The Birth of Jesus-When and Where was He Born
The Birth of Jesus
When and where was Jesus born?
When God created me he added to my DNA a great sense of curiosity that to this day is as active as when I was a child though fortunately less injurious!(that’s from the humorous DNA I might add!) When He saved me, my curiosity and deep desire for knowing Him and everything I could learn about Him intensified and was added to the mix that resulted in God teaching me a great deal that I in turn have been privileged to teach others.
I wrote this Bible study to piece together the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
I have taken both the Word of God, cultural and historical references to piece together the events that took place.
But the real source of inspiration came from the Holy Spirit.
The genesis of this study began as part of a greater study I had written whereby I took the gospels and studied them in the chronological order in which the events took place. Doing so made it easier to understand especially when I researched historical and cultural events that helped fill in the blanks so to speak. Furthermore, as a Sunday school teacher I reasoned that just as God had given me his best I too should give the best I can to others and it is that study that I began to teach.
Let me say this before you begin to read.
I am not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination but I love God’s Word and I read a great deal to deepen my understanding. I encourage you to do the same and just as anything else you read, you should pray and seek the answers on your own, don’t just settle for what someone wrote, seek it out on your own, study it, it is there that you will meet the Holy Spirit who is the real teacher of all God’s Word, not me.
In this presentation I want to discuss two questions…
When and where was Jesus actually born?
When was Jesus born?
Most assuredly it isn’t December 25th and while we are on the subject, the Nativity scene we all have seen every Christmas season is totally incorrect as we will see later.
The Bible, like a great mystery, will reveal great secrets and truths only if we are willing to do the work and search for these treasures.
When was Jesus born is one of those mysteries seemingly withheld, or is it…
The reason it probably doesn’t tell us the exact date in chapter and verse is that it would then become a commercialized holiday where we have exchanged the true meaning of Christ in exchange for meaningless idols, fantasies, presents and gifts … O wait, we did that anyway…Hmmm!
Most assuredly it wasn’t in December; so how do we determine when?
Implied within the words written, a student of the Bible can begin to see trends, patterns of God’s character and thinking and behavior. Intimacy breeds greater awareness of subtle points that illuminate truths and enlighten us and when you start putting these points together they draw a clear picture of what was hidden.
One of the patterns I have noticed revolves around the 3 major feasts of Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles which all play a major role throughout the Old Testament and in the life of Jesus.
Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles:
Since the Old Testament is a fore shadow of the New Testament it would make sense to see if we can tie these festivals together.
We know that the Old Testament is the New foretold and the New Testament is the Old revealed so it is from there that we begin to piece the puzzle together.
We know that in the New Testament that Jesus is the Passover Lamb given for the sins of the World and this was first shown as a fore shadow in Exodus 12 and it is from this event that Pharaoh finally agrees to let Israel free. Exodus 12:5 is a foreshadow of Jesus ( Exodus 12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats ) and Exodus 12:7 is a foreshadow of the Cross ( Exodus 12:7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.)
We know that after the events described in Exodus, God freed the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt just as we also know that when Jesus died on the Cross his sacrifice as the Passover lamb and his blood frees us from captivity of the devil. So the OT foreshadowed, the NT revealed.
We know that Jesus set the world free from sin and death by his sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God and that took place in Passover. 1Cr 5:7b ( NKJV) … For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Following their release from Egyptian bondage, 50 days later the Festival of Pentecost is given which is when the Israelites receives the Law from God at Mount Sinai. (1 st Pentecost)
It was not until God gave Israel the Law that they became a nation for all people groups need laws to be considered a nation. The 10 commandments are what established the rabble that left Egypt into the people of the Nation of Israel.
As we fast forward into the Book of Acts when the Holy Spirit is given to the church, it is that singular event that births the church just as the Law birthed a nation. This is known as Pentecost and takes place 50 days after Easter Sunday. When Jesus is raised from the dead, he ministers for 40 days then he ascends then 10 days later Pentecost happens, the promised Holy Spirit is given and this is the birthday of the church (Acts 2)
God followed a pattern. Whereas God is not predictable as to what he is going to do, he is consistent to his Word and that consistency follows a pattern and it is where we think about the next piece of the puzzle.
How does the Feast of Tabernacle fit with these other two feasts ?
Feast of Tabernacles is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (late September to late October in our calendar). It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. "You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Lev. 23:42-43).
The purpose was to remember how God brought them out of bondage and for 7 days people were to leave their homes and live in a booth constructed elsewhere.
You don’t see it in this part of the country but in large cities like NYC where there is a large Jewish population little booths are re-created during this feast as a remembrance to God’s deliverance.
The booths built are temporary simply for the feast; then they are gone.
Hoshana Rabbah is the culmination of the holy day season that begins with the month of Elul, which is the preparation month for the great feasts of the month of Tishri. Thus the process begins with self-examination and repentance, enjoined on us during Elul, heightened with Rosh Hoshana, and the trumpet warnings sounded on that day to "repent" and draw close to God. This "Feast of Trumpets" is followed by the Days of Awe, leading up to "Yom Kippur" or the "Day of Atonement," picturing judgment and cleansing -- forgiveness to the deserving and judgment upon the wicked. This is followed by the joyousness of the Feast of Tabernacle also known as Sukkot, but this time is terminated by the FINAL "judgment" of Hoshana Rabbah!
1) Month of Elul -- 30 days -- warning to examine ourselves and come to deeper repentance
2) Rosh Hashanah -- Day of Blowing -- pictures final warnings of God symbolized by trumpets of Revelation, call to repentance
3) Days of Awe -- final warnings to prepare to meet the Messiah
4) Yom Kippur -- Messiah returns, and judges the world, and marries His bride
5) Feast of Sukkot -- seven days of joyous exuberance and feasting -- symbolizing Millennial Kingdom of Messiah, and "wedding feast" of Marriage and Lamb
6) Hoshana Rabbah -- last great day of Sukkot -- symbolizes "Great White Throne Judgment, when all who ever lived receive opportunity for salvation
We read in the gospel of John that Jesus Christ went up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (John 7:1-9). Then, about the middle of the Feast, He went up to the Temple, and taught the people (v.14-30). We then read this amazing truth:
" On the LAST DAY, THAT GREAT DAY OF THE FEAST (the 7 th day, 7 also being the number indicating perfection in the Word) , Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
The "last day," the "great day of the Feast," was Hoshana Rabbah! It was the seventh or last day of the Feast of Tabernacles! Jesus therefore made this statement, about the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, on the last day of the Feast of Sukkot -- picturing the Day of Final Salvation, the Day of Great Salvation, and the Great White Throne Judgment! (Feast of Sukkot and Tabernacles are the same thing)
The main theme of the Feast is Salvation, this is an important point you need to remember.
It is no coincidence that the Feast of Tabernacle is the 7 th feast given to Israel.
Everyone still with me….? So how do we tie this together?
We know from reading Exodus and Numbers that God gave Moses highly detailed and specific instructions how to build the Tent of the Tabernacle in the desert as well as the requirements that needed to take place where he would meet Moses. The Tent of the Tabernacle , which we are not going to go into details at this time, is also a picture of Jesus Christ and if you study this in greater detail and how the 12 tribes were arranged in the desert when camped, you would see that their encampment from the air would show it to be in the shape of the Cross with the Tabernacle in the center thus foreshadowing the Cross with Jesus on it. Furthermore, Jesus' seven "I am" statements in John’s Gospel also directly relates to the seven objects described and placed in the Israelite s tabernacle during the Exodus. This shows that the God of Moses, the great “I AM” is the same as Our Lord Jesus Christ!!! Awesome!!! (If you search my web pages there is a study on this called The Four Faces of Jesus.)
This tabernacle, a temporary structure, was a fore shadow of Jesus Christ. He was not in one place but
wandered around ministering and when his time was up, he ascended into heaven. The very word, “Tabernacle” means a temporary residence as in a body – the abode of the spirit. In John’s gospel when speaking of Jesus it is interesting that John writes…
John 1:14 says , “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
In Greek the word “dwelt” means tabernacle. (Strong’s G4637 to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle to dwell).
He is telling us here, and the gospels confirmed it, that Jesus was here for just a little while, 33 years in fact and that his time or presence in bodily form was not permanent but rather temporary.
All of these points are facts.
This leads me to think that Jesus might have been born during this festival of the Feast of Tabernacle in mid-September.
Although this one verse may not be enough to convince people it bears following this train of thought and see what other clues we might gather… for those of you needing more evidence…
The Book of Luke tells us that John the Baptist was 6 months older than Jesus,
Luke 1:23-27 When his time of service was completed (Zechariah, John’s father), he returned home. (24) After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. (25) "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." (26) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, (27) to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
Luke 1:26 says, Now in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth…what does this refer to, well in the previous text it is speaking of Elizabeth and during the 6th month of her pregnancy is when Jesus is conceived. In other words, John would be 6 months older than Jesus. The book also tells us when John was conceived so it is possible to approximate the time of John's birth...and that of Jesus.
John's father, Zechariah, served as a priest in the division of Abijah, ( Luke 1:5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah ; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.)
His priestly duty entailed one week of temple service every year plus three more weeks during the three yearly festivals. Passover, Tabernacles, Pentecost which are the 3 highest festivals of the year.
His division was the eighth so his period of temple service began in the eighth week of the year, ( I Chronicles 24: 7- 10 ( 7 ) ¶ Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib , the second to Jedaiah , ( 8 ) The third to Harim , the fourth to Seorim , ( 9 ) The fifth to Malchijah , the sixth to Mijamin , ( 10 ) The seventh to Hakkoz , … the eighth to Abijah , )
The Hebrew year, being a lunar year, began in the spring around late March early April of our current calendar. The eighth week would then generally fall around the first of June the way we show the months of the year on our calendar. (Which has been changed to a Gregorian calendar.)
Luke 1:23-24 tells us that Elizabeth, John's mother, became pregnant right after Zechariah's service in the temple. This would have been mid June....approximately. This means that John the Baptist would have been born around mid March....or close to Passover so 6 months later would make it September.. .so Jesus would have been born around the middle of September.
Since I have studied the Word long enough to know that nothing happens by chance or coincidence but rather exactly as purposed by God, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to conclude that if Jesus who is the Passover lamb and was sacrificed on Passover and then gave the church His Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost and since John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” which means Jesus “ tabernacle ” temporarily with us, I believe that Jesus was b orn on the Feast of Tabernacles, it is no coincidence that Our Savior was born during a feast commemorating salvation!
It is in this 3 rd of the 3 most important high holidays that I believe God purposed for his Son to come to us for a little while that we could be saved, it follows a pattern.
But wait, there is more evidence we need to look at.
The number 3…Hmmm…when writing this God impressed me to look at this pattern as well and here is what he showed me.
God is 3 persons in 1; we use the term Trinity, Triune God, there is no way I am going to explain that one but here is how he showed me.
Father God purposed Salvation, it was His plan that a perfect lamb ’s blood would cause PASSOVER of judgment …Jesus Christ came and TABERNACLED with us and secured the purposed salvation of God …the Holy Spirit then comes and applies the SPIRIT of the Lord that Daddy God purposed and Jesus secured so that those who believe are saved!
God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit…. If Father purposed salvation and the only acceptable method would be for Jesus to be the Passover Lamb… and if the Holy Spirit came in Pentecost, then it follows that Jesus tabernacle with us for a while to secure it!!! WOW!!!
That is when He was birthed!!!
Still not convinced, ok, let’s look at more evidence.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a joyful harvest celebration, also known as a water festival. What would be more joyful than the Living Water which is Jesus!
We also know that Jesus saw himself as a seed that would produce a great harvest and this is affirmed by John 12:24 which says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. “
To say that Jesus was born during the Feast of the Tabernacle follows more closely to the patterns of God than not; since this is a festival lasting 7 days the question is on which of the 7 days was he born?
Notwithstanding the fact that 7 is the number of perfection that God repeatedly uses throughout the Bible let’s look further at the evidence and see what we can gleam.
If the Festival that year began on the 15th then Jesus would have been born on the 21st of September, the 7th day, why the 7th day?
Jews were expected to travel to Jerusalem during the 3 high holidays of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacle.
During the Feast Days the normal population of Jerusalem, 120,000, would probably swell to well over 1,000,000 folks in the city and towns nearby and since Jesus came to save what greater opportunity to do so and preach the Word than on a week where many people had travelled to the Temple.
Now if I had to make an educated guess I would say September 21th was his birthday. Mind you this is an educated guess. Why that day? Because the Feast of Tabernacles begins on the Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei and last 7 days so that would mean September 15-21th and this ties in with ( John 7:37-39 ) "On the LAST DAY, THAT GREAT DAY OF THE FEAST , Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".
When Jesus made that statement he was standing in the Temple. On the 7th day the priest, as part of the ritual celebration, would have poured out a huge vase containing water symbolizing the salvation of God and the redemption of sin, on this day, Jesus proclaimed what they had seen previously as he is saying he is the Living Water that gives life. Those present who heard Jesus say what he did in John 7:37-39 would have caught on to the tie in between his words and the priest’s pouring out of the water.
When the ceremony at the Temple took place it was on the last day that the priest would take a very large vase containing water and spill it out symbolically washing the peoples sins, what more appropriate day than this when Jesus spoke his words on very possibly his birthday symbolizing he is the Living Water who came to wash our sins away! He spoke the words from a temporary tabernacle that was his body, which would die and be a kernel sowed on the ground that God would use to overflow and bring about a harvest of which we are the fruit thereof.
This would tie in with the consistency God shows us in pattern and why I believe this is his real birthday, the Feast of Tabernacle. Then he would die as the Passover lamb on Passover, and 50 days later the Holy Spirit is given at Pentecost. This is the consistency I see of God and why I think he was born in September 21. I am also reminded that God, being three persons in one and given that 7 is the number of perfection and that he is a triune God it isn’t a stretch to see that Holy, Holy, Holy, 7+7+7 = 21.
Furthermore, since the Old Testament is a foreshadow of the New and since the Feast of the Tabernacle, a feast of salvation, which is 7 days, and since the pouring out of the water would have taken place on the LAST DAY as mentioned above this ties together.
But here is more evidence to consider.
The Feast of the Tabernacle consists of 7 parts that make up the holiday season with each part being a picture of salvation.
Jesus made the 7 “I AM” statements revealing himself to us as God and willingness to save all. It is this same “I AM” that God gave Moses to introduce himself to Moses. If the Feast of Tabernacles and the 7 days pointing to salvation are foretelling Jesus, then His 7 “I AM” statements is the tabernacle revealed as the Savior of the World! (John’s Gospel reveals the 7” I AM” Statements)
It is no coincidence that Jesus made his statement at the Temple on the 7 th day of the festival and would also show the great humor and his joy in that for his birthday rather than we giving him gifts he gives us the Greatest Gift there is, Himself! Jesus' seven "I am" statements also directly relates to the seven objects described and placed in the Israelite tabernacle during the Exodus. This shows that the God of Moses, the great “I AM” is the same as Our Lord Jesus Christ!!! Awesome!!!
1- John 6:35 and 48: "I AM the bread of life" - The Table of Shewbeard (or Showbread, depending on translation). Showbread was a symbol of fellowship between God and man. It was also called "bread of the presence". Jesus fellowshipped with man in the flesh.
2- John 8:12 and 9:5: "I AM the light of the world" - The Menorah, or the lampstand. Candles, light, Jesus, light... the correlation is fairly easily drawn. Ironically, the menorah was the ONLY source of light in the holy place in the tabernacle, just as Jesus is the ONLY source of light in the darkened world.
3- John 10:7: "I AM the gate for the sheep" - The tabernacle gate was the ONLY way to enter into the courts just as Jesus is the ONLY way to enter into heaven. Entering the gate was significant to the Israelites because it was viewed as the only way to find forgiveness and fellowship with God.
4- John 10:11-14: "I AM the good shepherd..." - The altar of incense, also called the brazen altar, sat in front of the holy of holies and separated the holy place from the holy of holies. The incense was a symbol of intercession. Christ is our intercessor as he goes on to state after the "I AM" statement, "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."
5- John 11:25: "I AM the resurrection and the life..." - The ark of the covenant was the ultimate symbol of atonement for the Israelites, just as Jesus is our ultimate source of atonement; through His resurrection, we have life!
6- John 14:6: "I AM the way, the truth, and the life..." - The altar of burnt offerings, or brazen altar of the tabernacle, was situated directly inside the gate and was where the offerings were sacrificed. This was a full sacrifice. The offerings were symbolic of the Israelites belief that the first step for a sinful man to approach a holy God was to be cleansed by the blood of an innocent creature. Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who was sacrificed such that we may approach the holy God.
7- John 15:1,5: "I AM the true vine..." - The laver, or basin, was a place for washing. This is the only part that is a bit of a stretch, but there is some correlation. First, the water as a giver of life. Second, it symbolizes the need for daily cleansing, such that we may stay in the Lord, and we may bear fruit, because as Jesus continued to state, "apart from me, you can do nothing." If we don’t abide daily with the true vine we will wither away and die. Furthermore, his blood cleanses us not just once but continually as that is the correct translation. More as a shower running that a single immersion in water.
Remember how I mentioned that the priest would pour out water on the 7th day? This ties in with Jesus’ 7th statement made on the last or 7th day of the Feast which happens to be the 7th festival God ordained.
This shows that the God of Moses, the great “I AM” is the same as Our Lord Jesus Christ!!! Awesome!!!
That is my case with the evidence I have gathered and I am convinced, without a shadow of doubt that Jesus was born during the Feast of the Tabernacle, a seven day feast which is both joyous and a feast of salvation. I am convinced as shown previously that he was born on the 7th day and when he made his statement in (John 7:37-39) which says…"On the LAST DAY, THAT GREAT DAY OF THE FEAST , Jesus stood and cried out, saying , 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" ….That he on his own birthday, the 21th, came not to receive presents but rather gift himself as the Greatest Gift of All! Himself as Savior of the World!
Now, the next question is
Where exactly was Jesus born?
Let’s start our investigation with Luke 2.
Luke 2:1 it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (2) (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) (3) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. (4) And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: ) (5) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (6) And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (7) And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (8) And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (15) And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (16) And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (17) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (19) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (20) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
The first thing I want to discuss is that Jesus’ birth was foretold in the Old Testament and that it would be in the city of Bethlehem. Joseph was in Nazareth at the time the decree was issued in verse 1.
