view northeast from Bethlehem 
with Herodium (center horizon) & Judean wilderness in distance

Bethlehem [Ephratha]

Hebrew: "House of bread"

A Judean town 6 miles southwest of Jerusalem on the main route to Hebron & Egypt that in ancient times was a fortified outpost. It was the reputed burial site of Jacob's wife Rachel & later the hometown of David. The town lost strategic importance during the Hellenistic era (4th c. BCE), but retained symbolic significance for Jews because of a prophecy of Micah predicting that another great king would come from Bethlehem. This prophecy figured in the formation of the birth stories of Jesus.

References: Gen 35:19, 48:7.
                   Ruth 1:1-2, 19, 22; 2:4, 4:11.
                   1 Sam 16:4; 17:12, 15; 20:6, 28.
                   Micah 5:2 (cf. John 7:42).
                   Matt 2:1, 5-8, 16.
                   Luke 2, 15.

Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem with waist-high entrance (center)

daily bread at Bethlehem

For further recent information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:

  • Rousseau, John J. & Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. ( Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) pp. 16-18.

Other resources on line:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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