Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

What was the Star of Bethlehem ?
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

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.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:1-3

Many have attempted to explain the existence of the Star of Bethlehem. Before examining these explanations it is important to examine Matthew, chapter two, which is the only place where the star is mentioned. "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, '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.'" Matthew 2:1-2 Notice first that the magi came "from the east" and thus were not Jewish. They were statesmen from the scholarly class in Persia and were thoroughly familiar with astronomy. The only passage in the entire Bible that foretells the first coming of the Messiah is found in Daniel. The prophet Daniel's influence while in the courts of Darius and Cyrus had been profound and lasting in Persia. So such "wise men" would have been familiar with the teachings of Daniel and the promise of a Savior for all people, not just the Jews. Thus we see also in this passage that they came to worship Him.

It is estimated that they traveled about 600 miles from Persia; a trip that would have taken several months. In addition, there is no reason to think there were only three "kings"; we are just told of three gifts. In fact, it is likely that they descended upon Jerusalem with a full military escort causing King Herod to be "troubled and all Jerusalem with him." Interestingly, they responded to Herod's question about the location of Christ by quoting the Old Testament. Then, after receiving instructions from Herod to find the Child apparently the star reappeared: "and lo, the star which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was."

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs...Genesis 1:14

Regardless, the details about the Star of Bethlehem are insufficient to make any definitive conclusions. But the Star of Bethlehem is special because it is referred to as "His star," the star of the Child who came to earth to pay the penalty for what humanity deserves. Like the Magi, we too must be able to know the word of God in order that we will see the signs of His second coming. Also, like the Magi, we must be willing to make the sacrifice to seek Him, give Him our treasures, and bow down to worship Him.

Perhaps you could get my column published in your local paper, too! Have your newspaper editor contact me. Also, feel free to email me with any of your questions, comments or disagreements.

┬ęTom Carpenter (with scriptures added - please see link at top for article in full)
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen


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