In the Old Testament
The town of Bethlehem is mentioned 44 times in the Old Testament and is given the name “Bethlehem of Judea”, from the tribe to which it belonged, to distinguish it from the homonymous locality belonging to the tribe of Zebulun in Galilee.
Bethlehem is mentioned in the Bible for the first time in reference to Rachel, Jacob’s wife, who died nearby while giving birth to Benjamin, “the son of his old age”. She was buried along the road leading from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (Gen 35:19).
We should also mention the story of Elimelech and his wife Naomi, who after having residing on the plateau of Moab returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Ruth in turn married Boaz and from their offspring was born Jesse, the father of David.
One of the great glories of Bethlehem is that of having been the birthplace of David who was crowned King of Israel there in place of Saul by the prophet Samuel, by command of God (1Sam 16:1-14). David, the youngest of the brothers, was chosen through a sign from the Lord. His charm and great courage immediately made him a leading figure in the kingdom, becoming king of the Jews. For these reasons Bethlehem is still known as the “town of David”. But its true greatness lies in being the town where Jesus, Messiah and Son of God, was born.
The prophet Micah had predicted this in these terms: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Mic 5:1).
The Messiah, according to the prophet Micah, in addition to being born in Bethlehem would also be a descendant of David according to the flesh. And so in the surroundings of Bethlehem blossomed the idyll of Ruth, who lived with Booz (Ruth 2:8-22). From their marriage was born Obed, father of Jesse, who was father of David, to whose family belonged Joseph, the husband of Mary and the supposed father of Jesus.