The book of Micah contains many warnings of doom and prophecies of hope. This article provides an overview and lessons we can learn from the book of Micah.
The name Micah is a shortened form of the Hebrew word “Mikayahu,” which means “who is like the Eternal?” There seems to be a reference to his name in Micah 7:18: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity?”
Who wrote the book of Micah?
The book of Micah was written by the prophet Micah. The first verse of the book clearly identifies him as the author: “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth” (Micah 1:1).
This town is also called Moresheth Gath (verse 14). Moresheth was a town in Judah located a little less than 20 miles southwest of the city of Jerusalem. This was very close to where the prophet Isaiah grew up, which may help explain the similarity between some of their prophecies.
Micah was known by name over a hundred years later, during the time of Jeremiah: “Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying: ‘Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah’” (Jeremiah 26:17-18).
Jeremiah was about to be killed for prophesying doom to Judah if they didn’t repent (verses 12-15). But there was an outcry of support for him, and some of the elders used Micah’s similar message as support for Jeremiah to live.
Their reasoning was that Micah preached that Judah would be punished during the time of King Hezekiah, and Micah was not put to death, so neither should Jeremiah. (This is an ancient example of using case law, appealing to a past judgment to decide a contemporary issue.) So Micah’s prophecy actually played a role in saving Jeremiah’s life!
When did Micah live and prophesy?
The prophet Micah lived and prophesied in the eighth century (700s) B.C. Micah 1:1 identifies his work as occurring “in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (Jotham and Hezekiah were good kings, but Ahaz was very wicked.)
According to George Robinson’s The 12 Minor Prophets, “[Micah] seems to have preached both before and after the downfall of Samaria (722 B.C.), very probably from about 735 till 715 B.C.” (p. 95).
Themes and summary of the book of Micah
The theme of the book of Micah can be summarized in two words: doom and hope.
Halley’s Bible Handbook states: “Micah’s message was to both Israel and Judah, addressed primarily to their two respective capitals, Samaria and Jerusalem. Its three main ideas were: their Sins; their Destruction; and their Restoration. These ideas, in the book, are mixed up, with abrupt transitions between Present Desolation and Future Glory” (p. 366).
Micah 3:8: “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.”Micah’s mission and theme may best be summarized by his words about himself in Micah 3:8: “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.”
Micah delivered strong indictments against both Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:5-6). He witnessed idolatry, evil business practices, dishonesty, cheating, bribery and internal strife and corruption.
God was not going to allow these sinful practices to continue. Punishment with famine, war and ultimate national captivity would soon descend upon the people unless they responded to the prophet’s warning messages and repented of their wickedness. The rulers were mostly to blame, as they were responsible for leading the people into sin, despite possessing knowledge of God’s laws.
Religiously, economically and socially, Israel and Judah were in decline. Unfortunately, history shows that the stubbornness of these nations, and, in particular, their leaders, led to sorrow, bitterness and, in the end, national captivity.
Frequent transitions in Micah’s message
Micah’s prophecies frequently transition from messages of doom, warning and despair to ones of hope, deliverance and peace. His prophecies covered the full spectrum from a lawless nation deserving divine punishment to restoration as the chosen people of God. It is a message of utter despair, but also of joyful hope and a promise of an abundant life for all of mankind.
Notice this comment from The Universal Bible Dictionary, edited by A.R. Buckland and A.L. Williams: “Micah foretells in clear terms the invasion of Shalmaneser and Sennacherib (1:6-16) … the utter destruction of Jerusalem (3:12). Just as clearly he foretells the deliverance of Israel (2:12, 4:10, 5:8); the birthplace of the Messiah (5:2); the promulgation of His Gospel from Mount Zion, and its results; the exaltation of His Kingdom over all nations.”
The book of Micah often moves to a new thought by using the word hear:
- “Hear, all you peoples!” (Micah 1:2).
- “Hear now, O heads of Jacob” (Micah 3:1).
- “Hear now what the LORD says” (Micah 6:1).
Overview of the book of Micah
The following is a suggested outline of the book of Micah:
Chapter 1: Judgment is announced against Israel and Judah.
Chapters 2-3: Micah announces God’s judgment of the false prophets and the rich and powerful for their sins and evil ways.
Chapters 4-5: The millennial reign of Jesus Christ; judgment upon the enemies of Israel.
Chapter 6: God’s case against Israel; impending sorrow and punishment for their sins.
Chapter 7: God’s future forgiveness upon Israel when they confess and forsake their sins.
Key verses in the book of Micah
Here are three key verses in the book of Micah that Christians should know and understand. These are excellent scriptures to memorize.
- Micah 4:1-5: Prophecies of the millennial rule of Christ.
- Micah 5:2: Prophecy of the location of Jesus’ birth.
- Micah 6:8: The three characteristics God wants to see in our life: justice, mercy and humility.
