Harmony of the Gospels


Visit of the Wisemen 

-4 BC-
Jerusalem and Bethlehem
(12) Visit of the Wisemen
(Numbers 24:17)  Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.  (Matthew 2:1)

The wise men came to Jerusalem during the time when Herod was king.  One thing that Herod did not want was competition.  When these wise men showed up in Jerusalem, it created quite a stir and Herod had his curiosity peaked.

How many wise men were there?  Three, you say.  Well, read the verse again.  It doesn’t say there were three.  We get that from Christmas cards and the songs of Christmas.  The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men came to Jerusalem.

I will not speculate about how many wise men there were, but I don’t believe that three would have disturbed Herod or excited Jerusalem, however three hundred probably would.  These men came from the east, but from different areas.  They had been studying the stars and they came together when this very unusual star appeared and they followed it to Jerusalem.

And asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?  We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:2)

They came looking for a king, and it wasn’t Herod, and that upset him.

“We saw His star in the east.”  The star was in the west; the wise men were in the east.  The star was in the west and when they followed it they traveled west.  If they would have traveled east they may have ended up in India or China.  The question that I have is how did they associate the star with a king and how did they tie this to Israel?  One explanation may be, that in the section of the east that they came from, they knew the prophesy given by Baalam that is recorded in Numbers 24:17, “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.  He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.”  The star that will come out of Jacob is the nation of Israel.  The “Scepter that will rise out of Israel” is a king.  The star is mentioned along with the Scepter.  The wise men came seeking a king and that disturbed Herod.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.  (Matthew 2:3)

We know why Herod was disturbed; it was because there might be a rival for his throne and he must find him and eliminate the threat to his position.  But why was all Jerusalem disturbed?  It was probably just curiosity or maybe they hoped to get rid of Herod.  Herod was a very superstitious man and all his family was scoundrels.  They were like the first century Mafia, but Herod was the worst of the lot.  He was not even an Israelite, he was an Idumean who bought his position from the Roman government.

After he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  (Matthew 2:4)

Herod called a meeting of the religious leaders and the Scribes, and he demanded that they tell him where the Messiah was to be born.  They knew the answer because they knew the scriptures and they knew the prophecies and they knew all of God’s promises.  They knew the word of God, but they had lost God in His word.  The letter of the law, the word of God, and their rituals and ceremonies, had become their religion and was more important to them that God Himself.  They did not love God and they did not obey Him.  Jesus would later call them “hypocrites.”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,”  they replied, “For this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, are by no means least among the rulers of Judea; for out of you will come the ruler who will be shepherd of my people Israel.”  (Matthew 2:5-6)

The Scribes knew where the Messiah would be born.  They didn’t have to go search the scriptures; they could quote from memory Micah 5:2, “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”  They had so much knowledge of scripture and they were looking for the Messiah, so why didn’t they ask to go with the wise men?  I believe it was because their knowledge was academic; it was not vital to them and it was not personally meaningful.  How many people are like that today?  They study the Bible and they take great pride in what they know.  But they are not looking forward to His return.  They would like for Jesus to delay His return, because they like their life the way it is.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  (Matthew 2:7)

Herod had a secret meeting with the wise men.  He probably had already made up his mind to kill the baby, but he did not want to make anybody suspicious.  He wanted to know when they had first seen the star.  This information will become very important later (when he decrees that all the male children, under a certain age, be killed).

It was probably a long time between when the star first appeared and when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem.  It could have been as long as a year, because travel by camel was slow.  They were not planning on a simple Christmas party.  The trip was long and hard.  They had brought gifts and wanted to worship the Savior.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”  (Matthew 2:8)

Herod was a very crafty individual.  He tells the wisemen that he wants to worship the child and asks them to let him know when they find him.  He is planning murder, but the wisemen can’t tell it.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star they were overjoyed.  (Matthew 2:9-10)

When the wise men left Jerusalem, they were once again lead by the star, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  It should be clear that this was a very unusual, supernatural star.  There could have been many unusual happenings at this time as heaven and earth reacted to the coming of the Son of God.

On coming to the house, they saw the child, with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented Him gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.  (Matthew 2:11)

When the wise men arrived in Bethlehem there had been a passage of time.  Note that Jesus is no longer in a stable.  The pictures that we have of the wise men kneeling at a stable are false.  The crush of people that had come to register had left by now and Joseph had moved his family into a house.  It probably would have jeopardized the life of the child to make the return trip to Nazareth at this time.  They would stay in Bethlehem until the child was older and Mary had regained her strength.  The wisemen fell down and worshipped him and presented their gifts.  (Wisemen will always worship Jesus.)  They did not worship Mary.

But having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  (Matthew 2:12)

The wisemen intended to tell Herod about the baby, but God sent them a warning in a dream, not to return to Herod.  He would kill the baby if he could.  They avoided Jerusalem by taking a different route home.

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