1902 Encyclopedia > Micah

Micah




MICAH (i^P) is the short form of a name which in various modifications—Micaidhu, Mlcdiehu, Mlcaiah—is common in the Old Testament, expressing as it does a fundamental point of Hebrew faith : Who is like Jehovah 1 The name was borne among others by the Danite whose history is given in Judg. xvii. sq., by the prophet who opposed Ahab's expedition to Kamoth-Gilead (1 Kings xxii.), and by the subject of the present article, the con-temporary and fellow-worker of Isaiah, whose name is prefixed to the sixth in order of the books of the minor prophets.

It is at once apparent that the book of Micah divides itself into at least two distinct discourses, chap. vi. 1 forming a new commencement; and from what we know in general of the compilation of the prophetic collection we cannot at once determine whether the second discourse, which has no title, is to be ascribed to the author of the immediately preceding prophecy, or is to be regarded as an independent and anonymous piece. To decide this question, if it can be decided, we must begin by a separate study of the earlier chapters to which the title in Micah i. 1 directly belongs. These again fall into two parts. Chaps, i.-iii. (with the exception of two verses, ii. 12, 13) are a predic-tion of judgment on the sins of Judah and Ephraim. Ia a majestic exordium Jehovah Himself is represented as coming forth in the thunderstorm (comp. Amos i. 2) from His heavenly palace, and descending on the mountains of Palestine, at once as witness against His people, and the executer of judgment on their sins. Samaria is sentenced to destruction for idolatry; and the blow extends to Judah also, which participates in the same guilt (chap. L). But, while Samaria is summarily dismissed, the sin of Judah is analysed at length in chaps, ii. and iii., in which the prophet no longer deals with idolatry, but with the corruption of society, and particularly of its leaders—the grasping aristocracy whose whole energies are concentrated on devouring the poor and depriving them of their little holdings, the unjust judges and priests who for gain wrest the law in favour of the rich, the hireling and gluttonous prophets who make war against every one " that putteth not into their mouth," but are ever ready with assurances of Jehovah's favour to their patrons, the wealthy and noble sinners that fatten on the flesh of the poor. The prophet speaks with the strongest personal sympathy of the sufferings of the peasantry at the hands of their lords, and contemplates with stern satisfaction the approach of the destroyer who shall carry into exile " the luxurious sons" of this race of petty tyrants (i. 16), and leave them none to stretch the measuring line on a field in the congregation of Jehovah (ii. 5). The centre of corrup-tion is the capital, the city of Zion, grown great on the blood and wrongs of the provincials, the seat of the cruel princes, the corrupt judges and diviners. For their sake, he concludes, Zion shall be plowed as a field, Jerusalem shall lie in ruins, and the temple hill return to jungle

The situation thus sketched receives its elucidation from the data supplied by the title (i. 1) and confirmed and rendered more precise by a remarkable passage in Jeremiah. According to the title Micah flourished in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; according to Jeremiah (xxvi. 18 sq.) the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem just cited was spoken under Hezekiah, and bore fruit in the repentance of king and people, by which the judgment was averted. The allusion beyond doubt is to Hezekiah's work of religious reformation (2 Kings xviii. 4 sq.). It is hardly possible to separate this reformation from the influ-ence of Isaiah, which did not become practical in the conduct of the state till the crisis of Sennacherib's invasion; and the conclusion that Hezekiah was not from the first a reforming king, which is forced on us by many passages of Isaiah, is confirmed by the prophecy of Micah, which, after Hezekiah's accession, still represents wickedness as seated in the high places of the kingdom. The internal disorders of the realm depicted by Micah are also prominent in Isaiah's prophecies; they were closely connected, not only with the foreign complications due to the approach of the Assyrians, but with the break-up of the old agrarian system within Israel, and with the rapid and uncompen-sated aggrandisement of the nobles during those pro-sperous years when the conquest of Edom by Amaziah and the occupation of the port of Elath by his son (2 Kings xiv. 7, 22) placed the lucrative trade between the Mediterranean and the Eed Sea in the hands of the rulers of Judah. On the other hand the democratic tone which distinguishes Micah from Isaiah, and his announcement of the impending fall of the capital (the deliverance of which from the Assyrian appears to Isaiah as the necessary condition for the preservation of the seed of a new and better kingdom), are explained by the fact that, while Isaiah lived in the centre of affairs, Micah was a Morasthite or inhabitant of Moresheth Oath, a place near the Philistine frontier so unimportant as to be mentioned only in Micah i. 14. The provincial prophet sees the capital and the aristocracy entirely from the side of a man of the oppressed people, and foretells the utter ruin of both. But this ruin does not present itself to him as involving the captivity or ruin of the nation as a whole; the congregation of Jehovah remains in Judsea when the oppressors are cast out (ii. 5); Jehovah's words are still good to them that walk uprightly; the glory of Israel is driven to take refuge in Adullam, as in the days when David's band of broken men was the true hope of the nation, but there is no hint that it is banished from the land. Thus upon the prophecy of judgment we naturally expect to follow a prophecy of the redintegration of Jehovah's kingship in a better Israel, and this we find in ii. 12, 13 and in chaps, iv., v. Both passages, however, present difficulties. The former seems to break the pointed contrast between ii. 11 and iii. 1, and is therefore regarded by Ewald as an example of the false prophecies on which the wicked rulers trusted. The thought, however, is one proper to all true prophecy (comp. Hos. i. 11 [ii. 2], Isa. xi. 11 sq., Zeph. iii. 14, Jer. xxxi. 8), and precisely in accordance with chaps, iv., v., even in the details of expres-sion and imagery. It is indeed possible that thftse verses are a separate oracle of Micah, which did not originally stand in its present connexion. The sequence of thought in chaps iv., v., on the other hand, is really difficult, and has given rise to much complicated discussion. There is a growing feeling among scholars that iv. 11-13 stands in direct contradiction to iv. 9, 10, and indeed to iii. 12. The last two passages agree in speaking of the capture of Jerusalem, the first declares Zion inviolable, and its capture an impossible profanation. Such a thought can hardly be Micah's, even if we resort to the violent harmonistic process of imagining that two quite distinct sieges, separated by a renewal of the theocracy, are spoken of in consecutive verses. An interpolation, however, in the spirit of such passages as Ezek. xxxviii., xxxix., Joel iii. [iv.], Zech. xiv., is very conceivable in post-exilic times, and in connexion with the growing impulse to seek a literal harmony of all prophecy on lines very different from the pre-exilic view in Jer. xxvi., that predictions of evil may be averted by repentance. Another difficulty lies in the words "and thou shalt come even to Babylon" in iv. 10. Micah unquestionably looked for the destruction of Jerusalem as well as of Samaria in the near future and by the Assyrians (i. 9), and this was the judgment which Hezekiah's repent-ance averted. If these words, therefore, belong to the original context, they mark it as not from Micah's hand; but it is easy to see that they are really a later gloss. The prophetic thought is that the daughter (population) of Zion shall not be saved by her present rulers or defensive strength; she must come down from her bulwarks and dwell in the open field; there, and not within her proud ramparts, Jehovah will grant deliverance from her enemies. This thought is in precise harmony with chaps, i.-iii., and equally characteristic is what follows in chap. v. Micah's opposition to present tyranny expresses itself in recurrence to the old popular ideal of the first simple Davidic kingdom (iv. 8) to which he had already alluded in i. 15. These old days shall return once more. Again guerilla bands (iHl'tu) gather to meet the foe as they did in the time of Philistine oppression. A new David, like him whose exploits in the district of Micah's home were still in the mouths of the common people, goes forth from Bethlehem to feed the flock in the strength of Jehovah. The kindred Hebrew nations are once more united to their brethren of Israel (comp. Amos ix. 12, Isa. xvi. 1 sq.). The remnant of Jacob springs up in fresh vigour, inspiring terror among the surrounding peoples, and there is no lack of chosen captains to lead them to victory against the Assyrian foe.





In the rejuvenescence of the nation the old stays of that oppressive kingship which began with Solomon, the strong-holds, the fortified cities, the chariots and horses so foreign to the life of ancient Israel, are no more known; they disappear together with the divinations, the soothsayers, the idols, the macgebas and asheras of the high places Jehovah is king on Mount Zion, and no inventions of man come between Him and His people.

