Historically, it was recorded that wise men from the east came to Jerusalem at the birth of Jesus Christ. In a previous blog that I compiled about two years ago, I had earlier revealed that the Bible did not specify the number of these wise men but only confirmed that the wise men came with three gifts. Moreover, it is reasonable to ask who these wise men that came from the east were while the second logical question is why were they called wise men from the east?
As another Christmas is fast approaching, let us continue this discussion by first examining the identities of the people called wise men from the east before considering why they were called wise men from the east. Evidently, the wise men that came to Jerusalem to acknowledge the birth of a child as the King of the Jews were ancient astrologers. Interestingly, the Gentiles that were best known for divination by astrology were the first to discern the Star of Bethlehem that confirmed the birth of Jesus Christ as the Light of the world and the hope of the Gentiles.
‘A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.’ (Luke 2: 32)
In his sovereign capacity, God chose to reveal the starlight concerning the birth of Christ to the Gentiles that were reputed for the acts of divination by astrology. By interpreting the positions of astronomical bodies to predict events on earth, astrologers use divination at the time of a person’s birth to predict his personality as well as his destiny. Through the light of a Star, some wise men in the east discerned the birth of Jesus Christ as the King of the Jews and this starlight guided them to the baby that was born in Jerusalem.
‘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…. and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before, them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.’ (Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-10)
The starlight that guided the Gentiles symbolized the revelation of God’s truth to the world because these wise men came in representative capacity of all the Gentile nations that had been in darkness concerning the light of God’s knowledge and salvation. The scripture recorded that three different gifts presented to the baby by these wise men but did not specify the number of the wise men. These three gifts were gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. The gold was symbolic of royalty of the new born King; the frankincense was a symbol of His divinity (Leviticus 2: 16), and the myrrh was a symbol of His immortality.
‘…And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’ (Matthew 2: 11)
Contrary to popular belief, the child was no longer in a manger when the wise men reached Jerusalem. The emergency delivery of the Baby in a manger was simply because there was no room in the Inn when the mother was about to go into labor (Luke 2:7). This implies that only the shepherds that watched their flocks the night Jesus was born visited the Baby in a manger but the wise men that followed the starlight from the east met the child in the house and not in a manger (Luke 2:7-20).
‘And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…’(Matthew 2: 11)
Besides, the journey of the wise men from the east to Jerusalem must have taken many days at that period because people travelled by camels in those days and not jet planes.
‘Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he 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 him also.’ (Matthew 2: 7-8)
According to the scriptures, Herod the king felt threatened about the news of the birth of a new King of the Jews and ordered the killing of all babies less than two years. This suggests that baby Jesus was under two years old at the time the wise men reached Jerusalem and according to King Herod’s enquiries about the time the star appeared. Due to Herod’s plot to kill the child, the parents of the newborn King escaped with their child to Egypt and later came back with the child after the death of Herod (Matthew 2:1-23).
‘And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their country another way……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?’ (Matthew 2: 12, 16)
Historically, the traditional concept of the gods of the nations that were worshipped as the host of heaven had their origin from the times of Babel through the cult behind Nimrod’s worship, which laid the foundation for occultism and many superstitious beliefs in the pagan worship. As a result of many superstitious beliefs, ignorance through the belief in many gods once spread among all the families of the earth since the times of Babel. Simultaneously, different types of curious arts in form of divination practices also came into existence among the nations in spiritual darkness until the Hebrew descendants of Abraham began to re-establish the belief in one God among the nations.
Due to lack of knowledge of true spiritual principles, divination was once the only way that the Gentiles knew how to communicate with divinity for supernatural information and God sometimes responded to the Gentiles in spite of their ignorance. Consequently, all the Gentile nations were considered to be in the darkness until the Light of the world was revealed through the birth of a baby boy that was given to enlighten the Gentile nations in darkness, as the incarnate Word of God that born as the hope of the Gentiles. The Gentiles that first discerned the Light of knowledge that was revealed through the birth of the incarnate Word of God were the wise men from the east, who came to Jerusalem through the starlight that guided them to the baby that was born as the hope of the Gentiles. By referring to the child as the King of the Jews indicated that the wise men also discerned he was from the royal lineage of the tribe of Judah, just as the prophets predicted his arrival through the royal lineage of King David, who was from the tribe of Judah.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined…For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’ (Isaiah 9: 2, 6)
According to historical information, the wise men of the east that followed the star of Bethlehem to Jerusalem were Gentiles that practiced divination by astrology and they were also called “Magi”. The title ‘Magi’ has its origin from the Babylonians that were reputed as possessing astrological wisdom, interpreters of dreams, sooth saying, and difficult symbols. The ‘Rab’ in the Babylonian title Rab-mag was a sign of respect just like the title of the ‘Rabbi’, ‘Learned Teacher’, or ‘Master’ while the ‘Mag’ refers to the ‘wise’. The succeeding world kingdom of the Medes and Persians that adopted much of the Babylonian style of astrology also reserved the title ‘magi’ for the wise men of their Zoroastrian religion.
The wise men of the east that followed the star of Bethlehem were magi priests of the ancient Medes and Persians from the country now known as Iran. The term ‘magi’ simply means ‘wise man’ and ‘Rab-mag’ was a title reserved for the chief of the Magi or the ‘deeply wise prince’ (Jeremiah 39: 3). Interestingly, the word ‘magic’ also has its origin from ‘magi’, which refers to the ‘wise.’ Consequently, many so-called wise men of ancient culture were magicians because ancient studies utilized all forms of knowledge including information concerning magical practices. The word magic can be defined as the secret art of gaining knowledge by the supernatural means (divination) or the art of influencing the course of natural events by the supernatural act (enchantments).
From ancient times, both divination and enchantments constitute the two major forms of magical practices. For instance, the scripture below reveals how four learned Hebrew captives of the Babylonian king were once grouped among the wise men, magicians, and astrologers of Babylon long because the wise men of ancient times come from both scientific and metaphysical background. These four Hebrew children among the wise men of Babylon were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whom the Babylonian King renamed after the gods of Babylon by calling them Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:6-7). Daniel was the first among these four Hebrew children to be promoted above all the magicians, astrologers, and wise men of Babylon.
‘As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams…And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.’ (Daniel 1: 17, 20)
Later on, the Babylonian king elevated Daniel above all the wise men, magicians, sooth sayers, sorcerers and astrologers of Babylon. This occurred after Daniel supernaturally recalled a terrifying dream that the Babylonian king could not remember and gave the interpretation of the dream. (Daniel 2)
‘...Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king has demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the sooth sayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.’(Daniel 2: 2, 27-28, 48)
As revealed in the scriptures above, the wise men of the ancient times included magicians, sooth sayers and astrologers because ancient people often relied on divination for supernatural information until the advent of refined principles of modern sciences. There were also exceptionally gifted people that were accounted among the wise men of ancient civilization. In another example, Solomon was mentioned as an exceptionally gifted young man that was wiser than all other wise men of the east, which was the focal point of civilization in ancient times.
“And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Henan, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations roundabout.’ (1Kings 4: 31)
Again, another scripture above indicated that the wise men of the ancient times included exceptionally gifted individuals and not only the magicians, sooth sayers and astrologers. However, many people in ancient times often relied on divination for supernatural information until the principles of modern sciences were refined and better defined. For instance, the science of chemistry crudely began in form of magical enchantments till it evolved into medieval alchemy before it became refined as modern science. Similarly, modern astronomy also evolved from astrology. Ancient Herbalism was also replaced by modern day medical and pharmaceutical sciences. In fact, some of the acts that were once perceived to be magical by ignorant people of ancient times have been clearly defined through modern day scientific procedures.
Today, the New Testament discourages divination practices and many other forms of curious arts that were once practiced among both Jews and Gentiles because the Light of the knowledge of God’s grace has been revealed in the new dispensation. After the new dispensation of grace fully began through the Holy Ghost that was given to the sons of men on the Day of Pentecost based on the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the book of Acts recorded an event whereby Apostle Paul used the authority in Jesus Christ’s name to cast out the spirit of divination out of a girl. This young girl possessed with a spirit of divination once brought gains to her masters by sooth saying.
‘And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, cried, saying, These men are servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.’ (Acts 16:16-18)
In the times of ignorance of the Gentiles, divination practices were overlooked but now forbidden due to light of the principles of God’s knowledge that has already been revealed to the world through Jesus Christ.
‘And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:’ (Acts 17:29)
‘…but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.’ (1Timothy 1: 13)
As the light of the knowledge of God’s word that was ushered into the world since the birth of Jesus Christ began to shine brighter and brighter, many people willingly abandoned their very expensive books on curious arts in exchange for the light of the knowledge of God’s word revealed through the Gospel, which was given free of charge.
“And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19: 18-20)
References from my books titled:
1) Nations of the World…How They Evolved
2) Nations That Evolved From the Five Sons of Shem
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