Book of Micah

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Old Testament
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The Book of Micah is a prophetic book in the Tanakh/Old Testament, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets.[1] It records the sayings of Micah, Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?",[2] an 8th-century B.C. prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah.[3] The book has three major divisions, chapters 1–2, 3–5 and 6–7, each introduced by the word "Hear," with a pattern of alternating announcements of doom and expressions of hope within each division.[4] Micah reproaches unjust leaders, defends the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful, and preaches social justice;[5] while looking forward to a world at peace centered on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch.[6]

While the book is relatively short it includes lament (1.8–16; 7.8–10), theophany (1.3–4), hymnic prayer of petition and confidence (7.14–20),[7] and the "covenant lawsuit" (6.1–8), a distinct genre in which Yahweh (God) sues Israel for breach of contract, that is, for violation of the Sinai covenant.[8]

It has been noticed as remarkable that this book commences with the last words of another prophet with similar name, “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (1 Kings 22:28): “Hearken, O people, every one of you.” (the three Hebrew words are exactly the same as the beginning of Micah 1:2).[9]

Content[edit]

Impalement of Judeans by Assyrian soldiers (Neo-Assyrian relief)

Structure[edit]

At the broadest level Micah can be divided into three roughly equal parts:[10]

Within this broad three-part structure are a series of alternating oracles of judgment and promises of restoration:[12]

Summary[edit]

Setting and composition[edit]

Assyrian warriors armed with slings from the palace of Sennacherib, 7th century BCE

Setting[edit]

Chapter 1:1 identifies the prophet as "Micah of Moresheth" (a town in southern Judah), and states that he lived during the reigns of Yehotam, Ahaz and Hezekiah, roughly 750–700 BC.[11]

Micah's career corresponds to the period when, after a long period of peace, Israel, Judah, and the other nations of the region came under increasing pressure from the aggressive and rapidly expanding Assyrian empire. Between 734 and 727 Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria conducted almost annual campaigns in Palestine, reducing Israel, Judah and the Philistine cities to vassalage, receiving tribute from Ammon, Moab and Edom, and absorbing Damascus (the kingdom of Aram) into the Assyrian empire.[23] On Tiglath-Pileser's death Israel rebelled, resulting in an Assyrian counter-attack and the destruction of the capital, Samaria, in 721 after a three-year siege.[11] Micah 1:2–7 draws on this event: Samaria, says the prophet, has been destroyed by God because of its crimes of idolatry, oppression of the poor, and misuse of power.[11] The Assyrian attacks on Israel (the northern kingdom) led to an influx of refugees into Judah, which would have increased social stresses, while at the same time the authorities in Jerusalem had to invest huge amounts in tribute and defense.[10]

When the Assyrians attacked Judah in 701 they did so via the Philistine coast and the Shephelah, the border region which included Micah's village of Moresheth, as well as Lachish, Judah's second largest city. This in turn forms the background to verses 1:8–16, in which Micah warns the towns of the coming disaster (Lachish is singled out for special mention, accused of the corrupt practices of both Samaria and Jerusalem). In verses 2:1–5 he denounces the appropriation of land and houses, which might simply be the greed of the wealthy and powerful, or possibly the result of the militarising of the area in preparation for the Assyrian attack.[15]

Composition[edit]

It is widely, though not universally, accepted by scholars that only chapters 1–3 contain material from the late 8th century prophet Micah.[11] The latest material comes from the post-Exilic period after the Temple was rebuilt in 515 BC, so that the early 5th century BC seems to be the period when the book was completed.[24] The first stage was the collection and arrangement of some spoken sayings of the historical Micah (the material in chapters 1–3), in which the prophet attacks those who build estates through oppression and depicts the Assyrian invasion of Judah as Yahweh's punishment on the kingdom's corrupt rulers, including a prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed.[25] The prophecy was not fulfilled in Micah's time, but a hundred years later when Judah was facing a similar crisis with Babylon, and Micah's prophecies were reworked and expanded to reflect the new situation.[26] Still later, after Jerusalem did fall to the Babylonians, the book was revised and expanded further to reflect the circumstances of the late exilic and post-exilic community.[27]

Themes[edit]

Micah addresses the future of Judah/Israel after the Babylonian exile. Like Isaiah, the book has a vision of the punishment of Israel and creation of a "remnant", followed by world peace centred on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch; the people should do justice, turn to Yahweh, and await the end of their punishment. However, whereas Isaiah sees Jacob/Israel joining "the nations" under Yahweh's rule, Micah looks forward to Israel ruling over the nations. Insofar as Micah appears to draw on and rework parts of Isaiah, it seems designed at least partly to provide a counterpoint to that book.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ben Zvi (2000), p.4
  2. ^ Mays (1976), p.1
  3. ^ Limburg (1988), p.160
  4. ^ Limburg (1988), p.159
  5. ^ King (1988), pp.27–28
  6. ^ a b Sweeney (2000), pp.341–342
  7. ^ Coogan (2009), p.284
  8. ^ Coogan (2009), p.265
  9. ^ Easton's Bible Dictionary – Book of Micah.
  10. ^ a b King (1988), p.27
  11. ^ a b c d e f Rogerson (2003), p.703
  12. ^ Coogan (2009)
  13. ^ Ben Zvi (2000), p.13
  14. ^ Sweeney (2000), p.343
  15. ^ a b c d e Rogerson (2003), p.704
  16. ^ Rogerson (2003), pp.704–705
  17. ^ a b c Rogerson (2003), p.705
  18. ^ Rogerson (2003), pp.705–706
  19. ^ Sweeney (2000), p.387
  20. ^ Sweeney (2000), p.395
  21. ^ King (2006), pp.1246–1247
  22. ^ a b c d Rogerson (2003), p.707
  23. ^ King (1988), pp.31–33
  24. ^ Mays (1976), p.21
  25. ^ Mays (1976), p.23
  26. ^ Mays (1976), pp.24–25
  27. ^ Mays (1976), p.30

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Book of Micah
Preceded by
Jonah
Hebrew BibleSucceeded by
Nahum
Christian
Old Testament