Migdal Eder (biblical location)

Migdal Eder (Hebrew: מגדל־עדר Miḡdal ‘Êḏer [miɣ.dal ʕɛð.er], "Tower of Eder") is a tower mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis 35:21, in the context of the death of Jacob's wife, Rachel. The biblical record locates it near the present-day city of Bethlehem.

So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. Israel [Jacob] journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. (Gen 35:19-21 NRSV)

Many have attempted to identify the exact location of the tower, but early sources differ on the location.[1]

Connection to the Birth of the Jewish MessiahEdit

One scholar, Alfred Edersheim, interpreted Micah 4:8,[2] the only other biblical reference to the tower, as a prophecy indicating that the Messiah would be revealed from the "tower of the flock" (Migdal Eder) which he claimed is connected with the town of Bethlehem, southeast of Jerusalem.[3] However, this interpretation is not shared by most modern scholars. The parallelism of Hebrew poetry seems to point in another direction: "The appositional structure of the terms 'watchtower' and 'Zion' seems to negate the possibility that the 'watchtower of the flock' was a tower in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19-21)."[4] Instead, the thought is that this verse communicates an image of God watching over his people from Mount Zion as a shepherd watches over his flock:

[I]t shares the symbolism of the flock and I AM's kingship, but it advances the argument by predicting that Mount Zion, to which the flock has been regathered, will become a tower guaranteeing its security and survival as it did in David's epoch. The picture of the flock in 4:6-7A fades into that of the tower, Mount Zion, in 4:7A-8. From his watchtower a shepherd overlooked his flock and protected it against violent animals and vile thieves.[5]

To support his view, Edersheim cited Mishnah Shekalim 7.4 and said it "leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds." Shekalim 7 is about how to deal with found items and, 7.4 reads:

An animal that was found between Jerusalem and Migdal Eder, or a similar distance in any direction, the males are [considered] burnt offerings. The females are [considered] peace offerings. Rabbi Yehuda says, those which are fitting as a Pesach offering are [considered] Pesach offerings if it is thirty days before the festival.

It referred to Migdal Eder as a distance marker to make a radius around Jerusalem, dictating how lost sheep within this radius could be used as offerings.[6] [7] It does not say that sheep were pastured at the tower.


  1. ^ Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament: and a commentary on the Messianic predictions, vol 1 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871), 454-465. [1].
  2. ^ Micah 4:8
  3. ^ Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, [2] (1883).
  4. ^ Thomas E. McComiskey, Hosea, Amos, Micah, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 346.
  5. ^ Bruce K. Waltke, A Commentary on Micah, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007), 234. [3].
  6. ^ Shek. vii. 4
  7. ^ Timothy J. Etherington, "Away in a Tower?" [4]