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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Attending the actual birth of Jesus were the women of the house in which Joseph and Mary were guests. When the birth and cleanup were complete, the household would have returned. Perhaps while they were absent they visited with neighbors, but we do not know what was said beyond the birth of a child. But then we read in Luke 2:8-12,
8 And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.”
Here we see that the first known angelic visitation, announcing the birth of the Messiah, was not to kings or priests, but to shepherds. In those days shepherds were poor, uneducated, and at the low end of the social scale. Kenneth Bailey tells us, “Five lists of ‘proscribed trades’ are recorded in rabbinic literature and shepherds appear in three out of five” (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 35). Bailey finds this incredible, given the fact that Psalm 23:1 says, “Yahweh is my shepherd.” How could shepherding be a forbidden trade? Yet it shows how despised shepherds were to the learned class.
The fact that these shepherds were still watching sheep in the hills shows that it was not yet December. The traditional date of December 25 was far too late in the year for that climate and elevation.
Luke’s main purpose in telling this part of the story was not to date the birth of Jesus but to show God’s interest in the lowest class of people. The angel did not visit the palace of Herod, or the mansion of the high priest, nor did the angel even visit a regular priest in the temple as occurred at the announcement of John’s birth. The honor of this visitation was given to common shepherds.
The shepherds were frightened at the sight of the angel. It seems that angels always find it necessary to spend the first moments of their visitation dispelling men’s fear. The shepherds’ assumption, perhaps, was that the rabbis were correct in despising their profession, and they could only assume that it was beneath the dignity and majesty of God to relate to them, except perhaps to bring judgment upon them.
The uneducated shepherds were wrong. The educated rabbis were equally wrong. Here we see Luke healing another breach, this one between shepherds and rabbis, or between educated and uneducated, rich and poor, high-born and common people. This was a message that Theophilus could not have missed in reading the account.
The angel told the shepherds the “good news,” that is the gospel. It was not just good news for the rabbis but “for all the people.” In fact, the good news was of such universal appeal that the rich and powerful soon opposed it, for they perceived that it threatened their position of power over the people. The equality of the people in the sight of God was not a message that they could easily support. If they had viewed their authority as being under God, and if they have viewed themselves as stewards of God, they would not have felt threatened. However, they had usurped ownership of power, and therefore they had something to lose if this Messiah should become King.
Christ the Lord of Hosts
In Luke 2:11 the angel announces that the Messiah has been born in the city of David. Further, he is called “the Lord” (kurios, “the possessor, ruler, owner”). Bethlehem was the land inheritance of David’s family since Joshua had divided the land among the tribes and families. Now the Inheritor had come as the lord or patriarch of that family and that city, as prophesied by Micah.
There were two cities of David. The one was Bethlehem; the other was Jerusalem, or more specifically, the hill of Zion (2 Chronicles 5:2). David was born in Bethlehem, but he ruled from Zion over all Israel. So also Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but His throne was to be in Zion, had it not been usurped.
In the second coming of Christ, however, both Bethlehem and Zion have a broader meaning and application, for He now comes to rule the world from the New Jerusalem and a New Zion. This New Zion is not the old Zion any more than the New Jerusalem is the old Jerusalem.
The prophetic shift also moves from Judah to Joseph, as Genesis 49:10 tells us,
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff [khakak, “lawgiver, one who decrees”] from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience [yikkahah, “submission”] of the people.
In other words, someone of the tribe of Judah was to hold the scepter until the coming of “Shiloh,” at which time the people would submit to this new ruler or lawgiver. Who is this new ruler? It is Joseph, whose prophetic dreams proved to be correct when his brothers (including Judah) bowed before him in Egypt. Hence, Christ’s first coming was in Bethlehem, for He had to be born of Judah and specifically in the house of David. But His second coming is through Joseph and the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua’s tribe, in order to inherit the calling of Joshua in leading us into the Kingdom.
Regulus, the Lion’s Lawgiver
Incidentally, the “lawgiver” in Genesis 49:10, KJV is a reference to Regulus, the bright star between the feet of Leo, the Lion in the heavens. Regulus, the “regulator,” is the lawgiver or ruler and represents Christ in this verse. Yesterday, when I wrote about the actual birth of Christ, I was unaware that Mars was in its closest conjunction with Regulus that same day. Mars is the so-called “god of war,” but biblically it represents “The Lord of Hosts,” or Prince of the Army of Heaven.
