Bethlehem: Food for Thought...

Dear Child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

Although Christians have long claimed that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (based on the biblical prophecy of Micah 5:2 with Matthew 2:1-8), the rabbis have rightly pointed out that Micah 5:2 refers to the King of Israel who will reign in total triumph. Since Jesus' life ended in an ignominious death, they ask: How can this prophecy possibly refer to him?

Considering the annual worldwide attention given to that little town, let us consider this question briefly. Referring back to the passage in Micah, we read: "But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." [Micah 5:2]

Notice that not only will this coming One be victorious, but also He must be the Deity. Who but the Lord has been "from of old, from everlasting?" Only He can truly deliver His people from their enemies. Many other Scripture passages speak to this point. For example, Psalm 118:14-23: "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted: The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly..." It is the Lord Himself who accomplishes the salvation of His people.

With that joyous thought ringing in our minds, let us turn to the first biblical reference to Bethlehem. Often, the first occurrence of a name or topic in Scripture is of special significance and has a bearing on our understanding at subsequent occurrences. You will recognize this as the record of the birth of Jacob's twelfth son: "...And it came to pass as her [Rachel's] soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." [Genesis 35:18-20]

Does the name, which Jacob gave his Bethlehem born son, speak of the coming One? Benjamin, Son of My Right Hand. Is this not a subtle prophecy of the Right Hand of the Lord who will arise from the same place (as Micah foretold)?

Then what of the name Rachel chose, as she breathed her last? Benoni, Son of my Sorrow. Was ever a child given two names in greater conflict? Yet, each was true from the perspective of the chooser. Can Rachel's choice be any less prophetic than Jacob's? Does it not speak of "a man of sorrows, ...acquainted with grief" [Isaiah 53:3,4], the meek and suffering servant [Isaiah 42:1-8] of whom the prophets spoke?

Birth pangs were only the beginning of sorrows that marked his earthly life. While Jesus was yet a toddler, King Herod, seeking to slay "the king of the Jews" whom the wise men sought, slaughtered all the boys in Bethlehem of two years old and under. "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet saying, 'In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.'" [Matthew 2:17,18 quoting Jeremiah 31:15] As an adult, Jesus "was oppressed and he was afflicted, ...he was taken from prison and from judgment, ...he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken." [Isaiah 53:7,8]

Judgment? Cut off? How could this be Messiah?
But consider: Who is the Judge of Israel? Is it not the Lord Himself?
Then how is it that we read in Micah 5:1, "They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek"? The smitten Judge, of verse 1, is "He who is to be Ruler in Israel," in verse 2.

The ruler officiating at his trial asked, "Art thou the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus answered, "I am, and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." [Mark 14:61,62; cp. Psalm 110]

Though cut off, His right hand was not hindered from accomplishing the work of salvation, for all who will trust in him. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save." [Isaiah 59:1]

Benoni of Bethlehem was none the less Benjamin.
Can't you hear the message from HaShem? "The Man of Sorrows" is "the Son of My Right Hand"?

A friend

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