Book of Micah
The Book of Micah, often called simply, Micah, is an ancient Jewish writing canonized into the Minor Prophets section of the Nevi'im. Christians later appropriated it into their old testament. In the book, the author claims that Yahweh will allow the enemy of the Jews to destroy their cities as punishment for their evil ways, but, if the Jews become good again, Yahweh will eventually destroy their enemies and bring the Jews back into power.
The book doesn't have a title. For centuries it has been referred to as "Micah" as a matter of convenience.
|Early Modern English||Micah||Micah||Micah|
Authorship and Dating
The author identifies himself as Micah of Moresheth, living during the reign of three named kings, which, if accurate, would place this work around 750-700 BCE. However, several scholars believe the book bears a lot of evidence of tampering to make it fit with the actual later history of the Jews. In their opinion, only the first three chapters are the work of the original author while the rest was written (or significantly edited) a couple centuries later, around 500 BCE, after the Jews fell to the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Their interpretation appears to be based on the fact that prophecies aren't real, but post-diction is. The introduction, which identifies the author as Micah, could also be a later addition by priests trying to tie the work to a specific person. If so, the work would best be described as an anonymous writing from around 500 BCE, with an older preface. Either way, there is no information about Micah outside of this book, and a city by the name of Moresheth, which is mentioned only in Micah and copied in the Book of Jeremiah, has never definitively been shown to have existed.
The book is written in prophetic form. It explains in brutal detail how Yahweh will let Assyria conquer his chosen people since they deserve to be butchered for not worshiping him properly. However, after some time of being killed by Assyrians, Yahweh will eventually forgive the Jews and then destroy the same Assyrians who he let attack them so the Jews may live in peace in Zion. However, unlike the Book of Isaiah, which says the Jews will join the nations of the world, Micah says Israel will rule the other nations of the world.
This book contains a popular phrase about peace after war, "Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree," (4:4) later popularized in the USA by George Washington. It also contains the phrase "swords into plowshares," most likely borrowed from Isaiah which was written around the same time. The Gospel of Matthew quotes from Micah at least once, and possibly twice. The primary quotation is based on 5:2 which says a ruler of Israel will come from Bethlehem Ephratah.
Micah also contains a fair amount of untranslatable words and phrases or words that are entirely unique to this book. For example, the Hebrew word tannin has been translated to "jackal," "whale," "dragon," and "monster" (1:8) and translators can't seem to agree if the word yeshach is about having an empty stomach or being humiliated (6:14). The phrase "Heed the rod and the One who appointed it" (6:9) seems to be a Jewish idiom whose meaning has been lost.
This book is in the public domain. I own several translations of this book from various bibles and have read the NIV translation.
- The book contains an example of how ancient people viewed their gods: dwelling in a literal high place and descending when they want to meet with mortals (1:3). See God at the end of the rainbow.
- There is evidence that the Jews were henotheists, "All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever." (4:5)
- There is a passage which seems to imply that Yahweh has no interest in animal or human sacrifices, but rather expects his followers to be just and merciful (6:6-8). This is nice, albeit very different than the message from the Torah.
- Rather than blame Assyria for invading Israel and Judah because they wanted to conquer and saw them as easy pickings, the author blames the victims saying they were being punished because they weren't good enough Jews.
- Like with several other books in the Tanakh, the names of places seem to be made up on the spot in order to fit the narrative (1:10-15). For example, "The town of Aczib will prove deceptive to the kings of Israel," but the name Aczib literally means "deception," and who would give such a name to their town? I wonder if this is more of a fault of the translators, and the word isn't meant to be read as a name, thus making it, "The town of deception will prove deceptive." Either way, the author is just stating tautologies.
- Like several of these old Jewish books, the author calls his fellow Jews cannibals (3:3).
- One of the curses Yahweh uses is to tell the Jews that their divination will no longer work (3:6-7). However, elsewhere in the Tanakh, Yahweh condemns divination as evil. In fact, even later in the same book, right before saying he will destroy their false idols, Yahweh says he will destroy their witchcraft so they can't cast spells (5:12).
- Yahweh brings a lawsuit against the nation of Israel (6:1-2)? How litigious of him.
- Yahweh asks, "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me." (6:3) Has he not read the other books of the Tanakh? Soooo many abominable things!
- The prophecy gets a bit hyperbolic near the end. There isn't a single upright man in all of Israel? Every single one wants to hunt his brother (7:2-6)? This isn't even remotely believable.
- The author seems almost happy to see bloody revenge against Assyria (7:8-13) and (7:15-17).