But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah, from you One will go forth to Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from old, from the days of eternity
The Trinitarian Claim
Trinitarians sometimes appeal to this passage to try and claim Jesus was a person who existed "in eternity" and "before" creation and has "always" existed as the Son of God.
The Claim vs. The Facts
The Scriptural facts show us this passage concerns the Messiah's ancient ancestral origins in Bethlehem.
The Problems with the Claim
1. A Philosophically Incompetent Translation/Interpretation
The Trinitarian claim is quite impossible since creation was itself the beginning of time and to claim the Son existed "in the days of eternity" is to use language that insinuates he existed in a time continuum prior to the existence of time. This is a logical absurdity. If we translated the Hebrew word olam as "eternity," the passage literally would literally say "days of eternity." There is no such thing as the "days of eternity." Eternity past is timelessness not never-ending time. Time began with creation. If there was such a thing as "days of eternity" there would be no such thing as the beginning of time. You can' exist in in never-ending time continuum before time is created. It is an absurd concept. Time is a relative measurement of created objects in motion; it is a measurement defining the duration of one object moving in relation to another object. Eternity is rather timelessness.
2. The Context: - God's God?
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah, from you One will go forth to Me to be ruler in Israel. His origins are from old, from the days of antiquity. Therefore he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of his brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And he will arise and Shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God. (Micah 5:2-4).
Just two verses later we find that the person in view has a God; Yahweh is his God. It should then be clear that the One who will go forth to be rule in Israel is not God but a human being who has Yahweh God as his God. And indeed, this person Shepherds the flock not in his own strength but in the strength of his God Yahweh. That is exactly what we find in the New Testament concerning Jesus.
3. Translation Variations
Carefully consider the discrepancies in the following Trinitarian translations. Some say "eternity." Some say "everlasting." Some say "ancient times." Some say "origin" others have plural "goings forth" or "origins." These differences clearly demonstrate that these Trinitrian claims are highly questionable to ay the least.
whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. KJV
whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. ASV
His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity. NASB
his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. Douay-Rheims
And his comings forth are of old, From the days of antiquity. Youngs Literal.
whose origins are in the distant past. NET
Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. NAB
whose origins are in the distant past. NET
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. NIV
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. RSV
whose going out has been purposed from time past, from the eternal days. BBE.
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. ESV
Analysis of the Facts
1. Matthew 2:1-6
Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 which gives us considerable insight as to the intended meaning of the verse:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king... When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
The purpose of Micah 5:2 is to indicate where the Messiah will be born: Bethlehem.
2. Origins: His "goings forth"
The Hebrew word here "motsa'ah" indicates the concept of "origin." The English term "goings forth" is a decent translation of the Hebrew intent. The Hebrew word is plural, and the intended idea here is to explain the Messiah's origins. We will also see shortly why this word is plural.
Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (NAB).
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (NIV).
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. (RSV).
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. (NRSV)
whose origins are in the distant past. (NET)
3. Of "old" "past"
The Hebrew "qedem" is the word we usually translate as "east." Since the sun dawns in the east and the day begins in the east it is a front place where the day begins. This Hebrew word does not really mean "old" but conveys the idea of a "beginning" or a "front" and so with respect to time it implies the idea of ancient beginnings.
4. The "days of olam."
The Trinitarian claim is heavily based upon translating the Hebrew word olam as "eternity." Their error can be quickly seen by observing there are no "days" in eternity past. God created the first day. Before the creation of the first day, there were not things called "days." He created the first day.
The word "eternity" has been skewed in people's minds due to the word "everlasting," a word often accepted as a synonym to "eternity." However, the word "everlasting" indicates a never ending time continuum into the future where the word "eternity" refers to a timeless reality "before" or after creation. Moreover, eternity is not a never-ending time continuum but a state of timelessness. God exists in eternity and created the ages. God did not exist in a state of time that He had not yet created. God existed "before" time began. He existed in a state of timelessness.
