Our local neighborhood chain grocery store is already decked out for Christmas, so this seems like a good as time as any to delve into the Bethlehem prophecy, our second in a series of posts addressing Jesus prophecies. I hope that before Christmas season is really here, it will be possible to package up all the prophetic debunkings into a nice gift set. So without further adieu, I present the 2nd “Matthewetic” prophecy.
In Matthew 2, we have the following story. Behold the wise men coming from the East following a star to search for the King of the Jews. I have read there actually is the possibility of some historical kernel of truth in a star being seen around that time that could have signified a birth of the King of the Jews for some astrologers. It boils down to Jupiter being in the constellation of Aries, but certainly no moving star stopping over a manger. But that is irrelevant to what we are pursuing here, so I won’t bother addressing that at the moment. King Herod, to whom the wise men are talking asks his advisers where his competition is to be born and they answer(Matthew 2:5-6):
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea: for so it is written by the prophet:
‘And you, O’ Bethlehem, in the land of Judah:
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.”
(my Revised Standard version 2nd Edition again)
So, to which prophecy are Herod’s advisers referring? It turns out to be in Micah. Specifically Micah 5:2 which is somewhat more verbose than Matthew’s version.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
It goes on for a bit about how Assyria shall try to invade and 7 shepherds and 8 princes of men shall rule over the land of Assyria with the sword and other such niceties that don’t concern us here. What is this “Bethlehem Ephrathah”? The second part of that name is missing from Matthew. Check out I Chonicles 4:1-4.
The sons of Judah: Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal. Reaiah, the son of Shobal was the father of Jahath, and Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites. These were the sons of Etam: Jezreel, Isha, and Idbash: and the name of their sister was Hazzelelponi, and Penuel was the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the first, the first born of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem.
What does this Icelandic saga tell us? Bethlehem was somebody’s name! Specifically, he was the son of Ephrathah who was descended from Judah! Bethlehem is not referring to a town from which some ruler shall arise. If you feel industrious, you can check the conflicting genealogies of Jesus presented in Matthew and Luke to discover that neither Ephrathah or Bethlehem put in an appearance. So neither can the argument be made that Jesus comes from Bethlehem by ancestry.
There’s not really much more that can be said here. This prophecy, as a prophecy for Jesus’ birthplace is so far out there, it is not even wrong. The writer of Matthew, once again, has completely misunderstood scripture in a failed attempt to legitimize Jesus as fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.