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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

1. CONNECTION OF THE PROPHECY WITH THE PRECEDING ONES.—It has been shown that the Messias will be the son of David; Micheas tells us too that he will be of David’s royal city. David himself had come forward when his country was heavily afflicted by the inroad of the Philistines; Micheas describes a threefold affliction which is to befall the theocracy, and especially Jerusalem, before the birth of the Messianic restorer. The three woes are announced in 4:9, 11; 5:1: “Now, why art thou drawn together with grief? hast thou no king in thee, or is thy counsellor perished, because sorrow hath taken thee as a woman in labor?… And now many nations are gathered together against thee, and they say: Let her be stoned, and let our eye look upon Sion.… Now shalt thou be laid waste, O daughter of the robber; they have laid siege against us, with a rod shall they strike the cheek of the judge of Israel.” It is true that interpreters have explained these three distinct woes as applying to various misfortunes. a. St. Cyril’s opinion that the woes referred to Samaria is hardly tenable at present. b. There is nearly a general agreement that the first affliction refers to the Babylonian captivity (606 B.C.); in fact, Babylon is expressly mentioned in the context. Diversity of opinion regards chiefly the second and third predictions. c. Several authors understand the second prediction as applying to Sennacherib (Lap., Menochius, Tir., Gordon). This explanation agrees well with the words following the second prediction, “he hath gathered them together as the hay of the floor.” Isaias’ (37:36 ff.) description of Sennacherib’s defeat corresponds well with such an explanation. But A. the words that follow in Micheas do not harmonize with this view. “Arise and tread, O daughter of Sion, for I will make thy horn iron …” is a command that implies active resistance and personal victory on the part of Sion, while in Sennacherib’s case Jerusalem had no active part in the king’s destruction. B. Then again, if the first prediction applies to the captivity (606 B.C.), and the second to Sennacherib (714 B.C.), the prophetic description goes chronologically backwards; but in this process the third prophecy would hardly find any fit application. For if we were to understand the third prophetic woe of Sedecias’ defeat (588 B.C.) on account of the words “with a rod shall they strike the cheek of the judge of Israel” (Ephrem, Rib., Sanct.), we should have to suppose that the prophet had made chronological retrogressions. d. It seems therefore more probable that the second prophecy refers to the Israelite afflictions in the time of the Machabees and of Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 166 B.C.), while the third prediction may apply to the Roman inroads under Pompey (c. 64 B.C.) and those leaders who finally destroyed the royal city Jerusalem (c. 70 A.D.). But however we may understand the threefold woe which precedes Micheas’ prophecy, it is certain that the Messianic restorer will be born in extremely troublous times, so that David’s birth is a perfect type of the Messianic birth.

2. ANTI-CHRISTIAN EXPLANATION OF MICHEAS’ PROPHECY.—A. Grotius and a number of Jewish interpreters explain the prophecy as referring to Zorobabel alone. a. Zorobabel really was “a ruler in Israel.” b. Zorobabel’s “going forth is from the beginning” (536 B.C.), since he began his political course from the time of the captivity. c. Zorobabel really brought back to the Lord “the remnant of his brethren,” leading them out of the Babylonian captivity to the promised land of Chanaan. d. Finally, Zorobabel may in a manner be said to have come forth from Bethlehem, since he was of the royal family of David. These reasons are easily answered. α. If Zorobabel may be said to be born in Bethlehem because he descends from David’s family, Moses may be said to be born in the Ur of the Chaldees because his ancestors lived there. The very name “Zorobabel” indicates that Babylon is the real birthplace of the hero. β. Nor does Zorobabel’s birth date back to the days of eternity, even though the period of his life coincides with the Hebrew restoration from the Babylonian captivity. γ. As to the “remnant” which he led back to the city of God, that expression has commonly a meaning extending beyond the mere temporal welfare of the nation or any of its parts; δ. and as to the office of ruler which was held by Zorobabel, it answers in no manner to the glorious description of Micheas, according to which he shall “be magnified even to the ends of the earth.”

B. We must add, however, that some Catholics, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Barhebræus among the number, apply Micheas’ prophecy to Zorobabel in a literal sense, while in its typical sense they apply it to the Messias. This view, and another in which the prophecy has an initial fulfilment in Zorobabel, but finds its full accomplishment in the Messias, may be safely defended, though it appears less probable than the explanation which applies the prediction wholly and entirely to the coming of Christ.

