Two Bethlehems

The birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, meaning house of bread, is one of the most famous Bible Places of Bible History. So famous in fact that it has eclipsed another town that existed in Israel by the same name. The Bethlehem where the Messiah was born is in the south, near Jerusalem, in the territory of Judah. The other Bethlehem is in the north, near Nazareth, in the territory of Zebulun (see Tribal Lands).

Bethlehem in Judah

The most famous Bethlehem is located in the hill country (approximately 2,500 feet above sea level) of Judah. Situated on the main highway to Egypt (which came in very useful just after the birth of Jesus Christ), it was known variously as Ephrath (Genesis 35:16), Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2), Bethlehem-Judah (1 Samuel 17:12), and "the city of David" (Luke 2:4).

Bethlehem is first mentioned in The Bible as the place near where Rachel died:

Bethlehem was the scene of the story of Ruth, and hence the place where in later years David was born. It was at Bethlehem where David was anointed king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:4-13).

It was because of Jesus' ancestry to King David that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when He was born, at the time of the census ("enrollment"):

In an attempt to kill the newborn Christ, Bethlehem was the scene of the "slaughter of the innocents" by Herod:

Bethlehem in Zebulun

The Bethlehem in Zebulun, now a ruin, was located about 6 miles north west of Nazareth. It's mentioned specifically only once in the Bible, among a listing of cities within the tribal allotment of Zebulun during the time of Joshua:

Fact Finder: What was the name of the man in Bethlehem who married Ruth?
Ruth 4:13

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