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Arrival of the Wise Men
11/23/2008
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12; Daniel 9:20-27; Acts 8:9...
Track 1 of 1 in the Magi series
Running time: 54 minutes, 44 seconds.


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Arrival Of The Wise Men
Matthew 2:1-12 & Daniel 9:20-27

The story of the wise men is one that many Christians really don’t understand. We see them a lot in Christmas advertising, hear songs about them and our children learn at a very early age their story. But how many really know the true story of the wise men. There are many interesting stories and facts about these men. Most facts are inaccurate when compared to scripture.

Tell me about the wise men. Who were they and why did they come? What are some of the inaccurate facts concerning them and their journey?

Information about the wise men can be found in Matthew 2. We also can learn a lot about magi and possibly why they really came to Bethlehem looking for the King of the Jews. Here are some simple facts about the magi.

Magi: Eastern wise men, priests, and astrologers expert in interpreting dreams and other “magic arts.” The term has a Persian background. The earliest Greek translation of Daniel 2:2, 10 uses “magi” to translate the Hebrew term for astrologer

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.

The magi who greeted Jesus’ birth may have been from Babylon, Persia, or the Arabian Desert. Matthew gives no number, names, or royal positions to the magi. Before A.D. 225 Tertullian called them kings. From the three gifts, the deduction was made that they were three in number. Shortly before A.D. 600 the Armenian Infancy Gospel named them: Melkon (later Melchior), Balthasar, and Gaspar.

In Acts 8:9 and Acts 13:6 Luke records two men in the church practicing sorcery, with a bad connotation. The term for sorcerer was magi. It was this type of men who sought for Jesus.

Read Matthew 2:1-12

Why was it important that Jesus be born in Bethlehem? It fulfilled prophecy and indicated exactly where to look to find the Christ when he came.

This story always fascinated me. There was something about it that seemed uncertain. The story seemed to assume the wise men were always looking for the Christ. But these men were probably pagans who worshiped many gods. Why would they look for the Christ when they weren’t Jewish and what would compel them to travel to Bethlehem? The most popular storyline reads that they followed the star to Bethlehem. By looking at the scriptures more closely, that idea might be false.

What are some of the fine details found in these verses about the Magi? They knew a new king was born. They also knew where to look for him…in Palestine but did not know the exact location because they had to ask for it. They recognized that the stellar sign in the east signaled the coming of the Christ, yet they were pagans. They knew the Christ was born before the Jews knew it.

What was the reaction of Herod and the Jews when visited by the Magi? Did they know the answer to their question? Why didn’t the Jews also go and look for the Christ?

Verses 7 & 8 are important verses, an exact time for the birth was recognized and Herod wanted to know when it happened. Also, Herod knew where the child was and directed the Magi to Bethlehem to find the child. Herod only knew the city, he did not know the exact location or house the child was living in.

The Star

What was it the Magi saw? It seems extraordinary that these men would set out from the East to find a king. From what we know of our calendar today, it was discovered that the Roman calendar we use today was about 6 years off and was corrected several centuries ago. The accurate date for Jesus birth is the year 6 BC. Historically, Herod died in 4 BC. Just about the time of Jesus birth, there were several references to feelings of expectations of a king in other kingdoms throughout the world. The Discovery channel last week during a special program about the birth of Jesus listed a number of unusual astronomical phenomenons that happened at the time of Jesus birth. What ever it was, the Magi knew something big had happened that caused them to travel to Palestine.

But the big question for me is, why Palestine? Why did they specifically come looking for the king of the Jews, the Christ? There is no indication from the Bible that they followed a star to Jerusalem they knew where in general to find him.

Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:9-10 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed

Explain to me the idea of the star in verses 9-10. Did the star actually move along leading the men to the exact spot? How do you read it? Many suggest this portion of the story is poetry. We need not think the star literally moved like a guide across the sky. The star was an eastern star and the Magi were traveling to the west. The star would have been behind them in their actual travel. However, over Bethlehem, the star was shinning when the men arrived and it was over the house were Jesus lived. But it was Herod who directed the Magi to Bethlehem.

