Posted by: biblestudyseattle | December 26, 2016

Pondering the Christmas Story

After hearing another Christmas sermon about the Nativity Scene including lots of animals, shepherds, and the wise men, I got to thinking.  First of all, the magi were not present at the birth of Jesus.  That would have been extremely difficult and impractical for Mary & Joseph.  Imagine just giving birth and the very next day fleeing the country for your life!  No.  Joseph and Mary had about a year and a half of peacefully raising their baby until the wise men show up.  This becomes apparent by Herod’s actions:  “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.”  Matthew 2:16

John the baptist was born about 6 months before Jesus around Passover.  Jesus was born during the fall feasts; trumpets or atonement or tabernacles.  It is likely that the magi were planning on visiting Jerusalem as they were likely Persian Jewish converts, of the school of Daniel.  They probably knew this prophecy:  “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.  So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”  Daniel 9:24-25

The magi were probably expert chronologists.  The only question was when was the decree issued to rebuild Jerusalem?  Cyrus issued the decree, but the work was stopped.  It then had to be reissued.  The other problem is how would they know the Messiah’s death would finish the transgression?  And even if they knew that, how old would the Messiah be upon death?  Hence, other signs were required for the magi to know when the birth occured.

But why did the Magi visit at all?  Would YHWH have prevented the slaughter of the innocents if they hadn’t visited?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps at some point, word would have made it to Herod that a pretender to the throne was living in Bethlehem.  We can’t know at this point.  But the Magi’s visit made Mary & Joseph instantly wealthy.  It enabled them to leave very fast when Herod came hunting.  Bethlehem is only 7 miles from Jerusalem.  Mary & Joseph probably had no more than 2 days to flee.  It is appropriate that the night shepherds were told about Jesus’ birth.  No one would really care what they said.  But very wealthy Persians visiting Herod for information about the birth location of a new king, got Herod’s attention.  The magi were probably visiting during one of the high seasons in Jewish life: Tabernacles.  This may be shown by: “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14 YLT

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