David was a man of war, but so was Joshua when he fought against the Canaanites. The angelic Captain of the Lord’s Host appeared to Joshua in Joshua 5:14. My understanding is that one’s angel determines a person’s calling. I believe that this angel was actually Joshua’s angel, empowering him to do the work of conquering Canaan. The angel was the power behind the man. Hence, the angel was the spiritual Captain of the Lord’s Host, but Joshua was the earthly Captain of the Lord’s Host.
In other words, we could say that Regulus represented both David and Joshua, for each man was a type of Christ in his own way. Christ was “David” in His first coming, but “Joseph” when He comes again, this time with his robe dipped in blood (Genesis 37:31; Revelation 19:13).
Hence, when the angel announces to the shepherds that the Savior has been born in the city of David, calling Him “Christ the Lord,” I believe that the term “Lord” meant more than being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). He is all of that, of course, but the angelic statement applied more specifically to the fact that He was the Captain of the Lord’s Host. For this reason, when the angelic message had been delivered, we read in Luke 2:13, 14,
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
The angelic “host” is not a choir of singing angels. They are the army of heaven. Perhaps the angel who spoke to the shepherds was the same Captain of the Lord’s Host that had spoken to Joshua many years earlier. He reappeared again at the birth of the greater Joshua, or Yeshua.
It is also of interest to note that in the months before Jesus was born, Jupiter, the King’s Planet, had come into conjunction with Regulus, the King’s Star. It was this astronomical event that brought the magi first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. The arrival of the magi is told in Matthew’s account, but not in Luke, but we know from astronomy that Jupiter did a loop over Regulus, “crowning” that star before moving west. The magi went to Jerusalem, because it was called in Isaiah 1:26 the City of Righteousness (Sedeq, or Zadok). Sedeq was also the Hebrew name for Jupiter; hence, Jerusalem was also known as the City of Jupiter, the royal city of the King’s planet.
Three months later, on December 25 Jupiter appeared to hover over Bethlehem, as viewed from Jerusalem, and this was how the magi were able to locate Jesus specifically.
Hence, we see the role that Regulus played in the first coming of Christ. Genesis 49:10 implies that Regulus will again play a role in the second coming of Christ. So it is of interest that on October 14, 2013 Mars came into conjunction with Regulus at the very time that I wrote about the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:6, 7). There was no way that I could have planned this, even if I had known about this conjunction.
So we may take this in the same way that the magi took it when Jupiter and Regulus were in conjunction. This actually occurred three times in rapid succession:
September 14, 3 B.C.
February 17, 2 B.C.
May 8, 2 B.C.
The final conjunction formed the loop, or halo, which “crowned” Regulus. These were signs preceding the birth of Jesus, and the magi arrived in late December when Jesus was three months old. Joseph and Mary had been led to remain in Bethlehem during that time, probably discussing the events with friends and relatives in evening Bible studies.
The arrival of the magi brought danger, however, and they escaped to Egypt before Herod ordered the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem. Herod was nearly 70 years old at the time, and he was very upset that Rabbi Matthias had inspired some of his students to remove Rome’s golden eagle from the temple wall a few weeks earlier. In the midst of the investigation, the magi arrived, asking about the new king that had been born “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).
Herod was thoroughly alarmed at the magi’s innocent question, and when the magi returned home without informing him of the location of this royal baby, he simply killed all the children in Bethlehem. About two weeks later, on January 9, 1 B.C. he burned Rabbi Matthias at the stake and deposed the high priest (also named Matthias). This event, Josephus tells us, was marked by a lunar eclipse (Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, vi, 4). The editor’s footnote tells us that this took place at the eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C. However, this note is incorrect, as I explained in chapter 9 of my book, Secrets of Time. It was the lunar eclipse of January 9, 1 B.C. for only then was Herod approaching 70 years of age, as Josephus says earlier (Antiquities, XVII, vi, 1).
Herod then became very sick and was taken to the hot springs at Callirrhoe on the far shore of the Dead Sea, where he died on January 28, 1 B.C. Interestingly, Callirrhoe is now the name of one of the moons of Jupiter.
The House of Bread
The sign which the angel gave to the shepherds of Bethlehem was that they would find the baby lying in a manger. How was this a sign? Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus was to be the bread of life (John 6:48) that the people were to “eat.” John 6:53-55 says,
53 … Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
To eat is to hear and assimilate His words. He was laid in a manger to show that He was to be food for us in the House of Bread.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.