By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Several years ago I had an opportunity to go to Israel. One of my favorite places is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This place is special, not only because it attests to the historical birth of Jesus Christ, but also because it testifies to His true identity:
“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” (Micah 5:2).
This prophecy identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. The uniqueness of Micah’s prophecy is fourfold: First, the Jewish chief priests and scribes recognized this passage in Micah as prophesying the Messiah (see Matthew 2:3-8). Second, this prophecy is specific (not vague). It highlights the exact city where Messiah would be born (Bethlehem Ephrathah). This was important because there were other cities named Bethlehem (see Joshua 19:15). Third, this prophecy was declared by Micah more than 700 years before Jesus Christ was born, rendering just an educated guess to be impossible. Fourth, this prophecy was just one of many Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus during His first coming.
According to Scripture, Bethlehem was more than just a place where Jesus was born; it helped to identify Him as the promised Messiah