In Matthew chapter 2, the Maji (wise men) who came to see Jesus as a child in Bethlehem are called wise men. They first came to Jerusalem asking about the king who was born in Judea in the days of Herod saying, “For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (v. 1,2). This star or heavenly body was not a conjunction of planets, nor a nova. The “star” that appeared on the night of Christ’s birth was probably a distant company of shining angels. The Magi interpreted this unusual phenomenon as the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophecy of “a Star out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17).
The Bible tells us that the wise men came from the east. The Jews considered the area of northern Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia as the “east.” Some have thought that the wise men were from the same section of the “east country” as was Balaam, whose home has recently been identified with the Sajûr Valley near the Euphrates (Numbers 22:5). If this was true, then the magi trip to Bethlehem would have been around 400 miles long. And this would have taken them approximately a month journey by foot or more if they traveled only by night to follow the star.
When the wise men arrived at Jerusalem inquiring about the new king, Herod called the priests to find the location of the Messiah’s birth. The chief priests and scribes told them, “In Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:4,5). King Herod concealed his evil intentions towards the new born King and said to the Magi “when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him” (v. 7).
The magi went on their way and, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). In Bethlehem, they found Jesus and they fell prostrate and worshiped Him. Then, they offered Him their gifts – gold and frankincense and myrrh (v. 11). In so doing they fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah “The Gentiles shall come to your light…They shall bring gold and incense” (ch. 60:3,6).
But before they could return to Herod, the Lord warned them in a dream to leave Judea by another path because the king was determined to harm Jesus (v. 12). It is usually believed that the Magi visited Jesus at the stable but the Bible tells us that they visited Jesus in a house (Matthew 2:11). By this time Jesus was between 40 days old (Luke 2:22) and 2 years old (Matthew 2:16).
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In His service,