The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

Bible passage: Micah 5:1-2
Prophet: Micah
Written: Sometime between 750-686 BC

This article is contributed by Ray Konig, the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.

By Ray Konig
Published: Dec. 4, 2023

About 2,700 years ago, the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and that he would be born in the town of Bethlehem.

David, a man of great faith, lived about 3,000 years ago and was ancient Israel's greatest king. God chose David to be king and promised David that he would be a forefather to the Messiah himself.

With this prophecy in Micah 5:1-2, Micah revisits that promise and reveals the new detail that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is where David was born:

1 Now you shall gather yourself in troops, daughter of troops. He has laid siege against us. They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek. 2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, being small among the clans of Judah, out of you one will come out to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings out are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:1-2, WEB)

For background, Ephrathah is ancient name for the town of Bethlehem in the region of Judah (Ruth 4:11). Putting these two names together, as Micah does, distinguishes this town from another named Bethlehem. And, Ephrathah is also the name of a clan within the Israelite Tribe of Judah. David was born to this clan and was born in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 17:12).

And so, with this prophecy, Micah establishes that the Messiah, whom he identifies with the word ruler, will be born in the town of Bethlehem, as a descendant of David.

We know that Micah is speaking of the town of Bethlehem, and not just alluding to David’s clan, because Micah is also contrasting the powerful and exalted city of Jerusalem with the small and humble town of Bethlehem, which is about 7 miles or 12 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem.

Micah identifies Jerusalem in two ways, as the daughter of troops, and as the site in which a siege would soon take place. Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah. It was the seat of power for the house of David, as in the royal descendants of David, who reigned from Jerusalem for many generations.

With this prophecy, Micah is eliminating all other cities and towns in Israel, and beyond, as being the birthplace for the Messiah. This new detail becomes another way for people identify, and to validate the identity of, the promised Messiah, once he arrived.

As for the fulfillment of this prophecy, the historical record shows that throughout the span of the past 27 centuries, since the time of Micah, Bethlehem is credited as being the birthplace for the only person in history to have ever achieved or sustained a widespread following as being the Messiah, and that person is Jesus.

Jesus' followers record him as being both a descendant of David and as being born in Bethlehem. His birth story is given in Matthew 2:1-10 and Luke 2:1-21. Jesus was raised in Nazareth, which is in northern Israel.

As mentioned previously, Micah identifies the Messiah with the word ruler. We know that this individual is the promised Messiah because Micah speaks of him in extraordinary ways:

• First, this person is the subject of prophecy, which of course indicates that he is important.

• Second, he is the subject of a prophecy that is being given during a time existential crisis for the people of Judah and the house of David. Remember that mention of a siege in verse 1? That refers to an imminent attack by the Assyrian Empire.

• Third, this promised ruler has origins that are, depending on the English translation, from ancient times, antiquity, or eternity.

Micah is saying that there is something extraordinary about this ruler, and that he would be a descendant of King David.

The qualities are present in several other Old Testament prophecies that can be classified as son of David prophecies. There are at least 10 of these in the Old Testament and they speak of the promised Messiah as being an extraordinary descendant of King David.

Many of the son of David prophecies were given during times when the house of David faced the threat of annihilation.

We see this in the very first son of David prophecy, which is in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. That prophecy was given by Nathan about 3,000 years ago, during the time of King David. At that the time, the house of David was at war with the house of Saul over control of the throne in Jerusalem. The losing house would be annihilated, so that none of its descendants could ever try to claim or reclaim the throne.

Also, Nathan's prophecy speaks of a promised descendant of David in an extraordinary way by predicting that he would inherit an eternal throne. So, in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, as in Micah 5:1-2, we have a promised descendant of David, being spoken of in an extraordinary way, during a time of existential crisis.

These three key points also are present in Isaiah 7:13-14, which predicts that the promised descendant of David would be the subject of a miraculous virgin birth. That prophecy was given during a time when two kings to the north were threatening to destroy Judah and install their own king in Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:6), which, again, would mean annihilating the house of David.

These three key points also are present in Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jeremiah 23:5-6.

There are at least 10 of these son of David prophecies in the Old Testament. Explicit examples include 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 7:13-14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Micah 5:1-4. Implicit examples include Psalm 2, Psalm 72, Psalm 89:34-37, Ezekiel 21:26-27 and Zechariah 9:9-11.

Many of the points that are being made in this article, especially in regard to how Micah 5:1-2 functions as Messianic prophecy and shares key connections with other Messianic prophecies, are consistently overlooked by commentators and scholars.

Many commentators and scholars, throughout the ages, have consistently and mistakenly focused on Micah 5:1-2 as an isolated prophecy, while failing to see its many connections with many other prophecies about the Messiah.

Micah 5:1-2 is a son of David prophecy, of which there are many in the Old Testament, that speaks of the promised Messiah as being an extraordinary descendant of King David. It predicts the birthplace of the Messiah as being the town of Bethlehem in Judah. And it is uniquely and solely fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah.

© Ray Konig.

Ray Konig is the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.