Copyright 2019 by Joan Berry
Exegeting the Prophet Micah: Use of Hebrew Poetry as a Message
The prophet Micah, who spoke of impending judgments and promises of blessings to come on Israel and Judah, was born in Moresheth Gath located in Judah and was a contemporary of Isaiah in Jerusalem and Hosea in northern Judea (NKJV). He served God in capacity of prophet during the latter part of the eighth century (752-699 B.C.) throughout the governances of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (NKJV). Micah faced the crisis of political and social upheavals and Assyrian invasions that began in in 730 B.C. and lasted until 701 B.C. His purpose was to warn God’s people, his original audience, under the condition that unless they repented and were pardoned, judgment was coming. Key areas involved in in Micah’s book were Samaria, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem (NIV). The main ideas discussed in this book are the indictment of injustice against the people, the throne of David to be filled by a Deliverer, and what God required of His people (Hill & Walton, 2009, p. 641). In this essay, the focus will be on Micah 5:1-5 (NIV) with a background summary up to chapter five, preceding the focused passage.
The prophet opposed the social and moral deviations of the time – corrupt rulers, and priests and false prophets who cried “Peace then there was none” (vs. 2-3; Merrill, 1991, p. 266). Regarding the priests, Solomon’s temple was in use and the people would have been under the Mosaic Covenant at that time. Micah prophesized that God’s coming judgment was to be against Samaria and Jerusalem because the rulers and priests had turned to idolatry and cruel treatment of the poor and women and children that broke the Covenant with God (Halley, 1962, p. 288). In chapter six, Micah brings a lawsuit against them on behalf of God for breaking the covenant. He proclaimed that God would punish them, but later would restore them (Alexander & Alexander, 2009, pp. 498-499). What God wanted from His people was “right behavior,” not manipulated rituals as the proper response to God’s anger” (Hill & Walton, 2009, p. 641).
Micah wrote his account as Hebrew poetry using parallelism, imagery, and figures of speech and the intent of the poetry is both figurative and literal. The interpretation is as follows:
Micah 5: 1-5 (NIV) — The Promise of a Deliverer
“1 Marshal your
troops now, city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
on the cheek with a rod.”
Mighty Jerusalem would be attacked and destroyed by the Assyrians and the city’s king could not prevent it (NIV). Some see the strike on the ruler as a future event when Christ was stuck at the crucifixion trial (Mark 15: 16-20), and still further in the future, Christ would strike back (Rev. 19).
you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans[b] 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.”
The prophet looked ahead to a time when Jerusalem will be the religious center of the world and that Bethlehem in the district of Ephrathah would be the birth place of the Messiah (the Deliverer of God’s people). This is said to be the clearest prophecy of where the birth would occur (Alexander & Alexander, 2009, pp. 498-499; Halley, 1962, p.289). A reminder of who the Messiah will be is in the recognition of Him from ancient times, at the Creation for example.
Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.”
While verse two speaks of Christ’s birth – His first coming – verse three speaks of His second coming and His time of rule. Zion is most likely a reference to “she who is in labor.” The remnant are those never forgotten by God and will delight in the coming of Christ (NIV).
will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus Christ will rule (Rev. 20: 4-6) and His brethren mentioned above are those who believe in Him. He will be as David who obeyed God and placed his trust in Him. His greatness will extend all over the earth and He will give eternal life to His people, He will be the Good Shepherd (Painter, 2007).
he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and marches through our fortresses.
We will rise against them seven shepherds,
even eight leaders of men . . .”
As the ruler, Christ will bring peace. This confirms that it will be Christ, not the leaders who will bring the peace. Christ speaks of His peace in John 14:27. The use of we and us implies His loyal people who will stand with Him to win the battle. He will free them, defend them, and rule over their enemies. Micah also predicted that the Assyrians would attack again. This came about in 612 B.C. and the enemy was defeated. The “seven shepherds and eight leaders of men” is a figure of speech. Seven is a perfect number and eight means they had more than enough to defeat the enemy (Painter, 2007; NIV).
Micah’s message from God could well apply to all nations in all times. He faced the crisis of social and political unrest, the attacks from the Assyrians, corruption in the temple and government. The people had returned to idolatry and were treating the poor and women and children cruelly and in doing so, they broke the covenant with God. Micah told the people they must repent and be pardoned for the sins. He wrote his account in Hebrew poetry form in parallelism, figures of speech, and imagery. Micah gives hope to the people with the promise of a messiah and God’s restoration of their nation.
Alexander, D. & Alexander, P. (2009). Zondervan handbook to the Bible (4th ed.). Grand Rapids.
Halley, H.H. (1962). Halley’s Bible handbook: Billy Graham crusade edition (23 ed,). Minneapolis: MN: Grason Company.
Hill, A.E. & Walton, J. H. (2009). (3rd ed. ). A survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Life application study Bible (NIV). (2005). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Merrill, E.H. An historical survey of the Old Testament (2nd ed.). (1991). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic
New King James study Bible (NKJV 2nd ed.). (2007). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Painter, L. (2007). Micah speaks a message from God to all the nations. Retrieved fromhttp://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/micah-lbw.htm