Micah: He Has Shown You, O Man

Posted on July 1, 2018

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By David Ettinger

Note: This series was published in the magazine Zion’s Fire a few years back. I offer it here for anyone interested. I plan to run one article a day for 13 days. Being magazine articles, obviously each post will be longer than my usual blog length. 

Name of Book: Micah 

Author: The prophet Micah 

Meaning of Author’s Name: Micah is a short form of Micaiah, which means “Who is like the Lord.” 

When Written: Between 739-686 B.C., with the brunt of the writing most likely occurring between 730 and 700.                                                    

Themes

  • Social injustice
  • Oppression of the poor
  • Artificial versus true worship

Political Background
micah artA prophet of the Southern Kingdom, Micah prophesied during the reigns of three Judean kings: Jotham (739-731 B.C.); Ahaz (731-715 B.C.); and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) By this time, the Northern Kingdom’s vast affluence had diminished with the death of King Jeroboam II. The Northern Kingdom had fallen into spiritual decay and had come under severe oppression by Syria. A succession of corrupt kings continued to sink the nation to further depths of wickedness and apostasy. Meanwhile, in the south, Judah was proving every bit as corrupt as her northern sister. Though the corruption may not have been too bad under Jotham, who was a righteous king, it erupted under wicked Ahaz (not to be confused with Ahab). Under this odious monarch, Judah became a humanitarian cesspool as the wealthy brutally oppressed the poor and needy. Micah decried such inhumanity and spoke of imminent and deserved judgment. 

Key Verses

  • Micah 4:5: “For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.”
  • Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
  • Micah 7:18: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in”

References in the New Testament

  • Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:6)
  • Micah 7:6 (Matthew 10:35-36)

Synopsis

Chapter 1, verse 1 tells us that Micah is addressing both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, but is primarily focused on the Southern Kingdom (where Jerusalem is located).

The scene is set in a courtroom in which the judge, in this case the Lord, is “a witness against you.” However, instead of an earthly courtroom, the Lord is speaking directly from “His holy temple” (v. 1). Yet, heaven is but the starting place. So great is the sin of Israel that the Lord must come “out of his place” and “come down” (v. 3) to judge the people “up close and personal.”

The Lord’s first accusation against the nation is religious harlotry – the worshiping of idols – as indicated by the references to Samaria and Jerusalem (the two capitals) in verse 5. God promises destruction upon the Northern Kingdom (vv. 6-7), followed by the trampling down of the Southern Kingdom in the remainder of the chapter.

farmAs chapter 2 begins, Micah addresses a familiar topic: Israel’s social injustices. His first image is one of dastardly doings as the rich and powerful plot in their beds at night how to increase their coffers the following day. What are they plotting? “They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance” (v. 2). When farmers fell into financial debt – perhaps because their crops failed – the wealthy would swoop down and steal their land from under them. The farmers were forced to become slave laborers, working what was once their own land in return for food and shelter. This was a terrible sin in God’s eyes and the wealthy would be severely punished (vv. 2-5).

Micah next reminds the Israelites that even though the Lord had raised up prophets to warn them of coming judgment, they wouldn’t listen: “‘Do not prattle,’ you say to those who prophesy” (v. 6). If the Israelites are not willing to listen to true prophets sent from God, who, then, will they listen to? Micah tells us: “If a man should walk in a false spirit and speak a lie, saying, ‘I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,’ even he would be the prattler of this people” (v. 11).

Then, in true prophetic fashion, Micah changes tact and tells Israel of the restoration God has planned for her (vv. 12-13). Why this detour in message? Perhaps it is the Lord’s way of telling Israel, “It is not too late. Change your evil ways and return to Me. If you do, I will forgive you.”

In chapter 3, Micah returns to the theme of Israel’s injustice, employing His strongest language: “You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones; who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron” (vv. 2-3). The leaders have no care, compassion, or consideration for their fellow Israelites as they build their wealth on the tears, torment, and trials of their impoverished countrymen and women.

In verses 5-7, God condemns the false prophets who preach peace to the nation in order to find favor with the rich. God will punish them by shutting them down spiritually; they will hear nothing from Him by way of visions, and “the day shall be dark for them” (v. 6). Micah further depicts the depravity of Israel’s leaders when he writes, “Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money” (v. 11). These very same leaders are so spiritually blind, arrogant, and misguided that they have the audacity to say: “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us.”

They will soon learn how wrong they are.

As chapter 4 begins, it is almost as if Micah needs an escape from the injustice and corruption. Therefore, he takes us to the Millennial (1,000-year) Kingdom, the time when Jesus will rule the world with justice and righteousness. It will also be a time of total peace as, “They [the nations] shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (v. 3).

israel's flagBefore that golden age, however, there will be a time of discipline as Israel will suffer at the hands of the nations of the world, but God will punish those nations (vv. 11-12) and turn ravaged Israel into the most powerful people on earth (v. 13).

