But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
The Birthplace Of Jesus
Called the “house of bread,” Bethlehem would become the most important city in the history of the world. It is one of the oldest cities as it was called Ephratah in the days of Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Rachel labored in childbirth near the ancient city and after hard labor, gave birth to a son she called Ben-Oni; but Jacob called him Benjamin. Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). It was near this place Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave. After the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua, it was called Bethlehem Judah which was the home of Boaz and Ruth and later the family of Jesse who had a son called David. This would be known as the city of David as the young shepherd became the great king of Israel. The Philistines would take the city for a period of time before reverting back to the nation of Israel. Jeroboam converted the city to a military stronghold and then quietly passed into the pages of history until the coming of Jesus. Joseph and Mary were both from Bethlehem and when the census was determined during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, they came from Nazareth to the city of David where Jesus was born. It would later become a place of great sorrow when Herod sent his troops into the small village and massacred all the young children two-years-old and under trying to kill the young child, Jesus. Bethlehem was five miles south of Jerusalem and Jesus would grow up in Nazareth of Galilee. Six miles northwest of Nazareth was Bethlehem of Zebulun. Micah’s prophecy was specific to name the small village of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem rather than the city near Nazareth. Joseph and Mary would have traveled nearly ninety miles to reach Bethlehem from Nazareth and this was especially difficult for Mary who was in the late stages of her pregnancy. The fullness of time was established when Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah.
One of the problems men had with Jesus being the Christ was the insignificance of the place of his birth and the circumstances surrounding His birth. Bethlehem of Judea was as backward a town as any in the land of Israel. There was little significance to the small village as nothing more than the home of David. It held no political or social status in the annals of men and would fade to a distant memory in the minds of most over the years following the birth of Jesus. The Lord would only stay a few years in Bethlehem. When the wise men from the east visited Jesus He was nearly two years old. Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod with the information about Jesus, the wise men took their leave another way which enraged the king. Knowing he sent his troops to Bethlehem to kill the young male children, an angel of the Lord instructed Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt until after the death of Herod. When they heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, the young family moved back to Nazareth where Jesus would spend the remainder of His life before beginning His ministry. Although no record is given it is possible Jesus visited Bethlehem near Nazareth.
Bethlehem of Judah was the least among the towns and shows the wisdom of God to confound the wisdom of men. The Christ would not come from a family of nobility, wealth or power to be the ruler of God’s people Israel. His lineage would be royal as a descendant of David establishing the throne of David as a prophetic utterance to the reign of Christ as King of King and Lord of Lords. Jesus did not come from an educated family that distinguished themselves among the elite of Israel. Joseph and Mary were poor and could only offer a pair of turtledoves or pigeons when they presented Jesus as the temple. As a carpenter, Joseph worked as a common laborer with his sons following in his trade. Nothing notable would have been known about the family of Joseph of Nazareth had it not been for Jesus. It did not impress others the son of a carpenter from Nazareth could be the Messiah. On one occasion, the people were arguing about whether Jesus could be the Christ and it was noted the scripture said that the Christ would come from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was. There was a division among the people because of this discrepancy. It is surprising that if anyone would have asked Jesus where He was born He would have told them in Bethlehem of Judea fulfilling the words of the prophets. They could not understand how Christ could come out of Galilee since Nazareth was in Galilee. God chose Bethlehem and it became a stumbling block to those who could not see the divinity of Jesus through His humanity. Jesus was born in Bethlehem but not just any Bethlehem. He was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah.