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What made the Wise Men wise?

22 Dec

I have often pondered the Wise Men and their role in the first Christmas. They came from far away, were gentiles, and possessed apparent wealth. The word Magi comes from a root that is most times translated magician, astronomer, or astrologer. This root could also mean magnificent, renowned, and/or super important (mega).

We are not told the number of men. They were not likely to have been kings but they had some amount of wealth due to the prolonged journey to find the Christchild and the value of the gifts they presented.

How could they have known about the birth of Christ? Apparently they began following the star (which led them to the location of Christ) without knowing exactly where it would lead? It could have been that once they got close to Jerusalem, they heard the talk of how angels appeared to the shepherds and told them about God’s son being born. We do not know for sure. Could they have known about Isaiah’s prophecy about Immanuel?  If they did, they would have been exceedingly glad about seeing the child.

We will not know all of the details of the Wise Men on this side fo Glory. We do know why they are considered wise, however. Because they sought after Christ and worshipped Him! Now that was wise indeed.

Have a most blessed and celebratory Christmas and a wonderful New Year from the Truthinator!

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1 Comment

Posted by on December 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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One response to “What made the Wise Men wise?

  1. John

    December 29, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Please see the following link re John MacArthur’s teaching on the magi:

    http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg2182.htm

    Also:

    Even the gifts which the Magi brought to Jesus suggests that they were being prompted by Daniel’s prophecy. Consider these gifts:

    1. Gold–Daniel said in 9:25 that the coming Messiah was to be a “prince”. This term denotes royalty, a king. Gold was the perfect gift for a king.

    2. Frankincense–God stipulated in Exodus 30:34-36 that frankincense was to be prepared for the “purpose of sacrificial fumigation”. (6) Jesus Christ was killed on Calvary as the Perfect Sacrifice which would be acceptable to God to take away the sins of all who would accept it. Did Daniel’s prophecy reveal this sacrificial aspect? Yes!! In 9:26, God revealed that Messiah would be “cut off” (sacrificially killed).

    Interestingly, frankincense was also used by the priests during the service. Therefore, this frankencense gift could also point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate High Priestly, an office which He assumed after His ascension into Heaven.

    3. Myrrh–The Jews used Myrrh for embalming bodies for burial preparation. (7) Again, the verse quoted above would have prepared the Magi to bring this gift.

    It is extremely interesting that two of the three gifts which the Magi presented to baby Jesus related to His death and burial. The Daniel prophecy contained all the informa-tion which the Magi needed to know to bring these gifts.

    And, finally:

    The Priesthood of the Medes

    .The ancient Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (known today as the Kurds) credited with profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. After some Magi, who had been attached to the Median court, proved to be expert in the interpretation of dreams, Darius the Great established them over the state religion of Persia. (2) (Contrary to popular belief, the Magi were not originally followers of Zoroaster. (3) That all came later.)

    It was in this dual capacity, whereby civil and political counsel was invested with religious authority, that the Magi became the supreme priestly caste of the Persian empire and continued to be prominent during the subsequent Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods. (4)

    The Role of Daniel

    One of the titles given to Daniel was Rab-mag, the Chief of the Magi. (5) His unusual career included being a principal administrator in two world empires–the Babylonian and the subsequent Persian Empire. When Darius appointed him, a Jew, over the previously hereditary Median priesthood, the resulting repercussions led to the plots involving the ordeal of the lion’s den. (6)

    Daniel apparently entrusted a Messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a “star”) to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment. But first let’s review some historical background.

    Political Background

    Since the days of Daniel, the fortunes of both the Persian and the Jewish nation had been closely intertwined. Both nations had, in their turn, fallen under Seleucid domination in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. Subsequently, both had regained their independence: the Jews under Maccabean leadership, and the Persians as the dominating ruling group within the Parthian Empire.

    It was at this time that the Magi, in their dual priestly and governmental office, composed the upper house of the Council of the Megistanes (from which we get the term “magistrates”), whose duties included the absolute choice and election of the king of the realm.

    It was, therefore, a group of Persian–Parthian “king makers” who entered Jerusalem in the latter days of the reign of Herod. Herod’s reaction was understandably one of fear when one considers the background of Roman-Parthian rivalry that prevailed during his lifetime.

