Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity.
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“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel…” —Micah 5:2 (ESV)
The place where I grew up is a wide spot in the road surrounded by Central Illinois cornfields. Whenever I would hear someone give directions to our little town they would inevitably say, “Don’t blink or you will miss it.” That wasn’t far from the truth. Growing up I was convinced life was happening everywhere but my hometown. After all, what significance could happen in such a small place? It wouldn’t be surprising if the people in Bethlehem once felt the same way.
Located about five miles southwest of Jerusalem, Bethlehem was described as small in both size and significance. Ephrathah, meaning “fruitful” is the district in which the town was located.In comparison to Jerusalem, Bethlehem didn’t have much to offer. In fact, Bethlehem was so obscure it wasn’t even named among the one hundred plus cities assigned to the tribe of Judah. (Joshua 15:21-23). Yet despite its proportional insignificance, God chose this unremarkable village to serve as the birthplace for David (1 Samuel 16:1) and the coming Messiah (Matthew 2:1-8).
In this passage Micah points us to the cradle of the Davidic line and illustrates the Messiah as representing a new beginning from a well-known heritage. Just as God had unexpectedly chosen David and delivered his people from the failures of Saul, he would also bring forth the coming Messiah after the defeat of David’s descendants. It is noteworthy that Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” would be the birthplace of Jesus, the bread of life.
Clearly, the town of Bethlehem possessed nothing remarkable to be bestowed with the honor of serving as the site of the most significant birth in human history. But we see a consistent pattern throughout Scripture of God choosing people and places the world overlooks. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Today, Bethlehem has great significance and is universally known as the birthplace of the Messiah. People travel from far and wide to visit. You might say that Jesus put Bethlehem on the map. And so it is for us. Through our relationship with Christ we become a child of the King, (Romans 8:15), the temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 6:19) and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16). At times we all feel insignificant, overlooked, and as if we don’t measure up to our neighbor. But like Bethlehem, it is in our relationship with Jesus Christ that we find our identity, significance, and place in the world.
 Barker, K.L. (1999). Vol 20: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. The New American Commentary (96-98). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Baker, Alexander, and Waltke, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. (198-200). Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.
 Baker, Alexander, and Waltke. (199).
 ESV Study Bible.
- What is Micah referring to when he says, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah”?
- As Christians, what should we base our identity and significance on?
- How should we view those who the world considers weak and insignificant?
- Why do you think that God oftentimes choses the people and places the world overlooks?