How would you interpret the formal contradiction in Mathew’s citation (Matt 2:6) of Micah 5:2? Matthew states that Bethlehem is by no means the least among the rulers of Judah, and Micah states that Bethlehem is small among the clans or rulers of Judah.Thanks!

Answer: Here is a literal, word-for-word translation of the Greek Septuagint translation of Micah 5:2, which is almost certainly the "Bible" that Matthew was using: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, being small among the clans of Judah, out of you one will come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

Matthew, as is usual for NT authors, paraphrases rather than quotes directly from his source. I will have to admit he is paraphrasing rather freely here, but it seems he is saying something like this: Bethlehem, which is (one of the small ones, but) not the least of the clans of Judah…. The Septuagint is saying something like this: Bethlehem (which is) one of the small ones (but not the least) of the clans of Judah…. I believe there is no formal contradiction, although one could say that there is an apparent contradiction.

In any case, the point of the Hebrew original and the point of Matthew is that the clan of Judah which occupied Bethlehem Ephrathah was a relatively small and insignificant clan, but God intended all along to bring a ruler for all (spiritual) Israel from a member of that clan. This was not to be the first time God did this, as David and his descendents were from Bethlehem. This is a wonderful type/antitype prophecy in the Old and New Testament. The Bethlehemite the prophecy is referring to, of course, is Jesus.

John Oakes

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