The Prophecy of Micah

The penman

Like some other prophets, very little is known about the background of the prophet Micah. We do know that he came from the Judean town of Moresheth, Mic. 1. 1, and that he was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah, with whom his ministry overlaps at times. He shares many interesting similarities with the prophet Isaiah in particular.

The name Micah means ‘who is like Jehovah?’, and, as we read his prophecy, we discover exactly what Jehovah is like - just, merciful, gracious, and truthful. Indeed, Micah’s prophecy ends with the rhetorical question, ‘Who is a God like unto thee?’ 7. 18.

The placing

We are not left to speculate as to the historical setting of Micah, for the very opening verse of his prophecy places his ministry ‘in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah’, 1. 1. These three kings reigned from 738 to 690 BC. As we discover from reading the prophecy, these were days generally of great social injustice and spiritual decline.

The point

The main burden of Micah’s ministry was the predicted destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in approximately 722 BC, cp. 2 Kgs. 17, and the later defeat of the southern kingdom, Judah, by the Babylonians in around 586 BC; 2 Kgs. 25; Mic. 1. 1. His book will highlight the just cause behind such discipline, as he outlines the breakdown in covenant responsibilities on the part of both Israel and Judah.

However, all is not lost because at the close of the three main sections of the book he introduces a message of hope for the truly repentant remnant.

The panorama

The book divides into three main sections, all beginning with the call to ‘Hear’, 1. 2; 3. 1; 6. 1. There is a clear pattern in these sections - each begins with the warning of judgement and closes with the promise of salvation. We might outline them as follows:

  • A. Retribution, 1. 1 - 2. 11, followed by restoration, 2. 12, 13.
  • B. Breakdown of leadership, 3. 1-12, followed by the blessings of the kingdom, 4. 1 - 5. 15.
  • C. Accusations of Jehovah, 6. 1 - 7. 7, followed by the assurance of the prophet, 7. 8-20.

Section A: 1. 1 - 2. 13

This great opening section of the prophecy sets the backdrop of the rest of the book. From His holy temple, God calls to attention all the nations of the earth and the earth itself to hear God witness against His own people because of their sins, 1. 1. He comes forth in majestic greatness and all is moved because of His glory and power, vv. 2-4.

Four names catch our attention in verses 5 to 7:

Jacob - there are eleven occurrences of the name throughout the book, sometimes referring to the northern kingdom of Israel, while on other occasions the whole nation is in view. Here, in chapter 1, the title refers to the northern part of the nation that had become Jacob-like in her ways, i.e., twisted and crooked.

Israel - the dignified, princely name given to the nation by God. Alas, by idolatry and wickedness, Israel had lost every vestige of dignity.

Samaria - the capital of the northern kingdom built by Omri king of Israel, 1 Kgs. 16. 23, 24, which became infamous for perverse idolatry, Ezek. 23.

Judah - the inclusion of Judah shows us that the bad example of Israel in the north was rubbing off on her southern counterpart. Soon she would follow suit and judgement would be her portion - there was little praiseworthy about Judah!

The prophet laments with a broken heart because of the nation’s incurable condition and then traces the severity of the assured invasion upon the towns of Judah, 1. 8-16.

In the second chapter, the justice of Jehovah’s judgement upon Judah is underlined, 2. 1-11. The poor were being exploited by the rich, while covetous behaviour, violence, and oppression were the order of the day. Furthermore, when the faithful prophets warned them, the people rejected their warning and embraced the vanity of the false prophets, v. 11. God could not look with impunity upon such conduct and judgement was sure to come.

How precious to hear a word of hope and restoration at the end of this section, vv. 12, 13. The change of tone from doom to hope is abrupt, but such is not unknown within prophetic scripture, cp. Hos. 2. 2; 6. 1; 11. 9.

Note the divine prerogative; three times God says, ‘I will’:

  • He will re-gather His people as a flock into rich pasture.
  • He will remove as ‘the breaker’ every obstacle in their way.
  • He will reign as their rightful king.

Section B: 3. 1 - 5. 15

Chapter 3 expands upon the judgement of those who held places of responsibility; it is true that the nation cannot collectively rise any higher than its leaders, as indeed is the case in the New Testament assembly where the elders have responsibility.

Those who take the position of leadership influence others either for good or bad, which is why their failure is so serious. Three persons are mentioned here:

  1. Princes - these were magistrates who were responsible to administer justice but they ‘abhor judgment, and pervert all equity’, 3. 9.
  2. Prophets - who ought to have faithfully communicated the mind of God to the people, but actually offered false peace, being motivated by selfishness. Meanwhile, they had the audacity to claim the Lord’s presence whilst they flouted His principles, v. 11.
  3. Priests - who, amongst other things, ought to have taught God’s people for their good and for God’s glory but were motivated instead by personal gain, v. 11.

