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The Progressive Nature of Prophecy and the Birth of Jesus (Part Three)

Posted on December 16, 2012 at 8:41 PM Comments comments (101)
Texts Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2

In this week’s Journal, I’ll discuss the birthplace of the Messiah and the means of His suffering.  In the curse of Eve and the serpent, Scripture makes it plain that “… he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gn 3:15).  Last week, we learned that the Promised Seed hailed from the line of Seth to Shem, and from Shem through Abraham and David (Gn 11: 10-32; 22:18). Two major facts are to be considered in this Journal: (1) the prophecy about the birthplace of the Messiah, and (2) the means by which the Messiah would suffer.  

First, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Micah 5:2 reads, “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 accurately predicted Christ’s birthplace hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, that God would enter human history as a Man.  Let’s carefully study the name Bethlehem and Eprathah and their historical importance in this prophecy: 

  • Bethlehem: There are two cities or towns in ancient Israel called Bethlehem.  One of the cities is called Bethlehem Ephrathah or “the city of David” (Lk 2:4).  This was the birthplace of King David and the Messiah. Samuel anointed David as king in this city (1 Sam 16:4-13). Bethlehem means the House of Bread; it was located in the hill country of Judah originally called Ephrath (Gn 35:16,19; 48:7;Ru 4:11). Some scholars think the name may have meant “house of (the goddess) Lahama.” The Prophet Micah calls it Bethlehem Ephratah (Mi 5:2). Ephratah (Ephrath) means “fruitful." A citizen of Ephratah was called Ephrathite. Ephrath was also a female name. When Caleb’s first wife Azubah died, he married his second wife named Ephrath (1 Chr. 2:19, 50).  Besides, the birth of David and the Messiah in this very city, Bethlehem has other historical significance: (1) This was the place where Rachel died and was buried directly to the north of the city (Gn 35: 19; 48:7). And (2) the valley to the east was the scene of the story of Ruth (meaning: a friend) of the Moabites, who later was married to Boaz. She became the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David.  Thus, Ruth, a Gentile is among the maternal progenitors of our Lord (Mt 1:5). Biblically, Ruth descended from Ben-Ammi; this was a son born out of an incestuous relationship by Lot with his second daughter (Gn 19:38).  We can conclude that the House of Bread (Bethlehem) was a fruitful center of major historical and biblical events in Israel.
  • There was another Bethlehem, a city of Zebulun, mentioned only in Joshua 19:5.  Now Beit-Lahm is a ruined village about 6 miles west-northwest of Nazareth.

In Micah’s prophecy about the birthplace of the Messiah, he did not miss the target.  The Messiah would be born, not in the Bethlehem of Zebulun, which was one of the towns Joshua allotted to Zebulun, but rather, Bethlehem Ephratah in Judah.  Having pointed out the exact place of the Promised Seed’s birth, Isaiah prophesied that His suffering would come directly from the government of His day.  

Second, the Promised Seed would be the target of government. Isaiah 9:6 reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” The prophet gives  four reasons for His rejection:  

1. The child would be Wonderful Counselor.  Let’s define the adjective wonderful, which gives a vivid description of the counselor. The Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.) defines it as “Extremely good, pleasant or remarkable.” The Enhanced Brown-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB) defined it thus, “… wonderful, incomprehensible.” I believe that this English Lexicon nails the definition by using the word “incomprehensible.” The counseling of the Promised Seed (Child) would be “beyond understanding.”  This very Hebrew word was used in Judges 13:18 when the angel of the Lord told Manoah that his barren wife would have a son and that this child will deliver Israel from the Philistines (Jdg 13:1ff).  Verses 17-18 read:  “Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true.’”  “He [the angel] replied, ‘Why do you ask? It is beyond understanding.’” The same Hebrew word translated “wonderful”  in Isaiah 9:6 is used and translated by the English Standard Version (ESV) as “… beyond understanding.” This is the correct equivalent of the BDB Lexicon’s translation: “incomprehensible.” The name of God is truly beyond man’s understanding.  How do we understand that there is one God, eternally exist in three distinct persons?  The NT revealed that God the Holy Spirit is our counselor and guidance (Jn 14: 26; Rom 8:26).

2.  Micah notes emphatically in his prophecy that this child would be Mighty God. In a careful study of the word, God, it comes from the root Hebrew word, El which means god (Ex 34:14; Dt 32:12), God (Gn 31:13; 35:1), divine (Ps 82:1), Immanuel (Is 7:14; 8:8), mighty (Jos 22:22), and El-Elohe-Israel (Gn 33:20).  In this study, two deities are spelled out here: (1)  the God, who is the creator of all things, and (2) the presence of the Morning Star, who fell as a result  of his rebellion against God along with some angelic forces (Is 14:12-15).  Lucifer, a Latin word for the Morning Star, becomes god and the fallen angels become demons.  Others considered Satan and his demonic forces as deities.  Prior to the fall of Satan, there was one Deity, God, the creator of all things. Christians believe in one God, eternally exist in three distinct persons.  Therefore, when Christians speak of the Divine, Immanuel, Almighty, El-Elolhe-Israel, we’re talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Who became a human - Jesus Christ. Indeed, the name of our God is “incomprehensible” or “beyond understanding” to the natural mind. The adjective “mighty” means a hero or a military leader. Our God is a warrior and hero.  The echo in what Micah calls Mighty God, I believe, has the concept of God the Son.  

3.  Everlasting Father.  I believe the idea of God the Father is implied here. The Everlasting God has no beginning nor ending. He is the creator of all things. The final description of the Promised Seed is the Prince of Peace.  

4. The child who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father is the Prince of Peace.  In the kingdom of man, the son of the King is called Prince.  Likewise, in the heavenly kingdom, God the Son is the Prince. This Prince is to bring peace on earth. The incomprehensibility of this is God became a man in Christ to reconcile man to Himself (2 Cor. 5:17-20).  

The birthplace of the Promised Seed, according to Micah, is Bethlehem Ephrathah (Mi 5:2).  Isaiah, who had earlier prophesied that the Seed would come through a virgin (7:14), predicts that the government will be on the shoulder of the Promised Seed. The purpose of His rejection is because He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” Stay tuned.   

  
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W. A. Elwell & P. W. Comfort.Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 165.  
F. Brown, S. R. Driver & C.A. Briggs.  Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.) (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 811.