The book of Micah tells the story of another minor prophet, Micah, from a town called Moresheth Gath (an agricultural area about 25 miles from Jerusalem). Micah, similar to the prophet Amos, was concerned with those on the margins and outside of the power structures that were in existence. His prophecies were aimed towards the political and religious leaders of Samaria and Jerusalem.
This book is significant on multiple fronts. First, it is another warning to Israel and Judah about how they treated the lowly in society. They were unfair and unethical. They treated women poorly. They didn’t care about injustice. They were content to exploit others for the sake of their own gain. And this was contrary to what God wanted from them, so Micah (like so many other prophets along the way) called on them to repent.
This book also foretells a future where God’s kingdom will be restored and His people will live with hope. Micah speaks of a future ruler who will come from a little town called Bethlehem that will rule over Israel and, while the world will face judgment, there is a compassionate God who delights in showing mercy to His people. Micah points to the hope that is to come. As we read it, we can be reminded of that same hope!
While we read through another minor prophet, let’s dig into each chapter and verse. Grab a journal, a pen, and a highlighter. Take note of the important words and phrases that stick out. Look out for repetition. What was God trying to teach this original audience and what is He trying to teach us now? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as we study the book of Micah together!
Read Micah 1
1 The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
2 Hear, you peoples, all of you,
listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
Judgment Against Samaria and Jerusalem
3 Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place;
he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
4 The mountains melt beneath him
and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
like water rushing down a slope.
5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression,
because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression?
Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place?
Is it not Jerusalem?
6 “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble,
a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour her stones into the valley
and lay bare her foundations.
7 All her idols will be broken to pieces;
all her temple gifts will be burned with fire;
I will destroy all her images.
Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes,
as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.”
Weeping and Mourning
8 Because of this I will weep and wail;
I will go about barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
and moan like an owl.
9 For Samaria’s plague is incurable;
it has spread to Judah.
It has reached the very gate of my people,
even to Jerusalem itself.
10 Tell it not in Gath;
weep not at all.
In Beth Ophrah
roll in the dust.
11 Pass by naked and in shame,
you who live in Shaphir.
Those who live in Zaanan
will not come out.
Beth Ezel is in mourning;
it no longer protects you.
12 Those who live in Maroth writhe in pain,
waiting for relief,
because disaster has come from the Lord,
even to the gate of Jerusalem.
13 You who live in Lachish,
harness fast horses to the chariot.
You are where the sin of Daughter Zion began,
for the transgressions of Israel were found in you.
14 Therefore you will give parting gifts
to Moresheth Gath.
The town of Akzib will prove deceptive
to the kings of Israel.
15 I will bring a conqueror against you
who live in Mareshah.
The nobles of Israel
will flee to Adullam.
16 Shave your head in mourning
for the children in whom you delight;
make yourself as bald as the vulture,
for they will go from you into exile.
The essence of the book of Micah’s first chapter is that God is pronouncing judgment on the entirety of Israel, both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, and this judgment is bad news. We could stop there, because that’s basically the point, but there has to be more here, doesn’t there?
In verses 10-15, we read a list of cities and what will happen to the inhabitants of said cities. Most of us likely skimmed over this part, noting that it doesn’t sound good but wondering what this has to do with the point. Is this section a bunch of specifics we don’t need? Could we do without this part? These are understandable questions, to be sure, but, as many of us well know, this part wouldn’t be in Scripture if it weren’t important.
Look back at where Micah is from in verse 1, where he is introduced as “Micah of Moresheth.” This is interesting because Micah is the only one of the prophets who is introduced by his city. Why? It is possible that this is to set up a key literary and rhetorical device used in the section mentioned earlier (v. 10-15). Read verse 14 again. Many believe that “Moresheth Gath” in verse 14 is the same as Moresheth in verse 1, Micah’s hometown. Why does this matter? Of the cities listed in verses 10-15, ancient maps indicate all are neighboring cities to Moresheth. Micah would’ve known these cities, and, more importantly, their names. God allows someone familiar with these places and people to explain why they face “disaster” (v. 12).
In these verses, Micah masterfully uses the rhetorical device of wordplay, which many prophets use. For example, in verse 13, we read, “You who live in Lachish, harness fast horses to the chariot.” The city name “Lachish” sounds like the Hebrew word for “steed,” which makes it ironic that Micah is calling for them to saddle up the horses and run from the coming judgment.
Why does all of this matter? The rhetorical device of wordplay (used in both Old and New Testaments) emphasizes a point. Each word is significant and carries weight. Wordplay helps bring attention to the message. What did we already say the point of this chapter is? God is pronouncing judgment on the entirety of the Israelite people. It’s a jarring reminder of how seriously God takes sin. We can even dare to say He considers it punishable by death.
If only there was someone who could intercede on behalf of the guilty…
- Have you taken time recently to grieve your sin? If so, keep it up! If not, take this as an opportunity to put some of your sin struggles on paper and prayerfully take them before God.
- Who in your life are you regularly confessing your sin to? If you’re not regularly in a rhythm of doing that, schedule time to do that sometime in the next week. You can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit!
- It’s important for us to remember that God hates sin, but also that God is not mad at you. Continue to take this before Him in prayer. What is one sinful habit you can work on changing today?
By the Way
Read Romans 5:6-11 and Romans 6:23. These may help with some questions from today.
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