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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 25

[Continuing a discussion of the first four prophecies about Christ in the book of Matthew:]
The second prophecy listed by Matthew as fulfilled is

Matthew 2:6 ‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah,
    are in no way least among the princes of Judah:
for out of you shall come forth a governor,
    who shall shepherd my people, Israel.’

The original statement is:

Micah 5:1 Now you shall gather yourself in troops,
    daughter of troops.
He has laid siege against us.
    They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek.
2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    being small among the clans of Judah,
    out of you one will come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel;
    whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
3 Therefore he will abandon them until the time that she who is in labor gives birth.
    Then the rest of his brothers will return to the children of Israel.
4 He shall stand, and shall shepherd in the strength of Yahweh,
    in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God:
    and they will live, for then he will be great to the ends of the earth.
5 He will be our peace when Assyria invades our land,
    and when he marches through our fortresses,
    then we will raise against him seven shepherds,
    and eight leaders of men.
6 They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword,
    and the land of Nimrod in its gates.

It is clear that at least one scholar understood that verse 2 referred to the birth of the Messiah, because he communicated that to the Wise Men. But the context, before and after, involves warfare, in particular against the Assyrians. Would anyone familiar with this prophecy, when it was given, have understood that it was talking about the birth of God’s Son, the Savior?

The third fulfilled prophecy, according to Matthew, is this:

Matthew 2:14 He arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Here’s the original:

Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, then I loved him,
    and called my son out of Egypt.
2 They called to them, so they went from them.
    They sacrificed to the Baals,
    and burned incense to engraved images.
3 Yet I taught Ephraim to walk.
    I took them by his arms;
    but they didn’t know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with cords of a man, with ties of love;
    and I was to them like those who lift up the yoke on their necks;
    and I bent down to him and I fed him.
5 “They won’t return into the land of Egypt;
    but the Assyrian will be their king,
    because they refused to repent.

This seems to be speaking of the Exodus, and subsequent events. (Ephraim is sometimes used, in the Old Testament, to signify the Northern Kingdom.) Apparently God meant this prophecy to cover more than one event, one national – all the Israelites – and one related to the early life of Christ. Matthew tells us that it is, in part, anyway, a prophecy of Joseph, Mary and Jesus going to Egypt. However, note that Hosea prophesied that the Israelites wouldn’t return to Egypt. Clearly, that didn’t include the Holy Family.

The fourth prophecy, a sad one, is:

Matthew 2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    lamentation, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she wouldn’t be comforted,
    because they are no more.”

The source is Jeremiah 31:11 For Yahweh has ransomed Jacob, and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. 12 They shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow to the goodness of Yahweh, to the grain, and to the new wine, and to the oil, and to the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together; for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14 I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says Yahweh. 15 Thus says Yahweh: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. 16 Thus says Yahweh: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says Yahweh; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your latter end, says Yahweh; and your children shall come again to their own border.

It would seem that this would have been difficult, or impossible, to read as a prophecy of Herod killing the boy babies to try to kill Christ. The passage, as a whole, is a prophecy of the restoration of Israel.

We know that these four prophecies have been fulfilled, and how they were fulfilled. The Bible tells us that they have been fulfilled. But, in their own time, they would seem to have caused real difficulty for anyone trying to understand them the way Matthew did. All of them had more than one meaning, and the first meaning was not related to Christ’s early life. God could, of course, have especially revealed the second meaning to an individual, or more than one. Perhaps He did this in relation to Micah’s prophecy of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. These four examples are not atypical. Additional prophecies referred to in Matthew, who, more than the other Gospel writers, emphasizes fulfilled prophecy, seem equally obscure in their original context, unless we know how they were fulfilled.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue a discussion of this topic, prophecy. Thanks for reading.

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