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Book of Micah

The Book of Micah (Hebrew: ספר מיכה) is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, traditionally attributed to Micah the Prophet.

Content

The book may be divided into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1–3 mainly consist of oracles of judgment.
  2. Chapters 4–5 of oracles of hope.
  3. Chapters 6–7 begins with judgment and moves to hope.

Chapters 1–3 mainly consist of oracles of judgment. The judgment motif is so strong in this book that Micah only preached about judgment. Judgment in Micah is seen in the destruction of Samaria, in the coming of an invader against Jerusalem, in the greedy land-grabbers' loss of their land and in their being abandoned by Yahweh, in shame for the false prophets, in the siege of Jerusalem and the cleaning of the land from idolatry and militarism.

Chapters 4–5 consist of oracles of hope. The prophet said that those conditions would not prevail forever. Judgment would come but a saved, chastened, and faithful remnant would survive. A new king from the line of David would replace the present weak king on the throne. He would reign in the majesty of the name of Yahweh. His people would dwell securely and he would be great to the ends of earths.

Chapters 6–7 begin with judgment and move to hope. Micah puts a protest on the people's lips, offering any religious response God cared to ask for. God's indictment becomes specific in 6:9–16. Violence, deception, and crooked business practices were rampant. They would bring desolation and destruction to the land. The reference to Omri and Ahab indicates that the same kinds of corruption that destroyed the northern kingdom had now spread to Judah.

In conclusion, Micah's later hearers take his messages to heart. His words of hope gave them new heart to live as God's people in a darkened world.

Authorship

Micah prophesied throughout the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, roughly 777–717 BCE. Micah was brought up in Moresheth-Gath in the Philistine plain, thus he is known as Micayahu of Moresheth. The prophet’s name, in its elongated form "Micayahu," is commonly translated "Who is like God?" or possibly, "He who is like Him (God)."

Micah grew up in a small farming community. The quality of his prophecy, however, has caused many scholars to believe that he received a good education and/or may have been one of the wealthier members of the community; i.e. a land owner, rather than a farm worker or other poorer position. Still others consider him as an elder of the community, indicating his respect among his people. Regardless of his background, he was well aware of the avarice and injustices of the rich.

Some Old Testament scholars today would defend Micah's authorship of the entire book. However, some liberal scholars attribute much more of the material to Micah than others. The authorship of the book of Micah is somewhat controversial. It is generally agreed that Micah composed chapters 1 through 3; some scholars hold that chapter 6 and sections of chapter 7 were also written by the historical Micah. The primary reasons given are because chapters 3-5 foretell of events in the 6th century BCE and chapters 6-7 have elements of a universal religious outlook which was not widely present in Judaism until much later.

Date of composition

The superscription suggests the time of the ministry of Micah as being during the reigns of Jotham (742–735 BC), Ahaz (735–715 BC), and Hezekiah (715–687 BC). These figures allow a maximum period of fifty-five years for Micah's ministry, but it is not likely that he was active as a prophet during all of that time. He was active during the late eighth century BC; he was among the earliest of the Minor Prophets. The message in Bible (King James)/Micah#1:2 was given before the destruction of Samaria in 721. The appeal of Jeremiah's supporters to the prophecy of Micah confirms his connection with Hezekiah: "And some of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, Micah of Moresheth prophesied during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah" (Bible (King James)/Jeremiah#26:17).

Setting

Micah had a populist message in a small town southwest of Jerusalem, Moresheth-gath. Most of the messages of hope can be credited to Micah, but often their general content hinders reconstruction of a specific historical setting. Although we read the canonical book through the eyes of the postexilic community of faith, who come to the fore in 7:8–20, the importance of these sections lies in the spiritual message of these prophetic texts. For this reason, scholars look very carefully at messages of hope. They ask whether they came from the prophet who gave his name to the book or from later prophets. Certainly the final edition of the book gives the impression of coming from early postexilic times.

Purpose

Judean politics, society and manner of worship (primarily in the reign of King Ahaz) combine to form the standard of living Micah fervently opposes. “Stemming from the poorer, working class, Micah was acutely aware of the injustices and avarice of the rich,” according to Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia. This awareness is easily discernible beginning in chapter two, directly following Micah’s initial expression of God’s case against the people—Micah speaks boldly against social injustice. In verses 2:1-2 he abhors those in power who “plot evil on their beds,” and he continues, in verses 3:1-3, to indict the leaders of Israel crying, “you ought to know what is right, but you hate good and love evil.” Micah recognizes power as a God-given responsibility and sees, instead of thanksgiving and acts of love and gratitude, the powerful (not just politically, but priests as well) conniving to maintain their wealth and further subjugate those of “lesser status.” At the time, even a man claiming to be a prophet would speak only in the way that would benefit him—paying no heed even to his own call to righteousness. At the height of the corruption, false prophets were primarily denouncing the coming of God’s judgment, and "[they] had men’s wishes on their side." And so, these are the issues. . . this is the audience to which Micah evangelizes: a people who could collectively be described as having substituted sacrifices and gestures for righteousness in practice. As he winds down, Micah refocuses his arraignment in Chapter 6, wherein he describes God’s call to justice and loving mercy—nothing more than a humble walk with Himself. In a clear understanding of this platform, Micah delivers the whole of his teaching so richly throughout this text.