Chapter 5, verse 2 represents perhaps the single most stunning Messianic prophecy in all the Old Testament as Micah declares: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” That the Messiah will come from such an insignificant city indicates God’s ways are not man’s ways. The people crave a hero; the Lord determines a Savior, a Savior for the souls of humanity. Yes, the Messiah will be a Ruler when He returns, but for the present, He has come to save men and women from their sins.

Micah next returns to the theme of judgment, this one at the hands of the Assyrians (vv. 5-6). The Assyrians will devastate “our palaces,” but will themselves eventually be destroyed.

The time frame of verses 7-9 is difficult to determine, but could refer to the history of the Jewish people from Micah’s day until now. Micah says: “And the remnant of Jacob shall be … like a young lion among flocks of sheep, who, if he passes through, both treads down and tears in pieces, and none can deliver. Your hand shall be lifted against your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.” Perhaps this refers to God’s preserving the Jewish people through the ages from the murderous intents of the Babylonians, Romans, Nazis, and profusion of Arabs, Muslims, and even westerners who long to see Israel wiped from the earth.

Ultimately, God will chastise and purify Israel, punishing the nations who have craved her destruction (vv. 10-15).

As chapter 6 begins, Micah returns to pronouncing Israel’s sins and declaring judgment because of them. The prophet again employs courtroom language: “Hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel” (v. 2). The Lord reviews His acts of kindness on Israel’s behalf and questions how she can react in any way other than gratitude and worship.

Israel would claim she has properly worshiped God through her long years of offering burnt sacrifices. However, her sacrifices are unsatisfactory. For the typical Israelite, offerings had become a way to appease the Lord’s anger, avert His judgment, and secure His favor. But this is not what the Lord seeks. He desires the Israelites’ love and affection, and for them to behave uprightly. Micah states this masterfully and beautifully: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (v. 8). The sacrificial system was designed to point to such a lifestyle, but the children of Israel never comprehended this.

Instead, Israel practices injustice, to which Micah furiously decries:

Are there yet the treasures of wickedness, in the house of the wicked, and the short measure that is an abomination? Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales, and with the bag of deceitful weights? For her rich men are full of violence, her inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth (vv. 10-12).

corruptionIsrael is full of wickedness, corruption, violence, and deceit. Her punishment (prior to exile) will be hunger (v. 14) and failed crops (v. 15).

God is justified in punishing His people. Rather than Israel behaving uprightly, mercifully, and humbly, she instead abides by the practices of Omri and Ahab (v. 16). These father-son monarchs were among the Northern Kingdom’s most vile kings. Now, 150 to 180 years later, to compare Israel’s behavior to theirs is the ultimate condemnation.

In chapter 7, Micah gives way to personal lament, as if overwrought by Israel’s sordidness. He cries out, “Woe is me! For I am like those who gather summer fruits, like those who glean vintage grapes; there is no cluster to eat of the first-ripe fruit which my soul desires” (v. 1). Micah’s grief stems from the appalling state of moral existence Israel wallows in: “The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net” (v. 2).

Micah is resigned to the fact that his nation will be severely judged. However, he knows that following judgment, God will restore His people. Therefore, in assurance, he says, “Do not rejoice over me [Israel], my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (v. 8).

The book ends on a soaring note as Micah confirms Israel’s ultimate salvation and restoration Though a future occurrence, this salvation will be the fulfillment of a promise God made many centuries ago: “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. … You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old” (vv. 19-20). 

Aftermath

  • The Northern Kingdom was exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C.
  • The Southern Kingdom was exiled to Babylon in three deportations: 606 B.C., 597 B.C., and 586 B.C.
  • Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.

Significance for God’s People Today

  • God is not impressed by our wealth, skills, or good deeds. What He desires from His children is mercy, justice, humility, and obedience.
  • Beware lying, cheating, or manipulation. God seeks purity of action, thought, and intent.
  • Be merciful to the needy and downcast. Never look down on those whose fortunes fall far short of yours.

Implications for the World Today

  • page of micahGreed, corruption, dishonesty, injustice. God passionately hates them all. Tragically, the nations of the world are filled with such iniquity and will pay a costly and destructive price for it.
  • The people of Judah and Jerusalem considered themselves indestructible. The people of most Western nations share is this “we are untouchable” mentality. The Lord, however, will determine the fate of nations.

Of Note

  • Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah.
  • In chapter 1, Micah employs a series of wordplay, or puns. Though today puns are considered humorous, in biblical writing they conveyed deep and sobering truths.
  • Micah wrote vividly about the Messiah’s birth and Millennial reign.
  • Micah preached both before and after the fall of Israel’s northern kingdom.

Up Next: “Nahum: The Ultimate in Fire and Brimstone”

Part 1: “Introduction: The Major Messages of the Minor Prophets”

Part 2: “Hosea: Adultery, Judgment, and God’s Grace”

Part 3: “Joel: Behold the Day of the Lord”

Part 4: “Amos: A Corrupt People and a God of Fury”

Part 5: “Obadiah: Pride and Arrogance Brought Low”

Part 6: “Jonah: Running From God”