Faith Strengthened  Table of Contents Part 1, Chapter 32 Part 1, Chapter 34
 Faith Strengthened Chapter 33  Part 1  

Micah 5:2, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me a ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from everlasting." This verse has been designated by the Christians as confirming their faith; and they assert that the prophet meant to say that their Messiah would be born at Bethlehem, and they declare that it is impossible for Israel to expect that the Messiah will be born there, seeing that the city of Bethlehem has already been destroyed.

Refutation.–For three reasons it is impossible to vindicate this prophecy in favor of Jesus, setting aside the numerous other unsubstantial arguments they allege to prove that he was the true Messiah. First, – The above scriptural passage has no special allusion to him. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem does not entitle him to the claim of being the Messiah, for hundreds and thousands of children were born at Bethlehem, and that casualty did not constitute them Messiahs. Secondly, – We read there, "From thee shall come forth unto me a ruler." Now, as to Jesus of Nazareth, he was by no means a ruler. On the contrary, the people ruled over him, as is evinced by the mode of his death. Thirdly, – It is not said that Bethlehem would be the birth-place of the Messiah, for we find that the prophet adds there, "And his going forth shall be of olden times." But the sense of the verse is this: Thou Bethlehem, although one of the minor localities among the cities of Judah, from thee a man shall come forth (i.e., trace his descent back to thee), who shall be a ruler in Israel, and that same man will be the King Messiah who will be a descendant of David who came from Bethlehem. See 1 Samuel 17:12, where he is termed "The son of an Ephrathite from Bethlehem Judah." The words "since olden times," relate to the great space of time elapsed between the reign of David and the coming of the Messiah. We must also call the attention of the reader to the chapter preceding and the passages following the verse on which we are treating, and it will then be perceived that the whole prophecy is applied to the terrific convulsions predicted to happen at the epoch of the "latter days." In connection with this prophecy must be read the announcements of Ezekiel 38 and 39, and Zechariah 14: We must not be deterred from the adoption of this interpretation by the frequent recurrence in Amos 4 of the particle which, by its signification "And now," may be considered to indicate, that the subject of the prophecy is close at hand, for we frequently find the same עַתָּה (now) is used merely to make an event present to the imagination, which event may, nevertheless, be exceedingly remote from its actual fulfillment. 

See, for instance, Isaiah 43:19, "Behold I am doing a new thing, now it shall spring forth." This prophecy treated of an event to be fulfilled long after the time in which the prophet lived, ibid. 49:19, "For now thou [O land] art straightened, and without inhabitants, but those who swallow thee up are yet far away." See also Ezekiel 39:25, "now I shall bring back the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon all the house of Israel." And ibid. 43:9, "Now they shall remove from me their lewdness and the carcasses of their kings." Thus we have also an allusion to the days of the Messiah in Micah 5:3 (English version 5:4), "For now he shall be magnified to the ends of the earth." In the same sense must be viewed the concluding words of chapter 4 (verse 14, in the English version verse one of chapter 5), "Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops, He have laid siege against us. With a rod they shall smite the cheek, even Him who is the Judge of Israel." The last words are borne out by Zechariah 14:2, "And half of the city shall go into captivity." For then the judges and leaders of the people will be exposed to the most mortifying humiliation, in order to purify the remnant of Israel by the trials of persecution. See ibid. 13:9, "And I shall bring the third part into the fire, and I shall purify them as silver is purified, and try them as gold is tried, etc." Having now shown that the verse cited at the commencement of the chapter must be interpreted in connection with the preceding passages, we will discuss it in relation to the subsequent verses. We have in Micah 5:2 [5:3] (English version 5:3), "Therefore, he will give them up until the time that she who travaileth has given birth." The meaning of this verse is, that Israel, compared with a woman in the pain of labor, shall suffer until the period of the delivery (i.e. redemption), and ultimately obtain the looked-for consolation. In like terms, says Jeremiah, in chapter 30:7, "And it is a time of trouble for Israel, and it shall be delivered there from." Thus says also Daniel in chapter 12, verse 1, of his book, "And it shall be a time such as never had been since it became a nation, and at this time thy people shall be rescued." The words and Micah 5:2 (English version 5:3), "And the remnant of his brethren shall return with the children of Israel," mean the remnant of the brethren of the Messiah—viz., the children of Judah and Benjamin who are scattered among the nations, shall return to their own land, together with the ten tribes of Israel. The word עַל in this verse has the same significance as עִם meaning together with. In the same sense it occurs in Exodus 35:22, "And the men came together with the woman." This prophecy of Micah is identical with that given in Hosea 2:2 (verse 1:11 in the English), "and the children of Judah and the children Israel shall assemble together, and they shall make unto them a chief, and go up from the land." Returning again to Micah 5:3, we further read, "And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord," etc. This must naturally be attributed to the King Messiah, who will be endowed with extraordinary powers. Then "they shall abide," which means they shall then continue in the land in undisturbed peace. With this we compare Micah 4:4, "And every man shall abide under his vine tree, and under his fig tree, and none shall make him afraid," for the awe of the Messiah shall prevail throughout the whole earth. The following words in Micah 5:4 (English version 5:5), "And this shall be the time of peace, when Ashur (i.e., Assyria) shall come into our land," are equivalent to the words in Zechariah 9:13, "And he shall speak of peace to the nations." Ashur represents the enemy who brought terror into our country: such enemies shall, in the times of the Messiah, be utterly impotent. "We shall set up near him seven shepherds and eight principal men." The rendering of עָלָיו "by or near him," is justified by the occurrence of the same Hebrew word in that verse in Numbers 2:20, "And near him" or together with him, in the tribe of Manasseh."

