Book of Micah

Book of Micah

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Encyclopedia
The Book of Micah is one of fifteen prophetic books in the Hebrew bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

/Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets. It records the sayings of Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th century (BC) prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

. 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. Micah reproaches unjust leaders, defends the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful, and preaches social justice; while looking forward to a world at peace centred on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch.

While the book is relatively short it includes lament (1.8-16; 7.8-10), theophany (1.3-4), and hymnic prayer of petition and confidence (7.14-20), 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.

Content



Structure


At the broadest level Micah can be divided into three roughly equal parts:
  • Judgement against the nations and their leaders (chapters 1-3, probably the only section containing original material from the 8th century prophet);
  • Restoration of Zion (chapters 4-5, probably exilic and post-exilic, together with the next section);
  • God's lawsuit against Israel and expression of hope (chapters 6-7).


Within this broad three-part structure are a series of alternating oracles of judgment and promises of restoration:
  • 1.1 Superscription
  • 1.2-2.11 Oracles of judgment
  • 2.12-13 Oracles of restoration
  • 3.1-12 Oracles of judgment
  • 4.1-5.15 Oracles of restoration
  • 6.1-7.6 Oracles of judgment
  • 7.7-20 Oracles of restoration

Summary

  • The Heading (1:1): As is typical of prophetic books, an anonymous editor has supplied the name of the prophet, an indication of his time of activity, and an identification of his speech as the “word of Yahweh”, a generic term carrying a claim to prophetic legitimacy and authority. Samaria and Jerusalem are given prominence as the foci of the prophet’s attention.
  • Judgement against Samaria (1:2–7): Drawing upon ancient traditions for depicting a theophany, the prophet depicts the coming of Yahweh to punish the city, whose sins are idolatry and the abuse of the poor.
  • Warnings to the cities of Judah (1:8–16): Samaria has fallen, Judah is next. Micah describes the destruction of the lesser towns of Judah (referring to the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, 701 BC). For these passages of doom on the various cities, the device paronomasia is used. Paronomasia is a literary device which 'plays' on the sound of each word for literary effect. For example, the inhabitants of Beth-le-aphrah (“house of dust”) are told to “roll yourselves in the dust.” 1:14. Though most of the Paronomasia is lost in translation, it is the equivalent of ‘Ashdod shall be but ashes,’ where the fate of the city matches its name.
  • Misuse of power denounced (2:1–5): Denounces those who appropriate the land and houses of others. The context may be simply the amassing wealth for its own sake, or could be connected with the militarisation of the region for the expected Assyrian attack.
  • Threats against the prophet (2:6–11): The prophet is warned not to prophesy. He answers that the rulers are harming God's people, and want to listen only to those who advocate the virtues of wine.
  • A later promise (2:12–13): These verses assume that judgement has already fallen and Israel is already scattered abroad.
  • Judgement on wicked Zion (3:1–4): Israel's rulers are accused of cannibalism, feeding on the flesh of God's people. Prophets are corrupt, seeking personal gain. Jerusalem's rulers believe that God will always be with them, but God will be with his people, and Jerusalem will be destroyed.
  • Zion's future hope (4:1–5) This is a later passage, almost identical with Isaiah 2:2–4. Zion (meaning the Temple) will be rebuilt, but by God, and based not on violence and corruption but on the desire to learn God's laws and live in peace.
  • Further promises to Zion (4:6–7) This is another later passage, promising Zion that she will once more enjoy her former independence and power.
  • Deliverance from Distress in Babylon (4:9–5:1) The similarities to Isaiah 41:15–16 and the references to Babylon suggest the period of this material, although it is unclear whether a period during or after the siege of 586 is meant. Despite their trials, God will not desert his people.
  • The promised ruler from Bethlehem (5:1–14): This passage is usually dated to the exile. Chapters 4:9-10 have said that there is "no king in Zion", but these chapters tell how new king will emerge from Bethlehem, the traditional home of the Davidic monarchy, to restore the security of Israel. Assyria will be stricken, and Israel's punishment will lead to the punishment of the nations.
  • A Covenant lawsuit (6:1–5): Yahweh accuses Israel (the people of Judah) of breaking the covenant through their lack of justice and honesty, after the pattern of the kings of Israel (northern kingdom)
  • Torah Liturgy (6:6–8): Micah
    Micah (prophet)
    Micah, meaning “who is like Yahweh," was a prophet who prophesied from approximately 737-690 BC in Judah and is the author of the Book of Micah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos and Hosea and is considered one of the twelve minor prophets of the Tanakh . Micah was from...

     speaks on behalf of the community asking what they should do in order to get back on God's good side. Micah then responds in V. 8 by showing what is God requires: "to Do Justice, and to Love Kindness, and to Walk Humbly with your God." Thus declaring that the burnt offering of both animals and humans (which may have been practiced in Judah under Kings Ahaz
    Ahaziah of Judah
    Ahaziah of Judah was king of Judah, and the son of Jehoram and Athaliah, the daughter of king Ahab of Israel. He is also called Jehoahaz ....

     and Manasseh
    Manasseh of Judah
    Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son of Hezekiah with Hephzi-bah. He became king at an age 12 years and reigned for 55 years. Edwin Thiele has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 BC, with his sole reign beginning in...

    ) is not necessary for God.
  • The City as a Cheat (6:9–16): The city is reprimanded for its dishonest trade practices.
  • Lament (7:1–7): The first passage in the book in the first person: whether it comes from Micah himself is disputed. Honesty and decency have vanished, families are filled with strife.
  • A song of fallen Jerusalem (7:8–10): The first person voice continues, but now it is the city who speaks. She recognises that her destruction is deserved punishment from God. The recognition gives grounds for hope that God is still with her.
  • A prophesy of restoration (7:11–13): Fallen Jerusalem is promised that she will be rebuilt and that her power will be greater than ever (a contrast with the vision of peace in 4:1-5).
  • A prayer for future prosperity (7:14–17): The mood switches from a request for power to grateful astonishment at God's mercy.

Setting and composition



Setting


Chapter 1:1 identifies the prophet as "Micah of Moresheth" (a town in southern Judah), and states that he lived during the reigns of Jotham
Jotham
Jotham was the youngest of Gideon's seventy sons. He escaped when the rest were put to death by the order of Abimelech . When "the citizens of Shechem and the whole house of Millo" were gathered together "by the plain of the pillar" "that was in Shechem, to make Abimelech king," from one of the...

, Ahaz
Ahaz
Ahaz was king of Judah, and the son and successor of Jotham. He is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew....

 and Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

, roughly 750-700 BCE.

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
Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III was a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BC and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family...

 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
Aram Damascus
Aram Damascus was an Aramaean state around Damascus in Syria, from the late 12th century BCE to 734 BCE.Sources for this state come from texts that can be divided into three categories: Assyrian annals, Aramaean texts, and the Hebrew Bible....

) into the Assyrian empire. On Tiglath-Pileser's death Israel rebelled, resulting in an Assyrian counter-attack and the destruction of the capital, Samaria
Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

, in 721 after a three-year siege. 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. 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.

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
Lachish
Lachish was an ancient Near East town located at the site of modern Tell ed-Duweir in the Shephelah, a region between Mount Hebron and the maritime plain of Philistia . The town was first mentioned in the Amarna letters as Lakisha-Lakiša...

, 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.

Composition


It is widely, though not universally, accepted by scholars that only chapters 1-3 contain material from the late 8th century prophet Micah. The latest material comes from the post-Exilic period after the Temple was rebuilt in 515 BCE, so that the early 5th century BCE seems to be the period when the book was completed. 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 prophesy that the Temple will be destroyed. The prophesy was not fulfilled in Micah's time, but a hundred years later Judah was facing a similar crisis with Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, and Micah's prophesies were reworked and expanded to reflect the new situation. 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.

Themes


Micah addresses the future of Judah/Israel after the Babylonian exile. Like Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

, 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.

Further reading

  • “Book of Micah.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4, Editor-in-Chief: Freedman, David N. Doubleday; New York, NY. 1992.
  • “Book of Micah.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. General Editor: Bromley, G.W. William B. Erdmans Publishing Co.; Grand Rapids, MI. 1986.
  • Holy Bible: The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Coogan; Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • LaSor, William Sanford et al. Old Testament Survey: the Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.
  • 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.
  • Wood, Joyce Rilett. (2000). Speech and action in Micah’s prophecy. Catholic Biblical Quarterly
    Catholic Biblical Quarterly
    The Catholic Biblical Quarterly is a refereed theological journal published by the Catholic Biblical Association of America....

    , no. 4(62), 49 paragraphs. Retrieved September 30, 2005, from OCLC (FirstSearch) database http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org

External links


  • Jewish translations:
    • Michah – Micah (Judaica Press) translation [with Rashi
      Rashi
      Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

      's commentary] at Chabad.org
  • Christian translations: