As a preacher with extensive knowledge of the Bible, I have always enjoyed learning and
teaching the story of Jesus. I find his birth unique since he was born in a manger, a shelter for
livestock. Even though mangers are somehow clean, it is unfit for one to give birth from there.
Given that Jesus was God’s son, the question I often get from people is “why was Jesus born in
According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus was born in a manger because the rooms were full where they were, and there was no other space from which Mary could give birth. Jesus was born when his father, Joseph, and mother, who was heavily pregnant at the time, had traveled to Bethlehem for the census. The parents of Jesus could not evade this process as it was an order from Caesar Augustus.
In this article, I will uncover the significance of Jesus being born in a manger and the importance
of the manger. Join me in this exploration and learn why Joseph and Mary traveled to
Bethlehem and where the Bible records the birthplace of Jesus. Read on to discover more!
Why did Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem?
During the time when Mary was heavily pregnant, Joseph and his wife Mary had to travel to Bethlehem for a census. Ceasar Augustus ordered that everyone should be taxed and everyone was to be counted from their original lineage home. So, the father of Jesus Joseph came from the lineage of David in the city of Bethlehem, and they had to travel to Bethlehem for the census.
The book of Luke 2:1-5 accounts for why they had to travel. “And it came to pass in those days that there went a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria). And all went to be taxed, everyone into his city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
When they reached Bethlehem, it came time for Mary to give birth to Jesus. However, the whole homestead was crowded, and the only place where Mary could deliver from was a manger. Luke 2:6-7, “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 guest room available for them.”
Other than this, it had been prophesized in the book of Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will rule over Israel, whose origin is from of old ancient times.”
What was the significance of Jesus being born in a manger?
Though the bible does not specifically mention the significance of the manger that Christ was first laid on, there are several studies done on the birth of Christ, and all agree that Jesus being born in a manger was no accident. First, Scholars note that Christ was born in a manger to show that he is accessible to all. It is easier to locate someone born in a low-class rural area than someone born in a royal place. This is even evident when the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds to inform them of the birth of Jesus.
Luke 2:11-16 says, “Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying on the manger.”
Therefore, the manger was not only a place where all could access Christ, but the angel of the Lord used it as a sign to guide the angels to find the baby. If Mary could have been in one of the guest rooms, it could be a bit difficult for her and the baby to be located. But a manger is unique, showing that Christians have access to Jesus.
What was the significance and importance of the manger?
Christians have had several questions about why the Son of God would be born in a manger and not in a palace or a glorious place. The happening of Joseph and Mary being forced to go to Bethlehem was not a coincidence, as it had been prophesized in the book of Micah that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will rule over Israel, whose origin is from old ancient times.”
Theologians and bible scholars agree that the manger was a spiritual symbol. The word ‘manger’ is derived from munducare (a Latin word) that translates to “to eat.” Therefore, a manger is simply a stone or wooden shelter from which livestock can get food. Mangers are usually supplied with food throughout so that at no point would the animals go hungry. So, when Mary and Joseph got no place to stay and yet Mary was due, they chose to go where livestock were fed. So when Christ was born, Mary could not place her newborn on the cold ground but instead put him in a manger. Luke 2:16 says, “And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.”
Therefore, theologians and scholars agree that the manger where Jesus was laid symbolizes spiritual food. Just as animals would go to a manger for physical food whenever they feel hungry, that is how we should approach Christ for spiritual food and shelter. Father Michael Van Sloun agrees by noting that the manger is a sign that Jesus was sent as sustenance for us; in Him, we shall never hunger spiritually.
Where in the bible does it say where Jesus was born?
The gospel of Luke gives a detailed account of Christ’s birth, from when the angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and told her she was pregnant to the announcement By Caesar Augustus that they had to go to Bethlehem to how Jesus was delivered and laid in a manger. The gospel of Luke 2:5-7 says, “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 guest room available for them.”
However, some theologians argue that Jesus was never born in a manger but just laid in the manger after he was born. Those who argue with this note that the bible did not specifically state that Jesus was born in a manger. However, those who are against this argument have a persuasive perspective on why they believe that Christ was not only laid in a manger but also born there. These theologians note that if there was no guest room available for Mary to lay the baby, then certainly there was none for her to give birth.
Additionally, when the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in the book of Luke 2:11-12 to inform them about the birth of Jesus, he told them that they would get the baby in a manger. “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Joseph M. Jordan
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.