Matthew 2:6

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The prophet Micah by Hubert van Eyck

Matthew 2:6 is the sixth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The magi have informed King Herod that they had seen portents showing the birth of the King of the Jews. Herod has asked the leading Jewish religious figures about how to find out where Jesus was to be born. In this verse they tell him by quoting from the Book of Micah.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the
least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall
come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

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."

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 2:6

This verse is taken from Micah 5:2. Unlike the previous time Matthew quoted the Old Testament in Matthew 1:23 the wording does not seem to be taken from the Septuagint, rather it seems to be an original translation from the Hebrew. Matthew's version differs substantially from both the Septuagint and Masoretic.[1]

Matthew's translation has several important differences from that found in the Septuagint. The King James Version of Micah 5:2, based on the Septuagint, reads:

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah,
though thou be little among the
thousands of Judah, yet out of
thee shall he come forth unto
me that is to be ruler in Israel;

Ephratah was a town near the Bethlehem in Judea. Some disambiguation is needed as there was at least one other town named Bethlehem at the time. Both referencing a larger neighbour and the province were accepted methods of disambiguation at the time, but the question is why Matthew changes the form. Two other references to Bethlehem being in Judea in Matthew 2:1 and 2:5 show that Matthew felt that showing Jesus was born in Judea was important. In this verse he does not use the same spelling he did previously, thus also linking to the Old Testament figure Judah.

The second line is almost reversed in meaning by the author of Matthew. The original states that Bethlehem was a town of little importance that great thing would happen in. Matthew states that it is not a town of little because great things would happen there.

Brown also reports that Matthew replaces the word ruler in the original, perhaps to emphasize that despite what most Jews were predicting the messiah would not be a political figure, only a spiritual one.[2]

The portion of Micah where this quote is found is clearly discussing the messiah and states that like King David the messiah's origin would be in Bethlehem. At the time it was not widely accepted that the messiah would necessarily be born in Bethlehem, just that his ancestors would have been. It was thus not considered essential for a messiah to be someone born in that town, but it was considered a reasonable locale for a messiah to originate. Far more reasonable than the peripheral and little known town of Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grew up.

References

  1. ^ Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
  2. ^ Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.


Preceded by
Matthew 2:5
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 2
Succeeded by
Matthew 2:7
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