Migdal Edar/Eder or the tower of the flock, is a location on the outskirts of Bethlehem. There are at least three locations that are suggested for the location, and all have an interested party claiming authenticity. The LXX has the location between Bethel and Rachel’s tomb. Eusebius locates it 1.9km east of Bethlehem (3) and others with Siyan al Ghannam SW of Jerusalem (4) That this place is special is beyond words, for it was at this location that the news of the arrival of the Messiah into the earth was announced. The congregated shepherds were no ordinary shepherds for these were men attending to the flock specifically designated for the continual burnt offering at the temple. They were the primary assessors of the blemish, tears and spots within the sheep, and attendant to their special care as befitting such an objective. (1,2)
To share in this experience was a rich one indeed, for it was the lot of few men to feel the very sentiments of deity in the expected arrival and activities of his son. Experiences such as Abraham feeling the passion of his crucifixion, Gabrielle sharing with Daniel the expectation of his birth, and rushing to see its development, and numerous women such as Sarah and Hannah who were barren, waiting patiently for the arrival of their own children as a foretaste of the events at Bethlehem. But the reference to Migdal eder is a reference to the events surrounding the birth of Benjamin. Leading up to his delivery the severe labour pains were taxing the stamina of Rachel, who named her son before it’s arrival as Benomi; the son of sorrows, but renamed Benjamin by Jacob, the son of the right hand. This event is portrayed as a national parable, with the diaspora being a symbol of the death of Rachel’s natural son Benomi, Jer 31:15 and again later seen in the slaughter of natural sons of Israel by Herod Matt 2:18. But the symbolic survival of Benjamin spoke of a force at work greater than natural energy, and so Christ then becomes the champion of his Father to overcome travail, anguish and the tragic end of sin and evil. This dominion over sin is seen in Micah 4:8 in both overcoming moral challenges but also military challenges, being the man to stand against the Assyrian in the time of Micah and the amassed Gogian hordes in the time of Armageddon Micah 5:5.
The tent of Israel (note not Jacob the natural man, but the prince of power with El) was spread beyond Migdal eder Gen 35:21 and points to a time when the family of God created through the typical son of the right hand will overcome all challenges to become the inheritors of the promise.
That the migdal or tower is a component of the process of the burnt offering is confirmed in Neh 8 where the pulpit AV heb Migdol is the presiding of Ezra in the enactment of the burnt offering. All the steps of the preparation and offering are outlined in the actions and positions of the men involved within the chapter. The migdal was a fortress or a high tower where observation and a position of strength were demonstrated. This was the commencement of a process leading to the “lifting up” and declaration of the strength of Christ’s father, to be confirmed later in His resurrection.
The responsibility of bible scholars is to look out. Numerous passages berate the folly of sleeping or slothful watchmen, and the disastrous effects of unwarned military actions on the communities in Israel they were caring for. We are to look for and haste unto the coming of the Lord, and so we wait for an event shortly to happen that will again change history and introduce our Lord into the world again 2 Peter 3:12; Rev 16:15.
- Alfred Edersheim: The life and times of Jesus the Messiah chapter vi
- Mishnah: Baba K vii.7
- Eusebius Onamasticon 43.12
- Avraham Negev: Archeological encyclopaedia of the holy land pg 339