Does Micah 5:2 predict that Jesus would be the Messiah?

by Ryan Turner
edited by Luke Wayne

The Historical and Literary Context

Micah was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah who lived in the 8th century B.C.  In this short passage, he predicts that the Messiah will be born in the Bethlehem of David.1 Micah presents the idea of a coming ruler against the backdrop of the invasion of Judah by the Babylonians.  This text was intended to bring comfort to the despairing covenant people.  In contrast to a smitten king (5:1), a great ruler (5:2) would come to shepherd God’s people.

The Prophecy

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting," (Micah 5:2).


There are a number of important aspects of this text.  First, Ephrathah is simply the older form of Bethlehem in this passage (cf. Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7).2  Second, linguistically a case can be made for showing a strong affinity between this figure and God.  Qedem, the Hebrew word for old, means from “ancient times” and it is used of God Himself elsewhere in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 33:27; Habakkuk 1:12).  Further, mee mai-oulom literally means from “ancient time or eternity.”3  One can also translate it as “days of immeasurable time.”4  Robert Jamieson notes, “The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable.”5  There are other references in Scripture where this phraseology is used, as in Psalm 90:2 where the reference is to God the Father and in Proverbs 8:22-23 where the voice of Wisdom speaks.  “Old” and “ancient times” can refer to eternity.  The Hebrew word for ancient times is used in Micah 4:7 to refer to God.  Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser point out, “The fact that such terms were used of a future ruler indicates that Micah expected a supernatural figure. This harmonizes with Isaiah’s expectation of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 where the future Messianic King is called ‘eternal’ and ‘God’ (El), a word Isaiah uses only of God.”6

Third, this passage was recognized by the Jews as a Messianic text, especially in all of the Jewish paraphrases and interpretations of the Old Testament known as Targums.7  The Aramaic Targum Jonathan translates as “. . . out of thee shall proceed in my presence the Messiah to exercise sovereignty over Israel; whose name has been called from eternity, from the days of the everlasting.”8 Likewise, the priests and scribes during Herod’s day likewise thought that it was Messianic (Matthew 2:5-6; John 7:42).  Fruchtenbaum summarizes the text well, “Here in Micah 5:2, we read where that birth is to take place. Messiah is to be born, not in Jerusalem as might have been expected, but in Bethlehem.”9

Evaluation as an Apologetic Argument

This text is certainly valid to use in demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah.  While it may be difficult to argue persuasively that Micah predicted the incarnation of God in the flesh, the text at least demonstrates where the Messiah would be born.  As such, one must be careful to take all of the factors into consideration when contending for the deity of Christ from this passage.  One can, at the very least, show that the text comes extremely close to claiming that the Messiah would be eternal – using phraseology that is elsewhere only used of God.  At any rate, one is definitely justified in using this text to argue that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • 1. Louis Goldberg, Our Jewish Friends, Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1983, p. 123.
  • 2. John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983, p. 1486.
  • 3. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Walter C. Kaiser, The Case for Jesus the Messiah: Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists, Chattanooga: The John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association, 1989, p. 74.
  • 4. Martin, “Micah,” p. 1486.
  • 5. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
  • 6. Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser, p. 75.
  • 7. Kenneth L. Barker, Micah (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), p. 86.
  • 8. Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser, p. 75-76.
  • 9. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah, Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998., p. 64.