Micah Exhorting the Israelites to Repent, from Dore Bible by Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré

Micah Exhorting the Israelites to Repent, from Dore Bible, 1866, Engraving, Internet Archive

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This Portentous Figure

Commentary by

This work by the French painter, illustrator, engraver, caricaturist, and lithographer Gustave Doré appears in Doré’s illustrated Bible, published in 1865. Its representation of the prophet is the visual antithesis of the silent, bedridden Micah in the medieval manuscript illumination elsewhere in this exhibition: here, Micah has forsaken the boudoir for the public square. He speaks, standing up, fully clothed, both arms extended upward, imploring the people’s attention.

This is indeed how the Bible remembers Micah being remembered in the prophet Jeremiah’s day.

And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, 'Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height”’(Jeremiah 26:17–18)

Micah is a prophet against prophets. The figure of the prophet, along with that of the prince and the priest, comprise the troika of corrupt elites that Micah vehemently indicts (Micah 3:11). Like Jeremiah a generation later, Micah decried prophecy at a time when the motive of the prophet had become fatally corrupted by the profit motive.

And, like Jeremiah, Micah prophesies to mixed reviews. The audience in Doré’s engraving suggests a varied reception: some in the crowd appear to be pensive; others, anguished; yet others, annoyed. At lower right, a man attends to Micah’s rant, but his body language speaks of his ambivalence: though he glances back in the prophet’s direction, his torso is turned forward, and, in mid-stride with staff in hand, he appears to have other places to go and other things to do.

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