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The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

111Ch 4:14 in Hebrew Now muster your troops, O daughter22That is, city of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
233Ch 5:1 in Hebrew But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5And he shall be their peace.

When the Assyrian comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men;
6they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,
and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian
when he comes into our land
and treads within our border.

A Remnant Shall Be Delivered

7Then the remnant of Jacob shall be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass,
which delay not for a man
nor wait for the children of man.
8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,
in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
9Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
and all your enemies shall be cut off.

10And in that day, declares the Lord,
I will cut off your horses from among you
and will destroy your chariots;
11and I will cut off the cities of your land
and throw down all your strongholds;
12and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes;
13and I will cut off your carved images
and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
to the work of your hands;
14and I will root out your Asherah images from among you
and destroy your cities.
15And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
on the nations that did not obey.

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The Prophet here again so moderates his words, that the Jews might understand, that they were to endure many evils before God relieved their miseries. He wished then here to prepare the minds of the godly to bear evils, that they might not despair in great troubles, nor be depressed by extreme fear. He then states these two things, — that the people, as they deserved, would be heavily afflicted, — and then that God, notwithstanding such severe punishment, would be mindful of his covenant, so as to gather at length some remnants and not to suffer his people to be wholly destroyed. He therefore promises a middle course between a prosperous state and destruction. The people, says the Prophet, shall not continue entire. — How so? For God will cut off the kingdom and the city; and yet he will afford relief to the miserable: When they shall think that they are given up to entire ruin, he will stretch forth his hand to them. This is the sum of the whole.

He then says that they shall be delivered up, that is, forsaken by God, until she who is in travail bringeth forth 144144     Until the time the begetting shall beget, (יולדה ילדה)
And the remnant of his brethren shall be converted
Together with the children of Israel.

   Newcome gives this explanation of the verse, — “The sense is: God will not fully vindicate and exalt his people, till the Virgin-mother shall have brought forth her Son; and till Judah and Israel, and all the true sons of Abraham among their brethren, the Gentiles, be converted to Christianity.” — Ed.
There are those who apply this to the blessed virgin; as though Micah had said that the Jews were to look forward to the time when the Virgin would bring forth Christ: but all may easily see that this is a forced interpretation. The Prophet, I have no doubt, in using this similitude, compares the body of the people to a woman with child. The similitude of a woman in travail is variously applied. The wicked, when they promise to themselves impunity, are suddenly and violently laid hold on: thus their destruction is like the travail of a woman with child. But the meaning of this passage is different; for the Prophet says that the Jews would be like pregnant women, for this reason, — that though they would have to endure the greatest sorrows, there yet would follow a joyful and happy issue. And Christ himself employs this example for the same purpose,

‘A woman,’ he says, ‘has sorrow when she brings forth, but immediately rejoices when she sees a man born into the world,’ (John 16:21.)

So Micah says in this place, that the chosen people would have a happy deliverance from their miseries, for they would bring forth. There shall indeed be the most grievous sorrows, but their issue will be joy, that is, when they shall know that they and their salvation had been the objects of God’s care, when they shall understand that their chastisements had been useful to them. Until then she who is in travail bringeth forth, God, he says, will forsake them

There are then two clauses in this verse; — the first is, that the Jews were for a time to be forsaken, as though they were no longer under the power and protection of God; — the other is that God would be always their guardian, for a bringing forth would follow their sorrows. The following passage in Isaiah is of an opposite character;

‘We have been in sorrow, we have been in travail,
and we brought forth wind,’ (Isaiah 26:18.)

The faithful complain there that they had been oppressed with the severest troubles, and had come to the birth, but that they brought forth nothing but wind, that is, that they had been deceived by vain expectation, for the issue did not prove to be what they had hoped. But the Lord promises here by Micah something better, and that is, that the end of all their evils would be the happy restoration of the people, as when a woman receives a compensation for all her sorrows when she sees that a child is born.

And he confirms this sentence by another, when he says, To the children of Israel shall return, or be converted, the residue of his brethren 145145     By this arrangement of the sentence, Calvin evidently meant, that “his,” before “brethren,” refers to “Israel.” In the original, the latter clause is before the former, but in Hebrew, as well as in other languages, the antecedent sometimes comes after its pronoun. — Ed. The Prophet then intimates that it could not be otherwise but that God would not only scatter, but tread under foot his people, so that their calamity would threaten an unavoidable destruction. This is one thing; but in the meantime he promises that there would be some saved. But he speaks of a remnant, as we have observed elsewhere, lest hypocrites should think that they could escape unpunished, while they trifled with God. The Prophet then shows that there would come such a calamity as would nearly extinguish the people, but that some would be preserved through God’s mercy and that beyond ordinary expectation. 146146     Most commentators differ from Calvin in their view of this verse, regarding it as a distinct prophecy of the Savior’s birth. There are difficulties on both sides: but taking the whole context, especially the following verse, we can hardly resist the conclusion, that Christ, born of a Virgin, is the subject. Indeed, the whole of this chapter, notwithstanding the reference to the Assyrian, is not capable of a satisfactory explanation, without applying what is said to Christ and his Church. Some things, no doubt, in the history of the Jews, may be alluded to, or incidentally mentioned; but the full accomplishment must be looked for in the new dispensation. And it is a splendid prophecy, in words often derived from customs and incidents among the Jews, of the birth of the Savior, and the character and extent, and blessedness of his kingdom, and the destruction of his enemies.
   Newcome and Adam Clarke propose to divide the chapter after the first line in verse 5, thinking that a new subject is there introduced: but evidently the same subject, the Gospel dispensation, is continued to the end of the chapter. The Assyrian, the especial enemy of the ancient Church, designates the enemies of the Christian Church in all ages.

   “As Sennacherib’s invasion,” says Scott, “was not repelled by the ruler or chieftains of Israel: nor did the Jews ever invade or waste the Assyrian dominions; it seems evident, that these expressions must be understood as mystically intending other enemies and persecutors of the Church, who should be of the same spirit with Sennacherib and the Assyrians.” Henry, who is much more learned critic and much profounder divine than what is commonly thought, agrees with Scott, and many others, in the interpretation of this chapter. — Ed.
We now perceive the intention of the Prophet. It now follows —