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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


- Micah

by Johann Peter Lange



pastor at st. gertraud, and professor of old testament theology in the university of berlin


professor in the university at lewisburg, penn.


1. Historical Situation and Date

Like Isaiah, Micah also belongs to the great critical period in the latter half of the eighth century before Christ. At that time, the Assyrian kingdom, just prior to its fall, recovered; its power, under Salmanassar, and with irresistible might carried the profound commotions of God’s judgments, predicted by Amos, chapters Amos 1:0 :. and Amos 2:0 :., over the peoples of Western Lsia, and even to Africa. His activity, also, like Isaiah’s, belongs to the kingdom of Judah, nd numerous coincidences show the close proximity, in time and character, of these two lightiest of the prophets (compare esp. Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5 ff., Micah 3:12; Micah 4:1 ff.; Micah 5:2 ff. with Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 29:9 ff; Isaiah 32:13 ff; Isaiah 2:2 if.; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:15). Yet the historical horizon of is prophecies is narrower than that of Isaiah. Concerning this we have an express statement in Jeremiah 26:18. It is there argued by certain elders of Judah, that Jeremiah should not be held blameworthy for the hard prophecies which the Spirit impelled him to utter, but ie left unharmed, and receive honor rather, on the ground that the good king Hezekiah did lot punish Micah’s sharp threatenings against Judah, but received them with fear and humil-ition before God. In proof of this the passage in Micah 3:12 of our book is cited. Now, ince there is nothing to prove that the discourses which are collected in our book were composed at different times, since rather chaps. 1–5 in particular form a beautiful and consistent rhole, we are obliged to fix the date of the book under Hezekiah, 727–698. This determination of the time is supported by the fact that just in those chapters (Micah 1:3 :) in which it has been supposed there were indications of a period earlier than Hezekiah, the coincidences with Isaiah relate, without exception, to discourses of his delivered under Hezekiah.

Still more definitely can the period be ascertained from intimations given by our book itelf. For, first, idolatry, which had become triumphantly prevalent under Hezekiah’s predcessors, particularly Ahaz (2 Kings 16:0; 2 Chronicles 28:0.), appears here throughout as still unbroken in Judah (Micah 5:11 ff.; Micah 1:5; Micah 6:16). But Hezekiah, not long after the destruction of he northern kingdom by Salmanassar (Sargon), and in connection with the great Passover, by which he sought to attach the remaining inhabitants of that kingdom to Judah (2 Chronicles 26:6), extirpated idolatry. Not less clearly, in the second place, is the early portion of his reign pointed to by the circumstance that in Micah we find a corruption of the higher: lasses especially, and of the official dignitaries, such as in the time of, Ahaz, and even in he first years of Hezekiah, exercised the scourge of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 28:14), but such as cannot have existed long under the strict and pious rule of the latter king. We may add, thirdly, that all reference to the calamity from Sennacherib is still wanting, and that the jrophet rather takes his stand, in the first chapter, clearly before the destruction of Samaria. h must accordingly place the time of the composition between 727 and 723 B.C.

We must draw our knowledge of the character of this period from our author, whose lively rebukes and chastisement of the rampant sins and follies of the age, taken together with the corresponding features of Isaiah’s picture and with statements of the historical sooks, give a tolerably complete portrait of the time.

