Micah, Book of

Micah, Book Of, the sixth of the minor prophets in the usual arrangement, but the third in the Sept. (after Hosea and Amos). In the following account of it we treat in special detail those points that have created controversies in modern times.

I. The Name. — This, which the prophet bears in common with the other persons above and below, is found with considerable variation in the Heb. and A.V. The full form is מַיכָיָּהוּ, Mikaya'hu, "who is like Jehovah," which is found in 2Ch 13:2; 2Ch 17:7. This is abbreviated to מַיכָיהוּ, Mikayehu, in Jg 17:1,4; still further to מַכָיהוּ, Mika'yehu (Jer 36:11), מַיכָיָה, Mikayah' (1Ki 22:13); and finally to, מַיכָה, Mikah', or מַיכָא, Mika' (2Sa 9:12).

II. Date. — The period during which Micah exercised the prophetical office is stated, in the superscription to his pr6phecies, to have extended over the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, giving thus a maximum limit of 59 years (B.C. 756-697), from the accession of Jotham to the death of Hezekiah, and a minimum limit of 16 years (B.C. 742-726), from the death of Jotham to the accession of Hezekiah. In either case he would be contemporary with Hosea and Amos during part of their ministry in Israel, and with Isaiah in Judah. According to rabbinical tradition, he transmitted to the prophets Joel, Nahum, and Habakkuk, and to Seraiah the priest the mysteries of the Kabbala, which he had received from Isaiah (R. David Ganz. Tsemach David), and by Syncellas (Chronogr. page 199 c) he is enumerated in the reign of Jotham as contemporary with Hosea, Joel, Isaiah, and. Oded. The date of the book itself may be fixed at about B.C. 725. His prediction with impunity of the desolation of Jerusalem (Mic 3:12) is expressly alluded to in Jeremiah (Jer 26:18, where the text has מַיכָיֹה, Micaiah), as having been uttered during the reign of Hezekiah. The allusions to idolatry (Mic 7:13) and to Babylon (Mic 4:10) have induced Berthold (Einleitung, § 411) to refer the prophecy of Micah to the time of the captivity; but De Wette truly observes that this supposition is unnecessary, as idolatry existed under Hezekiah (2 Kings 23), and Babylon equally belonged to the kingdom of Assyria. Hartmann's attempt to regard the passage respecting Babylon as an interpolation (see Micha neu ubersetzt), De Wette regards as even still more venturesome; nor had this writer the slightest authority for supposing that some only of the prophecies are Micah's, and that the work was compiled during the exile. The time assigned to the prophecies by the only direct evidence which we possess agrees so well with their contents that it may fairly be accepted as correct.

Why any discrepancy should be perceived between the statement in Jeremiah, that "Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah," and the title of his book, which tells us that the word of the Lord came to him "in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah," it is difficult to imagine. The former does not limit the period of Micah's prophecy, and at most applies only to the passage to which direct allusion is made. Aconfusion appears to have existed in the minds of those who see in the prophecy in its present form a connected whole, between the actual delivery of the several portions of it, and their collection and transcription into one book. In the case of Jeremiah, we know that he dictated to Baruch the prophecies which he had delivered in the interval between the 13th year of Josiah and the 4th of Jehoiakim, and that when thus committed to writing they were read before the people on the fast day (Jer 36:2,4,6). There is reason to believe that a similar process took place with the prophecies of Amos. It is, therefore, conceivable, to say the least, that certain portions of Micah's prophecy may have been uttered in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, and for the probability of this there is strong internal evidence, while they were collected as a whole in the reign of Hezekiah and committed to writing. Caspari (Micha, page 78) suggests that the book thus written .may have been read in the presence of the king and the whole people on, some great fast or festival day, and that this circumstance may have been in-the minds of the elders of the land in the time of Jehoiakim, when they appealed to the. impunity which Micah enjoyed under Hezekiah. Knobel (Prophetismus, 2:§,20) imagines that the prophecies which remain belong to the time of Hezekiah, and that those delivered-under Jotham and Ahaz have perished. It is evident from Mic 1:6 that the section of the prophecy in which that verse occurs must have been delivered before the destruction of Samaria by Shalmaneser, which took place in the 6th year of Hezekiah (cir. B.C. 722), and connecting the "high-places" mentioned in Mic 1:5 with those which existed in Judah in the reigns of Ahaz (2Ki 16:4; 2Ch 28:4,25) and Jotham (2Ki 15:35), we may be justified in assigning chap. 1 to the time of one of these monarchs, probably the latter; although, if chap. ii be considered as part of the section to which chapter 1 belongs, the utter corruption and demoralization of the people there depicted agree better with what history tells us of the times of Ahaz. Caspari maintains that of the two parallel passages, Mic 4:1-5; Isa 2:2-5, the former is the original, and the latter belongs to the times of Uzziah and Jotham, and this view is maintained by Hengstenberg (Christology, 1:480), and accepted by Pusey (Minor Prophets, page 289). But the evidence on the point is not at all conclusive: Mic 4:1-4 may possibly, as Ewald and others have suggested, be a portion of an older prophecy current at the time, which was adopted by both Micah and Isaiah (Isa 2:2-4). The denunciation of the horses and chariots of Judah (5:10) is appropriate to the state of the country under Jotham, after the long and prosperous reign of Uzziah, by whom the military strength of the people had been greatly developed (2Ch 26:11-15; 2Ch 27:4-6). Compare Isa 2:7, which belongs to the same period. Again, the forms in which idolatry manifested itself in the reign of Ahaz correspond with those which are threatened with destruction in Mic 5:12-14; and the allusions in 6:16 to the "statutes of Omri," and the "works of the house of Ahab," seem directly pointed at the king, of whom it is expressly said that "he walked in the way of the kings of Israel" (2Ki 16:3). It is impossible in dealing with internal evidence to assert positively that the inferences deduced from it are correct; but in the present instance they at least establish a probability that, in placing the period of Micah's prophetical activity between the times of Jotham and Hezekiah, the superscription is correct. In the first years of Hezekiah's reign the idolatry which prevailed in the time of Ahaz was not eradicated, and in assigning the date of Micah's prophecy to this period there is no anachronism in the allusions to idolatrous practices. Maurer contends that chap. 1 was written not long before the taking of Samaria; but the third and following chapters he places in the interval between the destruction of Samaria and the, time that Jerusalem was menaced by the army of Sennacherib in the 14th year of Hezekiah. The passages, however, which he quotes in support of his conclusion: (Mic 3:12; Mic 4:9, etc.; Mic 5:5, etc.; Mic 6:9, etc.; Mic 7:4,12, etc.) do not appear to be more suitable to that period than to the first years of Hezekiah, while the context, in many cases, requires a still earlier date. In the arrangement adopted by Wells (pref. to Micah, § 4-6), chapter 1 was delivered in the contemporary reigns of Jotham king of Judah and of Pekah king of Israel; Mic 2:1-4:8 in those of Ahaz, Pekah, and Hosea; 3:12 being assigned to the last year of Ahaz, and the remainder of the book to the reign of Hezekiah.

It is remarkable that the prophecies commence with the last words recorded of the prophet's namesake, Micaiah the son of Imlah, "Hearken, O people, every one of you" (1Ki 22:28). From this, Bleek (Einleitung, page 539) concludes that the author of the history, like the ecclesiastical historians, confounded Micah the Morasthite with Micaiah; while Hengstenberg (Christology, 1:409, Eng. tr.) infers that the coincidence was intentional on the part of the later prophet, and that "by this very circumstance he gives intimation of what may be expected from him, and shows that his activity is to be considered as a continuation of that of his predecessor, who was so jealous for God, and that he had more in common with him than the mere name." Either conclusion rests on the extremely slight foundation of the occurrence of a formula which was at once the most simple and most natural commencement of a prophetic discourse.

III. Contents. — But, at whatever time the several prophecies were first delivered, they appear in their present form as an organic whole, marked by a certain regularity of development. Three sections, omitting the superscription, are introduced by the same phrase, שַׁמעוּ, "Hear ye," and represent three natural divisions of the prophecy — 1-2, 3-5, 6-7 — each commencing with rebukes and threatenings, and closing with a promise.

1. The first section opens with a magnificent description of the coming of Jehovah to judgment for the sins and idolatries of Israel and Judah (Mic 1:2-4), and the sentence pronounced upon Samaria (verses 5-9) by the Judge himself. The prophet, whose sympathies are strong with Judah, and especially with the lowlands which gave him birth, sees the danger that threatens his country, and traces in imagination the devastating march of the Assyrian conquerors from Samaria onward to Jerusalem and the south (Mic 1:8-16). The impending punishment suggests its cause, and the prophet denounces a woe upon the people generally for the corruption and violence which were rife among them, and upon the false prophets who led them astray by pandering to their appetites and luxury (Mic 2:1-11). The sentence of captivity is passed upon them (verse 10), but is followed instantly by a promise of restoration and triumphant return (Mic 2:12-13).

