Introduction to the Book of Micah
and Study of Micah 1-4
September 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Micah (Overview)

Micah was a prophet during the time of Isaiah and Hosea. He authored this seven-chapter book that warns of forthcoming judgment and salvation for the northern and southern kingdoms. His underlying message was the same as his peers regarding injustices, evil, and ultimate redemption. However, Micah had a different reference point. He was a country man. Consequently, he took issue with the sins of the big city and also talked about actions and consequences in the small towns and fields of Judah. Since he was from the countryside, Micah was an outsider in Jerusalem. As such he was probably controversial and unpopular (1). His unique style may have helped to gain attention. Gordon Peterson calls him a master of metaphors. Look for the metaphors as you read and take time to consider what they mean for you.

Although he may have been controversial, the prophecies of Micah were remembered by later generations in Judah, as noted in the book of Jeremiah. In fact, it was a reference to the prophecies of Micah that saved Jeremiah from a death sentence, as recorded in Jeremiah 26:8-19. Jeremiah had been accused of prophesizing against the city of Jerusalem, and the crowd was churning with anger. Then someone reminded the group that Micah had made similar proclamations, but King Hezekiah had listened to him. Let us also listen to Micah today.

The book could be broken down as follows (2):

We will divide up the study along slightly different lines, with the first day focused on chapters 1-4 and the second day on chapters 5-7. References used include the following:

Micah 1-4 (Popular Prophecies)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“I’m calling a meeting, Jacob.     I want everyone back—all the survivors of Israel.
I’ll get them together in one place—
    like sheep in a fold, like cattle in a corral—
  a milling throng of homebound people!
Then I, God, will burst all confinements
    and lead them out into the open.
They’ll follow their King.
    I will be out in front leading them.”

- Micah 2:12-13 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

The first two chapters are titled "Trial of the Capitals" because Micah lists the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem, the two capitals that were supposed to lead their respective nations.

He begins by telling all the people of the earth to listen to judgments against these cities. The main sin addressed in these chapters is the use of the holy places for idol worship. As such, the LORD will destroy the false idols and the cities that house them. The people in all of the other towns of the nation will hear of these consequences and will weep and wail.

In chapter 2, Micah contrasts man’s plans versus God’s. Some men plan their guilty deeds when they go to bed at night and act them out the next day. Meanwhile, God makes plans to punish those wicked men and carries out those plans according to his own timetable. Next, Micah rebukes the false prophets with a sarcastic indictment:

Then Micah ends the chapter by relaying a promise from the LORD to save the remnant of Israel and provide a king to lead them.

Chapter 3 turns the trial towards the leaders and false prophets who have conspired to take advantage of the people. They did not insure justice nor serve the people in God’s name. Instead, “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money (Micah 3:11 - NIV).”

In chapter 4 Micah describes the establishment of a new temple that will be higher than any mountain. It will attract people from many nations and there will be peace on earth. At the end of this chapter Micah reveals to the people the LORD’s plans to allow other nations to conquer both kingdoms and bring the people into exile. But the other nations do not realize that after a while they will be defeated and the LORD will rescue his people.

Reflection and Application

In chapter 1 Micah tells all the people of the earth to listen to what he has to say. The judgments were only against two specific places but the warning could be applied to any nation, city, or tribe. These words from the prophet are also applicable to any era, not just during his lifetime.

In the original Hebrew Micah uses puns in chapter 1 to capture his audience's attention as he described the reaction in each city to the news of pending judgment. Unfortunately, the puns were lost in most English translations. For example, in the King James Version we read, "in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust (Micah 1:10 - KJV)." But what is not obvious is that Aphrah also means "House of Dust." In a section of the next verse, this version has the following phrase: "The inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel (Micah 1:11 KJV)." But the average reader does not realize that Zaanan sounds like the word in Hebrew for "come out." The NIV version of the Bible updated the scripture to more contemporary English, but did not recapture the original tone: “In Beth Ophrah roll in the dust (Micah 1:10 - NIV),” and “those who live in Zaanan will not come out (Micah 1:11 NIV).”

These passages are good examples of the value of Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible, titled The Message. Peterson developed an updated modern translation and also tried to properly represent the poetry and tone of the original scriptures. For example, he brings alive the original wit and poetry from the first chapter of Micah by using an English version of the alternate names for each town mentioned:

Micah applied the creative talents that the LORD gave him to help catch the ears of his intended audience. The word games and sarcasm he played might seem out of place in a serious text that talks about destruction, but it might also be the approach that helped attract people to listen to him.

God hears our plans and chuckles. We hear his plans and wonder what the time table is. Micah describes a high temple worshipped by all nations and an era of peace. He may have been referring to the restoration of Jerusalem following the exile or he may have been referring to a time further away – yet to come. There will be a day when peace comes to earth. If we listen to the words of the prophets and obey God’s call then we will be ready for it.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are some of your favorite puns?
    2. The main sin Micah addresses is the desecration of the holy places. What are we doing to ensure that our holy places are kept sacred?
    3. Micah's style reminds us that when we talk about God it does not have to be dry and boring. How can we apply our own unique talents to help tell God’s stories to different audiences?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven we acknowledge that mountains sink under your feet, valleys split apart at your word, and the rock mountains crumble into gravel at your command. Help us to tell your story with an enthusiasm, creativity, and sincerity that is worthy of your Name.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Comedians and Satirists

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Micah 5-7 (Walk Humbly with Your God)


    (1) New American Bible, Introduction to Micah
    (2) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984, p334

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