To learn about the Magi, we have to go back to the time of Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made him chief over a group of wise men – called Magi – who studied the stars.
Many years later, descendants of this group are mentioned in the Scriptures. (Matt 2:1,2 NASB) Matthew records, “Now after Jesus was born … 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.’"
The Magi traveled a far distance, following a star directed by God that guided them to a house, probably in Nazareth. They humbly bowed before Jesus with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. While we aren’t exactly sure why these particular gifts were given, one possibility is that they might symbolize future positions Jesus would have as king, high priest and bridegroom.
Gold is rare and valuable – a perfect gift for a king. (Rev 17:14, English Standard Version) Referring to Jesus, Revelation says, “…for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Frankincense is a nice-smelling “resin,” or gummy substance, from special trees used to make incense and perfumes. The Israelite high priests used it, as God instructed, when they burned incense in the Jewish Tabernacle. Speaking of Jesus, Hebrews (Hebrews 4:15 NLT) says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.”
Myrrh is also a resin from special trees used in perfume, incense and medicine. In the book of Song of Solomon, myrrh is referred to often as picturing character qualities of Jesus as a Bridegroom and his faithful followers as a Bride, as they are about to be married. Speaking of Jesus as the Lamb, Revelation says, (Rev 19:7, International Standard Version) “Let us rejoice, be glad, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.”
So, who were the Magi? A group of faithful wise men from the East who were experts in studying the stars. Directed by God, they followed a special star to find the young Jesus, future Savior of the world. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
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