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Micah, The Book of

The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

    Micah, The Book of

    The Author.

    Micah, a shortened form of Micaiah (which occurs in Jer. 26.18), means “Who is like Yah(weh)?” He was a person of whom we know practically nothing other than his place of origin, which was Moresheth (Mic. 1.1) or Moresheth‐gath (1.18), a tiny village in the Judean foothills (Map 8:W5). (Mic. 1.8–16, doubtless Micah's own words, confirms the information in the title of the book supplied late by an editor at 1.1, since here he seems to be speaking of the small part of the world that he knew best.) From other internal evidence it is likely too that the other data of the opening title are valid, namely, that he spoke “in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah.” He was, in other words, a Judahite seer or prophet, roughly contemporary with the much better known Isaiah.

    Although Micah's comments on Judean society strongly parallel those of his presumed contemporary and supplement them to a large degree, there is a pronounced difference in tone between the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah. Micah's is the voice of the countryside, of one who has empirical knowledge of the result of the evil policies that Isaiah, an aristocrat of Jerusalem, could only surmise, however much he wanted to empathize with the suffering of his compatriots. Micah was presumably from the common people, one who felt himself called on in that age of turmoil to speak in the name of Israel's God against evils that were no longer tolerable.

    The Times.

    Although the book of Micah may contain much material that was added to or expanded on that of the original prophetic author, its nucleus goes back to Micah of Moresheth, who, in the latter part of the eighth century BCE, was protesting the internal dissolution of his country and of its religious and national nerve. His prophetic career may have begun about 725 BCE when it had become evident that the northern kingdom of Israel—where prophecy had begun and which had always been the “elder sister” of the kingdom of Judah to the south (Ezek. 23.1–3)—was now doomed to disappear into the outreaches of the voracious Assyrian empire. Judah, by a combination of cynical statecraft, collaborationism, and religiously unacceptable compromise, would still be able to hold off the inevitable for a time; indeed, it outlasted the Assyrians only to become prey to their Neo‐Babylonian successors. But this was done by the sacrifice of national and religious integrity, and in the end the result was the same, as Ezekiel (chap. 23) pointed out after the fact.

    The Book.

    The book of Micah, as has already been suggested, begins with the work of an eighth‐century BCE prophet whose words have been adapted to changed conditions, added to, and amplified in later generations. This process says nothing against the transmission of the biblical word but rather enhances its integrity. The biblical word, in the mind of those who preserved and developed biblical traditions, was not dead, said for one time, but a living word that could continue to inspire the faith community in which it had been engendered to further insights into the mind of God. Accordingly, the contents of the book of Micah can be outlined as follows:

    1.1 A title from a later Judahite editor
    1.2–7 A judgment on Samaria: Micah's, but later edited into a universal judgment
    1.8–16 Micah's lament over Judah of his day
    2.1–5 Micah's particular condemnation of the exploiters
    2.6–11 Micah's retort to the “naysayers” of prophecy
    2.12–13 Vision of a “new Israel” inspired by Second Isaiah or Ezekiel
    3.1–4 Micah's judgment against the rulers of Judah
    3.5–8 Against the “prophets of peace” (cf. Jer. 6.14; 8.11)
    3.9–12 The end of Jerusalem
    4.1–4 The eschatological Zion: a postexilic hymn (= Isa. 2.2–4)
    4.5–8 Yahweh and the gods probably a postexilic fantasy
    4.9–11 An exilic or postexilic realization of Judah's fate in the Babylonian period
    4.11–5.1 The siege of Jerusalem: Sennacherib's in 701?
    5.2–6 The ruler to come; possibly Micah's words
    5.7–9 The restoration of the remnant of Jacob; obviously exilic or postexilic
    5.10–15 An oracle of judgment, probably Micah's
    6.1–8 God's lawsuit against Israel, possibly Micah's
    6.9–16 God's judgment on social injustice, especially of the northern kingdom; probably Micah's, at least substantively
    7.1–7 Another condemnation of social justice, probably by Micah
    7.8–10 Recovery of Zion; some postexilic prophet
    7.11–20 Rebuilding of Zion and Zion's prayer; some prophet after 445 BCE.

    Bruce Vawter, C.M.

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