Bethlehem: House of bread.
1. A city in the "hill country" of Judah. It was originally called
(Genesis 35:16,19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11) It was also called Beth-lehem
(Micah 5:2) Beth-lehem-judah
(1 Samuel 17:12) and "the city of
(Luke 2:4) It is first noticed in Scripture as the place
where Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside," directly to
the north of the city
(Genesis 48:7) The valley to the east was the
scene of the story of Ruth the Moabitess. There are the fields
in which she gleaned, and the path by which she and Naomi
returned to the town. Here was David's birth-place, and here
also, in after years, he was anointed as king by Samuel
(1 Samuel 16:4-13) and it was from the well of Bethlehem that three
of his heroes brought water for him at the risk of their lives
when he was in the cave of Adullam
(2 Samuel 23:13-17) But it
was distinguished above every other city as the birth-place of
"Him whose goings forth have been of old"
(Matthew 2:6) comp.
(Micah 5:2) Afterwards Herod, "when he saw that he was mocked
of the wise men," sent and slew "all the children that were in
Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old
(Matthew 2:16,18; Jeremiah 31:15) Bethlehem bears the
modern name of Beit-Lahm, i.e., "house of flesh." It is about
5 miles south of Jerusalem, standing at an elevation of about
2,550 feet above the sea, thus 100 feet higher than Jerusalem.
There is a church still existing, built by Constantine the
Great (A.D. 330) called the "Church of the Nativity," over a
grotto or cave called the "holy crypt," and said to be the
"stable" in which Jesus was born. This is perhaps the oldest
existing Christian church in the world. Close to it is another
grotto, where Jerome the Latin father is said to have spent
thirty years of his life in translating the Scriptures into
2. A city of Zebulun, mentioned only in
(Joshua 19:15) Now Beit-Lahm,
a ruined village about 6 miles west-north-west of Nazareth.