We are all familiar of the story of the appearance of Angels to lowly shepherds watching over their sheep at night when Christ was born. But were these normal shepherds? Did the Angels tell them where to exactly look in Bethlehem? Or were they privy to some information we have not understood?
Prophecies of the Birth place of Messiah and Migdal Eder
Comparing the following verses, we see that the burial-place of Rachel is called the Tower of the Flock (Migdal Eder in Hebrew). This may have been called as such in remembrance of Rachel who was a shepherdess(Gen 29:9). Micah 4:8 and Gen 35:21 reference the same place – the Tower of Eder also called the Tower of the Flock. Micah is a clear reference that Messiah would be born in this place.
Mic 4:8 And thou, O tower(Migdal) of the flock(Eder), the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
Mic 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Gen 35:19-21 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
In fact the Pillar of Rachel’s grave mentioned above may have been the Tower of Edar. So why is this Tower of the Flock of any interest to us? As Micah has prophesied, the Kingdom and Dominion comes to the Tower of the Flock. 6 verses down, Micah again references the same Shepherd who will arise from Bethlehem and feed His flock, to whom all of Israel will return. These prophecies were well known at the time of Yeshua‘s birth, as we see below.
Mic 5:2-4 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
Mat 2:4-6 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Joh 7:42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
It is very likely, considering they lived in the land and knew the various landmarks, that the Tower of Edar was also well known for its significant prophecy mentioned in Micah.
Priestly Shepherds tending the sheep in the Lambing Season
We have all heard that the Shepherds in Luke’s account of the birth of Messiah, were outcasts and poor people taking care of their sheep at night. But we must ask the question of why shepherds would be out at night risking losing their livestock to predators and the like. The reason would be lambing season.
Gustaf Dalman who did extensive field work in the land of Israel before the 1st World War, mentions in his work “Arbeit und Sitte in Palastina (Work and Customs in Palestine) V1, 183” that he observed 3 lambing seasons; early lambs born in November-January, Spring Lambs born in February-March and Summer lambs born in June.
The Spring Lambing Season is of special significance to us, as that is the time of the Passover Sacrifice which required a 1-year old Lamb. For Messiah to be born in this season as the Lamb of God, would be an amazing foreshadowing of His Ministry of becoming the Passover Lamb that brings redemption to His people.
Another interesting fact is that there were Shepherds who were from the priestly families according to the Mishnah Bekhorot 5:4. Could the Shepherds of Luke 2:8 be Priests?Migdal Eder is also mentioned by name again in the Mishnah regarding lambs who were found in the vicinity being accepted as Passover offerings, making it very likely that this area was a common grazing place for Priestly-Shepherds.
Beasts which were found in Jerusalem as far as Migdal Eder and within the same distance in any direction: Males are [considered as] burnt-offerings; Females are [considered as] peace-offerings. Rabbi Judah says: that which is fit for a pesach offering, is a pesach-offerings within thirty days before the pilgrimage [of Pesach]. Mishnah, Shekalim 7:4
If the Shepherds of Luke 2:8 were in fact Priests, this may also explain how the shepherds knew where to go, as the Angels never mentioned a particular place. It is unlikely that normal shepherds would know about the exact prophecies mentioned in Micah, while Priestly Shepherds would have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.
Luk 2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Was the Tower of the Flock the place of Yeshua’s Birth?
Even though many of us have grown up seeing Yeshua being laid in a rack for fodder called a manger, the text says something else. Luke mentions that he was laid in a “Phatne” in Greek, better translated as stall, as per examples given below.
Hab 3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls(phatne):
2Ch 32:28 Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls(phatne) for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.
Luk 13:15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall(phatne), and lead him away to watering?
Compare the above to the instances of Phatne in the Birth of Messiah:
Luk 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger(phatne); because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luk 2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger(phatne).
Luk 2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger(phatne).
It is clear that the imagery of the trough is not a Biblical one, and it is more likely that Messiah was born in a stall that was made for Lambs. Could this have been connected to the Migdal Eder? Did the Tower of the Flock also consist of a “Phatne” (stall) which could hold newborn lambs for the shepherds who were out at night in lambing season? This could explain how they found Mary, Joseph and Yeshua so easily.
Migdal Eder which is connected to Prophet Micah’s prophecy, may very well be the exact place of Yeshua’s Birth. What better place and time for the Lamb of God to be born, other than in the Spring Lambing Season close to Passover at the “Tower of the Flock” and be visited first by Shepherds who were priests. With God’s track record of foreshadowings and prophetic imagery, it is not far fetched to imagine the Birth of Messiah happening in this fashion.
You may also like reading
What’s out of place in this picture of the birth of Christ
Was Christ Born in December
Changing the Feasts of God – The Sin of Jeroboam
What was celebrated on December 25th before it became Christmas?
Where did Christmas come from?
What was celebrated on December 25th before it became Christmas?