Who Forgot To Tell Herod?
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
When the Magi from the east strolled into town, they immediately sought out Herod to learn about the new baby who was born King of the Jews. They wanted to worship the new king. While little is known about these Magi, or learned ones, Matthew goes out of his way to tell us they were from the East. Philo, a Jewish philosopher and historian, whose writings have survived to this day, praised a school of Magi in the east. He didn’t praise all of the Magi (Simon the Sorcerer was a prime example of the other Magi), but he did praise this school. They had intimate knowledge of the natural order, and could explain this order to others. There is a possibility that this school of Magi may have been the descendants and progeny of Daniel and his friends. They were also seeking out a Jewish king. Who would want to worship a Jewish king? Perhaps someone of Jewish ancestry?
Fred A. Larson*** has placed the birth of the Messiah on June 17, 2 C.E., based on the astronomical conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as the announcement of the birth of Jesus. If the Magi were from Babylon (about 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq, home to Daniel and his friends), it would have been a long journey indeed to come to Jerusalem that would have taken months. The Greek word for child in Matthew 2:9 is paidion, which means toddler, meaning that they arrived not when Jesus was a newborn, but rather some time after that.
Location, Location, Location…
The Magi asked Herod where the child was. Herod then consulted with the chief priests and teachers in the law, who told him that Bethlehem would be where the child was born, based on the prophet Micah. This was what was prophesied by the prophet Micah:
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
There are several notable things about this prophesy:
- The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem
- The Messiah would be (The Son of) God (“…whose origins are from old, from ancient times”)
- Israel would be abandoned (there was no prophet in the land from Malachi until Jesus was born, about five hundred years)
- The rest of the brothers would return to join the Israelites (the only reason that Mary was in Bethlehem, nine months pregnant, was due to the Roman census, which drew ALL of the Israelites back to their hometowns)
Additionally, people remembered that when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. When the people had learned that Herod heard a that new boy king had been born, and he believed it, they feared for their own children’s lives. Herod, not knowing who the baby was, ordered all of the male children the age of two years and under to be murdered in order to try to secure his throne.
Talk of the Town
Back in that day, news traveled. People talked about everything that happened. And something spectacular happened when Jesus was born. Shepherds watching their flocks at night were told about the Messiah by an angel – where to find him and how. Once they found Jesus lying in a manger, they told everyone that they could, and the Bible records that the people were amazed. The shepherds were faithful witnesses to what they had seen.
The Magi arrived in Bethlehem on December 25, 2 B.C.E., when the Star of Bethlehem stopped in the sky over Bethlehem, as reported in the Bible. Since Jesus was now a paidion, there had been approximately six months from the announcement of his birth by the shepherds until now. News of this should have spread far and wide, and have been the talk of the town. Visitors to Bethlehem, especially during the Roman census, would have probably gone to the temple to worship God, and would have told others there what had transpired the night that Jesus was born. But the news never got to Herod, the king, just five miles up the road in Jerusalem, because the Bible records that he had to ask about it. Did the people of Bethlehem not believe the shepherds? Or, did they cover up the news?
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: What will I do when I have great news to tell others?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word, for it is truth. Show me new things in Your word that I may grow in You. Help me to dig deeper, investigate, and substantiate Your word, so that I would be prepared to give an answer to anyone that asks. Help me to be like the Bereans, that I would greatly desire to verify all things in Your word. Give me a hunger for You, and help me to satisfy my hunger in prayer and in Your word. Strengthen me this day for all that You have planned. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Notes: This blog has been edited for date accuracy. The originally reported date for the arrival of the Magi was December 25, 2 C.E. The correct year was 2 B.C.E.
***Special thanks to Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.net, and his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem”, for much of the research that went into this.