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But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity (yom olam). ‭‭Micah‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

What are the "days of eternity" (yom olam) in Micah asserting about the ruler?

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Hebrew is not Greek (obviously). A document like Euclid's "Elements" could never have been written in Hebrew and the Hebrew culture because it lacks the precision of the Greek thought.

Hebrew appears optimised for spiritual thought and action. Word meanings are far more fluid in Hebrew than Greek. Micah was written in Hebrew and the Hebrew idiom. We (modern society) live in a Greek saturated world where many words and their meaning a defined with great exactness.

Therefore, I am certain that the priests did not ascribe the same meanings to Micah 5:2 that we would today. We understand, from our Christian biases and training that Messiah was both human and divine and had pre-existence and even quote Micah 5:2 to support that idea. I do not think a Hebrew would necessarily derive the same meaning from the text as we might.

What we do know is many (possibly the priests as well??) expected Messiah to be a political leader, liberator, teacher and king. And that his ancestor would be from the "ancient" line of David and Judah. I believe that the text says much more than this as we understand today but the well-established biases of the priests would possibly make them blind to such subtleties in the text.

We still suffer from the same problem today!

  • In the LXX Micah 5:1 has an interesting take. The Targums and the rabbi commentaries like rabbi David Kimhi make it very clear that it’s referring to the Messiah or Messianic and some also acknowledge that at the very least the Messiah existed prior to Creation. – Autodidact Jan 10 at 22:54
  • Also note that Daniel 7:9-10a in the LXX reads as follows, "I viewed until when thrones were set, and old one of days sat down. And his garment as snow-- white, and the hair of his head as pure wool . . ." – Dieter Jan 11 at 5:33
  • I have heard people assert that the Greek language was more precise than Hebrew but in order to be an acceptable answer (or premise for an answer as in this case) it needs to be demonstrated from a primary source. We can't be asked to accept your assertion that it is so based solely on your personal assertion that it is so. Can you provide a source saying Hebrew is vague? Thanks. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 11:04
  • Consult any good lexicon! Hebrew does not have any abstract nouns for a start. As stated above, Hebrew is excellent (and precise) for spiritual ideas and action but not abstract thought. – Mac's Musings Jan 12 at 20:40
  • @Dieter I love that passage because it speaks of thrones plural, and it’s one of the passages used to support the two powers in heaven idea that the ancient Hebrews were trying to piece clues together from their Scripture. – Autodidact Jan 13 at 5:28
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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.

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:

[Rom 4:17 KJV] 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

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.

Notice this similar verbiage from the mouth of Gideon:

[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."

I should also point out that interpreting Micah 5:2 as saying that Jesus IS the "ancient of days" clashes with Daniel where the Messiah ascends and appears before God who is referred to as "the Ancient of Days":

[Dan 7:13-14 KJV] 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.

  • That’s interesting, I’ll have to ruminate on that a little longer. For now I find it interesting that you separate yom olam when I think they are read together. I wonder if in Daniel attiyq yom is intentional to show its speaking of the Father. Also if you’ve read any of my other posts I ascribe to the two powers in heaven concept of the ancient Hebrew so I don’t see an issue with two sharing the same title due to echâd and not yachid. I’m still curious about what you meant when you quoted revelations, the beast and the earth dwellers that I interpret to be the antichrist spirit and daimons. – Autodidact Jan 12 at 12:24
  • Note that the passage doesn't say "and he shall be the ancient of days" but rather "his goings forth are from of old". So if we interpret this as saying that Jesus's campaigns are from everlasting then his enemies likewise must be from everlasting else Jesus is simply being quixotic, fighting windmills. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 12:30
  • Second yellow box is from revelations. Did you mean to quote a different verse? – Autodidact Jan 12 at 12:33
  • Sorry, yes. I cite that verse to show that Jesus was "notionally slain" before the foundation of the world. [Eph 3:9 ESV] 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, and [Jer 1:5 ESV] 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." – Ruminator Jan 12 at 12:37
  • Ok now I understand where you were heading with that but again the way I understand it Jesus is not merely the servant of the Lord, He is the Lord and accepts worship for Himself, identifies as the Lord, speaks in His own name identifying as the Lord and like the Father ascribed holy ground around Himself. It’s very hard for me to escape the two powers notion in the Tanakh. Adding to that Elohim instead of El. Probably why I had trouble making the connections you were making. – Autodidact Jan 12 at 12:49
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Autodidact asked: ‘What are ‘the days of eternity’ (yom olam) in Micah [5:1 (BHS)] asserting about the ruler?


One

We’ve understand better the meaning of the term עלם/עולם (OLM/OULM [two variants commonly used in TaNaKh]) translated ‘eternity’ by NASB, along with a number of translations.

First of all, the basic meaning of עלם (OLM) is not ‘to be eternal’, but ‘to be indistinct, indefinite’, and, in reference to time, ‘and unsighted time’.

A homologous (in a semantic way) term in Akkadian (ancient Babylonian) was DA’AMU, ‘to became dark’ (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary [= CAD] III:1). From this term – probably – was derived, through a number of linguistical steps, the English verb ‘to dim’ (referring to ‘something hard to see at’).

Granted, also ‘eternity’ (NASB et al.) – from men’s viewpoint – could be included into the well established concept of ‘indistinctness’, because we humans cannot understand, or, simply imagine, fully, what can indicates a time without a start and/or an end. Nevertheless, there are other situations of ‘indistinctness’ that are not linked with ‘eternity’, necessarily.

For an example, we know – from the Bible account – that the earth had surely a start** (ראשׁית) inside the creation time-frame (Genesis 1:1). Still, Psalm 78:69 applies עלם (OLM) to the ‘earth’.

Also the physical ‘hills’ on the earth had a start, when God did perform the separation between waters and soil (Genesis 1:9). Still, Deuteronomy 33:15 applies עלם (OLM) to the ‘hills’ (very interestingly, this passage has the same two sequential terms used in Micah 5:1 - BHS [קדם > עלם]).

Again, was a ancient Israelite slave able to serve his master ‘eternally’? Exodus 21:6 says he may do עלם (OLM).

These examples would be sufficient to understand that the best translation of עלם(OLM) is one which revolves themselves around the concept of ‘indefinite, indistinct time’. Granted, sometimes עלם (OLM) is linked with ‘eternity’ (or alike), but other times not, as we have seen.


Two

Returning to Micah 5:1 (BHS), Septuagint (LXX) translated the Hebrew term עלם (OLM) with αιωνος, that – strangely enough – has the same meaning of עלם (for one example, the αιωνος [‘era’, ‘epoch’] mentioned in Matthew 24:3 & 28:20 had a start and – according Jesus Christ – will have an end, also).

Probably, from עלם (OLM) derived a number of words that were utilized in the past, but, we also are using some of these derivative words.

For example, Latin language had (the ‘>’ simbol indicates samples of passages of this term in other languages): - olim, ‘that time’, ‘time ago’ > Anglosaxon hwilum, ‘formerly, times ago’ > Old English whilom > Contemporary English while (as in the expressions like ‘long while ago’, or, ‘it takes a while to read’).

  • velum, ‘a veil’ (that is ‘something that hide’) > English veil.

English: - gloom, that retains all the letters of עלם (OLM) [according John Parkhurst, ‘A Hebrew and English Lexicon’].

Icelandic: - hilma, ‘to hide’.

In view of the information above presented the ‘ruler’ cited by Micah had a time start. We may understand so on the basis of the MT verbal used there יצא (‘to go out’, ‘to go forth’, ‘to spring up’, et cetera), that implies, necessarily, an action that starts on a given time point. So, the Micah’s ‘ruler’ must possess a beginning. Then, in this case, the bynomial link between קדם and עלם point to a translation different from the concept of ‘eternity’. In other words, the origin of the Micah’s ‘ruler’ was ‘lost in the mists of time’, from the viewpoint of a common human.

These clues well refer – from the viewpoint of christian Bible commentators – to the Messiah Jesus Christ.

Then, the translators are justified to translate as a derivative of ‘to be eternal’ only if the Bible context permits so.


Three

As regards Mac’s Musings assertions about the claimed lack of ‘precision’ of Hebrew language (regarding abstract concepts), I think Ruminator was right when he seemed to doubt about that.

Mac’s Musings said: “Hebrew does not have any abstract nouns for a start. As stated above, Hebrew is excellent (and precise) for spiritual ideas and action but not abstract thought.”

It seems a hasty conclusion, because to assert so we should have a corpus of Hebrew texts at least of a size alike the ancient Greek texts have. Unfortunately, the amount of Hebrew texts (at our disposal, today) is a risible fraction compared to the huge amount of ancient Greek texts.

But, even supposing the two corpora of texts (ancient Hebrew vs ancient Greek) were alike (in amount of texts), we have to ask ourselves, ‘what an abstract noun is, really’? And, ‘did ancient Hebrew language possess abstract nouns?’

Cambridge Dictionary (online): “A noun that refers to a thing that does not exist as a material object”.

This being the case, we may easily test the Mac’s Musings claim with the following couple of reference-book’s definitions of ‘abstract noun’:

Collins Dictionary (online): “A noun that refers to an abstract concept, as for example ‘kindness’”.

Just a moment. Ask ourselves: ‘Has the Bible Hebrew language a specific term for ‘kindness’’?. Surely it has. It is חסד, and it mentioned on hundreds of occurrences in TaNaKh.

MacMillan Dictionary (online): “A common noun that refers to a quality, idea, or feeling rather than to a person or a physical object. For example ‘thought’, ‘problem’, ‘law’, and ‘opportunity’ are all abstract nouns.”

Oops! Sorry, but the TaNaKh do possess them all:

‘thought’ = חשׁב (as in Gen 6:5); ‘problem’ = חוד (as in Pro 1:6); ‘law’ = תורה (as in hundreds of occurrences in TaNaKh). Today, it is worlwide used the term ‘Torah’. ‘opportunity’ = תאנה (as in Judges 14:4).

So, avoiding to expand this argument to other topics, like Hebrew subjective and non-subjective tenses, along with the 3D structure of prepositions, and so on, we may conclude that ‘Biblical’ Hebrew has abstract nouns, because also that people (ancient Israelites) – like all people - needed to think and to speak/write through abstractions, in certain cases).

I hope these information will help.

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