OUTLINE OF MESSIAH'S CAREER ACCORDING TO MICAH
THROUGHOUT the predictions of the various prophets one finds scattered prophecies of the Messiah and of His work. These predictions are, considered apart from all others, partial and fragmentary; but, when understood properly and correlated with kindred passages, they present two different and well-defined pictures. These pictures are so very clearly presented and so very different that many Hebrew scribes, doctors of the law, and teachers explain them as two different persons--the Messiah of suffering and the Messiah of glory. This interpretation, however, when all of the facts in the case are properly understood, does not seem to the author to be the correct one. To him it appears that these two pictures present the one person at different times of His career. This conclusion is confirmed by the facts which are presented in the prophecy of Mic. 5:1-5, which passage gives a panoramic or birds eye view of the entire career of the Messiah in His relation to Israel. These partial or fragmentary views of the Messiah in the light of this passage are seen to be special pictures of Him at different times and when properly correlated and brought together constitute the identical picture of the present passage.
In Mic. 5:2 the prophet says that there shall come forth from Bethlehem of Judah, He Who is to be "Ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." This passage has correctly been interpreted by many great Hebrew scholars to be a prediction of the Messiah. According to it, He arises out of Bethlehem, "Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." This quotation makes it quite clear that Israel's ruler existed prior to the time of His coming forth from Bethlehem, namely from eternity. That the expression,וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם מִימֵי עוֹלָם "and His goings forth are from of old, from ancient days," means from all eternity, i.e., that this one is the self-existent Eternal One, is seen from the fact that in Hab. 1:12 the eternity of God is expressed by the words מִקֶּדֶם "from everlasting." Hence, He can be none other than the Eternal God, who existed from eternity.
עַתָּה תִּתְגֹּדְדִי בַת־גְּדוּד מָצוֹר שָׂם עָלֵינוּ בַּשֵּׁבֶט יַכּוּ עַל־הַלְּחִי אֵת שֹׁפֵט יִשְׂרָאֵל: וְאַתָּה בֵּית־לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָה מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא לִהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם מִימֵי עוֹלָם: לָכֵן יִתְּנֵם עַד־עֵת יוֹלֵדָה יָלָדָה וְיֶתֶר אֶחָיו יְשׁוּבוּן עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: וְעָמַד וְרָעָה בְּעֹז יְהוָה בִּגְאוֹן שֵׁם יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו וְיָשָׁבוּ כִּי־עַתָּה יִגְדַּל עַד־אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ: וְהָיָה זֶה שָׁלוֹם אַשּׁוּר כִּי־יָבוֹא בְאַרְצֵנוּ וְכִי יִדְרֹךְ בְּאַרְמְנוֹתֵינוּ וַהֲקֵמֹנוּ עָלָיו שִׁבְעָה רֹעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה נְסִיכֵי אָדָם׃
"Now shalt thou gather thyself in troops, 0 daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us; they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will He give them up, until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth: then the residue of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock 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. And this man shall be our 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" (Mic. 5:1-5 (4:14-5:4).
Isaiah, Micah's contemporary, looking toward the future, prophesied of the coming of the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, in the form of a child.
כִּי־יֶלֶד יֻלַּד־לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל־שִׁכְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִי־עַד שַׂר־שָׁלוֹם׃
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6(5).
By Micah it is specially stated that Messiah shall be born in Bethlehem of Judah, which is located about six miles south of Jerusalem. A comparison of these prophecies establishes the facts that both prophets saw the one and same person, and that that one is the Messiah. From this conclusion there can be no escape.
In Mic. 5:3 one further reads, "therefore will he give them up, until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth." The word "therefore" seems to introduce the conclusion from something which has just preceded. An examination of the preceding verses would seem to indicate that the only possible statement to which it can refer is the following one: "They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek"--an outburst of anti-semitism, and also a revolt of Israel against not only a judge of Israel, but "the judge of Israel."
At this point it is necessary to note a special outstanding characteristic of the prophetic Word, which may be illustrated thus: One may from his position, looking in a certain direction, see ranges of mountains, those in the distance being higher than and towering above the nearer ones. At one glance he sees the different ranges, which, from his position, appear to be very close together, whereas in reality they may be separated by many miles. In describing the scene before him he may speak of the range nearest him, and, in the same breath, of the mountain peaks of the more distant range or ranges. It is thus with prophecy frequently. From the context of this passage, it is certain that the prophet sees in the immediate foreground of his prophetic view, the Babylonian captivity (Mic. 4:9,10), which lasted for seventy years, and the restoration under Zerubbabel. From 4:11 to 5:1, like the distant mountain range towering above the nearer ones, appears the great final distress of the Hebrew nation in the time of Jacob's trouble, the Babylonian siege under Nebuchadnezzar being a type of the final one of the nations under the false Messiah. The prophet sees Israel emerging from this titanic struggle a victorious conqueror. From other Scriptures (cf. Zech. 14) it is clear that Israel is delivered, not by her own strength, but by the intervention of her Messiah. (See Hos. 1:7; Psa. 45:3-7.). Micah illustrates the overthrow of her enemies at this time by the picture of the threshing-floor full of sheaves. The sheaves in the picture are the nations fighting against Jerusalem; Israel is the ox whose horn is iron and whose hoofs are brass. This representation at first glance, to the one who is not familiar with the teaching of the Word of God, appears to be in contradiction to the statement of Hos. 1:7 but, since the Word of God always harmonizes, there is a solution to this seeming contradiction. In the midst of this life-and-death struggle, when her enemies are about to crush her, the Messiah suddenly appears on the scene and threshes the nations, thus bringing victory to her. Joel describes the same scene. "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. And the Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be a refuge unto his people, and a stronghold to the children of Israel" (Joel 3:14-16).
From the prophet's point of view the fall of Jerusalem and restoration under Zerubbabel are the low mountains in the immediate foreground; the final distress of Israel from which the Messiah brings deliverance to her is the high and most remote range; intervening between these widely separated ranges appears the mountain peak of the rejection of the Judge of Israel; and lying between this latter peak and the most distant range is the long valley of Israel's rejection (cf. Zech. 1:8, Israel in the valley). The facts stated in the sentence above will become clearer as the investigation proceeds.
Withdrawing his gaze from the further mountain peak of Israel's future distress, the prophet again focuses his attention on the nearby disaster, the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, in which upheaval he sees the smiting of a judge of Israel in the person of Zedekiah,* king of Jerusalem, who was a type of the Judge of Israel who, like Zedekiah, is smitten and rejected.
From other passages, which will be investigated later, it is clear that it is with Messiah as it was with Moses, who presented himself to his people to deliver them from the cruel Egyptian bondage, but not realizing his divine appointment, they rejected him. Forty years later when he appeared upon the scene with manifestations of divine power, they accepted him, and he wrought their deliverance. According to the sure word of prophecy, this Judge of the nation comes to Israel, is rejected, but later He returns manifesting divine glory, triumphing over his enemies, and bringing deliverance to the down-trodden race, at which time they accept Him. "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, As the Lord liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, As the Lord liveth, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries whither I had driven them. And they shall dwell in their own land" (Jer. 23:7,8).
The question arising at this point is "who is the judge of Israel?" Throughout the Scriptures, God is said to be the Judge of Israel and of the world. In Gen. 18:25 God speaks of Himself as the Judge of the world. In Judg. 11:27 He is Judge between the children of Israel and between the children of Ammon. Again in Psa. 94:2 He is the Judge of the earth. Likewise, in Isa. 2:4 He judges the nations וְשָׁפַט בֵּין הַגּוֹיִם.
In the preceding verse, however, one sees that the God of Jacob teaches the nations of His ways and they walk in His paths. Hence since it is God who is acting in this verse, and, since no one else is spoken of, it is evident that He is the One Who judges among the nations. An examination of this context and a comparison of it with parallel passages proves that this is a Messianic prediction (cf. Mic. 4:1-8). From the parallel passages one sees that the Messiah is the One Who judges the nations and who exalts Israel above them; but this passage speaks of Him, the Messiah, Israel's Judge and Law-Giver, as the God of Jacob אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב; hence the Messiah is none other than the God of Jacob. Once again (Isa. 33:22) God says that He is Israel's Judge. An examination of vs. 17-24 of this latter passage makes it plain that the Lord is the One who dwells in Zion and is her Judge. Israel has had many judges in the past, but there is only One Who can be called "The Judge of Israel," the Lord, the Messiah. Therefore when Micah says that "they shall smite the Judge of Israel upon the cheek," he is speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah, the Prince מָשִׁיח נָגִיד (cf. Isa. 53). In the illustration the rejection and sufferings of the Messiah are a mountain peak lying between the two ranges.
Hence He, "the Judge of Israel" (Messiah the Prince), "will give them up ('for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee!') until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth." Israel rejects her Ruler מָשִׁיח נָגִיד; He, in turn, rejects her for a definite time-- "until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth," i.e., the valley lying between the peak of Messiah's rejection and the suffering and Israel's final distress and deliverance. The period of Israel's rejection is terminated when "she who travaileth hath brought forth." The question arising here is, who or what is meant by the expression just quoted? The preceding context, doubtless, answers this question, as is seen in 4:10, "Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, 0 daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail." This same figure of travail is used by Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah, to refer to the unparalleled suffering through which Israel shall pass, and which is known as "Jacob's trouble" (see Isa. 66:7-9 and Jer. 30:7). In this passage of Isaiah the prophet compares Zion, Jerusalem, to a woman with child, who is in pain bringing forth her child--the faithful remnant mentioned throughout the prophecies.
After the travailing, the residue of his, Judah's, brethren "shall return unto the children of Israel." The meaning of this statement becomes very apparent in the light of a parallel passage found in Ezek. 37. In the latter passage is found the vision of the valley of dry bones, which is a prediction of the regathering of Israel and the restoration of her kingdom. In verse 15 the prophet is instructed to take two sticks, writing upon one "for Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions," and upon the other "for Joseph the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel, his companions." The significance of this symbolic act is given in vs. 21-23: "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (the restored nation).
And He, the Judge of Israel, שֹׁפֵט יִשְׂרָאֵל "shall stand, and shall feed his flock (the restored nation) 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. And this man shall be our peace." This passage is a prediction of the time when Israel's God shall reign in Zion and she shall be head of the nations.
"Behold, the Lord יְהוָה will come as a Mighty One, and His arm will rule for Him: Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and will gently lead those that have their young" (Isa. 40:10,11).
In this passage (Mic. 5:1-5) one sees the Shepherd of Israel, the Eternal God, coming forth out of Bethlehem to His people who blindly reject Him; hence He rejects them for a certain length of time at the expiration of which both Judah and Israel are reunited and He becomes their Shepherd, feeding them in the strength of God, and in the majesty of the Lord His God. The continuity of thought makes it very clear that there is but one person who passes through both experiences; first, as the Messiah of suffering and rejection (Isa. 53 and Psa. 22), and, secondly, coming again to His people as the Messiah of glory.
* "But the Chaldeans' army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho and when they had taken him up to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him ... also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover, he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon"--(Jer. 59:5-7, Author's Tr.).
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