Berean Bible Study

The Gospel of Matthew

Christmas and the Visit of the Magi

Matthew 1:18 – 2:12

W3Schools.com



Last time, we got started on the next section by reviewing a Jewish Wedding. This time, we're going to get into Jesus' actual birth and what comes after.

Video: Mary, Did you know?

Christ Born of Mary

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[d] And he called His name Jesus.



The Bible doesn't say anything at all about how old Mary and Joseph were or whether the marriage was any kind of love match. If it was typical of its day, then Mary had probably only very recently reached puberty when the marriage was arranged. Joseph already had a trade, being a carpenter, but he could have been anything from 13 to much older. By the time Jesus starts his ministry, Joseph is apparently already gone, so it's possible that he is considerably older than Mary. Mary is probably 12 or 13 to as much as maybe 15. Can you imagine? Such a lot to ask of such a young woman.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

From this, we can guess that Mary has gone to Joseph and told him, but the whole village does not know, yet, that Mary is pregnant. We can see that Joseph apparently does not believe her story. From Luke, we know that she had been with her relative Elizabeth for three months. We can guess that she returned and went to Joseph, before she started showing. He must have thought that she had been unfaithful while she was away or that someone had taken advantage of her.

They were betrothed, so they were officially bound together by law. The law stated that even if the woman had been raped, she was to be stoned.

Deuteronomy 22:23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

That word, “just” in “Joseph her husband, being a just man” is dikaios and means that he kept the commandments of God. It also can mean, “knowing how to pass judgment on others” or that the way he thinks, acts and feels is in line with the will of God. So, Joseph wants to do what's right, and that doesn't mean stoning. It also doesn't mean the disgrace of a public divorce. Instead, he plans to give her a private “writ of divorce,” witnessed by only two witnesses, where he breaks the engagement without saying why and forfeits the dowry he paid.

Contrast that with his ancestor Judah, when he heard that Tamar was pregnant:

Genesis 38:24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.”

So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

But, we know even Joseph's gentler plan did not happen:

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

This seems like an appropriate place to stop a moment and address something you may run across. There is a group of people who insist that God must be called Yahweh and our savior must be called Yeshua, or you are not truly saved. The movement is called the “Sacred Name Movement” or the “Yeshua Movement”. They go by verses like these:

Philippians 2:9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Acts 4:10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’[a] 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.



Now, if you're like me, you grew up believing that the name “Jesus” is from the Greek, and it is, kind of. In Greek it is Ἰησοῦς. The transliteration is Iēsous, which is pronounced ē-ā-sü's (Yay-soos). That was the Greek way of spelling the Hebrew name, Yeshua or Yĕhowshuwa`. It has an “s” on the end instead of an “oo-ah” sound because there are very specific Greek rules about how things should be spelled, depending on what part of grammar they are. The object of a sentence always has that “s” on the end.

So, basically, the Greek Iēsous, was the phonetic spelling – in Greek – of what they were hearing in Hebrew or Aramaic. Jesus was given the same name that Joshua had in the Old Testament - יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yĕhowshuwa` Joshua. They both mean the same thing - "Jehovah (YHWH/Yahweh/LORD) is salvation". The angel was basically saying, “Call him Salvation.”

When you go back and look at some of the verses in the Old Testament with this view in mind, it's pretty astonishing:

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He
is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

Can just as easily be:

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my Yĕshuw`ah ;
He is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.



Psalm 78:21-22 Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious;
So a fire was kindled against Jacob,
And anger also came up against Israel,

Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in His
Yĕshuw`ah.

Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my Yĕshuw`ah ,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH,
Yĕhovah , is my strength and song;
He also has become my Y
ĕshuw`ah.’



You can go on and on. Go to Blue Letter Bible and search on “Salvation.” The first one is in Genesis. Then, click on the Interlinear, and then click on the number associated with Yĕshuw`ah and just read the verses that come up. Put Yeshua or Jesus in there and see how it reads. If you want to do that right now, just click here.

