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Introduction to Micah

I. THE NAME OF THE BOOK

 

A. The book is named after the prophet.

 

B. His name is a shortened form of Micaiah (Jdgs. 17:1,4; I Kgs. 22:13), which meant "who is like YHWH" (BDB 567). Jeremiah 26:18 has the full name in the Hebrew text (i.e., Micaiah). No father is given, which implies a poor, rural, family origin.

 

II. CANONIZATION — This book is part of the "latter prophets" (cf. Ecclesiasticus 49:10), which includes Isaiah through Malachi with the exception of Daniel and Lamentations. Micah is mentioned specifically in Ecclus. 48:10.

 

A. It is one of "the Twelve," a grouping of minor (relatively short books) prophets (Baba Bathra 14b)

1. like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel they (the Twelve) fit on one scroll

2. they reflect traditional Jewish view (Baba Bathra) of each book's chronology

 

B. The order of "the Twelve" or Minor Prophets has been linked by many scholars to a chronological sequence. However, there are problems with this view.

The order of the first six books differ between the MT (Masoretic Hebrew Text) and the LXX (Greek Septuagint):

 

MT LXX
Hosea Hosea
Joel Amos
Amos Micah
Obadiah Joel
Jonah Obadiah
Micah Jonah

a. Internal evidence puts Amos chronologically before Hosea. 

b. The date for Joel is highly debated. I list him as an early post-exilic prophet along with Obadiah.

 

III. GENRE

 

A. Although like Amos in theology, it is different in style. Micah is not the beautiful poetry of Amos, but it has such powerful statements of truth.

 

B. It is characterized by messages of judgment and restoration placed side by side with no transitions (like Hosea and Amos, which may reflect a type of Hebrew parallelism developed from Hebrew poetry). Truth is painted in two colors, black and white (similar to the Apostle John's writing style).

 

C. This prophet gave powerful, passionate, insightful messages from YHWH the Covenant God to His people (Judah and Israel).

 

D. Micah is a prophet of prediction:

1. the fall of Samaria to Assyria, 1:5-7; 6:9-16

2. the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, 1:9-16; 3:12; 4:10-12; 6:9-16

3. the return of the exiled Jewish people, 2:12-13; 5:5b-9; 7:7-20

4. the birth place of the Messiah, 5:2 and His universal kingdom, 5:4

5. the coming faith of Gentile nations, 4:1-5

 

IV. AUTHORSHIP

 

A. Traditionally Micah the prophet from Moresheth (1:1), probably Moresheth-gath (i.e., "possession of Gath," cf. 1:14; Josh. 15:44; II Chr. 11:8; 14:9,10; 20:37, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem), is seen as author of the entire prophecy or at least the source of the messages (later edited or compiled).

 

B. Some modern scholars have attempted to divide the book of Micah among several authors as they have the writings of Moses. However, there is internal evidence that the book has unity:

1. Several chapters begin with the Hebrew term "hear" (shema, BDB 1033, KB 1570, cf. Deut. 6:4), 1:2; 3:1; 6:1. The use of this word may reflect the author's outline of his own prophecies (or an editor's).

2. The metaphors "shepherds"/"sheep" are used throughout 2:12, 3:2-3; 4:6; 5:4; 7:14.

3. Literary device called "interruption - answer" is characteristic of all sections of the book (cf. 2:5,12; 3:1; 6:6-8; 7:14-15).

4. There are allusions (24 passages) throughout the book to other eight century prophets's words (e.g., 4:1-3 with Isa. 1:2-4, see Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 214).

 

C. Micah, in many ways, is similar in personality and message to Amos. Their home towns are only twenty miles apart. They were both men from the country, not involved in the political and power struggles of the royal courts, as Isaiah was. They both identify with the poor, powerless, and socially ostracized. Neither of them was from prophetic families (cf. 3:5-8).

 

D. Micah, living on the coastal plain, would have experienced all of Assyria's invasions into Judah.

 

V. DATE

 

A. The length and time of Micah's ministry is stated from 1:1, "days of Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah" (for the dates of these kings see Appendix). He prophesied about 735-700 b.c. This was after Amos and Hosea, but overlaps the long prophetic ministry of Isaiah.

 

B. Jeremiah 26:18 specifically states that he prophesied in the reign of Hezekiah.

 

C. Since 1:1 addresses Samaria as well as Jerusalem and 6:1-16 is a court scene predicting the fall of Israel, he must have started prophesying before the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c. Bruce Waltke (Tyndale OT Commentary), asserts that Micah's ministry fell between Amos and Hosea, p. 138.

 

D. His ministry also went beyond the fall of Samaria. The book seems to collect messages from throughout his ministry.

 

VI. HISTORICAL SETTING

 

A. Micah is an eighth century prophet who ministered in the southern kingdom (Judah) along with his contemporary, Isaiah.

 

B. It was a time of prosperity and military expansion (see Introduction to Amos). There was much religious activity, but it was the Canaanite fertility cult using YHWH's name.

