It would be easy to get the idea that all the problems were in Israel’s Northern Kingdom, while the other half of the country was unscathed in Judah. Micah clears up that misconception. Micah cried out against the false teaching of overconfidence and self-indulgence of Judah’s talking heads: the false prophets. Micah speaks on behalf of, not the upper crust of society, but the commoner, the country folk. He hones his sights in on Judah’s leadership: kings and leaders who hate good and love evil, and have built their society on bloodshed and violence (3:1-10).
Micah did not call anyone to change. From his perspective the people’s “wound is incurable” (1:9). In this way, he is one of the first radicals. While not trying to tear down the institutions of Judah, Micah did discern the political leaders were bringing curses down on everyone’s heads. He subpoenas everyone into court to be judged by God (6:1). The politicians, prophets, and pastors of his day were all so stubborn that Judah “could only be changed by the dissolution of the structures in which they trusted and the institutions that provided the cover for their underhanded actions” (1). He lets it slip that the two kingdoms of Israel will be sacked and led away by not one but two nations—Assyria and Babylon (4:8-13). You see, “the false prophets saw no connection between Israel’s sin and the rampaging army, but the true prophet saw the Lord marching above it (Micah 1:3–7) fulfilling the curses he had threatened when he gave Israel her moral covenant at the beginning” (2).
Yet there was future hope. Micah believed history was the key to the future. Yes, looking back reminded of him of his people’s faithlessness and Moses’ promise of exile. But he also remembered God’s unshakeable integrity and His promises to restore. They were still waiting on someone to rescue them, someone who could fundamentally change their hearts toward God. Another king, perhaps?
You see, God’s government was opposed to Judah’s corrupt government. His kingdom superseded concerns about national borders, encompassing the whole world (4:1-4, 13; 7:16-17) (3). And it was over this kingdom that Micah prophesied another king, like King David, would come from no-account Bethlehem. Some future year in Jerusalem, one chosen by God because of his humble heart (and not his bonne fides) would shepherd God’s flock again, comprising people of all tribes, nations, and ethnicities (4:2; 5:2-4). What is required in this kingdom? Not great acts of sacrifice, not lavish pomp and circumstance, but “to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8).
In the final chapter of Micah, the prophet personifies the nation with a beautiful proclamation. A representative voice–speaking as the whole nation–acknowledges their sin, that they stand doomed before God, and will face the consequences. Yet . . . the speaker cries out with confidence, “But as for me, I will look to Yahweh; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy! For though I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness Yahweh will be a light for me. I will bear the rage of Yahweh, for I have sinned against him” (7:7-9). Little did they know, their king, their Good Shepherd from Bethlehem, would become this figure, standing in the place of his doomed people, yet, ultimately, rising from the darkness. Darkness, suffering, and, yes, even exile, were all a segue—part of how their hearts would be changed.
- C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 119.
- Bruce Waltke, “Micah,” from , Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 151.
- Bullock, 119.
Watch: Bible Project video on Micah
Listen: Micah 1-7