Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Micah 5:2 - From everlasting or from ancient days?

But thou, Bethlehem [01035] Ephratah [0672], [though] thou be little [06810] among the thousands [0505] of Judah [03063], [yet] out of thee shall he come forth [03318] (8799) unto me [that is] to be ruler [04910] (8802) in Israel [03478]; whose goings forth [04163 - descent, ancestry] [have been] from of old [06924], from everlasting [03117] [05769].-- King James Verson w/Strong's #'s
This scripture is often cited as conclusive proof that Jesus is Jehovah God Almighty, since, according to the way it reads in most translations, it appears that Jesus has existed "from everlasting", or "from eternity." However, we reproduce the scripture above with Strong's numbers (representing the Hebrew words involved) in order to demonstrate that the scripture is not saying that Jesus has had an eternal past, but rather that he existed from days of old.

Notice Strong's #s 3117 & 5769. This combination is two Hebrew words, one referring to days or time [Yowm - Strong's # 3117, although in this verse it is a plural form] and the other referring to duration [olam - Strong's #5769, more correctly olamin, in the plural]

There is a similar statement in Deuteronomy 32:7.

Deuteronomy 32:7
Remember [02142] (8798) the days [03117] of old [05769], consider [0995] (8798) the years [08141] of many [01755] generations [01755]: ask [07592] (8798) thy father [01], and he will shew [05046] (8686) thee; thy elders [02205], and they will tell [0559] (8799) thee. -- KJV w/ Strong's #'s
Again notice Strong's #3117 and #5769. Certainly Moses was not telling the Israelites to remember eternity, for they were not capable of such.

Some other scriptures that contain "yowm olam" [in plural form] are Isaiah 63:9,11; Amos 9:11 and Malachi 3:4. It should be apparent that "days of eternity" is not meant in any of these scriptures. Examining the other place in Micah where this expression is used, we find:

Shepherd your people with your staff, The flock of your heritage, Who dwell by themselves in a forest, In the midst of fertile pasture land, let them feed; In Bashan and Gilead, as in the days [Strong's #3117] of old [Strong's #5769]. -- Micah 7:14

It is apparent the expression here does not mean days of eternity, not unless one wants to believe that God's people, Israel, has existed from eternity past.

Some other scriptures are similar, although olam and yowm are separated:

Psalm 77:5. "Olam" is rendered "ancient times" here in the KJV
Isaiah 51:9 "Olam" is rendered "old" in the KJV.

Strong's #s 3117 & 5769 are again used to denote, not eternity, but the days of old.

So far we have found absolutely no other text that contain both "yowm" and "olam" with reference to the past that has any meaning of "without a beginning". Thus, the default would be that the phrase does not mean "eternity" or "everlasting", not unless one has a good scriptural reason making an exception. And, if there is no other verse containing this expression that would carry the thought of eternal past, then then Micah 5:2 would appear to stand alone if one were to read eternal past into the expression used there. Nevertheless, the only reason we can think of for reading this as "days of eternity" is on the assumption that Jesus is God Almighty and thus was never created or brought forth. Yet, we have found no place in the scriptures that this expression is used of God, thus the argument that this expression should read "days of eternity" in Micah 5:2, would be an exception. With this thought in mind, the argument that Micah 5:2 "proves" that Jesus had no beginning is circular. It would assume that Jesus is God, and then based on this assumption, further assume that this expression is speaking of "days of eternity", and thus the assumption is what is actually being offered as proof that Jesus existed for eternity past..

Although in some contexts the Hebrew *olam* evidently means "eternity" or "everlasting", it does not always mean eternal. The usage of the two words together in comparison where the two words are used elsewhere in Bible gives us reason to believe that here it does not mean eternity.

Indeed, the word *olam*, when used of the past, very seldom actually means eternal. This can be seen by its usage in the following scriptures: Genesis 6:4; Deuteronomy 32:7; 1 Samuel 27:28; Ezra 4:15,19; Job 22:15; Proverbs 22:8; 23:10; Isaiah 51:9; 58:12; 61:4; 63:9,11; Jeremiah 6:16; 18:15; 28:8; Jonah 2:6; Micah 7:14; Malachi 3:4, as well as many others.

Only in reference to Jehovah's existence in the past, does it take on the meaning of eternal past. (Psalm 90:2) "Even then, it still expresses the idea of continued, measurable existence, rather than a state of being independent of time considerations." -- "Lexical Aids to the Old Testament", under #5769, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible

Thus we find that many translations do not render Micah 5:2 with the thought that the Messiah is from eternity past:

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. -- New Revised Standard Version.

But you, O Bethlehem Eph'rathah, 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. -- Revised Standard Version

The Lord says, "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." --- Today's English Version

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are too small to be among the army groups from Judah, from you will come one who will rule Israel for me. He comes from very old times, from days long ago." -- New Century Version

You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, are too small to be included among Judah's cities. Yet, from you Israel's future ruler will come for me. His origins go back to the distant past, to days long ago. -- God's Word Translation

And thou, Beth-Lehem Ephratah, Little to be among the chiefs of Judah! From thee to Me he cometh forth -- to be ruler in Israel, And his comings forth [are] of old, From the days of antiquity. -- Young's Literal Translation

Thou, therefore, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall Mine come forth to be ruler in Israel, whose comings forth, have been from of old, from the days of age-past time. -- Rotherham

But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days. -- Jewish Publication Society

Thus, there is nothing in Micah 5:2 that gives evidence that Jesus has an eternal past; indeed, like many other verses in the Bible, the argument becomes circular, in effect saying: because we believe that Jesus is Jehovah, we believe the passage means that Jesus is from eternity past, and therefore this meaning we give the passage because we believe that Jesus is Jehovah proves that Jesus is Jehovah.
However, reading onward to Micah 5:4, we find of Messiah: "Then shall he stand and tend his flock in the strength of Yahweh [Jehovah], In the excellency of the name of Yahweh [Jehovah] his God have they endured, For now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth;" (Rotherham)
Thus Jehovah is called unipersonally "his God". God Almighty does not have a God, thus there no reason from these scriptures to think Jesus is Jehovah, who is spoken of as "his God".

Objection 1

One criticizes our study saying:

Despite the plethora of modern translations, whose manuscripts were not available to the people of God for centuries, and that do not faithfully preserve the Divine Name, Reslight's attempts to mute the witness of the eternity of the Son of God in this verse by appealing to their questionable authority as the right way to translate "yowm olam" are also found wanting. [He appeals to several modern translations that don't use the phrase "from everlasting"]

We are not sure what is meant by "whose manuscripts were not available to the people of for centuries. As far as we know, all of the translations given use mostly the Masoretic text as a basis of their translation, the same text used by the King James Translators as almost all translations. Nor is it true that all of the translations given "do not faithfully preserve the Divine Name" (See Rotherham and Young), but this is irrelevant. Further, we do not "appeal" to these translations, but they do support the conclusion we have reached concerning the usage of the phrase involved.

We might add the following translations: New Living Translation; The Message translation; The Complete Jewish Bible; Holman Christian Standard Bible; New Internatinal Version; New International Reader's Version; New International Version (UK); Amplified Bible. There are probably more.

Objection 2

The claim is made that there are about 38 times that it is used with the sense "ever, continually, always, and alway."

The writer is evidently speaking of the word "yowm" alone, not the combination with the word "olam," as we have been discussing. This does not contradict what we are saying, nor is there anything in this that would give olam the meaning of eternity in Micah 5:2.

However, Crosswalk's Lexicon gives the following counts for how the word is translated in the King James Version:

day 2008, time 64, chronicles + (01697) 37, daily 44, ever 18, year 14, continually 10, when 10, as 10, while 8, full 8 always 4, whole 4, alway 4, miscellaneous 44

The 18 places where yowm is translated in the KJV as "ever": Genesis 43:9*,32*; Deuteronomy 4:40*; 18:5*; 19:9*; Joshua 4:24*; 1 Samuel 2:32*,35*; 28:2*; 1 Kings 5:1*; 11:39*; 2 Chronicles 10:17*; 2 Chronicles 21:7**; Psalm 23:6*; 37:26*; Jeremiah 31:36*; 32:39*; 35:19*.

