St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“THE BOOK OF TWELVE (The Minor Prophets: Micah)”
Group Leader / Handouts: Mike Kreutzer, Rector
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The Book of the Twelve — Adult Forum Notes
Micah: same name as Micayahu or Micaiah; a common name at the time
“in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah” (1:1): 742-687; a younger contemporary of Isaiah; Unlike Isaiah, he was not of noble birth nor was he from Jerusalem (from Moresheth or Moresheth-Gath, a town in the lowlands, not far from Amos’ hometown of Tekoa). The difference may account for his prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem (3:9-12), one for which he was later remembered (Jer. 26:18). Like Amos, Micah was a prophet of social justice
The book deals with the themes of justice, peace and Messiah.
There are three sections (1-2, 3-5, 6-7) each alternates between doom and hope, just like Hosea. Each section begins with the command “Hear” or “Listen.”
Section 1, chapters 1 & 2
1:2-5 the complaint
1:6-7 the punishment
1:8-9 Micah’s lament
1:10-16 the march of the enemy through 11 cities of Judah; Jerusalem will be the 12th target
2:1-5 to announce “alas” or “woe” on someone was equivalent to announcing that person’s funeral (cf. Amos 6:1-7); these pronouncements were against those who controlled the land and had the power and the money and the intent to control more of it (1: “because it is in their power”);
— they are devising plans (1), but the Lord is devising other plans (3);
— they intend to gain control of more fields (2), but their captors will have their fields (4)
2:6-11 Micah’s controversy with the people
8, “my people”, the poor are driven out by the wealthy and powerful who continue to want more and more; therefore (10) they themselves will be driven out
11: the kind of so-called “prophet” that these people want, one who tells them what they want to hear, one who tells them lies and reassures them of their own righteousness
2:12-13 a message of hope; a later addition
Section 2, chapters 3-5
Chapter 3 consists of three sayings, 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12, with a shared theme: justice. What is “good” and “justice”? Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah (1:16-17), describes it: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
3:1-4 Those responsible for justice have perverted justice; they have not cared for the powerless.
3:5-8 5-7, false prophets, telling their contributors what they want to hear
(5, judgment; 6-7, punishment)
3:9-12 a direct attack on the leaders of the people, “because of you” all these things will happen; the leaders claim reliance on the Lord, but the Lord is silent: his name is not mentioned by the prophet
4:1-3 is almost exactly the same as Is 2:2-4
The Micah passage stands at a key location in the book: right after oracles concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. this provides a dramatic contrast: destruction becomes rebuilding, the emptiness of a “plowed field” gives way to an invitation to “many nations” to come up to Jerusalem.
4:1-4 presents the vision of universal disarmament.
4:5 issues an invitation to walk toward the fulfillment of that vision.
4:6-8 a vision of restoration
4:9 – 5:1 three poetic visions
The first (9-10) is a later addition, describing return from Babylon.
The second (11:13) pictures a threat against Zion, but God’s protection.
The third (5:1) describes a siege of Jerusalem.
verse 2 is cited in Mt 2:6 (see also John 7:40-43)
“Bethlehem of Ephrathah”: clan of the Ephrathites (to distinguish it from Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun (Josh 19:15); Elimelech and Naomi (Ruth 1:2) are Ephrathites from Bethlehem; John 7:42 remembers it as a “village” echoing Micah’s assessment of its smallness
verse 3 is probably a later addition, inserted to explain the delay between 2 & 4
verse 4: “shepherd” is a biblical image both for God and for the king (especially David)
verses 5-6: a later addition with the theme, “If they come into our land, the people will drive them out”, resulting in the peace spoken of in 5b, “the one of peace”
The hope for another David became an important image for Israel (cf. Psalm 72). “It was a magnificent purple robe which the psalms laid on the shoulders of each young successor to the Davidic throne“ (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 323-4). As the people were repeatedly disillusioned, that image became the “seedbed from which sprang Israel’s expectation of a messiah” (John Bright, History of Israel, p. 227).
5:7-9 a renewed Israel
5:10-15 God’s purification of Israel and punishment of the nations
Section 3, chapters 6-7
Chapter 6 begins with a succession of oracles that are similar to those in chapters 1 & 2. They may or may not be from Micah, but they express the same line of thought.
6:1-2 God’s controversy (lawsuit) against Israel
6:3-5 historical reminders of God’s actions and faithfulness
6:6-7 response of repentance; the individual, asking what God wants; similar to entrance liturgies
(e.g. Ps 15:1 “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent, who shall dwell on your holy hill?”;
Ps 24:3 “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his hold place?”)
they are of escalating value
6:8 words that set out what God desires: not a “what” but a “who”: what kind of person
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
(“to do justice”: reminiscent of Amos; “to love kindness” reminiscent of Hosea;
“to walk humbly with your God”: Jewish ethics = “halacha”; Jesus’ call was always a call to “walk”, to “follow” him)
6:9-16 Judah has become as corrupt as Israel and shall suffer the same fate.
7:1-6 The corruption extends to all levels of the population.
6: cf. Mt 10:35-36: “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household”
7: looking to God for healing
7:8-20 may be a liturgy, probably from the time of the Exile or shortly thereafter; parts alternating between the priest and the people
7:8-10 God’s judgment will come and must be accepted, but Israel will be restored, and her enemies will be destroyed.
7:11-13 a vision of a restored Jerusalem
7:14-17 a prayer to God for restoration, and a hope for the destruction of Israel’s enemies
7:18-20 praise of the God of compassion; draws upon Ex 34:6-7: the section is introduced with a pun on the name “Micah”, “Who is a God like you?”
Uses of Micah in the Sunday readings of The Revised Common Lectionary:
3:5-12 Year A, Proper 26
5:2-5a Year C, Fourth Sunday of Advent
6:1-8 Year A, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Uses of Amos in the Sunday readings of The Revised Common Lectionary
5:6-7, 10-15 Year B, Proper 23
5:18-24 Year A, Proper 27
6:1a,4-7 Year C, Proper 21
7:7-15 Year B, Proper 10
7:7-17 Year C, Proper 10
8:1-10 Year C, Proper 11
8:4-7 Year C, Proper 20
Uses of Hosea in the Sunday readings of The Revised Common Lectionary
1:2-10 Year C, Proper 12
5:15 – 6:6 Year A, Proper 5
11:1-11 Year C, Proper 13