19/04/20 – Micah 5:1-3
This passage is a difficult one to interpret while remaining consistent with the context. I do not agree with many of the commentaries, but I think a lot of that is to do with the bias that so many commentaries have toward calvinist thinking. Most readily-available commentaries were written by people who were either puritan (calvinist) or at the very least somewhat influenced by reformed thinking (as much of England has been since the days of the puritan Oliver Cromwell and even before). The established church in England since the Reformation has tended to line up with the Westminster Confession (or similar reformed documents) with those who tended to be less reformed often being ostracised, accused of lesser scholarship. Only those who gave support to the established doctrines (generally reformed) were generally recognised for their biblical scholarship, and so most of the acceptable commentaries were at least not in conflict with reformed beliefs.
Thus we get a number of commentaries which see the Church as the future Israel, with prophecies about Israel being interpreted for the Church. (Note Clarke’s Commentary on Revelation 12:1-2 quoted below.)
Much of today’s passage seems ambiguous, having multiple possible interpretations according to how you are looking at it. Perhaps Micah meant it to be like that, for a prophet could only be recognised as such if he prophesied truthfully in his lifetime (see Deuteronomy 18:15-22). So certain prophecies have two layers of fulfilment: firstly a partial fulfilment in the prophet’s lifetime or soon after, and then a second more complete fulfilment later on.
Micah 5:1 – Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.
gather – to penetrate; cut; attack; invade; penetrate; cut into, gather together.
troops – troops; marauding bands; raiding bands; foray.
Thus “Now invade with marauding bands” or “Now gather yourselves into marauding bands”. The latter is preferable, suggesting that they who have caused so much violence and bloodshed (such as Micah 3:1-4 portrays) will now have to gather together in bands to fight those who have now laid siege against them. During Micah’s lifetime, Sennacherib would come and lay siege against Jerusalem and fail to take it (after defeating the rest of the country), but this verse seems to go further than that, smiting the judge (ruling authority) with a rod (or club) upon the cheek (or jaw). This was a gross insult which invited the other to defend or submit. Possibly it could have applied to Nebuchadnezzar placing their last king, Zedekiah, on the throne as his puppet king, then blinding him and killing his sons before taking him off to Babylon, yet this verse does appear to go even further than that.
While some commentaries say that this verse should be on the end of the previous chapter, it actually should be seen as a transition from their current situation before the captivity to their situation leading up to and including the times of the Romans during which Christ their Messiah was born in Bethlehem (see next verse). It is quite possible that this is a prophecy with 2 stages of fulfilment where the first stage may have been before the captivity, while the next stage may have been during the Roman conquest of Judea. This two-layer prophecy may present a transition from one stage to the next.
So, our setting has changed once again. Last chapter we alternated between the leadup to the Babylonian captivity and the tribulation/millennium. We have also now switched from “daughter of Zion” (Micah 4:8, 10, 13) to “daughter of troops”, a term more fitting to a nation of marauding bands invading or cutting into the authority of another nation. Israel is no longer a sovereign nation in charge of her own affairs, with a standing army to defend that sovereignty. Now she is reduced to the status of an occupied country, no longer permitted to retain an army for her protection, but for defence must rely upon vigilante groups such as marauding bands of itinerant soldiers.
Jesus was born (see next verse, Vs 2 below) into an Israel that was heavily ruled by Rome, with harsh penalties for disobedience, from before He was born (Eg Judas Maccabeus in 167 – 160 BC) to after He had died (Eg the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD). According to Josephus (a Jewish historian during the times of the Romans), there were a number of revolutionaries during this period, noting Judas Maccabeus as one of them. Israel by now had ceased to be able to defend its sovereignty; instead it was reduced to a rabble of marauding bands fighting a guerrilla warfare against the rule of the Romans.
he hath laid siege against us – Note the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the siege of Masada in 73-74 AD. It could of course refer to the siege and defeat of Jerusalem before the captivity, or, quite possibly, this is another 2-stage prophecy where what happened in Jesus’ day was a more complete fulfilment than it was before the captivity at Babylon. Note that many circumstances are very similar between the two periods.
Jesus was born into this time of social unrest amid the cruel rule of the Romans who ruled with the force of iron (note Nebuchadnezzar’s vision where the Roman empire was characterised by iron).
The “judge of Israel” becomes Christ their Messiah, who is struck with a rod upon the cheek by those against whom the marauding bands were fighting.
