How far did the magi travel to see Jesus?


By BibleAsk Team

How far did the magi travel to see Jesus?

The Bible tells us that the magi traveled from the East to Jerusalem: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1).  This passage does not give us the exact location or country from where the wise men’s visit to Jerusalem started. Therefore, we cannot know for sure how far they traveled.

However, there are some theories to consider. The Jews considered the area of northern Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia as the “East.” There are several references in the Old Testament to the word “East.” For example, the city of Haran was in “the land of the people of the east” (Genesis 29:1, 4). And the prophet Isaiah spoke of Cyrus, from the land of Persia, as “the righteous man from the east” (Isaiah 41:2) and “a ravenous bird from the east” (Isaiah 46:11).

Also, we read that the king of Moab brought Balaam “from Aram [that is, Syria], out of the mountains of the east” (Numbers 23:7; 22:5). Some have thought that the magi were from the same section of the “east country” as was Balaam. This false prophet’s home has recently been identified with the Sajûr Valley between Aleppo and Carchemish, which is located near the Euphrates River (Numbers 22:5). If this was true, then the magi traveled to Bethlehem around 400 miles.

A trip of 400 miles would have taken the magi two to three weeks on camels or around a month’s journey by foot. If we assume that they traveled by night to be guided by the star, this will mean that their journey would have taken even longer time – over 40 days. Therefore, we can conclude that the magi might have traveled from the “east,” a vast area in Mesopotamia, which could range from 400 to 700 miles.

Who were the magi?

The magi or the ‘wise men from the east’ as described in Mathew’s gospel, studied the stars and the heavens. They were well versed in Astrology, which was a highly esteemed science at that time. According to the ancient historian Herodotus, the magi were a tribe of people that descended from the Medes. From the Babylonian to the Roman empires, they maintained a place of tremendous prominence and significance in the Orient. And served in a powerfully influential class as advisers to the royalty.

The lengthiest mention of the magi in the Old Testament is found in the book of Daniel. Although the magi came from a pagan religion, Daniel’s position and influence directed them to the knowledge of the true God. And for those sincere ones that studied the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit guided them to understand the prophecies that predicted the coming of the Messiah – the Savior of the world.

It is ironic and amazing that some of the first individuals in the world to recognize the arrival of the King of Kings were Gentiles—not Jews. The Bible shows that irony of rejection in John 1:11 where it says of Jesus, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” This proves that God has children in every religion and that He is calling them out to search for the truth and find it (John 10:16).

Why did the magi want to see Jesus?

The magi were notified of the birth of a king in Judea by the appearance of His star. They interpreted this unusual phenomenon as the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophecy of “a Star out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). So, they traveled to Judea looking for the new king. They have “seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2: 1,2).

By faith they followed His moving star. Upon their arrival to Jerusalem, they contacted King Herod to determine the location of the birthplace of the king. Herod, troubled by this news, answered them that he had not heard of the child, but told them of a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6). And he urged them to let him know when they find the baby so that he may also go and worship him (Matthew 2:8).

Led by the Star of Bethlehem, the magi found baby Jesus there with Mary and Joseph. Joyfully, they worshiped the newborn. They also offered Him their gifts of gold Frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). But the Lord warned the Magi in a dream not to return to Herod. So, they went back to their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Herod, realizing that he had been deceived by the magi, sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under. He did that according to the time which he had determined from the wise men about the days of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16).

Although the nativity story is described in both gospels of Matthew and Luke, each presents a different aspect of it.  The Gospel of Matthew mentions the Magi and King Herod. The Gospel of Luke does not mention the magi’s visit to Jesus, but it does mention the visit of the shepherds to Bethlehem and their visit to the newborn baby Jesus.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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