 

C. The restored and growing Empire of Assyria under the dynamic leadership of Tiglath-Pileser III (see Appendix for dates) was poised to strike.

 

D. The Jewish Study Bible makes an interesting comment, " The name Sennacherib does not occur anywhere, the disaster is not particularly associated with the name of any Judahite king, nor is the world of the text directly associated with chronological information. These features are not the result of chance. The book of Micah does not set any of its literary units in a narrowly marked historical period. The result is a literary work that may be read in general terms because it down-plays particular historical situations" (p. 1207).

 

VII. LITERARY UNITS

 

A. This book is characterized by abrupt changes: 2:5,12; 3:1; 6:6-8; 7:14-15. The author switches from judgment to salvation oracles, compare 2:10-11 with 2:12-13. This demonstrates a literary technique (possibly Hebrew parallelism borrowed from Hebrew poetry) and not a chronological order.

 

B. Basic Outline

1. The coming judgment upon the people of God, 1:1-16

a. exile of the north, 1:5-7

b. exile of the south, 1:9-16 (3:12)

2. the punishment and restoration of the people of God, 2:1-13

a. social sins of the wealthy, 1-11

b. future hope, 12-13

3. the leadership of the people of God condemned, 3:1-12

a. civic leaders, 1-4, 9, 11

b. prophets, 5-7, (the true prophet, v. 8), 11

c. priest, 11

d. consequences, 12 (4:10)

4. the restored future glory of the people of God, 4-5

a. universal invitation for all nations, 4:1-5

b. invitation to the lame, outcast, and weak, 4:6-8

c. the believing community attacked but victorious, 4:9-13

d. the coming of the Messiah, 5:1-5a

e. future victory over Assyria, 5:5b-9

f. the current judgment of the people of God, 5:1, 10-15

5. God brings His people to court, 6

a. the prophet speaks for God, 1-5

b. the people of God respond, 6-7

c. the prophet answers for God, 8

d. God's judgment falls on the city of His people: either Jerusalem and/or Samaria, 9-16

6. God's condemnation and promised blessing of His people continued, 7

a. the people of God's ongoing social sins, 1-6

b. the people of God's future leader will be like God, 14-20

(See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 919.)

 

C. Alternate outline from J. T. Willis, quoted by Bruce Waltke (Tyndale OT Commentaries), pp. 144-145

1. three parallel sections following the same pattern of judgment and hope

a. each section starts with "hear" (cf. 1:2; 3:1; 6:1)

b. each section uses the "shepherding" terminology (cf. 2:12; 4:8; 5:4; 7:14)

2. the sections are

a. 1:2 - 2:13

b. 3:1 - 5:15

c. 6:1 - 7:20

Bruce Waltke (Tyndale OT Commentaries), vol. 23a, follows J. T. Willis' basic outline and adds subtopics (p. 150.)

3. The Heading

a. Judgment and deliverance (1:2-2:13)

(1) Samaria to be leveled (1:2-7)

(2) Lament over the towns of Judah (1:8-16)

(3) Venal land barons sentenced to exile (2:1-5)

(4) Polemic against false prophets (2:6-11)

(5) A remnant survives in Zion (2:12-13)

b. False leaders denounced, a righteous king promised (3:1-5:15)

(1) Shepherds turned cannibals (3:1-4)

(2) Prophets who preach for profit (3:5-8)

(3) Jerusalem to be leveled (3:9-12)

(4) Zion to be exalted (4:1-5)

(5) The lame become strong (4:6-7)

(6) Jerusalem's dominion restored (4:8)

(7) God's secret strategy (4:9-13)

(8) The once and future king (5:1-6)

(9) A fragrance of life, a smell of death (5:7-9)

(10) The Lord protects his kingdom (5:10-15)

c. Hope in darkness (6:1-7:20)

(1) How to stay alive (6:1-8)

(2) Curses fulfilled (6:9-16)

(3) The ship of state breaks apart (7:1-7)

(4) Song of victory (7:8-20)

 

VIII. MAIN TRUTHS

 

A. Micah, like Amos, condemned the social sins of the wealthy and powerful (cf. chapters 2–3).

 

B. Micah, like Hosea, condemned the religious apostasy of prophets and priests (3:11).

 

C. Micah predicted the fall and exile of both Israel (cf. 1:5-7; 6:9-16) and Judah (cf. 1:9-16; 3:12; 4:10-12; 6:9-16) because of their idolatry and covenant infidelity.

 

D. God is just. His people will be punished. God is also gracious and faithful to His covenant, His people (remnant) will be redeemed and restored (cf. 2:12-13; 5:5b-9; 7:7-20).

 

E. God wants His people to reflect His character (6:8), not faithless ritual (6:6-7).

 

F. Israel, Judah, and believing Gentiles will be blessed through the coming Messiah to be born in Bethlehem (5:2). This new leader will be like YHWH (7:18-20).

 

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Bible Study Methods