And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child. And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2:4-7 ASV
Luke’s design in this chapter was to show how it came about that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, despite the fact of Joseph and Mary’s residence in Nazareth, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2.
The only reason cited by Luke for this journey to Bethlehem was the decree of Caesar and the necessity for Joseph’s obedience to it.
The priority of the decree as the reason for the journey is plain, for it was the only reason Luke mentioned; but there were doubtless other considerations also.
Neither Roman nor Jewish law required Mary to accompany Joseph for this registration.
As reasons why she did so:
(1) the fact of their love for each other,
(2) Mary’s desire that Joseph should be with her for her delivery, and especially
(3) the leading of the Holy Spirit; nor may we leave out of sight the presumption that Mary knew of Micah’s prophecy and, guided by God’s Spirit, moved toward fulfillment of it. Elizabeth had already identified Mary’s unborn Son as the Messiah (1:43).
However, her faith might not have been sufficiently strong to have caused her to go to Bethlehem without the occasion of Caesar’s decree.
Harmonizing with this suggestion is the fact that after going to Egypt, they intended to return to “the land of Israel”; but upon learning that another Herod was on the throne, and in obedience to God’s warning in a dream, they went instead to Galilee (Matthew 2:21-23).
Bethlehem was the historical headquarters of the stonemason’s guild, an association that included “tektons” of at least three classes of workers. These were carpenters, stonemasons, and certain kinds of farmers.
Luke omitted a number of events related by Matthew, not only because they were already well known from the “many” sources used by all the Gospels, but because they did not fit into the particular design of his Gospel.
Bethlehem … means “place of bread,” and it was appropriate that the Bread of Life should have been born there, and that the Son of David should have been born in the village so intimately associated with the history of David the shepherd king of Israel.
Who was betrothed to him … indicates that the relationship between Joseph and Mary was still that of an unconsummated marriage; although, of course, they had been living together since the command to Joseph by the angel in a dream (Matthew 1:20).
Being great with child … suggests that, since the time of delivery was near, the most urgent considerations had induced Mary to accompany Joseph on this trip.
This was the central event in world history, apparently of the most ordinary significance to anyone who might have been aware of it, but actually the pivot upon which the future of mankind turned, the cornerstone and foundation of all mortal hopes.
Both Mark and Matthew named four sons called “brothers” of Jesus; and there was utterly no indication by either sacred writer that “brothers” was to be construed otherwise than in the ordinary sense. (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).
This writer feels no compulsion toward accommodation with the superstitions that arose with reference to Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Commentators who accept the Roman Catholic view that Mary had no other children deny that the term firstborn indicates later births by her; but it seems clear to this writer that they are denying fact to support doctrine.
And while it is true that, in a technical sense, “firstborn” does not prove there were other births, it certainly does not deny the fact; and, coupled with the repeated mention of Jesus’ “brethren” in the Gospels, it is conclusive.
Allegations to the contrary are founded upon a mistaken premise that the state of virginity is holier than the state of matrimony, declared by an apostle to be: “honorable in all.”
Wrapped him in swaddling clothes.
Swaddling clothes were like this – they consisted of a square of cloth with a long, bandage-like strip coming diagonally off one corner.
The child was first wrapped in the square of cloth, and then the long strip was wound round and round about him.
And laid him in a manger … The word here denotes “not’ only a manger but, by metonymy, the stall or `crib’ (Proverbs 14:4) containing the manger.”
One cannot fail to be impressed with the intimations of Christ’s final sufferings which appear in things related to his birth.
In his death, they wrapped him in “bandages” much like swaddling clothes; and he was nailed to the “tree” much like the manger made from a scooped-out log.
There was no room in the inn.
The limited capacity of ancient inns, the influx of others for the enrollment, and the normal fluctuations in every business were probably among the conditions that made it impossible for the holy parents to have found better accommodations; but, over and beyond all this, it was the will of God that the Saviour of all people should have been born in such humble circumstances.
No room for the Son of God!
What a commentary is this upon the situation of Adam’s rebellious race when the Dayspring from on High visited our sinful world!
The King had indeed come to visit his children, but what unworthy hosts they proved to be!
Just what day of the week, month, or year did this occur?
It is simply impossible to tell, there being, in fact, some question of exactly what year it was.
Regardless of human curiosity and preoccupation of scholars with this question, “we should take our cue from the obvious lack of divine interest in the question.