An Older Story

What makes this story exciting to me is what we know about this story from the Old Testament. I believe the story of the wise men started back during the time of the exile. What we know from the Old Testament helps us to understand possible why pagan men traveled to see a Jewish Christ. I think the book of Daniel gives us some good clues.

Daniel lived during the time of the exile when Babylon and King Neb took the tribes of Judah and Benjamin into captivity. For 70 years Israel lived in captivity in the land what is known today as Iraq. Daniel lived through the reigns of three rulers: King Neb., King Belshazzar and Darius the ruler over Babylon after king Cyrus from Persia conquered Babylon. During Daniel’s life in captivity, God showed to Daniel several visions to give Israel hope of better days to come. The purpose for the visions was to keep Israel from giving up and falling into despair. For Israel, the visions showed the future. The visions are of past events to us today.

The visions were different each time but pointed toward the same events. The visions predicted the rise and fall of four great empires with a fifth empire coming in the end lasting forever.

• First empire – King Neb. and Babylon
• Second empire – Cyrus and the Medo Persian Empire
• Third empire – Greek Empire
• Forth empire – Roman Empire
• Fifth Empire – Kingdom of God

Each vision predicted their rise and fall and gave us many details of each empire. All the visions came true. The most interesting vision is found in Daniel Chapter 9. It is from this vision I believe the explanation of the Magi can be found. It is important to note that his captors considered Daniel a Magi; he had the ability to interpret dreams so he was made a ruler and head over all Magi by Neb. and Darius and he was highly esteemed by them.

Read Daniel 9:9:20-27

It is important as we read and discern this prophecy the meaning of “weeks”. Its Hebrew meaning is used to designate a collection of seven things. Just as we would use the word dozen, it is a collection of twelve things. If we would walk into a store and say I want a dozen, a person would have to ask the question, A dozen of what?

Gabriel said to Daniel, seventy weeks or seventy sevens are determined. Seventy sevens of what? It is clear that the context the prophecy is dealing with is time. It is important to note that the Jews recognized three classifications of weeks:

There were week of days
There was the week of years (Sabbatical year Leviticus 25: 3-7)
There was the week of seven times seven years – 49 years (Jubilee week Leviticus 25:8-13)

Most scholars believe the weeks that are being used in Daniel are the weeks of years or
seventy X 7= 490 years.

Look at verse 24; knowing your Bible history and knowing the main events in the Bible, what events do you think this prophecy is about?

• To finish transgressions
• To put an end to sin
• To atone for wickedness
• To bring everlasting righteousness
• To seal up the vision and prophecy
• To anoint the most holy

Let’s look at the math. In verse 25, Daniel is told that there are two parts to the time frame, seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. He is told to restore the Temple and the time for the arrival of the anointed one is 7 sevens and 62 sevens.

7 X 7 = 49 years

The first period is 49 years; this is the starting point of the prophecy. It will commence with the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem. There were not less than 3 decrees to rebuild and restore Jerusalem found in scripture. The first was by Cyrus in 538 BC. The second was made by Darius in 517 BC and the third is made by Artaxerxes in 445 BC which is the one that fits more exactly the specifications given by God in Daniel 9:25.

62 x 7 = 434 years:

It important to note that the first 49 years are mentioned separately from the next 434 years but they are meant to be joined together to make up a total of 483 years after the decree made by Artaxerxes. This period of time will bring about the second great prophecy, namely when the Messiah will be cut off.

What is the point to all of this prophecy and math? My point is these Magi knew from Daniel when his Christ was to be born. Daniel was highly esteemed by the Medes and Persians. He was head over all the other Magi. They probably listened to Daniel tell Israel of his dream and what it meant. It also probably excited all Israel. This dream not only impacted Israel, but also the Medes and Persians. This is why the Magi came looking for Jesus. They knew Daniels vision. But it is ironic that is was pagans who first sought out after the Christ, not Israel.