views updated May 18 2018


MICAH (fl. eighth century bce), or, in Hebrew, Mikhah; Hebrew prophet whose prophecy is recorded in the biblical Book of Micah. Although the Book of Micah employs a personal approach in which the prophet occasionally speaks directly in the first person to reveal his deep feelings (e.g., 1:8, 3:8 [citations herein follow the English version]), the prophet reveals neither his personal life nor his background, in contrast to many other prophets, including his contemporary, Isaiah. He does not even provide an account of his call. We know only his general period of time as stated in the superscription (1:1), which is derived from a later hand. There is also a reference to Micah's hometown, Moresheth (cf. Moresheth-gath, 1:14), which is located southwest of Jerusalem. Interestingly, this information is repeated later, in Jeremiah 26:18, demonstrating the strong impact of Micah's prophecy.

According to the superscription, the period of Micah's activity was during the time of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah in the second half of the eighth century bce. It was a politically stormy time dominated by the Syro-Ephraimite war and Assyrian military threats against Judah. Yet these major military events, which underlie Isaiah's prophecy, are not specifically addressed in Micah's speeches, for he was mainly concerned with the internal situationthe social and moral injustices of the rulers of Judah. Micah's attack on the false prophets (3:512) is noteworthy in that he was the first to devote an entire speech to the problem.

A large part of Micah concerns prophecies of salvation and the "new age." Many scholars consider the relationship between oracles of doom and prophecies of salvation to be mutually exclusive, and tend to distinguish between the oracles of doom, that is, the authentic Micah, and prophecies of salvation, which they consider later additions. As a rule, these scholars consider the major parts of chapters 13 (except, perhaps, 2:1213) the core of Micah's own prophecy, with the remainder reflecting thinkers of later periods who were influenced by Micah (as in Jer. 26:18) and sought to update the outcome of the old prophecies.

This distinction between Micah and his later editors is based upon a particular modern scholarly understanding of the nature of the authentic prophecies. Stylistic and linguistic criteria, however, are not the decisive factors in determining the original text as opposed to additions. This distinction is based upon theme rather than stylistic literary analysis. We should, however, take into consideration the possibility that prophecies of judgment may mingle with oracles of salvation, that the prophet did not merely record his surroundings but also developed a specific perspective on the new age, which he sought to share with his audience. Micah's criticism of his present world leads to his prophecy of the new age, the period of peace and justice. A distinction between original prophecies of doom and supplementary prophecies of salvation would therefore be misleading.

Much has been written about the relationship between the two contemporaries, Micah and Isaiah, because of the similarity between the visions of the "new age" in Micah 4:15 and Isaiah 2:14 (or 5). Since Micah's vision is not in chapters 13 of Micah, which contain oracles of doom (considered to be the words of Micah himself), scholars tend to regard this vision as inauthentic. Isaiah's vision is likewise regarded as an addition, since it is a prophecy of salvation. It has been stated above, however, that the distinction between oracles of doom and prophecies of salvation may be an artificial one. Notice should be taken of Micah's conclusion: "For all the people walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever" (4:5, RSV). Insofar as this differs from Isaiah's emphasis on the universality and centrality of the mountain of God, the house of the God of Jacob, Micah's national approach here conveys a message that contrasts with Isaiah's universalism. Furthermore, Micah speaks specifically about the total destruction of Jerusalem (3:2; cf. Jer. 26:18), while Isaiah avoids such a description of the holy city. In this context we may also question Micah's criticism of the other prophets. For instance, when he condemns them for calling for peace (3:5), is he referring to Isaiah's call for peace during the Syro-Ephraimite war (Is. 7:49)?

There are no definite criteria for determining where Micah's various speeches begin and end in the text. He starts with the subject of Judah's military troubles, and then in chapter 2 presents a sharp social criticism of those who oppress the poor and take their houses and property. In chapter 3 this attack is addressed more directly to rulers who tyrannize their citizens. In 3:512, Micah admonishes the prophets for misleading the people concerning the political situation. The style of discourse of chapters 13 maintains the characteristic prophetic conception of cause and effect: that the political and military situation reflects social and moral misbehavior. Wars and political disasters do not occur in a vacuum: political events are initiated by God as a punishment; they are God's response to the moral misconduct of the rulers of Judah.

Micah 4:15 describes the new age, the period of peace, while 5:15 concentrates on the new ruler of Israel, a descendant of the house of David, who will come from the town of Bethlehem. At 5:9 a prophecy begins concerning the destruction of the state's symbols of powerthe military horses, chariots, and fortressesas well as the destruction of foreign religious idols. It prophesies a conflict between God and Israel in which God condemns Israel for its betrayal. The speech ends with a moral-religious revelation (6:68). The lament of 7:17 is followed by a prophetic liturgy (7:820), which concludes with God's praise and the assurance that God will continue to protect his people as he has done in the past.

Despite numerous textual difficulties, Micah's message is clear and precise, and he clarifies the role of the prophet:

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. (3:8)

Above all, the book lucidly states the meaning of Yahvistic religion in terms of God's demands upon the worshipers. Micah stresses the elements of justice, love, and kindness as God's preference in worship (6:68).


Hillers, Delbert R. Micah. Philadelphia, 1984.

Mays, James Luther. Micah: A Commentary. Philadelphia, 1976.

Wolff, Hans Walter. Mit Micha Reden. Neukirchen, 1978.

Wolff, Hans Walter. Micah the Prophet. Philadelphia, 1981.

New Sources

Alfaro, Juan I. Justice and Loyalty: A Commentary on the Book of Micah. International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich., and Edinburgh, 1989.

Jacobs, Mignon R. The Conceptual Coherence of the Book of Micah. Sheffield, U.K., 2001.

Luker, Lamontte M. "Beyond Form Criticism: The Relation of Doom and Hope Oracles in Micah 2-6." Hebrew Annual Review 11 (1987): 285301.

McKane, William. The Book of Micah: Introduction and Commentary. Edinburgh, 1998.

Wessels, Wilhelm (Willie) J. "Conflicting Powers: Reflections from the Book of Micah." Old Testament Essays 10 (1997): 528544.

Yehoshua Gitay (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated Jun 11 2018


MICAH (Heb. מִיכָה), the sixth book in the collection known as the Twelve Minor Prophets within the subdivision "Later Prophets" of the second division of the Hebrew Bible (the Prophets). In the Septuagint translation, where the order varies, Micah usually comes immediately after Hosea and Amos. It is possible that the prophet's name is a hypocoristic of a name formulated as a rhetorical question. Mi-ka-yahu, "who is like yhw(h)" or Mi-ka-El, "Who is like God / El." An ostracon from Jerusalem from the late eighth or early seventh century attests the name Mk[y]hw (Ahituv, 23).

The Content of the Book

The title (1:1) specifies the name, country, and date (in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah in the eighth century) of Micah's prophecy "concerning Jerusalem and Samaria." This is followed by a diatribe against Israel and Samaria (1:2–7). Critics have suggested that verse 1:5b, dealing with the "cult places" (bamot) of Judah – which are hardly a concern of Micah – is a gloss inspired by 3:12. Others emend bamot to ḥattot, "sins." In the succeeding lamentation (1:8–16), over the birthplace of the prophet and the neighboring towns, misfortune strikes at the gates of Jerusalem (12) but does not pass beyond them. The prophetic "I" makes its first appearance in verse 15. In verse 16, as the form of the Hebrew verb shows, a female person is addressed; no doubt Daughter-Zion of verse 13, or, following the reading of some manuscripts of the Septuagint, "Fair Israel." In fact the "kings of Israel" did suffer a reverse at Achzib, as verse 14 indicates.

In 2:1 the threat is no longer directed against cities but against those who, having dispossessed others and defrauded them of their holdings, shall themselves be dispossessed. This section of chapter 2 may be dealing with social injustices (8–12) or, like Hosea 5:9–11, with a territorial dispute between tribes. Note that it is a clan (mishpaḥah, 2:3), which has angered the Lord and it is a stranger who reaps the benefit of the vengeful spoliation, without right of repurchase. The key phrase is in verse 7: the Lord does not abandon Israel. The sense of the passage becomes clearer if the prophet is assumed to be warning the ministers of Judah, who wish to expand at the expense of Israel. From this the conclusion can be drawn that the Lord, the sole King, steps into the breach and gathers His people together despite Judah's policy. In a new soliloquy (3:1) the prophet personally attacks the "leaders" and "magistrates" of Israel (without any mention of kings) who ignore the law and devour each other in quarrels, which the prophet depicts figuratively as cannibalism, through which the people suffer. The prophets for their part mislead the people. In punishment, the Lord no longer provides them visions. Chapter 3 culminates in a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, corresponding to that of Samaria in 1:6. According to Jeremiah 26:18, this text had great repercussions, reaching the ear of Hezekiah and perhaps precipitating his reforms.

