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Micah

I. Introduction

A. Author

The author of the book is “Micah of Moresheth” (1:1). The word “micah” means “Who is like Yahweh?” Micah's hometown of Moresheth is probably the same town identified later as Moresheth-gath in the Shephelah (rolling hills) of Judah. This village was one of many that was captured by Sennacherib in his attack on Judah in 701 BC. (cf. Micah 1:14). Moresheth was an important city which guarded a key route into the hill country of Judah south of Jerusalem. Because of its importance it was fortified by Rehoboam as a defensive center (2Ch 11:5-12) Nothing else is known about Micah, but we can surmise that Micah may have actually prophesied during the invasion and witnessed the destruction of his own hometown by Sennecharib. He probably saw his relatives killed and hauled off into slavery.

B. Date

Micah prophesied during “the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah” (1:1). We know that Jotham began a co-regency with his father Uzziah (Azariah) in 750 B.C. and he assumed sole authority when his father died in 739 B.C. (The year Isaiah was called as a prophet). Hezekiah began ruling with his father Ahaz in 735 B.C. and he assumed sole authority when his father died in 715 B.C. Hezekiah continued his reign until 686 B.C. Thus Micah's ministry extended no longer than 750-686 B.C. The time can possibly be narrowed a little more because of the internal chronological markers.

  • First, the fact that Micah did not mention Uzziah would imply that he had already died and that Jotham was ruling alone as king. This would place Micah after 739 B.C.
  • Second, he began prophesying before the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. because at one point he pictured Samaria's future fall (1:6-7).
  • Third, Micah's prophecies extended to Assyria's invasion of Judah in 701 B.C. because he recorded the distress accompanying that invasion (1:10-16;5:6).
  • Fourth, Micah also intimated that Judah would go into exile in Babylon, Merodach-baladan in 701 B.C. (4:10;cf. Isa 39:1-8)

Thus Micah's ministry could be assigned generally to a time between 735 and 700 B.C.

C. Historical Setting

Micah prophesied during a period of upheaval and crisis. The reign of Ahaz brought spiritual lethargy, apostasy and hypocrisy. The people still worshipped Yahweh, but it was ritual without life-changing reality. Their treatment of fellow Israelites violated the basic tenants of the Mosaic covenant as they failed to practice justice, or covenant loyalty-love and their pursuit of idolatry revealed their failure to walk humbly before Yahweh.

Ahaz's reign also brought subjection to Assyria-the rising power in the east. To protect himself against the combined attack of the Israelites and the Arameans, Ahaz entered into a treaty with Assyria and made Judah a vassal to the Assyrians (2Ki 16:5-9). Assyria's hold on Judah was strengthened when it captured and destroyed Aram and Israel.

When Sennacherib became king of Assyria in 705 B.C., Hezekiah and a number of other vassal states tried to break away from the yoke of Assyrian bondage. Sennacherib secured his throne at home and subdued the rebellious states to his south, but in 701 B.C. he marched west to subdue Judah and the other rebellious nations. Judah was decimated a Sennacherib captured 46 of his (Hezediah's) strong cities, walled forts and countless small villages in their vicinity...” He also captured “200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting ...” The two pronged attack against Judah and Jerusalem focused on the two strategic approaches into the hill country of Judah and its capital. The first side of this prong attacked north of Jerusalem against the cities on the Central Benjamin Plateau, the main entry to Jerusalem along the north (cf Isa 10:28-32). The second side of the prong swept through the Shephelah of Judah capturing the approaches into the hill country to the south of Jerusalem (Micah 1:10-15). The chief city in the Shephelah was Lachish—a city second in importance only to Jerusalem in the kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib captured Lachish; and this event was so significant to him that he commissioned a relief to be made of the battle which adorned the walls of his palace in Nineveh. The relief included graphic pictures of people impaled on poles, being skinned alive, beheaded. An Assyrian relief shoed the Jews going into captivity.

Michah's hometown of Moresheth was also destroyed by Sennacherib at this time, and its people were killed or deported as slaves.

