Copyright 2000 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written permission.

The Christmas Star

Matthew 2:1-12;

Vs 1: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

Now when Jesus was born - This is a reference to the humanity of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 tells us that "Unto us a child is born." This was the first step to the cross, taking human form.

In Bethlehem of Judea - This specifically says "Judea," because there were other towns called Bethlehem at that time. David was born in Bethlehem, and David's greater son, the Messiah, was to be born in Bethlehem also. The word "Bethlehem" means "house of bread." Jesus is called "the bread of life and the true manna from heaven" in John 6:35 and 6:48.

In the days of Herod the King - Herod the Great was appointed by Rome, and ruled Judea from 37 - 4 B.C. The study of Herod and his family is a fascinating story in itself. But that is not on my agenda today.

Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem - This translation is very ambiguous. The words "wise men" are taken from the Greek word MAGOS meaning "magician, sorcerer." The etymology of this word is uncertain, but it is generally spelled MAGI. This actually refers to a priestly order among the Medes and the Persians which studied the secrets of nature, medicine, astrology and astronomy. Daniel 2:48 not only tells us that Daniel belonged to this group, but that he held a leadership position in this organization. Except for Daniel, these Magi were Gentiles, and possessed knowledge in many areas. They are remembered for studies in astronomy and astrology. But they excelled in many other areas. They were chemists, physicians and mathematicians. Through a system of mathematics and astrology, they learned and developed a fantastic method of calculation. Because of Daniel we are comfortably sure that the teachings of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Jewish Messiah were very prevalant throughout this organization.

What we do know about these men is that they were seekers of truth, although they did not have the true light. It is very interesting to note that today, when we have a completed Bible with all of God's revelation reduced to writing, all we have to do is read it and study it and learn it. At the same time we see today soothsayers, readers of "human destiny" through the stars, those who claim to speak to the dead, those who communicate to spirits, and so called psychics. The practioners of deceptions, wickedness, and abominations are openly advertising their evil things, and many Christians are consulting them. The only reason Christians and non Christians consult this evil is because THE TRUE LIGHT HAS BEEN REJECTED, and with the truth being rejected, strong delusion and evil darkness is accepted. This principle is elaborated by the apostle Paul in II Thess 2:10-12.

But here in our passage, the Magi were unquestionably seekers of truth.

EXPANDED TRANSLATION VERSE 1: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of Herod the King, behold, Magi came from the east and arrived in Jerusalem."

Vs 2: Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? - This was the statement that really upset Herod. Why? Because he was not a Jew, he was an Arab. He was not born king of the Jews, the Romans appointed him. In fact, they appointed him a few times. But the point is this, he was not born king of the Jews, he had to fight hard to be the king of Judea. And now he meets a group of Magi who have traveled thousands of miles inquiring of him, the king of Judea, "Where is he who is born the king of the Jews?" Again we see a subject that could be developed in greater detail. But that is not my purpose at this time.

For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him - It is interesting to note that this word "star" is the translation of the Greek word ASTER, which means "a star." Something which emits light. This word is found 24 times in the New Testament. But in the gospels it is only found in Matthew. Matthew is known as the Gospel of the King. And the genealogy given in Matthew chapter one is the genealogy of the King. Therefore, it is fitting that Matthew is the only Gospel to record the miracle of what is called "the Christmas star."

In the Old testament the word "star" or "stars" is found 40 times. In the Hebrew there are two words used for "star." KOWKAB (ko-kawb) meaning "luminous body, a star." And KIYMAH (kee-mah) meaning "a cluster of stars," i.e. the Pleides. The Pleiades, seven stars. This refers to the seven daughters of Atlas who were turned into a group of stars according to Greek mythology. A conspicuous cluster of stars is in the constellation of Taurus that includes six stars in the form of a very small dipper. (Atlas was a Titan who for his part in the Titan's revolt against the gods is forced by Zeus to support the heavens on his shoulders.) Job 9:9-10 (KJV) says "Which maketh Arcturus (the bear watcher. A giant fixed star of the first magnitude in Bootes. Bootes is a northern constellation containing the bright star Arcturus.) Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. (10) Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number."

Job 38:31-32, (KJV) Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? (32) Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth (this refers to the 12 signs of the Zodiac.) in his season? (this means, "Can you bring forth the zodiacal signs for each month so that it becomes visible after sunset and is visible before sunset?") Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?"

Amos 5:8, (KJV) "Seek him that maketh the SEVEN STARS AND ORION, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: the Lord is his name."

The Bible has a lot to say about stars, but very few men have ever attempted to study the stars from a Biblical standpoint. I might add, I'm not going to do that either, at least not now. But I do want to point out that the Bible has a lot more to say about the stars than most people realize.

Psalm 147:4 (KJV) "He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names." God not only knows how many stars He made, but He gave them all names. And He placed them in specific locations throughout His creation. Our God is not a creator who haphazardly creates things then throws them out to be placed wherever they fall. No! He does everything perfectly and in order. Ecclesiastes 3:14 tells us that ".......everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so men will revere him."

