When you picture the birth of Jesus Christ what comes to mind? Where was Jesus born? A cave converted into a stable? A manger, with Mary and Joseph looking at baby Jesus? Or maybe you imagine barnyard animals looking at the newborn baby? The Bible gives us some details concerning the birth of Jesus, but many things we do not know, such as the exact location of His birth. Let’s explore a few possible locations for the birth of Christ that I think you will find very interesting.
In the first century, homes were designed in such a way that the animal pens could be part of the “guest room”. If the town was full due to the census or a holiday, then Joseph might have been offered the use a family’s guest room. Since Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem, it might have even been a family member.
Another option that early church historians, Origen and Eusebius, mention is a cave. In the first century, a homes were built over the cave and the cave used to house that family’s animals. Today if you visit Bethlehem, you will find the Church of the Nativity built over a cave.
In my recent research, I have identified a third option, Migdal Eder is one possible location of Jesus’ birth. Migdal Eder is located a few miles south of Jerusalem on the road to Bethlehem. The Bible clearly states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but Bethlehem at the time of Jesus was larger and more spread out than modern-day Bethlehem. Today, only six miles separate Jerusalem from Bethlehem.
Migdal Eder means “tower of the flock”. You might ask, “What flock?” The answer is the flock that produced the lambs for sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem. Each day lambs were sacrificed at the Temple and during holidays, like Passover, thousands of lambs were sacrificed. The lambs sacrificed had to be without blemish, so special shepherds raised this flock of sheep.
Let yourself think about this connection for a moment. The Lamb of God, being born among the lambs that would one day become sacrifices. To me, this added a completely new dimension to the study of Jesus’ birth.
It is also interesting to note that the angel told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem and there they would find the Messiah. The shepherds did not need to ask where in Bethlehem they would find the Child, for they knew about lambs being born and raised in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11). The “sign” given by the angels, was that He would be laying in a manger and dressed in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12).
During this time of year, we talk about where Jesus was born and ponder the events surrounding the first coming of our Savior. Migdal Eder was dedicated to producing perfect lambs for the Temple sacrifices. It is our reminder that Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, came to be the final sacrifice for our sins. So this year, as you ponder the humble birth of our Savior, let’s remember that when He returns again it will be to reign as King!
May the Lord bless you as you study His first coming and look forward to His second coming!