But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah
But though Jerusalem should be besieged and taken, and the land of Judea laid waste, yet, before all this should be, the Messiah should be born in Bethlehem, of which this is a prophecy, as is evident from ( Matthew 2:4-6 ) ; the place is called by both the names it went by, to point it out the more distinctly, and with the greater certainty, ( Genesis 35:19 ) ; the former signifies "the house of bread", and a proper place for Christ to be born in, who is the bread of life; and it has the name of the latter from its fruitfulness, being a place of pasture, and as we find it was at the time of our Lord's birth; for near it shepherds were then watching over their flocks; and it is here added, to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun, ( Joshua 19:15 ) ; from which tribe the Messiah was not to come, but from the tribe of Judah; and in which this Bethlehem was, and therefore called, by Matthew, Bethlehem in the land of Judah; as it appears this was, from ( Ruth 1:1 Ruth 1:2 ) ; and from the Septuagint version of ( Joshua 15:60 ) , where, as Jerom observes, it was added by the Greek interpreters, or erased out of the Hebrew text by the wickedness of the Jews: the former seems most correct; [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah;
this supplement of ours is according to Kimchi's reading and sense of the words; which, in some measure, accounts for the difference between the prophet and the Evangelist Matthew, by whom this place is said to be "not the least", ( Matthew 2:6 ) , as it might, and yet be little; besides, it might be little at one time, in Micah's time, yet not little at another time; in Matthew's; it might be little with respect to some circumstances, as to pompous buildings, and number of inhabitants, and yet not little on account of its being the birth place of great men, as Jesse, David, and especially the Messiah: or the words may be rendered with an interrogation, "art thou little?" &c. F4; thou art not: or thus, it is a "little [thing] to be among the thousands of Judah" F5; a greater honour shall be put upon thee, by being the place of the Messiah's birth. Moreover, Mr, Pocock has shown out of R. Tanchum, both in his commentary on this place, and elsewhere F6, that the word (ryeu) signifies both "little" and "great", or of great note and esteem. The tribes of Israel were divided into tens, hundreds, and thousands, over which there was a head or prince; hence, in Matthew, these are called "the princes of Judah", ( Matthew 2:6 ) ; [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in
not Hezekiah, who very probably was now born at the time of this prophecy; nor was he born at Bethlehem, nor a ruler in Israel, only king of Judah: nor Zerubbabel, who was born in Babylon, as his name shows, was governor of Judah, but not of Israel; nor can it be said of him, or any mere man, what is said in the next clause: but the Messiah is intended, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi confess, and other Jewish writers. The Targum is,
``out of thee shall come forth before me the Messiah, that he may exercise dominion over Israel.''Jarchi's note is,
``out of thee shall come forth unto me Messiah, the son of David;''and so he says, "the stone which the builders refused" ( Psalms 118:22 ) ; plainly suggesting that that passage also belongs to the Messiah, as it certainly does. Kimchi's paraphrase is,
``although thou art little among the thousands of Judah, of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah.''And Abarbinel F7, mentioning those words in ( Micah 4:13 ) ; "arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion", observes,
``this speaks concerning the business of the King Messiah, who shall reign over them, and shall be the Prince of their army; and it is plain that he shall be of the house of David: and it is said, "O thou, Bethlehem Ephratah", which was a small city, in the midst of the cities of Judah; and "although thou art little in the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall come forth unto me" a man, a ruler in Israel, "whose goings forth are from the days of old"; the meaning is, the goings forth of the family of that ruler are from the days of old; that is, from the seed of David, and a rod from the stem of Jesse, who was of Bethlehem Judah.''So Abendana F8, a more modern Jew, paraphrases the words thus,
``out of thee shall come forth unto me a Judge, that is to be ruler in Israel, and this is the King Messiah; for because he is to be of the seed of David, from Bethlehem he will be.''To which may be added R. Isaac F9, who, having cited this passage, observes, and, he, the ruler in Israel, is the King Messiah, who shall come forth from the seed of David the king; who was of Bethlehem Judah, as in ( 1 Samuel 17:12 ) . Wherefore Lyra, having quoted Jarchi, and given his sense of the passage, remarks, hence it is plain that some Catholics, explaining this Scripture of King Hezekiah, "judaize" more than the Hebrews. Though some of them object the application of it to Jesus, who they say ruled not over Israel, but Israel over him, and put him to death; which it is true they did; but God exalted him to be a Prince, as well as a Saviour, unto Israel, notwithstanding that, and declared him to be Lord and Christ; besides, previous to his death, and in the land of Israel, he gave abundant proof of his power and rule over universal nature, earth, air, and sea; over angels, good and bad; and over men and beasts: all creatures obeyed him; though indeed his kingdom is not of this world, but of a spiritual nature, and is over the spiritual Israel of God; and there is a time coming when he will be King over all the earth. Now out of Bethlehem was the King Messiah, the ruler in Israel, to come forth; that is, here he was to be born, as the phrase signifies; see ( Genesis 10:14 ) ; and here our Jesus, the true Messiah, was born, as appears from ( Matthew 2:8 Matthew 2:11 ) ( Luke 2:1-6 Luke 2:11 Luke 2:15 Luke 2:16 ) ; and this is not only certain from the evangelic history, but the Jews themselves