Micah 5:5 reads:
And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men.


Who are these seven shepherds and eight principal men?


The scholar, Adam Clarke, summarizes the chapter this way:

The chapter begins, according to the opinion of some commentators, with a prophecy concerning the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the great indignities which Zedekiah should suffer from the Babylonians,

1.      We have next a most famous prediction concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from EVERLASTING."

2.      See Matt. ii. 6. The Jews obstinately persisting in their opposition to the Messiah, God will therefore give them up into the hands of their enemies till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled: and then all the posterity of Jacob, both Israel and Judah, shall be converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, along with the Gentiles, be brought into the large and peaceful pastures of this Great Shepherd of the sheep,

3,4. After this illustrious prophecy, the prophet goes on to foretell the downfall of

       the Assyrians, by whom are meant the enemies of the Church in general, the

       type being probably put for the antitype; the miraculous of the great Assyrian

       army in the reign of Sennacherib strongly shadowing forth the glorious and

       no less miraculous triumphs of Christianity in the latter times,

5,6. See Isa. xi. 16. Some understand this prophecy of Antiochus and the seven

       famous Maccabees, with their eight royal successors, from Aristobulus to

      Antigonus; and it is not impossible that these people may be also intended, for

      we have had occasion to remark that a prophecy of the Old Testament

      Scriptures has frequently more than one aspect.

(7) The seventh verse was fulfilled by the Jews spreading the knowledge of the

      true God during their captivity, and so parting the way for the Gospel; but will

      be more signally fulfilled after their conversion and restoration. See Rom. xi.

     12-15. The remaining verses contain a prophecy of the final overthrow of all

     the enemies of pure and undefiled religion, and of the thorough purification of

     the Church of God from the corruptions of the Antichrist, 9-15.


Much of what Dr. Clarke has to contribute to the study of the Word of God is so good that it is not to be ignored. But he is influenced by displacement theology, which sees the promises to the Jews fulfilled in the church. The influence of this mindset must be discounted to see the merit of his contribution to a commentary on the text. Another point concerning his interpretation of the text is that he looks at the nearest captivity to the time when the prophet wrote, some fifty years around 750 B.C. My thought is that his words actually focus more literally on the Assyrians as the text says. Let me explain where I disagree with him, and from that point I think we arrive with his help, with an understanding that endures.



            The reference to the term daughter of troops, found in verse one of the chapter, is in Clarke's mind a clear indication that the Chaldeans are in sight in this prophecy. While the Babylonian kingdom is known to have drawn troops for its armies from throughout the Mesopotamian region, and to hire mercenaries, the Medo-Persian Empire was even more given to the using of peoples from out of many nations.[1] This would be the case when they encountered the Greeks. The Assyrians indulged in wholesale movements of populations, and the incorporation of these people into their Empire. This was the case when they conquered Israel and carried off the Ten Tribes introducing other peoples into the Northern Kingdom. These people you will remember intermarried with the Jews that had been left to form the group known as Samaritans. The Greek army was composed primarily of people from the various city states, so this group is more quickly eliminated, but we cannot ignore the composition of the followers of Antiochus after the Grecian Empire was divided. Later the Romans, as they declined, would use more and more troops from many peoples as well.

            My thought is that the Assyrian Empire is literal and in particular that segment of history under Antiochus is the primary interpretation, though the former Assyrian Empire was the shadow. In this understanding, the interpretation of who is meant by the reference to 7 shepherds and eight principal men is exactly the explanation offered by Clarke as the belief of other Bible commentators.

            The text, though containing Messianic prophesy, is not church prophesy, but central to God's dealing with all the people of the Twelve Tribes including both Israel and Judah. It is concluded with the dispersed nation being back in the land and the Second Coming of the Messiah, with Israel's subsequent conversion.





[1] One of the things about the persistence of this mixing of peoples should be looked at. When the conversion to Islam came to the Persians and they began to push into Europe, this mixing of peoples and nations was important. Men who resisted conversion to Islam were conscripted from subjugated peoples and placed in the forefront of the army becoming the shock troops of the combat absorbing the brunt of the battle and receiving the greater casualties.


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