Micah 5:2
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come forth for Me One to be ruler over Israel, whose origins are of old, from the days of eternity.
Sermons
A New David: the Lowliness and Majesty of the MessiahE.S. Prout Micah 5:2
AdventW. Perkins.Micah 5:2
Bethlehem and its BabeThe ThinkerMicah 5:2
ChristHomilistMicah 5:2
ChristD. Thomas Micah 5:2
Christ's BirthplaceR. Aikman, D. D.Micah 5:2
Of the NativityLauncelot Andrewes, D. D.Micah 5:2
Prophecy of the NativityJ. Jowett.Micah 5:2
The Incarnation and Birth of ChristCharles Haddon Spurgeon Micah 5:2
The King of ZionJ. Summerfield, A. M.Micah 5:2
The Littleness of Bethlehem, and the Greatness of ChristW. H. P. Faunce.Micah 5:2
The Promise of MessiahA. Rowland Micah 5:2
Thoughts respecting the lowliness of the Messiah cluster around the reference to his birthplace. Bethlehem was so small and unimportant that it was "little to be among the thousands of Israel." It was like one of our hamlets, not even attaining to the dignity of a parish. From this village there went forth a youth unknown to fame, and almost unnoticed among his own kindred (1 Samuel 16:11; Psalm 78:70, 71). Even after the establishment of David on the throne, his birthplace was allowed to remain in its former insignificance; or, if honoured for a time, sank into obscurity again (as Micah testifies), just as the royal family of David itself sank into such a low estate that it could be compared to the stump of a tree cut down and giving little promise of a renewed vigorous vitality (Isaiah 11:1). This lowly condition of both the home and the house of David corresponds to the debased condition of the Jewish Church at the time of the advent. It was "despised," "hated," "afflicted" (Isaiah 55:14, 15). In that hamlet Jesus, the Christ, was born. Now note the contrasts that have followed.

1. Bethlehem has become one of the most notable places in the world - a theme for poets, a subject for artists, a goal for pilgrims. Its names have received a new and higher significance. Bethlehem has become a "house of bread" for a dying world; Ephratah has been "fruitful" in the richest blessings for the human race.

2. The family of David is now, through Jesus Christ, the most exalted family of the earth. Contrast the Ptolemies, Caesars, and other royal names.

3. The Jewish Church sprang to a now life. It has taken a place of supreme influence among the nations, not simply through Christ himself, but through the works and writings of his apostles and evangelists. Great as these blessings are already, we shall see greater things than these. "The kingdom" shall be restored, "yea, the former dominion shall come (Micah 4:8). For ages there had been "no king" (Micah 4:9), at the best only a temporary "judge" (ver. 1). Israel still held as its ideal king David the great. Its ideal should be more than realized. A new David shall come forth "unto me," and in God's Name and strength shall rule (ver. 4). Victory is promised under figures suggested By existing foes (vers. 5-9). In those spiritual triumphs of Jesus Christ we shall see the fulfilment of the predictions of his everlasting dominion. And in these victories of grace his nation will take a share, and will be still further glorious in the eyes of God and man (Isaiah 55, 66, etc.). The prediction of a Ruler so mighty, yet of such lowly origin, prepares for the description of a still greater glory. And the fact of the power and influence in the world of the Babe of Bethlehem prepares us to receive, nay, more, requires us to believe in, his Divine dignity. The "coming forth" from Bethlehem can only be explained by previous "goings forth." These words declare:

(1) The preexistence of the Messiah (John 8:58).

(2) His previous manifestations and operations - in creation (John 1:3), providence (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3), and as the Divine Angel of Jehovah (Genesis 18., etc.).

(3) Eternal existence. Because thou art "from everlasting," therefore "thou art God" (Psalm 90:2; John 1:1). Nothing but the truth of the Deity of Christ can explain the predictions of him or unlock the mysteries of his character and his life. The more lowly his origin and all the facts of his earthly life, the more inexplicable his present majesty, unless we acknowledge him as personally Divine. - E.S.P.







