Read: Matthew 2:1-12
The Visit of the Magi or “Wise Men” as they are called in some translations has been the source of much speculation concerning both who the Magi actually were and the nature of the star that the observed in the sky that prompted them to travel to find and worship Jesus. While little is actually known about the Magi that visited Jesus, history does speak to the Magi in general. They were a priestly sect in Babylon that were known as astrologers, soothsayers, and magicians which is the same sect that couldn’t interpret the dreams in Daniel 2. They traveled the land seeking fulfillment of their visions. There is evidence that they traveled as far east as China and far west as Rome during the first centuries before and after Christ.
Those that did visit Jesus were obviously astrologers because they observed a celestial event. In the Greek language and in the Ancient Near East, all celestial bodies were called “stars”, even planets and comets. They did observe that some of these stars moved against the background of what appeared to be fixed stars. The star that the Magi observed for Jesus was one of these moving stars. In the Ancient Near East, when one of these wanderers would pass near another star or “wanderer”, such an even was called a conjunction and these events were seen by the astrologers as major events in history such as the birth of a new king. Exactly which event the Magi observed is unknown, but there were several events like this around the time of the birth of Christ.
The Magi upon traveling to find Jesus went to the place they would expect to find this child: the palace where the king would be. But Herod had not had a new son and most of them were already teenagers or grown by then. The news of a new King being born caused quite a stir, so they summoned the scribes to ascertain where this new king was born. They quote from Micah 5:2. Micah 5 is another prophecy given about the King of a Assyria and this tells of a king from Bethlehem that would deliver them from the hands of the Assyrians. (The Jews were likely expecting a political leader to deliver them from Rome, their contemporary “Assyria”). Herod obviously didn’t like this news, so he conspired to have the baby killed, but the Magi went back home another way.
For Christians, it’s hard to know what to make of the Magi. They were pagan astrologers, something that is actually frowned upon in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:19, Isaiah 47:13-14). There’s no evidence that they went away converted either even though they had seen Jesus. Even their warning dream makes no mention of an angel unlike all the other dreams of Joseph that do make mention of an angel. Yet Matthew mentions them and that they did pay homage to him with traditional gifts given to kings. What can be said though is that the Magi were there to vindicate the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy from Micah 5:2 telling that a a king would be born in Bethlehem and deliver God’s people. The worshiped him and paid homage to him as if he were a king. This is certainly keeping with one of Matthew’s theme to establish Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and rightful heir to the throne of David. One day, every knee will bow before Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11). The question is not who, but how: some will do it in praise and adoration while others will do it in judgment. Christians can rest in the fact that they will do it in praise!
Lord, your are King! I worship and adore you!