The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would probably go via Samaria and Jerusalem and take about four days on foot. It is quite likely that Joseph would have a donkey to carry pieces of wood and other tools of the carpenter’s trade, so surely as Mary was heavily pregnant with the baby Jesus at this time she would have rode on the donkey. The Bible says nothing about her travelling on a donkey, so we can’t be sure.
It is about 120 Km from Narareth to Jerusalem and another 10 Km from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. (About 80 miles in all) If Mary had not been feeling very well it could have taken nearly a week to do the journey.
Where did Mary and Joseph stay overnight on their journey? In those days good Jews were supposed to offer hospitality to travellers and might have taken them in their homes overnight. Or they might have camped out. Joseph and Mary might have travelled with a group of people from their area. They used to go every year on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the people of Nazareth, so with a 12th of the population of the area going to Bethlehem, they may well have travelled in a group for safety. There were lots of bandits at that time who would attack lonesome travellers, and even lions and bears. So travelling on foot could be dangerous. Travelling through Samaria might have been hard too, as the people who lived there, called Samaritans, did not like the Jews very much and might have made life difficult for Jewish travellers like Mary and Joseph.
Working it Out
1. If Mary and Joseph travelled the same distance a day and took four days to do the journey, how far did they travel daily?
2. What is the longest distance you have ever walked in one day? Was this as far as Mary and Joseph travelled daily?
3. What were the dangers to travellers at the time of Mary and Joseph?
4. Mary and Joseph were probably used to travelling between Nazareth and Jerusalem, Luke said they did this journey every year. Read the story of Jesus in the Temple at the age of 12, are there any clues as to whether they went alone or in a group? See Luke 2:41-50