It was Matthew (who was the author of the Gospel that bears
his name) who was inspired to record for us the coming of the
wise men from the East to Jerusalem to inquire about the one born
to be king of the Jews.
We do not know from where they came in the East, some have
speculated from which nations or nation they may have come from,
but there is nothing in the Bible or secular history that shows
in any certain manner where in the East these wise men made
Nor do we know how many wise men there were. Just because
three gifts are mentioned that they finally present to Joseph and
Mary and Jesus, does not prove that it was three wise men only,
it may have been more.
They arrived in Jerusalem asking where this child, that they
understood to be born to be a king, was to be found. They had
come to worship him they said, and they told people they had seen
this King's star in the East.
We now have a question as to what was this "star" that they
saw. A few have written technical studies trying to show at that
time in history there was a great physical "star" phenomenon in
the heavenly sky over the East and over Palestine. It may be hard
to understand how a physical star in the heavens could eventually
come and rest over the dwelling place where Jesus lived, as
Matthew records. But it may be possible if you as skilled in the
movements of the stars in the heavens and if God had sent a
special meteor type star to guide them to the Christ child.
On the other hand the first chapters of the book of
Revelation use the word "star" to represent "angels" of the
Could it have been that God sent an angel, which to the wise
men looked like a star in the sky, to guide them to the very
place where Jesus was now living? Yes, it could be possible that
is how the Lord God did it.
Either way, we know God's guiding hand was in all of this,
to bring the wise men from the East to worship this new born king
that was named Jesus. And further, the wise men must have had
some earlier knowledge from some source that a special king was
to be born in the region of Jerusalem, in Palestine. It may have
been possible that they had copies of the Hebrew Old Testament as
we call it today. The Jews had been in captivity in Babylon and
many did not return to Palestine with Ezra and Nehemiah about
five hundred years earlier, but chose to live in other parts of
the known world. Some may have gone further east and taken their
Holy Scriptures with them. Hence, others coming into contact with
those Jews could have had access to God's known word of that
time. They could have read and understood the prophecies
concerning the human birth of the Messiah and the area of the
world He was to be born in.
Part of why they were called "wise men" by Matthew may have
been because they were wise in the understanding of the Old
Well, these men from the East arrived in Jerusalem asking
about this child born to be king, and when the one who was ruling
as king over Judea, Herod the king as he was called, heard this
questioning from these men, he was naturally very troubled,
upset, and not a little disconcerted. He thought his power and
might and authority was going to be challenged and ripped away
from him, by someone who was to grow up and lead the Jews in
revolt against himself. All Jerusalem, Matthew states, was also
troubled by the questions from these men of the East. So troubled
was Herod that he called for the Jewish chief priests and scribes
(kind of lawyers of the day) to inquire of them where their
Scriptures said this Christ was to be born. They told him that
the town of Bethlehem was the place that the prophets of old had
said He was to be born or to come from. This was foretold by the
prophet Micah. We can see that prophecy in the book that is
called after him, chapter five and verse two. The prophecy reads:
"And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art by no means
least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel; whose going forth and living
have been from old, from everlasting (or as the Hebrew can read,
the days of eternity)."
This also shows us why Isaiah said the Jesus child would
also be Immanuel, which word means "God with us." For He existed
as God, a member of the Godhead or family of God before His human
birth. He truly was from the days of eternity. The first chapter
of the Gospel of John also bears witness to this truth, that the
one we know as Jesus existed as God yet with God (the one we now
call the Father) before He came to earth to be born of a woman
called Mary (Matthew 2: 1-6).
Maybe you, or your parents reading this to you, would like
to stop here for a moment, and read the first part of the first
chapter of the Gospel of John.
HEROD SECRETLY TALKS TO THE WISE MEN
Herod was a cunning and crafty king, he sent for the wise
men by secret and brought them to himself without anyone in
Jerusalem knowing. He wanted to ascertain from them what time in
the past they saw the star. Oh, how nice and sweet he talked to
them, just as sweet as honey. He made out that he was on their
side, telling them, " You go to Bethlehem, for I am told he
should be there, search diligently for the child, and then
when you have found him, bring me word of where he is there, so I
can come also and worship him."
