How Did the Wise Men Know to Go to Bethlehem?

I bet you’re thinking, “the star!” Well, not exactly. The wise men actually asked the Jews where they would find the place where the King of the Jews was to be born. The answer was simple for the Jewish people: Bethlehem.

The wise men were told to bring their gifts to Bethlehem because the ancient Scriptures told the Jewish people that their Messiah, their Ruler, would come forth from Bethlehem. The astonishing part, however, is that Bethlehem was named more than 600 years before Jesus was born.

Also, remember Joseph and Mary were not living in Bethlehem at the time. They were living in Galilee, in a city named Nazareth, but they had been ordered to return to the city of their family. Since Joseph was a descendent of David, he had to report to Bethlehem. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Read on for the rest of the story – actually read on for the “backstory” that was written 600 years earlier!  

The Ancient Prophecy

Micah 5:2–5 was considered the critical passage for recognizing the promised ruler of Israel. In fact, when “the magi from the east” came to Jerusalem and began asking where to find “He who is to be born King of the Jews,” the Jewish people told the current king, Herod, that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2–5 (see Matthew 2:1–8). The prophet Micah told them:

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His times of coming forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has given birth.
Then the remainder of His kinsmen
Will return to the sons of Israel.

And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.
This One will be our peace.

Who Was Micah?

Micah is one of the “minor” prophets in the Old Testament. “Minor” just means short, not unimportant. Micah was a prophet around the same time as Isaiah. While Isaiah preached mostly in the city, Micah likely spoke to those in the rural areas outside of Jerusalem (Moody Bible Commentary, p. 1369). Micah was speaking to the people of Judah while they were watching Israel being attacked. The people hearing Micah’s words were probably wondering if God would protect His chosen people in Judah (The Handbook of Messianic Prophecies, p. 1207).

How Can We Be Sure Micah Was Talking About Jesus?

Micah said “Bethlehem Ephrathah” to be specific because there was another Bethlehem (Zebulun), but that was not to be the birthplace of the Messiah. “Bethlehem Ephrathah” was the place mentioned in Genesis 35:19 where Rachel, wife of Jacob, was buried after she died giving birth to Benjamin (Moody Bible Commentary, p. 1374).

Also, it’s no coincidence that “Bethlehem” means “house of bread” (The Handbook of Messianic Prophecies, p. 1210). Consider the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John 6:35:

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).

Next, let’s look at the phrase “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah’s prophesy again is very specific so that the people will be able to identify the Messiah when He comes. This phrase makes it clear that this Ruler of Israel hales from eternity past, not just a descendant of David. The original Hebrew words used are the same as Deuteronomy 33:27 for the eternal God, Genesis 21:33 for the everlasting God, and Proverbs 8:22–23 for God’s everlasting works. The ruler identified in this prophecy, who would be born in Bethlehem, was coming forth from eternity, from the everlasting God.

Finally, consider how this prophecy ends: And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

That’s exactly who Jesus was and what He did. He came in the name of the Lord, He brought believers back into a secure relationship with God, the good news of His greatness is being shared to the ends of the earth, and He left us with peace, His peace (see John 14:27).

Thank you, Micah, for making it possible for us to recognize the Messiah, not only by where He would be born, but for who He is to us: our Shepherd, our peace.

I hope this fulfilled prophecy gives you the confidence to be bold for Jesus. He was, is, and always will be our Messiah, our Savior. Feel free to share this blog on your social media channels!

Peace and love, Kim

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