The words shepherds and principal men (or princes of men) relate to the leaders who will be appointed by the King Messiah. The numbers "seven and eight" must be taken as indefinite signs of number, meaning only many, as we find in Ecclesiates, "Give a portion unto seven and also unto eight." The word shepherds (i.e., pastors) is synonymous with principal men (or, literally, princes of men), and means therefore overseers of the people. Micah, chapter 5:5-6 (English version 5:6-7), continues, "And they shall lay waste the land of Ashur with the sword."

The word וְרָעוּ (and they lay waste) occurs in the same sense in Jeremiah 11:16, "And they shall break his branches", and ibid. 2:16, "And they shall break the crown of thy head." Micah then speaks of the land of Nimrod, which was Babel, as is clear from Genesis 10:10, "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." Thus the Messiah shall deliver us from the Assyrians when they come into our land, and when they break in upon our borders. The King Messiah will rescue us from the power of arbitrary tyrants, so that we shall no more be molested by invading enemies. Ashur and Bable are selected by Micah as examples of Israel’s enemies, because those two powers destroyed the holy land. The prophet then gives the consolation, Micah 5:6 (English version 5:7), "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many nations as dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the Son of Man." This verse means that those who escape the tyranny of the enemies shall be placed under the special protection of the Almighty, and no human power shall prevail against the remnant of Israel. As the descent of dew is beyond human influence, so Israel shall be beyond the reach of human influence. The prophet then introduces a second comparison and says, "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." Israel is thereby compared with the most powerful creature unto which all other animals are inferior, and therefore he resumes (Micah 5:8), "Thine hand shall be exalted above thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off." This prophecy is in connection with the following: Micah 5:9 [5:10], "And I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots, and I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds." For at that period Israel will attain a supremacy which will render war needless, and all hostile preparation will be superseded by universal peace. Hence Zechariah says, chapter 2:4, "And Jerusalem shall be inhabited as a town without walls."

The whole tendency of the prophecies we have now treated on, shows evidently that unfilled events are spoken of relating to the time of our Messiah when we shall be gathered together to the Holy Land, and when, after the overthrow of the opposing powers, universal peace shall reign on earth. No man can argue that those promises were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth, or his disciples. For the founders of the Christian religion passed their lives in unmitigated trouble, nor can it be asserted that an allusion to the Eternal God is implied by, "And his coming forth is from ancient time from the days of old." We cannot possibly attribute to the Infinite Being a "coming forth"; moreover, we shall have occasion to show, from our refutation of the Gospels, the total impropriety of giving Jesus the title of God, and from what we have advanced hitherto, it is quite evident that Jesus was just as far from being a Messiah, as he was from being a Divinity.

Note: chapter and verse numbers in brackets [] are the numbers used in the English bible.