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Micah Five

Waiting For the Messiah
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © 10.23.2013 (most recent update August 07, 2017)

Micah Five

There are certain verses in the Tanach that are sometimes inaccurately cited as evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. In this study we will consider one of these texts. Identifying the Messiah is very important. Recognizing false Messiahs can be just as important because millions have been led astray. Even such luminaries as Rabbi Akiva (born in Caesarea, Israel in 50 CE, died: 137 AD in Caesarea Maritima, Israel) have been fooled into accepting false claimants. In his case, Rabbi Akiva followed the failed Messiah Simon Bar Kokhba (died 135 CE) in what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE. Bar Kokhba came MUCH closer to fulfilling the prophetic requirements than Yeshua/Jesus by establishing an independent Jewish state which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("Prince"). Israel was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two and half-year war. The Bar Kokhba revolt marked a time of high hopes followed by violent despair. The Jews had high expectations of a Torah-based kingdom and a third Beit HaMikdash (Hebrew: "House of the Holy" or Holy Temple), but in the end they were persecuted and once again sold into slavery. The Jews did not yet merit HaMashiach ben David and his theocratic rule. The final battle of Bethar saw their complete destruction.

Sabbatai Zevi (August 1, 1626 – circa September 17, 1676) was another would be Messiah. He was a famous Kabbalist who was active throughout the Ottoman Empire for a time. He too came much closer than Yeshua/Jesus to wearing the Messianic crown with his Sabbatean movement. However in February of 1666 CE he arrived in Constantinople and was imprisoned under the Islamic blasphemy laws. Given the choice between life as a Muslim and execution by ordeal as a Jew, Sabbatai Zevi chose Islam and became a heretic.

To date everyone who has reached for the Messianic crown has failed, including the tzadikim Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the left) and the Nanach Rebbe, Rabbi Israel "Saba." Most of the claimants died as honorable Jews, some became heretics like Sabbatai Zevi, but in all cases they failed to meet the prophetic requirements. In Yeshua's case, he failed and was executed by the Romans for treason. After his death his talmidim (students) created a (Rabbinically rejected) reform sect of Judaism which, within a hundred years, became unquestionably heretical and, within another hundred years, became a completely separate religion and the biggest enemy of the Jewish people in history. Since the rebirth of Israel in 1948 many Christians have changed their attitudes and now support the Jewish people and our secular country Baruch HaShem! Sadly however many merely use this as a pretext as they seek to genocide Yiddishkeit through assimilation, replacement theology, and conversion. This fact brings us back to our current consideration.

Needless to say, Jews are very wary of Messianic claimants History has taught us well, and yet still today there are claimants accepted by some Jews as the Messiah despite the requirements established by our holy prophets.

HaShem has given us plenty of evidence to identify the Messiah. All who have died have failed, however charismatic living claimants can still be appealing due to our strong desire for his reign. Nonetheless, Messiah has not yet come.

          But he will!

There is ongoing debate on this section of Micah among the scholars, both Jewish and Christian.

First, remember that Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, living during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah during the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem. Klal Israel was under siege and like Isaiah, Micah was addressing their imminent concerns. Unless the text says otherwise (which it does not) the initial contextual assumption should be that the prophet was writing to his fellow Jews alive at that time:

Micah 4:13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves copper; and you shall crush many nations, and you shall devote their plunder to the Lord, and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.
4:14 Now you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; he has laid siege to us. With a rod they strike the judges of Israel on the cheek.
It is true that "they" [i.e. the Assyrians] HAVE laid siege against Klal Israel and against Jerusalem, this is the context, but Israel will be victorious under the leadership of the person referenced next -- Of course Babylon, not the Jews, took out Assyria as I will comment on below.

The natural context of this section therefore is not addressing the coming of THE Messiah (HaMashiach ben David), nor the End of Days, but rather concerns a messiah who will rescue the Jews under discussion. Likely this mashiach (anointed one) was Cyrus the Great who is called "messiah" in Scripture and who later freed the enslaved Jews (i.e. the Southern Kingdom of Judah) from Babylon, see Ezra 5:13. This understanding is the clear meaning of this prophecy when read in its entirety. Rashi supports this understanding:

Now you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops: Now, at the time of its [Israel’s] evil decree concerning the iniquity, which has increased, you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; O daughter of the Chaldeans [Babylonians], gather troops, for now you shall succeed with the troop that laid siege upon us.
So consider:
Micah 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, which he prophesied concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
The text therefore concerns the people of Ephraim, i.e. the ten divorced houses of Israel:
    "... there was none left but the tribe of Judah only" -- II Kings 17:18
Micah 5:1 And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah - you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah - from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.
The everlasting reign of King David's lineage (Isaiah 11) is the reference here (see Genesis 49:10). we understand that HaShem's protection of His people is not due to our own merits, however many of our forbearers pleased HaShem and so we invoke His promises to them during times. Collectively we Jews are citizens of this eternal Kingdom. As at Isaiah 52 and 53, the reference is clearly to Klal Israel entire as the "Suffering Servant" and not to a particular king, although HaMashiach will one day emerge from Klal Israel and David's lineage. David came from Bethlehem and so symbolically his lineage is there "from ancient times." This section is therefore an assurance that HaShem's blessings will continue upon David's line forever and, as we saw in 4:14, they are being called to arise for battle in these verses. In other words, you, Klal Israel, will be successful against your enemies due to the Covenant made with Avraham and passed on through your eternal leader, David HaMelech. However, they are warned, you must arise and act like honorable sons and daughters of David!'

In this case the Jews did not defeat their enemies directly. There are important truths to be learned here that we wont delve into now, however understand that HaShem used the might of Babylon and then had the Persian ruler Cyrus free His people and return them to the Land for His Purposes (Ezra 5:13). ALL things are in the Hands of HaShem and ALL things work together for our ultimate redemption as Rebbe Nachman explains so wonderfully.

