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, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2: 1, 2 NKJV)
Much has been written about the Christmas star and the wise men who came to worship Jesus.Some claim there are astrological records which show certain planets aligned at the time of Jesus birth to form what looked like a blazing star. Others point to records from distant countries and cultures which mention an incredibly bright star at the time of Jesus’ birth.
There’s even scholarly conjecture that the wise men might have been Jewish. They reason that the influence of the prophet Daniel, and of Esther and Mordecai, may have generated Jewish converts in Babylon and Persia—the land of the Magi.
The Bible clearly says, in Esther 8:17, that many people of Persia became Jews when Esther and Mordecai foiled Haman’s evil plot.
There is even an ancient tradition that Balaam, the prophet from Mesopotamia (which would include Babylon) was an early member of the Magi, perhaps even their founder. Balaam’s Prophecy from Numbers 24:17-19 is said to foretell the Christmas star.
And, the Persians could have also known of Daniel’s prophecy of “seventy weeks” which foretold the birth of Christ 483 years after the Persian emperor gave the commandment for the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:24, 25) This would have told them when to start looking for such a star.
And, there’s still more conjecture that the Magi were not just wise men, but members of the ruling aristocracy of Persia who would have arrived in Jerusalem, not on camels, but on strong horses. (The Bible does not say the magi rode camels, nor does it say there were only three of them.) If that was indeed the case, it would have been no surprise that Herod and all of Jerusalem would have been “troubled”(Matthew 2:3) –especially since it is said Herod himself had led a Roman legion in battle which had lost to just such Persians. Persia was an enemy of the Roman Empire and had resisted many attempts to be conquered.
All in all, there has been an enormous amount of thought and research put into the wise men and the star. Some of our traditional beliefs about the wise men are not Biblically supported and some of the scholarly conjecture is just that—conjecture.
I think that’s understandable, though, because there is just something that captures our very soul in the story of the wise men and the star. It seems very much like the way we come to Jesus.
Our souls sense this bright light, this promise of hope in the east where the sun rises-- and it draws us along, across miles and miles of desert and wasteland into a land that is so different from where we started. We cause a great fuss and stir among the rulers of this world as we continue on our journey, but the light does not go out. It continues to lead us, even though we have been lied to and evil is being plotted all around us as we press on. But the Spirit speaks through the Word and leads us safely. And finally, in the most humble and unlikely of places, we find that light shines on Jesus—and is Jesus.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 ESV)