Did Matthew change the wording of Micah 5:2 to make it look like a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem?
Question: Did Matthew alter the wording of Micah 5:2 to make it look like the Messiah was to be born in the town of Bethlehem in Judah? Afterall, Micah never said "Judah," he said "Bethlehem Ephratah." And, wasn't that the name of a family clan, not a town? The son of Caleb's second wife was Ephratah, see 1 Chron.2:18,50-52 & 1 Chron.4:4. Isn't that why you see the name Ephratah after the word Bethlehem in Micah 5:2? In Matt.2:6, notice that he leaves out the word Ephratah and substitutes the word Juda to make it appear it is about the town of Bethlehem and not about the clan of Bethlehem Ephratah.
Response: There are two questions here. The first is whether Matthew altered the wording of Micah 5:2 and the other is whether Micah 5:2 refers to a clan or to a town. The answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second question is that Micah 5:2 does refer to a town - the town of Bethlehem in Judah.
As for the first question, Matthew did not alter the wording of Micah 5:2. Instead, he is quoting what other people were saying about Micah 5:2. Take a look at the related verses from the book of Matthew:
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.
5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6 " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " (Matthew 2:3-6, NIV)
As you can see from Matthew 2:3-6, Matthew is quoting the chief priests and teachers of the law. And the chief priests and teachers of the law are equating the reference to "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 with the town of Bethlehem in Judah.
Bethlehem and Ephratah are indeed the names of people in the Bible who lived long before the time of Jesus. But these also are the names for the town of Bethlehem in Judah, with Ephratah being the more ancient name for the town and Bethlehem being the newer name for the town.
By referring to the town as "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2, the prophet Micah is distinguishing the Bethlehem in Judah from another town named Bethlehem outside of Judah.
The chief priests and teachers of the law were not the only ancient Jews who understood that the Messiah was to be born in the town of Bethlehem in Judah. Here is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Talmud, which is a collection of Judaism-related writings completed about 1600 years ago:
"The King Messiah... from where does he come forth? From the royal city of Bethlehem in Judah." - Jerusalem Talmud, Berakoth 5a.
More information about Micah 5:2 can be found here: