I don’t think I have written about it on any of my blogs, but for the Sunday School class that I lead we are doing a study that takes us through the entire Bible over the course of a year. In general we do one book each week, although some weeks we’ll do multiple books. Last week one of our books to read and study was Micah.
As we have been winding down, hitting the books of the lesser prophets, we have been getting more and more into text where we have to figure out whether the references are to the current times of the prophets, the coming messiah, or the Millennial Kingdom. So when we came across Micah 5:5, there were some questions about who was being referred to:
And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;
The question had to do with who the “seven shepherds” and “eight princes” are, especially since the numbers are a little unusual.
As my study of the passage revealed, the answer seems to be pretty simple. There seem to be two options. The first is that it could be a reference to the Babylonian dynasty and some of their rulers as the shepherds. That would be consistent with some translations that use terms like “ruler”.
The second option, which seems more likely to me, is that it is a reference to the Ushpizin. The Ushpizin are a group of historical figures from the Old Testament – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. According to Jewish tradition, during the Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles), the family will include a prayer each night that invites a different member of the Ushpizin to visit with the family. Supposedly the group always travels together, but a different member will take the lead each different night.
What about the “eight princes of men”? I didn’t really find anything about them other than this is likely a reference to kings or governors or possibly military leaders of the time.
Maybe not some deep meaning in this passage, but it was an opportunity to spend some time studying. And it does show us how important the figures we are familiar with from the OT were to the Jews even in the time of Micah.