The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 14

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Micah 5:2—Who Is the One Who Is Eternal, Who Will Be the Ruler over Israel, Who Is Born in Bethlehem Ephrathah?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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The Biblical Text

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are least among the thousands of Judah, out of you He shall come forth to Me to be ruler in Israel, His goings forth have been from old, from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2)

The Context of the Passage

Micah Chapter 5 begins with a statement of doom concerning a siege laid against Israel and its ruler. It is immediately followed by a statement of hope, the foretelling of a future King who will bring lasting security to Israel and whose influence will extend to all the earth.[1]

Note that the prophecy is specific. It identifies Bethlehem as “Ephrathah” (the older name for Bethlehem—Gen. 35:16,19; 48:7; Ruth 1:2; 4:11)—which distinguishes this Bethlehem from other towns named Bethlehem such as the one in Zebulun (Josh. 19:15).

Use of the term “Ephrathah” also identifies Bethlehem as the town in which David was born (1 Sam. 17:12) further establishing the Messianic connection between the Messiah and King David’s throne.[2]

The Explanation of the Text

Grammatically, the term “from ancient times” must apply to the ruler from the days of eternity..[3] This ruler’s activities are said to stem from the ancient past, yet his coming is still future.

The term “old” literally means from “ancient time, aforetime.” The word “old” (qedem) is used of God Himself on occasion in the Old Testament (Deut. 33:27; Hab. 1:12). The words “from the days of eternity” (mee mai-oulom) literally mean from “ancient time or eternity.” Both “old” and “ancient times” can thus refer to eternity. The Hebrew word for “ancient times” is used in Micah 4:7 where it says, “And Jehovah shall reign over them… forever [eternally].”

The fact that such terms were used of a future ruler indicates that Micah expected a supernatural figure. This harmonizes with Isaiah’s expectation of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 where the future Messianic King is called “eternal” and “God” (El), a word Isaiah uses only of God..[4] Hailey comments that the words “from old, from ancient times” “indicate more than that he descends from an ancient lineage; it relates Him to God, the Eternal One. His rule reaches back into eternity.”[5]

The meaning of this verse revolves around two key points: (1.) Like his ancestor King David, this future ruler of Israel will be born in insignificant Bethlehem. (2.) His goings forth, His activities, extend back into eternity.

According to the scholar Hengstenberg, the Prophet Micah describes, first, the existence of the Messiah before his birth in time, in Bethlehem, is pointed out in general; and then, in contrast with all time, it is vindicated to eternity. This could not fail to afford a great consolation to Israel. He who hereafter, in a visible manifestation, was to deliver them from their misery, was already in existence—during it, before it, and through all eternity.[6]

Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem 700 years later.

Was Micah 5:2 Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?

This book has long been acknowledged as Messianic. Gloag remarks that: All the ancient Jewish interpreters adhere to the Messianic meaning…. So also the testimony of the Targums is in favor of the Messianic interpretation of the prophecy. Thus the Targum of Jonathan says “And thou, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, little art thou to be reckoned among the thousands of the house of Judah; out of thee shall proceed in my presence the Messiah to exercise sovereignty over Israel; whose name has been called from eternity, from the days of the everlasting.” “Thou art little,” observes Rabbi Jarchi, “But out of thee shall come forth to me King Messiah.”[7]

Edersheim states that among the rabbis, “The well-known passage, Micah 5:2, is admittedly Messianic. So [also] in the Targum,… and by later Rabbis.”[8]

That the Jews recognized this as a Messianic prophecy is also evident from the fact that the priests and scribes of Herod’s day knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem on the basis of this prophecy (Mt. 2:5, 6). Thus, the common Jewish belief at the time of Christ was that they “unanimously regarded this passage as containing a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem.”[9] This is proven by Matthew 2:5, 6 and John 7:42.

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following descriptions:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

Clue #2—He will come from the race of the Jews, and specifically from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Clue #3—He will be a great prophet, with the authority to teach like Moses.

Clue #4—He will be mocked, and people will cast lots for His garments while He suffers.

Clue #5—He will be David’s Lord.

Clue #6—He will be the child born who is God, and will have an everlasting kingdom.

Clue #7—He will be wounded and bruised, smitten and spit upon, mocked, killed with thieves, bear the sins of many, be rejected by His own people, pierced for our transgressions, be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and come back to life after His death.

Clue #8—He will be Jehovah our Righteousness.

Clue #9—He will be the Messiah who comes to Jerusalem 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem is given. At that time He will be killed.

Clue #10—He will be born in Bethlehem but has existed eternally.

Read Part 15


  1. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 427.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976), p. 209.
  6. Hengstenberg, Christology, pp. 358-359.
  7. Delitzsch and Gloag, Part 2, pp. 118-119.
  8. Edersheim, Life and Times, p. 735.
  9. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, Vol. 10: The Minor Prophets, p. 481.

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