acknowledge it. One of their chronologers F11 affirms that Jesus the Nazarene was born at Bethlehem Judah, a parsa and a half from Jerusalem; that is, about six miles from it, which was the distance between them: and even the author of a blasphemous book F12, pretending to give the life of Jesus, owns that Bethlehem Judah was the place of his nativity: and it is clear not only that the Jews in the times of Jesus expected the Messiah to come from hence, even both the chief priests and scribes of the people, who, in answer to Herod's question about the place of the Messiah's birth, direct him to this, according to Micah's prophecy, ( Matthew 2:4-6 ) ; and the common people, who thought to have confronted the Messiahship of Jesus with it, ( John 7:41 John 7:42 ) ; but others also, at other times. The tower of Edar being a place near to Bethlehem Ephratah, ( Genesis 35:19 Genesis 35:21 ) ; Jonathan ben Uzziel, in his Targum of ( Genesis 35:19 ) , says of the tower of Edar, this is the place from whence the King Messiah shall be revealed in the end of days; nay, some of them say he is born already, and was born at Bethlehem. An Arabian, they say F13, told a Jew,
``the King Messiah is born; he replied to him, what is his name? he answered, Menachem (the Comforter) is his name; he asked him, what is his father's name? he replied, Hezekiah; he said to him, from whence is he? he answered, from the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah.''This same story is told elsewhere F14, with some little variation, thus, that the Arabian should say to the Jew,
``the Redeemer of the Jews is both; he said to him, what is his name? he replied, Menachem is his name; and what is his father's name? he answered, Hezekiah; and where do they dwell? (he and his father;) he replied, in Birath Arba, in Bethlehem Judah.''These things show their sense of this prophecy, and the convictions of their minds as to the births of the Messiah, and the place of it. The words "unto me" are thought by some to be redundant and superfluous; but contain in them the glory and Gospel of the text, whether considered as the words of God the Father; and then the sense is, that Christ was to come forth in this place in human nature, or become incarnate, agreeably to the purpose which God purposed in himself; to the covenant made with him, before the world was; to an order he had given him as Mediator, and to his promise concerning him; and he came forth to him, and answered to all these; as well as this was in order to do his will and work, by fulfilling the law; preaching the Gospel; doing miracles; performing the work of redemption and salvation; by becoming a sacrifice for sin, and suffering death; and likewise it was for the glorifying of all the divine perfections: or whether as the words of the prophet, in the name of the church and people of God, to and for whom he was born, or became incarnate; he came forth unto them, to be their Mediator in general; to be the Redeemer and Saviour of them in particular; to execute each of his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; and to answer and fill up all relations he stands in to them, of Father, Brother, Head, and Husband; whose goings forth [have been] of old, from everlasting;
which is said of him, not because his extraction was from David, who lived many ages before him; for admitting he was "in [him], in his loins", as to his human nature, so long ago, yet his "goings forth" were not from thence: nor because he was prophesied of and promised very early, as he was from the beginning of the world; but neither a prophecy nor promise of him can be called his "going forth"; which was only foretold and spoken of, but not in actual being; nor because it was decreed from eternity that he should come forth from Bethlehem, or be born there in time; for this is saying no more than what might be said of everyone that was to be born in Bethlehem, and was born there: nor is this to be understood of his manifestations or appearances in a human form to the patriarchs, in the several ages of time; since to these, as to other of the above things, the phrase "from everlasting" cannot be ascribed: but either of his going forth in a way of grace towards his people, in acts of love to them, delighting in those sons of men before the world was; in applying to his Father on their account, asking them of him, and betrothing them to himself; in becoming their surety, entering into a covenant with his Father for them, and being the head of election to them, receiving all blessings and promises of grace for them: or else of his eternal generation and sonship, as commonly interpreted; who the only begotten of the Father, of the same nature with him, and a distinct person from him; the eternal Word that went forth from him, and was with him from eternity, and is truly God. The phrases are expressive of the eternity of his divine nature and person; Jarchi compares them with ( Psalms 72:17 ) ; "before the sun was, his name was Jinnon"; that is, the Son, the Son of God; so as the former part of the text sets forth his human birth, this his divine generation; which, cause of the excellency and ineffableness of it, is expressed in the plural number, "goings forth". So Eliezer F15, along with the above mentioned passage in the Psalms, produces this to prove the name of the Messiah before the world was, whose "goings forth [were] from everlasting", when as yet the world was not created.
F4 (hdwhy yplab twyhl ryeu) "parvulane es?" Drusius; "parvane sis?" Grotius; "parva es?" Cocceius.
F5 "Parum est ut sis inter chiliarchas Judae", Osiander, Grotius; "vile, ignominiosum est, esse inter millia Judae", De Dieu.
F6 Not. Misn. in Port. Mosis, p. 17, 18.
F7 Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 62. col. 2.
F8 Not. in Miclol Yophi in loc.
F9 Chizzuk Emuuah, par. 1. p. 279.
F11 R. David Ganz, Tzemach David, par. 2. fol. 14. 2.
F12 Toldos Jesu, p. 7. Ed. Wagenseil.
F13 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1.
F14 Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1.
F15 Pirke Eliezer, c. 3. fol. 2. 2.