Places of Interest
1. Bethlehem is located 6 miles (9 km.) south of Jerusalem.
2. In Bible times, Bethlehem was a farming area with grain fields, and sheep and goats grazed the hillsides. Amazingly, little has changed over the past 3,000 years.
3. It’s on the edge of the Judean Desert that lies to the southeast.
4. Bethlehem is in the West Bank but is very safe. Thousands visit its Christian sites each month with no issues.
1. Bethlehem was a Canaanite village before the conquest of the Israelites in around 1406 BC.
2. It means ‘House of Bread.” Maybe this is so because many wheat and barley fields were in this area.
Places of Interest
1. Rachel’s Tomb
2. Church of the Nativity
3. Shepherd’s Fields
4. Herodian Fortress
5. Grain fields
6. Hillsides for livestock to graze on
7. Deep ravine – Maybe the valley David had in mind when he wrote Psalm 23.
Bethlehem in the Bible
1. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, died and was buried in Bethlehem.
Genesis 35:16–20: Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath [Bethlehem], Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, "Do not fear, for you have another son." 18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day.
2. Naomi was from Bethlehem, but because of a famine in Israel, her husband and two sons moved to Moab.
Ruth 1:1–2: In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife, Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion.
3. Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab to Bethlehem.
Ruth 1:22: So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
4. Ruth gleaned in the grain fields of Boaz in Bethlehem and then married Boaz (Boaz was the Great Grandfather of King David).
Ruth 2:1–2: Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Ruth 4:13–17: So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
5. King David was from Bethlehem, so it is also called the “City of David.”
1 Samuel 17:12: Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul, the man was already old and advanced in years.
6. David grew up in Bethlehem as a shepherd. Being a shepherd was a lonely boring job that no one wanted. However, David put his time to good use and learned to play the harp, throw a sling, and grew to love the Lord. Many of the Psalms David wrote have their roots in the area around Bethlehem.
7. David was anointed king in Bethlehem.
1 Samuel 16:1: The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.
1 Samuel 16:4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem.
1 Samuel 16:6–7: When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:11–13: Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.
8. King Herod the Great build a huge fortress called the “Herodian” that was located just outside of Bethlehem. It was built for his protection and glory.
9. Bethlehem was the prophesied birthplace of Christ.
Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Luke 2:7: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
10. Angels appeared to shepherds watching their flocks by night in Bethlehem.
Luke 2:8–16: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
11. Wise men (Magi) from the east visited and worshiped Christ in Bethlehem.
Matthew 2:1: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
12. King Herod had all the male children 2 years and younger murdered in his attempt to kill Christ.
Matthew 2:16–18: Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."
Faith Lesson from Bethlehem
1. Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Jesus also refers to Himself as the Bread of life.
2. In the same way our bodies need bread to live, so our spirit needs Christ for nourishment and life. Are we feeding daily on God’s Word and walking moment by moment in dependence on Him?
3. We have many godly examples of people from Bethlehem who walked with God, i.e., Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and David.
4. Today, they are in heaven rejoicing in God’s presence. Are we following their example, and living for our eternal home as well?
5. David used his spare time shepherding wisely and learned many skills that He would eventually use to serve God. Are we developing our abilities to be better servants of Christ?
6. The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). What kind of heart does God see in us?