OK – how about that? Is it OK to say “Jesus”, knowing that it's a transliteration of Yeshua? Of course it is, and you can prove it from the Bible. God calls Himself a number of things, including Yahweh/Yahovah (I AM),

Genesis 26:24 And the LORD (YHWH/Yĕhovah) appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God ('elohiym) of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake.

He was happy to be known as the God of Abraham and later of Isaac and still later of Jacob. As long as you know who He is, He knows who you mean. My dad answered to Don, Daddy, Dad, Pa, Daz and probably a lot more that I don't even know. Your father in heaven and your savior are no different. If you know who you are calling on, God will answer. Even if you don't truly understand who you are calling on, He will answer, if your heart is really seeking:

Jeremiah 29:13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.



The name of Jesus

Language

Name/variant

Afrikaans

Jesus

Albanian

Jezusi

Arabic

`Isà عيسى (Islamic) / Yasū`(a) يسوع (Christian)

Aragonese

Chesús

Aramaic/Syriac

ܝܫܘܥ (Isho)

Arberesh

Isuthi

Armenian

Հիսուս (Hisus)

Azerbaijani

İsa

Belarus

Ісус (Isus) (Orthodox) / Езус (Yezus) (Catholic)

Bengali

যীশু

Bosnian

Isus

Breton

Jezuz

Catalan

Jesús

Chinese

耶稣 (Simplified), 耶穌 (Traditional) – Yēsū (Mandarin), Yèh-sōu (Cantonese)

Cornish

Yesu

Croatian

Isus

Czech

Ježíš

Dutch

Jezus

Estonian

Jeesus

Filipino

Jesús (Christian and secular) / Hesús or Hesukristo (religious)

Finnish

Jeesus

French

Jésus

Galician

Xesús

Garo

Jisu

Georgian

იესო (Ieso)

Greek

Ιησούς (Iisoús modern Greek pronunciation)

Haitian Creole

Jezi

Hausa

Yesu

Hawaiian

Jesu

Hebrew

Yeshu ישו (Jewish, secular) / Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ (Christian)

Hmong Daw

Yexus

Hungarian

Jézus

Icelandic

Jesús

Indonesia

Yesus (Christian) / Isa (Islamic)

Irish

Íosa

Italian

Gesù

Japanese

イエス (Iesu)/イエズス (Iezusu)(Catholic)/ゼス(zesu) ゼズス(zezusu)(Kirishitan)イイスス(Iisusu)(Eastern Orthodox)

Jinghpaw

Yesu

Kazakh

Иса (Isa)

Korean

예수 (Yesu)

Kurdish

Îsa

Latvian

Jēzus

Ligurian

Gesû

Limburgish

Zjezus

Lithuanian

Jėzus

Lombard

Gesü

मराठी-Marathi

येशू - Yeshu

Malayalam

ഈശോ (Isho), യേശു (Yeshu)

Mirandese

Jasus

Maltese

Ġesù

Neapolitan

Gèsù

Norman

Jésus

Occitan

Jèsus

Piedmontese

Gesù

Polish

Jezus

Portuguese

Jesus

Romanian

Isus

Russian

иисус (Iisus)

Sardinian

Gesùs

Serbian

Исус (Isus)

Sicilian

Gesù

Sinhala

ජේසුස් වහන්සේ - ‍Jesus Wahanse

Scottish Gaelic

Ìosa

Slovak

Ježiš

Slovenian

Jezus

Spanish

Jesús

Swahili

Yesu

Tajik

Исо (Iso)

Tamil

இயேசு - Yesu

Telugu

Yesu

Thai

เยซู - "Yesu"

Turkish

İsa

Turkmen

Isa

Ukrainian

Ісус (Isus)

Urdu

(یسوع)

Uzbek

Iso

Venetian

Jesu

Vietnamese

Giêsu

Welsh

Iesu

Yoruba

Jesu

Zulu

uJesu



How Yeshua became Jesus

So, where did the name “Jesus” come from? When His name was translated into Greek, it became Iesous. The "Ie" represents the "Ye" sound, the "s" represents the "sh" sound, and the "ou" represents the "ua" sound. But, why did they add the “s” to the end of His name? 

