“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah. Out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (Full context: Micah 5:1-5)
Bethlehem or Ephrathah is a small farming village located approximately five miles southwest of Jerusalem. Bethlehem is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 as the traditional burial site for Rachel, thus it is an old village. Much of the book of Ruth occurs in the region of Bethlehem (Ruth1:1-2,19,22; 2:4; 4:11). Both names Bethlehem (house of bread) and Ephrathah (fruitfulness) indicate the fertility of the area.
Micah was a prophet who preached to the common people of Judah about the national and political crisis over the ill-gotten wealth, corruption, and oppression of the poor by the rich (social injustice) and religious practices with other gods. He prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction, the Babylon captivity, the return from exile, and the birth of a new ruler of Israel in Bethlehem. In spite of Judah’s sins, God would raise up another ruler from David’s birth place, hometown and place where he was first anointed king (1 Samuel 16:3,13), Bethlehem. The unlikely choice of David as king foreshadows the unlikely choice of Bethlehem as the birth place of a greater David, the Messiah. The phase “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” could refer to God’s promise to David, or the existence of Christ before His birth in Bethlehem or creation. God had promised David in 2 Samuel 7:16, “Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever, and your throne will be established forever.” Jesus is from the lineage of David and tribe of Judah. Micah describes the Messiah in 5:4 as being greater than the Shepherd-King David and “His greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.” And Micah prophesies in 5:3 that God will give up Judah to her enemies until she (the virgin Mary) gives birth to the Messiah.
In Matthew 2:1-12, the magi from the east ask King Herod the Great where the King of the Jews was born. Then Herod the Great asked the chief priests and scribes, and they said Bethlehem of Judah as written in Micah 5:2 by the prophet. Likewise Luke 2:4-20 and John 7:42 also report that Jesus was born in the humble village of Bethlehem and an off spring of David. Bethlehem was a small village, but two kings that God loved were born there. One the King of Kings!
We can also celebrate God’s keeping His promise and sending Jesus our Savior.