This marvellous prophetic passage reveals a stark contrast between the vulnerable king (1) and his vulnerable people (3), and the invulnerable ruler: the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus (2, 4 and 5). We have the temporary monarch and the eternal King. There is also a contrasting of the big city of Jerusalem and the ‘little town of Bethlehem’.
Verse 1 is about the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and the striking down of King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-7). The call is to Jerusalem to mobilise its troops, but the effort to defend the city will prove hopeless. But for now, prepare for the worst, victim daughter! The siege is set against us. They humiliate Israel’s king, slapping him around like a rag doll. The Message.
But this terrible prediction is followed in (2) with a great hope. Israel will not be permanently destroyed, but will rise again under a new ruler. He will come from Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrathah is the ancient name for Bethlehem. It also signifies the area around the little town. But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter – The Message. Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David (1 Sam.17:12). So through a common birthplace, a connection between David and the Messianic ruler yet to come is established (Matt.2:3-6). Though the royal line of David had become corrupt and would be felled like a tree, another line from the family of David and his father Jesse would survive, and from that line the Messiah would come (Isaiah 11:1). God does great works in insignificant places. Preaching on revival in the 1950’s Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones said something like this: ‘The next revival will probably break out in some remote hamlet no-one much has heard of.’ This ruler to be born in Bethlehem is no ordinary man. His origins will be from before His birth (John 8:58); indeed, from ancient times, from the beginning of the world (John 1:1, 2). Only Jesus, the Son of God, truly fits the bill. He came into the world in fulfilment of this prophecy made centuries earlier. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. The Message. No doubt at the time no-one could understand the magnitude of this prophecy and how it would be fulfilled. Micah may have had a sense of it, but we don’t know if he did.
The second half of verse three looks forward to the coming of Gentiles to join Jews in the flock of the Messiah (John 10:16). The reference to she who is in labour giving birth may indicate Mary. (But it can also be about Bethlehem or abandoned Israel. The nation was about to suffer like a woman in child birth.)
How wonderfully (4, 5) along with (2) have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. Compare John 10:7-18 with (4), and Isaiah 9:6 and Eph.2:14 with (5). AND THIS MAN IS OUR PEACE. He came and preached peace to them that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh. He has made peace by the Blood of his Cross. He is the Prince of Peace to loyal and loving hearts. He sheds abroad in our hearts his own peace, which the world cannot take away. F.B. Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.353.