Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
“Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege
against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.”
“Troops” is literally a crowd,
especially of soldiers, and here it is Israel that is addressed. The Lord,
looking to that day when He would bring Assyria against Israel (the ten
northern tribes); and Babylon, a hundred and thirty years later, against Judah
(the southern kingdom). He is not telling them to gather together behind the
walls of their cities and towns for protection against the invader, but rather
foretelling what they will do on that day, but all to no avail. There
will be no place of refuge; no way of escape. They will be led off into
captivity because of refusal to repent of their sins.
“... he hath laid siege
against us.” The “he” refers to the invaders, Assyria and Babylon, but
ultimately the reference is to God, for it is He Who uses these two enemy
nations as His instruments of chastisement against His disobedient people.
“... they shall smite the
judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek,” possibly refers to the treatment
of Hezekiah by Sennacherib recorded in 2 Ki 18, and of Zedekiah by the
Babylonians as recorded in 2 Ki 25:6-7, but many have applied the words to
Christ and what He suffered at the hand of the Jewish leaders on the night of
His betrayal. Others who reject this view have pointed out that the word used
here for judge is different from that used for ruler in verse 2, “The word
‘ruler’ translates sopet (judge), whereas the word for ruler in verse
2, which does clearly refer to Christ is mosel .... Christ was not
smitten by troops of an enemy nation while Jerusalem was besieged” - The
Bible Knowledge Commentary.
It is to be noted, however,
that He was smitten on the cheek by the Roman soldiers, and while
Jerusalem wasn’t besieged at the time, she was under Roman dominion.
Personally I have no difficulty in seeing its ultimate application to the Lord
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of
Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in
Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This second verse is referred
to in three of the Gospels relative to Christ’s incarnation, see Mt 2:1-6; Lk
2:4,11; Jn 7:42, and was the verse quoted to Herod by the Jewish leaders
relative to the place of Messiah’s birth. Clearly the application here is to
Christ. Bethlehem Ephratah is used to distinguish it from the Bethlehem
located in Zebulun’s territory. This prophecy confirms the Divine inspiration
of Scripture. Who but God could have foretold seven hundred years earlier,
and with such exactitude, the place of the Savior’s birth?
It is interesting to note that
Bethlehem means house of bread, and Ephratah ash-heap: place of
fruitfulness, the two meanings of Ephratah being less disparate than might
be imagined, for the practical lesson is that fruitfulness in the believer’s
life is in direct proportion to his willingness to throw on the “ash-heap”
everything that would impede the work of the Spirit in his life, see Paul’s
remarks recorded in Php 3:7-8.
Out of the “house of bread and
fruitfulness” came forth the One Who is the Bread of life, and Who by falling
into the ground as a corn of wheat, and dying, has brought forth fruit beyond
man’s ability to number: the countless multitudes who have been saved as a
result of His vicarious death and glorious resurrection. And He Who came
forth out of Bethlehem to suffer shame and abuse, to die in man’s guilty
stead, is going to come to earth again, not as a servant, but as God’s
anointed King to reign, not only over Israel, but the whole earth.
But that same One Who
condescended to take upon Himself humanity by His birth in Bethlehem, and to
walk the earth in the guise of a Servant, is He Who, as to His Divinity, never
had a birth, a beginning: He is the eternal - God the Son.
“Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath
brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children
Reverting again to Israel, the
prophet, having announced her coming glory, proceeded to declare with equal
certainty her coming doom. Because of their sin and refusal to repent, the
generation to whom he spoke was about to be delivered up to death, it being
the privilege of another generation to be the one that would see the promised
King born into their midst seven centuries later. But that generation would
repeat the sin of the one to whom Micah spoke, and compound it in unbelievable
degree: they would mock and abuse, and crucify the Ruler Whose birth the
And like the wicked nation
addressed by the prophet, that later and even more wicked generation would
also perish. Their city would also be destroyed, they themselves dying by the
sword of the Romans, the few survivors being scattered amongst the hated
Gentiles where their descendants have remained for two thousand years.
“... until the time that she
which travaileth hath brought forth,” points us to a day still future, but
very near: the Tribulation era. Out of the sorrow of the terrible Tribulation
judgments there will emerge a believing remnant of Israel to whom that
long-awaited King will come forth as their Deliverer, He and that believing
remnant having been born, as it were, out of Israel’s sore travail. And while
the believing remnant will rejoice at His coming, the apostate mass of the
nation, from the midst of which the believing remnant will come, will be cast
away like a placenta. They will be banished into hell following His judgment
of the nations at the end of the Tribulation.
“... then the remnant of his
brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.” This describes what will
follow the Lord’s coming to end the Tribulation. With every foe banished into
hell, and the believing remnant of Israel settled in millennial Canaan, their
brethren will also be brought back from among the nations, and a united Israel
will dwell in peace and safety in their land, they and the saved nations
enjoying the beneficent reign of their King, the Prince of peace, for the next
“And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of
the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great
unto the ends of the earth.”
Their King, the Lord Jesus
Christ, will feed (govern) them, and since feeding is virtually synonymous
with being satisfied, the message is that in the Millennium, not only Israel,
but all the peoples on the earth will live in the enjoyment of His beneficent
reign, the peace of the world being guaranteed by His omnipotence, and the
glory of His Father.
“... and they shall abide.”
Never again will they have to leave their land, the Lord Himself ensuring
their safe and peaceful dwelling there.
