7. Visit of the Wise Men
1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King,a behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,
2“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East,b and have come to worship him.”
3When Herod the King heard this he was troubled; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiahc was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 6'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”
(Mt. 2:1–6) (continued)
a “Herod the King,”—Also called Herod the Great. Herod was the son of the governor of Idumea (the area south of Judah). He rose to a high position in the government of Judah during the reign of the aging high priest, Hyrcanus II. During this time Hyrcanus' younger nephew, Antigonus, rebelled against his uncle's rule. Antigonus raised an army in Syria and, after securing the help of many Judeans unhappy with Hyrcanus' rule, as well as the Parthians to the east, he overthrew Hyrcanus in 40 BC. Herod fled to Rome, taking his case directly to Mark Anthony, who received Herod as an old family friend. And, through the assistance of the Roman rulers Anthony and Octavian, he was proclaimed king of Judah by the Roman Senate in 40 BC. He captured Jerusalem in 37 BC from Antigonus and ruled from Jerusalem until his death in 4 BC. His kingdom eventually expanded beyond Judea and Idumea to include Samaria, Galilee, Gaza, Perea, and the territory east of the Sea of Galilee. (See map on page 5.)
b “we have seen his star in the East,”—The most likely explanation of this new star in the sky concerns the extraordinary triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces that took place on three separate nights in 7 BC. This new bright light in the sky, which would naturally have been described as a new “star,” appeared on the nights of May 29, September 30, and December 5, 7 BC.
“This is by far the most popular explanation for the star of Bethlehem. Johannes Kepler, after seeing the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces a few days before Christmas in 1603, calculated backward and discovered the 7 BC event. But Kepler was certainly not the first to call attention to it. In 1977, David H. Clark and two colleagues quoted a similar assertion in English church annals dating from AD 1285.” (Sky and Telescope, December 1986, p. 632, "Computing the Star of Bethlehem")
c “Messiah”—See Ch. 13, fn. c.
Mt. 2:3 troubled; / troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (RSV)
Mt. 2:4 the Messiah was (Ch. 13, fn. c) / the Christ was (RSV)
Mt. 2:6 Micah 5:2 (122:8,10/1352–4)