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MICAH CHAPTER 5
The birth of Christ foretold, Micah 5:1-3;
his kingdom, Micah 5:4-7;
his complete conquest over his enemies, Micah 5:8-15.
This verse is, say some, a sharp sarcasm against Israel’s enemies. Others will have it to be a repetition of the evils, and a description how far those evils should prevail, that were ere long to come upon Judah and Jerusalem, by either Sennacherib and his Assyrians, or by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonians, to where God’s people seem thus to speak: We have heard what we must suffer for a time, and how we shall be delivered and triumph at last; and since that is the order, first afflictions, afterwards salvation, delay not, O thou enemy, but now gather thyself in troops; summon in thy forces, appoint thy rendezvous, bring thy spoiling, wasting troops, thy merciless and bloody troops, and form thy army, O Assyrian: of whom much like this doth Isaiah prophesy, Isaiah 8:6-10. And this passage of Micah may also further refer to the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar, under the violence of both which they were to suffer, and from both which the Jews should have a glorious deliverance ere long. O daughter of troops; O Nineveh, daughter of troops: from her first founder she was a city full of troops, that spoiled, Cut off, and destroyed, and had been more than ordinarily so under Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sennacherib for ninety-five years together, in the successive reigns of these four monarchs. Babylon also in her time was as troublesome to Judah, and must be this daughter of troops also. He; that is, the enemy, either Assyrian, which had taken all but Jerusalem, and did invest Jerusalem too; or Babylonian, which afterward besieged and took Jerusalem, sacked the city, burnt the temple, and captivated the people.
Hath laid siege against us; hath in prophetic style, certainly will lay siege against the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the only people of God at that time; both king, judges, and citizens were all enclosed in the siege.
They, the proud, successful, and oppressive enemy,
shall smite the judge, the king, supreme judge,
of Israel; not the ten tribes, though they are usually called by this name, but the two tribes that adhered to David’s family.
With a rod upon the cheek: this is a proverbial speech, expressing a very contemptuous usage of the person spoken of, and it was fulfilled partly when Sennacherib’s general Rabshakeh did so vilify good Hezekiah, and not content herewith vilified the God of, Israel also, as 2 Kings 18:19, &c.; Isaiah 37:23. It was more fully and literally accomplished when Zedekiah, his children, his counsellors, and his officers of state, were most barbarously used by the insulting Babylonians, 2 Kings 25:6,2 Kings 25:7; 2 Chronicles 36:13,2 Chronicles 36:17,2 Chronicles 36:18, &c.; Jeremiah 52:6, &c. Since all this must be done against us, make haste, O thou proud enemy, and do it, for it will end in our deliverance and thy ruin.
And. Beth-lehem; not in the tribe of Zebulun Joshua 19:15, but in the tribe of Judah, styled therefore Beth-lehem of Judah, Matthew 2:1,Matthew 2:6.
Ephratah; so called, say some, from Caleb’s wife; but that is not probable, for it had the name long before Caleb’s wife was thought of, as appears, Genesis 35:19. It is more likely to be called Ephratah from the richness and fruitfulness of the land where it was situate, the Hebrew word whence this is derived importing fruitfulness, whence also it was called Bethlehem, the house of bread.
Though thou be little: some read this as an interrogation, Art thou little? which ought to be resolved by a negative, Thou art not little, and so reconcile Matthew 2:6 to this of the prophet. Some read it in the neuter gender, It is a little thing for thee to be among the thousands, to have a captain, or ruler of a thousand in Judah; it is much greater honour, which shall be put upon thee; out of thee shall come he that is to be chief Ruler and Head of all the people of God, the Messiah. Much like phrase is, that 2 Kings 20:10; Isaiah 49:6; there is an exposition of the word Tsair in the text, as denoting the contrary to our usual notion of it: so Jeremiah 48:4. The Chaldee paraphrase explains it by sultans or princes, but I question whether one instance from the Scriptures can be given in which Tsair signifies great, notable, or chief; our translators have better rendered it with supplying the adversative though, and make the sense plain and easy: As for Beth-lehem Ephratah, she is so little that she is scarce to be ranged among the cities of Judah which go out by a thousand, or are led out by one that is head, prefect, or captain of a thousand.
Among the thousands of Judah: this was the royal tribe from which the Messiah was to rise; this (as other tribes) was divided into thousands, and a head appointed to each thousand; and of these the thousand, or, in our language, the regiment, of Bethlehem was one of the least to the eye.
Out of thee shall he come forth; out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the city Bethlehem, shall he come, i.e. be born.
Unto me; for to do that great work God hath designed to do by the Messiah.
That is to be ruler, King and Sovereign, in Israel; amidst the Israel of God, the whole Israel, as well that after the faith as that after the flesh. Christ the Lord in the midst of them, Micah 4:7.
Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting; whose generation, as he is the Son of God equal with his Father, is eternal: this asserts the eternity of his Divine nature.
Therefore, or nevertheless, as the particle will bear,
will he, God, the God of Israel,
give them up, to the Chaldeans, to be wasted by them, and to be led into captivity, and to be afflicted there for their sins committed in their own land against God, until the time, until seventy years be expired, the time appointed for the punishing the Jews,
that she which travaileth, the daughter of Zion, compared here to a woman in travail,
hath brought forth; be delivered out of captivity, compared here to a woman’s bringing forth, as Micah 4:9,Micah 4:10.
Then the remnant of his brethren, i.e. the brethren of the Messiah, those of Judah and Benjamin who were carried captive, shall return unto the children of Israel; being set free by Cyrus, shall return to their own land, and be there established; and they shall return with Israel rather than to: all this referring in the letter to their redemption out of Babylon, (which was the effect of the Messiah’s power and mercy towards them, as Micah 4:10; Micah 5:2) hath a further reference to a more glorious redemption, and to intervening afflictions which should fall upon the Jews, from after their restitution and resettling in Canaan. unto the coming of the Messiah in the flesh when born of the Virgin; and that of Isaiah 7:14 shall be fulfilled, when Messiah, Ben David, shall set up his kingdom, and deliver the whole Israel of God from their captivity under ignorance, sin, and hell, and shall bring in the Gentiles, that remnant of his brethren, and unite them to the true Israel, and make them one church to God.
He, the Ruler born in Bethlehem, the Messiah, shall stand: sometimes this posture denoteth the ministry of a servant, but here it speaks the readiness, cheerfulness, firmness, and stability of both the ruler, his government, and kingdom.
Feed; as a Shepherd that does diligently watch over, guide, preserve, and feed his sheep, or as rulers are called shepherds. Christ is that good Shepherd, John 10:14; and he is the righteous and holy Governor, and his government shall have no end, Isaiah 9:7.
In the strength of the Lord; in the assistance which God shall give him, for Christ-man was carried through this great work, redeeming, setting up, establishing his church by the power of the Father, who was with him, and upheld him, as was promised, Isaiah 61:1-3. All power in heaven and earth was given to Christ our Mediator, who being eternal God, of equal power with his Father, doth in his own strength overcome all enemies, removeth all difficulties, gathereth and governeth his church, and will do so to the end of the world; such visible, convincing tokens of a Divine power and glory working in him, and with those he sendeth to preach the gospel, I mean apostles, and all managed to the glory of God.
In the majesty of the name; by commission from the Lord, in whose name Christ came, preached, wrought miracles, and instituted his gospel church.
Of the Lord his God, i.e. God the Father.
They shall abide; his sheep, his subjects, his redeemed Israel, his church made up of converted Jews and Gentiles, shall continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
For; the church is so redeemed and established, that Christ the Messiah might be glorified; God will give him a glorious name, therefore these things are disposed in this manner.
Now, either ere long, or in due time, at the set time,
shall he, Messiah,
be great unto the ends of the earth; whose redeeming grace shall be published to the ends of the earth, said his dominion, his spiritual kingdom, shall be enlarged wide as the world itself. All here spoken in this verse is too great any way to be applied to Zerubbabel, as some Jews themselves confess.
This verse, as the former, is abstruse, and the particulars are not easily accommodated to times and things.
And this; so the Hebrew, and it may be read as the neuter gender, and be referred to time, or thing, or both, following in the text, thus: At that time this thing shall be our peace, viz. when the Assyrian shall invade us, we shall raise by our prayers sufficient strength against him, here expressed by seven shepherds, &c. Our version supplies the defect of the substantive with
man, i.e. the Messiah the Ruler, who stands and feeds in the strength of the Lord. Shall be the peace, which is promised to and expected by the people of God, all their preservation and deliverances are not only for the sake, but effected by the power, of the Messiah.
When the Assyrian shall come into our land; as Sennacherib did within a few years after this prophecy was delivered; and then by the power and authority of Messiah was Sennacherib and his army defeated, and Judah’s peace was secured.
When he shall tread in our palaces; which the Assyrian did in all the cities of Judah, except Jerusalem, against which he could do nothing, because God-man the Messiah was with Hezekiah and Jerusalem, as foretold. Isaiah 8:8-10; Isaiah 37:32-35.
Then, shall we; Hezekiah, and with him the prophets and people, by prayer to God, shall prevail with God to send deliverance and salvation to them.
Raise against him seven shepherds: the number is certain, but put for an uncertain; and the quality of those raised is expressed by shepherds, in a decorum to the representation of the people of God by the metaphor of sheep, or flock, of which shepherds do particularly take care.
And eight principal men: here again a determinate number is put for an indeterminate, and for a sufficient number, that the effect may be sure. God will raise a sufficient number of deliverers for his people: this is the import of this phrase, as elsewhere six troubles and seven, Job 5:19. Thus in the letter and historical reference I suppose the words do look to the wonderful deliverance of Hezekiah and Jerusalem from the Assyrian, but I doubt not they have a mystical and spiritual reference, and contain a prediction of that peace Christ did make, and doth maintain, for his churches against all enemies, typified by the Assyrian. Besides this exposition given, I must not pass over that note, viz. The word rendered peace signifieth also recompence, and so might be rendered: This shall be the recompence of the Assyrian by the seven shepherds, rendered for his invading and spoiling Judah, and for attempting against Jerusalem.
And they, the seven shepherds and eight principal men, i.e. those great, wise, and successful instruments of God’s revenge, and of his church’s deliverance,
shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword: this passage seems to point to the Babylonians, who did invade, waste, and subdue the Assyrian kingdom under the conduct of Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon, called also Berodach, 2 Kings 20:12. He sent the congratulatory embassy to Hezekiah, newly by miracle cured of his mortal disease and delivered from the Assyrian, Isaiah 39:1,Isaiah 39:2. This Merodach taking the opportunity of the weakness of the Assyrian kingdom, partly by the great slaughter of Sennacherib’s army, and the murder of that mighty, daring monarch, and partly by the civil wars which ensued between the regicides and Esarhaddon, took arms, and succeeded in the attempt, subduing the Assyrian kingdom with force and bloodshed enough.
The land of Nimrod; the same, say some, with the land of Assyria but others, perhaps with better reason, refer this to Babylon, and the kingdom thereof, which by Nebuchadnezzar’s hand destroyed the Jews, Jerusalem, and temple, and was afterwards destroyed by the Medes and Persians, whom God raised to punish Babylon and release the Jews.
In the entrances: as we read, it denoteth the fortified frontiers, the garrisons which keep all the entrances of the kingdom; it denoteth also their cities, through the gates of which was great entrance, or their courts of judicature, which were kept in the gates: both their military power should be reduced and their civil power also by the prevailing conqueror.
Thus shall he; in this manner shall he, i.e. the Messiah,
deliver us, the Jews his people,
from the Assyrian; both as type of all other enemies, and he an enemy to the people of God.
When he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth in our borders: see this explained Micah 5:1. I add, that what is rendered when might be rendered because, and note the reason why the Lord Messiah doth so deal with Assyria first and Babylon next.
The remnant of Jacob; both the remnant which surviveth the sacking and burning of their city and temple, and, carried captive, live in a scattered condition; and the whole remnant, according to the election of grace, whether of Jacob after the flesh or after the Spirit.
In the midst of many people; either among the several people under the Babylonian dominion, which may well be called many, when it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that God gave him all nations and kingdoms, Jeremiah 27:6-8; or else, amidst the nations, their neighbours, after their return and reestablishment in their own land. This remnant, wherever they are,
shall be as a dew; either subsisting and multiplying as the dew; or else, as the dew refresheth the grass, and is beneficial to it, so where this remnant is, it should be a blessing to those about them that use them friendly; so Hosea 14:5.
From the Lord; it shall be the peculiar work of God; as dew hath no other father or fountain, so the blessings on Jacob, and the blessing by him on others, shall be from the Lord. So God blesseth those that bless Abraham’s seed, Genesis 12:3. So Cyrus received his blessings, and his Persians with him, Isaiah 45:1-4.
As the showers upon the grass; the same thing in a different, but very apt expression; nations kind to Jacob should for this spring and flourish, as the grass doth by the dew and showers.
That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men; it shall be the only work of God, he shall by his immediate hand bless such, as he alone, without the help of man, giveth dew and showers. As this was fulfilled in the type, before the gospel of the kingdom was preached to all nations, so it hath been, now is, and ever shall be fulfilled in ages to come. God’s remnant shall be a blessing to the places they live in, and the persons they live with, as Jacob was to Laban, Genesis 30:27, and Joseph was to Potiphar, and to the keeper of the prison.
In the midst of many people; see Micah 5:7; who are enemies, that do injure them.
As a lion for strength and courage, which the beasts of the forest dare not oppose: and cannot resist, so Should this remnant; much like that Leviticus 26:8.
As a young lion among the flocks of sheep; a second allusion of the same import, but yet with some greater emphasis; in the former comparison, the greater cattle, called behemoth, in this sheep, much lesser and weaker cattle, are compared with the lion and young lion.
Treadeth down; overbeareth, and throws down by his strength, and treads under foot with as much ease as a man would tread on worms, or tread down straw for the dunghill.
Teareth in pieces; to devour, satisfy his hunger, and repair his strength for a new assault on his prey.
None can deliver; that dares attempt a rescue; but the prey is left under the lion’s paw, to satisfy the hungry beast: so shall Israel be after their return out of captivity, and while they keep the ways of the Lord; so they were in Esther’s time, against such as would have destroyed them; so in the Maccabees’ time, when they subdued the nations about them. But the conquering power of the word, the rod of Christ’s strength, doth greater wonders than the sword of the Maccabees ever did. It is the mighty conquering power of the gospel that is here shadowed forth to us.
Thine; Messiah, or a people of God, nay both, forasmuch as whatever these can do, they do it, not in their own power, but in Christ’s power.
Thine hand; thy strength and power, for so does the Scripture usually express strength or might.
Shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries; shall be greatly exalted, and shall be wonderfully successful against enemies, who in great multitudes did set upon the people of God; such were those who fought the Maccabees, and were defeated by them.
All thine enemies, who do obstinately hold on in the enmity of their natures, ways, and doings,
shall be cut off; finally, certainly, eternally, and dreadfully perish. This hath a partial fulfilling now, but its full completion will be when Christ will appear the Judge of quick and dead, when all his enemies shall be made his footstool, Psalms 110:1.
In that day; when the threats against the enemies, and the promises to the people of God, shall be made good.
Saith the Lord: this is added for assuring the performance of the things foretold.
I will cut off thy horses; not in judgment, but in mercy, for there shall be no such need of them, nor shall the church of God any more rely on them: so Hosea 14:3, We will not ride upon horses; though we have put confidence in them, we will do so no more.
I will destroy thy chariots; warlike chariots, prepared for war: as God alone is, so they will make him, their only trust.
And I, the Lord thy God, and thy Saviour, will cut off the cities; cut off the occasion of thy fortifying thy cities as heretofore thou hast done, thou shalt dwell in unwalled towns, and need no other defence than what I am to thee.
