But you, Beit-Lechem near Efrat, so small among the clans of Y'hudah, out of you will come forth to me the future ruler of Isra'el, whose origins are far in the past, back in ancient times.
WHO IS MICAH?
The prophet Micah came from Moresheth Gath, a small Judean town in the Shephelah [lowlands]. He prophesied during the reign of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah: a span of half a century, which made him Isaiah's older colleague and a contemporary with Hosea. Micah and Isaiah share common material and must have known of each other's ministries. Micah's references to Samaria and the Northern Kingdom indicate that some of his oracles belong to a period prior to the Fall of Samaria (722 BCE), but his allusions to an Assyrian siege of Judah might point to a continuing ministry during Hezekiah's watch. More than a century later, Jeremiah referred to Micah as a prophet instrumental in bringing about Hezekiah's reforms and Judah's repentance in the days of Hezekiah:
"Back in the time of Hizkiyahu king of Y'hudah, Mikhah from Moreshet was a prophet. He told all the people of Y'hudah, 'Adonai-Tzva'ot says, "Tziyon will be plowed under like a field, Yerushalayim will become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the house like a forested height." ' "Did Hizkiyahu king of Y'hudah and all Y'hudah put him to death? Not at all. Rather, he feared Adonai, and prayed for Adonai's favor; and Adonai relented from the disaster he had pronounced against them. So [if we put Yirmeyahu to death,] we might bring great disaster on ourselves."
(Above historical information can be found in Torah Club 3, p 895, by D. T. Lancaster.)
CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL
Micah understands that the judgment of the nation is not only imminent but has already started. He sees the signs everywhere. His frustration may be that the very audience that he is to reach thinks that they are the "godly ones", when in fact they are at the end of time:
Having the appearance of godliness,
but denying its power.
(2 Timothy 3:5 ESV)
In the post-Solomonic history of Israel, the type of people the prophets had the most trouble with were the religious ones. People who claim to be religious can be so sure of themselves that they don't perceive the "writing on the wall," or if they do, they are sure that it is for the "other guy" who, in their eyes, is the sinner who deserves to receive the wrath of God. This principle has been true from the post-Solomonic era until the days of Yeshua. Like King Solomon himself prophesied:
What has been is what will be,
what has been done is what will be done.
Micah sees the "handwriting on the wall." While people do not know it, the judgment has already begun, and as always, it starts with the "House of God!" But Micah was not just a prophet of doom. He was blessed to see and prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah who establishes peace and stability of earth. Micah predicts an era of restoration and peace in which God will restore the remnants of Israel, along with the Davidic King and the Jerusalem Temple. In that day, all the nations of the earth will be subject to Israel, and out of Jerusalem the Torah will go forth as the Law for the whole world.
THE MESSIAH OF ISRAEL
Micah sees the coming invasion.
Now gather yourself in troops, you who are accustomed to being in troops; they have laid siege to us. They are striking the judge of Isra'el on the cheek with a stick.
Technically speaking, a cursory look at the History of Israel proper, as an independent nation under its own rule and government, shows us that it has ceased to exist from Babylon until the expulsion by the Romans in the second century CE. By Israel proper, I mean Israel under its own Davidic King and Levitical religious worship. Here is how it works.
- The Babylonian Exile: Israel was under a governor under the authority of the Babylonian Emperor.
- The Return: People were allowed to return and rebuild the Temple and the walls of the city, but Israel remained under the governorship of Babylon.
- The Seleucid Kings and the Maccabean era. At that time, Israel was under the Greek Seleucid Kings, first of Egypt, then of Syria. When the Maccabees took over from Antiochus Epiphanes, they established an illegitimate dynasty that was not Davidic. Their father, Mattathias Maccabee the priest, meant their family was from the tribe of Levy. To resolve their civil wars, the Maccabee kings called on Roman Pompéi who was glad to oblige. Israel then slowly fell under the rulership of the Roman empire.
- The Great Exile: Until 1948CE, Israel was in dispersion mode. In 1967 CE, it resumed as an independent nation. In 1967, it recaptured Jerusalem.
In his prophecy, Micah jumps from warning the people about the Babylonian exile to their spiritual, and eventually physical return, initiated by the birth of the Messiah. He predicts it in Bethlehem, the region where Rachel, the wife of Jacob, is buried.
Micah identifies this Messiah by reminding the people of its pre-Creation origins ("far in the past, back in ancient times").
But you, Beit-Lechem near Efrat, so small among the clans of Y'hudah, out of you will come forth to me the future ruler of Isra'el, whose origins are far in the past, back in ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
Indeed, in accordance with, "Adonai made me as the beginning of his way, the first of his ancient works. I was appointed before the world, before the start, before the earth's beginnings" (Prov 8:22-23), Yochanan the disciple pre-dates Messiah's existence from before creation:
He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. . . . The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh'khinah, the Sh'khinah of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
Micah alludes to the difficult "Birth pangs of Messiah", the troubling times preceding the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, by mentioning the city of Ephrat. Ephrat is the city where Rachel who died in childbirth with Benjamin, is buried. Now he dates the return, or its initiation, to the time of the birth.
In Matthew 24, we get a list of things that we should see happening in these troubling times. The list of earthquakes, pestilences, famines, and wars have been going on for 2,000 years. Concerning these, Yeshua taught us, saying, Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come. . . . all this is but the beginning of the 'birth-pains.' (Mat 24:6-8) (Any veteran Mom that has done natural childbirth knows how to recognize "false-labour" from the real thing!) Yeshua gave us one sign to look for as the tale-tell sign of the "real thing". He said:
"So when you see the abomination that causes desolation spoken about through the prophet Dani'el standing in the Holy Place" (let the reader understand the allusion), "that will be the time for those in Y'hudah to escape to the hills.
