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Sermon No: 1088-The miracle of Jesus' birth and Migdal Eder  (Christmas)


SERMON TOPIC: The miracle of Jesus birth and Migdal Eder (Christmas)

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 25 December 2012


Sermon synopsis: Let's look at some of the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.
(1) Miracle of announcement
(2) Miracle in the heavens
(3) Miracle of Jesus’ lineage
(4) Miracle of timing
(5) Miracle of virgin birth
(6) Miracle of census
(7) Miracle of birthplace (and a look at the significance of Migdal Eder)

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We saw last year how some Christians refuse to celebrate Christmas, because of doubts about the accuracy of the Dec 25th date and because of claims that the Bible tells us only to remember Jesus’ death and not his birth. 1

But we saw that the very birth of our Saviour was celebrated in Scripture.

Heb 1:6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

1 "http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=787">http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=787


The angels celebrate Jesus’ birthday by worshipping him.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests. (Lk 2:14)

The shepherds rejoice at the birth of Jesus. (Luke 2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…)

Simeon rejoices at the birth of the Messiah. (Lk 2:29-32).

And Anna too rejoices at the birth of the Saviour (Luke 2:36- 38 There was also a prophetess, Anna… Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.)


The Magi (wise men) travel from far to find the newborn king.

And upon finding him, they worship him and present him with gifts:

Matt 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

And so while some say that we are not instructed to celebrate Christ’s birth, the reality is that in the Scripture the shepherds celebrated his birth as did the very angels in the fields of Bethlehem. So did Simeon and Anna as well as the Magi who brought gifts to honour the king.


Jesus was born between 8 to 5 BC.

How can Jesus be born in BC (Before Christ)?

The calendar which splits time between BC and AD (Anno Domini or Latin for “Year of Our Lord”) was not adapted until AD 525 when a monk named Dionysius Exiguus prepared a standardised calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, he missed the real BC/ AD split by at least 6 years! He also skipped the year zero, going straight from 1 BC to AD 1.


Luke states that Jesus was “about thirty years old” (Luke 3:23) during the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign (Luke 3:1). Tiberius began to reign with Augustus in AD 11 or 12. The 15th year of his reign would then be AD 26 or 27, making Jesus’ birth between 8 to 4 BC.


Josephus records that Herod the Great died just before a Passover and a lunar eclipse – which is normally dated to 4 BC. Matthew tells us that Herod the Great killed Bethlehem’s baby boys two years old and under. 1 By this reasoning, Jesus could have been born no later than 6 BC and possibly earlier.

1 Matt 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.


Herod the Great (73/ 74 BC - 4 BC)

Let’s look at some of the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

Miracle of announcement

Miracle in the heavens

Miracle of Jesus’ lineage

Miracle of timing

Miracle of virgin birth

Miracle of census

Miracle of birthplace


Jesus’ birth is miraculously announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel, who stands in God’s very presence. (Luke 1:30-31)


Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

Jesus’ birth is miraculously announced to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem by an angel. (Matt 2:2)

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

Jesus’ birth is miraculously announced to Simeon by God, who promises him that he will see the Messiah. (Lk 1:30-31)

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people…

Jesus’ birth is miraculously announced to the Magi by the appearance of a star in the east. (Matt 2:2)


Suggestions as to what the star of Bethlehem was - include:

a supernatural star specially created by God for the occasion.

an angel (angels are sometimes referred to as stars in the Bible)

a supernova

a conjunction of planets


Some cosmic phenomena around the time of Jesus’ birth which have been proposed as the star of Bethlehem are:

December 7 BC - Babylonian records, verified by modern calculations, indicate a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces – occurs once every 125 years.

February 6 BC – Conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars - occurs only once every 805 years.

Spring of 6 BC - Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn form an unusually close grouping.

5 BC - a supernova recorded by Chinese astronomers.

March-April 5 BC - a comet appeared for some 70 days near the constellation Capricorn which would have been visible in both the Far and Near East.


Balaam had prophesied in Numbers 24:17

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel.”

