Bethlehem in the Bible:
Gn.35:16, Rachel buried near Bethlehem;
Ruth, account of Ruth/Boaz during harvest;
1 Sm.16:1; 17:12, David born, anointed here, pastures sheep in Judean Wilderness;
2 Sm.23:13-17, David desires water from Bethlehem well during battle;
Mic.5:2, Messiah to be born here
A small village setting in rock 2,500 ft. above sea level east of the main road that ran through Judean Hill Country. Average annual rainfall allowed good agricultural growth of grain. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.” It bordered the Judean Wilderness to the east which provided pasture for sheep and goats. It was surrounded by vineyards and trees (almond, fig).
Boaz owned fields here and married Ruth who gave him Obed, David’s grandfather. Today Bethlehem encircles the site of Christ’s birth with a population of around 22,000 plus suburbs. In 135 AD Hadrian built a pagan shrine over a grotto honoring place of Jesus’ birth. Instead of eradicating the memory of Jewish Messiah, Hadrians’ actions marked the location for the Byzantine’s to build the Church of the Nativity in 326 AD. The church had 3 entrances (2 are blocked today). The remaining Byzantine door is also blocked, but the original outline of 326 is still visible with only a small entrance that prevents looters on horseback. Inside is a long corridor with 4 rows of 10 pink limestone columns 19.5 feet tall under 11 arched windows with Crusader mosaics from 1100’s AD. The cave of Jesus’ birth can be accessed under the altar down stairs on either side. A recess in the wall of the cave has a silver star on the floor marking the place of Jesus’ birth.