Lesson 3 of 5
In Progress

Background of Micah

The prophet Micah came from the small town of Moresheth, southwest of Jerusalem. His message is intended primarily for the southern kingdom of Judah, though he also makes reference to the northern kingdom of Israel (the nation had split into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon around 920 B.C.E.). In his first oracle (1:2-7) Micah predicts the fall of the northern kingdom. That would date the beginning of his prophetic ministry before 721 B.C.E., when Samaria fell to the Assyrians. From that time on, only the southern kingdom of Judah remained, until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. Micah expected that Judah would follow the fate of Israel and predicted that Jerusalem, the holy city that God had chosen for the temple, would be wiped off the face of the earth. For those holding to the assurance that God would never break promises to protect king and temple, these words would have been a great shock, probably thought to demonstrate a lack of faith on Micah’s part. Micah spoke harshly to prophets, seers, and priests who told people what they wanted to hear–the reassuring words of God’s promises–and not the reality that Judah’s fate could soon follow that of Israel.

Micah was wrong (or before his time) in his timing and exaggerated in his picture of the complete annihilation of Jerusalem–which, of course, like most Old Testament prophecy, is poetic in nature. Jerusalem was destroyed, but not until more than a century after Micah’s time. And it recovered and has continued to survive as a city, even to the present day.

Though much of Micah’s message warns about what is coming immediately, there are also passages of hope, probably directed later to the people who were in exile or returning from exile. Micah himself was more concerned about the immediate danger than the hope that would follow the catastrophe. But the book speaks to subsequent generations as well. For those who were living through the exile or later, Micah’s prophecies of doom could help make sense of the destruction. This was God’s justice after all. The words continued to serve as an ongoing warning that actions have consequences and that God’s people should not again invite such disaster through actions of disloyalty and injustice.