Bible Commentaries
Micah 5

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1

This chapter concludes the middle division of the prophecy (Micah 4-6), having as its principal feature the glorious prophecy of the birth of the Christ in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and the triumph of the kingdom of heaven over all enemies, concluding with another reference to the vengeance and wrath of God executed upon "the nations that hearkened not."

Micah 5:1

"Now shalt thou 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."

"He hath laid siege against us ..." indicates that Micah identified himself with the besieged city, hence the conclusion that it must be Jerusalem. The popular interpretation of this applies it to one of the many sieges of Jerusalem by Assyrians, Babylon, or others, supposing that the "they" who smite the cheek of the Judge of Israel were the invaders and besiegers. Despite the wide acceptance of that explanation, we cannot believe that it fills the requirement for understanding what is meant here. There is no mention here of the city being captured, unless it is inferred from the insult perpetrated against the city's Judge. But Jerusalem at that time had a king;, and the reference of this insult to the action of Nebuchadnezzar against Zedekiah is hardly indicated, nor any of the other instances of similar things that are cited. The problem lies in the word Judge (not capitalized in the ASV). "This particular title is unparalleled in the singular."[1] Christ alone is properly titled as the Judge of Israel; and we cannot resist the conviction that it refers to Christ here. The appearance of smiting of the judge in a context where the connection is not clear does not discourage this view; because there have been many different renditions of this verse, due to uncertainties in the text. The Catholic Bible renders it thus:

"Now shalt thou be laid waste, O daughter of the robber. They have laid siege against us: with a rod shall they strike the cheek of the judge of Israel."[2]

There are a number of things which support the Messianic view of this verse. (1) It is very similar to a Messianic passage in Isaiah 50:6, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting." (2) The sacred evangelists of the New Testament did not fail to record instances of this very type of humiliation inflicted upon our Lord. "Then did they spit in his face and buffet him: and some smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ: who is he that struck thee?" (Matthew 26:67,68, etc.). (3) The ancient commentators, and some recent ones, did not fail to see this:

The New Testament makes it plain here that the smitten One is none other than the Christ.[3]

It is pointed out that Micah probably thought that this word regarding the smiting of Israel's Judge applied only to some affront to one of Israel's rulers; and with that we can agree perfectly; however, they are certain to fail to understand the prophecies in the word of God who interpret them only in the light of what they suppose to have been in the mind of the prophet. There are too many examples in the Bible of inspired men uttering things which they not only did not understand at all, but which it was impossible for them to understand until the meaning was later revealed to them. Peter's inclusion of the Gentiles in the gospel (Acts 2:39) had information in it that Peter would not learn until he stood in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). We may be sure that Amos saw nothing in his prophecy of the sky's being darkened in a clear day (Amos 8:9) except the perpetual continuation of the sabbath; but how wrong he was! It must always be remembered that God gave "the words" to his inspired spokesmen. In the light of what is repeatedly revealed in the Bible, there can be no appeal from this fact of inspiration. Peter himself stated this principle very effectively in 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Verse 2

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me one that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."

This clear predictive prophecy of the birth of the Christ in Bethlehem occurred in the eighth century B.C.; and the critical scholars have never dared to attribute the passage to some redactor after the event of Jesus' birth. However, they will still not believe it, affirming that Micah was here prophesying the birth of Israel's king David who succeeded Saul centuries earlier! "It refers to the time when David was being called to the kingship."[4] It would be difficult indeed to cite a clearer example of the stubborn and determined blindness of men determined not to believe in any prophecy. They make no appeal here to what they suppose Micah "thought," for it is a foregone certainty that Micah did not believe that he was prophesying the advent of a king who had already lived and died centuries earlier.

The true meaning of this passage was perfectly clear to the entire world for centuries before the Advent of the Son of God. When the wise men came from the east inquiring, "Where is he that is born king of the Jews"? and took the question up with Herod the Great, that monarch demanded of the Pharisees, "Where the Christ should be born."

"And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written through the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, art in no wise least among the princes of Judah:

For out of thee shall come forth a governor Who shall be the shepherd of my people Israel" (Matthew 2:5,6).

The entire religious hierarchy of ancient Israel understood perfectly the Messianic character of this prophecy and answered Herod accordingly, Testimony of such a nature is irrefutable as regards the true import of this verse.

"Which art little to be among the thousands of Judah ..." Matthew's account of this prophecy, as repeated by the Pharisees, has a significant variation, the origin of which is not known. It says, "Thou are NOT least ... etc." Jamieson understood the change to have been made by the inspired Matthew "by an independent testimony of the Spirit."[5] The prophecy is true both ways. As regarded its earthly importance, Bethlehem was "the least"; but as regarded its eternal importance as the birthplace of the Messiah, it was "NOT the least," being indeed the greatest of all.

"Bethlehem Ephrathah ..." Like many another prophecy, the words here guard against error. There was another Bethelehem in Zebulun (Joshua 19:15); and so the word Ephrathah "was included to designate just which Bethlehem was intended."[6] "Isaiah had foretold Jesus' virgin birth (7:14); Micah predicted his village birth."[7]

"Whose goings forth are from of old ..." This means far more than the fact that, "the new king will come from a good old family!" As Keil said:

"We must reject in the most unqualified manner the attempts (by commentators with a dread of miracles) to deprive the words of their deeper meaning...we must not exclude the idea of eternity in the stricter sense.[8] He who is to be born in time at Bethlehem hath an eternal existence.[9]

"From everlasting ..." The pre-existence of the Son of God prior to his earthly ministry is inherent in this. "The terms here used are such as to transcend the nature or achievements of any merely human leader, and could be completely fulfilled only in the Messiah."[10]


We have frequently observed in this study the devious, illogical, and even ridiculous limits to which commentators will go to avoid finding any such thing as a predictive prophecy in the Bible; and it is a good time to note the utter and perpetual impossibility of their removing predictive prophecy from the Bible. There are 333 prophecies of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, some of which are in Micah, for example, that he would be born in Bethlehem. Some of the other Biblical prophecies of Christ are:

That he would be of the family of Shem.

That he would be of the seed of Abraham.

That he would come forth from Judah.

That he would descend from David.

That he would be crucified (long before crucifixion was known).

That they would pierce his hands and his feet.

That he would welcome the Gentiles.

That he would be despised and rejected of men.

That he would be betrayed by a friend.

That the price of his betrayal would be 30 pieces of silver.

That he would rise from the dead.

That they would make his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death.

That he would heal the blind, the deaf, and the lame.

That he would raise the dead.

That he would speak in parables.

That he would be called a Nazarene.

That the iniquity of us all would be laid upon him.

That he would come in triumph on an ass.

That he would be for the rise and fall of many in Israel.

That he would sit upon the throne of David.

That of the increase of his kingdom there would be no end.

That he would be both the son of David and the Lord of David.

That he would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

That he would proclaim release to the captives (in sin).

That they would cast lots for his vesture.

That they would divide his garments among them.

That they would look upon him whom they pierced.


Our purpose here is not to list all 333 of the glorious prophecies of Christ, but merely to call attention to their exceedingly great number and to point out that the Old Testament Scriptures were translated into the Greek language (LXX) a quarter of a millennium before Christ was born, and that all of the ingenuity of the Devil himself cannot possibly get Jesus Christ out of Old Testament prophecy.

Over and beyond all of the verbal prophecies, there is a vast corpus of historical events which are inherently prophetic of the Messiah, apart from any verbal promise. Jonah, the type of Christ, who was a sign to the Ninevites, exhibited in his personal history dozens of prophecies of Christ, including the prophecy of his delivery from death after three days and three nights in the grave.

Isaac who carried the wood up the very hill where Jesus, in the fullness of time would be crucified, is a type of Jesus' carrying his cross up that very hill.

Judah giving his life for his brethren (offering it) shows the prophecy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah in the conduct of that patriarch.

Moses was the great type of Jesus Christ, there being a full hundred similarities in their lives, even some of their miracles exhibiting the most startling likeness. Moses' first miracle changed the water into blood; Christ's first miracle changed the water into wine.

David the king was a type of Christ, whose brethren rejected them both, and his contest with Goliath of Gath resembled the contest of Jesus with Satan, in each case, the enemy having his head cut off with his own sword!

To complete such a summary would be to draw upon practically every page of the Bible.

Not merely the verbal prophecies and the great patriarchal types alone, however, bore the message of the coming Holy One. All of the religious regalia of ancient Judaism were devoted to the same end. The veil in the tabernacle was a type of Christ. The golden candlestick typified His word. The table of showbread foretold the Lord's Supper; and the mercy seat sprinkled with blood foretold his death and suffering.

