Bethlehem of Judah

Matthew 2:5-6 says, “So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

This quote from Micah 5:2 was in response to the inquiry of the wicked Herod the Great who had been visited by the wise men and was very concerned that their visit indicated a usurper to his throne was born. His inquiry was hypocritical as he faked godliness, but the inquiry drew from the chief priests and scribes the answer to where Christ was born in fulfillment of the prediction by the Old Testament prophet Micah who foretold His birth 700 years earlier.

Christ made a number of claims about His person which could have been checked out by the religious leaders. They knew, when Herod asked them, where the Messiah was to be born. Much later, the Jews said, “‘Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’” (John 7:41-42).

Christ fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law about the Messiah (Matthew 5:18), but the religious leaders chose not to recognize that fact. Therefore, from their animosity toward Christ, we must conclude that it was a result of will, not a result of lack of wisdom (facts or signs that prompted their unbelief). They knew the truth but refused to believe it. Many are like that today. They know the truth but they totally refuse to submit to the truth. In the prophecy, three important points are made about where Christ was born.

First, the site of Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem.” Christ was born in Bethlehem. The religious leaders knew the right site, but consider that they did not go and see the Savior. Like wicked Herod the Great, they were not interested in Christ. That seems incredible, but when you regard the attitude of people today you will readily perceive that privilege does not always prompt faith.

Second, the size of Bethlehem. “Are not the least among the rulers of Judah.” The passage in Micah 5:2 says, “Though you are little among the thousands of Judah.” Bethlehem was not a huge metropolis. It was not a New York or Chicago or London. It wasn’t even Jerusalem. It was so small and insignificant that it was not even recorded in some of the lists of cities of Israel. Yet songs are sung today about Bethlehem. Why? Because Jesus was born there. Yes, David was also born there, but what makes Bethlehem significant is the birth of Christ. Only He can make the insignificant significant.

Third, the Sovereign in Bethlehem. “For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.” Christ was predicted to be the great ruler of Israel, but Israel rejected Him when He came to earth (John 1:11). He is coming again (Hebrews 9:28). But to those who decide to reject Him, John said, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Prophecy was intended as a sign to show that God could structure events to His purpose. And while there are many biblical prophecies that don’t speak of Christ, the most outstanding prophecies do speak of Him. All of them literally scream at the reader to believe in Him who was “a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst” (Acts 2:22).

Kyle Campbell