Background for the Prophet Micah
The prophet Micah grew up in Moresheth, near the Philistine city of Gath, southwest of Jerusalem. His name means “who is a God like you?” He prophesied in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah (Micah 1:1). Micah held the rulers in the capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem responsible for leading the people into idolatry and apostasy (Ashbury, 1992). Even though we know very little about the prophet’s life, Heschel reported that Micah was a lonely man whose standards were high and whose concerns for other people were intense (Heschel, 1962, p. 127). Micah’s humble beginnings may have “given him extra sensitivity with the sufferings of the poor and powerless, whom he champions in his preaching” (Sanderson, 2003, p. 1303).
Micah denounced Jacob’s transgressions and Israel’s sins. He rebuked the “heads of the house of Jacob and the rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity” (Micah 3:8-9). Expressly, Micah renounced the vices of the wealthy merchants, who cheated with a short ephah, used dishonest scales and false weights, and were deceitful liars (Micah 6:9-12). One commentary reminds us that “nearly one-third of Micah is an indictment of Israel and Judah for specific sins, including oppression; bribery among judges, prophets, and priests; exploitation of the powerless; covetousness; cheating; violence and pride. Another third of Micah’s predictions cover the judgment because of these sins, and the final third is a message of hope and consolation (Ashbury, 1992). While Micah was one of the first prophets to predict the destruction of Jerusalem, his prophecies emphasized the relationship between social ethics and spiritual integrity. One of his oracles posed the question: “what is the way of true worship?” (Heschel, p. 129). As Ashbury noted, the people were guilty of divorcing God’s standard of justice from their daily dealings and failing to live up to what they had known to be correct (Ashbury, 1992).
At the same time, Micah reminded the people that theirs was a God of justice and equity tempered with mercy and compassion. The people had forgotten how to live righteously, so Micah reminded them: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Micah leaves the people with a vision of redemption, noting that God will forgive “the remnant of his inheritance” and will cast all their sins “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18).