Does Micah 5:2 Indicate That the Messiah Is Divine?

Micah 5:2 indicates that the future Messiah of Israel would be born in Bethlehem, but it is also indicates that his origins are from a long time ago. Some translations of the Bible translate “a long time ago” as “eternity” and some translate it as “ancient times.” If the text actually means “eternity” this would be strong evidence of the divine nature of the Messiah.

Hebrew biblical scholar Michael Brown analyzes this verse for us in his book, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3:

Which translation is right? It comes down to the rendering of the Hebrew phrase describing the nature of the Messiah’s origins, miqedem miyemey ‘olam. The first word simply means ‘from of old’ and is used elsewhere in Micah to refer back to God’s promises to the patriarchs, which he made ‘from days of qedem’ (Micah 7: 20, rendered in the King James with ‘from the days of old’). The next two words, however, would most naturally be translated ‘from eternity’ (literally, from ‘days of eternity’), unless context indicated a translation of ‘from ancient days’ (in other words, way back in the very distant past). In most cases in the Scriptures, ‘olam clearly means eternity, as in Psalm 90: 2, where God’s existence is described as me‘olam we‘ad‘olam, ‘from eternity to eternity’ (cf. NJPSV). There are, however, some cases where ‘olam cannot mean ‘eternal’ but rather ‘for a long time’ (either past or present). How then does Micah use the word?

Brown continues:

In Micah 2: 9; 4: 5, 7, ‘olam clearly means ‘forever,’ as commonly rendered in both Jewish and Christian versions. This would point clearly to a similar rendering just a few verses later in 5: 2. In Micah 7: 14, however, the expression ‘as in the days of ‘olam’ is used in a non-eternal sense, the whole verse being translated in the King James with, ‘Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.’ This indicates we cannot be dogmatic about the translation of Micah 5: 2, since the context allows for an ‘eternal’ or merely ‘ancient’ meaning.

Brown goes on to cite an influential medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi, as well as two modern Hebrew Bible experts about the meaning of Micah 5:2. First, Rashi.

In this light, the commentary of Rashi on Micah 5: 2 takes on added significance, since (1) he reads it as a clear Messianic prophecy; (2) he makes reference to Psalm 118: 22, which says that the stone rejected by the builders has become the chief cornerstone (a verse quoted several times in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua, who was rejected by the leaders of his people but chosen by God); and (3) he interprets the end of the verse as pointing to the preexistence of the Messiah (or, at the least, of his name) rather than as pointing only to Bethlehem as the ancient city of David (which is made clear at the beginning of the verse).

Next, Brown quotes respected Hebrew Bible scholars David Noel Freedman and Francis Anderson:

. . . the person spoken of here has some connection with the remote past. ‘One whose origin is from of old, from ancient times’ (NJPS). A legitimate sensus plenior [i.e., fuller meaning in the light of unfolding scriptural revelation] is that this Ruler will be a superhuman being, associated with God from the beginning of time. Psalm 2:7 speaks of the king as the one whom God ‘sired’ (by adoption). Psalm 110 places the king on God’s right hand. At the least the language suggests that the birth of the Messiah has been determined, or predicted in the divine council, in primal days. Micah 4– 5 thus has time points in the Beginning and End as well as the Now. Even if mōşâ’ôt means no more than an oracle expressing the divine determination, it does not require a great shift in conceptuality to move to the Son of Man figure of the later apocalypses— the Urmensch— and to the classical Christology of the ecumenical creeds or the heaven-created Adam of the Quran or the Metatron of the Jewish mystics. So Christians did not abuse the text when they found Jesus in it. Or to put it more cautiously in a negative way, this mysterious language relates the mōšēl whose outgoings have been from of the olden days to God () in a special way. He will rule ‘for’ Yahweh.

Thus, although it is not 100% certain that Micah 5:2 indicates a divine origin of the Messiah, it is certainly a plausible interpretation of the verse with support in the Jewish scholarly community.