Israel and Judah sat in ease despite the darkening clouds to their north. YHWH had delivered them in the past; surely He would do so again, or so they thought. YHWH sent Micah of Moresheth to warn them about their sins and the judgment which was about to come upon them.
Micah is the thirty-third book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Micah is the third of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” Micah (“Who is like YHWH?”; cf. Micah 7:18) is identified in terms of his hometown, Moresheth (Moresheth-gath in Micah 1:14), southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. He prophesies during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah kings of Judah (ca. 750-687 BCE; Micah 1:1). He is most likely a late contemporary of Hosea and contemporary with Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4, Micah 4:1-5). Micah powerfully warns Israel and Judah about the judgment to come for their sins, the need for repentance, and how YHWH intends to restore His people.
The book of Micah, after introducing its speaker (Micah 1:1), begins with a summons for the earth and its people to hear the witness of YHWH: He comes from His temple and will judge the land because of the transgressions of Israel and Judah; they will be laid waste, their idols destroyed (Micah 1:2-7). Micah raised a lamentation for the people of God and their destruction: may it not be declared among their enemies, for disaster has come upon the cities and villages of Judah; Israel has been conquered; exile awaits (Micah 1:8-16). Micah then pronounced woe upon the powerful who commit oppression and wickedness; they will be ruined by the disaster coming upon them (Micah 2:1-5). Such people did not want to hear such preaching, convinced disgrace would not come upon them, yet they continued to oppress the people; a preacher of wine and beer would suit these people; only a remnant will be left which YHWH will gather to Himself (Micah 2:6-13). Micah declared specific condemnation on groups of people: the rulers who practice injustice and oppression will not be heard by YHWH (Micah 3:1-4); the prophets who speak positive things when fed and judgment when hungry will be put to shame whereas Micah speaks from YHWH with justice and might (Micah 3:4-8); the rulers, the priests, and the prophets who pervert the right ways and yet expect no disaster to come because YHWH is in their midst will see Zion plowed under (Micah 3:9-12).
Micah then extended hope to Israel in the latter days when YHWH will re-establish His house; people will flow to it from many nations to learn of God; justice and peace will flourish; prosperity will return to Israel when they walk in the name of YHWH (Micah 4:1-5; cf. Isaiah 2:2-4). YHWH will then gather the lame and make them a remnant, the cast off a strong nation, and dominion will return to Jerusalem (Micah 4:6-8). But at the moment Jerusalem will soon writhe in pain, its inhabitants exiled to Babylon; after devastation YHWH will again lift her up (Micah 4:9-13).
Micah warned of a siege to come against Jerusalem (Micah 5:1); a ruler will come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, and he will bring peace and prosperity (Micah 5:2-5a). The Assyrian will enter the land but will be repulsed (Micah 5:5b-6). A remnant of Jacob will remain and will gain the victory; YHWH will remove their idolatry and wickedness and will exact vengeance on their opponents (Micah 5:7-15).
Micah presented YHWH’s indictment against His people before His creation: He has done great things for them, has not wearied them, redeemed and preserved them; they should remember (Micah 6:1-5). YHWH is less pleased with sacrifice than He is with justice, kindness, and walking humbly with Him (Micah 6:6-8). The people have committed idolatry, oppression, and wickedness, and will pay the penalty (Micah 6:9-16). Micah lamented the condition of Israel, ripe for destruction, fat in wickedness, a society overthrown and in confusion; he looked to YHWH for salvation (Micah 7:1-7). Micah warned enemies to not rejoice, for YHWH will execute judgment not only against His people but also those who stand against His people (Micah 7:8-10). In those days all will return to Israel and YHWH will shepherd them; the nations will humble themselves (Micah 7:11-17). Micah’s message concluded with a doxology, a statement of praise to YHWH: who is like YHWH, forgiving transgression, delighting in covenant faithfulness, showing compassion to His people according to His promise (Micah 7:18-20).
Micah’s warnings to Israel and Judah came to pass quickly; Israel was destroyed and exiled, and Judah was overrun by the Assyrians in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. Within a century the prophecies of Micah of Moresheth were esteemed and considered authoritative by the elders of the land of Judah, and further judgment was expected (Jeremiah 26:18; cf. Micah 3:12). Micah’s prophecies well represent the genre: denunciation of Israel’s sin, warning of future judgment, chastisement of nations for their treatment of Israel, and the extension of hope for restoration in the latter days. Indeed the Ruler has come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, the nations have come to the God of Jacob, and YHWH has restored His people, and all through the life, death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. May we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God in Christ, and obtain the inheritance!
Ethan R. Longhenry