“The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kinds of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” -Micah 1:1 (RSV)
I was recently convicted that I needed to engage more study of Scripture on my own apart from what I do with the Daily Offices and the Sunday Lectionary. After some prayer and discernment, I felt the book of Micah would be a good starting point. So as I go through the book and digest what it says, I will periodically post my meanderings here.
Micah begins with the bold statement, “The word of the Lord.” This means that what follows, the words written down by Micah, are a revelation. It follows then that these words are true because of their source. They are not Micah’s words but the Lord’s (and if they weren’t true, Micah would be put to death per Deut 18:20).
One thing that’s always interested me is the distinction between the word of the Lord and the Word of the Lord. Here, the Hebrew word for “word” is דבר (dabar) while the word for “Word” in John 1:1 is the Greek λογος (logos). The main distinction is that the דבר here in Micah lacks flesh and personhood, it is a verbal communication from the divine. This is not to say its veracity is of a lesser value than the λογος but that they are different species of divine self-disclosure. Certainly, the written דבר provides us a snapshot of the divine nature for our benefit. God’s transcendence and Otherness necessitates that it is he who makes the first move towards us. Yet, these revelations have a trajectory that ultimately culminate in the λογος. He is not just another disembodied word but is the embodied Word itself, the very undergirding principle of our reality taking on flesh to stand in solidarity with us. It does not negate the written word as a mode of revelation but rather clarifies it all in, through, and around himself. He is the center of all of creation and all of history.
Here, however, the דבר belongs to the Lord and is being spoken and recorded by the prophet Micah and not the other way around. This raises the question: to what degree, if any, does Micah actually influence the דבר given to him by God? Is this an example of Incarnation and Inspiration or does the divine origin of this message overshadow its human channel? Surely, the “word from God” here represents God’s message to his people through the utilization of hte unique facets of Micah’s personality, literary acumen, and other distinctive components of his individuality.
To further accentuate this point is the Hebrew verb היה which translates “came to,” implying its objective existence outside of Micah. Micah, therefore, is a passive receptacle, not an active participant, in the derivation of meaning. The word comes to (arrives at) Micah so that it can be distributed to the people of God. Micah does not actually do anything to make himself a channel, at least nothing in the text hints at that. In fact, very little is even known about the prophet Micah.
The prophet is introduced as “Micah of Moresheth.” His name means, “Who is like Yahweh?” It is a fitting name for a messenger of God to a sinful people because it emphasizes Yahweh’s holiness. Jeremiah 26:18 explicitly quotes Micah 3:12 but the text does not reveal anything more than the subscription of Micah’s book here in 1:1.
We are told he’s from Moresheth which is in Gath (see Micah 1:14), southwest of Jerusalem. Moresheth would have been right on the border between Israelite and Philistine territory. In fact, 1 Samuel 17:4 reports that Goliath is from Gath. This location implies that Micah was most likely some sort of peasant or farmer.
So we know that Micah was relatively insignificant in comparison to the word of the Lord he was commissioned to communicate to the people of God but it is important to establish a timeline of when the book claims it was written. Otherwise, its oracles become divorced from the reality they seek to address.
Micah does a good job of providing us with the relevant data for coming up with a date of his writing. The kings of Judah who reigned while he prophesied were Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Jotham (750-735 BCE) can be found in 2 Kings 15:32-38. He was a relatively good king who won some important military victories for Judah but failed at pulling down the high places and destroying idolatry in the land.
Ahaz ruled from 732-715. Details of his reign are recorded in 2 Kings 16. Unlike his father, Jotham, he was not a good king at all. His main fault was that he took gold and silver from the Temple of the Lord and sent it to the king of Assyria as a tribute. He also forced the construction of pagan, foreign altars inside Israel.
The final king mentioned in Micah is Hezekiah (716-687). 2 Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 36-39 provide details about him. He was a good king who destroyed the idols of the people. 2 Kings 18:5 reports, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after him.”
Two of the three kings who were alive during Micah’s time were actually good kings. Yet the end of verse one informs us that these oracles are not merely for the Southern Kingdom. “Concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” includes both Israel (identified by the metonymy Samaria) and Judah (identified by the metonymy Jerusalem).
Important Lessons and Things on Which to Meditate
1. The primary role of the prophet is to maintain the people’s covenant relationship with God. As such, prophecy is functioning as a channel for God’s word to his covenantal people.
2. God’s words culminate in the Word of God. Prophetic messages must be tied to the covenant and ALL covenants in the Old Testament point and lead to Christ.
3. God uses people to be vehicles for the advancement of his covenant message.
4. Because of its divine origin, the prophecy exists independent of the prophet. Their role is to convey God’s message to the people, not make it their own.