I want to say a little about the number 40. Forty is associated with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement (not judgment like the number 9). Forty is the product of 5 and 8 and points to the action of grace (#5), leading to the ending in revival and renewal (#8). But I will devote this lesson to the are of the New Testament.

The word "star," translated from the Greek word ASTER is found 24 times in the New Testament. Twenty-four is a multiple of twelve, and therefore carries the meaning of the number twelve, but intensifies it. Twelve is the number signifying perfection in government, or governmental perfection. The sun which "rules" the day, and the moon and stars which "govern" the night spoken of in Psalm 136:8-9, do so by their passage through the twelve signs of the Zodiac. This completes the great circle of the heavens of 360 (12 X 30) degrees or divisions, which governs the year.

Twelve is the product of 3 X 4. Three being the perfectly divine and heavenly number, and four being the earthly number of what is material and organic. Some examples of the number 12:

1. There were twelve Patriarchs.

2. There were the twelve sons of Israel.

3. The temple of Solomon had the number twelve as the predominating factor, in contrast to the tabernacle, which had the number five. This agrees with the grace which is associated with the tabernacle, and with the glory of the kingdom which is displayed in the temple.

4. The same numerology appears in the New Testament also. There were twelve apostles who laid the foundation of the Church.

5. There were twelve foundations in the heavenly Jerusalem. It also has 12 gates, 12 pearls, and 12 angels.

6. There will be 144,000 sealed servants of God during the tribulation, 12,000 from each tribe.

7. Jesus was twelve years of age when we read of his first public appearance and we hear his first words.

8. Jesus told his disciples that He could "call upon twelve legions of angels" to bring deliverance to Himself. Twelve legions of angels refers to the perfection of angelic power and authority (Matt 26:53).

Now that you have a little background as to the importance of the number twelve, you should know that the number 24 is 12 doubled, which intensifies its meaning.

1. The number 24 is associated with the heavenly government and worship of which the earthly form in Israel was only a copy.

2. History tells us that there were 24 courses of priests who served in the earthly temple, and these were formed on the "pattern of things in the heavens" (Hebrews 9:23).

3. John saw 24 heavenly elders around the throne in heaven. These are 24 angelic authorities that make up a part of the heavenly government of the Lord (Rev 4:). In fact, 24 heavenly elders are mentioned 5 times in the book of Revelation. (5, you will recall, is the number of grace.)

All of this information is presented to show you that the "star" that the Magi saw represented the "King of kings, and the Lord of lords." He will be the last and the greatest king to ever reign over mankind. In Numbers 24:17 Moses prophesied, ".......there shall come a STAR out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel......." In Revelation 22:16 Jesus says, "......I am the root and offspring of David, and the BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR." Malachi calls the Messiah, Jesus ".....the SUN of righteousness." That is "sun" spelled with a "U" not an "O." If you know your astronomy, the "sun" in our galaxy is a "star."

There have been many who have speculated as to what this star really was. Here are a few of the speculations:

1. Many think that the star was a constellation of Jupiter and Saturn. The great astronomer, Kepler, issued in a book in 1666 in which he attempted to show the year of the birth of our Lord by such a constellation. There have been other astronomers who have had similar research and similar findings. But the Bible does not say "stars," it simply says "star." "We saw His star."

2. The Bible does not say that the star guided them from their country to Israel and then to Jerusalem. The star they had seen in the east went before them ONLY after they departed from Jerusalem (Matt 2:9). Then it says, "When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." This shows us that for a time they did not see the star.

3. Because of Daniel's legacy, and the prophecies he left behind in Persia, these Magi knew that there would be a king born in Israel. A king to rule the entire world would be the man of God's choosing. They did not need to have any star guide them to Israel, because they knew that Israel was the place of God's choosing for the birth of this great king. They evidently did not know which city in Israel because they came to Jerusalem. The Biblical prophecy is very clear that Bethlehem was the place where the king would be born. So we see that these Magi did not have all the information. But they had enough to get them to Jerusalem. They did NOT follow the star to Jerusalem.

4. This "star" that they saw in the east could have been a new star formed in the heavens, or it could have been an angel, or it could have even been the shekinah glory of God Himself. This was the same star that they saw after leaving Jerusalem and it guided them to the house where Jesus was. This star in Matt 2:9, that moved and guided them was not an ordinary star. Matt 2:9 says that the star "came and stood over where the young child was." That is no ordinary star. That was an angel or possibly the shekinah glory of God, but it was no ordinary star.

5. Angels will appear as stars in the future. Revelation 9:1 tells us that "a star fell from heaven, and to HIM was given the key to the bottomless pit." This "star" that the Magi saw leading them to the house where Jesus lived could have been an angel. It was not an ordinary star. Ordinary stars do not lead people to a specific house and stop over it.

6. The shekinah glory of God is always manifested as light. For example, the Lord guided the children of Israel through the desert by "a pillar of cloud by day........and a pillar of fire by night" (Exodus 13:21). When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, "to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop" (Exodus 24:17). When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, "His face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light" (Matt 17:2). On the Damascus road, just before Jesus spoke to him, Saul of Tarsus was surrounded by "a light from heaven" (Acts 9:3), which he later explained was "brighter than the sun" (Acts 26:13). In John's first vision on the Island of Patmos, he saw Christ's face "like the sun shining in its strength" (Rev 1:16). In his vision of the New Jerusalem, the future heavenly dwelling of all believers, John says that "the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev 21:23). This is the same glory that shone around the shepherds when Jesus was born and was manifested by the angels as they made the anouncement to them (Luke 2:9).

EXPANDED TRANSLATION VERSE 2: "And they were continually inquiring, where is the One born king of the Jews, for we saw His star in the east and came to worship Him."

Vs 3: When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

When it says that Herod was "troubled," it means that "he was terrified," or "he was perplexed." And when Herod was "troubled," or "terrified," or "perplexed," the people in Jerusalem didn't know what to expect from him. Therefore, all the people in Jerusalem were "troubled," "terrified," and "perplexed."

EXPANDED TRANSLATION VERSE 3: "Now when Herod the king had heard this, he was very upset, and all of Jerusalem was 'troubled,' ' terrified,' and 'perplexed.'"

Vs 4: And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

In other words, he demanded that they search the prophetic records and find the information he was looking for.

Vs 5: And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet (Micah 5:2).

Vs 6: And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Vs 7: Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men (the Magi), inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

Herod was trying to figure out how old the child would be, by figuring when they saw the star, then adding the time it took them to get to Jerusalem.

Vs 8: And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

After analyzing the information the Magi gave him, Herod figured that Jesus was not a baby, but a young child.

Vs 9: When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

Vs 10: When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Vs 11: And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Vs 12: And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Summary Principles

1. Matthew chapter two is the only Gospel recording the events of the special star (known as the "star of Bethlehem.") This is because the star was used to represent the king, and Jesus Christ was born "King of the Jews" (Matt 2:2).

2. Matthew chapter two is the only Gospel which records the events concerning "the wise men," or more correctly known as "the Magi."

3. The true king, Jesus, was not known in Jerusalem, the city of a great king; nor was He known in the royal residence of the king, nor was He known to the people of the kingdom. John 1:11 tells us, "He came to his own (the Jews), and his own received him not." Just previously John recorded in 1:10, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."

4. It was actually strangers from a distant land that came to Israel and Jerusalem looking for Him and desiring to know Him and worship Him.

5. Even the religious leaders of that day, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the entire Sanhedren were indifferent, and the king at that time, Herod the Great, hated Him and wanted Him dead. This is actually a shadow of the reality to come, when 33 years later, the religious leaders along with the ruling governor would plot against Him to kill Him. So even in this short narrative of Matt 2, we see the basic premise of the Gospel.

6. The arrival of the wise men (Magi) occurred between one and two years after the birth of Jesus. The stories we hear at Christmas time concerning the wise men coming to the stable to see the new born king are all unscriptural and misleading. The paintings we see, or the nativity scenes on display showing the stable, a manger, Mary and Joseph, the domestic animals, a star shining over the building, shepherds with their staffs, and the wise men (Magi) dressed in very expensive clothing with crowns on their heads, on their knees presenting their gifts to Jesus, the One born King of the Jews are not correct. This picture, which is in the mind of most all of us, is incorrect, it is unbiblical, and therefore, it is very misleading.

7. The wise men (Magi) had seen His star, announcing to them in their far away country that the expected king had been born. This means that they had to travel over a great distance, and the journey must have taken many months, and there is nothing in the Bible that tells us that they started their journey immediately after discovering the star.

8. In Luke 2:7 it says, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." But in Matt 2:11 it says, "And when they were come INTO THE HOUSE, they saw the YOUNG CHILD with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him......."

9. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to tell us how many wise men (Magi) there were. The traditional story which tells of the three wise men is not only Biblically incorrect, but it does not line up with any of the traditions of the time. The number three actually comes from the fact that three types of gifts were given to Jesus. But that is using very poor logic. There may have been 100 men who gave gold, and 50 who gave frankincense, and possibly 20 who gave myrrh.

10. Scholars who study that period of time agree that there was a large group of these men who made their appearance in Jerusalem, and they were followed by a large train of attendants. We would call this a caravan. This was the common means of traveling in those days. No one ever traveled great distances alone or with only a few. When long journeys were planned, they were always planned with large groups traveling together. It was the safest and most comfortable way to travel.

It is important to note here that their appearance in large numbers was striking enough to startle Jerusalem, and to bring trouble and stress into the heart of the wicked king. Herod was a man who feared no one, and even killed his own sons for plotting against him.

11. I want to close out this brief summary study of the Magi, the baby, and the star with a very important point. Attempting to prove a miracle of God through a natural way is actually destroying or distorting the truth presented in that miracle. Whether it be an underwater ledge in the Red Sea to explain the means for the Jews to escape Egypt, or an earthquake that brought down the walls of Jericho, or the attempt to solve the mystery of the "star of Bethlehem" by studying the constellations and the history of various novas. If God's miracles could be explained naturally then they really aren't miracles.

As you celebrate His glorious birth may you rejoice in the true peace that comes from placing your faith in His finished work on the Cross of Calvary.

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Copyright 2000 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.