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Introducing the Book of Micah

We know nothing about the preacher Micah except what is supplied in the heading of the collection of poetic oracles. Namely, he was a preacher to Samaria and Jerusalem during the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; that is, he was a contemporary of Isaiah. Micah is from Moresheth (or Moresheth-gath, 1:14), a city not yet identified by archeologists, perhaps twenty-five miles to the southwest of Jerusalem. Micah’s name means “Who is like Yhwh.”
 
The book of Micah is a loosely arranged collection of poetic oracles. A couple of passages in the book have a relationship to other prophetic writings. The elders of Judah cite one of Micah’s oracles in defense of Jeremiah’s message.
 
Jeremiah 26:18 Micah 3:12
Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: “Thus says the Yahweh of hosts, ‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’”
 
 
Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
 
Moreover, there is also a relationship of some kind between Micah 4 and Isaiah 2. One may have borrowed from the other, or, perhaps more likely, both preachers may have been drawing on a similar tradition within there context.
 
Isaiah 2:2-4 Micah 4:1-4
2 In days to come
the mountain of the Yahweh’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Yahweh,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Yahweh from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
1 In days to come
the mountain of the Yahweh’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
2 and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Yahweh,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Yahweh from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Yahweh of hosts has spoken.
 
It is also worth noting Joel’s different use of the imagery:
Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare war,
stir up the warriors.
Let all the soldiers draw near,
let them come up.
Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, “I am a warrior” (Joel 3:9-10).

How will justice prevail?

The book of Micah opens with a heading and is made up of a series of poetic oracles, collected into alternating sections of judgment and blessing (note the use of “hear” in 1:2; 3:1; 6:1). The alteration between judgment and hope is similar to the arrangement of poetic oracles in the book of Isaiah, a contemporary preacher of Micah. The last section maintains certain psalm-like characteristics and is often referred to as a prophetic liturgy. [1]

Heading (1:1)

A         Judgment (1:2-2:11)

1:2 The “holy temple” is likely a reference to God’s heavenly dwelling (Ps 18:7), from which he emerges to judge Israel’s enemies. Here, however, he is coming forth against his people.

1:8-16 Many of the towns mentioned in 1:8-16 are quite obscure, and not all of their locales are known; and those that are knows were located to the southwest of Jerusalem to protect it (see Micah 1 map). In several cases there are wordplays relating the town names and the judgments: “barefoot and naked” (sholal ve‘arom), Jerusalem (yerushalam); “dust” (‘aphal), Beth Ophrah (‘aphrah; lit. “house of dust”); not “come out” (yots’ah), Zaanan (tsa’anan); “disaster has come” (yaradh ra‘ me’eth), Maroth (maroth); “steeds” (larechesh), Lachish (lachish); “deception” (’achzav), Aczib (’achziv); “the conqueror” (hayyoresh), Mareshah (moresheh).[2]

2:1-5 Those that plot against the socially challenged for the sake of greed by be judged likewise by the planning of God for their ruin (2:1-5). 

2:11-16 The false teachers use tradition wrong, but the people desire the false teaching.

B         Consolation (2:12-13)

C         Judgment on the Greedy Leaders (3:1-12)

3:1-3 The unjust leaders, depicted as cannibals, will suffer the fate they gave others; God’s will not listen to their cries for help.

3:5-8 The false preachers proclaim message of peace because they want to get paid (3:5; see Jer 6:14; 8:11; 14;13).

3:8-12 The leaders—ruler, priests, prophets, judges—are greedy and corrupt, only seeking to secure money. Jerusalem, like Samaria (1:6), will be plowed under.  Also see comparison of Micah 3:12 and Jeremiah 26 above.

D         Consolation (4:1-5:15)

4:9-5:5a “Now” (4:9, 11; 5:1), and the labor imagery (4:10; 5:3) links these poems together.

5:2 the ruler to come out of Bethlehem Ephrathah (the old name of Bethlehem in Gen 35:16-20; 48:7; where Rachel died in childbirth—cf. Mic 5:3) in accord with the ancient eternal hope, namely, the promised Judah-king (Gen 49:8-10; cf. Mic 7:20). This passage was understood as referring to the birth of Messiah by various ancient Judaic peoples (Matt 2:4-6; John 7:42).


E          Judgment (6:1-7:7)

6:3-5 The prophet rehearses God’s salvation of his people, see Exod 6:7; Lev 26:12-13; Num 22-24; Num 25-Josh 5 (Josh 5:9-10). 6:6-8 This famous poem beautifully makes the point of righteousness as the true measure of God’s will. 6:13-15 Compare Deut 28:38-40. 7:5-6 The extreme is even one’s own family will be a place of fear amongst enemies.

F          A Prophetic Liturgy (7:8-20)

7:8-20 This section sounds like a psalm and probably reflects a liturgical background. Among the significant examples of intertextuality are the echoes of the Song of David and the promise of the judgment of the offspring in the garden (Mic 7:10 = 2 Sam 22:43 [cf. Mic 1:2 = 2 Sam 22:7]; [Mic 7:14 = 5:4; 7:15 = 6:4-5]; Mic 7:15-18 = Exod 15:14-16; Mic 7:17 = Gen 3:15; Mic 7:18 = Exod 15:11; Exod 34:6-7; Mic 7:19 = Gen 3:15; Exod 15:1, 4 (cf. Jon 2:3, 5) (and 7:20 with 5:2).



[1] Based on my own reading, and Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture; W. Eugene March, in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, ed. Mays, 660-64. Delbert R. Hillers, alternatively, suggests that the individual poem units are relatively self-contained, and that the book has little overall arrangements, other than catch-word connections here and there (see “Micah, Book of,” ABD, 4: 807-810). Childs offers a helpful discussion of the similarity of editorial style in the books of Isaiah and Micah (434-36).

[2] See March, 661; Hillers, 4: 808.


Also see introduction to the prophets, and see bibliography on the prophets.

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