Where was the household that the magi met him? (see also Luke 2)
Matthew 2:1 - 23
NKJV - 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. 2 Saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.
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Here are the facts: Sometime after Jesus' birth, he was visited by Magi (magicians, or "wise-men"). We don't like the word magician so we soften it by interpreting it as "wise-men". Back then "Magi" were probably more highly educated and therefore wise. They probably studied many things including astronomy. That's why they paid attention to, and followed the "star". It may or may not have been a real star. It could have been a confluence of planets (most likely) or it could just as easily have been a miraculous event since God can do anything. Some think that the "star" could have been an angel. We just don't know. The Magi came AFTER Jesus' birth AND after His presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-39). This happened 40 days that were required for Mary's purification. Therefore the Magi were not there on the night of his birth as manger scenes and Christmas cards, and many songs depict. "Little Drummer Boy" is just not Biblical. When the Magi talked to Herod before going to find Jesus, Herod got the idea, from what the Magi told him about timing, that he would have to kill the babies 2 years old and under. So Jesus was not necessarily a baby. He could have been as old as 2 years old. He probably was somewhere between 40 days old and 2 years old. That's all we can surmise. A good guess would be that Jesus was around 1 year old, give or take 6 months. Therefore Jesus was not in the manger when the Magi met him. Matthew 2:10-11 states that the Magi "came into the house" - not a manger. Where did they meet Jesus? Matthew and Luke seem to disagree: Was it Nazareth or was it Bethlehem. But like many apparent contradictions there is not one here. Matthew says that Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Matthew also states that AFTER Jesus was born, that Magi came to Jerusalem, to Herod and asked him "where is he that was born the King of the Jews." The priests Herod then consulted said that the prophecy indicated that Jesus would have been born in Bethlehem. Therefore Herod tells the Magi to go to Bethlehem to investigate. Notice, however, Matthew does not say that the Magi did what Herod told them. Instead they still followed the star until it was over the place where Jesus was. Then they entered a house (not a manger) and presented Jesus with gifts. After this, the Magi again did not do what Herod said (being warned in a dream not to.) Matthew doesn't mention Mary's purification of 40 days or the trip to Jerusalem to present the baby at the temple. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Matthew just skips directly to their flight to Egypt after the Magi depart. So, Luke tells us, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the purification and then, when they left, they went to Nazareth, not back to Bethlehem (Luke 2:39). Luke doesn't mention the trip to Egypt that Matthew does. How many Magi? At least 2. Maybe 3 (there were 3 gifts). Maybe more. (they didn't all have to bring a gift, the gifts were of special significance. 12 Magi would be what Orient customs would assume. Never quote the Bible out of context. This is all we can really know then: 1. The Magi (who knows how many) came to visit Jesus sometime AFTER His presentation in the Temple around 40 days after his birth. 2. Jesus was not still in a manger. 3. The Magi went to Nazareth. Matthew says they followed the "star" but he doesn't say they followed Herod's directions. 4. The Magi came to visit before Jesus was 2 years old. Matthew says that after the Magi left, Mary, Joseph took Jesus and fled to Egypt because Herod was out to kill him. Someone might say they had to flee from Jerusalem because that's where Herod was going to kill all the children. Yes, Herod did that. But even so, when God warns Joseph in a dream, even tho they are not in Bethlehem, Joseph obeys and flees Nazareth after the Magi visited them. 5. Therefore the Magi visited Jesus, in a house, in Nazareth, roughly around age One.
Matthew 2 shows that Jesus was in Bethlehem when the Wise Men visited him. Yes, he was in a house and he is described as a child, rather than a baby in a manger - which was a temporary measure (as Luke 2 explains). This was Joseph's ancestral home, being a descendant of King David. Herod's order to kill all the boys of 2 years and under indicates that Jesus must have been within that range. But he would have been over 6 weeks old as that was when he was taken with his mother to the temple in Jerusalem for the purification rites. The novel thesis that the family were in Nazareth at this time is a new one to me. I find that difficult in the light of the fact that Herod sent the Wise Men to Bethlehem to search for the child (Mt 2:8) - there is no suggestion that they did otherwise than follow that order. Had Joseph taken his family to Nazareth prior to this, there would have been no need for God to have warned him to flee to Egypt and in haste. Herod was looking in Bethlehem, 80 miles to the south of Nazareth, but only a few miles from Jerusalem, almost within view of Herod's abode. A further support to Bethlehem being the place where Jesus was when he had to flee to Egypt is that after Herod died, Joseph planned to settle back in Judea on his return to Israel. It was only after he heard that Herod's son had jurisdiction over Judea (including Bethlehem) that he went to Nazareth in the region of Galilee. This would take Mary back to her family's area - but it would have been unlikely for them to go back sooner than this because of the social stigma attached to Mary's pregnancy before she lived with Joseph. Knowing that Joseph was a caring man (Mt 1:19), would he have taken Mary and Jesus to Nazareth soon after his son's birth and caused them more embarrassment than they did eventually have to live with? Had they simply returned to Nazareth from whence they fled, it would be unlikely that Matthew mentions that he 'turned aside' to Galilee (Mt 2:22) and came and dwelt in 'a city' called Nazareth (23). It would have been simple to have written that they 'returned to Nazareth'. Matthew didn't write that because that's not what happened!
The wise men, more than 2 and could of been many not just 3, "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child" Mat. 2:11 Not a baby in the manger. His age could of been close to 2 years old. "Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men." Mat. 2:16
I believe it was in the town of Bethlehem at a house (not the manger) on (Don't you love the irony) December 25th, 2 BC. Why so specific? Watch the video on YouTube "The Star of Bethlehem". I think you will agree. I believe God chose December 25th (of course NOT Jesus birthday) as an ironic message to us that He is in charge.
