Matthew 2:1 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,
2 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.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 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.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 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.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 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.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Matthew sets forth an historical account of the visit of the wise men here in chapter two. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the king, or Herod the Great. Herod was the son of Antipater, an Idumean or Edomite. In other words, Herod was a descendant of Esau and since he was elected king of Judaea in 40-39 B.C. by the Roman senate most orthodox Jews didn’t consider him Jewish. In fact, he was a very cruel king who by this time had exiled his first wife Doris and killed his second wife Miriamne I due to his jealousy. He had also killed Miriamne’s mother Alexandra and his two sons by Miriamne I for suspected treason. He also ended up five days before his own painful death, killing his firstborn son Antipater II. He was considered by this time to be very suspicious and paranoid by this time of anything that might be a threat against his rule.
During this time, Augustus was emporer of Rome and the world enjoyed Pax Romana, Roman Peace. However, several orthodox Jewish groups felt oppressed by the Roman government and their puppet king Herod. It was in this time, the fullness of time, Christ chose to be born (4 B.C.). Notice that right in the very first verse we are introduced to another group of people, three wise men. No, it doesn’t say three and there were likely more than three wise men. There are several notions like this that actually originate with the Catholic church and are perpetuated by our Christmas carols and cards. But the Bible doesn’t actually say how many wise men there were. The Catholics likely assumed there were three wise men because of the three types of gifts they gave. We know there were probably several and that they came from the east to Jerusalem to make an enquiry as to the birthplace of Christ.
Who were these wise men and where did they come from exactly no one knows for sure but there are a few theories that we can base on scripture. They were Gentiles, in fact, it is interesting to note that in all the accounts of the gospels of Jesus’ birth and early life, it is these Gentiles and only these Gentiles who are said to worship Jesus. They are wise men. The word used here is magos in the Greek which literally meant an Oriental scientist or magician. They were learned scholars and they are said to have come from the east. Some suppose they were Persian coming from the area of Babylon for both Persia and Chaldea or Babylon are referred to as in the east in Isaiah 41 and 46. They would have likely had read from Daniel’s prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord.
Others say they were from the land of Arabia also known as Midia for in Genesis 25:6 and in Judges 6:3 Arabia (Midia) is called the land of the east. Baalim, a hireling prophet in Numbers, was from the mountains of the east and his prophecy in Numbers 24:17 was likely one of the reasons they tied the appearance of the star in the west to the birth of the ‘King of the Jews’. Numbers 24:17 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.
Personally, I think there were more than three wise men and they likely came from both Persia and Arabia and were familiar with the writings of Daniel as well as other prophecies of that time. In fact it was something sort of well known at the time. The famous Roman historian Tacitus, in his history, takes notice of it; A persuasion existed in the minds of many that some ancient writings of the priests contained a prediction that about that time an eastern power would prevail, and that persons proceeding from Judea would obtain dominion. Another Roman historian Suetonius also, in the life of Vespasian, wrote “there prevailed an ancient and existent opinion in all the east which stated that at that time those should go forth from Judaea who should rule the empire.” The sudden appearance of wise men of large number from several countries to the east would have caused the kind of suspicion and anxiety we see here with Herod.
Matthew 2:2-3 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.
Notice the wise men, when they arrive in Jerusalem, they don’t ask for king Herod. They begin to ask for the location of the King of the Jews. They didn’t ask if He was born, they asked where He was for they believed His birth to be a fact already occurred. They had studied the prophecies and the star and had come to Jerusalem expecting to find the Jews worshipping at the feet of their new King or to at least know who and where He is. They ask generally among the people of God about the whereabouts of Jesus so that they might worship Him. It is sad that in our day, poor souls come into church expecting God’s people to be able to show them Jesus and most of the time churches are just as ignorant of Him as the people of Jerusalem was in this day.
Their inquiries caused a stir and commotion in Jerusalem so much so that word reached Herod and, of course, at age of 70 being paranoid of usurpers, this new development troubled him.
Matthew 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 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. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Herod, troubled at the news that a new King had been born begins to question whether such news was credible. He goes straight to the chief priests and scribes and notice he ‘demands’ of them where this Christ should be born. Notice the Bible doesn’t say that they had to go to the library and look up the answer. It was the job of the scribes to make copies of the Scriptures, to classify and teach them and to even keep and accurate count of every letter in the Old Testament writings. They answered Herod straight away and told him that the birthplace of Christ was Bethlehem of Judaea according to the prophecy of Micah in chapter 5:2 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.
Notice you never see the scribes ask the wise men if they could ride with them. The problem was that all their knowledge of the scripture and what they knew of Christ was academic. They didn’t personally believe what they knew. Prophecy and the coming of Jesus Christ is still a popular topic today, but do the actions of Christians’ live betray that they believe His return is soon? If He came today would you be expecting it? Would you be sorrowful or wishing you were more prepared for it?
After determining where Christ was born, Herod calls in these wise men privately to ask of them when they had first seen the star that they had spoken of. The Bible doesn’t indicate here how long that had been. There are many theories. I personally think it had been about a year since they had seen the star indicating His birth and that later after waiting about a year, Herod sends troops to kill any child in Bethlehem under two years old to be sure. Here he tries to deceive the wise men hoping that they would lead him to this new king. He promises that when they return with word of His whereabouts, that he would go worship Christ as well.
Matthew 2:9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 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. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
The wise men depart for Bethlehem and suddenly once again see the star they had studied from afar while they were in the own countries in the East. This is a supernatural star sent of God as it does what other stars do not do. It moved until it got to a certain place, then it stopped over the place where Jesus was. We behold the stars at night while standing on a moving planet and our perception is that the stars move across our sky due to our planet’s orbit around the sun and its rotation. However this stars apparent movement stops right over the place of Jesus’ home. The star here is a type or symbol of the Holy Spirit shining His light on Christ and guiding the wise to worship Him.
When the wise men come to where Jesus was, He is no longer a little newborn babe in a manger but a young child in a house. Notice that the wise men do not worship Mary but they fall down and worship Jesus and present Him gifts.
1. The wise men purpose to worship Christ. They made a great effort to seek Him and worship Him. It was a sacrificial effort.
2. They followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their worship of Him. The star, a type or symbol of the Holy Spirit in this account, illuminates the way to Christ and eventually Christ Himself. Anyone who comes to Christ today does so under the drawing influence of His Spirit. John 6:44a No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…
3. Jesus was the focus of their humble worship. They didn’t worship king Herod or Jesus’ earthly parents. Their focus was not men or circumstances but rather Jesus.
4. They gave:
-of their own treasure
–Gold – in honor of the kingship of Christ: Revelation 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
Frankincense – He is our high priest: Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Myrrh – in honor of the sacrifice: Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 1Corinthians 5:7b …For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us…
5. After they worshipped Christ, they went a different way. If a person ever has a true encounter with our Savior, He changes their walk and their way. 2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Those that know Him can truly know what it is to have a Merry Christmas. Since we celebrate His birth, what gift do you have to offer Him?
THINK ON THESE THINGS…