Wise Men Came From The East

" . . . behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem . . . " (Matthew 2:1)

It would not have been unusual in those days for wise men to travel to Jerusalem. No doubt Jerusalem would have also attracted its fair share of spiritual eccentrics who claimed to be special envoys of the Almighty. Indeed, Jerusalem because of its spiritual significance in the purposes of God would have had more than its share of strange and weird characters, both home grown and those who came from near and far.

But these wise men from the East were not like them. They were distinctly different because they came to Jerusalem with a question, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?" They were not looking to mislead the spiritually hungry, nor were their intentions to deceive and control the spiritually weak and poor. They came to Jerusalem, not because they had all the answers, but because they needed an answer to their question, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?"

The question asked presumes two things about the King and Jerusalem. Firstly, the King would reside in Jerusalem, and secondly, that if He weren't in Jerusalem, then the Jewish people in Jerusalem would certainly know where He could be found.

One can almost sense the embarrassment, if not the uneasiness felt by those living in Jerusalem, as none knew. Most certainly, the Jewish people had been waiting for the arrival of their King, whom their prophets revealed as the Messiah and Redeemer, yet how did these men from the East know, and why did they come now?

It seems unlikely that these wise men were Jewish, otherwise they would have had access to the Scriptures, and therefore could have found out before leaving the East that King Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. If this were the case then they would not have gone to Jerusalem but to Bethlehem instead.

As Gentiles from the East they would have had access to their own history which presumably would have recorded the coming of a unique King. Firstly, there was Balaam the famous seer from Pethor, near the River Euphrates who was sent for by the King of Moab to come curse the nation of Israel.

Balaam, however, could only bless Israel, as God prophesied through him. Furthermore, Balaam prophesied that a unique King would come. "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a sceptre shall arise out of Israel . . . " (Numbers 24:17)

Then there was Daniel who had advised King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that " . . . the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed . . . " (Daniel 2:45). Daniel, from the tribe of Judah, had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar's troops and taken to Babylon. Miraculously he was elevated to a position of great honour and power, second only to Nebuchadnezzar, similar to Joseph, who had been taken captive to Egypt.

Three years before the conclusion of the seventy year captivity determined for the Jewish people, the angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that there would be sixty-nine sevens of years (483 years) from " . . . the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah . . . " (Daniel 9:25).

These wise men had come from the same region. While it is not mentioned how they had concluded that the time had come for the King of the Jews to be born, it is feasible that they may have had some knowledge of the prophecies through Balaam the Babylonian seer, and through Daniel, the Babylonian viceroy.

Another aspect which seemed to unsettle those in Jerusalem was that these wise men claimed that they had seen His star in the East. This was not a whim or passing phase. They had travelled the long journey to Jerusalem full of purpose and resolve, to worship Him. "For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2) They were men who had studied the stars and who witnessed the King's star in the East and who collectively agreed that He was unique and deserved their worship.

Herod was living in Jerusalem and he hadn't heard of the Messiah's arrival. No one had informed him that the King had been born in Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem hadn't heard either. And as for this star! Understandably then, "When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:3)

Herod needed to be prepared for whatever the outcome would be, so he called the chief priests and the scribes and asked them "where the Messiah was to be born." Note Herod understood this unique King to be the Messiah.

Based on the prophecy from Micah, the chief priests and scribes informed Herod that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It may not be unusual that the Jewish spiritual leaders did not launch an immediate and thorough investigation. Perhaps, they thought that these men from the East, whilst convinced of what they believed, were just another weird group passing through. And even if He was their King they wouldn't have anything to worry about, or so they may have thought.

As the local royal, Herod was in direct conflict with the arrival of the King and he wasn't going to just sit and watch his kingdom fall. So Herod called the wise men and spoke with them secretly. He informed them that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, while they confirmed that they had seen His star two years earlier.

"Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared . . . Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth to put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men." (2:7,16)

When the wise men had left Jerusalem they still didn't have a name or an address, but they were on their way to the small country town of Bethlehem. Then it happened. " . . . the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (2:9)

The wise men were over-the-moon to find the same star which they had seen two years before reappear. Furthermore, they did not have to ask any more questions because the star led them to the exact house where the child was. Their journey was complete. They had found Him who was born King of the Jews.

"And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary (Miriam) his mother, and fell down and worshipped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to him: gold, frankincense and myrrh." (2:11)

He was no ordinary child. He was born of a virgin. He was conceived by the Spirit of God. He was Immanuel, God with us. The wise men did not need the approval of the chief priests, or Herod, and so they humbled themselves before the child and his mother, and presented Him with gifts worthy of a king.

These were wise men indeed. All they had as evidence was a star that they had seen in the East two years earlier. When they arrived in Jerusalem no one knew of this newly born King. Then they willingly accepted Herod's advice to go to Bethlehem, without so much as a name or an address.

The second appearance of the star would have been an exceptional event. I can imagine these wise men, their eyes wet with joy, almost running after the star, urging each other on with laughter in their voices, songs on their lips and gladness in their hearts.

Yeshua was at the most two years old. Nothing is recorded in Scripture that He spoke to them or that He showed Himself to be the Messiah. Perhaps the wise men didn't need to hear Him speak or see His power. Furthermore, they did not see Him on His throne, nor did they require Him to reveal His kingdom. Their faith had brought them to worship, and in their worship their faith was complete.

Sadly, as a nation, the Jewish people have not acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah, and so they continue to wait for the arrival of their King. Nevertheless, as the prophet Hosea declared, the Messiah would wait until His people affirm Him as their King. "I will return again to my place till they acknowledge their offence. Then they will seek my face; in their affliction they will diligently seek me." (Hosea 5:15)

In the meantime many Jewish people have returned to the Lord God and have acknowledged that Yeshua is His Messiah. In so doing their faith in the God of Israel has rekindled their worship of Him, in spirit and in truth.

Messiah Yeshua said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life." (John 8:12)