Prophet Micah as Amos

Micah 5-2 Out Of Thee Shall He Come Forth pink copy 

by

 Damien F. Mackey

 

 

“Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos’ home, Tekoa, but he was like

Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he

has been called “Amos redivivus”.”

Could Amos even have been the same person as the prophet Micah?

 

 

 

In my EXCURSUS: LIFE AND TIMES OF HEZEKIAH’S CONTEMPORARY, ISAIAH, beginning on p. 87 (Volume Two) of my university thesis:

 

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

 

AMAIC_Final_Thesis_2009.pdf

 

I advanced an original view that the “Uzziah” of the Book of Judith, a Simeonite, may have been the great prophet Isaiah himself, and that, if so, then this Uzziah’s father, “Micah”, would be Amos the father of Isaiah. Thus I wrote:

Isaiah and his Father Amos

 

Relevant to my efforts to merge [Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah] with [Book of Judith] is the need now to test whether Isaiah finds his appropriate match in the Simeonite Uzziah, chief magistrate of Bethulia, who – in the context of my reconstruction – must have been a great man in Hezekiah’s kingdom. We saw recently, in Chapter 3 (on p. 67), that Uzziah was entitled both ‘the prince of Judah’ and ‘the prince of the people of Israel’. Now such an identification, of Isaiah with Uzziah, would necessitate that Uzziah’s father, Micah, be the same as Isaiah’s father, Amos (or Amoz). This is interesting. Whilst the names Amos and Micah do not immediately appear to share any similarity whatsoever, scholars find an incredible similarity though between whom they consider to be these ‘two’ prophets. Thus King:1356

 

Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos’ home, Tekoa, but he was like Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he has been called “Amos redivivus”. Both [sic] rustic prophets attacked in a direct and forceful way the socio-economic abuses of their day.

 

Micah’s origins we do know. He hailed from the town of ‘Moresheth’ (Micah 1:1) thought to be Moresheth-Gath, a border town of southern Judah. It is in this location, Moresheth-Gath, I suggest, that we discover the place of origin of Isaiah and his father.

 

Micah’s Moresheth is thought to have been near (a suburb of) Gath, whose location is disputed, but Tell-es-Safi is definitely the favoured site. King may be being a bit liberal by describing Micah’s town as “in the vicinity of … Tekoa”. It is some distance away.

“Belonging to Gath, Moresheth must have lain near the Philistine border …. Moresheth was, therefore, a place in the Shephelah, or range of low hills which lie between the hill country of Judah and the Philistine plain”: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/expositors/micah/1.htm

There are reasons, though, why I think that Tekoa would not have been the actual home of the prophet Amos. When confronted by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, Amos retorted (7:14-15): ‘I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’.’

Now, commentators such as Eugene Merrill have been quick to point out “that sycamores were abundant in the Shephelah but not around Tekoa” (The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 431, n. 4).

So, my first point would be that Amos’s cultivating of sycamore-fig trees would be most appropriate in Moresheth, but highly unlikely in Tekoa. Moresheth, we read, “is the opposite exposure from the wilderness of Tekoa, some seventeen miles away across the watershed. As the home of Amos is bare and desert, so the home of Micah is fair and fertile” (Bible hub).

My second point is that Amos, apparently a herdsman (בַנֹּקְדִים) – some think a wealthy “sheepmaster”, whilst others say that he must have been poor – was, as we read above, “following the flock” מֵאַחֲרֵי הַצֹּאן)), meaning that, seasonally, he was a man on the move. Stationed at his home town of Moresheth in the Shephelah, I suggest, where he trended the sycamore trees, the prophet also had to move with the flock from time to time.

And this is apparently where Tekoa (about 6 miles SE of Bethlehem) comes into the picture.

 

 

Having attempted to reconcile the Judaean geography of the prophet Amos with that of Micah (of Moresheth-gath), deemed “Amos redivivus”, it is now to be considered whether Amos is also chronologically compatible with the prophet Micah.

In my EXCURSUS: LIFE AND TIMES OF HEZEKIAH’S CONTEMPORARY, ISAIAH, beginning on p. 87 (Volume Two) of my university thesis (parts of the original version of the Excursus now needing a fair bit of modification), I advanced an original view that the “Uzziah” of the Book of Judith, a Simeonite, may have been the great prophet Isaiah himself, and that, if so, then this Uzziah’s father, “Micah”, would be Amos the father of Isaiah. Thus I wrote:

 

Amos began his prophetic ministry in the latter days of the Jehu-ide king, Jeroboam II of Israel (c. 785-743 BC, conventional dates …). …. Amos was called to leave Judah and testify in the north against the injustices of Samaria. (Cf. Micah 1:2-7). Most interestingly, Amos was to be found preaching in the northern Bethel, which I have identified with Bethulia of [the Book of Judith] (refer back to pp. 71-72 of this volume). Not unexpectedly, Amos’ presence there at the time of Jeroboam II was not appreciated by the Bethelite priesthood, who regarded him as a conspirator from the southern kingdom (Amos 7:10). Being the man that he was, though, Amos would unlikely have been frightened away by Jeroboam’s priest, Amaziah, when he had urged Amos (vv.12-13): ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom’.

….

Presumably Amos had chosen Bethel/Bethulia in which to settle because there, more than likely, he had Simeonite ancestors. Judith’s husband Manasseh would later be buried near Bethulia “with his ancestors” (Judith 8:3). This town would thus have been one of those locations in which the migrant Simeonites of king Asa of Judah’s reign (more than a century earlier) had chosen to settle; perhaps re-naming the place Bethul [Bethel] after a Simeonite town of that name in south western Judah (Joshua 19:4). ….

