The Reign of the Messiah; Judgment on Israel's Enemies (Micah 4-5) May 5
It is not clear when the rest of the prophecies of Micah were delivered. It is possible that chapters 4-7 were delivered before or during Sennacherib's invasion. However, there is reason to believe they were given later, as we'll see. We do know from Micah 1:1 that they were given prior to Hezekiah's death—but this did not come until 15 years after Sennacherib's invasion. Therefore, we have a fairly broad time span here.
Micah 4 begins with essentially the same words recorded in Isaiah 2:1-4 about Christ's millennial reign to come in the last days. But Micah adds some other important details.
First of all, he adds that "everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid" (Micah 4:4). This shows that everyone will have personal property and be able to enjoy the fruit of their own labor. It also shows that there will be no reason to fear crime or assault. For, as God says in Isaiah 11:9, people will not be permitted to harm each other in the world under Christ's reign. Indeed, as more and more people are converted to God's ways, fewer and fewer will even seek the harm of others—until it becomes a rarity. Indeed, the peace and harmony that will prevail is presented in Zechariah 3:10, where we are told that "everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree." This tells us that while we are to enjoy our property and the fruit of our labors, these blessings are also to be shared with others.
Micah goes on to say that this time of peace and great blessing will begin with a regathering of God's afflicted people and a restoration of Israel's former dominion (Micah 4:6-8).
Verses 9-10, while perhaps referring to Judah's anguish at the time of Sennacherib's invasion in 701 B.C., could well refer to a later time. As already mentioned, the next year following the invasion, in 700, Sennacherib actually managed to regather his strength and put down Merodach-Baladan of Babylon once and for all—with Sennacherib placing his son on Babylon's throne. This could have caused cries of anguish from the Jews. In 695, however, Sennacherib attempted a naval invasion of Elam, which failed. The Elamites attacked Assyrian-controlled Babylon and took Sennacherib's son prisoner. Babylon was thus returned to native Chaldean rule. A major battle between Assyria and the Elamites in 692 ended in a stalemate. But in 689, Sennacherib sacked the city of Babylon, reasserting Assyrian rule over the area. This may have greatly upset the Jews, who perhaps still pinned their hopes on Babylon to overthrow the Assyrians.
Look again at verses 9-10 from this perspective. God basically says to the people of Jerusalem: What are you crying about? You've still got your king and leaders. So why do you act like you're in agony? Well, guess what? You are going to be in agony. You're going to be taken away by the very ones in whom you've hoped—the Babylonians—to Babylon. But God promises to deliver them from there. While this probably referred to the ancient Babylonian captivity of Judah, it seems also to refer to the end time, considering verses 11-13. In these verses, it appears that Judah is used to beat down nations that come against Jerusalem. This could be a reference to the Israelis' military power since the state of Israel was formed. However, it seems more likely to refer to Judah's participation in battle in events surrounding Christ's return (see Zechariah 12:6; 14:14).
Then again, "daughter of Zion" in verse 13 could perhaps be taken spiritually—as a reference to the glorified Church of God at Christ's return. "I will make your horn [i.e., might] iron" and "You shall beat in pieces many peoples" (verse 13) could tie in with Christ's promise to the Church: "And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'" (Revelation 2:26-27).
Micah 5:1 has been interpreted in various ways. It is not clear if the "daughter of troops" refers to the Jews or the invaders. The "He" who lays siege appears to be the Lord (compare 4:13), though that is not certain. The striking of the judge of Israel has been seen by some as the treatment of Zedekiah at Jerusalem's overthrow by the Babylonians. However, others see it as a reference to the striking of the supreme Judge of Israel, Jesus Christ, by His enemies (compare Mark 15:19). In the end, Christ will triumph.
Verse 2 of Micah 5 refers to Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrath was the ancient name of Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). The verse refers, of course, to the birth of Jesus in that town (see Matthew 2:4-6; John 7:42). Interestingly, Bethlehem means "House of Bread," and Jesus would come as the true bread of life on which we must be sustained to have eternal life (see John 6). It should be pointed out that this verse states that Jesus is "from everlasting"—that is, eternity past, meaning He is without beginning (compare Hebrews 7:3; see our booklet Who Is God?).
Verse 3 of Micah 5 says that Jesus will give up the Jews "until the time that she who is in labor has given birth." Together with verses 4 and 5, it seems clear that this is not a reference to Judah giving birth to the Messiah—since Judah was still given up to enemies at that time and even after. Rather, she who is in labor is likely the spiritual Zion, who gives birth to a "nation born at once" (compare Isaiah 66:8)—that is, the glorification of those of God's Church (His spiritual nation) at Christ's return.
Consider, then, the remainder of Micah 5:3: "Then the remnant of His brethren [or, more likely, the remnant of Israel who are His brethren] shall return to the children of Israel."Jesus' brethren—the members of God's Church—are the remnant of Israel, the elect according to grace (see Romans 11:5). The glorified members of the Church will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Afterward, Jesus and His brethren "shall return to the children of Israel"—that is, to lead and govern the returning Israelite exiles. Jesus then feeds His flock, not as He came the first time, in the flesh, but in divine power and majesty—bringing truth and peace to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4-5).
The time designated as "when the Assyrian comes into our land" (verse 5) is not clear. It seems to be an end time prophecy. Perhaps the seven shepherds and eight princes refer to leaders of a Jewish or Israelite resistance of the last days—who help other forces bring about the destruction of Europe just prior to Christ's return. It is also possible that this is a reference to events that have already occurred in our time—the utter devastation of Germany in World War II—that is, if verses 5-6 correspond to the time of verses 7-9.
Verses 7-9 refer to the great military strength of Jacob (the nations of modern Israel) in the end time. This appears to refer primarily to British and American military strength in its heyday. This period of strength is seen coming before Jacob's military power is at last cut off during the coming Great Tribulation (compare verses 10-14). In that awful tribulation, which is yet to come, Israel's cities will be destroyed (verse 14; compare Ezekiel 6:6). But in the end, God will execute vengeance on the nations (Micah 5:15).