The allusion to Jerusalem and Zion is followed by the insertion of the famous passage, "from Zion shall come forth Torah/ teaching/ law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," which appears also in Isaiah (2:2–4). The passage predicts the universal reign of peace, with the Lord issuing instructions on Mount Zion and settling disputes so that war will be unnecessary. (On the relation between the Micah and Isaiah oracles, Andersen and Freedman (413–25) cite no fewer than seven options.) After the profession of faith in 4:5 ("We walk in the name of the Lord, our God"), a new oracle announces the reign of the Lord, who assembles the crippled. Daughter-Zion regains her former sovereignty (vs. 8). Her present pangs are pangs of birth that augur well for the future when yhwh will redeem her. The section (5:1–5:5) on Beth-Lehem-Ephrathah appears to be a unity. Though the area is too small to be a fighting unit, from there the leader (moshel, the term "king" is avoided) of Israel will arise (cf. the Christian reading of this passage in Matt. 2:5–6). The allusion to a Davidide is clear, inasmuch as his wellsprings, or origins, can be traced from ancient times (5:1). The schism between Israel and Judah is compared to the abandonment of the Israelites by this Davidide until the day when she, presumably Daughter-Zion (4:10), who is destined to give birth does so. The leader presides over the ingathering, but here this is presented as a return of Judah to Israel (cf. Deut. 33:7). This shepherd is capable of organizing a coalition against Assyria of seven shepherds and eight nesikhim ("princes") and of assuring peace. This passage is therefore linked with the preceding one, as B. Renaud pointed out. It likewise is connected with the following verses: 6–8, where the remnant of Israel is seen as present in the midst of the nations as a sign of the Lord's blessing or curse.

In contrast, chapter 5:9–14 returns to the theme of the extermination of idols (as in 1:7 against Samaria; cf. Isa. 2:6–22) with an allusion to the cities of the country (as in 1:10–15). This passage is linked associatively with chapter 6 by the repetition of the verb shama, "hear" (cf. 5:14) in 6:1. Here the presentation is in the form of a complaint (riv). The Lord recalls his acts of salvation, citing the exodus from Egypt led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (the only non-genealogical reference to Miriam outside the Pentateuch), and the plot of Balak and Balaam, which yhwh foiled. No response of the people has survived. The verses that follow are arguably among the most famous in the Bible. In vss. 6–7 we have a question modeled on the liturgy of entrance: "With what shall I come before yhwh, bow down to the god on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves sons of a year? Will yhwh be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriads of streams of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my belly for my own sin?" Verse 8 replies that it has already been revealed to humans what is required of them: justice, mercy, and humility before the Lord. Chapter 6:9–16 is a new soliloquy to an unnamed town, and probably to a tribe. The resemblance to Amos 8:4–5 and the allusion in verse 16 to Omri and the house of Ahab make it probable that the passage alluded (at least originally) to Samaria. The tribe may be Ephraim, since in the oracles of Hosea and Isaiah the kingdom of the North dismembered by *Tiglath-Pileser iii is called Ephraim (Isa. 9:7 (8)).

The prophetic "I" again appears in 7:1 in a lamentation on civil discord (cf. 3:3; Isa. 10:17ff.). This "I" reappears from verse 7 onward where the prophet speaks in the name of Israel, which reproaches its "enemy" for having rejoiced at its downfall. It is probable that (as in 2:8) the enemy is in this case Judah, since the question raised by the "enemy": "Where is your God?" is the reproach of the Judahites against the Israelites who did not recognize the choice of the sanctuary at Zion. Verse 10b is reminiscent of 3:12 on the ruin of Jerusalem. Chapter 7:14–20 is a prayer imploring the Lord to become the shepherd of His people once again (the geographical terms are of the North, Carmel, Bashan, and Gilead, alienated in 733 b.c.e.) as He promised to Jacob and Abraham. This rare reference probably aimed at encompassing both Judah and Israel in the same gathering.


The book is composed of independent but more or less connected sections. Ordinarily, these sections are re-divided into three: chapters 1–3 speak of condemnation, 4–5 of consolation, and 6–7 of a mixture of condemnation and consolation. The visions of consolation are generally attributed to the years following the Exile and are assumed to have been added to the original oracles of Micah at the time when the book was put together (Renaud). There are two objections to this view:

(1) It disregards the importance of the kingdom of the North and its downfall in 722 in the religious thought of Israel. This strain in Micah was given great emphasis by F.C. Burkitt, O. Eissfeldt, and J.T. Willis;

(2) It neglects the influence of the cultural traditions in the sanctuaries (including Jerusalem) on the prophetic oracles. E. Hammershaimb and B. Reicke have stressed this fact. In the ancient Orient, as at the beginning of the monarchy, prophecy announced good tidings rather than misfortune.

