Today the town of Bethlehem is much larger than it was in Jesus’ day. But despite its small size in biblical times, Bethlehem was the location of significant historical events. Discovering its history helps us appreciate why the town was the perfect place for Jesus’ birth.

Location

Bethlehem’s unique location at the border between the mountains and the wilderness enabled its people to capitalize on the benefits from both environments. Fertile mountain valleys and hillsides that received adequate rainfall provided valuable cropland for farmers, while the wilderness nearby provided pastures for the shepherds’ flock.

History

Both King David and Ruth lived in Bethlehem during a portion of their lives (Ruth 1:22; 1 Sam. 16:1-3; Matt. 1:1, 5). Both of them are listed in the lineage of Jesus the Messiah.

The Moabite nation (in which Ruth was brought up) began when Lot’s daughters committed incest. The nation was eventually destroyed by Israel. The Moabites worshiped pagan gods, and their king practiced child sacrifice. Despite her past in a sinful nation, Ruth had an integral role in God’s plan of redemption, which was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Prophecy Fulfilled

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem. Jesus “‘ the Son of God, the King of the universe” would be from the line of David and would rule on the throne of David forever. Bethlehem links Jesus to the lineage and family of David.

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