Micah - Introduction
The prophet Micah, active during the late eighth century BCE, was among the earliest of the Minor Prophets. In the organization of the Book of the Twelve, Micah follows Jonah, an arrangement apparently based on chronology since, according to 2 Kings 14.25 , Jonah also lived in the eighth century. Micah is connected to the book of Nahum, which follows, by catchword; compare the final section of Micah ( 7.18–19 ) with the initial unit of Nahum ( 1.1–3 ).
According to 1.1 , Micah prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah whose reigns spanned 759–687 BCE. Possible allusions to the fall of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in 722 ( 1.6 ), and to the campaign of Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, in 701 ( 1.10–16 ), place the prophet in the final quarter of the eighth century. As such he was a younger contemporary of Isaiah of Jerusalem. Like Hosea, Amos, and especially Isaiah, Micah lived in a tumultuous era, whose events are recounted in 2 Kings 16–19 .
The book may be divided into three sections: chs 1–3; 4–5; 6–7 . Some scholars think that chs 1–3 form the oldest core of the book; it is characterized by the judgmental tone for which Micah was most famous (Jer 26.18 ). Chs 1–3 mainly consist of oracles of judgment; chs 4–5 of oracles of hope. The final section, chs 6–7 , begins with judgment and moves to hope. This alternation between judgment and hope may conform to some pattern in Micah's preaching or it may be an organizing device of later editors. The book of Micah may also have material from subsequent periods (e.g., 4.10 speaks of the Babylonian exile; 7.11 seems to reflect the postexilic period). Further evidence of editorial activity is the close correspondence between Micah 4.1–5 and Isaiah 2.2–5 .
Micah offered a theological interpretation of the dizzying events near the end of the eighth century: the fall of Samaria, the expansion of Jerusalem fueled by emigrants from the north, and the international situation made unstable by an aggressive superpower, Assyria. Micah, from a small town southwest of Jerusalem, Moresheth‐gath, had a populist message. He expressed disdain for the corruptions and pretensions of Jerusalem and its leaders. He recalled the traditions of early Israel ( 3.9–10; 6.3–5 ), and condemned religious practice unaccompanied by ethical performance ( 6.6–8 ).
While Amos and Hosea condemned the high places, provincial shrines where the proper worship of the LORD was diluted by illicit elements, Micah called Jerusalem itself a high place ( 1.5 ) and announced its destruction ( 3.12 ), for which he was long remembered (see Jer 26.18 ). At the same time, Micah never lost faith in the future. The middle section of the book, chs 4–5 , contains images of a restored and glorious Zion to which the nations make pilgrimage, and of an ideal king ( 5.2–5 ).