But as Willis' survey of the numerous theories about Micah demonstrates, the history of the book's composition is far from settled. The unity, coherence, and attribution to the prophet are all debated. Where some scholars see artful redactional unity, others (e.g., Hillers) find no meaningful structure. Willis himself enumerates areas that need to be addressed. Among these are the text, which swarms with philological difficulties, and the criteria for the dating of passages. It is impossible to speak meaningfully about the theology of the book, if indeed it has one or several, apart from the questions of composition, arrangement, and redaction. There is general agreement though that the present book has a historical core in the eighth century, and that at least some of the prophecies are those of the prophet Micah referred to in Jeremiah 26:16–19, and confused with Michaiah son of Imlah in i Kings. 22–28.

The Prophet and His Time

R. Weil emphasized the importance of historical events known from ii Kings 20–22 for an understanding of Micah. His birthplace, Moresheth-Gath, near Lachish, is known as far back as the El-Amarna period (tablet 335:7). This region had suffered since the days of the Syro-Ephraimite war against Judah, which commenced under *Jotham (ii Kings 15:37; cf. Micah 1:1 and probably 1:13) and continued up to the time of the Assyrian campaign against Gath and Ashdod in 733, 720 (the five nesikim of Micah 5:4 are reminiscent of the five Aramean "sheikhs" (Akkadian: nāsikāti) mentioned by the Assyrian king Sargon ii (Fuchs, 147)), and 712 (cf. Isa. 20). Meanwhile Samaria had fallen. Hezekiah, who had probably been associated in the kingship from 729/7, became in any case the sole king after 716/5. He shared the views of Micah (Jer. 26:18), who attacked the leaders of Jerusalem (but never the king), and his political activities disturbed Sargon. Perhaps it was at this time that the mission of Merodach-Baladan took place and the oracles on the deliverance of daughter-Zion were delivered, but this mission probably dates from 703, the time of the general revolt against Sennacherib which was to end in 701 with a new occupation of Lachish and the region. The rabbis held that Micah's prophecies were redacted and canonized by the Men of the Great Assembly (bb 15a; see *Great Synagogue).

The Theological Problem

Micah 5 regards it as the will of yhwh that all Israel unite around the dynasty that issued from Beth-Lehem, where David was born. There are similarities in the theological teachings found in Micah and Isaiah: the fidelity of the Lord endures despite his "wrath" (Micah 7:9; Isa. 9:11, 16); He remains the light of the faithful (Micah 7:8; Isa. 10:17); He is King of Israel (Micah 4:7; Isa. 6:1); and He has chosen the Davidic dynasty for the salvation of the people (Micah 5:1; Isa. 7:1–9; 9:6). Finally, the theology of the book of Micah shares points in common with that of Hosea and *Deuteronomy when speaking of ḥesed ("mercy"; 7:18, 20), "the love of ḥesed" (6:8), and when it places mercy and humble submission to God above sacrifices (6:8; cf. Hos. 6:6). This prophet who, unlike the others, reveals himself as "full of strength, the spirit of yhwh, and justice and valor" takes on his shoulders the burden that the descendants of David should have assumed (Isa. 11:2–3).

There are numerous word plays in the book: be-gat al taggidu …be-bet le-aprah apar … (1:10); akziv le-akzav (1:14); ha-yoresh … moreshah; ad adullam (1:15); titgodedi bat-gedud (4:14). The text of the book has not been well-preserved, with some passages unintelligible (e.g., 1:10–16; 2:6–11; 7:11–12).

[Henri Cazelles /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

According to one opinion, Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah (sor 20; and Pes. 87b); according to another, he was one of the post-Exilic prophets (pdrk 16, 128b). The verse: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8) is a quintessence of the 613 commandments of the Bible (Mak. 24a).


