The prophet Micah, whose name means “Who is like Jehovah,” was a contemporary with the prophets Hosea and Isaiah. While Isaiah is counted as the court/ palace prophet of the day in Judah, Micah is more widely seen as “the country preacher.”
Historical setting: Micah prophesied during the time of the Divided Kingdom. Specifically, he proclaimed God’s message in the Southern Kingdom during the days of three of Judah’s kings: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. The general date assigned to Micah’s prophetic work is B.C. 735 to 700.
Micah was blessed to serve the Lord during the reign of King Hezekiah, who was one of the most conscientious reformers in Judah’s history. Yet, when we read Micah’s message to God’s people, he portrays them as sin-ridden and heading toward destruction. In fact, though the main thrust of what Micah spoke was directed to the Southern Kingdom, including a prediction of Jerusalem’s fall (3:12), he also prophesied about the destruction of Samaria, which stood as a symbol of the Northern Kingdom (1:5,6).
Some key thoughts:
(1) Spiritual corruption in Judah was widespread. Empowered by the Spirit of Jehovah, Micah’s task was “to declare to Jacob his transgressions and to Israel his sin” (3:8). Doing so was not the most pleasant task in the world, but one which God wanted His servant to carry out. How Judah needed to face the reality of her sins and repent! Micah’s message was an outcry against the lack of respect for authority in the land. At the same time, though, his words held out hope and peace for those who would submit to the ultimate Authority – God.
What forms of evil were prevalent among God’s people in Micah’s day? Idolatry was widespread (1:7; 6:16), the people lie awake at night scheming about how to work iniquity after daybreak (2:1), and covetous men violently took other’s property (2:2). Some were guilty of mistreating the poor and those who were unable to defend themselves (2:8,9; 3:3).
People of the land told the true prophets not to prophesy (2:6). At the same time, the priests and pseudo prophets were instruments of wickedness. They lied and caused God’s people to go astray (2:11; 3:5). They also were hirelings who warred against those who would not pay them: “Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, ‘Is not he LORD among us?’” (3:11).
National leaders were corrupt, being guilty of hating good and loving evil (3:1,2). They mistreated and took advantage of the people (3:2). They took bribes and schemed together to carry out immorality (7:3). Does that not sound like many modern-day civil leaders?! Human nature does not change, does it?
It was no secret that Judah would reap the fruit of her spiritual pollution. God’s blunt message through Micah was, “And to Babylon you shall go” (4:10). Micah made that prediction about one hundred years before Judah was carried away to Babylon.
(2) In contrast to the evil that was so prolific in Judah, what did God want to see in the lives of His children? First, He wanted them to “know the righteousness of the LORD” (6:5). In that same context, we read one of the most well-known statements from Micah’s pen: “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8). God wanted His people to see that worship to Him was of no value unless they lived righteously in their daily lives. He also wanted them to understand that it is not a matter of choosing between (1) serving Him and (2) treating other people properly. He wanted them (and wants us) to do both: love God and our neighbors.
(3) Micah says much about a “remnant,” which was a reference to the faithful minority among God’s people. Micah’s remnant message offered comfort and hope to the faithful servants of Jehovah who endured and stayed loyal to Him (2:12; 4:7; 5:3,7,8; 7:18).
Pointers to the Christ and His reign: There are a number of statements in Micah’s message which point to the Messiah and His covenant. Perhaps the first one which comes to mind is this: “The One to be Ruler in Israel” was to come forth out of Bethlehem (5:2). This was a clear reference to a historical event which occurred about seven hundred years later: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:1).
Another powerful prediction is recorded in Micah 4:1,2. There, in language that closely resembles the wording of Isaiah 2, it is written that “. . . in the latter days . . . the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains . . . For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” Micah was foretelling the establishment of the church, which is God’s house (1 Timothy 3:15). The prophet went on to describe the peaceful reign of the Messiah (4:3-7).
See if this sounds familiar: “A man’s enemies are the men of his own household” (7:6). Jesus used that language when He spoke about the need for His disciples to love Him more than they love their own family members (Matthew 10:35-37). There is much for us to learn and appreciate in the book of Micah.
— Roger D. Campbell