Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Bethlehem, a small village five or six miles south of Jerusalem was clearly expected by Hebrew scholars to be the birthplace of the Messiah. The little town was cradled between two ridges located along the main ancient highway from Jerusalem to Egypt. Bethlehem meaning “house of bread” would give meaning to the name declared in John 6:33-35: For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Wise men from the East came to worship Him who is called, “King of the Jews.” They were not kings, but magi, astrologers and possibly scholars from Persia whose knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel. The exact number is not given but is thought to be three from the traditional idea that there were three gifts they brought to give to the Child. We are not told how God caused the magi to know that the King of the Jews had been born, only that He gave them the sign of His star in the east.
The star, His star, was not a supernova (a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of it mass) as some suggest, but because of the way the star moved and settled over one place it was more likely a supernatural physical existence similar to the Shekinah ( glory of the Lord) that guided the Israelites in the days of Moses (Ex. 13:21).
Herod asked the wise men or magi to search for the Child diligently and when they had found Him, bring back news of where He was so he too, could come and worship Him. Herod, in truth, didn’t want to worship Jesus but actually wanted to kill the Child whom he saw as a potential threat to his throne.
By the time the wise men had arrived, Mary and Joseph were now living in a house not a stable. Matthew makes it known that the magi fell down and worshipped Him and not Mary giving Him treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Gold throughout history has always been considered the most precious of metals and the common symbol of material value and wealth. Matthew undoubtedly presents Christ as King and here in this account He is appropriately being presented with royal gifts of gold.
Frankincense was a costly, magnificent smelling incense that was used only for the most special of occasions. It was used in certain royal processions and sometimes at weddings and also used in the grain offerings at the Tabernacle and Temple.
Myrrh was a perfume, not quite so expensive as frankincense but yet very valuable. Myrrh was mixed with other spices and used in preparation of bodies for burial, even Jesus’ body (John 19:39).
Thought: It amazes me that our God in His immense greatness and matchless wisdom would orchestrate such a design of life changing events for the world to behold and embrace. To imagine a star moving in the heavens, guiding men from a far off country to follow this phenomenon, then falling down and worshiping the Child, while presenting Him with costly gifts fit for a King. Satan’s plan was to destroy the baby Jesus using Herod ‘s fear of potential threat to his throne but God through His prophets had foretold hundreds of years before of the miraculous birth of Christ and none can stay His hand (Daniel 4:35). God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19) The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: (Isaiah 14:24).