Micah, Book of
MICAH, BOOK OF
The 6th of the 12 minor prophets. After outlining the contents of the book, this article will consider the questions of its date and authorship and its message.
Contents. The construction of the book is simple and well balanced: two collections of doom oracles separated by a collection of oracles of salvation. The ordering is a logical, not a chronological, one. The three parts of the prophecy are (1) God's chastisement of Judah's sins in keeping with the punishment He has already inflicted on Samaria (1.1–3.12); (2) a prediction of Zion's restoration by the Messiah (4.1–5.14); (3) God's rebuke of
Judah for its ingratitude, injustice, and infidelity (6.1–7.6).
Part one contains prophecies of doom against Judah. It begins (1.2–7) by announcing Samaria's fall and the judgment of Yahweh on that city's sins. But the whole oracle intends to present the message to Jerusalem; judgment against Samaria is announced as an introduction to dire warning given Jerusalem and Judah (1.8–16); devastation comes as judgment upon Judah's social injustices (2.1–11). In the midst of these oracles of doom is an unexpected prophecy of salvation, announcing the gathering of the Remnant of Israel (2.12–13). There follows a further list of prophecies of woe directed against judges, Prophets, and the governing classes, and because of the crimes of these leaders Jerusalem will fall (3.1–12).
Part two of Micah is the "messianic" section (ch. 4–5); it is concerned entirely with the salvation of God's people and the destruction of its enemies. Possibly some verses found here have undergone later revision or even transformation. To inspire hope, the oracle of promise is used: 4.9–10, 11–13; 4.14–5.5. Here occurs a radiant vision of the new Jerusalem (4.1–5) and a great tableau of the future (5.1–5). The messianic kingdom is promised, not to the temporal Judah in its totality, but to the remnant (4.7; 5.2, 6–7) that has survived the punishment. This punishment is the sanction of Judah's present sin. But the sin of Judah does not suspend the fulfillment of the covenant. Micah's vision of Zion's restoration is an affirmation of complete faith in the success of God's plan. At the center of God's kingdom, the Prophet sees the King-Messiah, Son of David (4.8; 5.1–5).
The third part of the book opens with a juridical charge brought by Yahweh against His ungrateful people (6.1–8). Jerusalem is condemned for its social injustices (6.9–16); then the Prophet laments over the lack of justice and loyalty in the land (7.1–6). The section closes with a lamentation (7.7–10), a prediction (7.11–13), and a double prayer (7.14–17, 18–20).
Date and authorship. According to the title of the collection (1.1), Micah's preaching activity took place during the reigns of the Judean kings Joatham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This title, however, is later than the collection and has appeared suspect to many critics. In any event, Micah's preaching under Hezekiah (715–687 b.c.) is incontestable; Jeremiah affirms it (Jer 26.18–19). Micah's complaint over the cities of the Shephela (Mi 1.8–16) and his allusions to the siege of Jerusalem (4.9–10, 11, 14) are best situated at the time of Sennacherib's invasion in 701 b.c. In Micah there are excerpts from prophetic preaching that began sometime before 721 and still continued in 701. This is not to deny that some oracles have undergone later revision. The collection of Micah's oracles as it now exists is the work of an anonymous postexilic editor who apparently organized partial collections that had already been made. Unfortunately, the text suffered in transmission and is in an extremely bad state of preservation. Some critics doubt the Mican authorship of certain passages. This question is complicated by the fact that Micah, like the other prophetic books, was not a dead letter; the community exploited it and fashioned it in its liturgy according to its needs. The problem of authorship demands a cautious approach.
Message. Micah protests against social injustice: oppression of the poor, corruption of the governing classes, grinding down of the unfortunate in the machinery of the law. But his protest is based, not on man's dignity or his rights as a human individual or social being, but on Micah's concept of God's people. This concept dominates Micah's whole vision. God's people is not a political power, but a people chosen by, saved by, and allied to Yahweh by pure favor. Hence flow religious duties toward Yahweh the savior, and a special type of human relations among members of the chosen family. Micah demands the restoration of these duties and these relations. His vision of the future expresses faith in the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and the ultimate accomplishment of Yahweh's plan to save.
Bibliography: a. george, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot (Paris 1928—) 5:1252–63. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible (New York 1963) 1529–31. o. schilling, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:390–391. k. meyer and w. werbeck, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 4:929–931. b. vawter, The Conscience of Israel (New York 1961) 130–161.