The book of Micah is a collection of two distinct kinds of prophetic speeches. One kind of speech is the judgment speech that indicts its listeners for the crimes they have committed and sentences them to an appropriate punishment. Such judgment speeches, found in chs. 1–3, 6 , and 7.17 , focus on Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel; on Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah; and on their ruling elite. Rulers, judges, priests, and prophets * are accused of corruption and of mistreating and misleading their people ( 3.1, 5, 11 ). The other kind of address is the salvation speech. Such speeches, found in chs. 4–5 , and 7.8–20 , describe the misfortune their listeners have experienced and predict a period of renewal and restoration for them. The misfortune described in these speeches is most often the exile of Israelites that followed the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem ( 4.6, 10; 5.8 ). And the prediction of renewal anticipates the restoration of Jerusalem as a religious and political center ( 4.2, 7, 13; 7.11 ). Both kinds of speeches may have been delivered by a single prophet who predicted both judgment and the salvation that would follow it. The character of these speeches, however, suggests that they arose in two different historical contexts.
The judgment speeches in the book of Micah (chs. 1–3, 6; 7.1–7 ) come from a period in which both Samaria and Jerusalem were threatened by the imperial expansion of the Assyrian empire ( 1.6–9 ). Such was the case during the period assigned in the book's title ( 1.1 ) to Micah's prophetic career, the latter part of the eighth century BCE marked by the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham (742–735), Ahaz (735–715), and Hezekiah (715–687). Therefore these speeches are widely regarded as those of the prophet Micah, after whom the book was named. They were delivered to a ruling elite that was both corrupt and complacent, unaware of the grave danger in which they and their people lived ( 3.11–12 ). The salvation speeches (chs. 4–5; 7.8–20 ), by contrast, are addressed to people in exile and express many of the themes—the shame of defeat ( 4.11 ), life among the nations ( 5.7 ), divine forgiveness ( 7.18 ), return to Judah ( 4.6 ), the restoration of Jerusalem ( 4.8; 7.11 ), and judgment on the nations ( 4.13; 7.10 )—of other exilic literature (Isa 40–55 ). Therefore it may be best to understand these parts of Micah as supplements added in the sixth century by those who preserved Micah's prophecy, in order to link Micah's message to a new era.