“... for now shall he be great
unto the ends of the earth.” The peace and safety of Israel and the nations
will be due to the fact that the whole world will be subject to His righteous
dominion, none having the power to disobey His word.
“And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land:
and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven
shepherds, and eight principal men.”
“This man” is the Lord Jesus
Christ, the Messiah, and the Assyrian invasion of Palestine will be towards
the end of the Tribulation, Assyrian being used here to describe the invaders
of that time.
The raising against him (the
invader) “seven shepherds, and eight principal men” is a figurative way of
describing the raising up of a force capable of repelling the invader.
Literally, it will be the enablement given by the Lord Jesus Christ returned
in power and glory to lead the persecuted remnant against the foe just prior
to His judgment of the nations, and the inauguration of His millennial
kingdom. It is possible that God’s miraculous slaughter of 185,000 Assyrians
in the days of Hezekiah, 2 Ki 19:35, may be a foreshadowing of that coming day when the Lord will deliver His
people at the end of the Tribulation.
It is interesting to note that
seven is the biblical number of perfection or completeness; and
eight, of a new beginning. That day will conclude or complete the
Tribulation, and bring in a glorious new day, the Millennium.
“And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of
Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian,
when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”
This appears to revert to the
description of what will be at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord Jesus
Christ will deliver Israel out of the hand of her enemies just prior to His
judgment of the nations, and the inauguration of His millennial kingdom. It
seems that Assyria and Nimrod are being used as synonyms for those who will be
Israel’s enemies in the Tribulation, the reason for the use of both names
being related to the fact that Nimrod was the founder of Calah and Nineveh in
Assyria, and also to the fact that the lands bordering on Assyria were known
as the land of Nimrod.
“And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from
the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor
waiteth for the sons of men.”
This is clearly a description
of the Millennium, “the remnant of Jacob” meaning the believing remnant of
Israel that will pass from the Tribulation into the millennial kingdom; and
the picture is of the blessing that will accrue to the nations as a result of
her being placed in supremacy over them, for she will govern as the Lord’s
representative. The dew and the showers upon the growing grass speak of the
fulness of blessing that will come to the nations through Israel in a right
relationship with God, and occupying the place He intended for her since He
redeemed her from Egyptian bondage.
A practical lesson for
believers of this present age is that we are to be to the unbelieving masses
amongst whom we live, what the showers and dew are to the growing grass, and
what Israel will be to the millennial nations: a means of blessing through our
witness in the Gospel.
“... that tarrieth not for
man, nor waiteth for the sons of men,” is simply the assurance that as man has
no control over the dew or the showers, neither will millennial blessing be
dependent on man. It will come from the loving kindness of God pouring down
blessing without limit.
“And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many
people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the
flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in
pieces, and none can deliver.”
This appears to be a return to
the description of what will be at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord
Jesus Christ will lead the believing remnant of Israel in the destruction of
her enemies just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.
Israel’s being “as a lion among the beasts of the forest” describes her
supremacy over the nations in that day; and her being “as a young lion among
the flocks of sheep” describes their helplessness against her.
“... if he go through” is a
phrase that most commentators have glossed over, but it may possibly be
another way of saying that those who refuse to submit to Israel’s dominion
will then become as a flock of sheep through which Israel, as a lion, will
rampage, destroying everything in her path, none being able to resist her.
“Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies
shall be cut off.”
The assurance of Israel’s
invincible supremacy continues here. Every foe will be destroyed at the end
of the Tribulation; and in the Millennium all the nations will gladly accept
“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off
thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:”
Opinion is divided as to
whether this is addressed to Israel or to the nations, and the matter is of
little importance for the fact is that in the Millennium every nation will
know that it has no power apart from what God gives it. The horse is a
biblical symbol of strength, as the chariot is of war, so that the cutting off
of both here is the symbolic announcement of the fact that in the Millennium
war will be abolished. Men will no longer seek blessing through their own
might, but through God’s.
“And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong
“Cities” is also translated
fortifications: fortresses, and the context makes it clear that this is
the sense in which the word is to be understood here. In the Millennium there
will be no need of fortifications, so Jehovah will demolish all of them.
“And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more
Witchcraft is related to the
use of magic, which in the final analysis is communication with demons.
Soothsayers, on the other hand were those who professed to be able to read
signs, and while their activities may not have been as directly connected with
demons as were those who practiced witchcraft, there was really little
difference between the two. Both were deceivers, and both would be cut off.
“Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the
midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.”
“Standing images” were sacred
pillars as distinct from graven or molten images. All will be destroyed.
There will be no idolatry in the Millennium.
“And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy
The groves were wooded areas
in which many idolatrous shrines were set up. They were particularly
associated with the worship of Asherah, the Canaanite sea goddess, and Astarte,
the Phoenician goddess of fertility, whose worship involved much evil sexual
Since the destruction of the
cities has already been mentioned in verse 8, it may be that the reference
here is to the temples associated with the idolatrous worship, the NEB
rendering of the latter part of this verse being, “... demolish your
“And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they
have not heard.”
“... heathen” as used here
designates nations, other translations of this verse being, “I will wreak
vengeance ... upon the nations that have not hearkened” - NAB; “... I will
take vengeance on all nations who disobey me” - NEB; “... upon the nations
which would not obey” - Amp. No nation will be exempt. Christ, as the Lion
of Judah, will rule with a rod of iron in the Millennium, that righteous rule
making His reign one of peace and blessing such as the world has never known.
But disobedience will bring swift and certain punishment such as the world
also has never known.