by James L. Noland
Note: Scripture references are taken from the King James Bible
Ever wonder why the three wise men didn’t just follow the star directly to the manger?
Well, let’s take a look at the King James Version of this story and see what really happened. Most of you know the story, so I am just going to concentrate on some of the details that many miss. If you don’t know the story, it can be found in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of
Galilee, named , to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. [Luke 1:26-27] Nazareth
After Gabriel spoke to Mary, she immediately left her family and home in
Nazareth and went to stay with her cousin in a small city of . Juda
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of
; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. [Luke 1:39] Juda
Elisabeth was in her sixth month and Mary stayed with her until Elisabeth delivered her child. Then Mary returned to her home in
. Mary is now at least in her third month of pregnancy. Nazareth
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. [Matthew 1:19]
At this point in the story, it is not hard to understand that by now, Mary’s pregnancy is known in Galilee,
Nazareth and Juda and more than likely in . Joseph was of the house and lineage of David and was probably born in Bethlehem . So Joseph, not wanting to make Mary a public example (Stoning required by Jewish law; see Deuteronomy 22) was planning to “put her away” (divorce her) privately. You must read more on the Jewish laws of fornication, espousal and divorce to fully understand. Bethlehem
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. [Matthew1:20]
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. [Matthew 1:24-25]
Now the story really gets interesting.
Because of the decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed in their own city, Joseph with his “espoused” wife went to
. Joseph and Mary had not yet had a Jewish marriage ceremony by a Rabbi and therefore are still not “married”. Bethlehem
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke2:7]
Now most of the world believes that because of the great crowds of people that were coming to
to be taxed there was “no room for them in the inn”. However, Bethlehem Bethlehem was a very small, off the beaten path community just six miles from with a very small population and did not have what we call today, inns, motels or hotels. The Greek word for “inn” is kataluma which means a “guest chamber” or “upper room”. Jerusalem
Most homes, greater than one or two rooms, had a “guest chamber” or “upper room” either at the center of the house or on the roof that was made available for visiting family or other guests.
Now let’s look at this phrase, “no room for them”. In the King James the phrase is “no room for them” in the Inspired Version of the New Testament the phrase is, “none to give room”.
Either way, if we look at the entire situation, Mary is pregnant by “fornication” in the eyes of Joseph’s family and peers, she should have been stoned to death according to Jewish law, and they were not looking to stay in a motel 8 but with family in a “guest chamber” or “inn”. No good Jewish family would allow a man to bring a “whore in her father's house” and bring shame and damnation to their home. So, No! You can’t stay here!
Evidently, some part of Joseph's family having sympathy for the condition Mary was in, agreed to let them stay in a manger, at least for the night. A manger was not the cute little wooden cradle with freshly cut hay we see in the movies or on Christmas cards, but was usually a part of an outer extension of the house, open to the elements, smelly and dirty with excrement, housing some of the family work animals. The manger also usually included a trough of some kind to feed the animals.
Now let’s see if we can understand who came to visit Jesus the night of his birth.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. [Luke 2:15]
Where are the “three wise men”? No mention of them here. No mention of “three wise men” anywhere in the book of Luke. Where are they?
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. [Matthew 2:1-2]
Please notice that this scripture does not say that the wise men came on the night Jesus was born. The scripture says that they came when Jesus was born in the days of Herod the king. Also notice that there is no mention of “three” wise men nor does the scripture say that they were following a star. Only that they have seen his star in the east. It stands to reason that if they were following a star at this time, they would follow it right to Christ and it would not be necessary to ask, where is he?
For now, let’s go back to the story of Jesus’ birth and see if we can understand what happened immediately after his birth.
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to
, to present him to the Lord; [Luke 2:21-22] Jerusalem
From this scripture we understand that 8 days passed since Jesus birth before circumcision could take place and Joseph and Mary were required by law to wait 33 days before they could present Jesus to the Lord in the
[See Leviticus 12:4-8]
As yet there is no mention of any wise men visiting with Jesus.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city
. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. [Luke 2:39-40] Nazareth
Now according to what we have read so far, Jesus was born in
Bethlehem, was circumcised on the 8th day, was presented to the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem sometime after 33 days and then Joseph and Mary returned to their home in with Jesus. Nazareth
And he came and dwelt in a city called
: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. [Matthew 2:23] Nazareth
No mention of wise men yet. Now let’s go back to their story.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. [Matthew 2:1-2]
We have already established that we do not know how many wise men came from the east and up to this point they have not followed but have only seen his star in the east. They must have know by the prophets what the star meant and that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem but obviously they did not know where he was at the time of this inquiry. We now know that he was not in
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all
with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [Matthew 2:3-7] Jerusalem
Now it is that both Herod and the wise men want to know, where is Jesus?
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. [Matthew 2:7-8]
Notice, Herod now sends the wise men to
. This is perhaps 2 years after Jesus is born. Bethlehem
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. [Matthew 2:9-12]
Wow! Isn’t this exciting! Now they begin following the star and where did it lead them? To
Nazareth where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were all living, in a house, not in a manger in . Bethlehem
And being warned of God in a dream that they [the wise men] should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Isn’t it exciting to learn the truth? The truth will set you free and answer all those unanswered questions that have be lingering in your mind for years.
My wife and I have a manger scene with the shepherds visiting Jesus and then across the room we have five wise men looking at a star, traveling toward Jerusalem/Bethlehem not knowing that the Lord will intervene and direct them to