Author: Paul Lehr
Micah 5:2 But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.
The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible is in Genesis 35:19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). This is Jacob or Israel’s wife. She is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 35:24). The site for Rachel’s tomb is located in modern day northern Bethlehem.
Ephrath or Ephrathah are terms that are synonymous with Bethlehem. See Genesis 48:7, Genesis 35:19.
In the original Hebrew, Ephrathah means “place of fruitfulness”. –Strong’s Concordance.
Bethlehem is the setting for the Book of Ruth.
1 Samuel 17:12 Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah…
Bethlehem is a place where a young boy named David raised sheep for his father Jesse. 1 Samuel 17:15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock at Bethlehem.
The hills around Bethlehem were home to the thousands of lambs used in ritual worship in the Temple. The law required daily sacrifices of spotless and perfect lambs. Bethlehem was the town in Israel that was known for sacrificial lambs.
Numbers 28:3 You shall say to them, ‘This is the offering by fire which you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs one year old without defect as a continual burnt offering every day.
That is at least 720 lambs to be sacrificed each year.
See also Exodus 12:1-6 for the qualifications of a sacrificial lamb.
For roughly 1,000 years from the time of King David to the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem continued to be known for the Temple’s sacrificial lambs. We know this place remained the area for sheep because of Luke 2:8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who was born in Bethlehem, the town known for spotless, perfect, sacrificial lambs. As these lambs were destined for sacrifice, so was Christ.
1 Peter 1:19 …but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ…
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”