Author and His Times
Micah was Isaiah’s contemporary prophet to Judah; at the same time Amos and Hosea prophesied in the North. While Jeroboam II was enjoying unprecedented success in Israel, King Uzziah was experiencing similar results in Judah. One is left to wonder if they were skilled leaders or simply opportunists during a down time of foreign threats. Either way, Judah had also accepted corruption and bribery in the leadership ranks of rulers, judges, and priests. Justice of the poor was sold for a profit. Isaiah and Micah begin their prophetic ministries shortly after Uzziah’s reign. Key themes of Micah include: 1) corrupt leadership, 2) false security, and 3) social injustice.
The alliance king Ahaz made with Assyria in 732 BC to stage of destruction from the Israel/Syria alliance had taken its toll on Judah’s religion. 20-30 years passed before Hezekiah’s reform threw out the Assyrian altar and purified Judah from Assyrian cult practices. Israel falls to Assyria during the first third of his ministry (722 BC); leaving Judah with a challenge to learn from Israel’s destruction before theirs comes at the hands of Babylon.
Hezekiah eventually revolts from paying Assyrian tribute in 715 BC, placing his trust in Egypt for help. Assyria invades local revolting nations under King Sargon’s leadership, yet for some unknown reason Judah was not attacked. In 701 BC, Assyria returns to the area under King Sennacherib’s leadership. They deliver a stinging blow to Egypt – although it was not a takeover, it weakened their power and made them think twice about stirring up any further revolting nations. Philistia and all the other Palestinian cities but Jerusalem fell to Assyria on their return from Egypt. Hezekiah, under Isaiah’s inspiration, places absolute trust in a prayer to YHWH, and then the next day 185,000 Assyrian soldiers lay dead in the fields. Sennacherib flees back to Nineveh humbled and confused by what was otherwise a very successful conquest.
I. (1-2) Oracles against Samaria and Jerusalem
II. (3) Three Doom Oracles
III. (4-5) Hope Oracles (Focuses on the Messianic/Davidic King)
IV. (6-7) Threat, Hope, and Micah’s Lament In-between
Many messianic references (4-5). 5.2 is quoted in Matthew 2.6. Instead of chronological arrangement, these oracles are carefully arranged by going back and forth between judgment and future hope – thus giving us the most balanced theology between God’s judgment and mercy.
How to Read It
Oracles are marked by beginning with “hear/listen.” Note Micah’s interest in Israel’s promised role of being a “blessing to the nations,” (4.1-4, 7.11-13) culminating in the final verse of his book by quoting the promise made to Abraham (7.20). Read Deuteronomy 28-30 to see how Micah mirrors the blessing/curse format.