Bible Book Number 33—Micah
Place Written: Judah
Writing Completed: Before 717 B.C.E.
Time Covered: c. 777–717 B.C.E.
1. What kind of man was Micah?
THINK of a man of maturity, one who has spent many years in faithful service to Jehovah. Think of a bold man, one who could tell the rulers of his nation, “You haters of what is good and lovers of badness, . . . you the ones who have also eaten the organism of my people, and have stripped their very skin from off them.” Think of a humble man, one giving all credit for his powerful utterances to Jehovah, by whose spirit he spoke. Would you not enjoy the acquaintance of a man like that? What a wealth of information and sound counsel he could impart! The prophet Micah was such a man. We still have access to his choice counsel in the book that bears his name.—Mic. 3:2, 3, 8.
2. What is known concerning Micah and the period of his prophesying?
2 As is true of many of the prophets, very little is said concerning Micah himself in his book; it was the message that was important. The name Micah is a shortened form of Michael (meaning, “Who Is Like God?“) or Micaiah (meaning, “Who Is Like Jehovah?”). He served as prophet during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (777-717 B.C.E.), which made him a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Hosea. (Isa. 1:1; Hos. 1:1) The exact period of his prophesying is uncertain, but at most it was 60 years. His prophecies of Samaria’s ruin must have been given before the city’s destruction in 740 B.C.E., and the entire writing must have been completed by the end of Hezekiah’s reign, 717 B.C.E. (Mic. 1:1) Micah was a rural prophet from the village of Moresheth in the fertile Shephelah, southwest of Jerusalem. His familiarity with rural life is shown in the kind of illustrations he used to drive home the points of his declarations.—2:12; 4:12, 13; 6:15; 7:1, 4, 14.
3. In what significant times did Micah serve, and why did Jehovah commission him as prophet?
3 Micah lived in dangerous and significant times. Fast-moving events were foreboding doom for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Moral corruption and idolatry had gone to seed in Israel, and this brought the nation destruction from Assyria, evidently during Micah’s own lifetime. Judah swung from doing right in the reign of Jotham to duplicating Israel’s wickedness in Ahaz’ rebellious reign and then to a recovery during the reign of Hezekiah. Jehovah raised up Micah to warn His people strongly of what He was bringing upon them. Micah’s prophecies served to corroborate those of Isaiah and Hosea.—2 Ki. 15:32–20:21; 2 Chron. chaps. 27-32; Isa. 7:17; Hos. 8:8; 2 Cor. 13:1.
4. What proves the authenticity of the book of Micah?
4 There is an abundance of evidence to show the authenticity of the book of Micah. It has always been accepted by the Jews as part of the Hebrew canon. Jeremiah 26:18, 19 refers directly to Micah’s words: “Zion will be plowed up as a mere field, and Jerusalem herself will become mere heaps of ruins.” (Mic. 3:12) This prophecy was accurately fulfilled in 607 B.C.E. when the king of Babylon razed Jerusalem, “so as to cause ruin.” (2 Chron. 36:19) A similar prophecy about Samaria, that it would become “a heap of ruins of the field,” was likewise fulfilled. (Mic. 1:6, 7) Samaria was ruined by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. when they took the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity. (2 Ki. 17:5, 6) It was later conquered by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. and suffered devastation by the Jews under John Hyrcanus I in the second century B.C.E. Of this last destruction of Samaria, The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, 1970, page 822, states: “The victor demolished it, attempting to efface all proofs that a fortified city had ever stood on the hill.”
5. How does archaeology testify to the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecies?
5 Archaeological evidence also adds its voice in support of the fulfillments of Micah’s prophecy. Samaria’s destruction by the Assyrians is referred to in Assyrian annals. For example, the Assyrian king Sargon boasted: “I besieged and conquered Samaria (Sa-me-ri-na).”* However, it may actually have been Sargon’s predecessor, Shalmaneser V, who completed the conquest. Concerning Shalmaneser, a Babylonian chronicle states: “He ravaged Samaria.”* The invasion of Judah in Hezekiah’s reign, as foretold by Micah, was well chronicled by Sennacherib. (Mic. 1:6, 9; 2 Ki. 18:13) He had a large four-paneled relief made on the wall of his palace at Nineveh depicting the capture of Lachish. On his prism he states: “I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities . . . I drove out (of them) 200,150 people . . . Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage.” He also lists tribute paid to him by Hezekiah, although he exaggerates the amount. He makes no mention of the calamity that befell his troops.*—2 Ki. 18:14-16; 19:35.
6. What puts the inspiration of Micah beyond all doubt?
6 Putting the inspiration of the book beyond all doubt is the outstanding prophecy of Micah 5:2, which foretells the birthplace of the Messiah. (Matt. 2:4-6) There are also passages that are paralleled by statements in the Christian Greek Scriptures.—Mic. 7:6, 20; Matt. 10:35, 36; Luke 1:72, 73.
7. What may be said of Micah’s power of expression?
7 While Micah may have been from the rurals of Judah, he certainly was not lacking in ability to express himself. Some of the finest expressions in God’s Word are to be found in his book. Chapter 6 is written in striking dialogue. Abrupt transitions grip the reader’s attention as Micah moves swiftly from one point to another, from cursing to blessing and back again. (Mic. 2:10, 12; 3:1, 12; 4:1) Vivid figures of speech abound: At Jehovah’s going forth, “the mountains must melt under him, and the low plains themselves will split apart, like wax because of the fire, like waters being poured down a steep place.”—1:4; see also 7:17.
8. What is contained in each of the three sections of Micah?
8 The book may be divided into three sections, each section beginning with “Hear” and containing rebukes, warnings of punishment, and promises of blessing.
CONTENTS OF MICAH
9. What punishments are decreed against Samaria and Judah?
9 Section 1 (1:1–2:13). Jehovah is coming forth from his temple to punish Samaria for her idolatry. He will make her “a heap of ruins” and “pour down into the valley her stones,” while crushing to pieces her graven images. There will be no healing for her. Judah too is guilty and will suffer invasion “to the gate of Jerusalem.” Those scheming harmful things are condemned and will lament: “We have positively been despoiled!”—1:6, 12; 2:4.
10. How does Jehovah’s mercy come into focus?
10 Abruptly Jehovah’s mercy comes into focus as, in Jehovah’s name, the prophet declares: “I shall positively gather Jacob . . . In unity I shall set them, like a flock in the pen, like a drove in the midst of its pasture; they will be noisy with men.”—2:12.
11. (a) What denunciation is now leveled against the rulers of Jacob and Israel? (b) How does Micah acknowledge the source of his courage?
11 Section 2 (3:1–5:15). Micah then continues: “Hear, please, you heads of Jacob and you commanders of the house of Israel.” A scathing denunciation is leveled against these “haters of what is good and lovers of badness” who oppress the people. They have “smashed to pieces their very bones.” (3:1-3) Included with them are the false prophets who give no true guidance, causing God’s people to wander. More than human courage is needed to proclaim this message! But Micah confidently states: “I myself have become full of power, with the spirit of Jehovah, and of justice and mightiness, in order to tell to Jacob his revolt and to Israel his sin.” (3:8) His denunciation of the bloodguilty rulers reaches a scathing climax: “Her own head ones judge merely for a bribe, and her own priests instruct just for a price, and her own prophets practice divination simply for money.” (3:11) Therefore Zion will be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem will become nothing more than a heap of ruins.
12. What grand prophecy is given for “the final part of the days”?
12 Again in sudden contrast, the prophecy turns to “the final part of the days” to give a grand, moving description of the restoration of Jehovah’s worship at his mountain. (4:1) Many nations will go up to learn Jehovah’s ways, for his law and word will proceed out of Zion and out of Jerusalem. They will learn war no more, but each one will sit under his vine and fig tree. They will be unafraid. Let the peoples follow each one its god, but true worshipers will walk in the name of Jehovah their God, and he will rule over them as King forever. First, however, Zion must go into exile to Babylon. Only at her restoration will Jehovah pulverize her enemies.
13. What kind of ruler will come out of Bethlehem, and like what will “the remaining ones of Jacob” become?
13 Micah now foretells that the ruler in Israel “whose origin is from early times” will come out of Bethlehem Ephrathah. He will rule as a ‘shepherd in the strength of Jehovah’ and be great, not just in Israel, but “as far as the ends of the earth.” (5:2, 4) The invading Assyrian will have but fleeting success, for he will be turned back and his own land laid waste. “The remaining ones of Jacob” will be like “dew from Jehovah” among the people and like a lion for courage among nations. (5:7) Jehovah will root out false worship and execute vengeance upon the disobedient nations.
14. (a) With the use of what illustration does section 3 of Micah begin? (b) What requirements of Jehovah have the people of Israel failed to meet?
