Matthew specifies the birthplace of Jesus as “Bethlehem, in Judea” to distinguish it from another Bethlehem near the Sea of Galilee that was part of the tribe of Zebulun (Josh 19:15). Bethlehem is six miles south of Jerusalem and its former name was Ephrath. Bethlehem means “the house of bread” because it was a fertile land for farming and animal rearing. Jesus who said, “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven” (Jn 6:51) was born in that house of bread that produced food for the Jews.
This temporary living of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem far south from Galilee and easily accessible to Egypt for escape was the providential arrangement of God to protect the Holy Family from the snares of treacherous King of Jews, Herod the Great who wanted no other king to be born for Jews.
Old Testament events had happened in Bethlehem are:
1. Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel died on the road to Ephrath (Bethlehem) and he buried her near Ephrath where Jacob erected a pillar to mark her grave (Gen 35:19-20; 48:7).
2. Ruth lived and married Boaz here (Ruth 1:22).
3. Bethlehem was the home and city of David (1 Sam 16:1; 17:12; 20:6).
4. God had promised to David that the Messiah would come from his descendants (1 Chr 17:11-14).
5. Prophet Micah had specified that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem (Mic 5:2).
Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. Matthew identifies them in his gospel because he wrote his gospel for the Jews and Jewish Christians. We had no control over our place and time of birth. God selected them and our parents. God, who pre-planned our life in this world, has a plan for us. This is to reach Him through His Son, who is the way to the Father. Let us follow him and his path of salvation.