Sixth of the so-called Minor Prophets. The book is named for the prophet Micah (see Micah, 7). Micah identifies himself as "the Morasthite." The fact that Micah mentions only Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Mic. 1:1), implies that his ministry was confined largely to the southern kingdom, although his message was applicable also to the people of Samaria (see v 1). A comparison of Mic. 1:1 with Is 1:1; 6:1; and Hos 1:1 reveals that Micah's prophetic ministry began shortly after those of Isaiah and Hosea, and that for a number of years he was contemporary with them. Micah's ministry thus fell between about 739 and 686 b.c., probably during the earlier portion of this period. Whereas Hosea bore his message exclusively to the northern kingdom, or nearly so (cf. Hos 4:15; 11:12), and Isaiah to the southern kingdom, especially at Jerusalem (Is 1:1), Micah addressed himself to both. Whereas Isaiah reflects the culture of the capital city, Micah is more a man of the common people and sympathises with them in their suffering at the hand of oppressive landlords and judges. He has been called the prophet of social justice, since he attacks the wrongs to which the poor were exposed at the hands of heartless aristocrats. His style blends severity with tenderness, sternness with sympathy, boldness with love, simplicity with elegance. Abrupt transitions suggest that the book represents a collection of messages given at various times and places, and brought together without an intention to combine them into one unified message. The direct form of address, particularly the questions he asks of the people (chs 1:5; 2:7; 4:9; 6:3, 6, 7, 10, 11), probably vividly reflects the messages as he originally delivered them in oral form. He frequently employs literary devices such as the metaphor (chs 1:6; 3:2, 3, 6; 4:6 8, 13; 6:10, 11, 14, 15) and paronomasia, or play on words, evident in the Hebrew, as with the place names Aphrah (ch 1:10), Maroth (v 12), Lachish (v 13), Moresheth-gath and Achzib (v 14), and Mareshah (v 15). In ch 7:18 Micah apparently plays on his own name. His familiarity with history is reflected in chs 1:13 15; 5; 6:4, 6, 16; 7:20.
Micah's influence doubtless had a part in the thoroughgoing reforms effected by King Hezekiah, whose father, Ahaz, had gone so far as to set up a heathen altar in the Temple court. Idolatry was rampant throughout Judah, as well as in Israel, and the social injustice against which Micah particularly spoke was the natural result. Even the priests countenanced heathenism in order to retain their popularity with the people. The nobles and wealthier classes had given themselves over to lives of luxury and were unscrupulous and cruel in their dealings with the poorer classes, whom they ground down by excessive exactions and deprived of their legal and moral rights. But, as with most of the OT prophets, Micah's message had a dark and a bright side. On the one hand he condemned the sins of the people and warned of the result of obstinate persistence in an evil course, and on the other he spoke of the glory and joy of the Messianic kingdom to be established "in the last days" (ch 4:1).
Micah assails the corrupt state of society (Mic. 1:1 to 3:12). The "wound" of Judah appears to be "incurable" (ch 1:9), seemingly an allusion to Sennacherib's invasion described at length in Is 36 and 37. The people of Judah are so engrossed in iniquity and the oppression of their fellow countrymen that they lie awake at night devising new means of oppression (Mic. 2:1, 2). Accordingly, God promises to "devise an evil" from which they themselves will not be able to escape (v 3). Micah appeals particularly to the leaders and princes of the people, whose responsibility it was to provide justice for all, but who were figuratively eating the very flesh of the common people and flaying them alive instead (ch 3:1 3). False prophets, dishonest judges, and mercenary priests had become the curse of Israel (vs. 5 11), and unless the nation repented, Jerusalem would be devastated (v 12). In chs 4:1 to 5:15 Micah turns the page of prophecy to the glorious future when the "mountain of the house of the Lord," which would yet be laid desolate as a result of the sins of the people (ch 3:12), was to be "established in the top of the mountains" in glory and honour (ch 4:1). Israel would then fulfil its Messianic role by converting the nations to the worship of the true God (v 2) and thereby bring peace to the earth (vs. 3, 4, 7; cf. ch 5:7, 8). The dominion God had originally planned for His people would be theirs (ch 4:8) when Messiah should come to rule over Israel (ch 5:1 5). In ch 6 Micah returns to the Lord's "controversy with his people" (v 2), and proclaims in plain, simple language what God requires of them--to be fair and kind toward one another, and humble toward God (v 8). Captivity and repentance are foretold in ch 7:1 13 and the prophecy closes with a prayer for reformation and restoration (vs. 14 20).
Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.