We have added asterisks to point out more as will be discussed below. In none of these instances is *yowm* by itself translated as "ever", but there are two words put together, and both words are translated by the one word "ever."

Those instances marked with a single asterisk, two words are translated as "ever." These two words are: kol ("all, as in the whole of what is being spoken of) yowm (day or days), literally, all the days, or as we would be more likely to say: "daily", or continously. This same expression is so translated as "daily" in Psalm 42:10; 56:2; 72:15; Hosea 12:1. A careful study of these 17 instances of these two words show that they are never used with reference to eternity in the trinitarian sense, that is, "without beginning or end", but they are used only with a starting point although not always with an ending point.

In Psalm 23:6 [double asterick above] yowm is used with another Hebrew word *'orek*, which simply means a length of time.

Young translates it this way:

Only -- goodness and kindness pursue me, All the days of my life, And my dwelling [is] in the house of Jehovah, For a length of days!

While one could possible get an eternal future out of this verse, it certainly does not support the trinitarian concept of eternity meaning without beginning or end.

We note the the KVJ translates Yowm as "continually" ten times: Genesis 6:5; 1 Samuel 18:29; 2 Samuel 19:13; 2 Chronicles 12:15; Psalm 42:3; 52:1; 140:2; Jeremiah 33:18.

Again, in all of these instances the word "continually" is translated from two words: kol yowm
Again, a carefully study of these texts do not indicate eternity as expressed in the trinitarian thought of without beginning or ending, but rather a continuous duration for a limited time.

Yowm is 4 times translated "always" (Deuteronomy 5:29; 6:24; 14:23; 2 Chronicles 18:7) and 4 times "alway" (Deuteronomy 11:1; 28:33; 1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19). Again, in all of these instances it is two words (kol yowm), not one, that are translated as "always" or "alway". These texts do not necessarily use the word in the trinitarian sense of "without beginning or end", but with the thought of continuous duration for a limited time.

Thus a careful examination of the usage of the word *yowm* in these instances do not support the alleged idea that this word means eternity in Micah 5:2.

Objection 3:

It is claimed there is also "qedem," the term that one has claimed that we have used to try to focus on in siderailing the meaning of the verse. While it is acknowledged the qedem is used in a temporal sense, it is claimed that in Deuteronomy 33:27 it is definitely used once in Scripture with the idea of eternity. It is claimed we insist on not making a judgment on the basis of the meaning of the term "olam" alone, and that we require that one define the phrase by using "yowm olam,". But, we are asked, why limit it to that? Why not understand it as "mowtsaah yowm olam?" Further it is claimed that if we find evidence that "yowm olam" only occurs in temporal contexts, then how many of those "yowm olams" are referring to the "mowtsaah" or goings forth of a being who is said to be (lit.) "continually from the days of eternity?"

There is nothing in our presentation that focuses on this word, qedem. Qedem is Strong's #6924, and it translated in the KJV of Micah 5:2 by the word "old."

Qedem does not mean eternal; the only place it is rendered "eternal" in the KJV is Deuteronomy 33:27, and even there it is rendered so only because it is speaking of God, not because of the word itself. This could have been also rendered just as well as "Ancient God" or God of old. Rotherham translates this verse: "Above, is the God of aforetime, And, beneath, are the Arms of the ages, - So he driveth before thee the foe, And doth say - Destroy!" The Douay-Rheims renders it: "His dwelling is above, and underneath are the everlasting arms: he shall cast out the enemy from before thee, and shall say: Be thou brought to nought."

We are asked, why limit our examination to the two words as we did, and why not make it: "mowtsaah yowm olam?" The exact words used in Micah 5:2 as represented in Jay Green's Interlinear are in this order: 4162 6924 3117 5769. These words are represented by Strong as:
4162: muwtsag (mowtsaah) = rendered "whose goings forth" in the KJV 
6924: qedem = rendered "have been from of old" in the KJV
3117: yowm = with 5769 rendered "from everlasting" in the KJV
5769: olawm = with 3117 rendered "from everlasting" in the KJV

Thus to extend this beyond the two words considered, one would include: "muwtsag qedem yowm olawm"; however, this actually sidetracks attention from the phrase in question, which is only two words. Nevertheless, "mowtsaah" refers to origin, which itself indicates a beginning.

Of course, there is nothing in Micah 5:2 that literally speaks of one whose "mowtsaah" or goings forth are said to be (lit.) "continually from days of eternity." By using this expression we would assume that the writer is claiming that "qedem" means "continually", so as to make Micah 5:2 read: "whose goings forth are continually from days of eternity", or something of this nature. Of course, in reality there is nothing in the word "qedem" that has this meaning. This appears to be an attempt to sidetrack the issue, and turn one's attention away from the fact that we have shown that yowm olam does not mean from the days of eternity, as we have demonstrated.

Objection #4

One states that Micah 5:2 strongly suggests that the being spoken of here does not dwell solely in the realm of finiteness.

That the being spoken of does was not dwelling in the finite realm of the earth before being born on earth is not in question. In reality, the idea that he was dwelling in some realm where time does not exist has to be read into the text. To assume that this is what it means would further bring forth the question: Do the angels who always [in eternity?] behold the face of God in heaven dwell in this same realm, and are thus also eternal beings? (Matthew 18:10) There are some trinitarians who do believe that the angels exist in eternity where supposedly time does not exist, although they seem to be vague about how this is possible. In response to this quandry, one person went so far as to say that all who will live eternally in the supposed realm where time does not exist actually become one with God in that they become God! So where does all this kind of reasoning lead to? Farther and farther away from the truth!

Related RL Studies


  1. One has claimed:

    "You're allowing your theology to determine your interpretation. You dont want it to say eternity. But it does."

    My response:

    As I pointed out, Micah 5:2 is the only place that I found that any translation renders the Hebrew phrase as being from eternity. The ONLY reason for claiming that it means "eternity" in Micah 5:2 is because of the belief that Jesus is uncreated. Thus, to offer Micah 5:2 as proof that Jesus is from eternity is actually circular reasoning.

    But let us plug in eternity into some of the places where the Hebrew phrase occurs and see what results.

    Micah uses the same phrase again in:

    Micah 7:14 World English Bible (WEB)

    Shepherd your people with your staff,
    the flock of your heritage,
    who dwell by themselves in a forest,
    in the middle of fertile pasture land, let them feed;
    in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of eternity.

    Was Micah telling Jehovah that Jehovah had been shepherding the children of Israel in or from eternity?

    Deuteronomy 32:7 World English Bible (WEB)

    Remember the days of eternity.
    Consider the years of many generations.
    Ask your father, and he will show you;
    your elders, and they will tell you.

    Obviously, if one puts the phrase "eternity" in here, it would not fit. Likewise in Isaiah 63:9,11; Amos 9:11 and Malachi 3:4.

    It is actually those who claim that Jesus is uncreated who allow their theology to determine that the Hebrew phrase in Micah 5:2 is uniquely referring to an eternity past.

  2. Even if it would mean he is from the days of Old, that is some propreties no other man can claim here on earth. And how old exactly? Can anyone tell? The Jewish expected Messiah is just a mere mortal man, just like Moses.

    1. Yes, Jesus, while he was in the days of his flesh, was indeed a "mere mortal man". This does not negate his being in existence with the only true God before he was made flesh, a little lower than the angels. The glory that he had before he became flesh, however, was not the glory that he had while he was in the days of his flesh. Likewise, now that Jesus has sacrificed his body of flesh and blood, he is no longer with the glory of man, a glory that is lower than the angels.
      For studies related to Christ's prehuman existence: