ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia

Bethlehem

also known as: Beth-lehem, Bet Lehem, Beit-Lahm, בֵּית לֶחֶם (Hebrew), Βηθλεέμ (Greek), Ephratah, Ephrath

Meaning: house of bread

This is the name of 2 biblical towns/cities.

  1. Bethlehem, a city in the “hill country” of Judah

    also known as “Bethlehem of Juda” and “Bethlehem of Judea”

    It was originally called Ephratah/Ephrath (Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11), and its citizens were called Ephrathites. It was also called Bethlehem-Ephratah (Micah 5:2), Beth-lehem-judah (1 Samuel 17:12), and “the city of David” (Luke 2:4).

    Bethlehem’s fields
    Shepherds’ fields outside of modern Bethlehem

    It is first noted in Scripture as the place where Jacob/Israel’s dear wife Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside,” directly to the north of the city (Genesis 48:7).

    The valley to the east was the scene of the story of Ruth the Moabitess. There are the fields in which she gleaned, and the path by which she and Naomi returned to the town.

    Here was David’s birthplace, and here also, in after years, he was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:4-13); and it was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his heroes brought water for him at the risk of their lives when he was in the cave of Adullam (2 Samuel 23:13-17).

    Birthplace of Christ

    Bethlehem is distinguished above every other city as the birthplace of “Him whose goings forth have been of old” (Matthew 2:6; compare Micah 5:2).

    See: Christmas / Was Jesdus born in a stable? a cave? a barn? Answer / What are some of the most common misconceptions about Jesus Christ’s birth? Answer

    A census was made by the Roman government in the time of our Lord (Luke 2:1). For this reason, Mary and Joseph travelled from nearby Nazareth to Bethlehem of Judah where Jesus was born.

    See: When did the Luke 2 census occur? Is there a biblical error? Answer

    Bethlehem’s children slaughtered

    Afterwards Herod, “when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,” sent and slew “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from 2 years old and under” (Matthew 2:16,18; Jeremiah 31:15).

    Bethlehem today

    Bethlehem’s Manger Square and Church of the Nativity (photo copyrighted)
    Modern Bethlehem’s Manger Square and Church of the Nativity
    Shrine of Nativity (photo copyrighted)
    The Shrine of the Nativity which is claimed to mark the place of Jesus Christ’s birth in Bethlehem

    Bethlehem still bears its name today. It is also known as Beit-Lahm, i.e., “house of flesh.” It is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, standing at an elevation of about 2,550 feet above the sea, thus 100 feet higher than Jerusalem.

    There is a church still existing, built by Constantine the Great (A.D. 330), called the “Church of the Nativity,” over a grotto or cave called the “holy crypt,” and said to be the “stable” in which Jesus was born. This is perhaps the oldest existing Christian church in the world.

    Close to it is another grotto, where Jerome the Latin father is said to have spent 30 years of his life in translating the Scriptures into Latin. (See Versions of the Bible)

    Rachel’s supposed tomb is also marked in the modern city of Bethlehem. It is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin.

    The modern city has many hotels and small shops on narrow, winding streets. The city is built on a hill, and many houses are built in front of old caves.

    Bethlehem, the city of David and birthplace of Christ, now a Palestinian town with a Muslim majority—satellite view • scroll north to see Jerusalem, 6.2 miles (10 km) away
  2. Bethlehem, a city of Zebulun

    This other Bethlehem is mentioned in Joshua 19:15

    Territory of Zebulun
    Now the third lot came up for the sons of Zebulun according to their families. And the territory of their inheritance was as far as Sarid. Then their border went up to the west and to Maralah, it then touched Dabbesheth and reached to the brook that is before Jokneam. Then it turned from Sarid to the east toward the sunrise as far as the border of Chisloth-tabor, and it proceeded to Daberath and up to Japhia. From there it continued eastward toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and it proceeded to Rimmon which stretches to Neah. The border circled around it on the north to Hannathon, and it ended at the valley of Iphtahel. Included also were Kattah and Nahalal and Shimron and Idalah and Bethlehem; twelve cities with their villages.

    This was the inheritance of the sons of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages. —Joshua 19:10-16 NASB

    The 10th ruler/judge of Israel named Ibzan came from this Bethlehem and later died there with his large family.

    It is also known as “Bethlehem of Zebulun,” “Bethlehem of Galilee,” “the Galilean Bethlehem,” and “Beth Lehem Zoria.” It eventually became a Christian community, and much later became a ruined village called Beit-Lahm. It is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Nazareth and is now an Israeli moshav, a community for cooperative agriculture.

    Modern Bethlehem of Galilee, Israel—satellite view / Zoom out to view its proximity to Nazareth—6 miles southeast

ALSO SEE: