3. THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
"Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we saw His star in the East, and are come to worship Him."
Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Epiphanius said that the wise men came from Arabia, for "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" abounded in the area of Yemen. That direction is south, but the wise men of the East were men who gathered over the period of several years from a broad area, for two years before the birth of Jesus, a star appeared. Some wise priestly men of the East gathered some other kinsmen of like mind, to go and find the soon to be born "King". The kings of Yemen of that age professed the Jewish faith. Clement of Alexandria,
Diodorus of Tarsus and Chrysostom said the wise men were from Persia. The descendants of Abraham had spread out from Midian, to Yemen, and to Persia. The wise men were from all these areas, and had been jointly watching for the sign of the coming "king" had joined together in their trip to Jerusalem.
The word "magi" was used to refer to the Eastern priest-sages, who were descendants of Abraham. They had held onto the faith they had received from their forefather, Abraham. These wise men were related to Abraham, for he was their forefather.
Genesis 25:1-6 shows that Abraham had six other sons (other than Isaac and Ishmael) whose names were: Jokshan, Aimran, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
Abraham left all he had to Isaac (Gen. 25:5), but gave gifts to his others sons and sent them away from Isaac, "eastward, unto the east country." (Gen. 25:6).
Genesis 29:1 shows that the people of these sons of Abraham that went into the "east" country were later referred to as "the people of the east."
"Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east."
Many have wondered the origin of the wise men of the east, that came to find the new born Messiah. Matthew 2:1-2 simply says that they were the "wise men from the east". These descendants of Abraham were a priestly hereditary group that understood prophecies, and were well aware of the coming of the Messiah.
They were excited about the coming of the One prophesied to come. They had learned of the prophecy of the Messiah from their forefather, Abraham. Since Abraham was a prophet, and had even known of the New Jerusalem, had entertained the pre-incarnate Messiah (Genesis 22:15, Jasher 23:69) before the destruction of Sodom, was familiar with the prophecies of Enoch (Jude 14-15), he likely had knowledge of the coming of the Messiah.
Other descendants of Abraham through the lineage of Isaac also knew of the coming Messiah, and of the sign of the "star" that would announce His coming.
For in the ancient writings we read of such:
Testimony of Judah (Testimonies of the Twelve Patriarchs) 4:20-27
"Then, after these things shall a Star arise to you from Jacob, in peace. A man shall arise from my seed, like unto the sun of righteousness. No sin will be found in Him. The heavens shall receive Him so that the Spirit of God may come down from the Father; and He shall pour out this Spirit of mercy upon many. Then shall many be like sons to God, and walk in all of God's ways. Finally, the scepter of the kingdom shall shine forth; and from the root of my seed shall arise a Branch; and this Branch will become a Rod of Righteousness to the Gentiles to judge and save all t hat call upon the Lord. After these thins happen shall Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be resurrected to life."
This prophecy was common knowledge in ancient days, for even the false prophet, Balaam, knew of such prophecy. In the prophecy of Balaam we read:
"There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel."
The Jews after their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, still expected a star as a sign of the birth of the Messiah, for the tractate 'Zohar of Gemara' states such an expectation. Furthermore, the one later accepted as the Messiah, Simon bar Kokhebha (130-135) was given the title "Son of the Star".
In an ancient book called "The Book of Elijah" (Chapters about the Messiah) and in the book called "The Mysteries of R. Simon, the son of Jochai", it says that a star of the East was to appear two years before the birth of the Messiah.
When Herod questioned the wise men, he did not even know the city the Messiah was to be born. So he did not know that the star was to appear two years before the birth of the Messiah. Therefore, when he learned that the star had appeared two years before, he had all children two years and younger in the area about Bethlehem killed.
"Then Herod privily called the wise men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go, and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship Him. And they, having heard the king, went their way: and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
What was this "star"???
Was this star a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces? This is a common belief that has had much circulation.
This conjunction took place in May of 7 B.C., but a similar conjunction took place 59 years earlier, and was not thought to be a sign of anything. The two planets never approached each other closer that twice the diameter of the moon, so the would not have appeared as one star, but two.
If the two planets appeared to stand over Bethlehem when seen from the East, when they arrived there, the two would have seemed to stand over another area far to the west.
The star was not such a conjunction, and could not have been a literal "star" at all, and be able to lead the wise men as such.
The statement that the star "went before" the wise men, indicates that the "star" was some supernatural light similar to the "shekinah" glory. It was a temporary, supernatural light similar to the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel by night in the wilderness.
The light of the Holy Spirit, Who had impregnated Jesus into the womb of Mary, had come to earth several years before the birth of the Messiah, Jesus to prepare the world for such event of the incarnation of the divine One into the world. The Spirit alerted the "wise men" who had so anxiously awaited this sign. The people of Israel were mostly not ready for the coming Messiah, and had missed the signs presented by the Spirit.
Anna and Simeon longed for the Messiah, and were awaiting at the temple to see the Messiah when He would be brought to the Temple for purification. They had been promised by the Spirit that they would see such Messiah.
The Bible study group of disciples in Galilee had heard of such events in Jerusalem... and were anxiously looking for the Messiah to be announced when John the Baptist pointed out such "Lamb of God" to those at a baptismal service. The signs presented by the Holy Spirit to them had not been missed.