Ancient astrologers believed that the area of the sky named Pisces where these conjunctions occurred contained signs pertinent to the Hebrew nation.

It is possible that the Magi, blending their heavenly observations with a knowledge of Old Testament prophecies about a Messiah, were led to seek the predicted king in the Land of Israel.


The OT prophecies tell us that the Messiah would be:

the seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18)

the seed of Isaac (Gen 26:4)

the seed of Jacob (Gen 28:14) and have the sceptre of Israel (Num 24:17)

have the sceptre of Judah (Gen 49:10)

the root of Jesse (Isa 11:10)

the son of David (2 Sam 7:12-13)


Matthew shows Jesus’ Messianic credentials in terms of his genealogy:

Matt 1:1-6 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.


The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:32-33)

Gabriel tells Mary that Jesus is the promised Son of David.

Matthew and Luke trace the genealogy of Jesus back to David through Joseph and Mary respectively.

If Jesus were born more than 77 years later this would have been impossible. The Jewish genealogical records, extremely important in establishing that Jesus was a descendant of David, were still intact in Jerusalem. With the destruction of the temple by Titus those records were completely lost.

To this day, no Jew can trace their lineage before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Thus no one after Jesus can legitimately claim to be the Son of David and have this verified.


The prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks given to him by Gabriel sets the timing for the coming of the Messiah (“Messiah” in Hebrew is “Christ” in Greek and “Anointed One” in English).

The Messiah had to come 483 (69x7) years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem:

Daniel 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

Artaxerxes I of Persia gave the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC.


The Messiah would be “cut off and will have nothing” (i.e. rejected and killed) before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Romans.

Dan 9:26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary

The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Roman general Titus in AD 70 so the Messiah had to come between 445 BC and AD 70.

Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who meets the date criteria given by Gabriel to Daniel. 1

1 For more detail on the 70 weeks prophecy see: http:// ministry-archives.aspx? mId=539


God promised that the deliverer who would bruise the serpent’s head, would be the “seed of the woman”. This is the first allusion to the virgin birth in Scripture.

Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.“ (NASB)

And Isaiah prophesied that Immanuel (meaning “God with us”) would be born of a virgin:

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


The virgin birth and conception by the Holy Spirit was necessary for Jesus to be untainted by Adam’s sin.


How will this be since I am a virgin?

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:

Micah 5:2-5 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” … He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.

The chief priests and teachers of the law of Jesus’ day were aware of this prophecy - as evidenced by their response to King Herod when he asked them where the Messiah was to be born (Matt 2:3-6).


In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

Where will the Messiah be born?

Boaz, Jesse and David, the forefathers of Jesus, lived in Bethlehem, where the Messiah was to born. However by the time of Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph were located in Nazareth and there was no compelling reason for them to leave – certainly not while Mary was pregnant.

So Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem necessitated the world’s greatest empire to move exactly according to God’s plan. And along came the census decreed by Augustus.

Luke 2:1-3 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world… And everyone went to his own town to register.


Lk 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. The Senate formally deified Julius Caesar in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian henceforth became Divi filius (“son of a god”).

Later the Senate gave Octavian the new title ‘Augustus’ from the Latin word ‘Augere’ (meaning to increase), which can be translated as “the illustrious one”. It was a title of religious rather than political authority. 1

1 "http:// wiki/ Octa%0Bvian#Octavian_becomes_Augustus">http:// wiki/ Octa vian#Octavian_becomes_Augustus

One month after his death in AD 14, Augustus was deified by the Senate.

Jesus of course is known as the “Son of God”.

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Rom 1:4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

So twice within the span of about 70 years two men would be acclaimed first as the “son of a god”, and then as “Son of God”. But Augustus Caesar, the man the Romans claimed as the “son of a god”, imposes a census along with all the associated bureaucracy, that will force Joseph and Mary to return to their home town of Bethlehem.


So God used the false “son of a god” as the very instrument to ensure that the true “son of God” is born in Bethlehem.

son of a god


Son of God

The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus was born in a stable (as we understand a stable today) or at the back of an inn – only that there was no room in the inn and that he was placed in a manger after birth.

