Micah has been likened to a horse, thinking of the warhorses of Assyria pounding towards Judah. However, I see Micah more associated with the cow, because this prophet talked about banging swords into plows.
Horses and mules were pretty scarce in Judah, but there were plenty of bulls and cows, so the farmer usually had his plow pulled by oxen.
Micah is the next prophet after Jonah, historically speaking. He spoke the words of God toward the end of the eighth century, 740-687 B.C. in the southern kingdom of Judah during the reigns of good king Jotham, evil king Ahaz, and good king Hezekiah.
Micah was also a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos, all prophets to the northern kingdom, Israel (even though Amos was actually from Judah).
A rural man, maybe even a farmer, Micah hailed from a little town outside of Gath, not too far from Lachish.
Located in the Shephelah, the lowlands or foothills of Judah, Moresheth was a satellite town of Gath, and was sometimes even referred to as Moresheth-gath. Positioned as it was on an important ancient trade route between Egypt and Assyria, King Reheboam had undertaken to fortify this small town centuries before.
Mentioned elsewhere in the Bible as well as in the Amarna letters, Moresheth (also called Mareshah) later became the site of Sennacherib’s capture,towards the end of Micah’s career as a prophet (701 B.C.)
During Micah’s ministry, the Assyrian empire had risen to power and posed a serious threat to both Israel and Judah. (In an earlier post on Jonah, the brutality of the Assyrians is briefly described, recorded on a vast wall carving depicting the sacking of Lachish, the big city near Micah’s hometown).
Yet, whereas Isaiah had a more universal, “End of the World” approach to this impending calamity, Micah took the practical and nationalistic approach. He promoted the simple equation of immediate repentance promising lasting prosperity.
Good King Jotham
During Micah’s timeframe a very young Jotham stepped in to rule Judah because God had struck his father Uzziah with leprosy. When Jotham’s son Ahaz became king, Ahaz became a vassal to Assyria to push back Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel.
Evil King Ahaz
Ahaz was a desperately wicked king who defiled the temple, burned his own children to the idol Molech and led his people in human sacrifices, rampant fornication and prostitution, and other despicable practices. Think how long Micah had been preaching by the time Ahaz’s son Hezekiah became king; probably about 20 or 25 years.
Good King Hezekiah
Hezekiah, in contrast, was one of the great good kings of Judah. During his tenure ,the temple was restored, a revival swept through Judah, and the northern kingdom of Israel was deported to Assyria. When the king of Assyria came to the gates of Jerusalem with the intent of deporting Judah too, Hezekiah turned to the Lord for rescue, in response to Micah’s preaching and Isaiah’s counsel.
Right about then is when this book was written. In fact, Micah’s prophecy had such a powerful effect on Hezekiah that it was recorded a hundred years later by the prophet Jeremiah.
But the really remarkable thing about Micah is that he was personally UNremarkable! There was not too much out of the ordinary about him, except that he loved the Lord, he loved people and he persevered in telling the truth about God.
With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us begin our study of Micah with this overview.
[The timeline and the map come from The Rand-McNally Bible Atlas: Historical and Descriptive Illustrated, which was written, illustrated and includes photographs taken by my several greats grandfather, J. L. Hurlbut, D.D. It is a special pleasure to “collaborate” with him on some of these posts.]
[Cover Art: Michah | James Tissot / Public Domain, The Jewish Museum, New York]