The best grain in Israel grew in Bethlehem in the fields east of the city.
Bethlehem. “House of Bread”. Little Bethlehem lay only six miles south of mighty Jerusalem. It was the territory of the tribe of Judah and the ancestral home of Israel’s most beloved king. Bethlehem was David’s home and to remember David was to hope in the promise God had given him that one of his sons would sit on the throne of Israel for eternity. To remember David and Bethlehem was to look for Messiah, especially when Israel’s way grew dark, and the crushing weight of oppression fell upon her back once again.
And there was a long line of oppression. Assyrians, Persians, Greeks. Seleucids, Ptolomies, now Rome…
“But you, Bethlehem, Ephrarthah,
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 old,
from ancient times.”
It was the home of ancient kings, but in the 1st century no palaces remained. There were only common, simple homes, built over caves, inhabited by a peasant class of people who tended their animals, raised their children, and strove to remain faithful to their God. Any king born in Bethlehem at that time would have been an unusual king indeed; one who could rightly lay claim to a royal heritage but never be too far removed from his people. There would be no gilded walls, or fine bedding to receive this king. He would come into the world like any other peasant child and from the very beginnning he would dress like them, eat like them, live like them.
What kind of king is this, this king from Little Bethlehem? It is almost as if He wants to be known.