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The visit of the wise men

Matthew 2:1-2

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him".

Full bible text

Matthew 2 verse 1 to 12
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,
2 saying: “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 They told him: “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel".
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying: “Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him".
9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the Child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11 And going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

About this painting

The wise men from the east probably do not arrive in Jerusalem until after the presentation of the newborn King in the temple when He is 40 days old.
These sages, ‘magi’ or ‘magicians’ (in Greek magoi), are probably Babylonian astrologers.
The term ‘wise’ also occurs in Daniel 2 verse 12 and 48.
Like the ‘sages’ or sorcerers of Egypt in the time of Joseph and Moses, they are concerned with the occult interpretation of dreams and special signs in the starry sky. 

The prophet Daniel was appointed chief over the wise during the exile in Babylon
- around 600 Before Christ - although he himself has always remained faithful to the revelation the God of Israel.
In Babylon, the god Bel was worshipped.
Daniel may have mentioned the prophecy of the Messiah from Numbers 24 verse 17:
A star wil come out of Jacob, a scepter will rise out of Israel’, etcetera.

The wise men who now come to worship Jesus may have known this prophecy.

The Magi were originally a tribe in Media, mentioned from the 7th century Before Christ. The priestly family exerted great influence on both Persian and Babylonian rulers.
These rulers took into account the occult knowledge of the sages when making decisions. This knowledge also played a role in the appointment of new rulers.
The Magi later joined Zoroastrianism in Persia, but kept their traditional, occult rituals. 

This story shows that God seeks out Gentiles in their own culture, revealing in their familiar way that the King, the Messiah has been born.
That, meanwhile, does not mean that He approves of astrology.

They come to worship the King, still a Child at the time, but since His ascension enthroned - above the starry powers - at God’s right hand in heaven.
 far above all principality and might and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the next.
Ephesians 1 verse 21. 

Their adoration is in stark contrast to the incredulous reaction of the Jewish chief priests and scribes and of king Herod, who wants to kill the Child.

Psalm 72 verse 11
(King James Version):
Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him.

Revelation 22 verse 16:
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.

2 Peter 1 verse 19:
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

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