©2007 Peter Degraaf
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the East, and are come to worship Him”.
This passage tells us that the Wise Men were most likely astrologers. The Greek text uses the word ‘magoy’, or magi. This can be translated into Wise Men, or astrologers.
Astrologers were people who studied the supposed influence of planets and stars, on human events. The Bible does not say how many in the party, nor does it state that they were kings. The idea that there were three, comes from the mention of three different types of gifts. We also learn here that the star did not hover over the stable in Bethlehem, for time has passed (probably two years), since Jesus was born, and by now the trio has left the inn.
The Wise Men most likely visited the family in their home. When the Wise Men arrived in Judea, they did not see the star, or they would not have gone to Jerusalem. We can conclude that they saw the star when Jesus was born, but took time to study the star, before starting their journey. No matter how far east from Bethlehem they lived, it would not take two years to get to Bethlehem. The area referred to as ‘the East’ is most likely modern day Iraq.
When they left Jerusalem, with instructions to look in Bethlehem, something guided them right to Jesus and His family. It could not have been an ordinary star, for if a star was that close to the top of a house, it would have been sucked into the earth’s atmosphere, and even if this could have been supernaturally prevented, Herod would have seen the star also, for we know that he was curious. The chief priests and scribes, who were consulted by Herod, would have seen a star as well.
Centuries earlier, when the Israelites were traveling through the desert, led by Moses, there was a kind of star that led the people as a cloud by day, and a bright light at night. This bright light was the ‘Shechinah Glory of God’. The Greek word for ‘star’ simply means ‘radiance’, or ‘brilliance’.
If the Wise Men saw a new star in the heavens it would not have motivated them to go on a long journey. If however, they saw the Shechinah Glory, they would be seeing a sight that they had never seen before. This particular ‘star’ moved in such a way as to help the Wise Men to follow its direction.
So we are faced with the question: how did the Wise Men know that the Shechinah Glory meant that a King had been born? For this is what they asked of Herod.
For the answer we need to study the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel was not written in the Hebrew language, but in Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian empire.
King Nebuchadnezzar had made Daniel the head of all the astrologers in Babylon. No doubt Daniel shared with them that a Messiah would be born in Judea. Since he had saved their lives, when he interpreted the king’s dream, he would have had a positive influence over them, and possibly led some of them to become believers in the ‘God of Daniel’.
Although many years have passed since Daniel, the belief in the ‘God of Daniel’ would presumably be passed on from generation to generation, just as it had in Israel, and just as it is in many nations today.
Daniel would most likely be well versed in the ancient scriptures and have been aware of the passage found in Numbers 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh; There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel”.
With this passage before them, and the knowledge that a savior would come from Israel, (there are 333 passages in the old testament that refer to the life of Jesus), the appearance of an unusual light would be enough to cause these Wise Men to study the event, and to prepare for the journey westward.
The three gifts they brought along with them, were very symbolic.
Gold is the symbol of royalty, or kingship. Frankincense was burned in holy places. Myrrh was associated in the Old Testament with death and embalming.
The gold enabled the family to flee to and survive in Egypt for about two years.
…..Peter Degraaf (Comments are welcome).
Credit for much of the above goes to Dr. John MacArthur, senior pastor at Grace Community Church (since 1969) at Sun Valley, CA. and president of the Master’s Seminary there.Also to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, expert on the Old Testament, and its fulfillment in the New Testament.
©2007 Peter Degraaf