Make ready, O Bethlehem; for Eden hath been opened for all. Prepare, O Ephratha; for the Tree of life hath blossomed forth in the cave from the Virgin; for her womb did appear as a spiritual paradise, in which is planted the divine Plant, whereof eating we shall live and not die as Adam. Verily, Christ shall be born, raising the likeness that fell of old.
Alice C. Linsley
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Once in Royal David's City. If I could do so, I would change the title to Once in David's Royal City to emphasize the important history surrounding Bethlehem of Galilee, Jesus' likely birthplace.
In the Masoretic Text, Samuel's city is called hara-matatyim zophim. (The Anchor Bible Commentary on I Samuel by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., p. 51) This means that Samuel's father was a priest of the line of Matthew (or Mattai/Mattan). Hara-matatyim is also the priestly line of Joseph of Hara-mathea, one of Jesus' relatives, and the member of the Sanhedrin who requested Jesus' body for burial. Samuel's father and Jesus' mother had common Horite ancestors. The Horites were a caste of rulers who served as priests, prophets, scribes, warriors and metal workers. They were ethnically Kushite.
David and his father Jesse were of this Horite lineage also. Matthew's Gospel links Bethlehem and Ramah (Matt. 2:13-23); suggesting that Jesse's territory extended from Bethlehem "Ephratha" to Ramah. Throughout much of the Bible, Ephrath is a reference to Judah. This north-south extension would have been ruled by Jesse and would have been called "Judah" in Jesse's time. If David's city was the Bethlehem in Galilee, Jesse ruled over a territory extending about 180 miles. His status as a ruler is further supported by the Y solar cradle in his name - Yishai. Many of the great Horite rulers are designated by this symbol of divine appointment: Yismael, Yitzak, Yacob/Yisrael, Yetro, Yisbak, Yaqtan, Yoachim and Yeshua.
Samuel's Horite ancestry, and his kinship to Jesse, is further supported by the distinctive Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern that they shared. Samuel's father was a priest with two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. It was the custom for Horite ruler-priests to have two wives. The two wives lived in separate households on a north-south axis. One was a half-sister (as was Sarah to Abraham) and the other was a patrilineal cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham). The first wife was the sister bride, married at a fairly young age. She was the wife of the man's youth. The second wife was taken close to the time of the heir's ascension to the throne.
Likely, one of Jesse's wives was located in Bethlehem of Galilee and the other in Ramah of the hill country to the south. Ramah has a long association with prophets; Samuel being one of the greatest. Judges 4:4-6 states that Deborah, “the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet” who judged from her tamar (date nut palm) between “Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim." Ramah was named for Kush's son Ramah (Gen. 10:7). Samuel's father was a priest of Ramah. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel.
Bethlehem of Galilee was known as a fruitful place and therefore called Bethlehem "Ephratha." This is the Bethlehem of David's ancestors Ruth and Boaz. It was a region known for fruit and grain. It was connected to the royal house of Tyre. Tyre was one of the ancient seats of wisdom. Hiram I of Tyre helped David build his palace. Tyrian craftsmen also helped Solomon build the temple. The rulers of Tyre were considered to have roots in ancient Eden.
Jesus went to Tyre and there His true identity was recognized, according to Mark's Gospel (cf. Matt. 15:21). Hiram I, David and Jesus share a common Horite ancestry that extends back to Eden. The Horites believed that the promised Seed of the Woman would be born of their ruler-priest lines and they expected Him to visit them. In Mark 7:24, this expectation was fulfilled when the Son of God visited Tyre. Mark explains that there Jesus “could not pass unrecognized.”
The prophet Ezekiel traces the rulers of Tyre back to Eden. "Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created." (Ezekiel 28:11-18)
Related reading: David's Bloodline; The Ethnicity of Abraham and David; Samuel's Horite Family; Which Bethlehem was Jesus' Birthplace?; Who is Jesus?; Why Jesus Visited Tyre; The Royal Priest Lines of Matthew; The Ark Rested in Bethlehem
Lyrics to Once in Royal David's City
Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.