World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
The Ruler from Bethlehem
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
2. Beth-lehem Ephratah—(Ge 48:7), or, Beth-lehem Judah; so called to distinguish it from Beth-lehem in Zebulun. It is a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. Beth-lehem means "the house of bread"; Ephratah means "fruitful": both names referring to the fertility of the region.
though thou be little among—though thou be scarcely large enough to be reckoned among, &c. It was insignificant in size and population; so that in Jos 15:21, &c., it is not enumerated among the cities of Judah; nor in the list in Ne 11:25, &c. Under Rehoboam it became a city: 2Ch 11:6, "He built Beth-lehem." Mt 2:6 seems to contradict Micah, "thou art not the least," But really he, by an independent testimony of the Spirit, confirms the prophet, Little in worldly importance, thou art not least (that is, far from least, yea, the very greatest) among the thousands, of princes of Judah, in the spiritual significance of being the birthplace of Messiah (Joh 7:42). God chooses the little things of the world to eclipse in glory its greatest things (Jud 6:15; Joh 1:46; 1Co 1:27, 28). The low state of David's line when Messiah was born is also implied here.
thousands—Each tribe was divided into clans or "thousands" (each thousand containing a thousand families: like our old English division of counties into hundreds), which had their several heads or "princes"; hence in Mt 2:6 it is quoted "princes," substantially the same as in Micah, and authoritatively explained in Matthew. It is not so much this thousand that is preferred to the other thousands of Judah, but the Governor or Chief Prince out of it, who is preferred to the governors of all the other thousands. It is called a "town" (rather in the Greek, "village"), Joh 7:42; though scarcely containing a thousand inhabitants, it is ranked among the "thousands" or larger divisions of the tribe, because of its being the cradle of David's line, and of the Divine Son of David. Moses divided the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, with their respective "rulers" (Ex 18:25; compare 1Sa 10:19).
unto me—unto God the Father (Lu 1:32): to fulfil all the Father's will and purpose from eternity. So the Son declares (Ps 2:7; 40:7, 8; Joh 4:34); and the Father confirms it (Mt 3:17; 12:18, compare with Isa 42:1). God's glory is hereby made the ultimate end of redemption.
ruler—the "Shiloh," "Prince of peace," "on whose shoulders the government is laid" (Ge 49:10; Isa 9:6). In 2Sa 23:3, "He that ruleth over men must be just," the same Hebrew word is employed; Messiah alone realizes David's ideal of a ruler. Also in Jer 30:21, "their governor shall proceed from the midst of them"; answering closely to "out of thee shall come forth the ruler," here (compare Isa 11:1-4).
goings forth … from everlasting—The plain antithesis of this clause, to "come forth out of thee" (from Beth-lehem), shows that the eternal generation of the Son is meant. The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable (compare Ps 90:2; Pr 8:22, 23; Joh 1:1). Messiah's generation as man coming forth unto God to do His will on earth is from Beth-lehem; but as Son of God, His goings forth are from everlasting. The promise of the Redeemer at first was vaguely general (Ge 3:15). Then the Shemitic division of mankind is declared as the quarter in which He was to be looked for (Ge 9:26, 27); then it grows clearer, defining the race and nation whence the Deliverer should come, namely, the seed of Abraham, the Jews (Ge 12:3); then the particular tribe, Judah (Ge 49:10); then the family, that of David (Ps 89:19, 20); then the very town of His birth, here. And as His coming drew nigh, the very parentage (Mt 1:1-17; Lu 1:26-35; 2:1-7); and then all the scattered rays of prophecy concentrate in Jesus, as their focus (Heb 1:1, 2).