Matt. 2: 4.” And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.”
I’m going to give you a link that will help you if you’re interested in a more in-depth study of the Star of the East. You can read all about it here:
This is an article that goes into much more depth than I want to do here. Today, my main focus is on that dreadful man, Herod the Great.
(Someday I’m going to figure out how type around a picture!)
Herod the Great feared for his throne–which didn’t rightly belong to him. The citizens of Jerusalem were troubled partly, I’m sure, by wondering what this bloodthirsty ruler would do to retain his power. Herod was a king who was the enemy of the rightful heir to David’s throne, and he knew his seat was precarious.
When the men from the East approached Herod, seeking the birthplace of the King of the Jews, he was indeed “troubled.” That’s putting it mildly. There was nothing at all that he would not do to protect his power. He called all the religious leaders of the Jews together and asked what they knew. They told him (v. 5-6) about the prophecies of Bethlehem, and the Governor Who would rise out of Judah. (Micah 5).
My main resource, Gaebelein, believes that the wise men were Gentiles. I mentioned in my last post that they may have been descendants of the Jews taken into captivity in Babylon, but I will bow to a greater authority on this one. His belief fits very well with the fact that Jerusalem had remained ignorant for months of the birth of Jesus, while these Gentiles were traveling across the deserts to see Him. It was, then, Gentiles who introduced Jesus to the Jewish authorities, perhaps typifying the later rejection by the Jews, and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles under Paul’s ministry.
What strikes me at this point in the story is that these religious Jews had the manuscripts, knew the prophecy, and yet apparently walked out of that meeting with Herod and went about their own business. Head knowledge, never reaching the heart. How often do we recite well-known scripture such as, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10) and then busily tend to our daily lives, never really pondering the depth of meaning in such a well-known passage!
Herod had an unsavory history. He was not even completely Jewish. He was the son of an Idumean man named Antipater, and a woman named Cyprus who was the daughter of an Arab sheik. He gained the throne in Jerusalem by ruthlessly winning the favor of the Roman Octavian, who later became Augustus Caesar. He gained the appellation “the Great” because of his ambitious building programs in both Jerusalem and Caesarea, even restoring the Temple in Jerusalem. That work didn’t last very long, being completely destroyed by Rome in 70 a.d.
Now, faced with a very real threat to his position, we see the truly evil character of Herod. He piously–or impiously, really–inquired of the wise men exactly the time of the appearance of the Star, saying that they were to go to Bethlehem and find the Child. When they would come back and tell Herod where He was, then Herod would also go and worship Him (Matt. 2:7-8).
The wise men, however, were not naive. Next time, we’ll see what they did and how Herod reacted.