The Book of Micah reveals God's judgement toward a disobedient people and proclaims that their punishment and exile will soon be at hand. However, God promises in His mercy to restore a remnant from whom the Messiah will come. The following has been adapted from the Lutheran Bible Companion.
The name Micah means “Who is like Yahweh?” and it has often been supposed that the opening question in the book’s doxology (7:18) is a play on the name.
The only personal information we have on Micah is his home in Moresheth (1:1, 14). Not even the name of the prophet’s father is mentioned. Commentators often seek to explain various features in Micah’s preaching as reflecting his small-town background; there may be partial truth in the explanation, but one should be cautious. Those origins might help explain the feeling with which Micah condemns exploitation and oppression of the poor.
Genre and Characters
The Book of Micah is a collection of the visions he recorded throughout his ministry. Visions may be introduced with the word Hear (1:2; 3:1; 6:1), which occurs at key points in the book.
The chief character of Micah’s visions is the Lord, who confronts the people of Samaria/Israel and Judah with their sins. In particular, the Lord distinguishes the oppressive rulers, priests, and prophets from the poor and weak, who are exploited. The prophet laments after seeing the visions of judgment (1:8–9). The Babylonians and Assyrians arrive as instruments of the Lord’s wrath.
The Lord also promises a “remnant” assembled from the lame and afflicted, whom He shall restore. To that end, He promises a ruler in Israel who comes from Bethlehem, whom later Jews and Christians identified as the Messiah, Jesus (Matthew 2:5–6; John 7:42).
Micah is the fourth of the great eighth-century BC prophets, including Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. Yet he is often overshadowed by the others, especially his fellow Judean, Isaiah. As a result, he is sometimes called “the neglected prophet” or “little Isaiah.” Many inner connections between Micah and Isaiah are traceable (e.g., Micah 4:1–4 and Isaiah 2:2–5; Micah 2:1–5 and Isaiah 5:8; Micah 5:9–14 and Isaiah 2:6). If Amos is the prophet of justice, Hosea of love, and Isaiah of holiness, Micah champions and synthesizes all three of these themes (cf. especially 6:8) from the eighth century.
If we abuse our authority as parents, employers, pastors, or teachers, we kindle God’s wrath and displeasure. When we serve our own interests at the expense of others, especially those who are powerless and needy, the Lord would drive us to confess our sin, ask forgiveness, and amend our ways. As we have received God’s mercy in Christ, He calls us to show mercy by looking after the interests of others (Philippians 2:1–7). Micah’s prophecies against Israel and Judah are especially appropriate in evaluating our works and compelling us to repentance.
In this world, hostility, distrust, and conflict will persist among various nations and cultures. Our Father remedies such disunity by leading people to faith in Christ Jesus. As we are baptized into Christ, we are made into God’s temple, and cultural and national hostilities are abolished (Galatians 3:26–29). In heaven, we will experience this reality in its fullness. Until then, the Lord has not promised us victory over all our earthly enemies, but He has given us victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil through Jesus, the Son of David, born at Bethlehem in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). Through Word and Sacrament, God continues to gather people into His kingdom, people who confess their sins and look to Him for salvation. As Micah says in closing, “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity?” (7:18).
Luther on Micah
In short, he denounces, he prophesies, he preaches, etc. Ultimately, however, his meaning is that even though Israel and Judah have to go to pieces, Christ will yet come and make all things good. So, too, we now have to rebuke, denounce, comfort, and preach, etc., and then say, “Even though all be lost, Christ will yet come at the Last Day and help us out of all misfortune.”
Text adapted from the Lutheran Bible Companion, vol. 1, Introduction and Old Testament (pp. 921–30) © 2014 CPH. All rights reserved.
More about Micah can be found in the Lutheran Bible Companion.