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The birth of Christ; his kingdom; his conquest.
Before Christ 710.
Micah 5:1. Now gather thyself in troops, &c.— But thou shalt be made desolate, O desolating daughter: thou shalt be surrounded by a siege; because they have smitten the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. This verse should be the last of the preceding chapter, and not the first of this; for the last fate of the Jews is here terminated; who, in the re-establishment of their kingdom, having taken much spoil from the neighbouring people, shall at length perish, when they have struck Jesus Christ, the judge of Israel, on the cheek. See Houbigant.
Micah 5:2. But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah— Ephratah was another name for Beth-lehem in the tribe of Judah, and both names are joined together to distinguish it from another Beth-lehem in the tribe of Zebulun. In the gospel by St. Matthew it is said, Thou, Beth-lehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least. In the Hebrew it is, though thou art the least, or, literally, little to be; להיות צעיר zair leheioth. The sense in both is clear and consistent, says Dr. Sharpe; for this city, though far from being the most considerable in extent of all those belonging to the princes of Judah, is nevertheless, on account of the governor or ruler who was to come out of it, not the least among the thousands of Judah. The learned Pococke, on this passage, has shewn, that the original word may signify either great or little. But this is a mode of interpretation not very admissible. If the passage be read, as in the translation from the Syriac in the English Polyglot, with an interrogation, it will have the force of a negative, and then may well be rendered, as in the Arabic and Persic versions, and in the Gospel by St. Matthew; but, if without any interrogation, it will be as it is in the other versions from the Hebrew. Hence it is evident, that the Gospel may be reconciled with the present copies of the Hebrew Bible, without any alteration of the text, which, in matter of evidence, is not to be admitted. It may be proper, however, to observe, that in the original there is neither an affirmative nor a negative particle: literally, the words are, as we before remarked, a little one to be. Now if there be any necessity for adding any thing to clear up the sense, surely an inspired apostle, quoting the decision of the whole Jewish Sanhedrin, should, above all others, be followed; and after him we might well render the passage, Thou, Beth-lehem,—art not a very little one, to be in the thousands of Judah; for, or since out of thee shall come forth, &c. And the context seems to require this, assigning the birth of this ruler in Beth-lehem as a reason why it was not a little one in reality, though such in esteem. It is added, among the thousands; which St. Matthew reads, among the princes of Judah; and for this reason, every tribe was divided into so many thousand men, as shires in England are into hundreds; over which presided an ףּאל alup,—leader, or prince, to command them in battle. Hence the same word came to signify at once a thousand and the leader of a thousand. Beth-lehem was too small in people to be reckoned as one of these thousands, or to be numbered singly in the army against the enemy; but is promised the advantage over them, in giving birth to that ruler in Israel, who is superior to all the princes of the thousands. The Hebrew word יצא ietse, rendered come forth, signifies also to be born; and so this prophesy, as the Scribes and Pharisees understood it, plainly points to Beth-lehem as the place where the ruler or king of Israel was to be born, after the Babylonish captivity was over; and thus it is impossible to accommodate it to any other ruler than the Messiah. But if this circumstance can be accommodated to no other than him, much less can that which follows: Whose goings-forth have been of old, from everlasting; to signify the perfection and excellency of the generation of the person here foretold. The prophet here describes him who, he says, should come out of Beth-lehem, and be ruler in Israel, by another more eminent coming or going forth than that from Beth-lehem, even before Beth-lehem had an existence,—from all eternity; which is so signal a description of the divine generation before all time, or of that going-forth from everlasting of Christ the eternal Son of God, God of the substance of the Father, begotten before all worlds, and afterwards in time (according to what is said, that he should come forth out of Beth-lehem) made man of the substance of his mother, and born in the world,—that this prophesy belongs only to him, and could never be verified of any other. The word ומוצאתיו amotsoothaiv, for goings-forth, that is to say, birth, is plural. It is a common Hebraism to denote the eminency or continuation of a thing or action by the plural number. From these circumstances in the text, the Chaldee paraphrast of the Jews inserts the name of the Messiah before ruler in Israel, to shew of whom the prophet is to be understood; and to signify that what follows relates also to the Messiah. He then who is the subject of this prophesy is that divine Person, who so often went forth in the name of the Lord; who conversed with Abraham and Moses, manifesting by miracles and wonders his Godhead and supreme power: who was from everlasting; and who, at last, was made manifest in the flesh, and came forth from Beth-lehem, the king of the Jews. Of no other person whatever can it be said, that he appeared, or came forth from the beginning; from the days of eternity, as it is well rendered by the LXX: he who was afterwards, in some period of time subsequent to this oracle by Micah, to come forth out of Beth-lehem, as a prince or governor,—unto me; or, before God the Father. See Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 124. Sharpe's Second Argument, p. 150 and Houbigant.
Micah 5:3. Therefore will he give them up— Notwithstanding, he will give them up, until the time that she that beareth, &c. The Hebrew word יתנם itneim, rendered give up, signifies properly, says Dr. Sharpe, so to give, as to continue or accomplish; and the pronoun them is to be referred to the goings-forth. These proceedings, or goings-forth as of old, he was not to give up, or surrender, but to give, and continue, or accomplish, until he should be born of the virgin; until she which travaileth hath brought forth. Houbigant understands it in nearly the same sense. The Hebrew word יתר ieter, rendered remnant, in the next clause of the verse, is used to signify excellency, Gen 49:3-4 and to excel, Job 4:21.Proverbs 12:26; Proverbs 12:26; Proverbs 17:7. And that this is the sense of the word here seems evident, because another word is used for remnant in the 7th and 8th verses. The word ישׁובון ieshubun, rendered to return, may without the vau, when different!y pointed, signify to dwell; Psa 23:6 and is translated in that sense by the LXX. Isai. xxl. 12. According to these observations, the prophet may be understood as implying, "After his birth, then shall his excellent brethren,—and not the remnant of his brethren,—dwell among the children of Israel." These brethren are the disciples and companions of the Lord, who are spoken of, Psalms 110:0 as eminent for worth and excellence.
Micah 5:4. He shall stand and feed— Houbigant observes, that the Messiah is said to stand, or continue on earth, in contradistinction to his goings-forth from eternity. This great shepherd is said to feed or rule; (in the LXX is added, his flock) in the majesty of his name, or, in the glorious name of Jehovah his God. This is certainly that great Personage of whom God says, My name is in him. He is to feed his sheep in the majesty of the name of God; or, the glory of God is to be manifested by the great miracles that he is to perform, and the high office that he is to discharge, as the Shepherd, the Mediator, the Lord. It is added, And they shall abide; that is to say, his disciples and followers shall be established, in consequence of his mission and miracles; and now by their ministry shall be great unto the ends of the earth. This was accomplished by the swift and amazing progress which Christianity made in the world. Houbigant very judiciously joins the first clause of the next verse to the end of this; because, says he, those words conclude the prophesy concerning the coming of the Messiah, and the light of the Gospel brought by him, who is the prince of peace. See Isaiah 9:6.
Micah 5:5-33.5.6. When the Assyrian shall come, &c.— Instead of, Shall we raise against him, &c. in Micah 5:5. Houbigant reads, Seven shepherds and eight princes of the people shall be raised against them; Micah 5:6 who shall feed upon the land of, &c. And the land of Nimrod with the edge thereof; and shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when, &c. Micah now returns, says he, to the last times of the Jewish republic, which were spoken of at the end of the preceding chapter; and, after the ruin of the Assyrians, foretels the kingdom of the seven Magi in Persia, afterwards of the eight leaders, whereof Darius the son of Hystaspes was one; by whom the Jewish republic returned to its ancient splendour. If we admit our interpretation, this deliverance must be referred to the goings-forth of the Word, which he was to accomplish before he was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Dr. Sharpe observes, "Since no person whatever was raised up to deliver the Jews when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar laid waste Jerusalem, and made the inhabitants thereof captives, in which state they continued seventy years, and as what follows manifestly relates to some future period, I cannot help thinking that the seven shepherds are the seven Maccabees; namely, Mattathias and his five sons, with Hyrcanus the son of Simon; and the eight princes, the Asmonean race; beginning with Aristobulus, and ending with Mariamne, who was married to Herod. This interpretation connects the several oracles in this and the foregoing chapter, and leads us naturally, and in due order of time, from the destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, to the birth of Christ; for, when she who travailed had brought forth in Beth-lehem, then the goings-forth of him, who in the fulness of the dispensations of God's providence was to be ruler in Israel, or king of the Jews, were perfected. Let it be observed here, that a chain of prophesy, extending from the days of Micah to those of Herod, or much longer, from Balaam to Titus, confirmed in every part by events absolutely out of all human power to have foreseen, is such an evidence of these ancient records, as ought not to be rejected." See much more on the subject, in Sharpe's Second Argument, p. 172.
Micah 5:7. And the remnant of Jacob shall be—as a dew, &c.— The dews were of the greatest service in this land, which was watered by rain only in two seasons of the year. The word dew, therefore, is used figuratively, to express any thing fructifying and exhilarating; and is well applied to the Maccabees, who, relying on the divine help, and without any foreign aid, with a small band overthrew mighty armies of the enemy, and were in their walls like lions; and young lions; bringing the greatest comfort and the highest honour to their afflicted country. See Houbigant.
Micah 5:10. And it shall come to pass, &c.— That is, in that interval of time which was between the first and last destruction of Jerusalem; for during that period the Jews worshipped no false gods, and had no prophets or soothsayers of false gods; and at the end of this period the Romans took their city, and utterly overthrew their government and nation. See Houbigant.
Micah 5:11. And I will cut off the cities, &c.— See Hosea 1:0; Hosea 7:0. Bishop Sherlock is of opinion, that the present passage is to the same import with that in Hosea; and that the meaning is, their salvation should be so perfect and complete, that they should want neither forces nor strong holds; for God would be to them instead of armies and fortified towns. See Sherlock on Prophesy, Dissert. 4: p. 382.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. Troublous times prophesied against the Jews. See the Annotations.
2. The Messiah is promised, the grand support of his true spiritual Israel in every time of their distress: the hopes of his appearing may well keep them from sinking into despair, and engage them to wait patiently for him. But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings-forth have been from of old, from everlasting. St. Matthew has left us no doubt concerning whom these words are spoken: they relate to Christ, and of him the ancient Jewish interpreters understood them. [1.] They fix the place of his nativity at Beth-lehem. [2.] They describe the office of the Messiah to be a ruler in Israel; not indeed over Israel after the flesh, but over his spiritual subjects, the children of Abraham by faith. [3.] They assert his eternal Godhead: from everlasting are his goings-forth. Though, as man, he came forth from the lineage of David, and out of the city of Beth-lehem, as God he is from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning of days or end of life.
3. Before his appearing in the flesh the Jews shall go through much tribulation. Therefore, or notwithstanding, will he give them up, for a while, to be harassed by their enemies, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; which may be referred to the blessed virgin the mother of Christ, of whom the long-expected Saviour, in the fulness of time, should be born for the consolation of Israel. But others refer these words to Christ's rejection of the Jewish nation for a while, for their unbelief, until the church, the spiritual Zion, has brought forth the fulness of the Gentiles: then the remnant of his brethren, the Jewish people, shall return unto the children of Israel, and be admitted into the gospel church. Or this may comprehend the Gentiles also, whom Christ is not ashamed to call his brethren, Heb 2:11 who with the Jews will become at last one fold under one shepherd. But see the critical notes for other interpretations.
4. The people of Christ shall then be safe and happy under his blessed government. He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, clothed with divine power, able to protect the sheep of his pasture, and watching over them with kind solicitude, providing for their wants, and ministering to them out of his fulness; in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God, being himself, in his nature and perfections, very God; and also, as Mediator, invested with a delegated power over all in heaven and earth; and therefore they shall abide, or they shall sit under his shadow, quiet and safe from fear of evil: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth, when, his Gospel being spread abroad, all flesh shall see his glory, and the nations be gathered unto him. And this man shall be the peace: man is not in the original: this shall be the peace; this Messiah, who by the blood of his cross shall make peace with God on the behalf of perishing sinners, and by his grace shall preserve his faithful people from all the enemies of his souls; when the Assyrian shall come into our land; as he delivered them from Sennacherib's invasion, so will he still protect those who cast all their confidence on him from the power of the wicked: and when he shall tread in our palaces, and seems ready to swallow up the people of God, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men: the Lord, their protector, has instruments ready to employ in the service of his believing people, and for the destruction of their enemies: and they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances therof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. And this destruction of these inveterate enemies of the church of old seems to prefigure the conquests of the Gospel, before which Satan and the powers of darkness fell as lightning from heaven; and may be considered as having respect also to the final destruction of Christ's enemies, when the Pagan, Papal, and Mahometan powers, which last now possesses these countries, shall be entirely destroyed. Note; (1.) Christ's believing people need not fear, though surrounded with enemies, or assaulted by temptations; he will be their peace when the Assyrian cometh into the land. (2.) All the church's foes shall shortly be made her footstool; a little faith and patience will issue in eternal triumphs for the faithful saints of God.
2nd, A glorious remnant of Jacob, penitently returning to the true Messiah, and embracing him by faith and constant love, shall be saved; blessed themselves, and a blessing unto others. And this remnant may be understood, either of those who were the first preachers of the Gospel, whose word distilled as the dew, and who vanquished the superstition and idolatry of the Gentile world; or of the faithful people of God in general, who are at present but a remnant, compared with the unregenerate throughout the world.
1. They shall be as the dew in the midst of many people, numerous as dew-drops, of heavenly extraction, fruitful in good works, and blessings to all around them; as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men; and so free and bounteous are the gifts of God's grace, preventing our desires, and above all our deserts.
2. They shall be as a lion among the beasts of the forest, so courageous and strong; and before them their enemies shall be as a flock of helpless sheep, unable to make the least resistance, and shall fall an easy prey. Thus shall it be at the last with all who persist in their enmity against Christ and his church: they shall perish together.
3. They shall cease from all human confidences, nor any longer need them, when all their foes are fallen. Their horses and chariots for war shall be destroyed, as useless, and the fortifications of their cities, and their strongholds be demolished: and a mercy it is when these vain confidences are taken from us, which were a temptation to us to trust on them more than in God. Their witchcrafts and unlawful arts of divination shall be cut off, and never more regarded. Every monument of idolatry shall be utterly abolished, their images and groves cast down; and the cities where idolatry prevailed, or the temples large as cities, dedicated to their idols, destroyed; or, as in the margin of our English bibles, thy enemies, both within and without.
4. Vengeance shall then light on every disobedient sinner, such as they have not heard, so terrible; or which have not heard, refused to receive the Lord Christ, and disregarded his salvation; for which judgment shall come upon them to the uttermost.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Micah 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany