I will preface this by referencing an article similar to this one that was published in 2019 by Decision Magazine, published thru the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Because this is not your westernized story of the “first Christmas”, it is necessary to get more than one source but it is Scriptural! I have researched this thoroughly and have a children’s book published on this topic. I believe it is crucial for the children to learn this true story so that they won’t be misguided.
NO ROOM IN THE INN?
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7 NKJV)
I had a difficult time with this verse at first: No room for them in the inn?
In high school, many of my friends were Jewish. I moved out of my house at the age of 16 (due to my stepmother). When I needed to a place to stay after having a tonsillectomy, a Jewish family took me in willingly.
So I didn’t understand this: No room for them in the inn?
Hospitality is in the Jewish culture. It is taught in Scripture. It is a “mitzvah”, a good deed to them.
She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20
Miriam (Mary) was needy, about ready to birth her Child. If anyone needed help, it would be she! Western Christians maybe think of this supposed innkeeper as being rather nasty, chasing away a woman that is about to deliver her child.
To me this sounded unlikely. This is a culture known for their hospitality! So I researched this passage and what I found was the word “kataluma” that is translated “inn” could also mean a “guest chamber”.
and she brought forth her Son—the firstborn, and wrapped Him up, and laid Him down in the manger, because there was not a place for them in the guest-chamber. (Luke 2:7 Literal Standard Version)
The literal version states this as “guest room”. The previous verse reads:
And it came to pass, in their being there, the days were fulfilled for her bringing forth, (Luke 2:6 LSV)
Where were they staying? Yosef & Miriam had to be in Bethlehem for a little while. They didn’t just get into Bethlehem and that same night the Messiah was born as is depicted in so many stories! They had been there a little while.
Bethlehem was probably packed with guests due to the census. Yosef & Miriam were staying with relatives, probably in their own ancestral home. They might have been staying in the guestroom along with possibly other relatives. The typical house was not too big. Frequently the guestroom doubled as a storage room. So it sometimes had a manger for feeding animals, when it was not being used for guests. But even this wasn’t the manger that held the Redeemer!
Now, most women who have given birth know this: there is labor that comes before the birth. You need to be in a private place. There was no room for them at that point for the birth of the baby in the guest chamber! Miriam would have been “ceremonially unclean for seven days” due to having a baby, and could not be in the guest chamber, especially if there were other guests! We tend not to think about this, about the Hebrew culture – but Miriam would have been familiar with the Torah and kept the instructions in it!
However, there was a perfect place for the Savior of the world to be born and this place had the manger! And swaddling clothes!
TOWER OF THE FLOCK
This is Migdal Eder, a watchtower over Shepherd’s Fields in a suburb, so to speak, of Bethlehem (circa. 1934). I don’t know if this is the original one at the time of Christ. Or even if it is in the same exact place. But it used to be a Tower. 2,000 years ago is a long time to affirm exactly. There were watchtowers typically over places in Israel to protect the people and the flocks.
Migdal Eder is known as the Tower of the Flock. In the Orthodox Jewish Bible it is called Migdal Eder.
8 And thou, O migdal eder (tower of the flock), hill of Bat Tziyon, unto thee shall it come, even the hammemshalah harishonah (former dominion); the mamlachah (kingdom) shall come to Bat Yerushalayim. Micah 4:8
In plain English:
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.” Micah 4:8
This Tower of the Flock is on a hill to protect people in times of attack and also the sheep. But this Tower also had one very important feature: it was used to birth the lambs, mostly in the springtime. These lambs, raised on the hillsides of Bethlehem close to Jerusalem, would be used for the Passover sacrifice!
The Levitical shepherds birthed these lambs. The lambs needed to be clean and not to have spots or blemishes to offer them to the LORD, especially for Passover. These Levitical shepherds, dressed in white, would be the “mid-wives”, so to speak, and wrap the lambs, so they would not get hurt, in swaddling clothes!
Swaddling clothes in Migdal Eder would be made out of the priest’s old linen clothes. FYI: Also, the wicks of the Menorah, the candlesticks, were made out of these, also.
This Tower of the Flock had the manger! The Textus Receptus (both years 1550 & 1894) of this verse reads ” ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ “, “in the manger”. In the Literal Standard Version, it reads:
and she brought forth her Son—the firstborn, and wrapped Him up, and laid Him down in the manger, because there was not a place for them in the guest-chamber (Luke 2:7)
Notice “the manger”. This “the” [G3588] is “the definite article”. How would the shepherds know where to find the baby? It says in “the manger” and the Levitical shepherds knew where that particular manger would be – in Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock.
Archaeologists believe that the manger was carved out of limestone. (Yosef and Yeshua were “tekton”s (G5045) which could have been a stone masons, artisans, craftman or carpenters. But in Nazareth, it was more likely they were stone masons, considering the geography.)
LEARNING THE TRUTH
It is important that the children, as well as adults, hear the best we know of the truth of Messiah’s birth, and not just fairy tales as Christmas seems to be now.
The Lamb of God was most likely born in the Tower of the Flock as prophesied in Micah 4:8. Micah also has the prophecy that the city would be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The Lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world, was birthed in the very place Passover Lambs are birthed!
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
This now accounts for how the shepherds knew where to find the baby: the manger, the swaddling clothes, and the prophesies of Micah 4:8!