What Did Micah Really Want?: Reflections on Micah 5:2-5a

Micah Predicts Unity for God's People 

As in Isaiah, so here in Micah, the birth of a child augurs a great change in Israelite fortunes. I think verse 3 then means that God (the "he" of the first verb) will keep Israel before the Bethlehem child is born. But when the child is born, the remnant of the scattered people will return to Israel. And after their return, the child, perhaps now grown up, "shall stand and feed the flock in the power of YHWH, in the mighty name of YHWH, his God" (5:4). As a result of his standing and feeding the flock of Israel, "they shall live, because now he is great until the ends of the earth, a person of shalom" (5:4b-5a).

Here the Christians saw Jesus, the shepherd of Israel, both feeding and securing the people "until the ends of the earth." Furthermore, he was defined best by the wonderful word "shalom." This word does not finally mean "peace," although that may be a part of its fuller meaning. The word more basically means "unity" or "wholeness." This miraculous boy will bring all together again, remnant and those who are still unborn.

But what does Micah mean?

Much the same thing, I would say. He looks for a David-like king to defeat the forces that would destroy the land and one who would bring unity and peace to a newly reconstituted community, one who would feed the people and secure their rights in a land finally ruled by YHWH.

Thus, it could be said that the choice of this passage for the fourth Sunday of Advent is not a bad one after all.

What Micah wanted for Israel and the nations is precisely what the early Christians believed that the coming of their Christ meant for their world: justice, unity, peace. It is the hope of every Christmas. It is the hope of this Christmas.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas. But more importantly, I wish each of you a just Christmas, a peaceful Christmas that strives always for unity and wholeness for the world.

12/16/2012 5:00:00 AM