Bethlehem: A City of Death and Life

Verlyn Verbrugge

READ : Genesis 35:16-20

And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah . . . from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. (Matt. 2:6)

For some reason God chose Bethlehem as a special city in his great plan of redemption. It symbolizes a place where life triumphs over death.

Bethlehem is first associated with death. In Genesis 35 it is the city where Rachel, the favored wife of Jacob, died while giving birth. It is the city associated with Rachel (Ramah), which defeated Jewish captives trudged past on their way to Babylon (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18). And it is the city where King Herod slaughtered many baby boys in an attempt to kill the Messiah, Jesus.

But Bethlehem is also associated with life. It is the place where Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son, was born. Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” Bethlehem is where King David was born, who established God’s kingdom in Israel; God promised that David’s throne would never end (2 Sam. 7). Most significantly Jesus, the ultimate Son of David (Micah 5:2), was born there. He now reigns on the throne of heaven as the King of kings and Lord of lords, as God’s final, eternal king.

Put all these stories together and it is clear: in Bethlehem, life has triumphed over death. That resurrection theme begins in Genesis 35, where a “son of my right hand/Son of God’s right hand” was born.


Thank you, God, for choosing Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, your Son and our King. May he reign forever in our lives. Amen.