24 Days of Advent Scripture Devotionals

Day 9 – A Clue For the Magi

Numbers 24:17

Prophet Balaam and the Donkey – Rembrandt

You may have heard of Balaam. He’s the guy who had a conversation with his donkey. You can read about it in Numbers 22. Balaam was hired by Balak, an enemy of Israel, to curse the people of God. Balaam should have had the sense to immediately reject the offer but he entertained it and the Lord used him anyway to turn Balak’s plan upside down. Truth is truth, even if the mouthpiece is imperfect just as that donkey spoke to Balaam, Balaam in his rebellion spoke this prophecy about the Messiah:

I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” – Number 24:17

Here we have another prophecy about a scepter (ruler) coming out of Israel, but what about the Star coming out of Jacob? Prophecy is often poetic and we could take this to be a metaphor like other names for the Messiah such as the “Bright and Morning Star”, “Sun of Righteousness” or the “Dayspring”.

But one group of science geeks from Persia took this literally. We know them as the Magi or the Wise Men and they believed that astronomical events always had some significance. But why would the Persian star gazers have even had this prophecy from the Hebrew scriptures on their radar? Could there be anyone who may have introduced the Hebrew scriptures to the Persian magicians and astronomers?

It was probably Belteshazzar, also known as the prophet Daniel. As a young man, Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians and instructed in all of their ways and customs. God used him to miraculously interpret the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar who made him the chief of his magicians and astronomers. I believe that the Torah (writings of Moses), wisdom books and other history books that we have in the Old Testament were brought to Babylon and became part of their library books. It is not documented, but I would guess that Daniel introduced this prophecy to the seers and that he knew that it spoke of the coming Messiah. Daniel himself wrote prophetically about the coming of the Son of Man (see Daniel chapters 7 and 9) and if anyone was paying attention to his prophecy of the seventy weeks they could have been able to estimate the time period when the Messiah would be born.

We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born but many scholars believe it was between 4 and 2 BC. There is evidence of astronomical conjunctions in 2 and 1 BC between the planets Jupiter and Venus and the star Regulus that would have been viewed as signs of a royal birth. The planet Jupiter “rose” in the East during September of 2 BC as seen from Persia and during the following months “traveled” across the sky to the West where there was a second conjunction with Regulus towards the direction of Judea. This very well could have been a sign to the Magi that they were to travel west to Jerusalem. Conjunctions between Venus, Jupiter and Regulus are common but it was a rarity that they would occur multiple times during the span of several months.

The gentile astronomers from the East were watching and were rewarded with being able to see with their own eyes, the star in the sky as well as the “Star” in the manger. Isn’t it interesting that most of the people of Israel were clueless in regards to the timing of Jesus’ birth but the Magi were watching and then obediently sought to worship the newborn King.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him. – Matthew 2:2

Hymn: There’s a Song in the Air

There’s a song in the air!
There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer
and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire
while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem
cradles a King!

There’s a tumult of joy
o’er the wonderful birth,
for the virgin’s sweet boy
is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire
while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem
cradles a King!

In the light of that star
lie the ages impearled;
and that song from afar
has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame,
and the beautiful sing
in the homes of the nations
that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light,
and we echo the song
that comes down through the night
from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely
evangel they bring,
and we greet in his cradle
our Savior and King!

Note: I used to make fun of old Slim Whitman’s greatest hits commercials when I was growing up. Here is my payback. LOL

About 24 Verses

24 Verses is a blog advent calendar with one verse of scripture per day from December 1 through December 24. Each day we will feature a verse of scripture related to the Messiah's birth, death and resurrection.

Use the navigation links in the sidebar to follow each day or look at scriptures from the different books of the Bible.