Bethlehem in Smiths Bible Dictionary

(house of bread). 1. One of the oldest towns in Israel, already in existence at the time of Jacob's return to the country. Its earliest name was EPHRATH or EPHRATAH. See Ge 35:16,19; 48:7 After the conquest Bethlehem appears under its own name, BETHLEHEM-JUDAH. Jud 17:7; 1Sa 17:12; Ru 1:1,2 The book of Ruth is a page from the domestic history of Bethlehem. It was the home of Ruth, Ru 1:19 and of David. 1Sa 17:12 It was fortified by Rehoboam. 2Ch 11:6 It was here that our Lord was born, Mt 2:1 and here that he was visited by the shepherds, Lu 2:15-17 and the Magi. Matt 2. The modern town of Beit-lahm lies to the east of the main road from Jerusalem to Hebron, six miles from the former. It covers the east and northeast parts of the ridge of a long gray hill of Jura limestone, which stands nearly due east and west, and is about a mile in length. The hill has a deep valley on the north and another on the south. On the top lies the village in a kind of irregular triangle. The population is about 3000 souls, entirely Christians. The Church of the Nativity, built by the empress Helena A.D. 330, is the oldest Christian church in existence. It is built over the grotto where Christ is supposed to have been born. 2. A town in the portion of Zebulun, named nowhere but in Jos 19:15 Now known as Beit-lahm.

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