Why were the Shepherds the first people to find out about the birth of Jesus? And what an amazing way they found out about it! Another interesting theory….. from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2012/12/was-jesus-born-away-in-a-manger-at-migdal-eder/ Although Jesus was not born on Christmas (as the article hints at, they do admit that special sheep were raised near Bethlehem to be sacrificed at The Temple- as Jesus was)
The three wise men who likely weren’t three and didn’t show up until two years later. The star hovering just above the quaint wooden structure that looks more like an English countryside barn than the back end of an inn. The all-too-pristine setting after an impromptu birth.
I thought I had heard it all.
I even shared a take on The Christmas Message based on the traditional interpretation just a few days ago. I thought I understood the Christmas story pretty well after nearly four decades of being steeped in Christianity.
Until I heard the theory that Jesus was born away in a manger — but at Migdal Eder and not in a cramped and filthy cave behind a crowded inn.
Migdal Eder seems to have been known as the “Tower of the Flock” located not far outside Bethlehem proper. The exact location is unknown though several credible sites have been suggested. Heretical, I know. But bear with me. I think the imagery alone makes it a theory worth considering.
It was Pastor Mark Spansel who offered the theory on the birthplace of Jesus in a recent sermon at our church, although it seems to have been Alfred Edersheim (1899) who gets most of the credit for breathing relatively new life into it. In Chapter 6 of The Life and Times of Jesus Messiah, he allegedly wrote:
And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction.
Equally so, was the belief , that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of the flock.’ This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem.
A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds.
The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible.
The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before Passover–that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine [Israel] the average rainfall is nearly greatest.
Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepards watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak. [emphasis mine]
Here’s the theory in summary. There was place just outside of Bethlehem city, but still within the region commonly known as Bethlehem, where Passover lambs were kept by specially trained and purified shepherds. The lambs were born in this “tower of the flock” known as Migdal Eder under the watchful eye of the shepherds who would then inspect and either certify them for use as sacrifices in the temple or designate them to be released for common use. The new lambs would, according to some sources, even be wrapped in special swaddling clothes once certified.