The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

Where did the Magi come from and how did they know to come?

In answer to the question where did the Magi come from, there is very little to help us in the text of Scripture itself. All Matthew says, important as it is, is wise men from the east came. (Matthew 2:1)

At the time of Christ’s birth, the term east meant Media, Persia, Assyria and Babylonia; that part of the world we would recognise today as Iran and Iraq . Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215) said that they came from Persia and that is the most commonly held view, and it certainly accords, not only with Matthew’s brief reference, but with the answer to our next question – how did they know to come?

According to Matthew, the explanation given by the Magi themselves was, …we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (2:2) As we noted in the first post in this series, these men were zoroastrian astrologers who charted the stars and attached religious significance to their movements. Many people in the ancient world believed that stars announced the birth of great people, and before you write them off as being naive and superstitious, just think how many people in our ‘intellectually advanced’ and ‘sophisticated’ west won’t leave home on a morning without reading their horoscope, and make major, life-changing decisions based on the supposed alignment of the stars etc..

Let’s go back in time just over 500 years. Daniel has been appointed Chief of the Magi (Daniel 2:48), and was renowned for his wisdom (Daniel 5:11). He was given numerous prophecies about the coming Messiah and was instructed to “seal” the record of the revelations he had received for future generations (12:4) The Persian custom was to seal up one copy of writings in the library so that future generations could read it.

As scholars, it is more than likely that the Magi were well versed with the contents of the local library, including Daniel’s writings since he was such a prominent person in the nation in his generation. They too would have read of God’s plan and timing and calculated that the birth of the Messiah was imminent and the rest is, as they, history.

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