A short bus ride from Jerusalem lies the city of Bethlehem. It is located a mere six miles south of Israel’s capital in what traditionally was Judea and today is called the West Bank.
Politically, Bethlehem has a complicated history. Jordan seized it in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence, and Israel retrieved it during the Six-Day War in 1967. On December 21, 1995, Israel withdrew from Bethlehem; and three days later, terrorist Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority moved in and still claims it today.
Historically, the city was assigned to the tribe of Judah. Outside Bethlehem is where Jacob buried Rachel after she birthed Benjamin (Gen. 35:16–20). Though too small to be listed among the towns of Judah, it nevertheless figures prominently in the history of the Jewish people:
→ Ibzan, Israel’s 10th judge, was from Bethlehem (Judg. 12:8–10).
→ The book of Ruth unfolds in and around Bethlehem.
→ Samuel anointed David the shepherd to be king over Israel in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16:4, 11–13; 17:15).
→ David desired a drink from the well of Bethlehem. When he received one, he poured the water out as an offering to the Lord (2 Sam. 23:15–17).
→ Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).
→ Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Lk. 2:1–7).
→ The shepherds and magi worshiped Jesus in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:7–11; Lk. 2:15–16).
→King Herod the Great murdered all male Jewish children in Bethlehem aged two and under in an attempt to kill the Messiah (Mt. 2:16–18).
The most popular tourist site in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity, an active Greek Orthodox church built over a grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. The church is the oldest basilica in the Holy Land, commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine.
The grotto is a dimly lit cave with a marble floor and 14-point silver star that supposedly marks the place where the Lord was born. Many tourists weep profusely when they see it. But in truth, no one really knows the exact location of Jesus’ birth. What we do know is that God told the shepherds in the field, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11).
The King of kings came like a humble lamb in a stable and was laid in a feeding trough. The next time He comes, He’ll arrive like a lion.
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