Micah 5:2 and the coming Messiah
Micah 5:2 or (Micah 5:1 in the Tanakh) contains an important prophecy. Objections have arisen from both religious and secular sources about the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy on the grounds that once a description of an event is predicted; circumstances can be engineered to evidence that. Whilst the scope, detail and volume of prophecies about the coming Messiah counter that objection more than adequately if examined in depth, correct context and with hermeneutical consistency, Micah’s prediction of the birthplace, tribe, origins and rule of the Messiah are specific factors that individuals cannot determine themselves.
The birthplace, tribe, Ruler of Israel and origins of Messiah
Firstly, the designation of the Messiah’s birthplace Bethlehem Ephrathah is a small town located approximately five miles south of Jerusalem. It is noticeable that the Messiah’s birth was pinpointed in this specific location and not the other Bethlehem located close to Nazareth in northern Israel; neither would the Messiah be born in Jerusalem, although Messiah will stand on the Mount of Olives which will be split in two (Zech. 14:4).
Secondly, the parameters are narrowed much further as it was established that the Ruler in Israel would be from the tribe of Judah. This correlates precisely with Jacob’s prophecy that the sceptre would not depart from Judah (Gen. 49:10).
Thirdly this relates to the Ruler of Israel. Whilst a minority would point to the immediate historical context and say that was speaking of King Hezekiah, the contents of the whole of this verse and the ones that follow demonstrate that is a forced connection.
Fourthly, concerning the origins, the goings forth are from old, from everlasting. However the majority of Jewish translations and some Christian translations read contrary to that replacing ‘from everlasting’ with ‘from ancient times’. [i] The issue is whether the word ‘olam’ should be understood to mean ‘everlasting’ or ‘ancient’, of which the latter would leave more scope for interpretation. Although it is the case that ‘olam’ doesn’t mean everlasting in every instance in the Hebrew Scriptures, in most cases it does and especially in Psalm 90:2 where God’s existence is described as from ‘eternity to eternity’ or transliterated ‘me’olam we’ad’olam’[ii] which is an incredibly strong claim.
Furthermore historically, there are several Jewish commentaries that would affirm this text is clearly a Messianic prophecy in the Targums[iii] and in the Aramaic Targum, Jonathan translates as “. . . out of thee shall proceed in my presence the Messiah to exercise sovereignty over Israel; whose name has been called from eternity, from the days of the everlasting..”[iv]
Also, Rashi made a clear connection with this passage to the Messiah, linking it with another Messianic text in Psalm 118:
Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:6
In Matthew Chapter 2 Herod was troubled upon the arrival of the wise men that were searching for the King of the Jews. Herod therefore gathered all the chief priests and scribes and enquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. Their response was that he would be born in Bethlehem of Judea for it was written by the prophet:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’
If we compare Matthew 2:6 we see that there is a clear reference to Micah 5:2 (Micah 5:1 in the Tanakh) since the birthplace (Bethlehem of Judah), the tribe (Judah) and the Ruler of Israel is designated.
In Matthew 2:6 though, there is an omission of the last and crucial line of Micah 5:2 ‘Whose goings forth are from of old from everlasting’ and there is an inclusion of the line ‘Who will shepherd My people Israel’. Thus some objections have arisen with Matthew’s supposed inaccuracy in quoting Micah 5:2. We should however consider that Matthew is stating what the chief priests and scribes stated; he is recording what they said. In Micah 5:4 it is also written that ‘He shall stand and feed His flock’ which does fit the flow and context of shepherding Israel.
Why would that last line be omitted? In one sense it would be a threat to the rule of Herod if the Jewish King with everlasting origins was to be born in his ruling locality. More likely it was omitted since it points to the divine character of the King just born and this they would desire to avoid with the reminder of Isaiah 57:15, “the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity.[vi]
The fulfilment of Micah 5:2
Matthew was a Jewish author writing with a Jewish
audience in mind evidenced by the commencement of his Gospel which demonstrates
that Jesus (Yeshua) was the Son of Abraham and Son of David and from the tribe
of Judah. Matthew consistently references the Hebrew Scriptures with the phrase
‘that it might be fulfilled’. As explained at the outset, this prophecy could
not have been stage managed. The precise details of the Messianic prophecy in
Micah 5:2 relate to Yeshua’s birthplace, tribe, rule and origin which are from
old, from everlasting. It is a most remarkable and exact prophecy which guides
us towards Messiah.
[i] Michael L. Brown Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Volume 3 Messianic Prophecy Objections (Baker Books, Grand Rapids; 2003), p38
[ii] Ibid, p39
[iii] Ryan Turner Does Micah 5:2 Predict that Jesus would be the Messiah? https://carm.org/does-micah-5-2-predict-jesus-messiah cited in Kenneth L. Barker, Micah (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), p. 86.
[iv] Ibid, cited in Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser, p. 75-76.
[v] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/jewish/Chapter-5.htm#showrashi=true
[vi] J. Heading Mattthew What the Bible Teaches (John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock; 1984), p50