08 – Visit of The Magi

When: May 25, 5 BC
Where: Bethlehem, Judea


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In 7 BC, Jupiter, the star of royalty, and Saturn, the protector of the nation of Israel, met in the constellation of Pisces, which indicated the region around the land of Canaan. This convergence occurs once every 900 years.

Not once, not twice, but three times (in May, September, and December) the message, “a king will be born in Israel”, became clear to astrologers in Babylon [who believed that things that happened on “earth” reflected what happened in the “heavens”] who then recorded the convergence on a clay tablet.

Then on February 25 of 6 BC, Mars, the Roman god of war, joined Jupiter and Saturn. This massing occurs once every 800 years (though rarely in Pisces), shouting to the astrologers that the king to be born in Israel would be a powerful king.

Then, between March 9 and April 6 in 5 BC, China recorded that a “new star”, appeared on the Eastern horizon, in the sky near the constellation of Capricorn, and moved westward. This “star” (comet) told the astronomers of Babylon that the time the king would be born was approaching rapidly. The “star” would be visible for 70 days.

The astrologers saw the “star” for the first time around March 17, the same day that Joseph left for Bethlehem. They tracked its course for weeks and finalized their travel plans to go to where the “star” led, and to pay homage to this royal baby.

They departed from Babylon around April 9. They chose the most direct route, which was through Tadmor, and only 900 miles across the desert. This they chose to do even though it meant traveling during the time of the Siroccos [the hot winds] of May. The longer and more comfortable northern route through Aleppo was a full 1300 miles and would take too long.

They traveled by caravan up the Euphrates River, across the desert, and then south to Jerusalem. The journey took about 45 days. Averaging about 20 miles per day for the journey [2 miles an hour for 10 hours], the Magi followed the lead of the “heavenly messenger” and thus they arrived at the capital city of Jerusalem, around May 24 of 5 BC.

In hopes of speaking with Herod they went straight to the palace and asked for a meeting with the king. They offered him congratulations on the birth of his son and offered to give his son some gifts as a token of their respect. However, King Herod, who was quite willing to kill his own family to maintain his grip on power, had not had a new son born into his household.

Pretending to help the Magi, Herod sent for his own “wise men” to discover where this new “king” was likely to have been born. He called in the scribes and learned that there was some reason to believe that the Messiah might be born in Bethlehem, just 5 miles to the south, because he would be one of David’s offspring. In the time spent with the Babylonian astrologers, Herod made sure to discover WHEN the “star” had been seen, so that he could know how old the child was. He was informed that the child would have been born sometime between early March and mid April, and would therefore be about three months old. Then he sent the Magi to Bethlehem and asked them to report back to him.

The Magi arrived in Bethlehem around May 25, as the “star” finally disappeared from sight for the last time, and began to ask around. Eventually they arrived at the home of Joseph’s parents where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were staying. When they had confirmed the time of Jesus’ birth, and heard of the angel appearance to the shepherds, they presented their gifts to honor the birth of the “King of the Jews”.

1. GOLD: found in a pure state and a sign of wealth

2. FRANKINCENSE: expensive crystallized bush sap that was imported from Sheba and was used in worship at the Temple – even being offered in front of the Holy of Holies

3. MYRRH: from ancient time an important ingredient in the anointing oil of Israel.

That night, as they slept, the Magi were warned by God not to tell Herod of the location of Jesus. In the morning, before they departed, they told Joseph of the message they had received in their dreams, and then they departed for their return home, but chose a route that avoided Jerusalem.

That day Joseph pondered the message of the Magi. He was convinced that he and his family were in danger. That night Joseph also received a warning in a dream. He immediately woke up his family, packed quickly, and in the predawn light, traveled south away from Herod. Joseph took his family and traveled at least as far as Kadesh-barnea, which was in Egyptian territory. There, Israel had spent their 40 years in the wilderness near Mount Horeb, the holy mountain.

When Herod’s spies told him that the Magi had left without reporting to him, he was furious. He immediately sent word to the fortress of Herodium , which can be seen from Bethlehem, to send soldiers to the Bethlehem area and kill all infants less than two years of age. The first astronomical sign had occurred in 7 BC; therefore all male children born since that date were to be killed. “Take no chances” was his motto.

It was near Bethlehem that Rachel had died giving birth to Benjamin and it was here that she was buried. It was here that Jacob (Israel) mourned her death. Now Israel would once again mourn the death of those who were innocent.

Thus, the Gentiles and the common folk came to recognize the movement of God’s Spirit but the Jewish leadership did not.


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