Understanding Micah 5

Q. We are wondering who the 7 shepherds and eight principal men  in Micah 5:5 are.  I typed Micah into search and found some information in a question about an Assyrian anti-Christ.

It’s great to have a Bible teacher to ask when you have a question.  Thanks for all the time & effort you put into this.

A.  Micah 5 is a very complicated prophecy. It opens with a warning  that Jerusalem would be besieged.  This happened 4 times after Micah prophesied it, by Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome.  In the Babylonian instance King Zedekiah was blinded.

Then comes verse 2 with the familiar promise that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Verses 3-4 say that after His birth Israel would be abandoned until its 2 Kingdoms are reunited, which means the time of the 2nd coming, when the Messiah will be their shepherd and bring them peace and security.

Verses 5-6 are a prophecy of an Assyrian invasion.  But the result of that invasion is that Israel’s leaders (7 shepherds and 8 principal men) will wind up ruling Assyria and the Messiah will deliver Israel from the invasion.  In verses 7-9 the remnant of Jacob (Jews) who will be living in positions of authority (the lion is the king of the beasts) among the Gentiles will rise up and destroy all of Israel’s enemies like young lions destroy a flock of sheep. Verses 10-15 speak of the descent into idolatry and witchcraft that will prompt the defeat of the rebellious nations at the end of the Millennium.

There’s no way verses 5-6 could have been fulfilled when Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom and then attacked the South in the 8th Century BC because Israel never wound up ruling Assyria.  Shortly after that Assyria was conquered by Babylon and has never been a nation again since.  Also there’s no mention in the Bible of a battle with that kind of outcome happening between now and the 2nd Coming, eliminating the possibility that the passage refers to the Anti-Christ and Daniel’s 70th Week.

Because of this some commentators view Assyria as being symbolic of all of Israel’s enemies and interpret the passage to mean that eventually Israel will overcome them all.  But in Isaiah 19:23-25 we see that in the Millennium, Assyria will once again be a nation. Therefore a literal interpretation would place verses 5-6 sometime in the Millennium, and verses 7-15 just before its end.   That means we can’t know the identities of the 7 shepherds and the 8 principal men.

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