The Magnificent Magi

The Magnificent Magi and the Prophecies of Daniel
or
How God Uses the Foolish Things of the World to Shame the Wise

The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. Daniel 1:19-20
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1–2
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27

How did the dumbest men on earth become the wisest? That is the real question the Magi poses. People get hung up on what the star. Was it an alignment of planets? Was it something completely supernatural? Who knows, and no one has a good answer. But the bigger question should be how can the men who couldn’t answer Nebuchadnezzar’s dream take a key role in the birth of the biggest star the world has ever seen: the Lord Jesus the Christ?
The simple answer to that question is the Prophet Daniel told them. But, why? Why would God speak to non-Jews to reveal the greatest event in human history? The simple answer to that question is that when people who think they know it all really seek God, God has a way of wising them up.
There is some “law” that states the simplest answer is the best and truest answer. Think on this. Here is Daniel, in the lion’s den, eating a kosher diet, his friends walking around the firey furnace, then joined by a Fourth, having special rewards and position above all the locals who have been mugging for the camera for their entire lives. If I had a twinge of jealousy or I hope intellectual curiosity, I would like to find out what makes these guys special and willing to risk their lives.
These incredible adventures meant something to the Magi. Usually, when God shows Himself to a new group of people, He does so by showing His superiority over their “gods.” So, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the firery furnace, it wasn’t because it was a handy location because they were making pottery. No, they were to be a sacrifice to their “god.” But, of course, God showed his superiority by including Himself in the sacrifice (sound familiar?) which astounded the magi. A principle element of magian worship was fire, and on their primary altar burned a perpetual flame, which they claimed descended from heaven.
Because God interceded and came to the rescue of the Daniel and his friends, Daniel, in turn, was able to plead for the life of the magi who could not interpret the king’s dream. (Daniel 2:24) So now, God sets Daniel up to be able to teach the magi the word of God. Daniel was appointed “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) Daniel was so highly respected and probably people saw the effects of the Hebrew God over their idols that the king was talked into throwing Daniel into the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:4-9)
Don’t forget the influence of Queen Esther and Mordecai in the book of Esther. (Esther 1:13,19) Because many Jews remained in Babylon after the Exile and intermarried with the people of the east, it is likely that Jewish messianic influence remained strong in that region even until New Testament times when this new generation of magi sprung up searching for the Messiah.
What Did the Magi Know and when Did they know it?

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This is hard to say, except to assume they probably did not have scripture past Daniel’s encounter initially, then, as the scribes traveled to the east, they may have brought then the other prophetic books.
When they studied the Hebrew Scriptures they found a clear prophetic truth.
“A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Numbers 24:17
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel.” Micah 5:2
Probably the most notable truth is the famous Seventy Weeks of Daniel regarding the appearance of the Messiah (see Daniel 9:24-26) and came to the conclusion that His coming was near.
“Seventy weeks of years, or 490 years are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city Jerusalem, to finish and put an end to transgression, to seal up and make full the measure of sin, to purge away and make expiation and reconciliation for sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint a holy of holies. Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the coming of the anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks of years, and sixty-two weeks of years; it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublesome times. And after the 62 weeks of years, shall the anointed one be cut off (killed) and shall have nothing and no one belonging to and defending Him…” Daniel 9:24-26
What Does Daniel’s Prophecy Mean?

