|The number of wise men is never given in Scripture. The traditional notion that there were three wise men stems from the number of gifts they brought. These were not kings but Magi, or astrologers from the east. Some say they came from the area of Persia. Why would Persian astrologers be interested in the birth of a Jewish Messiah? How would they even know about him? Their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel. Listen to what the Persians said about Daniel: “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him…He was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar…appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners” (Dan. 5:11). Where else or from who else would Magi from the east learn about the Messiah except from Daniel?
By the time the wise men arrived, Mary and Joseph were living in a house, not a stable—possibly two years had passed since Jesus’ birth, given that Herod, in an attempt to kill Jesus, had ordered the death of “all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16). The Magi found the holy family and presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh, gifts suitable for a king. After Herod’s decree, Mary and Joseph escaped with Jesus to Egypt, where during the next two years they perhaps lived off the income from their expensive gifts.
Why give myrrh to a child? It’s a sticky, gum resin from a shrubby tree and is used as a painkiller or an embalming fluid. Little did the Magi or Mary know that myrrh would figure into the last days of the Messiah’s life on earth: first, Jesus refused myrrh when it was offered him on the cross to deaden his pain (Mark 15:23), and then, after Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, Nicodemus wrapped it in seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloe (John 19:39).
Thank you for this lesson from your Word, Lord. Everything…fits!