Matthew 2:6 And Its Old Testament Sources -- By: Homer Heater, Jr.
JETS 26:4 (December 1983) p. 395
Matthew 2:6 And Its Old Testament Sources
Matthew’s perspective on the person of Christ, begun in chap. 1 with a genealogy linking the patriarch Abraham and King David to the messianic King,1 is sharpened even more in chap. 2. Here the court of Herod is challenged by the appearance of the Magi, who inquire as to the birthplace of the king of the Jews. When Herod hears of this request, he is troubled and calls for the chief priests and scribes of the people to give him a private answer to this question. Their answer is contained in Matt 2:6: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel” (NASB).
It is important to note that it is not Matthew who cites the OT here (as in 2:15, 18) but the religious authorities of Judaism. This interpretation of Micah, therefore, should reflect the perspective of the Jewish community in Palestine at that time. The Targum understood Mic 5:2 to be messianic: “The Messiah shall come to me from you to be made a ruler over Israel.”2
Moises Silva3 classes Matt 2:6 under the heading “History of Midrash.4 He attempts to show in this section that the NT writers so used historical data as to violate modern canons of historicity and that therefore their writings are not “infallible” in the normal sense. Silva’s article needs a full response, but my purpose is to respond only to his statement on Matt 2:6: “… whether or not we can give persuasive reasons why Matthew seems to alter the text, the fact remains that such use of Scripture is foreign to us—we would certainly not suffer a preacher who quoted the Bible in similar fashion!”5 Leaving to others to discuss the use or abuse of the Bible by modern preachers, we should ask whether the Jewish community, quoted with seeming approval by Matthew, was abusing the Bible. My purpose in this article is to show that the scribes are not “quoting” Mic 5:26 but providing what I call “cumulative exegesis” from at least three OT
*Homer Heater is dean of Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland....
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