Micah prophesies the Messianic Era

The future King or leader of Israel is referred to often in the Tanach, by the various Prophets. Micah gives reference to this leader as well. Micah grew up in Moresheth-gath, a village near the Philistine border. He prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (739 – 693 BCE)1

Chapter 5 vs.1in the Tanach, (verse 2 in the Christian Bible), Micah states:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which is little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you will come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose going forth are from old, from ancient days.

Micah 5:1

This verse begins with “But you”, speaking specifically to Bethlehem Ephrathah. We have all heard of Bethlehem, but who is Bethlehem Ephrathah. This is important, because it is from this location that the remainder of the passage is addressing. King Davids family were Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.2 As well Bethlehem was once referred to as Ephrath.3 We can tell it is speaking about a specific Bethlehem, the one that King David called home, the one in Judah, also the one that is close to where Rachel was burred. Some scholars and archaeologist believe that more than one Bethlehem existed in Israel. Their understanding was that Bethlehem was used to refer to the location where a “threshing floor” was located. Bethlehem in Hebrew is: Bet Lehem or House of Bread. If there were more than one Bethlehem it would be important to know which one is being referred to.

The next phrase is speaking about the size of Bethlehem Ephrathath, as the traditional translation. However, the footnotes of the Soncino Press for the word “thousands” gives an alternate understanding. As opposed to, “… among the thousands of Judah, …” it would read, “… among the families (clans)4 of Judah,…”, as this Hebrew word is translated in Judges 6:15.

Out of this small “clan” of Judah residing in Bet Lehem the Ephrathites, will come the ruler in Israel. According to Metsudath David this doesn’t necessarily mean that the messiah will be born in Bethlehem, but his origin of old will be through David, who was born in Bethlehem.5

The final phrase of this passage is, “whose going forth are from old, from ancient days”. The phrase, “whose going forth” can be translated as, offspring, children, or descendants. Like in they are “going forth from you”. “are from old” could imply an ascension from years long before, such as ascending from King David.

The passage ends with, “from ancient days”. There are a variety of opinions on interpreting this phrase. A popular view is that God had planned this anointed descendant of King David from creation. I’m sure having been created by God, He knows our nature, and knew that we would need a messiah (anointed one) at a particular time in the future.

Please refer to (click on) my article on the 12 Attributes of the Messianic Era for further information on what is to be expected in the anticipation of the coming Messiah. – May the Messiah come quickly!

The New Testament writer of Matthew uses this passage from Micah, in his chapter 2 verse 6. He uses it to reference Jesus being born in Bethlehem.

The quote he uses in Matthew is:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” 6

Matthew 2:6

What the writer uses as a quote has a very large portion of the original prophecy missing. Whenever someone leaves out part of what they claim is a quote, I wonder why did they leave that out. The following is the quote from Micah. The quote is in bold, with the parts that the writer of Matthew uses in italics.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which is little to be among the thousands (or clans) of Judah, out of you will come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose going forth are from old, from ancient days.

Micah 5:1

Because Matthews writer says, “It is written by the prophet …” I am led to think that what follows is a quote from the prophet. However as you can see, this is not a quote. It is more of a reference to parts of a prophecy. Inferred is that a ruler will come out of Bethlehem which is small, who will be a ruler of Israel. Based on this, the “to be” ruler could be anybody born in Bethlehem. According to the Matthews account, Herod decides to have all babies under 2 years old to be killed. Jesus’s parents are warned, thus escaping to Egypt avoiding the tragedy.

The writer of Matthew uses a messianic prophecy in this story of Jesus’ early childhood, but only a portion of it, picking and choosing from the actual prophecy what will fit his scenario for the story to be told. I believe this is deceptive and can cause the reader to think that he is giving the complete prophecy, when he isn’t. If he had used the entire prophecy it would have added an entire new dynamic to his story. Also the prophecy consists of the entire chapter in Micah not just this one verse.


Jim Behnke


1The Soncino books of the Bible – The Twelve Prophets, page 153, The Soncino Press, 1961

21 Samuel 17:12 “Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse…..”

3Genesis 48:7 “But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there o the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem).”

4Or clans. Judges 6:15 “… Israel? indeed my clan (is) the poorest …”.

5The Soncino books of the Bible – The Twelve Prophets, page 175, The Soncino Press, 1961

6Matt. 2:6 NKJV

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