For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

5:1.  “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 Jesus Christ.

5:2.  “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.

5:3.  “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 of Israel.”

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 prophet foretold.

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 thousand years.

5:4.  “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.

5:5.  “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.

5:6.  “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.

5:7.  “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.

5:8.  “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.

5:9.  “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 her dominion.

5:10.  “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.

5:11.  “And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:”

“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.

5:12.  “And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:”

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.

5:13.  “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.

5:14.  “And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.”

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 activity.

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 blood-spattered altars.”

5:15.  “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.

[Micah 6]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough