During the reign of King Uzziah, Judah expanded its territory and the land became very prosperous. This affluence continued for awhile under Jotham but eventually declined under Ahaz who was an evil king and adopted many abominable heathen practices (II Kgs. 16:3,4). Hezekiah, the next king, worked hard to cleanse Judah from the idolatry that his father, Ahaz, had made popular. During the reigns of these latter three kings (760-700 BC) Micah prophesied against Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of Israel and Judah (1:1).
Although we know little about Micah, other than his citizenship, we have a strong scriptural witness he was regarded as a genuine prophet. The prophet Jeremiah substantiates both the historicity of his prophecy and the impact it had on Hezekiah (Jer. 26:18,19).
Micah’s petitions are directed toward many groups: “all ye people;” “heads of Jacob and princes of the house of Israel;” “prophets who make my people to err;” priests who “teach for hire” and even the land itself, “mountains and hills” (1:2; 3:1,5,9,11; 6:1,2). In a sense, he even intended it for us as he pleads with the “earth, and all that is therein” (1:2).
Hopefully, by reading Micah, we can see more clearly the lapses in our own lives and take the necessary steps to correct them. Certainly we want to avoid a fate like that which Micah prophesied for Israel and Judah.
Oppression and idolatry
In his prophecy, Micah mentions many problems which troubled the people of Israel. Much of the everyday discomfort came from a widespread disregard for the provisions God had made for the poor in His law (Exo. 23:4-9). Sadly, the poor were oppressed by others, simply because it was “in the power of their hand” to do so. The rich enthusiastically crushed their victims “with both hands earnestly” (2:1; 7:3).
Oppression was a serious problem, but so was the idolatry that had been introduced by two earlier kings of the northern kingdom. Micah proclaims that even now the “statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels” (6:16). So serious had these problems become that Micah declares “her wound is incurable” (1:9). God’s only alternative was to destroy the cities and scatter the people.
Sins of the average person
In his short prophecy Micah’s first concern is with the average citizens. Some could hardly wait to perform the evil they had thought of the previous night (2:1). They coveted the property of others and did not hesitate to take it by violence (2:2,8,9). This attitude was so ingrained in the oppressors, God planned to remove them from the land (2:4,5,10). Yet even as Micah announced God’s intention to remove many, he disclosed that a “remnant”should be blessed (2:12,13).
Sins of the rulers
While the citizens of the land could be faulted for their oppression, the rulers also had to accept some of the blame and so Micah pleads with them. Because they “hated the good and loved the evil,” the “heads and princes”routinely refused to take any action against the oppressors, “abhorring judgment and perverting all equity” (3:2,9,10).
Conditions were so bad that the oppressed were treated like animals and the rulers “behaved themselves ill in their doings” (3:3,4). Micah claimed that behind the ruler’s inaction lay an ignorance of God’s judgments. Their approach to living was so vile God would refuse to hear their cry when calamity came (3:1,4).
The false prophets
Micah addresses still another group — the false “prophets that make my people err” (3:5). While the false prophets refused to tell the people the truth, Micah “declared unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (3:8). Micah informs them the “sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them,” foretelling their demise (3:6).
Instead of speaking the Lord’s word, as Micah had courageously done, the false prophets made up stories designed to extract a reward from their audience (3:11). People loved to listen to these good news prophets and so Micah facetiously suggested what would make a popular message. Any who would prophesy of “wine and strong drink” (prosperity) was the kind of prophet that his countrymen would listen to (2:11).
While Micah certainly had much bad news to deliver, his message also contained a measure of good news. Although both Samaria and Jerusalem were about to fall, Micah prophesied of a time when Jerusalem would be restored. The people would be scattered, but Micah also spoke of a regathering. God would not leave the land desolate and the people scattered forever.
None of God’s decisions are the least bit arbitrary. Since God is just and merciful, this necessarily requires many factors be fully accounted for in His decisions. God does not leave persistent evil unpunished, yet He must keep His promises to Abraham. Ultimately, then, the land had to be restored and a remnant saved. Justice and mercy are balanced in all of God’s decisions.
Prophecies of the Messiah
The brighter part of Micah’s message contains specific examples of messianic prophecy. Both Matthew (Matt. 2:6) and John (John 7:42), quote the prophet Micah when confirming the place of Jesus’ birth: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel” (Mic. 5:2).
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, expresses his confidence in God by quoting from the prophet Micah (Luk 1:72,73): “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old” (Mic. 7:20).
Jesus uses expressions from Micah when explaining how following him would cause a serious division in some households (Matt. 10:21,35,36): “For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (Mic. 7:6).
Pictures of the kingdom
Besides these specific details of the Messiah’s birthplace and the trials of discipleship, Micah provides many vivid descriptions of the future era. He speaks of the time of the kingdom when “the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains” (4:1). Restored to their own land, the nation will experience true peace (4:3,4).
Although still future to our day, this happy outcome represents a startling transformation from the destructive changes that would first come upon Israel and Judah. Yet Micah confidently predicts: “The kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem” (4:8).
Micah’s personal credo
Micah’s own words tell us much about him. Two verses in particular sum up his approach and provide us with good advice:
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; 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).
“Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me” (7:7).