The Definition of olam
The word olam simply does not mean "everlasting," or "eternity" defined as an infinite time continuum, or as a reality of timelessness, or whatever reality God exists in. This word simply means a very long period of time or an indefinite period of time that is beyond understanding. It does not mean infinity. It comes from a root word which means hidden or concealed. This is similar to the idea expressed by the English term "unforseeable future." It refers to an indefinite period of time beyond the horizon.
That olam does not refer to infinite time, or a state of timelessness, or some other kind of reality in which only God exists, can be seen from its use in the Scriptures.
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days... they were the mighty ones of old, men of renown. (Gen 6:4).
Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says YAHWEH, the God of Israel, `From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. (Joshua 24:2).
Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites; for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times. (1 Samuel 27:8).
And Achish trusted David, thinking, "He has made himself utterly abhorred by his people Israel; therefore he shall be my servant always." (1 Samuel 27:15).
Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod? (Job 22:15).
Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set. (Proverbs 22:8; cf. 23:10).
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations. (Isaiah 58:12; cf, 61:4).
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. (Isaiah 63:9,11).
Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, It is an old nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. (Jeremiah 5:15).
Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. (Malachi 3:4).
It is quite clear in the above passages that olam cannot possibly mean "everlasting" or "eternity." The actual Hebrew at Micah 5:2 literally reads "days of olam." This phrase is also used in another place right here in this very same book of Micah just two chapters later.
Shepherd Your people with Your scepter, the flock of Your possession which dwells by itself in the woodland, in the midst of a fruitful field. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old (Micah 7:14).
Obviously, the term "days of olam" in the above verse does not mean "eternity" as "everlasting time," or "never ending time," or anything of the like, or we have the ridiculous problem of explaining just how the Jews were to feed the flock just as they had done in the "days of eternity."
The word olam, le-olam, or ad-olam, sometimes means only up "to the end of a man's life." For example, it is used of someone's lifetime (Ex. 14:13), of a slave's life (Ex. 21:6; Lev. 25:46; Deut. 15:17), of Samuel's life (I Sam. 1:22; 2:35), of the lifetimes of David and Jonathan (I Sam. 20:23), and of David's lifetime (I Sam. 27:12; 28:2; I Chr. 28:4). While the English reads for ever, obviously from the context it does not mean "forever" in the sense of eternity, but only up to the end of the person's life.
5. Bethlehem: Jesus of Nazareth's Ancient Ancestral Home
Micah 5:2 is a reference to Bethlehem "Bethlehem Ephrathah." Bethlehem was the ancestral home of Jesus' ancestors. It was the deathplace of Jacob's wife Rachel and the birthplace of his father David.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. Matthew 1:1-5.
All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem... The neighbor women gave [the child] a name.... they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. Ruth 4.
I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons. 1 Samuel 16:1.
Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse. 1 Samuel 7:12.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David. Luke 2:4.
For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. Matthew 2:1
For so it is written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.
Matthew 2:6 quoting Micah 5:2.
7. Interpreting the Facts
When all the facts are before us it becomes plain what Micah 5:2 is about. It is about the fact that Bethlehem is the home of the Messiah's ancestral origins. Jesus was a son of Jesse and David whose home was Bethtlehem. It is the ancient home of Jesus' ancestors. Genealogical lineages tell us about our ancestral origins. Bethlehem is the home of Jesus' ancient ancestors; it is his ancient origins. We must remember that David was born 1000 years before Jesus. From Jesus' perspective in time this was ancient history.
The Trinitarian claim is based on unwarranted translation of words and imagining Trinitarian doctrine into the Hebrew text. The grammatical and contextual evidence indicate the verse is a reference to the Messiah’s ancient ancestral origins in Bethlehem of Ephrathah. Micah has the ruling Davidic dynasty in mind due to God's promise to David at 2 Samuel 7:14. The facts tell us that the passage should be understood as follows:
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, insignificant among the thousands of Judah, out of you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel (i.e. Messiah will be born in Bethlehem). His [ancestral] origins [in Bethlehem] are from ancient times, from the days of old.
There is nothing here about a Messiah originating in eternity. The force of the entire passage is about the Davidic King Messiah being born in Bethlehem, the home of Jesus' ancient ancestors where his genealogical lineage began in ancient times.