Joel, Amos, Hosea, and Micah all served and prophesied around the same time. Micah prophesied both to Judah and to Israel about 740 B.C. to 697 B.C. We can pinpoint Micah around 725 B.C. The sweeping Assyrian attack that devastated Israel occurred in 721 B.C. The Lord gave both kingdoms repeated warnings to repent before He finally allowed them to be conquered and scattered for their wickedness.
[Micah] “was especially concerned with the attempts of the nobles to build up large estates by ejecting small property owners. Corrupt judges assisted their greedy friends in robbing the weak; widows and orphans without means of defense were deprived of their goods by force and oftentimes sold into slavery. The common people were kept in bondage through high taxation, and creditors were unmerciful on their victims. Micah held the nobility to be responsible for the terrible moral and social corruption among his people. He likened the nobles to cannibals, who eat the flesh of the people and chop their bones in pieces for the pot. There was no end to their greed and rapacity, and decisions were given to those who paid the largest bribes.” ( The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 334–35.)
“Micah was not so much concerned about the taking of mere chattels [pieces of property]. What ground his soul and made him righteously indignant was that unscrupulous men were allowed to commit wrongs so easily and put human beings in their power. Personal independence was lost and the security of home and family was put in the hands of a few capricious men.” ( Message of the Twelve Prophets, pp. 112–13.)
Many of these sins are common today, and the Lord is warning us through His ancient prophets.
Micah prophesies destruction for villages in Judah, but he uses word-play to do it that is clear in Hebrew, but not necessarily in other languages. Here’s a retranslation of Micah 1:10–14 to show the word-play:
“Weep tears at Teartown (Bochim),
grovel in the dust at Dustown (Beth-ophrah)
fare forth stripped, O Fairtown (Saphir)!
Stirtown (Zaanan) dare not stir,
Beth-êsel . . .
And Maroth hopes in vain;
for doom descends from the Eternal
to the very gates of Jerusalem.
“To horse and drive away, O Horsetown (Lakhish)
O source of Sion’s sin,
where the crimes of Israel centre!
O maiden Sion, you must part with
Morêsheth of Gath;
and Israel’s kings are ever balked
at Balkton (Achzib).”
(James Moffatt, A New Translation of the Bible , p. 1009.)
In Micah 2:12–13 , however, Micah begins to prophesy about the regathering of Israel and the Lord’s blessings upon Jacob’s descendants. Although the people would be decimated, they would grow in numbers at the re-gathering.
Then Micah talks about false prophets.
“It seems that in the generation of Amos and Micah the leaders of Israel—tyrants would be a better name—used professional prophets and seers to cloak their misdeeds. Religion, unfortunately, lends itself, or rather its cloak, very easily to the uses of the hypocrite. So the rich and unscrupulous leaders of Israel found it easy—for a price—to hire professional religionists to cover their actions by flattery and falsehood. The hireling prophet depended upon his rich clients for a living. He could not, therefore, be independent in his thinking and in his judgment. He was high-pressured into siding with the rich, and consequently shut his eyes to the real conditions among the people. Naturally he could not attack the sins of the day that made it possible for his clients to exploit Israel’s common people.” ( Message of the Twelve Prophets, pp. 116–17.)
In Micah 3:4-12, the prophet says that if the people ignore the true prophets and only believe the false ones, the prophets would be taken away from them and they would fall into complete apostasy.
Micah 4:1–2 has special meaning for Latter-day Saints. The Lord has revealed that there will be two capitals during the millennial reign of Christ, Jerusalem in Israel, and Zion (also called New Jerusalem) in Missouri. President Harold B. Lee said the following:
“With the coming of the pioneers to establish the Church in the tops of the mountains, our early leaders declared this to be the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy that out of Zion should go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
“I have often wondered what that expression meant, that out of Zion should go forth the law. Years ago I went with the Brethren to the Idaho Falls Temple, and I heard in that inspired prayer of the First Presidency a definition of the meaning of that term—’out of Zion shall go forth the law.’ Note what they said:
“‘We thank thee that thou hast revealed to us that those who gave us our constitutional form of government were wise in thy sight and that thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document [as revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 101 ]. . . . We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah and Micah that “. . . out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”‘ ( Improvement Era, Oct. 1945, p. 504.)
In Micah 4:8–13 Micah uses the image of the travail of childbirth to typify current pain bearing new life. Jesus Christ referred to Micah when he visited the Book of Mormon peoples after his resurrection. (See 3 Nephi 20:17–21 .) The Savior uses Micah to show the future Gentiles what would happen if they did not repent.
Micah 5:1–4 is the most famous prophecy in Micah, foretelling our Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. Micah 5:5–15 prophesies Israel’s future power. The Lord will save Israel in the last days (1) “by defending Israel against the attacks of the imperial power ( vers. 5 b, 6 ); (2) by exalting it into a power able to overcome the nations ( vers. 7–9 ); and (3) by exterminating all the materials of war, and everything of an idolatrous nature, and so preventing the possibility of war ( vers. 10–15 ).” When Christ appeared to the Nephites, He quoted this prophecy of Micah (compare 3 Nephi 21:12–21 and Micah 5:8–15 ).
Sperry identified Micah 7:14–20 as a prayer:
“After promising Israel’s restoration, Micah prays beautifully for its fulfillment. The prayer is distinguished for the poetical elevation of its style and the appropriateness of its petition. Like many other Old Testament prayers it is prophetic in its spirit. . . .
“Micah ends with a doxology. He revels in the prospect of Israel’s glorious future and breaks out into a strain of sublime praise and admiration for the divine attributes of loving-kindness, faithfulness, and compassion to be manifested by God in her deliverance.” ( Message of the Twelve Prophets, pp. 126–27.)
*This lesson has been adapted from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.