The Star They Followed

Some stories related to a certain faith are so remarkable that even persons not of that faith are aware of them basically. Such is the story of the Wise Men visiting Bethlehem. It began with a distinctive star shining over the little village of Bethlehem, attracting scholars who traveled a great distance to view the objective of its veneration, one known to them as “the King of the Jews.”

How did they know that? 

In 605 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem. As was the custom of the time, he carried the best and brightest back to Babylon. This strengthened his country and left the conquered remnant in their homeland without leadership and therefore being no future threat. Among those carried back to Babylon was a small group with exceptional ability. Foremost among them was Daniel, who quickly gained favor with the king and rose in leadership among a group known as Magi. They were not kings, but known as Wise Men, who were king makers. Among Daniel’s writings was a prophecy which centuries later became the source of information and inspiration for the Magi’s visit to Bethlehem. They were guided by prophecy made over 600 years earlier.

In that time historically astronomy was called astrology without the modern connotation. As astronomers they gave spiritual significance to the stars and their alignment. Thus this celestial sentinel was given special attention.

They would not have traveled on camels which were used for commerce like 18-wheelers today.  Horses were taboo in that they were used by Romans and donkeys were for local use and not long journeys. Mules were used for such trips as they were made. They would have traveled by night to avoid the daytime heat. This also made it easier to follow the star.

We speak of the star being in the east. Bethlehem was west of Babylon; Babylon was in the east. It is written “we saw his star in the east.” The meaning of the statement was, “we have seen the star (while we were) in the east.”

How can the star be explained? Some say it was a supernova, some a star in retrograde, others it was three stars in conjunction looking like one large star. No one knows how to explain the appearance. We want to look for natural answers to miracles. The fact it can’t be explained and that in part is what a miracle is. If it could be explained, it would not have been a miracle. Scripture says God created the stars. It is estimated there are two hundred billion in our galaxy and “He counts the stars, He calls them all by name” (Psalm 148:3).

The number in the small traveling band is not noted, but assumed to be three because there were three gifts. There would have been a significant entourage accompanying them to carry provisions for the party including the animals. Magi would have also merited security guards.

They were not kings, but Magi, priests. Had they been kings Herod would not have treated them as he did. Any self-respecting king of the era would have welcomed other kings with a feast. Neither would he have ordered them to go to Bethlehem and come back and bring him news. 

In reality they brought him four gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh, and additionally they gave him their worship.

In light of all this, it is little question why it is said, “Wise men still follow Him.”

Make the resolve to do the same. It will make for a Merry Christmas.