In Hebrew, Beth-lehem means ‘House of Bread’. The Hebrew language is read from right to left, the dots are the vowels and the big letters are the consonants. Bethlehem is written like this:
The meaning of the name Bethlehem is incredibly important to the story of Christmas but to understand why, we need to talk about a few interesting things that happened there:
Around 1100 BC, a widow named Ruth follows her Mother-in-law to her home country of Judah, and marries a man named Boaz. Boaz is named 13 times in the book of Ruth as the “Kinsman Redeemer”. This concept was a deeply held tradition in Israel, where a relative could redeem the widow and estate of his deceased relative. That meant paying off the debt and redeeming the land and the legacy of the dead relative, a picture of the Great Redeemer who’ll also come from Bethlehem years later to redeem His Bride. Ruth’s faith and courage earned her place in Messiah’s bloodline; and Bethlehem is where it all happened. Ruth and Boaz were the great grandparents of King David, a lineage that ultimately leads to Jesus.
Shepherd and King
King David grew up as a shepherd boy in Bethlehem. His remarkable journey from pasture to palace solidified Bethlehem’s reputation as the “City of David.” This lineage is essential because the Old Testament says the Messiah would hail from Bethlehem and David’s line,
“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.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she, who is in labor, bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace… (Micah 5:2-5)
Geographically, Bethlehem’s position is noteworthy. Its location, about five miles south of Jerusalem, offers stunning vistas of the surrounding valleys. The fertile lands around it are lush, fed by natural springs, making it ideal for agriculture and shepherding. In fact, Bethlehem was a city where lambs were raised to be used as sacrificial offerings in the temple in Jerusalem. It’s no surprise, then, that in the hushed corners of this modest town, the Lamb of God was born who would take away the sins of the world.
The Bread of Life
Lastly, Jesus talked about how He was the bread of life.
Then they inquired, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus replied, “This is the work of God: to believe in the One He has sent. So they asked Him, “What sign then will You perform, so that we may see it and believe You? What will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.“ “Sir,” they said, “give us this bread at all times.”
Jesus answered, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst. But as I told you, you have seen Me, and still you do not believe…Truly, truly, I tell you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh.” (John 6:28-36, 47-51)
To sum it all up:
Jesus, the Bread of Life, was born in the House of Bread. (John 6:35)
Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, was born in Bethlehem, where the sacrificial lambs were raised. (John 1:29)
Jesus the Good Shepherd, as well as the King of the Jews, was born in “the City of David“, named after King David, a shepherd turned King. (Matthew 2:1-2, John 19:20-22)
Jesus, the Bridegroom, and Kinsman Redeemer who enacts the greatest redemptive and sacrificial love story ever told, was born in Bethlehem, home of the redemptive love story of his ancestral great grandparents, Ruth and Boaz, the kinsman redeemer (Mark 2:18-20).
God often reveals His plans using the most ordinary details of life. May we be people who appreciate deep theological study, as well as the simple nourishment and delight found in a taste of bread.
Deeply delight in a slice of bread.
Bake some bread or pick a delicious loaf of bread up from the store, slather on some butter and thoroughly enjoy!
Here is an easy and quick homemade bread recipe:
Daily Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-7