|Cities of Ancient Israel|
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Beit Lahm. Bethlehem "house of bread" is a town in Palestine, near which Jacob buried Rachel, then known as Ephrath (Gen 35:19; 48:7). It is also called Bethlehem Ephrathah (Mic 5:2), Bethlehem in Judah (1 Sam 17:12), Bethlehem of Judea (Matt 2:1), and the city of David (Luke 2:4; cf. John 7:42). The old name, Ephrath, or Ephrathah, remained long after Israel occupied Palestine (Ruth 1:2; 4:11; 1 Sam 17:12; Ps 132:6; Mic 5:2; etc.). The city overlooks the main highway to Hebron and Egypt. The site of the city is on a large limestone ridge of the Judean highland and has never been disputed.
After the conquest Bethlehem fell to Judah (Judg 17:7; 1 Sam 17:12; Ruth 1:1-2); Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel after Jephthah (Judg 12:8); Elimelech, the husband of Naomi and father-in-law of Ruth, was a Bethlehemite (Ruth 1:1-2), as was Boaz (2:1,4). David was born in Bethlehem, and here he was anointed as future king by Samuel (1 Sam 16:1); here was the well from which David's three heroes brought him water (2 Sam 23:15-16), thought to be the same three wells still existing in the N side of the village; it was the birthplace of the Messiah (Matt 2:1), and its male children were slain by order of Herod (2:16, cf. Jer 31:15; Mic 5:2).
This Bethlehem is about five miles S of Jerusalem, and elevated 2,460 feet above sea level.
In Bethlehem stands the Basilica of the Nativity, marking the traditional site of the birth of Christ.
Gen. 35:19; Matt. 2:18); Judg. 17:7; Ruth 1:1; I Sam. 17:2; 2 Sam. 23:15; Mic. 5:2; Ezr. 2:21; Neh. 7:26; Matt. 2:l ff; Luke 2:4; John 7:42.
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