz than to that of Manasseh, when the true prophets were silenced.”
Most modern commentators agree in regarding Micah 7:7-20, as the product of a later age. Wellhausen says, “Between Micah 7:6-7, there yawns a century.” In his commentary he makes the interval even longer, for he places Micah 7:7-20, in the postexilic period. Nowack, “ Micah 6:7 ff., cannot possibly be attributed to Micah; for what in Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6, is yet in prospect is in Micah 7:7 ff., actually come to pass Zion suffers for her sins, and the prophet looks to a better time, when Jehovah will again interest himself on behalf of his people and build the walls of the city.” Marti, following Stade’s suggestion, divides Micah 7:7-20, into two sections, 7-13, 18b, 19a, and 14-18a, 19b, 20, both sections he assigns to the second century B.C. G.A. Smith calls Micah 7:7-20, “a canto of several fragments, from periods far apart in the history of Israel.”
The chief ground for assigning the verses to the exilic or postexilic period is the alleged fact that in them the exile is presupposed as an accomplished fact; and some hold that even the return and the later dispersion of the Jews are things of the past. However, this is by no means self-evident; even the expression in verse 11, “a day for building thy walls,” does not establish the truth of the claim. All the eighth century prophets seem to expect the divine judgment, which they announce, to fall in the immediate future; all expect it to take the form of an invasion, in which the land will be overrun; and Micah certainly announces the destruction of the capital (Micah 3:12); all expect the preservation of a remnant; and all make glorious promises to this remnant. But if Micah expected the salvation of a remnant, and if he had any desire of picturing the future exaltation of this remnant, was it not perfectly natural for him to include in his picture of the restoration the rebuilding of the city, even though its destruction was still in the future? In this Micah does not stand alone (compare Jeremiah 33:10 ff.). Hence it is quite possible to regard “a day for building thy walls” a part of the prophetic picture of the future calamity and restoration. The case is entirely different in Isaiah 40-66, with which Wellhausen compares these verses. Isaiah 40-66 contains numerous unambiguous references to the Babylonian exile as a present fact; but in Micah 7:7-20, there is not a single clear reference of that character.
On the other hand, it has been argued that Assyria was the world power (verse 12), and that in verse 14 there may be an allusion to the ravaging of the territory north of Esdraelon and east of the Jordan by Tiglath-pileser III in 734. Hence Micah 7:14, has been taken to favor the view that Micah 7:7-20, belong to the same period to which were assigned Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6 (see above; but compare comment on Micah 7:14). When it is possible to base two so widely different conclusions upon the historical allusions in an utterance it must be admitted that the historical background is uncertain.
The argument from style is in this case of more weight. Even the reader of the English translation must be impressed with the marked differences as he passes from Micah 7:6-7 ff. Certainly a change in style would be expected when an author passes from exhortation to supplication or praise, as is done in these verses. But the closer one studies Micah 7:7-20, the stronger becomes the impression that the differences in style are almost too great to be compatible with unity of authorship, and the firmer becomes the conviction that either Micah was a man of peculiarly vivid imagination, of unusual poetic genius and wonderful dramatic power, or the verses cannot come from him. To a later date point also the similarities with some of the later psalms. G.A. Smith may be correct, therefore, in calling Micah 7:7-20, “a canto of several fragments, from periods far apart in the history of Israel” (see further the comments on Micah 7:7-20).
A few words must be added concerning the arrangement of the book. It falls naturally into three parts: chapters 1, 2; chapters 3-5; chapters 6, 7; each part beginning with “Hear ye.” Each part contains a description of the present corruption, an announcement of imminent judgment, and one or more promises of a bright and glorious future. In a broad sense each section marks an advance over the preceding. It would be erroneous, however, to suppose that the three parts, even aside from Micah 7:7-20, represent three connected discourses of the prophet delivered to the people on three different occasions. They are rather three collections of the essential contents of oral utterances of the prophet during his entire prophetic activity. The brief notes or summaries were arranged in the order in which they are found now either by Micah or by a later collector, probably the latter. The principle of arrangement is not chronological, but, in a broad sense, logical; that is, the collector or collectors kept in mind the general scheme corruption, judgment, salvation of a remnant, promise but within the general scheme itself the separate utterances were arranged with less care and without the introduction of any connecting links. As a result abruptness in transition is frequent, and it is difficult at times to trace the exact line of thought.
Contents and Teaching of the Book.
Contents. The Book of Micah falls naturally into three parts. The first part (chapters 1, 2) begins with a majestic description of the approach of Jehovah in judgment (Micah 1:2-4). His anger has been aroused by the transgression of Israel and Judah; and in punishment he will reduce Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, to a heap of ruins (Micah 1:6-7). But the calamity will not stop there; it will advance to the very gates of Jerusalem (Micah 1:9). The prophet, moved by sympathy for the stricken country, bewails the devastation of his home district; in a series of agonizing cries, making extensive use of paronomasia, he describes the fate of several cities and villages located in it (Micah 1:8-16).
This lament is followed by a woe upon the proud nobles of the realm, whose deeds of violence have made inevitable the judgment (Micah 2:1-2). The punishment will be meted out according to the lex talionis; they have robbed others, therefore they will be robbed of their ill-gotten possessions (Micah 2:3-4). The prophet foresees an attempt on the part of the people and the false prophets to silence him by declaring his utterances to be absurd; hence he insists that his preaching is in perfect accord with the ethical principles underlying Jehovah’s government of the world. God promises good only to him who walks uprightly; this Israel has failed to do, hence disaster must come (Micah 2:5-9). The sentence of Micah 2:3-4 is reiterated; the rascals must leave the land “this is not your resting place” (Micah 2:10). The prophet next describes the kind of prophet they would like to hear, one who promises peace and prosperity, who flatters the self-righteous hypocrites (Micah 2:11). Micah is not one of these; he can declare only what Jehovah desires, and at present the divinely given message is one of judgment. Nevertheless, it is not one of unmitigated doom. He too has a message of salvation, though not for the immediate future, nor for all the listeners, but for the loyal worshipers of Jehovah. These, purified through suffering, will be assembled again; Jehovah himself will redeem them and restore them to their old home (Micah 2:12-13).
The second part (chapters 3-5) opens with a vivid description of the present corruption; civil and ecclesiastical leaders abuse the privileges of their offices. All humane feelings have been stifled (Micah 3:1-3). These human brutes Jehovah will forsake in the hour of judgment (Micah 3:4). For the decline in virtue the false prophets are largely responsible; they have become mercenary and care nothing for the truth; the priests also are actuated by a spirit of avarice and greed. Yet in spite of the universal corruption they presume to claim Jehovah’s favor “Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? no evil shall come upon us” (Micah 3:5-11). On account of this failure to do the will of Jehovah the capital will be completely ruined (Micah 3:12).
But the ruin will not continue forever. There will be a turn for the better. A remnant will survive the judgment; and this remnant, restored to its former home, will be raised to highest honor and glory. This exaltation is the subject of chapters 4, 5. However, these two chapters do not form one single, continuous discourse; they are rather a collection of oracles, all dealing with the same subject, namely, the Messianic outlook, but they do not come from the same period in the prophet’s activity, and they describe the Messianic age from various points of view. The first section presents a sublime picture of Zion’s future glory as the center of the universal religion (Micah 4:1-5). When the era of Messianic peace dawns the dispersed of Israel will have a share in its glory. Jehovah will bring back and heal a remnant of those whom in his anger he cast off. This remnant will grow into a strong nation that will suffer no more from weak and incompetent rulers, for Jehovah himself will rule forever (Micah 4:6-8).
The distant future is bright, but the immediate future is full of gloom and despair. The prophet sees the impending destruction; he hears the lamentation (Micah 4:9); nevertheless, with sublime faith he predicts, “Jehovah will redeem thee” (Micah 4:10). From a different period in the prophet’s ministry comes the next oracle, which again starts from the present calamity but ends with the triumphant exhortation, “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many peoples: and I will devote their gain unto Jehovah, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth” (Micah 4:11-13).
The next section again takes a brief glance at the present distress and shame (Micah 5:1), but immediately it soars to the loftiest heights of Messianic promise (Micah 5:2 ff.). The prophet introduces the personal Messiah, to be born in Beth-lehem (Micah 5:2); though temporary distress is inevitable, the sequel will be glorious (Micah 5:3). Like a kind shepherd will the Messiah feed his flock (Micah 5:4); he is peace personified, and his rule will be peace. Should an enemy attack the kingdom of God there will be a superabundance of leaders to hasten to its defense (Micah 5:5-6).
