The Migdal Eder

12 Jun
Map of Migdal Eder - 1

from Google Images

The Scriptures tell us that after their heavenly vision the shepherds discussed the matter and decided to go into Bethlehem to see what the Lord had made known unto them. First of all, according to Luke, the angel said only that the babe was born in “the city of David.” We can assume that Bethlehem is synonymous with “the city of David,” and these shepherds were acquainted with the prophecy that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah:

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. (Micah 5:2 KJV)

Nevertheless, anyone in Bethlehem who had an animal to till the field, or to milk or to shear for wool would have a manger, and every babe born in Palestine would be wrapped in swaddling clothes from its birth to about one year old. How did the shepherds know where to go to verify the sign the angel had given them? Of course, we could imagine that the angel told them where to go, and Luke failed to record what was said, but anyone is able to imagine whatever he pleases in order to cause the Scriptures to support his understanding. However, this is not a good thing to do according to Proverbs 30:6 (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; and Revelation 22:18). So, where did the shepherds go in Bethlehem, and how did they know?

Alfred Edersheim offers us a logical answer by referring to another prophecy mentioned in Micah. He claims that Jewish tradition pointed to the place where Jacob buried his wife, Rachel (Genesis 35:19-21). Jacob had set up a pillar at her gravesite, and “he spread his tent beyond the Tower of Eder,[1] i.e. the site of the pillar over Rachel’s tomb. The tradition doesn’t end there, because, according to Edersheim, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan refers to this same pillar or tower as the Tower of the Flock (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Genesis 35:21); eder (H5739) means flock or herd. Probably Jacob named it so, because the name Rachel means ewe, which is a lamb or sheep (H7354 – same as H7353)[2]. The tower, according to the Scriptures, would be the name of the Lord (Proverbs 18:10). Moreover, this tower, which Jacob built, is mentioned again in Micah and points to the Messiah:

“As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come—Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:8 NASB – emphasis mine)

Therefore, if the shepherds were aware that the Scriptures foretold the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:15), they might also be aware that the Migdal Eder bore some significance to the birth of the Messiah, and that this same location would be where they should find the babe “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” It is interesting that just before Rachel died, she named her newborn Benoni, meaning son of my sorrow. When Simeon met with Mary and Joseph in the Temple 40 days after Jesus’ birth, he mentioned that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (Luke 2:35), and the Scriptures testify of the Messiah that he would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), thus, further equating the Migdal Eder with the one who would arise to be Israel’s Ruler.


[1] That is, Migdal Eder; see HERE. The Hebrew word for tower at Genesis 35:21 is migdal (H4026).

[2] No doubt John the Baptist had this in mind when he referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). That is, Migdal Eder = Tower of the flock = God of the Lamb or the Lamb of God. Without knowing that Jesus was destined to die (cf. Luke 7:19), John had to understand the term Lamb of God as applicable to Jesus in some other manner. Jesus’ birth at the Migdal Eder is a logical conclusion.

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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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