Earlier, I mentioned that Bethlehem meant House of Bread. But I want to give some more attention to the history of this city, and why we should care.
Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, died and was buried in Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19).
One of Israel’s judges, Ibzan was born and died in Bethlehem (Jdg. 12:8-10); he had sixty children: thirty sons, and thirty daughters. He married all of them off. He was a fruitful man indeed, with a very full quiver.
Ruth, the Moabite, returns with Naomi to Bethlehem; Boaz redeems Ruth (and by extension Naomi) from her barrenness and widowhood and restores them to their inheritance (cf. Ruth 1-4).
Ruth and Boaz are the great grandparents of King David; he was born and raised in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16:4-13). By New Testament times, it is called the city of David (Lk. 2:4).
The prophet Micah once declared by divine inspiration:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.Micah 5:2
He was prophesying during a period when the kingdom of Judah was deteriorating. Her kings were not glorious, they were often not godly. The Assyrians were threatening to destroy that once great kingdom. One commentator 1Baker, David W., T. Desmond. Alexander, and Bruce K. Waltke. Obadiah: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988. Pg. 182 points out the contrast which Micah wants us to see:
The kings born in proud Jerusalem failed; the Messiah incarnated in lowly Bethlehem triumphs.Bruce Waltke
Seven centuries later, scholars and even the astute populace knew that the Messiah must come out of Bethlehem (Cf. Mt. 2:6 & Jn. 7:42). They knew that David’s promised seed would come from Bethlehem. They knew that this king would be from of old, from everlasting.
Notice the various OT events which are connected with Bethlehem. Rachel once barren, is buried there; and the city of her burial later gives rise to a judge who is clearly a very fertile fellow; Ruth comes to harvest barley seed in Boaz’s field, but ends up becoming his wife to bear his seed.
God sends his Son to be born in a city of Bread. A city where the barren become fertile. Where seed is multiplied and turned into bread. Where promised seeds sprout and begin a great harvest. Christ is the first fruits of the new creation work of God. Remember seed must be ground into flour in order for it to be then turned into bread. This promised seed would come, be ground to pulp, put through the oven of adversity, and a new loaf would come forth to feed this world. In Christ, the barren is turned to fruitfulness, and the hungry are fed.
|↑1||Baker, David W., T. Desmond. Alexander, and Bruce K. Waltke. Obadiah: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988. Pg. 182|