Magi from the East

Magi from the East

Why would magi (magicians) from the east (non-Jewish lands) come to worship the King of the Jews? And how in the world would they recognize his “star”?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)

Magi from the east

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

To unlock this mystery, we go back to the time of Daniel, 600 years before the birth of Christ.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it… Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians… They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar ; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. ~ Daniel 1:1-7

So, an Israelite boy named Daniel is taken captive into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (which, by the way, is east of Israel). While in captivity, Daniel proves to have the gift of divine revelation from God.

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. ~ Daniel 2:1-2

The King ordered them to not only interpret the dream, but to first describe the dream– without him giving them any clues! In other words, he wanted to see if they truly had the powers they claimed. Anyone could put some “interpretation” to a dream, but in order to truly test them, he ordered them to tell him what he dreamed (without giving them any hints) before they interpreted it. They replied that this was impossible. Therefore, he ordered them executed, along with Daniel and Daniel’s three Israelite friends.

Daniel asked God to reveal the king’s dream to Daniel, and God granted Daniel’s request. Daniel went to the king and said:

“No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven [the God of Israel] who reveals mysteries.” ~ Daniel 2:27-28

Then, after giving credit to the God of Israel, Daniel revealed the king’s dream and interpreted it. Incidentally, history would prove Daniel’s interpretation to be 100% accurate. I’ll have more on that in another post. But for now, back to the story of the magi.

daniel interpreting nebuchadnezzar's first dream mattia preti

“Daniel Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s First Dream” by Mattia Preti

The king was impressed, to say the least.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel , “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. ~ Daniel 2:46-49

The king would have another dream for which he would ask Daniel for interpretation:

I said, “Belteshazzar [Daniel], chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me.” ~ Daniel 4:9-10

Daniel interpreted this dream too. And history would show Daniel’s interpretation to be 100% accurate, just like with the first dream. But notice how Nebuchadnezzar refers to Daniel as “chief of the magicians.” Similarly, Daniel 2:46 states that Daniel was placed in charge of Babylon’s “wise men” (magicians, enchanters, astrologers). You have probably heard both these terms (“magi” and “wise men”) used to describe the easterners who came to worship the baby Jesus. The New King James Bible uses “wise men.” The New International Version uses “magi.” Both terms are correct. They refer to seers, psychics, and astrologers– in other words, practitioners of the demonic arts. However, after Daniel is put in charge, these “magi” have the God of Israel as their source, not the demonic forces they relied upon prior. Their power is now pure, and the supernatural knowledge they receive is now 100% accurate. Remember, 100% prophetic accuracy is God’s stamp of authenticity.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. ~ Isaiah 46:9-10

That brings us to this mysterious scene 600 years later when “magi from the east” come to worship the King of the Jews. The visit from these worshipers makes no sense unless one considers Daniel, the Jewish boy taken captive into King Nebuchadnezzar’s service hundreds of years prior. Daniel was appointed “Chief of the Magicians,” and he had as his source the one true God, the God of Israel, the God that Nebuchadnezzar described as “the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries…” ~ Daniel 2:47

One of the mysteries God revealed to Daniel was when Messiah would come.

“Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks…” ~ Daniel 9:25 (NKJV)

This is a remarkable prophecy. Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on this exact day, Palm Sunday! (You can read more about that here: alphanewsdaily.com.)

So, since Daniel knew the date Messiah would make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he also knew the approximate timeframe of Messiah’s birth. Did Daniel entrust this knowledge to a trusted inner circle of his magi? Did he instruct them to pass this knowledge on through the years as they replenished their ranks with new magi, choosing the best and brightest to carry on the trusted inner circle? The answers to these questions are very likely “yes.”

Now about that star.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)

Was this a star in the traditional sense? Maybe not. Let’s remember how God guided the Israelites through the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt:

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. ~ Exodus 13:21-22 (NIV)

Here we see the precedent. By night, God guided his people as a pillar of fire. This is the Shechinah Glory, a visible manifestation of God. Why would God not use this divine method of GPS again? Was this the “star” the magi saw? Did the trusted inner circle know the approximate date to start looking for this “star”? Once again, I believe the answers are “yes.” And so, by using the Bible to interpret the Bible, these magi, these mysterious worshipers from the east, are not so mysterious anymore.

Merry Christmas!

adoration of the magi

“Adoration of the Magi,” Chartres Cathedral, by Jehan de Beauce, France, 16th century. (Image Source: wikipedia)

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