Bethlehem of Judea is where the Lord Jesus was born, as prophesied. And also the place where the innocent were slaughtered. Bethlehem of Éfrata was the city of David’s family and his successor, the Messiah. It was located nine kilometers south of Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, the name Efrata is used, probably because it was the name of one of Caleb’s wives. Who was the grandmother of the man Bethlehem of Judea?
Bethlehem of Judea in the Bible was near the place where also Benjamin was born, and Rachel died. It was also the land of the Levites who served. The concubine who was killed in Gibea. Elimelech and Boaz, the father-in-law and her husband of Ruth, the father of Asahel, of Jair, the father of Elhanan. And Nebat, the father of King Jeroboam. It was attacked by the Philistines and fortified by King Rehoboam. There were sons of Bethlehem of Judea who returned after the exile.
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History of Bethlehem in the Bible
Bethlehem of Judea is mentioned several times in the Bible; the first memory of the city is found in the book of Genesis when it tells of the death of Rachel, wife of the patriarch Jacob. Immediately after Benjamin’s birth, Rachel died in Éfrata, Bethlehem of Judea (Genesis 35:19).
Éfrata in Hebrew means “fruitful/ fertile” over the years, the appellative Éfrata began to refer to Bethlehem’s inhabitants of Bethlehem, thus becoming a second name. At the time of Jesus, Bethlehem was a small and poor village, as was Nazareth. The story of Ruth and Naomi is linked to Bethlehem. Ruth gave birth to a son to whom he gave the name of Obed. Then he fathered Jesse, the father of David, whose descendants are Joseph, the putative father of Jesus.
The story of David being consecrated king by the prophet Samuel occurred in Bethlehem. The prophet Micah foretold great things for Bethlehem of Judea: “And you Bethlehem of Éfrata, so small to be among the villages of Judah, the one who is to be the ruler of Israel will come out of you for me” (Micah 5: 1). This prophecy is it was then taken up by Matthew in his Gospel confirming God’s plan for the Messiah’s.
Messiah was born in Bethlehem of Judea.
At the time of Jesus, it is good to remember that many people were waiting for the Messiah, who was to come from Bethlehem according to the prophecies. When Jesus begins His public ministry, this objection is raised: “Does the Christ come from Galilee? He does not say in the scripture: from the lineage of David and Bethlehem, the village of David, will the Christ come?”.
Bethlehem of Judea is where the Savior was born, where the angels announce the birth of the Son of God, Bethlehem is where the Magi honor the child born, and Bethlehem is the city where the prophecies come true. On the central hill of Bethlehem of Judea, an imposing complex resembling a fortress is visible today. It is here that the Christian tradition places the place of Jesus’ birth. Throughout history, as in other holy places, the basilica of the Nativity underwent various transformations, and other buildings were built in the surroundings over time.
The Star of Bethlehem of Judea
Not infrequently, the most important historical events were connected to a star. The historian Justin reports that a comet appeared at the birth of Mithridates and his accession to the throne (Historia, 37,2). Another would appear in heaven at the death of Julius Caesar (Suetonius, Julius Caesar, 88). These are legends. In the case of Yeshùa, however, many scholars hold the historical fact. They applied themselves to astronomically identify the phenomenon to determine its date.
“We have seen his star in the East” (Mt 2: 2) say the magi who go to see the child Yeshùa; “The star, which they had seen in the East, went before them until, when it reached the place where the child was, it stopped on it.”
The identification of the star of Bethelem of Judes that appeared to magicians in a comet is a hypothesis. Which dated back to Origène and was resumed after the famous appearance of Halley’s comet in 1910. This hypothesis is not likely. It is unclear how a comet can appear in the east and then disappear and reappear again in Bethlehem of Judea. A comet is visible continuously, without hiding in its path.
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The Church of Nativity
If a monument in Bethlehem attracts the attention of pilgrims and visitors of all kinds, it is the Church of the Nativity, built on the famous cave of Bethlehem of Judea. Indeed, the dimensions and interior decoration of the temple are truly spectacular and instill a feeling of grandeur and majesty.
Therefore, the interior of the Church of the Nativity is illuminated by the dim light of the lamps hanging from the ceiling. All this, combined with the lines of people waiting their turn to visit the manager, confirm that this church is a truly special place.
The Church of Nativity marks where, according to the Bible, Jesus was born. A star-shaped stone marks the exact point of birth, and everyone is waiting their turn to be able to touch this sacred place. As there is a continuous flow of faithful from all over the world, songs and prayers always echo in the cave.
What to see in Bethlehem?
If you find yourself in Bethlehem, we recommend the three most visited places from Bethlehem of Judea, which have been famous since Jesus Christ was born.
1. Announcement of Jesus’ birth
The first announcement of the birth of Christ was given to some little shepherds who were resting on a hill. A chapel was erected in this sacred place to commemorate this episode. Next to the temple, there is a cave where, according to the Bible, the event took place.
2. The most famous street in Bethlehem
Transformed into the most famous street in Bethlehem of Judea, the central avenue marks the path made by the three Magi who came from the East to worship Jesus, following the comet that guided them to the cave. The colored doors facing the street conceal shops and shops of all kinds.
3. Chapel of Nativity of Jesus Christ
This chapel is another of the most famous sacred places in Bethlehem and is built over the cave where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph hid to escape the massacre of the Innocents, wanted by King Herod. The site features 5th-century Byzantine mosaics, although the current church is from 1872.