    Rome on the Rise

    Pompey, the first Roman conqueror of Jerusalem in 63 B.C., had attacked the Armenian outpost of Parthia. In 55 B.C. Crassus led Roman legions in sacking Jerusalem and in a subsequent attack on Parthia proper. The Romans were decisively defeated at the battle of Carrhae with the loss of 30,000 troops, including their commander. The Parthians counterattacked with a token invasion of Armenia, Syria, and Palestine.

    Nominal Roman rule was reestablished under Antipater, the father of Herod, who, in his turn, retreated before another Parthian invasion in 40 B.C.

    Mark Antony reestablished Roman sovereignty in 37 B.C. and, like Crassus before him, Also embarked on a similarly ill-fated Parthian expedition. His disastrous retreat was followed by another wave of invading Parthians, which swept all Roman opposition completely out of Palestine (including Herod himself, who fled to Alexandria and then to Rome).

    With Parthian collaboration, Jewish sovereignty was restored, and Jerusalem was fortified with a Jewish garrison.

    Herod, by this time, had secured from Augustus Caesar the title of “King of the Jews.” However, it was not for three years, including a five months’ siege by Roman troops, that Herod was able to occupy his own capital city! Herod had thus gained the throne of a rebellious buffer state which was situated between two mighty contending empires. At any time his own subjects might conspire in bringing the Parthians to their aid. At the time of the birth of Christ, Herod may have been close to his final illness. Augustus was also aged, and Rome, since the retirement of Tiberius, was without an experienced military commander. Pro-Parthian Armenia was fomenting revolt against Rome (which was successfully accomplished within two years.)

    The Tensions in Parthia

    The time was ripe for another Parthian invasion of the buffer provinces, except for the fact that Parthia itself was racked by internal dissension. Phraates IV, the unpopular and aging king, had once been deposed and it was not improbable that the Persian Magi were already involved in the political maneuvering requisite to choosing his successor. It was conceivable that the Magi might be taking advantage of the king’s lack of Popularity to further their own interests with the establishment of a new dynasty, which could have been implemented if a sufficiently strong contender could be found.

    At this time it was entirely conceivable that the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, culminating in the writings of Daniel, one of their own Magians, was of profound motivating significance. The promise of a divinely imposed world dominion at the hands of a Jewish monarch might be more than acceptable to them. (Their own Persian and Medo-Persian history was studded with Jewish nobles, ministers, and counselors; and in the great Achaemenid days, some of the kings themselves were of Jewish blood.)

    The Entourage to Jerusalem

    In Jerusalem, the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with all imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by an adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem.

    It would seem as if these Magi were attempting to perpetrate a border incident which could bring swift reprisal from Parthian armies. Their request of Herod regarding the one who “has been born King of the Jews” (7) was a calculated insult to him, a non–Jew (8) who had contrived and bribed his way into that office.

    Consulting his scribes, Herod discovered from the prophecies in the Tanach (the Old Testament) that the Promised One, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem. (9) Hiding his concern and expressing sincere interest, Herod requested them to keep him informed.

    After finding the babe and presenting their prophetic gifts, the Magi “being warned in a dream” (a form of communication most acceptable to them) departed to their own country, ignoring Herod’s request. (Within two years Phraataces, the parricide son of Phraates IV, was duly installed by the Magi as the new ruler of Parthia.)

    Daniel’s Messianic Role

    Living six centuries before the birth of Christ, Daniel certainly received an incredible number of Messianic prophecies. In addition to several overviews of all of Gentile world history, (10) the Angel Gabriel told him the precise day that Jesus would present Himself as King to Jerusalem.”

    It is interesting that Daniel’s founding of a secret sect of the Magi also had a role in having these prominent Gentiles present gifts at the birth of the Jewish Messiah.

    The Christmas Gifts

    The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were also prophetic, speaking of our Lord’s offices of king, priest, and savior. Gold speaks of His kingship; frankincense was a spice used in the priestly duties; and myrrh was an embalming ointment anticipating His death.

    In the Millennium, He will also receive the gifts of gold and frankincense;” but no myrrh: His death was once and for all.

     

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