What is the story of the three wise men (magi)?
The biblical account of the wise men (or magi) is found in Matthew 2:1-12. Verse 1 says they were "men" (meaning male and more than one) and came from east of Jerusalem. The exact number of wise men and where they specifically came from are unknown. The number three has often been noted due to the fact that they gave three named gifts to Jesus of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
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The account the wise men gave to King Herod notes they saw a star from the east (v. 2) and travelled to Jerusalem to find the new king of the Jews (Jerusalem was the capital and most likely spot to find a king). King Herod consulted the Jewish religious leaders who told him Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem (vv. 5-6). Herod asked the wise men about the time the star appeared and commanded the wise men to report the location of the one born king of the Jews once He had been found.
The wise men then traveled to Bethlehem and found Jesus and His family. They offered their gifts, items worth great value during their time. The wise men also bowed in worship (v. 11). This was clearly sometime after the birth of Jesus, as the family was now staying in a house, though they had not yet left Bethlehem.
After worshipping Jesus, the wise men were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod (v. 12). They departed using another road to their "country," indicating they were not Jewish and lived in another nation. When the wise men did not return, Herod became angry and had all male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem put to death, but not before Joseph had been warned in a dream to flee with his family to Egypt.
Jesus and His family escaped, partly due to the assistance of the wise men not returning to Herod. Further, these wise men left gifts that were likely able to pay for family expenses during the time they lived in Egypt.
Many applications can be made from these wise men for our lives today. First, they worshiped Jesus. Second, they humbled themselves before God's Son. Third, they gave their best gifts to Jesus. Fourth, they cared greatly for Jesus and those in His family. Fifth, they followed what they knew of God's Word. These men are unknown by name yet have left an incredible mark in the history of the Bible through their remarkable actions to young Jesus and His family.
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