Micah 5:3 “children of Israel”

Ran across these verses from the book of Micah while keeping up with the select readings from the 1943 American BCP lectionary. Comments from Benson and Scott communicate basic Restorationist views or the mindset of Evangelicals of their age. What I find interesting are three things: 1) there’s no reason why Lost Israel isn’t converted in the dragnet of Gentiles; 2) there’s no hesitancy to identify the catholik church with Zion, and 3) there’s a strong expectation that Jewry will rejoin Israel or the Church toward the latter-days. The verse from the American Standard Version reads: 

Micah 5:3, “Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth: then the residue of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.”

My first question is ‘who is who’? Who are ‘the residue of brethren’, and who are the ‘children of Israel’. Let’s start with the Rev. Thomas Scott’s comments for verse 3 of the book of Micah.

“Then the chosen remnant of the Jews would be restored to the privileges of true Israelites; or the chosen remnant of the Gentiles would be converted, and united as brethren with the believers of Israel to be ‘one fold under one Shepherd’ …

It seems Scott is rendering two possibilities, likely according to their chronology. If speaking of latter days, the ‘residue of brethren’ refers to a remnant of Jews who return to ancient privileges, i.e., the church. If speaking of the Apostolic age, then this would be Gentiles grafted into the believing Jewish Church since in that day the gravity of Christianity was with Judahites. Scott includes a quote from Bp. Richard Newcombe offering a similar view:

“God will not fully vindicated and exalt his people, till the virgin-mother shall have brought forth her Son’ and till Judah and Israel, and all the true sons of Abraham among their brethren the Gentiles, be converted to Christianity’  

Newcombe’s opinion might be a bit more explicit than Scott. Here, Newcombe is saying the ‘brethren’ are Gentlies people while the ‘children of Israel’ are not only Judah, and those tribes which returned in part to Palestine, but also the ‘true sons of Abraham’ scattered among the nations. This would definitely include even Lost Tribes. Our favorite preacher for the late-18th century, Joseph Benson, is more convinced this verse predicts Restoration in the latter days and not merely early church:

“Until the daughter of Zion, compared here to a woman in travail, shall be delivered out of captivity. Or rather, till the church of God, of which the daughter of Zion was a type, shall bring forth spiritual children of Jew and Gentile extraction unto God, by the preaching of the gospel: see Gal. 4.27. This prophecy will be more fully completed in the general conversion and restoration of the Jewish nation in the latter days: see Isa. 66.7-11. residue/remnant: “The brethren of the Messiah, those of Judah and Benjamin especially, who were carried captive; shall return unto the children of Israel– Or, be converted with the children of Israel. Then the remnant of the dispersed Jews, upon their conversion, shall join themselves to the true Israelites, and make one church with them.”

Some key phrases which belong to Benson include “more fully completed” and “converted with the children the Israel”. Benson identifies the ‘children of Israel’ as the rudiment of the early church or spiritual children, “of Jew and Gentile extraction”. Meanwhile, the ‘residue of brethren’ are, firstly, the Jewish diaspora (Judah and Benjamin especially) but also Lost Tribes who might be ‘converted with the children of Israel’ or fullness of Gentiles. At any rate, true Israelites or the ‘children of Israel’ is taken as the Christian Church– and that is usually misunderstood today. Looking at the reference to the Book of Isaiah, starting with verses 7-9, we read:

“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her childrenShall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah: shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith thy God. “

Scott and other commentators seem to understand ‘travaileth’ to refer to the destruction of the Jerusalem and desolation of the Jewish church. Scott rhetorically asks if God has forsaken Israel, leaving so few worshipers? He corrects any thought that the Lord might be so severe or stingy with his people. But, here, Scott distinguishes between converted Gentiles in the early days versus a latter day return of Jews in the church,

IN answer to this rising thought of his people, Jehovah by the prophet here assures them, that the church should at that time be exceedingly increased, but the addition of the converted Gentiles to the remnant of believing Jews. The ancient church and nation of Israel were not produced in less than four hundred and thirty years, from the calling of Abraham, to the promulgation of the law by Moses: but the holy nation, now to be subject to the government of God, should be rapidly formed. Zion, represented as a pregnant woman, would be delivered of a son, even before her travailing pains came upon her: nay, her children would increase so rapidly, that a nation would seem to be born at once: and they would so speedily arrive at maturity, that it would be, as if the earth produced and ripened the harvest in one day. These events would indeed be unprecedented, and such as never before had been heard of; but they would certainly take place: ..’We may understand the former part of this sentence, of the speedy propagation of the gospel through the world; and the latter part of it of the sudden conversion of the Jews, and their union with the gentiles into one church, when ‘God will remove the iniquity of the land in one day.'” The two events, ‘though distant in time, yet will agree very much in the swiftness of their progress.” Lowth.

Benson interprets Isa. 66: 7-9 in the same fashion, “he [Jehovah] in the same manner comforts the pious Jews, from the unexpected event of the most wished for success of the calling of the Gentiles, who, joined with them in one body, should form one church, and inherit the earth”. So, the 18th century commentators apparently understand Micah 5.3, firstly, the coming of Gentiles into the Jewish church, adorning it after persecution. But, in a ‘fuller sense’, the verse is speaking about latter days whereupon a residue of Jews [the Messiah’s brethren] will convert into the Christian Church, aka. ‘true Israel’ or the ‘children of Israel’. I see no reason why throughout this dispensation, whether early or late, Lost Tribes may not enter the Church along with Gentiles– after all, they are Gentiles according to Hosea 1.10.

Before ending with verse 10 from the Book of Isaiah, I’d like to say something about ecclesiology. Our commentators, despite mostly being methodist and being steeped in the theology of English Protestantism, have no hesitancy identifying christendom with the ‘children of Israel’ or calling the Christian church ‘true Israel’. Likewise, they are optimistic about Jewry, without overspeculating about Lost Tribes. Consequently, English Christianity takes on elements of Zionism which this author has no serious problem with so long as it does not sideline the Gospel. This sort of Christian zionism was more common among its early types.

Lastly, regarding our affections toward the catholik church and her offspring, whether Gentile or Jew, Isaiah 66.10 reads:

v. 10 Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice with her, all ye that mourns for her”

Regarding our joy towards catholicism (again, the erastian church is interchangeable with Zion or cities around Jerusalem], Benson’s comment here says,

“Let all that which her well congratulate her for the favors God hath conferred upon her, and particularly let the Gentiles rejoice with the Jewish Church, for her advancement shall rebound to their benefit. Thus Moses, Deut 32.43, referring probably to the very events here predicted by Isaiah, … [namely that] All who love God, love the church of God, lay its interests very near their hearts, and heartily espouse its cause. And they that have a sincere affection for it have a cordial sympathy with it in all the cares and sorrows of its militant state. They mourn for Zion in her afflictions and troubles. her grievances excite their sorrows, and if she be in distress, their harps are hung on the willows. But here Jerusalem is represented as having great cause for rejoicing.”

I will better consider the dispersed ones alongside Gentile nations in a coming post and as well a further exposition on Deut 32.43 (I wish I could find a good English metric version for the Song of Moses that goes to the 43rd verse). Meanwhile, here are the lyrics of Mr. Charles Wesley on Isaiah 66: 6-8, clarifying the relation between Israel in both the Old and New Testaments:

[Jerusalem’s travaileth]

“A Voice of shrieking fear
Doth from the city sound,
A voice ye from the temple hear
While tumbling to the ground!
A voice from heaven proclaims
The vengeful wrath of God!
The bloody city sinks in flames,
The temple is destroy’d!

[The Mother’s new increase]

“Yet Zion stands secure,
And ever shall abide,
She must from age to age endure
By Jesus multiplied;
Out of Jerusalem
The Lord a church shall raise,
To magnify the Christian name
And spread the Founder’s praise.

“Let all mankind adore
The miracle unknown:
Zion brought forth her child, before
Her bearing throes begun:
Who can the birth explain!
The birth to God she ow’d,
Without a sharp or ling’ring pain
Deliver’d of her load:

[her catholik issue]

“Shall teeming earth at once
Autumnal fruits display,
The church produce her countless sons,
A nation in a day?
Yes, when the word applied
Begat the faithful race,
Nations at once were justified
By instantaneous grace.

Micah 5:3 “children of Israel”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s