And throw down all thy strong holds; demolish all thy forts, and watch-towers, and frontier guards. These here mentioned are means of defence against enemies’ assaults, in which Israel had too much trusted; the others before mentioned, Micah 5:10, are offensive preparations for annoying the enemy; but in the day of that peace here spoken of, there should be no enemy should invade the people of God to put them on their defence; nor should they have any need to attempt upon their enemies; and though these means are lawful to be used, yet shall it be the happiness of God’s people not to need them, for their God, their Lord, is their Saviour in the midst of them, and he will cut off enemies round about them; so that virtually this is a promise to Israel that his adversaries should be destroyed, and so his fears disappear.
In this verse the Lord foretells the downfall of all unlawful arts which had been in use, though forbidden by the law of God, Leviticus 20:27. Though Israel should have consulted with God alone, yet they did consult with sorcerers. So did Manasseh, and before him, 2 Kings 17:17.
Thou shalt have no more soothsayers; the very art shall be out of use, and none shall openly, as formerly, consult with them, or they make profession of foretelling events, or what a lucky day or hour to set upon an enterprise, or to curse, as Balaam would have done, an enemy to make way for victory; no more of these; the oracles ceased when Christ was born: much to this purpose Zechariah 13:2; Malachi 3:5. God will, in mercy to his people, take away these stumbling-blocks, these occasions of sin.
Thy graven images; which were for the matter of them made of wood or stone, smoothed, and fashioned to the images, which the blind idolater thought did well represent his god.
Standing images: statues erected in places chosen for the purpose, fixed that they move not, had this different name from their posture, the matter still the same.
Out of the midst of thee, O Israel, in the type, and, O Israel, antitype: this is verified among the Jews, who to this day hate images for Divine uses, and learnt this in their captivity; and it is verified in the church of Christ, which condemns all religious use of images.
Thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands: it was once the great sin of the Jews to worship and rely on idols; but when God shall by the Messiah redeem both his Israels, they shall no more sin thus, Hosea 14:3, for they shall know he is the only true God, and there is no Saviour beside him.
I will pluck up thy groves: the groves where some of them abused in downright idolatrous worship, others of them used superstitiously, thus beside the word; the other way, quite against the word: but after the return from Babylon, there was a great reformation in this point, and after the appearing of the Messiah there hath been a greater eradication of idolatry.
So will I destroy thy cities, or thine enemies; for the word, here used indifferently, signifieth both, and they will either agree to this place. If cities, they are those devoted to idolatry, which, Deuteronomy 13:15, were to be destroyed; if you interpret it enemies, it is either an argument to confirm them that they shall not need horses and chariots, or defenced cities, or a further blessing promised upon the reforming fresh idolatry; this an effect or fruit of it, God will destroy their enemies when they have destroyed these idols which are his enemies.
I will execute vengeance: God speaks to our capacity, he will proceed, or act, as the Hebrew word signifieth. He is supreme Judge, to whom vengeance belongeth, and when he hath passed the sentence, and his instruments execute it, he takes it to himself: so when the Babylonians avenged the wrongs by the Assyrian done to the Jews, and when Cyrus with his Persians and Medes avenged the injuries of Babylon, this prophecy was partly fulfilled, and in succeeding times it was further fulfilled, and is now fulfilling, and so will be, until the final destruction of the wicked.
In anger and fury: this spoken after the manner of man; it includes the greatness of God’s just displeasure, and the effects of it, which are resembled to what we do when furiously angry, act with utmost strength, and in the most terrible manner we can; so God will, with as great severity and terror as flesh and blood can bear, proceed against these heathens.
Upon the heathen; literally, the nations under the Assyrian monarchy first, next the nations under the Babylonish kingdom: in the full import of the words, all the nations that are enemies to the Lord, to his Christ, and to his peculiar people, who know not God, nor obey the gospel.
Such as they have not heard; with unparalleled terror; and so they shall be made warning-pieces to others.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Micah 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany