Who was Micah?
1. Name and Person:
The name signifies "who is like Yah?"; compare Michael, equal to "who is like El?" (i.e. God). As this name occurs not infrequently, he is called the "Morashtite," i.e. born in Moresheth. He calls his native city, in Micah 1:14 , Moresheth-gath, because it was situated near the Philistine city of Gath. According to Jerome and Eusebius, this place was situated not far eastward from Eleutheropolis. The prophet is not to be confounded with Micah ben Imla, in 1 Kings 22:8 , an older prophet of the Northern Kingdom.
2. Time of Micah:
According to Jeremiah 26:18 , Micah lived and prophesied in the reign of Hezekiah; according to Micah 1:1 , he labored also under Jotham and Ahaz. This superscription has, it must be said, great similarity to Isaiah 1:1 and is probably of a later date. Yet the contents of his first discourse confirm the fact that he prophesied, not only before the destruction of Samaria, but also before the reformation of Hezekiah (compare Micah 1:5 ).
Accordingly, Micah 1 is probably a discourse spoken already under Ahaz, and Micah 2 through 5 under Hezekiah. No mention is any longer made of Samaria in Micah 2:1-13 to 5. This city has already been destroyed; at any rate, is being besieged. Accordingly, these discourses were pronounced after the year 722 BC, but earlier than 701 BC, as the reformation of Hezekiah had not yet been entirely completed. It is impossible to date exactly these discourses, for this reason, that all the separate sentences and addresses were afterward united into one well-edited collection, probably by Micah himself.
The attacks that have been made by different critics on the authenticity of Micah 4:1-13 and Micah 5:1-15 have but a poor foundation. It is a more difficult task to explain the dismal picture of the conditions of affairs as described in Micah 6 and 7 as originating in the reign of Hezekiah. For this reason, scholars have thought of ascribing them to the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz.
But better reasons speak for placing them in the degenerate reign of Manasseh. There is no reason for claiming that Micah no longer prophesied in the times of this king. It is true that a number of critics declare that Micah did not write these chapters, especially the so-called psalm in Micah 7:7-20 , which, it is claimed, clearly presupposes the destruction of Jerusalem (Micah 7:11 )! But it is a fact that Micah did really and distinctly predict this destruction and the exile that followed this event in Micah 3:12 ; and accordingly he could in this concluding hymn very easily have looked even beyond this period.
Micah is, then, a younger contemporary of Isaiah, and, like the latter, he prophesied in Judah, perhaps also in Jerusalem. To the writings of this great prophet his book bears a close resemblance both in form and in contents, although he did not, as was the case with Isaiah, come into personal contact with the kings and make his influence felt in political affairs.
3. Relation to Isaiah:
The statement in Micah 4:1 ff is found almost literally in Isaiah 2:2 ff. Opinions differ as to who is to be credited with the original, Isaiah or Micah. In the latter, the passage seems to suit better into the connection, while in Isa 2 it begins the discourse abruptly, as though the prophet had taken it from some other source. However, Micah 4:4 f is certainly a sentence added by Micah, who, accordingly, was not the first to formulate the prophecy itself. It is possible that both prophets took it from some older prophet.
But it is also conceivable that Isaiah is the author. In this case, he placed this sentence at the head of his briefer utterances when he composed his larger group of addresses in Micah 2 - 4, for the purpose of expressing the high purposes which God has in mind in His judgments.
4. Contents of the Prophecies:
Micah combats in his discourses, as does Isaiah, the heathenish abuses which had found their way into the cult, not only in Samaria, but also in Judah and Jerusalem, and which the reformation of Hezekiah could counteract only in part and not at all permanently (compare Micah 1:5-7 ; Micah 5:11-13 ; Micah 6:7 , Micah 6:16 ). Further, he rebukes them for the social injustice, of which particularly the powerful and the great in the land were guilty (Micah 2:1 ff; Micah 3:2 f.10 f); and the dishonesty and unfaithfulness in business and in conduct in general (compare Micah 6:10 ff; Micah 7:2 ff).
At all times Micah, in doing this, was compelled to defend himself against false prophets, who slighted these charges as of little importance, and threatened and antagonized the prophet in his announcements of impending evil (compare Micah 2:5 ff, 11 ff). In pronounced opposition to these babblers and their predictions of good things, Micah announces the judgment through the enemies that are approaching, and he even goes beyond Isaiah in the open declaration that Jerusalem and the temple are to be destroyed ( Micah 3:12 ; Micah 4:10 ; Micah 5:1 ). The first-mentioned passage is also confirmed by the event reported in Jeremiah 26:17 ff. The passage Micah 4:10 , where in a surprising way Babylon is mentioned as the place of the exile, is for this reason regarded as unauthentic by the critics, but not justly.
Micah predicts also the deliverance from Babylon and the reestablishment of Israel in Jerusalem, and declares that this is to take place through a King who shall come forth from the deepest humiliation of the house of David and shall be born in Bethlehem, and who, like David, originally a simple shepherd boy, shall later become the shepherd of the people, and shall make his people happy in peace and prosperity. Against this King the last great onslaught of the Gentiles will avail nothing (Micah 4:11-13 ; Micah 5:4 ff). As a matter of course, he will purify the country of all heathen abuses ( Micah 5:9 ff). In the description of this ruler, Micah again agrees with Isaiah, but without taking the details from that prophet.
5. Form of the Prophecies:
The form of the prophecies of Micah, notwithstanding their close connection with those of his great contemporary, has nevertheless its unique features. There is a pronounced formal similarity between Micah 1:10 ff and Isaiah 10:28 ff. Still more than is the case in Isaiah, Micah makes use of the names of certain places. Witty references, which we can understand only in part, are not lacking in this connection; e.g. Lachish, the "city of horses," is made the object of a play on words. (Recently in the ruins of this city a large wall has been unearthed.) The style of Micah is vigorous and vivid. He loved antitheses.
It is a peculiarity of his style that he indulges in dramatic interruptions and answers; e.g. Micah 2:5 , Micah 2:12 ; Micah 3:1 ; Micah 6:6-8 ; Micah 7:14 f. He also loves historical references; as e.g. Micah 1:13 , Micah 1:15 ; Micah 5:5 ; Micah 6:4 f, 6, 16; Micah 7:20 . He makes frequent use of the image of the shepherd, Micah 2:12 ; Micah 3:2 f; Micah 4:6 ; Micah 5:3 ff; Micah 7:14 . The fact that these peculiarities appear in all parts of his little book is an argument in favor of its being from one author. He is superior to Isaiah in his tendency to idyllic details, and especially in a deeper personal sympathy, which generally finds expression in an elegiac strain. His lyrical style readily takes the form of a prayer or of a psalm (compare Mic 7).
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