Similarities between Micah and Isaiah
There are a number of passages in the book of Micah that are similar to sections of Scripture in the book of Isaiah. For example, Micah 4:1-5 is very similar to Isaiah 2:1-4.
It is uncertain if one prophet borrowed from the other, or if they wrote independently. But we can be assured that all these verses were inspired by the same Creator God (2 Timothy 3:16).
New Testament quotations from Micah
Micah’s prophecy of the birth of Jesus as the Messiah and coming Ruler (Micah 5:2) is quoted in Matthew 2:6. This is interesting, as it shows that the people at the time of Jesus understood and accepted that Micah 5:2 was a prophecy of the Messiah to come.
Other New Testament passages include references to Micah 7:6 in Matthew 10:35-36 and Micah 7:20 in Luke 1:72-73.
Micah’s prophetic warnings for Israel and Judah
Micah’s warning messages were unpopular because he foretold the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians (Micah 1:6). Furthermore, he predicted Judah’s demise as a nation and the devastation of Jerusalem (Micah 3:12).
The religious and civil leaders were especially singled out for their wicked ways. God was greatly displeased with the inhabitants of the land who were professing allegiance to Him through an outward, hypocritical show of religious devotion and service (Micah 6:6-7). This superficial form of worship was worthless to God and devoid of a genuine love and concern for God.
Instead God pleaded through His prophet: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
This scripture applies as much to present-day Christians as it did to people during Micah’s time.
Jesus preached a similar message against hypocrisy to the religious and political leaders of His day (Matthew 23:3, 5, 14, 25, 28).
Christ taught that it’s not necessarily those who use and profess the name of God who will enter the Kingdom of God, but those who do what He says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. … And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
There is a thought-provoking similarity between Micah’s words and those spoken by Jesus Christ. These warnings should motivate all of us to examine our own personal religious devotions and beliefs. This is one of the great lessons we can learn from the book of Micah and the words of Jesus Christ.
The danger of religious self-deception
The people living during Micah’s time were deceived into thinking that their artificial religious spirituality and false sense of righteousness would save them from punishment and retribution. Despite their “transgression,” “sin” and “iniquity” (Micah 3:8-10), they were under the misguided impression that because they had God among them, they would escape the penalty of disobedience.
“Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us’” (Micah 3:11).
This is a most dangerous frame of mind to adopt!
Today citizens of some nations may reason that because they are in a “Christian nation,” they can avoid the consequences of their actions. But the Bible tells us that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, King James Version), and the result, or wages, of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is a law of God that all humans are subject to!
Claiming to be a “Christian nation” (saying, “Is not the LORD among us?”) but being unwilling to live according to the Word of God will most certainly lead to increased problems, distress and anguish on a national level.
Restoration theme in Micah
Despite the dire warnings and threats of punishments, war and captivity, Micah has a most encouraging and reassuring message of future hope, peace and an abundant life for all peoples and nations.Despite the dire warnings and threats of punishments, war and captivity, Micah has a most encouraging and reassuring message of future hope, peace and an abundant life for all peoples and nations.
Notice a few examples of how these two themes are contrasted, especially the promise of future glory and greatness.
Micah’s warnings of punishment
The leaders “hate good and love evil,” while the prophets “make my people stray” (Micah 3:1-2, 5). Furthermore, the leaders “abhor justice and pervert all equity,” bringing about “bloodshed,” “iniquity” and corruption and bribery (3:9-11). Then the leaders have the audacity to say that because God is in their midst, no harm will come to them (verse 11)!
The prophet Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah, expressed similar sentiments when speaking about Israel: “Who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth or in righteousness” (Isaiah 48:1).
But they will not escape God’s punishment.
Micah 3:12 records: “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.”
Micah’s prophecies don’t just apply to ancient times. They also foreshadow the sins of modern Israel in the end-time and the punishment God will bring upon the nations descended from Israel during the Great Tribulation.
Micah’s prophecies of hope and restoration
These scriptures should be seen in the light of Micah 1:3, picturing Christ’s return to “tread on the high places [a figure of speech referring to God’s judgment] of the earth.”
Numerous scriptures describe Christ’s return to judge the earth, including Revelation 19:11-16.
The book of Micah contains this very hopeful and encouraging passage about the world after Jesus returns: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall came and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’
“For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples; … they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. … And no one shall make then afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:1-4).
Despite the modern ideas and false teachings that the Old Testament laws are no longer binding on people, it is the law that shall proceed as a tool of instruction from Jerusalem when Christ’s coming Kingdom and government is established. It is the law that shows us God’s ways, and how to “walk in His paths.” Micah 4:7 adds: “So the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on, even forever.” Christ will return to rule over all nations, and the resurrected saints will be with Him (Zechariah 14:4-5, 9).
Micah’s prophecies about the future glory and peace of the earth under Christ’s rule are some of the most encouraging in the Bible. We can study the book of Micah to learn spiritual lessons and gain a clearer vision of the future reign of the Kingdom of God on earth.
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” in the Learning Center.