Focal Passage: Micah 5:2-5a;
The second advent lesson
focuses on the prophetic and New Testament fulfillment of the small town of
Bethlehem (Heb. “house of bread”).
Modern-day Bethlehem is
constantly in the news as the capital of a section within the future
Palestinian state of the West Bank.
Since December 1995 when the
Israelis withdrew from Bethlehem, it has been part of the framework of the
peace process that began partial Palestinian self-rule there. For Muslims,
Bethlehem is called Bayt Lahm (Arabic “house of meat”). Today 30,000 people
live in Bethlehem. In 1948, its population was majority Christian (80 percent).
Today less than 15 percent claim to be Christians.
The Middle East has
experienced a shrinking Christian population since 1948. Jerusalem boasted 20
percent Christians but today has less than 2 percent Christian.
The greater Middle East has seen a
decrease from a high of 20 percent to presently 5 percent.
Historically, Bethlehem is
the burial place of Rachel and the setting for the book of Ruth.
At Bethlehem, David — Ruth’s
great grandson — would be born and then anointed as Israel’s second king by the
Elmo Scoggin suggests that
at the time of the prophet Micah, Bethlehem was considered small because “it
had not grown large enough to be able to send 1,000 men to battle or to some
other national duty.”
Towns and cities were known
for the numbers of men they could muster. It was unthinkable that a small
village that could not even raise a thousand men could produce a new and
greater David” (“Micah,” Hosea-Malachi, BBC, Vol. 7, 1972, 214). Francis Anderson and David Freedman
speak of possible meanings in which Bethlehem has “junior rank” or is
“ineligible for privileges of authority or inheritance enjoyed by the elder
sibling” or is “small, poor, or weak” (Micah: A New Translation with
Introduction and Commentary, Anchor, Vol. 24E, 2000, 464-465.)
Is the preceding passage of
Micah 4:9-5:1 with its cry of “Is there no king in you?” related to today’s
While some scholars reject
any correlation, the absence of a leader in 4:9-5:1 and the resulting
destruction of Zion only highlight the need of a Messiah. Scoggin declares that
“little” Bethlehem “is going to produce a great ruler for all of the reunited
and restored Israel” and that Jerusalem “is to be denied the honor of producing
the future Messiah” (213).
Bethlehem’s singular moment
would occur with the birth of Jesus.
Through word and deed, God
would shout that insignificant families and small towns are a part of His
While cities like Jerusalem
and Rome have a role to play in God’s plan, so do small towns like Bethlehem