“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?” Micah 7:18. The name Micah means “who is like God?” It is fitting that one with that name quotes the above verse in his prophecy. What is the prophecy of Micah about, and who was Micah?
There are a few names in the Old Testament that bear the name Micah. One of those is found in Judges 17, which was in a time where the judges were judging Israel. He was one who worshipped false gods, idols, and eventually went down a wrong path. However, the Micah of this prophecy is not the same one as in the judges.
There are two other prophets named Micah. In 1 Kings 22:8ff (and 2 Chron. 18) there is a prophet by the name of Micaiah who served and prophesied during king Ahab’s time in Israel. He warned Ahab and Jehoshaphat against the war with Syria, but his warning was taken lightly and Ahab actually put him in prison. In fact, Ahab told Jehoshaphat that Micah mocked him and was not truthful with him. It is very striking that the last words of this prophet Micaiah literally correspond with the first words of Micah the Morasthite “Hear, all ye people” (compare 1 Kings 22:28; 2 Chron. 18:27 with Micah 1:2). The second prophet Micah thus starts where the first ended.
The other interesting fact is that there are similarities and parallels between Micah and Isaiah. Both prophets had the same commission from God at the same time, despite their differences. They both had to warn the people of God’s judgement but also announced God’s mercy for those who seek Him. Some corresponding references between Micah and Isaiah: Ch 1:2 and Isa 1:2; Micah 1:3 and Isa 26:21; Micah 3:8 and Isa 58:1, and many more parallels.
Micah lived and prophesied under the kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah around 750 – 700 BC. Therefore, he was a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos. During that time, the Assyrians attacked the northern kingdom Israel, which was defeated in 722 BC and was brought into captivity in Assyria (see Micah 1 and 5:5ff). In the land Micah was confronted with problems such as formal worship without true fear of God, idolatry and oppression of the people by the leadership. In Micah 6:8 the prophet challenges the people and states that God requires them to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before their God.
If we are going to benefit from reading Micah, we need to look for Christ in the prophecy. One remarkable reference is found in chapter 5:2, where there is the prophecy of His birth in Bethlehem, “(And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me who is to be Ruler in Israel: whose goings forth are from of old, from the days of eternity.)” This was about 700 years before Christ’s birth, and the chief priests and scribes paraphrased this verse in Matthew 2:5-6 when Herod asked them concerning Christ’s birthplace.
The prophecy of Micah can be divided into three sections. His message contains a dividing line with the word to the people “hear”. This is in three discourses, which divide the book.
- Chapter 1 – 2 presents the first discourse to all the people; “hear all ye people’. The main message here is the coming judgement of God.
- Chapter 3 – 5 presents the second discourse; “hear, I pray you.” This section describes the judgement and restoration of Israel.
- Chapter 6 – 7 presents the third discourse; “Hear ye now what the LORD saith.” This is a pleading message to the people, an appeal to their heart, and God fulfilling His promise for the remnant.
In this we see a progressive message. The book starts with the threatening judgment; it leads on towards the salvation and glory of the nation of Israel in the future, and finally the exhortation and reproof–to return unto Him, to repent, and the assurance of His compassion and forgiveness. This is similar to a gospel message – there is judgement coming, but there is a message for the individual to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. It is interesting that as Micah ministers to the people, his name meaning “who is like God”, ends with the words “who is a God like unto thee?”
The references between Micah and Isaiah:
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s notes and outlines of the book of Micah. The full outline and notes from the above authors are available on www.biblecentre.org, a website highly recommended and full of rich resources.