Micah the Moreshite, a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, lived about 25 miles from Jerusalem, near Philistine territory. Micah’s preaching ministry (ca. 750–700 B.C.) largely focused on the southern kingdom of Judah under Hezekiah’s reign, though some of his prophecies applied to Israel too. His book follows a structure of three cycles of judgment and restoration. The first cycle begins with God as divine warrior intending to wage war on Samaria and Jerusalem because of idolatry and ungodliness (1:3–5). Since God’s people are acting like pagans, the land will be handed over to pagans (2:1–6), though eventually a remnant of God’s people will return, restored to the land under God’s kingship and shepherding (2:12–13).
Self-serving leadership (1–4)
The second judgment/restoration cycle (3:1–5:15) accuses Judah’s community leaders, those we would call political leaders, though the connection between politics, religion and spirituality in ancient Judah cannot be overstated. Political leaders — tribal leaders and city elders — were not elected, but were family representatives entrusted to love their citizens and provide spiritual leadership. Often when political leaders strayed spiritually, the people followed.
Micah chastises the leaders for spiritual and moral bankruptcy. They took advantage of their people, abusing their positions of power for personal gain. Micah reveals their sinful hearts, and in days of disaster, God will remain silent and ignore their pleas.
Corrupt prophets (5–8)
Micah next confronts the religious leaders of Judah and Israel, contrasting himself with them. The false prophets use religion for their own purposes and for personal gain. They twist the message to give themselves an advantage. Terrorists and cult leaders take Scripture out of context for their own evil aims.
There can be a fine line between genuine prophecy and prophetic pretending. The difference between false and genuine prophecy is found in faithful exegesis of God’s word and a heart/soul yielded to the Holy Spirit.
The prophets Micah chastised have no word from God, yet they prophesy in His name. They will be shamed and silenced when God speaks to them no more. By contrast, Micah is filled with the Spirit of God and speaks only the Word given to him.
Responsibility declared (9–12)
All of Judah’s leaders are corrupt. They are all bought and sold for a price. These leaders seek personal financial gain. In our time, parallels abound, whether in lawmakers swayed by lobbyist’s gifts and campaign contributions, or in ministers who preach a compromised message for mass appeal.
The leaders of Micah’s day presume upon the Abrahamic covenant for their security, even while they ignore its requirements of integrity. About 150 years later, Micah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction was on Jeremiah’s lips and fulfilled in the Babylonian invasion and destruction of Jerusalem.
By Stefana Dan Laing
Associate professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama