Bethlehem is located about 5 miles / 8 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judea on the way to Hebron. It is believed to have existed at least 1,000 years before Christ was born.
Bethlehem figures in Bible History both before the Israelites entered Egypt and slavery, and after the Exodus and their return. Rachel, the favorite wife (he also had married her sister Leah) of Jacob/Israel is buried near Bethlehem.
The events of the Book Of Ruth take place in the region of Bethlehem. Ruth and Boaz were the great-grandparents of King David, who himself was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem in effect became the official home-town of the line of David.
When the Roman emperor issued an order that a census be taken of the Roman Empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome), which then included the Roman-occupied land of Israel, each Israelite was required to go and register in his home town. Joseph, although then living in Nazareth up in Galilee, traveled down to Bethlehem to register because he was of the line of David. With him was his wife Mary, also of the house of David. It was of course shortly after their arrival in Bethlehem that Jesus was born.
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."
"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of The Lord appeared to them, and the glory of The Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:1-11 RSV)
Fact Finder: What was King David's father's name?
(a) Jesse (b) Samuel (c) John (d) Gideon