Saturday, November 3, 2012

Prophecy 2 - The Place of Jesus' Birth - Bethlehem

 Matthew
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel  - The Holy Bible

"Matthew claims that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem fulfils this prophecy. But this is unlikely since
  1. "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan: the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (1 Chr.2:18, 2:50-52, 4:4).
  2. The prophecy (if that is what it is) does not refer to the Messiah, but rather to a military leader, as can be seen from verse 5:6. This leader is supposed to defeat the Assyrians, which, of course, Jesus never did.
It should also be noted that Matthew altered the text of Micah 5:2 by saying: "And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah" rather than "Bethlehem Ephratah" as is said in Micah 5:2. He did this, intentionally no doubt, to make the verse appear to refer to the town of Bethlehem rather than the family clan."
   ------------- The skeptic's annotated Bible

 Answer : Most important observation is that Matthew never says this is in fulfillment of prophecy but rather faithfully records what the Jewish wisemen told their king Herod ,was the prophecied place of  the birth of Messiah. They are directly contradict the observed facts. A little too hasty and careless , the skeptics were when considering this passage.


Secondly how the prophecy in Micah actually refers to Bethlehem the town .
"Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah - Literally, "small to be," that is, "too small to be among" etc. Each tribe was divided into its thousands, probably of fighting men, each thousand having its own separate head Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4. But the thousand continued to be a division of the tribe, after Israel was settled in Canaan Joshua 22:21, Joshua 22:30; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 23:23. The "thousand" of Gideon was the meanest in Manasseh. Judges 6:15. Places too small to form a thousand by themselves were united with others, to make up the number . So lowly was Bethlehem that it was not counted among the possessions of Judah. In the division under Joshua, it was wholly omitted . From its situation, Bethlehem can never have been a considerable place". --- Barnes Notes
Bethlehem is the town formed by the descendents of the clan of Bethlehem when Israel settled in Cannan, which was too small and insignificant in itself .

"And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda,.... This prophecy, which the chief priests and scribes produced, as pointing at the place of Christ's birth, is owned by both ancient and later Jews (y) to be a prophecy of the Messiah. The difference between Micah and Matthew is easily reconciled. Bethlehem is called by Micah, Bethlehem Ephratah, and by Matthew, Bethlehem in the land of Judah, and both were one and the same place. Bethlehem Ephratah was in the land of Juda, as appears from the prophecy of Micah itself, from Ruth 1:2 and the Septuagint version of Joshua 15:60 and is described in this manner by Matthew, partly to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the land of Zebulun, Joshua 19:15 and partly because its other name Ephratah was now disused, and so unknown to Herod, who was unacquainted with the books and prophecies of the Old Testament. Micah says this place was
little among the thousands of Judah. Matthew says, "not the least". But in this is no apparent contradiction, it might be "little" and yet "not the least"; besides, it might be "little" and "not little", or "not the least" in different respects, and at different times; it might be little, mean, and contemptible as to worldly splendour, riches, number of inhabitants, pompous buildings, &c. and yet not be little or mean, when considered as the place of the birth of many great persons, such as Boaz, Jesse, David, &c. and especially Christ. It might be little in Micah's time, and yet not in Matthew's; especially since it had received a considerable additional honour by Christ's being born there. Moreover, the words in Micah may be rendered, by way of interrogation, "art thou little, or the least?" To which the answer in Matthew is, "no, thou art not the least", &c. or else the word may be understood, and the text be translated thus; "it is a small thing that thou art among the thousands of Judah, for out of thee", &c. a great honour shall be conferred on thee, the Messiah shall spring from thee. Again, what Micah calls "thousands", are in Matthew called "princes"; the reason of this is, because the tribes of Israel were divided into thousands, and every thousand had its prince; so that though here is a difference in words, yet none in sense. What Micah styles "a ruler in Israel", Matthew expresses by "a governor that shall rule or feed my people Israel"; but in this there is no contradiction. Add to all this, that it should be observed, that the Evangelist is not giving a version of his own, but of the chief priests and scribes; and therefore was it ever so faulty, they, and not he, must be chargeable with it; for he has acted the part of a faithful historian in giving it in the words in which they cited it (z)."
                                                    John Gill's exposition of the Whole Bible

The second part of the prophesy where it denotes to a "deliverer" is a type of Christ , symbolic of Christ , who is the true deliverer from their true problem sin , which has lead to the threat of oppression from Assyria.

"He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.And he will be their peace. " Micah 5:3 - 4

This passage is again talking about the deliverer who will give them peace. Though it immediately refers to a political deliverer , that person is symbolic of  the ultimate deliverer , the one who can give everlasting peace , Jesus Christ , the Messiah.

Though this is not quoted in the prophesy it is understood that the deliverer here is symbolic/type of Jesus , the deliverer , the one one who ushers in the peace , the peace between man and God , which was broken because of the enemy Satan , through disobedience and sin.

When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword. He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders.Micah 5:6
"When the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces - Assur stands for the most powerful and deadliest foe, "ghostly and bodily," as the Assyrian then was of the people of God. For since this plainly relates to the time after Christ's coming, and, (to say the least,) after the captivity in Babylon and deliverance Micah 4:10 from it, which itself followed the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire, the Assyrians cannot be the literal people, who had long since ceased to be In Isaiah too the Assyrian is the type of antichrist and of Satan" -
Barnes Notes

"Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders; that is, the King Messiah shall work this deliverance, as Kimchi and others (k) explain it; Christ delivered his people from all their spiritual enemies when he made peace for them; and he will deliver them in the latter day from both Pope and Turk, when he will destroy the man of sin by the breath of his mouth, and dry up the river Euphrates, and cast both beast and false prophet into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone;"  - John Gill's exposition of the whole bible