F.C. Burkitt, in: jbl, 45 (1926), 159–61; K. Elliger, in: zdpv, 57 (1934), 81–152; R. Weil, in: rhr (1940), 146–61; H.L. Ginsberg, in: Eretz Israel, 3 (1954), 84; idem, in: jaos, 88 (1968), 47–49; Pritchard, Texts, 286–7; H. Tadmor, in: Journal of CuneiformStudies, 12 (1958), 80–83; O. Eissfeldt, in: zdmg, 112 (1962), 259–68; idem, Einleitung in das Alte Testament (19643, rev. ed.); B. Renaud, Structure et attaches littéraires de Michée iv–v (1964); E. Hammershaimb, Some Aspects of Old Testament Prophecy (1966); B. Reicke, in: htr, 60 (1967), 349–67; C. Cazelles, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), 87–89; J.T. Willis, in: vt, 18 (1968), 529–41; Kaufmann Y., Religion, 395–8. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 260. add. bibliography: H. Woolf, Micah: A Commentary (1981); R. Smith, Micah-Malachi (Word; 1984), 1–60; D. Hillers, Micah (Hermeneia; 984); idem, in: adb, 4:817–10; P. King, Amos, Hosea, MicahAn Archaeological Commentary (1988); S. Ahituv, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (1992); A. Fuchs, Die Inschriften Sargons ii. aus Khorsabad (1993); J.Willis, in: dbi, 2:150–52; F. Andersen and D. Freedman, Micah (ab; 2000), 33–99, extensive bibl.


views updated Jun 08 2018


Micah (active 8th century B.C.), a prophet of ancient Israel, is traditionally known as the author of the biblical book bearing his name. The Book of Micah is always placed sixth in the list of the 12 Minor Prophets.

Micah was a later contemporary of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah. From his book it is clear that he began to preach to the Assyrians shortly before the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. His writings also reflect the mass transportation of Israelites from northern Palestine between 734 and 721 and the conquest of all Judean towns between that time and 701. Micah was an eyewitness of the siege of Jerusalem in 700 by the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Micah's ministry therefore took place substantially in the last 25 years of the 8th century. He was not of the priestly or aristocratic class; he came from the class of small farmers and farm laborers.

The Book of Micah falls into three distinct parts. Chapters 1-3 comment on the fall of Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, to the Assyrian king Sargon in 721. This, Micah says, is a punishment of God for the sins of Israel. Micah then foretells the same doom for Jerusalem because the rich oppress the poor; the prophets of his time and the teachers condone this oppression; and moral cleanliness is not sought by men. Chapters 4-5 foretell the fall of Jerusalem and the restoration of its glory; he predicts that all the peoples of the earth will stream to the restored city in order to learn there how to observe the commandments of God and to attain holiness. Chapters 6-7 contain a series of oracles and denunciations. Israel's ingratitude, injustice, and cheating, the disappearance of godly behavior, and the rise of religious infidelity are all castigated by Micah. But the text ends with an expression of hope in the ultimate salvation of Israel and a petition for God's mercy and a fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.

Although all seven chapters of the Book of Micah bear his name, serious doubts have been raised by biblical scholars as to the authorship of certain chapters. There is general agreement that chapter 1-3 come from Micah. Chapters 4-5 speak of exile, of the abolition of royalty, and of Babylon—where the later exiles were transported. All these, if taken as referring to the later fall of Jerusalem into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian exile in 597 B.C., cannot have come from the hand of Micah. Chapters 6-7 present difficulties of the same kind. One of the chief arguments against ascribing this material to Micah is the element of universalism and worldwide religious outlook. This became a conscious part of Judaism's thought and teaching only after the exile to Babylon. Indeed, in one passage of Micah (4: 1-5) where there is mention of this universalism, we find an identical or quasi-identical, passage in the Book of Isaiah (2: 2-4). This renders scholars suspicious.

Micah's policies and his teachings were much in vogue after his death and in early Christian times. The prophet Jeremiah, 100 years later, pointed to Micah's ministry as justification for his own continual criticism and condemnation of sinners and of injustice in Israel. During the exile at Babylon, Micah's prophecies of restoration were reflected in the psalms composed in Babylon. The early Christian Gospel writers and the early theologians used Micah to establish the veracity of the Christian Church.

Further Reading

See Norman Henry Snaith, Amos, Hosea, and Micah (1956), and, for background, Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1941; rev. ed. 1948). □


views updated Jun 11 2018

Micah. Sixth book in the collection of Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. The prophet was a native of the Southern Kingdom and is probably referring to the political events occurring in the reign of King Hezekiah.


views updated May 23 2018

Micah (in the Bible) a Hebrew minor prophet. Also, a book of the Bible bearing his name, foretelling the destruction of Samaria and of Jerusalem.