The internal corruption of the nation, which under Jotham was still gilded with a super-Scial splendor (2 Chronicles 28:0 :), had under Ahaz, through the participation in criminality of;his morally unripe monarch (Isaiah 3:12, cf. Micah 7:0 :.), everywhere broken out. Ahaz is described as one of the most flagitious kings ever belonging to the house of David. He introduced the Baal-worship, sacrificed his children to Moloch, sanctioned by his own acts the worship of the high places, which had hitherto been barely tolerated, made arbitrary changes in the Temple after patterns which he had seen at Damascus, and finally closed the doors of the sanctuary altogether (2 Kings 16:0; 2 Chronicles 27:0 :.). What wonder if the example from above was efficacious in poisoning the morals of the people? It was the privileged classes, in particular, who, as soon as they felt the hand over them relax, began to turn to advantage the opportunities afforded them. Covetousness and luxury were the sins most in vogue, and Isaiah 5:8 ff. gives us a melancholy evidence that nothing was holy to the wanton nobility, not the paternal field of the poor, not sacred justice itself, to prevent them from stealing the field and perverting justice, that they might bring tribute to their own lust. This condition of things Hezekiah found at his elevation to the throne, and although his will was good from the very first (2 Chronicles 29:3), and the bulk of the people showed themselves not unfavorable to his zeal for restoring the old worship and the old piety (2 Chronicles 29:28), it was still all the more difficult to restrain those inveterate sins of the ruling classes. The tendency of the people also was more toward an outward churchliness than toward inward religion. Isaiah and Micah zealously supported the efforts of the king to effect a reformation of those faults among the people which must have abounded especially in the first years of the reign (when our book was composed). To the bitter complaints of Isaiah, and the lively sketches which he threw out concerning the practices of the great (Isaiah 32:5-6), the details drawn out in Micah 3:0 correspond.

The patricians as magistrates know the right, but abuse it to fill their purses and enlarge their lands (Micah 3:1; Micah 2:1 f. Micah 2:9; Micah 6:10 f.), and. thus become rather flayers than guardians of the people (Micah 3:3 ff.). Strong in their combinations with each other, they have organized a formal system pf public law-breaking (Micah 7:3; Micah 3:10).

The priests, who should cover the rights of the. poor with the protection of God’s law, are covetous, and judge for hire (Micah 3:11). With special energy of indignation, however, both prophets contended against the true source of the prevailing sin, namely, the prophetic class, whose members, according to their vocation and office, should be the organs of divine revelation, but who have degraded themselves into cheap sycophants toward the great. They stand at the head of the libertines, and speak what the ears of the latter itch for, so that it is no wonder if the rebukes of the true prophets seem to the wanton scorners of the Most High to be unintelligible drivel (Micah 2:6), which despising they either seek to refute with commonplaces (Micah 2:7), or, in the lust of revelry, deride with brutal stupidity (Isaiah 28:8 ff). Yet the prophets sit with them (Micah 3:5), feast with them, and wrest the consecrated language of the Spirit learnt in the schools of the prophets, to draw from it lulling lies of peace and of good days to come (Micah 2:11 ff.; Micah 3:5); nay, they do not shrink even from the use of heathenish arts forbidden in the law (Micah 3:7). Thus public life has by degrees, even in Jerusalem, reached that state on account of which Samaria was brought into one calamity after another, and finally into the last (Micah 6:10). The better part of the people is prepared to fulfill the ceremonial requirements of the law, and even to go beyond them (Micah 6:6; cf. Isaiah 1:11 ff), but that this law has a moral significance, and demands holiness of heart, without which the offerings are of no value, is hidden from them, or is too bitter a truth. With severity therefore is the prophet compelled to remind them how they plunder the fugitives of the sister kingdom of Israel, as these are flying through Judah before the Assyrian army (Micah 2:8), and to point them to what the law requires of the inner man (Micah 6:18). Under these circumstances the judgments are approaching, by threatening which Micah would rouse their conscience to the final decision.

Although the title of the book names, beside the reign of Hezekiah, that also of Jotham (758–742), and of Ahaz (742–727), as the time in which Micah received his word from the Lord, and thus seems to suggest a contradiction to the date just now deduced, still there is no reason in this for doubting the trustworthiness of either of the two statements, that of the title or of the notice in Jeremiah. For if the declaration of the elders in Jeremiah is in itself credible from its antiquity, and as having been made before enemies, so is the age of the title guaranteed by the consideration that a later writer, if he had wished to furnish the book with a superscription, would certainly have considered the account in Jeremiah, and avoided the apparent contradiction by leaving out Jotham and Ahaz. In view of the fact that the book is well arranged, and that no subsequent title occurs in it, one can hardly escape the conclusion that the prophet edited, and gave the title to, his own work. And in fact it is not difficult either to harmonize the two statements. For although the discourses of our book were poured forth at one gush, so to speak, they make the impression, not of having arisen from one and the same transient situation, but of presenting the summary result, in some sense the resumé, of an entire life previously spent in the activity of prophetic discourse. Indeed the prophet, in the flow of his discourse, involuntarily falls into the tone of narration: “Then said I” (Micah 3:1). We may, accordingly, assume with the title that the various contents of the book arose before the vision of the prophet between the years 758 and 722 B.C.; but with Jeremiah that, under Hezekiah, somewhere near the close of his labors, he wrote out what was of permanent value in his several discourses, in the two chief discourses of the book before us (Micah 1:5-7), and published it as a perpetual testimony (cf. Habakkuk 2:2.)1

2. The Person of the Prophet

The name Micha (מיכה, Gr. Mixalas, Lat. Michæas) is not of rare occurrence in the Old Testament. It is, as shown from Judges 17:5 comp. w. Micah 5:4, an abbreviation of מיכָיָה or מִייָיְהוּ of which two forms the first is to be read also in Jeremiah 26:18 in the Kethib. The signification is, accordingly: Who is like God? = מִכָאֵל. The prophet seems himself to allude to this meaning of his name (Micah 7:18).

Of his person we know next to nothing. That he was not, as some following Hieron. have supposed, the same with the prophet Micaiah, son of Irnlah, who foretold to Ahab his approaching destruction (1 Kings 22:0), is self-evident: Ahab died 897 B.C. The identity of the words which open his discourse (Micah 1:2) with the closing words in the prophecy of that Micah (1 Kings 22:28) is an intentional allusion. Tradition has manifold stories to tell concerning him (cf. Carpzov, Introd., 3:373 ff.). The surname מֹרַשְׁתּי, which the title and Jeremiah 26:18 attach to the name, is not a patronymic, as the LXX: take it (τὸν το͂υ Μωρασθέι), but marks the place of his origin: he himself names this, as Vitringa had remarked, Moreshethgath (Micah 1:14), that Moresheth which lies near the Philistine city of Gath (cf. Abel-maiim, Abel on the waters, 2 Chronicles 16:4). This locality was still known to Eusebius in the Onomast. and to Hieron. who, in the Prol. ad explanandum Michceam, says: “Michceam de Morasthi,qui usque hodiejuxta Eleutheropolin (five Roman miles north of Gath) haud grandis est viculus; “and in the Epist. 86 ad Eustoch. epitaph Paulæ, p. 677, ed. Mart., he relates that there was once the grave of Micha, but that in his time a church had been erected; and Robinson found ruins of a church and hamlet twenty minutes southeast from Beit-Jibrin, which corresponds to the Eleutheropolis of the ancients (Bib. Res. in Pal., 2:423). The derivation of the name Morashti, from the name of the town Mareshah (Micah 1:15), although common among interpreters thrbugh the influence of the Chaldee version, is inconsistent with the vocalization.

That, finally, Micah had dwelt in the region of Gath, appears to be proved in another way also by the fact that he shows himself familiar with localities there, Micah 1:10-15 (but cf. on Micah 5:10). It is saying too much, however, when Ewald maintains that the whole character of the book betrays the inhabitant of the low-land, and that not merely the rough and uneven language, but the exaltation of Bethlehem as compared with Jerusalem, proves the origin of the prophet.

