Star in the East

KEY VERSE: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” —Matthew 2:10


THE statement in verse one of our lesson, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,” has been misunderstood to refer to the very night of our Lord’s birth. This misunderstanding has led to the erroneous conclusion that the wise men and the shepherds visited Jesus together on the night he was born in a stable. A closer examination of the account reveals that this was not the case.

When the wise men reached Jerusalem, they inquired, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” (vs. 2) Verse three reads, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” From these two verses it becomes clear that the wise men first of all inquired of the people in Jerusalem as to the whereabouts of Jesus. The information that the “king of the Jews” had been born had circulated among the people of the city, and finally reached the ears of Herod who, when hearing it, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

This sequence of events would undoubtedly require considerable time. When Herod heard the report brought to Jerusalem by the wise men, he sent for them and privately inquired “what time the star appeared,” which meant to them that a king had been born to the Jews. The record does not furnish us directly with the wise men’s answer to this question. Later, however, in Herod’s attempt to destroy the newborn king, he ordered the slaying of all male children two years old and under. This would suggest that the wise men had seen the star, which to them denoted the birth of Jesus, as long as two years before.

This possibility is confirmed in the context, which states that the wise men found the young child in a house, not in a stable. The second chapter of Luke informs us that Jesus was taken from the stable in Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem where he was presented to the Lord and a sacrifice offered. Then we read, “When they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned unto Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”—vs. 39

No mention is made by Luke about Jesus being taken into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Surely he would not make the mistake of saying that Jesus’ parents took the child directly back to Nazareth, if the episode recorded by Matthew concerning the wise men occurred at the very time of Jesus’ birth. The harmony of the accounts is indicated in Luke 2:41, which reads, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.” They did return directly to Nazareth after the presentation of the infant, Jesus, at the Temple. It was when they returned a year later, or possibly the second year, that he was visited by the wise men; and Joseph was warned by the Lord to flee with the child into Egypt.

God overruled in this, and warned the wise men by a dream that they were not to return to Herod, but to leave the city by another route. The wise men had no part in this plot to destroy Jesus, and of course, Herod did not realize that he was being used by “that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan,” in his oft-repeated attempt to destroy the seed, as foretold in the Garden of Eden.—Rev. 20:2; Gen. 3:15

The wise men, or Magi, as it is in the Greek, were the first Gentiles to adore the new king of earth. Their presentation of costly gifts to the young child has helped to establish the custom of giving gifts in commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Many, however, even more appropriately, think of Jesus himself as God’s great gift to man, and of the love which prompted that gift; for, as John wrote, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

The propensity of men to watch the stars as a portent of events is used symbolically in prophecy. It is recorded in the Book of Numbers, “There shall come a star out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” (Num. 24:17) This is an obvious reference to our Lord’s first advent. Jesus, using similar symbology, and referring to the same event, said, “I am … the bright and morning star.” (Rev. 22:16) As a morning star is an indicator of the coming dawn, so Jesus’ first advent and its message of hope gave assurance of the future time when he who came out of Jacob, “shall have dominion” in earth’s new day.—Num. 24:19

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |