Introductory Issues in Micah
• Difficulty of the text. Though the Hebrew of Micah is generally fairly easy to translate, there are some passages that raise difficulties. The reader will be able to locate some of these passages when there is a footnote indicating that the “Hebrew is uncertain.” For example, the list of towns in 1:10-16 is difficult to understand, though there is a play on words in the Hebrew that helps make some sense out of it. A couple of other difficult passages are 5:1 and 6:9-10.
• Identity of Micah. We know very little about Micah. There is no narrative about his activities. The heading in 1:1 tells us that he was from Moresheth, a small town southwest of Jerusalem. This, no doubt, gave him an outsider’s view of what was going on in Jerusalem, unlike that of IsaiahIsaiah, son of Amoz, who prophesied in Jerusalem, is included among the prophets of the eighth century B.C.E. (along with Amos, Hosea, and Micah)--preachers who boldly proclaimed God's word of judgment against the economic, social, and religious disorders of their time. More and later JeremiahProphet who condemned Judah's infidelity to God, warned of Babylonian conquest, and promised a new covenant More who lived in the capital city. Micah was particularly critical of the leaders who were taking advantage of the ordinary citizens and bringing terrible tragedy to the whole nation. Though Micah left us no autobiography or account of his call, there are a few passages that might reveal something about his inner thoughts–for example, his own attitude of lamentation in 1:8 and 7:1-7.
• Literary genres. Micah used several different literary forms to shape his message of judgment. God has a lawsuit against the people (1:2-7 and 6:1-2) and will lay out the evidence to justify the punishment that will come. A typical prophetic oracleAn oracle is a divine utterance of guidance, promise, or judgment delivered to humans through an intermediary (who is often also called an oracle). In the Bible oracles are given by Balaam (in the book of Numbers) and by David (in 2 Samuel). A number... More lists the offenses and then names the consequences (see, for example, 3:9-12). A call to lament (as in 1:8) is a way to drive home the awful reality of what is coming, even though it has not yet happened. The book ends with a liturgy (7:7-20), probably used in worship, with responses back and forth. Most of the hopeful oracles in the book are thought to be written at a later time than Micah himself, who had more interest in warning of disaster than assuring of hopeful days to come.
• Unity of the book. It is highly unlikely that the entire book of Micah was written by the prophet Micah. There has been considerable debate about this and some difference of opinion regarding specific passages. It is too simplistic to assume that all words of warning are from Micah and all words of hope are from a later time, added to reassure people in exile or recovering from the exile experience. Yet, there are good reasons to move somewhat in that direction. Perhaps Micah did speak words of hope that would transcend his dominant message of pending doom, but most of the book’s promises of hope probably stem from a later time as the book was developed to address God’s word to new situations. The most often disputed passages are in chapters 4-5 and 7:7-20.