Monday, December 24, 2012

Bethlehem Shepherds Revisited

A recent article from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem’s website is so good I have contracted/summarized it below. It shows the unique aspect of the shepherds on that glorious day of our dear Savior’s birth. Here is the full article if you prefer (

The first public declaration of the Good News of the redemption in Messiah Yeshua is made to shepherds, common people of Israel, not to the religious or political rulers.

“The shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem, to this day, play a central role in the Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land. Countless tourists have visited the fields between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The church historian Eusebius linked these fields to a unique biblical location called Migdal Eder, which translated means the “tower of the flock”. (See Gen. 35:21)

“This area on the outskirts of Bethlehem is also mentioned in the Talmudic writings. According to the Talmud, all cattle found in the area surrounding Jerusalem ‘as far as Migdal Eder’ were deemed to be holy and consecrated and could only be used for sacrifices in the Temple, in particular for the peace and Passover sacrifices. There was thus a special, consecrated circle around the city of Jerusalem.”

“This means the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem who first heard the Good News from the angels were not ordinary shepherds but served the sacrificial system of the Temple.”

They were facilitating a very necessary reality of obedience to G-d in order for Israel to maintain fidelity to the Mosaic Covenant. And the shepherds who took care of these sacrificial sheep were the first to hear of the birth of the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world, Who is also the great Shepherd.

“The Hebrew prophet Micah also refers to Migdal Eder. ‘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)”

“Based on that prophecy, prominent Jewish writers [who did not follow Yeshua] concluded in the Midrash that from all of the places in Israel, it would be the Migdal Eder where the arrival of the Messiah would be declared first.

“That means when the angels appeared that night to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem, it was not just a declaration of the Good News to simple shepherds. It was a powerful prophetic sign to all of Israel. The news of that night must have spread like wildfire through the surrounding villages.”

Luke records: “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.” (Luke 2:17-18)

What does this all mean for us?

“First, it is always beneficial for the Church to see that Jesus did not arrive into a vacuum, but was born into an entirely Jewish context. When Christ came in the flesh, he was born first-and-foremost to the Jewish people but would then also bring his favour and good pleasure to all men. Even though the celebration of Christ’s birth has become a feast marked almost exclusively by the gentile Church, it is important for us to see it in its historic and biblical context – as a message intended to give hope to Israel. As Zacharias prophesies at the birth of John the Baptist, this all happened to “perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham…” (Luke 1:72f).”

“The angelic announcement gave these simple shepherds a profound revelation of who this Messiah would be. He was proclaimed to be both King (born in the city of David) and Priest. That he was both Christ and Lord, the son of man but also the son of God. He would be the saviour of humanity but also the shepherd of all those who would follow his voice.”

By taking care of the sheep that are used in the sacrificial system, these shepherds were participating in the very context of our redemption. They were then chosen as the first people to publically hear the declaration of the Good News that the Mosaic Covenant was foreshadowing. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you Good News 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 Messiah the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

He does everything for a reason and every detail brings Him glory.

Merry Christmas  

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