Jesus is born in the town of Bethlehem
Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus decided
that a census be taken throughout the Roman Empire, including the land of
Israel. People were required to return to their ancestral homes for
registration. For Joseph and Mary, that meant leaving Nazareth, which is a town
in the northern district of Galilee, and traveling to Bethlehem, which is in the
southern region called Judah or Judea.
After they arrived in Bethlehem,
Mary was ready to give birth to Jesus. So Joseph and Mary went to a manger
because they could not find other lodging. It was a manger, where animals are
kept, that served as the humble place of birth for Jesus.
Bethlehem is an
important city for Messianic prophecy. King David, who ruled over Israel about
1,000 years before the time of Jesus, was born in Bethlehem. And the prophet
Micah, who lived about 700 years before Jesus, announced that Bethlehem would be
the birthplace for the Messiah:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though
you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will
be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” -
Micah 5:2 (NIV translation).
Ephrathah is the ancient name for the town
of Bethlehem in Judah.
Star of Bethlehem appears
(see Matthew 2:1-2) Read online
When Jesus was born, a star appeared over
Bethlehem. Scholars today speculate whether the star was a meteor, a
supernatural phenomenon, an alignment of celestial bodies, or a literal star.
Many scholars believe that Jesus was born sometime around 4 BC to 8 BC. It is
interesting to note that ancient Chinese astronomy records indicate that there
was a star-like object hovering somewhere over the Middle East for several days
in the year 5 BC, about 2000 years ago.
King Herod tries to kill the new-born King (Jesus)
(see Matthew 2:3-12) Read online
The Star of Bethlehem attracted visitors from
the East. These visitors believed that the star marked the birth of a new king.
Perhaps the visitors were familiar with the Bible’s prophecies and understood
that a Messiah King would be born in Israel and that he would have an impact on
the entire world.
But, Israel already had a ruler, King Herod the Great.
He was not a true king but had been appointed by the Romans to govern the Jews
in the land of Israel. Herod was described by Josephus, a Jewish historian who
ived during the first century, as a murderous man who ordered the deaths of many
of his own family members. When Herod found out that the visitors were hoping to
find and worship the newborn king, Herod ordered the deaths of every infant in
Bethlehem, in the hopes of killing the king that the visitors spoke