Behold, the lamb of God. The manger in Migdal Eder
Jesus Birth Foretold
The story of Jesus birth was first foretold in Genesis three verse fifteen. God told Adam and Eve that a child would be born. This Child would crush the head of the old Serpent who tempted Eve to sin and resulted in the curse that leads to man’s extinction. Many others would foretell the coming of this Savior of man.
God Chose Jacob
I suppose God could have chosen a million different ways to bring about a remedy to mankind’s disease. But He chose Jacob, a very flawed man and his wildly dysfunctional family to bring forth the antidote. This Christmas story begins with a man, Jacob, and his family spanning 53 generations.
Beyond a brief telling of Jacob’s story, our focus will be on two of his future grandsons David and Jesus. All three men had one thing in common. The importance the little town of Bethlehem played in their life. The reason our Christmas story ends with the birth of Jesus, is because in his blood is the antidote for the curse.
Hundreds of years pass from God’s promise in Genesis, but slowly and painstakingly God, or Yahweh as He is known to the Hebrews, moves mankind closer and closer to a solution to his death problem. Yahweh makes covenants with famous men like Noah and Abraham, edging ever closer, till one day Abraham has a grandson named Jacob. Yahweh changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and transferred to him God’s promise to Abraham that the Messiah, who would save mankind from the curse of death, would come through one of his sons.
Jacob’s journey through life was a painful one and he was not a sinless man. He had many hardships and struggles, most of which he brought on himself by his poor choices. But Yahweh had a plan for Jacob to bring forth the Messiah through his seed.
Jacob Meets Rachel
While Jacob is still a young man, he cheats his brother out of his inheritance, and consequently his brother threatens to kill him. So Jacob finds himself on the run, fleeing the wrath of his brother, away from home for the first time, lonely, broke and in a strange land. He runs to his mother’s relatives in Haran. When he arrives in Haran, he goes to a well where Sheppard’s are waiting to water their flocks, and He asks them if they know his Uncle Laban. They say, “Yes, and there comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
Jacob is so ecstatic to meet his beautiful cousin Rachel, that he sobbed on her between kisses. It was love at first sight for Jacob and for Rachel too.
Jacob marries the beautiful Rachel, who he adored, but he is also tricked into marrying her sister Leah. Though he did not love Leah, Leah gave Jacob six sons. Rachel however, could not conceive, and her ache for a child, throbbed throughout the camp. Jacob then had two sons from the handmaid of Rachel, and two more sons from the handmaid of Leah, but Rachel still could not become pregnant, and her despair was almost unbearable.
Jacob’s Heart Broken in Bethlehem
Finally, with great joy, Rachel becomes pregnant and has a son named Joseph, who will become a famous character in the Bible. After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decides to move his family back to Canaan, the land of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. Along the way, Rachel conceives again, and by the time they get to a little town that becomes known as Bethlehem, Rachel’s birth pains begin, and she delivers her second son Benjamin. The labor was too much for Rachel, and she dies soon after Benjamin is born.
Jacob’s heart is broken. He mourns that he will never again hold her face in his hands, gaze upon her, feel her embrace or inhale her fragrance. He will miss her sweet words and shattered are the dreams of growing old together. His darling has died and the loving mother of his two youngest sons. He ceases his journey there, because his sorrow is too great. The Bible tells this part of the story like this.
And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, Fear not; you shall have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: (Which means son of my sorrow) but his father called him Benjamin. (Which means son of my right hand) And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar on her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
Rachel’s body was laid to rest in Bethlehem. It remains one of the Jews most holy places, and a beautiful shrine to Rachel is there today.
Ephrath means fruitful place, which is an ironic name for a burial-place. However, it was not only the place of Rachel’s departing, as the scripture puts it, but it was also a place of new life, because Benjamin began his life there.
The prophet Micah, who appeared a few generations after King David, spoke for Yahweh, and prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah. Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you, One will go forth for Me, to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
For Jacob though, this was the place of his mourning for beloved Rachel.