The purpose of writing the book was to express disdain for the corruptions and pretensions of Jerusalem and its leaders. In an era of urbanization, he championed the traditions of early Israel. Micah condemned religious practice untethered from ethical performance (3:9–10, 6:3–5, 6–8). Micah was probably not a professional prophet. He criticizes the prophets who give oracles for money (3:11) or tailor their messages according to their clients' generosity (3:5). His credentials are divine inspiration and his unflinching stand for moral truth (3:8). His strong sense of call is exhibited in virtually every line. Fervently yet concisely he speaks to the issues of his day in terms of Israel's covenant obligations. Behind the covenant, in spite of Israel's failure to maintain that bond, is the God of the covenant who yet will lead his people to future glory…

Message

Underlying the manuscript is a courtroom setting, which Micah uses to show the wholeness of the Lord in spite of his audience’s incompleteness. The Lord God subjects Himself to each of the different roles in court, beginning with the image of accuser moving through judge, jury, and executioner, ending most significantly with Himself as the defendant, pleading His case before the people. Micah begins by paying homage to the Almighty and calls for his audience to do the same as “the Lord is coming forth from His dwelling-place” (1:3). The prophet’s next move: a brief overview of what is to come and why. Because of Israel and Judah’s sin (which he marks at Samaria and Jerusalem) the Lord is coming down and “the mountains shall melt…and the valleys burst open” (1:4). As the accuser, God has already—in but a few words—stated his case; in an opening power-play, He notes the hottest spots for both Israeli and Judean worship as the sources of their sin ... how can it be? Their separation from God is a result of their half-hearted attempts to obey Him. All throughout, Micah reassures the aspiring faithful, as in verses 2:7, “my words are friendly to those who walk in rectitude,” 4:1, “The peoples shall gaze on [The Mount of the Lord’s House] with joy,” and 7:19, “He will take us back in love.” This is where His court differs from the courts of the world; the court God herein presents is a forewarning of what is yet to come in light of current action, instead of a current action in response to an exploit past. In 4:9-13, God says you will be exiled from your land—your poor leaders will be humbled—but the conquerors “do not know the design of the Lord…you will crush the many peoples.” Even in the midst of the sentence, He provides hope!

But to whom does this hope extend? Anticipating this question, the Lord explains, “I will bring together a remnant of Israel” (2:12). This remnant language lends itself perfectly to the extended metaphor Micah carries regarding this select group as His flock of sheep. In 4:6-7 Yahweh describes His plan to assemble the lame sheep and turn them into a remnant ... a populous nation for Him to rule. In chapter 5, Micah even uses the imagery of a “lion among beasts of the wild” to describe the scattered remnant and their strength, with the Lord God as their source. As Micaiah (whose elongated name is above described) adulates at the close of the manuscript, “Who is a God like You…who has not maintained His wrath forever against the remnant” (7:18). As of yet unanswered, who is part of the remnant? The overtone throughout this whole metaphor falls into the idea that God is out for the good of those who love him.

References

  • Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.
  • LaSor, William Sanford et al. Old Testament Survey: the Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.
  • BELIEVE Religious Information Source. Book of Micah. (n.d.). 13 Paragraphs. Retrieved October 4, 2005, from http://mb-soft.com/believe/txs/micah.htm
  • Hailey, Homer. (1973). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  • Maxey, Al. THE MINOR PROPHETS: Micah. (n.d.). 20 Paragraphs. Retrieved October 4, 2005, from http://www.zianet.com/maxey/Proph11.htm
  • McKeating, Henry. (1971). The Books of AMOS, HOSEA, AND MICAH. New York: the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press.
  • Pusey, E. B. (1963). The Minor Prophets: A Commentary (Vol. II). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  • Smith, John Merlin Powis. (1914). A Commentary on the Books of AMOS, HOSEA, AND MICAH. New York: The MacMillan Company.
  • Wood, Joyce Rilett. (2000). Speech and action in Micah’s prophecy. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, no. 4(62), 49 paragraphs. Retrieved September 30, 2005, from OCLC (FirstSearch) database http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org
  • Stahlhoefer, A. B. Exegese de Miquéias 2.6-11. São Bento do Sul: FLT, 2005

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