The Wise Men and the Star of Bethlehem

In my Bible reading, when I get to Matthew, I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling since I love Christmas. Warm, fuzzy feelings aside, there is a more substantive reason I love reading about Jesus’ birth. I’ve just finished reading the entire Old Testament, and everything I’ve read so far proclaims the coming Messiah. Now He is here. With Jesus’ birth, God became man in the flesh.

Who can comprehend such a moment? Well, there was a group of wise men from the east who did. They had seen a unique star which they understood to mean that “The King of the Jews” had been born.

Who were the Wise Men?

Many scholars believe that these wise men were from Persia (modern day Iran).  We really don’t know where they were from, and we don’t know anything about their religion or how they understood the concept of “The King of the Jews.”  We don’t even know how many there were.  We only know that they brought three gifts.

What we do know is that they studied the stars. When they saw a certain star, they set out on a journey worship the new King.

A common misconception is that the star led them to Jerusalem. No, they came to Jerusalem on their own, hoping to find the King of the Jews there. Jerusalem was the logical place to start looking since it was the Jewish capital city.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, they started making inquiries, causing quite a stir. When King Herod heard there were foreigners in town asking about the King of the Jews, he was quite distressed. He didn’t like the idea that the expected Messiah would arrive now, during his reign, usurping his power base.

Nevertheless, Herod consulted the chief priests and scribes who told him that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  So that’s where he told the wise men to look.

The Bible says that when the wise men set out to Bethlehem, they suddenly saw the same star again.  This was the second time the star appeared. The Bible says that when they saw it again “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”  This time the star really did lead them – to the exact spot where Jesus was staying.

What Kind of a Star was It?

Ever since I was a child, I have wondered how a star, as we understand stars, could lead anybody anywhere. My childhood mind reasoned that whatever the wise men saw must been a very low flying object that had the ability to stop over a specific house.

So, there you have it, a child with childlike questions. But this particular question has bothered me well into adulthood. I still wonder how a star could possibly lead anybody anywhere and come to rest over a specific house.

My adult mind believes that the star, which appeared twice was a unique celestial object that God placed in the sky only once.

I have read some cynics who propose that it was a spaceship or other UFO piloted by some sort of space alien. I reject that notion outright. No, my logical and analytical mind tells me it was God-given celestial orb that has never appeared before or since.

What did the Wise Men Think about the Star?

The wise men, who had never seen such an object, called it a star. It was the closest description they could come up with, but did they think it was a typical star?  No, it was different enough that they took the long trip to Jerusalem to worship the King of the Jews.  Later, it led them to the actual house where Jesus was.  Typical stars don’t come to rest over houses.

We don’t know what became of the wise men after they returned to their country.  They are the kind of historical figures who appear briefly on the world stage, and then disappear without a trace.  But it fascinates me that God spoke to believers of another religion and led them to worship our King Jesus.

I expect to see them in heaven when I get there.