The book is named after the prophet whose message it bears. Micah (Heb. Mikah) is a shortened form of Mikayah, which means, “Who is like Yahweh?” In the Hebrew, as in the English, the books stands sixth in the order of the Minor Prophets. In the LXX it stands third, after Amos and Hosea, possibly because of its size.
Micah was called a “Morasthite,” a term applied to one who came probably from the village of Moresheth-gath, believed to be in the southern part of Judah, toward Philistia. He must not be confused with Micaiah the son of Imlah, who prophesied in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 22:8-28). Nothing is known of the prophet except what is revealed in the book itself. The fact that his father’s name is not mentioned may suggest that he was a man of humble birth. He was doubtless a Judean, as may be deduced from the fact that he mentions only the kings of Judah (Micah 1:1). He was the younger contemporary of Isaiah and of Hosea, both of whom began their ministry in the reign of Uzziah, the predecessor of Jotham (Isa. 1:1; Hosea 1:1). Tradition says that he died peacefully in the place of his birth in the early part of Hezekiah’s reign before the fall of Samaria.
Micah’s language is poetical, rhythmical, and measured. His style might be taken to betray a peasant background, inasmuch as it is rugged, simple, and forthright. The prophet is noted for his frequent use of figures of speech and his play on words. He is bold, stern, and uncompromising in dealing with sin, yet tender of heart, regretfully sorrowful in spirit, loving, and sympathetic.
3. Historical Setting.
Micah, as did Isaiah, carried on his prophetic ministry in the critical period of the latter half of the 8th century B.C., when Assyria was the dominant world power. In his own country Jotham, the king of Judah, when he began his prophetic ministry, “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” although the people of his kingdom “sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places” (2 Kings 15:34, 35). Ahaz, Jotham’s son and successor, went the full length of idolatry, even burning “his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (2 Chron. 28:3). He did not hesitate to rearrange and change the brazen altar of burnt offering, and the laver, and to place within the sacred Temple precincts an idolatrous altar which he saw at Damascus (2 Kings 16:10-12, 14-17). These and other iniquitous acts against the true worship of the Lord made Ahaz probably the most idolatrous king who had reigned over Judah. During the time of this spiritual declension among the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, Micah exercised his prophetic office. The contents of his book set forth the moral and religious conditions among the people during the reigns mentioned.
This idolatry was aggravated by the compromising attitude many took in observing outwardly the traditional forms of the worship of the Lord while pursuing their idolatrous worship and practices. The priests of the Lord were in an apostate condition. They countenanced heathenism to retain their popularity with the people, and instead of defending the poor against the predatory rich, they themselves were possessed of a covetous spirit. There were many false prophets who curried the favor of the people by assuring them that good times lay ahead, while scoffing at the threatened judgments that the true prophets of the Lord predicted would surely result from the nation’s multiplying transgressions. These false prophets further lulled the people into a deadly spiritual sleep by calming their fears with the deceptive doctrine that because the descendants of Abraham were the special people of God, they could be certain that the Lord would never forsake them.
The nobles and leading class had given themselves over to lives of luxury. In their ardent desire for the good things of life, they became unscrupulous and cruel in their dealings with the peasants. Their greed ground down the poor by excessive exactions and deprived them of their legal rights.
As occasionally and gratifyingly happens, a bad ruler is followed by a son who becomes a good ruler. Hezekiah, who succeeded Ahaz, was as devoted to God as his father had been devoted to idols. “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him” (2 Kings 18:5). He resolutely set about to undo his father’s apostasy, to reform the moral and spiritual conditions of Judah, to abolish idolatry, and to bring his people back to the true worship of the Lord. In this he was supported by Micah. The bitter struggle that the man of Moresheth-gath had during much of his life to plant the seeds of truth upon the well- nigh sterile soil of his people’s heart began to yield fruit. Reformation characterized the reign of Hezekiah.
Two main themes predominate:
(1) the condemnation of the sins of the people and the consequent chastisement in captivity, and
(2) the deliverance of Israel and the glory and gladness of the Messianic kingdom. Throughout the book of Micah threatening and promise, judgment and mercy, alternate.
The prophecies of Micah and Isaiah have much in common. Inasmuch as the two prophets were contemporaries, and so had to deal with the same conditions and subjects, we can readily understand why their words and messages were so often similar.
Though in the opening words of his book Micah tells us what “he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem,” his prophecy deals more with Judah than with Israel. Though the ten tribes had cut themselves off from Judah and from Jerusalem, the center of the worship of the Lord, they were still God’s people, and God was seeking to restore their allegiance to Him.