 

[End of quote]

 

Chronologically, Micah would be considered to have been somewhat later than Amos, based on Micah 1:1: “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah …”. His ministry to Judah began apparently during the reign of Jotham, who was the son of Uzziah. But Uzziah was a later contemporary of Jeroboam II of Israel, during whose reign Amos had been called to northern Bethel. Interestingly, Micah’s prophetic ministry also included – like that of Amos – the north. For verse 1 continues, “… the vision [Micah] saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem”.

Quite feasible, therefore, would appear to be the following speculative scenario, incorporating into one Amos/Micah.

 

Amos from Judah, not accustomed to playing the part of a prophet, was called to testify in northern Bethel during the reign of king Jeroboam II. He then, during the reign of king Jotham, returned, as Micah, to focus upon Judah – though not without further reference to the north – in which rôle he continued down to the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah (cf. Jeremiah 26:18) at some point during which, presumably, he died.

 

Now, if Isaiah were actually the son of Micah, as I suspect, then we could expect that Micah had been prophesying – like Amos – even earlier than the reign of Jotham, given that Isaiah’s ministry went back to the time of Jotham’s father, Uzziah (Isaiah 1:1): “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”.

 

I continue with now my thesis commentary:

 

Whilst this Simeonite family was not descended from the prophetic line, as Amos himself would testify to the priest of Bethel (7:14), it was certainly a ‘family’ from the point of view of its striking the same prophetic chord. Commentators have recognised a similar strain in the writings of Amos, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah, whilst having no idea of what was – at least, as far as I see it – their proper (father-to-son) relationship. Thus King has written, in regard to the prophet Micah:1362 “… the influence [upon Micah] of Isaiah, also Hosea and Amos, is evident”. But it was rather Micah, as Amos, I suggest, who was doing the ‘influencing’; he upon his son Isaiah/Hosea.

 

….

 

We should expect that Isaiah would have been back in the south again, more than a decade later, when the Assyrian Turtan came to ‘Ashdod’. For it was precisely then that he had begun to perform that strange pantomime or “street drama”1366 of his of going ‘barefoot and naked’ (Isaiah 20:1-2) as a vivid demonstration to Judah that its dependence upon Egypt/Ethiopia would end in disaster and captivity. This prophetic action would presumably have been more effective if undertaken in Judah, rather than in the north. Fortunately for Isaiah, he may not have been alone in this; for Micah his father, who like Isaiah had foretold firstly the destruction of Samaria, with wrath flowing over into Judah, was similarly warning (Micah 1: 8-9):

 

This is why I am going to mourn and lament, go barefoot and naked, howl like the jackals, wail like the ostriches. For there is no healing for the blow Yahweh strikes; it reaches into Judah, it knocks at the very door of my people, reaches even unto Jerusalem.

 

This, I suggest, was a father-and-son prophetic combination!

Not only did their prophetic careers overlap chronologically, but they also said and did similar things. (For a classical example of their speaking similar utterances, see the comparison of their respective oracles [below]…). And that Micah, too, had prophesied in the time of king Hezekiah – who was in fact receptive to the prophet’s message – is apparent from the Book of Jeremiah, in which Hezekiah’s response is contrasted with that of the Davidides of Jeremiah’s own day, more than a century after Micah (Jeremiah 26:16, 18-19). Thus I would not generally accept what Irvine has given as being a traditional view concerning the relationship between the prophets Micah and Isaiah and the Davidic kings (and I would also of course reject that Micah was ‘younger’ than Isaiah); though I would have no disagreement with Irvine’s concluding remarks re Ahaz:1367

 

Scholars traditionally have viewed Isaiah and his younger contemporary, Micah, as antagonists of the Davidic monarchs, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The conclusion of G. von Rad is typical: “All the evidence suggests, however, that these prophets increasingly wrote off the reigning members of the house of David of their own day, and even that they regarded the whole history of the monarchy from the time of David as a false development”. As for Isaiah’s attitude toward Ahaz specifically, the prophet’s change from support to opposition is thought to have occurred during the course of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis. A detailed explanation of this shift and a delineation of the issues were given classical formulation in K. Budde’s Jesaja’s Erleben (1928).

 

Far from its being anti-Davidic, the Tendenz of the Isaian Denkschrift seems to me – and this view is based on discussions such as the following by Irvine, with reference to Würtheim – to have been a seeking to confirm Ahaz and Hezekiah in the covenant anciently established with king David:1368

 

Verse 9b [of Isaiah chapter 7] is a warning to the entire Davidic court (the verbs are plural): “If you don’t stand firm (’im lo’ ta’amînû), you won’t stand at all” (kîlo’ teame). …. The prophet engages here in a clever word-play: ta’amînû and teamenot only sound alike, but derive in fact from the same Hebrew root, ’mn [1369]. The second verb, a nifal form, clearly refers to the political survival of the house of David. The meaning of the first verb, a hifil form of ’mn used absolutely, is less certain. … Scholars generally translate the term as “believe”, but disagree over the prophet’s application of the word …. E. Würtheim contends that the implied object of “believe” is the Nathan prophecy (2 Samuel 7) and the covenant thereby established between Yahweh and the Davidic house. Isaiah is warning Ahaz not to break the covenant by appealing to Assyria [to Tiglath-pileser III] for help ….

 

Micah and Isaiah were, as I said, a father-and-son prophetic combination. Most striking of all of their ‘interconnections’ perhaps is the following case, in which one of Micah’s ‘Oracles’, regarding the future reign of Yahweh in Zion, is virtually word for word exact with one of Isaiah’s ‘Oracles’ on the same subject.

I am referring to (NRSV translation):

 

 

Micah 4:1-3

 

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come,

let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more ….

 

 

Isaiah 2:2-4

 

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come,

let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

 

 

 

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