Digging in Deeper: Micah 5:5

“He will be their peace. When Assyria invades our land, when it marches against our fortresses, we will raise against it seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.”‬‬ (CSB – Read the chapter)

Did you ever try and look at one of those Magic Eye pictures? I remember having a couple of different books of them when I was growing up. The cool thing about them was that if you just looked at them they were kind of cool-looking designs. But if you looked deeper, an entirely new image appeared and in 3D to boot. My trick was always to cross my eyes and slowly uncross them. The first glance was neat, but bland. It was the second, deeper look where things got interesting. Well, we could call this a Magic Eye verse. Let me tell you why.

Micah had just prophesied that the people of Judah were going to be conquered by the Babylonians. That was tough news all by itself. Historically speaking, though, it would have rung with a bit of an odd geopolitical note. Babylon was not then the dominant world power it would be a couple of generations later. At the time Micah was writing there was another nation that dominated the headlines, so to speak.

This other nation was Assyria. The Assyrians we’re slowly gobbling up the whole region. And when they came to town, you were toast. It was as simple as that. No one could stop them. No one could survive them. They came, you died (usually painfully), end of story.

Micah’s mention of Assyria invading here would have gotten everyone’s attention. We’re going to be conquered by Babylon and the Assyrians are going to invade?!? Wait, if the Assyrians invade, how is there going to be anything left for the Babylonians to conquer? These kinds of thoughts would have been swirling like a maelstrom in their minds.

They would have been almost enough to drown out what Micah was actually saying. He was explicit that God would be their peace when the Assyrians came to town. They would successfully drive them away defeated. This would be quite a different experience from the one they would have with the Babylonians.

And indeed, this prophecy is one we know came true and even possibly during Micah’s lifetime. He worked into the reign of Hezekiah of Judah. During his reign the Assyrians did indeed come and invade the land and besiege Jerusalem. But the people turned to God and He drove the invaders away. They would not return.

That’s the first, somewhat bland look at this text. It is a prophecy, whose truthfulness is borne out historically, about God rescuing His people from the threat of their enemies.

But when we look a bit closer there’s something even more interesting to see. For this, we need to look at the context bit more closely. This is v. 5. It’s not so well known as far as the larger book is concerned. But v. 2, just a couple of verses before this is much better known. In v. 2 we find the famous prophecy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. Matthew himself cited that when talking about Jesus’ birthplace.

So, v. 2 talks about Jesus. Verse 3 talks about the hard times the people would face while waiting for the Messiah to be born. Verse 4 switches back to talking about the Messiah directly and the kind of leader He will be for the people. Then comes v. 5.

Stay with me here. Are we to believe that Micah suddenly drops the topic of the Messiah and switches to something else out of nowhere? Perhaps, but that would seem odd. This is especially true when v. 5 and the next couple of verses continue using the imagery of the shepherd-king started in v. 2.

No, what it seems here is that Micah is still talking about the Messiah. But how is it going to be the Messiah who rescues them from the hand of the Assyrians if he wasn’t even born yet? Perhaps we could say that King Hezekiah is who is in view here, but we don’t have any record that he was born in Bethlehem. He was a descendant of David who was born in Bethlehem, but that seems like a bit of a stretch.

May I offer a possible solution? The Messiah is indeed the one who will save them from the Assyrians and the one who would later be born in Bethlehem. How? Because God the Father and the Messiah, God the Son, are one and the same person! What we are seeing here is a kind of proto-trinitarian theology.

Now, this isn’t a very strong argument for the ontological equality of the Father and the Son, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of other places that do that. Making a trinitarian argument wasn’t Micah’s point anyway. No, what makes this so special and cool is its very subtlety. Before the Son even arrived the unity of Him and the Father was simply assumed. The God revealed in the pages of Scripture is the same God from start to finish.

When we study the Scriptures, there’s always more there than we might imagine. If we’ll take the time to look just a bit deeper than we usually do, we never know when we’ll find a bit more than we expected. Keep reading and read deeply. You’ll be glad you did.

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