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Birth of Jesus

Visit of the Magi

Scripture

Matthew 2:1-12

Commentary

The Magi from the east seek out the newborn king of the Jews, first in the palace of Herod.  We don't know precisely who the magi are, only that they were people of significance.  Likewise, there are probably more than three of them.  They are thought of as three men because of their three gifts but we are not given an actual number.

Although it is only speculation, some believe that the Magi are from Babylon.  Daniel is noted to be head of the magicians over 500 years before the birth of Christ.  It is possible that he passed on prophecy that would lead his followers to find the Messiah when He was born.  Or God could simply use the customs and superstitions of another culture to bring them to Israel to revere the newborn Christ.

Although the Magi are often pictured in the Christmas story, they did not visit on the night of Jesus' birth.  It is some time later, although we do not know how long.  Matthew tells us only that it was after Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  We know that wherever they are at the time of the magi's visit, it is no longer a stable but a house. 

Later, when Herod tries to kill Jesus by ordering the babies of Bethlehem killed, he orders all babies under two to be killed, based upon when the star first appeared.  This does not mean that the star appeared two years before the magi's arrival however.  Herod, the brutal man that he is, would not want the baby Jesus to be overlooked by accident and likely increased the age to make sure that the child was killed.  What Jesus' actual age was at the time of the magi's visit is really unimportant, only that it took place and then triggered the flight to Egypt. 

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