Bethlehem-Judah is a town in Palestine, about 5 miles south
of Jerusalem, at an elevation of about 2,550 feet above mean sea
level. The town overlooks the highway to Hebron and Egypt.
The name "Bethlehem" probably means "house of bread"
or "granary", so it was used of various places. The
name draws attention to the fertility of the region.
There are other towns named Bethlehem in Israel, the most notable
other one being in the north, toward the coast, in the territory
allotted to Zebulun.
The town was also called Bethlehem-Ephrata (Micah 5:2), Bethlehem
of Judea (Matt. 2:1), and the City of David (Luke 2:4; 7:42)
Jacob buried Rachel near Bethlehem. In those days the town was
called Ephrath. See Gen. 35:19; 48:7. The names are sometimes
combined in the Bible.
After the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, Bethlehem became part
of the land allotted to Judah (Judges 17:7).
David was born in Bethlehem. He was anointed in Bethlehem by Samuel,
after God had chosen him as king. David's three heroes (2 Sam.
23:15 ff) brought him water from the well at Bethlehem. The well
now existing on the north side of the village is though to be
the same well.
Bethlehem-Judah was the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The male children
of this region were slain by Herod, who had ordered that all males
under the age of two were to be killed.