Wise Men, A Foolish King, And A Family On The Run

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:1–23, ESV)

Wise Men 

Creation displays the glory of God and he wields the universe to make himself known and in this account, he directed the heavens to reveal his son.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
— Romans 1:20

Strangers from the East arrive in Jerusalem, and they ask a specific and troubling question, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" This issue unsettled the entire city, and people were looking for answers. These foreigners explain that they saw the star of this king when it rose, and they had come to worship him. Herod was a king, but he was not a sovereign. He had been installed by the Romans, and his authority was limited. If the Jews had a king besides Herod, it meant that there was a threat to his position, and there was a threat of war. Herod assembles the religious leaders of the people and inquires about where the Christ would be born. This does not prove to be a difficult question fro the priests and scribes to answer because scripture was clear about the birthplace of Christ. Herod is paranoid and a murderer so he summons the wise men secretly and establishes a timeline for this event. He instructs the wise men to go and search diligently for this king and then send him word about his whereabouts so that he may join them in worship. They comply and make their way to Bethlehem. The star knows its creator and comes to rest over the dwelling place of Jesus. The wise men rejoiced. The journey had at last brought them to who they so desperately wanted to see– the king. Mary and Joseph have observed many miraculous things because of their son, and now they must be surprised to see strangers from the east arrive and worship their son. These men saw this promised king and they responded in worship and gave him gifts. After they complete their visit and ratify their longing eyes, they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and to travel home by a different route. 

The Exodus

The family is a dynamic environment, and this family had already encountered its share of difficulty: traveling while Mary was great with child, seeking a place to lodge, entertaining shepherds and registering for a census commanded by a foreign government are just some of the challenges this family has faced. God uses dreams in Joseph's life again to instruct and direct him. This dream contains the warning about an attempt on Jesus' life and the directive to leave for Egypt. This storyline reminds the reader of the exodus as baby boys were slaughtered and God would preserve and deliver his people. Joseph obeys immediately and leaves under cover of night. They stayed in Egypt and awaited word from God that it was safe for them to return home. God fulfills every prophecy and promise that he gives. Hosea had prophesied that God would call his son out of Egypt, and so he did. Herod learns that his plan to exploit the wise men has failed, and he takes matters into his own hands. He issues a  decree that all infants under two years were to be slaughtered in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This too fulfills what the Bible says in Jeremiah 31:15. After the death of Herod, an angel appears in a dream to Joseph and sends this young family to Nazareth, where Jesus will grow up. Matthew points out that this fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be a Nazarene.