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The Magi and The Star

The magi—the wise men—were from modern-day Iraq. They knew the stars better than the backs of their hands. In the inky black Mesopotamian nights they had mapped the stars, planets, and comets. They had tracked the almost imperceptible trails for generations. They knew the characteristics and stories of the constellations.

Not only were they astronomers. They were astrologers. They believed the great God had diagrammed the grand workings of history in the stars. To study the stars was to to peer into the dark future. There was a large Jewish population in their area and the magi were very familiar with the prophecies in the Old Testament, like those of Balaam, Daniel, Isaiah and the others.

Then they saw something astounding. Was it a bright confluence of planets? A supernova? A comet? Biblical scholar Colin R. Nicholl has made a very compelling case for a great comet in his book The Great Christ Comet. He points to Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17, with which he believes the magi were familiar: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” A comet was called a scepter star because of its tail. The Magi seem to have concluded that Balaam’s oracle in Numbers, about the rising scepter-star, was the key to interpreting the comet’s behavior.

The magi saw a star of some kind that so clearly signified to them the birth of the King of the Jews that they traveled some 900 miles just to bow before him. They said, “We have seen his star.” It wasn’t only a guiding star but a signal star, announcing the birth of Israel’s long-awaited Son of David. Only the great God could announce his King in the stars.


Greg Cootsona “Comet of Wonder,” Christianity Today, (11-23-15), Page 42

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