Author Archives: Hans Walter Wolff

Hans Walter Wolff

About Hans Walter Wolff

Hans Walter Wolff (1911-1993) was a German Protestant theologian. From 1967 to 1978 he was Professor of Old Testament at the Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg.

Micah the Prophet

The prophet Micah, a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz, was active from before the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.E., and apparently through Sennacharib’s invasion of Judah in 710 BCE. Consequently, he applies the moral and ethical lessons of Samaria’s fall to the approaching plight of Jerusalem. Reprinted with permission from Micah the Prophet (Fortress Press).

The superscription (1:1) of [Micah’s] book dates him to the days of the kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. According to this information (and we realize that the chronological data at our disposal are a bit uncertain), Micah appeared on the scene at the very latest in the year 734 (B.C.E.). He was active until at least 728, but perhaps much longer because his words are filled with the sense of imminent horror. Even if he did not experience the events themselves, he foresaw the inexorable incursions of Assyrian might in the destruction of Samaria in 722 and of Jerusalem in 701 (1:6-7; 3:12). He proclaims as the word of his God:

 “I am making Samaria a heap … ;

I am pouring her rubble down into the valley;

Her foundations I am laying bare.” (1:6)


Later he must speak similarly of Jerusalem. Micah was, however, not living at his nation’s political center. His native town Moresheth lay some 20 miles southwest of the royal capital in the beautiful hill country of Judah, commanding a broad view across the coastal plain to the Mediterranean. But he was not a backcountry hermit either.

prophet micahLively contact with Jerusalem was assured by the fact that the Judean kings maintained five fortress cities within a radius of less than six miles round about Moresheth. They were to protect the Judean homeland from encroachments by the Philistine cities or attacks launched by the superpowers from the favorable staging area of the coastal plain.

One thing, however, is indisputable: He appeared as a prophet in Jerusalem (3:9-10, 12). For, according to 3:10, he addresses the leaders as those “who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong.” He threatens them, “Because of you . . . Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins” (3:12). We know no more about the external details of Micah’s life than these sparse references to the time and place of his activity. What holds true for all the prophets holds true for Micah: His life has disappeared behind the word which he was sent to proclaim.