But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah
The Thinker.
The Jews regarded this text as a prophecy of Messiah's birthplace. Micah, though a prophet of Divine wrath, is also a prophet of Divine promise. Next to Isaiah, he is richest in Messianic prediction.

I. CONCERNING BETHLEHEM. Micah is noted for his "rapid transitions" from one topic to another — from threats to promises. The prophet addresses the village by both its names, Bethlehem Ephratah. The patriarchal name Ephratah means "fruitfulness." It was one of the most fertile parts of Palestine, and its natural fruitfulness was a prophecy of its spiritual fruitfulness. Bethlehem means the "house of bread," and points to its specific form of fertility, its rich corn land. The prophet marks with wonder its insignificance. It was too remote ever to become a place of importance.

II. CONCERNING CHRIST. We cannot select our birthplace and circumstances, but Christ could. The Saviour came to teach humility, and to reverse the maxims of the world. Bethlehem was the city of David, and Christ was to be of the seed of David. We have also the description of Christ's office. "Ruler in Israel." He came to found a kingdom. The description of Christ's person, the eternity of God the Son, is also contained in the text.

III. LESSONS.

1. We are taught the grace of lowliness.

2. The name "house of bread" reminds us of the great Sacrament.

3. The prophetic description helps us to realise the two natures in one Divine Person.

4. Obedience to our King is the way to reach up to the higher mystery of His timeless generation (John 7:17).

(The Thinker.)

Bethlehem cannot account for Jesus. Do mangers bring forth Messiahs? Things bring forth after their kind. It is true that genius often arises from lowliest station, and the great human powers seem to make way for themselves through narrowest surroundings.

1. Consider the meaning of this fact, that from the lowliest of peasants sprang the soul that has swayed the mightiest intellects of the world. The moving powers of the eighteen centuries have been themselves moved by Jesus Christ.

2. That out of the most materialistic of religions came the most spiritual of teachers. Judaism clung with almost ferocious tenacity to external signs and symbols.

3. That out of the narrowest of races came the most universal of teachers. The characteristic of Judaism, ancient and modern, is its refusal to recognise the universal element in religion or in humanity.

4. That out of an age which exalted power as supreme, came One who exalted love as supreme in God and in man. The symbol of Rome was the rapacious, unwearied eagle. Military virtues were supreme. The Jews wanted a conquering general as Messiah. Out of such environment and atmosphere came One who exalted the feminine virtues, and proclaimed that the meek should inherit the earth. And as Bethlehem could not produce Christ, it could not confine Christ.

(W. H. P. Faunce.)

One great use of prophecy is to give authority and weight to the doctrines delivered by the prophet. In order that the evidence arising from prophecy may be perfectly convincing, it seems necessary that the meaning of the prediction should be somewhat obscure at first; otherwise the friends and followers of the prophet might perhaps find means to bring about a fulfilment of it; or his opposers might, in some cases, prevent its accomplishment. It must, however, be sufficiently precise to verify the event when it comes to pass. However obscure and mysterious, a prophet's words could not fail to be striking and interesting. The text pro vides an excellent specimen of prophetic methods. Suppose you had never heard of any event which could be regarded as a fulfilment of Micah's prediction, in what light would it appear to you? However perplexing, there is one thing you would understand. A town is distinctly referred to. There the Person foretold by Micah was born seven hundred years later.

I. THE HUMAN BIRTH OF JESUS. It is a human birth that is foretold. The place where David was born was to be the birthplace of a second David, the Saviour of the world. Observe how singularly the prediction was fulfilled, without the least suspicion of human contrivance, merely by God's secret overruling providence.

II. THE ETERNAL GODHEAD OF CHRIST. "Whose goings forth have been from everlasting." To those who first heard this language, how strange it would appear! Something more than human is here described. Words like these are never applied to any creature; but to God the Creator they are frequently applied. The language of Micah gives the twofold character of the Messiah.

