Please read and refer to the Gospel of Matthew chapter two.
Verse 1… Bethlehem means “house of bread.” In John 6:48 Jesus declares that He is the “bread of life“. So God who is into details made sure that Bethlehem was so named and that Jesus would be born there. God knows every detail of your life too so you do not have to worry about anything, just trust Him, He will take care of you. You just have to line up with His will and enjoy the ride.
There is a key word here that unfortunately Hollywood and the greeting card companies miss; it is the word “after“. The wise men did not come on the night of Jesus’ birth and we will look at that in a minute. Somehow though the wise men knew that the Messiah was to be born and it seems that they knew approximately when and where. Daniel had most likely taught the Magi the prophecies concerning the Messiah and it was passed on through subsequent generations. In chapter nine of the book of Daniel it gives the exact day when Messiah would come into Jerusalem and present Himself as King. Another thing is that somehow they knew that the star would lead them to Him.
So who were these wise guys? Let us take a little trip back to Babylon to the sixth century B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar is ruling. Daniel is in captivity there and has been put in charge of the “Magi” or “wise men.” And as the story goes the king has a dream that troubles him and he commands that if the wise men cannot tell him the dream and interpret it then they will all be put to death. So Daniel prays and God gives him the dream and it’s interpretation.
When King Nebuchadnezzar meets with Daniel and he tells the king his dream and the interpretation he is so impressed that he puts him in charge of his kingdom and also of the wise men. Now this made some of the wise guys a little unhappy and jealous and we will look at that in a minute.
Let us talk about the Magi a little bit and get some background on them. The Magi were made up of both Babylonians and Persians. They were advisers to the king and they were also interpreters of dreams and they studied the stars. Historically, the Persians were renown for there ability to interpret dreams while the Babylonians were considered fakes in that area. However neither of them got their ability from God, rather from the occult.
The Magi were a hereditary class and as it says in Daniel 6:3 that King Darius was thinking about putting Daniel in charge of the whole realm. This really did not sit well with some of the Magi as I had mentioned. It inspired a little anti-Semitism and some of the Magi involved themselves in a plot to have Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. However when that plan failed, those who had accused Daniel were thrown into the lion’s den along with their wives and children. God has a way of turning the tables on those who would come against His children who serve Him faithfully and walk in His will.
So again King Darius is impressed and put forth a decree in Daniel 6:25-27 making Judaism the top religion, but not necessarily the only religion. I think that because of the lion’s den incident Daniel probably led a few people to the LORD including some of the Magi. The subsequent history that followed gives some support to this assumption.
The Magi became the supreme priestly cast in the Persian Empire. They eventually took on the role of appointing kings. They went from being polytheistic, [worshiping many gods], to being monotheistic, [worshiping one god]. They developed some of the same rituals as Judaism, mediation through the priest and blood sacrifices. They had similar concepts of clean and unclean animals in relations to their diets. So no doubt Daniel led some of them to faith in the one true God and others just changed their form of religion. You will get this in every fellowship. There are always a few make believers mixed in with real believers. When Jesus does finally come to our world, there is a remnant of the Magi that are apparently still worshiping and listening to God. That would partially explain them being invited to His incarnation and coming to find Jesus at His birth.
Verses 2-3… “…saying where is He who has been born King of the Jews?“ This troubled Herod because he was not “born” king of the Jews. Notice that Jesus “has been born.“ This will be important later when we look at when the Magi actually may have arrived on the seen to see Jesus. Herod was an Edomite and was appointed by Rome as a vassal king, he was not born king of the Jews. As I mentioned earlier the Magi had become king makers and Herod feared that these Magi were here to proclaim Jesus as the next king and down the road this might possibly lead to a revolt and the loss of his thrown. That is why in verse three it says that all of Jerusalem was troubled with him. Because when the king changes, so does all the other leadership and many would loose their jobs and positions of power and influence. And many times the way that was accomplished was by putting all of them and their families to death.
Verses 4-6… So Herod calls in his spiritual advisers and ask them about the Messiah, where He would be born? And they told him; they knew the answers. You can ask many religious leaders and theologians today any question about the bible and they can quote the facts, chapter and verse. They are a lot like the leaders of Jesus’ day. As it says in John 9:41 “Jesus said to them, if you were blind, you would have no sin: but now you say, we see; therefore your sin remains.” If you are in denial, you cannot be helped.It is only when you come to the LORD as a blind beggar that He can heal you and make you see.
Verses 7-8… Notice that Herod called them secretly. When someone is up to no good, they do things secretly. And he asked them what time they first saw the star. I believe at this time he already had it in his mind to kill all the babies that might be a threat to his thrown and by this question he is getting an idea how old this child king might be. We know from history that he was very protective of his kingship. He had his wife and sons put to death because he thought they were plotting to take the thrown. He was an extremely paranoid individual. So he sends the wise men to Bethlehem to find Jesus and ask them to report back when they find Him so he can also “worship” the child. And as we will see, he has a strange sense of worship. You do not want to have his form of adoration directed to you.
Verses 9-10… Now as it says in verse one, the Magi came form the east, so the star led them west. Then when the Magi left Herod the star led them south to Bethlehem, “until it came and stood over where the young child was.“ So there seems to be something supernatural going on here. The star appears to be moving somehow in different directions and that cannot be explained by any natural means.
Now as I had mention previously when we covered verse 1 of this chapter, the wise men did not come on the night of Jesus’ birth with the shepherds as Hollywood has portrayed it in many movies and cartoons.
Verse 11… Sometime from when Jesus was born “in a manger“ which we know form Luke 2:7, Joseph and Mary had found accommodations in some ones house. Probably the next day because the shepherds had run around telling everyone about what had happened. And although the inn keepers could not arrange for accommodations (except that they may have told them about the manger); after the ruckus raised by the shepherds I am sure that someone took them in. If not for compassion’s, sake then for curiosities’ sake. As we just read, it says “when they had come into the house“. The Greek words for house and manger are not the same that is why we know that the Magi arrived some time after the night of Jesus’ birth.
So, when did the Wise men find Jesus if it was not on the night of His birth? Over the past years as a believer, hearing the word taught and in my studies, I have heard it said that the Wise men could have come to Bethlehem up to as much as two years after Jesus’ birth. This was probably because of the fact that Herod had all male children up to two years old (which included a margin for error) killed when he found out the Wise men had left without informing him that they had found the child king. We do not know why Herod decided on the age of two years old. There does not seem to be any clues either way as to when the Magi found Jesus or how old He was; or is there?
While I was pondering this and reading the two accounts of Jesus’ birth here in Matthew and in Luke chapter two, the Holy Spirit brought something to my attention. Turn to Luke 2:6-22… Read… Here in verse 21 we have the first indication of a time frame. Every male child is to be circumcised on the eighth day and they did so and called His name Jesus, [Jehovah is Salvation]. Then in verse 22 it says, “Now when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the LORD.“
This is another statement that indicates a time frame so now we need to find out how long the days of her purification would last. To do that, let us turn to Leviticus 12:1-8…Read… So if a woman has a male child she is unclean for seven days and on the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. This usually would take place at the local synagogue; in this case probably in Bethlehem because it is doubtful that they would have left Bethlehem so soon after Jesus’ birth however they probably would have found better lodging after a night in the manger as I had said earlier. After that the woman is to continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. That is an interesting number. After thirty-three days she is made pure. Who else has been made pure after thirty-three something? Mankind was made pure after thirty-three years of the Messiah’s life if we will accept the gift of forgiveness that He purchased for us with His blood. So now we have a total of forty-one (41) days, let us see what takes place next.
In Luke 2:22-38 …Read… It says that when the days of her purification were completed (41 days), Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the LORD.
So to sum it up for you, at the end of the thirty three days Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple and offer a sacrifice to the LORD according to law. Then Simeon whom the Bible calls a just and devout man verse 39… Read… “So when they had performed all things according to the law of the LORD, they returned to their own city, Nazareth.“ This is the statement that really seems to put a limit on the time frame as to when the Magi could have seen Jesus. If we go back to Matthew 2 we recall that in verse 8 Herod had sent the Wise men to Bethlehem. We just read how they had taken Jesus to Jerusalem when the eight days for circumcision and the thirty-three days of purification were completed. Then,verse 39… “After performing all things according to the law they returned to Galilee, to their own city,Nazareth.“ So Joseph and Mary went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Nazareth, “their own city“.
In light of that the Magi would have had to find Jesus within the forty-one days, before they left Bethlehem.But there is still a piece of the puzzle missing. Also within this time it appears they would have to have gone over into Egypt which is about a forty mile journey from Bethlehem to the border as the crow flies. Ref. (Matthew 2:13). That means that the only place this fits in is between their time in Bethlehem and Jerusalem because when they came back from Jerusalem they settled in Nazareth. Ref. (Matthew 2:21-22). With all that in mind it is probable that the Magi had come to Jesus shortly after His circumcision, [the eighth day] and before the time of her purification was finished because Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt in the middle of the night, after the wise men left. Ref. (Matthew 2:13). On there return from Egypt they probably journeyed to Jerusalem first before settling in Nazareth. (Luke 2:22-40). Now there may be some factors I have overlooked in this matter that I am unaware of but barring any such information this seems to be very plausible.
And I told you all that, to tell you this. There are still things in the Bible that are yet to be discovered. I have been studying the Bible since 1983 and I am still amazed at the new things God shows me. Now I may not be the first one to uncover something but certainly for me it is new and speaks to my life presently. These treasures are waiting to be uncovered, but you have to do a little digging. The keys to a healthy Christian walk are prayer, daily reading of the Scriptures, and meditating on God’s Word so that the Spirit can speak to you and renew your mind, as Romans 12:2 says. Then, do good works for God, there is a war going on, get involved in ministry or something. You cannot just take in, you have to give out too.
Next I want to touch on the gifts that the Magi brought which were gold, frankincense and myrrh. It has been said that these gifts were symbolic of Jesus in that the gold represented His kingship, the frankincense His priesthood, and the myrrh His sacrificial death. That is true however I also feel that this was the way God chose to bless Joseph and Mary and provide for them because as we just covered in our discovery of the Magi’s journey, He was about to tell them to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod and I think the extra cash may have come in quite handy.
God wants to bless us also and He has in many ways. The fact that we are sitting in one of the freest nations on the planet is something which we tend to take for granted. We have so many blessing associated with living in the United States especially when compared to other countries. However, even so if you are having difficulties in any area and things do not seem to be working, try just focusing on the LORD and as Matthew 6:33 says,“But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.“ The enemy can get us so focused on ourselves and our circumstances, that we loose heart and stop seeking the LORD and the things He has for us.
We all have a calling and we need to find out what it is. Now I am not saying everyone is called to be on staff at a church, but everyone is called to full time ministry whether you get paid from the church or your employer. Seek the LORD and find out His will for you, then trust God and put your hands to the plow and step out in faith and obedience. That is where we will be most blessed, when we give our lives away and fall into the hands of our loving Father.
Verse 12… Has God ever spoken to you in a dream or vision? Some of your dreams may be the spicy pizza, however God still uses dreams and visions for some of us. Let us turn to Acts 2:17… “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.“Peter here is addressing the crowds on the day of Pentecost and quotes this from Joel 2:28. Read... Joel takes us from Jesus’ days on the earth to the future without a break in time. We are still in the last days and the gifts of the Spirit are still in effect, God does not change. Hebrews 13:8… “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Malachi 3:6… “For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.“ Romans 11:29… “For the gifts and calling of God “ God uses the gifts of the Spirit when and where and with whomever He chooses. If you are walking in the truth and seeking all that God has for you, the gifts of the Spirit will manifest in your life. Some of you will wind up speaking in tongues and having dreams and visions. Short of doing a teaching on the gifts of the Spirit, suffice it to say that all the gifts of the Spirit are in effect today. If you would like to do a study on that you can go to Romans chapter 12, and also 1st Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and14 that will get you started. Anyway, God tells one of the wise men in a dream that they should not return to Herod and they left another way. This did not sit well with Herod and we will get to that in the next few verses.
Verses 13-15… Joseph and Mary had no way of knowing that Herod was going to try to kill Jesus but God did, He knows everything. How many of you know what is going to happen in twenty minutes? How about tomorrow? Who knows what Satan’s minions may be planning to try and stop us from fulfilling God’s plan, or where bad choices can lead us. In Genesis 3:15 God is talking to Satan and He says… “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel“ And in Revelation 12:4… Speaking of Satan, it says..“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born.“
Satan’s whole game plan at that time was to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s plan for man’s redemption. And make no mistake, Satan is still about stopping God’s plans. That is why it is important to stay in tune with the Spirit and seek the LORD when making decisions. He knows the best possible path to take and He has your steps prepared that you should walk in. God has a plan for everyone and we need to find out what it is and start moving in that direction. Once we step out in faith he will direct us further. So Joseph and Mary had been given insight as to the enemy’s plan and they immediately flee to Egypt by night.
Verses 16-18… History tells us that Herod was very insecure and paranoid. Fearful that someone would take his throne he did some pretty brutal things. Through out the coarse of his reign he had the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and three sons murdered. The fact that he sent forth and had all these children killed is no surprise, and again, it was no surprise to God. Matthew makes that clear in verse 17 when he points out that this is fulfilling prophecy.
Now the events in Jeremiah speaking about Ramah were something that took place not long after He wrote it. However, prophecy can sometimes have a dual or partial fulfillment and God will show us this and usually it is in hindsight that we recognize it. Let me give you an example other than the one we just read.In Jeremiah 50:13 it says…”Because of the wrath of the LORD she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate.” This was a prophecy against Babylon that was partially fulfilled back in Jeremiah’s time. Israel was held in captivity by Babylon but because King Belshazzar had become lifted up in pride God judged his kingdom.
Babylon was taken over by the Medo-Persian Empire but it was not made so desolate as to never be inhabited again. But in Revelation 18 it talks about her final destruction. In Revelation 18:2 speaking of Babylon [modern day Iraq] it says… “another angel coming down from heaven…He cried with a loud voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” Also Revelation 18:8 says…“Therefore her plagues will come in one day-death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the LORD God who judges her.“
Now in order to be wiped out it must first be built up. Saddam Hussein had begun the restoration of the original city of Babylon and accomplished quite a bit. And since he has been removed from power the world has been pouring money into there as well as Afghanistan. However, whether or not the historic city is rebuilt does not matter, but we do know that it will become an economic center (Revelation 18:19), and the anti-Christ will move his seat of power there at some point (Zechariah 5:7-11) which is one of the reasons why the LORD will totally destroy it.
Verses 19-23… So Joseph is again in his sleeping ministry and an angel tells him to return to Israel because Herod is dead. Josephus in his writings (Antiquities. 17.146-199), tells us that Herod had among other things colic, the gout and dropsy and died an agonizing death. The very thing that Jesus came for was to save us from an agonizing death, not necessarily physical. But I am talking about the second death; let us look at (Revelation 21:8) Physical death can be a hard thing to face but eternal death is eternally worse. If you do not yet know this Jesus I am talking about I pray you would consider Him carefully before you reject your only hope for eternal life.
Just as Joseph left, he and Mary take Jesus and return to Israel. It does not say they waited until the weather was nice or that they took a few days to wrap things up. As when they left for Egypt back in verse 14, “ …he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.“ Joseph obeyed the word of God immediately.
When we are sure that we have heard from the LORD, we must then step out and by faith do Gods will. Now some of you might be saying, “that is easy for you to say”. But I am no different than you I have struggled with knowing His will and with hearing His voice too. But what I have found out is that the closer you get to Jesus, the easier it is to hear Him. The more you know about Him the easier it is to figure out if you are hearing him as opposed to yourself or the enemy. It is like when someone comes up to you and says something bad about someone you know very well. You know it cannot possibly be true and you can dismiss it without a second thought. So it is with God, if you know Him well and Satan tries to deceive you about Him or is will for you and it is not in keeping with His character or His Word you can dismiss it. And the best way to get to know someone is to hang around him. So spend time with the LORD and get to know Him through His word and a lot of these fundamental problems like, what God wants for you, or am I really hearing from Him, will go away.
Verse 23… On there way back to Judea Joseph learned that Archelaus was reigning instead of his father Herod, so he takes up the sleeping ministry again and God warns him to stay away from that area so he goes to Galilee and settles in Nazareth. And Matthew again points out that this was a fulfillment of Scriptures from the prophet in Hosea 11:1, because his main audience is Jewish. It is a good idea to be prepared to share Jesus from the Tanakh or what we call the Old Testament. We are called to “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1st Peter 3:15).
When I was a new Christian I was so excited to be saved that I immediately told my whole family. However although I had plenty of zeal I did not have a lot of knowledge. I came off as being self-righteous and turned them off to the truth. It is important to be in a spirit of meekness and fear, [of the LORD] and humbly exhort them in Gods word. Especially to the Jewish person because all most of them know of Christianity are the Crusades that killed millions and the persecutions in the name of Jesus. Neither of which had nor have anything to do with real Christianity. Take some time and look up some references about the Messiah like Psalm 22, Isaiah 49, and Isaiah 53 to name a few and write them on one of the blank pages in your Bible.
That is the extent of verses in the Bible concerning Jesus’ childhood except that He went to Jerusalem with His parents for the Passover every year. And on one occasion when He was twelve He stayed behind and was in the temple for three days listening to the teachers and asking them questions and they were all amazed at His understanding. You can look that up in Luke 2:41. In the next article we are going to jump ahead about twenty-nine years or so to when John the Baptist comes on the scene
 Smith, Chuck. “Daniel 9:25.” The Word for Today. Blue Letter Bible. 1 May 2005. 2009. 10 Mar 2009.
Written by: Mark Everett © 2006
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.