MIGDAL (Tower) EDER (Flock)
THE PLACE: Bet • Lehem (House) of (Bread) HebrewJESUS, the Bread that came down from heaven “I am the Living Bread” John 6:51
“So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrata (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. Then Israel (Jacob) journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder” Genesis 35:19-21. (Emphasis added)
Ephrata was the ancient name of Bethlehem. It was there beyond the tower of Eder that Jacob buried his beloved Rachel after she died giving birth to Benjamin.
It was also the birthplace of David and where he was crowned as king of Israel by Samuel. It came to be known as the City of David.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Roman government had recently ordered everyone to their ancestral hometown for census and taxation, which is why Joseph and Mary, David’s descendants, were in Bethlehem. Jesus was a direct descendant from the line of David.
Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Micah’s prophecy was written down 700 years before the most important event in all of history: that Christ the Savior would come from the tiny town of Bethlehem in Israel.
When Herod was asked of the wise men, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), it was already known from prophecy, it was a settled conviction from the days of eternity, regarding the place in Israel where the Ruler would be born.
“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel” Matthew 2:4-6.
But to get a better understanding as to why Bethlehem was chosen, we need to go back to Micah 4:8 “And you, O tower of the flock, The stronghold of the daughter of Zion, To you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The Mishnah, Jewish sacred writings which include the Torah, describes Migdal Eder as the watchtower of the flock; the flocks that were specifically destined for the Passover sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Special shepherds, hired and taught by the Temple priests, cared for these flocks. The regulations specified that the flocks had to be within 5 miles of the Temple. The male sheep was a ‘burnt’ (sin) offering and the female was for a ‘peace’ offering.
These watchtowers of the flock (Migdal Eder) were agricultural “forts” where the shepherds would watch over their flock from the second story and where they birthed the newborn lambs in the lower portion of the towers in the fields of Bethlehem. The migdal offers its inhabitants a place of refuge and vantage.
Early Christian testimony refers to this area below Bethlehem as “the shepherds’ place” or the place of the “sheepfold.” This outlying area of Bethlehem is where the ‘angelic announcement’ took place. There are to this day numerous documented towers in the hills around Bethlehem.
The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling ‘cloths’ to protect the body of the lambs which would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just a few miles away in Jerusalem. Wrapped in swaddling cloths to keep the new lambs without spot or blemish, they would be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.
The ‘special shepherds’ keeping watch over the temple sacrifices were the ones to whom God announced, through His angel, the birth of the ultimate “sacrificial Lamb.” These priestly shepherds knew the ‘swaddling’ procedure and, when told it would be a sign, they recalled Micah 4:8 and, with haste (Luke 2:16) ran to see the newborn Jesus, the Son of God. There was no need for the angel to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. They who raised the sacrificial lambs for the Temple, knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of a manger could only mean a manger at the tower of the flock in their fields.
They made the connection to Messiah, just as it had been told them. Then, they made known everything they had seen and heard.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Emphasis added
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”
TYPOLOGY IN SCRIPTURE
A foreshadowing through people, events, or institutions of history in the Old Testament that will be fulfilled in the ministry of Christ as explained in the New Testament.
- wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger
- unblemished, spotless, without sin
- Passover sacrifices must be born within 5 miles of Jerusalem
- male sheep a ‘sin’ offering
- lambs born to die as an offering for the sins of the people – the Lamb born to die for the sins of the whole world
- a flock, God’s people are but a remnant, a small number in comparison with the many that are left to perish; they are the remnant of Jacob, a people in covenant with God, and in His favor
THE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST
Two hundred years after Micah identified Bethlehem as the Messiah’s birthplace, the Lord told Daniel the time of His death. It would be 483 years after the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity, but before an enemy army came to destroy it again (Daniel 9:24-27). This places the Messiah’s death somewhere between 32 and 70 AD according to our reckoning of time.
Daniel instructed a group of Persian priests to pass this information down from father to son, and according to tradition, set aside the bulk of his personal wealth as a gift for them to present to the Messiah when the time came for His birth. He apparently also gave them a confirming sign to look for from Numbers 24:17, later known as the Star of Bethlehem.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the descendants of these priests were now a very influential political force in Parthia (as Persia came to be known). They remained true to Daniel’s commission, and upon seeing the star set out for Jerusalem. Arriving there they sought an audience with King Herod, asking for the whereabouts of the one born to be King of Israel.
Summoning the chief priests, Herod repeated the question and was referred to Micah 5:2 where Bethlehem is identified. The Parthian priests, or Magi as we call them, went there and found the baby Jesus.
The field of candidates for Redeemer of Mankind, the Seed of the Woman, the Descendant of Abraham, the Lion of Judah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel, had been narrowed down to one. His name is Jesus, Son of God.
Just as the shepherds made known to others as it had been told them, will you make it known to others as it has been told to you?
Compiled from Jack Kelley’s www.gracethrufaith.com and our own notes from a lecture on “Migdal Eder” by Dr. Mark Bailey, DTS, President.