Micah prophesied throughout the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, roughly 777–717BC. Micah was brought up in Moresheth-Gath in the Philistine plain, thus he is known as Micayahu of Moresheth. The prophet’s name, in its elongated form "Micayahu," is commonly translated "Who is like God?" or possibly, "He who is like Him (God)."
Micah grew up in a small farming community. The quality of his prophecy, however, has caused many scholars to believe that he received a good education and/or may have been one of the wealthier members of the community; i.e. a land owner, rather than a farm worker or other poorer position. Still others consider him as an elder of the community, indicating his respect among his people. Regardless of his background, he was well aware of the avarice and injustices of the rich.
Some Old Testament scholars, for example Dr Bruce Waltke in IVP`s 'New Bible Commentary', defend Micah's authorship of the entire book. It is generally agreed that Micah composed chapters 1 through 3; some scholars hold that chapter 6 and sections of chapter 7 were also written by the historical Micah. The primary reasons given are because chapters 3-5 foretell of events in the 6th century BCE and chapters 6-7 have elements of a universal religious outlook which was not widely present in Judaism until much later.
Date of composition
The superscription suggests the time of the ministry of Micah as being during the reigns of Jotham (742–735 BC), Ahaz (735–715 BC), and Hezekiah (715–687 BC). These figures allow a maximum period of fifty-five years for Micah's ministry, but it is not likely that he was active as a prophet during all of that time. He was active during the late eighth century BC; he was among the earliest of the Minor Prophets. The message in Micah 1:2–9 was given before the destruction of Samaria in 721. The appeal of Jeremiah's supporters to the prophecy of Micah confirms his connection with Hezekiah: "And some of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, Micah of Moresheth prophesied during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah" (Jeremiah 26:17).
Micah had a populist message in a small town southwest of Jerusalem, Moresheth-gath. Most of the messages of hope can be credited to Micah, but often their general content hinders reconstruction of a specific historical setting. Although we read the canonical book through the eyes of the postexilic community of faith, who come to the fore in 7:8–20, the importance of these sections lies in the spiritual message of these prophetic texts. For this reason, scholars look very carefully at messages of hope. They ask whether they came from the prophet who gave his name to the book or from later prophets. Certainly the final edition of the book gives the impression of coming from early postexilic times.
Micah was a prophet who loved YHWH. Judean politics, society and manner of worship (primarily in the reign of King Ahaz) combine to form the standard of living Micah fervently opposes. “Stemming from the poorer, working class, Micah was acutely aware of the injustices and avarice of the rich,” according to Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia. This awareness is easily discernible beginning in chapter two, directly following Micah’s initial expression of YHWH’s case against the people—Micah speaks boldly against social injustice. In verses 2:1-2 he abhors those in power who “plot evil on their beds,” and he continues, in verses 3:1-3, to indict the leaders of Israel crying, “you ought to know what is right, but you hate good and love evil.” Micah recognizes power as a divine responsibility and sees, instead of thanksgiving and acts of love and gratitude, the powerful (not just politically, but priests as well) conniving to maintain their wealth and further subjugate those of “lesser status.” At the time, even a man claiming to be a prophet would speak only in the way that would benefit him—paying no heed even to his own call to righteousness. At the height of the corruption, false prophets were primarily denouncing the coming of YHWH’s judgment, and "[they] had men’s wishes on their side." And so, these are the issues. . . this is the audience to which Micah evangelizes: a people who could collectively be described as having substituted sacrifices and gestures for righteousness in practice. As he winds down, Micah refocuses his arrangement in Chapter 6, wherein he describes YHWH’s call to justice and loving mercy—nothing more than a humble walk with Himself. In a clear understanding of this platform, Micah delivers the whole of his teaching so richly throughout this text.
The purpose of writing the book was to express disdain for the corruptions and pretensions of Jerusalem and its leaders. In an era of urbanization, he championed the traditions of early Israel. Micah condemned religious practice untethered from ethical performance (3:9–10, 6:3–5, 6–8). Micah was probably not a professional prophet. He criticizes the prophets who give oracles for money (3:11) or tailor their messages according to their clients' generosity (3:5). His credentials are divine inspiration and his unflinching stand for moral truth (3:8). His strong sense of call is exhibited in virtually every line. Fervently yet concisely he speaks to the issues of his day in terms of Israel's covenant obligations. Behind the covenant, in spite of Israel's failure to maintain that bond, is the God of the covenant who yet will lead his people to future glory…
- Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.
- LaSor, William Sanford et al. Old Testament Survey: the Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.
- BELIEVE Religious Information Source. Book of Micah. (n.d.). 13 Paragraphs. Retrieved October 4, 2005, from http://mb-soft.com/believe/txs/micah.htm
- Hailey, Homer. (1973). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
- Maxey, Al. THE MINOR PROPHETS: Micah. (n.d.). 20 Paragraphs. Retrieved October 4, 2005, from http://www.zianet.com/maxey/Proph11.htm
- McKeating, Henry. (1971). The Books of AMOS, HOSEA, AND MICAH. New York: the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press.
- Pusey, E. B. (1963). The Minor Prophets: A Commentary (Vol. II). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
- Smith, John Merlin Powis. (1914). A Commentary on the Books of AMOS, HOSEA, AND MICAH. New York: The MacMillan Company.
- Wood, Joyce Rilett. (2000). Speech and action in Micah’s prophecy. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, no. 4(62), 49 paragraphs. Retrieved September 30, 2005, from OCLC (FirstSearch) database http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org
- Stahlhoefer, A. B. Exegese de Miquéias 2.6-11. São Bento do Sul: FLT, 2005
- Jewish translations:
- Christian translations:
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