Bethlehem: Where the Savior was born

This painting by Polenov shows Bethlehem in 1882.

This painting by Polenov shows Bethlehem in 1882.

In the Verse of the Day for December 13, 2013 we find another passage related to one of the prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. When Herod encountered the wise men who came seeking the “King of the Jews,” his response is recorded in Matthew 2:4-6:

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

The prophet referred to is Micah who had made this prophetic declaration regarding place where the Messiah would be born:

Micah 5:2–5 (New Living Translation):

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth… And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace…

Located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is not only the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but the city has a rich heritage as a place of importance in God’s plan for humanity. Genesis 35:19 (New Living Testament) records the first mention of the town:

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)

In Hebrew the name means “house of bread.” Recall that the account of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz from the book of Ruth takes place in Bethlehem, where Naomi returns with Ruth after the famine in Moab. David, the King, the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, was born and grew up in Bethlehem. Eventually the Judean town became known as the City of David, for it was there that the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

The account of the birth of Jesus Christ provides a confluence of circumstances that merge in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph found themselves at that particular location when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being a descendent of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary, his wife who was pregnant at the time. Because of the overcrowded conditions due to the census, the inn where they sought refuge was full, and Mary gave birth to Savior of the World in the primitive conditions of a stable where the child was laid in a manger.

A number of the songs celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ mention Bethlehem, including the song connected to the Verse of the Day for December 11, 2013 which shares a version of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” with its resounding refrain:  “One for the little biddy baby who was born, born, born in Bethlehem.” Perhaps the all-time favorite Christmas carol is “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” offered here as a medley with “Away in a Manger” by Kari Jobe.

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