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Combined with prophecy in Micah and Numbers, the Magi now have an idea of when the Savior was to appear. To me, it is hard to say if they were expecting a baby or someone older. The prophecies merely talk about someone being born, not necessarily how old they would be upon discovery.
I am not the first person to suggest the Magi were students of the prophecies of the Old Testament, especially, Daniel, but it makes sense. If they were, then the gifts brought to the Babe makes sense also. So what then would the Seventy Weeks tell them?
The first seven weeks or 49 years is the account of the Jewish pilgrimage to rebuild Jerusalem following King Artaxerxes’ decree. The prophet Nehemiah assumed charge of this rebuilding effort, which was carried out in such extreme danger that the builders carried swords with them. This fulfilled precisely the prophecy in verse 25,”…it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublesome times.” The rebuilding began in 445 BCE and finished in 396 BCE, exactly 49 years.
The second period or 62 weeks of years, 434 years is the preparation for the coming king. Daniel 9:26 tells us that the “anointed One” would come after this period and would then be killed or “cut off suddenly.” This refers to the Lord Jesus Christ’s offices as Messiah and King. In my opinion this was his His baptism and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem later known as Palm Sunday. When did Palm Sunday occur? The Messiah came to Jerusalem on Passover April 6, the year 32 C.E.
For those of you who are numbers nerds, that’s 7 + 62 = 69 weeks of years, or 483 Jewish years, or 173,880 days. And it gets better!
March 14, 445 BCE to April 6, 32 C.E. is 477 years, 24 days. Then deduct one year because only one year lapses between 1 BCE and 1 C.E. This then is 476 years, 24 days or 173,764 days.
Then, add 119 days to account for the 119 leap years during these 476 years (476 divided by 4). That is now 173,883 days. It gets even better!
The Julian calendar and the Jewish solar year does not perfectly align. The Royal Observatory in London calculates that a Julian year is 1/128th of a day longer than the Jewish solar year. When you multiply 476 years times 1/128, you get three days. Subtracting three from the figure above, you arrive at the 173,880 days!
Therefore, there are exactly 69 weeks of years (173,880 days) between the decree of King Artaxerxes in 445 BCE to rebuild Jerusalem to Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 C.E..!! God told everyone – even the Magi – the day when Messiah would present Himself to Israel as their Messiah and King. (Matthew 21:1-11).
But what about the last seven day week? The Lord Jesus the Christ was crucified at the end of the 69th week. At the end of the 70th week, Jesus shall return to the Mount of Olives after He destroys the armies of the Antichrist at Bozrah and Petra. He shall return to the one-third the Jews who remains (Zechariah 13:8-9) and they shall receive Him as Israel’s Messiah.
Therefore, God told to Daniel the exact day the Messiah announced Himself as King. The learned Magi knew of Daniel’s prophecy and trusted him. Knowing when the Messiah would be announced, the Magi could back track and speculate when the Child would be born. If the Messiah was to announce Himself in the year 32 C.E. he would have to born “now.” Were the Magi also looking for a heavenly sign? Probably. And the star in the appeared for them to follow.
And the rest is history. The dumbest guys wound up being the wise guys.
One lesson we need to learn from Daniel is that Yahweh is a God of action. He stands ready to show his superiority over the idols of your life or “god” of the unsaved. Again, when God is ready to introduce Himself to a group of unbelievers in the Bible, He usually conquers or destroys their sacred cow. The God of Daniel showed His superiority over the fire god of the Babylonians by preserving the prophets in the firery furnance. But we don’t do that in America. When we try to introduce God to an unbeliever by reason. “This is why you need God: for better living, better friends, better school for your children.” When an evangelist goes to Africa, the people there want to see the blind healed, the lame walk and evil spirits destroyed. The great English theologian John R.W. Stott once said that America is the only place Christianity can get away with preaching a cerebral Jesus.
So God makes wise the simple. God has a long way to go with educating me about His ways. The Magi also taught me a lesson about the difference between worship, praise, gifts and offerings.

The Real Lineage of Prince Jesus

The Families of Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and the Birth of Prince Jesus (Isaiah 9:6,7)

or

The Benefits of Being Poor and Persecuted

 

Out of the stump of David’s family  will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. Isaiah 11:1

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

 

Growing up, I got the idea from many pastors and teachers I knew that Joseph and Mary were just two poor Jews living around Jerusalem in mud huts until all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit intervened. Nothing could be further from the truth! I did not know that they were Davidian royalty and they had connections to Herod and to the Sanhedrin.

Researcher David Hughes’ book the “British Chronicles” has an excellent well-researched section on the ancestry of the Lord Jesus the Christ, which helped me gain a fuller idea of what was happening in Jerusalem during the first century. Another good book on the subject is “The Elite Knighthood” by Brian Daniel Star. So what was the family of Joseph and Mary really like?

Their lives would make a great secular movie full of politics, power and perversion. The motivations of people then are the same as they are today. I want to pass along three points. The Politics: Herod the Great, the local ruler, had to keep the rebellious Jews in line to keep his throne. The Power: The Jewish rulers wanted to please the Herod to keep their power because they were not entitled to it by heredity. Therefore, The Perversion, they colluded with the Romans to kill off or persecute the rightful heirs who happened to be the house and the lineage of King David.

Once I got this straight in my head, the nativity story grew more real and alive in my soul than ever before. I never understood how many people were related to each other.

The Politics

To keep the Jews in line, Herod the Great wished to marry a Jewish Princess. Even today, powerful families intermarry to insure a certain amount of domestic tranquility and loyality. This was no different with Herod. The problem was that she was not recognized royalty. The House and the Lineage of David was quite polluted with foreign blood because of the Babylonian captivity. But, because of the fact the scripture requires a minimum of 10 generations and because the lineage of Kings is passed down through the father, the Sanhedrin recognized that part of the lineage of King David.

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Herod the Great

Miriamme was the wife of Prince Jacob ben Mattan from about 23 to 30 BCE. She was also wed to her second husband High Priest of Israel Simon IV Boethus, and lastly, to the King of the Jews, Herod the Great. What caught Herod’s eye the most, in addition to the link to the Jews, was the fact her mother was THE Cleopatra of Egypt. When she was brought to this area by Rome, she was given to Prince Jacob was the most prominent “eastern prince” in the around and Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Herod killed of Prince Jacob, but not before she had three sons Prince Joseph who was born about 29 BCE, and twin boys Ptolas and Clopas in 26 BCE. So politics makes strange bedfellows, Herod’s second wife was Prince Jesus’ earthly grandmother! It is not known how Prince Jacob’s first wife, Eucharia, died. Prince Joseph’s Uncle Clopas scholars think is the same person whom the Lord Jesus the Christ is talking to on the road to Emmaus.

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them…Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” Luke 24:13

The Power 

The real power in keeping both Rome and the ruling Jews content was to keep the real contenders for the throne and the temple under control. As most Christians know, the church wields a lot of informal if not informal power. To keep the current crop of Chief priests in office who were put in place my the previous Jewish dynasty, they had to collude with Herod (or the current ruler) to keep the descendants of King David in line, even if they had to kill them, or persecute them. That is what happened to both Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.

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The Sanhedrin 

The family of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, came from a family of royal Davidian princes. In contrast, Mary’s family was from a family dynasty of priests. Equally regal and powerful, they carried the mantle of spiritual power, while Prince Joseph’s family carried the regal mantle of temporal power. For many rulers in the middle east, spiritual power was more effective than the political power because it motivated people at an emotional level.

Princess Mary, was born to Prince Heli and Hannah, about the year of 20 or 19 BCE. Mary, was a Davidian on her father’s side, and a Zadokian priest heiress on her mother’s. Mary, means “bitter.” She was named that for a reason. Her father, Heli, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince, called Alexander III “Helios”, was apparently executed circa 15 BCE, by King Herod the Great to shore up his claim to both the throne and the temple. Her mother a few years later also died from disease. To add to her sorrow, her grandfather, High Priest Yeshua III, was executed in 23 BCE, for “sedition” against Herod the Great. The orphaned young woman was placed in the temple within the Order of the Temple-Virgins until she was eligible for marriage about the year of her bat Mitzvoth at 12-13 years of age
The Perversion

The upshot of all this is that the royal lineage of King David was perverted into poverty and persecution. Prince Joseph and Princess Mary were denied their legal and heredity rights as the head of the Jewish nation. Remember what satan does, he comes but to kill, steal and destroy. So it was with newlyweds Prince Joseph and Princess Mary who lived in the shadow of the splendid temple, but in reality started out life in poverty and shame, bearing a child before the official betrothal period ended.

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Prince Joseph and Princess Mary on their way to Bethlehem

I’m sure at the time it was devastating to them. But, God used this perversion of justice, not just to fulfill scripture, but for our benefit 2000 years later.

 

 

 

So what does this all mean for me?  Think on these things.

Points to ponder:

  • If Mary hadn’t come a family of priests, would she so quick to understood the significance of the Angel who asked her to be the world’s most blessed woman? (Luke 1:28) Remember, her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a miraculous baby, too, but her husband balked at the idea.
  • Because they were poor and often in hiding from the government they were able to fulfill prophecy.
  • If they had money, they would not have a problem getting room in the inn. (Luke 2:7) I really think that it was not an issue of over-crowding, but because of lack of money. If their relatives were not killed off, there would be people in Bethlehem to receive them and Jesus wouldn’t have been born in a stable.
  • If they had power and influence, the shepherds would not have come to them. (Luke 2:8) They wouldn’t be let in their wealthy home. Because they were poor, perhaps in hiding, the shepherds could come and appreciate the Lord in a manger.
  • If they had power and influence, the Magi would have known from the rulers in Jerusalem where the Christ child was. (Matthew 2:1) Instead, they were poor and in a modest home in Nazareth, and the Star had to guide them.
  • The tragically, because they were poor and perhaps in hiding, the Herod the Great did not know where the Prince Joseph and Princess Mary was. Therefore they had the toddlers killed off all over the area.
  • Because they were afraid of the continued legitimate bloodline being born, the Sanhedrin did not warn the people of the impending slaughter of the children. But the Angel of God warned the Magi not to go home the way they came because, I’m sure, they would have been captured and tortured to find the location of the Christ Child. (Matthew 2:12)
  • Since they were poor and for certain in hiding now, they used the gifts of the Magi to finance their journey and stay in Egypt. (Matthew 2:13) They went to Egypt, yes to fulfill scripture, but both Mary and Joseph had ancestors there. Remember that Cleopatra woman.
  • Now somewhat out of danger now that Herod was dead, they could return home. But Mary and Joseph had spent their endowment in Egypt. Mary had to bring two turtledoves to for Jesus’ dedication at the temple because they were still poor. (Luke 2:24)

The Real Lineage of Prince Jesus

The Prince, the Princess and the People Problem
or
How the House and the Lineage of David Almost Died Off

The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.             Galatians 4:4
The Jews had a problem. So did Mary’s family. So did Joseph’s family. So did the Chief Priest and Scribes. Which in turn gave the Roman rulers a problem. Which ultimately made it God’s problem.

What was the problem? Legitimate heirs. Some Christians are not aware of this fact: the five different branches of the family line of David the King was about to die out! Which meant that no one could legitimately occupy the royal throne of King David. That was a problem that couldn’t easily be fixed.

When your very existence as a Jew or a ruler of the Jews is wrapped up in your earthly heritage, you gotta make sure you leave some acceptable heirs around. This was the crushing issue the generation before the Lord Jesus Christ was birthed on this earth.

So what? Every Bible study and sermon boils down to “so what?” God promised to King David in 2 Samuel 7: 11-13 that his family line would be established forever. The last members of the Davidic family was dead or did not have an acceptable heir. This had major political implications not just for Mary and Joseph, but for the High Priest. These implications are the reasons why the rulers of the Jews hated Jesus and wanted Him dead. Also, the reason why people wanted Jesus as their king. If you understand the real world predicament the Jews were in just prior to the first century, you will rejoice to know what “in the fullness of time” really means (Galatians 4:4).

The genealogies of Jesus to the modern-day reader is irrelevant. You can play the numbers game of fourteen generations here and there. And you can see there are some black sheep in the family. But the real meaning to the Jews was they had to have legitimate heirs if they were to continue to be the dominate religion and hold on to power against the Romans.

The best $10 I ever spent in ministry is hanging behind my desk. It is a 38X68 inch poster with the genealogy of the Adam and Eve, 12 tribes of Israel all the way down to Joseph and Mary all with scripture references.

mary-mother-of-jesus-cropped7Joseph’s Problem

When you look at it, you can see the problem right away. Joseph’s side of the family coming from King Solomon, is a mess of arrows and parenthesis pointing to various non-direct descendants because of political intrigue and sordid affairs. The biggest problem resulting from that is there is no direct descendant from King David. Other family lines must then be factored in by the scribes. Joseph’s side of the family was really a combination of some five ancestral lines which was corrupted by various non-Jews. That made them legally ineligible for ruling and in some cases ineligible to be a Jew at all.

Joseph’s family was the kingdom in exile. His great-great grandfather several times over, King Jeconiah and others were the carried off to captivity in Babylon. King Jeconiah’s family was cursed so that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of Israel.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.'” Jeremiah 22:28–30

If there was a time when satan and his angels in hell were giving each other high-fives this would be the time. God just cursed His own people and King David’s family line! In exile, King Jeconiah’s family inter-married. Joseph’s family line was corrupted and cursed. What to do?

Mary’s Problem

Mary, though, is a clean line all the way from a son of King David named Prince Nathan. Mary’s problem was that there was no male heir from her side of the family. Mary’s womb was barren and was going to be for the foreseeable future.

