Passover begins tomorrow, April 3. For those of us who aren’t familiar with Jewish traditions, Passover is an eight-day festival which is celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month called Nissan. The dates on the American calendar change every year. This year Passover is Friday, April 3 (Shabbat, or Sabbath) in the evening through Saturday, April 11 after sundown.
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In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 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; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’
“Did you ever wonder why this was a sign?” I have to admit to myself that I have never even questioned it. Why was it a sign? Micah 5:2 prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but many are not familiar with Micah 4:8, which prophesied that He would be announced at the tower of the flock (Migdal Eder).
And you, O tower of the flock, The stronghold of the daughter of Zion, To you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.~ Micah 4:8
Migdal Eder was a two-story tower that had been built in a pasture outside Bethlehem. The remains of the tower had recently been discovered. 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]
The shepherds in the field had not all been the lowly shepherds that we had always assumed. They were actually priests from the temple who were doing shepherding work to assist in the birthing of the sacrificial lambs so that they would be unblemished for sacrifice. While the shepherds were keeping watch over the flock from the top floor of the tower, the shepherd-priests would bring the pregnant sheep in from the field to the tower’s bottom floor, where the sheep would give birth. As soon as a lamb was born, the priests would wrap it with strips of cloths made from old priestly undergarments. This was done to keep the lamb from getting blemished. The priests would then place the lamb onto a manger to make sure it would not get trampled. Wow!!!
So when these shepherd-priests went into Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they must have exclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God, prepared for sacrifice, unblemished!” They had to be excited beyond description, because they were the only ones who could have understood the sign. It was just for them from God. It was personal!
Being born in the Tower of the Flock places Jesus’ birth in the traditional location for Passover lambs to be born. Fitting, since He became the Passover Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. This also explains how the shepherds knew where to go to find the newborn babe — and why it being wrapped in swaddling clothes would be significant clue. Finally, it explains why those shepherds were notified as it was their holy calling to certify Passover lambs upon birth.
I presume that Jesus’ swaddling cloths were from the same source as the lambs’ cloths. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was married to the priest Zacharias. Elizabeth could have given her the cloths made from the priestly undergarments. It is highly probable that the first clothes that Jesus wore were the clothes of a priest. What a sign!
Maybe Jesus was born away in a manger, just not like the one made in China on the shelf at Wal-Mart. But in the “tower of the flock”, Migdal Eder, surrounded by holy shepherds, set apart to certify the birth of the ultimate Passover Lamb.
Finally, each Jewish family would put the family name around the neck of their lamb that they took to the Temple to be sacrificed. They did this to make sure they received their own lamb back for the Passover dinner. In case you’re wondering if there was any significance to this piece of trivia, contemplate a particular object found in most of the paintings of Christ on the cross. There’s a small sign at the top of the cross that looked like four letters: “INRI.” This of course, is the abbreviation of the sign that Pontius Pilot placed on the cross as seen in John 19:19:
Pilate also wrote an inscription, and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’
But did you know that these letters were the first letters of each of the nouns in the inscription in Latin. The inscription in the Latin Vulgate is: “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” (INRI).
Now, since the inscription had been in three languages — Latin, Greek, and Hebrew — transliterated from Hebrew to English, it reads like this: “Y’Shua HaNatzri V’Melech HaYehudim.”
Note the first letters of each of these words. It spelled “YHVH,” the Tetragrammaton form of the name of God! YHVH and YHWH can be used interchangeably. When this technique of abbreviating is used, the title on the cross in the actual Hebraic script undeniably reveals the name of God. In English, the name is pronounced “Yahweh!”
Just like the Jews put their family name on their lamb for sacrifice at the Temple, God put His name on His Lamb for His family, which includes you and me!
There are many names for God revealed in Scripture, Yahweh being just one.
God put His name on His Lamb for us to show and demonstrate His love for His people.
God gave us these signs in order that we may know and understand the magnitude of His loving grace!
Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world….