Lesson 28: Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Micah

Reading Preperation:
  • Amos 2-8
  • Jonah
  • Hosea 1-6; 11
  • Micah
Lesson Notes:
1. Four Minor Prophets: Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Micah
Amos, Jonah, Hosea and Micah are four of the twelve minor prophets.
Kent P. Jackson notes,
“The Minor Prophets [are]: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The division between “major” and “minor” is based solely on the length of the books and not on the importance or quality of the content” (“God’s Testament To Ancient Israel” inStudies in Scripture 3. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985, 10).
It is important to understand that the messages of the “minor prophets” are as vital as those of the “major prophets”.
Monte and Farres Nyman note,
“Many of the prophets ministered around the time of the Assyrian captivity of the ten and one-half tribes of Israel. This period from approximately 800 to 700 B.C., was the time of the prophet Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Amos were other witnesses against the wickedness that led to the destruction and captivity of the northern nation of Palestine, and they are thus called the eighth century prophets… Jonah probably also prophesied during this period” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 7).
Hosea and Micah lived to see the kingdom of Israel or Ephraim fall. Following its fall (721 B.C.), Micah prophesied in the Southern kingdom of Judah and predicted its fall by the Babylonians. The fall of Judah occurred in 587 B.C. Micah was also a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah.
2. Conditions in Israel (Ephraim) during the period of prophecy by the four minor prophets.
We now turn to the writings of the Sidney B. Sperry and his research regarding the conditions that existed in the Northern kingdom during the time of the four minor prophets.
Sidney B. Sperry describes the conditions that existed,
In the Northern kingdom, “her leaders where haughty and proud… the rich built ‘summer houses’ and ‘winter houses,’ ‘houses of ivory’ and houses of ebony.’ (Amos 3:5). Their houses were furnished with costly articles of furniture, and for their own personal adornment they insisted on gorgeous robes and quantities of jewelry. They indulged in the luxuries of the table taking for themselves the best of the veal and lamb that the country afforded. The wives of men in high places set high standards of comfort and social life and insisted on drinking wine, regardless of the cost. The Prophet Amos called them ‘cows’ (Amos4:1). These debauched women oppressed the poor, crushed the needy, and in numerous ways seriously weakened the moral fiber of their people.
“Social and economic changes were widespread. The small landowner disappeared. He was supplanted by the wealthy landlord, who created large estates out of little farms. Widows and orphans had little or no protection. Sons were often mortgaged and finally lost as slaves when the mortgage could not be cleared. Such practices were known as early as the days of Elisha. (2 Kngs.4:1-7) Tenants on large estates paid rents which were ruinous and which subsequently made slaves out of them. Exactions of grain were made upon the poor by the upper crust of society. Seething want and corruption were everywhere evident. There were cheating in the market places and perjury in the law courts; politicians looked to their own interests rather than to those of the nation they were supposed to serve. On the one hand we find selfish and arrogant luxury facing ragged and loathsome squalor on the other. These conditions meant that Israel was rotten to the core and ripe for destruction.
“The religion of the time had little hope and direction to offer the great masses of the people. So far as the official cults were concerned, religion in the large centers… had made little change for the better in over a hundred years–from the days of Ahab to Jeroboam II. Jehovah to be sure, was worshipped, but as an old Canaanite Baal” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 276-277).
Hosea 2:13, 16, 17
13 And I will visit upon her the days of the Baals…
16 And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, That thou shalt call Me ‘My husband; and shalt call me no more ‘My Baali.’
17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth…
Sidney B. Sperry continues,
“Most of the people of the time thought that they were engaged in the true worship of Jehovah, but Hosea makes plain that their worship was in reality no more than a revival of an old Baal cult. To be sure, men were outwardly more devout and more scrupulous in religious observances than ever before. The courts of the temple and other religious shrines were filled with crowds; alters smoked with sacrifices; tithes were paid exactly when due; the Sabbath and other impressive occasions were observed with meticulous care. But all this ceremonial swank failed to touch Israel’s real evils. The religion of her leaders had little or no concern with social morality–in fact, religion not merely condoned many of the evils of which we have spoken, but actually enjoined them” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 277).
Duane S. Crothers addes,
“family life had degenerated and there was little family cohesiveness” (Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 259).
In lieu of the above insight regarding the conditions that existed in the northern kingdom of Israel, it is not any wonder that it was ripe for destruction. The “sins of Jeroboam I” which had been incorporated during the reign of Israel’s kings had contributed to the continued decay, internally and externally, that existed in the kingdom. With the degeneration of the family, the foundation of any nation, without dramatic changes, her fall was imminent.
3. Amos 790-749 B.C.
3.1. Background and call to serve
Amos “was amongst the herdmen of Tekoa… ” (Amos 1:1). Tokoa is a small village six miles south of Bethlehem in the Southern kingdom of Judah. We learn later that he was also “a gatherer of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14). He was living his life and supporting his family by his industry when he his call to be a prophet came from the Lord.
Amos 7:14-15
14 … I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son…
15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
It is from the writings of Amos that we learn an important truth regarding how God speaks to his people.
Amos 3:7
7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Joseph Smith taught,
“According to the testimony of the Scriptures in all ages of the world, whenever God was about to bring a judgment upon the word or accomplish any great work, the first things he did was to raise up a Prophet, and reveal unto him the secret, and send him to warn the people, so that they may be left without excuse… Prophets… warned the people… [when] they gave no heed to them, but rejected their testimony;… the judgments came upon the people, so that they were destroyed” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 6. Edited by B.H. Roberts. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51, Second Edition, Revised, 23).
3.2. Message
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“the prophet went without question from his native Judean home to Bethel, the sanctuary of the court of Israel, the Northern Kingdom to deliver the message the Lord confided to him… The prophecy falls naturally into three great divisions:
Three Divisions
A. Chapters 1-2, the coming judgment
B. Chapters 3-6, the grounds of God’s judgment
C. Chapters 7-9, visions of judgment and the dawn of a brighter day”
(The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 152).
Victor L. Ludlow observes,
“Amos first addressed the neighboring nations that did not share any heritage with the descendants of Abraham. After denouncing these three foreign nations (Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia), he then warned some of the other tribes descended from Abraham (and Lot) of the judgments of the Lord coming up them. After warning Edom, Ammon, and Moab, Amos pronounced the Lord’s word upon Judah and finally Israel” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 208).
Sidney B. Sperry notes,
“Amos’s word’s [would have] thrill[ed] and delight[ed] his [northern] audience, particularly his pronouncements upon Judea, its hated rival kingdom. But suddenly, as a bolt from the blue, Amos turns upon his audience and the nation it represents… Israel, too, is as guilty of misconduct as the others nations” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 153).
You will note as you read Amos, chapters One and Two, that there is a repetitive phrase that Amos uses: “For three transgressions… and for four” (see 1:3, 1:6, 1:9, 1:11, 1:13, 2:1, 2:4, and 2:6). You may wonder it’s meaning.
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
“The formula ‘For three transgression… and for four’ (Amos 1:3 [etc]), is a Hebrew way of saying they were full to overflowing with atrocities. Three symbolizes fullness, and four, excess” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 644).
Amos remunerates the transgression for which Israel is guilty.
Sidney B. Sperry summarizes Amos 2:6-12,
“the wealthy mistreat the poor and humble, prostitution is rampant, the people are wine-bibbers, prophet are disregarded, and young men are made to break their covenants” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 153).
Amos continues to remunerate the transgressions of against the children of Israel. The Lord had chosen then to be his covenant people and they had not fulfilled their responsibility of obedience.
Amos 3:1-2
1 Hear the word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
John E. McFadyen observed,
“A country is largely what its women make it; if they are cruel or careless or unwomanly, the country is on the road to ruin” (A Cry for Justice. Scribners, 1912, 36f).
Amos now addresses the women of Samaria whom he likens unto kine or fat cows!
Amos 4:1-2:
1 Hear this word, you [cows] of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.
2 The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks and your posterity with fishhooks.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“The sin of these sleek women consisted in their tyrannical oppression of poor people in that they requested their husbands to procure them wine bought with money squeezed from their victims” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 155).
While Amos has been seen by some as the “prophet of law” in contrast to Hosea as the “prophet of love” (see G.V. Smith in The Story of the Old Testament by Alec Motyer. Edited by John Stott. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002, Second Printing, 86), the Lord does not warn his people without giving them the opportunity for repentance. The writings of Amos are not exception to this rule.
Amos 5:4,14,15
4 For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live.
14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate:…
Unfortunately, the Lord knowing Israel that she would not hearken to the voice of the prophets and therefore they will choose evil, rather than righteousness pronounces the result of their choice.
Amos 5:27
27 Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, said the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.
Amos 7:11
11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Not only will Israel be taken into captivity, but Amos suggests that a time will also come when the word of the Lord will not be found upon the earth. The inference is that this action will be taken by the Lord in response to the prior unrighteousness of his children. It will be widespread rather than local.
Amos 8:11-12
11 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD. and shall not find it.
The fulfillment of this prophecy may have occurred following the death of the Lord’s apostles when there were no legal administrators of his church upon the earth. The loss of authority to act in the Lord name, and the loss of the revealed word of the Lord, would certainly have initiated a period of apostasy. This would have then been followed by others, acting sincerely who would have sought to established their own churches patterned after the church Jesus had established, but without divine authority or authorization. Sincerity does not replace divine authority.
Not all will be lost for Israel or others as well. Amos speaks of a better day for Israel, yet future, when she will choose righteousness over evil.
Amos 9:14-15
14 And I will bring yet the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.
Israel will once again turn to the Lord in righteousness and once again, she will be restored to her lands and then live in peace and righteousness.
4. Jonah 788-? B.C.
4.1. Background and call to serve
2 Kings 14:25
25 He [Jeroboam,the son of Joash] resored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hapher.
The LDS Bible Dictionary states,
“Jonah was of Gath-hepher in Zebulun. He lived under Jeroboam II [who ruled Israel 790-749 B.C.], whose success in restoring the ancient boundaries of Israel he predicted (see 2 Kngs. 14:25). The present book of Jonah does not claim to be from the hand of the prophet; it describes an episode in his life, and is due to some later writer… The story of Jonah was referenced to by our Lord on two occasions when he was asked for a sign from heaven. In each case he gave “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” the event in that prophet’s life being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and resurrection (Matt. 12:39-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-30)” (Jonah. LDS Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1979, 716).
The statement, “it [The book of Jonah] describes an episode in his life” provides an addition perspective for me regarding the value of this incident being included in our scriptures. It reminds me that that prophets, like myself, are also subject to the human weaknesses of life. Certainly there have been times in my own life when my own stubbornness got in the way of my service to the Lord. It reinforces the truth that even if we do not respond immediately to a call, the Lord does not give up on us.
The Old Testament student manual clarifies,
“A call on a mission—and direct from the Lord! But it was no surprise to the prophet to be called, for he had probably carried out many missions for the Lord in Israel before. The surprise lays not in the fact of the call but in the kind of call, and the rebellion which arose in his heart. It was a call to go to Nineveh, ‘the great city of Assyria, and preach to its heathen inhabitants, for their wickedness had come up before the Lord” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 98).
Jonah 4:1-2
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, an merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest [revoke calamity… even without the repentance of the people] thee of the evil.
The Old Testament student manual offers the following clarification,
“Jonah’s problem does not seem to be cowardice; but rather, it seems to have been resentment against the Lord for giving the hated enemy (Assyrians) a chance to repent’… While we may question Jonah’s attitude, “to an Israelite who had been taught that he was of the chosen people and that the Gentiles were corrupt and therefore not acceptable to God, Jonah’s attitude was more understandable” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 97).
Jonah 1:2
2 Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
According to the scriptures, it is this seemingly simple request by the Lord, probably one of many that Jonah has received, and Jonah’s particular reaction to the call that provides the basis for the book of Jonah.
4.2. Mission and message
Keil and Delitzsch note,
“The mission [and message of Jonah] was a fact of symbolic and typical importance, which was intended not only to enlighten Israel as to the position of the Gentile world in relation to the kingdom of God, but also to typify the future adoption of such of the heathen, as should observe the word of God, into the fellowship of the salvation prepared in Israel for all nations… The object of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh was to combat in the most energetic manner, and practically to overthrow, a delusion which had a seeming support in the election of Israel to be a vehicle of salvation, and which stimulated the inclination to pharisaical reliance upon an outward connection with the chosen nation and a lineal descent from Abraham” (Commentary on the Old Testament 10. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d., 1:383-385).
4.3. Response to the call
Jonah 1:3
3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah tries to escape from the command to proclaim the word of God in Nineveh by flight to Tarshish, because he is displeased with the display of divine mercy to the great heathen world, and because he is afraid least the preaching of repentance should avert from Nineveh the destruction with which it is threatened.
Adam Clarke states,
“Tarshish refers to Tartessus in Spain, near the straits of Gibraltar” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967, 731).
In Joppa, Jonah seeks voyage to Tarshish. It is believe by many that Tarshish was not on the way to Nineveh, but away from it, maybe even in the opposite direction.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Joppa was a significant seaport on Israel’s coast in Jonah’s day. From there ships sailed to points throughout the Mediterranean. Joppa is the same as the present-day city of Jaffa, beside which the modern city of Tel Aviv has grown” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 98).
Jonah his made his decision. His ticket purchased, he was now on board the ship in restful sleep (see Jonah 1:5). All however was not well above board.
Jonah 1:4-5
4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them…
The storm is so severe that it appears that the ship will not be able to stay together and all will be lost. All are admonished to offer a word of prayer requesting divine intervention. The captain awakes Jonah.
Jonah 1:6
6 So the shipmaster came to him [Jonah], and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
Receiving no immediate relief from their prayers, the sailors turn to chance with the drawing of lots. The lot fell upon Jonah (see Jonah 1:7). Jonah had previously told the men that he was aboard ship for “he fled from the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:10).
Having identified for themselves that Jonah is the cause of the tempestuous sea, they inquire directly of him to know what to do in order to calm the sea.
Jonah 1:12
12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
Did Jonah know that the Lord had caused this mighty storm due to his disobedience by intuition or by revelation? Had Jonah by now realized that he could not run from the Lord? He must accept his fate, spare the lives of the sailors and hope the Lord would be merciful to him.
The sailors are initially reluctant for they are caught on the horns of a dilemma.
Jonah 1:14
14 Wherefore they [the sailors] cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
The Lord had heard the prayers of the sailors and gave them peace.
Jonah 1:15
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
He also had heard Jonah’s prayer and provided a solution to spare his life.
4.4. In a Whale’s Belly?
Jonah 1:17
17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Of the known Old Testament scriptures, this verse presents a real stumbling block to the faith of many. They prefer to see this event as an allegory designed by the writer to teach a lesson, but not to be taken literally. They set their faith aside and rely on reason only in order to find a reasonable explanation for this highly unusual incident. I would ask you to not set your faith aside regarding this circumstance, any more that you would in regard to any of the other miracles recorded in the Bible. Keep your mind open and a prayer in your heart as we proceed to present the details of Jonah’s experience.
Jonah describes his own experience.
Jonah 2:1-3, 6
1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.
Jonah may share an interesting spiritual parallel with Alma the younger from the Book of Mormon. Alma, the younger had been brought to his father Alma the Elder in a comma. He later reported his experience to his son, Helaman.
B/M, Alma 36:12-13, 16-20
12 I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his commandments.
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 … behold I remember also to have heard my father prophecy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more: yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.
While the experience of Alma the younger, occurred on land there is a striking similarity between the pain that he experienced regarding his rebellion and the experience of Jonah. Jonah continues to share his experience.
Jonah 2:5-7
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered my LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, in thine holy temple.
For the skeptic, I now offer the following report recorded by W. Cleon Skousen in his book, The Fourth Thousand Years (1966). He presents the following report of a modern Jonah, James Bartley, a seaman who was swallowed by a sperm whale.
“This featured article by David Gunston appeared in the Ipswich Evening Star [a newspaper in England], on August 21, 1961… [The event occurred]February, 1891 when a sailor was lost overboard when the small ship he was upset while the crew was in the process of killing a whale].
“The whale was… finally killed… and… its great carcass was brought aboard… [They were in the process of dismembering their catch when they noted]… a slight spasmodic movement within the now exposed stomach of the whale. When they opened the whale’s stomach they did not find a large fish, but to their surprise and astonishment, the lost sailor.]… He was doubled up, drenched, but still alive, though deeply unconscious”… [He was revived and after three weeks]… had almost entirely recovered from the psychic shock of his experience. His physical condition seemed unimpaired, and he soon resumed his normal duties.”
“… he said he clearly remembered the sensation of being thrown from the boat into the sea. Then followed a tremendous rushing sound he believed was the swirling of the whale’s tail through the water, and he was soon ‘encompassed by a great darkness.’
“He said he felt he was slipping along a smooth passage that itself seemed to move along and carry him onward. This sensation lasted only a short while and then he realized he had more room. As he groped about him he touched the walls of his prison: they were thickly slimy and yielding.
“Slowly it dawned on the fellow’s bemused mind what had in fact happened to him, and he confessed he was overcome with horror and fright. He asserted he could breathe easily but that the heat was terrific–not a scorching heat like that of the sun, but a close, oppressive heat that seemed to open up the pores of his skin and draw out his vitality.
“In time he became very weak and sick and began to realize there was no way of escape. He admitted tying to face death calmly, but the knowledge of his predicament, the complete darkness, the intense heat, his growing weakness and, oddest of all, the terrifying quiet, finally overcame him. He claimed he could remember nothing more until he came round in the captain’s cabin….
