Last week I shared how Jesus was born either in the autumn during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the September-October time frame, or the spring, around Unleavened Bread/Passover. The 6 month difference is because John the Baptist's father was serving in either his spring or autumn rotation when Gabriel appeared to him, but we don't know which.
We've gone as far as we can with the order of the services of the priests, so let us look first at cultural expectations.
That Messiah would die 'but not for Himself' is seen in Passover, and there was a basic understanding the lamb killed on Passover was a type of God covering our sins. Messiah wasn't expected to be born at that time, rather to die at that time. (For those who understood the types/shadows).
So we turn to the autumn festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot), also called 'the Feast of Dedication' in the September-October time frame. Tabernacles was when Solomon dedicated his temple, celebrating God's presence dwelling with man. It is also called the 'Season of our Joy'. Tabernacles was also called 'The Festival of Lights'.
There were 4 large lamps in the temple called 'the light of the world', and it was at a later Feast of Tabernacles Jesus stood up to say: "I am the light of the world." John 8: 12
During the Feast of Tabernacles certain passages are read, and there is a certain liturgy that was followed. Those passages and that liturgy are echoed in what the angels told the Shepherds on the night of the Lord's birth as the bright and awe-inspiring glory of God shone all around them. Shepherds were in the field in spring and fall, but his helps narrow it down:
"And the angel said to them, Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people. Unto you is born in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Again, this was announced in the midst of the great light of the glory of the Lord.
These passages are read: "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness...I will give you as a covenant for the people, as a light to the nations." and "...I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation shall extend to the ends of the earth" and "...nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." Isaiah 42:6; 49: 6; 52: 10; 60: 3.
This was prayed at the end of meals during Tabernacles: "May the merciful One let us inherit all that is good. May the merciful One restore the tent/tabernacle (sukkah) of David." Perhaps the shepherds had just finished a meal when the angels came?
What the angel said contains elements of those passages spoken at Tabernacles - essentially saying God is living with man. I have shared before that these shepherds were in all likelihood priests, for as the population grew in the cities, priests began raising flocks and herds for the city dwellers to purchase for sacrifice. Their area was known to be around Bethlehem, the 'house of bread'. The true manna from heaven was born there.
Traditionally the 'wise men' are thought to have visited Jesus when He was about 18 months old, but that is wrong. Matthew 2: 11 tells us they visited Him in a house in Bethlehem not the stable typically shown in nativity scenes. But there are other considerations.
For instance, Luke tells us Joseph and Mary had Jesus circumcised on his 8th day, and after her 40 days of purification they presented Him in the temple. So nearly 6 week old Jesus was with Joseph and Mary were in the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after His birth. We are told after this the family returned to their home city of Nazareth - not Bethlehem. (Luke 2: 22-23 39; Leviticus 12: 3-8)
That means Herod had to have killed the babies in Bethlehem before Jesus was 40 days old. It means the young family would have to have gone to and returned from Egypt before His 40th day. That means somewhere between His birth and 40 days, Herod died, for they were told to return for Egypt for Herod was dead, and they were not in fear either in the temple when Jesus was 40 days old nor when they returned to Nazareth.
The order of events then is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. The Shepherds visit Him just after His birth. The wise men arrived after the young family had moved into a house in Bethlehem, but are warned after seeing the Lord not to return to Herod.
Joseph is similarly warned to leave the country, to Egypt. Herod orders the deaths of the innocents. The English Bible says he figured from 2 years and younger, but knowing as already stated that ancient Israel counted age from conception in 'age reckoning' as mentioned previously, it means Herod's actual order was for 1 year olds (as we figure it) and under.
When did Herod die?
The Jewish historian Josephus states that Herod became very ill at the time of an eclipse of the moon. The only eclipse in the year of Herod's illness was on March 13, 4BC. Herod's illness lasted several months, the details of which are well documented. Josephus states Herod died in what would be our month of September, in what is our 4BC.
Therefore we can confirm Jesus was born in September, 4BC.
At least, that's how I see it. When He was born isn't important, but that He WAS.
New subject next week, until then, blessings,
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