Matthew chapter 2 is the only Gospel recording the appearance of the wise men from the east. Tradition has three men kneeling at the manger, dressed in regal garb, each presenting their gifts to a baby in the straw, with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds standing by, several sheep and cattle surrounding them, and a single, blazing bright star in the night sky, 17 feet from the top of the stable. Tradition is wrong on every count.
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The Gospel of Luke records the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for the census, and due to the arrival of many people for that occasion, all accommodations were full. Mary gave birth in a stable, and the only people to see the newborn Jesus were the shepherds, following the announcement given them by the angel, likely Gabriel. They had been watching their sheep outside at night. After the appearance of the angel and the heavenly host, the shepherds quickly went into Bethlehem and found the baby in the manger, with Joseph and Mary.
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God's Word says that the Holy Family left and shared the event with other people on their way back to where their flocks were, rejoicing, and Mary thought about the words they had shared. Luke also mentions Jesus' circumcision and official naming at eight days old, and being taken to Jerusalem after Mary's days of purification were fulfilled, 41 days after Jesus' birth (Leviticus 12:3,4). Although Luke 2:39 suggests they immediately returned to Nazareth, Nazareth was 65 miles away from Jerusalem, and it makes sense that the new parents took their six-week-old son back to Bethlehem.
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When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, Herod first asked his men where the Christ should be born. He asked the Magi regarding the timing of the appearance of the star. When they told him their observations, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. Matthew 2:9 states that the Magi again saw the star in the heliacal rising, and it “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. As stated in part two of this series, the details of how they located the house where Mary and Jesus is not written, but they did find the house and offered their gifts to the young child. It is interesting to note that it was a house, not a stable, and that Joseph is not mentioned as being present. It is also important to notice that Jesus is no longer a baby, but a young child. The Greek and Aramaic words for a newborn are different than the words for a young child. Jesus was over one year old by the time the Magi arrived. The Magi, or one of them, was warned of God in a dream to not return to Jerusalem to report to Herod, so they took another route back to their homeland.
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Joseph, too, was warned by an angel of God about Herod's intentions to locate and destroy the child, and was instructed to take his wife and child to Egypt. Obediently, Joseph traveled by night to Egypt. When Herod realized that the Magi were not returning with the information he wanted, he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem and the surrounding villages, then slaughtered all the male children two years old and under, “according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16) After Herod's death, Joseph took his family and returned to Nazareth.
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Nothing else is recorded in the Bible about the wise men from the east, the Magi. Some suggest that the prophecy in Isaiah 60:3 and 6 refer to these men. “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. They shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord. God had foretold the coming of His Son since Genesis 3:15, the Promised Seed, the Star out of Jacob of Numbers 24:17, the king that would reign in righteousness of Isaiah 32:1, from the royal line of David foretold in Jeremiah 23:5, whose kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom, as prophesied Daniel 7:14 and 27. Jesus came to His own, Israel, but his own did not receive Him, and in the end, would reject Him. Only a few wise men recognized the heavenly announcement of His birth, and traveled far to see with their own eyes the one who would be the King of kings.
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As a side note, it is intriguing to consider that the first question in the Old Testament is directed towards Adam by God. “Where are you? The first question in the New Testament is asked by the wise men. “Where is He? As cliche as it may sound, it is true that wise men still seek Him.
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