Micah 5:2 and 5:6, the Bethlehemite

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders.

//Micah prophesied the arrival of a military savior who would rescue Israel from the Assyrians. When no such savior appeared, this prophecy was retained in the minds of later readers as a general reference to the anticipated Jewish Messiah. 

The Christian claim, of course, is that Jesus was (and is) this very Messiah. Micah 5:2 is quoted by Matthew as evidence that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, so Matthew clearly recognized Micah’s prophecy as relating to Jesus.

But why didn’t Matthew read the entire chapter before referencing verse two? Did he really think Jesus would fight a military battle against the Assyrians? If Matthew expected a military victory from his Messiah, did he think the defunct Assyrian dynasty would be restored after 600 years? Do those who expect Jesus to return and fight at Armageddon expect the Assyrian dynasty be restored after 2,600 years?

These sorts of questions highlight the problem with taking Old Testament Bible prophecies of Jesus literally. Matthew was no idiot; he surely knew he was reinterpreting the Bible as he quoted Micah. If the authors of the Gospels, thought by many to be the very disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus, knew the prophecies were being fulfilled in a symbolic or other non-literal way, why should we read the Bible literally today? Why do we imagine, for example, that Revelation’s horrors are to be interpreted literally?


  1. 1. The OT prophecies often (as Micah 5) combine aspects of the Lord’s first coming and His second coming. These combinations are sometimes separated in quotations in the NT (such as part of Micah 5 applying to the Lord’s first coming).
    2. The war at Armageddon and the crushing of the great image in Daniel 2, both at the Lord’s second coming, include the Lord’s triumph over the legacy of all past empires of the world.

  2. I’m still not clear on how the defunct Assyrian dynasty plays into Armageddon, either in Matthew’s time or ours…

  3. We think about things chronologically. The Assyrian empire existed, then fell, begin replaced by the Babylonian empire, then the Grecian empire… God has a different view, as presented in Daniel 2. The great image represents four empires, sequentially from head to feet. Verse 34: “You were watching until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the image at its feet of iron and clay and crushed them.” The stone crushed the feet, the last empire (in time). Verse 35: “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed all at once, and they became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Although the stone struck the feet (v 34), in God’s view it crushed all four empires (v 35), and even all other empires that existed on this earth (including Assyria). Verse 35 shows God’s choice/judgement – to crush all the empires (even those that in our human view are long defunct) and make them like chaff so that no trace of them is found. (Don’t ask me for further explanation; this is all I have.) Then the heavenly stone becomes the kingdom of God manifested openly and filling the whole earth.

  4. Assyria and the other conquered nations then become a typology, reflected again in New Testament times and again in our times, is that right?

    If Matthew perceived Jesus as the victor over this typological nation (e.g. Rome, in Matthew’s time) … and victory apparently arrived in a non-violent way for Matthew’s era … may we then interpret Revelation’s victory in a similar non-violent way for our time?

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