- Author and Time of Writing
The prophet Micah’s name is probably an abbreviation of Micaiah (= who is like Jehovah?). Micah came from Moresheth Gath, around 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem near to the border to the Philistines.
Micah lived and worked under the kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah around 750 – 700 BC. He therefore was a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos. During this time the Assyrians attacked the northern kingdom, which was defeated in 722 BC and was brought into Assyrian captivity (see Micah 1; Micah 5:5 ff). In the land itself Micah was troubled with problems such as formal worship without true fear of God, idolatry and oppression of the people by the leadership.
When Jeremiah announced the Babylonian captivity to Judah around 100 years later the oldest inhabitants could remember the prophecy at the time of king Hezekiah in Micah 3:12 (see Jeremiah 26:18). This is a proof that the inspired writings of the OT were immediately recognized and respected as such by the people of God (compare Daniel 9:2 and Ezra 1:1). The same implies also for the writings of the New Testament. 1 Timothy 5:18, for example, is a quotation of Luke’s gospel. 2 Peter 3:15 is another reference (where Paul’s epistles are mentioned).
The scribes at the time of the NT knew Micah’s prophecy as well and correctly referred Micah 5:2 to the Messiah king of Israel’s place of birth. When the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem to worship the Lord Jesus they were sent to Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2.
The words of the Lord Jesus himself in Matthew 10:35-36 are so similar to the ones in Micah 7:6 that we may well conclude that the Lord was thinking of Micah when He spoke them (although He did not mention the prophet).
- Purpose of Writing
The book of Micah consists of three serious prophetical speeches each beginning with “hear”.
The first part (Micah 1; Micah 2) starts with the call “Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is!” Then follows the announcement of God’s judgment over Samaria capital of the northern kingdom and over Jerusalem capital of Judah. The judgment is for their transgressions and injustices as well as their idolatry as they had rejected the serious warnings of God. This is why the whole land was desolated and no longer a place of rest for the people of God. The inhabitants would be chased out of the land but will be gathered again in a day to come.
The second message (Micah 3; Micah 4; Micah 5) starts with the words “Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel”. The leaders and prophets of the people are very much blamed. Then follows a description of the future glory of Israel in the reign of peace. In this section Bethlehem is announced as the birthplace of Messiah (chap. 5:2) who will be the strong helper of the people during the time of the end when Assyria will attack Israel.
At the beginning of the third message (Micah 6; Micah 7) we read “Hear ye now what the Lord saith.” Then follows a remembrance to the love of God for His people and a remembrance to His rightful claims. The mention of God’s righteous judgment, the lamentation and the hopeful prospect of the prophet build the end of this short book. The last three verses belong to the most beautiful ones of Scripture.
Micah thus announces alternately judgment (chap. 1 – 3; 6:1 – 7:6) and grace (chap. 4 – 5; 7:7-20) for Israel. The contents of Micah’s message correspond in many parts with his contemporary Isaiah’s message.
a) The Two Prophets bearing the Name of Micah (or Micaiah)
Already 1 Kings 22:8 ff (and 2 Chronicles 18) mentions a prophet by the name of Micaiah who laboured at king Ahab’s time in Israel. He warned Ahab and Jehoshaphat against the war with Syria but he was not taken seriously. It is very striking that the last words of this prophet Micaiah literally correspond with the first words of Micah the Morasthite “Hear, all ye people” ( hebr . schim’u ‘ ammim kullam; compare 1 Kings 22:28; 2 Chronicles 18:27 with Micah 1:2). The second prophet Micah thus starts where the first ended.
b) Micah and Isaiah
We find remarkably many parallels in the two books of the prophets Micah and Isaiah. They stress the fact that both had the same commission from God at the same time in spite of all differences. They had to warn the people of God and to announce God’s judgment but also God’s mercy and the Messiah. The following show the main parallels:
- Overview of Contents
I. Micah 1; Micah 2 : The Threatening Judgment of God
Chapter1 The Coming Judgment
Chapter2 Guilt and Punishment of Israel
II. Micah 3; Micah 4; Micah 5 : Judgment and Restoration of Israel
Chapter3 Accusation of the Leaders of the People
Chapter4 Future Glory and Final Victory
Chapter5 The Messiah and His People
III. Micah 6; Micah 7 : God’s Way to Salvation
Chapter 6 Appeal to the Heart of the People
Chapter 7 Fulfilment of God’s Promise for the Remnant