Bethlehem is a village about six miles south of Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, Rachel died near Bethlehem while giving birth to Jacob's youngest son, Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-20). Ruth gleaned grain near Bethlehem in the fields of a man named Boaz (Ruth 2). The two were married and became the great-grandparents of David. Bethlehem was David's family home and the place where Samuel anointed him to be king (1 Samuel 16:4-13). Generations later, the Prophet Micah promised that a future ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
In New Testament times, Bethlehem was the birthplace of Jesus. Luke reports that Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth but went to Bethlehem to register during a census because Joseph was a descendant of David. There Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, because there was no room in the local inn (Luke 2:1-7). In Matthew, a star leads "wise men" from the east to Bethlehem to visit Jesus. When King Herod learns of the birth of a new king, he orders that all the male children in and around Bethlehem be slain; but Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt with Jesus (Matthew 2:1-18).
AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus