Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now 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.
Mic 5:1-15. The Calamities Which Precede Messiah's Advent. His Kingdom, Conquest of Jacob's Foes, and Blessing upon His People.
1. gather thyself in troops—that is, thou shalt do so, to resist the enemy. Lest the faithful should fall into carnal security because of the previous promises, he reminds them of the calamities which are to precede the prosperity.
daughter of troops—Jerusalem is so called on account of her numerous troops.
he hath laid siege—the enemy hath.
they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek—the greatest of insults to an Oriental. Zedekiah, the judge (or king, Am 2:3) of Israel, was loaded with insults by the Chaldeans; so also the other princes and judges (La 3:30). Hengstenberg thinks the expression, "the judge," marks a time when no king of the house of David reigned. The smiting on the cheek of other judges of Israel was a type of the same indignity offered to Him who nevertheless is the Judge, not only of Israel, but also of the world, and who is "from everlasting" (Mic 5:2; Isa 50:6; Mt 26:67; 27:30).
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
2. Beth-lehem Ephratah—(Ge 48:7), or, Beth-lehem Judah; so called to distinguish it from Beth-lehem in Zebulun. It is a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. Beth-lehem means "the house of bread"; Ephratah means "fruitful": both names referring to the fertility of the region.
though thou be little among—though thou be scarcely large enough to be reckoned among, &c. It was insignificant in size and population; so that in Jos 15:21, &c., it is not enumerated among the cities of Judah; nor in the list in Ne 11:25, &c. Under Rehoboam it became a city: 2Ch 11:6, "He built Beth-lehem." Mt 2:6 seems to contradict Micah, "thou art not the least," But really he, by an independent testimony of the Spirit, confirms the prophet, Little in worldly importance, thou art not least (that is, far from least, yea, the very greatest) among the thousands, of princes of Judah, in the spiritual significance of being the birthplace of Messiah (Joh 7:42). God chooses the little things of the world to eclipse in glory its greatest things (Jud 6:15; Joh 1:46; 1Co 1:27, 28). The low state of David's line when Messiah was born is also implied here.
thousands—Each tribe was divided into clans or "thousands" (each thousand containing a thousand families: like our old English division of counties into hundreds), which had their several heads or "princes"; hence in Mt 2:6 it is quoted "princes," substantially the same as in Micah, and authoritatively explained in Matthew. It is not so much this thousand that is preferred to the other thousands of Judah, but the Governor or Chief Prince out of it, who is preferred to the governors of all the other thousands. It is called a "town" (rather in the Greek, "village"), Joh 7:42; though scarcely containing a thousand inhabitants, it is ranked among the "thousands" or larger divisions of the tribe, because of its being the cradle of David's line, and of the Divine Son of David. Moses divided the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, with their respective "rulers" (Ex 18:25; compare 1Sa 10:19).
unto me—unto God the Father (Lu 1:32): to fulfil all the Father's will and purpose from eternity. So the Son declares (Ps 2:7; 40:7, 8; Joh 4:34); and the Father confirms it (Mt 3:17; 12:18, compare with Isa 42:1). God's glory is hereby made the ultimate end of redemption.
ruler—the "Shiloh," "Prince of peace," "on whose shoulders the government is laid" (Ge 49:10; Isa 9:6). In 2Sa 23:3, "He that ruleth over men must be just," the same Hebrew word is employed; Messiah alone realizes David's ideal of a ruler. Also in Jer 30:21, "their governor shall proceed from the midst of them"; answering closely to "out of thee shall come forth the ruler," here (compare Isa 11:1-4).
goings forth … from everlasting—The plain antithesis of this clause, to "come forth out of thee" (from Beth-lehem), shows that the eternal generation of the Son is meant. The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable (compare Ps 90:2; Pr 8:22, 23; Joh 1:1). Messiah's generation as man coming forth unto God to do His will on earth is from Beth-lehem; but as Son of God, His goings forth are from everlasting. The promise of the Redeemer at first was vaguely general (Ge 3:15). Then the Shemitic division of mankind is declared as the quarter in which He was to be looked for (Ge 9:26, 27); then it grows clearer, defining the race and nation whence the Deliverer should come, namely, the seed of Abraham, the Jews (Ge 12:3); then the particular tribe, Judah (Ge 49:10); then the family, that of David (Ps 89:19, 20); then the very town of His birth, here. And as His coming drew nigh, the very parentage (Mt 1:1-17; Lu 1:26-35; 2:1-7); and then all the scattered rays of prophecy concentrate in Jesus, as their focus (Heb 1:1, 2).
Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
3. "Therefore (because of His settled plan) will God give up to their foes His people Israel, until," &c.
she which travaileth hath brought forth—namely, "the virgin" mother, mentioned by Micah's contemporary, Isa 7:14. Zion "in travail" (Mic 4:9, 10) answers to the virgin in travail of Messiah. Israel's deliverance from her long travail-pains of sorrow will synchronize with the appearance of the Messiah as her Redeemer (Ro 11:26) in the last days, as the Church's spiritual deliverance synchronized with the virgin's giving birth to Him at His first advent. The ancient Church's travail-like waiting for Messiah is represented by the virgin's travail. Hence, both may be meant. It cannot be restricted to the Virgin Mary: for Israel is still "given up," though Messiah has been "brought forth" eighteen and a half centuries ago. But the Church's throes are included, which are only to be ended when Christ, having been preached for a witness to all nations, shall at last appear as the Deliverer of Jacob, and when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, and Israel as a nation shall be born in a day (Isa 66:7-11; Lu 21:24; Re 12:1, 2, 4; compare Ro 8:22).
the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel—(Compare Mic 4:7). The remainder of the Israelites dispersed in foreign lands shall return to join their countrymen in Canaan. The Hebrew for "unto" is, literally, "upon," implying superaddition to those already gathered.
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
4. he shall stand—that is, persevere: implying the endurance of His kingdom [Calvin]. Rather, His sedulous care and pastoral circumspection, as a shepherd stands erect to survey and guard His flock on every side (Isa 61:5) [Maurer].
feed—that is, rule: as the Greek word similarly in Mt 2:6, Margin, means both "feed" and "rule" (Isa 40:11; 49:10; Eze 34:23; compare 2Sa 5:2; 7:8).
in the majesty of the name of the Lord—possessing the majesty of all Jehovah's revealed attributes ("name") (Isa 11:2; Php 2:6, 9; Heb 2:7-9).
his God—God is "His God" in a oneness of relation distinct from the sense in which God is our God (Joh 20:17).
they shall abide—the Israelites ("they," namely, the returning remnant and the "children of Israel previously in Canaan) shall dwell in permanent security and prosperity (Mic 4:4; Isa 14:30).
unto the ends of the earth—(Mic 4:1; Ps 72:8; Zec 9:10).
And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian 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.
5. this man—in Hebrew simply "This." The One just mentioned; He and He alone. Emphatical for Messiah (compare Ge 5:29).
the peace—the fountainhead of peace between God and man, between Israel and Israel's justly offended God (Ge 49:10; Isa 9:6; Eph 2:14, 17; Col 1:20), and, as the consequence, the fountain of "peace on earth," where heretofore all is strife (Mic 4:3; Ho 2:18; Zec 9:10; Lu 2:14).
the Assyrian—Being Israel's most powerful foe at that time, Assyria is made the representative of all the foes of Israel in all ages, who shall receive their final destruction at Messiah's appearing (Eze 38:1-23).
seven shepherds, and eight—"Seven" expresses perfection; "seven and eight" is an idiom for a full and sufficient number (Job 5:19; Pr 6:16; Ec 11:2).
principal men—literally, "anointed (humble) men" (Ps 62:9), such as the apostles were. Their anointing, or consecration and qualification to office, was by the Holy Spirit [Calvin] (1Jo 2:20, 27). "Princes" also were anointed, and they are mentioned as under Messiah (Isa 32:1). English Version therefore gives the probable sense.
And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.
6. waste—literally, "eat up": following up the metaphor of "shepherds" (compare Nu 22:4; Jer 6:3).
land of Nimrod—Babylon (Mic 4:10; Ge 10:10); or, including Assyria also, to which he extended his borders (Ge 10:11).
in the entrances—the passes into Assyria (2Ki 3:21). The Margin and Jerome, misled by a needless attention to the parallelism, "with the sword," translate, "with her own naked swords"; as in Ps 55:21 the Hebrew is translated. But "in the entrances" of Assyria, answers to, "within our borders." As the Assyrians invade our borders, so shall their own borders or "entrances" be invaded.
he … he—Messiah shall deliver us, when the Assyrian shall come.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.
7. remnant of Jacob—already mentioned in Mic 5:3. It in comparative smallness stands in antithesis to the "many people." Though Israel be but a remnant amidst many nations after her restoration, yet she shall exercise the same blessed influence in quickening them spiritually that the small imperceptible dew exercises in refreshing the grass (De 32:2; Ps 72:6; 110:3). The influence of the Jews restored from Babylon in making many Gentile proselytes is an earnest of a larger similar effect hereafter (Isa 66:19; Zec 8:13).
from the Lord—Israel's restoration and the consequent conversion of the Gentiles are solely of grace.
tarrieth not for man—entirely God's work, as independent of human contrivance as the dew and rains that fertilize the soil.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
8. as a lion—In Mic 5:7 Israel's benignant influence on the nations is described; but here her vengeance on the godless hosts who assail her (Isa 66:15, 16, 19, 24; Zec 12:3, 6, 8, 9; 14:17, 18). Judah will be "as as lion," not in respect to its cruelty, but in its power of striking terror into all opponents. Under the Maccabees, the Jews acquired Idumea, Samaria, and parts of the territory of Ammon and Moab [Grotius]. But this was only the earnest of their future glory on their coming restoration.
Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
9. Thine hand shall be lifted up—In Isa 26:11 it is Jehovah's hand that is lifted up; here Israel's as Mic 5:8 implies, just as "Zion" is addressed and directed to "beat in pieces many people" (Mic 4:13; compare Isa 54:15, 17). For Israel's foes are Jehovah's foes. When her hand is said to be lifted up, it is Jehovah's hand that strikes the foe by her (compare Ex 13:9, with Ex 14:8).
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:
10. cut off thy horses … chariots—namely, those used for the purposes of war. Israel had been forbidden the use of cavalry, or to go to Egypt for horses (De 17:16), lest they should trust in worldly forces, rather than in God (Ps 20:7). Solomon had disregarded this command (1Ki 10:26, 28). Hereafter, saith God, I will remove these impediments to the free course of My grace: horses, chariots, &c., on which ye trust. The Church will never be safe, till she is stripped of all creature trusts, and rests on Jehovah alone [Calvin]. The universal peace given by God shall cause warlike instruments to be needless. He will cut them off from Israel (Zec 9:10); as she will cut them off from Babylon, the representative of the nations (Jer 50:37; 51:21).
And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:
11. cut off … cities … strongholds—such as are fortified for war. In that time of peace, men shall live in unwalled villages (Eze 38:11; compare Jer 23:6; 49:31; Zec 2:8).
And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:
12. witchcrafts out of thine hand—that is, which thou now usest.
Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.
13. graven images … cut off—(Compare Isa 2:8, 18-21; 30:22; Zec 13:2).
And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.
14. groves … cities—The "groves" are the idolatrous symbol of Astarte (De 16:21; 2Ki 21:7). "Cities" being parallel to "groves," must mean cities in or near which such idolatrous groves existed. Compare "city of the house of Baal" (2Ki 10:25), that is, a portion of the city sacred to Baal.
And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
15. vengeance … such as they have not heard—or, as the Hebrew order favors, "the nations that have not hearkened to My warnings." So the Septuagint (Ps 149:7).