In the Bible, only the apostle Matthew describes the wise men's visit. The former tax collector carefully recorded the facts, underlying tension, and ancient prophecy.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:1-12 New International Version
Matthew relates a story of glorious promise shadowed by menace. Readers are intrigued, but left wanting to know more. Who were the magi? Why did they think the star heralded the birth of a king? What was the star?
Who were the magi?
|From the Catacomb of Priscilla|
In many early images, the magi appear to point or gaze at a star overhead. Camels sometimes walk behind them, as in a fourth-century sarcophagus in the Vatican museum.
Why did the wise men think the star heralded the birth of a king?
As astrologers, the wise men may have interpreted the unusual star rising as an omen. As highly-educated sages and priests, they may have been familiar with Hebrew messianic prophecies.
I see him, but not now,I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;a scepter will rise out of Israel."Numbers 24:17a NIV
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land."
Jeremiah 23:5 NIV
The magi decided to investigate and followed the star's path first to King Herod and then to Bethlehem, where it appeared to stop over a house where the child had recently been born. The wise men paid the baby homage due a king and presented their gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
What was the star?
"This could not have been a supernova or a conjunction of planets, as some modern theories suggest, because of the way the star moved and settled over one place (Matt. 2:9). It is more likely a supernatural reality similar to the Shekinah that guided the Israelites in the days of Moses."
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Exodus 13:21
I believe MacArthur's opinion, that the star led the wise men in a way similar to the pillar of fire guiding the Israelites, perfectly fits the miraculous story.
However, another opinion, also fitting the biblical record, is offered by Simo Parpola in "The Magi and the Star," BAS Bible Review December 2001.
Parpola writes that Babylonian astronomy holds the key to identifying the star and dating Jesus' birth. He theorizes that the magi believed the star would lead them to a new king. Why?
What did the magi know?
How did this lead the wise men to search for a king?
Why did they head west? And why visit Herod?
The second meeting of the planets occurred in the month of Tishri (October). Tishri being known as the month of Amurru would further inspire the magi to travel West.
The third conjunction occurred on the 14th of Kislev, December 1.
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A king's downfall and a love that transcends war
SPURNED BY POTENTIAL SUITORS, Miriam travels to Jezreel to care for her cousin’s son. There, the precocious seven-year-old works his way into her heart. When Arameans swarm the land like locusts, Miriam focuses on the safety of her young ward but promises adventures beyond the city walls when the war ends.
Gershon, a quiet and kind vintner, is happily building a life for his wife, son, and aging parents. But when his wife dies during childbirth and war looms on the horizon, he must make a decision—will he take a new wife before his heart can mend?
Meanwhile, Dov, a young officer crosses paths with the “bird girl” he remembers from the past, now grown to womanhood. That she is a beautiful woman matters not, as he is a career soldier. Unexpectedly charged with leading Ahab’s army against the Arameans, Dov anticipates death and defeat in Samaria, but when a prophet pledges victory, Dov vows to fight to the end.
When an unlikely victory brings freedom, a bright future seems imminent. Then one afternoon Miriam witnesses a tragedy and must flee with the boy to keep them both safe. With henchmen on their trail, will they find refuge—and her heart the home she’s longed for?