The Rescue of the Remnant
The fourth section of the first oracle or message of Micah is an unexpected prophecy of the rescue of the faithful remnant. It is unexpected because it comes as it were, unannounced and without any link to the preceding message that God gave to Micah. In 1:16 Micah prophesized exile for his people and in 2:10 God commanded that His covenant people get up and leave their land. But in a future day, after being exiled out of their land, the LORD will gather them together, 2:12 and then break them out of their confinement, leading them as their King and LORD, 2:13.
There are many suggested interpretations of these two verses. (1) Some understand that the LORD is leading them into judgment, perhaps during the Assyrian assault of Judah. (2) Some postulate that the people who have been confined in Babylon are being led out of captivity and are returning to Judah. (3) Others spiritualize the text by suggesting that these two verses are a picture of Jesus Christ breaking free His followers from sinful bondage into righteous living in Him. (4) Others, however, see a far future fulfillment in which the people of Israel who are in a confined area, surrounded by their enemies, will be broken out and led to freedom by their King who is the Messiah. These are not all the interpretive possibilities as some combine those suggested above by suggesting a near/far “solution,” for example a near (in relative terms) return from Babylon and a far future physical rescue of the remnant or a near return from Babylon and a far future spiritual rescue of Christ’s followers from the bondage of sin.
The first suggested interpretation does not have any Scriptural support as there is no text that indicates that the LORD broke through the gate of Jerusalem and led His people as King into the hands of the Assyrians. Similarly no Biblical text suggests that the divine King broke through the gate of Jerusalem when the Babylonians sieged and conquered the city. Instead it was the Babylonians who broke through the gate of Jerusalem.
The second suggested interpretation is the one most often given by scholars and students of the Scriptures. It has on the surface much to commend it as Micah does mention Babylon in 4:10 including in the same verse that from Babylon the LORD will redeem His people from hand of their enemies. It does however, require a spiritualized understanding of God’s role in their release from captivity. When the Judeans left Babylon, they did so at the decree of Cyrus and no gate of the City of Babylon was broken so they could escape. They were led not by God but by Zerubbabel and not all of the people of Judah left Babylon. Many preferred to stay in the Babylonian capital and its surrounding area.
The third suggested interpretation relies on spiritualizing the text by implanting teachings of the N.T. back into the O.T. This does irretrievable harm to the text of the O.T., by claiming it teaches something that is not actually in the text itself. It also leads to speculation by the suggestion of any number of possible “meanings” of the O.T. text. There is thus no authoritative foundation for these suggested meanings and scholars can surmise any solution that fits their theological viewpoint.
The fourth suggested interpretation answers the “what, where, when, why, who, and how” questions that should be asked of any text of scripture. These questions are asked to find its meaning in the context of the passage and related passages. In this text, Micah 2:12-13 and related passages would include the Book of Micah and other prophetic passages by the writing prophets. Upon a careful analysis of the passage, these questions lead to the conclusion that Micah has, under God’s superintendence, given a promise that the Messiah will come to the rescue of the faithful remnant in the far future and lead them as their King to freedom.8
a. 2:12 The Remnant Bound Fast
2:12 I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob;
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
I will put them together as the sheep (in the fold) NASB
in the midst of a pasture;
it will be noisy because there will be so many people.
The first question to be asked of this verse is, what is this prophecy about? The obvious response is that it clearly states that God will gather all of the remnant of His covenant people, those of Jacob and Israel and put them into a place that is described as a sheep fold. This enclosed place will be as noisy as a pasture of bleating sheep because there will be so many of His people there. The second question is where will be the location of this enclosure (sheep fold)? There are many possible locations for this place but the verse itself does provide a likely solution. The DASV does not include the word “fold” as does the NASB, ESV, and the NKJV. The NIV has “pen.” The margin note for the word “fold” in the NKJV indicates that the Hebrew word is literally “Bozrah.” The word “fold” is the Hebrew ḇoṣrâ which is translated simply as Bozrah. The KJV has interpreted sheep fold as “the sheep of Bozrah.” Although many disagree that this could possibly be a reference to Bozrah, a location in Jordan, it should be considered that Micah has intentionally indicated the location of this sheep fold.
The third question is, when would this event take place? An examination of Biblical history and history after the completion of the canon of the Scriptures, reveals that this event, if taken as a literal physical event, has not yet taken place. There is no recorded time when this event could have happened. The conclusion therefore must be that this is a future event. It was a future event to Micah, to the days of the first century, and even to our day. It cannot be spiritualized as a reference to Christ and His church for this rescue event distinctly involves the people of Jacob and Israel, the covenant people of God. Just when this event will happen in the future is less certain. Authors such as Arnold Fruchtenbaum,9 and Larry Feldman,10 suggest it will occur in the latter stage of the Tribulation period, when Christ returns. See also the John MacArthur Study Bible NASB, Thomas Nelson Inc. 2006, page 1273. The context of Micah also reveals a latter time as the words of 2:12-13 are connected to 5:2-4. The ruler, of Israel, who will be born in Bethlehem, will see “the rest (or remainder) of His brothers return to the children of Israel.” Micah 5:3b. Micah reveals in 5:4 that this ruler will rule during a secure and peaceful time and He will be the people’s peace. This certainly points to Christ’s Millennial rule and the earlier prophecy of 2:12-13 is an event which this ruler leads His people into peace and security.
The exact sequence of events surrounding the Messiah’s rescue of the remnant is not stated but seems to be in concert with His return to earth where He will set His feet on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:4. It is possible that the Messiah will return first to the Mount of Olives to deal with the terrifying situation in Jerusalem and provide a way of escape for His people from the armies of the nations and then the Messiah will go to Bozrah to free the remnant He has placed there for their safety. Also, it is possible that the returning Messiah will first go to Bozrah, free the faithful remnant and then proceed up to Jerusalem to deal with the armies who have surrounded His royal city. During the days of these events, the Messiah will also judge the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat, Joel 3:1-2, 12. Following the rescue of His people and the judgment of the nations, the Messiah will establish His Messianic rule on Mount Zion over all the earth, Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Joel 3:17; Micah 4:2, 7; Zechariah 8:3; a rule that will last for a thousand years, Revelation 20:4-6.
The fourth question is, why will this event take place? The response to this question requires the careful understanding of the writing prophets, the prophecies of Jesus Christ He gave at His first advent and the writings of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. It is clear from these Scriptures that God’s dealings with and chastisement of His covenant people have not yet been completed. There is an event to come called the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” Jeremiah 30:7. It is also known as the “great tribulation” Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14. It will be a short, (42 months) but intense time of judgment on the peoples of the earth and upon the covenant people of God. It was also predicted in Daniel 9:27 and referenced by Christ as a future time in Matthew 24:15-28. In the Matthew 24 passage, Christ describes the terrifying but short days of this period followed by His second advent, Matthew 24:29-31. The “why” or reason for the coming of the Messiah to break through the gate (Micah 2:13) will be discussed in more detail below, but the short answer is that just before He returns, the Messiah’s covenant people will be “penned in” surrounded by their enemies and He will come to rescue them from imminent annihilation.
The fifth question is who is involved in this event? This is an important consideration. Micah 2:12 clearly states that this event directly concerns the remnant of Jacob and Israel. Many would like to “expand” the meaning of these people to describe the members of the Church but it simply cannot be substantiated. Scholars cannot read back into the O.T. meanings that are not there. The meaning of “Jacob and Israel” as the covenant people of God was clear to Micah and his audience. Unfortunately many today cloud this meaning by substituting the covenant people of God with today’s church. One scholar who convincingly refutes this attempt at substitution is Michael Vlach.11 When Christ, the Messiah and King of Israel returns to rescue His covenant people from their enemies, He will rescue those who are described as Jacob and Israel. They will be Jewish descendants of the original twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob) and not those of the Church.
God will “surely gather” the remnant, Hebrew še’êrîyt, of Jacob and Israel. They, “all of you” will be gathered from the nations. Isaiah prophesized that the Lord “will assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Isaiah 11:12. Another prophet spoke of God who “will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back again to their folds. There they will be fruitful and multiply.” Jeremiah 23:3.
The “I,” stated three times in Micah 2:12 is the LORD, Yahweh. He is (1) their God who is the maker, the mover and the motivator of His covenant people. He is (2) their great Shepherd who tends His flock in the pasture He has created for them. Micah will later state about the Messiah, “He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:4, NASB. See in the N.T. Hebrews 13:20. He is (3) their Breaker, Micah 2:13, who will break through the gate of their confinement and lead them to freedom. He is (4) their King who will has retuned to rule over His covenant people, to sit on the Davidic throne, and to establish a kingdom of peace on earth.
The sixth question is how will this event unfold? The Scriptures provide a clear answer to this question. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah also concerned himself with this issue. Isaiah wrote, “The sword of the LORD is filled with blood; it is covered with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has made a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom.” Isaiah 34:6. This description comes within the context of the end-times where God will bring judgment on all the nations and all their armies, Isaiah 34:2. Later in his prophetic writings Isaiah declared, “Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah with stained red garments? Who is this wearing splendid apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, who announces vindication, mighty to save.” 2 Why are your clothes red, and your garments like one who treads grapes in the wine press? 3 I have stomped in the winepress alone; and none of the peoples joined with me. I stomped them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath. Their juice splattered on my garments, and all my clothes are stained. 4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed has come. 5 I looked, but there was no one to help; I was shocked that there was no one to lend support. Therefore my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath sustained me. 6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger, and made them drunk with my wrath, and I spilled their lifeblood on the ground.” Isaiah 63:1-6. Christ will come back to earth and one of the things He will accomplish will be the destruction of His enemies in Bozrah. This prophecy in Isaiah is fulfilled in Revelation 19:11-16 in which the Apostle John used similar language to describe the victory Christ will have over His enemies.
God’s covenant people will be penned in a confined space, in Bozrah, described as a sheep fold. This location could be in Petra which fits the description of an enclosed sheep fold. This will be an act of the Messiah who will lead them there for their protection. Their enemies will surround them and they will then confess their national sin of rejecting the Messiah at His first advent, Isaiah 53:1-9; and after pleading with their Messiah to return, Zechariah 12:10-14, Hosea 5:15-6:3, Christ will come to rescue them.
b. 2:13 The Rescuer Breaks Free
2:13 The leader who breaks out will go up before them,
they will break out and pass on through the gate,
Their king will pass on before them,
and the LORD will be at their head.
The “how” question discussed above is further answered in more detail in Micah 2:13. The “leader who breaks out” is described as the “Breaker” in the NASB and the KJV. See a description of His identification in the notes on 2:12 above. He is clearly identified as their King and as the LORD. Some suggest that there are two regal personages involved, but the Messiah will fulfill the double role of their LORD and their King. Isaiah describes the Messiah as, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders: and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. He will rule on the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7.
The events described in Micah 2:12-13 will occur during the terrifying days of the great Tribulation, the last half of a seven-year period that Daniel prophesized, “Then he will make a firm covenant with many for one week. In the midst of the week, he will cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes devastation, until the decreed end will be poured out on the one making the devastation.” Daniel 9:27. Many believe Daniel’s prophecy refers to the great Tribulation period, yet to come. It is this time in which Jesus referred to, specifically mentioning the Daniel prophecy as recorded in Matthew 24:4-22. The “he” who makes a covenant, is the man of sin, the antichrist who will make a covenant with “many,” the Jewish people, living in Israel at this time. This covenant will be for one prophetic week, consisting of seven years. After only 3 ½ years, the antichrist will break his own covenant and turn upon the Jewish people and will set up his own image in their temple and demand the world worship him. It is during this short period, 42 months, that the Jewish people will be horrendously persecuted. Also during this period, God will execute His judgment upon all those on the earth by a great destruction. This time is described in detail in Revelation, chapters 6-19.
In Revelation chapter 12, a prophecy is given about a woman, a child and a dragon. Many believe that the woman refers to the covenant people of God. The child is the Messiah who was born as a Jew thus being a member of God’s covenant family and at the same time, God of this family. The dragon is clearly identified is Revelation 12:9 as Satan. The unfolding drama of chapter 12 reveals that the child who will rule all nations with a rod of Iron, was taken to Heaven, 12:5, referring to the ascension of Christ after His resurrection during His first advent. The dragon, Satan will wage an unsuccessful war in heaven and will be thrown down to earth where he knows he only has a short time, likely 3 ½ years to deceive the nations of the earth. The woman, the Jewish people will flee into the wilderness where “she had a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.” Revelation 12:6. It is this place prepared for the Jewish people, that many believe is the “sheep fold” in Bozrah, Micah 2:12-13. The length of stay in this protected place prepared by God, confirms exactly with 3 ½ years, during which the horrific events of the great Tribulation unfold.
The leader, in Micah 2:13 is both the Messiah and King of Israel will break out and pass through the gate of the sheep fold, the safe place described in Revelation 12:6. The reason the Messiah will need to break through the gate and lead His people out of their confinement is likely because Satan will have stirred up the nations to surround the covenant people of God. The armies of the nations will not be able to enter this safe haven because of God’s protection of His faithful remnant who will be within it. When the Messiah returns to earth, He will defeat the armies of the nations that surround Bozrah and break through the gate and lead His people out. They will be heading to Mount Zion where the Messiah will establish His throne to rule over the earth during a peaceful reign lasting a thousand years. This march up to Zion is described by a contemporary of Micah, “Those ransomed by the LORD will return, and come with singing to Zion; everlasting joy will crown their heads. They will find joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10, 51:11.
Notes for Micah 2:12-13
- For an extended discussion see, Michael Rydelnik, Edwin Blum, General Editors, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy, Moody Publishers, 2019, Article by Larry Feldman, Micah 2:12-13, Messiah, the Breaker and the Deliverance of Israel, pages 1195-1205.
- Arnold Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, page 342.
- Larry Feldman, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy, page 1201.
- Michael Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel: A Theological Evaluation, B & H Academic, 2010.