The origin of the Magi who visited Jesus began with Daniel. When Cyrus defeated Nebuchadnezzar's grandson w/o a fight, Daniel read him a letter written a few hundred years earlier calling him by name and letting him know that the God of Daniel was in charge and had given the victory and world to Cyrus. Daniel went on to serve Cyrus as the head of the Magisterium, or regional leaders of the kingdom. Daniel was the leader and head judge. It appears he established a cabal among the magistrates who understood among other things "the Gospel in the Stars" and how it related to astronomy. Incidentally, these Magi traveled in a band or regiment with an offensively armed escort or troop, probably a contingent of 60 - 80 men (Cohort size). Palestine was under tenuous Roman control and Herod did not know they were not there to retake the territory when they showed up. He was both nervous and relieved they weren't there for him but worried by the news of another King....his own legality was questionable from a Jewish perspective. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not in a manger due to being destitute. There was no room due to the holidays and the census. They planned to stay a while and had the resources to do so. By the time of the Magi visit, probably Hanukkah (December), the traditional holiday when Jewish Fathers bestow gifts on their children, the Holy Family was in more permanent housing about 90 days after the birth. They then went to Egypt. It took Herod a while to realize he had been duped and to recover from other unsettling political turmoil between the romans, his brother and the locals. At that point he gave the order to eliminate a potential rival and ordered all boys born there up to 2yrs old to be killed, an insurance policy against timing. The holy family spent less than a year in Egypt and attempted to resettle in Joseph's ancestral home of Bethlehem, but were warned off and decided to move on to Nazareth (different King..same family) due to his fear of Herod's son.
From Matthew 2:5 we learn that our Lord Jesus was still in Bethlehem when the wise men from the East visited Him and offered their worship In Matthew chapter 2 and verses 8,11,13,14,20 &21 the Inspired writer is addressing Jesus as young child eight times. Therefore the Lord was not a baby when the wise men visited Him with their gifts. But certainly He was well under two years old in His earthly abode when the wise men saw Him. This becomes obvious because king Herod decreed children under the age of two to be slaughtered. Thus though we are not told at what age the wise men saw Jesus I may guess thatHe was certainly above one year old but below two years old because our Lord is being repeatedly addressed as child Jesus not baby Jesus by the Inspired writer. Therefore the picture of our Lord which we see in Christmas cards showing wise men falling down or kneeling before Him while Lord Jesus lying in a manger has no scriptural basis.
Matthew 2:1-12 carries the account of the visit of the three wise men from the east. Matthew 12:1-3 indicates that the news of Jesus’ birth took Herod and his leaders by surprise. Why? Because God chose not to reveal it to them. Herod just like today's leaders were too preoccupied with power that they were unaware of God's divine revelation. The fact that the three wise men went to Jerusalem to see Herod suggests that they were influential people who were received at Herod’s palace. Herod cleverly sought the help of these wise men to identify Jesus and have Him killed but God could not permit His heinous plan to succeed and later sealed Herod's fate (Matthew 2:20). Matthew 2:12-13 shows that the danger was so perilous that God commanded Joseph to flee to Egypt with his family. This suggests that they may have been in hiding somewhere in Bethlehem before they fled to Egypt. So where specifically was Jesus’ family before their flight to Egypt? The Bible does not clearly describe the town or location of Jesus’ home where the Magi came to visit Him. We can however deduce from Scripture that his location may have been kept secret because God knew that Herod sought to kill Him. God hid them from Herod until His purposes were fulfilled. This is the same God who sustained Elijah in Sidon, the native region of Jezebel until the rains fell. Scripture declares in Colossians 3:3-4 "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." God preserves His elect from peril until we meet Jesus.
The facts in the Bible don't give us either detail of when or where the Magi found Jesus. Luke 2 tells us clearly that Mary and Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem and that Jesus was born there. Then, Mary and Joseph went to the purification rights in Jerusalem. This is done at 40 days after the birth of a child. So Jesus likely stayed in Bethlehem days 0 to almost 40 days of age. Mary was considered "unclean" until these rights were completed. The rights take 40 days to complete, so after 80 days old, they went back "to their own town of Nazareth." So Jesus was very likely in Jerusalem from 40-80 days of age, then moved back to Nazareth. The Bible doesn't tell us how old Jesus was or where he was when the Magi visited, but after 80 days old he moved to Nazareth and likely stayed there until his visit to Egypt. Herod ordered the killing of the babies in and around Bethlehem under two years old, but that doesn't mean that Jesus was almost two when the Magi arrived, though that has been the traditional teaching. Herod instructed the Magi to go to Bethlehem and search for the child. They may or may not have followed those instructions and may or may not have found him there. There are several possibilities for finding him in Bethlehem. The Magi could have visited before 40 days of age, but that seems highly unlikely because of the distance they likely travelled. Jesus could have possibly moved back to Bethlehem between 80 days and the Magi visit, which is also unlikely. The most likely answer, in my opinion, is that the Magi may have found him in Nazareth after searching for him. After the stay in Egypt, they went back to Nazareth and likely stayed there since at 12 years old, they took Jesus from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus likely grew up in Nazareth from 80 days until the trip to Egypt and from the return from Egypt for the rest of his childhood. Luke 2 does not say they found him in Bethlehem in a house. It states that they found him with Mary in a house. So once again, we are not told where they found him except that he was in a house. I have said "likely" many times to emphasize that these things make sense, but we do not have specific details on the exact timing or place of the visit of the Magi. So the real answer is that despite all of the depictions from greeting cards, Hollywood, and church traditional teaching, we do not know for sure either answer and, therefore, should be very careful not to assume that we do and be adamant of the unknown details. Gary Wofford, M.D.
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