Rebellion: A Path to Ruin

Explore the Bible Series

May 10, 2009


Background Passage: Micah 1:1-2:13

Lesson Passage: Micah 1:1-9; 2:1-4


Introduction: The prophet Micah preached during the same time period as Isaiah (Eighth Century B.C.), and he addressed, generally speaking, the same audience as his more prominent contemporary.  Micah came from Moresheth, near the ancient Philistine city of Gath.  Therefore, Micah, unlike Isaiah, came from a rural area, and his prophecy bears the marks of this rustic upbringing. This book finds its historic setting during the reign of three kings of Judah.


Jotham (750-735 B.C.): This man ruled Judah during the years of his father’s (Uzziah) illness and assumed the throne, in his own right, at age twenty-five.  He governed wisely in Jerusalem for sixteen years (See II Chronicles 27:1-9).


Ahaz (735-715 B.C.): Jotham’s son did not follow in his father’s path.  His sixteen-year rule of Judah marked a dismal return to idolatry; indeed, the king himself commissioned the worship of the Baals, sacrificed to the pagan gods, defaced the Temple, and offered his children as burnt sacrifices.  His miserable leadership of Judah is described in II Kings 16:1-20 and II Chronicles 28:1-4.


Hezekiah (715-686): Thankfully, Hezekiah, during a twenty-nine year reign, broke the sinful patterns of his father Ahaz. He cleansed and restored the Temple from the abominations of Ahaz, and he tore down the high places of pagan devotion.  Despite sad moments of weakness, Hezekiah served God faithfully throughout a long and prosperous reign (See II Chronicles 29-32).


The Prophecy of Micah falls into three main divisions, each marked by a call for God’s people to hear the voice of the Lord (See 1:2; 3:1; 6:1).  Each section contains indictments against Judah and Samaria, warnings of impending judgment, and offers of mercy to those who will repent.  At first reading, the prophecy seems somewhat unorganized and random, jumping from one topic to another.  This feature of the work has contributed to a common liberal view that the book came from the pens of several authors and does not have a common theme. E.J. Young, in his excellent Introduction to the Old Testament, makes a solid case for the unity of Micah (See pp. 266-268). 



Outline of the Background Passage:


I.                   Introduction and historical setting (1:1)

A.    The Prophet Micah: We know little about this man except that he hailed from Moresheth (near the ancient Philistine city of Gath) and probably represented the agricultural poor who suffered at the hands of the social elites in Jerusalem.  Clearly, he believed that he spoke with authority (“the word of the Lord that came to Micah”), and he probably did most of his preaching in Jerusalem, about twenty miles from his home.

B.     Historical setting: The text says that Micah preached during the reigns of three kings of Judah, covering a period from the mid-Eighth Century to the early Seventh.  During the era, Israel (sometimes referred to as “Samaria” in this book) fell to the military conquest of Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians, and Judah teetered on the precipice of political ruin.


II.                God’s impending judgment on Samaria (1:2-7): Though Micah addressed Judah, he gives particular attention to the sins of Samaria.  By the Eighth Century, Samaria had become the most prominent city of the Northern Kingdom; thus, it stands, in this book, as the epitome of Israelite culture. Israel had played the harlot by abandoning Jehovah and turning to pagan gods.  Micah summoned imposing images to notify Jerusalem that Israel’s demise was Judah’s warning.


III.             A lament for Judah (1:8-16): Micah composed a dirge for the imminent destruction of Judah.  He predicted military conquest, defeat, and exile for Jerusalem. The men of Judah, the prophet observed, should shave their heads in shame and mourning for the grief that loomed on the horizon.

A.    Micah’s determination to grieve for Judah (vv. 8-9): Like howling jackals in the wilderness (the parallel reference to ostriches seems obscure), Micah resolved to mourn publically for his beloved people when they received a mortal wound from their enemies. 

B.     The destruction of Judah’s cities (vv. 10-15): It appears that Micah singled out cities near his home town of Moresheth.  Though near to the prophet’s heart, he predicted that they would share the unfortunate fate of Jerusalem. 

C.     A call for corporate lamentation (v. 16): As this lament concludes, Micah called upon his countrymen to join in his grief by shaving their heads, a token of their remorse.


IV.             Condemnation of the oppressive elite (2:1-5): The wealthy landowners devised ways to oppress the poor, and God promised that he would oppress the oppressors.

A.    The sins of the oppression of the poor (vv. 1-2): The prophet aimed his sermonic assault at those who repressed the agricultural poor.  They, according to Micah, committed three transgressions.

1.      devise wickedness on their beds”: These elites, passionate about their exploits, remained awake to devise ways to amass greater fortunes at the expense of the impoverished. 

2.      perform it… covet…seize”: They not only conspire the ruin of their countrymen, but they execute their plans with violence (thus the word “seize”).

3.      oppress”: This Hebrew word means to press down, weight down, or to burden.  Their actions, though motivated by covetousness, also emerge from hearts intent on bringing misery on the poor.


V.                Condemnation of the corrupt religious leaders (2:6-11): False teachers told the people what they wanted to hear, and they sought to silence God’s true prophet, Micah. 

A.    Efforts to silence the prophet’s message (vv. 6-7): The religious leaders of Judah did not welcome Micah’s preaching.  They deceived themselves into a false sense of security that all was well, and Micah simply mischaracterized God’s attitude toward Judah.  The prophet assured his reluctant audience that God’s disposition toward Judah’s oppression was precisely as the prophet described.

B.     A prophetic disputation (vv. 8-11): These verses reveal Micah’s answer to the religious leaders. Like other members of the elite class, they stole things that did not belong to them, and god would not overlook their transgressions.  These false prophets centered their attention only on the promises and blessing of the divine covenant (“wine and strong drink”), and they refused to attend to the obligations of covenant life (See v. 11).


VI.             God’s promise to gather a remnant of his people (2:12-13): God kept this pledge by protecting a remnant in Jerusalem during the siege of Sennacherib (See II Kings 18 and 19), but this passage has its ultimate fulfillment in the work of the Great Shepherd (See John 10:1-18).