When Jesus made His earthly entrance as an infant, His birthplace was Bethlehem, also known as the City of David, thus meeting the Messianic Prophecy as foretold in the Old Testament. His birth setting was a stable, amidst all the animals, an understated place befitting for The Lamb of God.
Let’s take a closer look at Bethlehem, its significance—and why Jesus was born in a stable of all places!
Why Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem?
When it comes to God, there is no randomness. Every detail of His perfect plan is woven together in a story that brings Him glory, including the little, unassuming town of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem – Part of the Messianic Prophecy
Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to satisfy God’s Word. God’s Word and ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). It was somewhere between 4-6 BC when Jesus was born into the world.
700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah announced His birthplace (Bethlehem), His identity (the Ancient of Days, i.e God), His position (majestic ruler), and His purpose (peace).
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.Micah 5:2, 4-5 (ESV)
He was born and grew up just like many others around that time – with friends, family, and probably a favorite color. He’s well-known as Jesus of Nazareth, so how could He have been born 80 miles away in Bethlehem? God orchestrated the events of the time so that Christ would be born at the appointed place. Caesar Augustus, the Roman ruler called for a nationwide census for tax purposes. Each man had to return to his hometown to register. For Joseph and Mary, that was Bethlehem.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.Luke 2:4-6 (ESV)
The Significance of Jesus’ Birthplace
Why wasn’t Jesus born in Jerusalem, the Jew’s central place of worship? After all, the Jews understood the Messiah to be their long-awaited ruler. While we can never fully understand the mind of God, the small, unassuming town of Bethlehem holds special significance.
Bethlehem means “The House of Bread”
Directly translated from the Hebrew, Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus, while ministering and teaching (John 6:35), referred to Himself as the Bread of Life. Coincidence? Unlikely.
Bethlehem was King David’s hometown
David was a young shepherd boy in the fields of Bethlehem when Samuel anointed him as the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). This is significant because Isaiah, in the Old Testament (Isaiah 11) prophesied that Jesus would be born in David’s family line (the Davidic covenant). It is fitting then that the King (Jesus) who fulfilled this prophecy was born in the City of David. The same David who defeated Goliath at young age and went on to become king.
Why Was Jesus Born in a Stable?
Luke 2:7 (ESV) And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Every aspect of Christ’s birth was lowly, humble, and poor.
- Bethlehem was a small, insignificant area in Israel.
- A stable (or type of cave under a home or inn) was the lowest, most primitive form of shelter, where animals were kept.
- There was no midwife to help Mary.
- Jesus first visitors were shepherds—often considered unclean and the lowest rank of society.
There is a pattern through scripture of God using the weak and broken, the small and lowly to achieve incredible things for His glory. The incarnation of His Son was another instance where the humility and frailty of man can be contrasted against God’s incredible power, purposes, and plans! There is no part of Christ’s birth that elevates man. God alone gets the glory!
Christ left the glories of Heaven and emptied himself to take on the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). He entered this world in poverty, he had no home, no riches, no majesty. He came to be a sacrifice – He submitted to the Father’s will in baptism – and eventually He would endure an unfair trial and carry His cross to His death. But now He is exalted, and when He returns, we will see the conquering King coming in the clouds (Matt 25:21-32)!
God keeps His promises and His ways are perfect. We can’t fully understand the way He works but when we look at the birth of Jesus we are reminded that He always has a plan—a plan for our good and His glory. Nothing is ever out of His control. His Word stands forever. We can trust Him!
He was born to eventually die for us. Thank you, Lord.