I listened to a debate between a Rabbi and Christian scholar. The Rabbi quoted the end of the verse (2 in the Christian's English Translation) pointing out that Christians often quote this verse to say Jesus was the messiah; but, they neglect the end of the verse.

It made me curious about the end of the verse and Hebrew understanding of it.

The internet is full of commentary on this from a Christian or Messianic perspective. Most Jewish commentary on this passage addresses the matter of whether Jesus was from Bethlehem; but, I have found little to nothing that addresses the meaning or understanding of the end of the verse from a Jewish perspective.

First, is Mechon-Mamre a recognized Jewish source and translation?

א וְאַתָּה בֵּית-לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה, צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָה--מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא, לִהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם, מִימֵי עוֹלָם.

1 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.

Second, what is the Jewish understanding of what this verse says and means?

  • 3
    sefaria.org/… Rashi doesnt seem to translate "mkedem" as old but as "east"
    – newcomer
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:55
  • 1
    Mechon Mamre uses the JPS 1917 translation-- I have seen it take some anti-traditional stances.
    – user9907
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:56
  • 3
    @ephraimhelfgot Sarah : No translation is perfect. See here judaism.stackexchange.com/q/62176/759 for some different translations, but in general yes JPS is Jewish as opposed to Christian, even if you'll always find someone who argues with something.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:59
  • 3
    The JPS 1917 translation often translates what the text says, often with a lens toward to what makes sense contextually, not traditionally. It is still a recognized Jewish translation, and i know many synagogues who refuse to use any other translations. Because those synagogues prefer to keep commentary on the sides and bottom of the text, not in the text itself. And the 1917 JPS excels at that.
    – Aaron
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:59
  • 2
    @Sarah the question is only 45 minutes old and we tend to want to support answers with sources and stuff, so give us a little time. Plus, some of us are at work. :-) Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


The expression in the end of the verse "Yemei olam" is INCORRECTLY translated in most non-Jewish versions as "days of eternity" in order to prove that Micah speaks about the divinity of the Messiah. That's not the case.

See for example the same use of the expression "Yemei olam" (in Malachi 3:4):

ד וְעָרְבָה, לַיהוָה, מִנְחַת יְהוּדָה, וִירוּשָׁלִָם--כִּימֵי עוֹלָם, וּכְשָׁנִים קַדְמֹנִיֹּת.

Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.

Of course Jerusalem and Judah have not existed since the "days of eternity"!! Thus the translation must follow the logic.

David Berger in "Jews and Jewish Christianity" (Ktav, 1978) p. 22 says:

The point of the phrase is that this future ruler, who may indeed be the Messiah, will have come forth from Bethlehem because his royal origins are “of old, from days of yore,” i.e., from the old and venerable House of David, and David was born in Bethlehem. In other words, according to the most probable reading of this verse, it not only fails to say that the Messiah is everlasting, it doesn’t even say that he will be born in Bethlehem. The point is that Bethlehem will be his indirect point of origin because it was the birthplace of the father of his dynasty. Jews don’t have to insist on this last point; the Messiah may very well be born in Bethlehem. It’s just that the verse probably doesn’t say this.

For a detailed explanation on the Jewish understanding of this verse, see Uri Yosef's article on Micah. It certainly will help you.

  • 1
    Who is Uri Yosef? I googled him and came up with genealogical records. He is obviously a scholar. I like the way he analyzes the text and would be interested in reading more of his work. Thank you.
    – user2411
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 15:38
  • 1
    Check--Most helpful, with the link you provided that breaks it down and everything. Thank you.
    – user2411
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 0:40
  • 1
    For more information on Professor Uri Yosef, see thejewishhome.org/counter-index.html for his articles. He's a respected researcher and an engaged scholar on Jewish education. Commented May 17, 2016 at 2:07

here is the Pasuk and Rashi Micah 5:1

1 And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah-you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah-from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.

  א וְאַתָּה בֵּית לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי

יְהוּדָה מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא לִהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם מִימֵי עוֹלָם:

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah: whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah: You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.

from you shall emerge for Me: the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

and his origin is from of old: “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17).

Micah 5:3

And [the Messiah] shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the L-rd, in the majesty of the Name of the L-rd, his G-d; and they shall dwell, for then shall he be great to the ends of the earth.

The opposite occurred in Jesus' lifetime: the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. More than one million Jews died in the fighting, and the rest were exiled. Furthermore, Jesus was obviously not this conquering Messiah, for instead of defeating his many enemies, he was easily captured and executed.

  • 1
    The last bit reminds me of a fantastic line from The Disputation: "A Messiah who does not make the world better is no Messiah, and a Messiah who says it does not matter that the world is not better is WORSE than NO Messiah!" i.e.: claims for a future "second coming" automatically invalidate the authenticity of the "first coming." Commented May 12, 2016 at 14:20

You must log in to answer this question.