Matthew 2:1-12 THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN
2:1-12 Jesus's home town was Nazareth, but he was born in Bethlehem where his family came to be registered, where David was born and anointed King. Then there is Jerusalem, 5 miles north of Bethlehem, where the wise men came inquiring about "He who has been born King of the Jews." Israel had 4 political districts: 1) Judea/Judah in the south, 2) Samaria in the middle, 3) Galilee in the North, and 4) Idumea in the Southwest. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were in Judea; Nazareth was in Galilee. Herod the Great's government over all 4 districts was in Jerusalem. "The Great" was used to distinguish him from his sons.
The wise men did not wait for Jesus to come to them. The wise men saw His star and came to worship Him. I should not expect God to come looking for me or to prove Himself to me. I should not expect God to give me anything. Instead, I should seek Jesus and worship Him, just like the wise men. Although our nativity scenes portray three wise men (each with one of the 3 gifts), the Bible does not say how many men came to worship Jesus. Where were the unnumbered wise men from? The East. That is all the Bible tells us. They probably came from Persia, Babylon, or Arabia, as Gentiles. This would seem to be a great distance that they traveled. Jesus is for the whole world, not just Jews. "Wise men" was a loosely used term for people that were interested in dreams, astrology, and magic, which such things were not always pleasing to God. The term "wise men" are used 44 times in the Bible (example Genesis 41:8). Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says, "There shall not be found among you anyone...who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord."
Verse 11 mentions that the word "house," rather than a stable. Mary and Joseph were able to find a house to live in after Jesus's birth. They had not traveled home to Nazareth. An infant would have been too young to travel and there were ceremonies to be performed by law (see notes on Luke 2:21-38) or Jesus may have been 1 year old.
"Wise men" translated in Greek is "Magos." "Magi" is plural of Magos. The English word "magic" comes from this word.
It is hard to imagine a star so big that moved before the wise men to guide them. If the wise men took notice, surely others could not have missed it. God is the creator of all and, therefore, we do not need to imagine all sorts of realistic explanations for the star. God put it there and He can do anything. God can create miracles. I do not need to have science, history, or an astronomical phenomenon to explain the star. As astrologers, the wise men would have studied patterns in the stars. Today, Jesus IS the bright and shining star to follow! Holy Spirit, light divine, shine upon this heart of mine (hymn lyrics).
Jesus was born an immediately people began to react! From the shepherds in the field, to the wise men, to Herod the Great arousing the curiosities of the scribes and priests. Yep, this little baby was something else! Nothing has changed. The mention of Jesus still brings a variety of reactions. Jesus's presence brings action and not inaction!
Herod was troubled, most likely, because he was afraid this King would get him booted from his position as king. Herod was a cruel and ruthless king and the people feared his rage. His own paranoia caused him to kill family members and close acquaintances. Herod was an Edomite (Esau) who were against Israel (Jacob) for generations (Genesis 27:29-40).
Verse 6 "O Bethlehem, is from Micah's prophecy more than 700 years before (Micah 5:2). The second part of verse 6 is from the Lord's commissioning of David as king of Israel. 2 Samuel 5:2 says, "In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel." The scribes and chief priests believed in these scriptures enough to advice Herod, but yet later they became Jesus's greatest enemy, not even recognizing Him.
In verse 7 Herod asks when the star appeared, maybe thinking that this was when Jesus was born. I wonder how long it would have taken the wise men to travel to Jerusalem. Was it a month or more? That would have been a long time for the star to be in the sky. Herod was an over-thinker and a planner and always paranoid. Herod, through the knowledge of the chief priests and scribes, deduced that Jesus was in Bethlehem and sent the wise men. It would seem he is taking credit for the mission, but the mission began with the star and the wise men would have found him anyway. Herod commanded the wise men to tell him where child was at when he was located. Herod is trying to interfere with God's plan, but man cannot mess with God. The wise men found Jesus when the star rested over the house, not by what Herod had deduced. The wise men received a warning in a dream and did not return to Herod.
In verse 10 Matthew uses the word "joy" again, but not just joy, but rejoicing exceedingly in that joy. By their "worship," the wise men realized Jesus was the one true God. The wise men were the first Gentiles to worship Jesus. I love that the Word says the wise men "fell down." They were on their knees in worship, talking directly to Jesus. I can do the same today in prayer.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were expensive, but common gifts. Just like the wise men, I want to offer my rich gifts of thanks and worship to Jesus. Gold represents royalty. Frankincense represent deity. Myrrh was a spice used to anoint a body for burial.