Bethel, Bethlehem, and Bethesda
by Jared Kern • March 25, 2013 • Hebrew, Temple • 1 Comment
Understanding the temple is key to understanding one of the most pervasive themes of the Old and New Testaments. Temple references are everywhere. Consider our previous discussion of the Hebrew word בֵּית (bêth) meaning home or temple. Further examples are as follows:
בֵּית־אֵל (bêth-’el) meaning house or temple of God
Bethel was the site of Abraham’s altar in Canaan (Gen 12:8, 13:3-4), the place where Abraham called on the Lord, and worshipped. It was the place where Jacob saw the heavens open in his dreams. Jacob named the place Bethel because he perceived it was a holy place, a place where God dwelt (Gen 28:16-22).
Later God appeared and spoke to Jacob at Bethel, inducting him into the Abrahamic Covenant and giving Jacob a new name, Israel. Consequently Jacob built an altar and offered sacrifices (Gen 35:6-15) at Bethel.
Later when the kingdom of Israel divided in two, Bethel became the site of an apostate temple (1 Kings 12:21-33)
בֵּית~לָחֶם (bêth~lachem) meaning house or temple of bread
Bethlehem was a small inconsequential city 5 miles south of Jerusalem where Ruth met and married Boaz, and Samuel the prophet later anointed David as a King in Israel
Micah 5:2 But thou, Beth-lehem 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.
Ephratah was an earlier name for Bethlehem (Gen 48:7), meaning “fruitful” – which is appropriate as it is the place where the fruit, seed, of the woman which should bruise the the head of serpant (Moses 4:21) was born.
Bethlehem was the place where The Lord came suddenly (Malachi 3:1). The chosen place where He came on earth to dwell, His first earthly home as an incarnate God. He came to earth with a message, He was the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the true reality behind the bread of the face, or the presence bread (shew bread Ex 25:30 footnote a), which dwelt continually before the presence of God in the Holy Place of the tabernacle and later the temple, and also the Sacramental bread (Luke 22:19, 3 Nephi 20:8) of Communion (1 Cor 10:16-17).
Bethlehem was the House of Bread, the Bread of Life; the House of Christ. It was the Temple of Bread; the Temple of Christ.
בית-חסדא (bêth-’hesda) meaning house of grace or mercy
Bethesda was a pool in Jerusalem where Jesus Christ healed an infirm impotent man, who was all alone in the world, who had no one to help him, and who had been sick for 38 years. This man, who could not be healed on his own, on the Sabbath day, was healed by the Lord of the Sabbath (John 5:2-9). Christ later found the healed man in the temple, and told him he had been made whole, his sins forgiven. Sin no more, Christ said, lest something worse than 38 years of sickness, such as damnation for instance, come upon you (John 5:14). The grace of God was indeed made manifest at the house of grace, the temple of mercy.
The temple is where the grace of God (Eph 4:7), which passeth all understanding, can in some small measure begin to be understood, and is made manifest. It is through the Grace of Christ Jesus that we, who are not Jews and were consequently far off from the inner courts of the temple (Rev 11:2), let alone the Holiest Place, the Holy of Holies, are brought near, back into the presence of the Father (Eph 2:11-14).
It is through the grace of God that we are healed from sin, for we all fall short of the presence of God (Eph 2:8-9). Our favorite sins, whatever they may be, disqualify us, all of us, from entering into His presence. It is only through and by the Grace of God that we are brought back into the Holiest Place (Mat 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-38).
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