We know that Jacob was becoming a wealthy and prosperous man having much livestock. The Bible tells us that when Rachel died he went beyond the tower of Edar and spread his tent. Migdal Edar, as it is known, was only a 1000 paces from Bethlehem, and was a place of elevation, where Shepherd’s would go to watch over their sheep that grazed in the valley’s meadow below. It was a good vantage point, and ideal for watching over the sheep and keeping an eye on what might come down the road from Jerusalem. Several generations later, it became the place where they raised the unblemished and unspotted sheep used for Temple sacrifice.
David is Born in Bethlehem
Eleven generations would come and go till Jacob’s descendant David is born in the little town of Bethlehem. He is quite possibly born near this very spot where Jacob pitched his tent to mourn. One day David would become King of Israel, but as a young man, David was a Priestly Sheppard in the hills and valleys of Bethlehem. It was the sacred duty of a Priestly Shepherd to watch over the sacrificial sheep used in the temple worship.
A priestly Shepherd was not just any Shepherd, but a priest who knew the scriptures, for while David watched the sheep his delight was in the law of the LORD;and in his law he meditated day and night.( Psa. 1:2) Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psa 119:97) Later David references his thoughts of Yahweh while watching the sheep through the night: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (Psa. 63:6)
The little lambs of God
David must have had a true sense of sacrifice, knowing the fate of the little sheep he came to love and risk his life to protect. The daily Temple sacrifice required two unblemished sheep from Bethlehem. One sacrificed in the morning and one in the evening as a continual sacrifice before the Lord.
The Passover was an annual sacred feast that Yahweh himself instituted for Israel to commemorate their deliverance out of Egypt. During Passover in Israel, the feast required literally thousands of sheep. One lamb needed for each household in all of Israel. During the time of David’s census there were 1,300,000 men beyond age 20. This would suggest a population nearing 5 million. This demand required an estimated 250,000 sheep to accommodate the Passover annually.
Jesus born in Bethlehem
Now let’s fast forward 900 years from the days of David to see what is happening in our little village of Bethlehem. The apostle Luke writes this account.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
The fields around Bethlehem were valuable grazing lands. The Priestly Shepherds were still charged with watching over the Temple flock both day and night. They were vigilant to protect them from their natural enemies, the robber, the wolf, the bear and the lion. Migdal Edar or Tower of the Flock was constructed as a place for watching over the sheep. A room on the ground floor was designated for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. Here they kept a manger ceremonially clean due to the sacred role of these little lambs.
The Shepherd’s find the prophesied Lamb of God
And the Shepherds did find the babe, for they understood what the sign meant. They knew to look for the Messiah in the manger at the watch tower in Bethlehem. The Shepherd’s knew the prophecy of the Prophet Micah, who foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They also knew Micah foretold where to look in Bethlehem. The Messiah King would come to the “the tower of the flock.”
Micah 4:8 “And thou, O tower of the flock the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb of God would be born in the same place all unspotted lambs designated for Temple sacrifice were born.
John the Baptist, grew up knowing the stories and prophecies of his cousin Jesus. I expect they were friends and playmates like most cousins who grow up together. I like what may have been John’s nickname for Jesus for we have recorded in John 1:29 when John saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
This Lamb, Jesus, who was once born at Migdal Eder, the tower of the flock, became the sacrificial Lamb of God for Israel. One day He will return to Jacob’s troubled land and miraculously deliver his descendants. Jeremiah called this future time the day of Jacob’s trouble when Jerusalem’s enemies besiege her.
In the nick of time, The Lamb will reveal his true identity and take His rightful place, seated on His throne as the glorious Son of David, the greatest King of Israel. He will tend the sheep of the house of Jacob and all of those from the nations who have come to dwell in that house. Finally, Jacob’s heartache and troubles are comforted. No more tears will flow from Migdal Edar. The lowly Lamb, who became incarnate there, will be Jacob’s Comforter, King, Shepherd and Messiah forever and ever.
And the angel Gabriel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Praise be the name of the LORD. (Click to Source)
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