You know what I love about Christmas? Well, it is not the eggnog or Santa imposters. Nor is it the trees, stockings, watching “Home Alone” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In truth, I have never celebrated Christmas. I did not grow up with it and, here in Israel, December 25this just another day. You could go through the entire day in Tel Aviv and have no idea that it was Christmas.
But what I do love about it, is that each year, at this time with so much focus on the story of the birth of Messiah, I find myself drawn afresh to Luke, chapter two. Over the past few years, I have really fallen in love with this story. And, then, something happened last April—something possibly earth-shattering. I saw something that I will share a few details about, at the end of this series.
I urge you to read this until the end—the most exciting parts are in the middle.
But, first, there is much about the story of Yeshua’s birth that is slightly off and incorrect. Let’s set the record straight.
Ruth Needs to be Honored
The story of Yeshua’s birth really starts with a Gentile who loved the Jewish people. You know Ruth’s story. She was the Moabitess whose husband died. Instead of going back to her own people, she clung to her mother-in-law Naomi, and was eventually spotted by Boaz. Where was Boaz from? Why, Bethlehem, of course. Technically, it was Bethlehem Ephrathah.
“Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
” …Ruth … gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.’” (Ruth 4:11-17)
Ruth is the great-grandmother of David, and Yeshua is the Son of David. Those blessings over Ruth were prophetic and referred to the coming Messiah. The women referred to Obed as the guardian redeemer, just as Boaz was, and he would continue to the line of Naomi’s deceased husband, but prophetically there were speaking about the Redeemer of all redeemers, Yeshua!
I imagine those elders, who thought they were just taking care of some mundane business, suddenly felt the Spirit of God when Ruth legally was given to Boaz and they prophesied.
When they said, “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem,” surely they were prophesying where the Messiah would be born! Of course, this is confirmed by the prophet Micah, who said:
“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)
When they said, “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez,” they were saying, may your family be big and may you family line last, and they unwittingly were prophesying about the Body of Messiah that would come forth through the spiritual seed of Abraham. Wow!
God was always putting prophetic hints about the Yeshua’s mission in the Hebrew Scriptures. They played out in the lives of Moses, Joseph, Ruth, David and others, including Rachel, as we will see in part two.
Secrets Surrounding the Birth of Messiah Part 2
Now, it is interesting that the prophecy in Micah and the words in Ruth do not merely mention Bethlehem, but Bethlehem and Ephrathah. There are several theories here:
- Ephrata was a region and Bethlehem was inside Ephrathah.
- The area that became Bethlehem was once called Ephrathah.
- Bethlehem was the region and it was the smaller Ephrathah that was located within those boundaries.
What else do we know about this area called Ephrathah? Naomi and her family were from Ephrathah. Boaz was an Ephrathite. Ruth 1:2 says: “They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem.”This does suggest that they were, at least, slightly different. Otherwise, it would have been redundant. So, it could read, they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, as opposed to different people from Bethlehem; or, conversely, that they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, as opposed to Ephrathites from somewhere else.
Let’s pretend that it is #3: that Ephrathah was inside Bethlehem and that if you were an Ephrathite, then you were also a Bethlehemite. Now, outside of Yeshua, who is the most famous Bethlehemite? David, of course. And David was from Ephrathah. Now look at this passage:
“Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah.” (1 Sam. 17:12)
Is there significance that it goes Ephrathah >> Bethlehem >> Judah? We know that Judah was much bigger than Bethlehem and Bethlehem was in Judah. Thus, can we surmise that Ephrathah was an area within Bethlehem? Maybe. Dr. John Turner agrees:
Bethlehem Ephrathah, however, is a more specific designation of that area which is near but outside the city where there would be one or more threshing floor for grain, grape press for the making of wine, and olive press for the production of oil. The Ephrath would also be in or near the grazing lands for livestock (goats, sheep, oxen, and cattle).
LESSONS FROM BETHLEHEM EPHRATHAH
The Astounding Significance of the Place Where Jesus Was Born
So, David was from Bethlehem Ephrathah and, most likely, was born there. He was a type of the Messiah, a king from Bethlehem, as is our Messiah, who, as the son of David, would be born there 1,000 years later. From the time of David, it has been known as the Town of David. So how can we know where that is 2,000 years later? Indeed, there is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. But even Origen, who issued the earliest statement on the present site, was non-committal.
“In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians.”
What if Jesus was not born in the Bethlehem that is in what the call “Palestine” today? Did you know that Israelis are not even allowed to go there? What if He was born closer to Jerusalem – in Bethlehem Ephrathah? The area of Bethlehem was probably bigger then, than it is today. About 100 years after the resurrection of Yeshua, Bethlehem was destroyed by Emperor Hadrian. And it was destroyed and rebuilt several more times.
Tower of the Flock and Rachel’s Tomb
What if the traditional site is not where He was born? In order to know, we would need to find two things: Rachel’s tomb and Midgal Eder (Tower of the Flock) Why? Because we know the Messiah would be born inside of the Tower of the Flock, and, because we know that the Tower of the Flock was close to Rachel’s tomb.
So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. (Gen. 35:19-21)
Dr. John Turner tell us that
“In Jacob’s (Israel’s) time, we learn from the account of Rachel’s death that Bethlehem Ephrathah and Migdal Eder (the Tower of the Flock) are closely associated and in the exact same vicinity.”
Lesson’s from Bethlehem Ephrathah
Micah tells us not only that He would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah but also, specifically; where exactly within the city He would breathe his first breath.
“And to you, the tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, your former authority will return to you, the royal authority of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:8 VOICE)
The passage says that the one who will restore David’s kingdom (former and royal authority) will be born at Migdal Eder—that is, the Tower of the Flock.
Traditionally, Rachel’s tomb is about a kilometer north of the center of Bethlehem. If only we could find that pillar!
The Ben-Oni Blunder
Rachel gives birth on the way to Bethlehem and dies. With her dying breath, she named her son, Ben-Oni. Traditionally, we are taught, and you can see in your NIV footnote, that, in bitterness, she named him son of my trouble or sorrow. However, whoever came up with that was wrong. It is a mistranslation. In Hebrew, there are two letters that are near silent and, in Modern Hebrew, they sound almost identical: the aleph א and the ayin ע.
If Omi was spelled with the ayin, then, yes, it would mean trouble. But the translator did not realize that it was spelled with aleph, and, thus, means “son of my sexual potency” (yes, that is what the dictionary says) or seed. In other words, Rachel is prophesying that the seed of God would be planted in her future cousin, Miriam. Miriam, would, in the same geographical area, give birth to the “seed of God”—the Messiah. Jacob does not recognize this and changes his name to Benjamin.
Now you may say, but the Messiah was through Leah (Judah). Well, that is why I said future cousin and not future granddaughter. As a foreshadowing of Miriam (Mary), the Lord spoke through her a prophetic utterance regarding His seed. Rachel gives birth on the very path that Joseph and Miriam would have had to pass on their way to Bethlehem and she is buried within a few hundred meters, if that, of Yeshua’s birthplace.
Secrets Surrounding the Birth of Messiah Part 3
Luke 2:7 is one of the most famous and most misunderstood passages in the New Testament. Read it in the KJV and then CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) and look for the differences: