Magi

Last we left Mary and Joseph, they had left the Temple in Jerusalem to go back to Nazareth in Galilee.  However, something brought them back to Bethlehem again between the 40 days of purification and 4 A.D. when Herod the Great dies.  This is not unusual, as Matthew already records that Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem every year for Passover, and the law required all males to appear yearly at the temple for two other feasts, the feast of Penticost (first fruits) and the feast of Tabernacles .  Plus, Joseph was in construction, and speaking from personal experience, in construction you’re always working yourself out of a job and on the lookout for work; perhaps while in Bethlehem for registration a family member offered Joseph some work. And even if they were there for a feast in Jerusalem, it’s perfectly conceivable that they’d stay with relatives in Bethlehem(who might still be embarrassed that they ended up in the barn their last visit and wanted to make it up to them, as Joseph’s new wife is simply adorable). 

Meanwhile over in Jerusalem, pandemonium is about to break loose.  Some men are waiting for Herod in his court; distinguished visitors from the East.  The Bible calls them “Magi” (possibly Royal Astronomers/Astrologers), and somehow they were expecting the Messiah and knew He had been born.  How this happened we’re not entirely sure, but we do know that when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon (which was part of the Persian Empire by then) not all of them left; indeed, Nehemiah was a high official in the court of Artaxerxes and was required to return there after assisting the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Thus the knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures including the messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel would have been known there.  Later on we’ll see that God appears in a dream to the Magi to warn them, and so it could also be he appeared in a dream previously to tell them to follow a star.

And so it is, these men (we don’t know how many) are standing in Herod’s court, asking him “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him”.  Now this was the absolute last thing Herod wanted to hear in so many ways.  HE was the King of the Jews, and could only dream of having his own star and distinguished men wanting to worship him (most of his own subjects wanted him dead). The Bible says King Herod was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  There’s a good reason for this; if Herod aint happy, aint nobody happy, as heads usually roll when Herod ain’t happy.  The shepherd’s report may have suddenly come to mind also, ringing alarm bells.  But this shrewd, paranoid king kept his cool long enough to call a meeting of the chief priests and scribes, and nonchalantly ask them “so, where is the messiah to be born?”  Without missing a beat, they replied “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote; “And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come for you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel’” (Micah 5:2).  Now how the Chief Priests could stand there and not even investigate what was only five miles from them in Bethlehem I could only speculate.  Maybe they were afraid of what Herod would think or maybe they didn’t believe it.  But the Magi believed it, as they traveled hundreds of miles to see Him.  And Herod certainly believed it, as we’ll see shortly.

He meets secretly the Magi and sends them off to Bethlehem, with the instructions to search for the child, and when they find him, to come back and tell him, “so he can come worship him too”.  How he kept a straight face while saying that last line, I’ll never know.

-to be continued

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