The word Bethlehem has a double meaning. It signifies, “the house of bread” and, “the house of war.” Ought not Jesus Christ to be born in “the house of bread”? He is the Bread to His people! As our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, so do we live on Jesus here below! Famished by the world, we cannot feed on its shadows.
In that blessed Bread of Heaven, made of the bruised body of our Lord Jesus and baked in the furnace of His agonies, we find a blessed food! There is no food like Jesus to the desponding soul or to the strongest saint! The very meanest of the family of God goes to Bethlehem for bread—and the strongest man, who eats strong meat, goes to Bethlehem for it, too.
But it is also called, “the house of war” because Christ is to a person either “the house of bread,” or else, “the house of war.” While He is food to the righteous, He causes war to the wicked, according to His own words—“think not that I am come to send peace on the earth; I am not come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
And now for that word Ephratah. That was the old name of the place which the Jews retained and loved. The meaning of it is, “fruitfulness,” or, “abundance.” It is fitting that Jesus was born in the house of fruitfulness, for where comes my fruitfulness and your fruitfulness but from Bethlehem?
Adapted from Spurgeon's Sermons, The Incarnation and Birth of Christ (No. 57), by Charles Spurgeon.