...then the Messiah will come, because the redemption is mainly dependent upon this [i.e. emuna], as the verse says, "Come, look from the top of amanah/emunah/faith" (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan 1.7.1).
Hence we read:
Isaiah 45:1 So said the Lord to His anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I held, to flatten nations before him, and the loins of kings I will loosen, to open portals before him, and gates shall not be closed.
Concerning this verse Rashi's commentary is critical to understand:
to His anointed one: Every title of greatness is called anointing. Compare Numbers 18:8. "To you I have given them for greatness (לְמָשְׁחָה)." Our Sages, however, said: To the King Messiah, the Holy One, blessed be He, says, "I complain to you about Cyrus..." as it is stated in Tractate Megillah 12a.
This section of Micah has nothing to do with the Messianic prophecies.

In his comments Rashi reminds us that certain things will have to happen to signify the coming of HaMashiach (i.e. THE Messiah). IF these verses are interpreted as talking about the Messiah, all of the other requirements must still be met for his arrival. These include:

  • Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
  • Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
  • Ezekiel 38:16
  • Hosea 3:4-3:5
  • Micah 4
  • Zephaniah 3:9
  • Zechariah 14:9
  • Daniel 10:14
    See my What the Messiah Must Accomplish study for more specific requirements.
Thus far these messianic requirements obviously have not been met by anyone. When they are, everyone will know it! Like all Jewish authorities Rashi of course agrees that the Messiah has not yet come.

However he notes on this verse:

"...from you [Klal Israel] shall emerge for Me": the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Psalm 118:22): "The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone."
So Rashi accepts this as a Messianic prophecy. Most Jewish authorities don't, nor do I. Judaism is quite diverse.

Rashi's comments on verse 2 make it clear that the Messiah has not yet come:

Therefore, He shall deliver them until the time a woman in confinement gives birth: He shall deliver them [the people of Israel] into the hands of their enemies until the coming of the time that Zion has felt the pangs of labor and borne her children; Zion, which is now seized by the pangs of labor [as Micah is writing], is now called a woman in confinement. [i.e., now the labor pains will cease and the redemption will come about.] But our Sages state that from here we deduce that the son of David will not come until the wicked kingdom spreads over the entire world for nine months (Yoma 10b, Sanh. 98b). But, according to its simple meaning, this is the structure as I explained.
A note for my Christian friends who are struggling with this idea and who hope to find support in Rashi's comments here: John, the Talmid of Yeshua, used this same example of the woman in confinement giving birth in Revelation 12. As an intimate disciple of Jesus, John understood that the Messiah had not yet come and that this and other prophecies had still not been fulfilled. He witnessed the same symbolic scene years after Jesus' execution in his visions. This being the case, the author of the Book of the Revelation clearly did not believe such verses were referring to the historic Yeshua of Nazareth he followed. Yeshua did not meet any of the primary Messianic requirements, save perhaps being of the House of David, as were thousands of other Jews. There is not evidence that Yeshua was or was not of this lineage other than the contradictory genealogies found in the Gospels.

Rashi continues:

... and the rest of his brothers: The brothers of the King Messiah; i. e., the rest of the tribe of Judah.
... shall return upon the children of Israel: Judah and Benjamin shall join the other tribes and become one kingdom, and they shall no longer be divided into two kingdoms.
Thus far the Ten Divorced Houses (i.e. the Northern Kingdom of Israel, aka "Ephraim") remains lost and divorced by HaShem. Judah and Benjamin (i.e. the Southern Kingdom) were never lost and were restored to Land of Israel in 1948. Neither Micah's nor Rashi's (nor John's) requirements have been met by anyone thus far. By emunah we continue to wait and to hope.

Verse 3 tells us that HaMashiach (if this is who is being discussed here as Rashi believes):

...shall stand and lead with the might of the Lord, with the pride of the Lord, his God: and they [the ten Houses restored and reunited] shall return, for now he shall become great to the ends of the earth.
Jesus was not a military leader. He did not lead the Jews anywhere. Indeed the opposite happened. Just 40 years or so after his execution by the Romans, the Jews were forcibly expelled from Israel and did not return in significant numbers, other than during the days of Bar Kokhba, until 1948. This is the exact opposite of what the Messiah will accomplish according to the biblical prophets.

Prior to being exiled from their homes in 70 - 73 CE about half of the Jews were still living in Babylon (they did not return to Israel once they were freed even as nearly half of today's Jews remain in the United States). Jesus made no attempt to lead these Jews back to Israel as required by the prophecies. By no twisting of scripture can it be shown that Jesus fulfilled this essential part of the prophecy. Whoever is being referenced in verse 1 can not be Jesus for this reason and Rashi would certainly agree with this.

Rashi further explains:

and lead: And lead Israel
and they shall return: They shall return now from the exiles [under this man].
for then he shall become great: i.e., [he will be] their king.
until the ends of the earth: And they shall bring tribute to him [i.e. to the Messiah] with horses and chariots.
Again nothing of the kind took place in the First Century CE nor since despite the many Messianic claimants.

If Micah 5:1 is addressing the Messiah therefore and not Klal Israel collectively, as Rashi believes, based on this text and objective evidence, the reference can not possibly be to 'the man from the Galil' because he failed to meet Micah's description. Whoever is being referenced in these verses, whether HaMashiach or Israel collective, the requirements by which HaMashiach will be recognized remain unfulfilled. So, while there is some debate among the Jewish sages as to whether this verse is talking about the Messiah or not, what is abundantly clear is that thus far no one has fulfilled the role of HaMashiach ben David (nor that of Mashiach ben Yosef).

       And so... we continue to wait.

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