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John Kespert
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What is True For You May Not Be True Pt. 5

Published on 12/16/2015
For additional information  Click Here

What is True For You May Not Be True Pt 5
What About Herod and the Wise Men?

    Is the account given in chapter 2 of Matthew about King Herod and the Wise Men just a fanciful tale? Was Herod the kind of man who would want to kill a recently born baby boy? And would he base doing such a horrific deed merely by a seemingly simple question asked by a few strangers from out of of town?

    Well, to answer that question it can help to know a little about some of the other things Herod is known to have done. If you do even a little research of his life, such as on an online encyclopedia such as Britannica,com, you will learn that there was a “dark and cruel streak in Herod's character.”

    Although Herod had very much loved one of his wives, Mariamne, after he'd gotten rid on an earlier one, he became so jealous of her and her family that he had her, their sons, her brother, and other family members murdered.

    That is the kind of man he was. So when he was told about a new born King of the Jews, he of course was inflamed with jealously and anger. After all, he had been given the official recognition as the king of the the Jews in the land of Judea. In his mind, nobody else should be allowed to be recognized in that way.

     Therefore he certainly would want to kill any baby who might one day, either on his own lead a revolt to to replace him (as others had done), or who others might use as a rationale for rising up to dethrone him, and take over until that child was old enough to sit on the throne. Hence it is completely in character for Herod to have be so agitated by the news that these Magi had come to worship a new King of the Jews.

    Which brings us to who those Wise Men were, and why their arrival caused not only Herod, but all of Jerusalem, to be so troubled. What is known about them?

    The Magi were an ancient Persian priesthood who were involved in multiple empires, including that of the Babylonians. It is likely that the Magi written about in the 2nd chapter of Matthew were either descendents of, or were knowledgeable of, the magi who were in Babylon at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Jews from Israel.

    Daniel chapter 2 tells of when Nebuchadnezzar had a terribly disturbing dream, but couldn't remember the details of it. But it bothered him so much that he demanded that his counselors, including the magi, both tell him not only what the dream was, and also what it meant. They protested that what he asked was impossible to answer.

    Nebuchadnezzar wouldn't take no for an answer, and threatened to kill them and their entire households if they didn't tell him what the dream was and its interpretation. They found it impossible to comply, so the order was given to start killing them all. But when Daniel and his companions were rounded up, and the reason was given for why they were to be executed, Daniel asked permission to be given a little time to respond to the king's demand.

    Daniel, it turned out, was able to comply to the king's impossible demand, and told the king exactly what his dream had been, and what the meaning of it was. The king was sure that Daniel had done what everyone else claimed was impossible. Therefore...

Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. (Dan 2:48) ESV

   So Daniel was put over the wise men of Babylon, including the magi, and from then on they were required to listen and heed what Daniel told them. It seems likely that they were very impressed with Daniel, especially since what he had done had saved their lives and the lives of their families.

    Because Daniel was Jewish he would have known of what was written in the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah, and could have shared with the Magi, such passages as these:

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.' (Jer 23:5-6) ESV

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7) ESV

    So it is likely that the Magi who arrived in Jerusalem had come looking for one born from the line of David, who would be a King who would be greater than any other king that ever was or ever would be. And they were coming to worship him.

    But although the Magi were a priesthood who had learned many things in order to give counsel and advice to the leaders in the lands where they lived, they did not know everything that had been written about the coming king. Somehow they had concluded that the new star they'd observed in the night sky had something to do with his arrival, but they wanted to learn exactly where he was so they could honor him.

    When they got as far as Jerusalem, they asked their simple yet so important question, and it deeply upset Herod and the entire city.

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 he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (Mat 2:1-3) ESV

    These magi were not like countless other travelers who passed through Jerusalem. Their reputation was known. And despite the many artistic renderings of 3 well dressed men on 3 camels, it is much more likely that the were traveling in at the very least a large caravan, and very possibly with a multitude of mounted horsemen. And the men with them would have been well armed to protect both the magi and the valuable gifts they had with them.

    Herod assembled the chief priests an scribes to find out where the Christ, the awaited Messiah, would be born. Their answer was from Micah 5:2.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2) ESV

    Herod gave that information to the Magi, and manged to learn from them when that star had appeared. He also asked them to let him know when they found the child so he could come to worship him as well.

The Magi went on to Bethlehem, and rejoiced exceedingly when they found the one they'd been searching for. They went into the house where he was at the time, and fell down and worshiped him, and gave him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)

    When the Magi returned to their country they did not send word to Herod, who, as might be expected, was enraged. Since he couldn't know who the exact child was whom they had found, he ordered the killing of all male babies under the age of 2, based on what he'd managed to learn from the Magi when they'd first seen the star. But by then, Mary and Joseph and the child, Jesus, had left.

    So the account of what is written in Matthew fits what is known about Herod and the Magi. Maybe at this time of year, when there is much singing and talking about the birth of Jesus, we should think about the actions and motives of Herod and the Magi.

    Do we accept that Jesus is the rightful king? Do we refuse to have Jesus as the Lord of our lives? Are we so set on being our own king that we will shut him out, try to get rid of any trace of Who He is and His right to tell us what we should believe and what we should do?

    Or will we be more like the Magi, who although their understanding of what Scripture said about the coming King was limited, they nevertheless believed it, and they came to bow down and worship Him?

   We now have access much more information about Jesus than they did. That baby grew up and demonstrated in miraculous works and amazing words Who He was. We now have access to all of the New Testament as well as all of the Old Testament. From what is written there we can learn so much...if we take the time to read and study it.

     I hope you will take the time to look into all that both the New Testament and the Old Testament have to say about the things that God wants us to know about what is true. You can read the Bible in printed form, or download it onto your computer from sites such as eSword, or read and study it online at sites such as Biblia.com.

    See for yourself what is written in the Word of God. It could be the most important thing you will ever read. It could be the very truth of God.

    Thank you for taking time to read this.  (If you'd like to read the previous installments of this series, you can click Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 to get to them.)

 

 

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