Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. (Mic. 5:1 NASB)
Before we get to Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), we must stop and hear this oracle against Jerusalem (vs.1). If you were a Hebrew reader of Micah’s prophecy, the moment you heard “Now” (Heb. ‘attâ), you might have gotten another ‘lump in your throat.’ That word had been used previously to introduce prophetic glimpses of situations Judah wouldn’t have exactly looked forward to (4:9, 11), and this one wouldn’t be the desire of the nation either. First, the call, “Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops,” wasn’t an inspirational, pre-battle call-to-assembly. It is likely an ironic call to futile preparations. The Hebrew verb in that expression can connote either ‘slashing’ or ‘gathering.’ In the case of the former, some translations have opted for ‘You have slashed yourself in grief’ (HCSB). But most opt for the latter – a call to marshal the troops. Interestingly, when you look at how the word for “troops” is used, it most commonly refers to ‘bands’ or ‘raiders,’ and so the irony may be something like this – Israel is besieged by an army and all they can muster is the comparative equivalent of a band of raiders.
Now, there are plenty of times when we want to put ourselves in the sandals of those whom we read about in the Scriptures as an attempt of making better sense of the context. And it’s not difficult to imagine, if even from a safe distance, the fear and terror that enveloped those within the besieged city. The problem with doing that too quickly here is that you may muster some sense of compassionate sentimentality that obscures the melody you should be hearing playing in the background – Great is Thy Faithfulness. See, one of the ways in which an OT reader would be reminded of this attribute of God was by seeing how He, although patient and merciful, brought promised covenant judgments against a covenant-breaking people. A quick scan of the promised blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28 shows that the nation of Israel was put on notice – protracted, unrepentant disobedience would lead to the fulfillment of warnings like this:
They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. (Deut. 28:52 ESV)
And that’s what we read about here: “They have laid siege against us.” That’s not a supposed illustration of divine meanness, it’s a testimony to Yahweh’s faithfulness. The prophet Micah said that he was full of power by the Spirit of Yahweh (Mic. 3:8a) to declare to Jacob his transgression (vs.8b), which included things like: abhorring justice (vs.9d), perverting all equity (vs.9e), building up Zion with bloodshed (vs.10a), leadership that took bribes (vs.11a), priests and prophets that taught and prophesied for money (vs.11b), and more. And despite all that they thought, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us” (3:11b NJKV). The wages of their sin was a siege. And that’s what they got.
The question, then, becomes: what time period is Micah speaking about? Is he talking about the siege that Hezekiah endured and was delivered from (cf. 2 Chron. 32:10)? Some contend that Micah was speaking about that since he was a contemporary of Hezekiah and included himself in the expression: “They have laid siege against us.” Others would say that Micah was speaking prophetically and, although he identified himself with the people, he was nonetheless pointing to a time beyond himself, particularly because the expression, “With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek,” speaks not only of humiliation, but of harm for “the judge of Israel,” i.e. the king. Yes, someone could argue that Hezekiah indeed experienced some measure of humiliation but the counterpoint is – he didn’t experience any kind of physical injury from the Assyrians, whereas the later and last king of Judah before the Babylonian Captivity, Zedekiah, not only experienced a siege and humiliation, but physical harm; namely, the gauging out of his eyes (2 Kgs. 24-25).
Now, if this was Zedekiah, you’re not surprised that he would be subjected to such humiliation because, as far as kings go, “He did evil in the sight of the LORD” (Jer. 52:2a; 2 Kgs. 24:19); but to think that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the perfect King who knew no sin, would be struck on His face and subjected to humiliation is astounding – especially when you consider how different these two men were. Zedekiah did not humble himself (2 Chron. 36:12) and was struck for his sin; Jesus did humble Himself (Phil. 2:6-8) and was struck for our sin. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon (2 Kgs 24:20); Jesus submitted Himself before the injustice of Pilate. When the Babylonians were encamped around the city, Zedekiah tried to escape but was overtaken in the plains of Jericho (vs.4,5); when Judas came to the Garden of Gethsemane guiding a contingent of Roman soldiers and officers of the chief priests and Pharisees, we’re told that, ‘Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, stepped forward…’ (Jn. 18:4a emphasis added). Zedekiah walked in accordance with the evil that his predecessor, Jehoaikim, had done and provoked the LORD to finally bring judgment upon Jerusalem; whereas Jesus walked perfectly in the path of His Father’s commandments – which included laying down His life for His people, and He would be the means through which all who believe in Him would be spared from divine judgment.
So, no, Jesus isn’t mentioned in Micah 5:1. And you don’t want to try to find Him in places where He is not. If you’re looking for Jesus, don’t worry, you’ll see Him in the next verse. But I do think we should take a moment to marvel that the perfect and promised Ruler of Micah 5:2 would experience a smiting and humiliation worse than the sinful ruler of Micah 5:1.