2. The second section is addressed especially to the princes and heads of the people; their avarice and rapacity are rebuked in strong terms; and as they have been deaf to the cry of the suppliants for justice, they too "shall cry unto Jehovah, but he will not hear them" (Mic 3:1-4). The false prophets who had deceived others should themselves be deceived; "the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them" (Mic 3:6). For this perversion of justice and right, and the covetousness of the heads of the people who judged for reward, of the priests who taught for hire, and of the prophets who divined for money, Zion should "be ploughed as a field," and the mountain of the temple become like the uncultivated woodland heights (Mic 3:9-12). But the threatening is again succeeded by a promise of restoration, and in the glories of the Messianic kingdom the prophet loses sight of the desolation which should befall his country. Instead of the temple mountain covered with the wild growth of the forest, he sees the mountain of the house of Jehovah established on the top of the mountains, and nations flowing like rivers unto it. The reign of peace is inaugurated by the recall from captivity, and Jehovah sits as king in Zion, having destroyed the nations who had rejoiced in her overthrow. The predictions at the close of this section form the climax of the book, and Ewald arranges them in four strophes, consisting of seven or eight verses each (Micah 4:1-8; 4:9- 5:2; 5:3-9; 5:10-15), with the exception of the last, which is shorter, and in which the prophet reverts to the point whence he started: all objects of politic and idolatrous confidence must be removed before the grand consummation.

3. In the last section (6, 7) Jehovah, by a bold poetical figure, is represented as holding a controversy with his people, pleading with them in justification of his conduct towards them and the reasonableness of his requirements. The dialogue form in which chapter 6 is cast renders the picture very dramatic and striking. In Mic 6:3-5 Jehovah speaks; the inquiry of the people follows in verse 6, indicating their entire ignorance of what was required of them; their inquiry is met by the almost impatient rejoinder, "Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriads of torrents of oil?" The still greater sacrifice suggested by the people, "Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions?" calls forth the definition of their true duty, "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God." How far they had fallen short of this requirement is shown in what follows (verses 9-12), and judgment is pronounced upon them (verses 13-16). The prophet acknowledges and bewails the justice of the sentence (Mic 7:1-6), the people in repentance patiently look to God, confident that their prayer will be heard (verses 7-10), and are reassured by the promise of deliverance announced as following their punishment (verses 11-13) by the prophet, who in his turn presents his petition to Jehovah for the restoration of his people (verses 14, 15). The whole concludes with a triumphal song of joy at the great deliverance, like that from Egypt, which Jehovah will achieve, and a full acknowledgment of his mercy and faithfulness to his promises (verses 16-20). The last verse is reproduced in the song of Zacharias (Luke 1:72; 73).

The predictions uttered by Micah relate to the invasions of Shalmaneser (Mic 1:6-8; 2Ki 17:4,6) and Sennacherib (1:9-16; 2Ki 18:13), the destruction of Jerusalem (Mic 3:12; Mic 7:13), the captivity in Babylon (Mic 4:10), the return (Mic 4:1-8; Mic 7:11), the establishment of a theocratic kingdom in Jerusalem (Mic 4:8), and the Ruler who should spring from Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). The destruction of Assyria and Babylon is supposed to be referred to in Mic 5:5-6; Mic 7:8,10. According to many, Mic 4:13 refers to the heroic deeds of the Maccabees, and their victories over the Syrians or Syro-Macedonians, called Assyrians in Micah 5, as well as in Zec 10:11.

There is no prophecy in Micah so interesting to the Christian as that in which the native place of the Messiah is announced (Mic 5:2), which is cited by the evangelist (Mt 2:6) with slight verbal variations, but substantially the same import (see Kuinil, Comment. ad loc. Mat.). In Micah emphasis is laid on the actual smallness of Bethlehem to enjoy such an honor; in Matthew the prominent idea is the honor itself, and its ideal grandeur — the converse side of the statement. Pocock cuts the knot by adopting rabbi Tanchum's odd opinion that the term צָעַיר means both little and great, the prophet selecting the one sense and the evangelist the,other. It is evident that the Jews in the time of Jesus interpreted this passage of the birthplace of the Messiah (Mt 2:5; Joh 7:41-42). The Targum gives the reference formally to the Messiah. The later rabbinical writers, however, such as Kimchi, Aben-Ezra, Abrabanel, etc., have maintained that it had only an indirect reference to the birthplace of the Messiah, who was to be a descendant of David, a Bethlehemite, but not of necessity himself born in Bethlehem. Others, however, as David Ganz (B. Zemach David), expressly mention Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. The interpretation which considered this prophecy as intimating only that the Messiah was to be a descendant of David, was that current among the Jews in the time of Theodoret, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius Zigabenus, from whom we learn that it was maintained to have been fulfilled in Zerubbabel, the leader of the Jews on their return from Babylon, of which, and not of Bethlehem, he was a native. (See Sozomen, 7:729; Carpzov, Introd. 3:374 sq.; Jerome, Ep. ad Eustach. 1:704.) This interpretation was held among Christians by the celebrated Theodore of Mopsuestia (as we learn from his condemnation by the council at Rome under pope Vigilius), and afterwards by Grotius (Comment.), who, however, regarded Zerubbabel as a type of Christ, and considered Christ's birthplace at Bethlehem as an outward representation of his descent from the family of David. Many of the moderns have been attached to this interpretation of the prophecy, referring it to the general idea of the Messiah rather than to Zerubbabel, while some among them have, after the example of some Jews, ventured to assert that the account of the birth of Christ at Bethlehem was not to be depended on. Some have asserted, after Jerome (Comm. in Micah), that the citation in Mt 2:6 is that of the Sanhedrim only, not of the evangelist (Hengstenberg's Christology). Jahn (Append. Hermeneut.) observes that it is evident that the Jews in the time of Christ expected the Messiah's birth to take place at Bethlehem; and although he admits that the prophecy may be understood tropically in the sense applied to it by Grotius, he contends that the context will not admit of its applicability either to Hezekiah or any other monarch than the Messiah; nor is it possible to apply the prophecy fully and literally to any but him who was not only of the house and lineage of David, but was actually born at Bethlehem, according to the direct testimony of both Matthew's and Luke's gospels. The plain meaning is that the Messiah, as David's son, should be born in David's town (Hofmann, Weiss. u. Erf. page 249). Tertullian also presses the argument that the Messiah has come, for Bethlehem was deserted — "Neminem de genere Israel in civitate Bethlehem remansisse" (Adv. Judeos, volume 13; Opera, 2:734, ed. Oehler). To give the vague sense of Davidic extraction, and yet to deny that the words point out the place of birth, was thus a necessary but feeble Jewish subterfuge. Ronan admits the usual interpretation of the prophecy, though he affirms that Jesus was really not of the family of David, and was born at Nazareth (Vie de Jesus, chapter 2). (See generally, Eichhorn, Einleit. 4:369 sq.; Bertheau, Einl. 4:1633 sq.; Knobel, Prophet. 3:199 sq.) SEE MESSIAH.

IV. The genuineness of the book has not. been called in question. Only Ewald, in his Jahrb. 11:29, is disposed to maintain that the two concluding chapters are the work of a different author. His objections, however, have no force against the universal opinion. The language of Micah is quoted in Mt 2:5-6, and his prophecies are alluded to in Mt 10:35-36; Mr 13:12; Lu 12:53; Joh 7:42.

V. The style of Micah is rich, full, and musical — as nervous, vehement, and bold, in many sections, as Hosea, and as abrupt, too, in transitions from menace to mercy. He presents, at the same time, no little resemblance to Isaiah in grandeur of thought, in richness and variety of imagery, and in roundness and cadence of parallelism. The similarity of their subjects may account for many resemblances in language with the latter prophet, which were almost unavoidable (comp. Mic 1:2 with Isa 1:2: Mic 2:2 with Isa 5:8; Mic 2:6,11 with Isa 30:10; Mic 2:12 with Isa 10:20-22; Mic 1:6-8 with Isa 1:11-17). The diction of Micah is vigorous and forcible, sometimes obscure from the abruptness of its transitions, but varied and rich in figures derived from the pastoral (Mic 1:8; Mic 2:12; Mic 5:4-5,7-8; Mic 7:14) and rural life of the lowland country (Mic 1:6; Mic 3:12; Mic 4:3,12-13; Mic 6:15), whose vines, and olives, and figtrees were celebrated (1Ch 27:27-28), and supply the prophet with so many striking allusions (Mic 1:6; Mic 4:3-4; Mic 6:15; Mic 7:1,4) as to suggest that, like Amos, he may have been either a herdsman or a vine-dresser who had heard the howling of the jackals (Mic 1:8; A.Vers. "dragons") as he watched his flocks or his vines by night, and had seen the lions slaughtering the sheep (Mic 5:8). The sudden changes are frequently hidden from the English reader, because our version interprets as well as translates; the simple connective 1 being often rendered by some logical term, as "therefore" (Mic 1:6), "then" (Mic 3:7), "but" (Mic 4:1), "notwithstanding" (Mic 7:13), etc. Concise and pointed questions are put suddenly; persons are changed rapidly; the people are spoken of, and then in a moment spoken to; the nation is addressed now as a unit, and now edged appeals are directed to individuals. The language is quite pure and classical-intercourse with northern countries had not yet debased it. An under-tone of deep earnestness pervades the book; everywhere are discerned the workings of an intensely honorable and patriotic soul. Micah is successful in the use of the dialogue, and his prophecies are penetrated by the purest spirit of morality and piety (see especially 6:6-8; and 7:1-10).

One peculiarity which Micah has in common with Isaiah is the frequent use of paronomasia; in Mic 1:10-15 there is a succession of instances of this figure in the plays upon words suggested by the various places enumerated (comp. also Mic 2:4), which it is impossible to transfer to English, though Ewald has attempted to render them into German (Propheten des A. B. 1:329, 330). In these verses there is also vivid grouping, as place after place is challenged along the line of the conqueror's march. Each town is seen to carry its doom in its very name. That doom is told in many ways either to them or of them; either in the prophet's name or as a divine burden; either as an event about to come or as a judgment which will certainly overtake them. Perhaps in Mic 7:18 there is an allusion to the meaning of the prophet's own name. The divine name which appears with greatest frequency is, as is usual with the prophets, Jehovah; but we also meet with Adonai and Adonai Jehovah (Mic 1:2), also "the Lord of the whole earth" (Mic 2:13), and "Jehovah of hosts" (Mic 4:4). Elohim is used distinctively of the divine as opposed to the human in Mic 3:7. Allusions to the past history of the people are found in many places. There are also several expressions which are found in the Mosaic writings, though it might be rash to say that Micah takes them directly from the Pentateuch. Nor would we endorse all the instances in which, as Caspari affirms, later prophets, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, have adopted the language of Micah (Micha, page 449, etc.). The poetic vigor of the opening scene, and of the dramatic dialogue sustained throughout the last two chapters, has already been noticed.

VI. Commentaries. — The following are the especial exegetical helps on the whole book alone, to a few of the most important of which we prefix an asterisk: Ephrem Syrus, Explanatio (in Opp. 5:272): Theophylact, Commentarius (in Opp. volume 4) ; Luther, Commentarius (ed. Theodore, Vitemb. 1542, 8vo; also in his Works, both Germ. and Lat.); Brentz, Conmnentaria (in Opp. volume 4): Gerlach, Commentarius (Aug. Vind. 1524, 8vo); Bibliander, Commentarius (Tigur. 1534, 8vo); Phrygio, Commentarius (Argent. 1538, 8vo); Gilby, Commentary (Lond. 1551, 1591, 8vo); Chytraeus, Explicatio [includ. Nehemiah] (Vitemb. 1565, 8vo); Draconis, Explicatio [includ. Joel and Zechariah] (Vitemb. 1565, 8vo); Graxar, Comnzentarius (Salmant. 1570, 8vo); Selnecker, Anmersckunqen (Leips. 1578, 4to); Bang, Fontium trias [includ. Jonah and Ruth] (Hafn. 1631, 8vo); Graver, Expositio (Jen. 1619, 1664, 4to);

*Pocock, Commentary (Oxf. 1677, fol.; also in Works); Van Toll, Vitleyginge (Utrecht, 1709; 4to); Schnurrer, Animadversiones (Tibing. 1783, 4to); Buer, Aninadversiones [on chapter 1, 2] (Altorf, 1790,4to); Grosschopff Uebersetzung (Jena, 1798, 8vo); *Justi, Erlauterung (Leips. 1799, 8vo); *Hartmann, Erlauterung (Lemgo, 1800,8vo); Wolf, מַנחָה טהוֹרָה (Dessau, 1805, 8vo); Gliemann, Illustratio (Hall. 1842, 4to); *Caspari, Micha der Morasthiter (Marb. 1852, 8vo); Roorda, Commentarius (Leyd. 1869, 8vo). SEE PROPHETS, MINOR.

6. The father of Abdon (2Ch 34:20); elsewhere called MICHAIAH, the father of Achbor (2Ki 22:12).

7. A Levite of the descendants of Asaph (1Ch 9:15); elsewhere properly called MICHA(Ne 11:17,22).

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