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The Judge of Israel Smitten on the Cheek
Several explanations of this verse have been given. The correct translation of that part is: “With a rod they have struck the Judge of Israel on the jaw. It seems that this verse has three parts, each with its own subject. There is a clear connection between the parts or subjects.
The first line is a call of the LORD to Assyria, the “daughter of the Gang of Struggles”. Assyria is called to group and stand in battle order to go to war against Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:9-2 Kings :; Psalms 83:1-1 Samuel :).
In the second line we hear what the faithful remnant says. They see the armies coming. They acknowledge that they are sent by the LORD as the inevitable judgment of the idolatry of the unbelieving mass of the Jews. Through the word “us”, Micah makes himself one with the part of the population that is faithful to the LORD. He takes his place in spirit with them in the besieged city.
In the third and fourth lines, the prophet gives the cause of judgment, the answer to the question of why that siege took place. The correct translation of that part is: “With a rod they have smitten the Judge of Israel on the cheek.” This refers to the rejection of the Lord Jesus, because He is “the Judge of Israel”. He is so called because He has the judiciary, while He has been treated and condemned so unfairly. ‘To smite on the cheek’ means to treat with contempt (cf. 1 Kings 22:24; Job 16:10).
All distress and oppression that will afflict Jerusalem in the future are the result of their rejection of the Messiah, God’s anointed King. They have humiliated and abused Him. That is why God’s anger comes upon them, an anger that He exerts by sending hostile nations against them.
A Ruler From the Days of Eternity
After the deep humiliation of Zion and all the distress that will befall the people in the future as a result of smiting “the Judge of Israel” (Micah 5:1), Micah is speaking about this Judge in more detail here. This abused and rejected Judge will go forth from Bethlehem as a Ruler. He will not only save His people from the power of the enemy, but through Him there will be blessing for the whole world. The greatness of the future Ruler over Israel, the Lord Jesus, contrasts sharply with the earlier humiliation.
The announcement of the birth follows all promises of a glorious future, because that future lies in Him, because He is the One who makes up that future. Micah first mentions the birthplace of the Messiah. That is seven centuries before His birth. Just as Micah announces the place of birth, so his contemporary Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah is born of a virgin. The special thing is, that this virgin becomes pregnant without the intervention of a man (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35).
Bethlehem means ‘bread house’ and Ephrathah means ‘fertile’. The Messiah will be the true food of His people (John 6:51) and everyone connected with Him will bear fruit for God (John 15:5). This is not something for the people of the world to become enthusiastic about. Likewise, the place of birth is not an attractive place. There is not much to enjoy. But He Who is born there is a Ruler Who will carry out the intention of God (2 Samuel 23:3; Jeremiah 30:21).
The fact that He is not born in Jerusalem, but in the insignificant Bethlehem, shows the decline of the royal house of David. Bethlehem may be an insignificant place for people, but for God this place has the greatest significance. It is the place of the birth of His Son. The Messiah will come forth from there, in accordance with the announcement of the prophet Micah. And He will come forth there “for Me”. The LORD thus says that the Messiah will be there for Him, to fulfill the promises made by Him.
The place of the birth of the Messiah is also clear to the spiritual leaders of the people when the Messiah is actually born. When Herod hears of His birth, he inquires with the chief priests and scribes about the place of Christ’s birth. They then quote this verse from Micah (Matthew 2:3-Joshua :).
It is remarkable that Matthew in his quotation replaces ‘Ruler’ with ‘Leader’ (Darby Translation). Of course, this is not a mistake. Matthew, like all other biblical writers, is led by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). God’s Spirit inspired him (2 Timothy 3:16) to quote the translation of the Hebrew text from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in which the word for ‘Ruler’ is translated by ‘Leader’. That fits exactly with the way He was born. He is certainly the born King and it is certain that He will rule. But if He had appeared as Ruler, the people would have been lost. Now He comes first to be their Leader and to shepherd them as His people (cf. 1 Chronicles 11:2).
