Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Wise Men Sought The Baby King

Matthew 2:1-23

“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.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Jesus was born in the days of Herod.  In 47 BC. Herod helped stop a revolt of the Jews against Rome and was named administrator of Syria and northern Israel by Julius Caesar.  A year later Caesar was murdered and Anthony became emperor.  Herod and his brother Phasael were appointed Tetrarch and the Jewish leader, Hyrcanus was stripped of authority, resulting in a rebellion by the Jews in which Phasael was killed and Herod forced to flee. 

In 41 BC, Herod was ordered to recover control, and was successful.  He married Hyrcanus’ granddaughter Marriane to secure Jewish support and had the high priest deposed and killed.  He was made king and was quite ruthless.   About 32 BC, he had Hyrcanus, Marriane, and all the surviving male members of Hasmonean family killed, appointing his own choices as high priests.

Periodically after the Alexander the Great’s death, different groups had developed new schools of interpretation of the law and under Herod the Pharisee Hillel developed his own school of interpretation.  Many of Jesus’ attacks on the Pharisees were the result of Hillel’s school of interpretation.

By about 10 BC resentment against Roman domination under Herod peaked and he had two of his sons executed for plotting against him.  He desecrated the temple, installing the Roman eagle and designating his own high priest and the people rebelled.  Herod died in 7 BC, and his son Archalaeus succeeded in putting down the rebellion and was named king by the Roman senate in 6 BC.  

About the time he had his own sons executed for plotting against him, a group of educated men from around Babylon arrived seeking for the baby who was to be the future king of Israel, claiming to have seen a star announcing his birth in Babylon.    They were familiar with the prophecies Daniel had made in Babylon and when the star appeared, they associated it with his prophecy in Daniel 9:25.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” 

Jesus’ birth was to occur four hundred eighty three years after Cyrus the Great gave the order to rebuild Jerusalem, and the date was right.  Most historical timelines place Cyrus’ order about 535 BC.  There is a growing body of archaeological evidence that the reigns of Xerxes I and Darius II were not in facts separate reigns but were a joint reign with their fathers, in an effort to alleviate some of the problems of governing such a large area.   This places Cyrus’s decree about 500-495 BC and coincides with what scripture states.  It is once again evidence that Jesus is in fact the Messiah.  

Since there are few Jewish records between the end of Nehemiah in Artaxerxes day and Alexander the Great’s defeat of Babylon in 324 BC, some Jewish historians believe the period never existed.  Based on that position they insist that Christ cannot be the Messiah.   

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:3)

Facing civil war and plots to overthrow Herod, the Chaldean’s quest stirred up a lot of controversy on both sides.  Because of replacing the old priests with his own picked men and Hillel’s new way of interpreting the scripture, many of the people were unfamiliar with the prophecies, and Herod had to ask where Messiah wa to be born, calling attention to the Chaldean’s quest.

 “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.” (Matthew 2:4-6)

The Priests and scribes referred him to the prophecy in Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”   

“Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired 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.” (Matthew 2:7-8)

Hoping to eliminate the threat without precipitating civil war, Herod secretly sought as much information from the wise men as possible, learning that it had taken them almost two years to identify the star and travel to Jerusalem.  He requested that they come back through Jerusalem and let him know where the baby was.

“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 worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)

The wise men had assumed that the future king would be born in the capitol and that the king would know about it and had asked directions instead of following the star.  When they resumed their journey the few miles to Bethlehem, they discovered the star was still pointing the way and led them to the house where Jesus lay.  They were no longer at the stable where Jesus was born.

“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matthew 2:12-15)

Warned by God’s angel of Herod’s intentions, the wise men departed for Babylon by another route instead of going through Jerusalem.  Joseph and Mary took the baby and fled to Egypt for protection, fulfilling the prophecy in Hosea 11:1.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Matthew 2:16-18)

Angry that the wise men did not obey his instructions, Herod ordered the execution of all the babies under two years old in the region in an effort to kill Christ, fulfilling the prophecy in Jeremiah  31:15.  “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.”  He also touched off the civil war he had been hoping to avoid.

“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)

After Herod’s death and Archelaus was named king in 6 BC, Joseph and Marry returned to Israel, but fearing that his birth would be remembered, they went to Nazareth rather than to Bethlehem, fulfilling a prophecy of which we have no existing record.


  1. Satan has worked through men such as Herod and Pharaoah to destroy Hebrew boys destined to be leaders, but thankfully God protected Jesus and Moses. Praise God that He Who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. Thanks as always for the great post and God bless.

  2. The more I study history, the more obviously I see how God has worked to accomplish his plan. I also see vividly how Satan has tried to stop him. It is exciting to know God will always achieve his purpose.