It was Joseph’s plan to take Mary back to his family’s home in Bethlehem as indicated in verse 4. He had a specific destination and that would have been to return to his family home where he came from.
The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 80 miles and given that caravans typically travelled about 20 miles a day it would not be hard to imagine that the trip for Joseph and Mary would have taken at least 4 days if not longer. Luke 2:5 says that, “Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” In other words, she was very late into the pregnancy. Given her condition and need to rest more often than if she weren’t pregnant, it would not surprise me if the trip took longer, maybe as long as a week. We forget to easily that these people travelled by walking everywhere and this was slow going.
Joseph was no doubt older than Mary. While girls were married by 13 or 14 -- old enough at that age to bear children -- husbands on the other hand needed to be established enough to support a wife before they could enter into marriage. They were legally obligated to provide with food, clothing, and shelter.
Whereas we know he was a carpenter, the better description would be an artisan who worked with stone, wood and other materials and did so not only where he lived but in the surrounding areas as well.
He would travel to his family home and take Mary and they would raise the child.
But they didn't have to do it all by themselves. In the West, newly married couples get their own apartment or homes and live independently, but not in Palestine. In first century Galilee, however, Joseph would take Mary home to the house in which he lived with his parents, and perhaps grandparents, as well as brothers and sisters who might still be at home. Only as his own family grew, would Joseph and his family likely get their own house. This may sound very crowded and non-private to you, but it had its advantages. Instead of a young couple out on their own, in a large household, each member contributed to the economy of the family by their own work, making enough for the whole to subsist on. A couple cut off from the economy of the extended family would have to fend for themselves which would not be the case when they returned to Bethlehem.
It is in verses 6 and 7 that we need to look at very closely for it gives us cultural information that we in the West are not familiar with unless we research those issues further.
Luke 2 :6 And so it was, that, while they were there (in Bethlehem) , the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (7) And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
There are 4 very important points that I want to make here:
(1) She comes to term and Jesus is born while in Bethlehem already , it wasn’t a case that while on the road before they got to Joseph’s family’s home they had to stop so she could give birth, no, they were there already which will make even more sense as we look further into the events.
(2) She wrapped him in swaddling clothes . This is a Middle Eastern custom we are not familiar with but need to look at more carefully. When a baby was born the child would be washed with water then salt would be applied as a moisturizer to their entire body and then wrapped in linens with the entire head and body covered so that only the face would be exposed. If you can imagine the child looks like a little mummy except for the face covered. This is what it means to be in swaddling clothes.
(3) She laid him in a manger . We think of a manger as seen in the typical Nativity scene in churches throughout the country during Christmas. That is incorrect, matter of fact the entire Nativity scene with the camels, Magi, stable, shepherd present is totally wrong. A manger is a feeding trough that is hewn out, cut out, of limestone and used to feed animals, it is also as you will see symbolic of a tomb in Jesus’ case, that is the manger where Jesus first slept. Why?
(4) Because there was no room in the inn . That doesn’t mean that Mary and Joseph were turned down at the local motel/inn on the road and had to find a stable. Although we see this scene played out over and over in Nativity plays it is incorrect as what follows below will outline.
So the first questions I want to address are, where exactly was Jesus born and why was it in a manger?
Why would God allowed His only son to be born in a lowly manger? What is his purpose? Why couldn’t God arrange for Mary and Joseph to have others there to help in the childbirth?
The time and place of Jesus’ birth was not an accident it was a deliberately planned event orchestrated by God and so very holy, right and deep that studying gives me such joy, an appreciation at how awesome is our Father and reminds again and again what it says in Isaiah 55:8 ¶ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This choice was deliberate with a clear intentionality and with deep symbolic imagery and divine purpose. It is knowing this that I understand the deep meaning when John the Baptist said upon seeing Jesus, “John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
So we first have to go to Micah to begin unraveling the mystery and divine purpose of God.
Many know that Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:
Micah 5:2 "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."
This was understood by the Pharisees at the time of Jesus and is referred to in several gospel accounts (Matt 2:5, John 7:42). God arranged for Joseph and Mary to be in Bethlehem in response to the Roman census, which God, not Caesar, ordained.
So God tells us where the city would be of the Savior’s birth but then He goes on to tell us exactly where in the city the events will unfold and that is found in Micah 4:8 And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
In order to get the meaning we need to look up some words in Hebrew. You don’t need to know Hebrew as much as you do need to dig deeper and I use <"http://www.blbclassic.org">www.blbclassic.org< which is an excellent website that can show you Strong’s concordances as well as Hebrew and Greek words and pronunciations.
The phrase, “O tower of the flock” needs to be studied and doing so we will see that the word, “ O tower ”, translates as ” migdal ” and “ of the flock” translates as “eder”.
So what exactly does “Migdal Eder" refer to and what is its importance here?
Migdal Eder was a specific watchtower located northeast of Bethlehem built to protect the Temple flocks. It is a place where the sheep that were raised were kept and to be used in the animal sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. There is a cave a birthing room beneath the tower and it is here that we will be focusing on… the plot thickens!!!
Luke 2:8 needs to be added at this time, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Luke's original audience would have immediately picked up on the religious significance of the Bethlehem shepherds watching their flocks by night. Aware of the Old Testament and the Jewish Temple worship of the day, they would have known that when you said Bethlehem, you said "sacrificial lambs". The hills around Bethlehem were home to the thousands of lambs used in ritual worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Every day, according to the Torah, two lambs were required for a daily sacrifice in the Temple, meaning that 730 were needed each year plus the tens of thousands more lambs needed for Pesach (Passover) as well as for the other religious rituals. Everyone in Israel recognized Bethlehem as being synonymous with sacrificial lambs.
The twice-daily offering of a male lamb as commanded in the Torah was known as the “tamiyd’ meaning continual (found in verse 3 of Numbers 28:1-8 ( Num 28:3 And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering.) )
It was offered up as the first offering and the last offering of each day and, scripturally, is the only sacrifice that strictly called for a male lamb without spot or blemish that could not be replaced .
This is a picture of Jesus at Calvary, Our Passover Lamb.
Since the Old Testament is a foreshadow of the New, these event and rituals described in the Old are a picture of Jesus for the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a continual picture of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world . If you then study the New Testament you will see that when it says that Jesus cleanses us from sin it isn’t a one-time event it is a continual ongoing process .
The requirements of the sacrifice at Pesach (Passover) could actually be a goat or a bullock as well as a lamb (Leviticus 22:19-21). The Hebrew word tamiym , (translated for lambs "without spot or blemish") means complete, whole, entire, sound and is the same word used as "perfect" describing Noah in Genesis 6:9 and by YHVH to Abraham in Genesis 17:1. The tamiyd was sacrificed the third hour every morning (9 a.m.), the same time as when Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, was hoisted up onto the cross (Mark 15:25, Edersheim, The Temple, chapter 7, p. 108) and the ninth hour every afternoon (3 p.m ) when Yeshua was offered up as that sacrificial lamb (Mark 15:34-37, Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus 14.4.3 & 14:65), once and for all, continually every day of the year as the atonement for the ignorance of what it means to be separated from the Presence of YHVH (Exodus 29:38-42); and becoming the motivation behind Yeshua's words, " Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do " - the sacrifice for the sin of ignorance (Luke 23:33-35, Leviticus 5:17-19).
Hearing that Jesus was born in Bethlehem would have automatically triggered an image of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the choices of men which result in a separation from the Presence of the Holy One of Israel beginning with Adam in Genesis 3.
With that in mind, it's easy for us to imagine one of Luke's listeners saying, 'Of course the Lamb of God would originate in Bethlehem - all the lambs for sacrifice came from there.' It would be natural for them to pick up on this imagery.
Every event in Jesus’ life pointed toward His prophesied death. On the night of His birth, an angel appeared to the shepherds who were out in the fields, " keeping watch over their flock by night " and instructed them: " you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger " (Luke 2:8, above). The shepherds immediately responded, " Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which God has made known to us " (v. 15).
Where would they have known to go - since there were no directions provided?
Micah, the Jewish prophet who foretold of the Messiah's birth in Bethlehem, also prophesied, Micah 4:8" And you, O Tower of the Flock (in Hebrew, Migdal Eder), the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto you shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem ". Although obscure and often overlooked, Micah disclosed that the Messiah, who embodied the hope of the Kingdom, " was to be revealed from Migdal Eder - 'the Tower of the Flock'." Close by where the shepherds were camped that night, in the northern part of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the "watch-tower of the flock." This was the station where shepherds brought their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple. For animals found as far from Jerusalem to the north of Bethlehem and within that circuit on every side, the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings.
On the night in which Jesus was born, the angelic message came to those priests of the Temple whose duties had been designated, often from their youth, to " keeping watch over their flock ." These were not just any flock and herd. The shepherds , who were actually priest and familiar with rabbinical law who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task, they were priestly-shepherds. They were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged or blemished. During lambing season the sheep were brought to the tower from the fields, as the lower level functioned as the birthing room for sacrificial lambs . Being themselves under special rabbinical care, these priests would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean birthing place. Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place the lambs in the hewn depression of a limestone rock known as "the manger" and "wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes," preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves "until they had calmed down" so they could be inspected for the quality of being "without spot or blemish" (ibid, the Jewish oral tradition & Alfred Edersheim, the Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah).
