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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Magi

The story of the magi intersects with King Herod (1). We’ve already covered this from Herod’s point of view. Now we’ll look at it from the magi’s perspective. But first, know that the Bible doesn’t say there are three of them, only that they give three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The magi, aka wise men, travel from the East searching for a baby born to be king of the Jews. They’ve come to worship him. 

They make their journey, based on a new star they spot in the sky, following it west until they reach Jerusalem. They assume he’ll be born to Herod in the palace. After all, this baby will be king.

This is news to Herod—bad news. A baby who could one day become king threatens Herod’s rule. He must squash this danger, but he doesn’t let the magi know his plans. He pretends he wants to worship the baby king too. He feigns interest and requests they report their findings back to him. Then, based on a tip from the religious leaders who know what the Scriptures say about the coming Messiah, Herod sends the magi to Bethlehem.

They continue their journey, using the star to home in on their destination. It stops over Bethlehem where Jesus and his parents are. The magi enter the place and bow down to Jesus in reverent worship. Then they give him the gifts they brought, gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Having finished their mission, they’re ready to return home, but an angel warns them in a dream to not report their findings to Herod. So they sneak out of town and take a different route home. They’re long gone—and so are Mary, Joseph, and Jesus—before Herod realizes he was duped.

God sent the magi a message in a dream and they obeyed, thereby saving Jesus.

Does God ever communicate to us in dreams? How do we react when he does?

[Discover more about the magi in Matthew 2:1–16.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.