Christmas Connection’s 2020

My wife found these two verses as we were looking into a place called Migdal Eder.  This Christmas connection adds support to the story we know and love.

Migdal Eder is a new place and term for us.  We heard about it in connection with the sheep and shepherds around Bethlehem.  In my post (Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection) we talked about Jeremiah 31:15 because of Rachel and her death and mourning.  Both of these things are part of the history of Bethlehem.  Migdal Eder was a tower that was used to guard the sheep that were used for the Temple.  This tower/cave/birthing pen/stable might have been where Jesus was born.  The reference in the Bible is Micah 4:8 and uses the term watchtower and stronghold and in 5:2 we have Bethlehem added as the location. There are many opinions and much uncertainty about Migdal Eder but I feel it has a place in the Story.   

During the study we saw Job 38:7 – “the morning stars sang together and all of the angels shouted for joy” (NIV).  This is part of the Lord’s answer to Job.  It also would fit very well into the Genesis narrative of the story of creation.  It describes the angel’s songfest for the shepherds on the first Christmas.  So, how does a creation idea work into Christmas?  Jesus’ arrival marked a new beginning for mankind and especially Israel. The Bible is the story of the children of God and our history.  First, with natural Israel and then with spiritual Israel.  The two stories need to be told together to get to all that the Lord God wants to show us.

Over the years, we have heard many facts and traditions about the swaddling clothes or strips of cloth that Mary put on Jesus and that the shepherds were to be looking for.  These two things are tied to Migdal Eder.    

They could have been at THAT stable for the lambs for the Temple.  There seems to be a few facts about the wrapping up of Temple lambs in strips of cloth from the worn-out priest robes.  Some people reference tour guides in Israel as their source of information and others quote an eighteenth-century book about a third-century oral tradition. Do your own study – the idea is nice but very few solid facts about wrapping up baby lambs.

Ezekiel 16:4 does talk about the practice of child care after birth.  The child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in strips of cloth.  This verse and story of how God treated Jerusalem can also be used as part of the Exodus story as the washing might be the trip through the Red Sea after they were delivered from Egypt. The rubbing with salt may be the forty years of wandering and the wrapping up could be the protection God gave Joshua and David.

These verses are good additions to my other Christmas Connection verses.

 

Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection

Jeremiah’s Christmas connection is found in Chapter 31:15. The Gospel of Matthew repeats the verse in Matthew 2:18.  This is the foundation for the special day called the Feast of the Innocents (December 28), which remembers the murder of the male children in Bethlehem at Herod’s command.  

Tradition has the visitation of the Magi on Christmas Day but it could have been up to two years after the angels sang the Gloria and the shepherds found Jesus in Bethlehem.  We also tend to ignore that Jesus was in a house (Matthew 2:11; not a stable) and that the Magi (maybe) went east (2:9) from Jerusalem following the star.  This argument could be pointless, but Nazareth is north and east of Jerusalem while Bethlehem is south and west from the Holy City. The terminology about the star and its behavior could come down to who is doing the translating. Okay back to the connection.

The History behind Jeremiah’s prophecy that refers to Rachel weeping for her children and that she will not be comforted was first said by the Prophet Micah.  Micah’s first mention of a ruler is in chapter 4:8 (kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem, NIV) with the mention of a watchtower of the flock.  Chapter 5:2 completes the location by predicting Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.  This is the region where the sacrificial lambs came from for the Temple. The watchtower connects the sheep, shepherds, Bethlehem, and Rachel.

Rachel and Jacob – Rachel, Bethlehem, and the mourning all started in Genesis 35:16 – 20.  This is the story of Rachel dying as she gave birth to Benjamin.  Some back story here is good.  Rachel named the boy, son of my trouble, and Jacob renamed him the son of my right hand.  It is also worthy to mention that this makes Benjamin the only child of Jacob born in Israel.

Jacob retells a version of this story to Joseph on his death bed in Genesis 48:7. He adds some details about the distance from Bethlehem, and the burial by the road, with the detail of his returning from Paddan.  Paddan is where Jacob worked for Laban. 

Jeremiah’s word recounts the pain of Rachel, as it foreshadows the loss of the children of Bethlehem. Its Christmas connection goes further as this would be the warning for Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt.

Special pic is from http://www.LumoProject.com.

