Jesus had just been born, and people were already looking for him. Some people, like the Magi (the wise men) were trying to pay their respects to the promised Messiah. Others, like King Herod, had more sinister motives—to eradicate anyone who would challenge his power. But where was Jesus to be found? According to a Jewish prophecy, Jesus would be found in Bethlehem, in the province of Judah (sometimes referred to as Judea). Matthew writes in chapter 2 of his Gospel:
When Herod had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:3–8)
As we mentioned earlier, Herod wasn’t actually looking for Jesus to worship him; he wanted to eliminate him.
It’s worth mentioning that we see the term Judea (or Judah) pop up quite a bit throughout the Bible. The book of Genesis tells the story of the original Judah, which was a person not a territory. Judah was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. These 12 sons and their descendants would eventually form the 12 regional tribes of Israel. Later on, even when the rest of the tribes fell in battle to their surrounding neighbors, Judah was the last Israelite stronghold before it eventually fell as well.
The tribe of Judah has always had a special place in Jewish history. There was an early prophecy that Judah’s descendants would rule over the rest of the tribes. And sure enough, King David came from the line of Judah. Moreover, Jesus himself would come from the line of Judah.
What’s interesting is that on paper Judah (the person) didn’t stand out among the 12 brothers. Even though Judah had a heightened significance in biblical history, the book of Genesis doesn’t speak very favorably about the actual person of Judah:
So, looking back, it’s sort of surprising to discover that this would be the lineage that God would choose to bring salvation to the world. This was the family Jesus came from. But that actually turns out to be a major biblical theme: God’s blessings come from unlikely places.
Think about these parts of the Christmas story:
This Christmas, remember that wherever you come from and whatever you have in your past, God has used the most unlikely people throughout history to accomplish his purposes. So take heart!
Heavenly Father, it’s easy for us to dwell on the past, whether we focus on the stories that were handed to us or the sins that are part of our own choosing. Thank you for showing us that you’ve used all kinds of people to help shape your story. Use us for your purposes as well. Amen.
Jesus had just been born, and people were already looking for him. Some people, like the Magi (the wise men) were trying to pay their respects to the promised Messiah. Others, like King Herod, had more sinister motives—to eradicate anyone who would challenge his power. But where was Jesus to be found?