Micah - Introduction
THE FIRST VERSE OF THE BOOK sets the text in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah—in modern chronology the latter half of the 8th and the early years of the 7th century BCE ( 1.1 ), approximately the same chronological setting as for Isaiah 1–39 . The book is associated in 1.1 with the figure of the prophet Micah, who is characterized as a Morashtite prophet, from a town in Judah. (The same characterization appears in the reference to Mic. 3.12 in Jer. 26.18 .) The intended readers of the book were, however, Jerusalemites.
Many scholars attribute much, but not all of the book of Micah either to the historical prophet or to someone close to the time mentioned in 1.1 . Other scholars note that the text includes, among other references, an explicit reference to the Babylonian exile ( 4.10 ), and therefore they date it to the postmonarchic period (cf. 7.11–13 ), at least in its final form.
The book begins with an introduction or superscription and then moves to sets of prophecies. The first one ( 1.2–2.13 concerns mostly divine judgment, exile, and social ethics, but—as expected—also provides hope for the future ( 2.5, 12–13 ). The second one ( 3.1–12 ) explains the fall of Jerusalem in terms of wrongful leadership. The third one ( 4.1–5.14 ) raises diverse images of a utopian future and touches on aspects of the relations between Israel and the nations at that time. The book concludes with a didactic prophecy ( 6.1–8 ), another explanation for the judgment that fell upon monarchic Jerusalem ( 6.9–16 ), an expression of trust in the LORD in spite of and as a response to social disintegration ( 7.1–7 ), and finally a confirmation of the LORD's distinct relationship with Zion and Judah ( 7.7–20 ) that leads to an upbeat conclusion of the entire book ( 7.18–20 ).
Micah 5.6–6.8 is the haftarah (prophetic reading) for the parashah of Balak (Num. 22.2–25.9 ), since 6.5 explicitly mentions Balak and Balaam. Micah 7.18–20 has been incorporated into the supplication that follows the reading of the story of Abraham's sacrifice (Gen. 22.1–19 ) in the morning service. The reference to “hurl” (Heb “tashlikh”) in v. 19 has been associated with tashlikh (a ritual on the first day of Rosh Ha‐Shanah symbolizing a desire to get rid of sins, to “hurl them away,” and be forgiven by God). In the Sepharadic and Yemenite traditions, Micah 7.18–20 is read after Hosea 14.2–10 on Shabbat Shuvah (the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur), following Jonah in the Minπah service of Yom Kippur, and also in the Minπah service of Tish‘ah be’av (commemorating the destructionof the Temple). Conservative Judaism reads Hosea 14.2–10; Micah 7.18–20; Joel 2.15–27 on Shabbat Shuvah.
[EHUD BEN ZVI]