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.

 

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King David (Mt 1:6-1:6)

“David was

The father of Solomon

By the wife of Uriah.”

 

Δαυεὶδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σολομῶνα ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου,

 

King David had 6 sons while living in Hebron for a little over 7 years, based on 2 Samuel, chapter 3.  Each son had a different mother.  After King David moved to Jerusalem, he had some more wives and concubines.  Altogether, David had at least 20 named children, as indicated in 2 Samuel, chapter 13.  Shimea or Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon (Σολομῶνα), were the 4 sons of him and Bathsheba.  However, she was not mentioned by name here but was simply called the wife of Uriah (ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου).  King David had Uriah killed, while committing adultery with her.  Notice that the Greek text did not say wife but only implied it, saying she from Uriah.  Solomon followed David to the throne as king, because of the intrigues of his mother Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan, as found in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2.  The Greek text used the term ‘begat’ (ἐγέννησεν) to represent the relationships between David and Solomon.  However, it seems perfectly acceptable to simply call David the father instead of saying “fathered him.”

The Writings

The Writings, as they were referred to in the New Testament, were the poetic or wisdom books.  They include the Psalms, some written by David, but mostly ranging from the 10th–4th century BCE, and the Proverbs, ascribed to Solomon, ranging from the 9th century–3rd century BCE, as well as the Book of Job, from the 6th century BCE.  Both the Psalms and Proverbs were written over a period of time, but they each have an author attributed to them, King David to the Psalms, and King Solomon to the ProverbsJob was not an Israelite, but his story was instructive to the Israelites.

Destroy those against Jerusalem (Zech 12:8-12:9)

“On that day,

Yahweh will shield

The inhabitants

Of Jerusalem.

Thus,

The feeblest among them,

On that day,

Shall be like David.

The house of David

Shall be like God.

The house of David

Shall be like the angel of Yahweh,

At their head.

On that day,

I will seek to destroy

All the nations

That come against Jerusalem.”

On this coming day, Yahweh was going to shield Jerusalem from all attacks.  The weakest among them would be like King David.  The house of David would be like God, with the angel of Yahweh leading it.  Yahweh was going to destroy every country that tried to go against Jerusalem.  This was a very strong defense of the city of Jerusalem and the Davidic royalty, on the day of Yahweh.

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?

The response of Amos (Am 7:14-7:15)

“Then Amos answered Amaziah.

‘I am no prophet.

I am not a prophet’s son.

But I am a herdsman.

I am a dresser

Of sycamore trees.

Yahweh took me

From following the flock.

Yahweh said to me.

‘Go!

Prophesy to my people Israel!’”

Amos responded that he was not a professional prophet, nor the son of a prophet, nor part of any prophetic group. He was a simple shepherd or herdsman. He loved to take care of sycamore trees. Yahweh had taken him away from his flock and told him to prophesize to the people of Israel. Remember that King David was also a shepherd. Obviously, that was considered a badge of honor to be a lowly shepherd, something that Jesus of Nazareth would also mention.

The Zadok Levitical priests (Ezek 44:15-44:16)

“‘But the Levitical priests,

The descendants of Zadok,

Who kept the charge

Of my sanctuary,

When the people of Israel

Went astray

From me,

Shall come near

To me

To minister

To me.

They shall attend me

To offer me

The fat

With the blood.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘They shall enter

My sanctuary.

They shall approach

My table.

They shall

Minister

To me.

They shall

Keep my charge.’”

It was a different story for the Zadok Levitical priests, as mentioned in the previous chapter. These Levitical priests from the family of Zadok came from a righteous priest, who was descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. This Zadok aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapters 13-22. Then this Zadok helped bring King Solomon to the throne in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, this Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there in 1 Kings, chapter 4. Thus, the house of Zadok occupied the high priesthood throughout much of the Second Temple period. These Zadok Levitical priests had been loyal to Yahweh, when the other Levites went astray. They were the ones who could come near to Yahweh to minister to him. They would offer the fat and the blood. They would enter Yahweh’s sanctuary and approach his table. They would be in charge and directly minister to Yahweh.