“I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel…” ~Numbers 24:17
A Star out of Jacob. This remarkable prophecy of Balaam anticipates by over 1400 years the fact that the One who would one day hold the sceptre (symbolic of kingly rule) over all men (the children of Seth, the faithful son of Adam) would arise out of Israel, and be announced to the world by a new Star displayed in the heavens for those who had eyes to see.
Dr. Henry M. Morris states, “Magi (priestly scholars), especially those in Babylon and Persia (where the influence of Daniel, as well as Mordecai and Esther) had been profound and long-lasting, would surely be familiar with this prophecy and also the various prophecies of Daniel (who had been the most respected of the “wise men” at the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus? note Daniel 2:45 ; 6:28).
“Some of the Magi may even have been Jews in religion, if not in ethnicity. At the time of God’s great deliverance of the Jews in Persia during the days of Queen Esther, it was recorded that “many of the people of the land became Jews” (Esther 8:17). This event in itself would constrain many of the Persian members of the Magi at that time to study the Jewish sacred books, especially the Messianic prophecies of Daniel. This lore would have become a key part of the Magi’s traditional learning, handed down generation after generation, even to the time of Christ.
“Among these Danielic prophecies, of course, given during the reign of Darius the Mede, was the great prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” which revealed that the Messiah would come as Prince of Israel 483 years after the Persian emperor gave the commandment to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24,25). It would easily be possible for the Persian Magi, as the promised date came near, to put these prophecies of Balaam and Daniel together, and thus be watching for “His star” to appear.
“These wise men (or Magi) were of great eminence in the Parthian Empire at that time, and it is unlikely that the caravan from the East consisted of only three men.
The Journey of the Magi, by DorÉ
“They more likely had a large entourage as they came searching for the future King of Israel, so it was small wonder that “all Jerusalem” was “troubled,” along with King Herod (Matthew 2:3). The Parthians (i.e., Persians) had never been conquered by the Romans and at that very time were posing a significant threat along the eastern boundary of the extended Roman Empire.
The Magi in the House of Herod, by James Tissot
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” ~Matthew 2:11
“When they found the young child and His mother in Bethlehem, the Magi “fell down, and worshiped him”. But why did they offer Him just three gifts–and why these three gifts?
“Somehow they seemed to have sensed, possibly from meditating deeply on the ancient prophecies of Balaam (Numbers 24:17), Daniel (in Daniel 9:24-26), and David, concerning the priesthood order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4) that this young child whose birth had been announced by a star was destined not only to be the King but would also become the Messianic Sacrifice to “make reconciliation for iniquity” (see Daniel 9:24, 26) and then eventually become our eternal High Priest who “ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Thus, the gold would acknowledge His right to reign, the frankincense would speak of the incense to be offered in the heavenly tabernacle, and the myrrh (John 19:39) would testify that His crucified body would be so anointed as it entered the tomb for a very temporary burial. HMM…”
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi , 1423
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” ~Micah 5: 2
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi (full size), 1423
“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the MORNING STAR rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” ~1 Peter 1:19-21 (emphasis mine)
Thanks for reading!