By Elvin C. Myers
Scripture Reading: Micah 5:2
I was born and raised in Altoona, Pennsylvania, so it seems I should know every town, village and hamlet adjacent to the city. I don't. I sometimes hear of a place near the city name is unfamiliar to me. Not many small towns become well known, but the little town of Bethlehem is world famous.
Bethlehem means "house of bread," perhaps because it was farm country. It is mentioned often in the Scriptures. It is the place where Jacob buried his beloved Rachel outside the town limits. The romantic story of Ruth took place in Bethlehem. Being farm country, we know the people were and grain farmers. It was the home of Jesse, the father of David. It was in Bethlehem that Samuel anointed David king ofIsrael.
When King Solomon died, a struggle ensued for the vacant throne. The rightful heir to the throne was Rehoboam, but he was challenged by Jeroboam who had no right to the throne. The struggle resulted in Israel being divided into two kingdoms called Israel and Judah. Jeroboam attacked Judah, Rehoboam fortified villages and towns in Judah, including Bethlehem.
Ezra, Nehemiah and Jeremiah speak of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He, come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
The Scriptures often use double names for Bethlehem. This is because there was more than one Bethlehem. One was near Nazareth and the other near Jerusalem. Micah 5:2 speaks of Bethlehem Ephrata, and Matthew 2:1 says Bethlehem of Judea. They are the same place. The Holy wants to make sure the reader would not get confused about where Jesus was born. Christ had to be born in the right town, namely Bethlehem of Judea near Jerusalem, the former residence of the family of David.
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