Bethlehem as described by the prophet Micah (Mt 2:5-2:6)

“They told Herod.

‘In Bethlehem

Of Judea.

It has been written

By the prophet.’

‘You!

O Bethlehem!

In the land of Judah,

Are by no means least

Among the rulers of Judah.

From you

Shall come a ruler

Who is to shepherd

My people Israel.’”

 

οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας· οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου·

Καὶ σύ, Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα, οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα· ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ.

 

Interesting enough the response from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin was a quote from the prophet Micah, chapter 5:2.  These priests and scribes told Herod (οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ) that the place for the birth of this new king had to be Bethlehem in Judea (Ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας).  The prophet Micah, without mentioning him by name, had written about this (οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου).  The quote from Micah is a paraphrase of Micah, as there was no mention of Ephrathah here.  Micah had uttered this ode about the small town of Bethlehem, where King David came from also.  Thus, this new ruler of Israel would be from this same place or part of the Davidic bloodline, as Matthew has pointed out.  Bethlehem was in the land of Judah (Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα), not far from Jerusalem, about 6 miles.  Bethlehem was not the least among the various clans of Judah (οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα).  The new leader or ruler would shepherd or lead (ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ) the Lord’s people of Israel (τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ).  Matthew with this citation, made the clear connection between, David, Bethlehem, and Jesus.

 

The ode to Bethlehem (Mic 5:2-5:2)

“But you!

O Bethlehem of Ephrathah!

You are one of the little clans

Of Judah.

From you,

Shall come forth

For me

One who is

To rule in Israel.

His origin is from of old,

From ancient days.”

This is a very complicated passage that was used by the New Testament gospels of Matthew, chapter 2, and John, chapter 7, as a prediction of where the Messiah would be born.  Micah directed this ode directly to Bethlehem, a town about 6 miles south of Jerusalem.  The ancient name was apparently Ephrathah, similar to the name of the territory of Ephraim, but a small clan of people.  King David was from this small town of Bethlehem.  Thus, this new ruler of Israel would be from this same place or part of the Davidic bloodline.  There is confusion about the little phrase “from me.”  Was this new ruler to be from God or Bethlehem?  Would he be like the ancient good old days of David?