How Did The Wise Men Know What The Star Meant? The Answer Is Really Interesting...

Matthew 2:1 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,

Have you ever wondered who those wise men were? How did they know about Jesus' birth? How did they know what the star meant? Well… the answers are pretty interesting.

The words “wise men” are translated from the word “magi” or, in this instance, “magoi”. This word and other evidence helps us locate their home country. Magi is an old Persian/Babylonian word (Thayer, BDAG). So since this region was east of Israel, and these men were called magi “from the east”, and Persia/Babylon had a long history with Israel, we can be fairly certain they were from the region now called Iraq and Iran.

The Background: Babylon was the country that defeated Judah in war and then took the defeated Jews back to Babylon as captives. Babylon later became part of the Persian empire. The captives carried their Bibles with them, and some of them became great men in the Babylonian government. The Jewish prophet Daniel, for instance, was powerful and famous while in captivity. He was one of the “wise men” of Babylon and was appointed the chief magistrate over all the wise men. Daniel 2:13; 2:48 Later the Persian king Cyrus gave the captive Jews liberty to return to Judah. Ezra 1:1-3

The prophecy of the star at the birth of Jesus is found in Numbers 24:17. The wise men who were looking for Jesus knew about this prophecy, so it is obvious that the Jewish Bible was kept by the wise men of this region after the Jews returned to Palestine. In their libraries the wise men would have had access to the works of the great Jewish wise man Daniel who prophesied of the coming Messiah, and other Jewish Holy Books. So the wise men looked for the new born King of Israel because they read it in the scriptures.

It was through the ministry of Daniel, and other captive Jewish scribes, that the well-educated scribe Ezra had the complete (up to that point in history) preserved Bible when he returned to Jerusalem with the other freed captives. Ezra 7:6, 10, 11, 12, 25, Nehemiah 8:1-8 Ezra had the Scriptures, so did the wise men, and so do we.

The presence of the wise men after the birth of Jesus supports the truth that the Book of Numbers predates the Babylonian captivity. This was a problem for modern skeptics who believed Numbers was written after the captivity. Other skeptics guessed that Daniel and the other Jewish scribes wrote the Book of Numbers, and the rest of the Old Testament, while in captivity to bolster the Jewish claim to Palestine. Then in 1979 a silver amulet was found in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem with Numbers 6:24-26 etched into the silver. This amulet predated the Babylonian captivity, and is clear extra-Biblical evidence that the Old Testament book of Numbers existed before the captivity... so there is now even more evidence that the Jews took the scriptures into captivity which centuries later led the wise men to Jesus.

The wise men searched for this new King because they believed the Bible, and their faith guided them to Jesus... the Bible will do the same today for those who follow the light of that prophetic star.


  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am working on advent curriculum and in the process wondered about the star and how the Magi knew what it represented. Very insightful! Particularly interesting since I am reading and teaching our CM about Daniel this month. The connection is very interesting. I appreciate all your research.

  2. Amen! Thank you for your insight and research!

  3. I'm sorry... I'm not content with this answer.
    There's just GOT to be more, and i wish somebody had more info!...
    They were astrologers...they knew the stars, and as you're saying, probably knew the scriptures well...but what would cause them to go miles and miles, following THIS star?..... I wish i could know, astronomically, what it's significance was.....

    1. There is a great DVD out there called "The Star of Bethlehem" by Frederick A. Larsen. You can purchase it at Amazon. Several DVDs have similar names, so choose wisely. Very interesting and thought-provoking. Larsen uses computerized star charts to go back to the time of Jesus' birth and explains what was going on in the sky at that time. At the very least, it shows the awesomeness of God's creation.

    2. If the wise men were astrologers and studied the stars then this new and magnificently bright star would have peaked their curiosity to no end and they would have remembered the Bible that Daniel and others had taught from and would have been consumed with desire to follow it.

  4. Am I correct that the Bible does not indicate how many magi (wise men) went to Jerusalem? and none indicating that they were kings? So it could have been a whole caravan of wise men, correct? or have I overlooked a specific reference? Thank you.

  5. The one thing that has always perplexed me, about the story of the Three wise men and the Star, is the Star is always referred to as the Star in the East. So if the Wise men also came from the East, Persia most likely (Modern day Iraq/Iran) and they followed the Star, how did they end up in Bethlehem West of Persia? They would be going in the opposite direction. To date, I've never seen this challenged or explained!

  6. Here is the explanation from the Greek Scholar Robertson and most scholars I have read follow the same line. "For we saw his star in the east (eidomen gar autou ton astera en tēi anatolēi). This does not mean that they saw the star which was in the east. That would make them go east to follow it instead of west from the east. The words “in the east” are probably to be taken with “we saw” i.e. we were in the east when we saw it, or still more probably “we saw his star at its rising” or “when it rose” as Moffatt puts it. The singular form here (tēi anatolēi) does sometimes mean “east” (Rev_21:13), though the plural is more common as in Mat_2:1. In Luk_1:78 the singular means dawn as the verb (aneteilen) does in Mat_4:16 (Septuagint)." This information is readily available in many Bible programs which have Greek commentaries. If you need one there is an excellent free down load at

  7. The star wasn't a comet or some burning ball of gas in space. It was a supernatural light that they followed. The scripture states that the star "...went... until it came... And stood above the house where the child was born". I don't know about you, but I've never actually been able to pinpoint a specific location, let alone a barn, by using a star because there is no way for us to do that unless that star were to come to our atmosphere and fly around like a bird with a mind of its own.



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