Question: Who were the Magi, and how did they know to follow a specific star to Bethlehem?
When God created the heavens and the earth He set the stars in specific orientation to the earth for three specific purposes: 1) separating day and night, 2) for “sign and seasons,” and 3) for assisting man in keeping track of days and years (Gen. 1:14-15).
It is God, not man (Ps. 147:4), who gave the stars and their groupings in constellations their names and meanings for “signs and seasons.” Biblically, these “signs and seasons” are predictive, prophetic, pointing humanity to Jesus as the Savior of mankind. The word “sign” in the Bible refers to prophetic events, such as the birth of Christ. The word “season” indicates the time related to those events:
Luke 21:25 There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.
God revealed this knowledge in the stars to Adam and Eve, no doubt, and they were to pass this knowledge—His timeline for major events in salvation history—on to their children and following generations:
Ps. 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
This knowledge did get passed on, but it also became twisted and deformed from God’s original intent as different cultures used the names and God-given meanings of the stars to develop mythologies and religions and horoscopes. As it says in Amos:
Amos 5:26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.
In the Book of Numbers God gave the pagan soothsayer Balaam a prophecy of the coming Messiah:
Num. 24:17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.
Balaam saw in his vision the appearance of a star in the distant future—a “sign” of the birth of a great Jewish king who would defeat all His enemies. Much later, when the Jews were held captive in Persia, their writings (including the book of Numbers) were added to the libraries of the Persian scholars. Among those scholars were the Magi: astrologers who studied the stars in order to understand their prophetic message concerning “signs and seasons” of history—especially future history.
Hundreds of years later, the Magi in Persia saw the appearance of the star predicted long ago by Balaam and understood its meaning.
Matt. 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
From the very beginning of creation God has ordered the heavens to declare His glory by putting the plan of salvation, beginning with the Virgin birth of Jesus (constellation Virgo), in a glorious tapestry in the night sky. It was His intent that the Magi should see the star at the appointed “season” and recognize the savior of the world had been born, according to God’s revealed Word (Rom. 1:18-20).
Comments or Questions?
If you would like to leave a comment or question, please click on the gold-colored “Comment” tag below, then type your comment or question in the box. Below the Comment box you will see a place to leave your name (or Anonymous) marked “Comment as.” Click on the arrows to the right of that box and choose one of the options there by clicking on it. Then click the “Publish” button below the “Comment as” tag, and you’re done!
Your comment or question will appear after I approve it as appropriate (usually within 24 hours). I look forward to your questions and comments. Thank you!