The birth of Christ and conversion of the Gentiles. (1-6) The triumphs of Israel. (7-15)
Verses 1-6 Having showed how low the house of David would be brought, a prediction of the Messiah and his kingdom is added to encourage the faith of God's people. His existence from eternity as God, and his office as Mediator, are noticed. Here is foretold that Bethlehem should be his birthplace. Hence it was universally known among the Jews, ( Matthew 2:5 ) . Christ's government shall be very happy for his subjects; they shall be safe and easy. Under the shadow of protection from the Assyrians, is a promise of protection to the gospel church and all believers, from the designs and attempts of the powers of darkness. Christ is our Peace as a Priest, making atonement for sin, and reconciling us to God; and he is our Peace as a King, conquering our enemies: hence our souls may dwell at ease in him. Christ will find instruments to protect and deliver. Those that threaten ruin to the church of God, soon bring ruin on themselves. This may include the past powerful effects of the preached gospel, its future spread, and the ruin of all antichristian powers. This is, perhaps, the most important single prophecy in the Old Testament: it respects the personal character of the Messiah, and the discoveries of himself to the world. It distinguishes his human birth from his existing from eternity; it foretells the rejection of the Israelites and Jews for a season, their final restoration, and the universal peace to prevail through the whole earth in the latter days. In the mean time let us trust our Shepherd's care and power. If he permits the assault of our enemies, he will supply helpers and assistance for us.
Verses 7-15 The remnant of Israel, converted to Christ in the primitive times, were among many nations as the drops of dew, and were made instruments in calling a large increase of spiritual worshippers. But to those who neglected or opposed this salvation, they would, as lions, cause terror, their doctrine condemning them. The Lord also declares that he would cause not only the reformation of the Jews, but the purification of the Christian church. In like manner shall we be assured of victory in our personal conflicts, as we simply depend upon the Lord our salvation, worship him, and serve him with diligence.
Micah 5:1-15 . THE CALAMITIES WHICH PRECEDE MESSIAH'S ADVENT. HIS KINGDOM, CONQUEST OF JACOB'S FOES, AND BLESSING UPON HIS PEOPLE.
1. gather thyself in troops--that is, thou shalt do so, to resist the enemy. Lest the faithful should fall into carnal security because of the previous promises, he reminds them of the calamities which are to precede the prosperity.
daughter of troops--Jerusalem is so called on account of her numerous troops.
he hath laid siege--the enemy hath.
they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek--the greatest of insults to an Oriental. Zedekiah, the judge (or king, Amos 2:3 ) of Israel, was loaded with insults by the Chaldeans; so also the other princes and judges ( Lamentations 3:30 ). HENGSTENBERG thinks the expression, "the judge," marks a time when no king of the house of David reigned. The smiting on the cheek of other judges of Israel was a type of the same indignity offered to Him who nevertheless is the Judge, not only of Israel, but also of the world, and who is "from everlasting" ( Micah 5:2 , Isaiah 50:6 , Matthew 26:67 , 27:30 ).
2. Beth-lehem Ephratah--( Genesis 48:7 ), or, Beth-lehem Judah; so called to distinguish it from Beth-lehem in Zebulun. It is a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. Beth-lehem means "the house of bread"; Ephratah means "fruitful": both names referring to the fertility of the region.
though thou be little among--though thou be scarcely large enough to be reckoned among, &c. It was insignificant in size and population; so that in Joshua 15:21 , &c., it is not enumerated among the cities of Judah; nor in the list in Nehemiah 11:25 , &c. Under Rehoboam it became a city: 2 Chronicles 11:6 , "He built Beth-lehem." Matthew 2:6 seems to contradict Micah, "thou art not the least," But really he, by an independent testimony of the Spirit, confirms the prophet, Little in worldly importance, thou art not least (that is, far from least, yea, the very greatest) among the thousands, of princes of Judah, in the spiritual significance of being the birthplace of Messiah ( John 7:42 ). God chooses the little things of the world to eclipse in glory its greatest things ( Judges 6:15 , John 1:46 , 1 Corinthians 1:27 1 Corinthians 1:28 ). The low state of David's line when Messiah was born is also implied here.
thousands--Each tribe was divided into clans or "thousands" (each thousand containing a thousand families), which had their several heads or "princes"; hence in Matthew 2:6 it is quoted "princes," substantially the same as in Micah, and authoritatively explained in Matthew. It is not so much this thousand that is preferred to the other thousands of Judah, but the Governor or Chief Prince out of it, who is preferred to the governors of all the other thousands. It is called a "town" (rather in the Greek, "village"), John 7:42 ; though scarcely containing a thousand inhabitants, it is ranked among the "thousands" or larger divisions of the tribe, because of its being the cradle of David's line, and of the Divine Son of David. Moses divided the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, with their respective "rulers" ( Exodus 18:25 ; compare 1 Samuel 10:19 ).
unto me--unto God the Father ( Luke 1:32 ): to fulfil all the Father's will and purpose from eternity. So the Son declares ( Psalms 2:7 , Psalms 40:7 Psalms 40:8 , John 4:34 ); and the Father confirms it ( Matthew 3:17 , 12:18 , compare with Isaiah 42:1 ). God's glory is hereby made the ultimate end of redemption.
ruler--the "Shiloh," "Prince of peace," "on whose shoulders the government is laid" ( Genesis 49:10 , Isaiah 9:6 ). In 2 Samuel 23:3 , "He that ruleth over men must be just," the same Hebrew word is employed; Messiah alone realizes David's ideal of a ruler. Also in Jeremiah 30:21 , "their governor shall proceed from the midst of them"; answering closely to "out of thee shall come forth the ruler," here (compare Isaiah 11:1-4 ).
goings forth . . . from everlasting--The plain antithesis of this clause, to "come forth out of thee" (from Beth-lehem), shows that the eternal generation of the Son is meant. The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable (compare Psalms 90:2 , Proverbs 8:22 Proverbs 8:23 , John 1:1 ). Messiah's generation as man coming forth unto God to do His will on earth is from Beth-lehem; but as Son of God, His goings forth are from everlasting. The promise of the Redeemer at first was vaguely general ( Genesis 3:15 ). Then the Shemitic division of mankind is declared as the quarter in which He was to be looked for ( Genesis 9:26 Genesis 9:27 ); then it grows clearer, defining the race and nation whence the Deliverer should come, namely, the seed of Abraham, the Jews ( Genesis 12:3 ); then the particular tribe, Judah ( Genesis 49:10 ); then the family, that of David ( Psalms 89:19 Psalms 89:20 ); then the very town of His birth, here. And as His coming drew nigh, the very parentage ( Matthew 1:1-17 , Luke 1:26-35 , 2:1-7 ); and then all the scattered rays of prophecy concentrate in Jesus, as their focus ( Hebrews 1:1 Hebrews 1:2 ).
3. "Therefore (because of His settled plan) will God give up to their foes His people Israel, until," &c.
she which travaileth hath brought forth--namely, "the virgin" mother, mentioned by Micah's contemporary, Isaiah 7:14 . Zion "in travail" ( Micah 4:9 Micah 4:10 ) answers to the virgin in travail of Messiah. Israel's deliverance from her long travail-pains of sorrow will synchronize with the appearance o Messiah as her Redeemer ( Romans 11:26 ) in the last days, as the Church's spiritual deliverance synchronized with the virgin's giving birth to H,.'m at His first advent. The ancient Church's travail-like waiting for Messiah is represented by the virgin's travail. Hence, both may be meant. It cannot be restricted to the Virgin Mary: for Israel is still "given up," though Messiah has been "brought forth" almost two thousand years ago. But the Church's throes are included, which are only to be ended when Christ, having been preached for a witness to all nations, shall at last appear as the Deliverer of Jacob, and when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, and Israel as a nation shall be born in a day ( Isaiah 66:7-11 , Luke 21:24 , Revelation 12:1 Revelation 12:2 Revelation 12:4 ; compare Romans 8:22 ).
the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel--(Compare Micah 4:7 ). The remainder of the Israelites dispersed in foreign lands shall return to join their countrymen in Canaan. The Hebrew for "unto" is, literally, "upon," implying superaddition to those already gathered.
4. he shall stand--that is, persevere: implying the endurance of His kingdom [CALVIN]. Rather, His sedulous care and pastoral circumspection, as a shepherd stands erect to survey and guard His flock on every side ( Isaiah 61:5 ) [MAURER].
feed--that is, rule: as the Greek word similarly in Matthew 2:6 , Margin, means both "feed" and "rule" ( Isaiah 40:11 , 49:10 , Ezekiel 34:23 ; compare 2 Samuel 5:2 , 7:8 ).
in the majesty of the name of the Lord--possessing the majesty of all Jehovah's revealed attributes ("name") ( Isaiah 11:2 , Philippians 2:6 Philippians 2:9 , Hebrews 2:7-9 ).
his God--God is "His God" in a oneness of relation distinct from the sense in which God is our God ( John 20:17 ).
they shall abide--the Israelites ("they," namely, the returning remnant and the "children of Israel previously in Canaan) shall dwell in permanent security and prosperity ( Micah 4:4 , Isaiah 14:30 ).
unto the ends of the earth--( Micah 4:1 , Psalms 72:8 , Zechariah 9:10 ).
5. this man--in Hebrew simply "This." The One just mentioned; He and He alone. Emphatical for Messiah (compare Genesis 5:29 ).
the peace--the fountainhead of peace between God and man, between Israel and Israel's justly offended God ( Genesis 49:10 , Isaiah 9:6 , Ephesians 2:14 Ephesians 2:17 , Colossians 1:20 ), and, as the consequence, the fountain of "peace on earth," where heretofore all is strife ( Micah 4:3 , Hosea 2:18 , Zechariah 9:10 , Luke 2:14 ).
the Assyrian--Being Israel's most powerful foe at that time, Assyria is made the representative of all the foes of Israel in all ages, who shall receive their final destruction at Messiah's appearing ( Ezekiel 38:1-23 ).
seven shepherds, and eight--"Seven" expresses perfection; "seven and eight" is an idiom for a full and sufficient number ( Job 5:19 , Proverbs 6:16 , Ecclesiastes 11:2 ).
principal men--literally, "anointed (humble) men" ( Psalms 62:9 ), such as the apostles were. Their anointing, or consecration and qualification to office, was by the Holy Spirit [CALVIN] ( 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ). "Princes" also were anointed, and they are mentioned as under Messiah ( Isaiah 32:1 ). English Version therefore gives the probable sense.
6. waste--literally, "eat up": following up the metaphor of "shepherds" (compare Numbers 22:4 , Jeremiah 6:3 ).
land of Nimrod--Babylon ( Micah 4:10 , Genesis 10:10 ); or, including Assyria also, to which he extended his borders ( Genesis 10:11 ).
in the entrances--the passes into Assyria ( 2 Kings 3:21 ). The Margin and JEROME, misled by a needless attention to the parallelism, "with the sword," translate, "with her own naked swords"; as in Psalms 55:21 the Hebrew is translated. But "in the entrances" of Assyria, answers to, "within our borders." As the Assyrians invade our borders, so shall their own borders or "entrances" be invaded.
he . . . he--Messiah shall deliver us, when the Assyrian shall come.
7. remnant of Jacob--already mentioned in Micah 5:3 . It in comparative smallness stands in antithesis to the "many people." Though Israel be but a remnant amidst many nations after her restoration, yet she shall exercise the same blessed influence in quickening them spiritually that the small imperceptible dew exercises in refreshing the grass ( Deuteronomy 32:2 , Psalms 72:6 , 110:3 ). The influence of the Jews restored from Babylon in making many Gentile proselytes is an earnest of a larger similar effect hereafter ( Isaiah 66:19 , Zechariah 8:13 ).
from the Lord--Israel's restoration and the consequent conversion of the Gentiles are solely of grace.
tarrieth not for man--entirely God's work, as independent of human contrivance as the dew and rains that fertilize the soil.
8. as a lion--In Micah 5:7 Israel's benignant influence on the nations is described; but here her vengeance on the godless hosts who assail her ( Isaiah 66:15 Isaiah 66:16 Isaiah 66:19 Isaiah 66:24 , Zechariah 12:3 Zechariah 12:6 Zechariah 12:8 Zechariah 12:9 , Zechariah 14:17 Zechariah 14:18 ). Judah will be "as as lion," not in respect to its cruelty, but in its power of striking terror into all opponents. Under the Maccabees, the Jews acquired Idumea, Samaria, and parts of the territory of Ammon and Moab [GROTIUS]. But this was only the earnest of their future glory on their coming restoration.
9. Thine hand shall be lifted up--In Isaiah 26:11 it is Jehovah's hand that is lifted up; here Israel's as Micah 5:8 implies, just as "Zion" is addressed and directed to "beat in pieces many people" ( Micah 4:13 ; compare Isaiah 54:15 Isaiah 54:17 ). For Israel's foes are Jehovah's foes. When her hand is said to be lifted up, it is Jehovah's hand that strikes the foe by her (compare Exodus 13:9 , with Exodus 14:8 ).
10. cut off thy horses . . . chariots--namely, those used for the purposes of war. Israel had been forbidden the use of cavalry, or to go to Egypt for horses ( Deuteronomy 17:16 ), lest they should trust in worldly forces, rather than in God ( Psalms 20:7 ). Solomon had disregarded this command ( 1 Kings 10:26 1 Kings 10:28 ). Hereafter, saith God, I will remove these impediments to the free course of My grace: horses, chariots, &c., on which ye trust. The Church will never be safe, till she is stripped of all creature trusts, and rests on Jehovah alone [CALVIN]. The universal peace given by God shall cause warlike instruments to be needless. He will cut them off from Israel ( Zechariah 9:10 ); as she will cut them off from Babylon, the representative of the nations ( Jeremiah 50:37 , 51:21 ).
11. cut off . . . cities . . . strongholds--such as are fortified for war. In that time of peace, men shall live in unwalled villages ( Ezekiel 38:11 ; compare Jeremiah 23:6 , 49:31 , Zechariah 2:8 ).
12. witchcrafts out of thine hand--that is, which thou now usest.
13. graven images . . . cut off--(Compare Isaiah 2:8 Isaiah 2:18-21 , 30:22 , Zechariah 13:2 ).
14. groves . . . cities--The "groves" are the idolatrous symbol of Astarte ( Deuteronomy 16:21 , 2 Kings 21:7 ). "Cities" being parallel to "groves," must mean cities in or near which such idolatrous groves existed. Compare "city of the house of Baal" ( 2 Kings 10:25 ), that is, a portion of the city sacred to Baal.
15. vengeance . . . such as they have not heard--or, as the Hebrew order favors, "the nations that have not hearkened to My warnings." So the Septuagint ( Psalms 149:7 ).