Bethlehem in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
beth'-le-hem (bethlechem; Baithleem, or Bethleem, "house of
David," or possibly "the house of Lakhmu," an Assyrian
I. Bethlehem Judah:
Bethlehem Judah, or EPHRATH or EPHRATHAH (which see) is now
Beit Lahm (Arabic = "house of meat"), a town of upward of
10,000 inhabitants, 5 miles South of Jerusalem and 2,350 ft.
above sea level. It occupies an outstanding position upon a
spur running East from the watershed with deep valleys to
the Northeast and South It is just off the main road to
Hebron and the south, but upon the highroad to Tekoa and En-
gedi. The position is one of natural strength; it was
occupied by a garrison of the Philistines in the days of
David (2 Sam 23:14; 1 Ch 11:16) and was fortified by
Rehoboam (2 Ch 11:6). The surrounding country is fertile,
cornfields, fig and olive yards and vineyards abound.
Bethlehem is not naturally well supplied with water, the
nearest spring is 800 yds. to the Southeast, but for many
centuries the "low level aqueduct" from "Solomon's Pools" in
the ArTas valley, which has here been tunneled through the
hill, has been tapped by the inhabitants; there are also
many rock-cut cisterns.
1. Early History:
In 1 Ch 2:51 Salma, the son of Caleb, is described as the
"father of Bethlehem." In Gen 35:19; 48:7 it is recorded
that Rachel "was buried in the way to Ephrath (the same is
Beth-lehem)." Tradition points out the site of Rachel's tomb
near where the road to Bethlehem leaves the main road. The
Levites of the events of Jdg 17; 19 were Bethlehemites. In
the list of the towns of Judah the name Bethlehem occurs, in
the Septuagint version only in Josh 15:57.
2. David the Bethlehemite:
Ruth, famous chiefly as the ancestress of David, and of the
Messiah, settled in Bethlehem with her second husband Boaz,
and it is noticeable that from her new home she could view
the mountains of Moab, her native land. David himself "was
the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose name
was Jesse" (1 Sam 17:12). To Bethlehem came Samuel to anoint
a successor to unworthy Saul (1 Sam 16:4): "David went to
and fro from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem"
(1 Sam 17:15). David's "three mighty men" "brake through the
host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of
Beth-lehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought
it to David" (2 Sam 23:14,16). Tradition still points out
the well. From this town came those famous "sons of
Zeruiah," David's nephews, whose loyalty and whose ruthless
cruelty became at once a protection and a menace to their
royal relative: in 2 Sam 2:32 it is mentioned that one of
them, Asahel, was buried "in the sepulchre of his father,
which was in Bethlehem."
3. Later Bible History:
After the time of David, Bethlehem would appear to have sunk
into insignificance. But its future fame is pointed at by
Micah (5:2): "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art
little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall
one come forth ...
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