From the Editor’s Notebook
Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets
Micah: The Book of Divine Requirements
Key Word: Hear.
Message: “God’s 1. Hatred of Injustice. 2. Hatred of Ritualism. 3. Delight in Pardoning” (Robert Lee).1
Key Verses: 6:8 — “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” 7:18 — “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.”
The name Micah means “Who is like Jehovah?” It has the same derivation as the name Michael, which means “Who is like God?” What we know of the man Micah is found in 1:1, although through the medium of his message we are able to discern his personal qualities and his power as a preacher. He was a native of Moresheth, a small village about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem near Gath in northern Philistia (cf. 1:14). He was contemporary with Isaiah in the Southern Kingdom and Hosea in the Northern Kingdom, having prophesied in the days of Jotham (750-736 B.C.), Ahaz (743-716 B.C.), and Hezekiah (716-687 B.C.) of the Southern Kingdom, and thus during the reigns of Pekah and Hoshea of the Northern Kingdom. These reigns cover a period of 60 years and were marked by political unrest and social decay. Micah is the only prophet whose ministry was directed to both Israel and Judah, the degenerate conditions in these kingdoms having served to mold his message. He was younger than Isaiah, his prophecy having been called by some a “miniature Isaiah,” or “Isaiah in shorthand,” in view of the striking similarities.
It has been suggested that Micah would have made a good 20th century war correspondent since his style is rapid, bold, vivid, incisive and reportorial. At the same time his manner of expression was touching and tender.
Comparing Micah and Isaiah, Dr. Merrill F. Unger (my Hebrew professor in the early 50s) has said: “Micah’s prophecy is a beautiful and moving example of classical Heb. poetry. Like his contemporary, Isaiah, Micah possessed great literary power. While Isaiah was a court poet, Micah was a rustic from an obscure village. Isaiah was a statesman; Micah, an evangelist and social reformer. Isaiah was a voice to kings; Micah, a herald for God to the common people. Isaiah adressed himself to political questions; Micah dealt almost entirely with personal religion and social morality .”2
It is evident that Micah’s messages helped bring about the great spiritual awakening in Judah during the reign of Hezekiah (cf. Jer. 26:18), and it must have been a great comfort to Isaiah to have his witness supported by such an able and devoted contemporary as Micah.
Micah’s preaching was directed to every class for, as W. Graham Scroggie has commented, “No class was exempt from the prevailing corrupting influences: princes, priests, prophets, and people were all victims of social disorder and moral decay (ii. 2, 8, 9, 11; iii. 1-3, 5, 11). Micah shows that, notwithstanding this state of things, they clung to religious ordinances and spiritual forms, and he exposes the futility of this (vi. 7, 8).”3
1. The Prophecy of Impending Judgment (1-3)
2. The Promise of Messiah’s Kingdom (4-5)
3. The Plea for Present Repentance (6-7)
Or, Micah’s prophecy may be divided under two simple headings:
1. Denunciation (1-3)
2. Consolation (4-7)
The scope of Micah’s prophecy is such that he takes us from the gloom of impending judgment to the glories of Christ’s millennial reign; from Bethlehem to the Day of the Lord Jesus.
Micah’s book reveals a rather remarkable prophecy regarding Jerusalem in 3:12, fulfilled in the destruction of the city in 586 B.C. In contrast, the future glory of the Holy City is foretold in chapter 4. Micah pinpoints the birthplace of Christ in 5:2 and, as the liberal-minded Dean A. P. Stanley (1815-1881) has acknowledged, the book unfolds “one of the most sublime and impassioned declarations of spiritual religion that the Old Testament contains,” referring to 6:6-8. Of 7:18 & 19, Dr. A. T. Pierson has commented: “…a little poem of twelve lines in the Hebrew … one of the most exquisite things to be found in the entire Old Testament, and would alone be sufficient to prove that this Bible is the Word of God, for there is nothing like it in all the literature of men.”
To Micah, God was everything, this prophet of old having had an exalted conception of the holiness, righteousness and compassion of the Lord. From his prophecy as a whole, it is evident that he was a man of power with God, one who possessed the peace of God, a man of sound judgment, tenderhearted yet faithful, giving God the credit for everything (cf. 3:8).
Micah has been honoured by being quoted on three occasions elsewhere in the Bible:
1. By the elders of the land, issuing in the preservation of Jeremiah’s life (Jer. 26:18 with Micah 3:12).
2. By the Magi arriving at Jerusalem (Matt. 2:5-6 with Micah 5:2).
3. By the Lord Jesus Christ when sending out His twelve disciples (Matt. 10:35-36 with Micah 7:6). Of Micah’s ministry, Scroggie has said: “It was no easy task which Micah had, but he brought to it strong qualities and a great belief in God and righteousness. He tears aside the veil which hid their sin and shame from view, and he denounces their iniquities in scathing terms. In short sharp sentences he brings his whip down upon the venal judges, the corrupt priests, and the hireling prophets, and makes them smart beneath the lash. He tells them also of coming judgment (iii. 12; iv. 10; 16). But, like his prophet brothers, he looks beyond, to a time of restoration. In the storm he sang a song; in the night he caught a glimpse of the morning. With his threats are mingled promises (iv. 1-8; cf. i. 9-16, v. 7, 8; iii. 6, 7, 12; with ii. 12; iv. 10; v. 8, 6).”4
In his closing comments on Micah’s prophecy, John Phillips states: “Micah liked to play on words, employing as puns the names of Gath, Aphrah, Saphir, Zaanan, and Beth-ezel, various towns he mentions. Indeed he concludes his prophecy with a pun on his own name, Micah, which means ‘Who is like Jehovah?’ He concludes with the challenge, ‘Who is God like unto thee?’ The more we get to know of this great and living God, the more we shall appreciate the parting thrust of Micah.”5
In Micah’s prophecy the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as THE SOURCE OF BLESSING and THE WITNESS AGAINST REBELLIOUS NATIONS.
1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.
2 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Handbook, p. 148.
3 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible I, p. 177.
4 Ibid., pp. 177-78.
5 John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, p. 140.