The New Testament records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, this was a fulfillment of prophecy, as Matthew records:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:1-6 ESV

So, what is the significance of Bethlehem and why did God choose this city, and not any of the other cities in Israel, for the birthplace of the Messiah? It seems that it should be something more than just a random selection.

3 Answers 3


It is prophesied by Micah 5:2.

Perhaps you're wondering why Micah would prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in the first place.

Well, "Bethlehem" is from the Hebrew בית לחם (beit-lechem), which literally means "house of bread." The Messiah is the "bread of life" (John 6:35). I say, what better city for him to be born?

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst."

  • 2
    +1 for providing the translation. That and the explicit mention of Jesus being laid in a manger (food trough) are significant to the [Catholic and/or Orthodox] Eucharistic dogma.
    – svidgen
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 20:11
  • 2
    It seems that "David's Heir" would also be born in "David's City".
    – Narnian
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:01
  • Hey I would just like to add a point I found interesting regarding beth-lehem, as I understand it beth-lehem in aramaic and now in Arabic has the meaning "house of flesh/ meat" (beit-lahm), I think there is a clear indication to the eucharist here. Devine orchestration perhaps.
    – Matthew jk
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 3:46


The Hebrew Bible identifies Bethlehem as the city David was from and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel.

It never occurred to me before, but given that Bethlehem was pivotal in David's history, one could say that any great descendant of his came "from" Bethlehem. It seems awfully literal to place Jesus' physical birth there.

Edit: Another quote from the Wikipedia article above:

Early Christians interpreted a verse in the Book of Micah as a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. Some modern scholars question whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem, seeing the biblical stories not as historical accounts but as symbolic narratives invented to present the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David. The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John do not include a nativity narrative, but refer to him only as being from Nazareth.


There are two reasons from the Old Testament that Bethlehem would be significant as the birthplace of Jesus:-

First Samuel tells us that Bethelehem was the home town of the future King David:

1 Sam 17:12,15: Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul ... But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.

1 Sam 20:6: If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.

Then Micah 5:2 tells us that a future king would also come from Bethlehem:

Micah 5:2: 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.

Adrian Hastings says in A World History of Christianity, page 15, that some Jews looked forward to a messianic figure as a political leader of the line of David. It seems that if the Jews were to be convinced that Jesus was that Messiah, he would have to be descended from David and born in Bethlehem.

Mark, the first New Testament gospel to be written, makes no mention of Bethlehem and simply refers to Jesus of Nazareth. Early Christian converts who relied on Mark's Gospel had no reason to believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and would likely have believed that Nazareth was his birthplace.

Although its author would have known that Luke's Gospel placed the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, John appears to suggest that this was not the case.

John 7:41-42: Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

John 7:52: They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

So, we have one gospel whose author was unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and one gospel whose author seems not to have believed that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

We then have two gospels, Matthew and Luke, that place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, although the two nativity stories could hardly be more different. Uta Ranke-Heinemann says in Putting Away Childish Things, page 7, the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are, with respect to time, place, and circumstances, a collection of legends, a view shared by many other New Testament scholars. This is to say that the two authors, writing independently of each other, knew the importance of Jesus being born in Bethlehem and wrote to that effect. Matthew 2:6 is based on the words of Micah 5:2.

  • 2
    The thrust of your "answer" seems to be not to answer the question but to argue against the reliability of the gospel accounts. I understand you are either a skeptic or just not a Christian, but please address the question itself. Your interpretation is stretching quite a bit as well. Apparently, your mind is already made up. That's fine. But please be respectful on this site.
    – Narnian
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 12:07
  • Suggesting that John was unaware of Christs birthplace based on him being referred as "out of Galilee", is an logical error. -1
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:17
  • @Narnian As with 1 other answer, I referred to the prophecy in Micah; as with 1 other answer, I referred to the birthplace of David. I cited Hastings as saying that being born in Bethlehem of the line of David was significant if the Jews were to be convinced of Jesus' role on earth. Significance can not simply be assumed , so I looked for evidence for and against significance. Objectivity requires nothing less. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 19:46
  • @Marc As various scholars have pointed out, John is not just unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but actually reads as if the author believes he was born in Galilee. That is not a logic error, and does bear on the significance of Jesus' birthplace. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 19:49
  • @DickHarfield Please reference for me, out of curiousity, a scholar who holds to that opinion.
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .