Where was Jesus born?

Jesus’ birth narrative is described in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-12 and Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20. Around this time, Caesar Augustus made the decree that every person within Rome’s domain had to participate in a census. This meant that everyone had to return to their hometown to be accurately surveyed and recorded.

Why is Bethlehem relevant?

Just like any good citizens, Joseph and Mary started on their trek to participate in the census by leaving Nazareth and traveling south through Judea and toward Bethlehem, the homeland of Joseph's ancestor, David (Luke 2:4). Being the city of King David, Bethlehem provides further proof of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promise that David’s lineage would bring about the Savior of mankind (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; 6:16).

Jesus being born in Bethlehem also fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of Micah, who wrote, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

Where in Bethlehem was Jesus born?

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, the town was packed with other travelers who had also come for the required census. Because of this, there wasn’t any room for them—much less room to give birth. The only place available for them was where the animals would have been kept. Biblical scholars have different theories on where this place might’ve been relative to the “inn” mentioned in Luke 2:7.

The word translated “inn” in today’s English Bible often makes us quick to think of something like a commercial hotel. But the word “inn,” translated from the Greek word kataluma, can also mean “guest room.” So it’s possible that Mary and Joseph were trying to stay at a private residence, perhaps with friends or family in Bethlehem, but the house was already full of guests. Thus, it became necessary for them to shelter with the animals instead.

Was Jesus really born among animals?

While the Bible never directly tells us there were animals present when Jesus was born, one key detail implies that there might have been. Luke 2:7 says that a manger is where the baby Jesus was laid to sleep after being born. A manger is basically an eating trough for animals, which means that, at some recent time, there had been animals housed in that space. Mary and Joseph may even have used clean straw to create a soft bed for their newborn as well.

During biblical times, it was common for homes to have a shelter area for animals that was actually connected to the main house—either as a separate room or on a lower level, away from where the people lived. When the innkeeper or owner of the house told Mary and Joseph there was no room for them, he might have been referring to the upstairs rooms, which were nicer and more suitable for guests.

More Theories

Another theory suggests that Mary and Joseph found shelter at Migdol Eder, located in northern Bethlehem. This was a special watchtower that shepherds used to house and protect the lambs used for sacrifices. If this theory is correct, it’s certainly fitting that Jesus would be born at this watchtower since He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29; John 1:36). The prophet Micah mentioned such a watchtower in his prophecy about the birth of the Messiah (Micah 4:8).

Regardless of the actual location of Jesus’ birth—whether it was an indoor animal shelter, a separate room or barn, or a tower used for lambing—the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born in a humble setting in the town of Bethlehem. And the important thing to remember is that Jesus was born to save us from our sins. He is our eternal King!



The Bible says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4) and slept in a manger (Luke 2:7), which suggests a humble place where animals were sheltered. Different theories suggest the barn of a commercial inn, the animal shelter of a private home, or even the lower level of a watchtower where lambs were raised for temple sacrifices. Regardless of the exact location Jesus was born, the important thing to remember is that Jesus was born to save us from our sins, and He is our eternal King.

Writer: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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