There Wasn’t Any Inn -- By: Gordon Mellish

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 28:4 (Fall 2015)
Article: There Wasn’t Any Inn
Author: Gordon Mellish

There Wasn’t Any Inn

Gordon Mellish

At the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Rome ruled most of the known world. This required lots of men and lots of money and salt. Soldiers were often paid with salt. Octavian was the king of Rome at that time, and he was given the title of Augustus as an honor. Caesar, Kaiser and Khan all mean king, so we know him as Caesar Augustus. And so, to get money to pay his soldiers, he taxed everyone in his empire. To ensure complete compliance and have good records, he ordered all Jews to register in their tribal areas.

Now, Joseph and Mary were both Jews of the tribe of Judah, and their hometown was Bethlehem in Judea. Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth in Galilee, so they made preparations to return to Bethlehem. Mary was pregnant, and it was a five or six day journey to cover the 86 miles to Bethlehem, but they calculated they had plenty of time to get there before giving birth.

They plodded over the hills, rocks and sand, through the tribal areas of Manasseh and Ephraim, through the towns of Shechem and Shiloh, which was the first Jewish capital. Here they had a mountaintop view of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It was an uphill walk, but since everyone was well adjusted to walking everywhere they went, it was no big problem for a young pregnant girl.

When they reached Jerusalem, they had a choice to make. They could stay in Jerusalem. They could walk about 5 miles west and stay with Mary’s cousins, Zechariah and Elizabeth (Lk 1:39), or they could walk on another 5.5 miles to Bethlehem. Mary had stayed with Elizabeth and helped her in her old age for three months (Lk 1:56) while she was pregnant with her son John (who became known as John the Baptist). They each had cousins living in Bethlehem (Lk 2:4). Since it was only another 5.5 miles, they decided to walk on and stay with their cousins in Bethlehem.

Being of “the house and lineage of David” (Lk 2:4) meant that they were descendants of the most popular king the country of Israel ever had. No one would have rejected giving a place to stay to a descendant of a popular king, and certainly not to a relative. The culture of that time meant that any descendant of a king—or even a hometown boy who had been gone a long time—would be welcomed with open arms. All he had to do was recite his genealogy for about four or five generations, and he was welcome. Joseph and Mary decided to stay with their closer relatives, and so they stayed with them in their hillside home. “There was no room for them in the guest room” (G...

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