Bible Overview is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in Bible study. Each month we feature a book of the Bible (in order) by Bible scholar and lecturer, Mary Jane Chaignot.
This month has three entries, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, whose writings are found among the Minor Prophets. Scholars aren’t sure why these particular books of the Minor Prophets are in this order. (Interestingly, the order differs in the LXX.) Neither length nor chronology seems to provide the answer, since most assign Obadiah to a later date. Scholars aren’t even sure why Jonah is considered a prophetic work since it is about a prophet, not from a prophet. (Technically, there is only one verse of prophetic material in the whole book.) Nonetheless, the other two prophets speak to the people at a particularly difficult time in history. In their own way, they both address the consequences one might expect when people stand by idly while others suffer. In the case of Obadiah, the Edomites are the target, but Micah is talking to the very leaders of Israel and Judah – leaders that advanced their positions at the expense of those less fortunate. Scholars cannot help commenting on the relevancy of some of these themes in today’s world, indicating the timelessness of God’s word. Yet, alongside the oracles of judgment, both prophets offer a message of hope for those who suffer. If you want to read some of the history previous to this selection, you can find the earlier books in our archives.
The Bible Time-Line is another quick reference for locating individuals or specific books. We encourage readers to share their Bible Study success stories on this site. Email us at email@example.com to be included on next month's site.
Unlike several other prophets who gave no clue regarding the time period of their ministry, Micah opens his book with an inscription saying he prophesied through the reigns of three kings – Jotham (ca. 742-735), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezekiah (715-687). Most scholars think the majority of his work occurred during the time of Ahaz and Hezekiah. That would have made him a contemporary of Isaiah and Amos (in the north). He was identified as Micah of Moresheth, which was a small town roughly 25 miles west of Jerusalem near Gath, relatively close to the border of the Philistines. Since the name “Micah” (or Micaiah) was relatively common, it was a way of identifying him from others of the same name, and it probably meant that he was no longer living in Moresheth but rather in Jerusalem. He was a prophet of the southern kingdom, though he had a few choice words for the north as well. The meaning of his name in Hebrew is, “Who is like Yahweh”; nothing is known about him personally.
Even though he is less well known now than some of his contemporaries, in his time Micah was quite prominent. Even Jeremiah made reference to him a century after his death. Micah’s writings are a collection of oracles written over a long period of time. Scholars would feel more confident about the overall message of the collection if they could locate the time period in which each oracle was spoken. Obviously, that is not possible. Some even question whether Micah was the author of certain sections, thinking later writers might have added them long after the fact. These are issues that cannot be determined with any certainty.
Nonetheless, it does not detract from the general message of Micah’s book. Like his contemporary, Amos, Micah saw beneath the outer trappings of society to the flaws that simmered underneath the surface. He was very troubled by the societal disregard for the poor, the injustices of the courts, and the lack of leadership by the religious authorities. It is unlikely that he was one of the poor (the style and language of his prophecies are quite sophisticated), but he certainly identified with them. Some scholars have speculated that he might have been a priest or a Levite since he seemed to have access to the royal court and especially targeted the priests and false prophets, accusing them of complicity in the injustices of society.
Historically, the stable reigns of Jeroboam II in the north (786-746BCE) and Uzziah in the south (767-739BCE) led to unprecedented prosperity for Israel and Judah. Borders were enlarged while foreign powers remained weak. But the world began to change for their successors. The north experienced a series of kings who proved impotent in the wake of Assyria’s resurgence. Finally, in the year 722, the city of Samaria fell to the Assyrian king, Sargon II, and the demise of the northern kingdom was complete.
Ahaz was king of Judah during that time, and while his pro-Assyrian policy averted a similar fate for Judah, his reign was noted for corruption and paganism. Judah became a vassal state of Assyria and was assessed a heavy tribute, which deepened the divide between the rich and the poor. Even though Hezekiah was noted for making some religious reforms, economic conditions continued to deteriorate mainly because of having to pay tribute to other nations. Peace and independence came with a huge price tag. As always, the imposition of heavy taxes struck hardest at those who could least afford to pay. Like Amos, Micah saw this as an affront to the Covenant, wherein they were covenanted to care for each other and which had been the basis of society. In Micah’s day, however, the poor had lost their lands, were powerless, and had no voice. Instead of remedying the situation, the political authorities made things worse by extracting as much as they could from the peasants, while the judges and religious authorities stood by silently.
Micah gave a voice to those who could not speak for themselves. Through God’s words, he considered their true worth as well as God’s commitment to them. Despite his message of total doom and destruction for society as a whole, he looked forward to a time when God would make a new beginning. Those who suffered would be rewarded.
There are three main oracles in the book of Micah: Impending Judgment 1-2; Indictment of the Leaders 3-5; God’s Lawsuit and the Ultimate Triumph of God’s Kingdom 6-7.