Bethlehem Today

Arno Froese

And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem” (Ruth 4:11).

It was the Gentile widow Ruth who received the wonderful promise, “The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel.” These words were uttered by the people and the elders.

Later, when Boaz married Ruth and a son was born, the women of Bethlehem made this prophecy: “that his name may be famous in Israel” (verse 14b). The women enlarged the promise from “famous in Bethlehem” to “famous in Israel.”

Almost 600 years later, we read another prophecy: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). While Bethlehem is somewhat insignificant when compared to other cities in Judea, the promise is irrevocable: the Ruler of Israel shall come forth, and His “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”—meaning eternity.

Insignificant, little Bethlehem became the territory where God revealed Himself in the flesh.

Speaking of Rachel, she died when she gave birth to Benjamin. We read in Genesis 35:18: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” For Rachel, it was Benoni, “the son of my sorrow,” but Jacob changed the name to Benjamin, which means, “the son of my right hand.” Benjamin was the first tribe integrated into the tribe of Judah, hence became Jews. 

Before Jacob died and before he blessed his son, he speaks of the death of Rachel: “And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem” (Genesis 48:7). That burial place, called Rachel’s Tomb, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem. It is part of Palestinian territory and difficult for visitors to access. That is another tragedy for Israel.

In the New Testament, we read the genealogy from Abraham to Joseph, the husband of Mary. Ruth is mentioned: “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse” (Matthew 1:5).

Bethlehem Today
The Arab name for this city is Bayt Lahm, which means “house of meat.” In Hebrew it means “house of bread.” Today, this little town is located in the Judean hills some 8 kilometers south of Jerusalem. It is no longer considered part of Israel.

To visit Bethlehem as a tourist, one needs to go to an exchange point located outside the city. There you must disembark the Israeli vehicle and board a Palestinian bus or taxi, which takes you into Bethlehem.

Cities of Refuge
We know from Joshua 14:3-4, 21:1-45, and Numbers 35:6-15, six cities were ordained to be cities of refuge. Three—Hebron, Shechem, and Kedesh—are in what is now called Palestinian territory. To the east of the Jordan, there are the cities of Bezer, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Bashan; subsequently called Jordanian territory.

When one views today’s political reality, there shockingly seems to be no refuge for Israel as outlined in Holy Scripture.

Bethlehem today has a population under 30,000, of which about 17% are adherents to the Christian religion, although not necessarily believers. 

In summary, today virtually no Jews live in Bethlehem or in the six cities of refuge. For Bible believers, that sounds rather hopeless. But it is not, for the prophetic Word proclaims: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:4-7).

Midnight Call - 12/2021

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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