We see them represented in most Christmas Nativity Scenes. Who were those men who traveled thousands of miles to Bethlehem to find the newborn Jesus? How did they know about the Savior's birth and where to find Him?
The Magi or the Three Wise Men are thought by some to have been men of high position from Partha, a town near the site of the ancient Babylon.
- Traditionally, there were three although the Bible doesn't tell us how many. It is more likely that there were many - even hundreds - because people traveled in caravans then. There was safety in numbers.
- They might have been Jews who knew the predictions of Old Testament scripture. They would have been descended from the Jews who stayed in Babylon centuries earlier, after the exile. (Sometime between 742 and 687 BC, the prophet Micah prophesied about the Savior being born in Bethlehem. Micah 5.)
- They could have been eastern astronomers who studied ancient manuscripts. They would have had copies of Old Testament scripture in their land because of the Jewish exile. Moses wrote about a star, referring to the Messiah, around 1450 BC. Numbers 24:17
- They may have been Gentiles of high position, who had received a special revelation from God directing them to the promised Savior of all men.
- Some scholars say that they were each from a different land, representing the entire world bowing before Jesus.
Whoever they were, they traveled a long distance and when they found Him, they celebrated, presenting Him with gifts.
These gifts are a small reflection of the day when all the wealth of the nations will be joyfully set before the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 60:5, 60:11, 61:6 & 66:20, Zephaniah 3:10 and Haggai 2:7,8 prophetically speak of this event.
The Three Gifts
- Incense: A fitting gift for our great High Priest - representing the prayers of the world.
In Psalm 141:2 David asks that his prayer be set before God like incense.
Revelation 5:8 speaks of golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.
- Myrrh: A spice used in embalming. A fitting gift for the Savior who would sacrifice his life for the sin of the world.
- Gold: A gift fit for a King.
What about the star?
There has been much speculation about the star that led these men to the Savior. Some say that it was the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, taking place in 6 BC. Others say that it was a comet or a supernova.
I think it is likely to have been the Shekinah glory of God. This is the same pillar of light that led the nation of Israel for forty years in the wilderness.
Or it could have been a special star created for the event by the God Who spoke into creation the heavens and the earth.
The important thing about the Three Wise Men is not who they were, but that they are recorded as searching for the Savior and that they found Him. Wise men and wise women still search for Him. They don't have to travel thousands of miles today. He can be found in the pages of the Bible and in prayer.
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