Micah 5:2 (KJV):

2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

How should we interpret the word olam in the phrase “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”?

I understand the Hebrew is not the same but is the intention the same as in Habakkuk 1:12 (KJV)?

12 Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

  • Where do you see yom? The closest word I can find in that verse is מימי (like m'ymi). That literally means 'from days'.
    – colboynik
    Oct 20, 2018 at 18:05
  • Weird; my hard copy concordance has olam (re: "everlasting") but the on line version has yom in addition to olam; Not a Hebrew student; is this a phrase? I'll change the question to reflect olam.
    – alb
    Oct 20, 2018 at 22:33
  • Everlasting comes from 2 Hebrew words. Yom means day, but the plural form is what is used there. Olam is the other part and is like the farthest point. Together it is like 'from farthest days', i.e. everlasting. You ask how we should interpret it - 'everlasting' is pretty accurate.
    – colboynik
    Oct 21, 2018 at 4:51
  • Ok thanks. So you would conclude that the subject of the verse would be eternal, ie similar intent as Habakkuk 1:12?
    – alb
    Oct 21, 2018 at 12:51

3 Answers 3


To understand the verse in question it helps to understand the military context:

ESV Micah 5:

1a Now muster your troops, O daughterb of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2c But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little [insignificant] to be among the clans [armies] of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Footnotes: a 1 Ch 4:14 in Hebrew b 1 That is, city c 2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

So the prophet is saying that from the city of David, Bethlehem, the house of bread, which was nothing but a few women and children, the promised ruler of Israel would arise. This should probably also be considered an allusion to this very similar verbiage:

[Jdg 6:14-16 NLT] (14) Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!" (15) "But Lord," Gideon replied, "how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!" (16) The LORD said to him, "I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man."

But then he says "whose coming forth..." which is apparently taken by the ESV to refer to his birth in Bethlehem. However, (and I'm no Hebrew guru) the word is plural and is rendered in other translations as "whose comings forth" (IE: given the context, "sorties" or "military campaigns").

Now, if I'm correct concerning this then this would be, I believe in a notional sense, similar to this:

NIV Revelation 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

But most important, I believe is the concern in the original question that perhaps the form of one usage of OLAM might tell us the meaning of a similar use. However, that isn't necessarily the case. Context is always the key factor.

The NET Bible renders Micah 5:2 like this:

NET Bible Micah 5:2 As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah--from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past.

That's about all I think we can load OLAM with in actual usage.

And if his military campaigns from OLAM then we must not imagine that his first battle was in eternity past. Surely there was no war on day one!

The point is that the exploits of the Messiah have been in the scriptures from long ago and in God's mind longer than that. To that agree all the scriptures.


Please see the usage of the same word in 2 Samuel 3:25 where Joab warns David that Abner is spying on his "movements" and "going out and coming in":


Update 2:

The LXX translates "goings forth" as "ἔξοδος" which LSJ in A section 2 the gloss is: "marching out, military expedition".

I ran this by the Biblical Hebrew gurus and they concurred with my understanding.

  • I believe you’re military application is a huge stretch in order to avoid the truth. -1. According to my concordance and lexicon, the phrase “whose going forth”. מוֹצָאָה môwtsâʼâh, mo-tsaw-aw'; a family descent; origin, place of going out from; springing
    – alb
    Oct 22, 2018 at 23:17
  • May I ask which lexicon? Thanks. The LXX translates "goings forth" as "ἔξοδος" which in A section 2 the gloss is: "marching out, military expedition" logeion.uchicago.edu/%E1%BC%94%CE%BE%CE%BF%CE%B4%CE%BF%CF%82
    – Ruminator
    Oct 22, 2018 at 23:52
  • Regardless, if it is inexplicably referring to his origins (completely disregarding context) then he has an origin. "This day have I begotten you".
    – Ruminator
    Oct 22, 2018 at 23:55
  • @alb Long time, no see. Please see Judges 6:14-16. I added it to my answer.
    – Ruminator
    Mar 23, 2019 at 13:01
  • 2
    +1 to undo downvote. The answer was well researched and is an interesting take.
    – Robert
    Aug 4, 2021 at 1:55

What scripture is being reference to in this passage?


3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 

Herod asked his chief priests and scribes to tell him where Christ should be born and they quote Micah 5:2 which tells you that the Messiah or the Christ or better yet that Jesus is whom Micah 5:2 is referring to.

Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting: tells us that the Messiah has been since the very beginning, interacting with the fathers and the prophets but not only that, that he has no beginning nor ending and that the Messiah is also God.

  • This answer is essentially a quotation of a biblical verse. Please consider adding more substance to the answer. Oct 27, 2018 at 2:06
  • Hopefully the addition I added after the quote from Matthew 2 was more substantive for you.
    – user27202
    Oct 27, 2018 at 2:11
  • @user27202 Thanks for the response and I agree with your conclusion but was hoping for some additional grammatical or contextual support.
    – alb
    Oct 27, 2018 at 15:49

I think it is talking of Jesus, as Jesus ("the ruler in Israel") was born in Bethlehem and as he had exited in heaven "from the days of long ago" then was sent to the earth via the virgin birth of Mary.

John 1:49 NWT

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are King of Israel."


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