Micah 5:1-15 – Will the Messiah come from Bethlehem?

Micah prophesied during the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham (750–735 B.C.), Ahaz (735–715), and Hezekiah (715–687). Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Though the theme of judgment is prominent in each of Micah’s messages, the prophet also stressed restoration. He was confident that someday the Lord would restore the people of Israel to a place of prominence in the world under the Messiah. This is a verse-by-verse study of Micah 5:1-15 to see what Micah says about the coming Messiah.

“Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will strike the judge of Israel on the cheek (Micah 5:1 NASB 1995)

Now muster yourselves in troops, Daughter of troops. Things will be so bad within the city of Judah that the people will have to muster themselves as a band of defenders. These words appear to be Micah’s encouragement to the people to resist the siege, an effort which proved to be unsuccessful. Jerusalem may be referred by the term “daughter of troops” because wherever the prophet looks he sees people and troops with anxious faces crowding together in terror.

They have laid siege against us. This may be the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, as Micah includes himself in the siege, however, Sennacherib (the Assyrian King) didn’t have Hezekiah in his power like this. Alternatively, this siege may refer to Jehoiachin’s capitulation to Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon in 597 BC (2 Kings 24:10–12) or Zedekiah’s downfall in the siege of 587 BC (2 Kings 25:1–7).1 The prophet identifies himself, perhaps because he is of the people who were to be attacked, destroyed, and dispersed. 

With a rod they will strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. The “judge of Israel” spoken of here is its leader.  Striking upon the cheek is a gross insult (Job 16:10; 1 Kings 22:24). The complaint of the prophet is that the enemies have been and still are insulting the representative of Jehovah ruling in Jerusalem. What is subtly being hinted in this verse is that Israel would continue to suffer terribly at the hands of their foes until the coming of Messiah.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel (Micah 5:2)

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah. Here, Micah shifts his focus from weak kings to the victorious Messiah. Ephrathah refers to Bethlehem, which is in the land of Judah. The reason for including the name Ephrathah was to ensure this Bethlehem was not the Bethlehem of Zebulon (Joshua 19:15), but the Bethlehem of Judah, also known as Ephrath or Ephrathah. People of Bethlehem were known as “Ephrahthites” (Ruth 1:1-2; 1 Samuel 17:12).

Too little to be among the clans of Judah. Bethlehem is little in size, as compared to other areas in Judah, but by no means the least in significance, since the Messiah was born there.  From the clans come the rulers, so this ruler would not come from the glorious, metropolitan city of Jerusalem, but from a tiny town, one of the smallest towns in Judah. God chooses the small and lowly for his saving acts “so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor 1:27–30). 

From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. Out of an insignificant and backwater town, there is One coming who would be a mashal, or ruler, in Israel, who will come on Yahweh’s behalf.

His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity (Micah 5:3)

His times of coming forth are. His times of coming forth could indicate His origins, or that the Messiah made multiple appearances since ancient times, indicating He pre-existed. This fits well with the appearances of the Angel of the Lord (Exodus 23:20-23) in the Old Testament, who speaks as Almighty God himself. Some Jewish authors such as Rabbi Bachya Ben Asher, and Rashi saw something divine about this Angel of the Lord.2

From long ago. This ruler comes from “qedem” meaning “of old” or from “ancient times”. Qedem is used of God Himself elsewhere in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 33:27; Habakkuk 1:12). It is also used elsewhere in Micah to refer back to God’s promises to the patriarchs, which He made ‘from days of qedem’ (Micah 7: 20).

From the days of eternity. From “yemei ha Olam,” meaning “from everlasting” or “ancient times”.Since, Messiah reprises the career of David, “who was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah” (1 Sam 17:12). This may refer to the fact that “his origin is from long ago, from ancient times”, referring to the time of David.

However, the Hebrew words for “from long ago, from the days of eternity” are the strongest Hebrew words ever used for eternity past.4 They are used of God in Psalm 90:2. Hence, “olam” could be translated as eternal (Micah 2:9, 4:5,7); it also may be used in a non-eternal sense (see also Micah 7:14), but the context would determine the meaning.

Influential medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi, interprets Micah 5:2 as a clear Messianic prophecy; and he interprets the end of the verse as pointing to the preexistence of the Messiah (or, at the least, of his name) rather than as pointing only to Bethlehem as the ancient city of David (which is made clear at the beginning of the verse).3

Christians understand Micah 5:2 to be a prophecy about the Messiah. Consistent with the expectations of the Messiah, the New Testament shows Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and was a Son of David (2 Samuel 7).  Alfred Edersheim (A.D. 1825-1889) was a Jew who believed in Jesus Christ and became a follower of Him. He was educated at a Hebrew school and the University of Vienna. He wrote a book named “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.” In it he wrote,

As shown by the rendering of the [Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, called ] Targum Jonathan, [that was made in the 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E.], the prediction in Micah 5:2 was at the time universally understood as pointing to Bethlehem, as the birthplace of the Messiah. That such was the general expectation, appears from the Talmud, where, in an imaginary conversation between an Arab and a Jew, Bethlehem is authoritatively named as Messiah’s birthplace….”6.

Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 5:3)

Therefore He will give them up. Nevertheless, God would give up his people [the Jews] into the hands of their enemies while a promise of a Messiah still stands.