Matthew 27:30 – And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
Isaiah 50:6 – I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
Christ (as their judge) is the one who actually bears the iniquities of us all, thus fulfilling this as a prophecy. He is born in Bethlehem (see Vs 2 below), which is a probable connection with the tower of the flock (migdal-eder) (Micah 4:8) with much of Micah 4 dealing with the future Christ their Messiah. Therefore the context best allows for Micah 5:1 to be about the time of Christ’s birth, during Roman overrule and oppression. And, while we think of the pharisees and other Jewish leaders being responsible for putting Jesus on the cross, in fact this is somewhat incorrect, for the truth is that it was the Romans who actually authorised and carried out the crucifixion.
And when they (all the chief priests and elders of the people) had bound him, they led [him] away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. (Matthew 27:2) and when he (Pilate) had scourged Jesus, he delivered [him] to be crucified. (Matthew 27:26)
Extra thoughts on Micah 5:1 – It could be either about the days leading up to the captivity, or the times of the Romans in Judea, but probably not events future to us today. In Micah's day Israel had rebelled and by the time Micah died (probably during Hezekiah's reign), things were looking very grim for Israel (= Judah here). It was during the reign of wicked Manasseh (son of Hezekiah) when God finally said enough's enough and foretold their captivity etc (see 2 Kings 21:10-16). Even the reign of the last good king (Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson) wasn't enough to turn the tide away from captivity. The enemy did indeed control Israel toward the end, with Nebuchadnezzar taking the 2nd last king off to Babylon and appointing Zedekiah in his place (whom he also took off to Babylon). No doubt small bands of marauding troops roamed the country in a guerrilla warfare (cf "daughter of troops"), their king was blinded (smitten on the cheek with a rod??) and the people of Jerusalem survived another month before being beaten and taken off into captivity.
The Babylonian captivity was designed to discipline Judah who had been somewhat less evil than Israel, at least until Manasseh onward. This was their second chance to demonstrate their obedience to God. They should have come back from Babylon purified through their trials (cf Zechariah 13:8-9 which was actually for endtimes testing and purifying), but instead they came back to even worse sin, bringing mystery Babylon (the esoteric Talmud) back with them. So when Jesus was born, they were again going through the same (yet more severe) oppression, by Rome this time. Marauding Judean troops roamed the countryside, the king was appointed by authority of Rome, and the country was told repeatedly to keep the peace with Rome or else.
By 70AD Jerusalem was again laid siege to and destroyed, just as it was by Nebuchadnezzar, except that this time they weren't going into captivity for a season; instead they were to be dispersed throughout the world for maybe 2000 years. There was no second chance this time! This had already happened to Israel before Judah's captivity; Israel has been dispersed for maybe 500 years longer than Judah. Israel was also the 10 tribes of the north who never had even one good king, and set up their own false worship from the beginning, and thus didn't have the option of a chance to redeem themselves through captivity, but were destined to never return as Judah did after their captivity. But Judah, after failing to get their act together after the captivity, fell as far as Israel, maybe further, by the time Jesus was born. Their only hope was to accept their Messiah after the resurrection but here they missed the boat completely. They were so opposed to God by now that they failed to recognise their Messiah.
And so they were dispersed, Jerusalem destroyed, and both Judah and Israel were to wait until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled before they could have another chance at demonstrating their obedience to God (Romans 11:25-27). This time of rejection by God for 2000+ years would be the furnace of affliction which would see who was purified and who was burnt up like chaff. At the end of the tribulation (that extreme furnace of affliction), most of Israel is destroyed and only a remnant remains in Jerusalem for the battle of Armageddon. At this time they will finally recognise their Messiah whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:9-12; Revelation 1:7), and they are therefore the remnant who become the children of Israel for the millennium.
Micah 5:2 – 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.
Bethlehem – house of bread (or food) from bayith (house) and lechem (bread; food; grain)
Ephratah – ash-heap; place of fruitfulness. From a root word meaning “fruitful”.
Some manuscripts have Beth-Ephratah or “house of Ephratah”, the family from which King David came. If this is so, then it could be interpreted as David’s family, though insignificant, yet from his family would come the Ruler of Israel from eternity past to eternity future.
