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Micah 5:1-2

1. Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.

1. 140140     Calvin has, in this division, followed the Septuagint, and so have the translators of our version. This verse, in Hebrew, belongs to the last chapter. Marckius, Dathius, and Henderson, follow the Hebrew division; Junius, and Tremelius, and Newcome, that of our version. Nunc colligas te (vel, obsidione cingeris, ut alii vertunt) filia congregationis (hoc est, turmae;) obsidionem posuit contra nos; in virga percutient ad maxillam judicem Israel.

2. But thou, Bethlehem 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.

2. Et tu Beth-lehem Ephrata, parva ad essendum (ut ita loquar) inter millia Jehudah; ex te mihi egredietur ad essendum dominatorem (sic transfero durius, ut sit dominator) in Israel: et egressus ejus ab initio, a diebus seculi.

 

To encourage the faithful to patience, the Prophet again reminds them that hard and severe time was nigh; for it was needful to put them in mind often of the approaching calamity, lest terror should wholly discourage them. As then there was danger from despair, the Prophet often repeats what he has already said of God’s judgment, which was then suspending over the people of Israel. And this mode and order of teaching ought to be observed. When the Prophets threaten us, or denounce the punishment we have deserved, we either become torpid, or grow angry with God, and murmur: but when they set forth any thing of comfort, we then indulge ourselves and become too secure. It is therefore necessary to connect threatening with promises, so that we may be always ready to endure temporal evils, and that our minds, sustained by hope, may, at the same time, depend on the Lord, and recomb on him. It was for this reason that the Prophet again mentions what he had already several times stated, — that the Jews would be surrounded by a siege. How do these two things agree, — that the enemies, assembled together, would be like sheaves which are taken to the floor to be trodden by the feet of animals, — and that the Jews would be besieged? I answer, that these things harmonize, because the temporary punishment, which God would inflict on his Church, would not prevent him to restore it again whenever it pleased him. Lest, therefore, security should creep over the minds of the godly, the Prophet designed often to remind them of that dreadful calamity which might have entirely upset them, had no support been afforded them, that is, had not God sustained them by his word.

Now then thou shalt assemble thyself, he says, O daughter of a troop The verb התגדדי, etgaddi, and the noun גדוד, gadud, sound alike; as though he said, Thou shalt he collected, O daughter of collection. The Prophet addresses Jerusalem: but we must see why he calls her the daughter of collection. Some think that by this word is designated the splendid and wealthy state of Jerusalem; as though the Prophet said, — “This city has been hitherto populous, but now it shall be reduced to such straits that none shall dare to go forth beyond its gates, for they shall on every side be surrounded.” But the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop in another sense, — because they were wont to occasion great troubles: as thieves agree together, and meet in troops for the purpose of committing plunder; so also the Prophet calls Jerusalem the daughter of a troop, for its citizens were wont willfully to do great evils, and like robbers to use violence. Thou then, he says, shalt now be collected; that is, thou shalt not send forth thy troops, but enemies shall assemble thee together by a severe siege, so that thou shalt contract thyself like a bundle.

There are, then, two clauses in this verse, — that though the Lord resolved to help his Church, he would yet straiten her for a time, — and then the Prophet shows the reason, lest they complained that they were too severely treated: “You have been hitherto,” he says, “without a cause oppressive to others: the time then is come when the Lord will return to you your recompense.” As Isaiah says

‘Woe to thee, plunderer!
Shalt thou not also be exposed to plunder?’
Isaiah 33:1;

so also in this place, — “Ye have assembled in troops, that ye might pillage innocent men; therefore other troops shall now encircle you; nay, ye shall be beset by your own fear.” The verb is in Hithpael: he says not, “Thou daughter of a troop shalt be now encircled;” but he says “Thou shalt gather thyself.”

He then adds, A siege has he set against thee. This may refer to God; but it must be understood only of enemies: for the Prophet immediately adds, They shall strive with the rod, etc. in the pleural number, — They shall then strike with the rod the cheek of the judge of Israel. He means that the Jews would be subdued by their enemies that their judges and governors would be exposed to every kind of contumely and dishonor, for to strike on the cheek is to offer the greatest indignity; as indeed it is the greatest contempt, as Demosthenes says, and is so mentioned by the lawyers. We now then perceive, that the Prophet’s object was to show, — that the Jews in vain boasted of their kingdom and civil constitution, for the Lord would expose the governors of that kingdom to extreme contempt. The enemies then shall strike their judges even on the cheek. 141141     This verse has been variously interpreted. It is considered by most as connected with the last chapter. Some, as Marckius, consider it as an address to the Roman power; some, to the Babylonian; and others, to Jerusalem. The construction of it is the main point. The first verb, תתגדדי, is found in six other places, and rendered in all, except in Jeremiah 5:7, to cut one’s self; but its other meaning, as in Jeremiah 5:7, and evidently here is to troop or band together; and the noun גדוד, which follows, commonly means a band or a troop. The participle שם, in the next clause, can refer to nothing in the text but to “the daughter of a troop.” The obvious and natural rendering of the verse would be the following, —
   Band thyself together, thou daughter of a band,
Laying against us a siege:

With the rod shall they strike on the cheek
The judge of Israel.

   The daughter of a band or a troop means a military power, which collects bands or troops for warlike purposes. It is certainly more obvious to apply this to the Babylonian power than to Jerusalem, especially as the next line, “Laying against us a siege,” necessarily refers to the latter.

   “The judge” is, as Calvin seems to take it, a poetical singular for the plural. No particular person is meant, as Newcome and others seem to think, but judges in general. — Ed.

