IF THE FORWARD-LOOKING VISION OF Micah 4 does not include any description of a coming Messiah, the opening verses of Micah 5 redress the balance. The chapter begins with a sad depiction of Jerusalem and her king (Micah 5:1). Probably the historical allusion is to the invasion of the Assyrians under Sennacherib in 701 B.C. Although in God’s providence Jerusalem held up, the other walled towns of Judah were breached, and King Hezekiah was humiliated and almost overthrown. Ideally, the king from David’s line was to quell rebellion and disorder “with a rod of iron” (Ps. 2); he was to promote justice by striking with the rod of his mouth (Isa. 11:4). Yet here “Israel’s ruler” is struck “on the cheek with a rod” (Micah 5:1).
But the dynasty survives. Without filling in the intermediate steps, Micah the prophet envisages another king from the Davidic line (Micah 5:2-4). He springs from Bethlehem Ephrathah, ancestral home of David, the birthplace of his dynasty. From this village, God says, “will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). This wording is not affirming the eternal preexistence of this messianic figure (though of course it is not denying it). Rather, the glorious prospect is grounded in the past, in the ancient Davidic dynasty. When this king takes up the scepter, he will “shepherd his flock,” not in the uncertain strength of Hezekiah or any other king who precedes him in the line, but “in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” (Micah 5:4). And in due course “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth,” and the secure peace pictured in the previous chapter will be ushered in (Micah 5:4-5).
So in the fullness of time, God arranged international affairs to ensure that Jesus was born not in Nazareth, the residence of Mary and Joseph, but in Bethlehem, their ancestral home (Luke 2). It was almost as if Almighty God was going a second mile: not only would it be said that Jesus “as to his human nature was a descendant of David” (Rom. 1:3) and thus an offshoot from Bethlehem, but that he was actually born there. Indeed, when the Magi arrived in Herod’s court to inquire as to where the promised King had been born, the chief priests and teachers of the Law quoted this passage in Micah 5 to settle the matter: he would be born in Bethlehem in Judea (Matt. 2:5-6). Though the village of Bethlehem was entirely unprepossessing (“small among the clans of Judah,” Micah 5:2), with such a son it could “by no means” be considered “least among the rulers of Judah” (Matt. 2:6).