Bible Stories for Adults

The Wise Men and Flight to Egypt

Matthew 2:1-23

Welcome and Announcements

    Next Week - The Boy Jesus Visits the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Opening Prayer

Matthew's Beginning (Matthew 1)
    What was Matthew's purpose in writing his gospel and who was his intended audience?
      Matthew 5:17
    How does Matthew's story of Jesus begin and give a transition between the Testaments?
      Matthew 1:1-2, 6, 16-17

    What story does Matthew begin with to introduce us to Jesus?
      Matthew 1:18-21, 24-25
    Why did Matthew include this story in his book showing Jesus as the promised Messiah?
      Matthew 1:22-23
    How many of the wonderful stories of Jesus' birth did Matthew find important to include?
      Matthew 2:1

"We Three Kings of Orient Are ..." (Matthew 2:1) - See song at end of lesson.
    How many Magi were there?
    What were their names?
    Were they kings?
    Where were they from?
    How old were they?
    What race or skin color were they?
    When did they show up?

Who Were the Magi?
    A caste of Zoroastrian priests originating in Persia 400-500 years before Jesus
      Spread by Jesus' time as far east as India & as far west as Arabia
    Interpreted dreams, acted as astronomers & astrologers, high moral principles
      Pursued knowledge (wise men), practiced magic (word derived from Magi)

Where Did the Magi Come From?
    Orient (Far East)
      Not accepted by scholars, disagrees with understanding of Magi
    Mesopotamia (Babylon)
      Babylon was the cradle of Middle Eastern astronomy
      Could have learned of Old Testament from Jews who stayed in Babylon after exile
      Frankincense & myrrh are native to Arabia, gold was once plentiful in Arabia
      Earliest claimed location by a church father (Justin Martyr)
        Refers to Ramah in Matthew 2:18 as Ramah in Arabia
    Persia (Iran)
      Word Magi & caste originated in Persia, early art shows Persian clothes
      Communities of Jews in Persia at Jesus' time
      Gold, frankincense & myrrh were traded & in good supply

The Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2)
    Why did the Magi from the east come to Jerusalem?
      Matthew 2:2
    How was this star a fulfillment of Messianic prophesy?
      Numbers 24:17
    Were the Jews really looking for a king?
      Jeremiah 23:5

What Was the Star?
    Aster - Greek word meaning any of a variety of celestial objects or phenomenon
      God often uses His created nature to produce His miracles
      Comets understood to announce significant events (deaths of Julius Caesar & Nero)
      Haley's comet was too early (12 BC)
    Nova ("New Star")
      Star would have exploded and no longer exist
    Planetary Conjunction
      Planets align on same celestial longitude and look like one bright star (pre-telescope)
      First proposed by Johannes Kepler in 17th century
        Traced planet movement backwards to show four potential conjunctions
          Saturn & Jupiter in May, October & December of 7BC
          Saturn, Jupiter & Mars in February of 6BC
        All 4 conjunctions were far enough apart to see separately with naked eye
    Supernatural Star
      Couldn't the God who created the world by speaking place a special star?
      Could the star have been a slight revelation of God's glory?

Herod's Paranoia (Matthew 2:3-8)
    Herod became King of the Jews in 40 BC
    Near the end of his life (died 4BC), Herod became paranoid about threats to his throne
      Even killed three of his sons & a wife because of perceived threat
    How would Herod feel about Magi looking for the one who has been born King of the Jews?
      Matthew 2:3
    Would Herod believe this long-promised Messiah would actually come at this time?
      Luke 3:15

    What information did Herod research first to be able to take care of this threat?
      Matthew 2:4
    Were the chief priests and teachers able to give him an answer?
      Matthew 2:5-6
    How did this later hinder some Jews from accepting Jesus as the promised Christ?
      John 7:40-43

    What was the second piece of information Herod wanted and how did he get it?
      Matthew 2:7
    What final tactic did Herod take to track down this new threat?
      Matthew 2:8

The Magi Meet Jesus (Matthew 2:9-12)
    How did God help the Magi find the King of the Jews they were looking for?
      Matthew 2:9
    Had the Magi been following yonder star like the song says?
      Matthew 2:10
    How did the Magi show their excitement when they found the child they were looking for?
      Matthew 2:11
      Note: House indicates they were no longer in the stable
    Did the Magi go back and report to Herod as instructed?
      Matthew 2:12

Significance of the Gifts (Matthew 2:11)
    Why did Matthew find it significant that the Magi presented gifts to Jesus?
      Psalm 72:10
    Why were these particular gifts significant?
      Isaiah 60:6
    What was significant about the gift of gold?
      1 Kings 10:2
    What was significant about the gift of frankincense?
      Psalm 141:2
    What was significant about the gift of myrrh?
      John 19:39-40

Epiphany (John 8:12)
    We celebrate the Magi's visit on the 12th day of Christmas (January 6) as Epiphany
      What does Epiphany mean?
    How does this name help remind us how this story fulfilled another Messianic prophesy?
      Isaiah 60:1-3
    In addition to the star, what light does this prophesy refer to?
      John 8:12

Herod's Back-up Plan (Matthew 2:13-18)
    What was Herod's "Plan B" when the Magi never returned to take him to the new king?
      Matthew 2:16
      Assuming Herod added a margin to the time from v7, Jesus probably around 1 yr old
    How did Herod's action fulfill another Messianic prophesy?
      Matthew 2:17-18
      Ramah was a town north of Jerusalem where Jews were assembled for exile

    How did God prevent Herod's action from interfering with His plan to save the world?
      Matthew 2:13-14
    How would this event help fulfill another Messianic prophesy?
      Matthew 2:15

Called Out of Egypt (Matthew 2:19-23)
    How long did the family stay in Egypt and what prompted them to return?
      Matthew 2:19-21
    Why didn't they return to their home in Bethlehem?
      Matthew 2:22
    How did this result in yet another fulfillment of Messianic prophesy?
      Matthew 2:23

Closing Prayer

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts; we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
Born a king on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom:
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.
Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Sounds through the earth and skies.

Copyright © 1997 by Kurt Rosenhagen

Use of this material is provided free of charge for use in personal or group Bible Study, no permission needed.
The author reserves all rights for use in published material or in uses where fees are involved.
For permission, or to provide your comments, insights and feedback, contact the author at:

Return to Bible Stories for Adults Home Page