The "real thing" here is defined as the time when there is an abomination in the Temple. Until 1948, there was not even a country of Israel, much less a Jewish Jerusalem, and therefore, no altar or Holy Place where an "Abomination of Desolation" could stand. A few years ago, at Chanukah, an altar was dedicated. We are getting closer...
Therefore he will give up [Isra'el] only until she who is in labor gives birth. Then the rest of his kinsmen will return to the people of Isra'el. (Micah 5:3)
MESSIAH, THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Micah contrasts the money-greedy, self-righteous, divisive, and elitist mercenary-like shepherds of his days with the Messiah who is the Good Shepherd of Israel.
During times of war and trouble, the bad shepherd flees to protect his own life, but the good shepherd stays to strengthen the flock. In the spirit of Ezekiel 34, Yeshua describes the bad shepherds of His day:
The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, since he isn't a shepherd and the sheep aren't his own, sees the wolf coming, abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf drags them off and scatters them. The hired worker behaves like this because that's all he is, a hired worker; so it doesn't matter to him what happens to the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me --
Yeshua is the Good Shepherd!
He will stand and feed his flock in the strength of Adonai, in the majesty of the name of Adonai his God; and they will stay put, as he grows great to the very ends of the earth; (Micah 5:4)
THE SEVEN SHEPHERDS AND EIGHT LEADERS OF AMEN.
And this will be peace. If Ashur invades our land, if he overruns our fortresses, we will raise seven shepherds against him, eight leaders of men. They will shepherd the land of Ashur with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its gates; and he will rescue us from Ashur when he invades our land, when he overruns our borders. (Micah 5:5-6)
Who are these "seven shepherds," and "eight leaders of men" who will shepherd the Land of Ashur with the sword and rescue Israel?
Of course, since the text doesn't give us anything further, we are in the realm of speculation and the answer can vary with which rabbi you listen to.
As far as this rabbi is concerned, whereas there might be an identity to these 7 and 8, I would like to point out that that sort of syntax is also a Hebrew poetic philosophical tool often found in the Proverbs to be understood as meaning "more than enough."
Thus, this text could be understood as the promise that HaShem will bring more than enough help to punish Ashur and rescue Israel. Indeed, Messiah IS more than enough!
THE REMNANT OF JACOB
Micah then offers a brief prophecy about the "Remnant of Jacob" among the nations.
Through its propagation of monotheism and the knowledge of the one God who made Heaven and earth, to its being the cradle of the Messiah that would bring the Gentile world to the Father; including its scientific innovation and progress in medicine and technological fields, the Jewish people have certainly been a "dew" among the people of the world.
I recently read a great article about this in an Israeli Messianic magazine called Israel Today. You can find this article titled, Unexplained Success, or the Hand of God? below this midrash.
Then the remnant of Ya`akov, surrounded by many peoples, will be like dew from Adonai, like showers on the grass, which doesn't wait for a man or expect anything from mortals.
In the imagery of the valiant ragtag armies that miraculously won victories over their enemies, Micah speaks of the deliverance of Israel from its oppressors:
The remnant of Ya`akov among the nations, surrounded by many peoples, will be like a lion among forest animals, like a young lion among flocks of sheep -- if it passes through, tramples and tears to pieces, there is no one to rescue them. Your hand will be raised over your enemies; all your adversaries will be destroyed.
A PROPHECY AGAINST THE NATIONS (Change of Subject!)
The subject of the prophecy seems to change. The last few statements were about the redemption of the remnant of Jacob, but now it is all about punishment. Targum Jonathan sees the change of philosophical subject as being due to a change of grammatical subject, which this time is the nations, as seen in the last statement of that oracle.
"When that day comes," says Adonai, "I will cut off your horses from among you and destroy your chariots. I will cut off the cities of your land and lay waste your strongholds. I will cut off sorceries from your land; you will no longer have soothsayers. I will cut off your carved images and standing-stones from among you; no longer will you worship what your own hands have made. I will pull up your sacred poles from among you and destroy your enemies. I will wreak vengeance in anger and fury on the nations, because they would not listen."
THE CASE AGAINST ISRAEL
HaShem pleads with Israel in a legal judicial style. Mountains and hills are brought as witnesses.
So listen now to what Adonai says: "Stand up and state your case to the mountains, let the hills hear what you have to say." Listen, mountains, to Adonai's case; also you enduring rocks that support the earth! Adonai has a case against his people; he wants to argue it out with Isra'el: (Micah 6:1-2)
As a father making his case with his children reminding them, of his faithfulness to them, HaShem asks:
"My people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you?
I brought you up from the land of Egypt.
I redeemed you from a life of slavery.
I sent Moshe, Aharon and Miryam to lead you.
HaShem specifically reminds the people of their episode with Balak the King of Moab when their fathers were still in the desert.
My people, just remember what Balak the king of Mo'av had planned, what Bil`am the son of B`or answered him, [and what happened] between Sheetim and Gilgal -- so that you will understand the saving deeds of Adonai." (Micah 6:5)
Cynical Israel accuses HaShem of being unpleasable and unreasonable. That no matter what they would bring to Him, He would still not be satisfied.
"With what can I come before Adonai to bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year?
Would Adonai take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
To which HaShem answers the cosmic response, which is ours to cherish until this day:
Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you -- no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God. (Micah 6:7-8)
TO ACT JUSTLY IN LOVE AND GRACE;
TO WALK IN PURITY BEFORE OUR GOD!
R' GABRIEL LUMBROSO