An Overview of Micah

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“The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.”—Micah 1:1–2 (NIV)

As we get ready to start a study of Micah, we thought it would be a good idea to provide you with some context for this often-overlooked Old Testament book. Why did Micah write it? Who is he writing to? What are some of the key themes in this book? These are all questions we’ll address here to help you get a full picture of this powerful book. So, let’s dive right in!

A Brief Overview

The Book of Micah was written by the prophet Micah between 740 and 710 BC, about 200 years after the kingdom of Israel split into two nations, the northern kingdom of Israel—whose capital was Samaria—and the southern kingdom of Judah—whose capital was Jerusalem.

The background of this book is the same as some sections of the Book of Isaiah. Several significant historical events took place for Israel and Judah during this time:

  • 734–732 BC: Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria led a military campaign against Aram (Syria), Philistia, and parts of Israel and Judah. During these sieges, the northern kingdom of Israel lost a great deal of its territory, including all of Gilead and most of Galilee, which is where Jesus grew up.
  • 722–721 BC: Samaria fell, and the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians.
  • 701 BC: Judah joined a revolt against Assyria, but it failed. They were overrun by King Sennacherib and his army. Jerusalem; however, was spared for the time being. Later, in 587 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire laid siege to Jerusalem, destroyed the city, walls, and the temple, and took many of the people into captivity.

Old Testament Passages

  • 2 Kings 15:32–20:21
  • 2 Chronicles 27–32
  • Isaiah 7, 20, 36–39

Who Was Micah?

Honestly, we really don’t know anything about Micah’s back story, his family, or even his call to be a prophet. But what we do know is that he had a strong sense and passion for his calling as a prophet—Micah 3:8 makes this very clear!

So, what do we know about him? First, Micah was from a city about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem near the border between Judah and the land of the Philistines. Second, he served as a prophet sometime between 740 (which was the start of Jotham’s reign) and 686 BC (the end of Hezekiah’s reign). Considering that King Hezekiah was one of the “good” kings, one who brought reform to the kingdom of Judah, it seems likely the sin Micah was confronting in this book took place before Hezekiah’s reign.

Who Was the Original Audience?

Micah’s message was primarily aimed toward the southern kingdom of Judah, but he also addressed the northern kingdom of Israel and predicted the fall of Samaria (Micah 1:6), which took place in 722 BC. His message was aimed in particular at addressing two key areas of extreme sinfulness and wickedness:

  1. The greed and oppressive practices of those in power (Micah 2:1–­5) who upheld Israel’s corrupt political and religious leaders and led the nation into extreme moral decay.
  2. In Samaria, there was the worship of the golden calf of Samaria, and in Jerusalem, King Ahaz built an altar like that at Damascus and sacrificed on it INSIDE GOD’S HOLY TEMPLE.

Micah basically tells the people to mourn deeply and intensely “because [their] children will be forced to live in a foreign land,” (Micah 1:16 ICB) or put another way, “Your precious children will be dragged off to a foreign country” (Micah 1:16 CEV).

This shows us so clearly that actions have consequences beyond us. Our sins have weight that others often end up carrying. For the people of God in Micah, it was exile, oppression, and subjugation for their children. It was generations of people who didn’t truly know God or worship Him. It was a legacy of sin and idolatry.

Major Themes

  • Judgement Against Oppressors: Micah made it clear that God is a just God who will justly judge evil—in this case “the sins of the house of Israel” (Micah 1:5 ESV). The landowners, religious leaders, political powers, and city officials had abused their power, oppressed the people, and conspired to do evil (2:1, 7:3). They coveted and defrauded others of their property (2:2, 6:10), they stole and plundered (2:8), hated good and loved evil (3:2), oppressed the poor (3:3), despised justice and distorted truth (3:9), accepted bribes (3:11, 7:3), used their religious positions for profit (3:11), engaged in dishonest business practices (6:11), acted with violence and deceit (6:12), and murdered their own people (7:2). Keep in mind, these were not unbelievers or pagan nations. They were the children of Abraham, the people of God who had the Word of God and were in covenant with God to live by His commands and do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (6:8). They were without excuse. Because of this, God would bring disaster upon Samaria (1:6–7), Jerusalem (1:12, 3:12, 4:10), the greedy landowners (2:3–5), the corrupt political figures (3:4), and the wicked and false prophets and priests (3:5–7).
  • Justice: In one of the most well-known Old Testament verses amongst believers, Micah asked a deceptively simple question: “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer? “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). Israel and Judah had failed to live according to this God-given expectation, and the nations would suffer painful consequences as a result. Why? Because God is a God of justice and righteousness. He is a God of goodness and holiness. He defends the poor and helpless, His heart is inclined toward the marginalized and defenseless, and He commands His people to follow suit, advocate for, defend, protect, and compassionately care for them.
  • Mercy and Restoration: Micah served as a prophet during a time of great injustice. He delivered bad news to a wicked people, but he also delivered truly wonderful news that after God’s judgment, God’s mercy and restoration would come! He laid out their sins, but shared the hope of God’s promise for redemption—that He would mercifully forgive and restore His people (7:9), bring them back from exile in Babylon (4:10), and reestablish Israel’s dominion on the earth (4:8, 13)!
  • The Messiah and His Kingdom: The shadow of Christ is cast heavily on this book. Throughout Micah, we see the revelation of the Messiah who would come and bring together His scattered people. Though judgment was promised because of the great sin of God’s people for their transgressions against Him, they weren’t beyond the saving grace of God nor outside His loving kindness. He still promised restoration to the remnant of Israel, to bring forth His Messiah through the children of Abraham, and bless all the families of the earth as He had promised all the way back in Genesis! Despite their idolatrous and wicked ways, God was not done with Israel. Jesus makes this clear when stating He was sent “to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 NIV) and when He sent His disciples out “to the lost sheep of Israel” to preach this message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 10:6–7 NIV). His coming is outlined throughout Micah (2:12–13, 4:1–8, 5:1–4, 7:8–9).

Did You Know?

  • Going barefoot was a sign of mourning, as was a shaved head and wearing sackcloth. It’s likely that Micah actually walked barefoot through Jerusalem, wearing only a loincloth made of sackcloth (1:8).
  • The Hebrew expression parting gift (shilluchim) is translated wedding gift in 1 Kings 9:16. Jerusalem would give up Moresheth Gath to Assyria as a father gives a “wedding gift” to his daughter when she gets married (1:14).
  • Micah 4:4 (NIV), which is referenced in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, says, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.” To sit under your own vine and fig tree was a proverbial picture of peace, security, and deep contentment.
  • “Seven . . . even eight” is figurative for “an indefinite number” (5:5).
  • A redemptive, hopeful element was quite common in laments (7:7).
  • Despite the dislike for one another that we see recorded through the Gospels, the Jews and Samaritans are related. Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel after the nation was divided during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son—around 930 BC. These capital cities of Jerusalem and Samaria were literally closer than the distance between Baltimore and Washington D.C. but proximity doesn’t equal intimacy.

As You Read . . .

Be aware of the alternating oracles of doom and hope in this prophetic book—the emphasis on His justice and mercy, His faithfulness in spite of the people’s faithlessness and wickedness, His faithfulness to His promises despite the people breaking their covenant with Him. Consider that both God’s judgement and His mercy flow out of His love for us. His discipline and restoration as well as His wrath and grace are all interwoven and emblematic of His loving kindness toward us.

Micah and the Call For Us All

Micah was a prophet in a wicked time. He was called to preach the truth of the injustice and wickedness around him, but to also offer the hope and promise of redemption. Just like Micah, we’re called to do the same in our world, culture, cities, and within the Church! We’re commissioned by Jesus to deliver the bad news of sin and death, but provide the great hope of the gospel! May we approach our call and commission with the same passion and zeal as Micah.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.