Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising and have come to worship him.”
Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, magoi (magicians or astologers?) from the anatolon (east) had seen an astera at its anatole (rising in the east) and came to Jerusalem in order to proskynesai (worship) the one who was born basileus ton Ioudaion (king of the Jews). Gentile magicians desired to offer divine worship to the king of the Jews.
How long after the birth of Jesus? The text indicates it was 2 years.
Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and determined precisely from them the time when the star appeared.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been deceived by the wise men, became very angry, and he sent soldiers and executed all the children in Bethlehem and in all the region around it from the age of two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined precisely from the wise men. Then what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, saying,
Josephus the historian records the death of Herod the Great which is placed on our modern calendar at 4 BCE. So the sighting of the star which is linked to the birth of the king would be 6 BCE or 7 BCE.
The implication here is that the magoi attached the star sighting to the prophecy of Balaam.
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star will go out from Jacob, and a scepter will rise from Israel; it will crush the foreheads of Moab and destroy all the children of Seth.
There is no way for us to know what method the magoi used to bridge their astronomy and astrology. Something about this heavenly manifestation gave instructions to the magoi. These instructions pointed the magoi to the Scriptures. This “star” was not merely a physical astronomical object. If that were so, the wise men could never have known specific information about the newly-born king.
The text does not say that the Bethlehem Star guided the magoi to Jerusalem. The magoi went to Jerusalem because they expected to find a king there. Their arrival in Jerusalem indicates that the magoi were not familiar with Micah but were familiar with Psalm 2.
“But as for me, I have set my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will tell the decree; Yahweh said to me: “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask from me and I will make the nations your heritage, and your possession the ends of the earth.
Jerusalem sat on the mountain where the begotten son of YHWH would be established as king. The magoi expected to worship (proskynesai) this child. We see the divinity and kingship of Jesus in both Psalm 2 and Matthew 2. Furthermore, the magoi brought treasures that reiterated their expectation to see a king who was God.
After they listened to the king, they went out, and behold, the star which they had seen at its rising led them until it came and stood above the place where the child was. Now when they saw the star, they rejoiced with very great joy. And when they came into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. And opening their treasure boxes, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
I am only aware of one other place in Scripture that the three gifts come together. The altar of incense was covered with gold, anointed with sacred oil containing myrrh (smyrna), and upon which sacred incense that included frankincense (libanos) was burned. This holy altar was reserved exclusively for the worship of the one true God. See Exodus 30:22-38 and Exodus 37:24-29.
And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.
When the magoi left Jerusalem, they encountered a source of joy as the astera appeared again. This time the star led them (proegen – preceded) and stood above (estathe epano) where the child was. Again, this type of specific information cannot be derived from observing an astronomical object, a star or a comet or a constellation, from 4.2465 light-years away. This astera was providing location information within a very short distance and traveling with a specific motion that is not possible for simple stars or comets. This supernatural star belongs in the same category as the mysterious seven stars in the hand of Christ in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1). The Star of Bethlehem was a living being that could light the way and provide a specific message of guidance.
“As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.