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Micah 5 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Micah 5 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

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.

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.

The gospel of Matthew (2:5-6) claims that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem fulfils this prophecy. But this is unlikely since
  1. "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan: the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (1 Chr.2:18, 2:50-52, 4:4).
  2. The prophecy (if that is what it is) does not refer to the Messiah, but rather to a military leader, as can be seen from verse 5:6. This leader is supposed to defeat the Assyrians, which, of course, Jesus never did.
It should also be noted that Matthew altered the text of Micah 5:2 by saying: "And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda" rather than "Bethlehem Ephratah" as is said in Micah 5:2. He did this, intentionally no doubt, to make the verse appear to refer to the town of Bethlehem rather than the family clan.
The Gospel of Matthew does claim no such thing in Matthew 2:5, it is an answer by the chief priests and scribes of the people to Herod! Matthew just quotes their interpretation which probably was broadly accepted. And for good reason, because the Messiah would be of the seed of David, and David was from Bethlehem.
But let's look at this verse to see if it can be applied to a mere mortal: can from anyone be said his “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”? Of course not, that can only be said of God.
But to the two particulars the author of the SAB raises:
  1. According to the author of the SAB, the phrase "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan.” The clan is supposedly a reference to Caleb's second wife Ephrath (or Ephrataha), an otherwise obscure woman mentioned only in passing in 1 Chr. 2:19. Her first son was Hur who according to 1 Chr. 4:4 was the father of Bethlehem.
    Caleb was of the tribe of Judah, Num. 13:6, and so the Messiah would be. So this reference to a “clan” is also a reference to the tribe, that is correct.
    The reference “father of Bethlehem” in 1 Chr. 4:4 does not refer to a person, but to a city. The meaning is founding father. Bethlehem means “house of bread,” no one calls their son a house. The word Bethlehem always refers to a place, see Gen. 35:19, Gen. 48:7, Ruth 2:4, and many others.
    It appears the name of the place was first called Ephrath (Gen. 35:19) (so it's not named after Caleb's second wife). So the phrase Bethlehem Ephratah simply refers to a place, using both the old and new name. From the meaning of Bethlehem it is already clear it is a place.
  2. Secondly, given the ending of this verse, it is clear this cannot refer to some military leader. Christ is willing and able to deliver his people from their enemies, and in that sense he is indeed a military leader. In what sense this prophecy still will be fulfilled, I do not know.

3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.

4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

5 And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.

6 And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.

"They shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword."
Self defence is now cruelty and injustice? Please read this verse to know when this will be done to the Assyrians. “when he [the Assyrians] cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. ’

7 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

Like a young lion "the remnant of Jacob" will tear the Gentiles to pieces.
Again, see verse 6, and the next verse: these are enemies, intent on destroying Israel.

9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.

"Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off."
It is not injustice to pursue evil-doers and defend oneself against one's enemies.

10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:

11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:

(5:11-12) God will "cut off" the witches and soothsayers.
Witches and soothsayers were forbidden to be in the land of Israel, that was part of the covenant between God and Israel, see Deut. 18:10.

12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:

13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.

14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.

(5:14-15) God will destroy entire cities, and "execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen such as they have not heard."
Does God get furious?
This is the vengeance of God's righteous judgement.
On the word fury, see Is. 27:4.

15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.