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Matthew 2:1-12 – The Visit of the Wise Men

Summary

Led by a star, wise men come to worship this Messiah, but their arrival raises fears in Jerusalem and for King Herod.

Analysis

Reference to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem once again marks his status as the son of David, while marvelous events continue to signal the hand of God. Wise men, whose precise character and origin remain mysterious, journey to Jerusalem led by a star that appears repeatedly in this brief story (2:2, 7, 9, 10). At its end they return home guided and protected by a dream. Ironically, the story juxtaposes "King Herod" with this one who is "born king." Though frightened by the prospect, it is still Herod who authorizes the inquiry that will reveal the birth in Bethlehem once again as fulfillment of prophecy. The prophetic description of this king as a shepherd certainly anticipates the humility and suffering of Jesus in Matthew's story, while Herod's instructions about "finding" and "bringing word" (2:8; the original word ironically means "announce good news") anticipate a similar "finding" and "telling good news" at Jesus' resurrection. Three times in the story the reference to "paying homage" (2:2, 8, 11; the original Greek word means "worship") is significant in its description and modeling of the first appropriate response to the birth of God's Messiah.

Matthew 2:1-12

The Visit of the Wise Men

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men* from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,* and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah* was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd* my people Israel.”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men* and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,* until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped,* they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

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10 February 2011

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