Bethlehem Today

Arno Froese

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord” (Micah 6:5).

When reading the relatively short book of Micah, we realize that the largest part is related to the prophetic Word. He reminds Israel of the event recorded in Numbers, highlighting the King of Moab and the prophet Balaam.

In the previous verse, he goes back to Israel’s exodus from Egypt: “For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” Here, all of Israel is meant:  consisting of the twelve tribes, with no distinction between Judah and Israel, as they were later identified. We know that the division between Judah (which included Benjamin and Levi) and Israel took place in approximately 975 BC. However, from God’s perspective, it’s always one nation, His chosen one. God commanded Moses to face Pharaoh with this message: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22).

How distinctly different Israel is from God’s perspective compared to the rest of the world, becomes evident when reading the event that transpired between the King of Moab, Balak, and the heathen prophet Balaam.

Bible readers are familiar with Israel’s continued rebellion, despite repeated acts of God’s supernatural intervention. For example, dividing the Red Sea; the water from the rock in the desert; the visible manifestation of the pillar of fire at night, and the cloud during the day. There was absolutely no reason that Israel should not believe in the living God, the Creator of all things. He supplied innumerable physical proofs of His existence among His people, yet they believed not.

Balaam was requested to curse the people of Israel, but we read in Numbers 23:21: “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” That is rather strange; the prophet sees no iniquity and no perverseness, and unequivocally states: “the Lord his God is with him.”

Here again, we learn of Israel’s absolute uniqueness: they are not to be compared with any other nation on planet Earth.

Another prophecy made by Balaam reaches into our times: “…the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9b). 

The descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel were later known as Jews. The first time we read the word “Jew” is Esther 2:5: “Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite.” From that point on, the terms Israel, Jew, and Hebrew are synonymous; they identify the twelve tribes of Israel.

It is the prophet Micah who pinpoints the geographic location, the birthplace of the Messiah: “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). This small village, located some 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Jerusalem, is the birthplace of Jesus Christ the Lord, the Son of God, at whose birth the angelic host proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

Bethlehem Today
Since December of 1955, Bethlehem has ceased to be part of Israel. The town is under the jurisdiction and administration of the Palestinian Authority. According to Wikipedia: “Bethlehem is a Palestinian town south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The biblical birthplace of Jesus, it’s a major Christian pilgrimage destination.”

For us Christians, it is quite discouraging to realize that Bethlehem is a Muslim city, which no longer carries a Jewish identity.

Bethlehem was also King David’s birthplace. In Psalm 132:5, he cries out to the Lord: “Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” He then identifies Bethlehem Ephratah: “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood” (v. 6).

When we ask what the future of Bethlehem is, we must go back to the beginning—totally disregarding the geopolitical realities of our days, while totally dependent on the unconditional promise God made to Abraham: “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).

Never must we allow it to enter our mind that nations, by whatever name, or leaders—be they prime ministers, presidents, chancellors, or dictators—can invalidate God’s irrevocable resolutions, which are guaranteed by the Creator Himself: the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Midnight Call - 12/2023

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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