We Three Kings of Orient Are bearing gifts we traverse afar. Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.”

475411825We’ve all sung this song hundreds of times at Christmas, but unfortunately it’s probably very inaccurate. For instance, we do know of wise men visiting Jesus as a child, but there were likely more than three of them. All that Matthew 2:1 tells us is that they were simply “wise men” [plural].

As for our placing them in our myriad manger scenes, that is probably highly unlikely as well. According to Matthew 2:11, upon arrival they “entered the house”, not a manger, and verse 16 details that Messiah may have been as old as two when they arrived.

So who were they?

May I suggest that these men were DISCIPLES? I know that you may be throwing in your cards at this point, but allow me to present my case. Let’s consider some details from this story and the history of the prophecy of Jesus’ birth. Interestingly enough, we should begin our study of these wise men with the story of Daniel.

Upon his arrival in Babylon and assignment to the court of the King, Daniel interprets a dream that none of the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, Chaldeans, {Astrologers}” could interpret. Daniel gives all glory to God, and because he was able to interpret the dream, his life is spared, and also the life of these ‘magi.’ They are in his debt, and they recognized that Daniel’s God is God. Furthermore, the King makes Daniel “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon”. (Dan 2:2)

Again in chapter 4, and many years later in chapter 5, he remains known as “Chief of the magi”. What do you think Daniel did with that authority? What do you think Daniel taught these wise men? In addition to Balaam’s oracles, Daniel gave them access to all of the counsel and Words of Jehovah. From Moses to Joshua to Micah, we cannot be sure how much Daniel knew, but we know that he was of Jewish nobility, well educated, and devoted to God (Daniel 1:3-7).

Finally, Daniel would teach them the prophecies that God revealed to him. One of the most striking is the 70 sevens (70 7 year periods) in Daniel 9. There are many interpretations of this passage of history to come, but few, if any, disagree on the fact that it pinpoints the exact time of the arrival of Messiah (483 years would pass between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem -issued by Persia- and the arrival of the Messiah). Space will not permit me to detail it here, but a brief review of just about any commentary should explain it thoroughly. Certainly Daniel would have shared this with his Magi: his disciples.

In summary, Daniel is in the East in Babylon. He is given authority over wise men (magi/astrologers). Along with the prophecies of Balaam and the counsel of the Word of God, they have the teachings and personal investment of Daniel. These resources alone would reveal much about the birth of Messiah: a Star, a King of Israel, born in Bethlehem, and even a precise time! But perhaps more precious of all, they know Jehovah, God of Israel and the promise of Salvation to all nations.


  • From the East – They were from the east (Matt 2:1). But what location is meant by east of Israel? Israel is never related to China or any Oriental context; however, both Babylon and Persia are consistent with the term ‘east’ in the thread of Israel’s history. Both of these lands have a rich history, filled with sorcery and prophecies.
  • Balaam’s Prophecies – a Mesopotamian prophet from a town called Pethor that became part of the Assyrian and then Babylonian empires. He was hired to curse Israel more than a millennium before Christ’s birth. But, by God’s design, the curses only resulted in blessings for Israel. These prophecies of Balaam are recorded in Israel’s history (Num 22) as well as the history of these gentile empires. One of these prophecies notes that a King “will rise out of Israel – a star shall come out of Jacob”.
  • Micah’s Prophecies – a Jewish prophet that lived more than 700 years before Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit, he named the exact location of Messiah’s birth – Bethlehem Ephrathah (Micah 5:2).
  • Daniel, the Prophet – Just under 600 years before the Messiah’s birth, the southern kingdom of Judah was destroyed and taken into exile by Babylon. Daniel was an exiled Jewish boy who became a legendary prophet in Babylon.
  • MagiMagi is interchangeable with Wise Men. Our word ‘magician’ comes from the word magi. Interestingly, it also refers to an astrologer.

These men would share these messages diligently with their disciples. Decade after decade they passed on to faithful men what was entrusted to them, expecting them to entrust it to others (2 Tim 2:2). Then came the day when all the expectancy became reality. They had counted the days, seen the star, and raced to Israel to see the Messiah. They brought gifts, knowing that they would find the King.

I submit that these men were disciples of Daniel, from Babylon and, later, Persia.

We have been given the same task to make disciples. We know that He will return. Three times in Revelation 22 the Messiah tells us “behold I am coming soon!” I wonder if we will be as prepared to see Him as the disciples of Daniel were! Can we say that we have made disciples who make disciples, for generations and generations, so that they too are fully expecting the arrival of the King?

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