“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from everlasting,
From the ancient days.
~ Micah 5:2 ~
This verse promises that the ruler in Israel will come from Bethlehem Ephrathah in Judah. Although He came out of Bethlehem, He did not have His beginning there, for He is an everlasting person.
God’s Word is very precise about this qualification. There were actually two “Bethlehems” in ancient Israel – one in Judah (1 Sam 16:4) and one in Galilee (Josh 19:15). This verse (Mic 5:2) makes it clear, however, that the Bethlehem in Judah is the place from which the Messiah will come. You might say that the Lord not only provided the address for the Messiah’s birth; He also included the “zip code” so you would not miss it! The ancient scribes and rabbis agreed that this Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of the Messiah, and they related this information to Herod the Great when he asked for it (Matt 2:4-6).
This birth in Bethlehem, however, does not mean that the Messiah is of human origin only, for it also says that “His goings forth have been from everlasting, from days of old.” The notion that Messiah is nothing more than a gifted man is contradicted by this plain statement declaring His eternal preexistence – He is said to be, literally, “from everlasting.” This word conveys an attribute belonging to Yahweh God only. “Are you not from everlasting, O Yahweh my God, my Holy One? (Hab 1:12). Even the Talmud and the ancient rabbis stated that the name of Messiah is one of the things that existed before the creation of the world (Pesahim 54a, Genesis Rabbah 1:4).
I was witnessing once to a rabbi who challenged me to give him one verse that shows Jesus is the Messiah. I responded by quoting to him this very verse: Micah 5:2. I added that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as the fulfillment of this promise. He immediately responded, “That verse is not referring to Jesus but to David who was born in Bethlehem.” Well he was right about David being born in Bethlehem, but he was very wrong about David being the subject of the prophecy. I quickly reminded him that Micah the prophet ministered two hundred years after David, so he could not be prophesying about the coming in the future of someone who had lived two centuries earlier! How sad I was at his response: “Well, it must have meant something to the people in those days, even though we don’t know what it means today.” But we can know what it means!
When we sing this year “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we should remember that an eternal person was born that night in a robe of flesh. We should also remember that the fierceness of Herod could not destroy Him, but that He survived to bring salvation to Israel and to the world.