Intro notes to Micah
“You killed the country.” Boiled to a one-liner, that’s essentially Micah’s blunt message to political leaders and judges in Jerusalem, capital of the southern Jewish nation of Judah.
He didn’t tell them to change. He said God had already sentenced the nation to death.
Moses had warned their ancestors that if the nation didn’t live up to the agreement with God, they would lose the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 28:63).
Micah said it’s too bad, they messed up big time. So, God would give the Jewish homeland to ancestors of today’s Iraqi people, the Babylonians.
That’s odd because Assyria was the superpower of the moment. Babylon wouldn’t take down Assyria for a century, in battles beginning in 626 BC. That leads some to speculate that someone later wrote at least part of Micah’s book, as history presented as prophecy.
Babylonian invaders turned Jerusalem into a rock pile in 586 BC and then deported the Jewish survivors into an exile that lasted 50 years.
Micah told the leaders why they didn’t deserve to live in the Promised Land of Judah any longer.
- They worship “idols built with money paid to prostitutes” (1:7)
- “You eat my people for breakfast” (3:3)
- You “declare war on the poor” (3:4)
- “Judges settle cases for a bribe” (3:11)
- Merchants use “dishonest scales” (6:10)
- “Your violent rich people have blood on their hands” (6:12)
- “Your people lie with tongues tuned to lie” (6:12)
With graphic word pictures, Micah tells one city after another what will happen to them.
The word pictures become clear when we translate the Hebrew names of the cities into their English meanings.
- Dust House Town will “roll in the dust” (1:10).
- City of Beauty will leave “naked and walking in shame” (1:11).
- Entitlement Town will “lose it all” (1:15).
In spite of Israel’s serial sin, God doesn’t quit on them.
He punishes them royally. But when they’ve paid the price, their sins are gone—stomped to death in the ground and buried “into the deepest sea” (7:19).
Micah says once again God will do incredible miracles, like those he did to free their ancestors from slavery some 700 years earlier, in the days of Moses.
Micah advises the people to take their punishment with confidence in God (7:7), counting on his love.
In a prayer at the end of the prophecy, Micah’s explains the reason for the endurance of God’s love.
“You’ll stay devoted to us,
You won’t stop loving us,
You promised our ancestors long ago
That you’d love us and always stay true” (Micah 7:20).
But Micah makes it clear that God isn’t doing this just to keep a promise. He’s doing it because of who he is:
“What kind of God are you?
What God would pardon a sinner
And overlook sin—
Like the sin in what’s left of his people?
He doesn’t obsess over anger
Because he’d rather love instead” (7:18).
The Bible says almost nothing about Micah. He’s one of the rare prophets identified by his hometown instead of his dad.
Scholars say that little detail might suggest he wasn’t from an influential family and that he may have moved to Jerusalem, the city he targeted with his prophecies. Scholars explain that if Micah hadn’t reported his hometown, people would have thought he came from the city he was living in at the time of the prophecies. But that’s a guess.
Amos was identified by his hometown, too. If these hometown links suggested Amos and Micah came from less influential families, that could help us understand why both were so passionate about justice and compassion for people at greatest risk: widows, orphans, and immigrants.
Micah’s ministry spanned about 55 years, from about 742-687 BC. Judah had three kings during that time: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Hezekiah was good and godly. But his dad, Ahaz, king before him, sacrificed one of his sons to the god Moloch (2 Kings 16:3).
Micah ministered at the same time as Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos.
Micah was on hand to witness the fall of the northern Jewish nation of Israel in 722 BC. Assyrian invaders destroyed many cities and deported survivors so they wouldn’t rebuild the Jewish country that Assyrians considered perpetually rebellious. Assyria had to repeatedly reign them in.
Moresheth was apparently a small town in southwest Judah, near the city of Gath, and about 20 miles (32 km) from Jerusalem. That’s a day’s walk. Micah calls it by the twin cities name of Moresheth-Gath (1:14).
That places Moresheth on the toenails of the Judean foothills. That’s where the hills flatten out into the coastland. Another 10 miles (16 km) west, and Micah is wading in the Mediterranean Sea.
Micah directed his message at movers and shakers and trendsetters in the capital city of Jerusalem.
He didn’t tell them to shape up. He told them it was too late.
God was going to invoke the ultimate penalty clause in the agreement he made with Moses and the Israelites of the Exodus. It was the worst-case scenario:
“The LORD was happy to show kindness to you and help you grow into such a large nation. But now, the LORD will be happy to vacate you from his property and get you out of here” (Deuteronomy 28:63).
Scholars call it the Exile. Jerusalem leaders who survived the battles with invading Babylonians were exiled to what is now southern Iraq.
Micah told Jerusalem that their country was going to fall to Babylon. He didn’t live to see it. Jerusalem and all of Judah fell a century later, in 586 BC.
Micah explained what the leaders had done to deserve this. Corruption ran the country, money bought judges, the rich exploited the poor into the dirt.
Yet Micah wrapped his prophecy in comfort and hope. He seems to give the people a script to show them how to react to this tragic news. In the spirit of the prophet Habakkuk, reflected in Habakkuk’s final verses on the topic of Jerusalem’s fall, Micah offers similar advice:
“Well, here’s what I going to do about it.
I’m going to trust the LORD.
I’ll wait for him to save me.
I know he’ll hear my prayers” (Micah 7:7)
Micah’s generation wouldn’t see any of this. But a future generation would experience the tragedy. And the one that followed the tragic generation would experience something else Micah predicted:
“You’ll have mercy on us once again” (Micah 7:19).
Fifty years after Jerusalem fell, Persians from what is now Iran defeated Babylon and freed the Jews and other captives. Jews started returning home to rebuild their nation as best they could, on a smaller scale.