The Holy Spirit appeared as a dove upon the head of Jesus at that time. The Holy Spirit's work, requiring His manifest presence, on earth was temporarily finished. He returned to heaven, except for His omnipresence, and had to be sent back by Jesus after His ascension to heaven.
The glory of the Lord that shined upon the shepherds was the shekinah glory of the Holy Spirit. It came upon "them" and is representative of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church age. The "glory" that shined over the shepherds was the same light the wise men followed as a "star". The Holy Spirit thus came with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as they traveled to Jerusalem.
After the eight days, Mary was able to travel the five miles to Jerusalem. Jesus would there be circumcised, and Mary would pay a sacrifice for her purification.
The two turtle doves offered by Mary were given before the visit of the wise men, for these were the offering of the poorest of worshippers. Thus Mary and Joseph were at the time very poor, or they would have offered a more valuable gift to the Lord God.
The "star" was, on that day, over Jerusalem, for baby Jesus was in Jerusalem. This explains why the wise men sought Herod in Jerusalem, and thought the baby Messiah should be somewhere in the city.
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod, the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying,
Where is He that is born 'King of the Jews' for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him,
In Bethlehem of Judaea; for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people, Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw 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 exceeding great joy. And when they were 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 unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."
When this "star" (See Testimony of Judah 4:20) appeared, they had the spiritual insight to know that the Messiah was about to come into this world. They followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to Judah, and when they saw the star abide over Jerusalem, they knew the Messiah had to be therein. Jesus was there in Jerusalem on that day, for on that day, He was being circumcised.
They went to Herod, who was troubled at the thought of a coming Messiah. There are many today who are troubled at the prophetic message of our day. They will seek to harm, deceive, and lie to any who follow the prophetic message. We call such people to be abusers, tares, false prophets, etc.
This Herod called the religious people of his day, the 24 chief priests, and they were knowledgeable enough to know that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Yet, these same religious people were so apathetic about the prophetic message, that they did not accompany the wise men to Bethlehem. They had eyes to see the same star as the wise men, and knowledge of the Scriptures, and yet they sat in their "holy" pew... and did not care to see the infant Messiah. They were "knowledgeable dupes" of the day.
In our day, there are "Herod's" and "chief priests" galore. The message, being espoused by the Holy Spirit again, that Jesus is about to return to earth is being proclaimed, and yet many today, like these "chief priests" are:
to the exciting news of the second coming of a Messiah.
The star led the wise men to the small town of Bethlehem, some five miles away. I wonder how far behind Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus they were as they traveled that road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem??? When they arrived the next day, (day nine after the birth of Jesus), they found the Messiah in a house.
They rejoiced, and gave gifts, which the Lord had blessed them to give. These men were like those with a gift of giving of our times who finance the gospel message. The Lord provides worshippers, and blesses them with guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In our day, we, the true saints of God who are aware of prophetic revelation of the soon coming of Jesus, eagerly await His coming. We have seen signs from the Holy Spirit that the coming is very soon. We share our revelation with the Herods and the religious elders who are likewise shaken and disturbed by such message. We go to them in the religious community (as the original wise men did in Jerusalem). When we are rejected by the religious world, we likewise retire to our "Bethlehem".
Our Bethlehem is outside the religious world of the day, outside the Laodicean churches that want Jesus on the outside, not inside making them aware of their spiritual poverty. The religious world of our day, like the day of the wise men, is more interested in power, carnal riches, and prominence than in finding the Lord Jesus.
The Herod of that day desired to kill all children who could be the Messiah, and the wise men were there to give the finances to the poor Mary and Joseph to escape to Egypt.
The wise men represent those who follow the Holy Spirit, Who prepares us for another coming of the Messiah. We bring gifts to this Lord, and do the Lord's ministry. Thus, the "wise men" of today are worshiping this coming Lord, and providing finances to help the gospel proclamation.
The gifts of the wise men had prophetic revelation also, and the early church often referred to such. The gifts represented:
gold - emblem of His royalty,
myrrh - emblem of His humanity,
frankincense - emblem of His divinity,
according to ancient hymns (by Sedulius, Juvencus, and Claudian)
and by the early church fathers, and later writers.
The "Star", the Holy Spirit, still seeks to bring us to worship of the Messiah, and He also inspires us to give gifts to this Lord. We, in such ministry, recognize:
His royalty, for He is the King of Kings,
His humanity, for He became man to suffer and die for our sins,
and His divinity, for He is the divine member of the Trinity
Who is now at the right hand of God interceding for us.
The Holy Spirit uses dreams and visions in our day, as He did in that day to the wise men. We need to be warned of the evil plans of the evil religious tares and hypocrites of our day.
"And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."
The safety of the wise men was precarious, and the Lord protected them by revelation. There are "wise men" and wise women of our day, that false prophets of our day attack, verbally, and in some cases physically. The Lord will give us warning of such hypocrites.
We will soon depart to our "own country". We seek a "city whose Builder and Maker is God." We are only "strangers and pilgrims" on this earth. (See Hebrews 11). The wise men worshiped, gave gifts, were rejected and hated by the religious of the day, and then depart to their own country. We likewise should desire a soon departure from this world which has rejected the Messiah, Jesus.