Luke 2:7: “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Verse 12: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The majesty of this scene is only matched by its simplicity: The Creator of heaven and earth had come to deliver Mankind from Death and He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, a feed trough in a stable for cattle.
What Kind Of ‘Barn’ Was This?
In context of the New Testament times, was this stable an Old English or Early American barn? I don’t think so. In Biblical times, it was probably a ‘booth’, such as was built for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The instructions for this celebration are recorded in Leviticus 23:39-43: “Also, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath. (40) And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. (41) And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. (42) Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: (43) That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I AM the LORD your GOD.”
Keeping the Feast would have resulted in hundreds of these ‘booths’ in and around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Hebrew word for ‘booths’ is Succoth. It is defined as: “booths, cottage, covert, pavilion, tabernacle, and tent.” It is most familiar to us in its translation as “tabernacles.”
The Succoth Were Also Barns
This word is used in Genesis 33:17: “And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle, therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.” From this passage we know that these ‘booths’ or ‘tabernacles’ were also used for sheltering animals.
In Biblical context, it is likely that Christ was born in one of these succoth – a tabernacle, a temporary shelter. As He was “an Israelite born” He probably lived there for the seven required days, thus fulfilling the law. After the seven days in the succoth’ on the eighth day they took him to be circumcised, Luke 2:21.
He is said to have “tabernacled” among us, John 1:14, Amplified Version: “And the Word became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten Son receives from His father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.”
God hid His glory for a while in a stable, a succoth, as foretold by Psalm 27:5: “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” The stable became a royal pavilion for a while.
Jesus Shared The Brevity Of Life In The Flesh
Jesus shared with us the human condition of the brevity of this life in the flesh: He was born in a “tabernacle.” He thus exemplified the true meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles; that is, that our flesh is merely a temporary abode:
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2) For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. (3) If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (4) For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (5) Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit,” 2Corinthians 5:1-5.
Peter also saw his earthly body as a temporary tabernacle: “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; (14) Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me,” 2 Peter 1:13-14.
Jesus Became Our Tabernacle, Immanuel
Jesus became our tabernacle as foretold by the Prophets. His Body fulfilled Amos 9:11: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will built it as in the days of old.”
Isaiah 4:6: “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and rain.”
His Body is “the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man,” Hebrews 8:2.
Revelation 21:3: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us.