Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel… When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. ( Matthew 2:1-11)
Wise men from the East came seeking Jesus, calling him “King of the Jews”. Who were they and how did they know to come and seek him?
The Eastern frontier of the Roman Empire was the Euphrates river. The Parthians (Medo/Persians) were a particular threat to the Romans, never having succumbed to the Roman expansion and handily resisting them upon every incursion from the west.
The Magi came from Persia, their ‘school of the Magi’ was believed to have dated all the way back to the days of Daniel the prophet, from his time in the schools of Babylon, and then Persia.
The Magi were careful observers of astronomy, as well as being completely conversant with the Hebrew prophets (especially Daniel). Why are they considered Kings? Because they were of an ancient Persian Priestly caste, of teachers, philosophers, and educators of Kings. No King could be crowned in Persia without having mastered the teachings of the Magi, and without the approval of the same.
When the Magi came west, to seek Jesus, (There were far more than three of them), Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled. Quite a large contingent of them crossed the frontier into the Eastern most district of the Roman Empire, the defense of which, Herod would have been responsible. The Magi would have come with a military escort, and a caravan of supplies. Some ancient historians speculate that they would have been accompanied by up to a thousand mounted cavalrymen.
What did they seek? the King of the Jews. They had seen a star, as a portent of the birth of a powerful King. They were also familiar with the prophecies of Balaam, the pagan Seer, whom God put prophecy into his mouth, back in the days of the Exodus,
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)
Was this the Star out of Jacob, which would crush heathendom in its unity against the only true God? The Medo/Persian Magi were so sure of it, they openly told Herod, that they had come to worship Him, (Christ).
Herod immediately called a counsel of his advisors; Chief Priests, scribes, experts in the Torah, in order to demand of them the birth place of the Messiah. Already the baby jesus was causing the Kings of the earth and their rulers to seek counsel against the LORD and his Messiah.
Without hesitation, a Priest, or scribe rattled off the prophecy of Micah, that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, the place of King David and his family.
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… And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.( Micah 5:2,4)
Other than mindlessly rattling off the scripture which they were familiar with on the one hand, and blind and deadened to on the other, there seemed to be very little interest in walking the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see of there was anything to what the Medo Persian contingent had traveled 500 miles to inquire of.
Herod was quite interested for other reasons as we will see.
The Magi would follow the star until they found the child within two years after the interview by Herod. By that time Jesus no longer an infant ,but was a Paidon, ( a young child just walking). The Star led them to the very house where Jesus was living, and with his mother.
Their gifts of Gold,Frankincense and Myrrh, all point to his Kingly dignity, His Deity, (Gold) and the fact that he is a Priest (Frankincense) . Myrrh points to his substitutionary death for our salvation.
These gifts are also a foretaste of a Prophecy for the restoration of Israel and the Jewish people by Isaiah, in which the Gentiles will come streaming in to present the wealth of the nations to God’s chosen people,
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.( Isaiah 60:1-7)
In the days to come, Israel’s sorrow will be turned to joy and her fortunes will be restored, in the days of the Messiah, and instead of being “forsaken and hated” the Gentiles will pour in, bringing their gifts.
They entered into the house, fell down and worshiped him.
Priests of God, scribes and Jewish elders didn’t bother to seek him, although they knew the scripture, but these Medo/Persian King trainers, knew a King when they saw him (by the Holy Spirit) so they bowed down to worship and adore him.
Another factor which made the Magi sensitive enough to know the time had come for the King of the Jews to be born, was their familiarity with the Prophet Daniel.
Five hundred and forty some years previously, the prophet Daniel was praying about the future of his people, from captivity in Babylon, and in Persia. An amazing time sensitive prophecy was revealed to Him, personally delivered to him by the Angel Gabriel.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:25-27)
The future of Daniel’s people, (Israel) would be decided in a manner of 70 weeks of years,(490 years). Within that time the entire program of God for them will be concluded; finish transgression,end of sins,reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting rightiousness, seal up the vision, and all prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Picture a stopwatch. It starts “from the going of the command the restore and build Jerusalem”… This decree of Artaxerxes, occurred in 444BC and is recounted in Nehemiah 2.
We are told, that in 69 weeks, (483 years(, Messiah the Prince would come and die, but not for himself but for the people”. This would bring us to the year 33 AD. (At this point the Divine stopwatch stopped. ;eaving 7 more years for God to complete his program for Israel).
These Magi had studied Daniel’s prophecies copiously for centuries. Thus they would have known that the time was near for the Messiah to present himself, and they knew to be aware and to understand the star and it’s meaning.
The meaning of the Magi is clear, that those who seek the Messiah, and his salvation and who fear God and tremble at his word, will find the Christ, and be able to bow down and Worship Him. Those who have no heart for God, even if they are familiar with scripture, will not seek Him, and will not find Him.