Bethlehem, a small town located about 5 miles southwest of Jerusalem, is best known as the place where Jesus was born (see Luke 2:4-7). Ephrath (or Ephrathah) is another name forBethlehem. The town is first mentioned in Scripture in Genesis 35:16-20. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, died in childbirth, and she “was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is,Bethlehem)” (v. 19). Many years later, when King Herod sought to kill Jesus as a young boy, he executed all the male children in and nearBethlehem“who were two years old and under” (see Matt. 2:16-18). Rachel is specifically named in the prophecy that foretold this event (see v. 18; Jer. 31:15).
Bethlehem is mentioned in other places in Scripture, as well, including the Book of Ruth (vv. 1:19, 22; 2:4; 4:11). It was King David’s hometown (see 1 Sam. 16:1-13; 20:6), so it rightly has been called the “city of David” (Luke 2:11; see also John 7:42). Remarkably and significantly, Bethlehemwas identified as the birthplace of God’s Son centuries before Jesus’ arrival on Earth as a newborn child (see Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:3-6). The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.”