BETHLEHEM-"house of bread"-was a small village just to the east of the main road through the hill country of Judah. The village received enough rainfall to support agriculture, but it was also close enough to the Judean wilderness to encourage the raising of sheep and goats.
Patriarchal Period (Gen. 36:16-20; 48:7)
The tomb of Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, is just outside Bethlehem. Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin.
Period of the Judges
The story of Ruth and Boaz in the Book of Ruth took place here during the barley and wheat harvests.
United Kingdom (1 Sam. 16:1-13; 17:12)
David was born in Bethlehem, and Samuel anointed him here as king of Israel. David was called from tending his father's flocks to shepherd the nation Israel.
1 Samuel 17:15, 34-37
Although David was a shepherd in Bethlehem, he traveled to the Valley of Elah, where he killed Goliath.
2 Samuel 23:13-17
While fleeing from King Saul, David longed for water from the well at Bethlehem.
Divided Kingdom (Mic. 5:2)
Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the village of Bethlehem.
Life of Christ (Luke 2:1-7)
In fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Led by a "star," the Magi visited and worshiped the infant "King of the Jews" in Bethlehem.
Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid the cruelty of Herod, who killed all the babies of Bethlehem two years old and under in a vain attempt to destroy the Lord's Messiah.
RAMAH, a strategic village about six miles north of Jerusalem, guarded an important crossroads in the territory of Benjamin. The city sat on the "Way of the Patriarchs," the internal road running through the hill country of Israel, where it intersected the main east-west road that ran from the Mediterranean coast through the hill country to Jericho.
Period of Conquest (Josh. 18:25)
God allotted Ramah to the tribe of Benjamin.
Period of the Judges (Judg. 4:5)
The prophetess Deborah sat under a palm tree to judge Israel between Ramah and Bethel.
1 Samuel 1:1-20; 7:15-17
Elkanah and Hannah resided in Ramah (also called Ramathaim). The prophet Samuel was born in Ramah and lived in Ramah as an adult.
1 Samuel 8:4; 9:6, 27; 10:1
The people came to Samuel at Ramah to ask for a king. Later Samuel privately anointed Saul as king in Ramah.
United Kingdom (1 Sam. 19:18-20:1)
David fled from Saul and visited Samuel at Ramah. Saul pursued David, but God intervened to spare him.
1 Samuel 25:1; 28:3
After Samuel died, he was buried in Ramah.
Divided Kingdom (1 Kings 15:16-22; 2 Chron. 16:1-6)
King Baasha of Israel captured and fortified Ramah to block access to Jerusalem. Later the blockade was lifted and the building materials were removed by King Asa of Judah.
Assyrian Conquest (Isa. 10:29; Hos. 5:8)
The inhabitants of Ramah fled in terror when the Assyrian army marched on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Ramah fell to Sennacherib and the Assyrians.
Babylonian Captivity (Jer. 31:15; 40:1)
The Babylonians used Ramah as their "staging area" after the fall of Jerusalem. Captives were taken there for processing before being deported to Babylon. Jeremiah described the woman who watched their children being taken into captivity from Ramah as "Rachel weeping for her children."
Restoration (Ezra 2:26; Neh. 7:30)
Some of the remnant who returned from the Babylonian Captivity reinhabited Ramah.
NAZARETH, a small village on a ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley, is never mentioned in the Old Testament. The name comes from the Hebrew word for branch or shoot (netzer). Nazareth became important historically because it was the "hometown" of Jesus.
Life of Christ (Luke 1:26-33)
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth and announced that she would be the mother of Jesus.
Joseph and Mary left Nazareth and went to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
After fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod's decree to murder the children of Bethlehem, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth.
Jesus' boyhood and young manhood were spent in Nazareth, though "every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover."
After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River and temptation in the wilderness, He preached His first recorded sermon in Nazareth. The people of Nazareth responded angrily to Jesus' message and tried to kill Him by throwing Him down a cliff.
On a later visit to Nazareth Jesus performed few miracles because of the persistent unbelief of the people.
Excerpted from The New Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land, by Charles Dyer (ThM, 1979) and Gregory Hatteberg (ThM, 1992), © Moody Publishers, 2006.