The Dew and the Lion
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.—Micah 5:7, 8
A verse by verse study in Micah 5
Micah, like so many other Old Testament prophets, delivers a message which has meaning to his own day and a far larger application down the stream of time at the end of the age. Prophesying in the apostate days of Ahaz and the reform of Hezekiah, he is keenly aware of the threat of Assyrian domination and the larger specter of Babylonian conquest down the stream of time.
The book has three major divisions: the predictions of judgment in chapters one to three; prophecies of restoration in chapters four and five; and a plea for national repentance in chapters six and seven. The chapter under consideration in this study is the first of the restoration chapters.
The Deliverer—Verses 1 to 4
“Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. 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. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”
The first verse is open to two interpretations. Probably both are true, the one foreshadowing the other. In Micah’s day the gatherer of troops was undoubtedly Assyria (with Babylon looming in the near future—see 4:10). These captivities, however, were to be of short term when compared with the siege of the Roman troops in A.D. 68-73, introducing the Jewish Diaspora of nearly 2000 years.
Although it is tempting to lay the greater emphasis on the Roman siege because of its direct connection with the “smiting” of the “judge of Israel,” the Messiah, on the cheek (Matt. 26:67; 27:30), the invasion of Assyria seems more likely when we consider verse two.
In the second verse the word “but” establishes a contrast between the judges of the first two verses. In fact, even the Hebrew words for “judge” in the first verse and “ruler” in the second verse are different. The former indicates one with judicial authority, while the latter describes a member of the executive branch of government.
There is no question as to the identity of the “ruler” of verse two. This is a prophecy of Jesus of Nazareth and is so applied in Matthew 2:5, 6.
The selection of Bethlehem Ephratah as the birthplace appears to be no mere coincidence. First, it was known as “the city of David.” The angels’ song to the shepherds gives refers to this in Luke 2:11. Second, as a “little” city, it highlighted the humble nature of the work of Messiah at his first advent. Third, the combined name means “fertile house of bread,” a fitting name for the one who was to be called “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48). Fourth, the mother of Hur and grandmother of Bezaleel was called by the same name (1 Chron. 2:19; 4:4). The connection between Bezaleel and the Messiah can be quickly seen by a comparison of Exodus 31:2,3 with Isaiah 11:1, 2. Finally, the exact location is connected with that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt by a line drawn from the pyramid at the exact angle of the ascending passage and extended north-eastward into Canaan, passing directly through Bethlehem.
It is of this Messiah that the statement can be made, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” for, as he himself claims, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
Verse three spans a period of nearly 2000 years. If the first verse refers to the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the “therefore” of verse three calls attention to the smiting of the judge of Israel on his cheek. If the opening verse is an allusion to the Assyrian invasion, the “therefore” implies another smiting, this one of the Messiah. In either case the causative action that brings on the giving up of Israel is the instigation of the crucifixion of Jesus by the Jewish people at the first advent.
The “travail” is a reference to the deliverance of the church (see Isa. 66:5). The casting off of Israel was not forever, but until another work was accomplished, that of the selection of the bride of Christ, the church. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25, 26).
It is at this juncture that Israel will return to their homeland. It will not be “all” of Israel but a “remnant” that shall return for “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). Bypassing the final troublous experiences which will wean from Israel this faithful “remnant,” the prophet paints with a broad brush the work of their returned Messiah. He will be their shepherd, feeding them as David fed his flocks on the hillsides of Bethlehem, and “they shall abide.” As he says in another place, “I will plant them, and not pluck them up” (Jer. 24:6; 42:10).
The reception of the Messiah will be in sharp contrast to that of his first advent. Then he was “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3). “Now,” the prophet Micah states, “shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”
The Deliverance—Verses 5 and 6
“And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”
The words “this man” appears in italics in the King James Bible and should be omitted, as in the Revised Standard version. Using the figure of the Assyrian invasion, he describes the deliverance of Israel in a battle that is led by seven shepherds and eight princes (as in most translations) of men.
Many students of the Bible foresee two more prophetic conflicts in Israel before they assume their important position in God’s kingdom. The earlier of these conflicts is described in the eighty-third Psalm and the latter in the thirty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel. While it is customary to ascribe the deliverance of the Micah verse to the latter battle, it is noteworthy that Assyria (“Assur”) is a leader of the combatants in the Psalms text.
Israel has a number of divine “shepherds.” “Jehovah is our shepherd,” states the Psalmist (23:1). Jesus described himself as the “good shepherd” in the tenth chapter of John. He is, as it were, a chief “under-shepherd,” with his church filling the roles of additional under-shepherds. The number “seven” in our verse does not seem to refer to a literal number, but to a figure of completion. This then harmonizes with verse three where the church is first brought forth before this deliverance commences. This is also the thought of Romans 11:25, 26, quoted above.
“Princes,” as appears to be the correct translation of “principal men,” is a term used in the Bible of the ancient prophets and leaders of Israel (Psa. 45:16). This is in harmony with the testimony of Isaiah 1:26, “I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning.” To this agree the words of Zechariah 14:3 which describe this same deliverance: “Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” In “the day of battle” during past times God would first raise up a judge, or deliverer, and use this individual to lead Israel’s troops to victory (Jud. 2:16, 18).
As the number seven is symbolic, so is the number eight. It signifies a new beginning, as in the term “the eighth day,” the start of a new week. So it will be through a new beginning, a resurrection from the dead, that these ancient patriarchs will be raised to Israel’s defense and salvation.
It is also worthy of note that he says of the remnant of Israel, “then shall we raise against him” this delivering force. If a direct cause were sought for the resurrection of these ancients it would have to be the application of the blood of Christ. Returned Israel has no direct part in this work. Yet they do have an indirect part, for the Scriptures indicate that all resurrection may be through the medium of prayer. In Zechariah 12:9, 10 we are informed that this final battle will be accompanied with Israel receiving the “spirit of grace, and of supplications.”
The Delivered—Verses 7 to 9
“And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.”
The remnant that experience this miraculous deliverance will have their work cut out for them. Two very different activities are described for them. They will be both “as a dew” and “as a lion.”
It is the refreshing aspect of their work that is described as being “as the dew.” This refers in particular to the teachings of the Lord which will emanate from the land of Israel. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Deut. 32:2). Many scriptures refer to all peoples of the earth coming to receive the blessings of the Lord through restored Israel (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2; Zech. 8:23).
These blessings shall not tarry for man. Neither will there be the interminable processes of parliaments and councils to decide what to teach nor will there be a long delay after Israel assumes their kingdom position before these blessings of “the knowledge of the Lord” shall begin to flow out to the waiting world.
The role of a lion, however, is far different. In this figure of speech we see described the judgmental role of Israel in earth’s affairs. The contrast between these two offices is aptly described in Proverbs 19:12, “The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favor is as dew upon the grass.”
As the lion is “the king of beasts,” so Israel shall be the dominant nation on earth. Although the legal powers of that kingdom will be in the heavens—”the Law shall go forth from Zion”—the spreading of that law will be from Israel—”the word of the Lord shall go from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
What a role reversal this will be! Israel has been for the past two thousand years a pariah among the nations. They have been persecuted and driven from land to land. Now their fortunes turn and they become the most prominent of nations. We read of this in Zechariah 8:13, “And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.” Then it will be Jehovah’s hand that will be lifted against their adversaries, cutting off all their enemies.
Five Divine Judgments—Verses 10 to 14
“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.”
Although this deliverance of Israel will be dramatic and its impact universal, it only the “remnant” that will be brought through (verse 3). For the others of Israel the trouble will be judgmental, removing all forms of rival worship from the people God chooses to use to bless all mankind with the refreshment of his kingdom.
There will be no more horses or chariots —no more forms of militarism. There will be no more cities or strongholds from which a self-exalted aristocracy rules over their fellow. There will be no more witchcrafts or soothsayers or any other source of alternate communication with God. There will be no more images or worship of other gods, whether they be the gods or Christendom or the gods of heathendom. There will be no more groves or any other place for the worship of others than Jehovah. In the past “they sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not” (Deut. 32:17). Now the past will be over and there will be a new beginning for a “new earth” will be established on this planet under the “new heavens” of the exalted church of Christ (Rev. 21:1).
Judgment on the Heathen—Verse 15
“And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.”
God’s judgments are not limited to Israel. The heathen, or gentile nations, that come against Israel, though used of God to chastise his people Israel, are not guiltless. Time and time again God has used gentile nations to chastise Israel, but each time they themselves have been punished for the troubles they brought upon God’s chosen people.
The principle behind this is well described in Zechariah 1:15, “And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” It is for this reason also, and not only for the deliverance of Israel, that God will face the forces that invade Israel and “will fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.”
Thus will God establish his kingdom upon planet earth through Israel under their restored “princes,” their faithful leaders of old. How we await that time and, in the meanwhile, “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”—the peace that will spread forth from that restored city of God (Psa. 122:6).
“Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem” (Zech. 1:16).