Teacher Notes

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 = Show Jesus as the fulfillment of God's promised Messiah; Jews
    How does Matthew's story of Jesus begin and give a transition between the Testaments?
      Matthew 1:1-2, 6, 16-17 = Traces Jesus' legal genealogy from Abraham & David

    What story does Matthew begin with to introduce us to Jesus? = Jesus - Greek for Joshua
      Matthew 1:18-21, 24-25 = Angel tells Joseph to marry Mary, child is God's
    Why did Matthew include this story in his book showing Jesus as the promised Messiah?
      Matthew 1:22-23 = It directly fulfilled a key Messianic prophesy (Isaiah 7:14)
    How many of the wonderful stories of Jesus' birth did Matthew find important to include?
      Matthew 2:1 = Starts after Jesus was born; others not key prophesy fulfillments

"We Three Kings of Orient Are ..." (Matthew 2:1) - See song at end of lesson.
    How many Magi were there? = Doesn't say; legend says 3 because of 3 gifts
    What were their names? = Doesn't say; legend calls them Gaspar, Balthasar & Melchior
    Were they kings? = Doesn't say; probably not
    Where were they from? = Only says the east; legend says Orient, Babylon, Persia, Arabia
    How old were they? = Doesn't say; legend says 1 young, 1 middle aged, 1 elderly
    What race or skin color were they? = Doesn't say; legend shows yellow, black & white
    When did they show up? = Doesn't say directly; legend implies within days

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) = Most widely accepted
      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 = We saw his star ... and have come to worship him (King of Jews)
    How was this star a fulfillment of Messianic prophesy?
      Numbers 24:17 = A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter ...
    Were the Jews really looking for a king?
      Jeremiah 23:5 = A King who will reign wisely

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 = He was upset; Jerusalem disturbed by potential revolution
    Would Herod believe this long-promised Messiah would actually come at this time?
      Luke 3:15 = Yes, the people were waiting expectantly

    What information did Herod research first to be able to take care of this threat?
      Matthew 2:4 = Where this Messiah (Christ) was to be born
    Were the chief priests and teachers able to give him an answer?
      Matthew 2:5-6 = Yes, they quoted Micah 5:2 to show it was Bethlehem
    How did this later hinder some Jews from accepting Jesus as the promised Christ?
      John 7:40-43 = Didn't know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, only knew Galilee

    What was the second piece of information Herod wanted and how did he get it?
      Matthew 2:7 = Child's age, Secretly asked the Magi when they first saw the star
    What final tactic did Herod take to track down this new threat?
      Matthew 2:8 = Sent the Magi to Bethlehem and told them to report back

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 = Moved the star to where it seemed to point to Jesus' house
    Had the Magi been following yonder star like the song says? = Overjoyed to see it again
      Matthew 2:10 = No, they had seen it back home, then not again until Bethlehem
    How did the Magi show their excitement when they found the child they were looking for?
      Matthew 2:11 = They worshipped Him, Gave gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh
      Note: House indicates they were no longer in the stable
    Did the Magi go back and report to Herod as instructed?
      Matthew 2:12 = No, God sent them home another way

Significance of the Gifts (Matthew 2:11)
    Why did Matthew find it significant that the Magi presented gifts to Jesus?
      Psalm 72:10 = Fulfilled prophesy that "kings" will present Him gifts
    Why were these particular gifts significant? = Sheba was in southwest Arabia
      Isaiah 60:6 = Fulfilled prophesy of worshippers from Sheba bearing gold & incense
    What was significant about the gift of gold? = All 3 were very expensive
      1 Kings 10:2 = Gold was a gift for a king - Jesus was King
    What was significant about the gift of frankincense? = white/yellowish gum, burns sweet
      Psalm 141:2 = Frankincense was for God - Jesus was God, great high priest
    What was significant about the gift of myrrh? = red gum used as incense & in burial oils
      John 19:39-40 = Jesus buried in myrrh - Jesus would die for mankind's sins

Epiphany (John 8:12)
    We celebrate the Magi's visit on the 12th day of Christmas (January 6) as Epiphany
      What does Epiphany mean? = Shining forth
    How does this name help remind us how this story fulfilled another Messianic prophesy?
      Isaiah 60:1-3 = Arise, shine, ... nations will come to your light
    In addition to the star, what light does this prophesy refer to?
      John 8:12 = I am the light of the world - Jesus came for all people

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 = He killed all boys around Bethlehem 2 yrs old or less
      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? = Jeremiah 31:15 quoted
      Matthew 2:17-18 = Rachel (Jacob's wife) buried at Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19)
      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 = God told Joseph to take Jesus & M to Egypt (funded by gifts?)
    How would this event help fulfill another Messianic prophesy? = Hosea 11:1 quoted
      Matthew 2:15 = Later called out of Egypt - Jesus' life paralleled Israel's history

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 = God called them out after Herod died (Joseph's 3rd vision)
    Why didn't they return to their home in Bethlehem? = Archelaus began by killing 3000
      Matthew 2:22 = Joseph warned in another dream to avoid Judea (Archelaus rule)
    How did this result in yet another fulfillment of Messianic prophesy? = Num 6 on Nazirite
      Matthew 2:23 = Branch of Isaiah 11:1 is same word as Nazarene (without vowels)

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

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