“This Man Shall Be the Peace”
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting … And this man shall be the peace.Micah 5:2, 5a
Men have long dreamed of creating a final, lasting order, one that will timelessly survive all assaults. Babel was an early attempt at permanent order. In Christ’s day Rome claimed it had achieved such an order in the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace. The “peace of Islam” is the state of all things being in submission or surrender to Allah and Muslim law. Other modern attempts at forced peace include the concept of utopia, the ideology of Marxism, and the one-world order of the internationalists.
When Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah in Judea, he placed it in the context of the imminent threat by the great empire of the day, Assyria, to conquer all of Palestine. Like other empires of the ancient world and since, it sought total conquest and peace in terms of the submission of all peoples to its rule. Assyria was not a nation of large numbers; therefore, it ruled by terror to intimidate all who would oppose it. It also tried to preempt any rebellion by its policies.
Assyria cultivated fear. It skinned men alive; it piled its victim’s heads high as gruesome monuments to its cruelty. It typically killed the leaders of its conquered peoples and then displaced its new subjects from their land via forced marches. Psychologically, the conquered people were broken. They were cut off from their land, their loyalties, and eventually their language, as they were forced to learn the tongue of their new country. Terror was a tool used to maintain order, a lasting order and a peace on Assyrian terms.
As predicted by Micah (1:6) the Assyrians so conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria). The Hebrews managed to keep their identity, but the distinctions between the tribes became blurred. The Assyrian threat later returned to lay siege to the gates of Jerusalem itself (1:9) before it was turned back by the miraculous death of 185,000 soldiers (2 Kings 19:35).
Micah, however, proclaimed that there was another power center. Not the empire-building Assyria, not even the national capital Jerusalem itself, which he prophesied would “go to Babylon” (4:10), was the final order. The final order would come from Bethlehem: “[O]ut of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (5:2).
This man was to stand and feed (rule) in the strength of God. He would be great “unto the ends of the earth” (5:4). Then we are told of this eternal one that “this man shall be the peace” (5:5). Matthew Henry’s comment on this passage was, “Under the shadow of protection from the Assyrians, is a promise of protection to the gospel church and all believers, from the design and attempts of the powers of darkness. Christ is our Peace as a Priest, making atonement for sin and reconciling us to God and he is our Peace as a King, conquering our enemies: hence our souls may dwell at ease in him.”
All attempts at peace or utopia on man’s terms will fail. Christ and His Kingdom is the peace, the final order, and therein lies our primary citizenship and loyalty.
Topics: Minor Prophets, Old Testament History