“And there were in the same country
Shepherds abiding in the field,
Keeping watch over their flock by night.”
This familiar verse found in Luke 2:8 carries greater significance than realized in a casual reading of the events of the first Christmas. Referring back to the Old Testament one reads of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz located near the little town of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:22-2:3). It was the location of those fields where the ancestral home of King David was established, for Ruth and Boaz were David’s great-grandparents, necessitating the return of Mary and Joseph to register in the City of David for census purposes. The genealogy of Jesus found both in Matthew chapter one and Luke chapter three contain the names of Jesus’ earthly ancestors, which include David the King, David’s father Jesse, David’s grandfather Obed, and David’s great-grandfather Boaz. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was not a coincidence, but planned by God the Father to fulfill His eternal purpose.
With Bethlehem situated just six miles southeast of Jerusalem, the shepherds keeping watch over the flock that night included priestly shepherds keeping watch from the two-story stone tower of Edar located midway between the two cities. The priestly shepherds’ sole task was to provide lambs for the Temple sacrifices. It was these lambs that were to be without spot or blemish (Deuteronomy 17:1), therefore upon birth the lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger within the tower to calm them and keep them from injuring themselves. After Rachel’s death and her burial in Bethlehem, Jacob “journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar,” (Genesis 35:19-21).
The Perfect Lamb of God was born on that holy night in a lowly stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger, as were all the sacrificial lambs (Luke 2:1-20). It was JESUS who was sacrificed for the sins of the world, once for all time, the veil in the Temple renting from top to bottom negating any future sacrifices and giving man access into the Holy of Holies, to God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 10:1-12). The Prophet Micah wrote 700 years before the birth of Christ the announcement of the Promised Messiah would take place at the tower of Edar, known as the “tower of the flock” (Micah 4:8).