“He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
During the reign of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, the prophet Micah (740–670 BC) gave Israel one of the best-known prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
This famous declaration that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem is the very verse that the chief priests and scribes quoted to King Herod when the Magi were trying to determine where this ruler over Israel would be born.
Herod ultimately tried to kill every newborn male in Bethlehem when his devious efforts to locate the baby Yeshua (Jesus), King of Israel, failed. (Matthew 2)
Although Micah gave the people such a hopeful message of the coming of the Messiah, he also reproved the corruption of city life in Israel and Judah. He foresaw the Babylonian exile and destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem which happened within the next two centuries. (Micah 4:10)
His prophecy regarding Samaria’s exile was fulfilled a quarter century later by the king of Assyria, Shalmaneser, which was followed by the destruction of Jerusalem 133 years later in 586 BC.
“For Samaria’s plague is incurable; it has spread to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself.” (1:9)
Micah also warned of an imminent scattering of the Kingdom of Israel, which was invaded and scattered in 734–732 BC by Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria.
His message, in fact, is consistent with the one presented by Isaiah. For that reason, some scholars have even speculated that he was a student of Isaiah.
Nevertheless, Micah was a man of the soil and one who lived close to the people, possessing a keen sense of sympathy for others, ministering to the poor and downtrodden. Isaiah lived in Jerusalem and delivered his prophecies to the people and court of the capital.
Like Isaiah, Micah was particularly indignant toward the wealthy who used their power to enrich themselves at the sufferings of the poor. Here is an example of what Micah had to say about them:
“Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes; they rob them of their inheritance. Therefore, the LORD says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.’” (2:1–3)
Micah speaks against the leaders of the people, especially the priests who can be hired and the judges “who despise justice and distort all that is right.” (3:9)
All the while, they believe that no harm can befall them.
God speaks through Micah, asking the people what He has done to deserve their disobedience and disrespect — He reminds them of His many deeds in bringing the people out of Egypt and protecting them through the wilderness.
When Ritual Becomes Empty
Both Micah and Isaiah touch on themes of universal peace; however, Isaiah describes the holiness of a future Jerusalem, whereas Micah predicts that Zion will become as a plowed field and Jerusalem a heap of ruins. (3:12)
Why the destruction? The laws of the Torah (the five books of Moses) had been rejected. (Chabad)
The people were outwardly religious, practicing only empty ceremony. Ceremony was thought to fulfill everything God required. Behind this was an idea that as long as they stayed true to custom and outward appearances, God would bless them. Thus, heartfelt worship had been replaced with empty ritual. Such ritual was used to cover up their daily unjust dealings and dishonest practices.
Under these conditions, Micah warned of the coming destruction to both kingdoms:
“Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations. All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” (1:6–7)
What solution did Micah offer to the people for their sin? Were the people to double up on their offerings? Were they to incorporate pagan elements of worship?
“With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (6:6–7)
The Spirit of God answers this question through Micah, saying,
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8)
This is not to say that offerings and sacrifices as outlined in Scripture are wrong, but that they must be accompanied by true worship of Adonai and a lifestyle that reflects it.
Micah ponders the awesomeness of the Lord who would forgive even the most offensive crimes against Himself when people turn toward Him and repent, changing their heart and mind.
Micah extols God, saying:
“Who is a God like you (Mi El kamokha), who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
Micah’s name is actually derived from the Hebrew: “Who is like God?”
It could be that he earned that name by asking that very question everywhere he went until eventually people began to call him this. Whether or not he earned that name, as a prophet of God, Micah reveals the likeness of God and how to emulate it.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant) Paul delivers a similar message in his letters to Believers, demonstrating a clear link between the themes of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant).
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36)
Relevance of Micah Today
In these end times, the Jewish People are only partially regathered to their homeland as Isaiah prophesied:
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:5–7)
Although there are many devoted people living in Israel today who wish to serve only the God of Abraham, there are many others who live only to serve the flesh and their own selves. Many continue to reject the Word of God by worshiping idols, aborting life, and practicing sexual lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture.
In fact, the leadership of Tel Aviv has been working for years to make this city more attractive to a young generation of tourists by promoting Tel Aviv as the friendliest city in the world for gays and lesbians.
As well, the State of Israel supports abortions for, among other reasons, pregnancies resulting from illicit relationships, including adultery. And over 99% of abortion applications are granted.
Nevertheless, the rate of abortions has been declining in recent years but remain high. In 2015, the latest year for which data exist, there were 18,240 abortions reported.
This figure represents a little over a day’s work at Treblinka, the Nazi death camp where 1.2 million Jews lost their lives. The only remaining survivor from that camp, Samuel Willenberg, who lives in Israel recalls the similarities:
“The days of slavery at Treblinka were filled with never-ending horrors. When forced to sort victims’ belongings, the men often found newborn babies amongst the piles which the Nazis would take and burn alive in fire-filled pits.” One might call this the Nazi birth-control system. (Daily Mail)
The warnings of destruction that Micah gave to the people of Israel then are just as relevant to those today who act as enemies of God, thinking no harm can befall them. But the hope of reconciliation is available for all of us if we would follow Yeshua, doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.
Hope for the Nation
Micah provides a full picture of the cost of sin and the resulting separation from God. And although he came prophesying doom for both Judah and Israel, he also spoke of the ultimate deliverance through the Messiah.
Micah laments the sorry state that the nation of Israel will come to when none can be trusted — not even members of one’s own family.
“For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” (Micah 7:6)
Yeshua (Jesus) echoed this prophecy when He said about the Last Days:
“They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:53)
Like many prophecies throughout the Tanakh, Micah 4:1 promises that the Lord will again establish His Temple on Mount Zion and that people from all the world will stream to it. This of course has yet to be fulfilled, but Messiah Yeshua will not return to rule from Jerusalem until it is rebuilt.
“Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (4:2)
Micah prophesies that God will gather all those who are still in exile and bring them back to their land to reign over them forever from Mount Zion. This prophecy is related both to the exile to Babylon (from which the people returned) and the Last Days when the scattered are brought back to the Holy Land.
In the coming Messianic age, each person “will sit under His vine and under His fig tree.” During this time of total peace, there will be “no one to make them afraid.” (4:4)
At that time, the Jewish People will be a dominant force in the world. No one will be able to stop them.
“The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.” (5:8)
God will again show mercy toward His people and fulfill His oath to Abraham, fully restoring His people and the Holy Land.