The elements of this picture, drawn so largely from the most cherished memories of the Judseans, could not fail to produce a wide impression, especially when the invasion of Sennacherib, although it spared Jerusalem, fulfilled in the most striking way a great part of Micah's predictions of judgment. Of this we have evidence, not only in Jer. xxvi., but in the political and religious ideas of the book of Deuteronomy. The picture of the right king (Deut. xvii. 14 sq.) and the condemnation of the high-places alike follow the doctrine of Micah.
A difficulty still remains in the opening verses of chap. iv. Micah iv. 1-3 and Isa. ii, 2-4 are but slightly modified recensions of the same text, and as Isa. ii. is older than the prophecy of Micah, while on the other hand Micah iv. 4 seems the natural completion of the passage, it is common to suppose that both copy an older prophet. But the words have little connexion with the context in Isaiah, and may be the quotation of a copyist suggested by ver. 5. On the other hand it has been urged that the passage belongs to a later stage of prophetic thought than the 8th century E. c. There is, however, no real difficulty in the idea that foreign nations shall seek law and arbitrament at the throne of the king of Zion (comp. the old prophecy Isa. xvi.); and the mention of the temple as the seat of Jehovah's sovereignty may be illustrated by Isa. vi., where the heavenly palace (Micah i. 3) is at least pictured in the likeness of the temple on Zion. At the same time the Jerusalem of Micah iv. 8 is the Jerusalem of David not of Solomon, the ideas of iv. 1-4 do not reappear in chap, v., and the whole prophecy would perhaps be more consecutive and homogeneous if iv. 6 (where the dispersed and the suffering are, according to chap. ii., the victims of domestic not of foreign oppression) followed directly on iii. 12.
The sixth chapter of Micah presents a very different situation from chaps, i. -v. Jehovah appears to plead with his people for their sins, but the sinners are no longer a careless and oppressive aristo-cracy buoyed up by deceptive assurances of Jehovah's help, by pro-phecies of wine and strong drink; they are bowed down by a religion of terror, wearied with attempts to propitiate an angry God by countless offerings, and even by the sacrifice of the first-born. Meantime the substance of true religion—justice, charity, and a humble walk with God—is forgotten, fraud and deceit reign in all classes, the works of the house of Ahab are observed (worship of foreign gods). Jehovah's judgments are multiplied against the land, and the issue can be nothing else than its total desolation. All these marks fit exactly the evil times of Manasseh as described in 2 Kings xxi. Chap. vii. 1-6, in which the public and private cor-ruption of a hopeless age is bitterly bewailed, obviously belongs to the same context (comp. vol. xiii. p. 415). Micah may very well have lived into Manasseh's reign, but the title in i. 1 does not cover a prophecy which certainly falls after Hezekiah's death, and the style has nothing in conirn on with the earlier part of the book. It is therefore prudent to regard the prophecy, with Ewald, as anony-mous. Ewald ascribes the whole of chaps, vi., vii. to one author. "Wellhausen, however, remarks with justice that the thread is abruptly broken at vii. 6, and that verses 7-20 represent Zion as already fallen before the heathen and her inhabitants as pining in the darkness of captivity. The hope of Zion is in future restora-tion after she has patiently borne the chastisement of her sins. Then Jehovah shall arise mindful of His oath to the fathers, Israel shall be forgiven and restored, and the heathen humbled. The faith and hope which breathe in this passage have the closest affinities with the book of Lamentations and Isa. xl.-lxvi.

We have seen that the text of Micah has suffered from redactors ; it is also not free from verbal corruptions which make some places very obscure. The LXX.had many readings different from the present Hebrew, but their text too was far from sound. Of commentaries on Micah, that which deals most fully with the question of the text is Roorda's Latin work, Leyden, 1869. The most elaborate book on Micah is Caspavi's (Ifeber Micha den Morasthiten mid seine prophelische Schrift, Christiania, 1851-52). In English Pocock's Commentary (2d ed., 1692) and Cheyne's Micah (18S2) are to be noted. See also the literature on the minor prophets in general cited under HOSEA, and W. R. Smith's Prophets of Israel (1882). (W. R. S.)


Footnotes

A confusion between the two prophets of the name has led to the insertion in the Massoretic text of 1 Kings xxii. 28 of a citation from Micah i. 2, rightly absent from the LXX.

That Micah lived in the Shephela or Judaean lowland near the Philistine country is clear from the local colouring of i. 10 sq., where a number of places in this quarter are mentioned together, and their names played upon in a way that could hardly have suggested itself to any but a man of the district. The paronomasia makes the verses difficult, and in i. 14 none of the ancient versions recognizes More-sheth Gath as a proper name. The word Morasthite (Mdrashti) was therefore obscure to them; but this only gives greater weight to the traditional pronunciation with 6 in the first syllable, which is as old as the LXX., and goes against the view, taken by the Targum both on Micah and on Jeremiah, and followed by some moderns (including Roorda), that Micah came from Mareshah. When Eusebius places Muipao-dzi near Eleutheropofis it is not likely that he is thinking of Mareshah (Maresa), for he speaks of the former as a village and of the latter as a ruin 2 miles from Eleutheropolis. Jerome too in the Epit. Paulse, (Ep. cviii.), speaking as an eye-witness, distinguishes Morasthim, with the church of Micah's sepulchre, from Maresa. This indeed was after the pretended miraculous discovery of the relics of Micah in 385 A.D. ; but the name of the village which then existed (Prsef. in Mich.) can hardly have been part of a pious fraud.
The figure of the shepherd gathering a scattered flock certainly does not presuppose a total captivity, as Stade (Z. f. AT.W., i. 161 sq.) argues.
See, besides the commentaries, Noldekeinthe Bibel-lex., iv. 214; a paper by Oort and two by Kuenen in Theol. Tijdsch., 1872; Well-hausen-Bleek, Einleitung, p. 426; Stade, I.e., and ibid., iii. 1 sq. Stade goes so far as to make the whole of Micah iv., v. presuppose the exile, and to find still later additions in iv. 5-10., v. 5, 6 [v. 4, 5]. Giesebrecht, Theol. LZ., 1881, col. 443 sq., rejects chap. iv. only. The arguments cannot be here cited at length, but they are tacitly kept in view in what follows.







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