Micah 5:2. But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah Here we have evidently the beginning of another subject, quite different from any thing that the first verse can relate to, and with which it seems to have no connection. The word Ephrah, or Ephratah, is here added, to distinguish Beth-lehem in the tribe of Judah, from another Beth-lehem in the tribe of Zebulun. It is called Ephratah, from the fruitfulness of the land where it stood: the word whence that term is derived importing fruitfulness. Though thou be little
The word though is not in the Hebrew, but supplied by our translators. And the sense of the sentence, it seems, is unnecessarily altered by its introduction. Many interpreters render the clauses interrogatively, thus; Art thou little among the thousands of Judah? The expression, the thousands of J u dah, seems to have been used in allusion to the first division of the people, into thousands, hundreds, and other subordinate divisions. The rendering of the clause thus, Art thou little, &c., which implies the contrary, thou art not little, is certainly the right way of rendering it, because St. Matthew understood it, and quotes it, in this sense, chap. Micah 2:6, And thou Beth-lehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah. Bishop Newcome’s translation of the clause accords still more exactly with St. Matthew’s, “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, art thou too little to be among the leaders of Judah? Out of thee shall come, &c.,” the word אלפו , rendered thousands, often signifying heads of thousands. Yet out of thee, &c. The word yet also is not in the Hebrew; and if the preceding clause be rendered, as is here proposed, interrogatively, it is not necessary to complete the sense of the verse; indeed, it would only obscure it. Out of thee shall come forth, &c., that is to be ruler in Israel This prophecy can be applied, with no propriety, to any other but the Messiah. The words must be very much wrested and changed from their natural meaning, or deprived of their full force or signification, before they can be applied to any other person. The Jews, even the most learned ones, before and at our Saviour’s time, understood this to be spoken of the Messiah; for St. Matthew informs us, Matthew 2:5-6, that when Herod inquired of the chief priests and scribes, assembled together, to give him information where Christ should be born, they agreed unanimously that it was in Beth- lehem of Judea, alleging these very words as a certain and undeniable proof of it. And so did the generality of the Jews of that age, who speak of it as an undoubted truth, that Christ was to come of the seed of David, and of the town of Beth-lehem, where David was, John 7:42. The Chaldee agrees with their sentiments, and expressly applies the prophecy to the Messiah; and our Lord was born at Beth-lehem by an especial act of Providence, that this prophecy might plainly be fulfilled in him: see Luke 2:4. The expression, come forth, is the same as to be born. Whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting Hebrew, מימי עולם מקדם , rendered by the LXX., απ αχης , εξ ημεων αιωνος ; and exactly in the same sense by the Vulgate, ab initio, a diebus æternitatis, from the beginning, from the days of eternity. So these Hebrew expressions must of necessity signify in divers places of Scripture, being used to signify the eternity of God: see Psalms 55:19; Psalms 90:2; Proverbs 8:23; Habakkuk 1:12. The words naturally import an original, distinct from the birth of Christ mentioned in the foregoing sentence, which original is here declared to be from all eternity.
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