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.
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.