Micah and Isaiah were contemporaries, and their books parallel one another in several ways. One possible difference (apart from the geographical and social background of each prophet) is the general emphasis of each book. Isaiah's prophecies were directed more to the royal household and the people of Jerusalem, while Micah's prophecies were directed more to the “common people” of the land.

D. Purpose

Micah's purpose in writing was to show Judah that a necessary product of her covenant relationship to God was to be justice and holiness. His focus on God's justice was to remind the people that God would judge them for their sin and disobedience (chaps 1-3) but that he would ultimately establish a kingdom whose king would reign in righteousness (chaps 4-5). He convicts Israel and Judah of their sin (in the lawsuit 6-7) and sentences them to judgment

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Assyrian Reliefs: Pictures of siege ramps from Assyria, attack on Lachish - pictures of cutting off heads, impaling people on poles. Maps of attack routes. Slides of Shepelah.

The trade routes were in the valleys. A city on a hill could guard the trade routes. That's where Moresheth was. Lachish was the largest city in the area. When Senacharib attacked, he captured Lachish but could not take Jerusalem. When he went home, he made reliefs of the battle with stone throwers, slings, ramps, battering rams, etc.

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When Micah preached, much of his message was probably warning to Israel, but when he wrote his book, Israel was destroyed so most of the book is written to Judah.

II. Imminent Judgment of God’s People
(1:2-3:12)

A. The Coming of the Lord (1:2-5)

    1. The Witness of the Lord (1:2)

Notice in verse 2 that the Lord is in His holy temple. Where was God when Isaiah began his ministry? Isaiah 6: God was in his temple.

    2. The Arrival of the Lord (1:3)

But God's not staying in His temple. He is coming down to the earth. It is not a walk of joy. It is to bring judgment. “God will tread...” His steps will be like an earthquake bringing judgment.

It says God will tread on the high places. The high places were where the Israelites were forbidden to set up altars and where they did just that to worship other gods. What is the high place of Judah in verse 5? It was Jerusalem. Jerusalem is actually on a hill. The reason it is referred to as a high place is because it had ceased to be the place where they worshipped Yahweh. It is pictured as a pagan high place.

    3. The Respone of Nature to the Lord (1:4)
    4. The Cause for the Manifestation of the Lord (1:5)
      a) The sin of Samaria - Israel
      b) The Sin of Jerusalem - Judah

B. The Condemnation of the Lord (1:6-16)

    1. The Condemnation of Samaria (1:6-9)

In verses 6-7 Micah tells of the judgment on Israel and then the rest of the book deals with Judah.

      a) The results of God's condemnation (1:6-7a)

When the Assyrians destroyed Israel and Samaria in 722 BC they actually took the stones of the city and threw them into the valley. [GET OVERHEAD relief of process.]

      b) The reason for God's condemnation (1:7b)

1:7b The Israelites had degenerated so far that they had temple prostitutes in Samaria. Cf. Hosea. Baal worship had become the national god of Israel. When the soldiers came in and looted the city, they used the money to pay for prostitutes. That's what soldiers typically do. It was a sort of poetic justice.

      c) The prophet's response to God's condemnation (1:8-9)
        (1) Mourning for Samaria's fall (1:8)
        (2) Mourning for the effect of Samaria's fall on Jerusalem (1:9)

1:9 The “her” refers to Samaria. The wound of Samaria - i.e. the sin of Samaria had come to Judah. That sin was Baal worship.

    2. The Condemnation of Jerusalem (1:10-16)
      a) The approaching disaster (1:10-15)

Beginning in verse 10 Micah starts a series of puns to explain what will happen to various cities. He takes the name of the city and uses another word which sounds like the city name or is derived from the city name to describe its downfall and the judgment coming on them.1

1:10a. Tell it not in Gath was a saying that meant, “Don't let my enemies know what has happened to us.” 2 Sam 1: Saul had just died and David composed a song of lament and began the song with this phrase. It became a proverb still used today in Israel.

1:10b. “At Beth-le-aphrah” ( B=b?t l=u^p=r*h u*p*r) (the house of dust), roll yourself in dust - part of the mourning process. You people in the house of dust better start rolling in the dust. You better start mourning, because you are going to be taken away in captivity.

When they excavated Lachish, they found altars to the sun god and signs of Baal worship.

City Name

Hebrew

Meaning

Gath

tG^

Don't tell the enemy of our misfortune

Beth-le-aphrah

harp=u^l= tyb@B

rp=u^ means dust =

In the “house of dust” roll your self in the dust

Shaphir

ryp!v*

The inhabitants of the “pleasant” town will go away in shamful nakedness

Zaanan

/n`a&x^>>>ha*x=y` al

The inhabitants of the “going out” town will not get away.

Beth-ezel

lx#a@h* tyB@

The people of the “foundation house” will lose their support.

Maroth

torm*

from h*r`m meaning “bitter”

The inhabitants of the “bitter” town will wain in vain for a change of fortune

Lachish

cyk!l*>>>vk#rl*

vk#r means “horses”

Those in the “team of horses” town will hitch up ther team of horses to retreat.

Moresheth-gath

tG^ tv#rom

The inhabitants of the “betrothed town will be departing to live with their new husband - the king of Assyria.

Achzib

bz*k=a^l= byz!k=a^

bz*k=a means to lie or deceive.

The inhabitants of the “deceit” town will prove deceitful to the kings of Israel who depend on her.

Mareshah

hv*r}m*>>>vr}yh^

vr~y` means “possession”

Those in the “possessor” town will be possessed by the king of Assyria.

Adullam

<l*D]u&

means “justice of the people”

probably poetic justice - they will get what they deserve.

The nobles of Israel will retreat to the town known for its caves (that they may hide). (cf. 1 Sam 22:1)

Isaiah 10 and Micah 1 give the battle plan that Sennecharib used to attack Jerusalem. You can only approach Jerusalem from the north or south. Sennacharib sent part of his army from the north (Isa 10:) and part of his army came up through the Shepelah from the south.

The only thing which spared Jerusalem was the Angel of the Lord. Sennacharib records that he took 46 strong walled cities, and countless unwalled cities which really left only Jerusalem. He took 200,000 captives. Mysteriously 185,000 Assyrians were killed and they fled home and there is no record of that in Sennecherib's chronicles.

      b) The lamentation (1:16)

C. The Complaint of the Lord (2:1-3:12)

    1. Against greedy people (2:1-13)
      a) The crime and its results (2:1-5)
        (1) The people's greed (2:1-2)

The people are so evil they have trouble falling asleep at night because they are lying awake scheming of ways to steal from others the next day. cf vs 2

        (2) God's judgment (2:3-5)

Here we have the results of their wickedness. Just as they laid awake at night planning evil, and just like they took things away from the helpless, God was planning against them and was going to have a stronger nation come in and do the same to them.

Notice verse 4. Their bitter lamentation would be like crying, “No fair!” The punishment fits the crime.

      b) The rejection of the truth because of greed (2:6-11)

2:6-7. Why did they not believe Micah? Because for every Micah, there were many more that were saying that things would be fine.

This reminds me of what is going on today. Take the media for example. For every Rush Limbaugh, Tom Donohue and Chuck Harter speaking out against the economic, social and moral evils of our government, there are hundreds of liberal media people spreading the “politically correct” dogma.

Most churches of our day don't believe in the final judgment and eternal damnation. For every one that does there are dozens of others teaching a health and wealth, properity gospel. They are focusing on healing, emotionalism, etc. This is not to mention the cults and false religions.

2:8. Look who they took advantage of: The strangers passing through the land, the wounded soldiers who returned from war, the women, and children.

This happens in our country. I remember recently seeing a 60 minutes or 20/20 show about telephone con men who take advantage of older people who are from an age when people were typically honest and they get them to send $100's and $1000's of dollars for “investments” or “shipping fees” or “processing fees” required before the con men can send them their prizes. And then they send them junk or nothing at all.

Think about the tele-evangelists who take advantage of people by promising them health, wealth and prayer if they send him $1000.

2:11 shows what kind of prophet the people wanted to listen to. One that promised lots of beer and wine and prosperity. Does that sound like our society. Robert Tilton ... Bill Clinton ... Promise them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Clinton supporters were proud of the fact that he was able to lie well enough to get elected. It was necessary to win the election and the end justified the means.

      c) The promise of ultimate regathering and deliverance (2:12-13)

This is probably a major break in the section. Now we have a promise of restoration. Because of the mention of the “remnant in verse 12 and the “Lord at their head” in verse 13, the breaker is probably the Lord. So here, in the midst of this terrible message of judgment, we have a section of hope inserted for the faithful remnant, promising them restoration and ultimate deliverance. God will gather the remnant and break away their trouble.

Micah 3:

Princes
3:1-4,9,11

Priests
3:11

Prophets
3:5-8,11

Skin, Bribe, Twist

Teach only if paid

If money - Peace

If no money - War

Not doing justice

Not loving loyalty

Not walking humbly

Judgment: 3:4

Prayers unheeded

Judgment: 3:12

Temple destroyed

Judgment: 3:6,7

Darkness, shame

    2. Against unjust rulers (3:1-4, 9)

The job of leaders in society was and is to provide justice for all. But what were these leaders doing?

      a) Their sin (3:1-3)

These leaders were saying to the people, “If you want justice, it's going to cost you.” When it says they were tearing off the skin of the people, he is picturing it metaphorically and it is the same as we would say, they were skinning them alive. They were ripping them off. The people cried out for justice and the leaders ignored them. All they were concerned about was money and the power it brought them. Notice 3:11a.

Again, doesn't this remind you of our leaders in the white house and congress. Also, in our society, the only ones who get “justice” or should I say, the only ones who win court battles are those who can afford the best lawyers. There is little justice in our courts.

      b) Their judgment (3:4)

The punishment fits the crime. There will come a time when they will cry out to God and God will ignore them.

    3. Against False Prophets (3:5-8)
      a) Their sin (3:5)

They would prophesy peace if they were paid well and if they were not paid they would prophesy doom. They acted like they could control and manipulate God. “If you don't pay me, I'm going to sic God on you.” What was their role supposed to be? They were God's link to man. They were supposed to be serving God and giving God's message to men.

Application: This is just like the tele-evangelists today. If you don't give your money to them they tell you you will not prosper. If you give lots of money, they tell you that you will prosper. They are teaching that you can manipulate God.

They would go to the priest and say, “Is this Kosher or not?” And the priest would say, “What's it worth to you?” His answer depended on how much they paid him.

Application: Do we do this in the modern church? Do the rich people who give lots of money get special treatment? Do they have a bigger voice in church policy even when their spiritual maturity is in question? Do we avoid confronting them for sinful behavior because we are afraid they will stop giving?

This was a lack of loyalty and love to God and man. They priests only cared about themselves and lining their own pockets.

      b) Their judgment (3:6-7)

The reference to night and darkness is a word picture for not being able to see. God would take away their dreams and visions.

      c) Their contrast with Micah who is the true prophet (3:8)

Here we have a contrast between Micah and the false prophets. As for me, I'm going to be God's prophet and tell people what they need to hear. This is the attitude that we need to have. There are people around us who succumb to the pressure to tell people what they want to hear and succumb to greed.

    4. Against all Jerusalem's hierarchy (3:9-12)
      a) Their sin (3:9-11)

The priests taught God's principles for a price. If people paid them, they would preach. If they wouldn't pay them, they wouldn't tell them what God's word said. They were in it for the money.

      b) Their judgment (3:12)

The temple would become a heap of ruins.

This indictment against the leaders shows that there was no justice - no love for their fellow man and they certainly weren't walking humbly before God. If there is one verse you have heard quoted from Micah it is 6:8 which says....

The first three chapters show the problems and the resulting judgment and set up the readers for the exhortation in 6:8.

Also in this section, I think 3:8 stands out because Micah says, “As for me, I'm going to stand up for what is right and proclaim the truth.” It should be a model for us to follow.

Transition: Remember the pattern we discussed that the prophets followed? Description of sin - resulting judgment and then ultimate restoration? Lest we become too discouraged we now come to a section which promises ultimate deliverance.

III. Ultimate Blessing on God’s People
(4:1-5:15)

After dealing with imminent judgment Micah turns to what God intends to bring about in the future. We have contrast with the previous chapter:

In Micah’s Time

In the Last Days

Temple destroyed

House of the Lord established

The priests not teaching

God will teach us

The princes not giving justice

God will judge and settle disputes

All that was wrong in their day

God will correct in the future

Maybe we could look at it another way visually to help us see the main idea:

So we see Micah is giving a contrast between present imminent judgment and ultimate restoration.

A. The Coming Kingdom (4:1-5:6)

    1. The characteristics of the kingdom (4:1-8)
      a) The elevation of Jerusalem (4:1-5)
        (1) Jerusalem: The world center on which nations will converge (4:1-2a)
        (2) Jerusalem: The world center from which God's Word will go forth (4:2b-4)
        (3) Present response in light of Jerusalem's future glory (4:5)
      b) The restoration of the nation (4:6-8)
        (1) The gathering of the nation (4:6)
        (2) The transformation of the nation (4:7)
        (3) The establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of the world (4:8)
    2. The events preceding the kingdom (Judah's Distress and Deliverance) (4:9-5:6)
      a) Judah's Captivity (4:9-10)
        (1) Now
        (2) The captivity in Babylon (4:9-10a)

700 BC and Micah is foretelling that Judah would go into captivity in Babylon. This is the same thing Isaiah is predicting.

        (3) The regathering from Babylon (4:10b)
      b) Judah's Enemies (4:11-13)
        (1) Now
        (2) Present gloating of Judah's enemies (4:11)

Right now Israel is being put down by other nations,

        (3) Future defeat of Judah's enemies (4:12-13)

but there will come a day when Israel will rule over the nations.

      c) Judah's Leadership (5:1-6)
        (1) Now
        (2) Present subjection of Judah's kings (5:1)

Right now the Gentiles are smashing the rulers of Israel. This could be referring to Hezekiah's humiliation by Assyria or maybe of Zedekiah's defeat by the Babylonians 100 years later. Now, in the imminent part, the Gentiles will rule of Israel.

        (3) Future deliverance of Judah's kings (5:2-6)

But in the future a king will be born in Bethlehem. The prophecy of Christ that Herod's wise men used to answer Herod's questions.

B. The Characteristics of the Coming Kingdom (5:7-15)

    1. The blessing on the remnant of Jacob (5:7-9)

Israel pictured as a blessing to the other nations like the dew (only precipitation in summer months) and like a lion who is the king of the beasts, they would deserve respect.

      a) Their divine source of existence (5:7)
      b) Their irresistible power (5:8)
      c) Their divine promise (5:9)
    2. The purging of Israel (5:10-14)

These are the things that Israel had always depended on. God was going to have to take these things away so they would depend on Him.

      a) Removal of human weapons and fortifications (5:10-11)
      b) Removal of occultism (5:12)
      c) Removal of idolatry (5:13-14)
    3. The judgment on the nations (5:15)

Up to this point we have a typical prophetic outline - The condemnation for their sins, the resulting judgment and then the promise of deliverance. But there are two more chapters. What are they there for?

IV. Present Response of God's People
(6:1-7:20)

A. God's Lawsuit against Israel (6:1-16)

The background for this is the covenant or mosaic law. God had told them exactly what was expected of them and when they violated the law, God took them to court. To really understand the prophets, you must understand the Blessings and Cursings of Deuteronomy.

    1. Opening Appeal (6:1-2)

Normally you would go to the city gate and have the elders hear the case. But God is going to have the mountains hear the case. They've been around a long time and they've seen what God has done and what Israel has done.

    2. Questioning of Motives and Actions (6:3)

God asks where he broke his covenant with Israel. What is their answer? There is no answer, because He hadn't broken his side of the covenant. They should be silenced with shame.

    3. Specific Charges (6:4-8)

God recounts his faithfulness to Israel.

The deliverance from Egypt with all the plagues and crossing the Red Sea.

Remember Balaak (who wanted Balaam to curse Israel so he could defeat them.) and Balaam who blessed Israel instead?

From Shittim to Gilgal >>> Where are these two towns? See map...

In other words, God is referring to the crossing of the Jordan on dry land in the flood season.

Verses 6-7 are probably the people's reply to God. “Okay God, just what do you want? More sacrifices? How many? Do you want more money? They are not repentant. They are basically asking God what His price is. It's like being caught for speeding. What is your attitude? Are you sorry for breaking the law or just sorry for being caught.

And then Micah tells them in verse 8 what God wants. He wants Justice and Mercy to their fellow man and Loyalty to God. This is the theme of the book.

Does this sound familiar. Love your neighbor as your self and love the Lord your God ...

Israel had violated both of these ideals. Because of this God could declare them guilty. And that is what follows.

    4. Declaration of Guilt (6:9-12)

They had scales that were made to cheat people and if that wasn't good enough, they had bags with weights that were not accurate to cheat them more.

    5. Sentence (6:13-16)

The curses come straight out of Deut 26 and 28.

Statutes of Omri - Omri was father of Ahab and he set up marriage of Ahab to Jezebel who brought Baal worship to Israel. Therefore the statutes of Omri were statues of Baal.

B. Micah's lament over Israel (7:1-10

    1. Her present distress (7:1-6)
      a) The moral degeneration of society (7:1-4a)

How many people here are right handed?

How many people are left handed?

How many are ambidextrous?

7:3 says that everyone in Israel was ambidextrous. - Both hands did evil equally well.

      b) The coming judgment of God (7:4b)
      c) The moral degeneration of personal relationships (7:5-6)

Unfortunately this is where our society is heading.

    2. Her future deliverance (7:7-10)

But as for me... Here we see Micah's response in the midst of these terrible times. This is something we need to keep in balance. Society is bad, but we need to be sure that we are shining bright for God. We need to continue to live godly lives and have hope.

Micah is talking for himself in vs 7 but it is almost like he is taking the place of Israel in verse 8. He is acting as their representative.

      a) God will bring her from darkness to light (7:7-9)

One of the purposes for prophecy is to give hope in the midst of bad times. Here we see that Micah can see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

We don't know if God is going to let our society go down the tubes or if there will be a revival. If He lets our society be destroyed, we know that it is all part of His plan, and He will right all wrongs in the end, so we can rest in that knowledge.

      b) God will punish her enemies (7:10)

C. God's Blessing for Israel (7:11-20)

    1. Israel's Restoration (7:11-13)
      a) Expansion of Israel's borders (7:11)

Expanded to the originally promised borders.

      b) Movement of people to Israel (7:12)
      c) Destruction of Israel's enemies (7:13)
    2. God's intervention (7:14-15)
      a) Israel will be shepherded (7:14)
      b) Miracles will be performed (7:15)
    3. The nation's response (7:16-17)
      a) The nations will be ashamed (7:16)
      b) The nations will fear the Lord (7:17)

Again and again we see that God's ultimate purpose for Israel was to be a witness to the nations. Here we see that in the last days, the nations will turn to God.

    4. God's foregiveness (7:18-20)
      a) His character (7:18-20
        (1) His forgiving nature (7:18a)

Micah is awed by the fact that God would forgive their sins and restore them.

        (2) His loyalty-love (7:18b)
        (3) His compassion (7:19a)
      b) His conduct (7:19b-20)
        (1) His victory over sin (7:19b)
        (2) His faithfulness to His covenant promises (7:20)

“Thou wilt be true to Jacob.” Israel's future is wrapped up in God's promises to Abraham. God made a promise to Abraham and He will not break it. That is one reason I'm a premillenial dispensationalist. Because unless you see God breaking His promises to Abraham, you have to look for a time when God fulfill all his promises to Israel.


1 Chart is from Dr. Dyer's class notes.