And even over and beyond all of these things, there were the mighty festivals of the Jewish religion, notably the Passover, designed exactly to identify the Lamb of God when he should come into the world, in that not a bone of him would be broken, and that through his vicarious suffering men might be redeemed.

Therefore, to those who have made it their mission in life to destroy the ageless conviction that the Old Testament accurately and circumstantially prophesied in the most amazing detail the Holy Christ coming into our world of sorrow to redeem it, to them let it be suggested that their task is absolutely hopeless. "The light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not!" (John 1:5).

Verse 3

"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."

The woman in travail was mentioned in Micah 4:9 and here again, with the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem included in the middle verses between these references, thus binding the whole passage together as a unity and identifying the subject as unequivocally that of the coming of the Messiah into the world.

"Therefore will be give them up ..." Israel will be given up to tribulation, yet preserved in all of her sorrows, until her mission of delivering the Messiah to mankind has been accomplished.

"Then ..." After the Messiah has been delivered, then the residue of rebellious and scattered Israel shall find their way into the bosom of the true Israel "in Christ." Homer Hailey's discerning comment on this passage is very helpful:

"The prophet was looking to the birth of Messiah and the kingdom that began on Pentecost. The "great sign" seen by John on Patmos, a woman arrayed with the sun, having the moon under her feet and a crown of stars upon her brow, who gave birth to the man-child, is this same woman (Revelation 12:1-6)."[11]

(For a full discussion of this, see in my commentary on Revelation, pp. 264-272.)

Verse 4

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

This describes the success and glory of that kingdom founded by the man-child brought forth by the woman (Israel).

"And he shall stand ..." The strength of these words is phenomenal, reminding one of that priceless aria in The Messiah, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at the latter day, HE SHALL STAND ..." Yea, the Lord and his kingdom shall stand while the generations of men rise before him and fade away. Of the increase of his government and of peace, "There shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth, even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7). Yes, that also is a prophecy of Christ; and it, like all the others, can never fail.

Verse 5

"And this man shall be our peace. When the Assyrians 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."

"When the Assyrians shall come into our land ..."

The Assyrians being Israel's most powerful foe at that time, they are made the representative of all of Israel's foes of all ages, who shall receive their final destruction in Messiah's coming (Ezekiel 38).[12]

"Seven ... and eight ..." Seven is the perfect number, indicating that whatever emergency arises, the Messiah would meet it with perfect sufficiency, yea, even with more than enough, "eight principal men," indicating an over-abundance of resources.

Verse 6

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

Although it would have been perfectly natural for Micah to have applied these words merely to the immediate danger in Israel, the whole tenor of the passage requires it to be understood as the ultimate judgment upon all wickedness, stated climactically in Micah 5:15. No matter how far wickedness may progress and no matter what advantages it might appear to have in any given situation, the scales of eternal justice are weighted in favor of the truth and righteousness of God.

Verse 7

"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples as dew from Jehovah, as showers upon the grass, that tarry not for man, nor wait for the sons of men."

"The remnant of the house of Jacob ..." The scattered estate of the once chosen people appears in this. God's purpose in the scattering of Israel was benign, as it regarded all men; because, through the scattered children, the world would have a better opportunity to know the true God of heaven and earth. One must also believe that the scattering of the Christians that arose upon the martyrdom of Stephen had a similar purpose. The scattering, both for the old secular Israel and for the New Israel, has been continued throughout the history of the Christian era.

"Dew ... and showers ..." The beneficial and refreshing aspect of the metaphor is inherent in the welcome always afforded for dew and rain in that semiarid part of the world.

Verse 8

"And the renmant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he go through, treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and there is none to deliver."

There, at first, appears to be here a denial of the peaceful character and benevolent behavior of God's people when scattered throughout the world; but the prophet was not speaking of that. He had reference to the consequence of the knowledge of God on the part of rebellious and sinful men refusing to obey it. The terrible metaphor of destruction "as a lion ... a young lion" would indeed come to pass, as executed by God Himself, not by his humble and faithful children. Again, the whole passage points to Micah 5:15. The sons of earth who have the opportunity to know and obey the gospel are laying up for themselves a terrible harvest when they neglect or refuse to be corrected by it. Some see this verse as a prophecy of the earthly kingdom of Israel, after the captivity, and in the times of the Maccabees, "conquering Idumea, Samaria, and parts of Ammon and Moab";[13] but we believe that if such is in it, it still is typical of the ultimate significance which we have attributed to it.

Verse 9

"Let thy hand be lifted up above thine adversaries, and let all thine enemies be cut off."

This continues the same vein of thought as that in the preceding verse. That the Jewish nation returned from the Babylonian captivity did indeed find their nation exalted, for a time, is true; but the theme here is the triumph of righteousness, not the elevation of an earthly kingdom, especially that of Israel. God's purpose, as regarded that, was "the destruction of the sinful kingdom."

Behold the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will utterly destroy it from off the face of the earth (Amos 9:8). Any idea, therefore, that Micah was here prophesying a reincarnation and expansion of the secular Israel as an all-powerful world-monarchy is absolutely incorrect.

Micah's style is such that certain, ambiguities necessarily attach themselves to what he wrote. (See more on the Sinful Kingdom, in our Commentary on Joel, Amos and Jonah, pp. 231-233.)

Verse 10

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

"I will cut off thy horses ... chariots ..." In the terminology of that day, this meant, "I will destroy thy military ability." Thus, this proves what was noted above, that the destruction of Israel's enemies (the enemies of righteousness) would not come about through military prowess on the part of Israel, but would be accomplished by the Lord himself.

This verse, and through Micah 5:15, carry the message that, "The Messiah shall destroy all instruments of war, and put down all idolatry, having taught his people to rely upon him alone."[14] Hailey's summary of these same verses was similar:

The instruments of carnal warfare, all classes of wizards, and the idols of the land will be cut off. God's vengeance will be on those who hearken not.[15]

As pertaining to the true Israel, God's holy Church, this prophecy has been fulfilled. The true people of God are not a war-making society upon earth, possessing no military weapons, and not relying upon them for the achievement of their mission upon earth. As Jamieson put it, "The Church will never be safe, till she is stripped of all creature-trusts, and rests on Jehovah alone."[16]

Verse 11

"And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and will throw down thy strongholds."

The "cities" here is a reference to fortified strongholds, walled cities, as the following parallel reveals. The church, in this also, as a people in all ages have consented to dwell in the open country and unfortified places, relying upon and trusting in the might of the Lord. With Christianity, walled cities tended to disappear.

Verse 12

"And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers."

For an excellent example of the hostility of God's church toward the class of black arts mentioned here, see Acts 19:18-20. The magical arts, by definition are works of Satan; but in this we no not include the entertainment "magicians."

"Soothsayers ..." Such persons were diviners, using all kinds of devices for tricking and deceiving their adherents. "The old Scandinavian witches were charlatans who assumed the power of causing and directing storms."[17] Rhabdomancy was a practice mentioned in Hosea 4:12. The New Israel will have absolutely no part of the witchcraft industry.

Verse 13

"And I will cut off thy graven images and thy pillars; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thy hands."

This was particularly and immediately fulfilled upon the return of Israel from Babylonian captivity. Never again did Israel fall into the shameless idolatry of Samaria as in the days before their deportation. The passage also has a wider application in that it is descriptive of the general attitude among Christians of all ages.

"Thy graven images and thy pillars ..." The pillars were usually ornamental pedestals suitable for the erection of an idol upon them; but, in time, the pillar itself was venerated, becoming something of a phallic symbol in the fertility rites of Canaanite paganism, into which gross abuses the Israelites were drawn. Deane pointed out that, "A pillar to make a place consecrated to the Lord was allowed (Genesis 28:18); it was when this custom degenerated into idolatry that it was sternly denounced."[18]

Verse 14

"And I will pluck up thine Asherim out of the midst of thee; and I will destroy thy cities."

This echoes earlier prophecies both by Micah and others of God's destroying the sinful kingdoms of Israel for their idolatry. The reason cited here for their destruction was their worship of the sex-goddesses of the pagans. "Asherah was a Canaanite goddess, the worship of which was celebrated with licentious rites, the same as Ashteroth of the Phoenicians, and Ishtar of the Assyrians."[19]

Verse 15

"And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations which hearkened not."

The ultimate judgment of all humanity is in this. The toleration of the Almighty might indeed continue for an age; but sooner or later, rebellious and sinful humanity, intent upon serving their lusts and unmindful of the claims of a just and merciful God upon their lives, must endure the wrath of the Creator. As Paul expressed it:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

The times of the Messiah "in the last days" will be the time when the judgment of God shall fall upon all the world; and the forbearance of God for almost two thousand years since Messiah came does not annul the promise. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. The mention in this verse of, "the nations that hearkened not" indicates that there would be some among the heathen who would hear and obey God.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Micah 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.