There was no need for the angels to give these priestly-shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. These were the men who raised sacrificial lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple. When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of the manger could only mean the manger at the base of the Tower of the Flock, as it is found in the original Greek wording of Luke 2:7,12 and 16! You cannot explain the meaning or direction of the sign they were given or their response unless you have the right manger, the right shepherds and the proper Hebraic perspective.
Approaching this subject from the Hebrew perspective will show, that while swaddling "cloths" were used in the handling of newborn babies, swaddling "bands" (as referenced in Job 38:9) were used for subduing animals prior to sacrifice. These "swaddling bands" were strips of gauze-like cloth used to restrain a lamb being prepared for inspection before sacrifice to prevent thrashing that they not "blemish" themselves. A sacrifice had to be "bound" (Hebrew `aqad) in order to be valid. "Binding" an animal for sacrifice is the Hebrew akeida ( Hebrew Glossary and Terminology); specifically mentioned in Abraham's "binding" of Isaac for sacrifice to the Almighty in Genesis 22:9 (this particular sacrifice was, of course, never consummated). The tense used in the original Greek of Luke 2:12 shows He will be found "having been swaddled". So, it is not a stretch to see the newborn Jesus in the sign of "the manger" of the birthing room of Migdal Eder "having been swaddled" in the bands used on the tamyid lambs brought there for inspection before sacrifice.
So think about this, Jesus our High Priest is being prepared to be sacrificed moments after his birth and attended by priestly-shepherds, the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish!
Tradition would have us believe that Joseph and Mary became "stuck" in an animal stable as a means of last resort to give birth to the Son of God. However, there is no evidence found anywhere in scripture to support that assertion. As a matter of fact the opposite is true. Luke 2:6 says clearly, And so it was, that, while they were there (in Bethlehem), the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. They were already in Bethlehem when Jesus was born and almost certainly living in the home of the family of Joseph.
Now where it says, … because there was no room for them in the inn , we needs to look at this more carefully.
The Greek word used in Luke 2:7 for "inn" is “ kataluma ”, which is the same Greek word translated as "guestchamber" (will also be seen in Mark 14:14(KJV) And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber , where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? and Luke 22:11). This scripture speaks of "no room in the kataluma , guestchamber " - not "inn".
Kataluma would have been a guest room in the family home. This tells us that Mary and Joseph had arrived previously in Bethlehem, were staying at the Joseph’s family’s home in the guest room.
So why would they have left?
Here is the scriptural account: Boaz was the great-grandfather of King David (1Chronicles 2:12-15, Matthew 1:5-6). of whose lineage came Joseph, wedded to Mary, who gave birth to Jesus known the Messiah. Boaz owned a threshing floor in Bethlehem which, by right of inheritance, was handed down to succeeding generations within the lineage of David (Ruth 2:4, Ruth 3:1-2). Herod may have been King in Israel, but the Caesar (emperor) was Augustus. God through Augustus ordered a census of the entire Roman world, which meant that all people had to return to their place of origin. Joseph was a descendant of the house and lineage of David and so returned from Nazareth in Galilee, to the family home in Bethlehem in Judea (Bethlehem was the town of David). Mary, betrothed to Joseph, went with him.
According to the Torah, when a woman had an issue of blood for any reason , including childbirth , she was ritually unclean for that time and for seven days thereafter. She remained ceremonially unclean until she was purified by entering a mikvah (water immersion) in the witnessing presence of a rabbi. While she was ritually unclean, she had to live separately from the rest of the family so as not to defile the people in the household and by her presence rendering them ceremonially unclean. Therefore, during those times, the woman would leave and stay in a nearby area where she would not defile the home.
(Leviticus 15:19-23 (KJV) ¶ And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. (20) everything that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: everything also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. (21) And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. (22) And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.(23) And if it be on her bed, or on anything whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.).
If she were to give birth in the common living area, she would defile the family and make it necessary for them to be ceremonially purified by both a ritual immersion and a sacrifice; therefore, women would leave the home and give birth elsewhere. After the cessation of blood and the required time of waiting for purification, the woman and child would perform the necessary rituals of purification to be ceremonially clean and return to the household with the rest of the family. Thus, with this understanding, there being "'no place for them in the kataluma " would be regarded as completely appropriate. But this is no indication that she would be summarily ostracized to reside in a stable of animals by her family who cared for her well-being.
Just above the shepherd's field, northeast of modern Bethlehem, lie the ruins of ancient Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2); Genesis 35:19 and 48:7 both state that Rachel was buried at "Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." Ephrath or Ephrathah was the ancient name for the area that was also called Bethlehem. It seems reasonable that Joseph and Mary would have come to their family's ancestral home with hope that the Messiah would be born in the place where David was born. Joseph and Mary, coming from a family whose local roots containing the seed of royalty went back centuries, could have found her birthing place in the sacrificial birth room of the Temple.
Joseph, having grown up in Bethlehem, would have been familiar with this place and it is here that he took Mary. It would be so like the Father God to arrange it this way. It was not a dirty, stinky stable, it was a special place where sacrificial lambs were brought and the room/cave was very clean.
So God arranged the events and provided a place that was cleaner than any motel or home for the birth place of the Lamb of God. This was the BEST there was anywhere at that time!
Jesus was born in a cave or sacrificial birth room typically reserved for Temple lamb below the watchtower in Migdal Eder northeast of Bethlehem. Jesus, Our Passover Lamb, was then wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger, a trough carved out of limestone. When the angels tell the priestly-shepherd about the birth of the child they knew exactly where to go. It was there the shepherd’s who tended the Temple sheep went to pay him homage. The priestly-shepherd went to pay homage to Jesus, our high priest and Good Shepherd!!! That is deep!
Another reason that the shepherd-priests came is that in that culture with the movement of the flock the shepherds brought news from one part of the country to another which in this case is seen when Luke tells us in Luke 2 verse (17 ) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which we're told them by the shepherds. (19) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (20) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Joseph birthed the child, in a sacrificial room and placed him in a manger, a picture or foreshadow of the tomb. He and Mary were alone with Joseph acting as midwife in the cave below the watchtower at Migdal Eder. No other animals, no camels, no Magi present.
As I was writing this the Holy Spirit impressed me with the thought that the first person on earth that held Jesus was Joseph of Nazareth who placed Jesus in a manger, a tomb of sorts, a borrowed sacrificial room; the last person to hold Jesus was Joseph of Arimethea who placed Jesus in a borrowed tomb upon his death but He didn’t remain there, He is Risen!
Think about the beauty of all this…
God used Joseph of Nazareth to birth the Lamb of God in a sacrificial birthing room, “a lamb without spot or blemish” and immediately places him in a Tomb that points to the Cross.
It was Joseph, Jesus step-father, who would teach Jesus what being adopted and loved meant that Jesus can now bring us into sonship with God as his adopted children and joint heirs with Christ!
It was Joseph’s hands, hands familiar with wood, that first held the Christ child and introduced his body to wood, wood that would one day hold Jesus body up as the Passover lamb for all of us on the Cross!
It was Joseph who washed the blood off the body of Jesus at birth and wrapped him in linens that another Joseph , this one Joseph of Arimathaea , would wash the blood off of Jesus at death and wrap him in linen as well that Jesus’ blood would now wash all our sins away and we are wrapped in God’s righteousness! From His birth to death a picture of the continual working of the blood that washed us clean. We are buried in Christ! God no longer sees us, He sees Jesus’ finished work for us and we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that is the Christmas Gift God offers all!
Man, that is soooo good!
What was washed off of Him; now washes all who to Him would come that we can be covered in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!
So from birth with Joseph in a manger to death with Joseph in a tomb, the life of Jesus, the Lamb of God is seen.
The Cross of Jesus is the full expression of God’s love for us. “He is Risen!” is the affirmation that by faith we who believe are justified, payment has been made in full and we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! It is not by works, it is by faith that we receive!
In the end, where and when Jesus was born really doesn’t matter…
But wait; there is one final thought…
When Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, the teacher whom Jesus met and is seen in John 3, took the broken body of Jesus down from the cross they prepared the body for burial.
They would have cleaned the body and wrap it with burial linens not unlike those swaddling clothes he first wore when Jesus came into the world.
There in the carved out, hewn tomb they would have laid him to “rest”.
Whereas at birth his face in the manger was not covered as I explained previously, now his face would be covered with a burial linen or napkin as was the custom.
This brings us to John’s Gospel Chapter 20 verses 1-7
John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (2) So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" (3) So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. (4) Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (as a side note I find this humorous that John when writing this account made it a very important point that he was faster than his friend, Peter!) (5) He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. (6) Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, (7) and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.
Since there are no idle words in the entire Bible and since God placed them there for a reason, you are going to love this…
The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin covering his face was neatly folded, and placed at the head of the stony tomb.
Is that important? Absolutely!
Is it really significant? Oh Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the relationship between the Master and the Servant, and every Jewish boy knew what it meant.
When the servant set the dinner table for the Master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it.
The table was furnished perfectly, and then the Servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the Servant would not dare touch the table, until the master was finished.
It was not until the Master was done eating that he would rise from the table, wipes his fingers, his mouth and clean his beard and would then wad up the napkin and toss it into the table . The Servant would know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m done”.
But if the master got up from the table, and folded the napkin neatly , and laid it beside the plate , the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant,
“I’m coming back!”
Oh yes he is!!!
God bless and have a blessed day!
April 25, 2014