Chapters 4 and 5 focus upon the future restoration of the nation and the blessed consequences of Messiah’s millennial reign.

The Lord will be amongst His people, established and exalted, and thence Jerusalem will be the epicentre of the world and the source of spiritual instruction. All hostilities will cease; peace, prosperity and safety will permeate the whole scene, 4. 1-4.

The scattered flock will be regathered and cared for in spite of the days of darkness and difficulty that lie ahead, 4. 6 - 5. 1.

Chapter 5 verse 2 directs us to what is the best-known verse from all of Micah’s prophecy. We are now brought face to face with the Ruler of Israel, the One who alone will implement all these wondrous kingdom blessings. Note:

  1. His obscurity - ‘Bethlehem Ephratah’ the little town, nine-and-a-half kilometres from Jerusalem, significantly the birthplace of David, 1 Sam. 17. 12. How beautifully this is in keeping with the meekness and humility that marked our blessed Saviour.
  2. His humanity - He would ‘come forth’ by way of the virgin Mary, taking upon Himself sinless and holy humanity, but His birth, says Jehovah, would be ‘unto me’, that is, to fulfil His will and carry out His purpose.
  3. His authority - He would be a ‘ruler in Israel’, but before the crown must come the cross.
  4. His deity - ‘whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting’. Our Lord Jesus Christ was possessed of absolute deity, He is eternally divine. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say of this statement, that it is, ‘the strongest possible statement of infinite duration in the Hebrew language’.1

The rest of chapter 5 speaks of the issues that will flow out of His righteous reign: restoration, shepherd care, peace, and security in Jehovah alone, vv. 3-15.

Section C: 6. 1 - 7. 20

These closing two chapters summarize what has gone before.

With the figure of a lawsuit, Jehovah calls upon the nation to plead their case, to give their account of the story. What has Jehovah done that is wrong? The silence of the nation is deafening. Jehovah has been nothing but kind and benevolent to Israel, 6. 1-5.

What is it, then, that God wants from them exactly? Well, what He doesn’t want is multiple external heartless offerings but rather a character that is marked by righteousness, mercy, and humility - this is the type of life that pleases Him, vv. 6-8.

Anyone who is wise will see that the discipline of Jehovah upon His people was absolutely righteous; their lawlessness called out for it. The state of things grips the heart of the prophet as he feels the weight of the departure. Like Daniel in his day, Dan. 9, he effectively ‘eats the sin offering’, Lev. 6. 26, and, in doing so, identifies himself with the sin of the nation, Mic. 6. 9 - 7. 6.

But, yet again, we have the language of hope, ‘Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation’, 7. 7. Representatively, Micah acknowledges that the discipline of the Lord is deserved and casts himself upon God’s justice, waiting until He turns the tables. The nations will be astounded and ashamed when they see Israel gloriously restored by the pardoning grace of God, vv. 8-20.

The principles

Many lessons could be gathered from the prophecy of Micah. We have seen the costliness of sin; the importance of those who are in responsible roles living lives that are righteous; the stability that comes when we fix our eyes upon God in difficult days. More could be added but there is one verse that stands out, that if we could apply it to our lives would govern us for God’s glory: ‘and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ 6. 8.

  1. ‘to do justly’ - well might the psalmist say, ‘the righteous Lord loveth righteousness’, Ps. 11. 7. Righteousness is seen when we, as believers, live in keeping with God’s character, in practical consistency. We live in an unrighteous world where dodgy dealings and shady practices are commonplace. The child of God ought to seek by His grace to live differently; doing the right thing isn’t always easy or popular but doing the right thing is always right!
  2. ‘to love mercy’ - mercy is the lovingkindness of God, His active favour, something that David reflected when he pitied Mephibosheth, 2 Sam. 9, and it is also a characteristic that we are exhorted to show, ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted’, Eph. 4. 32. ‘Put on … kindness’, Col. 3. 12.
  3. ‘to walk humbly’ - the word for ‘humbly’, tsana, is a rather rare Hebrew word. Its only other occurrence being in the proverb, ‘When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom’, Prov. 11. 2. It conveys the idea of modesty, lowliness and unassertiveness. How unbecoming pride is with a child of God. The three words of Philippians chapter 2 ought to be engraved in every heart, ‘he humbled himself’, Phil. 2. 8. If this were the case, we would not only be preserved personally but we would each be more workable with one another.

The humble walk is ‘with thy God’ -our walk has to be ordered in personal fellowship with Him. It is only then that humility will characterize our lives.

‘A proud man is far from the cross’,

John Douglas.2



R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and D. Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Eerdmans.


Taken from his oral ministry.


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