III. HIS MEDIATORIAL DIGNITY. He is —

1. Our Ruler.

2. Our Restorer.

3. Our Shepherd.His administration of all these offices shall one day be universal.

(J. Jowett.)

Homilist.
I. HIS BIRTH AS THE SON OF MAN.

1. He was born in obscurity. As a protest to the ages against the popular and influential opinion that human dignity consists in birth and ancestral distinctions.

2. He was born according to Divine plan. "Out of thee shall He come forth unto Me." Who? Jehovah. The fact of His birth, the scene of His birth, the object of His birth, were all according to a Divine plan. "He shall come forth unto Me."

(1)According to My will.

(2)To do My will.

3. He was born to an empire. "To be Ruler in Israel." He is the Prince of Peace on whose shoulder the government is laid. He is a Ruler. Not a temporal ruler, temporal rule is but a shadow. He is to rule thought, intelligence, soul. He is the greatest king who governs mind; and no one has obtained such a government over mind as He who, eighteen centuries ago, "came forth out of Bethlehem Ephratah." His kingdom is increasing every day.

II. HIS HISTORY AS THE SON OF GOD. "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," or, as Delitzsch says, "Whose goings forth are from olden time, from the days of eternity."

(Homilist.)

There is no applying this verse to any but to Christ.

I. THE PLACE OF HIS BIRTH. Bethlehem; spoken of as little, and Ephrata fruitful." There were two Bethlehems. One in the tribe of Zebulon. It was a sorry poor village.

II. THE PERSON THAT COMETH FROM THIS PLACE.

III. OF BOTH HIS NATURES. "As Man from Bethlehem; as God from everlasting.

IV. HIS OFFICE. Go before us, and be our Guide. He not only leads, He feeds.

(Launcelot Andrewes, D. D.)

I. THE PROMISED MESSIAH IN HIS TRUE NATURE. A Man. Come out of Bethlehem. He was born there. More than man. The prophet speaks of a twofold going forth, of Bethlehem, and "from everlasting." True God as well as true Man.

II. JESUS IN HIS CHARACTER AS RULER. What are regal acts? The exercise of legislative and judicial authority. The legislative consists in making and repealing laws. The judicial in executing or applying laws.

III. JESUS IN HIS CHARACTER AS SHEPHERD. Who are His sheep? First the Jews, then the Gentiles. As a shepherd His care is constant — He changes not. It is tender and discriminating care. It is effectual. He gives us life.

(J. Summerfield, A. M.)

This passage has always been regarded as one of the clearest and most striking of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah. The gradations in the revelations of Christ have always awakened the attention of Bible readers. First, we have the old word in Eden from the lips of the Lord God to the serpent about his seed and the seed of Eve: "It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Out of which dim Messianic germ grows the whole wonderful mediatorial history, its conflicts, its alterations, its reversals, and its eternal triumph in the endless overthrow of its great adversary. Then, about 1600 years later, the Shemitic division of the human race is indicated as the favoured one, rather than Japhet or Ham. By and by Abraham was selected from the sons of Shem to be the head of the Hebrew race, from whom the Redeemer should come. Two hundred years later Jacob, on his dying bed, points out the particular tribe of Israel from whom the Shiloh or Prince of Peace shall be born. No further revelation was then made for about seven hundred years, when the house of David, of the tribe of Judah, was declared to be the favoured family, and about three hundred years after that, in the days of Hezekiah, the prophet Micah reveals the place where Messiah shall be born. This was all that was known for the next seven hundred years, but every intelligent Jew knew that the coming Messiah was to be the Son of David, and was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah. "Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah." So unimportant was Bethlehem in the old times, that Joshua in his enumeration of the cities and villages of Judah gives it no mention: Rehoboam made it a sort of outlying fortress to Jerusalem, and the Philistines at one time had a garrison there, the place being a strong natural position. But it never grew to size, or became of any national importance, except for its associations. Although the birthplace of David, the great king, yet it never rose above the grade of an obscure Jewish village. In the list of Judean villages which Nehemiah gives after the Captivity it is not named, and in the New Testament, after the birth of Jesus and in that connection, its name never once occurs. So little was Bethlehem Ephratah. And it did not seem destined to any more commanding place in history when, in later times, a plain-looking couple drew near the village, a young wife and her husband, travelling on foot, because very poor, although both of the lineage of David. For not only was Bethlehem little, but the exceeding low condition to which the family of the great king had sunk appears from the fact that Joseph and Mary, who could trace their pedigree up to David through a long line of kings, were thus poor, and received no sort of recognition in the crowded village. But Bethlehem Ephratah was now to be immortalised indeed. Athens, Ephesus, Alexandria, Rome, all were extant, some of them at the very pinnacle of their glory, but the glory of Bethlehem was henceforth to surpass them all. You will mark here the words "unto Me. The birth of Christ was an event whose relations were chiefly Godward. Christ's coming to the earth is inconceivably the greatest of all events to us; but, after all, God the Father, and the eternal glory of the Godhead, are concerned in it in a way we cannot now fully understand, but of which the Scriptures give us distinct intimations. It would be quite in accordance with the choice of little Bethlehem as the birth place of the Divine Lord, and the passing by of the great places of the world, if God should have chosen our small earth, this little globe, to be the scene of the wondrous Incarnation, passing by those far mightier worlds in space whose magnitude dwarfs into insignificance this minute planet; here, in a world whose absence would hardly be missed from the vast system, to enact scenes of unparalleled importance to all worlds, illustrating all the principles of the Divine government and the most precious attributes of the Divine Nature. The word Ruler" is suggestive. The usual Old Testament idea of Christ is that of the head of a kingdom or dynasty. The representations of Isaiah, chapter 53, and of the prophet Zechariah, are exceptions to the general Old Testament thought of the Messiah. Elsewhere it, is the Shiloh or Prince, the King in Zion, the son of David enthroned — He upon whose shoulders has been laid the government, who is to reign over the house of Jacob forever, and to whose kingdom there is to be no end. The connection of these last words with the former words of the prophecy are wonderfully instructive; "He shall come forth out of thee, little Bethlehem," and the words, "He whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Have they not great suggestions of the nature of the coming Messiah? Does the Old Testament know nothing of the mystery and the miracle of the Saviour's birth, of the human and the divine, of the advent in time and the glory with the Father before the makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice." It is used to denote that which proceeds out from any one, as speech or language. Deuteronomy 8:3, "By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live." Thus it comes to have the meaning of origin, descent, an outgoing of existence, which is its import in our text The old divines declare it to be a proof text of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Without feeling called on to adopt that phrase, yet I fully agree with one of them who says, "We have here Christ's existence from eternity; the phrase, 'His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,' is so signal a description of Christ's eternal generation, or His going forth as the Son of God begotten of the Father before all worlds, that this prophecy must belong only to Him, and could never, be verified of any other." We embrace the mysterious truth of Christ's humanity and divinity as herein declared; one of the clearest prophecies of this sublime foundation doctrine of the Scriptures which they anywhere contain. With what greatness does this invest the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem! If He had indeed come to little Bethlehem, whose goings forth were from everlasting, then all the miracles He performed were the simplest outstretching of His hand; the obedience to Him of demons, of nature, of death, were mere matters of course; the attendant angels, the awaiting legions ready at His call, were but the renewed services of cherubim and seraphim who had of old listened to His commands standing round His heavenly throne. There is not time even to glance at the triumphs which this birth in Bethlehem has already won. How it has given the era to all human history, guided the life of nations, subjected the intellects of the greatest of men, moulded the sentiments of civilised society, yea, made true society a possibility; rescued women and the family from degradation, uplifted the poor, guarded the rights of the weak; won the deep, unquenchable love of millions upon millions of true human hearts; stood by the martyr's rack, walked with him in the furnace; put the arms of support beneath dying pillows, and uplifted to the eternal hills the successive generations of the believing children of God. All these things have been done through that birth in Bethlehem Ephratah. There can be no greater things in kind, but there are yet to be greater in the extent of the victory.

(R. Aikman, D. D.)

The thought of the prophet is, that God is about to restore the monarchy in Israel by a return to its original starting point, the ancestral house and home of David, and to restore it in surpassing greatness and power. As in the days of Saul's apostasy and the kingdom's peril, He had taken from thence a man to sit upon the throne, so again when wickedness with its long train of miseries had brought the nation low, a Deliverer was to come forth from the place that had given David to Israel. The prophet had asked (Micah 4:9) as he beheld the desolation of his country, "Is there no king in thee?" And here the answer is given. Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries. The former was the prophet of the city, the latter of the country. The power and wealth of the kingdoms had become centralised in the two cities, Samaria and Jerusalem. The condition of the country was like France in the years before the Revolution, when Paris was France, and the provinces were despised and oppressed; pillaged to feed the luxuries and vices of the metropolis; It was joy to the rural prophet to know that God would pass by the pomp and pride of the city, and bring forth the king from a place that was little among the thousands of Judah." A parallel is plainly instituted between what God had once done in Israel's history and what He is about to do. Bethlehem, that had already furnished one king, the typical king, should furnish yet another. The scene of Christ's advent, its significance concerning Himself.

1. It declared His advent to be the advent of a King. Bethlehem was identified in every mind With the throne of Israel, with the royal house of David. Insignificant in itself, it was famous through its association with Israel's great king. The kingly idea was enshrined in Bethlehem. It is a prediction of His royalty.

2. It declared His advent to be not according to human ideas and expectations. It was a surprise to Samuel when he was sent to Bethlehem to anoint the son of Jesse, and his surprise deepened as the stalwart elder brethren were rejected. The wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, naturally expecting to find the new king in the great city. But they found him not at Jerusalem, but at Bethlehem. He is to be a King after God's mind, and not according to human thought. His royalty is to be the royalty of His own nature, and not of earthly circumstance and rank.

3. It declared the character of His kingly rule. "He chose David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds. He brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance." It intimated that his shepherd life was the preparation and the pattern of his kingly life, that as a shepherd with his flock so was the king over his people; ruling them for their good, defending them from their enemies, risking his life for them, carrying into the affairs of his kingdom the spirit of a shepherd with his sheep. In like manner when we hear that another King is to rise from Bethlehem we conclude that His rule will be of the same kind. He too will be a Shepherd King, ruling not by force but by gentleness, seeking not His own gain but the good of His people, caring for the weak, recovering the lost.

4. It declared that His advent was demanded by the condition of others, by the need, the misery of those to whom He came. Men have sought sovereignty at the bidding of their own ambition. The Bethlehem King was called to it by God Himself, called to it by the national crisis, by the misery of the people, the degradation of the land. The prophet sees everywhere anarchy and confusion, oppression and wrong, weakness and suffering. The advent of Christ is the advent of a King whose presence is demanded by the need and misery of men. He does not come to set up a kingdom for Himself, that is, for personal ends. He comes into the world because the world cannot do without Him.

5. The unprecedented greatness of the future King, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Coming into the world centuries after David had fallen on sleep, He is yet before David. He is David's Lord as well as David's Son. His advent is the manifestation of One whose nature knows neither youth nor age, whose sovereignty has no beginning and no end. "From of old, from everlasting." The scene of His advent teaches chiefly the greatness of His condescension and humiliation. He "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," links Himself with time, enters into human history, associates Himself with earthly places.

(W. Perkins.)

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