Until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Micah already referred to Judah metaphorically as a woman in childbirth when he said: “That agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth” (Micah 4:9). Therefore, “she who is in labor” appears to be a reference to Judah’s suffering, and “Has given birth” may be a reference to “relief” that would eventually come from Israel giving birth to the Messiah, who would gather back His people, which at the time of the Messiah refers to the people who have placed their faith in the Messiah.

Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel. If this is literal, it would mean that remainder of the tribes of Israel (upon their conversion), will join themselves together with the believing children of Israel at a future time or if this is spiritual, it must refer to Messiah’s brothers and sisters, whom Jesus defined as those who do his will (Mark 3:35), which includes the “remnant” of the believing Jews and Gentiles.

And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4)

And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord. After inaugurating His kingdom, the Messiah “will shepherd his flock”.

In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. Messiah will be possessing the majesty of all Jehovah’s revealed attributes.

And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  After inaugurating his kingdom, Messiah greatness will extend to the ends of the earth even as it does today.

This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, When he tramples on our citadels, Then we will raise against him Seven shepherds and eight leaders of people (Micah 5:5)

This One will be our peace. It isn’t just that the Ruler from Bethlehem brings peace; He is peace. In Isaiah 9:6, one of the titles of the coming Messiah is Prince of Peace. People who are experiencing great travail, but who will ultimately be redeemed from their suffering will abide in eternal peace, because the Messiah’s kingdom will more than supplant those of enemy nations like Assyria. This promise of eternal peace is yet future, waiting to be fulfilled upon the return of the Prince of Peace.

When the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our citadels. At the time Micah delivers this prophesy, the Assyrians, the only enemy he ever knew, were besieging Jerusalem. And so, he represents Messiah’s enemies as the Assyrians, which appears to be a representation of all enemies of the Messiah and His people. 1

Then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight leaders of people. Micah identifies the restored remnant (people of faith) as having “seven”, the perfect number, and “eight” is added to indicate that there will be more than enough leaders to overcome oppression when enemies come against God’s people.

They will shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances; And He will rescue us from the Assyrian when he invades our land, and when he tramples our territory. (Micah 5:6)

They will shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances. These leaders shall not only defend their own land against the enemy, but shall carry the fight of faith into the hostile territory, conquer it, and overcome with rigour. Nimrod probably is a synonym for Assyria. True religion has always a war to wage with error and worldliness, but shall conquer in the power of Christ.  Since the time of the Messiah, the enemy is the world, flesh, and Devil (who may act through people and nations); the Shepherd is Jesus Christ; his leaders are the Spirit endowed believers (1 Pet 5:1–5); their sword is the Word of God (Eph 4:7–12).

And He will rescue us from the Assyrian when he invades our land, and when he tramples our territory. People of God have to undergo much tribulation and many struggles, but Messiah shall save them. 


Then the remnant of Jacob Will be among many peoples Like dew from the Lord, Like showers on vegetation That do not wait for man, Or delay for mankind. (Micah 5:7)

As the remnant of Jacob (people of faith) becomes a strong nation, it will become, on the one hand, like “dew” and “showers,” meaning, they will be signs of God’s blessing to others. The falling rain and dew is neither helped nor hindered by man, for the processes of nature go on while man slumbers; in the same way the vitalizing influences will proceed from the faithful to everyone on their path.

The remnant of Jacob Will be among the nations, Among many peoples Like a lion among the animals of the forest, Like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which, if he passes through, Tramples and tears, And there is no one who can rescue. (Micah 5:8)

The transformed remnant will also become like a fearsome “lion among animals of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which tramples and tears”. Nothing or no one can resist successfully the power of the remnant (people of faith).

Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries (Micah 5:9)

All the enemies of the Messiah will not succeed.

 “And it will be on that day,” declares the Lord, “That I will eliminate your horses from among you, And destroy your chariots.  I will also eliminate the cities of your land, And tear down all your fortifications. 12 I will eliminate sorceries from your hand,  And you will have no fortune-tellers. 13 I will eliminate your carved images And your memorial stones from among you, So that you will no longer bow down To the work of your hands. 14 I will uproot your Asherim from among you, And destroy your cities.15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath On the nations which have not obeyed.” (Micah 5:10-15)

Messiah will protect His people from enemies within: He “will destroy all their false confidences: war horses, strongholds, witchcraft (Isa 2:6–8), and idols (5:10–14). These idols included both sacred stones—phallic symbols of a male god—and Asherah poles—fertility symbols of the female goddess. These represent any thing that man desires more than Christ.On the other hand, he will protect it from enemies without by “taking vengeance in anger and wrath against the nations that have not obeyed Him.”


See also:


1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/commentary/micah/

2. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-teachings/who-is-the-mysterious-angel-of-the-lord/

3. https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/04/18/does-micah-52-indicate-that-the-messiah-is-divine/

4. https://www.preceptaustin.org/micah_5_commentary

5. https://truthaccordingtoscripture.com/commentaries/whe/micah-5.php#.Y5v7fnbMKUk

6. https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/christmas-accounts/jewish-rabbis-believed-micah-52-is-about-the-messiah/

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