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The Mysterious Magi

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

It's kind of sad that the manger scenes we have are wrong. Well, not exactly wrong, just...not exactly accurate. I had one of those barn things with figurines and three plastic wise men on camels. When I learned that the magi were not there to see the birth of Jesus and arrived much later (possibly even two years later), I put the figurines away from the manger scene and said, "They're on their way". Kind of difficult to include them in a Christmas celebration if you're going to be a stickler for historical accuracy, but that's just me.


There are many traditions and opinions about the magi (wise men) of Matthew 2, but who were they really? Some historical material may surprise you.
Adoration Of The Magi, Sandro Botticelli, 1500
We know the song about the "three kings of orient are", but who were they, really? There are a passel of traditions and opinions about them. The only reference we have to the magi (wise men) is in Matthew 2:1-12, but we can't justify the tradition of three wise men on camels. Three gifts are mentioned, but no camels (although that's not so far-fetched). 

They were mighty important, too. This was not some guys that said, "Hey, there's the Christ star! Saddle up, Clem, we're burnin' daylight. Better grab some gifts, too!" This was at the time of Herod the Great (he earned his title before he became such a wretch later in life), who was a powerful figure with the approval of the Roman authorities. Do you think some jaspers would have been able to show up at his palace and be allowed to have a chat if they were nobodies (Matt. 2:7)? Nope. They were a powerful and respected group, and most likely had an impressive entourage.

More importantly, they revered God, and were quite possibly descendants of the people that Daniel taught and supervised in Babylon (Daniel 1:20-21, 2:48-49). When the magic saw Jesus, they rejoiced and bowed down (Matt. 2:10-11). These powerful men (who were Gentiles) sought the King of the Jews and humbled themselves before him. There's a lot going on here!

At this point, I'm going to turn you over to Dr. John MacArthur. He has two sermons that have some fascinating historical information on the magi that were the inspiration for this post. They're not short, so maybe you can listen to them when you have some time, or save them for later. "What the Magi Mean to Christmas, Part 1" has download buttons for the video as well as MP3s, or you can listen/watch online. "What the Magi Mean to Christmas, Part 2" doesn't have the video available at this writing, but the audio is there now.

Wishing you and yours a blessed, safe, joyous Christmas celebrating the time that God the Son became a man for our salvation!


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