The Greek language has certain rules about nouns that indicate case, number, and gender by their spelling. This means the same word can have different spelling depending on its use as subject or object in a sentence. For example, Iesous is in the nominative case, while Iesou is in the genitive case. 

The spelling of the name “Jesus” has been in use for less than 400 years. This can easily be seen in the fact that the 1611 King James Version of the Bible still spelled His name “Iesous”, not “Jesus”. The name Iesous was used in Greek, Latin, and English until the 17th century, when the letter “J” was introduced as a replacement for the letter “I” when used as a consonant. However, it was still pronounced “Yea-soos” for many years before it eventually took on the “g” sound that we know today in the word “Jesus”. This means the pronunciation of the name “Jesus” is a very recent development in the English language.

It is also interesting to note that if His name was directly translated from Hebrew into English, it would be Joshua, because the Joshua of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament are the same name in both Hebrew and Greek. We can clearly see this in the book of Acts, when Joshua is referenced in the book of Acts, his name in Greek is identical to the name of Jesus in Greek. Likewise, in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament), Joshua’s name is also translated into Greek as “Iesous”. In fact, if you look up the name Iesous in the Strong’s Concordance, it will tell you that Iesous is the Greek form of the name Joshua.

More information on the Sacred Name movement (there is overlap with the Hebrew Roots Movement). Please know that one of the most dangerous aspects of the movement is the way that many of them either limit Jesus or say outright that He is not God. This is not true of all people in this movement, but anyone who is going to start spouting that “Jesus” is a pagan name from Satan and that by calling on the name of Jesus, you are attempting to call on a pagan god, has got more than a few things screwy in their doctrine.


The Sacred Name Movement

The Dangers of the Sacred Name Movement

What does Yeshua mean?

Yehoshua is a compound name consisting of two parts:

  1.  The first part is the “prefix” form of the Tetragrammaton—God’s Four-Letter Name: Yod-He-Vav-He or YHVH.In the Hebrew Bible “Yeho-” is used at the beginning of certain proper names: Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (In Medieval English the letter “J” was pronounced as “Y”). The “suffix” form of the Tetragrammaton is “-yah” (“-iah” in Greek, as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Halleluiah).

  2. The second part is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to deliver, save, or rescue.
    Symbolically, the name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers or saves (his people).

OK, one more thing before we leave this whole part of Jesus' name. We say “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus” and it kind of becomes His name. We've gone over this before, but remember that “Christ” means “Anointed one” and is the word used in Greek, while “Messiah or mashiach” means “anointed one” in Hebrew. You might hear, in Hebrew, Yeshua Ha Mashiach, which means “Jesus the Messiah.”

Yeshua Hamashiach - Jesus Is Lord

A reminder of where we're at:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[d] And he called His name Jesus.

So, the angel gives Joseph the same message that Mary received (not named here, but probably also Gabriel):

Luke 1:30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”



So, here, right after the genealogy, you see that Joseph was not really Jesus' father – and also, the first mention of the Gospel : you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

And, of course, that comes from here:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.


The word “virgin” is almah in Hebrew and can mean virgin or young woman or young, newly married woman. The New Revised Standard Version was a translation by liberal church bodies, and they decided to use “young woman” for that verse – even though the Greek in Matthew is parthenos, which very specifically means someone who has never had sexual intercourse. The Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14 also uses parthenos.

Besides, it's ridiculous – what kind of sign is it that a young woman is pregnant?

If you go to Google and put in “virgin birth”, you'll get a few things that are good, but you'll get a whole lot of nonsense. Why must the virgin birth be explained away? Why is that so important to some people? When we went through the genealogy, we saw one reason there MUST be a virgin birth. There was a curse on the royal blood line. The Messiah had to legally come through that line but could not physically come through that line. How was that possible? The virgin birth – that's how.

It's not just Isaiah's “virgin” that must be explained away, though. The first hint of the virgin birth is way back in Genesis:

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and
her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”


Translating “seed” (zera`) Zeh-RAH as offspring as in the NIV doesn't do us any favors. Yes, logically, it means offspring, but it technically means seed, even semen kind of seed. The seed is in the man, not the woman.

Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

So, Joseph, a just man, wanting to do what's right, wanting to be seen doing what's right, takes Mary home as his wife, long before the time was supposed to be. There was no joyous marriage festival, no wedding feast. He is willing to take on himself the stigma of not waiting for the proper time so that Mary is protected. Can you imagine what would have happened to this 12 or 13-year-old girl if he had not? If he had gone ahead with his original plan? Instead of what they did ask:

Matthew 13:55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses,[a] Simon, and Judas?

John 6:42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Instead of that, they would have been asking, “Isn't this the son of the harlot?”

Matthew 1:25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

So, not only did Joseph take on himself the gossip, the shame of having not waited, in real life, he was with Mary every single day and did not touch her that way.

Joseph's Song

In Matthew's gospel, that's all that's said about Jesus' birth: brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Most of this is from Joseph's point of view. He, Joseph, called His name Jesus, just like the angel had told him.

Now, in Matthew, the next thing are the magi, the wise men:

Wise Men from the East

Matthew 2:1 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, 2 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.”

Wise men – magos (MAH-Goss) – Magi. It's the same word we get “magician” and “magic” from. They were seen as “wise men” in Babylon – advisors, and even King makers. Shortly after Daniel and his friends arrived in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, so he called in the magi. They studied astronomy, astrology and interpreted dreams. But, to test them, Nebuchadnezzar didn't tell them his dream. When they couldn't tell him, he ordered all of them to be killed, which included Daniel and his friends. You know the story. Daniel seeks God, and God tells him Nebuchadnezzar's dream and the interpretation. In turn, Nebuchadnezzar makes him a ruler in Babylon and the chief of the magi.

Daniel 2:48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel 4:9  “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. 12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas[a] were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”


So, however steeped in false religion these guys were, under Daniel, they learned many things. I'm sure they held his prophecies in high esteem. Daniel apparently taught them about the coming Messiah. It appears that Daniel was told things he didn't write down. Remember he was told to shut up the book and go his way.


At any rate, the magi were apparently told to wait for a star that would signal the coming of this Messiah king. So, some things to remember. Daniel knew the Torah, the books of Moses, very well. He also had prophecies of his own that he recorded. He knew of the coming Messiah, and he knew the Messiah was important not just for his own people, but for all the world. He certainly would have communicated the importance of that to this group of people he was in charge of. I imagine he spoke often of this coming "King of the Jews" during his lifetime. He knew from this prophecy that a literal star was expected:

Numbers 24:17“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel. . .

He knew from his own prophecies when that would take place. He may even have been alive when the "go" for that countdown began, but even if he wasn't, the Magi would have been watching for it and making record of it:

Daniel 9:25 “Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street[c] shall be built again, and the wall,[d]
Even in troublesome times.

So, they knew to watch for a star, and they knew about when it would appear. We think of the "Star of  Bethlehem" as being this big, blazing thing moving through the sky like a spaceship, but remember, Herod didn't even know when this "star" had appeared. He (and Jerusalem through him) didn't get upset until the whole thing was explained to him.

Among other things, the Magi were astronomers. They didn't have telescopes, but they kept track of the stars and planets (which they called "wandering stars.") I won't defend it here, but the constellations and names of the stars tell the story of Messiah. Daniel would have known this, and through him, the Magi would certainly of known in what part of the sky to watch for that special star.

Now, the rest of this is primarily from the study posted at http://www.bethlehemstar.net/ (with my own flavoring, because of course, I can't help myself from doing that) They give a very good, very plausible, biblical presentation, and honestly, I think they're on to something.

The constellation "Leo" is the king constellation - the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Within that constellation is the star "Regulus", known as the king star. Regal is from the same word. It has been known as the king star from antiquity. Jupiter is the king planet. Even in the corrupted version, Jupiter was the "king of the gods" in both Roman and Greek mythology.

So, the Magi certainly kept track of  Regulus and Jupiter. In September of 3 BC, Jupiter did something remarkable. It makes a relatively close pass by Regulus every 12 years. To our eyes on earth, Jupiter does not have a smooth forward motion through the sky. That's because the earth moves more quickly around the sun than Jupiter does. When the earth "passes" Jupiter (like a car passing another car in the fast lane), to us, it appears that Jupiter goes backward in the sky - just like it seems like the car we're passing on the highway is going backward. That's called "retrograde motion."

Well, in September of 3 BC, Jupiter had a conjunction (very close, according to our eyes) with Regulus - THREE times. The Magi must have been very excited to see that and probably kept very careful track of Jupiter, night after night. Was the star they had been watching for coming soon?

Nine months later, in June of 2 BC, they were rewarded when Jupiter made a conjunction with Venus that no one had seen before or since. Jupiter came so close to Venus that they appeared to be one star, but each with its full brightness. This would have been the brightest "star" they had ever seen in the heavens.

The following chart is from the site http://www.bogan.ca/astro/occultations/occltlst.htm and shows the times that Venus and Jupiter have had a close conjunction. That "elongation from the sun" is how close this is from the sun so that you could actually see it. As you can see, all of them are pretty close to the sun, except the one in 2 BC.


Year

Date/U.TIme

Elongation
from the Sun

Venus, Jupiter Diameters
Geocentric Separation

Comments

2 BC

17 Jun 17:53 UT

45oW

26",32",28"

Very Large Elongation
Occurs over Middle East

1210

17 Sep 10:35 UT

7oW

10",31", 0"

Too Close to the Sun
Central occultation

1570

5 Feb 7:47 UT

25oW

11",31",18"

Occurred over South Atlantic, Argentina
No Historic Record

1818

3 Jan 21:51 UT

16oW

10",30",12"

Occurred over Far East
No History Record
Over Unpopulate Area







2065

22 Nov 12:47 UT

8oW

10",29",14"

Too Close to the Sun

2123

14 Sep 15:26 UT

16oE

10",29", 6"

Occurs over the Pacific Ocean

All the other Venus occultations of Jupiter have similar restrictions

It would be spectacularly bright - but the thing is, just like eclipses last only a short time, this would have lasted only about 2 hours - not weeks. 

When the Magi saw that star, they knew that was what they'd been looking for, and so they set off to find the "King of the Jews" that had been born. We're not talking three guys on camels, though - we're talking an entourage - with lots of people, including guards capable of fighting.

But, if they followed the star west - and the Venus/Jupiter conjunction had only lasted a couple hours, what were they following? They were following Jupiter as it moved westward through the sky. When they came to Jerusalem, they lost sight of it for a time - but when they left Jerusalem, they were filled with joy to see it ahead of them, exactly above the road to Bethlehem. So, what did it mean when it "stopped" over Bethlehem? It went into retrograde motion again, and did literally stop.

Here are a couple of articles on the Magi:
     Who were the Magi? By Chuck Missler
     Who were the Magi? Grace to You from John MacArthur

Be sure and check out the written study at www.bethlehemstar.net. There's also this video on the same subject, by the same folks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff-Gp194XUU


Who were the Magi?

The Priesthood of the Medes

The ancient Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes credited with profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. After some Magi, who had been attached to the Median court, proved to be expert in the interpretation of dreams, Darius the Great established them over the state religion of Persia.2 (Contrary to popular belief, the Magi were not originally followers of Zoroaster.3 That all came later.)

It was in this dual capacity whereby civil and political counsel was invested with religious authority, that the Magi became the supreme priestly caste of the Persian Empire, and continued to be prominent during the subsequent Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods.4

The Role of Daniel

One of the titles given to Daniel was Rab-mag, the Chief of the Magi.5 His unusual career included being a principal administrator in two world empires: the Babylonian and the subsequent Persian Empire. When Darius appointed him, a Jew, over the previously hereditary Median priesthood, the resulting repercussions resulted in the plots leading to the lion's den.6 Daniel apparently entrusted a messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a "star") to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment. But first, let's cover some historical background.

Political Background

Since the days of Daniel, the fortunes of both the Persian and the Jewish nations had been closely intertwined. Both nations had, in their turn, fallen under Seleucid domination in the wake of Alexander's conquests. Subsequently both had regained their independence: the Jews under Maccabean leadership, and the Persians as the dominating ruling group within the Parthian Empire.

It was at this time that the Magi, in their dual priestly and governmental office, composed the upper house of the Council of the Megistanes ("magistrates") whose duties included the absolute choice and election of the king of the realm. It was therefore a group of Persian-Parthian "king makers" who entered Jerusalem in the latter days of the reign of Herod. Herod's reaction was understandably one of fear when one considers the background of Roman-Parthian rivalry that prevailed during his lifetime.

The Entourage to Jerusalem

In Jerusalem the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with every imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem.

It would seem as if these Magi were attempting to perpetrate a border incident, which could bring swift reprisal from Parthian armies. Their request of Herod regarding the one "who has been born King of the Jews"7 was a calculated insult to him, a non-Jew 8 who had contrived and bribed his way into that office. Consulting his scribes, Herod discovered from the prophecies in the Tanach (the Old Testament) that the Promised One, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem.9 Hiding his concern and expressing sincere interest, Herod requested them to keep him informed.

After finding the babe and presenting their prophetic gifts, the Magi "being warned in a dream" (a form of communication most acceptable to them) departed to their own country, ignoring Herod's request. (Within two years, Phraataces, the parricide son of Phraates IV, was duly installed by the Magi as the new ruler of Parthia.)


For those who are interested, a slight detour into the signs in the heavens.


OK – they see the star, and make preparations to go see the newborn King of the Jews. This doesn't happen instantly. Plus, the route they would take is almost 1,000 miles, through politically unstable territory. We tend (I did – at least) to think of the Roman empire as extending throughout that whole territory. You know – that whole “Pax Romana” thing. And, for sure, Rome had control of a lot of territory at that time:



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But, as you can see from the map, at the time Jesus was born, it didn't extend very far east. To the east was the Parthian Empire. Most of you probably know a whole lot more about this than I do. For those, like me, who want to understand it a little better, here is a bit of information:


History of Iran (Persian, Parthian Empires)

A Roman description of the Parthians or later Persians from Justin's History of the World

The Parthian Empire


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Is this new to you? Where was I during history class? I just don't remember learning this. In any case, at the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire is spread around the Mediterranean. To the east were the Parthians and in between was an area of conflict. As Rome spread east, and Parthia spread west, their borders eventually met, and in about 53 B.C., a series of wars started between the two, which would last until about 217 A.D.


Rome and Parthia at War


Rome vs. Parthia


Eventually, Rome did spread further east and held onto those territories even after the Western Roman Empire fell, but they never did conquer the area that the Magi had come from.


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OK – all of that is just background. The point being that here came this entourage of people FROM the Parthian empire, the ones that Rome was at war with, coming into Jerusalem. We're not talking about three guys on camels with gold, frankincense and myrrh in their saddle bags. Who knows how many people we're talking about. These are important men who likely traveled with many servants and a large military escort. No wonder Herod was a little disturbed, especially when they're asking for him who was born king of the Jews – something Herod, who was not a Jew at all, would take exception to. The secular historian Josephus tells us that King Herod the Great was a descendant of Esau. Herod's father was an Idumean and his mother was an Arab.


Matthew 2:1 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, 2 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.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”[a]

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

So, where did the Magi go? Did they go to Bethlehem? The Scripture that the chief priests and scribes read specified Bethlehem as to where the Messiah would be born, but does it say that's where the Magi went? They certainly may have, but it doesn't say that. It says, When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.


We know absolutely that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But, this was perhaps a year or more later. This is a young child, not a baby, and they are in a house, not a stable. We know that Mary and Joseph are from Nazareth, and traveled to Jerusalem to be counted in the census, from Luke. Let's just take a look at Luke:

Luke 2

Christ Born of Mary

2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,[a] who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Glory in the Highest

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[c]

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Circumcision of Jesus

21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child,[e] His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed,

Leviticus 12:1  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. 5 ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.

So, we're talking about 41 days after Jesus was born -

they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”),[f] 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”[g]

Simeon Sees God’s Salvation

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 And Joseph and His mother[h] marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years,[i] who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord,[j] and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The Family Returns to Nazareth

39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit,[k] filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.


Is it possible that the events of Matthew 2 come between Luke 2:39 and Luke 2:40? If so, why would Luke leave them out? Remember to whom each was written. Matthew was written to Jews, to show them their Messiah, He who was born King of the Jews. Luke was written to Gentiles, and may even have been the trial documents sent with Paul to Rome. Matthew 2 doesn't cast a very good light on Herod, who Rome put in authority. When you read Luke and Acts, neither of those books show Rome being the bad guys. On the contrary, they are often shown as believing the message.


OK – now that I've argued that thought, let me turn it around and argue the other way (so you can be good Bereans and study it for yourself). Could the Magi have actually gone to Nazareth? Part of that idea is from this verse:


Matthew 2:39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.


They performed all things according to the law of the Lord – the circumcision, the purification of Mary – and then went to Nazareth, where perhaps the Magi found them by following the star. Maybe. Perhaps, though, there is far more in those words, “performed all things according to the law of the Lord” than is immediately obvious. Although Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, they had the visit from the shepherds, who undoubtedly told everyone who would listen about the angels and the child they had found, just as the angel had said. Bethlehem isn't that big. Perhaps, Mary and Joseph were welcomed with open arms at that point. The whole reason that Joseph had to go there to be counted in the census is that is where both his and Mary's families were from. Could they have had relatives there, who didn't originally welcome them, but did, later? Could the town have been a welcoming place, unlike Nazareth with its whispers? Perhaps they stayed, where Joseph found work as a carpenter. Now, a year or more later, they are still there, now living in a house at the time of the Magi's arrival – just as we always assumed was happening.


What about the seeming contradiction with Luke, then? The “law of the Lord” - what is that? It is certainly the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. However, it can also mean the entire Old Testament. I'm going to suggest that there is a lot more prophecy in the Old Testament than you'd think. We'll cover a bit of that in the next lesson. I'm going to suggest that perhaps, in those words, when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, is not just the circumcision and purification as specified in Leviticus, but also the entire scenario with the Magi, Herod, the flight to Egypt, and then the journey back to Israel and settling in Nazareth again. Some of it we'll see as we continue. Some of it is there, to be discovered, and some of it we won't see until Jesus can teach us Himself, all that He tucked away in there.


Nothing to get hung up on – just a thought. The point is, there is no contradiction between Luke 2 and Matthew 2. We just don't fully understand it, yet. One thing I want to get across is the difference, though, between what the word actually says and how we think of it. OK, back to the text:


Matthew 2:9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Interesting, isn't it, that in this book written to Jews, the first people to worship Jesus were Gentiles? In fact, if you read Luke carefully, you'll see that while the shepherds wanted to see the baby that the angels told about, it doesn't say they worshiped Him. That doesn't mean they didn't, but the text doesn't say that. Every single bit that the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal to us is carefully worded. Notice, also, that NO ONE worshiped Mary.


They brought three gifts, right? That's where you get the idea that there are three wise men, because there are three gifts. One for Jesus the king, one for Jesus the priest, and one for Jesus the prophet/savior, who would suffer and die. Gold is also symbolic of divinity, frankincense is incense, which reminds us of the prayers of the saints, and how Jesus intercedes for us, and myrrh is used for embalming, representing his death. The order is interesting, isn't it? You'd think it would be the other way around.


Later, when Jesus is ruling, He gets gifts again, but notice what's missing:

Isaiah 60:6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land,
The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
All those from Sheba shall come;
They shall bring gold and incense,(same word as frankincense)
And they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD.


Now, please note, that we have a lot of traditions that get in the way of what the Bible really says. Were there three gifts? There were three gifts that were named. There could have been 175 gifts. Were there three Magi? Maybe – or maybe there were 103.







The Berean Bible Study of the Gospel of Matthew

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Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11

© 2016 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 3/31/16. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.

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