Bethlehem Ephrathah

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me

    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,

    from ancient times.”
- Micah 5:2
This week we’re going to look at this Old Testament prophecy, that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah. Today, we’re going to have some fun with “word studies.”
Word studies allow us to dig deeply into the meaning of words and their usage in the broader biblical and ancient context. We don’t do them often in sermons, but think a little shared research might be helpful for you today.
We’ll be looking at “Bethlehem Ephrathah” today.
If you want to do your own word study, you can go to This will show you the Hebrew text, transliterated Hebrew words, and an English-language translation. Clicking on one of the words will allow you to hear the word pronounced, see definitions, and (most helpfully!) find everywhere else this word is used in the Bible. We use these tools almost every week when crafting our messages and studying the Bible.
Here are some observations on “Bethlehem Ephrathah” …

  • Bethlehem literally means “house (beth) of bread (lehem).” Ephrathah literally means “fruitful.”
  • Where Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, died in childbirth, and was buried. Also the locale of the story of Ruth and the birthplace of King David. This links the town to Israel’s first king (Saul, a Benjamite) and Israel’s most famous king (David, of the tribe of Judah), to pain/sorrow as well as joy/redemption.
  • The town is also mentioned in Psalm 132, one of the most Messianic of the Psalms of Ascent.
  • The Lord speaks directly to the town, addressing not only the place but the people who live in the place. That distinction (between the land and the people who live in the land) often gets blurred in ancient languages.

Now comes the hard part … what do we do with this? Try going point-by-point digging for meaning and application.

  • Why would it mean for the Messiah to have a link to abundant provision?
  • How might the Messiah continue/finish the work of the kings who came before?
  • How could the coming of the Messiah influence our worship of God?
  • In what ways does our locale influence our particular experience of God?

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