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Monday, December 24 2012
Bethlehem Of Judah
The ancient city of Bethlehem takes its name from a Hebrew word that means house of bread. It is located about 5 miles / 8 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judea (Bethlehem is approximately 2,550 feet / 777 meters above sea level - about the same as Jerusalem) on the way to Hebron. It is believed to have existed at least 1,000 years before the Messiah (see Israel In History and Prophecy: The Messiah) was born there, according to prophecy. Bethlehem is variously translated or rendered (in the KJV, and others) as "Ephrath" (Genesis 35:16), "Bethlehem Ephratah" (Micah 5:2), "Bethlehemjudah" (1 Samuel 17:12), and "the city of David, which is called Bethlehem" (Luke 2:4).
The first major Biblical point of reference for Bethlehem occurred when Rachel died there while giving birth to Benjamin - the only Israelite patriarch to actually be born in the land of Israel; the others were born in Syria and Egypt (see A Biography Of Jacob: The Jacobites Of Syria and Jacob's Blessing Of Ephraim And Manasseh). Rachel's tomb (see The Rachel Prophecies) remains as a local landmark.
"35:9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 35:10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel [see A Biography Of Jacob: When Jacob Became Israel].
Years later, after Jacob / Israel had moved to Egypt (see A Biography Of Jacob: Israel In Egypt) and was himself about to die, Jacob adopted (in effect, promoting them from grandsons to sons) the sons of Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel, as a surrogate means to have more children with Rachel. Ephraim and Manasseh became tribes of Israel because of the death of Rachel.
"48:1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph [see A Biography Of Jacob: A Coat Of Many Colors], Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 48:2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
"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 book of Ruth begins with a journey of a family from Bethlehem.
"1:1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled [see Israel In History and Prophecy: The Judges], that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 1:2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
Naomi returned to Bethlehem, with her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth.
"1:19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 1:21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?" (Ruth 1:19-21 KJV)
The purpose of the journey and the return with a "foreigner" was that the Messianic line, through Judah, would include representative people from all nations (just as the LORD had been doing all along i.e. Abraham was born in Iraq of Iraqi parents, all but one of the children of Israel were born in Syria to Syrian mothers, Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt from an Egyptian mother; see also The Joppa Lessons Of Jonah And Peter) because the Messiah is the Messiah of all nations. It was from that union of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz that Bethlehem was firmly established was the "city of David" - and of his Messianic line (see The Messianic Role Of Naomi, Ruth And Boaz).
"2:1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. 2:2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. 2:3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech." (Ruth 2:1-3 KJV)
It was at Bethlehem that the LORD sent Samuel to anoint David as the King of Israel.
"16:1 And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Saul and David], seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons." (1 Samuel 16:1 KJV)
Notice that David was personally chosen by the LORD ("And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he"), who Himself, centuries later, would be born in Bethlehem as the prophesied Messianic descendant of King David .
"16:6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD anointed is before him.
When the time came for the Messiah to be born, the stage had been set for Bethlehem to fulfill its role as "the city of David."
"2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus [see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars], that all the world should be taxed [see Does Rome Have Christ's Birth Certificate?]. 2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
The Messiah was not born on December 25 (on the Roman pagan calendar) or anytime in the winter season at all (listen to our Sermon The Truth About Christmas). Shepherds did not leave their sheep, or themselves, overnight in their pastures in the often cold, wet winter nights of Bethlehem (see What Happens In Winter?). The local shepherds were given to be the first witnesses of the birth of the Messiah.
"2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Later, the "wise men" from the East were miraculously directed to Bethlehem (the "star" was likely an angel; actual stars, comets, or other natural objects don't do what the "star" of Bethlehem did - including hovering over just one specific house of a city) to become the first representatives of the "gentile" world to witness the birth of the Messiah (see Why Did The Magi Come?).
"2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Herod], behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
As quoted in the verses above in Matthew ("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 birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem fulfilled a prophecy in Micah:
"5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2 KJV)
The "slaughter of the innocents" by Herod (see The Slaughter Of The Innocents), in Bethlehem, was also prophesied, by Jeremiah - referring back to Rachel.
"2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
Fact Finder: What do we know about Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David?
This Day In History, December 24
1524: Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died at age 55. He was the first recorded European to reach India by sea.
1524: Poland agreed to truces in its conflicts with both Sweden and Turkey.
1638: The Ottomans under Murad IV recaptured Baghdad from Safavid Persia (listen to our Sermon The Ottoman Empire).
1781: German immigrant Baron Friederike von Riedesel erected what is believed to be the first Christmas tree in North America, at Sorel, Quebec (listen to our Sermon The Ho-Ho Hoax).
1814: A peace treaty between Great Britain and the former New England colonies was signed at Ghent, Belgium to end the War of 1812 (1812-1814). The combatants kept fighting and dying however because the news of the war's end did not arrive from Europe for another 2 weeks (longer in some more remote areas e.g. the Battle of New Orleans).
1865: The Klu Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee by a group of Confederate veterans.
1914: The first air raid on Britain took place when a German monoplane dropped a single bomb on Dover.
1942: The German research station at Peenemunde successfully tested a new surface-to-surface weapon system. Called the FZG76, it later became better known as the V1 Flying Bomb (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars).
1946: The French Fourth Republic was established.
1951: Libya became an independent nation. It had been a colony of Italy from 1911, and before that was under Ottoman rule from 1551 (see also Libya In History And Prophecy).
1974: Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, Australia.
1991: Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union.