14 Section 3 (6:1–7:20). A striking court scene is now presented in dialogue. Jehovah has “a legal case” with Israel, and he calls on the very hills and mountains as witnesses. (6:1) He challenges Israel to testify against him, and he recounts his righteous acts in their behalf. What does Jehovah require of earthling man? Not a multitude of animal sacrifices, but, rather, “to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with [his] God.” (6:8) This is just what is lacking in Israel. Instead of justice and kindness there are “wicked scales,” violence, falsehood, and trickery. (6:11) Instead of walking in a modest way with God, they are walking in the wicked counsels and idol worship of Omri and Ahab, who reigned in Samaria.
15. (a) What does the prophet deplore? (b) What fitting conclusion does the book of Micah have?
15 The prophet deplores the moral decay of his people. Why, even their “most upright one is worse than a thorn hedge.” (7:4) There is treachery among intimate friends and within households. Micah does not lose heart. “It is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (7:7) He warns others not to rejoice over Jehovah’s punishment of His people, for deliverance will come. Jehovah will shepherd and feed his people and show them “wonderful things,” making the nations afraid. (7:15) In closing his book, Micah echoes the sense of his name by praising Jehovah for His delightsome loving-kindness. Yes, ‘Who is a God like Jehovah?’—7:18.
16. (a) How did the prophecy of Micah prove beneficial in Hezekiah’s day? (b) What powerful admonitions does it contain for this present day?
16 Almost 2,700 years ago, the prophesying of Micah proved most ‘beneficial for reproving,’ for King Hezekiah of Judah responded to his message and led the nation to repentance and religious reformation. (Mic. 3:9-12; Jer. 26:18, 19; compare 2 Kings 18:1-4.) Today this inspired prophecy is even more beneficial. Hear, all professing worshipers of God, Micah’s plain warnings against false religion, idol worship, lying, and violence! (Mic. 1:2; 3:1; 6:1) Paul corroborates these warnings at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, where he says that true Christians have been washed clean and that no one who indulges in such practices will inherit God’s Kingdom. Simply and clearly, Micah 6:8 states that Jehovah’s requirement is for man to walk with Him in justice, kindness, and modesty.
17. What encouragement does Micah provide for those who serve God under persecution and difficulty?
17 Micah delivered his message among a people so divided that ‘a man’s enemies were the men of his household.’ True Christians often preach in similar circumstances, and some even meet with betrayals and bitter persecution within their own family relationship. Always they need to wait patiently on Jehovah, the ‘God of their salvation.’ (Mic. 7:6, 7; Matt. 10:21, 35-39) In persecution or when faced with a difficult assignment, those who rely courageously on Jehovah will, like Micah, “become full of power, with the spirit of Jehovah,” in telling forth His message. Micah prophesied that such courage would be especially evident in “the remaining ones of Jacob.” These would be like ‘a lion among the nations, in the midst of many peoples,’ and at the same time like refreshing dew and showers from Jehovah. These qualities were certainly manifest in the ‘remnant of Israel (Jacob)’ who became members of the Christian congregation of the first century.—Mic. 3:8; 5:7, 8; Rom. 9:27; 11:5, 26.
18. What prophecy of Micah ties in with God’s Kingdom rule by means of Christ Jesus?
18 Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy, not only confirms the divine inspiration of the book but illuminates the context of the verse as prophetic of the coming of the Kingdom of God under Christ Jesus. Jesus is the one who appears out of Bethlehem (House of Bread) with life-giving benefits for all who exercise faith in his sacrifice. He it is that does “shepherding in the strength of Jehovah” and that becomes great and spells peace to the ends of the earth among the restored, unified flock of God.—Mic. 5:2, 4; 2:12; John 6:33-40.
19. (a) What faith-inspiring encouragement is provided for those who live in “the final part of the days”? (b) How does Micah exalt Jehovah’s sovereignty?
19 Great encouragement is to be found in Micah’s prophecy concerning “the final part of the days,” when “many nations” seek instruction from Jehovah. “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore. And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it.” Abandoning all false worship, they join with Micah in affirming: “We, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” Truly Micah’s prophecy is faith-inspiring in providing a forevision of these momentous happenings. It is outstanding, too, in exalting Jehovah as the eternal Sovereign and King. How thrilling the words: “Jehovah will actually rule as king over them in Mount Zion, from now on and into time indefinite”!—Mic. 4:1-7; 1 Tim. 1:17.
Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, 1974, page 284.
Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, by A. K. Grayson, 1975, page 73.
Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 1974, page 288; Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, pages 894-5.