House Church Talk - Star of Bethlehem

Ross J Purdy rossjpurdy at
Sat May 1 14:31:37 EDT 2004

For what its worth, the following is a portion of an article I lifted from
the web site of a Messianic Christian by the name of Fruchtbaum. Certainly
not explicitly from scripture but interesting.

In Christ,
Ross Purdy

Still, the issue remains, how did the Wise Men know? For this, we must look
to the Old Testament. We must note first that the only passage in the Old
Testament dating the Messiah's coming is found in the famous 70 weeks of
Daniel 9. The Book of Daniel was written not in Israel, but in Babylon, much
of it in Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian empire.

There is more. Daniel was always associated with Babylonian astrologers
(Daniel 1:19-20; 2:12-13, 47; 4:7-9; 5:11-12). Nebuchadnezzar, not realizing
that the source of Daniel's ability was not the stars of the heavens but the
God of Heaven, made Daniel the head of all the astrologers of Babylon. As
Daniel eventually also saved the lives of these astrologers - by
interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream - there is little doubt that he was able
to lead many of them to turn away from the worship of the stars to begin
worshipping the God of Israel.

So, then, a line of Babylonian astrologers spanning generations worshipped
the true God, and having Daniel's prophecy, looked forward to the coming of
the King of the Jews. We can conclude from the Book of Daniel, then, that
Babylonian astrologers did know the time Messiah was to be born. However,
Daniel says nothing about a star that would herald Messiah's birth. Again,
how did the Wise Men know?

To find the answer, we must go back even earlier in the Old Testament to the
prophecies of Balaam. Balaam was hired by the king of Moab to curse the
Jews. He attempted to do so four times, and each time God took control of
his mouth so that he ended up blessing the Jews instead. In the course of
these blessings, he sets forth four key Messianic prophecies. One of these
is found in Numbers 24:17:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a
star out of Jacob, And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite
through the corners of Moab, And break down all the sons of tumult.

Much to his own regret, Balaam was forced by God to prophesy of the coming
of the Jewish Messiah, which he related to a "star." But this is not a
literal star, because it says, "And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel." The
star and the sceptre in this text are one and the same. (We know this
because the prophecy is in the form of Hebrew poetry, which is not based on
rhythm or rhyme but on parallelism.) And the term "sceptre" is a symbol of
royalty or kingship. This star, that would rise out of Jacob, is himself a

Furthermore, Balaam's occupation was that of an astrologer. Even more
significant is that he came from Pethor, a city on the banks of the
Euphrates River in Babylonia (Numbers 22:5; Deuteronomy 23:4). With the Book
of Daniel and the prophecy of Balaam, we have a double Babylonian connection
here. Hence, the revelation of a star in relation to Messiah's birth came
via a Babylonian astrologer who, no doubt, passed the information down to
his colleagues. Centuries later, Daniel was able to expound to the
Babylonian astrologers as to the time that "the star of Jacob" would come.

How then did the Wise Men know? Not by gazing at the stars through the
pseudoscience of astrology, but by revelation of God as contained in the
Scriptures through the prophecies of Balaam and Daniel. The story of the
Wise Men gives no validity to astrology whatsoever.

Interestingly, the three types of gifts given to Jesus by the Wise Men are
full of Old Testament symbolism. Gold is the symbol of royalty or kingship,
emphasizing that Jesus is a king. Frankincense - part of the special scent
burned on the altar of incense within the holy place as well as the smoke
penetrated into God's presence in the Holy of Holies itself - was a symbol
of deity. Frankincense affirms Jesus as God. Myrrh was associated in the Old
Testament with death and embalming.

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