The prophet proceeds to consider the restored nation’s relation to other peoples; to some it will dispense blessings and prove a source of increased vitality (Micah 5:7); to others it will be terror and destruction (Micah 5:8). That Israel may be successful in its conquests is his prayer (Micah 5:9).
When the people have learned to rely upon Jehovah he will destroy all implements of war (Micah 5:10-11), and remove all witchcraft and soothsayers (Micah 5:12). Idolatry will come to an end (Micah 5:13-14); and Jehovah will be the avenger of his people (Micah 5:15).
In the third part (chapters 6, 7) the standpoint of the speaker changes. Once more the whole nation is addressed. In Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:6, is a dramatic representation of Jehovah in a controversy with Israel. Jehovah opens the case by inquiring what he has done to merit Israel’s ingratitude and neglect (Micah 6:1-5). The people do not deny the truth of the accusation implied in the words of Jehovah; apparently they are ready to admit their guilt, but they plead ignorance of the true requirements of Jehovah. They are willing to take upon themselves the severest tasks if they can only secure the divine favor (Micah 6:6-7). To this plea the prophet replies that there is no excuse for their ignorance. Jehovah has made known his will again and again: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
With Micah 6:9 begins a new accusation and denunciation. Jehovah is the speaker. He denounces, in righteous indignation, the injustice, oppression, and violence prevalent in the capital, and threatens judgment in the form of an invasion, desolation, disgrace (Micah 6:9-16). The accusation continues in Micah 7:0; but now the prophet is the speaker. He describes the desperate condition of the nation: anarchy, injustice, judicial corruption, the dissolution of the tenderest ties of family relation (Micah 7:1-6).
Here another change of speaker occurs. The penitent community, the remnant now sitting in darkness, addresses Jehovah; it pleads for deliverance, and expresses the assurance that Jehovah will bring it out into the light, and give to it victory over the arrogant enemy (Micah 7:7-10). To this expression of confidence Jehovah, or the prophet in his name, replies with words of encouragement; the loyalty of the petitioner will be rewarded with a glorious restoration (Micah 7:11-13). In Micah 7:14 the prophet becomes the spokesman of the people. He pleads for the fulfillment of the promise of the restoration, and rejoices in the terror and humiliation of the nations of the world (Micah 7:14-17). The Book of Micah closes with a doxology. The prophet, reveling in the thought of a glorious future, sings a hymn in honor of Jehovah, who alone is God; he celebrates the divine attributes of loving-kindness, compassion, and faithfulness as about to be manifested in the deliverance promised by Jehovah (Micah 7:18-20).
Teaching. The teaching of Micah is simple and forceful. In many respects it resembles that of Amos and Hosea; hence it seems unnecessary to outline in detail the various points of his teaching (see Amos, pp. 205ff.; Hosea, pp. 29ff.). A few points, however, deserve special mention. His theology insists on the holiness of Jehovah, and the universality and righteousness of the divine government. Jehovah deals, even with Israel, on the basis of ethical principles. So long as his people will do right they will enjoy the divine favor (Micah 2:7); when they turn against him they must suffer punishment. His good will is secured not by carefully observing the ritual, or by bringing sacrifices, whatever their intrinsic value, but by a life in accord with principles of righteousness, by the diligent practice of kindness and brotherliness, and by a living fellowship with God in the spirit of humility, which should ever govern the intercourse of weak and sinful man with a holy and perfect God (Micah 6:6-8).
The prophet did not deceive himself into an expectation that his high moral and religious ideals would be sufficiently attractive to bring about a complete transformation in the whole nation. He foresaw that the majority would continue in rebellion, and that, therefore, a destructive blow must fall which would make an end of the national existence of both Israel and Judah. But he saw with equal clearness that a remnant would be saved, and that under the Messianic king this remnant would enjoy a life of permanent peace and prosperity (Micah 5:2-6). Through the moral influence going out from these faithful ones (Micah 5:7) the knowledge of Jehovah would spread to all the nations, and all would flock to him (Micah 4:1-4). In his description of the Messianic king, Micah passes beyond Amos and Hosea (Micah 5:2-5).
A comparison of Micah with his greater contemporary, Isaiah, is of interest. The two “resemble each other in style, in thought, in topics, and even in phrases”; yet the contrasts between the two in origin, training, and sphere of work are equally marked. The one was a city prophet, of high social standing, the counselor of kings; the other a simple countryman, born of obscure parentage, in close touch and sympathy with the peasant class. However, both cherish lofty conceptions of the character of God and of the obligations resting upon the people of Jehovah, and both have firmly established convictions concerning the nature and ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God.
Never in the history of the Hebrew people, and one might almost say never in the history of the human race, arose within one brief lifetime (760-735 B.C.) four men who have left a greater and more permanent impress upon the religious development of the world than did the four divinely inspired leaders, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah. They, more than any other set of men during the Old Testament period, were responsible for the preservation and development of the religion out of which sprang, at a later period, the religion of life and power, Christianity.
TITLE THE AUTHOR OF THE PROPHECY. Micah 1:1.
A. JUDGMENT UPON SAMARIA AND JUDAH SALVATION OF A REMNANT Micah 1:2 to Micah 2:13
I. JUDGMENT UPON SAMARIA AND JUDAH Micah 1:2-16
1. Message of judgment Micah 1:2-7
2. Lament over the devastation of Judah Micah 1:8-16
II. CAUSES OF THE IMPENDING JUDGMENT Micah 2:1-11
1. Woe upon the arrogant nobles who have become misleaders of the people Micah 2:1-4
2. Futile attempts to silence the prophet Reiteration of the message of judgment Micah 2:5-11
III. RETURN OF A PURIFIED REMNANT UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF JEHOVAH Micah 2:12-13
B. CONTRAST BETWEEN THE PRESENT DEGRADATION AND THE FUTURE EXALTATION Micah 3:1 to Micah 5:15.
I. THE PRESENT CORRUPTION Micah 3:1-12
1. Outrages committed by civil rulers Micah 3:1-4
2. Condemnation of the mercenary prophets Micah 3:5-8
3. Renewed condemnation of the nation’s political and religious leaders. The doom of Jerusalem Micah 3:9-12
II. THE MESSIANIC OUTLOOK Micah 4:1 to Micah 5:15
1. Zion the center of the universal religion of the future Micah 4:1-5
2. Restoration and healing of the dispersed Revival of the kingdom of David Micah 4:6-8
3. Distress and subsequent redemption Micah 4:9-10
4. Deliverance of Jerusalem; destruction of the enemy Micah 4:11-13
5. The Messiah and the Messianic era Micah 5:1-15
(1) The Messiah’s birth and reign Micah 5:1-5 a
( 2) Supremacy over Assyria Micah 5:5 b, Micah 5:6
(3) The restored nation’s attitude toward other peoples Micah 5:7-9
(a) A source of blessingMicah 5:7; Micah 5:7
(b) A source of terror and distressMicah 5:8-9; Micah 5:8-9
(4) Divine achievements on behalf of the redeemed remnantMicah 5:10-15; Micah 5:10-15
(a) Destruction of all implements of warMicah 5:10-11; Micah 5:10-11
(b) Removal of witchcraft and soothsayersMicah 5:12; Micah 5:12
(c) Extinction of idolatryMicah 5:13-14; Micah 5:13-14
(d) Jehovah the avenger of his peopleMicah 5:15; Micah 5:15
C. JEHOVAH AND ISRAEL IN CONTROVERSY THE ULTIMATE SETTLEMENT Micah 6:1 to Micah 7:20.
I. JEHOVAH’S COMPLAINT CONCERNING ISRAEL’S INGRATITUDE AND NEGLECT Micah 6:1-5
II. THE PEOPLE’S PLEA OF IGNORANCE Micah 6:6-7
III. THE DIVINE DEMANDS Micah 6:8
IV. FIERCE DENUNCIATION OF PREVALENT CRIMES Micah 6:9-16
V. HOPELESSNESS OF THE NATION’S CONDITION Micah 7:1-6
VI. UTTERANCES DEALING WITH THE ULTIMATE SETTLEMENT OF THE CONTROVERSY Micah 7:7-20
1. Confidence of the penitent community in a final deliverance Micah 7:7-10
2. Jehovah’s promise of a glorious restoration Micah 7:11-13
3. The prophet’s prayer for the fulfillment of this promise Micah 7:14-17
4. Doxology Ascription of praise to Jehovah, who alone is God Micah 7:18-20
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany