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Bethlehem

This article is about the city in the West Bank. For other articles subjects named Bethlehem, see Bethlehem (disambiguation).
Bethlehem (Arabic بيت لحم "Beit Lahm", "house of meat", Hebrew בית לחם, "Beit Lehem", "house of bread") is a Palestinian city in the West Bank. Under the Oslo accords, Israel handed over Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority in 1996. Bethlehem 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.

Bethlehem is important to the Christian religion and Islam, as it is the place where Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been born. Bethleham is also home to one of largest communities of Palestinian Christians remaining in the Middle East.

There is a Christian 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 Vulgate).

In the Bible

The city, located in the "hill country" of Judah, 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 birth-place, 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 birth-place of "Him whose goings forth have been of old" (Matt. 2:6; comp. 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).


Some text originally from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed




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