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Micah FiveThere are certain verses in the Tanach that are often cited as evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. In this study we will consider one of these. Identifying the Messiah is very important. Recognizing false Messiahs is just as important. HaShem has given us plenty of evidence for this task. Messiah has not yet come. But he will!
There is considerable debate on this section of the Tanakh among the scholars, both Jewish and Christian. Here are some of my thoughts on this. They are by no means exhaustive. As always I invite your questions and comments.
First, remember that Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah living during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah during the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem. Klal Israel was under siege and like Isaiah, Micah was addressing their concerns. Unless the text says otherwise (which it does not) the initial assumption should be that he was writing to his fellow Jews alive at that time:Micah 4:13 Micah Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves copper; and you shall crush many nations, and you shall devote their plunder to the Lord, and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.It is true that "they" [i.e. the Assyrians] HAVE laid siege against Klal Israel and against Jerusalem, but Israel will be victorious under the leadership of the person referenced next -- Of course Babylon not the Jews took out Assyria as I will comment on below.
Micah 4:14 Now you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; he has laid siege to us. With a rod they strike the judges of Israel on the cheek.
Going by the context this section is not addressing the coming of THE Messiah or the End of Days but of a messiah who will rescue the people under discussion (possibly Cyrus the Great who is called "messiah" and who later freed the Babylonian enslaved Jews: Ezra 5:13). This understanding is harmonious with who this prophecy is directed to in its entirety:Micah 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, which he prophesied concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.This book therefore concerns the people of Samaria (i.e. the 10 houses) and Jerusalem (i.e. Judah and Benjamin).Micah 5:1 And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah-you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah-from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.The everlasting reign of King David's line seems to be the reference here (see Genesis 49:10). As at Isaiah 52 and 53, the reference is to Klal Israel entire and not to a particular king, although HaMashiach will one day emerge from Klal Israel. David came from Bethlehem and so symbolically did his lineage. This therefore is an assurance that HaShem's blessings will continue with David's line and, as we saw in 4:14, they are being called to arise for battle in these verses. In other words, you, 'Klal Israel, will be successful against your enemies due to the Covenant made with Avraham and passed on through King David, however you must arise and act like the sons and daughters of David!'
In this case the Jews did not defeat their enemies directly. There are important truths here that we wont delve into now, however understand that HaShem used the might of Babylon and then had the Persian ruler Cyrus free His people and return them to the Land (Ezra 5:13). ALL things are in the Hands of HaShem and ALL things work together for our ultimate best as Rebbe Nachman explains so wonderfully....then the Messiah will come, for the redemption is mainly dependent upon this [i.e. emuna], as the verse says, "Come, look from the top of amanah/emunah/faith" (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan 1.7.1).We read:Isaiah 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to His anointed [Hebrew: moshiach], to Cyrus...In my view this section of Micah is not a Messianic prophecy at all.
As I said above, there is debate on these verses however. SOME Jewish scholars do see this as a Messianic prophecy. Among them is Rashi, certainly one of the more important of our sages.
In his comments Rashi reminds us that certain things will have to happen to signify the coming of HaMashiach (i.e. THE Messiah). IF these verses are talking about the Messiah, all of the other requirements must also be met for his arrival. These include:
- Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
- Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
- Ezekiel 38:16
- Hosea 3:4-3:5
- Micah 4
- Zephaniah 3:9
- Zechariah 14:9
- Daniel 10:14
See JewFaq for more on this.
Thus far these messianic requirements obviously have not been met by anyone. When they are everyone will know it. Like all Jewish authorities Rashi agrees that Messiah has not yet come. He merely includes these verses in his reasoning while others do not.
Rashi says, in part:"...from you [Klal Israel] shall emerge for Me": the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): "The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone."So Rashi accepts this as being a Messianic prophecy. Other Jewish authorities don't. Judaism is quite diverse.
Rashi's comments on verse 2 make it clear that the Messiah has not yet come:Therefore, He shall deliver them until the time a woman in confinement gives birth: He shall deliver them [the people of Israel] into the hands of their enemies until the coming of the time that Zion has felt the pangs of labor and borne her children; Zion, which is now seized by the pangs of labor [as Micah is writing], is now called a woman in confinement. [i.e., now the labor pains will cease and the redemption will come about.] But our Sages state that from here we deduce that the son of David will not come until the wicked kingdom spreads over the entire world for nine months (Yoma 10b, Sanh. 98b). But, according to its simple meaning, this is the structure as I explained.
A note for my Christian friends who are struggling with this idea and who hope for a friend in Rashi's comments here: John uses this same example of the woman in confinement giving birth in Revelation 12. John, an intimate disciple of Jesus, understood therefore that the Messiah had not yet come and that this and other prophecies still had not been fulfilled. He witnesses the same symbolic scene years after Jesus' execution. This being the case, these verses are not referring the historic Jesus of Nazareth who did not fulfill the primary (Messianic requirements).
Rashi continues:...and the rest of his brothers: The brothers of the King Messiah; i. e., the rest of the tribe [of Judah].Thus far the 10 Lost Houses (i.e. the Northern Kingdom of Israel aka "Ephraim") remains lost and divorced by HaShem even though Judah and Benjamin (i.e. the Southern Kingdom) were never lost and were restored to Land of Israel in 1948. Neither Micah's nor Rashi's (nor John's) requirements have been met by anyone yet.
...shall return upon the children of Israel: Judah and Benjamin shall join the other tribes and become one kingdom, and they shall no longer be divided into two kingdoms.
Verse 3 tells us that HaMashiach (if this is who is being discussed here as Rashi believes):...shall stand and lead with the might of the Lord, with the pride of the Lord, his God: and they [Klal Israel re-united] shall return, for now he shall become great to the ends of the earth.Jesus was not a military leader. He did not lead the Jews anywhere and indeed the opposite happened. Just 40 years or so after his execution by the Romans, the Jews were kicked out of Israel and did not return until 1948. This is the exact opposite of what the Messiah will accomplish according to the biblical prophets.
Prior to being exiled from their homes in 70 - 73 CE about half of the Jews were still living in Babylon (they did not return to Israel once they were freed). Jesus made no attempt to lead these Jews back to Israel as required by the prophecies. He doesn't even mention them! By no twisting of scriptures can it be shown that Jesus fulfilled this essential part of the prophecy, whoever is being referenced in verse 1.
Rashi explains:and lead: And lead IsraelAgain nothing of the kind took place in the First Century CE nor since.
and they shall return: They shall return now from the exiles.
for then he shall become great: I.e., [he will be] their king.
until the ends of the earth: And they shall bring tribute to him [the Messiah] with horses and chariots.
The man referenced at Micah 5:1 then, based on this evidence, can not possibly be to 'the man from the Galil'. Whoever is being referenced in these verses, whether HaMashiach or not, the requirements by which HaMashiach will be recognized remain unfulfilled. So, while there is some debate among the Jewish sages as to whether this verse is talking about the Messiah or not, what is clear is that thus far no one has fulfilled the role of HaMashiach.
We continue to wait.
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