And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda
This prophecy, which the chief priests and scribes produced, as pointing at the place of Christ's birth, is owned by both ancient and later Jews F25 to be a prophecy of the Messiah. The difference between Micah and Matthew is easily reconciled. Bethlehem is called by Micah, Bethlehem Ephratah, and by Matthew, Bethlehem in the land of Judah, and both were one and the same place. Bethlehem Ephratah was in the land of Juda, as appears from the prophecy of Micah itself, from ( Ruth 1:2 ) and the Septuagint version of ( Joshua 15:60 ) and is described in this manner by Matthew, partly to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the land of Zebulun, ( Joshua 19:15 ) and partly because its other name Ephratah was now disused, and so unknown to Herod, who was unacquainted with the books and prophecies of the Old Testament. Micah says this place was
little among the thousands of Judah.
Matthew says, "not the least". But in this is no apparent contradiction, it might be "little" and yet "not the least"; besides, it might be "little" and "not little", or "not the least" in different respects, and at different times; it might be little, mean, and contemptible as to worldly splendour, riches, number of inhabitants, pompous buildings and yet not be little or mean, when considered as the place of the birth of many great persons, such as Booz, Jesse, David and especially Christ. It might be little in Micah's time, and yet not in Matthew's; especially since it had received a considerable additional honour by Christ's being born there. Moreover, the words in Micah may be rendered, by way of interrogation, "art thou little, or the least?" To which the answer in Matthew is, "no, thou art not the least" or else the word (rbd) may be understood, and the text be translated thus; "it is a small thing that thou art among the thousands of Judah, for out of thee" a great honour shall be conferred on thee, the Messiah shall spring from thee. Again, what Micah calls "thousands", are in Matthew called "princes"; the reason of this is, because the tribes of Israel were divided into thousands, and every thousand had its prince; so that though here is a difference in words, yet none in sense. What Micah styles "a ruler in Israel", Matthew expresses by "a governor that shall rule or feed my people Israel"; but in this there is no contradiction. Add to all this, that it should be observed, that the Evangelist is not giving a version of his own, but of the chief priests and scribes; and therefore was it ever so faulty, they, and not he, must be chargeable with it; for he has acted the part of a faithful historian in giving it in the words in which they cited it F26.
F25 Targum Jon. Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi & Abendana in loc. Abarbinel Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 62. 2. R. Isaac Chizuk Emuna, p. 279.
F26 See my book of the "Prophecies of the Messiah" ch. 6. p. 104-116.