Eighth-Century Prophets: Isaiah and Micah
Leon J. Wood, (1918-1977), The Prophets of Israel, Baker Books 1979
Our interest now turns south from Israel to Judah, while staying in the same century of time. Isaiah and Micah are the prophets in view. Both were contemporary with Hosea but probably Amos had started and completed his work shortly before either of them began their ministry. Isaiah was one of the major prophets, in contrast to these others who are classified as minor prophets, and is often considered the prince of prophets. Therefore he calls for more detailed consideration than do the others.
I. The date
Isaiah again, like Hosea and Amos, dates his ministry to the reigns of specific kings. They are in fact the same kings of Judah mentioned by Hosea: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isa. 1:1). He does not mention Jeroboam II, as does Hosea, for Isaiah prophesied to the southern kingdom and not the northern. Moreover, Jeroboam II very likely was dead by the time Isaiah started his work, for it is commonly held that Isaiah began in the late years of Uzziah. It may even have been in the last year of this ruler, in view of a divine call Isaiah received that year, as recorded in Isaiah 6. Isaiah probably lived even following the reign of Hezekiah. Isaiah refers to the death of the Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, in 37:38 and this did not occur until 681 B.C., five years after Hezekiah's death in 686 B.C. Also II Chronicles 32:32 states that Isaiah wrote a history of Hezekiah and this would not have been possible until Hezekiah had died.
This means that Isaiah lived a few years into the reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah. The reason Isaiah does not include the name of Manasseh in his list is perhaps that he was too old to carry on an effective outward ministry by this time. He could still write, but his work of preaching had probably been confined to the time of the earlier four kings. Since Uzziah died in 739 B.C. Isaiah's ministry may be thought of as continuing from about 740 B.C. to 680 B.C., or approximately sixty-years. As to a chronological comparison with Hosea, Isaiah began approximately twenty years after this contemporary, and continued about thirty years longer. Isaiah's ministry, was probably, the longest of any of Israel's prophets.
2. Background history
The rule of Uzziah, which was discussed in the previous chapter, was coming to an end when Isaiah began his work. Under God's blessing Uzziah had been able to expand the borders of Judah much as Jeroboam II had the borders of Israel. Jotham (750-731 B.C.), his son and successor, was able to continue the power of his father in large part. He was the fourth successive God-approved king of Judah (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham), and accordingly he continued to experience the blessing of God. He won a major military engagement with the Ammonites and received payment of tribute as a result for three years. In Jerusalem he built an important gate of the temple and added to the "wall of Ophel." Elsewhere in the land he enlarged cities and erected forts and towers as a means of defense.
Ahaz (743-715 B.C.) was made co-regent with his father prior to Jotham's death and differed from his father in two major respects. One was that he did not follow the ways of God and the other that he pursued a pro-Assyrian policy in Jerusalem. Because he did, he suffered a siege at the hands of Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Damascus (II Kings 16:5-9; II Chron. 28:5-21). They wanted to force Ahaz to unite with them in resisting Assyria, but Ahaz refused, and, in order to rid himself of the siege, he requested Tiglath-pileser III, the great king of Assyria, to come and attack these two northern countries. He sent the Assyrian monarch considerable gold and silver, and Tiglath-pileser did come though he probably did not need such an inducement to do so.
Religiously, Ahaz made images of Baal, observed infant sacrifice in the valley of Hinnom, and worshiped in the high places. While visiting in Damascus, he saw an altar he admired and had one like it reproduced in Jerusalem, establishing it as his official place of sacrifice at the temple. Besides this, he intentionally damaged several of the sacred vessels of the temple and even closed the temple doors, thus forcing people to worship where and as he desired. Militarily he experienced a revolt by Edom which lost him the important southern trade routes. It was during his time that the Philistines once again invaded Judah and brought severe destruction, even seizing several cities which are listed. It seems he also had to make further payment to Tiglath-pileser after the Assyrian conqueror arrived in the area to make attacks on Damascus and Israel (II Chron. 28:20,21).
Hezekiah, son and successor of Ahaz (728-686 B.C.), was made coregent with his father for a few years, probably because of pressure from a growing anti-Assyrian party in Jerusalem who objected to the pro-Assyrian tactics of Ahaz. Hezekiah was definitely anti-Assyrian, and he also was once more a God-pleasing king. In fact Hezekiah proved to be one of Judah's finest kings in the sight of God. The doors of the temple were again opened, and priests and Levites were instructed to remove all foreign cult items. A grand time of sacrificing and celebration marked the return of true Mosaic ceremonies (II Chron. 29:20-36). The land was cleansed of high places, images, Asherah poles, false altars, and even the brazen serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness (Num. 21:5-9). It was a time of needed wide-sweeping reforms.
Militarily, Judah now was the object of Assyrian interest, Israel having fallen in 722 B.C. So long as Israel had existed, this northern neighbor acted as a buffer for Judah, but with Israel gone, Judah was next in line in the Assyrian plan of conquest. For a time Hezekiah avoided an encounter, due especially to his refusal to join a coalition formed against Assyria.
[This coalition was led by the city of Ashdod; and Sargon, now the Assyrian ruler, came and crushed it in 711 B.C. Ashdod had been promised help by Egypt but when the Assyrian attack came Egypt did not bring help, and when Ashdod's king fled to Egypt for protection Egypt even handed him back to the Assyrians. For the Assyrian account see Ancient Near Eastern Texts, ed. James B. Pritchard, p. 286.]
A few years later, however, Hezekiah did join one, of which Tyre was the head and to which the Egyptian king, Shabaka, gave promise of support; and now the new Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, came. Hezekiah made extensive preparations (II Chron. 32:1-8). Sennacherib first came to Tyre, and the king there fled to Cyprus. Sennacherib then moved south to the region of Judah. The story at this point is told in detail in II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-21; and Isaiah 36-37.
Sennacherib laid siege to Lachish, and Hezekiah sent heavy tribute to him there, showing that he realized the cause of the revolt had already been lost. Sennacherib was not satisfied with this but pursued psychological warfare against Hezekiah and the people. His threats were effective in causing fear in Jerusalem and Hezekiah was prompted to consult with Isaiah to receive a comforting word from God. This was given and God also brought help to His people, first in the form of assistance from Egypt and later by the destruction of no less than 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night. Sennacherib gives no indication of this destruction in his own account of the campaign, but this is to be expected. Definite corroboration is indicated by his immediate withdrawal from the land without attempting to conquer Jerusalem or any more of Judah's cities.
Manasseh (697-642 B.C.) succeeded Hezekiah and served as co-regent prior to his father's death, making him the fifth consecutive Judean prince to begin reigning in this manner. Religiously, Manasseh returned to the wicked ways of Ahaz his grandfather. He restored the offensive cultic objects that Hezekiah had destroyed, placed Baal altars throughout the land, and recognized the Ammonite deity Moloch. Those who protested he killed, thus shedding innocent blood. It may be that Isaiah was among those slain, something to which tradition testifies.
3. Work and person
a. THE WORK
As to the work of Isaiah, a few specific episodes are recorded which are noteworthy. One concerns the call he received in the last year of King Uzziah. In vision Isaiah saw God seated upon a throne high and lifted up in the temple Around him were six angels called seraphim, having six wings each. They cried to each other, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. 6:3). Isaiah was taken with a strong sense of personal sinfulness, and he cried out, "Woe is me." One of the angels flew to him to place a coal on his mouth and to cleanse it, and then Isaiah heard the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah responded, "Here am I; send me" (6:8). God then spoke a word that must have been disquieting for Isaiah--the people would hear him but not understand and they would see but not perceive. In other words, Isaiah should indeed answer God's call, but he should also be aware ahead of time that there would be few results coming from his efforts.
This occasion may have constituted Isaiah's initial call to service or it may have been merely a call to a special aspect of work. If it was the initial call, then Isaiah's ministry did not begin until the closing year of Uzziah's reign. If it was a call to an aspect of work, then he may have begun ministering a few years earlier. Scholars are divided in their thinking and there is no way to know which possibility is the true one.
A second episode is recorded in Isaiah 7 (cf. II Chron. 28:1-15). It took place in the reign of Ahaz and concerned the time of the siege of Pekah and Rezin. The siege was in progress when God told Isaiah to go to Ahaz and encourage him in his difficult situation, and also to instruct him to ask for a sign from the Lord that deliverance would come. Ahaz's response was, "I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD" (7:12), thus in false piety refusing to do as God and Isaiah directed. Isaiah gave Ahaz a sign anyway, which was the well-known messianic indication, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (7:14). Isaiah went on to say that before this child would know the difference between good and evil, Ahaz would be delivered from the two besieging kings.
But instead of listening to Isaiah's promise or depending on God to bring the deliverance thus indicated, Ahaz in his wickedness sent to Tiglath-pileser III, emperor of Assyria, to come and invade the northern countries so that Pekah and Rezin would have to go home to protect their own interests. In doing this, Ahaz showed his pro-Assyrian leanings and also a lack of recognition that his greatest enemy really was Assyria rather than Israel or Damascus. Isaiah now informed him of this fact in definite terms, though apparently without avail.
Numerous viewpoints exist as to Isaiah's meaning when he gave Ahaz the sign, "A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," The one that seems to fit the situation best involves a double fulfillment. Certainly the main fulfillment concerned Christ, born many centuries later. He alone would he born of a virgin, and He alone could be called Immanuel ("God with us"). There was reason for Isaiah to refer to Christ in this context in view of the dark day Judah was experiencing. Isaiah was saying that, in contrast, a bright day was coming when the great Deliverer of God would arrive and bring relief from all such dark days for God's people. At the same time, Isaiah must have had a preliminary fulfillment in mind, one that would be meaningful for Ahaz in his dire situation in that day. He was being besieged and desperately wanted deliverance. Thus, Isaiah must have intended to say also that before a child soon to be born at that time would be old enough to know good and evil, this deliverance would come. Just what child as in mind is not clear, though it may have been Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Isaiah's son (Isa. 8:1-4).
The third episode is recorded in Isaiah 36 and 37 (cf. II Kings 18:13-19:37) and concerns Isaiah's contacts with King Hezekiah in the time of the invasion by Sennacherib of Assyria. Isaiah was involved two times. The first came following the visit to Jerusalem by three emissaries of Sennacherib, who brought great fear to the entire city. As a result, Hezekiah sent a messenger to Isaiah to inform him of what had happened and to urge him to beseech God for help. Isaiah sent a word of response that Hezekiah should not fear, for God would so work that Sennacherib would return to his own land without harming Jerusalem.
The second contact came after Hezekiah received a letter from Sennacherib, written apparently from Lachish when Sennacherib realized he had to meet a challenge from the king of Egypt. Hezekiah prayed for help unto God and God sent a message of wonderful encouragement through Isaiah. The message was of some length but had one main point: the king of Assyria would not come near Jerusalem but would be made to return to his own city. The prophet's words were, "He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD" (37:33, 34).
An important role played by Isaiah in the day of Hezekiah had been that of warning the king and all Judah against depending upon Egypt or any foreign alliance to help withstand an attack by Assyria (e.g., Isa. 30:1-7; 31:1-3). In this he had been opposed by false prophets (30:8-11). Isaiah's warning was heeded by Hezekiah in respect to the alliance of 711 B.C., when Sargon, father of Sennacherib, came and destroyed Ashdod. But apparently greater pressure was brought on the king in respect to the alliance of 701 B.C. when Sennacherib came, for Hezekiah did join then as has been seen.
It is obvious that the episodes that have been noted concern only a small part of Isaiah's total ministry. What can be said of his life's work in general? In view of his great character and the remarkable book he wrote, one may be sure that this man was active all during the reigns of the kings designated. Beginning with the close of Uzziah's reign and continuing through the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Isaiah was the leading prophet of the time, active wherever he could be in carrying out God's assignments. Since he had contacts with kings that have been recorded, it is likely that he also had contacts that have not been recorded. He may well have opposed the ascendancy of Ahaz as co-ruler with Jotham in view of the pro-Assyrian policy of Ahaz. In the same vein, he probably had something to do with the accession of Hezekiah as co-ruler with Ahaz, when the thinking of the day turned against this pro-Assyrian program. And one has to believe that Isaiah was involved in promoting the reforms that Hezekiah instituted.
Besides this, Isaiah would have been active in preaching to people on street corners, at the gates of the city, or wherever they might be assembled. Since he was knowledgeable of the world of his day (as his book shows), He would have kept close contact with activities of Israel to the north. Devastations brought there by Tiglath-pileser would have provided a forceful illustration of what could happen to Judah if the people persisted in their wicked ways. Then the final overthrow of the northern neighbor would have provided a still more forceful occasion to stress this warning.
The outstanding significance of Isaiah is probably to be found in this warning to Judah in view of Israel's destruction. Certainly God wanted Judah to take notice of the punishment Israel experienced, in order that Judah might profit and turn in repentance to God. But if she was to have the forceful lesson driven home, there needed to be a great prophet like Isaiah and also Micah whom we consider next--to do this. God therefore had an Isaiah and a Micah available for the purpose.
h. THE PERSON
Coming now to speak of Isaiah as a person, Isaiah states that he was the son of Amoz (not Amos, the contemporary prophet), that he was married to a "prophetess" (8:3), and that he had two sons, Shear-jashub (7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1-4). Many fine characteristics of this great man are implied and illustrated in the materials he recorded in his book.
1) Prince of prophets. Isaiah is often called the prince of prophets. The designation is probably appropriate and for two reasons. The first is the ability of Isaiah. As will be noted, he was a man of unusual ability, showing excellent training and widespread knowledge of the world as well as a capacity for work. Few prophets and perhaps few people in the land could have matched him, The second concerns the amount of messianic prophecy God as pleased to reveal through him. It seems fair to say that God told him more regarding the Messiah than He did to any other man of the Old Testament. This was certainly a great honor and privilege.
2) Spiritual status. That Isaiah was spiritually mature in his walk with God is beyond question. Evidence may be noted already from the call to service he received. When he saw God high and lifted up, his first reaction was to think of his own sinfulness. his life otherwise was certainly righteous when compared with others, but he recognized that in comparison with God he was most unworthy. This in itself was a mark of high spirituality. Another such mark was his willingness to respond affirmatively to God's call when God told him plainly that his ministry would have little effect. Certainly this was a discouraging word with which to begin, but Isaiah did not hesitate. He still went ahead, obedient to the call God had given.
Another indication comes from Isaiah's manner of contact with kings. To Ahaz he came with a word of rebuke. Though Ahaz was king, holding supreme power in the land, Isaiah did not fear to bring God's message of reprimand for the king's action in sending to Tiglath-pileser for assistance. This required a true sense of obedience, commitment, and dedication. Then Isaiah was the man of whom Hezekiah thought first in his time of great danger before Sennacherib. There were certainly other prophets in the land, but it was to Isaiah that Hezekiah sent, and again it was through Isaiah that God responded to Hezekiah when he received the letter from the Assyrian conqueror. Hezekiah clearly recognized Isaiah as the leading prophet of the day, the one through whom God would likely reveal in this time of trouble for the country.
Still another indication comes from the book Isaiah wrote. In it he exalts God in the highest terms. Especially he stresses the theme of God's holiness. His early vision of God high and lifted up in the temple, when the angels cried out before God, "Holy, holy, holy," seems to have set the tone for his life and for all of his book. A recurrent phrase in his writing is, "The Holy One of Israel."
3) Ease at the royal court. Probably none of the prophets exhibited greater ease than did Isaiah in visiting the royal court. He came to Ahaz and not only had courage to bring rebuke, but spoke at considerable length in enlarging on the danger Ahaz faced from Assyria. Later it was to Isaiah that Hezekiah sent for help, when Sennacherib was in the country. This showed Hezekiah's high respect for Isaiah as a prophet and friend. Soon after, God sent Isaiah to tell the ailing Hezekiah that God would make him well and also extend his life for fifteen years (Isa. 38:5). Though no indications are given of similar visits to the court of Jotham earlier, one can believe they occurred, especially since Jotham also was one of Israel's good kings.
This ease of royal contact may have been due to a blood relationship Isaiah held to the royal line. Jewish tradition says that Isaiah's father, Amoz, was a brother of King Amaziah, the father of Uzziah, thus making Isaiah a cousin of King Uzziah. Ease of contact was probably due also to Isaiah's own knowledge and ability, which were apparent in his day. Kings liked to have people of Isaiah's caliber on whom they could call, and they gave them respect and honor accordingly.
4) Intellectual ability. Isaiah clearly was one of the intellectuals of his day. He was a man of broad knowledge of the world. No less than eleven chapters of his book (13-23) are devoted to prophecies of judgment that God would bring on surrounding nations. These nations were not only those near to Judah but included Babylonia and Assyria far to the east and Egypt and Ethiopia far to the south est. To write in as much detail as he does shows that he was informed regarding these lands. He must have read widely and also made a point to speak with caravan travelers and visiting foreigners.
Then his literary ability shows an excellence unsurpassed elsewhere in the Old Testament and seldom matched in any literature. Much of his material is in poetry and it is truly superb in form. Many sections constitute literary masterpieces. He excelled in the use of figures of speech. He personified cities (47:1ff; 51:17), nature (44:23; 49:13), the points of the compass (43:6), God's arm (40:10; 51:9), God's sword (55:11). He represented Zion as a wife (49:18; 54:5) who was barren (54:1), and as a mother (49:17; 51:18-20) who was bereaved of her children (49:21; 51:20). Isaiah's use of such figures gives an imagery to his book that makes it live and strike home with force to the reader. He must have been trained in the finest schools of the land.
5) Courage. One must also see Isaiah as a prophet of outstanding courage. The evidence is clear. It took courage to go to Ahaz with words of denouncement and rebuke. Ahaz was the king and might retaliate with severe punishment, but this apparently made no difference to Isaiah. It took courage to speak as he did in the day of Hezekiah. He warned repeatedly concerning the danger of foreign alliance and especially dependence upon Egypt. This was an unpopular message, for people were interested in any measure that would be anti-Assyrian. Isaiah was not in favor of Assyria either, but he knew the folly of trusting in Egypt and local alliances, He therefore gave the warning whether popular or not.
4. The book
The Book of Isaiah is considered one of the most significant of the Old Testament. This is indicated for one thing by the frequency of its quotations in the New Testament: by name no less than twenty-one times, and numerous illusions and references to it besides. Its theme is similar to the meaning of Isaiah's name: "Yahweh [Jehovah] is salvation." The purpose is to teach that God's salvation for his people is by grace alone. This theme is presented under two main divisions, in chapters 1-39 the prophet depicts Judah's sin and warns the people of sure punishment to come if this sin is continued. Intermixed are warnings to other nations as well. The time in view is the day in which Isaiah himself lived.
In chapters 40-66, Isaiah brings a word of comfort and also messianic prediction. Here for the most part the time in view is future to Isaiah's day, as the prophet projects himself ahead and sees Judah's punishment as already having taken place. He gives comfort to the people that there will be deliverance from it, he enlarges on this comfort by saying that eventually the Messiah Himself will come and bring deliverance from the cause of this punishment, the sinfulness of the people. Still further he tells of the glorious millennial day when Israel as a nation will rule in the world and be the supreme people.
The question of the unity of the Book of Isaiah has been cause for extensive discussion. Conservative scholars believe that Isaiah wrote the entire book, while liberal scholars believe that it was written by at least two if not three or more authors. Because this is so there is reason to note at least briefly some principal evidences for a sole authorship.
First and foremost is the certain witness of the New Testament. As noted, the book is quoted no less than twenty-one times in the New Testament with these quotations coming from all parts of the book and the only author of them named is Isaiah. For instance, Isaiah 53:1 is quoted in John 12:38, with the indication, "That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilledÉ"
Another evidence is that the book is assigned to Isaiah in 1:1 and in no place is another author named. The implication is that the entire book comes from this one man. Certainly if another person had written, for example, chapters 40-66, which are so outstanding for their literary value, he would have designated his name, but none is given.
A third indication is that a belief in Isaiah's authorship for all the book can be traced hack to a time well before the birth of Christ. For instance, Ben Sirach, who wrote the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus about the year 180 B.C., so believed. He stated, "He [Isaiah] comforted them that mourn in Zion. He showed the things that should be till the end of time, and the hidden things or ever they came" (48:24, 25). He clearly was referring to the most controverted section of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, and still be assigned it to Isaiah, with no intimation of any other author. Then the Septuagint was translated about the time that Ben Sirach lived, and it gives no hint either of another author for any part of the book And further, the testimony of the Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah is most significant. Not only does it give no implication of another author writing any part of the book, including chapters 40-66, but it shows chapter 40 beginning on the last line of the column which contains 38:8 to 40:2. This is strange indeed if the copier of the day believed that another author wrote the closing section.
Again the author of Isaiah 40-66 shows greater familiarity with Palestine than Babylon. This would not be true if the author lived in Babylon, as the liberal critics contend. Actually, little is said regarding Babylon but considerable regarding Palestine. The author speaks of Jerusalem and the mountains of Palestine; he mentions some of the trees that were native there, as, for instance, the cedars, the cypress, and the oak (41:19; 44:14). Also in 40:9, the cities of Judah are spoken of as still in existence, and in 62:6 the walls of Jerusalem are seen to be standing, neither of which would have been true at the time of an alleged later writer living after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem.
Further, suitable response is possible to a principal argument used by liberal critics concerning style differences between chapters 1-39 and 40-66. It is true that there are style differences, but there are also style similarities. For instance, the phrase, "Holy One of Israel," as a designation for God is used twelve times in chapters 1 -39 and fourteen times in chapters 40-66. It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament only five times. Other concepts run all the way through the book, such as "highway," "remnant," and "Zion." The differences in style that exist can well be attributed to certain portions of the book having been written at different times in Isaiah's life and also to a variety in subject matter.
And lastly two matters that constitute problems for the liberal critic present no difficulty for the conservative scholar. One is the existence of precise predictive prophecy, as for instance a reference to Cyrus by name in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1. For those who deny the possibility of supernatural prediction, Isaiah could not have written this for he lived a century and a half too early. Conservative scholars, however, believe the name was revealed by God. The other is a difference in stress as to theological concept between 1-39 and 40-66. The majesty of God is made more prominent in the earlier part and the uniqueness and infinitude of God in the latter. The conservative scholar, once more, has no difficulty accounting for this difference, doing so again in terms of subject matter. It is God's majesty that is to be stressed when the sin of people is the primary subject, and it is His uniqueness and infinitude that are important when one speaks of God's mighty deliverance from the Babylonian captivity and man's captivity to sin.
The book may be outlined as follows:
I. Prophecies from the standpoint of Isaiah's day (1:1-35:10).
A. Prophecies regarding Judith and Jerusalem (1:1-12:6).
1. Judah's sin condemned (1:1-31).
2. Millennial blessing following cleansing (2:1-4:6).
3. Punishment for Judah's sin (5:1-30).
4. Isaiah's vision and call (6:1-13).
5. Prediction of Immanuel (7:1-25).
6. Prediction of Assyrian invasion (8:1-22).
7 .Messianic prediction and warning (9:1-21).
8. Assyrian pride and punishment (10:1-34).
9. Christ's millennial reign (11:1-16).
10. Millennial worship (12:1-6).
B. Prophecies against nations (13:1-2 3:18).
1. Babylon (13:1-14:23).
2. Assyria (14:24-27).
3. Philistia (14:28-32).
4. Moab (15:1-16:14).
5. Damascus (17:1-14).
6. Ethiopia (18:1-7).
7. Egypt (19:1-20:6).
8. Babylon, Edom, Arabia (21:1-17).
9. Jerusalem (22:1-25).
10. Tyre (23:1-18).
C. Prediction of destruction and deliverance (24:1-27:13).
I. Destruction of the land (24:1-15).
2. The great tribulation (24:16-23).
3. Worship and testimony of restored Israel (25:1-27:13).
D. Prediction of punishment by Assyria (28:1-31:9).
1. Fall of Samaria predicted (28:1-13).
2. Warning to Judah (28:14-29).
3. Attack on Judah (29:1-16).
4. Promise of deliverance (29:17-24).
5. Warning against an Egyptian alliance (30:1-31:9).
F. Predictions of the far future (32:1-35:10).
1. Future deliverance by the Messiah (32:1-33:24).
2. The day of the Lord (34:1-17).
3. Millennial blessings (35:1-10).
II. An historical section (36:1-39:8).
A. Invasion of Sennacherib (36:1-37:38).
B. Hezekiah's illness and recovery (38:1-22).
C. Prediction of the Babylonian captivity (39:1-8).
Ill. Prophecies from a standpoint future to Isaiah (40:1-66:24).
A. Comfort in view of promised restoration (40:1-48:22).
1. The majesty of God, the Comforter (40:1-31).
2. Israel's deliverance from hostile nations (41:1-29).
3. Two servants of God in contrast, Christ and Israel (42:1-25).
4. Undeserving Israel to be delivered (43:1-44:28).
5. God and the nations (45:1-25).
6. The fall of Babylon and her idols (46:l-7:15).
7. Faithless Israel to be delivered (48:1-22).
B. Salvation through God's servant, Christ (49:1-54:17).
1. Christ the Deliverer (49:1-26).
2. Israel and Christ in contrast (50:1-11).
3. The certain redemption of Israel (51:1-52:12).
4. The humiliation and exaltation of Christ (52:13-53:12).
5. Joy for restored Israel (54:1-17).
C. God's invitation and warning (55:1-59:21).
1. Grace to all who trust in Christ (55:1-13).
2. Believing strangers to be included (56:1-12).
3. Rebuke for Israel's sin (57:1-59:21).
D. The future glory of Israel (60:1-66:24).
1. The glory of Jerusalem (60:1-22).
2. The coming Messiah (61:1-1l).
3. The certainty of these blessings (62:1-12).
4. Overthrow of Israel's enemies and her gratitude (63:1-14).
5. Prayer for deliverance (63:15-64:12).
6. The answer of God (65:1-25).
7. The millennial kingdom (66:1-24).
1. The date
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, possibly a few years younger. He dates his ministry to the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). Because he does not mention Uzziah as Isaiah does, he evidently started his ministry a little later than Isaiah, and because he mentions nothing concerning the invasion of Sennacherib in the day of Hezekiah he probably ceased earlier. Perhaps the years 735-710 B.C. are likely for his time.
Some scholars have challenged these dates of Micah, but still further evidence can be cited to show that they are correct. That he ministered during the time of Hezekiah is indicated directly by Jeremiah: in 26:18, 19 this prophet refers to Micah as prophesying in Hezekiah's day and quotes Micah 3:12. Then that he prophesied prior to 722 B.C., the date of Samaria's fall--during the reign of Ahaz--is indicated by Micah's direct prediction of that fall in 1:2. And further, that he was active in the time of Jotham is implied by his reference to the horses and chariots of Judah in 5:10, a suggestion of prosperity in the land. This would have been true especially in Jotham's time following the great days of Uzziah.
2. Background history
Really nothing more needs to be said regarding background history than what was said in respect to Isaiah, who began earlier and ministered longer than Micah. It need only be made clear that the invasion of Sennacherib apparently did not involve Micah, who may have died before that occasion. He would have lived through the stirring days of Assyrian attacks against Israel, however, and the final fall of that country to the eastern enemy, and this would have affected his ministry just as it did that of Isaiah.
3. Work and person
Micah gives a few clues in his book as to his work and person, but he does not include any historical episodes as does Isaiah not is he mentioned in any of the historical books of the Old Testament. He identifies his home town as Moresheth (1:1), which is no doubt to be identified with Moresheth-gath (1:14), located in the western lowlands of Judah about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem. Since Moresheth was a small rural city, Micah from the first had contact with rural people, who were for the most part poor people, and his book reflects a grave concern for the poor of his day. The city also was located near the international highway leading north and south for caravan travel, and this may account for his acquaintance with international affairs. He shows particular interest in and knowledge of Israel to the north. In this interest, he may have been influenced by Amos who had ministered at Bethel only about twenty-five years earlier, he may also have been influenced by Amos' writing, as indicated by a comparison of Micah 2:6 with Amos 2:12 and 7:10-16. It should be realized that Tekoa, the home town of Amos, was only twenty miles east of Moresheth. There could well have been contact between the two.
What Micah did move about and not stay merely in the area of Moresheth is indicated by implied contacts with Jerusalem and people there. For instance, he was familiar with false prophets, whose center was especially the capital city, saying that they made God's people err (3:5-7). That Micah was well known is implied in that Jeremiah makes mention of him, as noted above (Jer. 26:18). Since the prophets did not ordinarily mention each other and especially since Jeremiah lived a century after Micah, this reference to Micah is very unusual. It implies that Micah made a strong impression in his day, and this indicates in turn that he must have ministered frequently in and around Jerusalem, the place where a lasting impression would have been made. Furthermore, the manner of reference of Jeremiah is significant for it shows that Hezekiah, king during Micah's later ministry, not only knew Micah but held him in high respect. There is insufficient reason to believe that Micah had as much contact with kings as did Isaiah, but then few prophets did. Isaiah doubtless had more than anyone else, but Micah at least had some and should not be unduly minimized in importance. One should not regard him as a mere shadow of the great Isaiah.
In summary, one should think of Micah as a worthy contemporary of Isaiah, no doubt greatly influenced by him. Micah may have had a greater interest than Isaiah in the poor and downtrodden of the day, and God may have used him in this area of ministry especially. The main stress of both was to speak of sin and w am of certain punishment if no repentance was shown. Both prophets were fully aware of what was happening to Israel in the north, where destruction was already being experienced, and they used that illustration to impress Judah that the same could well happen to her.
4. The book
The Book of Micah is made up of three sections, each beginning with the imperative "Hear" (1:2; 3:1; 6:1). Some expositors have thought of these sections as three unit messages, but it is more likely that they are compilations of thoughts, spoken at various times in Micah's public ministry. In bringing together a variety of thoughts in this way, taken from different times of ministry, Micah shows a parallel with Isaiah, for Isaiah does the same thing. Micah also shows similarity to Isaiah in many of the thoughts he brings and the way he brings them, even including at one time a passage which is nearly identical with one in Isaiah (Mic. 4:1-3; cf. Isa. 2:2-4). Scholars have sought to account for this in a variety of ways, including Isaiah's dependency on Micah, Micah's dependency on Isaiah, or the dependency of both on a common source. There seems to be no way to be sure regarding the matter.
Because the Book of Micah treats numerous subjects, passing rather quickly from one to another, many liberal scholars have held that the book is not a unity but came from more than one author. However, Isaiah also treats subjects in a similar way, and it has already been seen that there is insufficient reason for believing in a multiple authorship for Isaiah. One need not conclude this regarding Micah either. Liberals refer also to ideas of salvation and future glory days for Israel in the book; and this is said to indicate a later author for the passages involved, since these ideas were not current in Micah's day. But conservative scholars believe otherwise and point out that the same ideas are presented also by Isaiah and other early prophets.
Some matters to note from the content of the book are the following: a definite reference to the fall of Samaria (1:5-7); exhortation regarding the oppression of the poor (2:1-3:4); and prediction of the Messiah both as to His first and second advents (4:1-8; 5:2-8; 7:7-20).
The book may be outlined as follows:
I. Coming punishment on Israel and Judah (1:1-2:13).
A. Both Israel and Judah to be punished (1:1-16).
B. This punishment the result of sin (2:1-13).
II. The future messianic kingdom (3:1-5:15).
A. Preparatory punishment of wicked leaders (3:1-12).
B. The glorious kingdom (4:1-13).
C. The glorious King and His work (5:1-15).
III. Punishment of the people and final mercy (6:1-7:20).
A. God's controversy with the people (6.1-16).
B. Reproof and promise (7:1-20).