Sunday, December 3, 2023

Bethlehem | A Place Where Heaven Met Earth


By: Paula Short

Several years ago, I took part in a Bible study titled the Rock, the Road, and the Rabi—By Kathie Lee Gifford; with Rabbi Jason Sobel— The tagline of the study guide appropriately says,” Come to the land where it all began.” 

I learned so many interesting things that I wanted to share some of them with you this Christmas Season. Come along with me. 

The Rock is Jesus—The Road is the Holy Land—and the Rabbi is the word of God. 

Remembering and keeping in mind that during Jesus’ time, the Bible had been written for Middle Easterners by Middle Easterners is essential. It is sometimes complicated to understand with our western mindset. 

The Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in ancient—current—Greek. 

During Jesus’ time, what we believe, is that he had been born in a stable, was actually a cave in shepherds fields. These shepherds weren’t just any shepherds—they were Levitical shepherds. 

Shepherds still use caves today, not stables as our Western minds believe. Levitical shepherds were in charge of tending the sacrificial lambs that used to be sin offerings. 

We know that shortly after Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds and announced “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12— NIV 

Of all the signs that could have been given to them, why these two? What significance could these signs have meant? 

Let’s see 

When it was time for the sheep to give birth, the shepherds would bring them into one of the caves surrounding Bethlehem to give birth. These birthing caves were kept in a state of ritual purity since the lambs were to be pure sin offerings. And many of the male lambs were used for Passover. 

Since there was no room at the local inn, Mary and Joseph used one of these caves around Bethlehem. 


Back to the shepherds. So, the significance here is that to protect the clumsy lambs, they were wrapped in swaddling cloths. They would find Jesus in a manger—in one of these caves—wrapped in swaddling cloths. This kept the lambs pure and free of blemish. 

This points to Jesus as the future sacrifice of the lamb of God. He who knew no sin to be a sin offering of the world and bring a new covenant. 

Jesus came to make this covenant with us. He was infinitely committed to us that he chose to die for us to make this covenant. 


By understanding the cultural context of Jesus' time, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the significance of his birth, death, and resurrection. Jesus was born in a cave, surrounded by Levitical shepherds who were tending to the sacrificial lambs. This points to Jesus as the future sacrifice of the lamb of God, who came to make a new covenant with us. Jesus is the Rock on which we can build our lives, the Road that leads us to salvation, and the Rabbi who teaches us the truth of God's Word. 

1 comment:

  1. Paula, this was most interesting to me to read. The book sounds like a wonderful read. We can so miss some of the cultural contexts and learning about them adds a deep richness to the Scriptures. Thank you for sharing with us all!


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