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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Micah, Book of

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MICAH, BOOK OF. The Book of Micah stands in EV [Note: English Version.] sixth in order of the so-called Minor Prophets. In the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] it stood third, preceded only by Hosea and Amos. EV [Note: English Version.] in its arrangement follows the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible the Book of Micah is the sixth section of a collection of prophecies already known about b.c. 180 as ‘the Twelve Prophets’ ( Sir 49:10 ). This Book of ‘the Twelve Prophets’ cannot have been compiled earlier than the 5th cent. b.c., for it contains the Book of Malachi, and it probably was not compiled till towards the close of the 3rd century b.c. For the history of the Book of Micah prior to its inclusion in this compilation we must rely entirely on internal evidence, except for any conclusions which may be drawn from Jeremiah 26:17 ff., it appears certain that the section of the Book of the Twelve Prophets entitled Micah consists in part of prophecies of Micah the Morashtite (see preced. art.), a contemporary of Isaiah, and in part of prophecies of later date; but the determination of what are the later prophecies is not in every case equally easy or sure.

The book divides into three clearly marked sections chs. 1 3, Prophecies of Judgment for sin (exception Micah 2:12 f.); chs. 4, 5, Prophecies of Promise (mainly, if not entirely); chs. 6, 7, more miscellaneous in character, but containing in ch. 7 confessions of national sin.

The first of these sections contains, and for the most part consists of, prophecies of Micah. The allusion to Samaria (which was destroyed in 722) as still standing, and the accordance of the other conditions presupposed with what is otherwise known of the latter half of the 8th cent. b.c., would suffice to prove this; but we also possess early external evidence that Micah was the author of a saying occurring in this section of the book. At the close of the following century (b.c. 608) the prophet Jeremiah was denounced by the priests and prophets as worthy of death, because he had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem; but certain elders cited against the priests and prophets the precedent of Micah the Morashtite, who had made a similar prediction in the days of Hezekiah, and yet, so far from being put to death, had led his people to repentance; in citing this case the speakers quote the words with which Micah 3:1-12 closes (see Jeremiah 26:1-24 , esp. Jeremiah 26:17-18 ). Of course, the citation of this single verse does not prove that even the first three chapters of the Book of Micah were then in circulation in their present form; but the narrative in Jeremiah shows that Micah, a century after he prophesied, ranked as a prophet of judgment, and Micah 1:1-16; Micah 2:1-13; Micah 3:1-12 is preeminently prophecy of judgment. The two verses ( Micah 2:12 f.) which interrupt the general tenor of chs. 1 3 with a promise, represent Israel as scattered, and appear to presuppose the Exile; they are certainly not part of the preceding prophecy, and probably are an insertion in the book after the time of Jeremiah. It is held by some that the Book of Micah known to Jeremiah’s contemporaries also lacked the following portions of chs. 1 3; Micah 1:1-5 a, Micah 1:7 , Micah 1:10-15 , Micah 2:5 . Note, for example, that Micah 1:7 stands most awkwardly before Micah 1:3 , which may give the reason for Micah 1:6 , but certainly not for Micah 1:7 . Yet the grounds given for deleting these passages in order to recover the earliest form of the Book of Micah are by no means in all cases equally conclusive. For the teaching of Micah, see preceding article.

Two not quite identical questions now naturally arise: Did the Book of Micah in the time of Jeremiah extend beyond ch. 3? Do chs. 4 7 contain any prophecies of Micah? The answers, so far as they can be given, must rest mainly on internal evidence. What suggestion the narrative of Jeremiah 26:1-24 offers in this connexion may best be put in the form of a question. Could the elders have cited ( Jeremiah 26:18 ) the words of Micah 3:12 if those words were then, as now, immediately followed ( Micah 4:1-4 ) by a glowing description of the future glory of Jerusalem? Would they not thereby have given the priests an opening to say that Micah’s life was spared because he repented of his blasphemy against their city and spoke of its glory?

Chs. 4, 5 appear to be a cento of brief prophecies, several of them being fragments as follows: Micah 4:1-13 , Micah 5:1-14 . The first of these ( Micah 4:1-4 ) stands also in the Book of Isaiah ( Isaiah 2:2-4 ). Neither in Isaiah nor in Micah is the passage connected either with what precedes or with what follows; owing to mistranslation, RV [Note: Revised Version.] indeed suggests that Micah 4:1-4 is the contrast to Micah 3:12; but for ‘but’ in Micah 4:1 must be substituted ‘and’ as in RV [Note: Revised Version.] itself in Isaiah 2:2 . The verses contain a prophetic poem of 20 short lines (two of which were omitted in Isaiah); as the same Psalm (14 = 53) was included in two separate collections of Psalms, so this poem was not unreasonably thought worthy by two editors of prophetic literature to be included in their collections. It is impossible to examine here in detail the remaining sections of these chapters; some seem, if naturally interpreted, to presuppose the dispersion of Israel at the Exile; see e.g . Micah 4:6-8 , Micah 5:7 , where promises of a bright future are made to Israel, who has already been reduced to a remnant; some passages contain the expectation of a judgment on the nations in general ( Micah 4:13 , Micah 5:15 ), which is certainly more conspicuous in the later prophets than in those of the age of Micah; in Micah 4:11-13 Zion seems to be regarded as inviolable a point of view strikingly different from that with which Micah was popularly identified ( Micah 3:12 , Jeremiah 26:18 ). In Micah 5:10-14 there is little or nothing inconsistent with an eighth century origin; read by themselves, without Micah 5:15 , they are not necessarily a prophecy of promise, but rather of judgment. Here (and perchance in Micah 5:1 ), if anywhere in chs. 4, 5, we may look for Micah’s work; for though so early an origin of these verses is not certain, neither is it certain that they are a piece of late reproductive prophecy.

Turning next to chs. 6, 7, we remark first that since Ewald the allusion to sacrificing the firstborn, and certain other features, have been commonly considered to point to the period of Manasseh as that in which chs. 6, 7 were written a date which would not quite necessarily exclude Micah’s authorship, for Manasseh began to reign about 695 b.c.

In Micah 6:1-8 some points, such as the use of ‘burnt-offering’ (not ‘sin-offering’) and the nature of the allusion to Balaam, may be more easily explained if the passage be at least pre-exilic. The classical prophetic definition of religion with which this section closes ( Micah 6:8 ), though it embraces and summarizes the fundamental teaching of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, does not pass beyond it a fact which is thoroughly compatible with Ewald’s theory, though not, of course, in itself a proof of its correctness.

But it is more than doubtful whether chs. 6, 7 should be treated as a single prophecy; Micah 6:9-16 and Micah 7:1-6 , though scarcely a continuation of Micah 6:1-8 , are not obviously separated from it at all widely in situation or time. On the other hand, as compared with Micah 7:1-20 show a marked difference. Wellhausen (cited by Driver, LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 5 332 f.) has tersely summed this up.

Micah 7:1-6 consists of a bitter lamentation uttered by Zion over the corruption of her children: and the day of retribution, though ready, is yet future, Micah 7:4 .’ In Micah 7:7-20 ‘Zion, indeed, is still the speaker; but here she has already been overpowered by her foe, the heathen world, which is persuaded that by its victory over Israel it has at the same time vanquished Jahweh ( Micah 7:10 ). The city has fallen, its walls are destroyed, its inhabitants pine away in darkness, i.e . in the darkness of captivity ( Micah 7:8; Micah 7:11 ). Nevertheless, Zion is still confident, and though she may have to wait long, she does not question her final triumph over the foe ( Micah 7:7-8; Micah 7:10 a, Micah 7:11 ). She endures patiently the punishment merited by her past sins, assured that when she has atoned for them, God will take up her cause and lead her to victory ( Micah 7:9 ). What was present in Micah 7:1-6 , viz., moral disorder and confusion in the existing Jewish State, is in Micah 7:7-20 past : what is there future , viz., the retribution of Micah 7:4 b, has here come to pass, and has been continuing for some time. Between Micah 7:8 and Micah 7:7 yawns a century.’

Briefly, then, the history of the Book of Micah seems to have been this: a summary of the teaching of the prophet Micah, not improbably prepared and written by himself, was well known in Jerusalem at the end of the seventh century a century after the lifetime of the prophet. This small book was re-edited and provided with its present expanded title, and enlarged by the addition of a collection of prophetic pieces, some of pre-exilic, and several of post-exilic, origin. It is not necessary to suppose that this added matter was originally attributed to Micah, though subsequently it came to he regarded as his work in the same way as Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 and Zechariah 9:1-17; Zechariah 10:1-12; Zechariah 11:1-17; Zechariah 12:1-14; Zechariah 13:1-9; Zechariah 14:1-21 came to he looked upon as writings of Isaiah and Zechariah respectively. The final stage in. the history of the book was its incorporation, probably towards the close of the 3rd cent. b.c., in the great prophetic work ‘The Book of the Twelve.’ It is impossible to determine through how many stages of editorial treatment the book passed, but some of these stages certainly fell within the post-exilic period.

The most convenient English commentaries are those by T. K. Cheyne in the Cambridge Bible , and R. F. Horton in the Century Bible . The discussion and new translation from an emended text in G. A. Smith, Book of the Twelve Prophets , i. 355 ff., will be found most valuable and helpful.

G. B. Gray.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Micah, Book of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Micah, Micaiah