1 Samuel 17:12 – Now David [was] the son of that Ephrathite of Beth–lehem–judah, whose name [was] Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men [for] an old man in the days of Saul.
little among the thousands of Judah – Bethlehem was a small and insignificant town in Judah (although it could also refer to David’s family which was insignificant among others in Judah).
thousands – This word could suggest large family groups or clans such as in Joshua 22:14 – And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one [was] an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.
Bethlehem was unimportant in the history of Israel except for one thing: it was the birthplace of King David whose ancestor (Jesus) would be their future Messiah King. (It’s because Mary and Joseph were of David’s family that they had to go to Bethlehem to be registered.) Without this one single fact, Bethlehem would have remained as insignificant as many of the other unnamed (and unknown today) settlements in Israel. Literally David put Bethlehem on the map. The book of Ruth would have had little relevance in the Bible except for the fact that Ruth would be the grandmother of King David, upon whose throne Christ the Messiah of Israel would sit forever. It’s astounding just how much impact just one single fact can have, a far greater influence than anything else in all of history, ever.
For out of this one little insignificant village would come the greatest ruler of Israel, ever.
Luke 1:35 – And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Just how many other places can lay claim to being the birthplace of the Son of God?
Isaiah 9:6-7 – 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
goings forth – origins; origin; place of going out from.
He who has been their ruler from the beginning will again be ruler in Israel. His rule will not be a new rule but a continuation of His rule over them in the past.
Micah 5:3 – Therefore will he give them up, until the time [that] she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
Therefore – or “Nevertheless”
That is, even though God will bring forth one who is to be their Messiah, this will not be of great benefit to Israel until their troubles are over. God will still give them up (or over) to punishment first. He is the one who judges Israel and punishes them for their rebellion. So, even though God has promised to redeem them one day (Micah 4:6-7; 10), He will still give them up to chastisement for their rebellion, until she who travails (labours to bring forth a child) has brought forth (the birth of the “child”).
This could apply to when Jesus their Messiah was born, when the fulness (pleroma) of time had come.
Galatians 4:4-5 – 4But when the fulness (pleroma) of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Also note the following which clearly portrays Christ’s birth to Israel, which some commentators interpret instead as the coming to fulness of the Christian Church.
Revelation 12:1-2; 5 – 1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and [to] his throne.
Clarke’s Commentary says: Therefore wilt he give them up - Jesus Christ shall give up the disobedient and rebellious Jews into the hands of all the nations of the earth, till she who travaileth hath brought forth; that is, till the Christian Church, represented Revelation 12:1, under the notion of a woman in travail, shall have had the fullness of the Gentiles brought in. Then the remnant of his brethren shall return; the Jews also shall be converted unto the Lord; and thus all Israel shall be saved according to Romans 11:26.
Micah 5:3 could refer to the birth of the Messiah (as Revelation 12:1-2 should be seen), noting that Micah 5:2 points to the birthplace and future reign of the Messiah.
Or the birth pains and bringing forth could apply to the redemption of Israel once the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentile Church was come.
Romans 11:25-27 – 25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentiles be come in. 26And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
The term “travail” can be used for a physical birth or it can metaphorically represent the agony that may be associated with labouring to bear a child.
Romans 8:18-23 – 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected [the same] in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.
[where “travaileth in pain together” is sunodino – a synthesis where many act as one, and can mean metaphorically to undergo agony (like a woman in childbirth) together (as one) with others]
Clearly “he” (as per “Therefore will he give them up”) must refer to their Messiah who is born in Bethlehem and will rule one day as He did in the past. But it is not clear who is giving birth and who or what is being brought forth, only that He (their Messiah) will give them up until this time of giving birth or bringing forth. At this time of travail and birth (bringing forth), the rest of the brethren (of the Messiah, or of that which is brought forth?) will return (turn back) to Israel.
However, Micah 4:10 says 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, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go [even] to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies. This does seem to apply it to Babylon, yet Micah 5:3 seems to take it a step further and apply it to the final deliverance at and after the battle of Armageddon. Note also Joel 2:31-32.
remnant – yether (remainder; excess; rest; remnant; excellence; other part; residue; excess; abundance; superiority) This is the only time Micah uses this term for “remnant” (translated “rest” or “the rest” 63 times, “remnant 14 times, “residue” 8 times, out of 101 occurrences). Translated “the rest” in Ezekiel 48:23 (As for the rest of the tribes, …..)
For Micah’s other 5 occurrences of “remnant” he uses shᵉ’eriyth (rest; residue; remainder; remnant; what is left; descendants), in Micah 2:4; 4;7; 5:7; 5:8; 7:18 (translated “remnant” 44 times, “residue” 13 times, out of 66 times).
Joel uses a different word again for “remnant” in Joel 2:32 – And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. “remnant” here is sariyd (survivor; remnant; that which is left; remain/ing) Translated “remain” 12 times; “remaining” 9 times, “left” 3 times, “remnant” 2 times, “rest” 1 time, out of 28 occurrences.
Different writers do tend to use different terms but it is notable that Micah actually uses 2 different terms, both of which have been translated “remnant”. In fact, it is possible that Micah might have meant “the rest” in Micah 5:3, thus rendering it as “then the rest of his brethren shall return…” whereas Joel may have meant “the survivors whom the Lord shall call.”
The word Micah uses could imply that once that which is to be brought forth is brought forth, then the rest (or those left) of them shall return to the children of Israel. The context could suggest that it is the Messiah who is to be brought forth (especially noting Micah 5:4), and that the rest of his brethren are His people, Israel who will return (or turn back) to Israel. (Or, as one commentary suggests, do they also include the Gentiles as God’s people while Israel is blinded in part? Or is this a calvinist influence?)
Or it could suggest that what she travails to bring forth is the Gentile church; when it has been brought forth (reached fulness), then the rest of blinded Israel shall return to their fold once more (Romans 11:25-27).
Or it could mean the end of Israel’s rejection and blindness after the Gentile church has been fulfilled (Romans 11:25-27). Note in Romans 11 that Israel (the natural branches) has been pruned off her olive tree and the Gentiles (as wild branches) grafted on. Once the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled, the Church is removed again and Israel then becomes the natural branches on her own olive tree.
My view is that their Messiah will give Israel up (over) to the consequences of their iniquities until they have been punished for their sins against God. Then, when their labour pangs are over, they are brought forth purified, refined in the fire of suffering. This could have happened when they returned from Babylon, but that did not purify them for they were no better, instead maybe worse, than they had been before Babylon. Therefore this giving up of them ultimately applies until the end times when Israel is subjected to intense persecution, with a remnant ending up defending Jerusalem from the armies of Armageddon, and being delivered by their Messiah and entering the millennium, having been brought forth purified.
Zechariah 13:8-9 – 8And it shall come to pass, [that] in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off [and] die; but the third shall be left therein. 9And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It [is] my people: and they shall say, The Lord [is] my God.
Most of Israel will not survive the purifying process, but those who do survive, those who are left (“the remnant of His brethren”), will return to the sheepfold known as “the children of Israel”.
Those of Micah’s time were soon to be given over to the enemy and taken captive to Babylon to be tested and tried, and to return to their country again one day. If they had been truly purified by then, they should have received their Messiah with joy, but instead they received Him with anger and rebellion, finally rejecting Him with His gospel which was then given over to the Gentiles instead (Acts 13:44-48). Israel failed to be brought forth at this time (because they were not yet purified!), so were blinded in part and rejected, with God calling the Gentile Church as a replacement for Israel until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled (Romans 11), after which Israel would go through the testing and purifying of the great tribulation, then finally (in part only; the remnant only) turning back to their God as a cleansed Israel, becoming the Israel that God had desired of them from the beginning.
They had thought with false pride that because they were Israel (Jews) God would never turn away from them. (This is largely what Romans 9 addresses.) Yet Paul in his letter to the Romans told them clearly that just because they were physically born Jews did not automatically qualify them to be spiritual Jews (or Israel) in God’s eyes.
Romans 2:28-29 – 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.
Thus that which is brought forth is the process by which Israel is tested, tried and purified. Those who come through the purifying will come forth as pure as gold.
Job 23:10 – But he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Many of Israel will not come forth, though. Those who survive, those who remain, are the remnant of Christ’s brethren who will return to the fold as spiritual Jews, spiritual children of Abraham (Romans 4). Many will fail and fall in the testing, especially during the great tribulation; the rest will come forth as gold, turning back to Israel as God’s people and He will be their God.
Those who interpret this as the Church (as do calvinists in general) are trying to write Israel out of God’s plan, but it is impossible to see this as the Church taking over Israel’s future role. Israel one day will be brought forth, purified as gold, to take their place as the Israel of the future millennium.