This is why, in my opinion, Mary got her name. Mary, is the English derivation of the root word “mara” which means bitter. But how could the woman who found favor with God, who rejoiced in having God the Saviour, represent bitterness? Because her family line was about to die out. Her family is bitter. Has God forgotten His promise? Perhaps her father Helio wanted a boy. But that wasn’t going to happen. To complicate matters further, her father was dead. There was no one to speak for her or arrange a marriage. She became a ward of the temple.  What to do?

King Herod’s Problem and the Sanhedrin Problem

sanhedrin2King Herod wanted to marry a Jewish princess Mariamme who was part of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty. The problem was that she wasn’t a real Jewish princess from recognized line of King David. Mariamme just happened to be part of the despised line of King Jeconiah which was corrupted by the foreign blood of Babylonians, Persians and Greeks. But, she was part of the family of the Hasmoneans (and later the Maccabeans) who put the Sanhedrin in power. But, because her family line was so corrupt, they had to meet to legally recognize it.

So the Sanhedrin reasoned. In one way you can say the blood line was cursed and corrupt. In another way, you can say that the blood of Persian emperors ran through his veins. That is they way the scribes wanted to look at it. Ezra, determined centuries before that to be a Jew, your mother had to be Jewish. And, you could not enter the assembly of the people for 10 generations if you had a corrupt blood line. (Deuteronomy 23:3) So they agreed there were enough Jewish mothers for Mariamme to be a princess.

So the Sanhedrin legitimized the her family line which included Joseph. For the ruling Jews, this solved several problems. First, the marriage gave the Sanhedrin credibility with Herod and cemented their continued service in the temple. Second, for Herod, that marriage would hopefully keep the rebellious Jews under control.

The Sanhedrin really hated to legitimize her family line because that showed they were not the true hereditary rulers of the Jews. The Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus were illegitimate rulers of the Jews and the temple. To show how illegitimate they were, Mariamme’s only brother, Aristobulus III was made the high priest of the temple. Therefore they were not direct descendants of King David or the hereditary High Priest families of Zadok or Levi.

This also solved another problem that Joseph and Mary had. It made them a legitimate prince and princess!

 

God’s Problem

But God still had a problem. He made a promise. He said that there would always be someone to sit on the throne of King David. But how was that to be? He cursed King Jeconiah and the family line was corrupted. In the natural, the lineage of David was over. Mary’s side which was called “Rhesiate” line and Joseph’s side was called “Abiud” line. Mary had no viable male heirs and Joseph’s side was fractured. In addition, heirs of the house and lineage of King David have been murdered and persecuted into poverty and obscurity. What to do? But bitter Mary found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Luke 1:30) This is why Isaiah said:

“Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:1

birthSo “when the fullness of time had come,” when the last man and woman of the house and lineage of David needed a miracle heir to carry on the family name, God provided. God supernaturally intervened in the life of a Mary and Joseph and produced an heir. Jesus was born from the first “artificial” insemination in history.

Three learning points about the lineage of Jesus.

First, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin not just because He was the Son of God and performed miracles. He was a threat because He was a legitimate heir to the Throne of David, and the Sanhedrin were not. This is why Jesus had a royal purple robe with Him at the crucifixion, a seamless robe so beautiful the Roman guards decided not to tear it, but gamble for it.

Second, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin because He survived the massacre of the innocents. Remember, the Sanhedrin themselves legitimized Joseph’s and Mary’s bloodline. This royal blood continued to survive in Jesus threatening their relationship with Herod (remember the illegitimate Mariamme Herod’s second wife?) Did you ever wonder why the Sanhedrin didn’t warn the parents of the toddlers who were slaughtered by the Romans? They needed Jesus dead so the Davidic lineage would die.

Third, we as western Christians need to elevate the Lord Jesus Christ in our teachings in church to His full honor as Prince. Not just in heaven, but Prince Jesus on earth, the Prince of Peace. Prince Jesus was born full fledged royalty. Ezra the scribe decreed four hundred years before the nativity, long before anyone would believe that the house and lineage of David would be on the verge of extinction, that you were a Jew if your mother was a Jew. In the nativity narrative, we are dealing with Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and Prince Jesus. But most Christians have never been taught that.

Problem solved!

So now, as Paul Harvey would say, and know, you know the rest of the story.