3. Contents and Form of the Booh

As Micah, compared with Isaiah, embraces a shorter space of time, so his horizon is locally more restricted. The breadth of view, sweeping over all history, with which the latter surveys the greatness and recognizes the importance of his time, and sheds the light of prophecy on all sides, over all nations-over the distant islands of the Mediterranean, where, at that very time, Rome, the great city of the future, was building, and over the young Aryan peoples in the East,—indicating to them their place in the history of the world—all this is foreign to our prophet. His gaze is fixed imperturbably on his own people, but within this field he moves with the greatest intensity.2

If now we distribute his book, as is generally granted, into two obvious divisions: the prophetico-political, chaps, 1, 5, and the ideal-contemplative, chaps. 6, 7, then in the First division, discourse first, Micah 1:0 :., we see that he; finds in. the judgment immediately impending over Samaria the text for his threat, that the judgment will reach even to the gates of Jerusalem (Micah 1:9). Following immediately then, in ascending succession, the second discourse, chaps, 2, 3, called forth by the sin, which can no longer be restrained, and security of the people, especially of the leaders among them, now breaking out openly everywhere,—announces that Jerusalem herself shall become a stone-heap (Micah 3:12). Not unjil then can the Messiah come, amid great distress and necessity, from Bethlehem, as Micah proclaims at the culminating point of this division and of the whole book, namely, in the third discourse, chaps, 4, 5. To this external representation of guilt, penalty, and salvation, the second division, chaps, 6, 7, adds the inner one. Here, in the form of a suit-at-law between God and his people, which ends first in painful certainty of the suffering soon to be experienced, but finally in the assured confidence of salvation at last, the whole depth of Israel’s mission, and his tangled ways woven out of grace and election, out of sin and forgiveness, are considered and exhibited in an evangelical light.3

As regards the form of the representation, Micah stands next to Isaiah in the force, pathos, freshness, and continuity of expression, and in the plastic choice of his words. In the arrangement of his thoughts, however, abrupt and fond of sharp contrasts, he reminds us more of his older contemporary, Hosea. The beautiful plan of his discourse is admirable. In the first division each of the three addresses falls into two symmetrical halves, whose subdivisions, again (cf. especially chaps, 4, 5), are for the most part regularly constructed. And in the second division also the structure of his thought is grounded on a beautiful and well defined numerical proportion.4

4. Position in the Organic System of Holy Scripture

In the organic order of the Bible, and specially in the prophetic development of the Messianic theology, this book takes a fundamental position. Micah stands immovably within the inner sphere of the history of the Kingdom of Israel: Israel is the people chosen by God, with whom he has established a covenant from of old, and ratified it with an oath (Micah 7:20); in whom, from Egypt and the wilderness, he has glorified himself (Micah 6:4 ff.); to whom he gave a law which is altogether of a moral and spiritual character (Micah 6:6 ff.). This people have become alienated, not in part merely, but Judah also has followed the apostate northern kingdom (Micah 6:16), and a corruption of all divine institutions, offices, and orders has broken in (chaps, 2, 3), which has thoroughly devoured everything (Micah 7:1 ff.). On this historical ground grow the constituent elements of his proclamation: (1). The necessity of the judgment. God hardens himself against their cry of distress (Micah 3:4 :), for idolatry must be rooted out (Micah 3:10 ff), the false prophets must be put to shame (Micah 3:6 f.). From Zion he issues the judgment (Micah 1:2 :.), and unto Zion, in the centre of the kingdom, reaches the desolation by the enemy (Micah 1:9; Micah 1:12; Micah 2:4; Micah 3:12); the people are even swept away into captivity, and become a prey to the world-power, which is here designated by a name, typical from the earliest times, the name of Babylon (Babel), Micah 4:10. But (2), the certainty of salvation is not thereby abrogated; it will come notwithstanding, and that through the Messiah, whose person, office, and name are described more directly and plainly than we often find them (Micah 5:1 if.). Thus becomes established in Zion (3) the glorious kingdom of the future (Micah 4:1 : f. Micah 4:3), a kingdom of peace and blessing (Micah 4:3 f.; Micah 5:4; Micah 5:9; Micah 7:14 ff.), founded in God’s pity and readiness to forgive sin (Micah 7:18 f.), on the ruins of the world-power (Micah 5:5 f.). Its members are the “dispersed of Israel,” the wretched, “the remnant” (Micah 4:6 f.;Micah 5:2; Micah 5:6 ff’.). But the heathen nations also, overcome by God’s glory and might (Micah 7:16; Micah 4:3), will seek, instead of their oracles, the living God (Micah 4:2), for the separating barrier of the statute is far removed (Micah 7:11).

Luther: The prophet Micah lived in the days of Isaiah, whose words he also quotes, as in the second chapter. Thus one may discern how the prophets who lived at the same time preached almost the same words concerning Christ, as if they had taken counsel with each other thereof. He is, however, one of the excellent prophets, who vehemently chastise the people for their idolatry, and brings forward always the future Christ and his kingdom. And he is for all a peculiar prophet in this, that he so plainly points out and names Bethlehem as the city where Christ should be born. Hence he was also in the O. T. highly celebrated, as Matthew 2:6 well shows. In brief, he rebukes, prophesies, preaches, etc. But in the end this is his meaning, that although everything must go to ruin, Israel and Judah, still the Christ will come who will restore all, etc.

[Dr. Pusey: The light and shadows of the prophetic life fell deeply on the soul of Micah. The captivity of Judah, too, had been foretold before him. Mosos had foretold the end from the beginning, had set before them the captivity and the dispersion, as a punishment which the sins of the people would certainly bring upon them. Hosea presupposed it; Amos foretold that Jerusalem, like the cities of its heathen enemies, should be burned with fire. Micah had to declare its lasting desolation. Even when God wrought repentance through him, he knew that it was but for a time; for he foresaw and foretold that the deliverance would be, not in Jerusalem, but at Babylon, in captivity. His prophecy sank so deep that, above a century afterwards, just when it was about to have its fulfillment, it was the prophecy which was remembered. But the sufferings of time disappeared in the light of eternal truth. Above seven centuries rolled by, and Micah reappears as the herald, not now of sorrow, but of salvation. Wise men from afar, in the nobility of their simple belief, asked, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? A king, jealous for his temporal empire, gathered all those learned in Holy Scripture, and echoed the question. The answer was given, unhesitatingly, as a well-known truth of God, in the words of Micah, For that it is written in the prophet. Glorious peerage of the two contemporary prophets of Judah! Ere Jesus was born, the Angel announced the birth of the Virgin’s Son, God with us, in the words of Isaiah. When He was born, he was pointed out as the Object of worship to the first converts from the heathen, on the authority of God, through Micah.—Tr.]

Literature, vid. Gen. Introduction

Special Commentaries. Theod. Bibliandri Comm. in Micharn, Tig., 1534. Ant. Gilbi In Micharn, Cond., 1551. Dav. Chytrai Explicatio Micha Proph., Rost., 1565, 12mo. J. Dra-chonites, Michceas Propheta cum Translationibus ac Explicatione, Viteb., 1565, fol. Dan. Lambert, In (Joelem, Amos) Micharn, Gen., 1578, 8vo. Job. Brentii Comm. in Micharn, Opp., t. Micah 4:0 :., Tub., 1580. ‘Alb. Graweri Proph. Micha Explicatio Plana et Perspicua, Jenae, 1663, 4to. Ed. Pococke, A Commentary of Micha and Malachia, Oxf., 1677. Joh. Mussei Schola Prophetical in Danielem, Micharn, et Joelem, Quedlinb., 1719, 4to. C. T. Schnurrer (resp. Andler), Animadv. Phil. Crit. ad Vat. Micha, Jena, 1798, 8vo. H.W. Justi, Micha iibersetzt und eriau-tert, Leipz., 1799 2d (title-page) edition, 1820. A. T. Hartmann, Micha neu iibersetzt und erlaulert, Lemgo, 1800.

Treatises and Monographs. H. L. Bauer, Animadv. Critical in Duo Priora cc. Proph. Micha, Alt., 1790, 4to. C. P. Caspari, Ueber Micha den Morasthiten, 2 Th. Christiania, 1852.

Practical and Devotional Expositions. Winkler, Anleitung zum richtigen und erbaulichen Verstiindniss des Proph. Micha, 1766, 8. G.Quandt, Micha der Seher’von Moreseth, Berlin, 1866.


[1][With this Dr. Pusey substantially agrees. After arguing plausibly that some portions of the book were spoken earlier,—ch. Micah 4:1 ff. as early as the reign of Jotham,—he concludes: “At the commencement, then, of Hezekiah’s reign, he collected the substance of what God had taught by him, recasting it, so to speak, and retained of his spoken prophscy so much as God willed to remain for us. As it stands, it belongs to that early time of Hezekieh reign, in which the sins of Ahaz still lived on. Corruption of manners had been hereditary. In jotham’s reign too, it is said expressly, i contrast with himself, the people were still doing corruptly. Idolatry had, under Ahaz, received a fanatic impulse from the king, who at last set himself to close the worship of God. The strength of Jotham’s reign was gone, the longing for its restoration led to the wrong and destructive policy, against which Isaiah had to contend. Of this Mieah says, such should not be strength of the future kingdom of God. Idolatry and oppression lived on; against these, the fuheritance of those former reigns, the sole residuum of Jotham’s might or Ahsz’ policy, the breach of the law of love of God and man, Micah concentrated his written prophecy.” Introd. to Micha, p. 291.—Tr.]

[2][“He Hingers, in his prophecy, among the towns of the maritime plain (the Shepheiah) where his birth-place lay. Among the few places in that neighborhood, which be selects fo warning and for example of the universal captivity, is his native village, “the home he loved.” But the chief scene of his ministry was Jerusalem. He names it, in the beginning of his prophecy, as the place where the idolatries, and with the idolstries, all the other sins of Judah were concentrated. The two capitals, Samaria and Jerusalem, were the chief objects of the word of God, to him, because the corruption of eah kingdom streamed forth from them. The sins which he rebukes are chiefly those of the capital. Extreme oppression, violence among the rich, bribing among judges, priests, prophets; building up the capital even by cost of life, or actual bloodshed; spoliation; expulsion of the poweriess, women and children from their homes; covetousness; cheating in dealings; pride. These, of course, may be manifoldly repeated in lesser places of resort and of judgment. But it is Zion and Jerusalem which are so built up with blood; zion and Jerusalem which are, on that ground, to be ploughed as a field; it is the city of to whic the Lord’s noice cruth; whose rich man are full of eiolence; it is the daughter of Zion which is to go forth out of the city and go to babylon. Especially they are the heads and princes of the people, whom he upbraids for perversion of justice-and for oppression. Even the good kings of Judah seem to have been powerless to restrain the general oppression.” Dr. Pusey, Com. on Min. Prophers, p.289—Tr.]

[3][Dr. pusey finds three main divisions in the book, chaps. Micah 1:2; Micah 3:5; Micah 6:7. Further, he agrees in general with our author, “This book has a remarkable symmetry. eah of its divisions is a whole, beginning with upbraidingfor sin, threatening God’s Judgments, and ending with promises of future mercy in Christ. The two later divisions begin again with that same characteristic Hear ye, with which Micah had opened the whole. The three divisions are also connected, as well by lesser references of the later to the former, as also by the advance of the prophecy.” … “There is also a sort of progress in the promises of the three parts. I the first, it is of deliverance generally, in language taken from that first deliverance from Egypt. The second is objective, the birth of the Redeemer, the conversion of the Gentiles, the restoration of the Jews, the nature and extent of his kingdom. The third is mainly subjective, man’s respentance, waiting upon God, and God’s forgiveness of his sine. Minor Prophets, p.291.—Tr.]

[4][Dr. Pusey’s characterization of Micah’s style is faithfull and interesting . He has very elaborately investigated the varieties and adaptations of his poetic rhythm, and compared them with other of the Minor Prophets, p. 292.—Tr.]