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)
Was Jesus Born West Of Nazareth?
The birth of Jesus was not only an incredible miracle of a virgin birth, but it was also a fulfillment of some amazing prophecies made hundreds of years before. More than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Micah declared the place the Christ would be born. It was a time of upheaval in the land of God’s people as the fall of Samaria was imminent and within one hundred fifty years, Jerusalem would be burned and the Temple destroyed. Micah tells of hope for a restored Zion and universal peace including the coming of a shepherd king who is to be born at Bethlehem. From the pen of God’s prophet, the place of Christ’s birth is determined to be in the tribal land of Judah.
Bethlehem of Judea was a small village of no particular importance. Located some five miles south of Jerusalem, it had a long and important history in the story of God’s people. This was the place that Rachel, wife of Jacob, died and was buried. East of the village was the field Ruth the Moabitess gleaned when she met Boaz. Her great-grandson, David, was born in Bethlehem and became one of the kings of Israel and notable figures of the Old Testament. Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem when Caesar Augustus decreed a universal census. This must have been a most difficult journey for Mary as she was full with child and arriving in Bethlehem, gave birth to Jesus. A few years later, wise men from the East came looking for the Christ. They first inquired in Jerusalem where the King of the Jews was born and the chief priests and scribes said the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, in the land of Judah. The wise men found the child Jesus with his parents in a house and after leaving gifts for the young boy, returned home.
The significance of Bethlehem of Judea is to know there is another Bethlehem located about six miles west-north-west of Nazareth. When Herod learned how the wise men had deceived him, he sent his soldiers into the Bethlehem of Judea and killed all the male children from two years old and under. Warned by God, Joseph had taken his family to Egypt and stayed there until the death of Herod. Instead of returning to Bethlehem of Judea, Joseph took his family seventy miles north to Nazareth. Jesus would grow up in the northern border of the Plain of Esdraelon just a few miles from Bethlehem of Galilee. Throughout His life, Jesus would be known as the man from Nazareth.
During His ministry, many argued about where the Christ was born and rejected Jesus because was not from Bethlehem. They knew the Christ would not come out of Galilee and that the Messiah would come from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was born. It seems remarkable that no one asked Jesus directly where He was born. Jesus was born in the town prophesied by Micah to fulfill the divine will of the Father. He was not born in Nazareth and He was not born in Bethlehem west of Nazareth. The timing of Jesus’ birth was in accordance with the plan of God as Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea and not Nazareth.