I started reading through the book of Matthew again recently, and in Matthew 2, it talks about the three wise men (or magi in some translations) that came from the East. Something I’ve heard and read many times, but I got to thinking, why was it a star?
1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2Saying, 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
It’s also mentioned again in verses 9 and 10:
9When 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.
10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.Matthew 2:9, 10
Why did they see a star? What does a star mean according to the Bible?
I did a bit of hunting with E-Sword and found some interesting verses to help answer the question.
What does a star represent in the Bible?
25Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god— which you made for yourselves.
27Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.Amos 5:25-27
According to Amos, a star can represent a god.
40They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’
41That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made.
42But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.Acts 7:40-43
New Testament confirmation that a star can indeed represent a god.
1 Corinthians 15:41
39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
Glory varies and comes in different shapes and sizes. In verse 41, one star is different from another in glory. If we think of stars in the sky, it’s clear that some are brighter and more brilliant than others. So if a star is a representation, or a symbol of a god, then it seems that not all gods are equal in glory.
1 Peter 2:19
12Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
13Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
14Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
15Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
16For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Something referred to as the day star can arise in our hearts, and when it does, it’s like a light that shines into a dark place and allows us to have a greater understanding of the Bible and prophecy in particular.
18And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28And I will give him the morning star.
29He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The morning star can be given, according to verse 26, to the people who live according to God’s will (in the NIV the wording is “does my will to the end“).
16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.“
So Jesus is the self-proclaimed Morning Star.
With this in mind, it seems to me to be reasonable to assume that the star the wise men, the magi, saw would have have been brilliant, glorious star outshining all of the other stars and probably would have been visible both day and night.
Further thoughts and passages of interest
There are some other interesting verses to note as well in the Bible relating to stars, however rather than being in the context of Jesus and God, they are referring to angels in general (Job 38:7) and to Lucifer/Satan, even to the extent where in Isaiah 14:12 he is also referred to as a morning star in some translations. The King James Version simply refers to Lucifer as the son of the dawn in this verse, the NIV though refers to him as both a morning star and a son of the dawn.
In Hebrew, it is a bit different again. Note that I don’t actually know Hebrew, so I am going off of the meanings of Hebrew words provided by Strong’s Concordance. The way I understand it is that in Hebrew, this verse simply says: “How did you fall from the sky son of dawn?”. There is one other word in there in Hebrew though between sky and son, in Hebrew according to Strong’s Concordance it is pronounced “Hay-lale”. According to Strong’s, it is based on the Hebrew word which is pronounced “haw-lal”. This word, according to Barnes Commentary and Strong’s Concordance means “to shine”. My understanding based on Strong’s is that haylale in essence is star, thus the sentence would read “How did you fall from the sky, Star, son of dawn?” I have capitalised star as it is used as a pronoun in this sentence. If it is dawn as this verse indicates, then it is a morning star as well.
Anyway, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent there and I’m already well past the conclusion! I would like to look further into where this leads, so I’ll write another blog at some point continuing on from this one, and if it goes where I think it’s going, it will be quite interesting!