C. Another rationalistic interpretation contends that the prophecy must be understood not of any real and personal but of an ideal Messias. This view has no special grounds in the text of the prophet; and, hypothesis as it is, it will be sufficiently refuted by the testimonies which we shall cite for the existence of a Jewish tradition concerning the Messianic interpretation of the prophecy.

3. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—a. The New Testament is very explicit in applying the prophecy to the Messias’ birth: the chief priests and the scribes answered Herod when he inquired about the birth-place of the Messias in the words of Micheas: “And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda …” (Matt. 2:6). Again, we read in Jo. 7:42 the expressions of the populace gathered for the feast at Jerusalem: “Doth not the Scripture say that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the town where David was?” b. From the New Testament passages thus far cited we may immediately infer the existence of a Jewish tradition that the Messias was to be born at Bethlehem. For as Matthew testifies to this belief existing among the priests and scribes, so does John bear witness to its presence among the common people. The Chaldee paraphrase of Mich. 5:2 shows the same fact. For it reads: “Out of thee shall come forth unto me the Messias, that he may exercise dominion in Israel.” Micheas 5:3 is also referred to the Messias in the Talmud (Sanhedrin, fol. 98, col. 2): Rab said: “The son of David will not come until the ungodly kingdom has spread itself for a period of nine months over Israel [Yoma, fol. 10, col. 1, reads “over the whole world” for “over Israel”]; for it is said: Therefore will he give them up …” A similar Messianic explanation is given of Mich. 5:5 in the Midrash on the Song of Solomon, 8:10: “Rabbi Simeon, the son of Yochai, has taught: When you see a Persian horse tied to the graves of the land of Israel, expect the footsteps of the Messias. What is the reason? And this man shall be the peace … And who are the seven shepherds? In the midst is David; Adam, Seth, Mathusala to his right, and Abraham, Jacob, and Moses to his left. And where went Isaac? He went and sat down at the gate of hell, to save his children from the judgment of hell; and the eight principal men are: Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Sophonias, Ezechias, Elias, and the king Messias.” Pesachim, fol. 54, and Gedarim, fol. 39, agree with the above passages of the Talmud in interpreting the prophecy of Micheas in a Messianic sense. Kimchi, Rashi, and Abarbanel too agree with this same explanation. c. We hardly need to say that all the Fathers who have touched this prophecy at all refer it to the Messias, at least in its typical sense (cf. Reinke, “Mess. Weissag.,” iii. pp. 349–364). Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was condemned by Pope Vigilius, is the only one to agree partially with Grotius and the Jewish commentators. d. Finally, the other Messianic predictions fully agree with that of Micheas. In proof of this we may point to 2 Kings 7:14; Ps. 2; 44; Is. 7:14; 9:7, etc.

MICH. 5:2–14

And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. Therefore will he give them up till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth, and the remnant of his brethren shall be converted to the children of Israel.

And he shall stand, and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the height of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall be converted, for now shall he be magnified even to the ends of the earth. And this man shall be our peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall set his foot in our houses, and we shall raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. And they shall feed the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nemrod with the spears thereof; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our borders.

And the remnants of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples as a dew from the Lord, and as drops upon the grass, which waiteth not for man, nor tarrieth for the children of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many peoples as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who when he shall go through and tread down, and take, there is none to deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up over thy enemies, and all thy enemies shall be cut off.

And it shall come to pass in that day,” saith the Lord, “that I will take away thy horses out of the midst of thee, and will destroy thy chariots. And I will destroy the cities of thy land, and will throw down all thy strong holds, and I will take away sorceries out of thy hand, and there shall be no divinations in thee. And I will destroy thy graven things, and thy statues out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more adore the works of thy hands. And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee, and will crush thy cities. And I will execute vengeance in wrath and in indignation among all the nations that have not given ear.”

1. The Messias will not only be of David’s royal family (2 Kings 7:14, etc.), but he will also be born in David’s native city.

2. The Messias will, however, be distinct from David, in having another birth besides the temporal one—a going forth from the beginning, from the days of eternity.

3. As David came forth from Bethlehem to take away the reproach of Israel and free his nation from the Philistines, so shall the Messias come forth from Bethlehem to free his people from its most bitter enemies, the dreaded Assyrians, and to lead it back into the land of promise and of divine appointment.

4. This liberation of Israel from the Assyrians is to take place when she that travaileth shall bring forth; Micheas thus well interprets the prophecy of Isaias that treats of the Virgin Mother.








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