Prophecy and the Prophets

By Barnard C. Taylor

Part II - A Story of the Individual Prophets

Chapter 10



Parallel reading: The same as noted for Isaiah.

1. Date and Historical Occasion

Micah prophesied in the kingdom of Judah, and belonged to the same period as Isaiah. The conditions that led to the work of Isaiah produced also the messages of Micah. Uzziah, who is named as the first king in Isaiah’s career, is not mentioned in the title of the book of Micah, but it is not probable that Isaiah had been engaged in his work very long when Micah entered upon his work. The wickedness of the people, idolatry, oppression, crime of every sort, the failure of the king, all these led Micah also to condemn and threaten. The character of his work was thus determined by the conditions of his time.

2. The Chief Thought of the Book

The controlling ideas in the book of Micah are very similar to those found in Isaiah. There is the condemnation of the people for their sins, the threat that punishment will come upon them, with the promise of the restoration and reestablishment of God’s people. The rich ones of the nation are condemned for oppressing the poor; the judges and priests, who should have been leaders in good, are condemned because they have led in wickedness; the false prophets are threatened because they have led the people into error instead of into right, they promised plenty and security when there was punishment at hand, they professed to speak for God when he had given them no message.

Along with these threats there are bright promises in Micah. There is scarcely any exhortation. It would seem that the prophet saw no hope that the people would turn from their sins, but would go on to the destruction that was before them. But beyond the fall he saw that the kingdom would rise again. His Messianic ideas are not given with such fulness as in Isaiah, but they are at times very clear. He, too, foretells of the coming of the heathen to the service of Jehovah.

In the future that he sees there would be no more idolatry, no more corruption, no apostasy from Jehovah. God’s people would be in the light, and the enemy in the darkness.

Micah teaches that God demands right living, rather than sacrifices. Forms of worship are condemned, not because they are wrong, but because: they are not enough.

3. The General Style of Micah’s Writing

The prophecies of Micah are not so simple as some of the others, Joel, or Amos, but they are more easy to understand than much that we find in Hosea. It is likely that much in the book is made up of abstracts of the original messages delivered orally to the people.

There are instances of what is called paronomasia, giving a thought suggested by the sound of a name. A remarkable instance of this occurs in ch. 1. This is not, however, punning. Isaiah makes some of his thoughts very impressive by the same means. The connection of thought is abrupt in some places, and often there is a sudden change from threat to promise, the two being found mingled, as in Isaiah. A number of cases of references to what Isaiah had been prophesying occur, expressions being used that would be difficult to understand without help from the other prophet. (See 5:3; 7:11; cf. Isa. 7:14; 5:5.)

There are allusions to the past history of the Israelites, showing what God had done for them, and references to the laws that had been given. These are not so numerous, however, as they are in Hosea and Amos.

4. Divisions of the Book

The contents of this book are not divided into very clear divisions, yet the following groups may be recognized:

Ch. 1-3. In these chapters there is especially threat against Samaria as well as Judah, description of the devastation of the latter, ch. 1, condemnation of the greedy, and the false prophets, who shall perish, and the rulers who oppress for gain, with the prediction of the utter overthrow of Zion, ch. 2, 3.

Chs. 4 and 5. This division is full of promise. The outcast shall be regathered; enemies shall be overcome, and God’s people shall trust in him.

Chs. 6 and 7. Here we find charges of sin, especially oppression and idolatry, and a statement of what God required of his people. The latter part is a repetition of the promised restoration and triumph over enemies.

5. The Course of Thought

Ch. 1 begins with the announcement of the coming of Jehovah to punish the people, with a special threat against Samaria, which had not yet fallen. But the devastation is to extend into Judah. The progress of this is described along with the naming of the cities of Judah affected.

In ch. 2 the rulers who oppress are threatened; their land shall be taken from them; they are to be exiled from Palestine, which shall not be their land of rest, for they have evicted the women from their homes. But a promise is added to this division. (Ch. 2:12, 13.)

Ch. 3 begins with the condemnation of the rulers who afflict the poor. Then the prophets who deliver messages only that they may be supported by the people, and who lead the people astray, are assured that they shall enter into darkness, and be put to confusion. On the other hand, Micah is strong and bold to speak the truth. He condemns the leaders, and predicts that their holy city shall be like a field that is plowed.

In the beginning of ch. 4 there is a passage parallel with the one in ch. 2 of Isaiah, a remarkable promise of the worship of Jehovah by all the nations of the earth. This is closely connected with the close of ch. 3, giving the destruction of Zion. Not only shall it be the city of God’s chosen people again, but the holy city of all peoples. Meantime desolation shall come, and Zion shall lament, and shall go to Babylon, but afterwards she shall be restored, and shall conquer her enemies.

In ch. 5 there is the specific prediction of the birth-place of the coming Messiah, Ruler and Defender of God’s people, who shall be both a blessing and a power among the nations of the earth. When the people have been restored they will no longer trust in anything but Jehovah. All that has been a source of sin and apostasy will be cut off.

Ch. 6 opens with a form of controversy between God and his people, who are condemned because they have forsaken him, while he has done so much for them. Then ver. 6-12 show what is really required of the people: not sacrifices, but justice and righteousness, instead of the corruption that still prevails. Hence the land shall be made a desolation. They are following in the sins of Israel.

In the first part of ch. 7 the picture of the social condition of Judah is a sad one. There is not one good man left; all are earnestly engaged in wickedness; no one can be trusted. The case seems hopeless. The prophet then looks forward to the time when the punishment shall have passed; when Zion’s enemy shall be put to shame; when the hedge about God’s vineyard should be built up again, and the decree of its destruction should be afar off, ver. 11; God’s people shall come back from captivity, and their enemies shall be subdued. In that day the ancient promises of God will be fulfilled.