The Wise Men and Herod

In Matthew chapter 2 we read of the very different attitudes to the King of the Jews adopted by the wise men and Herod.

Note for example verses 1-3 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, Saying, 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.’

The wise men from the east came for to worship Jesus. Herod was troubled to hear of the birth of Christ. Notice in passing, the connection between the description of the Saviour by the wise men and that by Herod – King of the Jews and Christ. These are both titles attributable to the Lord Jesus alone.

The wise men are led to seek the King of the Jews by a remarkable star they have seen in the heavens in their own land. They are willing to come a great distance not just to see the Saviour – but to worship Him. Interestingly, they first come to Jerusalem, and from there, as a result of the confirmation from scripture that Bethlehem is to be the place of the birth of Christ, they proceed to Bethlehem, where the star reappears in confirmation of the scripture prophecy!

When they come into the house they worship the young child. Note – not Mary – what a rebuke to the practice of Rome which exalts Mary worship! They offer gifts in recognistion of the dignity of the One they worship – He is the Christ. Three prominent gifts are presented – gold, frankincense and myrrh. In his commentary, Matthew Henry suggests the following ‘Some think there was a significancy in their gifts; they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute…frankincense, as God, for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, as a Man that should die, for myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies.’ What is certain, is they honoured and reverenced the Lord Jesus Christ, even as a young child.

How very different was the attitude of Herod the king. This wicked man felt strangely threatened by the news of the birth of the Christ. He ought to have rejoiced in such news for it was good news, as told by the angel to the shepherds already (see Luke 2). But, as a proud and evil man, he did not rejoice. He was bent on the destruction of the young child. In spite of the wonderful light he enjoyed he sought to slay Jesus. He had the benefit of the light of scripture as announced to him by the leaders of the Jews (from Micah 5:2) and the example of diligent an reverent inquiry from the wise men of the east. Alas, all was lost on him. His attitude to Jesus was one of rejection. He despised and rejected the Christ of God.

Which attitude is ours? Have we the attitude of faith and love to Christ, or unbelief and rejection? Let us heed the Word of God:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts of the Apostles 4:12)

G B Macdonald


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