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No Inn at the Inn!

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Secrets Surrounding the Birth of Messiah Part 3

Luke 2:7 is one of the most famous and most misunderstood passages in the New Testament. Read it in the KJV and then CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) and look for the differences:

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.
And she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough, because there was no space for them in the living-quarters.

Now, look at Young’s Literal Translation:

And she brought forth her son — the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.

There are a few differences, but the one I want to focus on is at the end of the verse. Traditionally, we envision Joseph and Miriam searching for a hotel in crowded Bethlehem. 

“All the inns were full and nobody would give them space to spend the night. Joseph walked all over the town, knocking on the doors of towns and shops, one after the other, but nobody would allow them to come in.”[i]

Often it is an angry, uncompassionate innkeeper that sends Miriam and Joseph on their way. 

Hospitality in the Middle East

I took the quote above about the inns being full directly from a cartoon about Christmas. First, it is stupid and improbable. Hospitality was a major core value in ancient times—certainly in Israel. In Genesis, we see Abraham and Sarah offering hospitality (Gen. 18:). In the very next chapter, Lot extends hospitality to the two angels (Gen. 19). 

Hospitality was a necessity for nomadic peoples because there were no hotels in the wilderness. Even within the towns and cities there were often no inns available…hospitality was not offered to everyone.[ii]

No, it was not offered to everyone out of fear of being robbed, but it most certainly would have been offered to a pregnant woman and her husband—particularly because Joseph grew up there! The idea that every place in Bethlehem turned away a woman about to give birth is not only unrealistic but nowhere in the Bible. It doesn’t even mention an inn in Greek. If you look at other translations, the Greek word that the KJV translates as inn is:

  1. Guest chamber (YLT)

  2. House for strangers (WE)

  3. Any upper room in the village (TPT) (the upper room, as in the Upper Room, was traditionally a place for guests.)

  4. Normal living quarters (NTE, CJB)

  5. The place where people stay for the night (NLV)

  6. Guest Room (NIV, ERV, CSB)

  7. Guest quarters (ISV)

  8. Lodging place (HCSB)

The Greek word katalumati is more accurately translated as a guest room. And they did not just arrive exhausted, searching for a place to stay. Read…

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Miriam, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:4-7)

In reading the text, it would appear that they had already arrived. It says, “While they were there,” the time came for the baby to be born.” Not “as they arrived,” as is commonly depicted. Joseph and Miriam were both of the line of David. They returned to Bethlehem Ephrathah because they had family there. It is probable that they were in close proximity to Boaz’s threshing floor and the Tower of the Flock—as both were in Bethlehem Ephrathah. For all we know, they were staying at Boaz’s house. 

Now, of course, they had a place to stay. However, that doesn’t mean that they had room in the guest chamber or upper room, with other relatives staying there because of the census, to give birth to a baby! These guests were all of the household of their ancestors Boaz and King David.

Boaz was the great-grandfather of King David (1 Chronicles 2:12-15, Matthew 1:5-6) of whose lineage came Joseph, wedded to Mary, who gave birth to Yeshua known as the Messiah. Boaz owned a threshing floor in Bethlehem, which, by right of inheritance, was handed down to succeeding generations within the lineage of David.[iii]

Just think of the hand of God. His genius in finding a way to make sure the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and yet come from Nazareth, as the prophets predicted. A census!

Have you ever been in the delivery room, while giving birth? If you have (3x for me), then you know it is chaotic! Now, keep in mind two things:

  1. It is possible, even probable, that they hid Miriam’s pregnancy. Showing up to see your relatives with your pregnant girlfriend!!! is not cool! Now to be clear, they were as good as married, betrothed, except they were not allowed to consummate the marriage before the huppah or actual ceremony. So, knowing that the house was crowded, there was, “no guest room available” for them to discreetly give birth to Yeshua. 

  2. If the other relatives did know about Miriam’s pregnancy, you can only imagine the stares, the gossip, and the judging. Surely she did not want to give birth in the presence of these judgmental relatives.

Either way, it makes sense that they sought out an alternative maternity ward.


[i]The Birth of Jesus Christ | Christmas Story for Kids | Animated Children’s Bible Stories Holy Tales

[ii]Hospitality in the First Testament and the ‘Teleological Fallacy’

T. R. Hobbs


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