Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Micah, the Book of, one of the books of the twelve Minor Prophets in the Bible. The title comes from the name of the prophet to whom the book is attributed (Mic. 1:1). The book is a collection of prophetic addresses.

In terms of both form and content the book has two major sections, each organized thematically to move from prophecies of punishment to prophecies of salvation. The first section, Mic. 1:2-5:15, contains prophecies of punishment against the two capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem in chaps. 1-3, followed in chaps. 4-5 by prophecies of salvation that see Mount Zion in Jerusalem as the center of the coming reign of peace. The second secton, Micah 6-7, has announcements of judgment in 6:1-7:6 and of salvation in 7:7-20. It begins with the Lord’s trial proceedings against Israel (6:1-5) and focuses upon the ruptured relationship between God and his people. The concluding speeches (7:8-20) announce reconciliation and renewal.

Mic. 1:1 dates the prophet in the reign of three kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. The single external reference to Micah, in Jer. 26:18, reports that the prophet came to Jerusalem in the reign of Hezekiah. Other allusions within the book are consistent with a date in the time of Hezekiah, that is, the last decades of the eighth century b.c. Micah went from his home in the small town of Moresheth, about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem, to speak the word of the Lord in Jerusalem.

It is highly unlikely that all the addresses in the book were first delivered by Micah in the eighth century, though there has been considerable disagreement about how much stems from the original prophet. Some commentators argue that Micah was exclusively a prophet of doom and that all hopeful expressions come from a later time. How, for example, could the prophet who expected Zion to be a ruin (Mic. 3:9-12) also promise that it would one day be the highest of the mountains of the earth (4:1-4)? But it is by no means certain that Micah had no positive vision for the future. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that the style, content, and historical perspective of some of the speeches reflect not the period of the Assyrian threat in the eighth century but the Babylonian exile in the sixth century b.c. and later. The style of 7:1-7 in particular is quite different from the first chapters of the book. Mic. 7:8-10 assumes the destruction of the nation by the Babylonians, and 7:11-13 has in view the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after the return from Exile during the Persian period in the late sixth or early fifth century b.c. Moreover, 7:14-20 seems to assume the existence of the Second Temple in the postexilic period.

Though the book is the product of centuries of tradition, its message can be summarized in a relatively consistent fashion: because of their sins, and particularly those of people in powerful places, God is about to punish his people by means of military defeat and exile. Later those people will be brought back to their land, and God will establish perpetual peace.

Micah may be outlined briefly in the following way:

I. Superscription (1:1)

II. First collection of speeches (1:2-5:15)

A. Prophecies of punishment (1:2-3:12)
B. Prophecies of salvation (4:1-5:15)

III. Second collection of speeches (6:1-7:20)

A. Prophecies of punishment (6:1-7:6)
B. Prophecies of salvation (7:7-20).

Micah, a shortened form of the name Micaiah (Heb., ‘who is like Yahweh?’). Etymologically the name is an expression of praise to the God who is incomparable. The name is given to several different individuals in the Hebrew Bible:

1 The prophet Micah of Moresheth, a town some twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem, to whom the book of Micah is attributed. In addition to the information in Mic. 1:1, Jer. 26:18 reports that Micah came to Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah, that is, during the last decade or so of the eighth century b.c., and announced the destruction of the city (cf. Mic. 3:12). His exact dates are unknown, but he would have been a contemporary of Isaiah of Jerusalem.

2 A man in the hill country of Ephraim, a central but mainly passive figure in the story of the migration of the tribe of Dan (Judg. 17-18). His mother consecrated eleven hundred pieces of silver ‘to the Lord’ (Judg. 17:3) to make a graven image and a molten image, a strange act in light of the ot prohibitions against images and idols. He established a shrine, made an ephod and teraphim, and set up one of his sons as priest. When a Levite from Bethlehem (‘of the family of Judah,’ Judg. 17:7) appeared, Micah hired him as priest at the shrine. When the tribe of Dan, seeking a place to live, sent spies into the hill country of Ephraim, they stayed with Micah, asking the Levite to consult the Lord concerning their journey. Hearing his good report, they completed their exploration to the north and returned to lead the Danites to their new territory. When the five spies, along with six hundred armed Danites, returned through the hill country of Ephraim they stole Micah’s ‘graven image, the ephod, the molten image’ (Judg. 18:17) and took the Levite with them to their new territory in the north. The story is thus basically a negative account of how the shrine in Dan was established.

3 According to the genealogy in 1 Chron. 5:5, one of the descendants of Reuben.

4 The son of Meribbaal who was the son of Jonathan (1 Chron. 8:34-35; 9:40), the same as Mica the son of Mephibosheth in 2 Sam. 9:12.

5 A Levite in the time of David, one of the sons of Uzziel (1 Chron. 23:20; 24:24-25).

6 The father of Abdon in the time of Joaiah (2 Chron. 34:20), named Michiah in 2 Kings 22:12.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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