The Book of Micah: An Introduction
Having just finished our study of Psalm 23, we are beginning a study of the book of Micah. As we will see, Micah provides one of the most significant prophecies of the birth of Jesus our Messiah in all the Hebrew Scriptures. The name “Micah” is a shortened form of “Micaiah,” which means “Who is like the Lord?” This is an appropriate name since Micah helped the people understand what the Lord is like.
MICAH 1:1-6 (NASB95)
The word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place. All this is for the rebellion of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, planting places for a vineyard. I will pour her stones down into the valley and will lay bare her foundations.
In the first verse of chapter one, Micah identified himself by his hometown, Moresheth, which sat near the border of the Philistines near the town of Gath in Judah, about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. He lived in a largely agricultural part of the country. As a person who lived outside the political and religious centers of power in his nation, Micah was very concerned for the less fortunate of society, whom he describes in chapter 4:6 as the lame, the outcasts, and the afflicted. Therefore, Micah directed much of his prophecy toward the powerful political and religious leaders of Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of Israel and Judah, respectively.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, prophesying during the important years surrounding the fall of Israel to the Assyrian empire in 722 B.C. This was an event that he also predicted in chapter 1:6. Micah states in his introduction that he prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah but fails to mention the simultaneous string of evil and dishonorable kings that closed out the northern kingdom of Israel. During this period, Israel, the northern kingdom, was spiritually collapsing from the effects of evil and unfaithful leadership. Meanwhile, Judah, the southern kingdom, seemed to be on a roller-coaster ride with lots of ups and downs, with good and evil kings alternating with each other—a pattern seen in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
The book of Micah consists of three messages, each of which begins with “Hear” (shema in Hebrew). They may have been messages that he preached or, more likely, condensed versions of several addresses he delivered during his ministry. In each one, the theme of judgment is prominent, but it is also followed by the promise of restoration and a faithful remnant. Proportionately, this book has more prophecies about the advent and kingdom of Messiah and Israel’s future than any other prophetic book in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Micah’s first message is found in Micah 1:2-4:
Hear, O peoples, all of you; Listen, O earth and all it contains, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place.
In a kind of cosmic court of law, Micah asked all the peoples of the earth, like a jury, to “hear” what God as a witness would say about the nation’s sins. Micah implied that everyone, given the opportunity, would agree that God’s judgment against His people was just. Because of that, Micah called on all people of the earth to look for God to come in judgment from heaven, His dwelling place.
As God treads on the mountains, they “melt like wax before the fire” or like “waters poured down a deep slope” that cannot be stopped. Even the valleys will split, disturbed by God’s awesome power.
In this message in chapter one, Micah pictures God treading or walking on the high places of the earth, filled with majesty, stepping from one mountain peak to another. Thus, God can do whatever He wants without being stopped by anyone or anything. As God treads on the mountains, they “melt like wax before the fire” or like “waters poured down a deep slope” that cannot be stopped. Even the valleys will split, disturbed by God’s awesome power. These high places likely also imply the pagan altars on hilltops, which were so instrumental in Israel’s downfall, ultimately provoking God’s judgment against Israel and Judah.