Luke 2:1-5

Luke 2:1 (KJB)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Luke now locates the exact time of the birth of Jesus. Caesar Augustus ruled from 30 B.C. to 14 A.D. He had issued a decree that everyone in the Roman empire had to register for the purposes of taxation. A census was taken for two basic reasons: The first was to assess the taxes, and the second to see who was eligible for military service. Since the Jews were exempt from military service, their census was for the purpose of taxing. Now this decree was not to levy another financial tax on the people but was for the purpose of registering all the people. The word “taxed” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “to enroll, record, or inscribe in a register.”

Luke 2:2 (KJB)
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

This was the first enrollment or census of the Jewish nation and Luke records another one in the book of Acts. (Acts 5:37 KJV) After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

Luke 2:3 (KJB)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Caesar had allowed the details of the taxing to be worked out by the individual province rulers. Cyrenius had allowed all the people in Judea to return to their hometown to register. Ancient documents have been found that show that this is exactly what happened.

Luke 2:4 (KJB)
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Since Joseph was of the house of David and his hometown was Bethlehem, he was now compelled to go back there for the taxing. This decree of Caesar was also a part of the divine plan. It caused the Scripture in Micah to be fulfilled. (Micah 5:2 KJV) But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem being of the house of David. This would have been about a 100 mile (161 km) trip by donkey. It would have taken many days to reach Bethlehem.

Luke 2:5 (KJB)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

The trip would have been hard enough to make alone but the fact that Mary was in her ninth month with Jesus had made the trip much more dangerous. Roman law declared that the women as well as the men had to be registered and pay taxes. Joseph had known that Mary would soon give birth and there was no way that he was going to leave her behind in Nazareth. Mary had to give birth in Bethlehem in fulfillment of the Scriptures.