Known originally as Ephrath, Bethlehem was a small town a few kilometres south of Jerusalem. It was already an established settlement in the time of Jacob. Not far from the town was the place where Jacob buried his wife Rachel (Gen 35:19-20). Bethlehem was situated in the tribal territory of Judah, in country that was hilly but suitable for growing grain and raising sheep (Ruth 1:1; 2:1-4; 1 Sam 17:15; Luke 2:8-15). It was the home of Israel’s greatest king, David (1 Sam 17:12; 20:6; 2 Sam 23:14-16; cf. Ruth 4:11-17), and the birthplace of the great ‘son of David’, the promised Messiah, Jesus (Micah 5:2; Matt 2:1-6; Luke 2:4,11,15; John 7:42).

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