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The Ruler from Bethlehem

2

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.

3

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has brought forth;

then the rest of his kindred shall return

to the people of Israel.

4

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth;

5

and he shall be the one of peace.

 

If the Assyrians come into our land

and tread upon our soil,

we will raise against them seven shepherds

and eight installed as rulers.


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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 amongthough 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).

3. "Therefore (because of His settled plan) will God give up to their foes His people Israel, until," &c.

she which travaileth hath brought forth—namely, "the virgin" mother, mentioned by Micah's contemporary, Isa 7:14. Zion "in travail" (Mic 4:9, 10) answers to the virgin in travail of Messiah. Israel's deliverance from her long travail-pains of sorrow will synchronize with the appearance of the Messiah as her Redeemer (Ro 11:26) in the last days, as the Church's spiritual deliverance synchronized with the virgin's giving birth to Him at His first advent. The ancient Church's travail-like waiting for Messiah is represented by the virgin's travail. Hence, both may be meant. It cannot be restricted to the Virgin Mary: for Israel is still "given up," though Messiah has been "brought forth" eighteen and a half centuries ago. But the Church's throes are included, which are only to be ended when Christ, having been preached for a witness to all nations, shall at last appear as the Deliverer of Jacob, and when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, and Israel as a nation shall be born in a day (Isa 66:7-11; Lu 21:24; Re 12:1, 2, 4; compare Ro 8:22).

the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel—(Compare Mic 4:7). The remainder of the Israelites dispersed in foreign lands shall return to join their countrymen in Canaan. The Hebrew for "unto" is, literally, "upon," implying superaddition to those already gathered.

4. he shall stand—that is, persevere: implying the endurance of His kingdom [Calvin]. Rather, His sedulous care and pastoral circumspection, as a shepherd stands erect to survey and guard His flock on every side (Isa 61:5) [Maurer].

feed—that is, rule: as the Greek word similarly in Mt 2:6, Margin, means both "feed" and "rule" (Isa 40:11; 49:10; Eze 34:23; compare 2Sa 5:2; 7:8).

in the majesty of the name of the Lord—possessing the majesty of all Jehovah's revealed attributes ("name") (Isa 11:2; Php 2:6, 9; Heb 2:7-9).

his God—God is "His God" in a oneness of relation distinct from the sense in which God is our God (Joh 20:17).

they shall abide—the Israelites ("they," namely, the returning remnant and the "children of Israel previously in Canaan) shall dwell in permanent security and prosperity (Mic 4:4; Isa 14:30).

unto the ends of the earth—(Mic 4:1; Ps 72:8; Zec 9:10).

5. this man—in Hebrew simply "This." The One just mentioned; He and He alone. Emphatical for Messiah (compare Ge 5:29).

the peace—the fountainhead of peace between God and man, between Israel and Israel's justly offended God (Ge 49:10; Isa 9:6; Eph 2:14, 17; Col 1:20), and, as the consequence, the fountain of "peace on earth," where heretofore all is strife (Mic 4:3; Ho 2:18; Zec 9:10; Lu 2:14).

the Assyrian—Being Israel's most powerful foe at that time, Assyria is made the representative of all the foes of Israel in all ages, who shall receive their final destruction at Messiah's appearing (Eze 38:1-23).

seven shepherds, and eight—"Seven" expresses perfection; "seven and eight" is an idiom for a full and sufficient number (Job 5:19; Pr 6:16; Ec 11:2).

principal men—literally, "anointed (humble) men" (Ps 62:9), such as the apostles were. Their anointing, or consecration and qualification to office, was by the Holy Spirit [Calvin] (1Jo 2:20, 27). "Princes" also were anointed, and they are mentioned as under Messiah (Isa 32:1). English Version therefore gives the probable sense.




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