1. A slow, unhurried reading of Micah is essential. Reading the chapter before looking at the notes, while working with the notes, and after finishing with the notes will give each researcher a powerful sense of the series of meanings within each chapter. It is important to be comfortable with all the names and places in the prophecy and to understand the announcements the prophet makes on behalf of the Lord. When possible, historical information will be included in the notes to increase reading comprehension and enhance application.
2. Our study of each chapter of Micah will begin with quotes from a work of the Writings called Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms. This work includes a verse-by-verse overview of all seven chapters of Micah that provides general information about the internal sense. Our research will help move us from the generals to the particulars of the internal sense.
3. Another important reference tool is Searle’s General Index to Swedenborg’s Scripture Quotations. This reference is used to find passages in the Writings where a verse(s) from the Word is either explained specifically or used to illustrate a doctrinal point that we can use in our study. There is also another use of this work. As we study, each researcher will be led by the Lord’s Providence in myriad ways, according to specific needs or states. Knowing how to use this book will help each of us to explore relevant topics and look up related passages to increase our knowledge of the three-fold Word.
4. You will soon discover that not every verse, word, name, etc. is directly quoted in the Writings. But there are often other references to the same name, place, or thing in the explanation of a different verse of the Word. The hope is that reflection on these other doctrinal explanations will help us see possible applications to our study of Micah. We will need to use "derived doctrine" often. Please don’t run away from this maligned term. If we use it properly and admit openly that it is derived doctrine, we bring no harm to the internal sense.
5. Keep some kind of notebook handy during your study times. Write out insights, questions, and any summaries you find helpful in organizing your thoughts about each chapter. The goal of this study guide is not to give a detailed summary of the internal sense but to start each researcher’s quest for deeper insight.
6. At the end of each chapter in the study guide, you will find a study review. The review includes a summary of each section to help you reinforce and build on your understanding of several of the key points.
7. Begin each study unit with a devotional prayer asking the Lord to guide and direct your thoughts. Certainly, beginning in this sphere has the power to inspire and open our minds with a higher spiritual priority that will keep us in the company of the Lord’s angels. As the Writings teach, we must seek to love truth for truth’s sake. Such an approach will free each reader from preconceived ideas that might limit his or her ability to "see" the intent and message of the Lord’s Word.
Welcome to a rich, challenging, and wonderful study of The Book of Micah—one of the books of the Lord’s Word. This book makes clear from its opening verse to its closing verse that everything that is shared in this prophecy is from the Lord alone. “The word of the Lord…came to Micah…” The Lord indeed came to Micah. Micah did not have a retreat time to study, meditate, or write out insights he had while thinking about the Lord. He was not part of a special group called “the sons of the prophets.” The seven chapters are not about Micah, nor are they personal words arising from Micah’s deep concern about or sorrowful reflections on current or pending national events. Micah was a faithful servant who listened carefully to the Lord and then reported, without editing or altering, what was revealed to him. He did not sanitize the revelation for political correctness. The Lord called Micah to speak to the church about the serious decline of its spiritual health and to tell the church what was going to happen to it. Micah faithfully repeated the Lord’s declaration that the Jewish church was spiritually coming to an end. He had to tell the people that the Lord was going to make His advent so as to form a new church out of many people and other nations. Did the people of Israel want to hear these words? Would they be inclined to warmly embrace Micah for this message? As far as the Jewish church was concerned, this message was “nonsense.” They were the Lord’s favored people. Nothing—nothing!—could or would remove them from that special status. What Micah told them must have been a hard lesson and irritating for them to hear. Micah did not argue with the Lord, nor did he try to put “a positive spin” on the Lord’s words.
We would do well at the onset of this study to dedicate ourselves to a “Micahian” approach to the spiritual message of the Lord. Otherwise, we will be drawn into a series of natural, historical suppositions that could mislead and distract us. You might not have the time and academic resources to check out what biblical scholars do in this area, but believe me, they are sometimes “over the top” with their speculations and assumptions. Here are some examples: the dates of Micah’s life are uncertain, and some question whether Micah lived long enough to write the whole book, hypothesizing that some his followers finished his work for him; some scholars try to tie precise applications of “Micah’s words” to a particular king, perhaps an imposing neighboring king; others attempt personal speculations on what it must have been like when Micah visited Jerusalem, coming from his hometown in the farmland into the big, sophisticated city. In one section of Micah, scholars are amazed and amused with Micah’s “puns.” (See Micah 1:10-15.) They point to his “play on words.” Really, is that something the “Word of the Lord” would allow Micah to employ? Puns? Plays on words? There are many other examples of scholarly speculation that could be cited, but perhaps these will suffice for the time being.
The New Church teaches us that it is a sound spiritual principle of exposition to stay away from a preoccupation with the person and instead to focus wholly on the substance of the Divine revelation. As interested as we might be in Micah, his lineage, his timetable in relation to other prophets, the kings ruling at the time of his prophecy, or what enemies were waiting to invade and conquer, these things are only secondarily important in relation to the correspondential representation and meaning of the spiritual sense, from the Lord, to eternity. The Lord’s truth is not confined by time or space. His Word is infinite and eternal. We need to know about Micah to the extent that he was a faithful “scribe.” He did obey, honor, and respect the truth of the Lord. We, too, need to be faithful scribes and adhere honestly to His Word. Will we avoid playing thematically popularizing games with the Word? The Lord will come to us when we are in a receptive state, willing to listen and obey. The all-pervading question is this: Do we want to learn the lessons in The Book of Micah to prepare and school us in the spiritual process of becoming a member of the Lord’s new church? Are we willing to lay aside a “dead church” to take up a living church with the Lord at the center? If so, we want to go to the core of scriptural meaning and context and not to imaginative scholastically driven forms of speculation.
Having offered a cautionary note on scriptural study and application, let’s look, with spiritual “balance,” at some of the facts we are given in the Word about Micah. Our inquiry will strive to address the following questions:
1. What is said about Micah’s name and lineage?
2. What was his timetable in reference to other prophets and kings?
3. What are some of the more familiar and loved passages in The Book of Micah?
4. What specific themes and passages challenge us to apply our hearts unto wisdom so that we can build up the walls of the Lord’s new church?
What is said about Micah’s name and lineage?
The name “Micah” means “Who is like the Lord?” Indeed, we must have awe and love for the Lord as our highest end. All other gods must fall down and leave His holy presence.
The Word informs us that Micah came from a town called Moresheth. Scholars are not sure where that town was, but they believe that it was about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. That area is a productive agricultural area. Therefore, it is assumed that Micah, and his family, were “farmers” of simple heritage: no royalty, no prestigious pedigree, just farmers with a feeling of closeness to one another and nature.
Nothing more is known of his family. Did he have brothers or sisters? Did his family experience a “rustic” rural life on a farm? Let us state it again: Nothing is known about Micah except for his name, his hometown, and the kings ruling during his lifetime. Is his personal information omitted by Divine design? Is the implied message that we should focus not on the person but on the spiritual truth we are about to hear?
What was his timetable in reference to other prophets and kings?
Scholars state that Micah was “a contemporary of Isaiah and Amos and Hosea. Some have even speculated that Micah might have been a student of the prophet Isaiah…” (Al Maxey, “The Minor Prophets,” ttp://www.zianet.com/maxey/Prophlst.htm) The basis for this theory is a perceived similarity between certain passages of The Book of Isaiah and The Book of Micah. Why does Isaiah come off as the senior teaching prophet? (Note Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:1-3 for the similarity of messages.)
A check for similarities between Micah and other prophets provides an interesting study. Micah and Isaiah have fifteen or more passages with similar wording, Micah and Jeremiah about six. Micah is cited in Matthew 2:5-6; Matthew 10:35-36; John 7:6, 42; and Luke 1:72-73. Why mention this? The Word of the Lord comes to each prophet. There is no prophetical ownership of revelation. There are no schools or students who “said it first.” When it comes to the Word being written, the rule is simple: the Lord said it first. The Lord shared His insights and truths with His prophets. They did not make up the truths as teachers or preachers. They all heard it from the one inner source of truth—the Lord.
Concerning the kings mentioned in the passages of Micah, we are taught that Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Jotham is thought to have reigned from 739-734 BC, Ahaz 734-728 BC, and Hezekiah 716-687 BC. Jotham and Hezekiah were “good kings,” but Ahaz was a bad king. Some scholars say that the time of their three reigns combined totals 61 years. I don’t follow their math, but I offer it as an example of what happens when speculations become involved in reckoning physical historical facts.
If these three kings reigned a total of 61 years, how old was Micah when he began to write the words of the Lord? Was he led by the Lord from the beginning of Jotham’s reign, and did he complete his work for the Lord near the end of Hezekiah’s reign? Would it be more of a help, spiritually, if we were to reflect on the spiritual significance of the number of kings (three) and the spiritual meaning of the word “king” and the uses of kings? This certainly could come in handy when we recall that two kings were good and one was bad. What makes for a good king, and what made the one, Ahaz, significantly bad? Is it of spiritual significance that Ahaz reigned between two good kings?
What are some of the more familiar and loved passages in The Book of Micah?
Here are a few. I hope you will add your favorites to this list:
Micah 4:1-5 “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…they shall no longer learn war.”
Micah 5:2-5 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, for everlasting…for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace.”
Micah 6:6-8 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil...He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 7:7 “Therefore I will look to the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”
Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage…He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities.”
What specific themes and passages challenge us to apply our hearts unto wisdom so that we can build up the walls of the Lord’s new church?
There are so many passages one could cite, powerful passages that warn us what will happen when priests and rulers misuse their offices. The Lord warns against the error of favoring self-intelligence. Pride, arrogance, and self-directedness will cause the church within to die. External ritual may go on, and the vestiges may be ornate, the rituals carried out in meticulous detail, but if the heart is not humble before the Lord, it is all for naught. If the shepherd is not vigilant and protective of the flock, they will be plundered by predators that stealthily lie in wait to attack in a vulnerable moment. Israel allowed the worship of other gods to enter into the Lord’s temple. Unbelievable atrocities were being committed against the Lord’s truth. Micah told the people the Lord called them “harlots.” They were receiving “the pay of a harlot.” (Micah 1:7) Things got so bad spiritually in the church that they had “no one to determine boundaries…” (Micah 2:5) “You have taken away My glory forever.” (Micah 2:9) Israel’s prophets were chanting “peace” while chewing away at the flesh of the people. Therefore, they were in a night state “without vision.” (Micah 3:6) The church was no longer offering fairness, justice, or truth. The Lord lamented that there was not a single person among them who cared for honesty and integrity. They had “wicked scales…with the bag of deceitful weights…” (Micah 6:11)
As the narrative of this sad calamity unfolds, the Lord’s report in Chapter 7 causes the glorious sun of heaven to break through the clouds of remorse. The Lord, through the prayerful petition of Micah, tells everyone of His planned corrective action. “In the day when your walls are to be built…shepherd your people with Your staff…as in days of old.” (Micah 7:14, emphasis added.)
Are you moved to pray Micah’s prayer for our own church? Lord, build Thou the inner walls of Your New Church solidly. Please make our walls large, substantial, and secure so as to keep out the wiles of the hells. As Your sheep, we invite You to guide us with Your staff. In asking this, we will remember that a staff is used to guide, it is used to protect, and it is used to prod us along when we wish wrongfully to tarry.
“As in the days of old” is a wonderful part of Micah’s prayer. The Writings teach us that it is a petition to become like the Most Ancient Church. What does that mean? It means to become innocent, to trust completely in the Lord for all of our benefactions, and most importantly to return to seeing the Lord as a Divine Human. Having the Lord walking among us, talking to us, counseling, and “touching” us is a goal worth pursuing. One of the passages in the Word that still moves me as it did in the days of my youth is the story of the Lord taking the children up in His arms—touching them, kissing them, and blessing them. How I wished I could have been one of those children.
The Lord’s earthly ministry involved many forms of “touching.” He touched the widow’s dead son, and he arose from his funeral bier. He touched Jairus’ daughter, and she awoke from her death sleep. When Peter began to slip below the raging waves, He reached out His hand and immediately brought Peter to the surface again. The blind recovered their eyesight because He touched them. What about the lame, the deaf, the palsied, the lepers, and the maimed? They were restored because “He touched them.” Is it any wonder that Micah’s prayer was to recover the ways of the Most Ancient Church? It was a prayer for the Divine Human to touch lives in restorative ways.
I hope you read well the story of Micah. Don’t let the hells discourage you with their intimations that it dwells too much on gloom and doom. Instead, work through the prophecy with the knowledge that the Lord will come to the church’s rescue. He will build our walls sturdily. The enemy will not be able to plunder and intimidate those within the walls of His new church. He wants us to leave behind the “dead” church. He invites us to come into a living, vibrant, and bright church that deals in fairness with honest scales. It is a church that knows its boundaries and will not play or get the pay of a harlot.
The Lord, in Micah 7:2, observed that “…the faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men.” Isaiah, when he heard the call from the Lord, said, “Here am I; send me.” Micah, too, heard the call. He went forth to tell the church the “straight” news. Did they listen? There is no way of answering that question except to say that the Lord always preserves a remnant to work with when He builds again. The best we can do is to make sure we ready ourselves so we can say afresh: “Here am I; send me.”