The star of Bethelehem

Posted in: 2016
By Tom L. Ballinger
Jan 8, 2016 - 3:06:00 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
No. 170
December 27, 2013 (Last Issued)
31 December 2015 (Current Issue)
   “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt. 2:1-2).
    These verses of the Bible are usually read in connection with Christmas pageants, or celebrations. Christians’ Christmas tradition is so entwined in the story of the wise men that the truth of the passages goes unnoticed by most.
    Tradition holds that there were three wise men. The Bible does not tell us how many wise men came to worship the King of the Jews. Traditional stories, also, hold that there was some type of a heavenly y which guided the wise men to Jerusalem. The Bible states that it was a star.
    Many times, the Bible is self- interpreting. The word, “star” or “stars,” in Scripture, some- times refers to an “angel,” or “angels.” Examples can be found in Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:25, Revelation 1:20, 2:1, 3:1, 6:13, 8:12, 9:1, 12:4.
     “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev.22:16). The “Bright and Morning Star” is a reference to Jesus Christ.  Could the “mine angel,” that is, the Angel of Christ, have been the Star that guided the wise men? We think it was. Christ is, also, said to be the “Day Star” in 2 Peter 1:19.
    False teachers are referred to as “wandering stars” in Jude 13. The “Angel of the Lord,” as well as a multitude of heavenly hosts, appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-14, announcing the birth of the Christ-child.
     Angelic beings were closely associated with the heralding of the birth and presence of the Savior. The wise men’s “star” could very well have been the Angel of Jesus Christ and not that of a heavenly body.
     “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled and all of Jerusalem with him” (Matt.2:3). Herod was troubled and “all of Jerusalem with him,” could indicate that the wise men, representing their king, brought with them a large entourage. This entourage was large enough that “all of Jerusalem” was aware of their presence in the city.
    It is hard to imagine that three foreigners on camels, entering into Jerusalem, would cause any alarm.
It was quite common, in those days, for kings to pay their respects to the royalty of other countries by sending a delegation with gifts from their treasury. Therefore, the wise men, however many in number, probably brought a wealth of gifts to Him Who was born King of the Jews, as was the custom in those days.
     “And when he (i.e. Herod) had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet. (Quoting Micah the prophet) And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared” (Matt. 2:4-7).
    We are not told what the reply of the wise men was. But, the next verse would indicate that the star appeared sometime after the birth of the Christ-child. Verse 8 says, “And he [Herod] sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child: and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship also.” They were to search for a “young child,” not a baby.

    “When they had heard the king, they departed: and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matt.2:9). The appearing of the star, again, indicates it was not a heavenly body, but rather, an angelic being which was only visible to the wise men. Had it been a celestial body, all of Jerusalem and Bethlehem would have seen it. A comet, or a supernova, would not have “stood over” the house of the “young child;” neither, would it have “went before them.”  But, the Angel of the Lord could have.
    “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother …”   (Matt. 2:10-11a).  Jesus was a “young child,” not a babe in a manger. The wise men were not in the manger with the shepherds. This was probably 18 months, or so, after the birth of the Christ-child.
    “...and fell down, and worshiped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, and they presented unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11b). These were not paltry gifts of poor wise men, but, more probably, the gifts were out of the treasury of a Monarch of the East. Probably, the Eastern Monarch commissioned the wise men and their bearers to carry his gifts to He Who was born King of the Jews.

    The wise men’s gifts foreshadowed greater gifts that will be bestowed upon Israel and their Christ when “the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee” (Isa. 60:1). Not only that, but, “....the forces (i.e. wealth) of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord” (Isa. 60:5b-6). The wealth of the Gentiles (the nations) will be voluntarily bestowed upon Israel when the Kingdom of God comes; this includes all of the Arab nations.

   The fact that the gift bearing wise men were supernaturally guided to Jesus Christ is apparent. Many of the surrounding nations had copies of the Hebrew Scriptures, and they recognized Israel had a very awesome God. We believe the Monarch in the East had a Hebrew Bible and was stirred by the Spirit to send emissaries to Israel in search of the one who was born the King of the Jews. The Scriptures led these Gentiles to the feet of Christ, even though a young child; it foreshadowed Isaiah 40:1-4. As the wise men were supernaturally directed, so was their exodus from Israel; “And being warned of God in a dream that they [the wise men and their troupe] should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way” (Matt.2:12). God knew what was in Herod’s heart.
    “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13). Again, notice; “the young child,” not the baby.
    The “Angel of the Lord” appeared again. This time, to Joseph in a dream, warning him of what Herod had planned. Herod was now an old man and had reigned thirty‑five years. Yet, Herod was jealous of the Young Child. Crowned heads cannot endure to think of successors, much less of rivals, and, therefore, nothing less than the blood of this Infant King would satisfy him.
     “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matt. 2:16).
     “From two years and under” certainly shows that the wise men’s episode is not a part of the Christmas “pageant, or celebration” about the birth of the Christ-child.
    We learn from the Scriptures that: (1) The number of wise men is not mentioned, (2) The visit of the wise men was not at the birth of Christ, (3) Christ was a Young Child, not a Babe, and,  (4) The "His Star" was not a heavenly body.  
    What was the value of gifts the wise men presented to the future King of the Jews? A question to ponder: “Did Joseph leave Bethlehem a wealthy man?”
(This was written in 1997. It was first e-mailed as a Plainer Words Online issue on November 26, 2003. The third revision was - 2008. This issue [2015] is the eleventh re-posting).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The New Year Prayer for the Plainer Words Ministry – If the Blessed Hope is not realized in 2016, may the Lord Jesus Christ grant each of us, this New Year, the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of our understanding being further enlightened that we may know to a greater degree what is the Hope of His calling.
Visit our Web Site:  
Tom Ballinger
1031 Wilson Road
Lancaster, Texas 75146