Luke 2:5-7 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Old church tradition says that Jesus was born in a cave in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem. The manger or feeding trough may have been cut into the side of the rock.


Justin Martyr (c. 100 AD – 165 AD) wrote that Joseph and Mary had taken refuge in a cave outside of town:

Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger… 1

And Origen (185 AD – c. 254 AD) wrote:

In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumour is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians. 2

1 Dialogue with Trypho chapter LXXVIII 2 Contra Celsum, book I, chapter LI


The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was originally commissioned in 327 AD by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site traditionally considered to be located over the cave where Jesus was born.

The holy site, known as the Grotto, that the Church of the Nativity sits atop, is today associated with the cave in which the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth occurred. In 135 AD, Hadrian is said to have had the Christian site above the Grotto converted into a worship place for Adonis, the Greek pagan god of beauty and desire. A father with the Church of the Nativity, Jerome, noted before his death in 420 AD that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and that a pleasant sacred grove was planted there in order to wipe out the memory of Jesus. 1

1 "http:// wiki/ Church_of_the_Nativity">http:// wiki/ Church_of_the_Nativity


Statue of Jerome outside the Church of the Nativity

Years back Rachel had died in childbirth near Bethlehem and Jacob subsequently moved beyond Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock) where Benjamin was born.

Gen 35:16-21 … While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Benoni (Son of my sorrow). But his father named him Benjamin (Son of my right hand). So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.


Migdal Eder (in the valley at left center) with the town of Bethlehem in the background

Now note this Messianic prophecy in Micah 4, the very chapter before Micah 5 – which identified Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.

Micah 4:1-4 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.


He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Micah 4:8 As for you, O watchtower of the flock, O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.

Based on Micah 4:8, some believe that Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock) may even have been the place where Jesus was born.

1 "http:// micah/ 4-8.htm">http:// micah/ 4-8.htm


Some of the ancient rabbinical writings predicted that it would be at Migdal Eder that the announcement would be made that Messiah had come.

According to Alfred Edersheim, “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.’ (Targum Pseudo-Jon. On Gen. xxxv. 21.)” 2

Targum Yonatan, cited by Rabbi Munk, paraphrases Genesis 35:21 and Micah 4:8 “He spread his tent beyond Migdal Eder, the place where King Messiah will reveal Himself at the end of days.” 1

2 http:// Rabbi%20Mike/ Migdal%20Eder.htm 1 “Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim(1825-1889) http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=1087


Near Bethlehem is a site known as Kaniset el-Ruat (Church of the Shepherds). The current church was built in 1972, but according to Jerome (5th century) the Church of the Shepherds was the site of Migdal Eder.

Edersheim writes, “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 (Shek. vii. 4.) leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices…” 1

1 Ibid

Luke 2:8-11 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Who were these shepherds?

They may have been none other than the shepherds from Migdal Eder who were aware that the Messiah might well be announced from Migdal Eder at Bethlehem. Were these possibly the men who raised the blemish-free sacrificial lambs for the temple?


If the Bethlehem shepherds in Luke’s Gospel were the ones raising lambs for the neighbouring Jerusalem temple sacrifices, then God is informing them that the sacrifice their life’s work had foreshadowed had now come!

Remember that John the Baptist declared Jesus to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. (John 1:29)


"http:// ministry-archives.aspx?speaker=Gavin%20Paynter">http:// ministry-archives.aspx?speaker=Gavin%20Paynter

For other related ministry:

Should Christians observe Christmas? (Gavin Paynter)

"http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=787">http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=787

Matthew 1 - Virgin birth, Genealogy of Jesus (Gavin Paynter)

"http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=586">http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=586

Migdal Eder (Gavin Paynter)

http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=26

Peace on earth (Ken Paynter)

"http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=48">http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=48

For other related ministry:

Christmas - should we celebrate it? (Sam Ennis)

http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=18

God's unspeakable gift (Sam Ennis)

http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=803

The wise men (Sam Ennis)

http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=584

The true meaning of Christmas (Sam Ennis)

http:// ministry-archives.aspx?mId=358


Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http://



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