Bethlehem

house of bread. (1.) A city in the "hill country" of Judah. It
was originally called Ephrath (Gen. 35:16, 19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11).
It was also called Beth-lehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2),
Beth-lehem-judah (1 Sam. 17:12), and "the city of David" (Luke
2:4). It is first noticed in Scripture as the place where Rachel
died and was buried "by the wayside," directly to the north of
the city (Gen. 48:7). The valley to the east was the scene of
the story of Ruth the Moabitess. There are the fields in which
she gleaned, and the path by which she and Naomi returned to the
town. Here was David's birthplace, and here also, in after
years, he was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:4-13); and
it was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his heroes
brought water for him at the risk of their lives when he was in
the cave of Adullam (2 Sam. 23:13-17). But it was distinguished
above every other city as the birthplace of "Him whose goings
forth have been of old" (Matt. 2:6; compare Micah 5:2). Afterwards
Herod, "when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men," sent
and slew "all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all
the coasts thereof, from two years old and under" (Matt. 2:16,
18; Jer. 31:15).

Bethlehem bears the modern name of Beit-Lahm, i.e., "house of
flesh." It is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, standing at an
elevation of about 2,550 feet above the sea, thus 100 feet
higher than Jerusalem.

There is a church still existing, built by Constantine the
Great (A.D. 330), called the "Church of the Nativity," over a
grotto or cave called the "holy crypt," and said to be the
"stable" in which Jesus was born. This is perhaps the oldest
existing Christian church in the world. Close to it is another
grotto, where Jerome the Latin father is said to have spent
thirty years of his life in translating the Scriptures into
Latin. (See VERSION T0003768.)

(2.) A city of Zebulun, mentioned only in Josh. 19:15. Now
Beit-Lahm, a ruined village about 6 miles west-north-west of
Nazareth.