He wouldn’t just be a denizen of Bethlehem. He wouldn’t be any ordinary ruler. He would be from old. What did this mean? How could a ruler exist before he was born? He’d have to be eternal, and no one is eternal…except God.
When Barack Obama became President, Donald Trump challenged him to produce his birth certificate. The allegation was that Obama was not qualified to be president because he did not meet the “Article Two” requirement, which states that to be president (or vice-president) a person has to be a natural-born US citizen. You cannot be an immigrant, or “naturalized” citizen. At first President Obama ignored the taunt, but Trump kept goading him until finally, in April 2011, the White House released a copy of Obama’s birth certificate showing his place of birth as Honolulu, Hawaii. Case closed.
In a similar way, the provenance of the Messiah was a necessary qualification for his claim to be King of the Jews. Not only did he need to be born in a particular country, but the Messiah had to hail from a very specific spot on the map. This requirement would limit the number of claimants to the title, and proving his provenance would silence those disputing that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
3 Important Aspects of the Origin of the Messiah
Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel. Micah 5:1-2
Micah was predicting a siege against Jerusalem and calling for Judah to muster her troops to defend against the raid. It was considered an honor to defend Jerusalem, and each town that could, would send 1000 warriors to join the defending army. But there was one town near Jerusalem which would not be able to muster 1000 men to fight. The little town of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was a Podunk, a backwater place. But Micah takes time out of his prophecy to address this one tiny town, by promising that it will have a unique honor.
And in this text is one of the gleaming nuggets of the minor prophets: the provenance of the Messiah.
But why prophesy 700 years before the event where the Messiah would be born? And why did God select Bethlehem?
The reason God predicted the geographic origin of the Messiah was because one’s birthplace is not something anyone can control. God chose a small town, a small clan, simply to limit the number of people who can make claims to the title of Messiah.