Christmas Characters – Bethlehem/Joseph


Okay, I do tend to label things that are not breathing (Light and Dark) as characters, but if you look past a small group of mud houses there is much to warrant Bethlehem’s inclusion as a character and not just a setting.  Go past the town to see Judah- the land and family.  Judah as a tribe is singled out by Jacob to be the ruler of his brothers in Genesis 49: 8-12.  Moses continues that thought in Deuteronomy 33: 7. (The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon is completely inside that of Judah.)  The first mention of Bethlehem is connected to the burial of Rachel after the birth of Benjamin – Genesis 35 + 48.

Bethlehem is mentioned in twelve Old Testament books and three in the New Testament.  It is used 52 times in the NIV – 44 and 8.  It is part of three stories in Judges – Chapters 12, 17, 19.  It is central in the story of Ruth and thus becomes the birthplace of King David.  

The prophet Micah (5: 2) delivers the message that ties Bethlehem to Christmas and that verse is used in Matthew 2 by the priest to direct the Wise Men.  That chapter is very prophetic, take some time and read it.  Micah did write this word of hope during a troubled time in Israel.

The song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a real Gospel praise song if you will read all four of its verses. The link below was a good site – history, quizzes, other carols.

I would like to treat Bethlehem, now as Joseph/the Tribe of Judah.  (Please bear with this strange study method.)  If we compare and contrast Joseph with Bethlehem and Judah/Israel/religion there are several things worth noting.

  • Judah had lost its prophetic position as a ruler. (True, King Jesus was coming, but Herod had questionable Jewish heritage; Rome was in charge; the Chief Priest may have been controlling things outside the Temple).  Zerubbabel (governor in Haggai and Zechariah), a type and ancestor of Jesus, may have been the last powerful governor in Judah. 
  • Bethlehem had no room except a stable, Joseph was going to put Mary away, Jerusalem was troubled when they found out about Jesus. Jesus was not welcomed!
  • An angel had to appear to Joseph to change his mind, angels appeared to shepherds to change the mind of Bethlehem to welcome the Family.  Jerusalem, not sure it ever changed its mind.

Other thoughts about the Christmas story:

  • We honor Mary because she was blessed and God did great things for her (Luke 1: 48, 49). But I wonder who God picked first – Joseph or Mary?  Father God tends to start with the man and then add the women to complete the work.  Even though the women may be introduced first in the story and is the central character who is considered first?  Okay to answer my own question – it seems the couples are paired to complement each other. Ruth is a role model but Boaz was the only one in the family willing to marry her!  Mary was the willing vessel but Joseph was needed to care for and protect her and Jesus.
  • Considering travel and Mary’s condition after childbirth the circumcision of Jesus probably occurred at Bethlehem.  Then on the way back to Nazareth, they went to Jerusalem for the dedication of Jesus at the end of the forty days.  (The rule here is in Exodus 13, Numbers 8 and 18, the time was set in Leviticus 12: 8.) The other possibility is they stayed in Bethlehem for two years but that means Joseph still had a house and business in Nazareth.
  • When Herod searched for the baby Jesus I would have no doubt that Bethlehem would have given up the Family once they learned who the soldiers were looking for.  The shepherds and the possibility of the thirty to forty-day stay would have been mentioned to try and save their sons. It would also make sense that the “records” were searched and the death squad went to Nazareth. Herod was not just mean but crazy and jealous of his power.
  • Jeremiah 31 does not mention Bethlehem weeping for the children.  He prophesied Ramah and Rachel (yes, she was buried near there) which could extend the murders well past Bethlehem.  Rachel’s family was Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.  She was also the “loved” wife which could bring another level into this thought. 
  • I know that Joseph taking the Family to Egypt was necessary.  So, I am glad he was not like Simon Peter in his early days.  With all of the hype from the shepherds, they could have started a revolution.  That would not have been good for the Prince of Peace!

FURTHER THOUGHT – Compare Joseph (in Matthew and Luke) to Joseph in Genesis.

https://www.carols.org.uk/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm  a nice website covering Christmas carols  

Christmas Verses – The First Coming #19

Micah 5:2 NIV

“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.”

This is the verse that the priest told Herod when the Magi came to Jerusalem.  If you read all of Micah 5 you will see this verse as a promise of peace in a time of trouble.  But it also gives a picture of the ministry of Jesus (vs 4), and a look at Mary and the symbolism in Revelation 12 (vs 3).

Jeremiah, in 26:18 refers to Micah and his predications of judgement.  But all of these doom verses have hope intertwined in them, like Micah 5: 5 where “He will be their peace.”