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Thursday, December 06, 2007


The city of Bethlehem is part of what is known as the West Bank, and is currently under the control of Hamas. The current population is apparently somewhere near 25,000. It is the site of the birth of Christ, and there is a shrine at the traditional site.

The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible has to do with the death of Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife. (See here for a chart of the family relationships.) It is in Genesis 35:16-20. She seems to have died on the way to Bethlehem.

Ruth 1 tells us that the family Ruth first married into was from Bethlehem. Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem from Moab, and it was there that she and Boaz were married. They were David's great-grandparents, according to Ruth 4. David, himself, grew up in Bethlehem, his ancestral home. (See 1 Samuel 16)

David must have loved Bethlehem. He desperately wished that someone would bring him some of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which they did, at the risk of their lives:
2 Samuel 23:13 And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord 17 and said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did. (ESV)

Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 tell us that people from Bethlehem, perhaps distant relatives of King David, returned after the exile.

Micah 5:2, for those who could interpret it properly, foretold the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem:
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. (ESV)
The priests and scribes gave King Herod this proper interpretation.

The last mention of Bethlehem in the Bible is when people from Galilee, where Jesus grew up in Nazareth, doubted his authenticity, because the scripture quoted in the previous paragraph says that He would come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth.

The most thought-provoking thing that I found in doing the research for this post is that the Wikipedia article on Bethlehem lists "Jesus Christ of Nazareth" as the only notable former resident. In other words, Bethlehem's main claim to fame is that Christ was there. When I am gone, and others think of me, I hope that my main claim to fame will be that Christ was present in my life, not this blog, or whatever else I have done in my life.

Thanks for reading.

* * * *

I have now published a brief post on Nazareth.


Anonymous said...

Our pastor recently taught on the story you of David and the brave men you mentioned. He said, if our Lord would only hint at a wish of His, would we not by any means necessary attempt to give it to Him. Thought provoking.

Your desire to please Jesus is evident to all. It was one of the first things we noticed about you.

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, that story of David and the water is in the Bible for, no doubt, several good reasons.

Thanks for your comment.