This article is part of a series of articles where I address supposed “biblical contradictions”. So let’s get into it!
In Matthew 2:6 the Jewish Rabbis and teachers at the time were discussing Messianic Prophesy with King Herod. The religious leaders quote a famous prophecy in Micah, and here is what Matthew 2:6 says:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,Matthew 2:6
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.
This is taken from the prophecy in Micah 5:2, about the birthplace of Messiah!
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,Micah 5:2
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.
There are numerous differences between the two quotes, but I don’t think that this shows that Matthew isn’t reliable. The mostly likely theory is that Matthew was paraphrasing Micah.
So let’s look at some of the differences between the two passages and how we know that they are just paraphrased, and that there is no error.
1.) “Land of Judah” versus “Epharathah”
The first difference is in the first line where Matthew says that Bethlehem is in land of Judah whereas Micah talks about Ephrathah. However the two words are interchangeable and mean the same thing. Ephrathah is another name for Bethlehem. No difference there.
2.) “Not the Least” versus a “Small Village”
Once again, the paraphrasing is clear and there is no difference. Matthew is emphasizing that even though Bethlehem was a tiny village, it was not the least of the towns because of the Messiah, Jesus. Micah talks about Bethlehem as a small village because the Messiah had not come when he wrote this and there was no significance to Bethlehem during his day.
3.) “Shepard for My People” versus “Ruler of Israel”
This is the most different part between the two passages. Matthew seemingly adds a phrase here by saying that the Messiah would be someone. “who will be the shepherd for my people Israel,” but this phrase actually comes from another part of the Old Testament. You can see this same wording in 2 Samuel 5:2, when David, a shepherd, becomes the King of Israel:
Take note of the bolded part.
When all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past,[a when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”2 Samuel 5:2
In conclusion, Matthew paraphrased this prophecy in Micah 5:2, and correlated it to another Old Testament passage, but he made no error.
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