But there follows immediately a consolation: we hence see that the Prophet, at one time, humbles the children of God: and prepares them for enduring the cross; and then he mitigates all sorrow; yea, and makes them to rejoice in the midst of their evils. For this purpose he adds what follows —

Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, art small, that thou shouldest be among the thousands of Judah As Matthew quotes this passage differently, some think that it ought to be read as a question, And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art thou the least among the provinces of Judah? Matthew says “Thou art by no means the least, thou excellest. 142142     This does not follow; for to say that it was “not the least,” is not to deny that it was “small.” There is, in fact, no contradiction in the expressions. Matthew quotes literally neither the Hebrew nor the Septuagint version. The latter, in this case, agrees with the former. He gives the sense, but not the words, even in two instances besides this. Instead of “Ephratah,” he has, “in the land of Judah;” and instead of “Ruler,” he has, “Governor that shall rule,” or feed. The meaning in these three instances is the same, though the words are different. The place was, in former times, called Bethlehem-Judah, and also Ephratah. See Genesis 35:19; Judges 17:7; and Ruth 4:11.
   The attempt by a question to produce similarity of expressions in the second line, according to what is done by Marckius and Newcome, is by no means to be approved. The literal rendering is the following: —

   And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah!
Small to be among the thousands of Judah,

From thee shall
one to me come forth,
To be a Ruler in Israel:
And his going forth
has been
From of old, from the days of ages.

   The word for “going forth” is plural, which, as Calvin says, is sometimes used for the singular; but two MSS. Have it in the singular number, מצאתו. The last line in the Septuagint is as follows, — απ αρχης, εξ ημερων αιωνος

   “In every age, from the foundation of the world, there has been some manifestation of the Messiah. He was the hope, as he was the salvation, of the world, from the promise to Adam in paradise, to his manifestation in the flesh four thousand years after.” — Adam Clarke.Ed.
” But what need there is of distorting the words of the Prophet, as it was not the design of the Evangelist to relate the expressions of the Prophet, but only to point out the passage. As to the words, Matthew had regards to the condition of the town Bethlehem, such as it was at the coming of Christ. It then indeed began to be eminent: but the Prophet represents here how ignoble and mean a place Bethlehem then was, Thou, he says, art the least among the thousands of Judah. Some, not very wisely, give this explanation, “Thou art the least among the thousands of Judah”; that is, “Though there might be a thousand towns in the tribe of Judah, yet thou couldest hardly have a place among so great a number.” But this has been said through ignorance of a prevailing custom: for the Jews, we know, were wont to divide their districts into thousands or chiliads. As in the army there are centurions, so also in the divisions of every nation there are hundreds; there are also in an army tribunes, who preside over a thousand men. Thus the Prophet calls them thousands, that is, tribunes; for the districts are so arranged, that the town, which, with its villages, could bring forth three thousand men, had three prefectures; and it had three tribunes, or four or five, if it was larger. The Prophet then, in order to show that this town was small and hardly of any account, says, Thou, Bethlehem, art hardly sufficient to be one province. And it was a proof of its smallness that hardly a thousand men could be made up from Bethlehem and its neighboring villages. There were not, we know, many towns in the tribe of Judah; and yet a large army could be there collected. Since then the town of Bethlehem was so small, that it could hardly attain the rank of a province, it is hence no doubt evident that it was but a mean town. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view.

Thou, Bethlehem, he says, art small among the cities of Judah; yet arise, or go forth, for me shall one from thee, who is to be a Ruler in Israel. He calls it Bethlehem Ephratah; for they say that there was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulon, and we know that Ephratah in meaning is nearly the same with Bethlehem; for both designate an abundance of fruit or provisions: and there David was born.

I will now proceed to the second clause, From thee shall go forth for me one who is to be a Ruler Here the Prophet introduces God as the speaker, go forth, he says, shall one for me. God declares in this passage that it was not his purpose so to destroy his people, but that he intended, after a season, to restore them again. He therefore recalls the attention of the faithful to himself and to his eternal counsel; as though he said, — “I have thus for a time cast you away, that I may yet manifest my care for you.” For me then shall go forth one who is to be a Ruler in Israel. Now there is no doubt but that the Prophet at the sable time recalls the attention of the faithful to the promise which had been given to David. For whence arises the hope of salvation to the chosen people, except from the perpetuity of that kingdom? The Prophet now says, — “There is indeed a reason, according to the perception of the flesh, why the faithful should despond; for whence does their confidence arise, except from the kingdom of David? and from what place is David to arise? Even from Bethlehem; for Bethlehem has been called the city of David; and yet it is an obscure and a small town, and can hardly be considered a common province. Since it is so, the minds of the faithful may be depressed; but this smallness shall be no hindrance to the Lord, that he should not bring forth from thence a new king.”

Even before the time of David Bethlehem was a small town, and one of the most common provinces. Who could have expected that a king would have been chosen from such a hamlet, and then, that he should come from a hut? for David belonged to a pastoral family; his father was a shepherd, and he was the least among his brethren. Who then could have thought that light would have arisen from such a corner, yea, from so mean a cottage? This was done contrary to the expectations of men. Hence the Prophet sets here before the faithful a similar expectation for their comfort; as though he said, — “Has not God once formed a most perfect state of things by making David a king, so that the people became in every respect happy and blessed? And whence did David come? It was from Bethlehem. There is then no reason why your present miseries should over-much distress you; for God can again from the same place bring forth a king to you, and he will do so.”

Thou then Bethlehem, small art thou, etc. The prophet doubtless intended here that the faithful should consider of what kind was the beginning of that most perfect state, when David was chosen king. David was a shepherd, a man in humble life, without reputation, without influence, and even the humblest among his brethren. Since then God had drawn light out of darkness there was no cause for the faithful to despair of a future restoration, considering what had been the beginning of the previous happy condition of the people. We now understand the Prophet’s meaning. But the rest I cannot finish today; I must therefore defer it till tomorrow.


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