King Herod had no intention at all in wanting to worship the
child Jesus. He had much darker and more evil plans as to what he
would do to Jesus if he could find where He was.
The wise men departed from Herod, and no sooner were they
getting ready to leave Jerusalem, when the start once more
appeared to them. They could see it was moving and leading them
further and further away from the city of Jerusalem. Finally it
came to stop over the very place where Jesus was dwelling.
Matthew records, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced
exceedingly with great joy, and going into the house they saw the
child with Mary his mother and they bowed down and worshipped
We have already seen that Luke recorded that after the
Temple rituals had been performed for the birth of a firstborn
man child, Joseph and Mary returned to their home town of
Nazareth, way north of Jerusalem, in the region of Galilee. The
baby Jesus is now called a "child" and the wise men go into a
"house" not a stable. All this (and something else that we shall
note shortly) bears evidence that the wise men did not come
from the East until sometime later, when Jesus was no longer a
baby but thought of as a child, and was living in the home or
house of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth.
Well, the wise men had finally found the one they had come
looking for, the one born to be king of the Jews.
They had brought treasures with them, and opening their
containers they offered and gave three gifts, the first being
that of "gold." Now, pure gold is one of the most incorruptible
substances on the earth. It can rest in water for hundreds, even
thousands of years and never rust or decay.
The life of this Christ child would be pure gold so to
speak. He would never do any wrong in actions, in thoughts, or in
words. He would be always purely incorruptible, what the New
Testament calls sinless. It is written that Jesus never sinned,
no not once.
The wise men gave the gift of "frankincense." The Hebrew
word is "lebona" and is a whitish, greasy, sticky, gum resin
substance from a bush type plant that especially grows in Persia,
east of Palestine, It was one of the constituents of the sacred
incense that was burnt on the altar in the Temple. By itself it
has a pungent odor and taste, but which, when mixed with fragrant
substances, has the effect of increasing the odor and keeping the
then fragrant smell lasting longer.
Jesus was to endure forever as the first begotten and first
born Son of God the Father. His life on the sacrificial altar was
to be an everlasting sweet smelling odor to God.
The third gift that the wise men gave was that of "myrrh."
The Hebrew is "mor" which means distilling. The Greek is "smyrna"
which we translate as "myrrh." It is a well-known gum resin
extracted from the Arabian "Balsamoderndron Myrrha." It was used
as a perfume for embalming, and as an ingredient of the holy
This was to represent the lovely smell to God the Father
that the death (embalming was done to the body of the dead to
help preserve it for a while and to see that the body decayed in
a nice smelling way) of Jesus would bring for His plan of the
salvation of mankind to His glory.
The plan of the Almighty could be carried out in no other
way than that a God type person should come as a human to live a
perfect life, to take the sins of mankind upon Himself and to
sacrifice Himself in death for those sins. We shall talk a lot
more about all this when we near the end of the Gospels which
record the facts and the reasons of the death of Jesus.
The wise men, being deceived by the cunning king Herod,
would have returned to him to inform him of the location of this
child Jesus, but an angel from the Lord came to them in a dream
to warm them of the real intent of Herod (the intent being to
kill the child).
So once that was explained to them they departed for their
homeland another way, and never saw or spoke to king Herod again
(Matthew 2: 7-12).
HEROD KILLS THE CHILDREN TWO YEARS OLD AND UNDER
Back at Herod's palace, the king is walking the floor with
more and more agitation as the days pass by in which the wise men
do not return to him with information as to the whereabouts of
the boy born to be king of the Jews.
"I am king Herod, look what I've done for these Jews. I've
built them a great and magnificent Temple here in Jerusalem, as
well as other fine buildings around Palestine. And what do I
find? They claim their Scriptures say a child is to be born to
them in Bethlehem who is to be king of the Jews. I am their king,
they will have no other."
More days passed by and still the wise men did not return.
Finally Herod knew he had been tricked and that they would not
return with the information he so desperately wanted.
"I will show these Jews," he shouted as his face grew red
with anger, " I will show them who has the power and who will be
their only king," he continued in his now furious rage. With his
hands trembling in fuming hateful thoughts, and the veins of his
neck protruding in stark enlargement, Herod shouted out that the
chiefs of his army should come to him immediately.
On entering his presence they heard these chilling words
from his mouth.
"The men from the East said they saw a star of this child
king about two years ago. You will take some of our soldiers and
go to the city of Bethlehem and the region round about, and they
will kill all the male children that are two years old and
Even those hardened men of war were taken aback and stunned
by this command they had to carry out, but they knew it was
either carry out his demand or they would loose their own heads
by the sword. They felt they had no choice but to comply and do
as Herod commanded.
So it was done. All the male children from the age of two
and under in the region of Bethlehem were put to death by the
order of king Herod, in his hope that one of the dead children
would be this child the Jews claimed was born to be their king.
You will notice that it was from two years of age and under
that Herod had the male children killed. This could indicate that
the wise men did not arrive in Palestine in search of Jesus until
around two years (less a few months for their visit with Herod
and then finding Jesus and returning home a different way) after
Jesus was born.
It is hard to imagine the weeping and anguish of mothers and
entire families where all male children under two years old were
put to death. It had been foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. God
had known beforehand it would happen, and the great prophet
Jeremiah under inspiration from the Lord had spoken of it when he
" A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud sorrow.
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted,
because they were no more alive."
But Herod could not fight against the Almighty God, who knew
the intentions of his evil heart. After the wise men from the
East had departed, God had sent an angel to tell Joseph to take
Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod was planning and hoping to
kill the child (Matthew 2: 13,14). All this was also fulfilling
the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 that had said, "Out of Egypt have I
called my son."
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were now safe in the land of Egypt,
when king Herod killed the children of two years and under. It
was not that many months later when the king suddenly died.
Probably the hand of the Lord was in that untimely death of his.
Well, upon it happening, an angel from the Lord once more
appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, " Pack up your things
Joseph, and take the child and His mother back to the land
of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead."
Joseph was pleased to hear this news and quickly did as the
angel instructed. He was thinking it would be nice to settle in
the area of Judea, somewhat near Jerusalem, but on hearing that
Archelaus, the son of Herod, was now reigning in Judea in place
of his father, he decided it was better to live outside of the
region of Judea. Joseph decided his old stomping ground of the
city of Nazareth would be the best place to raise this child
No doubt the Lord God was inspiring him to make this
decision for it had been prophesied by the old prophets that
Jesus was to be called a Nazarene, meaning one who was from the
city or town of Nazareth (Judges 13:5).
As we look at this prophecy in the book of Judges, it is
hard to relate it to the time of Jesus, but the nature of some
prophecies can have a number of different applications down
through the centuries. Obviously this one in Judges is a case in
point (Matthew 2:13-23).
JESUS AT THE PASSOVER AT AGE TWELVE
We are told nothing about the life of Jesus or Joseph and
Mary, from the time they returned to the land of Palestine from
Egypt, until they all as a family, went to Jerusalem to observe
the Passover when Jesus was twelve years old. This account is
recorded for us in Luke 2:41-50.
We can be assured that Mary would have raised the child
Jesus in the very best Jewish manner, as to schooling and
religious education. I think we can correctly assume that Jesus'
childhood life was without any great noticeable declaration. He
was probably like many other Jewish boys of His time, enjoying
His education both in secular and religious studies, as well as
the fun of the great outdoors. We are not told that He did any
miracles or tried to manifest any super-natural power as a child
and young adult, hence it is likely He did not. Yet, as the Son
of God, who was sinless all His life, His thoughts, words, and
actions, as a child would have been noticed by adults, I'm sure.
Most people will take note of a child that is outstandingly
mannerly, polite, kind, thoughtful, respectful of adults, and
self-controlled in actions and words.
Joseph and Mary made it a custom to attend and celebrate the
Passover in Jerusalem each year in the spring time, when the
Passover feast is celebrated. This is one of the 7 great
festivals of the Lord as outlined and described in Leviticus 23.
This time when they were leaving to return to Nazareth,
Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. For the first day of the
journey they did not miss Him. We might wonder why this was. When
we read in Luke that they sought for Him among their kinsfolk and
friends, we are perhaps given the answer. There were many of
Joseph's and Mary's family relatives as well as close friends
with them on this journey. The Jewish people tend even today, to
be a very close knit group of people. It is natural for them,
especially blood related family members, to mingle with each
other, as one large family. Joseph and Mary simply thought Jesus
was somewhere within the larger family of their relations and
friends, and so did not get concerned until after the first day
had gone by. Jesus not returning to be with them for the night
(without asking) was something He obviously did not do before in
His life as a child, so then they missed Him and went looking for
Jesus could not be found among any of their relatives or
friends. There was only one other place they could think of where
He might be. That place was the city of Jerusalem. So, back they
went to Jerusalem and started their search for Him up and down
the streets, in every place where they thought a twelve year old
could or would go.
For three days they searched for Him but He was nowhere to
Whether it was some people in Jerusalem or God putting the
thought in their minds, whichever it was, they finally decided
the only place left to look for Him was in the great huge Temple
of Jerusalem. And sure enough, there He was, sitting among the
Jewish Temple teachers, listen to them and also asking them
questions, and obviously answering some, for all who heard Him
were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
Joseph and Mary, bless their hearts, still could not see the
clear picture of the life of this child from God that they had
been given to raise and care for. They were very upset at what
Jesus had done and all the trouble they thought it had caused
them over the last four days. Mary said to Him, " Son, why have
you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking
for you anxiously."
Jesus, relying to her said, "Why have you sought me
anxiously? Do you not understand after twelve years that I must
be in my Father's house."
Joseph and Mary did not understand what Jesus was meaning by
this answer to them. They had been visited by angels twelve years
earlier, had seen miracles happen, had seen how Jesus had grown
from a baby into a child and up to this age of twelve. Seen how
He had grown without ever committing one sin. They knew there was
something very special about this person, but just could not at
this period in His life put the picture in clear focus.
Jesus was now at age twelve, to really get into first gear
so to speak, in a spiritual way, heading for third and fourth
gear and full speed ahead, to do the work of His real Father in
Many of us today in the Western world would think Jesus was
at age twelve, being very disrespectful and high handed towards
Joseph and Mary in His actions at this particular Passover season
as recorded by Luke. But when we understand that in that time of
Jewish culture, the age of twelve was when you were deemed an
adult, to take on an adult mindset, and adult responsibilities,
then we see that was just what Jesus was doing. He was taking a
serious adult mindset towards His Father in heaven and the
spiritual work He must now really focus on as He moved from
childhood to adulthood. Not that He had not done so in the past,
but now as a young adult it took on even more importance.
JESUS GROWS IN A FOUR FOLD WAY
Luke records in very simple and short sentences the growing
life of the now young adult Jesus, until He was made manifest
with might and power to the masses of the people of Israel. Luke
says, " And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was
obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in her
heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor
with God and man " (Luke 2:51,52).
Jesus, as the very Son of the Most High, was not handed it
all on a silver platter, just having the perfection of God as if
falling off a log, having it so easy that it was just a "shoe in"
as we often say.
Jesus was also born of a woman, of Mary, and so was also
very human as we are. He had to learn, to study, to think and to
meditate, as we also have to do.
As we should do, Jesus increased in wisdom and in mental
stature, and in favor with God and man.
Written December 2000