There is another difference. Here it says “Bethlehem-Ephrathah”, while Matthew writes about “Bethlehem, land of Judah”. Ephrathah is reminiscent of the birth of Benjamin, ‘the son of the right hand’, and of the death of Rachel (Genesis 35:16-Psalms :). In Micah the thought seems to be that while all hope of life for Israel – in the picture of Rachel – is gone, the Christ – in the picture of Benjamin – appears. In Matthew, the Gospel representing the Lord Jesus as the King, it is about Judah, the tribe from which the King comes.
The false leaders of the people at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus examined and knew the Scriptures, but they did not allow the Scriptures to examine and guide them. If our familiarity with the Word of God is only rational, intellectual, it will increase our guilt because it has no effect in our lives.
For example, it is a small thing to print your initials on your Bible so that everyone knows that Bible is yours. But it is something completely different to let the Bible print its mark on you, and that is no small thing. Then you don’t have a mouth full of Bible texts, but your life shows the contents of the Bible. So you must have knowledge of the Bible, because otherwise there can be no life that is in accordance with the Bible.
In this verse Micah presents the Lord Jesus as born in Bethlehem and at the same time as the Eternal One. His origin is twofold: from Bethlehem and from the days of eternity. This indicates that He is Man and God. He has become Man, He is God eternal. Although He was born at a certain time, He is not subject to time (Psalms 90:2; Proverbs 8:22-Isaiah :). This is where the preexistence of the Messiah is taught, i.e. that the Ruler born on earth is the same as the eternal God. Isaiah also indicated His Godhead (Isaiah 9:5-Joshua :).
The Remainder of His Brethren
Micah 5:2 can be seen as an intermediate sentence. Then Micah 5:3 connects to Micah 5:1 and gives the result of the smiting of the Judge of Israel. The beginning of the verse, “therefore”, refers to the reason for giving them up. Israel is given up to its enemies because of their rejection of the Messiah.
Israel, and more specifically Judah, is given up, but it is only for a certain time. That period of time is compared to a period of childbirth. This refers to the great tribulation, the time of the many soul-exercises, the fears and difficulties that Israel goes through at that time. Israel has to go through all those deep ways, the fear, the judgments and the chastisements of God, in order to make them accept and acknowledge that it has earned those punishments because of its iniquity. The people will be like Naomi, who will be brought back to the land by grace and to whom it is given that the King will be born of her (Ruth 1:6; Ruth 4:17).
When we look at Revelation 12 with this verse, we see that Micah is talking about the end time. From the description given by John, it becomes clear that the woman who gives birth is the people of Israel (Revelation 12:1-Exodus :). The contractions of labor of which Micah speaks are still future and look forward to the great tribulation.
In the first verses of Revelation 12, John describes that the Lord Jesus was born of Israel. When He is born, the great red dragon in the person of Herod is ready to devour Him (Revelation 12:4; Matthew 2:16). That fails because God takes Him up into heaven (Revelation 12:5). This is visible in the ascension of the Lord Jesus. And then suddenly John moves us into the time of the great tribulation (Revelation 12:6). Contractions of labor overwhelm the people. That time is described in the rest of Revelation 12. But at the same time it is the announcement of the (second) coming of the Lord Jesus.
When the Lord Jesus returns, His brethren (cf. Matthew 25:40), the Judeans, His ‘tribesmen’, ‘His own flesh and blood’ (cf. 2 Samuel 19:13), will return to the land. They will convert to the LORD, together with the other tribes of the land, who are still in the scattering all over the world.
He Will Shepherd Them and Be Great
Micah continues to speak about the Ruler Who will be born. Here we see Him, the Messiah, after He has come to earth for the second time. He stands in full strength ready to serve. He has stood up for His people and has defeated their enemies. He will shepherd His people and provide for the needs of the flock of Israel. He rules His people, but He does so as a Shepherd. This is God’s ideal King and the greatest benefit for His subjects.
The first ruler in the Bible is Nimrod (Genesis 10:8). But he is a hunter. A shepherd is committed to the sheep and gives life (John 10:10), a hunter takes life. The Lord Jesus is the good Shepherd. ‘Shepherd’ is one of His most beautiful names and tasks.
His royal care and protection are beautifully expressed in His service as a Shepherd (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 7:7; Isaiah 40:11). He performs His service as the dependent Man. His strength is that of the LORD. This guarantees absolute safety. No enemy will dare to disturb the peace of the sheep. He also shepherds them “in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God”. From Him radiates the royal glory and sovereignty of God. Also in the realm of peace He is both the dependent Man and the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).
While He stands to serve, they may dwell in peace (Leviticus 26:5-Joshua :). They will never want to leave His presence again. The protection, rest, and care He offers cannot be approached by others. No one can stand in His shadow. He is great to the ends of the earth. Everything on earth is under His dominion. To whom else can they go? There is no one but Him!
He Will Be Peace
“This One will be peace” in one word describes what the coming of the Messiah will mean for the world. He has peace in Himself and grants it to His people (Ephesians 2:14; Isaiah 9:5-Joshua :; Zechariah 9:10). Peace is not only the absence of war, but includes all the salvation and restoration that God will grant to His people. That salvation is embodied in the Lord Jesus. He will be peace for Israel in three ways:
1. He will protect them from their enemies, represented in Assyria (Micah 5:5-Joshua :),
2. He will give them strength to overcome their enemies (Micah 5:7-1 Samuel :) and
3. He will destroy all weapons and idolatry, so that they will rely only on Him and no longer on their own strength (Micah 5:10-Ezra :).
Assyria here represents all hostile nations. They will think they have conquered Israel when they have robbed the people of his government by entering their palaces. There is no one left, they think, who can lead Israel in resisting their march.
Then there will be “seven shepherds” and “eight leaders”. In them we see the remnant that in complete power – the number seven speaks of perfection – and new energy – the number eight represents a new beginning – will drive out the enemy (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:2). The shepherds and leaders act on authority and in the power of the great Shepherd and Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus. They are the saviors of whom Obadiah speaks (Obadiah 1:21).
It says “we will raise”. This means that the people of Israel will set seven shepherds against the power of the enemy. As said, the number seven expresses perfection. These shepherds, under the Chief Shepherd, that is the Lord Jesus, form a perfectly functioning army to push back the upcoming enemy. The shepherds are leaders. Seven is sufficient, but by adding an eighth, the number becomes more than sufficient. The fact that they are called shepherds is in connection to Micah 5:4. The fact that they are leaders “of men” makes it clear that they are not shepherds of cattle, but of people.
He Delivers From the Enemy
The remnant strengthened by the LORD will not only drive the Assyrian out of the land, but drive him back into his own land and rule over him there with the sword. In “Nimrod” we can see Babylon and Assyria united. The beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod is Babylon (Genesis 10:10). After that he extended his territory to Assyria (Genesis 10:11). That the remnant shepherds the land of the enemy with the sword, means that the authority over that land lies with the remnant, the people of the LORD.
All the work of the remnant and its blessed results can only come about because the LORD gives the strength to accomplish this work. He has promised that He will deliver His people from Assyria if it overpowers the land. Micah and with him the God-fearing remnant affirm with certainty that the LORD will do this and that He will do it in the way just described.
Thus in Micah 5:2-Joshua : we find the Lord Jesus presented as Baby, Ruler, the Eternal, Shepherd, Peace and Deliverer.
The Remnant Like Dew and Showers
When “the remnant of Jacob” in the strength of the Shepherd has driven away the enemy and rules over him, it gets its original function of blessing for the whole earth (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18). The prophet Hosea presents the LORD as this dew for men (Hosea 14:5); here the remnant is the “dew” (cf. Psalms 110:3). Israel as the dew refers to the abundant, invigorating and fertilizing service that the people will have among the nations, through which new, powerful life will be conceived and promoted. This is the result of living together in peace as brothers (Psalms 133:3).
Also the “showers” are a blessing of the LORD (Deuteronomy 11:11; Ezekiel 34:26). Without rain, the green herb will not last long (2 Kings 19:26; Isaiah 37:27; cf. Genesis 2:5). The rain guarantees that the herb stays green all the time. The quality of society will be preserved and promoted through the teaching that the remnant will give from the Word of God (Deuteronomy 32:2). This will truly be a ‘green society’. The conversion of the people, of which the remnant is the core, will be the riches for the Gentiles (Romans 11:12).
This blessing is not because people ask for it. Also, no one is able to work this through their own effort (Mark 4:26-Hosea :). It is a fruit of grace. The people of the LORD will be like something that comes from heaven, like dew from Him Who is the Father of rain and Who gives birth to the drops of dew (Job 38:28). The remnant is born from above, its origin is heaven and not earth. They have the nature of God. They are produced in silence, just as the dew is produced in silence, without us knowing how that happens. Thus is the way of the Spirit (Ezekiel 37:7; John 3:8).
The Remnant Is Like a Lion
After the blessing that the remnant will be, a second characteristic comes here, again derived from Whom the LORD is. In the previous verse the remnant is presented as the dew because it is a characteristic also of the LORD. Now the remnant is presented as a lion. By this it shows a characteristic also of the LORD, who is also compared to a lion (Genesis 49:9; Revelation 5:5). For those who rebel against the authority of the Messiah, the remnant is like a lion. Thus, the remnant is a blessing (dew) or a judgment (lion) in God’s hand.
Lifted up Against the Adversaries
Here the prophet addresses the LORD on behalf of the faithful remnant. The reaction to the special place that the remnant receives from the LORD is the acknowledgment of His power. They will say to the LORD that His hand is lifted up (Isaiah 26:11). With this they express that they are aware that everything they can do is due to Him. This is their third characteristic.
Everything Taken Away That Man Relies On
The answer of the LORD is that He will take away everything mentioned in Micah 5:10-2 Chronicles :. They are all things on which the heart of His people trust instead of on Him. Above all, He takes this false trust away from their hearts, but at the same time destroys the tangible means on which they rely. Only in this way can Israel remain usable in the hand of the LORD. It is a characteristic of the Messianic era that all means of battle and idolatry in every form have been completely eradicated. They will not want to know more about it (Hosea 14:3).
The first carnal means to be eradicated are “horses” and “chariots” from which they derived their false human strength (Micah 5:10). They have relied on horses and chariots and multiplied them (Psalms 20:7). The LORD will eradicate them from their midst, so that they cannot be tempted to trust them again. The picture of war horses and chariot does not fit the realm of peace.
It will also no longer be possible to entrench oneself behind the city walls (Micah 5:11). They have built their cities as settlements and that gives them the feeling of security. That the LORD is their guarantor of protection and security, they don’t think about that any more. The LORD will tear down this false security. Israel will be able to live in peace in the country without external protection, but under the protection of the LORD (Zechariah 2:4-Deuteronomy :).
In Micah 5:12-1 Chronicles : it is about the false religion, the sinful worship of God. First there are the “sorceries” and “fortune-tellers” (Micah 5:12). The sorceries are exterminated “from your hand”. This may be seen in objects that are held in the hand and to which magical powers are ascribed. The foolishness to go to fortune-tellers to know what the future brings will not happen again. On the one hand because those people have been exterminated and on the other hand because the glorious future has become present.
Many of them have said to the work of their hands: ‘You are our gods’ (Micah 5:13). But now idolatry will be abolished and abandoned. The LORD will exterminate the carved images and the sacred pillars - these are both the movable and the fixed. With the idols they have erected monuments, including sacred pillars, and there are cities dedicated to idolatry (Micah 5:14). The LORD will radically deal with this too.
God’s Vengeance on Those Who Will Not Obey
When the LORD has purified His land of all that is contrary to His holiness, He will judge the nations that have not answered the call to repent. These nations are in contrast to the nations mentioned in Micah 4 (Micah 4:1). After that, the realm of peace is definitively established. There is no tolerance in the Messianic realm of peace for things that do not belong there, while the nations that refuse to join this realm are exterminated.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Micah 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany