King of the Magi

In the beginning of the second chapter of Matthew’s good news, he mentioned some “wise men” who appeared in Jerusalem and caused quite a stir by asking King Herod where his replacement was. “Herod” is a compound word that is a title, not a name. It describes its bearer as a “hero”.

This Herod was Herod the Great. He was a descendant of Esau – an Edomite, and had absolutely no genuine authority to rule over anything in Israel. He was a mercenary employee of the Roman government, chosen for his job because he was more likely to be loyal to Rome than Palestine in the event of a local controversy. When the wise men inquired about someone who had been “born” as King of the Jews, Herod sensed a great threat to his power. His response to the perceived threat was to try to destroy it by killing any child who could possibly be the bearer of such challenging power.

The wise men did some sort of work that may have been astronomy, astrology, scientific study, alchemy, medicine, magic, or witchcraft, and may have included a mixture of any or all of these possibilities. The word which is translated “magi” or “wise men” here is instead translated “sorcerer” when it was used by Luke in Acts 13:6-8 to refer to Elymas. The various descriptive terms used to describe him were sorcerer, false prophet, Jew, Bar-Jesus (“son of Yah’s salvation”), Elymas, child of the devil, and enemy of all righteousness. When describing him as a “sorcerer” (some translations “magician”), this
is the only other use of the word in the New Testament.

The magi were interesting characters. They received some revelation: that not only would a star be a sign that a King would be born in Israel Who would be worthy of worship, but that a star they had been observing was the particular star, and that the King was therefore birthed and available to be worshiped. They had extra-Biblical revelation that led them to find Jesus, and further revelation that led them to leave the country without returning to report the location of Jesus to Herod.

The revelation instructed them to search for a King, not a Savior. He is, of course, both King and Savior, but their instructions, which must have been from God or an angel sent from Him, were descriptive of a King. It is possible that some of Daniel’s writings as a leader in Babylon influenced them.

If you want to know how to introduce someone in a way that pleases them, listen to the way they introduce themselves. If they say, “Hello, my name is Joe,” then probably they would be bothered by you introducing them as “Joseph”, for example. Father introduced Jesus to the neighbors as “King Jesus” according to the narrative about the wise men from the east. That is likely, in my opinion, to have more importance than we have been giving it.

Leave a Reply