By Arlene Bridges Samuels, CBN Israel—
The candles are extinguished for Hanukkah 2021, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and are now replaced in many homes with the lights of glowing Christmas trees and festive decorations. Our Christian nativity scenes are on prominent display, with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger. Often lost, however, is the humble yet splendid context of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David.
Let us take a look at a significant side note of facts and details before we take an imaginative journey to the ancient town of Bethlehem where our Jewish Savior was born. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, His disciples and the Apostle Paul traveled throughout the vast Roman Empire to spread the Good News throughout the known world. Tragically, generations later, Gentile believers gradually began distancing themselves from the Jewish roots of their faith and Jesus’ Jewish ancestry. As a result, centuries of Christians found themselves vastly disconnected from the origins of their faith.
Yet, over the last few decades, Christians have made monumental strides toward rediscovering the Jewish roots of our faith. Part of the heightened awareness of Jesus’ ancient Jewish culture and setting is the fascinating connection between Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock), the shepherds in the Bethlehem fields, and the shepherd boy who would one day be crowned King David. This glistening thread of history is as wondrous as the star that later guided the wise men to the child, Jesus, who would grow up to become the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The Tower of the Flock no longer stands, but Scripture reinforces the shepherds retelling their stories for hundreds of years until a Byzantine monastery was built over the site of Migdal Eder in the fourth century. The Bible mentions Migdal Eder (or Edar) in two specific passages, Genesis 35:21 and Micah 4:8. The Hebrew word Migdal means “tower” and Eder means “flock.” This important tower stood on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, which are approximately six miles apart.
In Genesis, Jacob cast his tent at Migdal where he buried Rachel, the love of his life, who died giving birth to Benjamin. Then Micah 4:8—a prophecy written around 700 years before Jesus’ birth—reads, “And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”
As we know, shepherds and sheep occupy a prominent place throughout the Bible. They are mentioned 500 times! The beloved Psalm 23, written by the shepherd king, David, enshrines our Lord as our Shepherd along with Jesus’ own words. In John 10:11 Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He then says, “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
King David was born in the town of Bethlehem, which is known along with Jerusalem as the City of David. Since the mention of Migdal Eder appears in Genesis, David would have known about Migdal Eder from Scripture and from shepherding. There in Bethlehem, the prophet Samuel anointed him to be Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Jesus’ earthly adoptive father Joseph was of the lineage of King David, a fact that is intentionally established in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Continue Reading….