“In his book of memoirs, Sixty-three Years of Engineering, published by John Murray, London, 1924, he recounts the story very fully and examines it with detachment, reaching a firm conviction of its complete veracity.
“There is no doubt that sperm whales can swallow a man with ease, and have in fact done so many times. Once old-time whaling captain described the sperm whale as having an 8 ft. swallow, and instances of sharks both 10 ft. and 16 ft. long have been reliably recorded as found in the stomach’s of sperms cut up on whaling ships.
“These creatures have a V-shaped trapdoor of a mouth lined with 18-28 conical teeth 8 inches long, and this formidable equipment is mainly used for biting and eating large chunks of giant squid that form their main food.
“However, complete, unbitten food is sometimes taken, usually fish, and there is some evidence that when attacked, enraged and in pain, these whales will attack man deliberately in self-defense, occasionally swallowing their victims whole.
“It is noteworthy that Bartley bore no teeth-marks, and his unvarnished description of the swallowing and after fits with known biological facts. The gullet would aid his progress stomach-wards, the wall of the belly would be soft and mucous-covered, and the insulation from outside should there would be complete. The great heat is explained by the fact that the normal body temperature of a sperm whale is around 104 degrees F.–to a human being high fever heat.
“The greatest stumbling-block some modern scientists have encountered in this case is just how Bartley managed to breathe sufficient air during his many hours incarceration when the creature’s digestive juices were present and eating into his uncovered skin… During his stay in the whale’s stomach his unclothed parts were exposed to the merciless acid of the animal’s gastric juices, and his face, neck and hands were bleached and shriveled to a deadly whiteness with the look and feel or old parchment (460)… But according to the man’s own testimony he found no difficulty inbreathing whilst still conscious, and he also asserted that he felt he would have finally died from starvation rather than other causes, and in fact he collapsed from fright and shock, not from lack of air.
“The explanation seems to be that contrary to later beliefs based on only partial knowledge of the case, the whale’s belly was not full, or indeed even partly full, or gastric juices at the time, and as shortly afterwards the animal was in fact killed, its stomach secretions ceased altogether from that time. Bartley was never completely immersed in fluid and there was sufficient air within to keep him alive” (The Fourth Thousand Years. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1972, Sixth Printing, 458-463).
Joseph Fielding Smith writes,
“Surely the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs at the wisdom of the scoffer, and then on a sudden answers his folly by a repetition of the miracle in dispute, or by the presentation of one still greater… I believe,… the story of Jonah. My chief reason for so believing is not in the fact that it is recorded in the Bible, or that the incident has been duplicated in our day, but in the fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord, believed it [Matthew 12:39-40]” (Doctrines of Salvation 2. Complied by Bruce R. McConkie. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955, [20th Printing 1978], 314).
Matthew 12:39-40
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Evidently while Jonah was in the belly of the fish he had fully repented of his refusal to go to Nineveh along with making other promises to the Lord if he were to be safely delivered.
Jonah 2:9
9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
Jonah, having been brought to the full realization of the important of his obedience to serve the Lord, is given new life.
Jonah 2:10
10 And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
4.5. Jonah’s Second call
Jonah now receives a second call. Note the response of Jonah as the Lord directs him a second time to go to Nineveh.
Jonah 3:3
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.
Duane S. Crouther notes
“The dimensions of greater Nineveh were thus about thirty miles long by ten miles wide. Jonah’s mention of 120,000 babies would indicate that the population of the city may have been as much as one million” (Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 248).
Jonah delivers the message from the Lord.
Jonah 3:4
4 … Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
The response of the people of this large Assyrian city was immediate even if it did not endure.
Jonah 3:5, 10
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way [JST: “and repented, and God turned away the evil that he had said he would bring upon them.]
Jonah’s response to the repentance of the Assyrians, as previously noted (Jonah 4:1-2) is that “he is very angry”. His original belief was that it was not necessary for him to come to Nineveh as the Lord had directed for he believed that the Lord would be merciful unto them and would spare their lives. Clearly, Jonah did not understand that Nineveh was spared by the Lord because they had heard the warning voice of his prophet and had repented. It is also true for each of us. When we are warned by the Lord’s servants that if we do not repent, we will suffer severe consequences, only if we do repent, will we be spared the punishment.
Jonah truly not understanding the will of the Lord, impetuously makes a foolish request.
Jonah 4:3
3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
How quickly Jonah has forgotten his three day experience! His request is based upon the absence of understanding that repentance is an essential ingredient in our receiving forgiveness from the Lord as well as his own lack of faith in the Lord’s love for his children. Had not the Lord just forgiven Jonah when he had shown the fruits of repentance? Would the Lord not also extend this same blessing to his children in Nineveh?
In an effort to teach his prophet an important object lesson, after Jonah had gone to the mount to “see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:5), the Lord made a gourd to grow in order to provide shade for him. Jonah’s response to be “exceeding glad of the gourd” (Jonah 4:6).
The next day, the Lord caused the gourd to die so that it no longer provided shade for his disgruntled prophet. When the sun came up, He also caused a strong east wind to arise.
Jonah 4:8-9
8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
Jonah is angry that whereas he initially had the gourd to protect him from the heat of the sun that when the gourd died and the wind arose, conditions became so unbearable for him that life had little meaning for him. He thought if only the gourd had not died! Now comes the object lesson from the Lord.
Jonah 4:10-11
10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand (120,000) persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Jonah was saddened by the loss of shade that the gourd had provided when it withered. How much greater would then be the Lord’s concern for the 120,000 individuals who live in Nineveh who are his children? Their innocent lives would be cut short if the city were to be destroyed in spite of their repentance.
Before we end our discussion of the book of Jonah, let me share a final point. The holiest day of the Hebrew year, Yom Kippur, is the Day of Atonement. On this day, fasting Jews gather to worship in their synagogues. Of the sacred scriptures available to them, they read the book of Jonah as the haftorah of the Yom Kippur afternoon services.
Rabbi Menachem Postner states,
“Why do we read the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur? Two primary reasons are given:
(a) The story of Jonah teaches us how no one is beyond the reach of G-d’s hand. Just as Jonah’s endeavor to escape G-d’s providence was unsuccessful, so, too, we are incapable of eluding divine justice for transgressions we may have committed.
(b) On a more uplifting note: G-d spared the people of Nineveh although He had already decreed that they would be destroyed because of their evil ways. This teaches us that no matter our past behavior, G-d’s benevolence and mercy awaits us if we only repent full-heartedly” (www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/568512/jewish/Why-do-we-read-the-Book-of-Jonah-on-Yom-Kippur.htm).
The book of Jonah vividly reminds the reader that God requires obedience; that he loves his children everywhere; that he has a hand in the things that happen to us. It also reminds us that God expects us to learn to love all peoples, including our enemies.
5. Hosea 760-720 B.C.
5.1. Background and call to serve
Of his parents and birth, we know nothing except the name of his father, “Berri” (Hosea 1:1).
S. Kent Brown states,
“Hosea’s prophetic work began before the death of Jeroboam II (746 B.C.) and may well have continued until the eve of the loss of the Northern kingdom (721 B.C.), a span of approximately twenty-five years” (“The Book of Hosea” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 61).
Hosea has been called a “prophet of love” because he showed forth the Lord’s love of His people in his teachings and in his feelings for Israel.
5.2. Mission and message
Hosea is the first prophet to use the metaphor of the marriage relationship to characterize the intimate relationship between God and those who worship him. He is also the first to shift the basic concept of religion from the “fear of God: to that of “knowledge of God,” and serving Him.
Victor L. Ludlow provides the following topic outline of the book of Hosea:
“I. Chapters 1-3 Hosea’s marital experience portrays God’s relationship with Israel.
“II. Chapters 4-13 Hosea’s words of judgment to Israel (and later Judah.)
“III. Chapters 14 A call to Israel to repent and be Blessed”
(Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 197).
5.3. Hosea’s Marriage
Sidney B. Sperry observes,
The “views of capable commentators [regarding Hosea’s marriage] have been very divers, but… may be classified under four heads:
(1) The story is an allegory or parable symbolizing the relation existing between Jehovah and his people, Israel.
(2) The story is assumed to be a literal account of actual facts…
(3) The modified literal theory assumes that Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was not a common harlot, but rather a Ball worshipper who was, therefore, guilty of spiritual harlotry…
(4) Many, if not most, modern expositors hold the view that Gomer was a pure woman when Hosea married her, and continued so until after the birth of her first child”
(The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 280).
Sidney B. Sperry continues,
“The Lord’s call to Hosea to take a harlotrous woman to wife represent the prophet’s call to the ministry—a ministry to an apostate and covenant breaking people. The evil children of this apparent union represent the coming of the judgments of the Lord upon Israel, warning of which was to be carried to the people by the prophet. The figure of the harlotrous wife and children would, I believe, be readily understood at the time by the Hebrew people without reflecting on Hosea’s own wife, or, if he was unmarried, on himself… This symbolic representation of God’s call to Hosea would be a most forceful and effective means of calling Israel’s attention to her carnal state” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1953, 281).
Of the four possible interpretations of Hosea’s marriage, I believe the symbolic to be the most correct and this will be the focus of our presentation.
The Old Testament student manual observes,
“Have you ever given love and trust, or even made solemn covenants, and then been betrayed? Or have you even been loved and trusted by someone but then, in weakness, betrayed that trust and damaged the relationship and thus know the yearning to be loved and trusted again?
“During the time of Hosea, the Israelites were influenced heavily by the worship and ways of the Canaanites… The rites by which the people supplicated the gods of fertility were lewd, licentious, and immoral. Even though Israel had covenanted at Sinai to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God, by the time of Hosea, God’s people had become deeply involved in the practices of their neighbor’s, whose way of life should have repelled them.
“Using the imagery of a marriage, the Lord, through Hosea, taught his people that though they had been unfaithful to him, yet he would still not divorce them (cast them off) if they would but turn back to him. Though Hosea speaks of a nation, the same principle holds true for individuals. Even those who have been grossly unfaithful to God can reestablish their relationship with him if they will but turn back to him with full purpose of heart” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings–Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 103).
Sidney B. Sperry observes,
“Hosea never did actually contract such a marriage to a harlot as is suggested… For Hosea to marry a woman with a questionable past would make it impossible for him to preach to his people and expose their sexual immoralities. They could point the finger of scorn at him and say, “you are as guilty as we are; don’t preach to us” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 281).
As noted, we are going to view Hosea’s marriage and family as a “similitude” (symbol) of the covenant relationship of wayward Israel with the Lord, rather than a literal relationship between Hosea, his wife and children. It is therefore necessary that a possible meaning be provided for the symbols that Hosea offers.
Webster’s Nineth Collegiate Dictionary states,
A symbol is “something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance esp.: a visible sign of something invisible
The following chart offers both the symbol and the possible meaning in the marriage relationship as it is used in reference to the land and the people of Israel.
Symbols Meaning
“Eternal marriage” Covenant relationship between God and Israel
Constant husband The Lord
Unfaithful wife The children of Israel
Adultery Departing from the Lord and the true way
Lovers Other gods
Son or Ephraim The children of Israel
Divided heart Trying to worship many gods
Sowing Deeds, actions
Reaping Reward or punishment for deeds
Reference: Old Testament Part Two, Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, 56).
Sidney B. Sperry notes,
“Gomer, the wife of Hosea, represents Israel, the disloyal and harlotrous consort of Jehovah. Israel is, of course, unworthy of Jehovah’s great love. For her gross sins, she must go into exile and learn by bitter experience that her husband means more to her than she first supposed” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 145).
Hosea 2:6-7
6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
7 And she shall follow her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.
Sidney B. Sperry continues,
“Jehovah steadfastly loves her throughout the long years of her wayward career and finally attempts to woo her again” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 145).
Hosea 2:14-15
14 Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.
15 And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
The time will come when Israel will be numbered among the righteous, however that will not occur until a period of time has passed and she has again turned to the Lord.
The Old Testament student manual observes,
“… Gomer bore her husband [symbolically] three children, two sons and a daughter. The names given to the children appear to symbolize the destruction that lies in Israel’s future as a result of her idolatrous (adulterous) ways—that is, children (judgments) are the natural results of Israel’s harlotry (unrighteousness). The name of the first child, Jezreel … means ‘God shall sow,’ or scatter abroad,… It undoubtedly alludes to the overthrow and scattering of Israel… The [second child] Lo-ruhamah in Hebrew means ‘not having obtained mercy’… suggests that no amount of mercy from God would set aside the divine justice and save northern Israel; the ten tribes would be destroyed and taken captive, and only Judah would be spared. The name of the third child, Lo-ammi in Hebrew, ‘not my people’… shows that by their harlotry Israel could not be thought of as God’s people” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 105).
If we view the names of the children of Hosea and Gomer as symbolizing the destruction that lies in Israel’s future, we gain increased understanding as to the reason for the Lord’s selection of their names.
Keil and Delitzsch states,
“In a second symbolic marriage, the prophet sets forth the faithful, but for that very reason chastising and reforming, love of the Lord to rebellious and adulterous Israel” (Commentary on the Old Testament, Book 10. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d., 1:66).
Using the symbolism of the marriage covenant, the husband (Lord)is faithful, however his wife (Israel) is not. She violates their marriage covenant (Israel’s covenant with the Lord) by taking other lovers (Israel’s idolatry). Rather than her husband casting her aside, he will arrange to purchase her.
Hosea 3:2-3
2 So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver,…
3 And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; Thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.
The Old Testament student manual notes,
“… the purchase price implies that Israel’s freedoms had been or would be lost, and in addition she suffered the slavery of sin, which also requires a purchase price before Israel can be reconciled with her Savior. Hosea desired to purchase his wife from slavery just as Heavenly Father seeks after [all] his children [not just Israel] to redeem them from Satan’s power with the blood of His son Jesus Christ” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 106).
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
the purchase price may represent, “partly the betrayal money paid to Judas Iscariot and partly the suffering of the Redeemer in his work of atonement” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 631).
Even though the purchase price mentioned has been paid, there is a time of testing, of waiting and preparing, before one is reinstated to all the blessings of the covenant and enjoys the company of a husband and a savior.
Hosea 3:3
3 And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.
Gomer had to purify her life before she could feel Hosea’s love, because true love requires that Gomer also love herself.
One might inquire, “Why can’t we [the Lord] just forget the former transgressions that occurred and move forward with renewed faith and confidence? I offer this insight from a favorite British scholar.
C.S. Lewis observed,
“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in bring put back on the right road. A [mathematical] sum [incorrectly worked] can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and [then] working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound” (The Great Divorce. New York: Macmillan Co., 1973, 6).
Jeffrey R. Holland adds,
“I know it isn’t easy to go back and undo and start again and make a new beginning, but I believe with all my heart that it is easier and surely more satisfying to begin anew than to go on and try to believe that justice will not take its toll” (“Borne Upon Eagles’ Wings.” Fireside address, June 2, 1974, Provo: Brigham Young University Speeches 1974, 4).
In their captivity Israel would suffer without God’s help until she purified her life; then she would know of God’s continued love.
In the last days, after Israel has gone through the furnace of affliction, God will remember her and listen to her prayers.
Hosea 2:19-21, 23
19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea,I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies.
20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.
21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, said the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;
23 … and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.
5.4. Hosea uses imagery to call Israel to repentance
5.4.1. “a backsliding heifer” and “a lamb in a large place”
Hosea 4:16
16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
The Old Testament student manual notes,
“A backsliding heifer is one who refuses to follow when led and sets her feet and slides in the dirt. She is an unmanageable animal and will not pull together with the other ox yoked to her, nor will she submit to the guidance of the driver.
“a lamb in a large place” suggests a helpless animal lost in a large open area with no protection. This figure suggests Israel’s being scattered among the Gentiles” (Old Testament student manual: 1Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 107).
5.4.2. “a cake not turned”
Hosea 7:8
8 Ephriaim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Keil and Delitzsch note,
“Because Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom) had mixed with other nations, worshiped their idols, and learned their ways, she had only fulfilled half the requisites for the conquest of Canaan, or she was only ‘half baked.’
“Israel had thereby become a cake not turned… a cakebaked upon hot ashes or red-hot stones, which, if it be not turned, is burned at the bottom, and not baked at all above. As the fire will burn an ash-cake when it is left unturned, so have foreigners consumed the strength of Israel, partly by devastating wars, and partly by the heathenish nature which has penetrated into Israel… ” (Commentary on the Old Testament 10 bks. Grand Rapids: William Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.,10:1:107-108).
5.4.3. “a deceitful bow”
Hosea 7:16
16 They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow; their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“A deceitful bow is one that flies back to its curved position while the archer is stringing it or breaks while he has it drawn. In either case, the archer can be wounded” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 108).
5.4.4. “a wild ass”
Hosea 8:8-9
8 Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.
9 For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.
The Old Testament student manual notes,
“A wild ass is one of the most independent and unreliable beasts on earth. Because Israel wanted to go their own way and be alone, that wish would be granted. They would go alone into Assyria and be swallowed up by the Gentiles. The ‘lovers’ hired by Ephraim symbolized their continued attempt to find security and friends through political alliances rather than through obedience to God” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 108).
5.5. The Heart and key of the book of Hosea
We now come to the conclusion of our overview of the mission and teachings of Hosea. Due to the symbolism found in its presentation, many have struggled to derive meaning from what they deemed to be confusion. Hopefully the insight here provided will be helpful to the reader. We conclude with the final reference and commentary.
Hosea 11:8-9
8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee in Adman? how shall I set thee in Zeboim? [Admah and Zeboim were two cities of the valley of Siddim which were destroyed by fire along with Sodom and Gomorrah [Gen.19:24; Deut.29:23] mine heart is turned [JST: toward thee, and my mercies are extended to gather thee.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“[this passage] breathes the spirit of the Man of Galilee whose mercy and love for His brethren transcend all understanding. [While this] passage does not mean that Israel shall escape the due circumstances of all her sins. … it does foreshadow the long arm of Jehovah’s love reaching for her in the day of redemption, the latter day, and rescuing the little righteous remnant of which Isaiah and other prophets also speak” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 150).
6. Micah 760-697 B.C.
6.1. Background and call to serve
Dwane S. Crowther notes,
“Micah was born in Moreshath,… a small town about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem… [He] is a product of the open hills and showed dislike for the cities. As a member of the oppressed peasantry he speaks for the common people and defends then against the nobles and rich landlords of Judah” (Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 282).
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“Since Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos, the problems he faced were much the same as theirs… Micah was not a statesman like Isaiah; consequently, he was not so much concerned about the nation’s political sins… {He] held the nobility to be responsible for the terrible moral and social corruption among the people [his message was directly mainly to them]” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 334-335).
Old Testament Part Two, Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement describes the evildoers of Mica’s day being,
“(1) Schemers; (2) Greedy landowners; (3) False prophets; (4) Followers of the false prophets; (5) Corrupt and oppressive leaders; and (6) Leaders who labor only for personal gain” (Old Testament Part Two Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, 62).
6.2. Mission and message
Micah’s prophetic pronouncements were directed to those in the kingdoms of Israel as well as to those in the kingdom of Judah. He also shares a similarity with Isaiah.
Duane S. Crowther notes,
“Micah and Isaiah were similar because they were the only two prophets who prophesied concerning all four periods of prophetic fulfillment*: A. The fall of Israel to Assyria; B. The fall of Judah to Babylonia; C. The Meridian of time (the Savior’s ministry), and D. The last days… *The four periods of prophetic fulfillment are the four eras when most of the events in the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets were to come to pass. Three of these periods are now past. We are living in the fourth period, the last days” (Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 296).
Duane S. Crowther offers,
Outline of the book of Micah:
“I. Chapter 1 Prophecies of coming judgment
“II. Chapters 2-5 Contrast between present and future state of Judah
“III. Chapters 6-7 The Lord’s controversy with Judah
(Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 284-285).
D. Kelly Ogden offers the following outline based on Micah’s three prophetic addresses:
“I. Micah 1-3 Denunciation and punishment
“II. Micah 4-5 Hope
“III. Micah 6-7 Combination of doom and hope”
(“The Book of Micah” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 69).
D. Kelly Ogden continues,
“that…prophets pronounced… doom and hope [meant] that condemnation and devastation were necessarily followed by [opportunity for] consolation and restoration” (“The Book of Micah” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 69).
During Micah’s times the two capital cities were Samaria in the North and Jerusalem in the South. These two cities became symbols for wickedness of the people.
Micah 1:3-5
3 For, behold the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4 And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
In these verse, Micah prophesied both the fall of the northern kingdom [Samaria] as well as the fall of the southern kingdom [Jerusalem].
Micah 1:6:
6 Therefore will I make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
The fall of Samaria [northern kingdom] will be so complete it will be like a lone pile of dirt that is all that remains in a once flourishing field that is now covered with stones. Before the field can ever be prepared for planting, the stones will have to be cleared away and the field leveled.
Micah 2:1-2:
1 Woe, to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.
2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
The Old Testament student manual clarifies,
“He spoke here of those who work evil upon their beds referring to those who lay awake at night thinking up evil things to do. Then when daylight came, they put their nighttime plots into action” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 120).
Sidney B. Sperry notes,
“Micah felt keenly the social injustices that plagued Israel in his own day. Coming as he did, from the country, he no doubt felt these wrongs more acutely than he would had he come from the city. He could not help but cast his in invective [condemnations] at the wealthy, greedy land grabbers, who descended upon the rural districts and made the poor their debtors” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 340).
Our leaders have counseled us to be honest in our dealings with our fellowman.
Spencer W. Kimball states,
[There are those today] “… who require excessive compensation for services and who fail to give ‘value received’ and who give no loyalty with their insufficient and inefficient service” (“Keep Your Money Clean.” Conference Report, October, 1953, 51-56).
Micah 3:5-6
5 Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.
These verses have reference to those “false prophets,” who, for a price, would give false credence to the words of those sought their witness.
Sidney B. Sperry notes,
“During the generations of Amos and Micah, the leaders–better tyrants–of Israel used profession prophets and seers to cloak their misdeeds. Religion, unfortunately, lends itself, or rather its cloak, very easily to the uses of the hypocrite. 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 condition among the people” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 197).
Micah 3:8
8 But truely I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
The true prophet has the spirit of God and the necessary insight, vision, and courage to tell what is wrong with the people. He is the Lord’s servant and mouthpiece to all upon the earth, believer and non-believer alike.
Micah 2:12
12 I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah [fold], as the flock in the midst of their fold:…
In a time yet future, Micah saw that the twelve tribes of Jacob would be gather together as sheep are all gathered together at night for their protection. None would be excluded.
Micah 4:1-2
1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Micah 4:6-7
6 In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted.
7 And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
These verses relate to the “last days,” that Micah was privileged to view when the blessings promised to the twelve tribes of Israel would be fulfilled. Part of that promised gathering involved the building of a temple located in the mountains of the Lord. Here they will assemble in order to be taught the word of the Lord.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“not only will the remnant of Israel be assembled, but it would be glorified in the eyes of all nations… The mountain of the Lord’s house was to be established in the tops of the mountains, and many nations and people should go there to be taught in the ways of Jacob’s God. As a result of Divine judgments, nations shall not learn war any more, and every man shall sit in security… with none to make afraid. [During the last days,] God will reign over His people, Israel” (The Spirit of the Old Testament. Classic Edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 199).
Micah 3:12
12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
Micah 4:10
10 Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city [Judah], and thou shalt dwell in the field, [be in captivity] and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.
Micah in these verses (Micah 3:12; 4:10) is directing his prophecy to those in the kingdom of Judah. As Micah 3:12 indicates, the kingdom of Judah, like Israel, will be destroyed if the inhabitants do not repent. During the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, he will hearken to the predictions of the prophets, and for awhile Judah will be spared. [Micah 3:12 will be read by the elders of Judah during the trial of the Prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 26:18) when he is on trial for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem.] In Micah 4:10, he foresees the destruction of the Jerusalem by the Babylonians and that the inhabitants will be taken into captivity which did occur in 587 B.C. While prophesying they would be taken into captivity, he also told them that they would be redeemed by the Lord and once again return to the land of their inheritance.
Micah 5:2
2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Micah’s propheic vision included the Meridian of time. He bore witness that the birth of the Savior was to occur in Bethlehem. Out of this village, one of Judah’s smallest, he views the birth of one who is to be ruler over all Israel. It is noteworthy that those who mistakenly believe Jesus to have been born in Nazareth, cited the prophet Micah as evidence that Jesus could not be the Messiah (John 7:40-43). Unfortunately for the children living in Bethlehem close to the birth of Jesus when the “wise men of the east” came to Jerusalem to worship Jesus “born King of the Jews,” the chief priests and scribes of king Herod, knew and so declared that Jesus [would] have been born in Bethlehem “for it is written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:1-6). It was upon that confirmation that the king Herod issued his terrible edict (Matthew 2:16).
Micah 5:8-9
8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
This is Micah’s last prophecy and has its reference to the last days.
Monte and Farres Nyman provide the following insight,
“The remnant who have been scattered among the Gentiles are prophesied to go forth as a lion among a flock of sheep and tread down the Gentiles, who will be their enemies at this time… [This scripture by Micah] is quoted in its entirety by the Savior to the Nephites and earlier referred to or partially quoted by him twice more (3 Nephi 21:12-21; 16:13-14; 20:16-17)… The first two times the Savior quotes this prophecy to the Nephites, he makes it a conditional prophecy based upon whether the Gentiles repent… The Savior’s second quotation qualifies the conditional treading down as being caused by the Gentiles’ failure to repent after the blessings of the knowledge of the Lord have been revealed to them after they have scattered the house of Israel before them… In other words, the Lord will forgive the Gentiles for their treatment of the house of Israel if the Gentiles accept the gospel, which will be restored among them. However, if they reject the gospel, then the mercy of the Father will be withdrawn and justice will take its course.
“The third time Christ quotes this prophecy, he quotes it in its entirety, describing the things that will occur among the Gentiles. He also qualifies the condition a little further. Those who do not repent and accept the gospel will be cut off from among the house of Israel and will be trodden down by the house of Israel. Those who do repent will have the Church established among them, be numbered among the remnant of Jacob to whom this land will be given (see 3 Nephi 15:12-13), and assist the remnant of Jacob in building the New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:11-12). Thus, the house of Israel will eventually tread down the rebellious Gentiles, but those who repent can escape this treading down if they accept the gospel and are numbered with Israel” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 83-84).
Just how the treading will be accomplished by the house of Israel regarding the rebellious Gentiles, is not known. As the conditions yet future unfold, the words of Micah, reiterated by the Lord himself, to those gathered on the American continent will be fulfilled. The decision each of us make to embrace the teachings of the prophets will determine to a great extent our safety here as well as our eternal peace hereafter.
Micah 6:8
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.
This verse contains the essentials of true religion. In turn, it sums up all the teachings of the prophets. Had Israel and Judah been just and merciful and walking humbly with God? No, they had broken the covenant and turned from the Lord and his teachings. It was for this purpose that prophets had come to call the people to repentance.
Micah 7:18-20
18 Who is God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy.
19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
20 Thou wilt perform the truth of Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
In the end the Lord will fulfill all promises he made to Abraham. He will bestow his promised blessings upon righteous Israel.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“[Micah] 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” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 351).
7. Conclusions
As we end this chapter, it is fitting that we conclude with the words of Marion G. Romney and Bruce R. McConkie. Each draw our attention to the tragic cycle that repeats itself as those who are righteous turn from their covenants to unrighteousness. This tragic cycle begins with prosperity, is then followed by pride and iniquity, next destruction, concluding with repentance and deliverance.
Marion G. Romney observes,
“We today are approaching the close of a similar cycle. We have been warned that we are ripening in iniquity and that we will be destroyed if we do not repent… The closing of the tragic cycle by the foreboding calamities can be averted if the inhabitants of the earth will repent, believe, and have faith in God as our Heavenly Father, in his Son Jesus Christ as our Redeemer, and will conform to their teachings” (“The Tragic Cycle.” Ensign, November, 1977, 14, 16).
Bruce R. McConkie states,
“We do not know when the calamities and troubles of the last days will fall upon any of us as individuals… We can rest assured that if we have done all in our power to prepare for whatever lies ahead, he will help us with whatever else we need… We do not say that all the Saints will be spared and saved from the coming day of desolation. But we do say there is no safety and no promise except for those who love the Lord and we are seeking to do all he commands… And so we raise the warning voice and say: Take heed; prepare; watch and be ready. There is no security in any course except the course of obedience and conformity and righteousness” (“Stand Independent above All Other Creatures.” Ensign, May, 1979, 93).
This is the message to us of Amos, Jonah, Hosea and Micah and of all the prophets. Each of us have an area where we could improve. What are we still holding back in our desire to be more obedient to God’s commandments? What is it that yet hampers our spiritual growth? That is the place for us to begin. The time for us to do so is now.