For those who may not be familiar with the story, the short biblical account of the star and the Magi’s visit from the Gospel of Matthew is presented below.
Matthew Chapter 2:1-16
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.
15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
A FEW COMMENTS:
This site explains how the star “preceded” the men to Judaea even though it was never visually in front of them. This will be explored later.
Matthew’s text about the wise men and the star is concise, being written almost like shorthand. For example: Note that immediately after giving their gifts, the Magi had a dream. There is no mention of them returning to their lodging or going to sleep. The dream follows immediately. When did the dream actually take place? Could it have even been before the wise men met the holy family? We do not know. It is possible that the dream could have even happened before the rendezvous with Jesus and his parents.
We have very few details about the events. For good or bad we usually fill in the gaps in the text with assumptions.
Here is a portion of Matthew’s text again (2:9-12) with some assumptions listed as notes. These assumptions indicated below are given in contrast to the way the text is often read. A few controlling assumptions here are that: (1) The star was a sign, it was not a directional indicator. (2) The wise men did not follow the star anywhere at any time.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” While the star had been present all along, it was only at certain moments in specific circumstances that the star became a manifest sign concerning the Messiah. It was not a sign concerning the Messiah at every moment. Here the wise men rejoiced, having come to see that the star had become a sign again after the men had already arrived in Bethlehem.
(Subsequently, the next day/night, or even later perhaps)After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew’s text about the wise men coming “into a house” (εις την οικιαν) indicates that the wise men met the family privately, not in public. The phrase was not intended to be an indicator of the star’s position over a specific house. In addition, the phrase does not necessarily mean that the star was only seen or appreciated as a sign again in the moments before entering the place where the young child was located. The phrase “coming into the house” is used elsewhere in Matthew concerning things which were done privately. See Matthew 13:36-43 and 17:24-27.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, (We are not told when this happened. Did this even take place before the wise men met the holy family?) the Magi left for their own country by another way.
Readers should continue exploring by reading the section entitled: KEY CONCEPTS 1.