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Fast Facts on the Magi of the Nativity Story

  • Have you ever wondered about the Magi who are written about in the Nativity story (Matthew 2:1-12)? Who were they? Why were they looking for the Christ-child? How’d they know when and where to look for him?
  • The Magi, or wise men, were a priestly caste in the ancient world that often served as advisors to kings and emperors. They were sought out for their knowledge of astronomy and astrology, as well as their supposed ability to foretell the future and discern the meaning of dreams and visions.
  • The Magi of the Nativity story were possibly from Babylon; and if so, they were likely influenced by the teachings of the biblical prophet Daniel, who a few hundred years earlier was the chief of the wise men of the Babylonian empire (Daniel 2:47-48).
  • Through the influence of Daniel the Magi would have been familiar with the Old Testament and its 300+ prophecies pointing to the coming of the Messiah; and from the text of Matthew 2 it’s apparent that these Magi believed the promises of God’s word and intended to worship the coming King of the Jews.
  • The Magi were likely watching the heavens looking for a sign of the Messiah’s arrival as a result of exposure to Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” 
  • The Magi would have even known the general timeframe of the Messiah’s arrival as a result of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:25, that the Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree to allow the Jews to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
  • While we can’t say for sure who the Magi were, the above possibilities are likely based on the clues we’re given in Scripture. What we can say for sure is these Magi truly were “wise men” in recognizing and worshipping the God who took on flesh to become the Savior of the world.

For more information on the biblical prophecies of the Messiah, please check out Dr. Carlson’s lecture, “The Bible: Is it the Word of God?” available in CD or MP3 in our online store.

Follow CMI on Twitter at @jasoncarlsoncmi.

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