Wise Men of the Nativity, the Star in the East

The Star of Bethlehem Led the Magi to the Newborn King



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“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

In Matthew 2:1,2, the Magi came from the east to Jerusalem, asking, “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. These men studied celestial movements, and had identified something they called “his star. The words translated “in the east are from a Greek word which is more accurately translated “in the rising. This refers to what is called the heliacal rising, which, simply understood, is the visibility of a star or planet on the horizon just before the sun rises or after it sets. These ancient astronomers had been closely watching activity in the heavens, as it was a large and important part of their way of life.

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Astronomers have speculated through the years as to what this star could have been. It has been suggested that it could have been a comet, a nova or super nova, or a planetary conjunction. A comet is a celestial body with a long luminous tail, observed in its orbit around the sun, such as Halley's, visible from earth only every 75 years. A nova is a star that suddenly flares up in brightness, then decreases. A super nova is an exploded or exploding star, and its brilliance is intense but short-lived. A planetary conjunction is the aligning of either two or more planets or a planet and a star in the same part of the heavens.

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The account in Matthew 2 clearly states that the Magi had seen (past tense) “his star, and, as they approached the location where young Jesus was, they saw it again. There is no implication that anyone else saw what they saw. What they saw rules out a comet or nova or super nova. A planetary conjunction is an occurrence that doesn't result in dramatic luminescence. It wasn't the brightness but the significance that captivated the interest of the Magi to the extent of traveling almost 1,200 miles.

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Although dates vary, and new data and conjectures are promoted more and more frequently, there were celestial events recorded between 7 and 1 B.C. which add credibility to the Bethlehem Star observance, not that Biblical integrity and accuracy needs to be verified. Jupiter, the king planet, and Regulus, the king star and brightest star in the constellation Leo, were in conjunction three times in 3 B.C. and 2 B.C., and there was a massing of the planets Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Venus in the constellation Leo (the Lion and representative of Judah) in August of 2 B.C. These were the celestial events that the Magi observed, and convinced them of a king born in Judea. Herod didn't know about it, and neither did anyone else, but the men from the east were convinced so they assembled their caravan and acquired their gifts to make the long journey to come to the land of Judea to worship the King of the Jews.

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In Matthew 2:9,10, after the Magi learned that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, “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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. The trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is six miles, and walking one mile every 15 minutes would get them to Bethlehem in 90 minutes. They could have easily wakened early in the morning, before sunrise, and as they walked toward Bethlehem, they again saw the prominent “star. How they were able to identify the exact house where Mary was, with the infant Jesus, can only be regarded as a miracle.

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But God's Word is truth and these men were certainly well rewarded by God for their many months of effort. They were ecstatic to find Him. They prostrated themselves and worshiped Him, and they opened their treasures and offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These were gifts appropriate for a king. Gold, the most valuable precious metal, frankincense, used in anointing oil and signifying Jesus divinity, and myrrh, used in embalming and symbolizing His humanity. However, on their return to Herod, being warned of God in a dream about Herod's wickedness, these men from the east bypassed Jerusalem and began their long journey home.

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Written by: Pete Miller

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