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by Wayne Blank
Bethlehem is located about 5 miles / 8 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judea on the way to Hebron. It is believed to have existed at least 1,000 years before Christ was born.
Bethlehem figures in Bible History both before the Israelites entered Egypt and slavery, and after the Exodus and their return. Rachel, the favorite wife (he also had married her sister Leah) of Jacob/Israel is buried near Bethlehem.
The events of the Book Of Ruth take place in the region of Bethlehem. Ruth and Boaz were the great-grandparents of King David, who himself was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem in effect became the official home-town of the line of David.
When the Roman emperor issued an order that a census be taken of the Roman Empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome), which then included the Roman-occupied land of Israel, each Israelite was required to go and register in his home town. Joseph, although then living in Nazareth up in Galilee, traveled down to Bethlehem to register because he was of the line of David. With him was his wife Mary, also of the house of David. It was of course shortly after their arrival in Bethlehem that Jesus was born.
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city."
Fact Finder: What was King David's father's name?