God’s Word is so majestic! Everything God has said about the birth of His Son Jesus is exciting and gives us who read it such a picture of what happened in those days. Just think, God let us know about when Jesus was born but specifically where. Dr. Luke writes that Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census was to be taken in the land of Judea and many scholars have researched and found that there was a certain census during that time period. Because of the census, Joseph and Mary would have to travel back to Joseph’s birth place of Bethlehem to be counted; all of which fits right into the prophecies of the Messiah’s birth. Joseph and Mary knowing who their child was, realized that the Roman census was but a part of God’s great plan.
On the way to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary leave Nazareth to go, some say, as much as between 70 and 90 miles on foot through the hills and on ancient roads. But, being careful many people travelled in caravans of families and merchants and probably Joseph chose to go that way as well. There were various ways the couple could get to Bethlehem. They could have left Nazareth and gone east toward the Jordan Valley. If they went as far as the river itself, depending what time of year they travelled, then they could be in trouble with the swampy lands and it would make the travel difficult.
Since we are not sure of the season in which they travelled, depending upon the time of the year: winter time the daily high temperatures may would peaked at 45° - 50° but it could be below freezing during the night; if it were in the summer-time the temperatures could range from 60° to the highs being above 100°. Depending upon the way they went they could find food and water before they encountered desert areas where little water would be available.
They might have taken the route that would take them from Nazareth to the Megiddo Valley, then turn southeast until they got to the Ridge Road and turn south along the ridge of mountains toward Jerusalem. There was a third way to go to Bethlehem, that would have been the sea route. Joseph and Mary probably did not take that route but most likely took the Ridge Road route down through Samaria. Remember, Jesus once took that route as as adult when He was going from Jerusalem to go to Galilee, where He stopped over to talk to the woman at the well.
While Joseph and Mary were “on the way to Bethlehem” they would have stopped for food, water and rest at some very familiar places. They would pass by Mt. Carmel where Elijah dueled with the prophets of Baal. The ancient city of Dothan was on that route which was the site that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. They would go close to the town of Shechem where Abraham built an altar to pray and where Joseph was buried. The town lay in the middle of the valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, the mountain that the woman at the well spoke of where Samaritans did their worship. After that they would go toward Shiloh as they went on toward Jerusalem. In Jerusalem they would have seen the great crowds and especially the magnificent Temple of Herod. Their trip was almost over when they got to Jerusalem because Bethlehem was but five miles more.
Weary and worn they must have been thrilled to know their journey was about to end when they approached the City of David. Were they thinking of the prophet’s words found in Micah 5:2?