Micah means “who is like Yahweh?” He was a contemporary of Hosea (Israel) and Isaiah (Jerusalem, Judah). His ministry was to the common people of Judah and he has been called a “country preacher”. He was from the town of Moresheth, in southwest Palestine…about 30 miles from Jerusalem and on the Philistine border (near Gath).
Time written & time covered in history:
Micah ministered (3:1) during the reigns of Jotham (750-731…basically a good king, however, he did not remove the pagan worship places called “high places”), Ahaz (731-715…a terribly wicked king who adopted a pro-Assyrian foreign policy and it was during his reign that the northern Kingdom was captured by Assyria, 722), and Hezekiah (715-686…a good king who withstood the Assyrian assault led by Sennacherib in 701…cf. 2 Kings 18:13-19:36). Thus, Micah witnessed the apostasy of his nation’s government and it’s recovery.
Micah predicted the fall of Samaria (1:6-Israel, the northern kingdom) and Jerusalem (3:12; 4:10-Judah, the southern kingdom). They would both become “a heap of ruins”. In 734, Assyria carried off most of the inhabitants of Israel…and in 722 the capital, Samaria was destroyed. Jerusalem was later captured by Nebuchadnezzar, in 605 and carried away in exile to Babylon. This prophecy is all the more amazing when we realize that at the time that Micah made it Assyria was the dominant world power. It would be another 100 years before the Babylonian empire would exert its power.
Micah addresses his messages to Samaria (capital of Israel) and Jerusalem (capital of Judah). The existing national corruption had begun in Israel 200 years earlier when they had adopted Calf worship, and Baal worship, along with other Canaanite, Syrian, and Assyrian idols and idol practices. God had sent them Elijah, Elisha and Amos…but they failed to respond.
His was a voice calling out for social justice. During his time the peasants and villagers were harassed by enemy armies, they were exploited by the wealthy (2:1-11), and oppressed by their own rulers (3:1-4) and false prophets (3:5-8). Micah spoke out against the social sins of his day. These corrupting influences were found throughout the entire fabric of society…from princes, to priests, to common people (2:2,8-9,11; 3:1-3,5,11). Micah made it clear that a cruel act against another person was an insult to God, Himself. And yet, despite their sacrilegious behavior toward each other…the people continued on in their religious activities toward God as if nothing was wrong. Micah told them that because of this their religious observances were useless (6:7-8). Micah knew that national sin would lead to national downfall.
How did the people respond to the message of Micah? They told him to stop saying such things (2:6). They said that the things he predicted would never happen to them because they were the people of God. They preferred instead to hear preaching that made them happy (2:10-11).
- God’s strength was the source of Micah’s power (3:8)
- God is aware of the circumstances of His people (1:2)
- The elements of true religion and worship of God (6:8; cf. Matthew 23:23; John 4:24)
- Sin and injustice prevent God from hearing prayer (3:4,7)
- Prophetic references to the restoration of the Kingdom in the last days (4:1-2-Jerusalem will be the capital of Christ’s Kingdom; 4:2-the Kingdom will be universal; 4:2-peace with be the them of the Kingdom; 4:4-prosperity will abound in the Kingdom; 4:2,5-righteousness will be the rule of the Kingdom)
- Prophetic references to the coming Messiah, Jesus (2:12-13-Christ as King [this is the passage that the Magi read]; 4:1,7-Christ reigning in righteousness over the whole earth; 5:2-birthplace named)
In Micah’s horizon, in the dim distance, loomed the majestic figure of the coming MESSIANIC KING, making his advent, out of Eternity (2), by way of Bethlehem. Zion’s deliverance from Assyria by the Angel of God was, in some respects, a picture forecast of a coming Greater Deliverance by the Saviour of men. Many Old Testament predictions of Christ were cloudily blurred with historic situations of the prophet’s own times, yet too clear to be mistaken. Unquestionably the Eternal Ruler from Bethlehem (2), is to be identified with the Wonderful Child of Isaiah 9:6-7. This is the only place in the Old Testament it is specifically stated that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem…
Hallley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, p. 367
Six of Micah’s prophecies have already been fulfilled:
- The fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. (1:6-7)
- The Invasion of Judah in 702 B.C. (1:9-16)
- The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (3:12; 7:13)
- The exile of Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C. (4:10)
- The return of Judah from exile (4:1-8; 7:11,14-17)
- The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (5:2)
- Micah is quoted 3 times by other Biblical writers:
- Jeremiah 26:18 [3:12]-elders of Judah;
- Matthew 2:5-6 [5:2]; -magi coming to Jerusalem;
- Matthew 10:35-36 [7:6]-Jesus when He sent out the twelve)
The book of Micah is divided into 3 sermons or messages. While we can establish a general flow of the content of Micah’s message…he constantly shifts from one topic to another and from one historical time frame to another.
A Message Concerning the Judgment of Israel Micah 1-3
A Message Declaring the Coming of Christ (Messiah) Micah 4-5
A Message Clarifying the Indictment of God Micah 6-7
A Message Concerning the Judgment of Israel Micah 1-3
The Scene is the Present (Israel in Micah’s day)
Micah 1:1-16 The Revelation of the Coming Judgment
Micah 1:1-5-God is coming to judge the people because of their "rebellion" and “sins”.
Micah 1:6-7-He says that the responsibility for this rebellion begins with the capitals.
Micah 1:8-9-Micah is heartbroken over what God has shown him and he mourns intensely.
Micah 1:10-16-Micah begins by telling them to not make his words known to the people in Gath because it was a Philistine city and it hurt him to think that they would rejoice over what he was going to say.
In these verses Micah uses an interesting word play based on the names of the cities he mentions and what was happening.
1:10-16 Micah traces the route of the invading army from the Philistine coastal plain through the Judean hills to Jerusalem. Tell it not in Gath. A proverbial expression for disaster (2 Sam. 1:20). Micah foresaw the women being taken captive first (the word for inhabitant in vv. 11 and 12 is feminine). Micah uses puns in denouncing these cities; e.g., Shaphir (v. 11) sounds like the Hebrew word for beauty and is contrasted with their shame; Zaanan (v. 11) sounds like a verb meaning “to go out” and is contrasted with the fear of the people to go outside their houses; Beth-ezel (v. 11) sounds like a word meaning “foundation,” and they had none; Maroth (v. 12), like a word meaning “to wait for good,” whereas they were waiting for evil.
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote on Micah 1:10-16, pp. 1282-1283
- In Beth Aphrah roll yourself in the dust: Following to the end of the chapter, Micah uses puns and plays on words to talk about the judgment coming upon the cities of Judah. These towns are clustered in the Shephelah - the lowlands between the coastal region and the mountains of Judah.
- Though Micah uses puns, this isn't about clever word games - it goes back to the ancient idea that a name isn't just your "handle" but describes - sometimes prophetically - your character and your destiny. In showing how the name of these cities is in some way a prophecy of their destiny, Micah shows how our character becomes our future.
- Beth Aphrah: To Micah, Aphrah sounds like the Hebrew word for dust, so he told the citizens of Beth Aphrah to roll in the dust in anticipation of coming judgment.
- Shaphir: The name of this town sounds like the word for beautiful. It won't be beautiful for long, and Micah warns the citizens of Shaphir to prepare for judgment.
- Zaanan: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for exit or go out. When the siege armies come, they won't exit at all - they will be shut up in the city until it falls.
- Beth Ezel: The name of this town means the nearby city. When the army of judgment comes, it won't be near and helpful to any other city.
- Maroth: The name of this town means bitterness, and when the army of judgment comes the citizens of Maroth will know plenty of bitterness.
- Lachish: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for to the horses. Lachish was an important fortress city, and they should go to the horses to fight, but ironically they will go to the horses to flee the army of judgment.
- Moresheth: The name of this - Micah's hometown - sounds like the Hebrew word for betrothed. Here he speaks of giving the city wedding gifts as she passes from the rule of one "husband" (Judah) to another (the invading army).
- Aczib: The name of this town sounds like the Hebrew word for deceitful or disappointing. This city will fall so quickly it will be a deception and a disappointment for Israel.
- Mareshah: The name of this town is related to the Hebrew word for possessor or heir. The invading army will soon possess this city.
- Adullam: The was the place of refuge for David when he fled from King Saul. It will again be a place of refuge for the high and mighty among Israel, when they are forced to hide out in Adullam.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Micah 1,
Micah 2:1-11 The Identification of the Causes for Judgment
Micah 2:1-5-They take advantage of those who cannot protect themselves
Micah speaks out against those who use their position and power (the upper class) to take from the poor (:1-2). The words “calamity” and “on that day” speak of the time when they would be invaded. Because of their sin, instead of saving them, He will allow foreigners to take their land (:5, the invading armies).
Micah 2:6-7-The refuse to listen to the prophets of God
The New Living Translation (NLT) helps us to better understand what is being said here (:6):
“Don’t say such things,” the people respond. “Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way!”
- Micah began his ministry in the reign of Jotham - but nobody listened. Then he prophesied during the reign of Ahaz - but nobody listened. Finally he prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah - and the leaders and the people repented. Micah didn't give up, even though results were slow in coming. Micah preached for anywhere between 16 and 25 years before there was any response.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Micah 2,
Micah 2:8-They take advantage of those who have just returned from war
Micah 2:9-They take advantage of women and children.
Micah 2:10-11-Micah tells them that the words of these false prophets will never give them rest. But regardless, the people would rather listen to a drunk prophet than to a true prophet of God…because they tell them that only good things are going to happen.
Micah 2:12-13-Micah tells them that though their sin is great…God is still going to gather a remnant of them back.
- The one who breaks open can be translated as a title - the King James Version has it as the Breaker. We can see this as a more obscure, but no less precious messianic title of Jesus - The Breaker. In this office, he is the captain and leader of His people, advancing in front of His flock. How we need a Breaker, a trailblazer in our life!
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Micah 2,
Micah 3:1-4 Judgment of the rulers declared
Micah gives a vivid description of the extent of the injustice that the people practice in regards to other people by comparing what they do to how butchers treat animals. They practice such injustice and then cry out for God to help them. But He will not respond.
Micah 3:5-8 Judgment of the false prophets declared
Micah speaks out against false prophets. To those people who give them food they make prophecies of peace. But, to those who will not pay them they prophesy bad things will happen (:5-6). Eventually it will become clear that they are just making it up as they go and have received no word from God (:7). They have no power, but He has the "Spirit of the LORD" (:8).
Micah 3:9-12 Judgment of the leaders of Jerusalem declared
Because of their injustice and attempt to use God for their own benefit, in order to get money...He will judge them.
Prayer: Father, don’t ever let me see You as a means of gain. On one hand, I love Your blessings and I know that You promise to do so. But don’t ever let me deceive myself…thinking that I am doing something out of love for You, when in reality I am doing it so that You will bless me. Please, Lord, give me discernment in regards to the intentions and motivations of my own heart.