In this article, let’s explore why God strategically chose Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was previously known as the city David was from and where he was crowned king of Israel. The humble town is approximately six miles south of Jerusalem, where Jesus would later be crucified. Because of a prophecy foretold by Micah, for some 700 years, God’s people looked to Bethlehem as the birthplace of their long-awaited Messiah.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, although you are small among the tribes of Judah, from you will come forth for Me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Mic. 5:2).
The Bible assures God orders the steps of His people (see Ps. 37:23). Perhaps there is no better example of this promise than how Mary and Joseph found themselves delivering our Messiah in the place that was foretold.
As Luke recorded in his Gospel, while Mary was pregnant with baby Jesus, the Roman emperor decreed that a census be taken (see Luke 2:1). Consequently, because Joseph was a descendant of David’s royal line, the census required he make the several-day journey from his residence in Nazareth to report to his ancestral home—Bethlehem. And the story is sure to note that Mary makes the journey, too. (One can imagine Mary’s accompaniment was not by choice for a woman in her condition, but likely out of obligation to enroll as the new wife of Joseph.)
Consider the precise timing of these events. Just a little longer in Nazareth, and the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem would have failed. Yet by no planning on Mary’s part, nor any intention on the part of the emperor to fulfill any prophecy, Mary and Joseph are brought to Bethlehem. And at just that moment, Mary goes into labor to deliver Jesus.
What Bethlehem Reveals
Bethlehem’s selection by God as the birthplace of the Messiah was no happenstance. Nor was it chosen only because Joseph’s lineage happened to originate there. No, Bethlehem was strategically picked to be part of God’s redemption plan from the beginning—that Jesus would come to earth as the final, once-for-all, sacrificial lamb of God (see 1 Pet. 1:19–20).
As only God could know, events were orchestrated throughout the centuries, so that by the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem was the city where lambs purchased for sacrifice in the temple were born and raised. In fact, in those days, every firstborn male lamb in Bethlehem was set aside to later be delivered to Jerusalem. And without coincidence, so was the lamb of God. Charisma
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:15-16
How did the shepherds know where to go?
Many do not realize that Micah further prophesied that kingship would come to the “Daughter of Jerusalem” at Migdal Eder: Micah 4:8 “As for you, O watchtower of the flock [Hebrew Migdal Eder], O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.” Migdal Eder was a watchtower located in the northern part of Bethlehem built to protect the Temple flocks.
“During lambing season the sheep were brought there from the fields, as the lower level functioned as the birthing room for sacrificial lambs.”
Priestly shepherds “would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes” and place them in a manger “until they calmed down” to keep them “without defect”, suitable to be sacrificial lambs for the sin of the Israelites. Bethlehem was special because the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem raised lambs for the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The shepherds who heard the angelic choir and came to see the baby Jesus were certainly familiar with the technique to birth a sacrificial lamb, and were likely puzzled by why a baby was birthed in the manner and location of a sacrificial lamb.
In fact, the angels did not have to tell the shepherds precisely where to go in Bethlehem to find Jesus, because there was only one manger where sacrificial lambs were birthed, the cave under the watchtower of Migdal Edar. Rochester Edu