Three Wise Men?

Were There Three Wise Men?

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Three Wise Men
MATTHEW CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

Matthew 2:7-8 Three Wise Men?

MATTHEW 2:7  7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men and inquired of them what time the star had appeared.

Who were the “wise men”?
They were the “wise men from the east” (see Bethlehem of Judea) who arrived in Jerusalem and declared, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

Were there three wise men?
There could have been three wise men, but there also could have been more than three wise men, or just two. The Bible does not say “three,” so the number of wise men could have been any greater than one.

But didn’t the wise men present three “gifts” (Matthew 2:11)?
Three gifts (see gold, frankincense and myrrh) could have been presented by two, three or thirty wise men.

Why did Herod ask the wise men “what time the star had appeared”?
He and/or they associated the star of Bethlehem’s appearing with the conception or the birth of the One “who has been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). Herod was trying to deduce the age of the threat to his throne whom he was going to kill (see slaughter of the innocents).

Why did Herod call the wise men “secretly”?
The wise men didn’t know what kind of man Herod was (see King Herod), but the Jews knew. If the Jews heard Herod trying to deduce the age of the challenger to his throne, they would have suspected that he will kill the child, so his murderous plot risked being exposed.

MATTHEW 2:8  8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, so that I also may go and worship Him.”

Did the wise men believe Herod’s words at face value?
Since they had to be “divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod” (Matthew 2:12), they apparently did.

What should the wise men have grasped?
As soon as they realized that the “One who has been born King of the Jews” whom they had come to worship is not a newborn son of the king reigning over the Jews, they should have realized that the news of this birth would not be welcomed by the reigning king. And when the reigning king questioned them about what time the star appeared, they should have realized that he was trying to gain intelligence on his target.

How wise were these wise men?
They were more naive than wise to believe that the king reigning over the Jews will “worship” (Matthew 2:8) the child who will topple his throne.

Then why are they called “wise men”?
μαγοι (magoi), the original Greek word translated, “wise men,” actually means “astrologers,” “seers” or “sorcerers.” These were not men with godly wisdom. It could even be argued that they were used by Satan, who was trying to kill Jesus before the appointed time (see the hour has come).

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