The following is from
Bible Study notes and Biblical commentaries by
Dr Tim Bulkeley Tekoa was in the vicinity of Bethlehem
and would have not only had the same flock grazing methods
but would have shared some pasturage with the shepherds
headquartered in Bethlehem. This is from material about the
Many say that it was too cold for the shpeherds to be
tending their flocks in December in the vicinity of
Bethlehem. However this area has average lows about the same
as Lake City, Florida, is warmer than where Jacob tended
Laban's flocks and it is where the forage would have been.
on the Eastern slopes of the Judean hills, is most often
identified as the modern Khirbet Taqu`a. (See map on
left.) This region is on the edge of the rain shadow of
the higher hills to the west, and was therefore too dry for
From the hills of Taqu'a Bethlehem (about 8Kms north) and
Jerusalem (twice as far again) can just be seen. The main
road south along the ridge is not far off, and a small route
leads down to the Dead Sea near En Gedi (the "Ascent of
The descent from the Judean ridge to the Dead Sea forms a
series of broad "steps" (see the wireframe 3-D map right).
this area is dry, there is sufficient vegetation to allow
grazing for part of each year. In the winter flocks are
grazed on the lower "terraces" and in summer on the high
ground above Tekoa.
The probability that the sheep
farmers of Tekoa in Amos' day were semi-nomadic removes
one of the most telling objections to this identification of
Tekoa. For, while it is true that Sycamore
figs (see Am
7:14) do not grow and fruit in the highlands, they are
found lower near the Dead Sea.
In any case 7:12 seems
to suggest a Southern origin for the prophet. As does the choice
of language to speak of Amos as prophet, cf. esp 7:12 (hozeh)
and 14 (nabi').
Despite the mention of Tekoa as a "city" built by Rehoboam for
Judah's defense (2
Chron 11:6) there is little evidence that the site was a
town, although investigations, including a brief
dig under the auspices of ASOR in
1955 show the area was inhabited in this period.
A cave was excavated (a tomb?) where among other finds
were lamps and pots with the shape
and style typical of the pre-exilic, "Iron II" period
(1000 BCE - 586 BCE).
MYTH: Too cold for shepherds to Tend Flocks in December (Part 2)
What is the average temperature around Bethlehem in December?
Remember, Bethlehem is a few miles south of Jerusalem at about 2,500 feet which is the same as Jerusalem. The flocks would have been tended more in the valley than at the top of the mount, so the temperatures faced by the shepherds would have been warmer than either recorded in Jerusalem or those that Jacob experienced.
With very little effort this information is easily available. The Weather Channel website provides the recorded average low temperature by month for many locations, including Jerusalem. In fact it will compare the average lows per month between two locations. Doing a little research with this tool gives an interesting comparison between Lake City, Florida and Jerusalem, Israel (Click here and then select Avg Low option).
As you will see from either using the link or from the image at the right, the December temperature in Jerusalem is two degrees cooler than Lake City Florida; 42 vs. 44 degress. The same is true for Jacksonville, Florida. However the average low temperature for Valdosta, Georgia and Albany, Georgia are a degree or two cooler than Jerusalem. So the average December low temperature in Jerusalem (at the top of the mount) is the equilvalent of extreme south Georgia or extreme north Florida. Not exactly Arctic conditions so to speak.
And that is at the top of the mount in Jerusalem and the valleys where the sheep would be tended would be warmer. So the average December temperatures that the shepherds would have faced would be warmer than Lake City, Florida.
Anyone who has ever been around Lake City, Florida can tell you. December winters in the area are rather mild, while there may be a few nights with a freeze or frost, they are NOT severe. Certainly the hardy people of the Biblical times would have been capable of facing this rather mild climate! Jacob certainly was.
So the statement that it is too cold in December for the shepherds to be tending their flocks is incorrect!
Most of the people who make the claim that it is too cold for shepherds to be in the fields with their flocks have never tended sheep (or goats). Some information on sheep herding and care for sheep will verify that once again that this is a false claim.